Frank asked Tom to pick up Rita at the St Paul Street bus stop for him. He said that he would know who she was; she never let herself be unnoticed.
“Well … Is she blond? Tall? Older?” Tom asked.
“Why am I picking her up?”
“I promised her a ride home and I can’t make it. You don’t want to break a promise ever, and especially not with Rita.”
As Tom sat in his car he feared he would regret this. The hazy fog hanging over town did not make it any easier to discern people. He turned the key in the ignition, going through the motion, and the engine remained silent. His shoulders relaxed and he smiled. His relief was brief though; he remembered to step on the clutch the next time he turned the key in the ignition.
There were several people at the bus stop. None were particularly noticeable. It wasn’t going to be as easy as Frank predicted.
There was someone who did not look like she was waiting for the bus. She was leaning toward an opened passenger side window, speaking with the driver. As Tom opened his door, he overheard the woman express slowly but distinctly that she did not realize that her walking on the street could possibly disturb anyone and that if her presence was distracting to him she was completely sorry, but that again she had not meant to cause any problems.
“Just use the sidewalk,” the man insisted, “it’s dangerous in this fog!”
He started to close the car window, but she continued talking about not meaning any harm and that she really thought the street was for everyone.
“Lady, I need to run, so would you please step away from my car?”
She looked at him very directly and said, spacing each word patiently: “Sir, I was apologizing to you, you could be a gentleman and accept my apology.”
“I accept your apology,” he said with some irritation.
“Now, what was your name again, I don’t recall hearing it?”
He drove away, and sped up quite briskly once at a safe distance from her. She stood up, watched him leave. Her long dark hair still covered her chest from bending forward at the car window. She had dark features as if Mediterranean, which in Tom’s mind was in contrast to her slow and distinct southern belle speech pattern.
“There are so few gentlemen anymore,” she said out loud.
“Rita?” Tom hailed out.
“Frank couldn’t make it; he asked me to pick you up!”
“I will be darned if that isn’t Frank! Would you come and open the door for me?”
Except for a large size purse, Rita had her hands free. It puzzled Tom that she asked this. He went ahead anyway and opened the door for her.
“You’ll have to give me directions,” he said, once in the driver seat.
“Frank did not tell you where I live?”
“Did he leave you with an envelope for me?”
“Isn’t that’s a surprise?” She said sarcastically.
“Is there a problem?”
“Not at all. He planned it all very well. Thank you!”
Tom remained quiet.
(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)