Stranger Than Fiction (A short short story)

He was tall, broad-shouldered, and struggled to fit through the doorway. He walked in, hesitating with each step, and took his hat off. With a nod of his head, he took his trench coat off as well and handed it to me. I smiled at him, suppressing my discomfort. I hadn’t had to do business with detectives before, so this was all new to me. I didn’t know what to say or how to act. I felt his eyes upon me, knowing he noticed my every quirk and feeling inadequate because of it. He lit up a cigarette, asking me if I minded. I shook my head, when I really wanted to laugh. Either I was dreaming this whole thing up or I’d been dropped into a black and white Humphrey Bogart movie from the forties. His dark eyes glanced my way with suspicion, as if he had read my thoughts. I tried not to stare at him. His handsome yet intimidating presence was hard to ignore.

He cleared his throat and started asking me questions. No small talk, no hello and how are you, he went right down to business. No fuss, no muss, just the facts, ma’am, as Dickens would say. I don’t know why, but I found that disappointing. I liked chit chat. I wanted to get to know people I met on a daily basis, even jaded detectives that looked like an unholy hybrid of Phillip Marlowe and James Bond.

That’s not to say I wanted him to flatter me, but a little friendliness could have gone a long way. I had just lost my sister to a murder, after all. I gave him what he wanted: the facts. He wrote it all down in his little notebook, his eyes glued to the pages the whole time. He didn’t look up, didn’t give me any acknowledgement at all. I felt a rush of embarrassment. His coldness unnerved me, and I wanted him to leave. I froze up just by standing near him.

The funny thing was, even though he refused to look at me and said nothing as I yammered on about what had happened to my sister, I felt like he was aware of everything I did and everything I felt, like he was staring up at me from beneath his hooded eyelids. He could see me, without looking. This made no sense at all, I knew that, but it was how I felt at the time. I never would have imagined, that day, what came next. I never would have guessed that cold, rigid man was my future husband, and the love of my life. Had it been a novel, I would have cackled at how unrealistic it was. It’s true, you know, what they say. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

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