Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Perfect Accident

           He was a tall man, about forty, quite handsome, athletic-looking, dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved denim shirt. His rusty-colored hair was cropped short.
As he shambled though the front door of my friend Liz's Coffee Cup Café, he glance anxiously at the patrons eating breakfast in the booths and at the tables.
Then he drifted over to the counter where I perched on a stool, the only woman alone at eight in the morning in the café.
I had to be to work at nine. I'm a legal secretary.
I wondered if he could tell I was a widow over forty. Truthfully, I've always been a hopeless romantic, believing in real-life fairy tales and had felt another good man—like my deceased husband, Tom—would someday come along, if only by accident. But after three years, it seemed I was wrong. Still, I was hopeful.
The man with rusty-colored hair slid onto a stool two places away from me, to my right, in front of the donut display. Force of habit, I guess, but I glanced at his left hand, and noted that it was ringless. I raised my head, and that's when our eyes met. Collided is more like it. His eyes were deep blue, and my heart skipped. He said, "Um...are you from around here?"
"Born and raised right here in Waverly. You?"
"New in town. I'm the new manager at Menards."
"That super hardware/lumber store down the road?"
He nodded. "I decided to stop to try this place for breakfast and—"
Liz appeared with my platter of French toast with two strips of bacon and an egg, over easy. She'd set me up with several blind dates, and now that she saw I was talking to this stranger, she gave me a big smirk, then looked at the man. "May I help you, sir?"
"I was stopping for breakfast—"
"Best breakfast in town," Liz said.
"—but when I was parking, my cell phone fell off the dash—I shouldn't have laid it there. Stupid, but I reached to catch it, and in the process I swerved and put a major dent in someone's car, driver's side door."
Liz darted a look at me. Her car wasn't parked in the lot, but mine was.
"I'm not sure," the man said, "the door will even open. I thought I'd ask...if you know who drives a late-model red Jeep."
I gulped. "I do."
"I'll keep your breakfast warm," Liz said.
As the man and I slid off our stools to go outside and check out my car, he said, "I'm Max Green—"
"I'm Anne Tobias."
"I've got insurance so there's no worry."
In the parking lot, in the sunlight, I saw that the gash in my Honda's door was long, deep, and ugly. "I'm sorry," he said. He looked so sheepish that I caught myself feeling sorry for him. "If you've got time this morning, we'll take your car to the body shop of your choice for an estimate."
"I can call in, take the morning off."
He offered me his cell phone. "Would like to call your husband?"
I told him I was a widow. He said he was sorry to hear that and then asked if he could buy my breakfast. "I owe you that," he said. "At the very least."
Inside, he sat next to me on a stool. While his eyes seemed to appraise me, I felt myself blush. He ordered what I had but with two eggs. We both asked for coffee, no cream nor sugar. He said he was from upstate, his first time in Waverly. He hoped to settle in and make this assignment at Menards permanent. He was divorced long ago. No kids. I told him my kids, twin girls, were both in college, seniors.
Our chatting was easy and friendly. Like old friends. Lots of smiles all around and a laugh or two—I felt my heart warming. Finally he said, "Um...this is so strange, us meeting like this..."
"I know. A dent in my car door."
He bit his bottom lip. Seemed hesitant. "Um...would you like to do something over the weekend? Dinner? A movie?"
I tried to stop my eyes from flying wide open. He's asking me out!
My breath caught for a moment. Be calm, I told myself. "There's a blues concert in the park Saturday night."
"Sounds great. Dinner? A concert?"
"All right, I'd like that."
After we finished breakfast, smiling, he said, "Let's take care of your car."
He thanked Liz for a great meal and left a hefty tip. Liz gave me a wink. As we got up to leave, he said, "Really, I'm sorry about banging into your car. All my fault."
He opened the front door for me.
I felt myself grinning hugely. "It's all right," I said. "Sometimes accidents have a way of turning out perfectly."

The End
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