A/N: This is the first fiction work that I've ever put on the Internet without it being a fanfic. Yay! I just hope it wasn't too much of a disaster!
She turned the page, reading anxiously to see what would happen next. Of course, she had read the myth before, but she was a dreamer, and now she wished herself to be in Pygmalion's place. If she could just create the perfect man… someone who wouldn't hurt her, someone who would actually care about her. There'd been so many men who had hurt her. If she could carve a man out of stone and he would come to life and truly love her… she uttered a silent prayer that he would. But then, she thought with a wry smile, she'd have to learn how to carve…
In her mind's eye, she saw Galatea, slowly animating, taking her first steps, and she saw Pygmalion, caressing her as he had done when she was still just a work of art, but now his sculpture was kissing him back…
"Excuse me," someone said, clearing his throat in the way one does when they've asked a question more than once and haven't gotten an answer, and Alexandra Nelson's head snapped out of the mythology anthology and looked at the man who had interrupted her fantasy.
Regaining her composure, Alexandra did what she was expected to from her first moment of job training.
"Hello, and welcome to Stonybrook Publishing. May I help you?" she asked the man.
"Um, hi, I'm John Akley, I did the cover art for that one book, uh… The Connection," he said, pausing and pulling out a manila envelope.
"Who do I give this to, Mr. Akley?" Alexandra questioned, taking the envelope and putting it on her desk. Mr. Akley paused, obviously trying to remember. He picked up the envelope and opened it up, pulling a beautifully done book jacket out of it. He turned it over, searching the back for something.
The cover was amazing. It showed, with stunning visualization, a woman and a man reaching out for each other while on opposite sides of the earth. Their faces seemed to ache with longing for the other.
"That's… that's gorgeous," she said, sighing.
"Oil pastel on canvas," he said, shrugging, his eyes still scanning the back of the cover. His eyes got wider, he obviously had found what he was looking for, and he said, "Could you give this to R. Walters?"
"Sure," she replied. She put the envelope aside, and looked at the man again. He was staring at the book that she had hastily put aside.
"What are you reading?" he asked, reading the text on the cover.
"Mythology," she replied, and picked up the book to resume her reading.
"Obviously," he said, "but what myth exactly? Roman, Greek…?"
"Greek," she said, not really paying attention to the artist who was looking at her book, and added, "Pygmalion."
"Ah," he said. Alexandra kept on reading, and he just stood there. She cleared her throat, expecting him to leave. He seemed a little familiar, but she was sure she'd never met the man before. The prospect of not knowing that she knew someone was a bit scary.
He held out his hand. "John," he said. She shook his, and replied with her name. There were a few more moments of silence. Why wouldn't he just leave?
"Do I know you from somewhere?" he asked. Alexandra jumped in her seat. It was like John was repeating her thoughts.
"I have absolutely no idea," she said absentmindedly. She wanted to read, and then maybe continue on that romance novel she'd been trying to write for seven years, but he was pulling her last nerves.
"You said you were reading Pygmalion, right?" he asked, and she nodded. "Have you ever wished you could just create someone?"
This statement made Alexandra snap out of her reading-induced trance and look at John Akley. Somehow, he was mirroring what she had been thinking, and it was getting creepy.
"That's why I paint. There's this one person I keep painting, and I'm pretty sure she's just a figment of my imagination, but every time I paint her, I just wish I could find someone exactly like her." He sat down in one of the chairs that had been set up "in case of a busy day." Stonybrook Publishing never had busy days. He sighed. "She actually looks a little like you, come to think of it."
Alexandra kept on reading, but she was glad that he had stopped hovering over her desk. She finished the story, put the book down, and opened up her laptop. He seemed to have noticed the change in her activity, and he stood up. As she waited for the laptop to load, ("Stupid technology," her mom had always said,) she said, "I write," and that appeared to satisfy his curiosity.
The laptop finally started up, and after logging in, she opened the file of the latest chapter she had written, and the first phrase she saw startled her: John Akley. She blinked, refreshed the page, and even went to the bathroom to clean off her contact lenses, but the words were still there, the incriminating words that she had written years ago, staining the page with their blatant truth. She had written half of a novel about a man who she had just met. That explained the familiarity…
No, she told herself, it was a coincidence; maybe she'd made a typo, trying to spell something else. Alex Nelson, humble secretary, was no Pygmalion.
John stood up. "Maybe we'll see each other again, Alexandra," he said, and he turned to leave.
"You can call me Alex," she whispered, as he walked out of the office and out of her life.
Alexandra Nelson, newly promoted editor at Stonybrook Publishing, was the victim of a paper jam. She'd tried to print the manuscript of her finally finished romance novel, and the faulty printer in the staff room had broken down yet again. After maintenance came and fixed the printer, ("This is the seventh time this week!" the janitor had said, and it was only Monday,) she printed the entire 500-page novel. Even holding it in her hands felt like an accomplishment, for she had started the thing ten years ago, and after all, she thought it would never get done.
She handed it to the head editor, who seemed very surprised when she said she wanted it published, and waited in earnest as the editor read it and said, "You've got some good stuff here, Nelson. We'll get started on editing, and you should go look at cover art." The editor handed her a slip of paper with a familiar address on it. "By the way, Nelson, while you're there, ask him if he's okay with you using his name and address in the novel. He may not like it," the editor added. Alex then realized why the address was familiar. She had used it as John's address in the book!
She stepped onto the porch of 57 Birch Street and rang the doorbell. Fear paralyzed her. She wasn't sure if John Akley really did live there, and if he did, would he want to see her three years after they'd last met? Would he talk to her? Would he think she was nuts for writing a novel about him before they had even met?
The doorknob turned, and with it turned Alex's stomach. The door swung open, and there was John Akley, staring at her with a mirror image of the look of shock that she imagined that she had.
"Oh my God," they both said, and then he smiled, trying to hide the shock.
"Well, what are you standing out there for? Come inside!" he said, ushering her in. She obliged, and stepped inside his house.
Alex looked around, her writer's mind trying to grab every detail it could. There was an oak tree in the backyard, along with a porch that looked as if it had had its share of paintball fights way back when. Hooks were lined at the door, and one had a smock on it. The walls of the house were tall, wooden, and lined with paintings. If she was in shock when she saw who was at the door, it was nothing compared to the shock of seeing those paintings.
They were beautiful paintings, but they were of her. Every single one was a portrait of her. She looked at one of the paintings, the one that seemed the most worn, and she looked at the date – 1997. That was the same year that she started writing her novel, and it was seven years before they had met.
"It's a little strange, isn't it? Seeing your face plastered across a stranger's walls?" he asked, and she nodded. "Look, I made most of these before we even met, and I'm sure that's why you seemed so familiar, but…"
John had stopped talking, and he stared at Alex's hand, the one that was holding her manuscript. She looked down, and saw that her hand was shaking. "I wrote about you," she said, "I started writing about you in 1997, the same year you did this portrait. I had your name, your appearance, even your address right, and I don't quite know how I knew you would move here, seeing as you only moved here from Albuquerque four years ago, and…"
"How did you know I came here from Albuquerque four years ago?" he asked, stunned.
Alex wracked her brains for a logical answer, but she couldn't find one. "I honestly don't know," she sighed. John paced for a bit – a habit, Alex knew, that came on whenever he really needed to think – and then stopped abruptly.
"You get up at six every morning, right? So tomorrow morning, I'll get up at six. You look in a mirror, and I'll try to paint you," he said. As if to answer her impending curiosity, he added, "That way, we'll be able to tell if I'm painting you by memory, or if I'm actually seeing you in real time when I'm painting." Alex nodded, and turned to look at another painting, the largest in the bunch. It was a full-body portrait, and it looked rather blurry. From what she could make out, she looked extremely crabby in the painting, and she was wearing…
"Oh no," she mumbled, "oh no, oh no, oh no." She stared at the bright orange robe that clashed terribly with the blue nightgown that she'd been wearing underneath it. She looked down at her feet in the painting, and, horror of horrors… "Not the bunny slippers! You had to paint me in the bunny slippers?" She looked at the slippers with eyes full of disgust. She had hated those slippers, and was elated when she'd taken them to a family reunion and her great-aunt's dog had ripped them to shreds. Her great-aunt had scolded the dog, but Alex had ended up buying treats for the dog that had so mercifully destroyed those rabbits!
John smiled. "Die, slipper, die!" he whispered maliciously, an exact quote of what she had said at the slipper's execution. Alex couldn't help giggling, and a few moments later, John and Alexandra were rolling on the floor, laughing so much that they nearly forgot to breathe.
The next morning, Alex woke up to her alarm clock at six like she did every morning. Bleary-eyed, she hopped into the shower and put on some new clothes (she figured that if he was seeing her real-time, then he'd get the clothing right, too.) After getting her hair to behave, she looked into the mirror as John had asked. She stood there for, well, she had no idea how long, but then she had the strangest feeling that he was done, so she drove over to 57 Birch Street.
The door was already open when she got there, and when she walked in the house, John was putting up a new portrait, one that looked exactly like what she had seen as she looked in the mirror, new clothes and all. "Well, I guess that's settled," she said, and he turned around and looked her in the eye.
"Now all we have to do is find out why this is happening. Why do we know so much about each other?" he asked her. She walked up to him and kissed him, and he kissed her back, and for that moment, she felt like she very well could have been Pygmalion.
The Akley household was bustling, as it usually was on a Saturday in April. Rachel had scraped her knee climbing the old oak in the backyard, and her older sister Laura was trying to calm her down as they waited for their mother to come back with a washcloth and a bandage. Chris had been trying to paint with a new easel and watercolors, but he had forgotten to put on a smock and was now sitting on top of the washing machine waiting for his shirt to turn yellow again, because he had made it clear that there was no way he was going to school with a purple shirt!
Their father was in the process of teaching Andrew, the youngest, how to ride a bike, and the boy kept insisting that the training wheels weren't necessary. However, his father was twice as stubborn, and the training wheels stayed on the bicycle. Andrew, angry at being treated like a baby, decided to go inside the house and help Laura make smoothies.
Rachel, with a bandage on her knee, bounded outside to try climbing that oak again, and Mrs. Akley rushed off to her job as head editor at Stonybrook Publishing, which had started booming ever since her romance novel became a best seller. Her husband gave her a quick peck on her cheek, and said, "I'm watching you," holding up a paintbrush.
She smiled, and replied, "Just don't paint any more pictures of evil bunny slippers!" She hopped into the car and drove off.
John felt a tug on his arm. He turned to see Laura, holding up a pencil.
"Dad, can you help me with my stupid homework? My stupid teacher assigned us this stupid book about the stupid human mind, and I don't understand a bit of it. I feel stupid," she said. John smiled. Laura may have been born with her mother's writing talent, but she could be redundant if she wanted to.
"Of course I'll help, sweetie. We don't want you to look stupid, do we?" he questioned slyly. His daughter rolled her eyes, and the pair walked back into the house. They strode up to the kitchen table, and Laura pointed at the passage she had been assigned. John bent over and started to read:
Love at First Thought
Once in a while, the human mind will be determined to duel fate, even if the conscious mind is not aware. In some of these circumstances, two people will be kept from meeting until years after they should have. When this happens, the two will start thinking about each other before they have even met, one, perhaps, sketching the other, or perhaps capturing the other in prose. The two will eventually be drawn together by their minds desperately trying to undo what it has done, and their lives will be back on course…
John had to blink at these words. He had moved to Albuquerque to avoid his hovering parents, and something in his head had tried to stop him. The year had been 1997…
After all their years searching for an answer, but having to give up for lack of information, the reason that he had been so drawn to Alex was in their daughter's homework!
"What book is this, sweetie?" he asked. Laura flipped the cover closed so that he could see. He gasped. Upon the cover of the book entitled The Connection, there was a woman and a man reaching out for each other while on opposite sides of the earth, faces aching with longing. The author's name was R. Walters. The answers they were looking for were contained in the book that had brought them together!
"Remind me to tell your mother about this," he said, but he knew that through the strange connection between his mind and hers, she would already know.