Hal Garrow is alone in a big city, squeaking by financially, as he finishes his degree in music. He’s feeling down after an audition didn’t go well. Drawn to a small lake on campus, he pulls out his guitar and starts to sing.
He started strumming a happy tune he’d been working on. He didn’t feel happy and the tune started to take on the characteristics of a dirge, so he stopped playing, thought a moment and began to play a gospel song he’d learned years ago.
“Battered and torn, still I can see the light. Tattered and worn, but I must kneel to fight.”*
He sang softly as he formed the chords and plucked the strings. Transported away on the wings of the song, he didn’t notice that someone else had entered the park and was cautiously crossing the bridge.
Her voice joined his on the chorus, harmony soaring to the sky. She had a magnificent voice; high, sweet and clear as crystal. Hal was so surprised by her sudden appearance, he quit playing and stared. Sitting beside him, she smiled at him encouragingly.
“Go on then,” she motioned for him to continue. She had a high speaking voice and a slight Irish accent. “It’s my favorite part, the chorus.”
She flashed him a five star smile, her dark eyes dancing above full red lips. Her hair was like spun molasses, rich golden brown curls. Hal hesitated a moment longer, then started playing again. She sang loudly, pouring her heart into the words, smiling encouragement for him to join her in harmony. He faltered a moment on the notes, then sang just as loudly as she, his sweet tenor joining hers as they swooped through the melody.
When the song was over, he placed his hand gently over the strings to stop their vibration and looked at her again. He saw himself reflected in her eyes; long, straight black hair, high cheekbones and a nose that was almost too big for his face. His eyes were like two bright pieces of jet, piercing in their intensity.
The young woman held out a well manicured hand, long mauve nails glittering in the afternoon sunlight. “Hi, Maeve Tierney.”
“Hal Garrow,” he smiled shyly. “Have we met before, Miss Tierney?”
“Maeve. Not exactly, but we have a couple classes together. I mostly sit right up front, or I find myself day-dreaming. I have the attention span of a goldfish.” Her smile radiated harmony.
“I mostly like the back,” he shrugged. “Less likely to be called on in the back.” He forced himself to look away from her, gazing into the lake.
“If you don’t want to call attention to yourself,” she said, “why sit in the middle of the pond and play?”
“It’s the only place I feel safe,” he told her honestly. “I’m a country boy. This is as close as I can get on short notice.”
“I’m a city girl,” she told him. “I thrive on traffic snarls, exhaust fumes and ill tempered taxi drivers. The pond has its appeal though. Sometimes, even I want to be alone.”
“Is that why you came by today?” He made to rise, but Maeve’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“No, I came because I knew I’d find you here.”
“Right….” his tone was sarcastic.
“Don’t believe me, it makes no difference to me if you do or not. But I found you, didn’t I?”
“Specifically, by name?”
She shook her head. “Just a feeling I was going to meet someone unusual, special in some way. I never know who I’ll be meeting through such serendipitous circumstances. But I always find that I enjoy the encounter, regardless of how long it lasts. Don’t you ever have that?”
“Not really. Well,” he hesitated. “Maybe once in awhile. I guess I never really thought about it the same way, is all.”
“Serendipity. It’s how my parents met. Silly little thing when you think about it. It was her first day waiting tables at a pub in Chelsea. She spilt something on him and the rest is history.”
Interested despite himself, Hal smiled. “What did she spill on him?”
“Oh, it was awful,” Maeve said with dread. “He had ordered tomato soup and a roast beef sandwich with a dill pickle. Mum wasn’t too good at balancing a tray. She caught her foot on a board and toppled. The soup went over his head and the pickle landed in his lap. The sandwich, by some miracle, stayed on the plate. Mum dove for the pickle, grabbing for it as it fell. Nearly grabbed his privates instead. Of course, he was furious, but laughing so hard he couldn’t yell at her. She finally realized what she was doing, grubbing around at his britches. Red faced, she ran to the kitchen, crying and kicking up a fuss. As he was leaving, he handed her a sizable tip and said, Miss, you can grab for my pickle anytime. She quit that very day.”
“But they still ended up together?”
“Yes. It was meant to be. They met some days later at a party. Once she got over the horrible embarrassment, she decided she quite liked him.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
I Shall Not Walk Alone by Ben Harper