Instead of the usual Friday's Romance Through Time, for Valentine's Day I'm posting a short story.
The Runaway Shopping Cart
Paula backed her Civic out of the driveway. As she glanced across the street her new neighbor was also reversing his pick-up. They exchanged friendly waves. In the two months since he'd moved in, that was all they'd exchanged.
She wouldn't mind getting to know him better. He had an outdoorsy face, tanned with a hint of freckles, brown eyes that seemed to have unknown depths, and a smile that laughed at the world.
She sighed. Oh well, right now she had more pressing things on her mind than her good-looking neighbor. She had a meeting with her supervisor this morning that she was dreading. Rumors had been flying around the office the last few weeks about downsizing and Paula needed her job.
A loud thumping accompanied by a jerking of the Civic brought her mind to the present. Oh No! Just what she needed- a flat tire. She pulled out her cell and called the Auto Club. Lucky Paula- they had a wait time today. She opened the trunk and hauled out the jack. It might be quicker to change it herself. But no matter how hard she bounced on the jack handle, the lug nuts were on so tight she couldn't shift them. She'd just have to wait.
By the time she got to work, she was a half-hour late. She didn't have time to clean up the grease on her hands from the jack or to repair the grunge on her clothes. Her supervisor caught her in the hallway.
"I'm sorry," she began, hating the fact she had to make excuses, "I had a flat on the way..." She stopped her explanation. She could tell by her supervisor's expression it wasn't going to be good news.
On the way home from work, she stopped at the market for a few essentials. Today she paid more attention to prices than she usually did. She had three weeks to find a job before her severance pay ended. She paid for her groceries and as she headed across the lot to her car, her eyes began to blur. She opened the car to put her bags on the seat, letting go of the cart. It took on a life of its own and began to roll down the slight incline. She ran after it and caught up to it just as it came to a stop alongside a blue truck. She could make out a faint scrape along the left fender.
Could today get any worse? She pulled out her pen to leave a note for the truck's owner. She stiffened as she felt a shadow fall across her paper. She swung around and looked straight into those deep brown eyes she'd often thought about.
"Yours?" Of course, she should have recognized the pick-up. "I'm so sorry, the shopping cart ran away from me. I'll look after the damage of course."
"Let's have a look first," She couldn't help but admire the calm way he accepted the accident. Some people would have been yelling and angry.
He took a swipe at the marked area of the fender and his hand came back covered with dirt. "See?" he said. "No scratches. The only thing you damaged was the dirt."
Paula was so overwhelmed with relief, she could feel her eyes welling up again and swore at herself silently for being emotional.
"Hey," her neighbour said. "I think there's something a little more serious here than a runaway shopping cart. Do you think we could have a cup of coffee and talk about it? By the way, my name's Paul," he said. "We never did get a chance to introduce ourselves."
"Mine's Paula," she said holding out her hand. The tears were gone in a fit of giggles that threatened to become slightly hysterical until he joined in.
"At least there's no danger of you ever forgetting my name." He led her to the coffee shop just across the street.
By now her sense of the ridiculous had totally changed her outlook on the day's misfortunes and she was able to tell him, with comic embellishments, about the flat tire, her greasy hands, even her layoff, right up to the shopping cart runaway.
"You're amazing," he said. "I love the way you can laugh about a day from hell. But," he said soberly, "We still have some unfinished business about the accident."
"Oh?" She looked up, suddenly serious. "Do you want to have a garage check for hidden damage?"
"No," he smiled. "I'm sure there's no hidden damage. But you were leaving me your information when I pulled up. I know the name. I know the address. The one thing I don't know is the phone number."
Paula picked up her pen. What a difference a day makes!