I’ve seen her before; Saturday mornings at the open-air market, she works a booth with an older woman, next to the Mennonite family with their wood carving and placards with Olde English words of wisdom. She and the other woman, could be her mother, sell oils, incense, homemade soaps, herbs and natural medicines. I have never spoken with her, there’s always a group of men around her booth vying for the attention of the older woman; buying oils and soap which will only evaporate from once open vials or grow hard on the shelf. The young lady would sit on plastic containers, rising only when the older woman told her to ring up a sale at the register. Her hand would fly to her face, covering her mouth whenever she spoke to a customer. I was always curious about that until now.
She wears her hair free on the weekends like a mane from a lion and big dark glasses shade her eyes and half her face. Today her hair is hidden in a simple sky blue wrap which pops against her dark skin. Maybe that’s why it took me a while to recognize the young woman who the past hour as interrupted my reading. Each time I look out she looks in another direction. Now that I see her up close and without the street fair atmosphere of the market she looks as plain as drywall. Her eyes, unadorned by the huge glasses appear as a black dot on a white die. The hand to her mouth barely hides the dull white planks which protrude from lips made up with glossy red lipstick.
She stands behind and slightly to the left of another young man sitting at one of the desktop computers in the research lab.They’re about ten feet from my the hardwood desk, I have my books strategically placed on the table to ward off any potential interlopers.
“So, sorry, sir.”
“Ahem. I … uh,” the young man answers.
I turn my head, my eyes fall into her cleavage like a diver off a cliff.
She cuts her eyes in my direction as if she can feel me.
“Sorry,” The man whispers again.
Her eyes return to the monitor.
“Uh … when I try to indent the first sentence of the paragraph, the entire paragraph indents.” The man manages to get his question out.
I use the distraction to rake my eyes down her body.She’s wearing a black lightweight v-neck sweater that shows off her sculpture shoulders,it form-fits over the curve of her breast and tapers down her flat midsection and flows onto the charcoal hip-hugging jeans. A dance’rs body, sinewy and lithe.
“Oh, were you using the format in the toolbar?
“Yes.” The young man answers. He leans back and scrapes the chair on the wooden floor, jamming it into her thigh.
“Oh, sorry, sir I didn’t intend to crowd you. I’m a bit farsighted.
A flash glance in my direction.
Well,” she leans across, her body blocking my view of the monitor, “just use the tab key.” She jabs a key. “And the sentence will indent not the paragraph. Okay?”
“Uh, thank you.”
I return to my research until I feel someone standing over me.
“May I help you with something, sir.”
I look up and see a tight lip smile and the small black dot eyes penetrate my being.
“No… ,“ my eyes fall on the machine-typed name tag over her left breast. “No, Ms. Turney, I’m good.”
I watch her walk away, like a black panther stalking a wounded wildebeast.
It’s four o’clock and my stomach reminds me the oatmeal I ate for breakfast is long gone.
I yawn and uncoil my body from the reading position, massage the nape of my neck and twist my head. Ms. Turner sits at the Librarian’s desk, watching me and taking a bite out of a sandwich.
I rise and will my head not to look in her direction as I make my way to the men’s room. I don’t remember seeing her in the library before. True I rarely come here on a week day, but I have been here before. Right?
The checkout desk is empty when I exit the men’s room. I scan the room. Nothing. Curious. Is she allowed to eat lunch in front of the patrons?
I pack up my laptop and stack the reference books in the middle of the table, grab a book off the shelf on my walk towards the check-out desk. There a bulletin board behind the desk: WORD OF THE WEEK – SERENDIPITY ˌ/serənˈdipədē/ noun- the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“May I help you, sir?”
A tall elderly woman, her hair pulled back in a bun, sporting large brown wooden frame glasses. A whimsical smile plays on her thin lips. When I don’t reply, she cocks her head like a puppy.
“Sir, may I help you?”
Mrs. Samuelson her name tag reads.
“Oh, is Ms. Turney here?”
“Oh.” She turns and looks at a doorway behind her, the long thin finger on her hands folded as if in prayer. “Ms. Turney is gone for the day.”
She smiles and blinks rapidly. “Ms. Turney leaves at four on Tuesdays.”
My eyes are drawn to the giant black and white clock hung on the wall over the word of the week.
4:17 it reads.
“Are you checking out the book?”
“Oh,” I forgot I held the book. “No. Thank you.”
I tossed the book on the desk and leave the library.
I rode my bike today; when I left the house earlier this afternoon the air was still and the sun bright Now the wind is brisk, the sky dark and the clouds ominous.
“Dang.” Weather report never said anything about rain.
I stay on the cement path to the side of the library where the bike rack is attached to the
building. I see it as soon as I turn the corner, the front tire is flat. “What the …?”
“You need a ride?”
Ms Turney wears her big glasses though is almost as dark as night. She stares and repeats the question. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”
“No … Uh… I have a car.”
Her forest green Honda Civic idles hard and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” oozes from the interior.
“I saw you ride a bike this morning.”
What the hell? “I did ride my bike, so I’m good.”
She looks skyward.“Looks like rain.”
I shift my weight onto my right foot and take the backpack off my shoulders. “Yep. But I don’t have far to go. I think I can make it.” I regret it the second I allow those words to escape.
“Where do you live?”
“I live on East End.Twenty minutes by bike. Uh, a straight shot.”
She nods, bobbing her head to the music. “I go pass that way. But I don’t go on East End.”
The interior of her car is spotless, bone-white with green trimming. There is a stack of books on the passenger’s seat, a large insulated cup in the holder. That’s it.
I’m annoyed now. “Look, why are you here? The exit is that way.”
She ignores my question; her head still bobs. “There’s enough room for you and your bike. Looks like you have a flat tire.”
“Yeah,” I unzip my bag and retrieve the small pump, “I’m always prepared.” I drop the backpack, kneel on the ground and attached the pump. I turn as she drives off. The rain starts.
I been wet before and I don’t mind riding in the rain. The tires of the bike cut a path in the grass and hit the road at an angle, jump the berm and I pedal hard down the highway. Thunder booms and the skies open up. I put my head down and focus on the road; one hundred yards and I’ll take the long curve onto East End Road, a country lane covered like a bridge by the overhang of large oak and maple trees. The cars are like they’re standing still; I realize they are at a stand still.
The wail of an ambulance’s siren pierces the air. I raise my head just as a fifty-three thousand degree bolt of lightning flashes across the sky turning the dark sky bright for an instant. Red, yellow and orange eye floaters swim in front of my face like bugs around a street lamp. A monstrous roar of thunder shakes me, I skid to a halt. A police car screams past the unmoving cars, another ambulance chases it.
A bad accident? I rake my hand down my face; I can’t see far it’s raining too hard.
I make the turn. The trees are a good cover
I slow and get into an easy, loping rhythm, it will put me at the door of my apartment in eleven minutes. The pitter-patter of the rain on the leaves is good background music for my thoughts. I do a double-take into my mirror when I spot a car about hundred yards behind me. A dark Honda with its brights on.
Hope it’s not her. I wait for it to gain on me and pass but it hangs back. Is she following me? I try to ignore it. Four minutes I’ll be home. The rain has stopped, big drops fall from the leaves.
Two minutes. The after the storm aroma is good and I relax until I glance into the mirror. The green Honda… yes, green has gained and is fifty yards behind me quiet as a cat on cotton. The brights are off and I see an image in the driver’s seat.
Too vague. Ninety seconds. I pick up the pace.
The Honda passes flying, kicks dirt and dust in the air, small stones ping off my bike.
I exhale and turn into my complex; the Honda sits at the stop, idling.
My heart is pounding like crazy before I hear voices inside my place; I live alone. I turn the lock and walk inside.“Who’s here?”. Nothing. But voices continue and I realize it is the television. I rarely watch the tv and I know I didn’t have it on this afternoon before leaving the apartment. The local news is playing.
The traffic on East Liberty Blvd is at a stand still. Our at the scene reporter has the story; Sheri.
Yes, Dave. A one car accident with fatalities, the authorities tell me, is the reason for the traffic snarl during rush hour. We are at the intersection of East Liberty Boulevard and New East End Road, just past East End Road if you are traveling eastbound out of the city. As you can see the police are directing traffic around a car that looks, in this reporter’s eyes, completely demolished.
My mouth hangs open. I flop down onto the floor, heart pounding like crazy, my head feels like it on fire, sweat streams down the from my hairline.
The picture of a dark green Honda twisted almost beyond recognition and impaled on a shovel of a large earth mover. The driver sits straight up in the seat the broken steering column growing from her chest.
The camera quickly pans away.
A grisly scene, Dave, we apologize for that picture.
Sheri Mays, reporting from the scene of an accident with fatalities. Back to the studio.
I run out of the apartment and dash to the end of the pavement. The Honda is gone.
Yeah, I know it needs work.
© 2016, charles stone. All rights reserved.
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