“Is this seat taken?” he asked, smiling at her.
She looked around the empty room and said, “Yes.”
“How about the one on the other side?”
“That one’s taken too,” she said. “I’m early for a meeting and I’m saving all the seats in the entire room, for my friends.”
“Wow! Impressive I don’t think I know anyone else, who has that many friends in the workplace. Perhaps I’ll just sit here until your friends arrive,” he said, sitting down.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the guy who wants to know if you’re busy this weekend.”
“The entire weekend?”
“Yes. I thought we could get married and have a short honeymoon before getting back to work. Or, if you like, we could quit, take a very long honeymoon and find new jobs when we run out of money. I vote for the second idea, but I’m good with whatever works for you.”
“I have a cat,” she said.
“So do I. Her name is Becky.”
“”You named your cat Becky?”
“That was her name when I adopted her. I didn’t want to change it and cause her more stress and confusion, so Becky is her forever name. What did you name your cat?”
“Stella. Her name is Stella.”
“I like it,” he said, thoughtfully. “Did you name her after the cookies or the movie?”
“I named her after my great-grandmother and the cookies.”
“Good choice,” he said, nodding, shoving his long legs, under the chair in front of him.
“Who will care for Becky and Stella while we’re on our very long honeymoon.”
“Maybe one of your many friends,” he laughed, sweeping his arm around the still empty room. “There is no meeting, is there?”
She sighed and shook her head. “No. No meeting. I just needed a break and this room wasn’t being used, so I thought…”
“You thought you would just duck in here and regroup?”
She nodded. “Exactly.”
“It’s quiet in here,” he said.
“It was quiet, until you came in,” she laughed. “Why did you come in here, anyway? Were you trying to get away as well?”
“If I tell you, you’ll laugh at me.”
“Maybe, but tell me anyway,” she said, turning toward him.
“I was walking down the hall, on my way to a real meeting,” he chuckled, “when I felt this pull on my heart. The closer I got to the door, the happier I felt,” he said, looking at her. “I knew that when I opened the door, something wonderful would be waiting for me, on the other side. Something that would change my life forever. I knew I was in a red flag moment, and I didn’t want to screw it up, because this was going to be a once in a lifetime chance, a chance that I would never get again.”
“THAT was the best line I EVER heard,” she said, looking into his eyes. “I mean that, sincerely. Women don’t have lines like that. Well, maybe a few, but that was…”
“It wasn’t a line, it was the truth.”
“Do you think the cats will get along?”
“Where will we go?”
“Wherever you like,” he said.
“What’s your name?”
“About that,” he said, squirming uncomfortably. “Let me just tell you upfront that my parents were hippies, as were their parents before them.”
“What is it?” she snickered excitedly, drawing closer to him. “Is it Moonbeam?”
“No, it’s not Moonbeam, although I think my mother would have liked that one. It’s Reed. I’m named after the reeds that grew by the pond, next to which, I was conceived,” he sighed.
“My name is Willow, named for the tree under which I was conceived, during a rock concert,” she muttered, shaking her head.
“Willow and Reed, kindred spirits,” he said, taking her hand. “So, will you marry me and take that never ending honeymoon?”
She withdrew her hand, opened her bag and took out an old fashioned date book. She leafed through the pages, making little noises, until she said. “Sure, why not. Let’s get married and make kids by the side of ponds and under trees. If it was good enough for our parents, it should be good enough for us, right? And besides, I don’t have any plans for this weekend, other than caring for Stella, that is.”
“Would you like me to make the arrangements?”
“Let’s go to Paris. We can stay in cheap hotels and stay out late, singing songs to the Seine and sleep late in the mornings. We can add a love lock to a bridge, shop at outdoor bookstalls and eat crepes, three times a day. I love Paris. It will be fabulous.”
“Sounds absolutely perfect,” he said, happily. “I actually have a place in Paris, but I’m okay with staying in cheap hotels, if that’s what you’d like to do.”
“You have a place in Paris?”
“I do and I know where to get the best eclairs and brownies. I also know where all the bookstores are.”
She pinched him. “Just checking,” she said. “I mean, Paris, eclairs, brownies, cats and books? I had to make sure you were real.”
“I think you’re supposed to pinch yourself, not the other person,” he whispered, kissing her. “Is that real enough?”
She shook her head. “I think you better do it again, just to make sure.”
“So, it’s settled then? Married Saturday morning, leave for Paris. Stay away forever, if we like, and have kids outside. Works for me.”
“Is your place an attic room with a slanted roof, no heat, but a window looking out over the rooftops where you can just see the top of the Eiffel Tower?”
“You’ve been reading too many books. It’s nothing like that at all. Although you can see the Eiffel Tower from the window.”
“Good enough. Are we really going to do this?”
“We are. Do you want to keep your name or take mine?”
“I was just going to ask you the same thing.”
“What is your last name?” he asked.
“James. I am Willow James, no middle name.”
“Reed James,” he said, “I like it, but if I took your name, they would have to change the name on the front of the building and that would be a bother.”
“Right. Your Mr. Dean,” she said, grinning. “THE Mr. Dean.”
“I am, and before you run away,” he said, panic in his voice, “it’s not my fault that my parents were hippies AND brilliant. I’ll get a different job, for minimum wage, if that will make you happy. You will NEVER, ever, have to SEE anyone in my entire family. I promise. Although I think you’d probably like some of them.”
“I have to go,” she said, picking up her bag. “It was nice meeting you.”
“Please,” he said, softly. “I can’t help being who I am, anymore than you can. I meant everything I said. If you walk away, we will both be turning down a chance to be utterly happy. You were going to marry me, a few minutes ago, when you thought that I was just me. That’s who I am. That IS me. I’m not a name. I don’t care about any of this. We can live in an apartment, a cottage, or a hut, but don’t walk away. Don’t….”
She stood there, looking at him. She knew that what he was saying was true. She reached for his hand and said, “I won’t fit into that world,” she said. “I have to be free. Can you walk out of here with me and get lost?”
He put his arm around her and they left the building together.