Sweet Love

by Sherri Miller
The accounting office Angela Cumberland worked in had umpteen dozens of desks, well plotted like equidistant limitless rows of corn in an Indiana field.  Each one was identical, and as Angela's desk was in the top right hand corner, only Elena Schmidt who sat to the left conversed with her at lunch or for a few moments before or after work.  Thus, it was a surprise to Angela to find a blue post-it note and a package of Hostess Ho-Hos on her otherwise empty desk that Monday morning.

Angela noticed that Elena filed in behind her, and as she saw her staring at the treat on her desk she found the time ripe to offer Elena a morning salutation.

"Good morning, Elena.  How was your weekend?"

"Good morning, Angela.  It was fun, actually; Jared and I went white water rafting and after spending two days in the sun, found out what it's like to look like lobsters."  Angela laughed and was glad that her best friend had such an enjoyable weekend.

"How was your weekend?" asked Elena, returning the question.

"Oh, it was fine, really.  I had a lot of spring cleaning to do and had put it off for so long that the dust had turned my green curtains yellow, and my white couch to a hazy grey. It wasn't the most exciting of weekends, but at least it was productive.  Besides, divorcees like me just don't have as much fun as you married women do."

"I don't know who told you that lie, but let me assure you Angela, that we married women have all the fun of a Gestapo diet enforcer who scrutinizes everything we eat.  I could never get away with eating what you do for breakfast with Jared spying on me every time I hop on the scale.  I'm afraid to gain even one pound, in case he has the scale hooked up to some kind of alarm that would let the entire neighborhood know that I've gained weight."

In front of Angela was a little square, white packaged treat in a room of desks otherwise empty of food.

"I wish I had your figure and could still eat chocolate for breakfast like you do."

Angela was pleased by the compliment, but had to admit that neither did she bring the snack to work nor could she eat such fat laden pastry every morning if she hoped to have any kind of figure.

"Actually Elena, although I practically lived on Ho-Hos during college, I've had to give them up to keep my weight the same as it was then.  I have no idea who placed it on my desk.  There is a note with it, but it doesn't say who left it here."

Curious, Elena couldn't resist this little mystery but had about one more minute to indulge herself before the eight o'clock bell rang, instructing over one hundred employees in accounting to be seated, be quiet, and begin working.  Jamestown America was the owner of more apartment complexes in America than any other company.  The company owned apartment communities in every state with several hundred properties in the New England and Midwest areas alone.      

Each employee in the accounting department reconciled and managed the operating checking accounts for a couple dozen different properties.  Inaccuracies and occasionally outright fraud kept the bookkeepers busy every moment of the working day.

"Well, Angela, what does it say?"

Angela, in her soft, delicate voice, read the handwritten note aloud.

'Thinking of sweets makes me think of you'
    
Angela felt her face warm and blush as she read the note.  

"I can't imagine who put it here," she continued.

Elena, on the other hand, seemed to have an idea of who delivered the tasty tidbit and tantalizing note.

"Sounds to me like you have a secret admirer!" exclaimed Elena as the bell rang.  

Both women sat down at their desks, refrained from further conversation, and began another day of work like so many before and predictably many more that would follow.  Moments later the sound of clacking calculators with their streaming rolls of adding machine paper falling out of their bottoms began permeating the air like a coop full of cackling, clucking hens, busily producing little white egg after egg all day long.  Profits needed to be added, expenses deducted, bank accounts correctly balanced, and petty cash checked against receipts, resulting in a very noisy office.
    
Angela turned around and scanned across the room behind her, checking to see if anyone was waving or looking at her in an attempt to reveal himself as her secret admirer.  The room full of bachelor-degreed business administration graduates had their right hands on their calculators and eyes on their computer screens.  They stopped only to tear off the odd paper strip of totaled deposits, rents or expenses, stapling the strips to the associated journals to assure management that the totals shown were indeed factual.  Angela assumed the little gift was left mistakenly, and kept any more thoughts about the situation from entering her mind for the rest of the day.  
    
The afternoon droned on and finally the four-thirty bell rang, announcing to anyone who made it through another repetitive day that it was time to go home.  While some people may have found Angela's job dull and without excitement, it was she who actually liked the stability and predictability of her duties, where anxiety over a new situation never existed and the threat of risk never reared its dreaded head.
    
"Bye, Angela.  See ya tomorrow,” Elena offered to Angela.  Angela and Elena had answered the same newspaper ad five years ago and had trained in the same orientation class.  Employees and their immediate supervisors spoke to each other only as necessary, and the only other contacts made among those in the accounting group were between people who sat next to one another, or those who met during their initial training class when hired.  These conversations never took place during working hours as Jamestown America made sure to grind every miserly last minute of work from their hourly employees.
    
"See ya.  I hope your sunburn feels better.  Take care."  Angela waved at her co-worker and friend as she walked toward the door.
    
"Thanks.  Hey, maybe you'll find another surprise tomorrow morning from your secret admirer."
    
"Really, Elena, it's got to be a mistake.  I'm sure there'll be no such thing tomorrow.  Bye!"
    
The mad dash to the employee parking lot began, with the first dozen employees in their cars able to avoid the long line out of the driveway.  Angela often chose this time to reapply her makeup in the company restroom, check her date book for any appointments coming up, and make any phone calls to places that closed by five o’clock.  Being the first person out the door and in her car did nothing to stave off the emptiness she felt every night when she returned home alone.

*

Another day had begun and Angela was surprised by the trepidation she felt just prior to entering the Jamestown America accounting room.  She felt both afraid of finding another little treat, and fearful of not finding another one.  Angela found herself back in kindergarten again, feeling like the little girl who is both anxious to go to school but also afraid of what she'll find there, the possibility of the other students not liking her hanging over her head like the razor sharp  disappointment she felt whenever anyone had rejected her.  As she approached her desk at seven fifty-five that morning, both Elena and another blue post-it note with a packaged treat were already there.
    
"It's not what you think, Angela.  I didn't read the note.  Not yet, anyway!  Come on, hurry up and read it, and tell me what it says," chirped Elena like a baby blue-jay, excitedly awaiting that first morsel of the day.
    
"You're making entirely too much of this, Elena.  Like I told you yesterday, it's all a big mistake.  Other than you and Josephine from our training class, I don't know anyone else here.  Well, except for maybe our boss, Elizabeth, and I'm sure it wasn't from her.  Sooner or later this person, whoever he is, will realize his mistake and will want these notes and food back so they can give them to the person they were intended for.  You'll see."
    
Elena shook her head in disbelief.  "Girlfriend," she began, "in case you haven't noticed, each employee in this room has a desktop nameplate with their picture attached to it on their desk, along with matching calendar pads, one in box and one out box, a pen and pencil holder with two black pens and two number two pencils, and a computer monitor with keyboard.  We all have the exact same things on top of our desks, the only exception being our different nameplates.  Whoever left you these treats and notes knows exactly who you are!  If I were you, I would eat both the Ho-Hos and the Twinkies he left you today."
    
"I guess I am being kind of silly, but I just can't think of anyone who knows of my love of Hostess products, except for my ex-husband Craig and my family, and they surely didn't leave these."
    
It had been almost a year now that she and Craig had divorced, when he chose a high paying job as a defense attorney in Los Angeles over staying with her in Virginia.  Angela couldn't bear to leave her bookkeeping job and the Chesapeake Bay area where she had lived near her family all of her twenty five years.  Not with being given just two weeks notice by Craig’s new employer, maybe not with any length of notice.  
    
"Speaking of which, what does today's note say, if you don't mind my asking?"
    
"Maybe the secret admirer should've left the food for me and left the notes for you, Miss nosy.  Actually, I don't know, as I haven't read it yet.  Maybe I should read it first to see how racy it is and then decide whether or not it's safe to tell you."
    
"You wouldn't dare not tell me!" exclaimed Elena.
    
Angela turned over the blue post-it note and read the elaborate handwritten Edwardian-style script aloud:

'Your fruits possess the sweetness of the most delicate flower, your complexion as creamy and smooth as silk, and your eyes as brilliant as any star in the night sky.  Your smile is as warm as the summer sun, and I can only dream of enjoying you every day of my life.'

"Wow," responded a shocked Angela.
    
"Wow," echoed Elena. "Imagine, sweet and creepy all at the same time."
    
"Undoubtedly!" reinforced Angela.
    
"This guy is going to torture you until you can figure out who he is.  Maybe you should ask around to see if anyone saw who put it on your desk.  The bell's going to ring at any moment, you know, and then you'll never-"
    
Much to Elena's dismay, she was interrupted by the eight o'clock morning bell.  "I'll talk to you at lunch," Angela whispered, not wanting to be singled out for socializing past the bell.  The division supervisors walked by, offering the competitive and attention seeking majority of employees an appetizer of a wave of 'good morning'.  Angela and Elena hurriedly set down and began work before the supervisors left the room.  Neither of the women wanted to be reminded of what happens when an employee continues to talk after the bell rings, the memory of Susan Hawston who had been fired and escorted from the premises last week Friday for her second warning of talking during working hours was reminder enough.  
    
Monitors and adding machines were turned on, the constant early morning hum of office machinery filling the room until the clickety-clack of adding machines entered the man made chorus.  Angela began yet another day of trying to straighten out the accounts of the Atlantic Gardens Apartments, matching computer records of resident deposits made for the month against deposits made into the corresponding checking account.  In a perfect world, these two lists of items would equal one another.  In this world, they did not.  
    
When the lunch bell rang at noon, Angela had found that she was indeed able to sort out the mistakes made by the manager at Atlantic Gardens who apparently found nothing wrong with writing the incorrect date on any official paperwork.  Angela had the reconciliation of expense receipts and cleared checks to match and reconcile after lunch.  
    
Elena, however, needed much more excitement than the world of bookkeeping had to offer.
    
"Okay, girlfriend, the jig's up.  Maybe we can figure out who it is by the handwriting.  Hand over the post-it note already!"  Elena smiled a pirate's smile as she held out her hand, her crooked grin higher on the right with her now animated eyes sparkling wildly as she quickly raised and lowered her eyebrows.
    
"Have you got a spasm or something?" teased Angela, waving the note in front of Elena.  She knew Elena wouldn't forget about the note and expected her to demand to have her curiosity satisfied.  "Just kidding, here it is."
    
Elena took the note that Angela proffered, quickly read it, and responded with jaw dropped and her right hand over her heart as she read the writing on the little 4" x 2" rectangle of sticky backed paper.
    
"Oh my gosh!  How romantic!  Whoever this guy is, I wish he'd teach my husband a thing or two about romance.  This is just about the sweetest thing I've ever read!  I don't know who this guy is, but I can tell you one thing," Elena declared.  "He's in love!"  Elena continued to hold her hand over her heart, sighing as she swooned to and fro.
    
This time it was Angela who shook her head in disbelief.
    
"Come on now.  How can someone be in love with a person they've never met?  If you ask me, it's just a little spooky.  The other thing that scares me is the Tennessee schmaltz this guy excuses as romance.  The lines don't rhyme, and they don't have a proper meter.  I think I heard the same load of flattery on one of those "Frasier" re-runs uttered by Frasier Crane to one of the dozens of women he chased after.  It sounds like something a janitor would write."
    
"Or a used car salesman," Elena suggested.
    
"Or a seedy lawyer or crass politician," Angela continued.  "We could go on and on, but we are getting nowhere."
    
"True.  I do know one thing, though.  I think that whoever wrote this purposely wrote it in such a flowery and dramatic style so you won't recognize their handwriting.  Do you know of anyone who regularly writes like this?"
    
"No, of course not.  And honestly, Elena, I think going from desk to desk and asking people if they saw anyone leave me love letters and food will only make the situation more difficult.  I'll be the laughing stock of Jamestown America.  Besides, it's not important who left them for me anyway.  It really doesn't matter."
    
In a split second, Angela realized that she was trying to prove that a secret admirer who wrote her romantic verse, paid her compliments, and bought her sweets was neither enticing nor appealing to her.  In truth, it had been well over a year since she had experienced anything remotely romantic, and perhaps that was the reason for her doubt and suspicion.
    
"It really only matters if I'm being stalked or followed."
    
"Leave it to you to think you're being stalked.  Now really, who would want to stalk you?  If these little surprises were for me, it would make my day.  Whoa, speaking of our day, our break is about to be ended by a loud-"
    
Rrrinnggg!
    
Angela and Elena, and many other employees, had already figured out that the bells each rang for exactly one minute, just long enough to get back from the lunchroom to the accounting department on the same floor, if one walked briskly the moment the ear shattering metallic ringing began.  Before the reverberation of the ringing bell left human ears, a whooshing sound could be heard collectively across the entire accounting workforce, as the sound of everyone's bottom rapidly hitting the identical black padded desk chairs swept across the room.
    
Angela began matching expense receipts to the checks written from the Atlantic Gardens checking account, and before she knew it the account was reconciled and another day had begun and ended at Jamestown America.  Angela said her goodbyes to Elena.
    
"See you, Elena.  I can't walk out with you today; I'm not quite ready yet.  I hope you have an enjoyable evening."
    
"Yeah, right; you too.  See you tomorrow."  Angela waved as Elena left the room.  
    
Angela figured if she waited in the little alcove where the drinking fountain and restrooms were, just a few feet down the wall from the entrance to the accounting room, she could see whoever entered the room walk over to her desk before they could see her - as long as she left the room before they turned around.  Angela had no idea whether her secret admirer was leaving his surprises before or after work, but thought her plan was a step in the right direction in finding out just who her mystery man was.  Besides, she couldn't check early in the morning to see if her admirer left these treats then, as only management had keys to the building and the doors were all kept locked until fifteen minutes before starting time.  Angela deduced that her admirer had to be leaving them after hours.
    
Angela waited and waited, and soon five minutes turned into an hour.  What if her admirer was watching and waiting for her to leave before he left his next treasure?  What if he could somehow see her hiding in the alcove, waiting for him?  
    
Before she questioned her methods of detection and deduction further, she heard the grating sound of metal twisting on metal from the friction of the door knob on the stainless steel and glass outer office doors turn.  This noise was deeply imbedded in her brain after five years of employment, and usually meant that one of the supervisors was entering the room.  This screeching chalk on blackboard sound was not heard often, because the employees were far too noisy when they left the room for a lunch break or to go home, like a pack of agitated hounds waiting to go out on a hunt.  But when a boss or two was walking into the accounting department at any other time, a sound so painful and abrasive was heard, like an air raid announcement played over the loud speakers reminding everyone to sit up straight and look busy.  No one at Jamestown America wanted to be made redundant or fired for unprofessional behavior; least of all Angela, now that she was single again.  
    
Angela heard the hinges complain as the door squeaked open, and smelled a scent she knew was not associated with any of the supervisors.  A cloud of grey smoke filled the entryway and wafted around the corner toward her, causing her to cough when the malodorous aroma of cigar approached her sensitive nostrils.  She wheezed in and hacked out a couple of breaths, and found herself face to face with Elmer Soderstein, head of the office cleaning crew.
    
"We're about to close up the building for the night and begin the cleaning process, ma'am.  Is everything alright?"  Although he was sloppily dressed and smelled like a used ashtray, he seemed genuinely concerned.  Angela had seen him many times over the past five years, usually whenever she had to work over time.
    
"Yes, of course.  Everything is fine.  I'm just a bit late finishing up today and will be out of your way in just a moment.  I'm sorry to hold you up," Angela pleaded.  
    
Angela was disappointed that she did not find out who the man leaving the sweet treats on her desk was.  She had nothing else to occupy her thoughts outside of working hours, and found that she began to fantasize about who he could be.  The wonder, the anticipation, the curiosity of what the future of dating may hold, even the giddy feeling she tried to hide every morning when she spied a new surprise waiting on her desk.  Angela stopped her mind from wandering once more by reminding herself it had only been going on for a couple of days.  
    
Couldn't she just allow herself to enjoy it a little bit, at least for what it minimally had to mean?  That someone, somewhere among the vast hundreds of employees at Jamestown America, cared enough about her to try to make her smile?
    
Angela collected herself and her belongings, and after an hour and fifteen minutes after quitting time she finally left the office.  She told herself that the absence of someone leaving a bounty of pastry and poetry on her desk late that afternoon didn't mean it wouldn't be there tomorrow morning.  Angela wondered what kind of man would go to such lengths to avoid detection in order to try to please her.  After all, there's devotion, she told herself, and then there's well, desperation.  Angela hoped her admirer possessed more of the former than the latter.

*

Days and then weeks had passed since Angela received her first post-it note and chocolate delight.  Dozens of verse, prose, quotations and edible delectables later, she still had no idea who her polite knight was.  Elena was also aware of this, and just as she had done every morning for more than a month now, asked Angela once again if she had been able to discern her adoring admirer's identity.
    
"Hey, girlfriend.  I see you've been left some pink coconut topped chocolate Sno Balls with a pink heart shaped note.  Now that you and I both know that married women don't have more fun than divorced women, how about telling me what exciting message his loveliness has left for you today?"
    
"Aren't you funny?" Angela laughed.  "Okay, I admit that sometimes it can be fun to be single again.  I haven't read the note yet; I'll read it to you in a moment.  First, I have a calculating and crafty plan that I am scheming to try upon my unsuspecting Romeo, one that cannot fail.  Would you like to hear it?"
    
Elena smiled her best crooked pirate grin and rubbed the palms of her hands together as though she planned to capture the entire fleet of ships in Chesapeake Bay, steal the gold from those who had some, and hold the rest of the fleet for ransom until they paid in kind.
    
"You betcha!  Whattaya got?" she exploded.
    
Happy to see that she had a captive audience and most likely an easy critic, Angela began to spill the can of beans that was her crafty plan until the inevitable happened.
    
Rrrinnggg!
    
"I guess you'll have to wait until lunchtime,” Angela informed Elena, as Elena ran to her desk.  Both women sat down before the bell ceased its deafening clanging.
    
Angela kept busy all morning comparing required income tax deductions against what actually was withheld from the payroll checks of Atlantic Gardens employees.  She knew a discrepancy existed somewhere in the books, since the amount of cash on hand as recorded in the profit and loss statement was more than the amount of the actual cash on hand on the premises.  Angela suspected the employees of playing too loose and free with the petty cash again, but as the morning flew by and the lunch bell rang, this would have to wait until later that afternoon.  The moment the bell rang, Angela found Elena instantly by her side.
    
"Come along, girlfriend.  Tell me all about your plan while we grab a bite of something that looks edible.  That clam chowder yesterday was a seafood salad the day before, I swear."  Angela laughed in agreement with her co-worker as she began to unravel her secret plan.
    
"Last night before I left work, I placed a note on my desk inside an envelope with the words "Secret Admirer" written on it.  Inside, I wrote a note requesting that today, Friday after work at four forty-five, my "Secret Admirer" meet me in the breezeway between the inner and outer doors of this office.  This morning, I noticed the envelope was gone.  If my mystery man shows up while I am there, I will finally meet him!"  Angela continued on as a patient Elena waited.  
    
"As you probably know, there are video cameras filming the inside and outside of that entrance.  If my secret admirer doesn't show up when I'm there, I'll get Andy Ryan in security to let me see today's tape in case my admirer shows up late.  Andy's asked me out a few times this past month, and I don't think I'll have any problem getting him to let me see the video tape."  Angela paused for a few moments after finding Elena to be silent.  "Well, you're awfully quiet, standing there with your mouth hanging open.  What do you think?"
    
Elena stared silently at Angela, like a catatonic schizophrenic temporarily in shock.  She had temporarily forgotten
about today's unread note left for Angela once Angela revealed the 'crafty secret' of her plan.
    
"What I think is I cannot believe you!  First of all, you call that a calculating, crafty plan, simply asking the guy to meet you after work today?  What if this guy never shows up at all?  Secondly, you never mentioned to me that Andy in security has been asking you out over the past month.  Don't you see?  He's your secret admirer. It's Andy Ryan!  Surely you realize this?"
    
"No, I don't think it could be Andy Ryan.  For one thing, he doesn't strike me as being a particularly expressive person.  Even though he asked me out, he did it in as few words as possible.  Whenever we pass each other in the hallway, he only says hello by waving; he never stops to talk."  
    
"But Angela, he's just the kind of guy who would write a mushy note - the quiet, shy type!  He's the kind of guy who's too terrified to say it in person, the same kind of guy who puts it in fancy writing instead," Elena argued.
    
"But that assumes he does feel that way about me.  The first time he asked me out over a month ago, I was in the parking lot on my way home and had worked overtime.  No one was around.  I told him I was still reeling from an unwanted divorce and wasn't emotionally available.  The next time he asked me was a couple weeks later and I was coming back from lunch.  I had stopped at the water fountain on the other side of the room and was waiting in line.  I was so surprised that he asked me out at work in front of everyone, that I simply said 'I don't know' and never broke stride on the way back to my desk.  I thought that would be the end of it.  I've done nothing to encourage him; just the opposite, really," Angela explained.
    
"Aha!  You didn't say 'no', though.  This left things open for him.  What else happened?"
    
"The next and final time he asked me out was just this Monday.  He parked next to me that morning, and asked me out to dinner.  It sounded more like an apology than an offer of a date.  He said something like 'I'm sorry to keep bugging you, but since the third time's a charm, I thought you'd say 'yes' if I asked you just one more time.'  I told him I appreciated the compliment of his interest, but I still declined his offer.  I haven't spoken to him since."
    
"Sounds more like 'the third time you're out' instead of 'the third time's a charm' for Andy, tee hee."  Elena offered her unsolicited opinion of why Angela didn't want to date Andy.  
    
"In my opinion, it's not your love for your ex-husband that's keeping you from dating Andy; it's the fact that you've fallen in love with an unknown man.  You're afraid that if you date Andy and your secret admirer is someone else, he'll see you with Andy and will stop pursuing you.  Isn't that the real reason?"
    
"No, Elena, it isn't.  First of all, I'm just not attracted to Andy.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think that I should feel a little spark between myself and a man before going out with him.  I don't feel that with Andy.  Sure, he is tall and thin, has firm, bulging muscles bursting out from his cotton tee-shirt-covered rib cage like a wire window-box filled with so many wave Petunias that they're spilling out all over the sides, but - there's no spark for me."  

"Look, if I weren't married and he asked me out, I'd say yes the first time.  I don't see how any single woman could refuse a guy like that."  
    
"Maybe you're right.  Maybe I have fallen in love with a faceless admirer. He may not communicate with me in person yet, but he does communicate with me in a generous and romantic manner. I've never felt so exhilarated!  I began to feel this way after only a couple of days of notes and treats.  I know it sounds strange, but whoever he is, he makes me feel, well, special in a way that big muscles can't."  
    
"Say no more, dear.  I think every woman would feel as excited and uplifted as you do right now.  I've never seen you so happy in the entire five years you've worked here!  Anyone would be happy to have an admirer so enamored of them, finding doting little notes of love and sumptuous treats every day of the week, even without the weekends.  I suppose your crafty little plan really is your best bet right now."
    
Angela was glad that Elena saw the situation as she did.  The two women noticed they only had one minute left before the dreaded bell rang, tossed their empty paper plates, stacked the orange plastic trays atop the bins, and quickly returned to their desks.  Once again Angela's euphoria enabled her to resolve yet another Jamestown America accounting inadequacy as the afternoon roared to an end.  Angela couldn't help but notice that both her palms and the bottoms of her feet were moist from the approach of four forty-five that afternoon.  
    
By the time the final bell of the day rang, Angela was glad she had to wait no longer.  With barely fifteen minutes to spare, she ran toward the restroom to touch up her makeup and brush her hair.  As she passed Elena, she received wishes of good fortune.  Elena offered a quick hug as Angela passed by.
    
"If you want, call me over the weekend to tell me how it goes.  What the heck, call me even if you don't want to.  Good luck."
    
"Thanks, Elena, I need it.  Talk to you soon."  
    
Angela continued on into the restroom, quickly brushed her hair and touched up her faded blue eye shadow.  Not wanting to miss meeting the man who could be the love of her life, she collected her handbag and walked the ten steps or so to the breezeway.  All of the other employees had already made their hasty escape and Angela
was happy to find herself alone.  She leaned against the left side of the glass breezeway.  Turning to look in both directions, she spotted a well-known figure approaching her from the right, entering the glass enclosed hallway.
    
"Craig?" she exclaimed, shocked at the sight of her ex-husband.
    
"Hello, my love.  I'm sure you guessed weeks ago it was I who wrote you from the depths of my wounded heart and left you little morsels of love in the hopes of being forgiven."
    
"The depths of your wounded heart?  Actually Craig, no, I didn't guess that it was you.  Why would I?  Why aren't you in California?"  
    
"I'm sorry that you're disappointed and were obviously hoping I was someone else."
    
Angela hated that Craig could read her emotions like a dog-eared paperback.  She never guessed in a million years that Craig would want her back so badly, nor that he would show up back home again, a place he so desperately wanted to leave merely a year before.
    
"Yes, I am disappointed.  I'm disappointed that you left me for a job in Los Angeles to begin with, no matter how much it paid.  I'm disappointed that you expected me to just drop everything important in my life and follow you there like a homeless puppy.  And I'm disappointed that obviously you still expect me to follow you to California, even though we're divorced, or did you forget that part?"  
    
"Please give me a chance to explain.  That's not how it is now."
    
"Okay, Craig.  Let me know what's going on here, and why you've come back."
    
"Before I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport last spring, I knew I had made a mistake.  I tried to throw myself into my work, trying to impress the law partners with my wealth of experience and willingness to work long hours.  Even though they were impressed and I was successful, it did nothing to quell the deep, stabbing pain I felt.  I was so excited to be offered a junior partner position at such a large and influential firm that I was too busy feeling sorry for myself when you refused to pack up and leave at the last minute and I never stopped to consider that I might be the one who was being selfish.  The more I drowned myself in vodka martinis and shots of peppermint Schnapps, the worse I felt and harder it became to admit it was entirely my fault.  It took me months, but finally I sobered up enough to realize that I had to do something to remedy the situation."  
    
"So your idea of doing something to remedy the situation is to take a vacation from your new job and follow me at work?  And somehow you managed to sneak into Jamestown America and trick me into thinking I had a secret and new - yes, new - admirer?  I'm sorry, Craig, but that's just not good enough."  
    
"No, I didn't sneak in; I have a set of keys to the place.  I quit my job in L.A. and took a job as a corporate attorney here at Jamestown America.  I also took a rather large cut in pay, but nothing else matters to me more than being with you.  I know what I did was selfish, even though I really thought that taking that high paying job would help us both.  All I ask is for one last chance at us."  Angela's second question was now answered as well; the treats were left on her desk in the morning.
    
"And you did all this without knowing whether I would take you back or not?  I find this hard to believe, since you basically chose money over me."  
    
"Yes, I resigned and accepted a permanent position here.  I thought about this for many months, and finally came to the conclusion that the only chance I had was to try to have you fall in love with me all over again, bit by bit, Ho-Ho by Twinkie."  Craig opened the breezeway door to the left to catch some fresh air.  "Why don't we walk together outside, out of the sight of all of these security cameras?"
    
That was one suggestion that Angela did agree with.
    
"Sure, let's walk over to my car" replied Angela.  "Look Craig, the problem with your plan is that I never stopped loving you.  The only thing that your secret admirer plan did was to make me feel like I could love again - love someone other than you.  I was impressed that whoever this person was, he noticed I'm a chocolate lover, and even figured out that Hostess snacks are my favorites.  He wrote me lines of a longing for love and poetry that touched the depths of my soul.  How could a woman not fall in love with a man so romantic and sincere, one so devoted to making a woman feel so accepted and loved?"  Angela felt a twinge of deceit replace the hope and desire she had felt just a few minutes earlier.
    
"Exactly!  But that man who accepts and loves you so deeply is I!  That man who is romantic and sincere is none other than the man who will always love you, the very man standing before you now.  You surely must know this whole unhappy affair last year was the biggest mistake of our lives."  
    
"B-but why did you wait so long to come back for me?" Angela sobbed.  "I-I have finally come to the point where you don't invade my dreams every night and I don't wake in a wave of disappointment every morning when I realize you are no longer there by my side.  I've come to the point where I can go an entire day without thinking about you, and now you want to come back and pretend like nothing has changed?  I'm sorry Craig, but everything has changed!"
    
"I'm sorry I made you cry.  I'm sorry I hurt you.  Words cannot show how sorry I am, how much I love you, and how I simply cannot live without you.  Those are the simple truths that I face every day of my life.  Please don't make me face this any longer.  Please give me another chance.  I wanted a better life for us and with the salary they offered me in Los Angeles, we would’ve had one; you never would’ve had to work again."
    
"But that's just it, dear.  You never understood me as well as you thought you did.  I never wanted to quit working, and you didn't give me enough time to consider if I could somehow adjust to West coast big city life.  I hadn't ever been to California, and you expected me to pack up and leave on two weeks’ notice.  That's not enough time to adjust, find a place to live, pack all my belongings, give my notice here at work, and say goodbye to all my friends and family.  What were you thinking?  It isn't the 1950s anymore, when women had no careers and were forced to move when their husbands took jobs in cities far from home.  Women are every bit as important as men are today!"
    
"I know that, and yes, you are more important than anyone in the world to me.  I know how horribly wrong I was, and arrogant, too.  But I am now asking you for the most important thing in my life - a chance to patch things up, put our relationship back together and move ahead - no matter how slowly.  What do you say; can you give it a chance?  If you love me at all, will you give us a chance?"
    
Craig would've bended down on one knee like he did six years ago when he first asked Angela to marry him if he thought it would change anything.  He noticed Angela was shaking, shaking in seventy-five degree weather on a spotlessly sunny day.  He suddenly remembered what had always helped Angela get over any fear, anxiety or uncertainty while they were married, and tried to console her the best way he knew how.  
    
With his six foot three athletic frame, he took her delicate petite body into his muscular arms and hugged her as though his life depended upon his feeling her every breath.  She began to sob loudly, but he knew this time it was a good cry, that there really was such a thing.  He began to stroke her stringy blond hair with his left hand as he held her tight in the crook of his right arm.  
    
He knew at once he never wanted to let go of Angela again.
    
Several minutes passed, and finally Angela was the first to speak.
    
"How 'bout you taking us out to dinner, to our favorite place over there on the Boulevard."  She looked up into his watery green eyes and saw that she wasn't the only one crying now.  "That'd be a good way to start over; at the very place we ate when you asked me to marry you and told me I was the only girl for you in this life and the next.  What do you think?"  Angela managed a weak smile for the first time since seeing Craig that day.
    
"I'd say nothing could be better, and nothing is too good for my little princess.  I know we have to take things one day at a time, even one moment at a time if necessary, but if you give me that chance, I promise you that you'll never regret it and that I'll never leave your side again.  What do you say?"  Angela ran her hand through Craig's wavy, almost blue black hair, a sight she had missed for nearly an entire year, as she gave him her reply.  
    
"Yes, we can try to work things out together, but just like you said - one day at a time.  Well, I'd say somewhere my chariot awaits, my prince.  Your car or mine?"  Angela didn't mind driving and wanted to ride to the restaurant together.
    
Craig nearly forgot about the next little romantic gift he bought for Angela.  "Actually, my dear, both cars are yours," he answered.
    
"What are you talking about?  I only have the one, my reliable old 1998 Toyota Celica.  A rusty old rattletrap she may be, but she's been reliable transportation since I bought her new ten years ago.  What do you mean?"
    
Craig was excited to show her just what he meant, with the gift of the car of her dreams.
    
"Why don't you walk with me for a few feet around the right side of the building here, and I'll show you what I mean."  In a few moments they had rounded the building, and Angela gasped as she clasped her hands over her mouth in utter shock and pleasant surprise.
    
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe it!  You bought this for me?"
    
"Yes, I did.  Other than paying my basic living expenses, I saved every penny I made.  I paid cash for this new baby blue convertible Crossfire, and drove it all the way from California to Virginia myself.  And before you ask, I'll have you know that I didn't do it to try to persuade you to take me back.  Regardless of what you would've said to me, I wanted to see you smile, even if it meant just one last smile.  Madam, here are your keys.  Now your chariot is ready."  Craig handed Angela the title and registration too.
    
"And to think that Elena would've had me going out with Andy.  What a mistake that would've been.  I'm glad I learned to trust my own instincts finally."
    
"Andy?  What about this Andy, - Andy who?  And isn't Elena one of the bookkeepers with whom you've become friendly?  Isn't she that co-worker you sit next to in the accounting office?"
    
"Andy is no one, actually, just another co-worker at Jamestown America.  Elena, however, is much more than that, she's a true friend, and she wanted me to call her this weekend to let her know just who my Mr. Wonderful is."  Angela thought for a moment and decided that some things could just wait.  "Aw, what the heck.  We've waited this long to find out that my mystery man is you; Elena can wait a couple days longer.  Let's get outta here and go eat.  Reunions always did make me hungry!"
    
Craig agreed and they both hopped into the car, Angela taking the driver's seat in more ways than one.  And while they did drive off into an early sunset anticipating a most decidedly romantic evening, they went into it with open minds, tender hearts, and a new lease on love.
Sherri Miller is an editor at Halfway Down the Stairs. For staff biographies, click here.

© 2008, Sherri Miller