In most respects, she was unexceptional. Average height ... maybe five foot five? Brown hair, medium length, glossy. Grey eyes. Figure? Hard to tell in baggy jeans and hoodies. What really caught the eye, though was her birthmark. I think they call it a 'port wine' mark and it covered maybe half the right side of her face. It's sort of embarrassing. You see it and there's a sort of horrible fascination and you drag your gaze away. Unless, of course you're the sort of person that enjoys making fun and humiliating someone that can't help the way they look. But because you drag your gaze away, you never really see the person behind the birthmark. Her name? Abigail Ferguson.
Mike's girlfriend, Sherise, had given him the push at the weekend. He couldn't claim to have been surprised, but he wasn't happy anyway. Sherise wasn't any sort of intellectual, but she was a stunning example of young womanhood ... and had kept him well satisfied. However, she obviously felt rather less satisfied, hence the push.
Entering the cafeteria, he almost turned around and left again. There were very few empty places, one of which, next to Sherise with her cronies, was clearly inappropriate. There were, however, seats empty at a table where Abigail Ferguson sat alone, reading, and eating her meal. He took a chance, got himself a meal and approached her table.
"Er, do you mind if I sit here?"
She looked up, startled. "Why ... no, not at all, please do," immediately dropping her eyes again to her book.
He watched her as he began to eat his meal. She'd coloured slightly, suggesting that she was perhaps not as engrossed in her book as she was trying to be.
"Feel free to tell me to shut up," he said, "but what are you reading?"
"Science fiction," she said holding up the rather battered paperback book. "Robert Heinlein, 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.'"
"Hey! I think that's one of my favourites of his. The ending is a bit sad, though, don't you think?"
She looked at him as if she was seeing him for the first time. "I don't know, it seems sort of satisfying, somehow. And it's open, isn't it? We don't know for sure if Mike is gone for good."
They soon discovered they had common interests in their selection of reading for pleasure. He began to seek her out at meal times and they covered a lot of ground; exchanging favourite books, discussing the styles of various authors. When he actually got to the cafeteria before her she came to sit with him. He was surprised how good that made him feel. Increasingly, they were relaxed with each other and even walked together if they were heading in the same direction after meeting.
One day, not long after, they happened to be leaving the cafeteria and passed close to Sherise and her friends, who made some meant-to-be-overheard remark. Abigail coloured hotly and her lips thinned as her expression tightened. He didn't catch the remark, but did notice the effect and was surprised at the intensity of his anger towards his ex-girlfriend.
"I was wondering," he said when they were outside, "whether you'd like to be my date to go see 'Star Wars; the Revenge of the Sith' this week."
Her jaw dropped and she looked stunned before saying rather bitterly, "are you saying you are so hard up you want to be seen with poor disfigured Abigail?"
"Is that what she said?" He looked intently at her. "No, I'm saying I want to spend more time with someone I have come to know a little, and like a lot. I'm saying I don't much care what that ... ex-girlfriend of mine thinks or says. You know, I was going to call her a bitch, but that would be unkind to female canines."
She cocked her head and considered him for a few minutes, while he waited patiently.
"Okay, yes, I'd like to." A smile spread across her face; the first smile he'd seen from her. It was directed at him, and his heart turned over. He suddenly realised he was captivated – that nothing would be the same again ... ever.
He smiled in return. "Wednesday night? Or Friday?"
"Oh, tough choice. Let's say Wednesday."
The details of their date are unimportant. They quite enjoyed the film, but it was much less important for both of them than the company, or holding hands as he took her home, or the kiss when he left her at the door ... or the smile she bestowed on him before he left.