Julie still remembered so vividly... the day her luck changed. She had been making her way along Woodlawn Avenue, taking in deep breaths of the fresh spring air. She loved the two-mile walk to the little boutique café and flower shop where she was employed. It always lifted her spirits.
She had always enjoyed meandering along Woodlawn Avenue. For a brief time surrounded by that beautiful wooded area, she could forget the difficulties she was having making ends meet—the exhaustion and tiredness she so often felt.
An overworked single parent with two little daughters to support—for that few precious minutes—the walk was always a welcome reprieve. She could almost forget that she was barely getting by on her modest salary.
The fact was, she had no choice but to walk to work—if she was to meet her landlord's recent rent increase. Just when she thought she had it all worked out, her oldest daughter, little seven year old Aimee, had needed dental work. It never rains, but it pours, she said to herself.
At 17, she had foolishly moved in with a carefree guy named Rick who had promised her the world. He had, instead—given her the two most precious gifts of her life: her daughters Aimee and Lacy.
When he moved on to greener pastures a few years later—hooking up with a woman he had met that had money—Julie had been left to fend for her and the two girls.
Six months later came the news that he had been killed in a motorcycle accident. It was then; she fully realized she and her little ones were well and truly alone.
However, Julie was no crybaby—she was a determined little female. She didn't run around trying to eliciting sympathy or crying on anyone's shoulder—she just stoically made best of her very difficult situation. She refused to admit, even to herself, that she and her little girls were living on the edge of poverty.
As far as her feelings for men went, she was a healthy 27 year old woman with all the same healthy urges of any female her age.
She discovered, soon after Rick had abandoned them—that even though she was slender and attractive, a petite 110 pounds, 5'2 tall, a rather pretty petite female—men were not all that interested in dating a woman who had children.
This discovery made her isolation even more painful. She longed to find someone who could care for her, someone who would accept Aimee and Lacy as well. It had now been two years since Rick. At this point, she had pretty much abandoned her dreams of ever meeting such a man.
On the day her luck changed—Julie, was walking to work along Woodlawn Avenue, when she heard a car slowing down.
"Why... Hello, there," a familiar masculine voice called out. "Don't you work at the little Boutique Shop at the Shopping Center?"
Turning around Julie recognized Mr. Lane, a pleasant refined older man who often came through her checkout line at the shop.
"Yes. Yes I do," she replied, giving him a warm friendly smile.
"I'm going by that way. Could I give you a lift?" he asked.
"If you're sure it's not out of your way, I would love a ride," Julie answered.
Reaching across the seat, he opened the door on her side. "Get in. I'll drop you off right there," he said, smiling at her.
"By the way, my name is Craig Lane. I already know your name," he said, smiling at her. It's Julie... right?"
"Yes, my name is Julie. Julie Detwiller."
"I'm happy to meet you," he said. "You know... , you're even prettier away from work. When I come through your checkout line, that beautiful smile of yours always seems to make my day, "Craig said, with a grin.
"Well, thank you kind Sir," Julie said, somewhat disarmed by his friendly open manner.
"So do you walk to work everyday?" he asked. "Forgive me for being so forward."
"Yes, pretty much everyday, I'm afraid," Julie admitted. "It's really nice of you to stop and offer me a ride."
"Well, you know... , I come this way about this time most days on my way over to a little Southside coffee shop across town. If you wouldn't think I was being to forward, or trying to pick you up, I would love to stop and give you a lift."
Then with a warm laugh, he teased her. "What am I saying, of course I'm trying to pick you up - to take you to work.
"Not that I wouldn't jump at the chance to pick you up - in the man/woman way," he said, with a disarming grin.
"You don't even know me," Julie said, with a little laugh. "I'm a poor working mother with two little girls."
"I'll bet they're just as attractive as their mother," Craig said, smiling back at her.
"For the record, Julie, the fact that you have children doesn't discourage me... not even a little bit."
The Seeds of Affection grow...
From that morning on, Julie would walk along until she heard the sound of Craig Lane's car slowing down. She would feel her heart give a pleasant little lift as he opened the door for her. Days passed. She found it very easy to accept his kindness.
But, she would always tell herself, Julie, don't get your hopes up. He's being nice to you because he's a nice guy.
Yet, it was so lovely to have even that brief contact with someone. The few minutes it took for them to drive to the Boutique became the high point of her day.
She came to realize that he was genuinely interested in getting to know her. So Julie gradually begin to relax. She told him a bit about her and her girls situation.
Craig proved to be a good listener. He never criticized or tried to come across as a know-it-all. Instead, he just listened quietly, attentive and sympathetically.
The morning, she finally, reluctantly confided that she was encountering financial difficulties he had said to her.
"Julie... , promise me something?"
Julie without hesitation immediately assured him. "Sure. If I'm able, I will."
Giving her that now familiar quiet smile, Craig said.
"If you ever find yourself in trouble of any kind, I want you to please remember I'm your friend. Without getting into the details, —I'm not without means and influence. It would be my pleasure to help you in any way you think would be helpful."
Julie, so long alone, felt a sudden rush of warm emotions. Here was a wonderful man who not only enjoyed her company—he was trying to be a real friend to her. She felt her beautiful gentle brown eyes tearing up.
"Thank you, Craig—It's so good of you to be concern."
The days wore on. Several weeks went by. Julie still could not quite believe what was happening. Will I wake up some morning to find this thing with Craig was all just a lovely dream, she often wondered to herself.
At night, as she drifted off to sleep, she would wonder to herself. What does someone like Craig see in me? He's obviously well off and could probably have any woman he wants. Is he attracted to me sexually? She wondered.
I'm not going to get my hopes up, she thought; I'm just going to enjoy this for as long as it lasts.
A month went by. She realized not only was he still attracted to her—the two of them enjoyed sharing many affectionate lighthearted moments together with each other.
Julie with her woman's intuition felt sure he wanted to kiss her. What's he waiting for? She wondered.
She was thrilled and surprised when he abruptly one morning, right after picking her up, had asked her.
"So... When do I get to meet your two little girls, Aimee and Lacy?"
Julie's heart seem to catch in her throat. A flood of happiness engulfs her. Trying to remain calm, she replied, with a little smile in his direction.
"Well, I'm off this Sunday. Would you like to come over? You could meet them then if you would like."
"Sure," he said, obviously delighted. "Hey! Why don't I pick you three girls up Sunday morning. We can all go out to breakfast together."
"That would be wonderful, Craig," Julie assured him." I'm sure Aimee and Lacy would love that."
Sunday's breakfast turned into a festive event for Craig, Julie, and the girls. The restaurant Craig took them to was the Grove Restaurant that was very upscale. Julie felt funny walking in knowing she and the girls weren't dressed for such a fancy place.
However, from the moment they entered, the staff took control of them—making them feel welcome. She felt such a warm affection when she saw the way Craig was so at ease with her two girls.
He was so attentive and gentle toward them. He seemed to delight in playfully teasing them. Julie found herself laughing as she watched how Craig, seemed completely engrossed in listening to their bright little innocent patter.
Well, she thought, if I don't win his heart, my girls surely will.
I shouldn't fall in love with this guy, she thought, but how can I not! Then on the spot, she made a decision. I'm not going to fight it.
Once they were seated, she was genuinely puzzled by all the attention the Grove Restaurant Staff seem to lavish on Craig. It was obvious; he was a frequent customer by the way they deferred to his every wish.
Not only that—but the Staff's attentions also included her, and Aimee, and Lacy. It's like we're a real family, having Sunday breakfast out, Julie thought to herself. This is so wonderful... it's like a dream!
Leaving the Grove Restaurant, Craig had another little surprise for Julie and her two little daughters.
"How would you girls like to come over and visit me at my place, before I drop you off at home?" he asked with a smile.
.... There is more of this story ...