He stepped out from his car, and with the door still half open, he looked up at what was to be his new abode for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t much but it would do the job for a single guy in his late 20’s with no real liabilities or baggage.
He had no baggage, both physical or emotional, because he had decided to leave it all behind when he had told his parents he was going to move on from the only place he had ever known all his life.
He had grown up in a little country town, having lived with his parents until he’d gotten a job at 21, and had felt obligated to move out and live on his own, even though his parents would like nothing more than him choosing to stay with them as long as he liked. But he needed to feel grown up, and of course, there was also the matter of Cassie, his childhood sweetheart who he’d promised to move in with as soon as he’d managed to get a job that was good enough for the both of them. Having gotten a college degree in business, he had joined a local factory as their payroll manager, not exactly the best job that he could get, but it was enough to pay for his rent and provide a decent living for both him and Cassie. Cassie was still 19 when they decided to move in and she chose to live her life in the moment, without a care in the world. Their families had known each other a long time, as was common in such a small town, and had seen Randy and Cassie grow up together, always fond of each other, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they’d one day marry and have a family of their own.
But this was today, 7 years on, and what seems like the most natural progression of events, doesn’t always turn out that way. Randall Jones, Randy or RJ, as his friends called him fondly, had moved on from his hometown to a city, in what he’d told his family was a move to make better use of his college degree as he’d landed a job with a big textile company as their marketing manager.
But all it really was, was a desperate and last attempt at moving away from everything that reminded him of Cassie, who had one fine day disappeared and left, without a reason or explanation or even the courtesy of informing him or leaving behind any way of contacting her.
They had had the most wonderful 4 years living together and growing together, but something had always been amiss. But whenever Randy had asked what it was, Cassie had brushed it aside by saying that Randy was just being silly and she was perfectly happy with him. And then suddenly, she was gone. Randy had tried to find her or find answers for the better part of 3 years, but he had now decided it was time to move on, and perhaps a new job in a new city would be the perfect distraction.
And so, he shut the door of his car, the car that was probably the only reminder of Cassie that he still possessed. They’d bought it together from the local used car garage when they’d moved in and it had been a good companion through all this time and Randy felt it would be unfair to get rid of it. He walked back to the boot and grabbed the couple of suitcases of clothes and bare essentials he’d carried with him. He walked around the garage to the main door and looked under a small potted plant where he had arranged for his landlord to leave the key. As he stepped in, the house in front of him was pretty bare, with a living room, a kitchen, a big lone bedroom and a bath en suite. The house was quite spacious, which made its emptiness look all the more exaggerated. It wasn’t completely empty – there was the couch in one corner of the huge living room, and a pretty basic table and chair near the fireplace. The bedroom had an old wooden bed, but the linen was a spotless white and had clearly been freshly changed and gave it a neat look. Randy felt this was perfect for his new life – he didn’t really need much else, and if he did, he could slowly build up to it. So having had a bit of a supper on his way here, he crashed onto the bed, not bothering to unpack, tired from the 6-hour drive up to the city.
He hadn’t realized the extent of his fatigue, but he was clearly not used to driving this far all by himself, since they’d barely ever gone so far out from their hometown all these years. And so when he woke up the next day, he checked his watch and it was 7 a.m. already, and he’d been asleep for a little over 11 hours. He quickly flipped open his suitcase and grabbed his toiletry bag, a towel and a pair of clothes and headed into the shower. He had a meeting with his new employer at 9 and he didn’t want to show up late. He looked sharp in his favorite white shirt, and the cufflinks that his father had gifted him before his first job 7 years ago, a pair of nicely fitted trousers, a blue tie with a tiny white pattern on it, and shining brown shoes. With his active lifestyle and some good genes, he’d always been a charming good-looking young man. Realizing that he had had no time to explore the neighborhood, let alone get any groceries, he decided to skip breakfast, and stepped out of the door and into his car at 8:20, keeping a fair bit of margin for his meeting, which was at the company offices a short 15 minute drive away.
He met an old, but kind lady at the reception, who politely asked him to wait while she intimated the regional general manager of his arrival. It was only 8:40 when he had arrived, so he had enough time to gather his thoughts and be ready for his big first day. After only about 5 minutes of waiting, a middle-aged gentleman dressed in a loosely fitted suit, probably in his mid-40s, walked out of his office, and went straight towards Randy, introducing him as Mr. Steven Hill, the regional general manager of the company. Steven was going to be Randy’s new boss. Randy was quickly given a tour of the office and shown to a small cubicle, that had a laptop, some stationery, and not much else. Randy spent the rest of the day going through some paperwork that he was handed and meeting some of the other employees of the office introducing himself and attempting to make new acquaintances. The day breezed past him before he knew it, and it was 5:30 p.m., and as he walked out of the office after his first day at his new job, his mind wandered to the fact that he was yet to settle in to this new life, and he had no food or supplies at home, nor anyone to go share a meal with.
On his way back, he decided to stop by a small pizza place to grab some dinner, as it wasn’t going to be until the weekend that he would be able to set up his kitchen and stock up his new home with some supplies. As he glanced around the small store, having ordered a couple of slices of pepperoni and a coke, his eyes met those of a woman, probably about his age, who was there with a young girl who he guessed would be 3 to 4 yrs old, and by the striking resemblance was probably the woman’s daughter. The woman was plainly dressed, rather so plain that you couldn’t be blamed for not noticing her if it weren’t for her ice blue eyes, and the long dark hair, that went almost down to her waist, even as she bent down to clean up the mess the little girl had made. The brief meeting of their gaze was interrupted by a loud cry of “Let’s go home, I am tired”, that came from the little girl while she pulled on the woman’s arm.
Randy had never really had any trouble getting women’s attention, but he hadn’t bothered to explore the dating scene since Cassie, and wasn’t easily attracted, but this time seemed different.
As the woman and the little girl walked away and got into an old station wagon parked outside the store, Randy’s gaze followed them until he was reminded by a nudge from the cashier that his order was ready, and he was slightly taken by surprise. He drove back home, which was only a couple of minutes further away, but that short journey was broken by a quick stop at the local grocer to buy some eggs, cereal and milk. As he walked around to his door from the garage, he noticed the same station wagon parked in front of the house across the street. Was the blue-eyed woman his neighbor? Had he been thinking about her more than he should about a random stranger, who in this case is probably a mother of a little girl and in all likelihood married too. He had clearly had a long day, and he needed to shake these thoughts off, so he went into the house, had his pizza, took a quick shower and settled in bed with his book, one of the few that he’d carried with him, as he was used to doing a bit of reading before he dozed off.
The next morning, he followed his routine, fixed himself some quick breakfast, and stepped out at 8:30, and as he turned the key to lock the door, he noticed the woman with the blue eyes chasing around the little girl in the front yard of the house across the street. So his suspicion was true, she did live right across of him. As he unknowingly stared right towards her, she noticed him, and suddenly got conscious of herself running and giggling behind the girl, and gave him an embarrassed smile. Had she remembered him from the brief encounter last evening too? Was that smile a hint of a reciprocated attraction or was he just overthinking a friendly smile from a neighbor, who he again thought was probably happily married with a kid (or two). He returned the smile with an awkward smile back and a slight raising of the eyebrows as if acknowledging her and then walked to his car. He drove to work half lost in her thoughts and found his mind and his heart conflicted. The tremendous asks of a new work environment kept him busy all day and he managed to not think of her again until he was driving back home when the thoughts of the blue-eyed woman again started to pop up in his head.
After parking his car in the garage, as he walked towards the mailbox in his front yard for a quick scan, he heard a big loud “Hey there!” from across the street in a jovial voice. The voice belonged to a man across the street, who was enjoying evening tea in his front yard while he went through the local newspaper. As Randy looked up to return the greeting, the man – tall and well built and probably in his mid-30s, walked towards Randy and introduced himself as Bryan, from across the street, and welcomed Randy to the neighborhood amidst some other small talk. Randy’s mind was still too busy wondering if the man was the husband to the blue eyed woman who had haunted his thoughts for the past 24 hours, when to his surprise, he heard Bryan say “Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? I noticed you just moved in a day or two ago, and your landlord Mr. Smith, a fine old man he is, did tell me that you’re not from around here and don’t have a lot of family and friends here. My wife makes the best steak ever, and she’d be glad to be a good host to our new neighbor! What do you say?” Randy didn’t know what to say, but of course he couldn’t decline such a kind invitation and gladly accepted while his mind still raced about all the possibilities.
Still battling his thoughts and the feelings he’d been having, he got ready to go to dinner to meet his new neighbors – a kind man who’d generously invited him over, and in all likelihood his wife who’d been just as kind and warm in giving him a courteous smile this morning, while his heart had gotten all the wrong, unwarranted ideas. He forced himself to not let any silly thoughts come to his mind and to be a good guest. After ringing the bell, as he waited at the doorstep anxiously, a lovely lady, with blonde hair and hazel eyes, with an apron on top of a flowy grey dress opened the door, and said “You must be Randy! Why, come in – I am Samantha, Bryan’s wife!”. Just as Randy stepped into the house a bit bewildered, Bryan walked out of the study into the living room, and greeted Randy in his most pleasant fashion. Randy’s eyes kept wandering around the house, almost certain that he’d seen the blue-eyed woman in the front yard of this very house. And then he heard a cry of “Mommy” from the bedroom, and the little girl he’d seen came running out in a pink frock with one sleeve stuck around the shoulder, “Mommy, I can’t fix my frock, help Mommy!” Now Randy was even more certain this was the house, but where was the blue-eyed woman? “Jenny, can you go help your niece? I don’t want to burn this steak here”, shouted Samantha from the kitchen. And the petite woman with the dark long hair and the ice blue eyes then appeared and headed straight into the bedroom, to help her niece while a big sigh of relief and even a little wave of joy took over Randy, who felt just as attracted at seeing Jenny for the third time as he had for the first two. And maybe, just maybe, he’d fall in love again, in this new city and truly start a new life…