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archive:stories:fic7

A Chance Meeting in the Park Copyright © 1994, Joe DeRouen All rights reserved

                  A Chance Meeting in the Park
                         by Joe DeRouen
   Sam fed the pigeons every day, without fail. Today was no

exception. The sun shone down through the trees in accompaniment to the warm gentle breeze of summer, but all Sam noticed were the pigeons.

   A large stone dolphin spat water into the sky, some of it splashing

out of the fountain onto the grass surrounding it. None of it mattered to Sam. He continued to feed the birds, the world around him but a foggy, meaningless haze.

   At least until SHE came into view. She sat on the park bench across

from Sam, reading Newsweek magazine. She crossed her long legs and Sam could almost hear the rustle of silk underthings. Her tight red dress clung to her like a hungry pigeon to popcorn, and her long, delicate red hair brushed across her face in the wind. Cool eyes of blue gazed out, taking in her surroundings. She couldn't be a day over thirty. Her skin was a light creamy peach, unblemished by the ravages of the world. A moment later, her surveillance finished, she went back to the magazine.

   Sam was forty. He'd been married once, but his wife had left him

some ten years earlier. He'd been BORING, she said. She'd wanted adventure, and Sam couldn't give her that. Good old Sam, she'd said. Good old Sam was good for sitting around the house, going to church on Sundays, taking in a movie now and then. She'd wanted something more, so she'd left.

   He'd dated sporadically since then, though no one ever really

piqued his interest. He'd had his career, and that was that. He'd been at Miller Accounting firm for nearly twenty years, and had managed to rise to assistant manager. He didn't need a woman.

   Didn't need a woman? Who was he trying to fool? He'd managed to

fool himself for years, but deep inside he knew he didn't want to be alone.

   She turned her head away from the magazine, laughing as a pigeon

pecked Sam's grey loafers as if to say "Hey, we're hungry!" Politely ignoring the moment's indiscretion, she went back to her magazine.

   Sam tossed a bit of seed to the pigeon, enough to get it to give up

it's assault on his feet. Sam's hair was turning grey, almost matching his loafers. He was getting old. He really wasn't happy at Miller Accounting, but what else did he have? He didn't have a wife, and he probably never would. Certainly no one would ever go out with HIM. Definitely no one like the lady in the red dress across from him. He couldn't help his gaze as it wandered to her, caressing her form like the gentle rays of the sun touching the morning dew.

   He could imagine how she saw him: old, out of shape, short brown

hair starting to grey, his lusterless blue eyes paling in comparison to her own. Why, she probably wouldn't have noticed him at all were it not for that hungry pigeon.

   If he asked her out (now THERE was a laugh!) he'd get turned down

flat. He imagined it would go something like this . . .

   "Er . . . excuse me, ma'am. I couldn't help noticing you, and . . ."
   "Yes?"
   "Er.. It's awfully nice weather we're having today, isn't it?" Sam

shuffled his feet, feeling more nervous than he had in years.

   "I suppose it is. Did you need something, mister?" The woman in red

asked, looking annoyed.

   "Well, as a matter of fact yes. Do you come here often? I've been 

in this park every day for over ten years, and I've never seen you here before."

   "Look, mister - If you need something, ask it. I'm on my lunch

break, and I haven't got long. I have to be back to the office in about fifteen minutes, and I really want to get a start on this new Dean Koontz novel. Do you need something or not?" She gazed cooly up at him, icy eyes with a hint of danger.

   "Well . . . Would you like to go out sometime?" He asked in a rush,

the words coming out between ragged breaths.

   "With YOU?" The woman laughed, then turned her attention to her

novel.

   And that's where the fantasy ended. At that point, she'd laugh,

rise to her feet, and stalk out of his life forever.

   If there was even a chance she'd say yes, he might do it. Might

actually ask her out. There wasn't a point to doing something that would only cause you heartache, was there?

   His thoughts were interrupted by her movements. She folded the

Newsweek magazine into her purse, stretching languidly across the green metal park bench. Soaking in the sun's warm breath, she sighed, smiling up to the sky. Reaching in her purse, she pulled a shiny-covered paperback book out. Dean Koontz's TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING.

   Sam's mouth dropped in shock. He couldn't be psychic, could he? He

didn't believe in that sort of thing. She must have had the book out before, and his subconscious had picked up on it and used it in his fantasy. Makes sense.

   He was spending far more time than he should thinking about this

woman. He'd have to get back to the office soon himself, and why ponder over what you can't have? Besides, even if she DID agree to go out with him - and that would never happen - he'd find some way to bungle it up. His thoughts seemed to lose focus, as he fantasized about how his dream date might go . . .

    "I'm glad you agreed to go out with me, Kelly. I've been going to

this restaurant for years, and they serve the best pasta I've ever eaten."

    "I'll do anything once, I suppose." Kelly yawned, surveying the

restaurant. It was dimly lit, and looked as if it hadn't changed in the last ten years. She instantly hated the place.

    "Umm . . . Well, would you like to order now?"
    "We might as well. I have to wash my hair tonight, so let's order

something quick."

    "The linguini in red clam sauce is really great!" Intoned Sam, with

an exuberance he didn't feel. This wasn't going at all well.

    "Well . . . Great. I'll have that, then."
    "Would you like some wine? This red wine is delicious." Maybe this

was going somewhere after all. Maybe the wine would relax her. He tried to steady his shaking hands as he began to fill her glass.

    "Sure, I'd love some . . ." She smiled for the first time at Sam.
    The wine sloshed over the edge of the glass as Sam's attention

wavered to her smile.

    "Oops!" He yelled, loud enough to draw the attention of half the

room. "Let me . . ." Reaching for a napkin, he managed to knock the full glass of red wine into her lap.

    "Eeek!" She screamed, leaping to her feet. "All over my new silk 

dress! dammit, I KNEW I shouldn't have come!"

    Yes, he'd bungle it up for sure. There was no doubt in his mind.

He hadn't been on a date in longer than he could remember. Why, he'd probably forgotten how! If it wasn't the wine, he'd say something wrong or forget to hold her chair for her, or something.

    
    The rest of the world lost to the novel, her eyes danced through

the pages as Sam's eyes once again fell upon hers. She shifted in the bench, as if sensing her admirer's gaze. Her black leather purse tumbled from her lap to the ground below, revealing gold-embossed initials: KM. In one swift motion, the purse was recovered and she was once again buried in Koontz's prose.

    Sam's eyes popped out of his head. KM? Her name was Kelly in his

fantasy. He couldn't have seen the purse; the initials had been facing away from him. He shook himself, as if to force some sense back into his tired frame. His imagination was working overtime. He must have seen the purse after all, or just had a lucky guess. Besides, even if he WAS blessed with a premonition of some sort, what did it matter? The premonition was bad. His fantasies ended up with him wearing a liberal amount of egg on his face. What good was that?

    She placed the book face down on the bench, then rose to her

feet. Stretching, her form pushed fully against the confines of her dress. Her black pumps showed off her well-developed calf muscles, as she smiled into the distance. Taking a deep breath, she found the bench again and went back to her book.

    Sam's eyes caressed her body longingly. She was the most

beautiful woman he'd ever seen, even more so than his ex-wife. Almost imperceptibly, his surroundings once again seemed to fall away and his mind was elsewhere . . .

     "Kelly, will you marry me?" 
     "Sam . . ." She looked away from his eyes, focusing on a point

beyond him.

     They'd been dating for two years. He'd asked her out and she'd

actually gone, and, even more amazing, enjoyed herself. They'd continued to date off and on, never committing, but growing closer.

     "Kelly, I love you."
     "You know, that's the first time you've said that."
     "Well, I DO. I've loved you since I first saw you. You are my

heart." He started to cry, swept away by the emotions he felt inside him.

     "Why did you take so long to tell me?" She found his eyes,

reaching out to touch his cheek. "I knew you cared for me. Dating anyone this long has to mean something. But you've only kissed me a handful of times. You've never come into my house. You've never made love to me."

     "Kelly!" Sam blurted, looking away. "I've wanted to, lord knows

I've wanted to. Kelly, I've been so scared. I didn't want to scare you off. I didn't want to lose you like I lost Sara . . ."

     "I'm not her! I'm me, dammit! Never once have you held me, never

once have you taken me away for the weekend. Two years, Sam! I kept waiting for you to do something - anything! - but you wouldn't."

     "I was scared!" His tears fell freely now. "You're so beautiful. I

wanted you so much, I was afraid I'd lose you. That day I met you in the park, I was terrified to ask you out. I managed to do that, somehow, but I've been scared ever since. It took me so long to find you, I didn't want to lose you."

     "Sam . . ." Tears came to her eyes. "Sam, if you'd only said

something sooner. All this time . . . I've loved you, I've wanted you to love me. You wouldn't even commit to dating exclusive."

     "I haven't dated anyone." He said stiffly. "I've never looked at

another woman since I met you. I haven't wanted to."

     "Why didn't you SAY something, Sam?"
     "Kelly . . . If you don't want to marry me, we can wait. We'll

take it slow . . ."

     "Sam, there's someone else. I didn't want to wait! He asked me to

marry him. Yes, Sam, he ASKED. And I accepted! That's why I asked you to meet me here. To tell you."

     He felt as though his heart had just died. "It's Gary, from your

office. Isn't it? I knew he had his eye on you . . ."

     The world seemed to snap back in place, and Sam was on the park

bench again, pigeons all around him. The fountain was pumping water into the air, creating little rainbows in the sun. Kelly - No, he reminded himself, the woman in red - was still reading. His thoughts were his own again.

     "Kelly!" Shouted a thirtysomething man in a grey pinstriped

business suit, about thirty feet from the center of the park. His blonde wavy hair didn't blow in the wind, as he walked briskly towards the woman in red.

      Kelly? His thoughts raced, his heart pounded. The world around

him seemed to come into focus, defining, gaining a crystal clear edge. The fog was gone, replaced by a sharp awareness. He felt his muscles act of their own accord, as he rose from his bench.

      "Hey, Gary." She called, a voice so sweet it sent chills through

Sam's soul. "How was the business trip?"

      He'd lost so much already. Sam stepped away from his bench, as

thoughts and images raced through his mind. Thoughts of his wife pleading with him, of a childhood lost, years at a dead end job. Chances not lost, but never taken. Decisions sidestepped in favor of fear. In an instant, he made a decision.

      "Kelly?" Asked Gary, nearly upon them. "I was wondering,

if you're not busy . . ."

    
      "Excuse me." Smiled Sam, quickly putting himself between Kelly

and her advancing officemate. "Kelly, could we . . . talk?"

      "Sam?" She asked, finding his eyes. She smiled.
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