He was the prettiest thing she had ever seen. It was nothing more than an instant, a moment frozen in time. Through the grimy window of a tiny New York City coffee shop, she saw an angel. Ruby was sure, had her friends been there to see him, they would have had no trouble pointing out his most promising features. They would’ve gossiped and gushed about his high cheekbones and sharp jawline, about his dark wavy curls hanging over his too-bright-to-be-true, green eyes. Ruby was sure, had her friends been there to see him, they would’ve made fools of themselves, pointing and giggling and vainly attempting to gain even a shred of his attention.
Ruby’s glad her friends aren’t there to see him. Because, while it’s true that his face, his hair, and his eyes are pretty, there’s something so much more to this boy. Ruby can see it, clear as day, and she’s glad her friends aren’t around to ruin this picture of beauty.
That’s what it is, Ruby realizes. That’s what’s so special about this boy, what makes him so much more. He’s beautiful. Not pretty, not handsome, not hot, or good-looking, or anything else Ruby can peg him with. He’s beautiful. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s in his fingers. They’re thin, each one almost impossibly long. Ruby imagines they’re the kind of fingers most comfortable when accompanied by a whole slew of piano keys. It’s in the way each one of his fingers holds onto a cup of coffee with such tender, focused delicacy, that Ruby can easily picture him cradling a baby bird in his palms. It’s in his smile. It’s cracked and broken, like someone took a hammer to the face of a porcelain doll, but didn’t shatter it. It’s held together in mismatched pieces by a combination of glue and sellotape, but it lights his face in a kaleidoscope of colours that couldn’t exist had it never been broken in the first place. It’s in his feet. They’re covered by a child’s impression of a Jackson-Pollock painting on a canvas, the colour of off-white Converses. More than any other part of him, his feet are alive, bouncing along to a rhythm only he can hear. There is joy, energy, a zest for life in the way he moves, and all of it begins with his feet.
It’s in his wrists. They’re scarred. They’re horribly scarred. Even though she only sees him for an instant, a moment frozen in time, Ruby can see them clearly because he isn’t hiding them. It’s freezing outside, the very height of winter, but in his sleeveless shirt and artistically-ripped jeans, he looks like a summer breeze that has blown through the coffee shop doors and settled in to stay. Each and every single one of those scars tells a story, and Ruby is reading it, clear as day, word-for-word. It’s a story of redemption. A story of hope.
Ruby would never learn his name. She’d seen him only for an instant before she was whisked away by the crowded streets of New York, but she doesn’t go back for him. She doesn’t need to. It was nothing more than an instant, but that instant stuck with Ruby for the rest of her life. She would remember the boy from the coffee shop window until the day she died.
He was, after all, the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
Originally published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 10 on March 14, 2018