T. C. Powell
Through The Window
“Men!” Saldana said, as though it needed no elaboration. Lise and Maggie nodded their agreement.
They sat around the Denny’s table on a lazy Saturday afternoon, finishing slices of pie. Saldana, three years removed from a five year marriage, had the most authority in these discussions. She understood this and kept the ball rolling.
“It’s so typical. That’s the shame. Sure, we expect them to cheat, but with their secretaries? How cliché!”
“Know what he said about her?” Lise said. “‘She’s not a secretary, she’s an executive assistant.’ Can you believe it?”
Maggie mumbled disapproval, like she was expected to, then eased back in the booth, watching the world outside the window, not really listening to the conversation. She’d already heard it, every first Saturday of the month for the past two years. Details changed — different men who found different ways of breaking their hearts — but the punchline remained the same: men were awful, evil, and, from then on, eternally forsworn.
“...and I promise,” Lise was saying, “I’m never going to make that mistake again.”
“Hear, hear!” Saldana applauded.
Outside, Maggie watched a car stranded on the far side of the road. A girl, early twenties, had a flat. She was waiting in the car for help — probably already put in a call — when someone pulled up behind. Not roadside assistance, but just a Good Samaritan. A guy hopped out, trim and tall with dark curly hair, and jogged up to her window. Lucky girl.
“You can ask Maggie about David. She dated him, too!” Lise said.
“Huh?” Maggie said, “Oh, yeah, David. It’s been a long time... He was a sweet guy.”
“But didn’t it gross you out? The way he’d belch songs when he drank beer? I mean, first time? Funny. Hundred-and-first time? Not so funny.”
“You know, we dated in high school — I don’t think he was doing that back then.”
“Hmmm,” Lise said.
“Well, I’ll tell you the grossest thing I ever saw Enrico doing,” Saldana said. “I woke up late one night and Rico wasn’t in bed. I went to the bathroom to see if he was okay, and...”
The guy had the tire off. He was older, maybe twenty-eight, but they would make a cute couple, both young and attractive.
Life was crazy. You could have a flat, whole day ruined, when someone comes along to help. But it’s not just anyone. It’s him. The guy with the hair and the build and the smile, and not just those things — he’s a good guy, too — you know because he stopped.
And so you say “hello” — coyly, because you don’t want to seem aggressive, but he can tell you’re interested anyways, and he knows that you’re right for him, too. Cue the music swell.
The flat tire, that one-in-a-million quirk of fate, leads to a first date, then roses and candlelight and dancing, then bed, smiling as you wake up next to him, stretching in the sheets and feeling his warmth beside you, knowing that you won’t have to start your day like normal, cold and alone. Then everything.
Saldana was still talking: “...I swear, it was a week before I could use the tub again. You can still see the stains if you know where to...”
The tire replaced, the girl started to get back into her car. The guy was watching her, looking around, obviously trying to come to a decision. It was so cute! A guy like that, nervous about a girl.
He walked up and knocked on her window.
She put it down.
Here it was — the big moment.
Then, Maggie could see the girl hold something out. Green. Money.
The guy hesitated, took the bill, and stood back as she put the window up and started her car.
As she drove off, he watched after her, maybe to see if she would come back. She didn’t, but just left him standing there.
The little fool! Maybe, being so young, she could believe that this kind of thing happened every day — maybe Maggie, herself, believed it once — but a day would come when she would know better. She just left, having paid for his attentions like an escort. He didn’t want your money, kid.
“Really,” Lise said, “Where are you supposed to meet the good ones? All the usual spots — bars, clubs, even the libraries now — that’s where the ‘players’ go to find their next victims.”
“You assume too much,” Saldana laughed. “What do you mean ‘good ones’?”
“Ha ha, I’m serious. Maggie, maybe you know. If you wanted to find a good guy — someone real, that you could spend your life with or whatever — where would you look?”
Outside, the guy was headed back to his car, his head down. Maggie couldn’t believe that the girl had blown it.
“Everywhere I could.”
Saldana said, “Honestly, Lise, I think if you want to meet the perfect man, you have to rely on fate. You can’t make it happen. You just need to recognize it when it does, so you don’t let it get away.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Lise said.
The guy was back in his car. Maggie’s stomach dropped to see him go. Who knew where he’d go now, or whether he’d ever find anyone, himself — maybe he’d drift, like her, never quite finding that someone.
She saw him turn the key. Nothing happened. He tried again, but his car wouldn’t start. He cursed, and she stifled a small laugh. Suddenly, it hit her, and she laughed even harder.
“Maggie?” Saldana said, “where are you going? We haven’t paid.”
“I’ll be right back — there’s something I have to do.”
Maggie scrambled out of the booth, her pumps clapping on the linoleum as she raced from the restaurant.
Through the window, Saldana and Lise watched as Maggie approached the guy’s car, just as he finally got it started.
He took down his window, they exchanged smiles, and she said, “Hello.”
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About the Author
T. C. Powell
T.C. Powell starves full-time and is a freelance writer on the side. He has been published in the Los Angeles Daily News, the UC Santa Cruz literary journal Chinquapin, and his short story “Churchmas Eve” won the first-annual (and possibly final) Words of Belief holiday writing contest. His woeful web presence can be found at tcpowellfiction.blogspot.com.
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