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…

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 10

But…wait!  Hold on!  Bob had said a “restaurant”…which…’by definition’…was absolutely not “a cheap dive bar with naked, dancing ladies, an opium den in the back and  a ‘neon sign flashing XXX’s over the front door”.

A “restaurant” was generally known as a place where families come to eat and families usually meant adults and children…so there.

I smiled and took a deep, calming breath.  No jail time for Cooper Malone today.  Awesome!!

I’ll order a Coke, I thought.  I love Coke.  Maybe I’ll order 2 Cokes…or a Pepsi.  Pepsi is a good choice too.

Let everyone else drink beer and flash their fucking ID’s all over the place.  “I’ll have a Coke…please.”

I planned the dialog in my head as we approached the town.

Opening Scene:  Restaurant interior…Cooper speaks confidently to the waitress…

“You know, I don’t think I’m in the mood for a beer.  I think I’ll have a Coke…” (and then all really polite-like) “with extra ice, please…”

The extra ice makes it really believable.  Right?  Right.

Like I could have a beer if I wanted to…but I don’t want to.  I am over 21 but…I just don’t want to drink beer…right now…today…even though I could…if I wanted.  Fade out…

And ‘former best friend’ Franny had better not say one damn word or there will be no “Roger encounter” for her at The Friendly when we get back.

That settled…I let my mind concentrate on Hank.  He looked older than either Franny or me…maybe about 25?  I wonder what he did for a living?

I knew for sure he was cute.  Oh yeah…he was cute all right and pretty damn sexy…he also had a kind of presence, not an attitude really, but something else…whatever it was…I liked it.

As we pulled up to the “Three Oaks Restaurant”, I noticed a family of four sitting by the front window.  Mom.  Dad.  Two little girls with pigtails…maybe 8 and 10.

Neither of the little girls were slugging down beers.  Not that they would be…of course!

“Settle down, Cooper.”  I said sternly to myself…as my thoughts ran crazily roughshod over any sensibilities that I may have had when this day had started.

Chapter Thirty

Of course…bitter truth be told…I was also foolishly hoping that maybe tonight would be the night that Bobby would come over during the band’s break and talk to me.  He was so damn cute.  Picture Bradley Cooper with a guitar and a killer smile…

I had this stupid crush on him…it was so pathetic at my age… even though it did appear that he maybe had a girlfriend.  I’ll give that to Abby. 

There was this beautiful flight attendant from Delta…and yes…she often came into the club in her uniform…who was always sitting at one of the front tables with a couple of her girl friends…also decked out in their uniforms.  

Her name tag…pinned right on the shoulder of her oh so cute uniform…read “Tiff”.  Yeah…I’m sure that name was on her birth certificate…give me a break.

During his breaks, Bobby almost always went over and sat down with her and her friends.

But I thought that last night he was actually heading in my direction…until she raised her arm and signaled for him to bring her another drink and…so he did.

Some nerve.  He wasn’t a waiter, for Pete’s sake.  But before he had headed towards the bar he had turned towards me and had given me a super, dazzling smile…and a wink.

“Maybe he was trying to tell me something…like ‘I was going to come over to you but I have to do this to be polite…'” I pondered out loud.  Stella raised her head.

“Wow.  That was an amazing stretch…even for you.” Stella said.

I laid back against my propped up pillows and closed my eyes, trying ever so hard  to remember last night’s smile from Bobby.  He had been smiling at me, hadn’t he?

I.  Am.  Never drinking that much again.  Ever.

Suddenly a vivid memory flashed like a bolt of lightning through my brain.

A voice.  A man’s voice…

“You’re not driving tonight are you Charlie?”

And me, drunkenly oblivious to anyone but my own pitiful self, had waved a hand in the direction of the concerned voice and dismissed the question with what I had thought was a brilliant answer.

“Driving?  Not tonight, babe.  I’m flying home tonight….simply flying…”

And then…that was it…end of lightning bolt.  End of memory.

Chapter Thirty-Four

Feeling better, I stood up and shrugged into my coat.  Since I was so hot from crawling all over the floor, I didn’t think I needed to button up.  I could handle 20 below zero for a couple of minutes.  I was…after all…a hardy Minnesotan.

I reached into my pockets for my gloves and then realized that I had left them on the front seat of my car when I had paused to put on lipstick before Hannah and I went into Doyle’s.

“See you next week, Teddy.” one of the dishwasher guys hollered at me as I passed through the kitchen.  I waved and pushed open the back door.

A blast of frigid air hit me and I immediately went into the bent-over, “huddle” position…familiar to anyone who has ever lived thru blistering cold winters.

I walked quickly across the parking lot to where my car was parked to begin my long trek home.

There would be no eating at the Minnehaha Grill tonight.  No eggs.  No bacon…and definitely no fun without Hannah.  What a bummer.  Oh, well.  I was pretty tired anyway.  It had been a long day.

The lot behind Doyle’s was huge and tonight we had no choice but to park way out on the perimeter since we had been running late.

Hannah had taken forever to get dressed.  She wanted to make a good impression on the band…and on her new ‘cop friend’.

“Amateur Night, Charlie,” she had said to me…as I tried to hurry her along.  Hannah was so beautiful she could wear a brown sack and look perfect.

As I walked to my car, I looked down to search around in my purse for my keys when suddenly a strong hand from behind grabbed my wrist and twisted my arm up behind my back.

Another arm came around my other side and a hand clamped over my mouth so tight I couldn’t scream and my struggling  was useless.

As I looked up, two more men appeared before me.  One of them had on a Grinch ski mask and the other one was wearing just a plain, black ski mask.

They swayed from side to side in an unsteady manner.   They had obviously been drinking…a lot.

“You be good now,” said the Grinch.  He was the taller of the two.  They both reeked of alcohol as did the man holding me captive.

“Jus’ let go of that pursh,” he slurred.  “An’ we’ll be on our way.”

I didn’t like the look of the long-bladed knife he had in his right hand.

I quickly let my free hand open and my purse fell with a thud to the ground.

I winced.  It was my brand-new Kate Spade bag.