She got out of the building, moving, as usual, slowly and it began to rain.
"It's raining!" she said plaintively to the universe, but she unexpectedly got an answer. It startled her that a tall man with mostly white hair and a white beard was standing next to her, smiling and holding his umbrella over her.
"Oh, thank you, sir," she said. "It's so difficult with these darn arm canes to juggle an umbrella also."
"I noticed," he said. "Can I escort you to your car?"
"That would be so nice," she said and moved along with him with difficulty, using the two arm canes, with the clasps around her forearms for support.
Carol had never really gotten too good at the use of the arm canes but she continued to struggle with them.
They got to the car and she thanked him again and he departed with a smile.
Then the car! The car! The damn car!
Carol by that time was rigid with anger. She just wasn't sure if the anger was mostly at this damn old car of hers or at herself for being emotional about it, keeping it and not getting it serviced. So, now the damn thing was paying her back by not even making a pretense of starting.
"Lovely!" was her word, spoken out loud and then after some reflection:
She rarely engaged in profanity but this was a situation that called for it.
The car of course was only the representation of all of it for her. When she got into one of these momentary rages, she thought of it all: teen agers hooting and running the stop sign, hitting her car broadside, being killed themselves and rendering her legs unusable. Then Billy's unforeseen and world ending reaction that he couldn't relate to her as a cripple and leaving.
From a certain view point, Carol was doing okay. She worked at a Realty Agency and was doing okay but didn't take care of many of the details of her life, like the car, the car was Billy's area and, of course, Billy the shallow was gone.
She felt herself descending into tears, when she was interrupted. It was the tall, striking looking man again. He rapped on the window and asked if she needed help.
"I'm afraid so," she said, "Again!"
"What is it?" he asked softly.
"Oh, it won't start!" she said, and added, "And I was just about to have a crying fit about it."
"Well, that's one option," he said calmly.
"And now you're here and you're so reasonable, and it seems silly to descend into those doldrums over the car."
"Well," he said, "Unless I miss my guess, it's not only the car."
"No, of course not, and you're being so kind," she said.
"Well, shall I call someone or shall I take you someplace? Can I give you a ride home?" he offered.
She was unsure of what to do.
"Of course," he said, "Silly of me. Here's my card."
He handed her a business card that indicated that he was Dr. Matthew Wayne, Surgeon. Her head shot up and she said, in a voice of wonder:
"You're Matt Wayne?"
"Why, yes," he said, looking at her then with curious eyes.
"I'm ... it's me Carol Burns," she said almost excitedly.
"Oh my!" he exclaimed, "Carol! I can't believe it!"
(A word of explanation: in high school, Matt and Carol had had one date. Matt was hopelessly smitten by her but she was the 'property' of Billy Felton, and Matt had no chance with her at all. He went away to college and tried to forget about Carol.)
"But, Matt," she said, "I'm keeping you standing in the rain."
"Well, I'll give you whatever help you want," he said.
"Oh, how nice," she sighed, "Could you please take me home? This darn old car; I never get around to getting it worked on. Billy used to do those things..."
Here her voice faded off completely, and he let it go. He opened the door and she got out and promptly collapsed but he grabbed her and had her up in his arms immediately."
"Damn!' she said. "These useless legs, and the canes can be so tricky to deal with, and here you are breaking your back with me."
"Not at all," Matt said, "Here, take this," he said, indicating the umbrella, which he'd been juggling all along. She took it and he strode away, after closing her car door, to his own car.
He had a white Jaguar.
"Lovely, lovely car!" she said, as he put her down, setting her onto the front seat, so that she could slide herself into the car."
"I just want to make sure that your car is locked," he said to her, closing the car door on her passenger side.
When he was back, he slid into the driver's seat and looked over at her. He was still stunned to have run into, of all people, Carol Burns. She'd been his huge crush in high school and that soft spot had never, ever gone away. But he pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind.
"Home?" he asked her. "Have you eaten? Would you care for some dinner? I don't know places around here anymore but..."
"You've already been so kind," she said.
"It's not kind only, Carol," he said, "It would be a great treat for me."
She smiled then at him and said, "Okay, on one condition."
"One condition, fine," he said to her.
"You let me walk," she said with a giggle.
"Oh, yes, ; I apologize for that! The last year of my wife Bonnie's life, she died of complications of MS, I carried her a great deal. It just was kind of second nature."
She touched his sleeve and said: "Please don't apologize, I was wrong for kidding you about it; I had no idea. I'm sorry about your wife. That was?"
"Oh, yes," he sighed, "She's gone for over 15 months now but who's counting!" he said ironically with a great sigh.
"What a caring man you are, Matt," she said then. Then she brightened and said:
"How about Italian? The Medici Palace is not far from here and it's really good."
"The Medici Palace it is!" he said.
When they arrived at the restaurant, the rain had stopped. He got out of the car and helped her out. He held his hands up in the air, when she was out of the car and said:
"Look, Mom, no hands!"
It made Carol laugh, and he grinned at her.
In the restaurant, over a glass of merlot, they shared each other's stories. Matt talked about the gradual loss of Bonnie:
"It was so bad during that time; I kept thinking that there should be something that I could have done, and there didn't seem to be anything at all. After the funeral, I just became the busiest surgeon around. I had nothing but work, a huge house and a new car. Pretty damn empty, if you ask me."
Carol brushed tears from her eyes, as he talked about his life with his wife and the tragedy of her illness and eventual death. He tentatively reached out a hand and wiped a tear from her cheek. It was a strange moment and one that they didn't talk about at all. But both of them regarded it.
Then she talked about Billy. He high school sweetheart, whom she'd married and had been the greatest disappointment in life that was possible. Billy, who'd failed at college and eventually got a job with a trucking firm. Billy who'd never provided well or enough, so that she went to work and eventually rose to manage the real estate agency. Billy the tragedy of her life, until those drunk teenagers slammed into her car and left her with useless legs, and regrets.
He said toward the end of the dinner:
"Catching up has been a real chore for both of us, Carol, but this is the most pleasant evening that I've had in five years."
Her eyes sparkled at that and she put her hand on top of his and said:
"Thank you, so much, Matt, I appreciate you saying that and I agree."
He drove her home, after the dinner. It wasn't spectacularly late but they were both tired.
"Would you come in for a late drink?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "Do you by any chance have sherry? It's nice for late at night."
"Oops!" she said, "My bar isn't stocked very well."
"Shall I get some?" he asked, "There was a place on the way here."
"Well,..." she said, not sure what to suggest.
"I won't be very long," he said, and went to get the wine, coming back within the half hour.
They sat and had their glasses of wine and he said to her, finally:
"Carol, this has been supreme! Tell you what! Tomorrow I'll be here in the morning, and we can breakfast, if you like."
He thought for a moment and said: "I guess I'm being pretty forward, forgive me if I let my enthusiasm rule my head and my manners."
She smiled and said: "Matt, you are the most gentlemanly individual that I've dealt with in many, many moons. Tomorrow morning at 8 AM; I'll have breakfast ready for us."
"Oh," he replied, "I was going to bring McDonalds."
"No," she said quickly, "I'm much better than McDonalds."
Then realizing how that sounded, she began to laugh.
He joined in the spirit of the laughter and said back to her: "I don't doubt that at all."
It was a hug 'goodnight' for them at the door, as he left.
When he was gone and she was finally alone, Carol leaned against the door and said:
"Well, well, Matt Wayne!" and smiled.
He returned the next morning and was at her door at 7:58 AM. She met him at the door, looking fresh and ready for her day. He smiled and put his arms around her, pleased that she didn't tense up at all, when he hugged her. He also kissed her cheek.
"Good morning," he said.
"Good morning to my knight in shining armor!" was her reply.
"Hmm," he replied, "Never been called that before."
"Well, it's about time," was her come back. "Breakfast," she said then.
"Mmm, smells good," he said and "Better than McDonalds."
"Definitely," was her laughing reply.
.... There is more of this story ...