Francis met Elizabeth for the first time in the children's park by the hospital. The cool days of Autumn when her son's shaggy golden hair almost blended in with the leaves when he threw himself into a pile of them were perfect for such a meeting. The boy's favorite game was always hide and seek, she explained after a little coaxing and polite small-talk. But she could never be a good enough hider for such a spectacular seeker and so, for the first time in his short life, Alfred was disappointed with his mother. Though she made a lighthearted joke at herself for it, Francis saw the little bit of self-deprecating sting in her eyes when she said it.. He had taken her hand and promised to introduce his son to hers. Matthew was the most sly and elusive boy when he wanted to be (which was usually bedtime), he reasoned, surely Alfred would have a worthy opponent.
And the next day they'd met up again, same time, same place, with Alfred blinking the sleep away from his eyes groggily and Matthew only making himself visible to peer out at Elizabeth from a distance. He stood on his tiptoes and looked up at his father with a crease between his eyes. Francis took that as the cue to lean down and bend an ear to him. "She's really pretty Papa," His son blushed, eyes flashing with nervousness.
"Isn't she just," He replied with a smile.
Oh, but Elizabeth was charmed. Matthew said 'excuse me' when he burped, said 'please' and 'thank you' and could not only read already, but actually enjoyed it. Perhaps it was the lack of a mother in his life since birth that had his son clinging to Elizabeth, Francis reasoned. In the end, though, he decided they simply shared a taste in women, something he took pride in at first but found worrysome when he realized that his own romantic track record was... less than savory.
Alfred, however, was less impressed. He'd brought a comic book (his favorite) and began lecturing Matthew on the intricacies of fighting crime immediately, barely acknowledging the adults at all. After a game of hide and seek that left Matthew almost completely disappearing into a tree (Alfred was tickled pink at first but after ten minutes or so he threw a fit and had to forfeit), the two of them became inseparable. Alfred accepted Matthew as his superhero apprentice and reassured him that, once his apprenticeship was complete, he may even be able to become his sidekick. Matthew just smiled and nodded, polite as usual.
One day Elizabeth brought them lunch, a plastic container filled with home-made sandwiches, and even Matthew could hardly keep himself from gagging. Alfred, miraculously, gobbled his down, and took his friend's when he found himself suddenly full. It was truly amazing what wretched things children could adapt to when they were raised with them.
They spent their time talking, about everything. While the boys ran around the playground fighting off one supervillain or another, building a new sandcastle or napping beneath the trees, Francis and Elizabeth found comfort in one another. Matthew's mother and the love of Francis' life had died in childbirth. Her stubbornness and unwillingness to give in reminded Francis of Elizabeth, and he told her so. Alfred's father and Elizabeth's late husband had been a navyman and had died at sea. The cool strength he exerted always soothed Alfred when he was upset, and Elizabeth saw this same strength in Francis and the way he worked with the boys so calmly and carefully. She kept that to herself, though.
They talked about careers. Francis worked out of his home, but didn't want to disclose much more than that at first. After many questions and prodding he revealed that he owned a company that shipped flowers to individuals for special occasions. He'd inherited it from his father and fallen in love with the work from a young age. She didn't say anything to the effect of what she was thinking (that it sounded like absolutely amazing work, and did he get free flowers any time he wanted? Could she have some to plant in her garden?) but simply shrugged it off. Elizabeth worked as a waitress at a high-class restaurant downtown, though she desperately wished she could be a chef (that would never happen). She was trying to put herself through school but her chances of finishing were becoming almost as slim as the chances that she would become a chef. The life insurance payments from her late husband's death made sure they would never starve, but the life of a single parent was never easy no matter how much money they had, and that was something they could both understand.
They talked about love. Elizabeth told a story about her late husband and how they met, how he'd been so nervous he couldn't ask her to dinner, so instead she came home and found a bouquet of roses on her doorstep with a note.
"When was this... ?" Francis asked, leaning in as if expecting some great secret out of her.
"Six years ago, I suppose. We married quickly."
Francis counted back the years in his head. His eyes lit up. "He wrote a poem for you, and signed it Anonymous?"
She could not help but stare, and nod. He laughed, heartily and loud enough to make the boys look over, worried.
"I wrote the note!" Deadpan stare. Francis cleared his throat. "I mean, my business. Well, my father's business. We were so small at the time he had me working most weekends, and my penmanship was the best of all the employees so he had me writing the notes and attaching them to bouquets that night. I remembered his poem, it was the last one I had to write, and..." He supposed for a moment that it sounded crazy. "It was beautiful. I'll always remember that note."
Elizabeth grinned, literally grinned! "I was never much for poetry. But what a twist of fate that we should find each other now!"
They said their goodbyes and left for home. Elizabeth didn't even think about questioning why Francis was so frantically playing with his smartphone until she approached her home... and found the doorstep covered with roses.