The Sugar Quill
Author: cranston  Story: The Eye of the Beheld  Chapter: Default
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The Eye of the Beheld

Disclaimer:  The magical characters in this story belong to J.K. Rowling.  The Muggle characters belong to me.  But if she’d like to trade…

 

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The Eye of the Beheld

 

She smiled at me on the subway.

She was with another man.

But I won't lose no sleep on that,

'Cause I've got a plan.

 

He’d always hated being confused, but this sort of confusion should be all right.  And perhaps it was.  Perhaps.

 

Women had never paid much attention to him – never even noticed him, really – not until Julia.  He had noticed Julia, then Julia had noticed him.  When he’d first asked her out, Julia hadn’t gotten all uncomfortable – she’d said “I’d be delighted.”  When he’d tried to take her hand, Julia hadn’t snatched it away – she had nestled it in his.  And when there had been nothing for it but for him to kiss her, Julia hadn’t turned her head.  She had reached for him – and then reached for him again.

 

Julia paid attention to him.

 

She was with him quite a lot lately, and when she wasn’t she was in his mind.  Not that he felt compelled to think about her.  It was just that his mind always seemed to go back to her whenever it wanted rest.  As it had just now done, without his even noticing.

 

The confusing bit was that ever since things had begun happening with Julia, other women had begun noticing him as well.  Really noticing him.

 

He dropped a quid in a busker’s instrument case as he passed by.  The fellow was playing quite well, actually; he stopped, came back, and dropped in another.  Being generous always made him feel good, and this time was no exception.  Unfortunately it did nothing to relieve his confusion.  So now I feel good and confused, he thought wryly as he checked the Underground map once again.  He located his stop quickly, not needing to refer to the scrap of paper in his pocket that bore the name of the unfamiliar station.

 

He gave a sigh.  Almost four days now.  Julia was at a convention up North this week, and she and a few of her co-workers had decided to spend the weekends just before and after it at a cottage they had rented in the Lake District.  He hadn’t seen her since Thursday, when they’d had dinner together and he’d spent the evening helping her pack.  He had gone home with nothing in his mind but her goodbye:  an embrace so ardent that … well, that she even seemed to expect to miss him terribly.

 

Then on Saturday he’d gone to Allan’s party, where women who never would have noticed him before were once again paying loads of attention to him.  And one rather nice-looking young lady in particular, one amazingly gorgeous young lady to be sure, had walked in the door, spotted him, and straightway crossed the crowded room to talk to him.  Annie.  And somehow she had suggested that they get together on Monday evening, and she had written out directions for him on a scrap of paper, and … now here he was on the Underground, a box of sweets tucked under his arm.

 

On the train he found a seat next to an elderly woman who looked up at him and smiled as he sat.  She’s noticed me as well.  He’d never had options before, and now he had far too many of them.

 

His reverie ended abruptly as an absolutely magnificent young woman stepped onto the train.  A slight frame; a carriage of surprising poise and dignity for someone who could scarcely be out of her teens; full brown hair framing striking brown eyes.  Those eyes drew his to them as if by some spell.  Deep, deep eyes that spoke of having seen wondrous things and terrible things, but were neither haunted nor jaded by them.  Eyes that were thoughtful and hopeful, resolute and kind, and … something else he could not name. 

 

She was flanked by two trim young men.  No surprise there, except that there aren’t more of them circling around her.  All three were dressed quite conservatively, and their expressions were serious, even grim.

 

Of course, she noticed him.  Her eyes held his for a moment, and then she smiled.  His heart stopped.  Nervously, he smiled back.

 

The two young men noticed him as well.  The shorter one, black-haired and unkempt, watched him warily with deep, emerald-green eyes.  The tall one, a redhead who seemed uncomfortable in his clothes, appeared to be trying to step in between him and the woman.  Both had a hand in a pocket, looking like handsome young spies reaching for their guns on some inane American programme on the telly.  The three exchanged some quiet but intense words that clearly were about him.  He unmistakably heard her say “all right,” and something less distinct that sounded like “muggle” or some such thing, and the young men said some peculiar things that he tried to understand but, a moment later, found he couldn’t quite remember.

 

He dropped his gaze to the box of sweets in his lap, listening unobtrusively to snippets of their hushed conversation and occasionally glancing up to enjoy the sight of her.  There was talk of an orphanage, and watching the ‘flu, and something oddly maritime about a port quay, whatever that was, that some ministry or other was concerned with.  These were extraordinary teenagers indeed, no doubt some kind of government interns going to visit a sick orphan child somewhere, and at this hour on a week-night!  He was becoming more fascinated with them, with her, by the moment.

 

Then it happened.  At a lull in their conversation, she laid her cheek on the redhead’s chest, and he responded with a light hand on her waist.  Their dark-haired friend shifted to shield them from the view of most of the passengers, as a small but beatific smile lit her face.  When she opened her eyes seconds later they were unfocused, and he finally recognized what he had seen in them, the thing whose name had earlier eluded him.

 

She was in love.

 

The realization disappointed him, but only for a moment before he found himself feeling rather relieved.  The last thing he needed right now was yet another woman in his life.  Yet another beautiful … well no, in that department she could scarcely hold a candle to Annie.  Then again, who could?  Compare her to Julia, though, and … no, she wouldn’t compare very well to Julia either.  Her shape was, well, subtle, to put it charitably; her face was not unattractive, but neither was it particularly attractive; her hair – well, if he wanted he could easily imagine that hair belonging to some witch.  Yes, the depth was certainly there in her eyes, but without that extra glint that her young man was evidently inspiring in them, he probably wouldn’t have taken much notice of her at all.  No, it was only being in love that made her so attractive.

 

Just like me.

 

The confusion vanished in an instant, transmuted into clarity.  All those women who had finally noticed him over the past few months, they had seen the same thing in his eyes as he had seen in the young lady’s.  That was why they were attracted to him.  That was why Annie was attracted to him, Annie and all the others.  All of them – all but Julia.  And then, with the fog gone, he suddenly saw something it had been hiding.

 

I am in love.

 

He knew now what he would be doing once he got home tonight.  He knew the name of Julia’s conference, so it couldn’t be too difficult to find the telephone number of her hotel.  She wouldn’t mind him ringing her up late:  He had something important to tell her.

 

His eyes returned to the box of chocolates, and he briefly smirked at the silliness of his carrying such a thing.  On impulse he opened it and held it out to the elderly woman next to him.  “A sweet, ma’am?”  He offered one to the businessman sitting on his other side, then stood and handed the box to the young redhead.  “Why don’t you take these?  I’ll not be needing them.”  He smiled as the young man, eyes wide, thanked him bemusedly.  Then, remembering their earlier suspicion of him, he picked a random sweet from the box, held it up in a little salute, and – “Cheers!” – popped it into his mouth.  Lowering his voice to a whisper, he glanced around at the three of them and said, “Good luck to you all!”  Then he looked again into the young woman’s eyes, deeply and this time knowingly, lover to lover. “And thank you.”

 

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A/N:  The quote is from James Blunt’s song “You’re Beautiful.”  But then you knew that long before I did.

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