“Well this is new,” Charlie said, more to herself than anyone else.
All around her everyone had slowed to an almost near stop. A balding man to her left had raised his fork to eat a bite of salad, but now his hand hovered in midair, slowly inching towards his mouth which hung wide open in anticipation.
A couple of tables over a woman with short, puffy hair and angular cheekbones had been talking animatedly with her hands. Now, her face slowly morphed from one exaggerated expression to another.
In front of her, her boyfriend Sam stared at the ground as though he had dropped something and appeared to be sliding off his chair. It was difficult to tell what he was doing when his movement was so slow.
No one, not even Sam, knew what was happening. She hadn’t told him about her gift. To everyone else, they were still moving at regular speed.
This only happened when she was in danger. The new part was just how slow everything had become. Not to mention, usually when this happened she was in a situation that made being in danger rather obvious. Right now, however, she was eating lunch with Sam on a restaurant patio.
Her eyes moved rapidly around her as she took in her surrounding. She’d been eating waffles and he’d just finished a BLT. Was it poisoned? Above them birds hovered in the air, barely moving. Strangers stopped mid-stride as they walked by the nearby stores. Each moving no more than a few inches in the last 30 seconds.
She rose from her chair and stepped out of the patio to get a better look. She was used to people trying to kill her, but no one had been successful so far because they simply couldn’t get a jump on her, not with her gift. But what if that’s what was happening now?
Worried that she might be putting Sam in danger, she grabbed a pen and paper from her purse, scrawled a quick note, and raced through the parking lot to make her escape. Whatever danger she was in, hopefully it followed her.
To her horror, as she ran towards the street and away from Sam, everything around her began to speed up again. She whirled around and started going back to the table. The closer she got, the more everything slowed again.
What was her body sensing was dangerous? Adrenaline raced through her. Her eyes rapidly shifted around the area. A couple sat on bench sipping coffees while a young girl danced in front of them, her long skirt swirled out around her as she stood in a frozen spin. Two older men argued in front of a shop door, their arms spread wide and faces glaring. Multiple tableaux spread out before her, none any more dangerous than the previous one.
A man knelt by an empty table, a ring in hand and a surprised expression on his face. Wait, that was her man. Why was he on one knee? He was purposing? To no one? Of course, it was to her, but in her haste, she had left and now he was staring at an empty chair wondering how she had disappeared right before his eyes.
But she couldn’t get engaged. Not in her line of work. She was always in danger. She couldn’t do that to him. But at the same time, how could she not. But what if he found out?
Now understanding what her brain had perceived the danger was, she slide back into her chair wishing there was an actual crisis happening. Those, she was a master at defeating.
As his face registered that she was back in front of him she saw the look of surprise slowly shift to confusion.
Then suddenly she knew what she wanted to do. Just like that everything snapped back and began moving at a regular speed.
“-arry me,”he finished saying. He blinked at her a few times obviously curious if she was actually there or if she might disappear again.
She smiled. “Yes,” she said.