Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Not-So-Bad Day

          "Excuse me, miss," the man said. "Do you need help?"
It was 7:30 A.M—a sunny, blue-sky morning in spring. I squirmed and grimaced on a wooden bench that faced the bike path. I glanced up from rubbing the pain in my left calf. 
A fellow jogger with curly blonde hair and startling blue eyes peered down at me.
"I'll be fine," I said, and continued to rub my calf. "Just a bad cramp. Happens when I don't do enough stretching before taking off."
"Sure it's not something worse?"
He was dressed like me, T-shirt and shorts. His gaze sent a warm shiver through me. "It'll go away. I just need to get back to my car."
"Let me help. Please. My name's Alan White—I think I've seen you before."
I darted a look at him. Recognition clicked in my brain, and despite my pain, I smiled. "I've seen you in the hallways and elevators at Mercy Hospital—I'm a nurse. Patty Wilson. Obstetrics."
When he smiled, his left cheek dimpled, and my heart did a little somersault. "I'm in food service management," he said. "New guy in town. Let's see if we can get you to your car."
He held out a hand. I grabbed it, and he pulled me to my feet. While I leaned on his strong right arm, I hobbled along with him toward my car in the parking lot, maybe seventy-five yards away. "I really am glad you came along," I said. "I might've had to crawl to my car. This has already been a bad day."
"Something else happened?"
"Woke up this morning and discovered my air conditioner is out. Repairman's coming Monday."
He smiled ruefully. "I've had days like that."
"This is my car," I said, as we approached a silver Ford Fusion. "Thank you so much."
"Don't mention it. You sure you can drive?"
"Positive. I've already walked off some of the pain."
"Good," he said, and smiled again. "My car's at the other end of the bike path. Be seeing you, I suppose. At the hospital."
"Probably," I said, ready to watch him jog away, feeling a little sad. Was he married? Dating? What was he doing with the rest of his life?
But he didn't jog away. He glanced my new car. Appeared to be studying it. Head tilted, he nodded slowly. "This really is your bad day," he said.
Alarm shot through me. "What?"
"Your car's listing severely to the right—"
My head swiveled. I stared at my car.  "Listing? Severely?"
"You have a flat tire. Passenger's side. Front."
I gasped. I nearly fell over, but I didn't panic. Didn't mutter any bad words. "No problem," I said. "I've got roadside assistance."
"Nonsense," he said. "I'll change it."
"You don't have to—"
"Save your insurance for when you really need it."
While I sat in the grass, rubbing my calf again, feeling the last of the pain ebbing away, I watched Alan change my car's tire. A little breeze blew, and a cardinal sang from a treetop. I wondered what I'd done wrong recently to be punished this way. Furnace, ankle, tire—what was next?
While Alan worked, we chatted. We discovered we both liked our jobs at Mercy; we were single, exactly the same age—twenty-eight—and—to my delight—unattached. Maybe this isn't such a bad day after all.
Finished changing the tire, wiping his hands in the grass while he sat next to me, Alan said, "You'll need to get that tire fixed this morning and remounted. You don't want to drive around on that spare too long. It's only a donut."
"All right," I said. "I can't thank you enough. Um...let me give you a ride to your car."
He shrugged. "It's only a couple of miles away."
"Afraid I might hit a tree—more bad luck?"
I loved his dimpled smile. "All right," he said.
He helped me up from the grass, his hand warm. As I shambled toward my car, he asked, "You sure you can drive?"
While I nudged into traffic to take him to the other end of the bike path, I felt his eyes on me, and I felt heat creeping into my face. What's next? I wondered. I run out of gas? We arrived at his car in no time. I expected him to say something like, Well, this is it.
But as I parked alongside his Camry, he said, "Look, I'm almost afraid to leave you alone—you're having such a bad day already. How about if we drop your car off at a garage, get your tire fixed and remounted—and I'll take you to breakfast while we wait?"
Oh wow!
"I'd love that," I said, my heart doing that somersault thing again with a little cartwheel added.
"I know it's been a bad day for you," he said, releasing his dimpled smile at me. "But—well, it's been a really good one for me..."

The End
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Friday, June 15, 2012

The Man in the Silk Paisley Vest

 As I circled the measuring tape around his chest, Ethan raised his arms. He was the last of the five groomsmen I was measuring for paisley silk vests to be worn with their tuxedoes. Suddenly the fitting room in my shop felt warm.
I don't know why. The other four men were mannequins to me, but Ethan's warm chest and back and the scent of his musky cologne somehow made him come alive.
Finished with the groomsmen, all of them tall and handsome, perhaps my age—twenty-five—I said, "I'll call when it's time for a fitting." Four of the five groomsmen, smiled, said, "Thanks," and piled out the door.
But Ethan—blonde and broad-shouldered, perhaps the tallest of the men—lingered and said, "I can't believe how you can measure someone, then take a piece of cloth, cut it, sew it, and make it into a piece of clothing—I mean you're making the bridal dress and the bridesmaids' dresses, too, aren't you?"
"And dresses for the flower girls," I said, and felt flattered that he was interested. I knew if I looked into his blue eyes, I'd blush, so I looked away and said, "Sewing's in my blood. My mom and grandmother are seamstresses, too. They're helping with this project, and someday I'll be taking over their business, with lots of help from them, of course."
"I understand what it takes to be creative," he said. "I build clocks. Early American grandfather clocks, German cuckoo clocks—you name it, and I want to say I appreciate your artistry. I think it's awesome."
This time I couldn't stop myself from blushing. "Well...thank you."
We talked a bit more. We were both single, not involved with anyone. I gathered Ethan was too busy to become involved romantically. Besides working as a clockmaker, he was also studying to be a jeweler. Suddenly he glanced at his watch and said he had to run; it was nice to meet me. I hated to see him leave, but I knew I'd see him again and wondered if he'd be thinking of me.
A week later he showed up with the other groomsmen for the fitting of the vests and again lingered as the others left. "My vest fits beautifully," he said. "It'll be a life-long treasure." Then, "How have you been, Carly?"
His asking and his remembering my name amazed me. Was he truly interested? "Been working like crazy finishing the dresses for the wedding." Thinking I might coax him into staying a bit longer, I said, "Would you like a cup of herbal tea?"
My hopes rose when he said, "I'd love a cup of tea," but they plummeted when he added, "But I can't stay," and shot a looked at his watch. "I'm in a hurry this morning. Well...I'll see you sometime."
But I wouldn't see him. There were no more fittings. A handsome, intriguing man—someone whom I could be interested in—had just walked out of my life. My heart ached a bit. Get over it, Carly! Be happy.
Then a week before the wedding, an invitation came in the mail, a hand-written note at the bottom. Sorry for being so late with this. Please attend. I want you to witness your beautiful creations. RSVP.
A single woman attending a wedding alone stands out like a sore thumb, but I shoved that thought aside: I'd love to see my dresses, and I knew Ethan would be there.
A lively reception followed a beautiful wedding. When the music started, Ethan eased onto a chair next to me, a warm smile sweeping across his face, and my heart skipped. "Your dresses have made this affair even more elegant. And you look spectacular."
Heat rushed over me. "Thank you. And so do you."
He gave me a sly grin.
"It's my paisley vest. Shall we dance?"
As Ethan and I circled our arms around each other on the dance floor, a slow tune beating softly in the background, his cologne scent drifted about, and I felt as if I'd melt. "I hoped you'd be here," he said. "I checked the guest list, saw your RSVP, and then hoped you'd be alone. Because I've been thinking..." His voice trailed off.
"Well, I almost called you a dozen times since we first met."
I gazed up at him. "Why didn't you?"
"Look," he said. "I'm...always so busy. Always on the run."
"I know that feeling."
"I've decided I need to re-prioritize my life. Put first things first." He cleared his throat; his Adam's apple bobbed. "That means...I wonder if we could spend some time together...if you don't mind."
His blue eyes fixed on me. He seemed a little breathless, waiting for an answer, and I couldn't stop my mouth from hanging open a bit or my heart from fluttering. Mind? Do I mind?  "I don't mind at all," I said, and snuggled in closer to his paisley silk vest.