Before I Fall

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III

Ambra Leone hadn’t been living in the small town very long. She had moved after her parents had gotten a job offer from a well-known law firm. Naturally, they couldn’t resist and moved along with Ambra to a small, but lively town.

Ambra had finished high school at 17 and had chosen to take a gap year. That was three years ago. Now at the age of 20, Ambra didn’t see herself going to university anytime soon. She wanted to make something of her life without the pressure of student loans and homework on her back. Her parents didn’t approve. Not one bit. But they couldn’t convince the growing adult into changing her mind. Ambra Leone knew what she wanted and she would be damned if she let anyone tell her otherwise. Regardless, they constantly chided her for the decisions she had made. They told her she’d be begging on the streets one day with no one to help her.

Her parents wanted her to be successful and marry a man who could give her everything, but Ambra didn’t want that. She craved freedom; something refreshing and new. Someone who could breathe fresh air back into her dead lungs.

She had woken up that day feeling adventurous. She hadn’t even had the chance to make friends yet, and the sun shining in through her bedroom window only encouraged her to get up and do something with herself. Maybe I could explore the bookstore in the corner of town, she thought to herself.

She stretched before wiping the sleep out of her eyes and ran down the stairs to the smell of her mother’s homemade pancakes.

“Good morning!!” Ambra couldn’t contain her excitement - pancakes were her favourite.

“Heya love, did you sleep well?” Ambra let out a muffled ‘yes’ as she kissed her mother on the cheek.

Her father was sitting at the head of the table reading emails from his colleagues.

“Are you guys to work today?”

“Of course we are honey. We didn’t move all this way just to sit at home and take in the scenery, did we?” Her father spoke up whilst drinking his morning dose of black coffee. Ambra could never understand his obsession with that stuff. If anything, a bit of milk and sugar would help but her father would argue otherwise.

“Okay, I’ll go into town today. I want to check out the bookstore that’s there.” Ambra’s parents were workaholics which left her alone most of the time. She’d gotten used to wandering by herself into city centres and discovering places that become her safe haven. Maybe the bookstore might be a place she could hang out on the days she was feeling down.

Her parents nodded distractedly and rushed out the door. Each giving her a quick kiss on the head and speeding out of the driveway.

“Right, just me, myself and I, I guess.”

---------

Despite the beaming sun that Ambra had seen through her window earlier that morning, the wind was blowing harshly. Ambra regretted not at least bringing a sweater with her, but luckily for her, the lights inside the bookstore shined brightly ahead.

Maybe it really is a miracle, she giggled quietly to herself and speed walked to the store.

Ambra stepped into the dimly lit bookstore and instantly fell in love. Books of all sizes, lengths and colours aligned each shelf. Old records and vinyls were placed on racks in the middle. There were rows and rows of books going all the way to the back of the store. Ambra couldn’t believe her eyes. Even back at home she never had the privilege of getting to see a store like this.

What were the chances that she had found her safe haven and in more ways than one?

Luca had heard Ambra’s small gasp from the novels he had begun sorting from his secluded place at the corner of the store. He didn’t know whether to stay in the corner and pretend like he hadn’t heard or to introduce himself to her. Finally deciding on the latter, Luca stepped out from behind his shelf of books and walked up to the young woman who’s back was turned to him.

He cleared his throat and was taken aback by the young woman standing in front of him. Pools of hazel aligned with perfectly long eyelashes stared back at him. Ambra was a small, curvy woman standing at around 5′4. Luca took his time looking at her. Curls of black fell down her back and accentuated her face with the utmost perfection. Was this the miracle he had been waiting for? Luca’s brain wouldn’t allow him to come out from his hypnotized state.

Ambra had expected an old man to pop out from behind the counter, not the man standing at 6′3 in front of her right now. She barely reached his chest and her breath hitched in her throat as she stared at him into his eyes that shone back with raw emotion; eyes similar in colour to that of the tress of the Amazon jungle. Ambra recognized it without a second of a doubt. The man in front of her needed healing.

He was broken and bruised.

She wanted to remove the guard he’d built up piece by piece. She wanted to be the remedy for his soul. She wanted to be the one who helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel. She wanted to be his saving grace.

The slight stubble that grew on Luca gave him a perfect 5 o’clock shadow that only added to tiredness that Ambra saw rolling over him in waves. His hair fell in a careless manner around his head, almost like he’d been running his hand through it all day.

Realizing that they’d both stared for a little too long, Luca cleared his throat whilst Ambra shook her head slightly at the thoughts running through her head.

“Hi, I’m Ambra!” She held her pale dainty hand out for him to shake. She wanted to get to know him despite the pain she had seen in eyes. Despite having only just met him, she felt like they could become something. Friends? Maybe. Who knew, but Ambra Leone was willing to try.

“Luca,” he grumbled. He hoped she wouldn’t take offence to his lack of enthusiasm. Being cooped up in his small corner of the bookstore made it difficult for him to have any human interaction other than the minimal whines and grunts of satisfaction during his one night stands.

“I was actually looking for a novel. It’s a classic, Paradise Lost. Have you heard of it? I actually really love classics, you know? They’re not as popular...”

He turned around and led her to the correct shelf as she rambled on about her love for classical novels. He stared as she held the book in her hands and spoke with the utmost adoration. Luca found himself feeling something. Something he couldn’t pinpoint, but it felt warm. He felt like he’d found what he’d been looking for. His missing half.

Not only that, but he could’ve sworn Ambra had been intentionally talking for too long about the same topic for the last fifteen minutes just to keep him entertained. Almost as if she knew he needed someone. Almost as if she wanted to become something other than the usual customer for.

Luca listened and thought how maybe, just maybe life had something more planned for him.

And by all fucking means was he willing to find out.

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