Copyright© 2016 by Allan Kindred
At the restaurant Derek and Anna are gazing at each other from across the table. The normal awkwardness and shyness of meeting a new potential mate is not present.
“Three hundred flowers!”
“Excuse me,” says Anna, smiling.
“I believe you must be with a girl long enough to give her three hundred flowers to give yourself enough time to truly get to know each other, but on the three hundredth flower I must ask the girl to marry me because to linger too long allows for the rose to wither on the vine, as it were.”
“I love it! Have you ever given the three hundredth flower before?”
Derek smiles, “No, I think I’ve gotten to around three dozen once, maybe a hair more. In fact, the day I gave you that flower was a day I kind of gave up on looking for the one. It was a fourth date in a line of dates to help me forget about a girl that was very special, but her destiny lay elsewhere.
“Anyway, I went to give my fourth date the flower and she told me she was allergic to flowers so I looked around to give it away. I saw you alone and for some reason I saw the same sadness in your eyes that I was feeling right then about maybe giving up about looking for the one.” Derek has no idea why he is being so forthcoming with this woman he has just met. “And even though I knew it wasn’t going anywhere I went back to my date.”
“What was his or her name?”
“Your dog that died.”
“Oh,” Anna smiles a little sadly and with many memories. “Her name was Katie. She was a little mix and I had her for a very long time. I too had almost given up on finding the one, but I always had Katie to go home to, but one day it became crueler to keep her alive for my benefit than to have her suffer in pain from arthritis and old age. The day you gave me that flower I was more heart broken than I had ever been.” Then she starts to cry.
Derek gets up and pulls her up and hugs her hard. “I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m proud of you that you had the strength of will to do what was best for her.”
Anna wipes her eyes and smiles adoringly up at him. “Thank you.” After Derek helps Anna with her seat again, and as Derek is taking his seat again, Anna asks, “What was her name? I mean the girl who was special, but whose destiny lay elsewhere.”
Derek is opening up like he has never done before. “Her name was Chrissy. She was a wonderful girl. She is working to become a veterinarian for big cats and she had the opportunity to go to Africa for a year and view them in their natural habitat.”
Not really wanting to know the answer, but Anna asks anyway, “Do you think you might get back together again when she comes back to the states?”
Derek ponders that for a second and then says, “Doubtful! Hard to say for sure, but we released each other from any such thoughts so we wouldn’t stand in each others way if someone special came into our lives. Honestly, I thought I was being the bigger person not wanting to stand in the way of her starting her life, but ... now I wonder if the universe didn’t do it for us both.”
Anna smiles shyly. The table goes quiet for a minute. And then like a dam breaking they both just open up and lay their entire lives, dreams and hopes on the proverbial table.
Eventually Derek’s phone rings. “Hello.”
“Sir, are you okay?”
“Of course, I’m okay, Megan, why would you ask that?”
“Sir, it is closing time! You have been gone for nearly four hours.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, time got away from me, but, Megan, I am wonderful. Close things down and I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir.”
“Goodnight, Megan.” Anna raises her eyebrows questioningly. “My assistant, soon to be vice-president. I had some unpleasant work I had to do this morning and I was out taking a walk clearing my head when I ran into you.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you.”
“Don’t you dare be sorry! I’ve had the most wonderful time. In fact I don’t want it to end.”
Anna smiles her shy smile again and Derek can swear that something physical just happened to his heart. “Me, too,” says Anna. “Now what?”
At last, time and space come back to Derek and he realizes they have been sitting in this restaurant filling this table all afternoon. He knows if not for the fact that he comes here all the time and knows all the workers they would have been asked to leave long ago. “I cannot believe how much time has gone by. I swear talking to you is like talking with an old long lost friend.” And then totally shocking himself, Derek’s eyes flood with tears. He shakes his head taken aback.
Out of empathy or feeling her own feelings, Anna’s eyes also water up. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, wow, I’m sorry, but when I mentioned an old long lost friend, my friend Robert came to mind.”
“Where is he?”
“He died serving in Iraq.”
Anna almost loses it again. “I’m so sorry. My little brother Chris was killed in Afghanistan about a year ago.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I’m sorry.” Again they rise and hug. Their hug lingers for a wonderfully long time and they heal a little. “Oh, wow, well let’s get out of here.” Derek holds out his hand and Anna takes it warmly.
On the way out the door, Derek stops at the manager and says, “I’m sorry, Sonya, that we occupied your table for so long.”
“Derek, you know you are always more than welcome to frequent us anytime. In fact, I think I have been witness to something very special blooming between you two.”
Both Derek and Anna smile shyly. “Thank you.”
“Yes, thank you.” says Anna.
As soon as Sonya mentioned blooming Derek got it in his mind to find a flower for Anna. He takes Anna by her hand and leads her right out of the restaurant. Derek knows of the perfect flower shop just a few buildings up. They go up to the door and it is closed. Derek can see the girl inside finishing closing up. He knocks on the glass.
She turns and notices who it is and smiles. On her way over to the door she looks at Anna and before she gets to the door she grabs a single long-stemmed red rose. “Hi, Derek.”
“Hey, Kelly. Any chance that rose is for me?”