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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

Road to Fruition – A Screened Word Story

Mr. Withrow, my employer, just picked up the phone to see who was calling. And it wasn’t any phone call, this was the one that he, our coworkers, and I have been waiting to hear in months. I leaned my head against the glass wall, accompanied by my other coworkers, so we could hear what was being discussed. The call lasted for about 10, 12 minutes before Withrow hung up the phone. He took a deep breath and he rested on his chair for a minute or two, drumming his thick fingers on his desk. His posture was pouring worry into me, worry that all that we worked for was going to be insufficient, for nothing, at worst. Suddenly, Withrow stood up, and at that second, my coworkers and I dashed away from the window and straightened ourselves up, like proper business people were supposed to look. The door to Withrow’s office opened, and he turned his eyes to his employees, and to me. To our shock, what we at first thought was a look of distant repulsion suddenly stretched into a smile. “Time to put some shrimps on the Barbie, because they just bought our promotional package!” The entire room just erupted in applause and ecstatic screams. My coworkers were jumping up and down, some slid across the floor in a rock star pose, and several friends in the room hugged or chest bumped into each other. We just launched our graphic arts company, Withrow Enterprises, which was located a couple blocks east from the Art Institute of Chicago, this past year. With most of our funding coming from the AIC, and with all the competition surrounding us in Chicago, we never expected to make our first graphic arts deal that early. We had every reason to be thankful for this achievement. The promotional package I spoke of included advertisements and logos for a local museum in South Bend, Indiana. The museum, which was around a year longer than we were, was to be a local county museum that chronicled the histories of the local families who contributed to the town’s development, and, in some cases, that of the University of Notre Dame itself. It would have continued the families’ trend of charity by intending to donate a percentage of its earnings to the University of Notre Dame and, if it became progressively successful, to the town of South Bend next. And our promotional package was a good stepping-stone for them to accomplish just that.

When my mother, Marilyn, who was in her mid-70’s, and my brother, Dave, heard the news, first from me, and again – unnecessarily, but then again, I forgot to let him know in advance – from Mr. Withrow, they were just as thrilled as we were earlier. What Mr. Withrow suggested when he shared the news was that we would have a celebratory dinner over at his favorite coffee shop this coming Friday. Not Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, that sort of thing. I’m talking about Lincoln Coffeeshop, which was beloved by Chicagoans and American tourists alike for its rich locally brewed coffee and a massive variety of delectable deli food and bakery goods. All three of us, my mother, brother, and I, agreed to join him after he finished up his work session that day. At the same time, my mother and Dave told me that there was a surprise waiting for me at the coffee store. Mr. Withrow, if memory served me right, was hooked on it when he decided to have a quick snack there in the middle of a very hectic work session he had to deal with several years ago. I should know, because Withrow and I met there during his third or fourth visit. In fact, this was also when he heard of my graphic arts skills and decided to put me on board with his company shortly before it opened.

The coffee shop already hit me down to the floor with the sweet, rich aromas of freshly brewed coffee and just-pulled-out-of-the-oven meats when Mr. Withrow and I walked in. The facility was a one-floor coffee shop, but it was massive in its room size, and there were multiple two-person tables scattered all over the place, most of them already occupied. Fortunately, the seats that we picked that were available were at a bar, where we could have a closer look at the action that went on with the chefs and coffee brewers behind the front counter and be further bathed in the aromas that just made our mouths water. I was still reeling in our successful deal with the South Bend museum, and it made me lose track of whether to start the conversation first or just gaze in awe at the chefs doing all their masterwork while it was still on my mind. Mr. Withrow started the conversation first as we took our seats, and that helped settle things for me. “Adrian, I want you to know that I couldn’t be proud of you enough, or the rest of our friends from work, for what you guys managed to put together for South Bend. It wasn’t an easy process, I know, but for one thing, your constant visits to the museum officials in your spare time scored us the clarification and information necessary to give them what they wanted from us. For these contributions, I have a gift for you.” Ah! So this was the surprise they were building up to! His statement about my achievements made me more grateful for them but that last statement had me looking at him with anticipation. Well, I’ll admit that I’m prouder of my personal accomplishments than I am for what I get for them – who doesn’t? – but I’m a sucker for rewards at times. Mr. Withrow continued, “I would like to promote you as co-chief of Withrow Enterprises.”

I felt my jaw just hang itself over for a minute. I was just speechless. I wasn’t expecting to land myself anything outside of what was expected for my usual work salary. “Mr. Withrow, I have no idea what to say about this.” This was true. “Well, Adrian, you earned it. You were able to communicate to the officials in a timely manner when some others didn’t under stress.” “He’s right, Adrian,” Dave interrupted. He was walking into the front doorway with my mother, whom he was helping. “I may always do that for my job, but to see you pull it off when your facility was depending on you for it? Even I am a bit jealous.” Dave worked in the Chicago Public Library, and all the time, he was getting loan requests upon loan requests upon loan requests, all day, in between his library shifts, but he was OK with it, as monotonous as it started to become for him. “Don’t forget,” Mr. Withrow continued, “since you’ll have to change positions in the business, we will both have to bring this up with the Board of Directors in order to make this shift legit. Think of our deal with South Bend less as a bumpy platform raising you up and more as an act of God, because, really, it is!” “Either that,” my mother said, just three or four steps behind her chair, “or this is just your father’s way of congratulating you for contributing to what he embraced wholeheartedly.” My father, Samuel, was invested in Notre Dame shortly after he finished high school. When he watched one of the games, he was impressed by the team’s sportsmanship and decided to donate portions of his money to the university as a gesture of encouragement. A precursor to the future South Bend museum’s charity, to say the least. In his early thirties, he had an opportunity to visit the South Bend Museum – a different one from the museum that underwent Mr. Withrow’s and my advertisement deal – and was influenced by the achievements by Knute Rockne the first time he ran into memorials dedicated to him. He was even considering practicing for football for Notre Dame. Serendipitously, of course, it was on one of his practice sessions when he met my mother, and after multiple dates since then, they married in 1976. Unfortunately, my father developed a tumor in his gallbladder, and because my family didn’t have enough funds to afford a gallbladder transplant, the tumor continued to grow until it took him over, and he passed away last year at the age of 84. “Oh, you mean that your father was also involved with South Bend? That’s interesting. Tell me more, Adrian.” "Actually," I said, "I have to go to the bathroom. Mother here will tell you until I come back." So I got up to walk over to the bathroom to go number one. I especially needed this time to think over what was happening with me now.

After I did my business and walked out of the men’s bathroom door, I looked all around the building and was just about to walk back to my seat and when all the sudden...bump! I noticed myself bump into someone when my feet were caught on that person’s feet, and I tripped and fell. I noticed on my fingers and my suit that several drops of what smelled like hot chocolate were spilled all over me. When I turned to see who it was I bumped into, I noticed that it was a young lady, probably around in her mid to late 20s, and she had a stream of brown hair, a delicate face, and was wearing a sparkly, black dress, like she was gearing up for a party or something. Well, this lady was screaming over this misfortune, both from her dress being ruined and from the heat of her cocoa all over her. “What did you do, you jerk?!” The lady screamed at me, and I quickly jumped to my feet so I could help her. “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry.” I said to the lady. “Look what you have done! My dress is ruined!” “Look, I can buy you a new one, if you w–“ “Will you just keep your mouth shut for a minute?! Listen to me! I was just leaving from a party for just a few minutes, but now I'm gonna be an absolute wreck by the time I get back!" She paused for a minute, and I noticed she was staring at some of the people staring out at us, especially my mother, Dave, and Mr. Withrow. “I can’t be here right now.” “Wait! Ma’am!” I screamed out as she was walking towards the door. She didn’t listen, though, and she was already out into the street. I have lost my appetite over what I just caused in the coffee shop...and over what I did to her. As I was about to rejoin my friends, I noticed in the corner of my eye a wallet lying on the floor, out in the open. Just for curiosity’s sake, I decided to have a peek least, that’s what I felt like doing before deciding to take it to the chefs at the front desk instead. “Hey, a lady who was just here a minute ago dropped this wallet. Can you look over this for her?” My mother interrupted me and clarified, “actually, I noticed that wallet fall out of that lady. Snotty, isn’t she?” "You're doing the right thing letting them watch over the wallet for her,” Dave said to me. "How about this? I'll cheer you up with a cup of coffee.” “You know what? No thanks.” I said disheartenedly. “I think I’m gonna just go. Just go on and have dinner without me.” I got up and walked out through the doors, and the last thing I heard was my mother saying that somehow, she remembered the lady from somewhere. Outside, my bicycle was locked up to the lamppost, just like I had it before I came in. Once I unlocked my bike and turned the front and back blinker lights on my bike, I peddled the rest of the way home.

I was fascinated with riding bikes before. By the time I tried to reach the 2016 World Series last year, however, that became my preference of transportation. Here’s what happened: I originally owned a red 1995 Dodge Caravan, and I went with this one the last time I used it because it was the fastest car I had. Unfortunately, I was caught in a gridlock in traffic, and it took traffic about half an hour to clear up before I was allowed to move forward to the game, and I was passing several of the cars because I was that desperate. By the time I did make it, I was able to at least see the Chicago Cubs finally ‘break the curse’ with my mother and Dave, both of whom were still a bit gloomy following my father’s death at the time. My success did come with a price, however. As I walked back to the car, I noticed a parking ticket stashed on the windshield wipers. And this was all after I made my trip to South Bend and back. From that point on, I decided to just use the car only if I’m driving out of town, and if I wanted to go someplace else in the city, I could just take my bike and go where I want to go with it. Thank God for the bike lanes.

My home was an apartment floor in the topmost floor of Flying Fish Apartment Housing, only a few blocks south of Withrow Enterprises. It was 12 stories tall, and I lived in the 11th floor at Apartment Room 118A. Among other things, it had a kitchen with an island table with stoves on a marble top and hanging lights, the living room had a semi circular couch facing a flat screen TV, and there was a dining room table on the opposite side from the couch, with window doors leading to a patio overlooking the Chicago skyline. It was Monday, and regrettably, as I sat in the table looking out through the urban jungles of Chicago, I remembered seeing the girl’s wallet still on the counter of the coffee shop when I stopped there a couple days back. Lincoln Coffeeshop had a policy stating that if anything that went lost was not reclaimed in a week, the employees would have decided from there what should be done with it. The nerves were starting to get the best of me, so I decided to call my mother to tell her my next move. “Hello?” My mother said. “Hello, Mother?” I replied. “Why, hello, Adrian! How has your day been?” “Oh, so far so good. Listen, you remember last week when I ran into that lady at the coffee shop?” “Yes, I do. What about it?” “I just stopped by at the same coffee shop not too long ago, and I noticed the wallet is still there on the counter.” “Well, then, just leave it there until she comes back for it.” “Actually, I was going to tell you about that. See, I’m hoping that her address is inside, because if it is, I’m going to see if I can return her wallet that way.”

“Adrian, honey...” Mother replied hesitantly. “That sounds a little creepy. Don’t you think you should consider a different alternative?” “Mother, it’s been over a week since the lady lost it. If I didn’t get a chance to apologize to her for ruining her dress the first time around, hopefully this will be my second chance, since there’s no telling if she’s from around here or if she was traveling here.” “That’s a valid point. But honey, what about work?” “Well, fortunately, I have the day off tomorrow. I will take advantage of that by then and see if I can return the wallet to her.” “I see. Well, honey, as considerate as it is of you to do that for her, I would be super careful about it. How much money do you have on you if you were to take a taxi?” “Don’t worry. I have plenty of money to back up my transportation with.” “Well, honey, call me back when you find the wallet, OK?” “I will. Talk to you later.” “OK. Bye.” And we both hung up.

The next day, I grabbed my bike, which was stored in the bike garage located behind the main lobby of Flying Fish, and went back to the coffee shop to check up on the wallet. The first person I asked was a pretty stout lady, a little Spanish in heritage, and she had a little dimple on her right cheek. “Excuse me. Do you know if you guys have a wallet stashed somewhere? As in, in the lost and found section?” “Mmm... yes, I think we should have one. Let me go check.” While I waited the next minute, the strong aroma of the coffee was enticing my taste buds. It was compelling me to take at least one coffee before my expedition. I mean, hey, no use doing your search without being hydrated in advance, huh? Then, the stout lady came back with the wallet, the exact same one as last week, for better or worse. “Here it is,” the lady said. “I talked to the manager about it, and he clarified with me that it was here for over a week or so. Is it yours?” “No, honestly. It was a young lady’s. I ran into her last week, and I noticed she dropped her wallet without coming back for it. I’m just hoping to do her a favor by returning this to her for her.” “Wow, that’s...very noble of you.” “Thanks. Would it be a problem if I had a quick peek in here?” “Oh, you mean, to see if her address is inside? I don’t see why not.”

I thanked her and had a peek inside the wallet. Thankfully, the address I was seeking was as plain as the nose on my face the minute I opened it; it was on her ID card, and it says that she lived in...

905 North Sureway Lane

Long Grove, IL 60060

After memorizing the address, the strong coffee smell got the best of me, and with the lady still there, I quickly asked... “One more question. Could I have one quick cup of coffee for here? Large latte?” “Sure thing,” the lady said. At that, I decided to settle in one of the seats while I waited. While the address was still on my mind, I remembered to get in touch with Mother about the wallet. However, I felt more like texting it to her instead. Also, I decided to share what I was about to tell Mother to Dave, too, since he was present when the lady and I crossed paths. As a matter of fact, just as I sent the text to Dave, my order was called up, and I immediately went up to pick up some nice much needed caffeine, while I put the wallet in my pocket for safekeeping. In fact, it was a good thing that I decided to sip on coffee for the next 10 or 20 minutes, because that would have given me plenty of time to think about my transportation plans. Originally, I was considering taking my caravan, since Long Grove was out of town, but I didn’t want to worry about traffic jams like I did on the way to the World Series. Next, I did consider taking a taxicab, preferably one with a bike rack, to get to where I wanted to go. But then I realized the taxicabs of my preference were sporadic in town, so I settled with looking for a transit bus instead. I knew that if I could just find one bus that took the shortest route to my destination without dealing with traffic issues, I’d be golden. The only thing I needed to worry about was if the bus I was to take had at least one bike rack available to put my bike on. When I looked back at the front of the counter, I noticed a rack of Chicago bus maps available, as well as plenty of Chicago bike maps, so I went ahead and bought one of each to go with my regular map of Illinois. Hey, you need all the help you can get. I decided to rest up on one of the nearest benches while I was looking through one of my maps. Felt better to do that with the smell of fresh air to appease me with. After studying the bus map for a few minutes, I realized that the bus I needed was not that far from where I was; it was only 10 miles or so away, and I needed the exercise, anyway. After studying the bike map next, I immediately went on my bike to follow the right paths in the urban areas until I reached the bus stop. However, I became

more worried when I saw at least six or seven more people waiting for the bus, one of them having a bike of his own. But, hey, if there’s one thing I believed in, it was, better late (but not too late) than never, even if it was related to work. So, I just calmed down and decided to wait for the next bus with the others. It was only 15 minutes before the next bus came, and once I checked the bus to see how many bike racks have been occupied, I found out none of them were. Then I noticed the guy with his own bike – he turned out to be an old man with a white beard – and out of sympathy for him, I decided to help him with his bike before I loaded mine up next. Then, after that, the bus moved forward for the next hour – that was to be expected – but to my surprise, the traffic wasn’t as packed as I was anticipating it to be. I guess I should have considered using my caravan for this expedition, but at this point, there was no turning back. And that reminded me, timing was everything, so after I went off the bus and unloaded my bike, I continued the rest of the way toward my destination, and it was only 2 PM. My intention as time went by was to take as many bus transits and bike lanes as possible until they took me the closest they could go to the lady’s address. The last bus transit I took took me as far north as Ryan Field, and as I unloaded my bike, I figured out by then – the bike maps did warn me in advance – that there were no bike lanes for me to continue my transportation with. The best I did was to use either the regular car lanes or just the sidewalk as long as there was no one walking on it. The car lanes were a little tough; I lost track whether to ride in between the cars, like everyone else, or ride to the sides of the roads like there were bike lanes, even though I knew that was dangerous. Riding the sidewalks, I eventually concluded, were out of the question, because every time I looked, there was always someone walking to and fro as I passed by them. I didn’t say that my decision to return the wallet to the lady wasn’t a risky one. After about two hours or so of riding my bike, and with no accidents, thank you, God, I was finally able to reach the lady’s house. It was labeled 905, just like the address said. It was also a lavish house, with shuttle boards on each of the upper level windows, a red roof, a brick chimney and a tannish yellow exterior coloring. I became more nervous every step I took towards the door, of course, since there’s no telling if she would have screamed at me for what I did to her the other day or what. But I decided to start anyway by ringing the doorbell. I also had to accept the possibility that maybe no one could be there, and that I wasted all my time and money over what turned out to be a lost cause. However, those worries were wiped away the moment I noticed the doorknob turn. The door opened, and the person opening was instead a little girl, young enough to possibly have still been in high school. She had a stream of brown hair and a mellow face, also like the lady’s features, as well as very smooth hands. “Hello,” she said with slight unease.

“Hello,” I responded, and continued, “I was wondering, there’s someone I know who lives here, and I wanted to return this to her.” I showed her the wallet. “Is she here?” “Um...yes, she is. Let me go get her for you,” the little girl replied, then closed the door. I waited for a couple minutes before the door opened again, this time with the lady I was seeking to see me. Seeing her again made me feel uneasy, too, and with a twist and turn in my stomach, I was preparing myself for the worst that was to come from her. “You again?” The lady asked, with some slight apprehension in her voice. “Look, I know you don’t want me to be here after what happened last week, but–“ “Hold it right there! I don’t know what you came here for, but there’s still no excu–“ “Actually, I was going to say that you left your wallet in the coffee shop. I came all this way to find you so I can return it to you.” With that out of the way, I handed back her wallet. She was a little dumbfounded from the sight of it and she was even at a loss of words a little. “S-Sir...” she stuttered. “Whoa!” the little girl intervened. “That’s where it was, sir? Back in the coffee shop? As in, in the middle of Chicago?” “Oh, yeah.” I answered. “Sir, I...I don’t know what to say,” the lady said with semi-unearthed sincerity. “I think I know what you’re about to say, and I say you’re welcome.” I responded. “Well, that’s a relief,” the little girl intervened again, “because at least it’ll save us money over a new wallet and ID.” Then she asked, “Hey, why don’t you come in?” “Well, um...” I stuttered. “Oh, yes, I was going to ask you,” the lady interrupted, “how did you come all the way here?” "I rode my bike all the way here,” I answered. "And took the bus, for part of the way." "Well, then, please take the load off!” the lady responded. As I walked in, I was awestruck by the front doorway as I walked in. The foyer had white plaster columns, and on the white marble floor, to my right, stood a row of pairs of shoes. The house had a nice living room with an L-shaped couch and a great plasma TV, wooden board floors, a kitchen with a stove and microwave – the microwave was built as part of the shelves and placed above the sink – and a table

with chairs located across the way from the kitchen, facing the front windows by the front door. The lady was walking over to the kitchen. “Would you like some coffee or something? Ice-cold water, maybe?” “Oh, ice-cold water, please,” I answered. Who wouldn’t want ice-cold water after riding a bike more than 20 miles northwest? “Tell me, sir,” the little girl said, “What is your name?” “Adrian,” I said. “Well, I’m Lucy,” the little girl said, “and this is my sister, Olivia Joanne.” I forgot to mention, I did know her name was Olivia Joanne. I memorized it along with her address when I peeked in her wallet, but I didn’t want to tell them that. “Other times, we like to call her...” “Don’t even think about it, Lucy.” Olivia interrupted. “O.J.,” Lucy snickered. “Oh, jeez,” Olivia groaned. “That nickname becomes annoying after a while.” She walked over to the living room, where Lucy and I were sitting, with a glass of ice water in her hand. When she handed it over to me, I immediately gulped parts of it down. At the same time, however, I made sure I didn’t get a brain freeze from it. “So, OJ here told me that you ran into her in the coffee shop last time you saw each other.” Lucy reflected. “Hey, it was an accident,” I responded. “I didn’t even see her when we bumped into each other.” "Well, for a biker, you should’ve watched where you were going,” Olivia said. “And I wanted to apologize to you for ruining your dress,” I responded. “I just hope that didn’t make you look hideous for...well, whatever it was you were up to.” “I was up in Chicago to attend a party with friends I know from there. And you were lucky, the party I had to go to was just wrapping up by the time I came back.” “Well, I was going to suggest,” I interrupted, “that I pay for your dress, just as my way of making it up to you.” “Well, I appreciate that, Adrian,” Olivia responded, “but I was able to pay for a new dress myself. So let’s say I beat you to it." She paused for minute, looking a little uncertain. Then she said to me, “Look, while it’s still on my mind, I want to apologize to you, too.” “For what?” I asked. “For how I reacted that day. It was a little brash of me to just accuse you on the spot for ruining the dress.” Once she said that, I felt myself warming up to her bit by bit.

“In fact, as my way of making it up to you,” she resumed, “may I show you something?” “Oh, sure, by all means,” I replied. So she took me out of the living room and as we walked through the house’s hallways and into Olivia’s backyard, she led me to what I just realized was a greenhouse, a glass greenhouse, with a triangular second floor and rooftop. Once Olivia and I walked in, I was astonished by all the kinds of plants she had inside. Rows of containers were arranged in front of us in a vertical alignment, and they filled up almost the entire greenhouse. Almost every kind of fruit and vegetable were within eyesight, the vegetables in the containers, and the fruits and fruit trees in pots stashed against the glass walls, away from the vegetables. Apples, peaches, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, tomatoes, pears, eggplants – I didn’t remember if I saw any citruses there, though – Olivia grew them all. I also noticed plenty more vegetables growing in buckets hanging above my head, too. They were each hanging by a thread, supported by a hook latched onto the ceiling. We just walked to the far end of one of the canisters when Olivia spoke up. “Truth be told, Adrian, I remember taking a glance at one of the old ladies back at the coffee shop, and I felt like there was something familiar about her.” “You mean, my mother? What did you find so familiar about her?” I asked. “Well, Adrian,” Olivia replied, as she was tending to her plants, “I ran an amateur grocery shop in one of Chicago’s farmer’s markets. Unfortunately, it wasn't doing as well as I was hoping it would. 15 minutes or so before closing, I was almost getting set to pack up because of poor business. However, this really nice old lady arrived just as the thought crossed my mind, and she bought one of the peaches, and just asked if she could buy the rest of the peaches that were in that one stand. Said she needed them for a get-together event for one of her friends. I was touched by that approval, especially when she asked if I would still be around the following day, since she said she was going back to the market anyway. When she did come back, she decided to buy one of my apples to munch on as a snack, and was nice enough to give me a slice of watermelon, also as a snack. Then we just talked for about an hour or so about our family histories, both of which were pretty...well, depressing. She was talking about how she lost her husband, and I was talking to her about how my parents left me and Lucy shortly after I graduated from coll – actually, you know what? I better stop right there before I bore you with one of my own life stories. Did you say that the lady from the coffee shop was your mother?” “I was just going to say,“ I answered, “the lady you speak of from the market was definitely my mother, Marilyn.” “Oh! Well, that’s a huge coincidence!” She laughed. “Not that I’m desperate, Adrian, but I thought maybe you’d like one of the watermelons that I just grew. Tell me what you think.”

The watermelons were being stored in a special room several feet away from the rest of the crop, with LED lights being used for part of their nutrition. Olivia asked me to wait outside the door while she harvested it and cut it up so it would have looked presentable. Twenty minutes later, Olivia came out with scooped-out melon balls, one on each hand, and all punctured with a toothpick, and you have no idea how juicy and sweet it was. I could tell just from the mere taste that Olivia put all her effort into tending to her crop. That, and her honesty about her thoughts, just swelled up inside me and compelled me to do what I wanted to do with her for a second, not too long ago. “Olivia, this watermelon is just excellent!” I said to her. “You should be very proud of your hard work.” Okay, so I had to do that first, that’s true, and she thanked me for my opinion. Then... “Could I ask you something? Like, something really big?” “I’m all ears,” Olivia said. I took a deep breath before finally asking her what I wanted to ask her. “Are you free sometime this coming week?” Olivia simply said, “Yes, Adrian, I am. I’m free this coming Frid–” But then she stopped for a second, like she just found out what I was asking her. “You mean, you want to ask me out on a date?” “If you want to,” I replied. “I know this is too big of a question, so if you don’t want to go, I understand.” “You know...I would like to, Adrian.” This simple response aroused me even further. I felt like I could leap out and scream for joy. A date with a nice, honest girl! How cool is that? Of course, I caught myself before I got too excited, and I simply answered: “Well, that’s great then!” So, then, we went ahead and walked back to the living room, where Lucy was waiting. She did a bit of the leaping up and down for me when she heard the news, but Olivia simply asked her to calm down and just keep it herself. The three of us continued to sit and talk for another 15 minutes about our own life stories and plans. One was about when Lucy handed one of Olivia’s peaches to her best friend as a valentine for a boy she had a crush on. Another was about where Olivia and I could go as our first date. At the end of those 15 minutes, we heard a car honk from outside. “Were we expecting someone?” Lucy asked. “No,” Olivia answered. “No one I know of, anyway.” I decided to go outside myself to see who drove up to the driveway. To my surprise, I found out that not only was the car parked in the street, but it was Dave

who drove and honked the horn at me. I guess he came to pick me up after getting my text message about Olivia’s address. “Hi, there, buddy! You ready to go?” Dave yelled out. “I’ll be there in just a minute!” I answered. I walked back inside, told the ladies who was outside, and we all shared our goodbyes. Before I left, however, Olivia quickly wrote something down on a small slip of paper. When she handed it back to me, I realized that it had her phone number on it, as well as her home address. “I thought maybe you shouldn’t leave without my address, whether you returned the wallet to me or not,” she said to me. “Thank you,” I replied. Once I left the driveway with my bike, Dave gave me another arm to lift the bike onto his car’s bike rack and latch it there tight. I sat in the front seat with him, and I’m surprised to see that my mother was with us, too. “Honey,” she said to me. “I think it takes guts to try to ride all this way to do someone else a favor. I’m happy to hear that this paid off.” “Thanks, Mother,” I said. “Speaking of which, you remember the lady from the farmer’s market sometime ago?” “Now that you bring her up, I’m starting to. What about her?” “Well, the tall lady at the door was her, and we are going on a date this coming Friday.” My mother and Dave went absolutely nuts, and they were just excited like you wouldn’t believe. “Get out of town! Really? That’s marvelous!” “Woo hoo! Nice going, buddy!” “So tell me, what’s her name?” “And where are you guys going on your date?” I needed a couple minutes to let everything that happened during then sink in, and they both realized it. After then, I finally told them what happened, all as Dave was dropping us off at home, one at a time.

By the time Friday afternoon came around the corner, work wrapped up early. It was at around 4 PM, and on the spot, I walked from my office down into the entrance of Withrow Enterprises, where I had my bike locked up in one of the lampposts. Where I was going, I didn’t need to grab any buses or taxicabs, so I just used the standard bike lanes to carry me the rest of the way. The day was still bright, crisp, and clear in the late afternoon, and even the traffic was pretty mellow compared to most other days. Soon, I reached the Cloud Gate in Michigan Avenue, also as bright, clear, and crisp as to be expected, with all the beautiful trees and the majesty of the Chicago skyscrapers reflected back onto them from the sculpture. I passed through the benches facing the monument, and I decided to lean my bike

against one of them, before deciding to also lock it up just to be safe. It didn’t look like Olivia was around at the time, so I just decided to gaze for a little while inside just to pass the time. The moment my reflected self gazed back at me from up above, along with those of all the passersby walking by me, I was mesmerized, but also a bit moody. Out of the many Chicagoans who went by doing either the very things they loved most or what they did to keep a roof over their heads, how was it that I, among them, would have spent part of my time just tracking down a person all because I wanted to return something to them? This was Olivia’s business, not mine, and even I had some business of my own that I could have tended to, so what’s the point? The worst-case scenario would have been that Olivia and Lucy would also have thought of my efforts as insignificant and just brushed off any chances of ever getting in touch with me again. On the other hand, of course, I did have to at least think positive for a bit. Returning something that was lost to someone after riding a substantial way just to pull it off must have had at least some significance to it, and who knows? Maybe they would have tried to repay you for the thought, or for doing them a favor. I continued gazing at my reflection when, all of a sudden, I noticed the reflection of someone with straight dark hair walking directly to me from behind. Speak of the devil, it was Olivia! “I caught you first,” I uttered to Olivia as I turned my head around to her.

“You saw my reflection, huh?” She responded. I nodded, and noticed the dress she was wearing. This was the dress that Olivia said she bought to replace her old one. It was black, made out of fine wool and spandex – very different from her last dress – and it went all the way down to her kneecaps. “Wow. You look...beautiful.” I said to Olivia. “Thank you,” she said. “I’ll admit, this dress is no Jazz Age dress, but this’ll do the trick.” I agreed with her, and at the words “Shall we?”, we both walked together back to the bench, holding hands. I knew that no matter what, we would’ve held onto that night as a firm reminder of what to expect with what we achieved. Whatever the future may have held in store for us, it could have involved more accomplishments, it could have involved more adventures, challenges, maybe heartbreak, but we wouldn’t have dared to veer into that light. All that mattered was that we had to embrace this opportunity as long as we held onto it. Maybe it could’ve been a sign from God after all. Maybe...

Originally written in October 2017

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