Simon pulled the zipper on his coat up higher, swearing a bit as it caught on something at the top. No matter, the wind was fierce tonight and burned at him. Above, the leaves on the oak tree brown and refusing to fall, rattled like old bones clicking and clacking. At least the sidewalk was clear of snow. The dogs trotted on happily, not feeling the cold, and sometimes snarling at each other as they quarrelled happily over sniffing and peeing spots. Two big labradors, one yellow, Bo, and the other chocolate, Charley, were litter mates, young and strong in their prime, happy and full of energy, pulling Simon this way and that in their dog quests. Simon had never managed to train them properly, but didn’t mind.
A big branch had come down from the oak onto the pavement in front, and they had to manoeuvre around it, one dog going one way, the other the opposite and Simon right into it. He yelled DOGS! STOP! and yanked Bo as Charley was unyankable. Simon wondered for a moment if ‘unyankable’ was a word. ‘Well it should be’ he thought, as finally he got the pack of two (well three, including myself, he thought) around the obstacle.
Except, he bumped, that is actually, literally ‘bumped’ into a woman on the other side.
Simon not only bumped, sending her off balance, but tripped on a small branch sticking out from the main one, doing a little dance to keep his balance. He stuttered an apology as she made a small sound of annoyance, followed by a screech.
‘A screech,’ Simon thought? No, it was a cat’s noise of anger and pain. She had stepped on a cat. ‘A cat!’, Simon pulled back desperately on the leads trying to control the dogs and failing, as they raced across the lawn of the nearest house chasing a big black cat, trailing its own leash. Simon leaped like a drunken, two-legged deer over a flower bed, legs bicycling in the air and clipping the tops of the flowers. Down he came on the other side, heavily on his face. But, the leads were still firmly in hand and the dogs were stopped by his prone weight on the grass on the other side of the flower bed.
Now he heard laughing. Musical laughing, but laughing, from behind.
He turned on his side and looked up. She stood over him, greeting Simon with an open smile, clear now in the streetlight she had moved under. He lay still for a moment and looked. Blue eyes…. no green… hazel? He felt her presence, her ‘there-ness’ radiating out from those eyes, propelled by a smile that made her beautiful. He moved down her body, the pea jacket fitted her, flaring out nicely over her hips, leaving jean encased thighs and legs showing their nature. Surprisingly in that cold, she wore light shoes, strapped over the foot. She moved a bit, noticing his gaze, and smiled more, a slight, sexual sway added, and Simon blushed, hoping she didn’t notice, but knowing she did.
She bent forward, offering her arm, ‘Let me help you up’. Her voice was a symphony warming up, lilting tones in different keys, somehow forming a song running behind words. He nodded, and boosted his body part way up and reached for her arm, moving onto his knees in front of her. Again that wave of almost desire, and blushing rose in him as he paused for a moment before her, then made the final move to his feet.
Musette VanKoughnet walked, rather strolled along Barrier Avenue, Ardene her cat, trotting ahead like a small dog. The air was cold and fresh from the storm just ended, a cold rain, not snow. She was happy for that gift, as she could wear her light shoes. She spent most of her days barefoot in Summer weather, then switched to these that just protected her feet from cold pavement or wet grass, held on by criss-crossed straps. Old worn jeans and an old pea jacket she could still wear. She reached up to touch a low hanging branch and one leaf, still green, delighting in its silky and rough texture. Ardene tugged a bit and Musette moved on, silently saying goodbye to the leaf. A large branch had fallen from an old oak across the sidewalk and into the road a bit. She thought of moving it, but it looked too large and heavy. She stood for a moment, letting the cold breeze refresh her, breathing it in, when two large dogs, dragging a man, crashed around the branch bashing into her. She stumbled back a bit, annoyed, stomping on Ardene’s tail, who screeched and ripped her lead free and took off across the yard to the right, dogs and man leaping crazily after. She turned, annoyance already evaporated and laughed at the sight of this strange male figure leaping and shouting over the nearby flower bed. He crashed to the ground, heavily, breath grunting loudly out of him as he hit. She laughed again, but felt a little peeved with herself for a moment for laughing. He held the leashes tightly still as she went over to see if he were ok.
He rolled part way over and she looked into his eyes. Brown, dark brown eyes that instantly let her in, deep inside, him. This time she blushed a little, also happy the dark hid this unforeseen reaction. He, however, did not notice. She never blushed when she looked into men’s eyes. What was different? She stopped, thinking about men she had known, forgetting the cool breeze, only lightly aware of Ardene who had trotted back, archly ignoring the curious snuffles of the two dogs. There was Paul and his happy sexual teasing, like a small boy being naughty; Mike and his fierce concerns about whatever was trendy; sweet Mario with his hint of accent and courtly advances. She saw them unblinking and accepting, but holding herself back, hidden. This was different; he was different. He saw her too. This was ….. disconcerting.
She came back to ‘now’ and realized he, the man, was kneeling before her, almost in supplication, looking up smiling. She stirred and spoke and helped him the rest of the way, blushing again.
They stood for a long moment, inches apart. Simon, not tall, not short, brown hair, dark brown eyes, healthy but dishevelled - clothes old and comfortable, barely hiding a comfortable body. Musette, slightly shorter, with those eyes that saw, set in alabaster and framed with long, very long, dark hair. Simon was not sure how dark in that night air, but her hair flowed freely down her back, with stray and disobedient strands on her cheeks.
Musette brushed them away, shaking her head slightly. They felt each other’s presence, male and female, breathing and noticing. Simon imagined her alabaster extending down under her clothes, feeling desire faint at first, but irrepressible. Her casual and well worn jacket and jeans made him want to touch, to experience this beauty. She, Musette, felt his beginning desire radiating out and felt oddly at ease with it. His oddly worn clothes, corduroys with a sheen, a coat that had a tear on one sleeve seemed to hide a shabby gentleness, a questing for.. what? Passion? Love? No.. simple acceptance, she realized.
Simon spoke, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen you before. I would have remembered your cat.’ He smiled, not mocking, just stating in an unsurprised way. Musette laughed again, eyes now sea green, a light, happy sound, the symphony of her voice in tune now, ‘Well, cats do love to be out, but I don’t like the thought of her on her own, meeting wild things and picking up diseases.’
‘Do you live around here?’ she asked, changing the topic.