CAROLINE AND THE AD
Caroline's fingers tapped furiously on her laptop keyboard as Richard came through the door, this action instantly catching her attention... "Morning!" she called, never tearing her eyes away from the screen.
"Whatever," he grumbled, hanging his black overcoat on her coat rack. He threw a quick glance in her direction as he headed over to the partner's desk. "Alright," he sighed... "What are you doing?"
"Putting out an ad on the internet," she replied.
"An ad? For what? What are you selling?"
She giggled... "My body."
His look made her laugh even harder... "It's a personal ad, Richard!"
"Why are you putting out a personal ad?" he asked quietly, setting his portfolio down on the partner desk.
She sighed as she finished her typing, placing her hands on her hips, finally looking up at him. She shrugged... "Because I'm tired of dating the same type of guy... after that train wreck with Del, I'd like to start dating different types of guys."
"You mean ones that aren't spoiled?" he quipped.
She grinned... "Exactly. And I figure if I put the ad out on the internet, the right guy could see it and e-mail me. Then we could go out on a date, and maybe buy a house, have a couple of kids--"
"Caroline, Caroline..." he called, breaking into her babbling.... "Excuse me, but... the internet?" He shook his head... "Surely you've got more common sense than that."
She shrugged... "What?"
"Do you have any idea what kinds of psychos there are out there on the internet, just waiting to prey on an innocent, naive woman like yourself?"
She grinned... "Thank you for the concern, Richard, but I'll be fine."
"I don't think this is a good idea."
"Well, I do. I'm tired of going out and looking for guys. They can come after me for once." She smiled to herself... "Sometimes it's nice when they make the first move."
Richard cast his eyes on the mahogany surface of the desk. He wanted more than anything to make the first move, but he was too afraid of rejection. He knew that Caroline would never return his feelings, so why bother even trying? He'd just end up with his heart broken again.
He sighed... "Whatever... I just don't want to have to be the one to identify your body when it turns up."
She smirked, disregarding his warnings and keeping her ad on the internet.
Sure enough, the next day, she had an answer to her ad. A nice gentleman e-mailed her and requested a date. He had no apparent psychotic tendencies, although she knew Richard would pick this guy apart when she told him. She smiled each time she read over his e-mail, which read, "I'd like to meet you in Central Park at seven o'clock on Friday night, on the bench near the pond. I'll bring a rose so you know who I am... now how will I know you?"
She grinned to herself as she wrote back... "I think my red hair will be noticeable enough..." sending it quickly. She received an answer no less than five minutes later...
"Fair enough. See you on Friday."
"Central Park, Caroline?!" Richard exclaimed... "Do you have any idea how potentially dangerous that could be?"
She rolled her eyes, taking her coffee mug with her to the partner desk to sit across from him... "Relax, Richard..."
"Relax?! Do you not know that Central Park is one of the biggest parks in the country? They won't be able to find your body for weeks!"
She laughed... "Okay, Richard, I get it! It's dangerous..." She sighed... "It's just... I'm tired of looking around for an eligible guy... there's none around! Believe me, I've looked! So, I'm willing to take my chances..."
He quickly averted his eyes, his expression one of dejection. It hurt him deeply to think that Caroline never even considered a relationship with him. To her, he was just Richard. Just the cranky, sarcastic artist that colored in her cartoon strip for a living... and that's all he would ever be. He sighed... "Caroline, I just want you to be careful... that's all I'm concerned about... your safety."
She smiled, touched by this act of kindness... something uncharacteristic of this cynical man. "Thank you, Richard... I'll be careful."
Caroline glanced down at her watch, squinting through the darkness to check what time it was... a few minutes to seven. She was a little early. She sighed, her gaze focused on the beautiful pond in front of her, several swans floating across the surface of the water. She sighed again slowly, mesmerized by pond's beauty and tranquility, not even hearing the footsteps approaching... not even noticing another presence until a rose was placed in her line of vision... "I believe this is for you..."
A tremor shot through her spine as she recognized the deep voice, and she looked up to meet Richard's eyes. Her own eyes widened as she leapt from her seat on the bench... shocked beyond belief... "Richard! What are you doing here?"
He smiled to himself, like the cat that ate the canary... "I'm here for my date."
Her jaw dropped as she planted her hands firmly on her hips... "You were the one that answered my ad?"
He smiled, nodding silently. She shook her head... confused... "Well... why would you do something like that?"
"Because, Caroline..." he said... "I wanted you to see that you don't need some silly ad to find a great guy..." He extended the rose to her... "There's one right here..."
She slowly dissolved into a smile, melting at his romantic words... at the romantic gesture, and reached out to pluck the rose from his fingertips. He stepped closer, slowly closing the gap between them... "I wanted you to see that you didn't have to look very far to find someone who'll love you..." He grinned, reaching out to tip her chin up with his finger... "You just needed to look right under your nose."
She giggled... "Actually, over my nose... you're quite tall."
He smiled at her joke, slowly leaning in.... leaning in so close their lips were practically touching, both of them able to feel the other's breath on their lips. He looked up to smile at her, and she smiled back... a sign that he could continue. He gently reached up to brush the hair away from her face, leaning in closer.
He gently rubbed the tip of his nose against hers... an affectionate gesture... and she giggled, butterflies in her stomach at the prospect of finding romance with Richard... at the prospect of kissing him. He smiled, her crystalline giggle warming his heart, dissolving his inhibitions... and he leaned down to kiss her.
He kissed her soundly... tenderly... pulling away after a second. For a moment they just stared at one another, Richard leaning in to plant a short peck on her lips, her smile encouraging him to do it again as she placed her hands on his waist. After another peck on the lips, and another smile from Caroline, he leaned in to kiss her lips fully... tenderly... the kiss long and romantic.
He cherished her lips with his, adoring her... exploring her mouth tenderly... the purpose of his kiss not to express lust or desire, but to express affection and love. After a prolonged moment, they pulled away, Caroline smiling up at him briefly before snuggling in close, wrapping her arms around his waist as she nuzzled her cheek against his chest. "You're right..." she said, eyes slipping closed dreamily as she breathed him in... "I didn't need the ad. I just found everything I've been looking for."
He smiled and wrapped his arms around her in return, thrilled that she returned his feelings. He kissed the top of her head quickly, tenderly, holding her. A long moment of silence passed between them, the two of them just enjoying the closeness... enjoying the romantic moment they were sharing. Richard softly broke the silence... "So do you wanna go eat now?"
Her eyes remained closed as she shook her head against his chest, snuggling in tighter. "No... I just wanna stay here with you for a while..."
He smiled, leading her back over to the bench, the two of them snuggling up again once they were sitting down... her head on his shoulder, her hand on his chest... his arms wrapped around her, his head leaning on hers. They silently sat together, words no longer needed to express what they were feeling at the moment... basking in the romance and tranquility of the evening.