Authors: Brooke Williams
Abigail Witherspoon arrived right on time. By then, the office had started to wake up a little bit and the morning secretary was in place. She buzzed the studios when I was running a song and let me know that Miss Witherspoon was in the green room.
The green room was simply a hallway with a couple of chairs around the corner from the studio. It wasn’t even green.
I clicked the mouse a couple of times and commanded the computer to play another song automatically so I would have time to go out and greet my guest.
The walk from the studio to the green room was short and uneventful. What I saw in the green room, however, was anything but.
As I rounded the corner, I caught the side of a woman’s face…delicate…creamy pale…angular and beautiful in every way.
Her soft red-blonde hair fell in curls past her shoulders that I knew had to be natural. No woman in her right mind would get up early in the morning to curl her hair for a radio interview.
As the woman turned in my direction, I was able to take in her breathtaking eyes along with the rest of her face. The pale green color accented the light tone of her skin and her teeth, which were a bit too large for her mouth, only made her shine even brighter.
“Mr. Jones?” she asked, rising the sticky chair.
I found myself speechless and I thought back to my dream about Evan. He and I had talked about love at first sight and I had never thought it was possible. Of course, that wasn’t what this was. It was simply an attraction.
I realized it had been too long since the woman had asked if I was Jared and I took a step forward. “You must be Abigail,” I said, extending my hand.
She put her small, soft, delicate hand into my own and gave it a firm shake. “That’s me!” she said brightly.
If I could go back and do it over again now, I would stop our interaction right there and fast forward through the next few hours. It was during those hours, when Abigail was live on the air with me, that she made me look like a fool for the first time in my radio career.
I had thought that I was so smooth that no one would realize I had not read her book. Apparently I was not as good as I thought I was and not only did Abigail call me out on it, but she did so live on the air while thousands of people listened.
For some reason, though, her guts and her gusto attracted me to her even more.
“Can I help you with anything?” I asked Abigail as she packed up her things.
Abigail, flushed from the passion she had put into talking about her book on the air quickly shook her head.
Being a stubborn male, I ignored her refusal and swept the nearby book into my arms as I walked out of the studio. She would have to follow me and hear me out.
“My book, please?” she said when we were halfway down the hall.
“Your book for an hour of your time,” I said, trying to keep my smooth, radio voice.
“I think I’ve wasted enough of my time with you,” she said, the anger rising on her pale face once again. “You didn’t even read my book. You didn’t even know the title!”
She was right, but she did not have an accurate impression of me. The last thing I wanted to do was play the sympathy card, but it just popped out of my mouth before I could stop myself.
“My father died recently,” I said, lowering my head in shame as soon as I said it. Was I really using my father’s death to get this woman to come around?
“Oh,” she said and I raised my eyes just enough to see her skin turn a new shade of red. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Her voice had calmed and I was beginning to think that perhaps she was going to relent to my offer out of sympathy.
“Coffee would be nice,” she said giving me the benefit of the doubt.
I quickly set up a meeting with Abigail for later in the week, hoping that I could read her book between then and that time.
After Abigail left, I was certain that things were starting to turn around in my life. I had a date. A real date. And who knows, she might just be the one.
As I rushed home from work that afternoon, Abigail’s book on the passenger’s seat, just calling out to be read, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from running to Abigail. I might be able to form a real relationship with that woman.
She might just be what I was looking to find.
And that’s when I met Chloe.
Chloe and I didn’t just meet in the grocery store and strike up a conversation. We ran into each other quite literally. Actually, I ran into her. I have to admit, I was a little distracted. Abigail’s book was lying on the seat next to me and I couldn’t help but glance at it.
What Women Know that Men Should Learn,
it was called and I was wondering if I could get through its pages fast enough to learn the in time for my date with the author.
As my mind wandered through the various complaints women generally have about men, I found myself driving a bit too fast. When the stoplight up ahead turned yellow and then red, I had to slam on the brakes in order to make the stop. And I almost made it…but not without bumping into the car in front of me. The car lurched forward and then sputtered to a stop.
I shook my head. Things finally started to be going my way and then I do something idiotic.
I pulled my car over to the side of the street so I wouldn’t block traffic. I wondered why the driver in front of me wasn’t doing the same. The drivers behind me weren’t going to be happy.
I got out of my car and waited for the other driver to do the same. When the light turned green and the horns started to sound, I felt as if I had to take action. I approached the car and spotted a woman in the front seat, her head in her hands and her shoulders heaving. Even the long dark braid down her back shook.
I certainly didn’t want to interrupt, but I was fully involved in the situation now since I had tapped her car in the first place.
I raised my first finger, bent it and rapped it lightly on the window beside her face. The poor woman jumped and threw her hands onto the steering wheel, swiveling her head in my direction.
Her face was as pale as her hair was dark and she had large gray circles around her eyes. Whatever was wrong, I felt the sudden urge to fix it for her.
The woman stared at me for a moment, then glanced over her shoulder to the backseat. I followed her eyes to the small body, slumped over in a car seat. The child was asleep and oblivious.
The woman rolled down her window, hand cranking it little by little.
“Hi,” I said, for lack of a better opening. “I’m Jared, the one who bumped you.”
“Chloe Marriet,” the woman said, extending her slender hand out through the window.
“Chloe,” I repeated. “I’m really sorry I ran into you. Do you want to pull aside and take a look at the damage?”
Chloe smiled tightly. “I would love to do that,” she said, “but this car was on its last leg and it doesn’t seem to want to start.”
My shoulders fell. Of course. No one in their right mind would just sit in the intersection, cars honking behind them. My hopes of the car just having received a little scratch on the bumper were gone. I had completely killed it.
“I feel really awful about this,” I said. “Do you want me to call for a tow truck?”
Chloe looked back at the sleeping boy in the car seat and I knew what she was thinking before she said anything. “I need to get my son home.”
“Tell you what, Chloe,” I said, trying to work out a solution as I talked. “Why don’t you put the car in neutral and I’ll push it over to the side of the road here. Then you can get your son and I’ll give you a lift wherever you need to go. I can get the car towed to the shop later.”
Chloe looked as if she was taking her time processing the information, but she quickly came to the conclusion that it was the best solution. She nodded her assent and put the car into neutral, bracing her hands on the steering wheel once again after swiping the remaining tears from her cheeks.
I walked around to the back of the car and placed both hands on the bumper. I couldn’t even see a scratch but that didn’t really matter anymore. The car was dead and I had a young mother and child on my hands now.
I stationed my feet on the cement and quickly gained traction. The car looked heavier than it was and once I got momentum, I easily pushed it to the side of the road.
“I’m just going to grab my son,” Chloe said as I approached the driver’s door.
I nodded and walked back to my car to open the door for them. Within a few minutes, Chloe had the sleeping child in her arms and was easing him into the backseat of my car. Once they were in, I glanced at them in the rearview mirror as I situated myself in front.
The child looked to be around the age of 3 in size, though I was no expert. His blonde hair was so light it was nearly white. He was as light in coloring as his mother was dark. I wondered what his father looked like and if he resembled him more than his mother.
“Where to?” I asked.
“What?” Chloe said lost in her thoughts.
“Your house,” I said, “where do you live?”
Chloe smiled tightly again, “Oh, yes,” she said, “I suppose that would be helpful. We live in the Summerfield Apartments.”
I knew right where they were. I drove by them everyday on the way to and from work. Based on the look of Chloe’s car, I shouldn’t have been surprised that that was where she lived, but for some reason, I still was. It was no place for a woman and a child and I only hoped that her husband kept a close eye on them at all times.
Within a few minutes, I pulled into the apartment parking lot and Chloe had her son out before I could even move around to the back and open the door.
“We’re on the third floor,” she said, starting towards the stairs.
When we reached apartment 3G, Chloe finally asked for help. “They keys are in my purse,” she said, angling her body towards me. “The outside pocket.”
I grabbed the keys, unlocked the door and swung it open and Chloe stepped inside. “Have a seat, I’ll be right back,” she said as I glanced around.
The apartment was small and dingy. In front of me was a small living area with well-worn furniture that looked like something you would buy at a thrift store. Chloe had disappeared down the hallway, probably tucking her son into his bed.
I chose to sit at the small, round kitchen table that sat just inside the apartment door. I didn’t want to make myself at home.
When Chloe returned a few minutes later, I was shocked by the look on her face. She was even more pale and drawn than she had been in the car.
“Are you okay?” I asked as she got a small plastic glass out of the cupboard.