Short Stories

RIVER’S WINTER ENCOUNTER

The young man hastened along the sidewalk of a busy city street crowded with holiday shoppers. Hands stuffed in his pockets and toque pulled low over his ears, he watched clouds of frozen breath float before him.

“This will have to be a quick lunch, Riv,” Ben said, flicking the loose end of a scarf-end over his shoulder. “I have to get back to the office.

“Me to,” River replied. “The boss wants a draft of my work on his desk before I leave tonight. I’m expecting a courier shortly. In the meantime, I have just enough time to grab a quick bite.”

The two young men skirted the building on the next corner, headed for a café and a warm lunch. Without warning, River’s feet slipped out from under him. River’s arms flailed as he tried to break his fall. Unfortunately for her, a young woman rushing toward him received the brunt of a flying arm. Knocked off balance, she stumbled sideways and slipped on the same patch of ice.

River, sprawled on the sidewalk, provided a perfect landing pad for the young woman. “Oof!” Intuitively, his arms wrapped around her, holding her safe. When she raised her head to glare at him, he felt drawn into pools of ice-blue eyes.

Photo by trashhand, Pexels
Photo by trashhand, Pexels

~

The young woman, on the other hand, was both baffled and annoyed. Her gloved hands pressed into his chest as she struggled to regain composure.

“Now look what you’ve done!” she declared, pushing herself up, feeling River’s assistance. She glanced around her, watching boots stomp over printed pages that she had spent hours writing and assembling that morning. Her face reddened with anger and frustration.

Ben bent to retrieve the crumpled pages before the chilly breeze could carry them into the street. River regained his feet and brushed detritus from his overcoat.

~

“My apologies, miss,” River said, his cheeks pinking with embarrassment. “Are you alright?”

“You need to watch where you’re going,” she scolded. She snatched the pages from Ben’s hand, tears flooding her eyes. “You’ve ruined my report! I’m expected to deliver this within the next thirty minutes. How can I do that now?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see the patch of ice,” River replied, spreading his arms in defence.

“What can we do to remedy the situation?” Ben asked.

“Yes,” River interjected. “Our office is just around the corner. Is there anything we can do?”

The young woman took a deep breath, seeming to contemplate her dilemma.

“Perhaps,” she said. “May I borrow a computer to reprint the pages?”

“Of course!” River replied, relieved that a resolution was in sight. “Ben, why don’t you grab us a couple of sandwiches and we’ll meet you back in the office.”

“None for me, thanks,” she said, waving her hand sideways. “I’ll eat later. I need to get this sorted first.”

Ben continued to the café while River led the young woman to his office on the sixth floor of a nearby office tower. Entering through an unmarked side door, he indicated a vacant desk covered in piles of paper. From her handbag, she withdrew a portable disc drive and plugged it into the computer. Then stuffed the ruined pages into her bag.

“The disc is clean,” she said with a faint smile. “I just opened a new package this morning. I’m glad I had the foresight to copy my work onto it and bring it along.”

A few minutes later, River handed her a brown envelope into which she slid the freshly printed pages.

“Thank you,” she said as he guided her toward the door.

“No need for thanks,” he said. “I’m the one who ruined your work. I’m only happy we were able to recover the day!” He stood in the doorway and watched her find her way to the elevator, where she skillfully avoided a second collision, this time with Ben and a bag of sandwiches.

Both young men waved goodbye and wished her success as the doors closed.

~

In the lobby of the building, the young woman withdrew a note from her coat pocket. “6349 Broadway,” she muttered, approaching the concierge. “Excuse me. I’m looking for 6349 Broadway. Is that nearby?”

“This is 6349 Broadway, miss.”

“Really?” she asked, gazing at her wristwatch and realizing that she had five minutes left within which to deliver her work. “How fortunate.”

She returned to the elevator and pressed the button for the seventh floor. Seconds later, the doors opened onto a well-appointed reception. In response to the receptionist’s greeting, she glanced at the note again.

“I’m here to see R. Eddy,” she announced, holding up the note as evidence.

Soon after, a young man appeared from a corridor behind the receptionist’s desk. His face lit with recognition as he greeted the young woman, hand extended.

“Y-you’re R. Eddy? she asked.

“I am,” River replied, grinning. “How may I help you?”

“I’m to deliver this to you,” she said, extending the envelope he had recently handed to her.

Handshake by adamr, pixabay
Handshake by adamr, pixabay

“Ah!” he exclaimed with a chuckle of awareness. “Then you must be Winter Merriweather! Please follow me. I’ve been expecting you!”

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