Chapter One -
As the young woman sat in the corner of the little cafe sipping her latte, writing intently in her journal and listening to something through her hot pink earbuds, she suddenly looked up as if instinct jostled her memory of a time long ago. The expression on her face was that of a woman who had lived a lifetime of love, heartache, joy and sorrow. How can one young woman have lived that much life in such a short amount of time. After watching her from a few tables away for the last two hours, Marcus estimated that her age couldn't be more than that of 35-40. She wasn't beautiful in today's worldly standards, but there was something about her that was lovely, poised, graceful...a trait lost in today's generation of women. If Marcus didn't know better, he would have thought her a time-traveler. She looked as if she could easily have fit in during a totally different era. Change the clothing. Remove the laptop and cell phone by her side. Take off the reading glasses and get rid of the bottled water she was reaching for, and voila. Marcus could write an entire story on this woman set in the 1800's on the wide open plains headed west, or in Biblical times carrying a water pot on her shoulders headed for the common well in the center of town to gossip with the women about who was newly betrothed or who had just delivered twins and lived to tell the story!
The woman briefly closed her eyes, as if taking a moment to pray. Reaching up to tuck a stray lock of hair that had come loose from her headband that held her dark mahogany locks back from her face, Marcus noticed the plain gold band on her finger. As her eyes remained closed, he could see her lips moving. She was praying! Twisting her ring with her other hand, Marcus' imagination started running in full gear now. The writer in him knew there was a story here, and he had to hold down the urge to walk up to her and ask her to tell him about her life. That would be ridiculous for him to do and a lot creepy for her to have to watch. So he continued to observe her. He didn't consider it stalking if he was just gathering data for research for his next novel. He would speak with her before leaving, to ask her permission about using her as a fictional character for his next book. Yes. That would be the right thing to do.
Reaching for his sketch pad and pencils, he started doing an outline sketch of her face. Something for research and a possible cover for the book. Not that he thought he'd ever forget her face, but just in case. He had taken art classes all through high school and college. If it weren't for his writing passion, he would have been a starving artist. Instead he was a starving author!
While finishing the sketch, he heard her cell phone buzz. She looked at it, startled and somewhat surprised that it rang at all. Pulling the earbud from her ear, she picked up the phone and read something. She sighed and turned the phone off as if she were frustrated and didn't want to deal with whatever was going on. Marcus was pretty certain that she would do better without phones at all and would be happier baking bread and weaving wool for clothing and blankets. He bet that she'd be happier in a garden tending to the weeds and pulling fresh tomatoes off the vine or picking figs from the fig trees along the countryside. Oh wait, it's 2018. Marcus was feeling himself being sucked into another time and place.
If Marcus wasn't careful, he would be locked away in another era and not come out into the real world until the last word was written. He couldn't do that. Not now. He needed a breather from his last book. At least that's what he told himself, but sometimes he just couldn't help himself. The story would reach in and grab him and take over his life. His mind, hands, eyes all became controlled by the story that brewed inside until it was exposed and out in the opened.
The dark haired beauty got up. Presumably to get another drink or use the restroom. Marcus watched her as she turned to walk right past his table. With his sketch book out and his notepad open, he tried not to stare. She was taller than he'd imagined. As she reached his table, she looked down and paused. Marcus heart started beating a little faster. What was he going to do if she spoke? For 10 seconds, at least, she just stood there staring at his sketch. Little did Marcus realize, but the picture was an incredible reincarnation of her own likeness. That's what he was hoping for, but with so little time, he wasn't certain how close he had come to bringing out the haunted look in her eyes; the posture of her shoulders and the gracefulness of her hands.
"Oh my goodness. Is that me?" the voice, soft with a hint of Middle Eastern added to it.
"Well, it's suppose to be. You just caught my attention and I started tracing your outline. I hope you don't mind. You just have a very poetic and fascinating look. As an artist by desire only, I couldn't help myself. It's just something I like doing. I'm actually a writer, but like to dabble with drawing. I'm sorry, I don't mean to keep you. Please forgive me." Marcus was flustered and that only happened when he had to communicate with people. Real human beings.
"Oh please, there is nothing to forgive. I'm flattered that you thought I was interesting enough to draw. It's very intriguing. Is that the way you see me? I mean, don't get me wrong, it looks like me, but yet not like me. I'm sorry. I sometimes have a hard time putting my thoughts into words, but I think what I'm trying to say is that it looks like me, but from another time. Does that make sense? Like a life-time ago. Not now." she reached again for the strand of hair that refused to stay back and put it behind her ear.
"Actually it makes perfect sense. I'm just surprised you figured it out. When I saw you, all I could think about was how you looked like a woman from another time. A time-traveler, so to speak. Now I'm sure you think I'm strange, but it was just the feeling I got. It probably came out in my drawing somehow..."
They were both comfortably quiet for a moment. No awkwardness; just each contemplating ideas and thoughts. Marcus wanted to ask her if it would be okay to write about her. Not a biography, but a fictional story that was inspired by her. How do you ask a complete stranger something like that? As long as he'd been writing, he had never had to do that before.
"Excuse me, miss. You're going to think this may sound crazy, but like I said...I'm a writer. A author and writer of fictional stories. I was just wondering if you would mind if I used you as an inspiration for my next novel? I've been observing you for the last couple hours and I find you fascinating. Oh...please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not a stalker or any other creepy person. I'm an author gathering research and data for my next story. I honestly just finished a very long novel a couple weeks ago and was looking forward to a break, but my creative imagination decided it has other plans. You walked into my cafe, and now I have an incredible story that I want to tell. I would like your permission to do just that."
"Are you serious? No one's ever been interested in me before...like that. Without even getting to know me first. I'm not sure there is enough about me to fill a book. I'm a pretty private person and I'm not sure I'm comfortable having anything of my life put in a novel for the world to read. My life is plain and not very exciting. Can you tell me a little more about how this would work?" Sitting in the little chair across from Marcus. She looked directly at him with trust in her eyes.
"Well, first of all, I should introduce myself. I'm Marcus. I'm an author of a few novels and an artist on the side. I love travelling and observing people. Coffee is as important to me as air. My home is mostly library and a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. I am an only child. My parents died when I was 12 and I was raised by my grandparents. I've been a widow for 10 years. We had no children. Always thought we'd have plenty of time and didn't feel the rush. Then before we knew it, we were going to chemotherapy treatments and within 12 months, she was gone."
Marcus stopped talking and suddenly realized that he had not spoken personal words about himself to anyone in so many years, he couldn't even think of who the last person was that he talked to about himself.
"Hi Marcus. Thank you for sharing that part of your life with me, a complete stranger. You are very brave. My name is Rayna. Rayna Cohen. I have two younger siblings which I haven't seen since we were separated as children after our parents were killed in a terrorist bombing in Israel a long time ago. We had no relatives that were close, so we were put into an orphanage for two years. My little brothers were 1 and 3 at the time and were chosen for adoption quickly. As for me? Well, no one wanted a girl on the verge of puberty who was angry at the world and had pimples. Everyone wants a baby. I was happy my baby brothers got chosen into a nice family. I haven't seen them since, but have been searching everyday since I was 16. That's when I left the orphanage and found a job, went to school and came to America about 10 years ago. I finished med school and opened a practice with 3 other doctors. Today is the first full 24 hour day I have had off in about 5 years. I decided to get a latte and sit for awhile. And now you are up-to-date on me."
Rayna had to take a deep breath. When was the last time she spoke about anything personal with another person? Hmmm, like never. She learned a long time ago not to. Way too dangerous.