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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:38pm.

Chapter 2

It started out as an ordinary day for Ronald Jameson. It was Saturday, which meant he would walk to the park, take a few brief sprints the length of the sizeable playground, do some chin-ups on the climbing bars and whatever else might seem appropriate at the time. The children always watched him closely and with fascination as he did this; the parents, too, hoping he was harmless. Although he’d thought they might get used to him, he’d soon decided that earlier in the morning, before the children came to the park, would be a better time for his routine. Finishing with push-ups, more leg stretches and another run to his apartment, three blocks away, Ron then showered and spent the rest of the day wondering what to do now that he was alone, with only his memories; painful memories he could not seem to lose.

Sometimes, like a few days earlier, he would go for a walk and end up in a diner or at the riverside, just looking off into space and trying not to remember how much it hurt. That was not easy. Ronald Jameson was a man grieving for the loss of his wife and it pained him more than he liked to have anyone know. For that reason he kept to himself. He simply hurt too much to be good company most of the time. Ron suddenly recalled the young lady that he had assisted at the diner. What was it he had told her? Oh, yes…‘Today is a good day for a new beginning.’ That was good advice. Feeling convicted by his own words and never being one to turn his back on a truth, he vowed that he would do the same as he had counseled her to do. He must make a new beginning…somehow.

There was something about the woman that had captured his imagination. He could not put his finger on it, but it was very real and puzzled him deeply. Animal attraction, maybe? He tried to shrug the thoughts off, but they remained, haunting the corners of his mind. If only he had been able to meet her under different circumstances…. Ron shook his head and nearly laughed. Who was he kidding? He was old enough to be her father, likely.

But this day that had begun so typically took a sharp twist when he arrived home. Hung on the doorknob of his house was a single red rose and a card, which smelled of the sweetest perfume and read, "Please allow me to thank you properly for your kind intervention. Come to dinner tonight at 7." Her address and name followed. She had signed it simply Denise. Ron stood staring for a long moment and then lifted first the card, then the rose to his nose and closing his eyes, inhaled the intermingled sweet fragrances. It was absolutely intoxicating and flooded his senses to the exclusion of everything else. This intense emotional trigger was almost too much for him as tears began to well in his eyes.

“Oh, you are home.” A car door slammed unexpectedly behind him. “I thought I had missed you.”

The voice surprised him momentarily. It was the woman that had been with her…with Denise…at the diner. She was coming up the steps to his house, smiling comfortably. Ron forced himself to recover quickly and regain his composure.

“I’m Barbara, a friend of Denise’s. I was just getting ready to leave after I put that card on your door, but I saw you here and thought I should talk to you instead.”

She extended her hand in a confident manner, more like a man than a woman. She had a firm grip that told him she was sincere and genuinely interested in him. Her black hair was shoulder length and softly curled, its shine evidence of careful attention to her looks. She was an attractive woman, without a doubt.

“I know you’re wondering why I’m here….” Barbara continued. He was, indeed, but stood silently waiting for her to explain. “Well, my friend Denise was really grateful for the help you gave her the other day and she wants to thank you in person.”

“That really won’t be necessary…” He smiled as best he could and started to turn toward the door again.

“No, I insist!” She stopped and appeared to visibly back up from her own comment. Ron was intrigued at such a strange and forceful statement, to be sure. Barbara again gathered her poise and continued, a bit softer this time. “The truth is that I’m going to surprise her and she has no idea that I’m trying to let her have the opportunity to thank you properly for your help. I really would appreciate it if you would come to dinner with us tonight. I know the notice is short, but it will be a great deal of fun, I promise. Please?” She raised her brows expectantly and begged an answer from him.

“Look, I really don’t get out much and though I probably should, your friend owes me nothing. I just did what any other person would have done. It feels too much like a blind date—I think she would be uncomfortable and to tell you the truth, so would I.”

“You’re kidding, right?” She appeared amused at his response. “Do you really mean that? Do you know how rare it is to see anyone care about someone other than himself these days, let alone to put himself at any risk for a stranger? That should be rewarded. Denise doesn’t get out, either, but now—thanks to you—she has the opportunity to do so and I know she’ll welcome the chance to thank you. So, why be a snob? Have a good time with some good people, okay? ”

She was forceful and direct. Though taken by surprise, he respected that. She had broken through his wall of resistance and Ron found he could not refuse. Not with this woman. All out of excuses that he suspected she would never accept anyway, it seemed that fate had taken a hand and this was simply meant to be.

Barbara cheerfully and graciously thanked him for his reluctant acceptance and had turned to leave before he gathered his wits enough to ask how she had known where to find him.

“Women’s intuition.” She winked, smiled broadly and waved goodbye. The situation was unusual and intriguing, to be sure. This might be fun after all, he determined.
“Oh, and remember not to tell her I set this up,” she called again.

Ron stood alone for a moment as she drove off, reliving a few memories that made him smile privately to himself. Shaking his head in amused resignation, he opened his door and quietly entered the house.

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