Jade A. Waters
Celine had walked down Fremont Street at least four thousand times in her life.
It was always consistent—storefront after storefront, the occasional woman with a stroller, a pissing dog by one of ten fire hydrants. She’d never left this town and still didn’t know if she ever would, because everything was familiar and quaint here. She could rattle off the business hours of any shop simply from her constant walks back and forth, home to work, work to home. She didn’t like to drive, preferring the fresh air against her face while she processed everything she’d seen that day, or what she might do that evening. She didn’t even take her car to the grocery store, instead favoring the slap of her shoes on the pavement and the opportunity to observe all the sparks of life around her.
Because that’s what she did: observe. It was part of her job as a research tech, and part of her role back in her student days, too. Watching. Recording. Thinking. Processing. Wondering. All the magic she saw happened in test tubes, petri dishes, and experiments. It amazed her that despite the bevy of surprises in the lab, her life repeatedly followed an invariable routine.
Celine adjusted her bag on her shoulder. Sometimes, she wondered if she should have left after high school. It wasn’t that she ran into her alumni all the time, or saw too many of the same people, time and again—but other than the flickers of life she discovered in the lab, all of it was repetitive. Storefront. Stroller. Dog. Today she saw the postwoman, her arm stretched in a wave as she walked along the other side of the street.
How many times had the postwoman been up and down Fremont Street?
A gust of wind picked up as Celine approached the library. It was pleasant, different. It blew her skirt to the side, gathering the fabric against her legs and sending it in a flutter toward the road as if trying to steer her in a new direction. She’d probably been inside the city library two hundred times as a teen, and on occasion when the research shelves at work didn’t have what she sought. It was the last business before a long stretch of recreational parks and trees; beyond that, the road broke into the residential section of town.
Celine closed her eyes as she walked, picturing the cells in her petri dishes growing larger, into full shapes. Life. Their latest experiment was really something, and she could already form the lines of the report she’d send off to the American Journal of Science in the next year. She inhaled excitedly, enjoying the whiff of honeysuckle from the park behind the library, the pungent, sweet scent carrying on the breeze. It was myrrh with a hint of citrus, an unusual combination, she thought. Celine opened her eyes.
Two fire hydrants down on the road, a man walked toward her. She tilted her head—somehow, she hadn’t noticed him before.
But now Celine, ever the observer, watched as he neared her. He started as a small speck in the distance—a dark-haired, tall stranger. Closer and closer he came as Celine walked down Fremont Street. She could see him clearer now, wearing jeans, tee shirt, and flip flops. He appeared casual yet clean, his hair thick and black, and falling just below his ears. He was handsome, almost like a better version of her high school sweetheart, if he had been darker and older.
She was at the library now and the man was close, his torso broad beneath his shirt as his muscular arms swung at his sides. He had the kind of body she fantasized about when she was alone in her house night after night. Maybe it was the wind, or more likely it was the view, but goose bumps sprinkled over her skin. He was still a bit down the road and yet Celine could make out his face. He had green eyes, a stern nose, and a smiling mouth. There was much more life in him than that of a petri dish.
And he was such a different view than she’d ever seen on Fremont Street.
They passed each other as two passersby on a stretch of quiet road do—she didn’t say anything and neither did he. But when she met his eyes, she nodded a hello. Her body surprised her as she did. There was a vibration deep in her core, a pang of longing that she hadn’t felt in a while. He smelled like aftershave, the good kind that didn’t overpower or suffocate like that of her supervisor or her ex-boyfriend. And up close and brushing by her shoulder, the man’s arm sent a quiver through her limbs. His torso was almost twice as broad as she’d thought from a distance, and she had a spontaneous wonder over what it would feel like to touch his skin and to kiss him, or to feel him pressing inside.
Then he was past her, a single variable on the same old street.
Celine kept walking but slowed her pace. She was a scientist through and through—researching, observing, processing. It occurred to her that walking past the man had been like breaking through an invisible shield, both of them trapped for a minute in a magnetic vortex before sliding past one other and back into their own worlds.
Then again, it could have been her imagination, her constant wonder over how everything outside of work was so routine.
Celine cast a second glance over her shoulder, regardless.
The man did the same.
She faced home and took another step. She’d passed hundreds of faces—smiling here, waving there. Always constant.
But what if, this time, it was different?
What if he’d felt it, too?
Celine turned around. Her throat was parched but she shouted anyway.
“Hey,” she said.
Immediately, the man pivoted on his feet. His lips stretched in a bigger grin.
Celine’s experiments for the last three years introduced foreign cells to those already growing in her petri dishes. Cell Type X, adhering with A, B, or C. Watching them fuse together in the dish had made her nipples harden beneath her coat—it was something unusual and new.
Like this man.
He came back, hovering a good foot taller than her. His face was clearer now that she could see him up close. He smelled of aftershave because his face was smoothly shaven, and on his neck he had the tiniest nick from a razor blade. His shirt was blue and faded, grazing the waist of his jeans. He removed his hands from his pockets. He had a large watch on his left wrist and a jagged scar on his arm, just below the hem of his right sleeve.
This is the arm he curled around her waist.
Celine’s breath caught, her skin teased with another gust of wind and the nearness of this man, smiling down at her.
What if Cell X and Cell A mixed?
What if they collided in a furious storm, creating new cells and surprising everyone with the aftermath? The discovery?
Celine raised her chin, offering her lips. She had a flash of how crazy it was, and yet there was something about this man, this random passerby she’d never seen on her walk before. When she didn’t pull away, he coiled his other arm around her waist and tugged her into him, his chest firm against hers. His cock swelled beneath his jeans.
Celine found this most fascinating, since she, too, was aroused in the strangest way. She shifted her feet, squaring herself in his arms. Her pussy was wet, wetter than it had ever been in four thousand walks down this sidewalk.
And when the man lowered his lips to hers, she imagined cells bursting.
His mouth was a little rough, his tongue exploring the crease of her lips. She opened them for him. Their tongues merged in a fit of kissing, both of them magnetized by this sudden change on a gusty afternoon. Celine leaned into him, feeling the thump of his heart within his chest that matched the one within hers.
She wanted him inside of her then, this stranger she didn’t know.
She slipped her hand into his and he broke their kiss, staring down over her face. Maybe she should have said something, but it didn’t feel necessary.
Cell X and Cell A didn’t speak.
Why should they?
Celine and the man walked through the library parking lot. They eyed one another, unspeaking. Behind the building, there was a row of trees lining a fence that separated the property from yet another recreational park. It was absurd how many parks filled this endless, quaint town.
There was no one in the park when the man backed Celine against the library wall. She didn’t know if she would have minded if there was, either, because as he kissed her again, heat surged in her center. It was an unexpected sensation, for the first time in a long time. She laced her fingers in his hair, enjoying the soft thickness on her skin. His hands caressed her shoulders while they kissed and she curled her arms around his waist, inviting him closer. When he pitched himself against her she moaned, shivering as his hands ran down her sides, then under her shirt. He palmed her belly in gentle strokes and glided his fingers up to her bra. When he thumbed her nipples she tilted back her head, letting him shower her neck in kisses.
Celine knew some experiments moved in rapid time. She arched up her hips, wanting the rub of him lower and deeper. The man gazed into her eyes, questioning. Wondering. Like she’d done so many times as she walked down Fremont Street or marveled at the growth in a petri dish. His fingers plucked at her skirt, dragging the fabric up, revealing her calves to the baffling wind. When he crept his hands higher, his fingertips trailed over her hips and she nestled her face into his chest, smelling him against the backdrop of honeysuckle and the growl of the air around them.
She curved her hands over his ass, gripping his muscular cheeks. Nudging him against her. He slipped his fingers beneath the edge of her panties, playing across her short curls, then over her clit. Celine moaned and lifted her face up to his.
“Yes,” she said. She brushed her lips across his t-shirt and repeated the single word, loud over the wind. “Yes.”
The man’s fingers sank into her while he kissed her again. His tongue slid deep, and his fingers plunged far. The rhythm of his thrusts stirred Celine. She whimpered against his lips as he glided his fingers faster, as if seeking inside her with probing fingers while he pressed his cock hard against her side. She shoved her hand in his pants and grabbed onto him, stroking his length as he fucked her hip. The man groaned into her mouth. Celine imagined cells growing and multiplying, splitting and stunning—complex yet simple things. Her body trembled as the man pushed his fingers in and out, teasing her depths. His kisses broke into gasps over her mouth and cheeks, hot puffs of air that mimicked hers. She began to shudder. Her walls trembled around his fingers, flooding with life, contracting with bliss until a cry fell from her lips. The man smothered her in a kiss then, coming in her hand. The hot liquid coated her wrist and warmed her hip through all of the fabric between them.
For several minutes, they didn’t move. They were frozen against the building, statues in the wind—proof of an experiment gone well. His shaft pulsed in her palm and the aftershocks in her sex squeezed his fingers. Eventually, she raised her eyes. The man kissed Celine’s forehead, then her lips, and they slowly untangled themselves and broke apart.
Without a word, he took her hand. They walked back to the front of the library. Celine’s heart had resumed a moderate pace again, the same tempo she was used to, day in and day out. But now, she had a smile on her face.
When they reached the sidewalk, the man wrapped her in his arms for a long, tight embrace.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“You, too,” she said.
And then they walked in their separate directions again.
While Celine headed toward home, she enjoyed the breeze against her arms and the familiar stretch of the road.
She’d walked down Fremont Street over four thousand times, but her life had never looked so new.