And so it began. Some days the woman came in with her children, other days she was alone, but regardless of who she was with, she also came over and to say hi and to have a quick chat. Over time Richard learned her name was Annabelle.
As time went on Richard began to notice a change in those around him. As he talked to Annabelle more and more, others began to notice him too. One time, a woman asked if the chair beside him was taken. Another time, the cashier spotted him behind the counter and shooed him away. Stunned, he realized he was losing the best thing that had ever happened to him. So, he stopped going to the coffee shop. He withdrew and avoided Annabelle at all costs and slowly things went back to normal.
A few years went by and he occasionally saw her. She always waved and smiled when she saw him, but he withdrew and hid, unwilling to surrender his anonymity, his shield of silent.
But one day, as he was walking along the sidewalk enjoying the late spring sun, something shifted. He’d been feeling rather tired that day and thought a nap in the afternoon sounded like a splendid idea. Before he could get home, however, a tightness in his chest caused him to pause his walk. Then the tightness grew sharper and slowing spread up to neck and jaw like a claw reaching out of his heart clutching, grabbing. He looked around for someone to help him, but no one saw him. Fuzzy black spots crept in from the sides of his vision and he tried to clutch a nearby tree to keep from falling, but it was too far. He fell in the middle of the sidewalk and struck his head on the pavement. No one saw, save one woman on the other side of the street. Annabelle.
He woke up in the hospital attached to tubes and wires that ran to beeping machines and other hospital contraptions.
“You’re awake,” Annabelle said, rising from a chair in the corner.
Bernard groaned. “It’s you again.”
She ignored him and walked out of the room. After a few moments, she came back with a nurse trailing behind her. “I’m so sorry Mr. Torres, I don’t know why, but we keep forgetting you’re here,” she said. She bustled around the room checking this and that as Annabelle stood off to the side smiling at him. Finally, after the nurse left, he asked: “How is she able to see me.”
Annabelle shrugged her shoulders. “You have a gift and I have a gift.”
“What’s your gift?”
“I have the ability to open people’s eyes and help them see the truth in front of them.”
“That’s why people see me when you’re around?” he grumbled.
“Kind of. I’d think you’d be grateful at the moment,” she frowned for the first time since he’d met her.
“ I am.” He grumbled. After a long pause, he added, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she responded, smiling broadly again.
“So everyone can see me now?” he asked.
“No,” she shook her head. “Some people are more stubborn than others. Like you for example.”
He laughed in surprise. “Who do I need to see.” He looked around the room. “Is someone here?”
She frowned. “No. Like I said, it takes some longer to see the truth, but that truth doesn’t need to be a person.”
“And what truth do I need to see?” he asked.
“That you need other people.” She smiled.
He frowned and said nothing.
“Like I said, it takes some longer than others.” She sat down in her chair and pulled out a book while he sulked in his bed. “But you will see. You all do eventually.”