Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Lovely Spring Day

             The woman I'd longed to meet since moving in next door to her a week ago, stood on my front porch, my Boston Terrier Buster clutched in her arms, his stubby tail wagging.
I'd just answered the doorbell.
"Found him in my backyard," she said, "digging in my flowers." Smiling—for which I was thankful—she handed me the squirming eight-pound monster. "Thought you might like to have him back."
I shook my head sheepishly. "One of the twins—or maybe I did—must've left the back gate open. I'm so sorry. 
She smiled again. "He was on his way to China."
"He's a nuisance. But the twins love him. I do, too—did he ruin anything? I'll gladly pay."
"It's all right," she said. "No harm done. He really is adorable."
I couldn't take my eyes off her. Slender. Chestnut-brown hair cut short. Up-tilted nose. The first time I saw her my heart went Bam! and I knew I wanted to get acquainted. My mom, who visits nearly every day and helps me out a lot with the twins, said to me pointedly, "The girl is single, never married, and works at home"—Mom had already gossiped with other neighbors—"you should talk to her, John."
But how does a widower with five-year-old twin daughters get acquainted with a single girl—his neighbor—and send signals that he's ready to move on and open up his heart again to someone? How does he get to know her well enough to ask he out—if only for a cup of coffee? Especially when he hasn't dated in seven years. And now Buster, the Monster Dog, is caught digging in her flowers.
The front door still open, I set Buster down, shooed him into the house, and closed the door. I turned quickly, before my neighbor could escape, and offered my hand. "John Bedford," I said. "I don't think we've been formally introduced."
"Sally Rogers," she said as we shook hands. " I'm so glad to finally meet you."
Oh wow!  She's glad to meet me.
 I didn't know what to say. "Um...a great day—a great start to the weekend, don't you think?" is all I could manage.
"My mom's in the house French-braiding Sara's and Jesse's hair—I'm taking them to a birthday party." I glanced at my watch. "Pretty soon...two o'clock."
After I said all that, I expected the information to bore her. Why had I even mentioned it? But she asked, "How old are the girls? They're beautiful."
"Five. I'm a widower."
"I guessed that. Or that you were divorced."
"My wife died three years ago." Stop babbling, I told myself.  "How long have you lived in the neighborhood?"
"Five years. I work at home. I'm a certified public accountant. I do contract work for small businesses."
"I'm a junior high school teacher. Social studies and P.E."
"Tough job."
"But I like it." I glanced at my watch again. Any second now Mom would come to the door and tell me the twins were ready.
Sally inched toward the steps. "I should be going. You're busy."
I followed her down the steps. I couldn't let her get away.  " gardening your hobby?"
"That and reading. I do some needlepoint. I love old movies. You?"
"Um...I like to golf. When I have the time."
"Really," she said. "I've always wanted to learn."
She ambled toward the sidewalk. I followed. I glanced at my watch again. The twins should be piling into the car any second and this moment—this opportunity—would be lost.
"Where did you live before moving in?" she asked.
"In a condo. But I thought the kids should grow up in a home with a yard and neighbors. Buster, too—sorry about your flowers."
"Don't worry about them. I think you'll all love it here."
My turn to smile. "I'm sure." My heart suddenly jack hammering, I did the unthinkable. I gulped and said, "Look, this birthday party will last a couple of hours. If I dashed back, could I invite you in for a cup of coffee?"
She seemed to hesitate. Was she making up an excuse to turn me down? Was she already expecting someone? Her boyfriend. Please! No!  "Why don't you stop at my place?" she said. "I'll have coffee and rolls ready."
Wow! Oh wow!  "I'd love that."
She walked home, and when I turned I saw Mom, the twins, and Buster standing on the front porch—all of them smiling at me in their own special way.
"Who left the back gate open?" I asked.
"She did!" the twins cried in unison, pointing at each other.
"Thank you!"
I rushed to the porch, hugged them, then picked up Buster and scratched him behind the ears.
"A lovely spring day," Mom said, her knowing smile growing wider. "Don't you think?"
"I left the gate open," she said, hoisting an eyebrow. "On purpose."

The End
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