It was the first day in a long time that the sun decided to show itself. Though it was still February, the sky was teasing the promise of Spring. The clouds were puffy white…luminous against the azure sky. A plane was passing overhead, leaving contrails that traced a gentle arc across the deep blue…feathering out as the winds dispersed them and the plane slid out of sight. If this were Spring, it would have been cold, but in February it felt warm and people were wearing light jackets or even just shirts.
The wind mixed a potpourri of leaves, candy wrappers, and other flotsam and spun it into a vortex. The pigeons waited for it to die down so they could pick through the pile for anything worth having. This blended perfectly with the usual assortment of beer cans, cigarette butts and a couple of foam coolers, tossed or abandoned by careless visitors. And, being a Sunday, overflowing trash cans.
Up in a tree there was a loud argument going on between a group of Crows, while a Blue Jay taunted them, imitating their cawing. Elsewhere children were playing around a fountain, one of them letting out an occasional piercing scream; apparently disputing the the rules of whatever game they were playing. Further away the sound of skateboards clacking on concrete and the occasional teenage boys laughing as someone wiped out. But all of it was underscored by the constant low hum of traffic, like a soft bass line that never goes away.
A female voice, cried out in alarm as her bike hit a small patch of ice in a spot that never got any sun. She lay on the ground for a moment before shaking her head and laughing. A young couple walking with one of those expensive strollers stopped and spoke to her. She waved them off before riding off and rendezvousing with a friend a little ways down the path.
He was on his third cup of coffee and had now gone through an entire issue of Sports Illustrated. He kept it tidy, but still there was a pile of empty coffee cups and various food wrappers on the bench. He needed something else to read, and something to drink besides coffee. Maybe some hot chocolate from the kiosk. There was a trash can but it was out of sight of the bench and Cami would be looking for him here. He didn’t want to miss her, and so had even taken the early train to the city in case there was a delay. Of course with his luck there wasn’t, so here he sat. He got some cocoa and a car magazine. More trash piled up…but no way was he going to be away from that bench when she showed up. He had waited too long to see her again.
He heard the sound of carbon fiber on asphalt and looked up to see a girl zipping by on one of those Tour-de-France type jobs. She was rolling along, and he thought she should be careful; there were still some icy patches. Mostly what he noticed is how cool she looked. Though it was warm for February, it was still pretty chilly for a bike ride, so she had on tights, a balaclava and a tight fitting jacket of some type…one that serious cyclists wear. Between all that and the helmet and sunglasses it was hard to see much of her but he imagined her to be sleek and athletic with a pretty jock kind of look. A few minutes later he heard a scream some distance away and wondered if she might have fallen, but she did not seem the type to fall like that.
Tow-headed and of average height, Fletcher wasn’t going to stand out in any room. Women generally thought he was good looking enough, but there was something about him that turned them off. His mother had constantly told him not to slouch, which was really how he carried himself both inside and out. The one girlfriend he’d had thought he was cute and always tried to get him to dress up. “You know, you’re a good looking guy. You just need to believe in yourself. Why don’t you spend some money on clothes. It will do a wonder for your self-esteem.” Eventually she had grown bored with him and tired of constantly bucking him up. This only made him more timid and as a consequence he hadn’t had a girlfriend since: women can smell a lack of confidence like a racoon smells a day old cheeseburger. And so, after a few minutes with him, whatever interest they had faded away, and so did they.
Cami had immediately been attracted to him. She liked blonde headed men and he was slender which she also found attractive. Because she had made the first move, Fletcher had the chutzpah to ask the prettiest girl at the wedding reception to meet him for a drink the following week. Cami being Cami, and not smelling the lack of confidence did not hesitate to tell him he was cute and insisted they go out again. Fletcher was on cloud nine. And he did was his ex told him, he bought new clothes and kept buying new clothes. The better he dressed, the more confident he felt the more Cami fed his ego. It was a beautiful upward spiral and Cami was in love. When her friends met him, they would remark that Cami always got the hot men.
A not so highly motivated crew, in bright lime green vests, were taking a break over by the seal enclosure in the small zoo. The enclosure was empty and it wasn’t clear if they were upgrading it or putting something else in it’s place. A few children milled around, disappointed, no doubt, that the local clowns had been relocated. An adult in charge of the group, directed them to an indoor exhibit, presumably the temporary home of the displaced sea lions.
People, meeting her for the first time. With a name like Cameron, they expected a man. People sometimes gave her a hard time about it, but she was proud of it. She was named after her grandfather, a prominent civil rights attorney. Nevertheless, her friends had long ago shortened it to ‘Cami’, a nickname that she embraced.
Of course once you’d met her there was no denying she was a woman. Hard drinking and a bit of a jock unwary suitors were often left reeling after trying to get over on her. She had big blue eyes and long wavy auburn hair that was almost always cascading down her back and across her shoulders. She didn’t wear many skirts or dresses which somehow only served to increase her allure. She wasn’t overly tall, but she was usually the tallest woman in whatever room she was in. And while she hardly ever wore skirts, she almost always wore heels. Not to make up for a lack of height but to accentuate what she had. “Whatever advantage you have, take advantage of it” , her grandfather had taught her. Men, and not a few women, were drawn to her like moths to a bright flame.
He would never forget that day, the drive up to the mountains; the leaves were turning and the air chilled as the little roadster climbed higher and higher. He asked her if she wanted the top up, but she liked the idea of her long reddish hair flowing out behind her in the breeze. Men in other cars, truck drivers; just about anyone they passed had to grab a look at her. He literally pinched himself. When they stopped at the old Colonial style inn for lunch they grabbed a place by the fire and as they ate he could see the flames reflected in her deep blue eyes. She said it first, but then that was Cami, he didn’t hesitate. “I love you too,” he said. That was an understatement.
After lunch they drove up to the highway that followed the ridgeline and found a trailhead. Hand in hand they were walking, teasing each other about running into a bear and talking about the future. She said she would never let him go, and he was starting to believe it.
Cami was hard to read. Everyone had always told her that. Boyfriends, teachers, even her own mother. One day her 5th grade math teacher jokingly told her “if I didn’t know better Cami, I’d think you hated me!” Cami stared straight into her pug-like face, smiled, and thought, oh but you’re right. I do hate you. She suffered no fools and had started young.
The night she found the camera, though, she panicked and smashed it, who knew who could be looking at her right that moment! Later when she called her hacker friend, David, he told her if she hadn’t broken it they could have found it’s IP address or something like that and maybe traced it to who was using it. But of course she called Fletch immediately, she was crying and a little out of her mind. She pleaded with him to leave work and come stay with her. Of course he blew off work and went over right away. Cami didn’t realize how weird things had gotten, but she was about to find out. It was the beginning of the end of Fletcher and her, but as it turned out, the end had started a long time before. Cami just didn’t realize it.
“I dunno; I’m just hanging in the park. Wasting time before I have to go back on shift. Marta is the floor manager today. I ain’t going back in there until the last minute. I like it out here, always something to see. Ooh, there’s a real cute guy on that bench across from the kiosk. I was trying to catch his eye, but he’s kinda acting a little strange. He is like stress eating, downing coffee and making believe he’s reading, but I think he’s waiting for someone. If it’s a chick, she better be on her game…this dude is wired. Wait, he see’s somebody, I’ll call you back. Yeah yeah yeah, I’ll give you a full report. Love you too.”
Shit. There she is, I’m gonna walk towards her so she doesn’t see this mess here. Oh god, look at her. I forgot how gorgeous she is. I just gotta keep it together. I’ll sound sincere because I am sincere right? I mean she loves me…she’s just mad about everything that happened. I got a little jealous. I talked to a shrink, she said it sounded like I just got a little overwhelmed. Oh no, she’s waving me back to the bench. I hope she takes the sunglasses off, its hard enough to tell what she’s thinking without covering her eyes. Oh god, she is beautiful. I wish I had thrown this mess away.
“You look good.”
“Thanks, how are you doing?” Did you wait long? The train coming in was delayed.
“We could have met closer to your place, I didn’t mean to make this such a hassle for you. Just wanted to see you for a bit.” Fletcher was apologetic but he knew she didn’t want him near her place.
Cami smiled “That’s okay. I’m gonna meet Missy for shopping when we’re done here.”
I should have known…she arranged something right after so she’d have an excuse to get away. And with Missy no less. She hates me. “That’s cool. Tell her I said hello.”
“Sure” said Cameron, “She always liked you.”
He looked at her and thought, liked as in past tense. “So when are you meeting?”
Cameron flicked her wrist and looked at her watch, “Oh in about thirty minutes. She’s just a few blocks away.”
Fletcher’s heart sank. He was hoping to have a long talk, to explain everything, but that only gave him about 20 minutes tops. So he’d better get on with it. “Look, Cami, I’m sorry. I wish I could take it all back. I got help. I understand things about myself now.”
“Fletch, I am so proud of you for getting help. And I forgive you, I have told you that a million times. You’re a great guy and I really do believe you won’t do it again. But you know, what we had is broken, I can’t put it back together. To be honest, I don’t want to.”
Fletcher was trying not to grovel, “But if you loved me, and you forgive me and you believe it’s better…”
“Fletch…you spied on me. You put a camera in my place and you were watching to see if anything happened between David and I.” God knows what you recorded she thought.
“Cami, I swear, it was just for a day it was there. I left it after you went to bed when we got home from the play. I don’t have any nudes or anything. I would never…”
Cameron cut him off. “Fletch, I love you but you don’t know how close I came to calling the police. This is not something I can live with. You will find someone else, I promise you. Let’s just leave this on good terms okay?” She stood up to leave.
“Cami, if that’s what you want. Please don’t be mad if I don’t try to be friends. Just like you can’t get over what happened, I think it’s gonna hurt for awhile when I see you.”
She smiled “I get it Fletch, and you really do sound like you’ve turned it around. Can I give you something before I leave?”
Fletcher was confused…”uh sure?”
“Your only, and I mean only problem is that you don’t believe in yourself. You see that girl on the bench over there making believe she’s looking at her phone?”
Fletcher nodded, “yeah she’s has been there for awhile. She kept looking over here”
“I caught her looking a few times too. She is cute and she wants you to talk to her. You faked it with me, now go do it for real with her. You can’t miss.” She got up to leave. “Good bye Fletch. Don’t watch me leave, just catch her eye and go talk to her. It’s in the bank. Trust me.” She squeezed his shoulder and walked off the way she’d come in.
“Oh my, I think it’s a break up thing. Definitely she is breaking up with him because he had to wait and she only stayed like ten minutes. Yeah, it’s strange. No one is crying either…just very quiet like they are both sad but no one is real upset. Oh crap, she’s looking straight at me…’Hi’…that was weird. I guess I got busted being nosy, but she was smiling. Yeah, she’s a hottie. Oh no, he’s coming over here! What do I do? Yes, I told you he’s cute dammit. I gotta go. YES I WILL FILL YOU in. Bye!”