Vignette 6 – The Day We Met
"Watson! Come here boy! Watson!"
Elena didn't care that people around her were staring at this frenzied girl running frantically through the park. It was all it took for her to keep the tears gathered in her eyes from pouring down her face and to keep from screaming hysterically.
Watson was more than just her dog; he was a link to cherished memories of her mother. She remembered vividly the day they picked Watson out of the litter, the way the wiggling puppy escaped from the bath water when they tried to give him his first bath, the way the loyal Labrador would lay curled up at her mother's feet.
Most importantly, she remembered the day she got the news of her mother's accident. She had hugged Watson tight and the concerned lab had licked her tears away trying to console her. She would fall apart into pieces if Watson was lost now, just a few months after her mother was taken prematurely from her.
"Watson where are you!" She couldn't keep the sob from her voice.
"Pardon moi mademoiselle. Ceci est votre chien?"
Elena turned around when she heard a soft masculine voice speaking behind her. "Watson!" She was barely conscious of the speaker, so wrapped up with the discovery of her beloved pet. She kneeled down and wrapped her arms tight around the dog, burying her fingers in his smooth black coat. Tears that had been threatening to spill over were now pouring down her face as she placed kisses around the dog's muzzles.
After giving the ecstatic dog one last kiss, she finally stood up to thank the Good Samaritan. "Thank you so much…um…merci beaucoup!"
She finally looked at the stranger and blinked at the sight. A man in his early 20s stood in front of her wearing a long black winter coat and gloves. He had wild, shoulder length auburn hair curling around the collars and kind light colored eyes. He was easily one of the most beautiful men she had ever seen up close, but what took her breath away was the gentle way he looked at her.
She swallowed hard and tried thanking him again in her limited French. "Thank you again…um merci, for finding my dog…um deliverez my…um…chien."
The beautiful stranger smiled at her and replied in softly accented English: "You are welcome." He looked at her for a moment, concern showing in his eyes. "Are you alright mademoiselle?"
Elena reached up to wipe the tears away, probably smudging her mascara in the process. Here she was standing in front of a gorgeous man and she must look a fright. He probably thought she was deranged by the way she was crying over her dog.
She smoothed her hair behind her ear awkwardly and tried to explain: "I'm okay. I just…I couldn't handle losing my only remaining family."
He smiled sympathetically and replied: "Not today."
She smiled crookedly back to him: "No, not today, thanks to you."
"It was my pleasure." He glanced around the park before continuing: "Would you like to get a cup of coffee?"
Elena was taken aback by the invitation. A drop dead gorgeous man had just witnessed her near emotional melt down, and was now offering to get a drink. She must be hallucinating.
Seeing her hesitation, he smiled disarmingly: "Maybe tea might be better to help calm you."
"Oh!" She exclaimed, finally understanding that the man obviously thought she wasn't emotionally stable enough to be left alone. While she felt humiliated that her distress was so obvious, she wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to spend more time with him. "Yes, that would be nice."
Fifteen minutes later, Elena was feeling much calmer. Watson was lying placidly by her feet, she had a hot cup of coffee cradled in her hands, and the beautiful man was still by her side, keeping her company. She looked over at her steaming cup at him, and watched as he traced his fingers around the rim of his coffee cup before lifting it to his lips for a sip.
Watson lifted his head up hopefully and was rewarded when her companion fed him a bite of biscotti. The lab wolfed the offering down and laid his head on the man's lap, eyes showing complete adoration. She choked on a bit of tea when the thought came to her mind that she wished she was the one on the man's lap.
"Are you alright?" The man looked concerned as she coughed as the tea went down the wrong pipe.
"I'm fine." She managed to rasp out, face turning bright red that it was a good thing he wasn't a mind reader or she would melt into a puddle of sheer humiliation.
"What don't you wish me to read from your mind?"
She stared wide-eyed at the man. Did she just say that out loud? She was completely and utterly mortified. She managed to squeak out: "Nothing."
Taking pity on her crimson face, the man changed the subject. "How long have you had Watson?"
She relaxed and smiled as she stared at the dog lovingly. "Seven years. My mother and I picked him out when he was a puppy. He was the runt of the litter."
"He must have been grateful."
"He's been a joy ever sense." She frowned and mock scolded the dog. "Except for today of course. Watson, don't ever do that again."
Sensing the displeasure in her voice, the lab hung his head and looked up with a woebegone expression. Unable to resist his pleading glance, she laughed and hugged him again. "Oh you big ham you."
Elena looked up to find Michael looking wistfully at Watson. "What's wrong?"
He looked up in surprise before smiling softly. "Nothing, I'm just remembering the family pets growing up."
"What did you have?"
"We had a small terrier, a rescued German Sheppard, and two barn cats."
"Are they still around?"
He paused as he sipped thoughtfully for a moment. "Yes, other than the German Sheppard."
At her questioning look, he added: "I don't go home very often now."
"Where are you from?"
"Just outside of Paris."
"It's not too far away then."
"No, I guess not."
"You're lucky then. It's just me, Watson and my mom for a long time. Now there's just me and Watson."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
They sipped their drinks companionably for a while, enjoying the sunny day. All too soon she realized the lateness of the day and she still had a paper to write for the university. She was reluctant to leave though, fearing that the magical spell cast over the afternoon would be broken, and she would never see him again.
As if reading her thought, he looked at his watch and looked up apologetically. "I'm sorry; I have somewhere I need to be. It was nice meeting you."
He stood up and she followed suit. She was reluctant to watch him leave, but too shy to ask to see him again. She awkwardly replied: "It was nice meeting you too. Um…I live near here; maybe I'll see you again sometimes."
He smiled that gentle sweet smile of his again and replied: "That would be nice."
They smiled at each other for a moment and he started to leave. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. "Wait! I don't even know your name." It was true, for all the intimacy and unguarded candor in their conversation over the last hour, not once did they ever introduce themselves. What was also true was that she felt like she already knew him, despite never exchanging something as basic as a name.
The beautiful man, who was no longer a stranger, turned back and offered his hand. "You can call me Michael."
She took his proffered hand and felt a jolt all the way to her core as their fingers met. "I'm Elena."
They held onto each other's hand for a long time before Michael finally dropped the contact. He smiled again before turning to leave. "Adieu."
She shook her head and responded: "Au revoir."
He chuckled lightly at her response. "Yes, until we meet again." With one last smile and a lingering glance, he turned and left the park.
She stood still, watching his confident stride as he walked away until he disappeared from view. She sighed, releasing the breath she had unknowingly been holding. Watson tilted up his head and looked inquiringly up at her. She smiled down at the wonderful dog that had been responsible for bringing Michael into her life.
She looked back up to where she last saw Michael and sighed again before answering the loyal dog's quizzical look. "I just met the man I'm going to marry."
She didn't know where the conviction came from, or how she would go about making him fall in love with her. All she knew was that when he touched her, the part of her that had been numbed since her mother's death had came back alive. Without knowing more than his name, she knew with certainty that she had fallen in love.
She grinned down at her loving dog and grinned exuberantly. "Come on, let's go home."