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The Encounter

By BarbaraHelene Smith

Party

A woman watches her next-door neighbor walk across the well-manicured lawn to greet a group of friends. This was a mistake. Why did I let Alice talk me into coming to this party? I'm not ready. I feel like everyone's staring at me. Like… that man over there.

She grabs a napkin from the table and wipes the sweat from the glass of ginger ale she's holding. Get a grip. It's just your imagination. Why would a good-looking man be interested in you? Besides he's young enough to be your son. She steps under the shade of a huge oak tree to disappear. Oh, goodness. He's coming across the patio. Her hand begins to tremble. I need to get out of here…

She watches nervously as the tall, blue-eyed blond approaches with an outstretched hand.

"Hi, I'm Scott."

She wipes her wet palm on the side of her floral capri pants before reaching out. "Sally."

"I haven't seen you around before."

"I just moved to the neighborhood. This is my first time at a block party." She takes a sip of soda.

Scott shuffles his feet. "Are you here alone?"

She shakes her head. "No, with a friend. A… a neighbor." Why is he looking at my left hand?

"Are you single?"

 She absentmindedly twists the ghost ring on the third finger of her left hand. "Yes… ah… divorced." There, you said it.

"Do you play golf?"

"No."

"How about tennis?"

A soft breeze rustles her hair. She brushes a strand away from her face. "No."

Scott gives her a wry smile. "Do you date?"

She shakes her head. Why all these questions?

He frowns. "Why not?"

"I'm not ready to get involved." Her eyes search the backyard. Where's Alice?

He takes a small step forward. "How about a friendly cup of coffee?"

"No… I… I don't drink coffee."

"What do you drink… tea, wine, hot chocolate, goat's milk?"

Sally chuckles to herself. Very funny. "Tea."

He nods in agreement. "Then, tea it is. Tea for two… and two for tea."

She shakes her head again. "No. That sounds too romantic."

"Then I'll have coffee."

She raises an eyebrow. "Are you asking me for a date?"

Scott puts his hand in his pocket and stares down at the grass. "Actually, I'm inviting you on behalf of a friend."

Sally looks at the people mulling around the yard. "I think I'm a little old for your crowd."

He blushes. "It's for my father."

She frowns. "Can't your father get his own dates?"

"He's shy."

"So, you scout for him?"

Scott blushes again. "He doesn't know I'm doing it."

"Won't he be angry when he finds out?"

He rolls his eyes. "Probably."

She gives him a questioning look. "So, why do it?"

"I want to find him a companion."

Sally takes a deep breath. "Get him a puppy."

"I can't. He's got a cat."

A voice calls out from the doorway. "Scott, can you help me in the kitchen for a minute?"

"Sure. Hey, Dad, come here for a sec. There's someone I want you to meet."

Sally's stomach tenses as a blue-eyed man with white hair and a handlebar mustache strides across the patio. Her jaw drops.

"Richard?"

"Sally?"

Scott looks back and forth between them. "You two know each other?"

They smile and simultaneously say, "A lifetime ago…."

 

 

 

 

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