Chapter Seven

"Hey there."

"Hi, John. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were waiting for me," Katelynn said as she walked towards me. "Do I know better?"

"No need to know any better," I said with a smile. "I am indeed here to see you." The rain had all but stopped. A light drizzle mixed with an occasional fat drop. The air had a fresh clean smell to it that only nature can occasionally provide the big city with. I had been sitting on the stone wall beside the entrance to the employee parking lot waiting for her, hoping she drove her own car as opposed to riding the bus or carpooling. When I saw her approaching, I hopped down off the wall and stood to face her. "I wanted to make sure you were okay. I know you’ve had it kinda rough just lately."

"Yes, but not as rough as some others have had it. I’ll be fine," she assured me with a weak smile. "But I can’t believe you came all the way down here just to see how I was doing."

Oh, how I hoped she was 31, okay, albeit a young looking 31. Her shiny brown bangs fell over her brow stopping just short of her eyes which had returned to their original whites, accentuating her midnight blues. She had pulled out the tie that holds her hair back while working and it flowed gently over the shoulders of her white uniform. I had already noted the absence of a diamond around her finger while staying at the hospital. I knew she might just be taking it off for work. It was hard to imagine a young woman as pretty as she without a proud, loving husband to go home to. But for the purpose of my fantasies while she had been at my service, she had been single. I thought briefly for the first time how much her husband would hate me if I let her know what I know and all came to fruition. All the more reason not to tell her, I thought.

I still had no idea where this road was leading or how far down it I was prepared to travel when I responded to her presumption.

"Well," I said carefully, "I had been thinking about you today. But yes, there is another reason for my coming to see you."

"Is your head feeling okay?" she asked. "Did you decide you want to make an appointment with…" She paused and put on a quizzical look. "No, that’s not it or you’d have come inside."

"Correct again, Sherlock," I said, trying to smile. This was not going to be easy. We were still walking slowly as we talked, presumably towards her car. She stopped in the middle of the lot and turned to face me, expecting full disclosure of my presence then and there. Obviously, I wasn’t ready for full disclosure.

"Can I buy you a coffee or something? Do you have time to talk a minute? I need a little advice," I finally spit out. Assuming she had the time, I had at least just thought of an approach. I could ask her opinion on something without letting her know it was her I was actually concerned for…or something like that. Not the best plan but the best I could come up with on the fly.

"I don’t have long," she said. "I need to pick up my daughter at day care by six, but I have a half an hour or so. There’s a coffee shop across the street. You buying?"

I smiled. I couldn’t help it. Her voice was as comfortable to my ears as her appearance was to my eyes. The smile quickly vanished however, as I remembered why I was there and the word "daughter" registered at the front desk in my brain. It didn‘t destroy any of the old fantasies I had held for her, but it meant there was even more at stake here than just her life. This was not going to be fun.

"Certainly," I said. "On me."

* * * * *

"So how old is your daughter?" I asked after testing my hot chocolate. Katelynn had chosen a vanilla cappuccino.

"Five, just turned. How’s your hot chocolate? As good as I boasted for them?"

"Yes, it is. Thank you." Quickly doing the math in my head, thirty minus five is twenty-five. A couple more for the wedding and honeymoon. Plus a year of dating, probably during med school days. It was possible. "So you are married then, I take it?"

"Widowed." Katelynn said, looking down. "My husband died of cancer a year after Faith was born. It took him quickly, thank God."

"I’m sorry," I said. That is, after all, the expected programmed response to that statement whenever it gets laid out there on the table and catches you off guard.

Death is much harder on the living than it is on the dead.

"It’s okay," Katelynn said looking back up at me. "It seems like a lifetime ago and I am sure God had His reasons for taking him. Faith and I are doing well. So what brought you all the way down here to wait for me in the rain?"

Damn. This was not going well. Not only was she a mother, but a single mother who had already been touched by Death’s cruel hand. Again, the moral questions of my right to inform her and her right to know clashed loudly inside my head. I took another sip of my hot chocolate, stalling, trying to figure out how to get the information my needy side needed without tipping my hand.

"How old are you?" I blurted out. No way to get the answer without asking, right? Every courier knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so I naturally took the most direct route.

Katelynn put down her cappuccino and studied me a moment before answering. I think she was trying to decide if this was still the casual conversation portion of the visit or if we had suddenly transitioned towards its purpose. I must not have succeeded in sounding as casual as I had hoped.

"You know," she finally said, after a short pause, "that hug yesterday morning was much needed and very nice of you to allow, but I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression. I really don’t have time for any new relationships in my life right now. And with that said, I am twenty-eight."

I wanted to leave. Just stand up, thank her for her time, apologize for calling up any unwanted memories, drop a few bucks on the table, and go home. But I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. Nor could I speak. I didn’t have a clue what to say, but I couldn’t leave. She might be in trouble and not know it. She’s 28. She’s not 30. She will never be 30. Her daughter will have lost both her parents in the first five years of her young life. She doesn’t know. I shouldn’t know. I can’t possibly know.

But I did know.

"Did I burst any bubbles there? Are you okay?" Katelynn asked, only half sarcastically.

"When’s your birthday?" I heard myself ask her. I was on auto-pilot.

"Tomorrow. Why?"

I think my face must have suddenly gone pale. She’s a nurse. She notices these things.

"John, are you feeling okay? You look faint."

"I need to go." I said as I finally found the strength to stand up, and in doing so too quickly, shoved my chair into the empty table behind me. "I’m sorry," I said, trying to speak through the whirlwind of thoughts spinning wildly in my head. "I shouldn’t even be here. Um…thanks for your time…um…I might need to talk to you later…I mean…soon…I mean…no…I shouldn‘t...I…I need to go…I’m sorry."

I heard my name once as I walked quickly out the door, forgetting to drop a few dollars onto the table before I left. It had sounded more in the form of a question, I think. Didn’t matter. She probably now thought I was tip-toeing down that fine line of sanity, probably due to the accident. And she probably wouldn’t have been that far off, either.

I walked the entire way home…again.

* * * * *

Chapter Eight


Front Desk

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The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine