once upon a time...


Part I

Everyday she did the same things. She realized a long time ago that the rut that saved her life so many years ago, might now be doing her in. But, still, she continued in her rut. It was her safe-zone. She'd grown to expect it. She depended on it.

Sometimes, when she had a free moment, she'd try to think up things that would break her out of the rut. Feeling safe within her mental wanderings, she never took action. Not anymore, anyway. And, she could easily recall the few times she sincerely, but unsuccessfully, tried to break out of her rut. Even though those attempts hadn't gotten her anywhere, she really treasured those times.

It was a Friday morning. She was the only one at the office, as usual, so she stepped out to the front porch to have what she called, "a quick puff." Springtime greenery was everywhere. She watched as a man unloaded the back of his station wagon at the music store across the street. Speakers and amps. The folks from the store came out to help him. She spotted an old Jeep Wagoneer on her side of the street, waiting to make a lefthand turn into the driveway of the music store. It occurred to her that the man with the station wagon probably performed in some smoky music bar. Either that, or a church basement. As she watched the man with the station wagon get into the driver's seat, she contemplated what it would be like to go to one of those smoky music bars.

The Jeep Wagoneer pulled into the spot vacated by the station wagon. She watched with mild interest as the back window of the Wagoneer went down. Maybe it's not so old if it has electric windows, she thought to herself. Shortly, a man got out of the Wagoneer and started unloading amps, speakers, stands. For some reason, she had a distinct feeling that the Wagoneer guy definitely plays in a smoky music bar. And she thought to herself, last night must have been a busy night on the local music scene. She concluded that the Wagoneer guy was a solo act and she tried to imagine what he must sound like.

Without even realizing she had crossed the street, she found herself opening the door to the music store.

just another music store where musicians rent amps and stuff

She looked back across the street and saw that the front door to her office was standing wide open. Then she peered inside the music store. The Wagoneer man was standing at the counter. It looked like he was making arrangements to rent the equipment for another time.

She stood next to him at the counter and pretended to admire a display of clarinet reeds. She wanted to hear his voice. But the place was suddenly silent. She felt her face turn five shades of red as she turned towards him. He looked so comfortable wearing khaki trousers, a light green button-down long sleeve shirt, brown leather belt, and white leather shoes. She put his age about the same as hers -- what she liked to call the ascending cusp of middle-age.

"Do you play the clarinet?"

Oh my god, he was talking to her. She felt her face turn a couple more shades of red. The guy behind the music store counter was looking at her with some kind of quirky smile on his face. She realized the music store guy must watch her everyday as she smokes on her front porch.

"Oh, no. I don't play any instrument," she practically blurted. And she wondered how many more shades of red there are in the spectrum. She added, "I make jewelry out of ‘em." And then as an afterthought, she said, "mostly for musicians." as if it was the truth. She successfully suppressed the urge to say, "yeah, that's the ticket." But he was already smiling at her. And such a beautiful smile it was, offset only by his beautiful skyblue eyes. "Do you play," she asked.

"Not since the eighth grade. But, I still have my clarinet and probably more than a few reeds," he said. "You're welcome to them, if you'd like."

She felt herself getting dizzy and hoped she wouldn't blackout or faint or something.

Apparently done with his business at the music store, he turned to leave. As she turned to watch him, he glanced over his shoulder and distinctly mouthed the words, "are you coming?"

"Oh, yes," she thought as she followed him outside.

She stood behind him as he reached inside the Wagoneer. She was conscious of her desire to reach up and stroke his ponytail. As he turned back to her, he took her right hand in his and turned her palm upwards. In it he placed his card.

"Rod," she softly murmured, reading from the card.

Still holding her hand, he took a step closer to her, and she could feel his body heat as he looked deeply into her eyes. "I like the way you said that," he whispered. "By the way, what's your name."


"Well, Liz, you probably have to get back to work," he said, glancing across the street to her office.

"Yes," she hesitated. And she wondered how he knew.

Still holding her hand, he said, "I've seen you out there smoking many times."

She did not want this moment to ever end. His hand was so warm and smooth. His eyes were so kind and sweet. But, most of all, his closeness was so very comforting.

He held open the door of the Wagoneer and gestured for her to get inside. Which she willingly did. He drove out the back of the music store parking lot, made a circle-turn, and back down the driveway. He then drove the Wagoneer across the street and into the driveway of her office building.

"Thank you," she softly said.

He said, "Liz, I don't imagine you really want a bunch of old clarinet reeds, but would you like to watch me practice some time?"

"I'd love to," the replied.

"I'm so glad," he responded. "Go ahead and go back to work. We'll talk later. Okay?"


Part II -- Choice A

She was startled out of her daydream by the incessant ringing of the phone inside. She realized she was still standing on the porch, her cigarette long burned out. She'd never left this spot. There was no card. There was no warmth. All that was left was her longing and desire for the Wagoneer man.

Part II -- Choice B

As she sat back down at her desk, she knew she wouldn't be able to accomplish anything for the rest of the day. It dawned on her that it would be up to her to call him since she regrettably neglected to give him her number. She felt so good. So warm. Her mind was wandering. Reliving every second they had spent together. The ringing of the phone jarred her from her thoughts.

"Liz? This is Rod."

"Hi." Of course, he'd seen the sign outside and knew the name of the business where she worked.

Choice A or Choice B?

To be continued...

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© L.M. Carnes 2002.

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