I was rushing across the puddled street, cussing under my breath at my ruined shoes. She was strolling at a pace that suggested a walk in the June sunshine rather than a downpour. With my head tucked down as if there was any way to shield my face from the deluge, I didn’t see her until her bare toes came into view and my shoulder struck hers. I lifted my eyes and mumbled an apology with no intention of pausing. I did stop though, so abruptly that I nearly slipped on the wet pavement. She stopped too. She stopped and she smiled.
White sundress, soaked and clinging to her tan skin; brown hair disheveled and stuck to her cheeks and neck; she was a mess. She was beautiful. For a moment I couldn’t speak.
“You’re in a hurry.” Her smile held steady as she raised an eyebrow at me.
“Well,” I glanced at the black clouds emptying above us.
I stated the obvious, “It’s raining pretty hard.”
She laughed aloud, tossing her head back and laying a hand on her stomach. The sound warmed me. “It is,” she agreed, “and you’re as soaked as you can be so what’s the point in hurrying?”
I had no answer to this. My eyes fell on the peach, open toed heels she held in one hand. “You aren’t exactly dressed for this weather. Where are you coming from?” The question felt rude in this city of strangers who fill the sidewalks and trains together without so much as an effort at eye contact. My curiosity overwhelmed me.
“Maybe it’s about where I’m going to,” she answered with a wink and another mesmerizing laugh.
For a split second I wondered if she was sober but there was a clarity in her eyes that dismissed the thought.
“I just finished a job interview,” I volunteered.
“Did it go well?”
She shrugged. Raindrops bounced off her bare shoulders. I had to stop myself from begging for information – any bit she was willing to offer would do. I’d never had much courage with women. There was too much mystery about them, and this one had more than her fair share. Thus there was no explanation for my continued questions.
“Is it really about where you’re going to? Do you need to be somewhere.”
“I already am somewhere.”
“Will you stop with me for a coffee?”
She cocked her head. “I could. We could have a coffee, maybe a meal. Then a drink at a pub with a band. We could dance.”
“Yes,” I whispered, wanting all of it.
“Or you could dance with me right now.”
“The time we’d spend doing those things, it’d only leave us with a good story. Memorable, but nothing more. I don’t know about you but for me the highlight of that story would be the dance before we parted. I’ve learned to only care about the highlights. Couldn’t we just have that dance?”
I reached my hand out, watching it with the sensation of seeing another and not myself. Her slender fingers tucked into mine.
“You should take off your shoes.”
I obeyed. The sidewalk was warm under the soles of my feet. I rolled up the cuffs of my pants then pulled my already loosened tie off of my neck and tossed it down with my socks and shoes. I untucked my sopping shirt. All this I did with one hand so I would not have to let go of her fingers with the other.
She took a step closer and her scent reached me with my next breath. Coconut and vanilla were my best guess. Her arm slid around my waist and I rested my hand on the small of her back. We danced as if accompanied by our own private string quartet. When I surprised us both by spinning her out from me then bringing her back, I held in my laughter so I could hear only hers once more.
“That was my highlight,” I declared as her laugh quieted.
She kissed my cheek and we parted. I didn’t pick up my shoes until I saw her turn the corner and disappear. Then I finished my walk home, my pace slow, my feet bare, and my face lifted, welcoming the rain.