“Or a hat…”

She loved Fall…

She loved the clouds…the dead leaves…the cold wind…the bleakness…and then later…the quietening snow of Winter.

There was a lake close to where she lived.  The path that meandered around it was seldom used now that Summer was just a memory.

Most people had chosen to huddle inside until warmer, sunnier days returned in the Spring.

But not her.  She loved this time of the year…and she loved the peacefulness of walking alone.  She liked people…but she didn’t need them…not always.

Sometimes she just needed herself…like today.

The trees were now completely bare, the grass was brown and dead leaves were whispering about…

She scuffed them with her shoes as she walked…the sound echoing in the silence around her.

She wandered out onto a deserted, wooden fishing bridge.  During the hot, sultry days of Summer it held children fishing…coached by patient grandfathers…perhaps…

It was not bitterly cold…not yet…but it was chilly and the wind was getting stronger.  It blew her raggedy blonde hair around and made her eyes water.

She probably should have worn that extra sweater under her jacket…

But…there was no one to encourage her to do so…so she hadn’t.  There was someone…once…a long, long time ago.

Dark clouds scudded overhead and she knew it wouldn’t be long before the leaves she had just been crunching beneath her shoes would soon be buried under layers and layers of silent snow.

She didn’t want to leave…not just yet…she leaned over the wooden railing and looked down into the still, dark water.

There were no fish swimming today…

She saw only her own reflection…dark brown eyes, flecked with gold…narrowed slightly as if asking a question…what?…what?

She was okay with being alone.  This cold, grey day was somehow strangely and inexplicably pleasing to her.

And…because she couldn’t quite yet leave all this behind, she leaned even harder against the railing…seeming to “settle in”…trying to capture and hold this day…this time…this feeling and keep it with her…forever.

The railing was old yet seemed sturdy…but she was young and she didn’t have time to worry about the sturdiness of objects she may be leaning against and then…

Someone from behind her said, “Be careful there, kiddo, I think I see a couple of cracks in that railing.”

She quietly chuckled to herself and then softly murmured, “kiddo…”

The lovely old man in the apartment down the hall from her used to call her “kiddo” all the time…

…until he died last month.  She missed him…a lot.

So, when she turned around, she expected to find someone very much older than herself…

…someone who would worry about wood and/or railing safety.

But instead, she saw a young man…probably not much older than she was…bundled up against the cold weather…unlike her…who was not.

Then the wind blew hard across the lake and she was suddenly very cold and she shivered a little…not a lot…just a little.

“You should have worn a scarf…” he earnestly offered…followed by a tentative, helpful smile…

Then he hesitated before saying more…because he knew…

He knew full well…that he should not be telling this complete stranger…what to do or how to be.  But somehow, he couldn’t stay quiet…

“Or a hat…”

Six weeks later they got married…and it snowed.  And that was fine…

The End…

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