Alice had been sitting on the bench that stood directly opposite the red postbox for twenty minutes now. She had come here to post the red envelope which she clutched in her trembling hand resting on her lap, but hadn’t been able to do it. For tweny-minutes she had sat their debating whether or not it was the right thing to do. Her head was flooded with overwhelming thoughts – the pros and cons of sending that envelope, along with it’s contents, to the address that had been carefully penned along the front of it. A gentle breeze brushed past as she let out a small sigh, the sound of her distress carried away with wind. If only her worries could do the same.
Despite the tranquility of the street, she didn’t even hear the sound of footsteps as he approached, but was not startled whatsoever by his voice, which emenated from the air like silk.
“Hi” he said with a friendly smile.
Alice looked up to see a young man standing near her. He was a handsome young man, but of course Alice wouldn’t admit this, not even to herself.
“Hi” she replied, presenting him with a soft smile of her own.
“Mind if I sit down?” he asked politely, pointing weakly at the space on the bench next to her.
“No” came the reply, her response just as weak as his gesture toward the bench.
“Cool” he sat down on the bench, smiling at Alice as he did so. But Alice had never been comfortable around other people, especially those who boast, what to her seemed like an vast amount of confidence. And so, as the young man sat down, Alice shuffled along the seat slightly, doing so as discreetly as possible so as not to offend her new neighbour.
“I’m Chris by the way” he said after a few seconds, turning his head toward her just as she pulled her fingers from her mouth – nail biting was something she did often when nervous. Embarrased, she let out a small giggle before responding, “Alice” she introduced herself.
His gentle smile suddenly transformed into a somewhat overly confident grin, “Nice to meet you Alice” he said, to which Alice responded with a simple “You too”, her face in an expression of amusement from Chris’s sudden confident boost.
She wondered what exactly this man wanted. Was he just being friendly? Was he insane? Was he going to make a pass at her? No! Ridiculous! she thought to herself, shuffling in her seat, uncomfortable at the very thought of it.
“So what are you doing here Alice?” Chris asked, his sudden surge of confidence seemingly wained for the time being. Alice even thought she heard a nervous tremble in his voice, and she certainly heard one in hers as she replied, “Waiting”
“Waiting for what?” came his response, almost immediatly afterwards.
Alice shrugged, unwilling to give away her reason for being there to a complete stranger. She barely knew herself what she was waiting for, why should he know?
“Ok” he said nodding, his dissapointment masked by a tone that suggested a fair-enough sort of attitude. Then suddenly something caught his eye – it was the red envelope that Alice was holding. The front facing away from him so he was unable to read the address. However, what he did notice was the lack of return address on the back of it. He was about to ask about it, when suddenly Alice spoke, distracting him from his thoughts.
“You?” she asked curiously, her own voice taking her by surprise.
“Me?” Chris said pointing to his chest with his index finger.
“Yeah, what are you doing here?”
He thought for a second, and then, with that same overly confident smile returning to his face he replied, “Well I guess I’m waiting with you”
Alice didn’t know what to say in response to that, so once again she turned away nervously, and just as she did a jingle sounded from her jean pocket. Quickly she reached in and pulled out her mobile phone. The jingle had stopped by the time she had started pressing buttons. Chris guessed that it was a text message as he watched her curiously. She turned to him suddenly, drawing his attention back to her face and away from the gadget in her hands.
“I’ve gotta go” she said, grabbing her bag as she did so and throwing it over her shoulder as she stood.
“Oh”, this time there was no hiding Chris’s dissapointed, “Bye then”
“Bye” she said, and with that she was gone. She quickly walked away in the direction which Chris had appeared from, the little red letter still in her hand.
Once again Alice sat on the bench facing the postbox, red envelope in her hands and a somewhat melancholy expression on her face. Her mind was travelling back and forth between two main points of focus. One was the situation at hand – the letter, and her decision to post it, or not to post it. The other was Chris – that strange, albeit friendly young man whom she had encountered yesterday. She wondered still what his intentions were. Why he sat down next to her, why he was so interested in her business, and why he was back, once again sitting next to her on the bench.
“Hello again” he said, smiling pleasantly.
Alice, who up until that point had been floating around in a world of her own, was taken by surprise by Chris’s sudden reappearance. And so, cautiously replied with a simple, “Hi”.
“How are you today Alice?” his tone was more confident that the previous day, as though he had, had time to prepare himelf for this, like he’d been practicing.
“I’m ok” she politely replied, “Yourself?”
“I’m great” came the over-enthusiastic response.
“Glad to hear it” Alice said turning her head in the other direction, still unsure of what to think of this man.
For a few moments an awkward silence fell between the two of them, until Chris finally broke it with a question, “So where are you from anyway?”
More questions? Alice thought to herself, sighing inside. What she really wanted was to be left alone with her thoughts. But of course, she was too polite to tell him this. And anyway, he may have seemed somewhat forward, but he seemed harmless enough… although, they also do don’t they?
“Aberdeen” she replied, “You?”
“I’m local” he told her, nodding and smiling proudly, making Alice wonder what he was so proud of. This town was nothing special, and it certainly was nowhere to be proud of. Ever since moving here all she had, had were problems. Good things seldom happened here, at least to her anyway. Yet still she responded with a calm, “Cool”, and awaited Chris’s next question, which came only seconds later.
“You in college, uni. You work?”
“Was in Uni” she told him, “Now I’m looking for work”
“Oh. Any luck?” he said sounding hopeful.
“Well no” Alice smiled, “That’s why I’m still looking”
She laughed briefly, and so did he, breaking some of the tension between the two of them, relaxing Alice a little and boosting Chris’s confidence even more.
“Fair point” he said. He was debating his next question when when a familiar jingle came from Alice – it was her phone. Once again she pulled it from her pocket and looked at the screen, and this time, without even bothering to press any buttons, she put it back before turning to Chris, “I gotta go again” she told him, somewhat dissapointed. Chris still struck her as strange, but an equally strange thing had happened in the last few seconds. For a brief moment back there, when they laughed together, he had felt like a friend. And such things were scarce in her life. So that there conversation should be cut short at this point in time was somewhat disheartening to Alice. She also knew that he was obviously interested in her in some way or another, and so she felt bad to have to dissapoint him too, and she knew she had by the tone in his voice, “Oh ok. Well I’ll see you then”
“Yeah” she stood up and threw her bag over her shoulder, “Bye”
“Bye”, and with that, once again, Alice was gone.
Chris wondered about the little red envelope.
Chris plonked himself down in the space on the bench next to Alice, right where he had sat the last two days. She turned her head to greet him but before she could he spoke.
“You like music Alice?” he asked.
“Yeah” came the reply. Who doesn’t she wondered, And why are you asking me?
“What do you like?” was the next question. Chris’s head was turned towards Alice, keenly awaiting her answer, yet making her feel somewhat uncomfortable in his presence. But still, she answered him anyway, “Oh you know”, she began “Mostly old bands – The Cure, Joy Division…”
“Oh, that’s cool” Chris responded with a feigned enthusiasm, “But I’m mostly into more modern bands…”
“Such as?” Alice found herself asking, much to Chris’s joy. He had left out any form of example previously on purpose, in an attempt at creating more of a dialogue between the two of them. Of course, Chris was well aware that just because she had done as he had wanted her too and asked about what bands he liked, it didn’t neccasarily mean that she was interested. She simply may have not wanted to be rude. But for now he was hoping it was the former.
“Bloc Party” He responded, this time hoping that they would find common ground here.
“Oh yeah, they’re cool” Alice replied. Bingo! Chris thought. Although she was a fan of the older bands, Alice also dabbled in the ‘more modern stuff’ as Chris had called it.
“Oh you like them?” Chris said now, rather too excitedly.
“what’s your favourite song by them?”
“Flux, naturally” she responded with a smile, much to Chris’s glee.
“Nice” he nodded in approval.
Their conversation continued for a few minutes more as they went on to discuss other bands, some of which both were keen on, others that only one may have an interest in. Whenever this happened the other would do their best to steer the conversation along, onto another, more exciting band that they could both agree were good.
And through this conversation Alice found herself becoming increasingly comfortable with Chris, who found himself growing ever more attracted to this interesting young girl he had met only two days prior.
Eventually their conversation was cut short by that familiar jingle. The jingle that had become more and more annoying each time Chris heard it, because he knew that it spelt the end of their time together. And this time was no exception.
Alice had to leave, and so she did.
Chris watched her go with a smile on his face, wondering who was texting her, what she was doing here everyday, and what was in that red envelope. That’s it, he’d decided, I’ll ask tomorrow.
Alice and Chris were at the bench enthusiastically discussing an interest that they both shared – films. Whilst Alice spoke of American independent cinema and how much more ‘realistic’ it was, Chris’s main interest lay in European cinema – something that Alice was not too familiar with, but was eager to find out more.
As they sat their discussing their favourite films, throwing back and forth names of films and directors, each one of which would spark a whole new, interesting conversation until the next title was mentioned, Chris’s attention began to wander and focus on the red envelope that Alice held in her hand, which she was waving around for emphasis.
She was acting somewhat out of character today, as Chris couldn’t imagine that shy girl he met only three days ago, talking so passionately about something so much that she would become physically involved in the conversation. He imagined that even when talking about something that really interested her, she would still just sit their, silent and opting for nodding in agreement over actually speaking for the most part.
Yet she had surprised him, and also surprised herself. It had happened suddenly, but Alice had found a certain sense of ease with Chris, one that she had never felt before. The nerves still lay very active beneath the surface, but well masked. And she was hoping that they’d stay that way, as she had discovered an unexplainable high in this new-found comfort she had found in being with Chris. And now, as she went on excitedly about the film’s of Aaron Katz, she was just waiting for this high to brought to an end.
She didn’t have to wait long.
“Are you ever going to post that?” asked Chris, nodding toward the red envelope and stopping Alice in her tracks.
She paused and stared at him briefly, before looking at the envelope herself, which at this point she was tapping impatiently against her knee. She stopped tapping it, lay it face down on her lap, then replied, “Maybe”
“Who’s it for?” Chris asked next, still not fully sensing Alice’s discomfort.
Her discomfort. An all too familiar feeling that been absent the last few minutes but now had rushed back with a harsh coldness. Her nerves had resurfaces. She looked down at her lap and Chris finally realised his mistake.
He was about to apologise when Alice’s phone went off. Immediately she stood up, “I gotta go” she mumbled, and before Chris could say anything more, began to walk away quickly.
Chris sat their alone. He felt stupid and regretful. The last thing he had wanted to do was to offend Alice. Yet still, he had. And still, he was none the wiser as to the contents of the envelope. Although now he was even more curious.
Alice sat in her usual spot on the bench, staring down at her feet. Her red envelope resting on her lap, with her right hand laying on top of it. Chris approached awkwardly, cautious as to Alice’s potential behaviour toward him today.
He wondered if she was still upset. He wondered why and if she would tell him today. He wondered but then wondered no more when he saw the red envelope still with her – no, she still hadn’t posted it.
She glanced at him as he neared but then turned her head away quickly, pretending that she hadn’t looked at all. He sat down next to her.
No words passed between the two of them the whole time he was sitting there. They sat in an equally uncomfortable silence, each one wanting to speak, but not daring. Chris wanted to apologise, whilst at the same time wanting to know what it was that was bothering Alice. Whilst she wanted him not to care, for him to just forget about it and to go back to how they were before he’d said anything. But she knew that, that was never going to happen.
And so what followed was five whole minutes of them simply sitting there, side by side, silent, pretending the other one wasn’t there, craning their necks away from each other so as to avoid any ackowledgement of the others presence.
Stupid! they both thought.
Suddenly that all too familiar jingle broke the silence, filling the air around them with its sharp computerized, yet somewhat muffled melody. And just like the day before, Alice didn’t even bother taking it from her pocket. She merely stood up and walked away, without a single word.
Chris stared blankly at the red post box across the way.
Shit! he thought to himself.
Why do I come here everyday? Alice thought to herself, I’m never gunna post this damn thing! I just don’t have the guts. If I was going to I would have done it by now, she shuffled in hear seat a little, looking around for Chris. Maybe he won’t come today. Maybe after yesterday he doesn’t see the point. God I was rude. I should have said something to him, told him it was alright, that it wasn’t his fault, that…
“Hi” Chris had appeared out of nowhere it seemed, as Alice had been so submerged in her own thoughts that despite the fact that she was on the lookout for Chris, she didn’t see him coming.
“Hi” she replied quickly, looking up at him with a surprised expression on her face.
“Mind if I sit down?” Chris asked, lamely pointing at the bench.
“No” came the reply as Alice turned her head away.
“Cool” his tone was calm yet somewhat nervous, a lot like it had been when the two of them had first met. Only this time the nerves showed. But regardless of this, once again he sat down next to Alice, and after a few seconds turned to her, “I’m sorry about the other day. I was being nosy. I shouldn’t have asked”
Smiling slightly and looking at Chris again now, Alice replied, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it”
A weight lifted from Chris’s shoulders, “So we’re good?” he asked smiling.
Returning the grin, Alice confirmed “Yeah, we’re good”
“Cool” Chris said before reaching into his jean pocket and pulling out a small piece of paper that looked like it had been torn from a notepad. Scrawled along it on one side in black ink was an eleven-digit number, which Alice saw when he handed it to her. She knew what it was before he even said anything.
“Here’s my number” he said sounding somewhat hopeful, “Call me sometime, maybe?”
Alice remained silent as Chris stood up – he’d only been sitting down no more than 30 seconds, Why is he leaving she thought, and why this? she looked down at the piece of paper.
“Bye Alice” Chris smiled, turned away and then began to walk back the way he came.
Still Alice said nothing.
She watched him leave until he was completely out of sight, then turned to look at the post box in front of her, calling her as it had been for the last five days.
She waited a bit before standing. She then took a deep breath before walking over to the post box. Standing in front of it now, she took another last deep breath before finally posting the envelope.
The deed is done she thought to herself, half smiling, A little red envelope in a little red box.
She turned and walked away.
Chris approached the empty bench with mixed feelings. After yesterday he had no intention of returning to that spot to see Alice, he was merely going to wait for her to contact him. But in the last 24 hours he had heard nothing, and so, realising that he wasn’t as cool and calm as he had intended on being, had decided to return to the bench today, in the hope that Alice would be there. But she wasn’t.
The bench was vacant, yet still Chris didn’t feel completely hopeless. He had a certain sense of hopefulness, that he couldn’t explain. Like he knew that things would work out in the end. But then, standing in front of bench, he paused.
Who am I kidding? he thought, This is stupid.
He sighed then sat down. Across the way from him he could see the post box, and wondered if Alice had posted the envelope, or had she just given up. Again he found himself wanting to know what was in the envelope, and worried for a second that he would never know. He also wondered whether it really mattered.
Suddenly he was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of his phone ringing – the tone similar to the one he had heard coming from Alice’s mobile all week. He calmly reached a hand into his pocket and pulled out the phone. He looked at the screen: Unknown number calling… it read. He pressed the green phone symbol to the left of his keypad, raised the phone to his ear and spoke.
The little red envelope didn’t mean a thing.
This is adapted from a script I have recently written for a short film I plan to make very soon for my university course.
The film documents a week in the life of two twenty-something’s who over the course of seven days form the beginnings of what might grow to be a good friendship, and perhaps something more.