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We Never Said Hello

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Just before three, I arrived at The Roof Top Bistro on the eighteenth floor of Sarah’s hotel. She had reserved a table for us on the terrace. It had a spectacular view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands to the south.

The cheerful hostess said, “Miss Wilkerson called to say that she is running late but will be here in about fifteen minutes.” She offered a drink which I declined.

As I waited, I reviewed the unexpected email that had arrived in my work Inbox about six weeks ago. I’d read it so often, I had the contents memorized.

Hi Wyatt.
This is Sarah. You may recall we met in a very odd way during a biz school conference on strategic leadership back in 2010. I was sitting across from you in the learning circle. Even though we never said a word to each other, I felt that there was a connection between us then. I think you felt the same thing. At least, I hope you did. I left suddenly at the morning break without speaking to you.

I’ve thought about that experience many times.

Now, I feel should try and connect with you. I know this may sound weird approaching you in this way.

I’m coming to Toronto on business for a few days from June 16th. Any chance we could get together for a drink? Don’t be alarmed. I’m not a psycho weirdo like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction

I’m a writer now. I guess it’s just my natural curiosity to understand more about what happened between us back then.

I get why you might take a pass on my invitation as bold as it may seem to you.

Hope to hear from you, Wyatt.

Best. Sarah Wilkerson

Now I’m a thoughtful, cautious kind of guy. But without too much thought as to why I shouldn’t, I accepted her invitation.

So here I am on the roof of the Regency waiting for a mysterious woman I’d never really met or talked to.

A tall, mid-thirties woman enters the lounge, pausing to speak to the hostess while her eyes search the tables. The hostess discreetly points at my table. The woman thanks her and begins moving toward me. This has to be Sarah.

She’s an attractive woman. Short blond hair casually tucked behind her ears. Her movements are smooth and fluid, an air of total confidence about her. Smiling. The amethyst colour of her eyes immediately draws me to her. Just like eight years ago.

Around her neck is a striking necklace. Gold links interspersed with small pieces of amethyst. Ear studs of similar stones, tiny but not in competition with her eyes. A graceful neck set off by an expensive white silk blouse. Fine ruffles surround small buttons, ending with tailored, light grey slacks. Grey leather flats. Expensive.

Sarah looks as if she had just come from a Vogue photo shoot.

I stand up. I extend my hand which she lightly holds while gently pulling me toward her in a quick hug. Her scent is of citrus.

“Wyatt. Finally, we meet after all these years.”

Her eyes seem to take me in all at once. Appraising. Measuring. Deciding if this was a good idea or not.

In an instant, it’s decided.

Sarah invites me to sit down. She slips easily into the black wrought iron chair across from me.

“I’m so sorry I’m late. Have you had a drink yet? No? Well let’s get something cool and refreshing, shall we?”

A waiter appears, takes our orders and moves silently away.

For several moments, neither of us dare to speak.

Sarah breaks the silence.

“I’ve often thought about what I would say to you if we ever met. Normally, I’m not at a loss for words…” Embarrassed, she let the words trail off.

I move my hand in a small, imaginary circle that includes just us. “How be we just start? Not worry about the awkwardness of all this.”

Sarah laughs. I notice the faint crow’s feet at the corners. Nice. For some reason, I like seeing that in a woman.

“I tried to look you up on the net.”

I’m embarrassed at the silly way it had come out.

“You won’t find my name on the net. Right from the beginning, I’ve used a pseudonym.”

“What name do you use?”

“Gillian Moretti.”

Yes, I had indeed heard of her. Her lips crinkled in delight.

“’Becoming Myself’,” I offer. “And you’ve a second one…?”

I hesitate, trying to pull the title out of the air between us.

“’The Stone Cradle’?” offers Sarah.

“Yes, that’s it! Oh my God! That’s you? You wrote both those books?”

Sarah nods. Her eyes dance with the delight of seeing my surprise.

“I’ve a small confession to make.”

Sarah softly claps her hands. “Oh, how I love confessions. Here you are offering me one in the first few minutes of our meeting. It can’t get much better than that!”

“I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read either of your books. Just not my type of reading.” I pause, uncertain what else to say. “Sorry.”

Sarah reaches out, touching my hand. It’s cool which surprises me. A tingle shoots up my arm. I try to ignore it. But I can’t.

“No need to apologize. Most of my readers are middle-aged women like me. We’re all wondering about life, love, career and family.”

She smiles, her amethyst eyes now a deeper shade of green.

It seems natural to be here with her. We both relax, talking easily about our lives since that chance meeting eight years ago.

It’s a comfortable conversation, full of energy, wit and sharing. In many ways, it’s like when old friends are apart for many months and for some reason they come together again. They just seem to pick up the relationship as if they’d never been apart.

Sarah’s husband Peter was killed in a construction accident. Suddenly, at the age of twenty-six, she is a widow. Thankfully, no kids. She had hoped the Toronto conference would be her coming out socially after his death.

Sarah leans back, sipping her drink. I sense she’s carefully forming her next words.

“I wasn’t at all prepared for my strong reaction to you sitting across from me in the learning circle. It was a connection really. Stronger than I had ever felt with anyone before. You were attractive. You glanced over at me as if you felt me looking at you. You held my gaze, didn’t look away in discomfort. Was it a silent invitation to have a conversation? I didn’t know. I was frightened by my reaction, the rush of feelings that I didn’t understand. All I could think about was that I must get out of there. Get as far away from you as I could.”

Again, Sarah pauses as if judging how what she has shared of her feelings at that moment eight years ago is going over with me.

“At the morning break, I left before there was any chance we could talk. I couldn’t have handled it. I checked out of my hotel, took a cab to the airport and got on the first available flight back to Vancouver.” Another pause. “Within a month of being back at work, I quit.” She gestures with her hands as if to emphasize that quitting was just something she had to do. No further explanation. Done.

The insurance settlement from Peter’s death was very generous. Sarah decided to take a year off and travel. She’d always kept diaries, so she continued this practice all through what she came to call her ‘Just for Me’ year. Writing, yoga, meditation, travel and self-discovery.

Returning to British Columbia, she settled in Tofino, a small tourist and fishing town on the northwest Pacific coast of Vancouver Island.

“To help make ends meet, I started writing a monthly column in the Vancouver Sun about my travels based on my diaries. Unbelievably, the column was so popular it’s morphed into a blog that has a worldwide audience in the tens of thousands.”

“I wrote my first book – ‘Becoming Myself’ – a memoir, of sorts, about experiences and inspirations from my ‘Just for Me’ year.” Sarah laughs. Her eyes sparkle. “My agent, bless him, got me an appearance on Oprah’s Book Club. Thanks to that appearance, my book became an instant bestseller. That’s when some reviewers started calling me the next Elizabeth Gilbert.”

I recognize that name. “She wrote ‘Eat Pray Love’ as I remember. My wife read it. Couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks.” Sarah smiles and continues her story.

In spite of her celebrity status and attractive publishing offers from New York, London and Madrid, Sarah remained in Tofino. The town’s emotional feel nourished her body and spirit. While settling into the rhythm of Tofino, she met Robert. He flew floats up and down the coast.

“Three years ago, we moved in together. He had a small cabin over on Meares Island across the bay from the Tofino wharf where he kept his plane and a small office space from where he ran his business. So we set up housekeeping on Meares. It was a perfect place for me to think and write.”

Sarah’s second book ‘The Stone Cradle’ was also published to considerable critical acclaim. Now she’s on a whirlwind North American tour promoting her latest book ‘We Never Said Hello’.

“It’s my first piece of fiction. The first two were about self-discovery and spiritual growth. But I’d always wanted to write about what happens between two people, complete strangers, who meet quite accidentally.” Once again, Sarah pauses, gauging my reaction to this revelation. I don’t visibly react even though I’m taken by surprise. She decides on what’s next and puts it out there.

“You know Wyatt, that connection – between you and me – well it felt like it was only the first few pages of a romantic story that was never completed.”

“I knew it should be finished. So I did.”

Finished, she sat back, a finger to her lips. Waiting.

“So your book’s about us?”

“Sort of, I guess. It’s fair to say I’ve had a few fantasies over those eight years about what may have happened between us if I’d not taken off at the break. But I saw your wedding band. That was the clincher for me.” She pauses, the eyes holding mine. “You still married, Wyatt?”

“Oh yeah, her name is Celine. We were high school sweethearts. We’ve got two kids. Out on their own now. My son’s on a rig in the Thompson oil fields. My daughter’s a grade two teacher in Oakville. Not married, lives with her boyfriend.”

The conversation between us remained easy. Even our pauses seemed comfortable.

A few times I had the feeling that Sarah was studying me, weighing my reactions to her words, to her story. Then her eyes would clear, the face soften.

Sarah reached out, taking my hand in hers.

“I’ve a copy of my new book for you. I left it in my room. So let me go and get it.”

She paused, slipped her hand from mine and again, seemed to be choosing her next words carefully.

“Or… you could come with me. Rather than wait here, I mean.”

Those amazing amethyst green eyes captured me. I felt like a high school kid on his first date.

“Ok. Lead on Miss Moretti.”

In the elevator, we stood silently side by side, upper arms gently touching. We watched the floors counting down, each aware of the other’s close presence.

Sarah’s room was on the fourteenth floor. It was a large, luxurious suite with a view of the sprawling towers, homes and parks to the north.

As I entered, I immediately noted the delicate scent of citrus. In the past hour, I’d come to associate it with Sarah. I knew I’d always do this.

“It’s over there,” said Sarah. She pointed to the foot of the large bed in front of a huge picture window looking out onto the city.

The book was wrapped in bright blue paper with a red border.

Sarah patted a place on the pale yellow duvet beneath the book. “Sit here.”

I did.

She curled up opposite.

Sarah picked up the book, holding it as if it was a sacred offering. But she didn’t give it to me.

“Can I ask you something, Wyatt?”

“Sure.”

Smiling, Sarah put the book down, carefully picked up my left hand in both of hers, holding it lightly but still. I felt her warmth and once again the tingling sensation in my arm. My heart was fluttering. I wondered if she could hear it.

“May I kiss you?” Her words were a whisper.

She looked down, fixing on our clasped hands as if embarrassed by so bold a request.

“I’d like that, Sarah.” I have absolutely no idea why I said it to her. The words were out before I could think about them. All rational thoughts about my real life beyond this room were gone.

She released my hand, slowly reached up to my face and gently cradled it. Smiling, she drew me toward her. Our lips touched. Chaste – like a first-ever kiss as if we were teenagers.

She leaned back, my head still cradled in her hands. She sighed, deep and long. Her eyes held me. The scent of citrus on her fingers.

Sarah pulled me into her. This time there was a heat to our kiss.

I opened my eyes. I felt like I was falling deeply into those amethyst pools of green.

I was drowning. Strangely, I didn’t care.

Sarah’s breath softly kissed my parted lips. Her skin smelled faintly of peaches.

“Will you touch me?”

Taking my hand, she placed it gently on the blouse above her left breast.

“Undo me please” she whispered, slowly moving my hand to the buttons and then to the white lace bra beneath. My hand moved up under the bra, fully cupping her naked breast, touching the nipple with my thumb. She shivered.

“It’s been a very long time” Sarah sighed, shifting slightly to pull me even more tightly into her body.

“Back then, we never said hello. Oh, Wyatt, I’ve dreamed of changing that for so long.”

I sighed.

I was lost with her.

But I didn’t care.

Short Story

Don Herald

Peterborough, Ontario

Canada

I have had short fiction published in the US, Canada and the UK. My published stories can be found at www.donherald.blogspot.com.

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