He always saw her at the Paper Stand.
Every day that Benjamin Park walked past on his way to work at The Sun , she was there. Leaning against the counter, a magazine in her hands. He couldn’t tell what it was from a distance, but she always seemed enthralled by whatever lived on those pages.
He wasn’t a lonely man, per se. Benjamin just preferred to keep to himself, keep the quiet that he was so used to. But something about this woman intrigued him, more than he ever thought someone could.
Day after day, he would walk past. On occasion, Benjamin would even change the path he walked just to catch a glimpse of her talking to a man, one that he supposed was her brother. After all, the two worked at the stand together, always chatting or reading, sometimes trying to hawk papers to passersby.
This was one of those days.
“Extra, extra, read all about it!” The girl called to an unenthused crowd. “Vaudeville theater opens in Boston, people are amazed! Read it for yourself, hot off the presses!”
“No one cares, kid!” A businessman snapped, bumping around her on his way to work, most likely. Benjamin saw her face, saw the disappointment that was immediately masked by irritation. “Move outta the way.”
And yet, she didn’t. The girl put her hands on her hips, tilting her head slightly as she stared at the man. “How polite of you, good sir. Care to buy a paper?”
“I’d care to get to The Herald . If I wanted news, I’d ask them.”
The girl’s brother leaned out of the stand, obviously disrupted by the noise. “Rose, come on.”
Rose . She was Rose. Rose, Rose, Rose. And judging by the name of the stand… Rose Stratford.
The name suited her. She wasn’t delicate, as others would describe a rose, but sharp, witty. He could see her power from a distance and he watched in awe as she breezed around the man, bumping him in the shoulder as he’d done not moments before. “Have a fine day, sir.”
A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
This was his chance. This was his chance to meet her, the Rose that occupied his mind. Benjamin took a step, then another step, and absentmindedly he could feel his shoes thumping against the ground. One step, then another, and another, and he was in front of the paper stand.
There was a small bell on the counter, and Benjamin reached forward to tap the top. It let out a small, metallic ding , and Rose poked her head out. Her face lit up and she ducked back, calling to her brother. “Samuel! We have a customer!”
“What?” Thunk . “Ow.”
“Here, let me just-” Rose stepped out, beaming. “Hi, welcome to the Stratford Family Paper Stand, what can I help you with?”
Benjamin was never an eloquent man. He never claimed to be an eloquent man, but this was a new personal low.
“Benjamin.” His face instantly started burning, his eyes widened. “ No , I’m- I’m Benjamin. I’m- Benjamin Park, New York Sun , I’m- you’re-”
“ Can I have a newspaper? ”