Chapter 1

The clouds were heavy and low and the forecast was for rain, but Jessie Ralston stood at the bus stop with a big smile on her face. While she waited, Jessie looked around at the stores behind her. Spring was just around the corner so the window displays were full of beach attire, sundresses and sandals. For several years now, Jessie had dreamt of taking a vacation to some exotic place. She diligently saved all her change and the few dollars that she had left at the end of the month. With a sigh she turned back to wait for the bus.

"Excuse me," Jessie declared.

Jessie looked to see whom she had bumped into just as the bus pulled up. Out of nowhere a rush of people pushed past her on their way to be first to board the bus. She tried to move forward with the crowd but ended up shoved to the side. Just as she saw a clearing, an elbow caught her in the pit of her back, causing her to stumble and lurch forward.

"Careful there," a deep voice near her said.

"I'm so sorry. I lost my balance when someone hit my back," Jessie explained.

Jessie turned towards the voice as she apologized. The man was standing close enough for her to smell his spicy cologne and to see the unusual gold flecks of color in his hazel eyes. He smiled when she realized her hand was on his chest.

"Forgive me, I didn't mean to..."

"Are you alright?" he asked with concern.

Jessie stopped talking when they both spoke at the same time. She blushed and gave him a soft smile as she waited for him to go first.

"Let's try this again," he said to her. "Are you sure you're okay? That looked like it could hurt."

"I'm fine, and thank you for being in the right place for me to catch myself on you," Jessie grinned.

"You're welcome. I always try to please a pretty lady like you." Jessie watched the way the stranger's eyes lit up as he spoke.

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"Well, it looks like you missed that bus. I hope you don't have an appointment or important date waiting."

"No, I'm just going home," she replied.

"What a coincidence. That's where I'm going," he told her.

Jessie heard the sounds of the next bus as it approached and tried to think of something more to say. She wanted to find out if he was married or taken. He intrigued her.

"I don't mean I'm going to your house, of course, although that could have possibilities too." The look he gave her as he spoke was full of innuendoes.

"It could, but I have rules about taking strangers home with me," Jessie laughed.

"Rules? Maybe I can abide by them if you explained them to me."

"It's very simple. Today is Tuesday and I only bring strangers home on Wednesdays." Jessie winked as she gave her answer.

"I'll be here tomorrow then," he came right back with.

They both laughed as the bus pulled up to the curb. Jessie took a step towards the line but stopped when she felt a hand on her arm.

"Wait. Have dinner with me, then."

"But you don't even know me, or if I'm married, or even engaged," she hesitated even as she wanted to say yes. Some instinct told her to take a chance.

"Are you?" She saw his eyebrow arch as he asked the simple question.

"Well, no, but I could have been."

"Today is Tuesday and that means I'm only allowed to meet beautiful single ladies," he deadpanned.

Jessie burst out laughing at the statement. Neither noticed the bus leave while they talked.

"Then I guess that makes us even since I make it a practice to only fall into handsome men on Tuesday."

"Ah, but you forgot to ask the all important question." He watched Jessie as he spoke.

"That depends on which question you're referring to. On Thursday, I would ask if you're available or not, but it's Tuesday, and I never ask a Tuesday question first. Besides, it's easy to tell you're single." She grinned when his brows furrowed.

"No wedding ring, right?"

"I didn't look for that," Jessie told him truthfully.

"Then it must be the desperate look on my face when I asked you to dinner."

"Well, that was cute," she replied, "but not it either."

"I'm not doing so good guessing, am I?"

Jessie chuckled at the sad look he pasted on his face. He reminded her of a little boy that didn't get his way and was pouting.

"It's your coat. You have a button missing," Jessie explained.

"Oh yeah, that came off a couple months ago. What does it have to do with being married or single though?" His hand went to the missing space as he spoke.

"Simple. If you were married your wife would have made sure it was sewn back on."

Jessie noticed the way his eyes sparkled just before he tipped his head back and laughed. She saw a tiny scar under his chin and wondered for a moment how he acquired it. An image of him falling off his bicycle at a young age flashed past her.

"So I gave it away myself and didn't even know it. You have a good eye for detail. And yes, I'm single, totally available and house-trained. Now will you have dinner with me?"

"Well, I do need to eat sometime, and it's really too nice out to go home," Jessie hedged.

"Nice? It looks like it will rain anytime."

"I love the rain," she remarked.

"There's a great little place just up the block. We could walk there and you would still be close to your bus stop to get home." He pointed behind Jessie as he spoke.

"Don't you think there's something we should do first?" Jessie asked.

She smiled at the man as he crossed his arms. Jessie could almost read his mind as he seemed to be thinking of what she was referring to with her question.

"I'm Jessie and it might be easier to share dinner if I knew your name as well," she explained.

"That's so true, Jessie. Let me introduce myself properly then. Chad Zorn, also known as CZ to some people."

"You're the DJ?"

"If I say yes, are you going to leave?" Chad asked her.

"Of course I won't leave because of that. I listen to your show every morning. You're so funny!"

"Thanks. My mom thinks so, too."

Jessie and Chad began the short walk to the restaurant as he spoke. When they approached the door, he stopped before opening it.

"Wait a minute, Jessie. You do remember this is Tuesday, right?" Chad gave her a stern look.

"We came to that conclusion earlier I thought, yes," she agreed.

"On Tuesdays I like to know more than the first name of my dinner companion."

"I see," Jessie remarked. "Jessie Ralston, secretary extraordinaire."

Chad smiled and looked straight into her eyes. "Extraordinaire in many things I am guessing."

"I'm not really anything special, Chad, just a normal person doing my best at a boring job."

"Somehow I doubt that, but I hope to have lots of time to discover all the facets of Jessie Ralston," he told her as he opened the door for her.

"There's a few hours left before I turn into a pumpkin."

They both turned when the hostess came to check their seating preference. She led them to a corner table that overlooked the deck. Chad held Jessie's chair for her before taking a seat to her right.

"I've never been here before, Chad. It's lovely."

"Yes, very lovely." His eyes never left her face as he spoke.

Jessie caught him staring at her and blushed. She remained quiet as the server brought menus and told them of the days' specials. After they gave their beverage orders and the server was gone, Chad sat back, cleared his throat and smiled at Jessie.

"Thank you for agreeing to dinner, Jessie. I know you took a chance and I assure you I'm perfectly harmless."

"I've never done this before," she admitted quietly.

"Never gone to dinner with a man?"

Jessie laughed and relaxed.

"I don't make it a habit of letting strangers pick me up at the bus stop," Jessie explained.

"Ah, but you knew my name, so I wasn't a stranger any longer."

"A stretch, but true," Jessie conceded.

For the next several minutes, they talked about the weather as they perused their menus. Their server returned and asked for their dinner order. After a recommendation from the young man assisting them, they agreed on what to eat and he left them alone once more.

Chad took in the stylish clothes and mannerisms of the fascinating woman in front of him. He found that he wanted to know everything about her tonight, not just the few casual revelations made on first dates. As he watched her sip her drink, he knew that he wanted there to be many more to follow.

"So tell me how you got to be a famous DJ, Chad."

"I always loved the concept of radio and how it reaches out to people. When I was in college, I interned at the school's station, picking up odd shifts as I learned the business. That was a lot of stations and cities ago but I still enjoy it," he explained to her.

"It seems like a good way to connect with the public, but I could never talk like that. I'd struggle to find important things to say."

"The key is listening to everyone else. I find the best topics from observing people," Chad replied. "For instance, right now I'm thinking I could make an entire show from how we met."

As a waiter brought their meal to them, the conversation stopped, and Jessie took the time to look at Chad. He was joking with the waiter about music and radio stations. They were discussing a local event put on by the station Chad worked for when an older man stopped at their table.

"CZ, you've been keeping something from me, I see."

"Are you the disc jockey?" The young waiter's eyes grew wide as he realized just who Chad was.

"He is, kid. Five hours every day he regales the city with his wit and charm," the man confirmed.

"Bill, I'd like you to meet Jessie Ralston. Jessie, this is Bill Hop, one of my bosses at the station," Chad explained as he introduced them.

"Hello Bill, it's nice to meet you," Jessie told the newcomer.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Jessie," Bill replied.

"Boy, my friends are never gonna believe me when I tell them who I met." The young man clearly had a case of hero worship as he looked at Chad.

Jessie was impressed with the way Chad handled the young man. She watched as the three talked a minute before they all shook hands and the waiter walked back to the kitchen.

"Enjoy your dinner, you two," Bill told them.

"Thank you," Jessie replied politely.

Chad turned to Jessie and apologized for the interruption. They chatted as they returned to their meals. Jessie was soon laughing at some of the stories Chad shared from his radio show. Chad leaned forward in his chair as soon as their meals were finished.

"Do you want any dessert or are you ready to go?"

"No dessert for me. The meal was delicious and I'm full," Jessie told him.

Chad motioned for their server and took care of the bill. Jessie noticed that he treated everyone in a friendly manner, a trait that appealed to her. He stood and went around to her side of the table to hold her chair as she got up. They walked to the door together, a striking couple to everyone that saw them.

As soon as they were outside the clouds opened up and a light rain began. Jessie stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and tipped her head up. Drops of rain ran down her cheeks and into her neck. She laughed and stuck her hands out to catch some of the rain.

"You're beautiful," Chad said as he watched her.

Jessie stopped and just stared at Chad. The truth of his words was in his eyes.

"It's raining," she stated. "I'm getting wet."

"What rain?"

They stood in the rain and smiled at each other. The few people that braved the weather walked around them, shaking their heads at the couple standing oblivious of the rain.

"I want to see you again, Jessie."

"I'd like that, Chad."

"We'd better get to the corner so you don't miss the next bus." He touched her arm lightly as he spoke.

Jessie's skin tingled from the heat of his hand through her sweater. She heard the bus pull up down the block, but ignored it, choosing to stay where she was.

"There will be another one. I don't have any reason to hurry home," Jessie admitted.

"Would you like to walk for a while then? The rain is letting up already. I could run in to one of the stores here and buy an umbrella if you prefer."

"A walk sounds perfect, but you're right, the rain is letting up, so no umbrella is necessary," Jessie said.

Chad reached for her hand and held it loosely as they started to walk. They wandered down the sidewalk in a comfortable silence. He pulled her closer to him when he saw someone in his or her path. They went several blocks before they turned back the way they had come.

"The bus should be here in a few minutes. You need to get home and into something warm so you don't catch a cold," Chad told her.

"I'm not that wet, but I should go. Tomorrow is another work day."

"Yeah, I have to be up at four to make it in time for my morning show."

"Chad, you should have reminded me of that sooner. We didn't need to walk so much," she replied.

"I was having a good time and didn't want to go," he admitted to her.

"It was nice," she remarked.

"Look, here's the bus. You'd better get in line. Thank you for having dinner with me, Jessie."

Just as she started to speak, the bus driver tooted the horn, and she found herself caught in the small group hurrying to board the bus. Jessie climbed the steps and took the first window seat she found. Chad was still standing where she left him. He waved at her and smiled as the bus took off.

Jessie was in a great mood when she finally got home. She hummed as she took care of her damp clothes and prepared for bed. The book she took with her held no interest as her mind returned to Chad and the way they met. There was a smile on her face as she went to sleep remembering hazel eyes with gold flecks.

The sun was shining when Jessie opened her eyes in the morning. She looked at the time and quickly turned the radio on to the station Chad worked at. His morning show still had a few hours and she didn't want to miss any of it.

Chad and his partner were asking their listeners to call in. Jessie wondered what the discussion was about while she hurried through her shower. When she got out they were just welcoming another caller. Jessie sat down to hear what they had to say.

"I met my girlfriend at the airport, CZ. We were stuck in Chicago from a massive snowstorm overnight. All the other passengers were complaining about the delay, but when I noticed her, she was just reading. Whenever I looked her way, she had a smile and looked happy. I walked over and commented on the book she had, and the rest is history," the male caller explained.

"Thanks for sharing your story and I wish you much happiness together. Let's hear from one more caller before we break," Chad told the listeners.

"Hi CZ. I wanted to tell you about how I met my husband in a taxi," the next caller began. "I was running late for an appointment across town. A taxi finally pulled over and I started to get in. From the other side this man was sliding in. We argued over who was going to get the taxi when the driver asked where we were going. It ended up that we both were going to the same block, so he told us to share or get out."

"What happened next, caller?"

"During the ride, we continued to argue over which one of us had been there first. We both stopped and laughed at the stupidity of it. After my meeting, he was waiting outside the building to apologize. That was six years ago and we have been married almost five years now," she finished with her story.

"Congratulations and thanks for calling in," Chad said. "More stories after the break, including one that is extra special."

Jessie grabbed some fruit during the break and hurried back to catch the next story. She thought about trying to get through and call herself, since the topic seemed to be meeting someone in odd places, but decided to wait and hear the next caller first.

"Welcome back, everyone. This is CZ and today I'm asking anyone that met their partner while traveling or commuting to share their story with us. Before we go to another listener, I want you to hear this," Chad paused and Jessie stopped eating as she waited.

"I met the most beautiful woman at a bus stop last night. Even though it was dreary out she was smiling and cheery. She fell into my arms and my life changed right there. We even had dinner together. But I made a mistake," Chad told the audience.

Jessie dropped into a chair as she heard him say he made a mistake. She had been so sure he enjoyed himself as much as she did. What did she read wrong?

"You see, I was pretty stupid last night. That's right, I made one of the dumbest mistakes ever. I didn't get her phone number before she left," he went on to explain.

With his admission, Jessie's smile returned, and she reached for the telephone. If she could only get through to the station now, she had a plan. When the direct line to Chad was busy after several tries, she looked up the number for the main office, and dialed. When the receptionist came on, Jessie gave her name and asked for Bill. After a brief discussion with the boss, Jessie heard her line connect to the show. Several minutes later she heard Chad on her radio.

"We have another caller ready to tell us how they met someone special. Go ahead caller, you're on."

"I wanted to tell you how I met someone that I hope will be a part of my life now," Jessie said.

"Where did you meet this person and what made it special for you," Chad asked.

Jessie could tell that he hadn't recognized her voice yet. She took a moment to get her thoughts in order.

"He has these gorgeous hazel eyes with gold flecks in them. Someone pushed me into his arms at the bus stop yesterday. For some reason I took the chance when he asked me to dinner. But I made a mistake, you see, because I got onto the bus to go home and forgot to give him my phone number," Jessie continued. "Lucky for me he told me where he worked," she added.

"Jessie!" Chad answered. "Here's a song for all the happy couples to listen to while I take another break."

Jessie heard the beginning of the song and grinned. The words came through loud and clear. She waited for Chad to take her call and sang along to "Bus Stop" by The Hollies.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic /