A chance encounter opens the possibility of a relationship between Frank and Beth
|WC 524 Words
The Casual Encounter
It was good to have a quiet dinner after a hard days work. The shop had been hectic but the engine finally surrendered its stubborn valves, pistons and the crankshaft even decided to cooperate. What a satisfied feeling as it dropped out the bottom end. As I sat pensively, looking out at the lake, a young woman walked into the dining room. She was tall, wearing a simple black dress and talking on a cell phone. The conversation looked stressful and intense. Paying more attention than appropriate, I chided myself about being nosy, paid the check and left the dining room.
I went into the bar and ordered a bourbon and coke. The bar tender set the heavy tumbler on a napkin. A sip showed some bite followed by a warm glow of relaxation. I exhaled as the effect began to spread. My cell phone began to jangle. It was Ralph, my agent, sayingthe article I'd submitted was picked up by a syndicated publication. Delighted with the news we talked for a few minutes, discussing ideas for some follow -up work. This was my third sale and the month was barely half over. After hanging up, the woman from the dining room walked into the bar and took a seat. She had a deflated look.
The days success gave me an unexpected confidence. Impulsively I introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Frank and today I’ve been on a roll.” It was one of those uncontrived, spontaneous openings that just sort of presented itself. “Looks like you haven’t been quite so fortunate."
A startled, painful look flashed across her brow as she gave me the once over.
"Mind if I buy you a drink?"
The intensity faded to ambivilence. “Is that your best line?”
“Sorry, it just popped out…normally I’m not the outgoing type.”
“Does your wife know you're here?” she asked sarcastically.
“Don't have one," I replied. “Can you cook?”
Her mood began to soften and I caught the glimmer of a smile. “Matter of fact I can…I’m something of a gourmet. With my diet I have to stick to small portions and what I eat, I want to be good.”
“Same here,” I answered. “That’s why I like to come here…the food's good.”
“I like my cuisine spicy and on the edge; how about you?”
“Then you must like Mexican. I prefer Italian."
“I might have guessed with that swarthy complexion."
“I sure like your dress. It suits you.”
"What are you, a fashion designer?" Her eyes rolled.
"Sort of...I build cars...everything from Rat Rods to Concours 'de Elegance.
“A mechanic," she said shaking her head and started to cough. “It’s really smoky in here. If you want to continue this conversation, let’s say we step outside.”
Sometimes I get premonitions - both good and bad. They come over me like a cool breeze or a roll of thunder. Something was about to happen. There was something special about her that radiated. The connection was there, hanging in the air, full of energy and potential.
We stepped out onto the patio and walked over to the rail. The air was still and the lake placid. “My name's Beth,” she said noncommitally. “You seem like a nice enough guy.”
"Nice enough for what?" I quipped and immediately regreted the way it sounded.
She took it the wrong way. "Is that all you men think about?"
"Sorry," I replied, "Just sort of popped out... social skills are not my long suit."
"...And what is, If I dare to ask?"
"I make some awesome automobiles... Want to go for a ride...? I have one in the parking lot."
"I think I'll pass... I suspect that isn't what you really think you're best at."
Damn! I chided myself, Now you've done it, ruined the opportunity of a lifetime. Say something., Dummy! " Sometimes I don't express exactly what I'm trying to say..." There was desperation in my voice.
"So what would you like to do besides get me into the back seat?"
"Start over... Maybe we can take a walk around the lake... the path is almost carpeted this time of year...covered with leaves and pine needles."
"Hmmm.... you sound trustworthy... but I'm not convinced."
"I promise, Beth, no surprises, Scout's Honor."
"We need to be back before dark."
For the first few minutes we walked side by side in silence. I didn't want to press my luck and she didn't seem to mind the lack of conversation. For that I was grateful because I'm not exactly an avid conversationalist. At length however the suspense became unbearable and I spoke up.
"This has been a perfect Indian Sumner day and being with you is a great way to end it."
She took my hand...
A current passed between us. My heart pounded and I tried to sound casual."Are you ready to head back?"
"Suppose so," My boss is driving in late tonight and I have work to do."
"Is that what was troubling you earlier?"
"He can be troubling at times. Does it show?"
"You seemed anxious on the phone."
"My aren't you the observant one....a veritable Sherlock Homes," she teased.
"I'll admit I've been paying close attention, since I first laid eyes on you."
"Well sir Galahad, I must say it's been a nice interlude. Now show me this car of yours."
We walked around front and just the other side of the hedge was the 1939 Chevy. It exuded an aura of power and masculinity.
Maybe I'ill take that ride after all. Want to see where I work?
"I'd love to," I answered, holding open the door.