A late afternoon heaviness had settled on the Midwestern city. Kate’s wedge sandals clipped along with a steady, unhurried beat on the slightly uneven brick sidewalk. The shops would be closing soon, but Kate didn’t mind. She had driven in two days before her scheduled appearance at the city’s gardening convention to escape the drama between her grown siblings and acquaint herself with the area, not to shop.
Ahead Kate spied an awning that read Turn the Page Vintage Books and Records. The name gave her a quiet chuckle. Just as she pushed open the belled door a hot gust of wind swirled her white cotton sundress up around her thighs. Kate glanced around to see if anyone had witnessed the Marilyn moment and breathed a short sigh of relief at the seemingly empty store.
The pleasant fragrance of old ink, paper and something she couldn’t identify filled Kate’s nostrils as she slowly worked her way through the stacks of assorted titles. Many of her old friends were strewn about—Du Maurier, Alcott, Thane, Whitney. The familiar names gave her a pang as she remembered the woman who had introduced her to them. When would this childlike longing for her mother stop, she wondered.
The bell on the door gave a silvery tinkle as it opened. Kate didn’t look up. She never let her own relatives see her tears, much less a complete stranger. With her head down she continued to finger the worn spines, debating on whether or not to arm up a couple of them. The presence of the other person changed the atmosphere of the space. She could feel the newcomer’s eyes on her.
Kate looked up. Golden evening light streamed in windows backlighting the man. He was tallish, with a strong but lanky frame. Dark brown hair that fell to his shoulders framed his bearded face and he stood, as if frozen. Slowly her eyes adjusted and the rest of his features came into focus. He raked his fingers through his hair from forehead to neck and smiled. Kate gasped in recognition and took an involuntary step forward.
“Carver? Is it really you?” she whispered.
Her only reference was one photograph, emailed almost two years ago. The correspondence had begun innocently enough. After finding her website he had written her with questions about rooftop gardens but, over the course of several months, their conversations had progressed to other topics—their shared love of Bob Seger, dislike of camelback crickets, fascination with weather patterns. She found herself longing for words from him, her heart rate increasing with each new message. They had even toyed with meeting, but he had a serious girlfriend and then her mother fell ill. So they stopped playing with fire and slowly ended contact, but not before exchanging pictures. She could still remember the exact lines of his email:
Please have this. So that maybe someday we will cross paths. Perhaps in an outdoor market, a hotel lobby or maybe we will simply be walking in opposite directions on the same sidewalk. But someday when the timing is right we will look up, our eyes will meet and we will know.
“Kate,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
Carver crossed the room with long, confident strides, put long fingered hands on either side of her face and looked into her wide grey eyes. Her lips parted as she searched blindly for her words. She found none. So she communicated the only way she could. Kate covered his hands with her own and brought them to her lips, slowly showering his palms with moist, open-mouth kisses as tears dripped from her long, curly eyelashes. His rough intake of breath confirmed that his need matched hers. He gently wrapped his arms around her, holding her in much the same way one handles a fragile bird.
“The timing is right,” he whispered as he bent his head to her upturned face.