I just want to say—I cheated a little. There is a kissing scene mixed in with this no kissing scene. And it's a first draft. Enjoy!
The last time she saw them together happened by chance. Liz was going to do some work at home again, but Derek never worked from the comfort of her apartment—it was by choice, he said.
He was quiet that morning, as usual; he smiled at her, kissed her cheek, and then left. He was gone for a handful of minutes by the time she realized that they were out of bread and eggs and a few other necessities. She didn't want to really start her next project right that minute anyway, so instead of calling his cell phone, she decided to run out herself.
She wouldn't have normally gone that way, but on leaving, she saw one of her neighbors, the talkative one, standing a few steps away from the door, drinking coffee from a silver mug, talking to a plump woman in a plaid coat. She didn't have time for him today. She turned, to go the longer route around.
That was when she saw Derek, waiting at the bus stop. She almost didn't recognized him first from his straight-backed stiffness, but then she saw his profile, his face stoically turned to the side. Then she saw what—who—he was so carefully avoiding. Claire, standing just as uncomfortably to his left, staring off in that direction.
She slowed, and turned, and walked behind them, quickly, looking down. She spied the little tree that had been planted a few feet away, next to the stump of the old tree that the city had cut down, and she crouched down there. She was still close enough to see them, to hear them, but they would not see her, not unless they were really looking. And, she guessed, they wouldn't.
She watched them. For seven and a half minutes, she looked at them, then her watch, then at them, then her watch.
Finally, Claire turned to Derek. Liz was so intent, she could tell every small movement that was being made. She watched as Liz glanced in the direction of Derek's neck, then up at his ear. Liz read her lips, but she could hear every word. “Hey.”
He turned, nodded with his chin, and his eyes were tracing every inch of Claire’s face.
“We have to keep meeting like this,” Claire said, putting her hands out in a dumb mock pose, pretending to smile. She laughed a little, a hee-hee-hee laugh that was nervous and annoying in one, which she seemed to realize, as she stopped almost as soon as she started.
Derek barely moved. “Yeah.”
“Look, I’m sorry about the last time. I keep saying dumb things. So many dumb things. I don’t know how to stop saying dumb things.” Claire laughed again, the same laugh, but shorter, and breathier, and when she stopped, she frowned. “I’m just dumb. Really. Ask my friends.” She looked away.
"You’re not dumb.”
She turned back, and Liz knew why; she could feel it in his voice. The timber of it pulled her, even from where she sat, several feet away.
Liz watched as Claire turned slowly to face Derek. She watched them both, watched as they both rotated on the spot. A woman with short blond hair brushed by them, pushing them even closer together, and Liz clenched her fists, and swallowed hard.
She thought about the most romantic moment she had had with Derek. It was not hard to remember, though it had been a long time ago. She had been handling some business from home. He returned from work, had removed his shoes, marched across the floor to where she was sitting. He said something to her, something unimportant, now. Then he turned her, smiling, and massaged her shoulders while facing her—massaging her while staring at her. His hands had moved so carefully and so gently, gliding toward her neck, where he brushed her chin, raised her face to his, and kissed her, soundly, so that she almost forgot what she was doing.
She grabbed onto that thought, that memory, and she returned to it, as she watched them look at each other. As she looked down at her watch. Up at them. She thought about that moment, when she had fallen so in love with him. She thought of that moment as she watched the two of them, standing there, staring at each other, so unaware of anything around them. By this point, they were completely turned toward each other, their elbows barely touching, each uncertain, neither of them looking away.
The bus came, and the woman with the short blond hair glanced at the two of them. Liz watched as the woman raised her eyebrows, and climbed up through the sliding door of the bus. She vanished, and so did a woman with a small child, a man with a newspaper, and an older man, who walked with a cane.
Then there was movement. The bus door closed with a clang. At the same time, Derek reached out, almost to touch Claire’s face, almost to brush some hair away from her face. But he didn't. Instead, he lowered his hand, his goal unrealized.
The bus moved away. The two figures were left alone, along with a trail of blue exhaust that swept over them. One of them jumped as the smell of diesel swept over them, and they were so close, Liz couldn't tell who it was, who interrupted the moment. They broke apart, then. They broke apart, if that’s what you could call it, when they were barely touching. And they turned away from each other. Claire was biting her lip, and smiling and frowning. Derek’s face was blank, and then he shook his head, and then it went blank again. They waited twelve minutes more for the next bus. Liz waited with them.