I usually take a walk or hike every day.
It's a great time for me to get some air, stretch my legs for heart and lung and to think.
One night, I ventured out just to be alone and plan my next career move, as well as ruminate about my day.
The parkway was quiet, as it usually became round midnite. Most of the houses were dark, with people apparently nestled, resting for the next day. The air was still, full of Autumn promise, as I contemplated the future.
There was no traffic and the only time the parkway bustled was morning and evening rush hour.
Pretty routine, until she cruised up.
I noticed her slowing out of the corner of my eye, but kept straight ahead. I didn't like to make people nervous in these paranoid days. Sad, I thought, far from the days when even at night strangers would nod and say hello.
'Excuse me, sir', her voice rang like a bell in the middle of the night.
I slowed my pace and turned my head. I was met with a vision. A young woman was leaning out with an inquiring look.
She was simply beautiful. Her hair was retro, a finger wave ala late 20s early 30s. Teardrop earrings and a diamond string necklace highlighted a heart shaped face that glowed.
'Can I do something for you, Miss?' I had almost stopped as she wheeled ever so slowly, pacing me.
'Well, I uh I wondered if,' she broke to a standstill and looked down. Then she looked at me appealingly. 'I'm sorry, I just need someone to talk to.' Her eyes were bright brown and there was a hint of pleading behind the perky smile.
'Well, it's not usually a good idea to just stop strangers.' I smiled and introduced myself.
She nodded and said,'I'm Jean Stone. You, um, have time to talk?'
I had stopped and faced her, keeping my distance. 'Well, sure. I'm just taking a walk. It's part of my daily routine. What's the matter?' I was intrigued and this was unusual to say the least.
'I'm trying to figure things out. It seems no one wants to listen. Could we drive around a while', she seemed embarrassed still and continued,'I know this is odd, but you seemed ok. I just need a little of your time.' She smiled and gestured to the passenger side of her retro car. It looked like an Auburn Speedster, black with white trim.
I mulled the situation and shrugged. 'Ok. I'm told I'm a good listener.' I got in and felt the comfortable leather seat almost mold to me.
'We can just cruise a bit. I've always loved driving around sightseeing and people watching.'
She drove off slowly and the 4.6L 'straight eight' hummed.
'Nice wheels Jean. She's a smooth ride', I noted as the familiar terrain of the parkway drifted by.
Her worried expression lightened and her wide smile deepened. It was a gift from my Dad. Yes, it's nice but he always thought things were important.'
'Well, some people substitute expression with such stuff. They may not know how to give love so they substitute such objects. Me I always say it's the thought that counts.' I smiled good naturedly and hoped it would lighten her mood. Behind the glowing looks was the phantom of gloom.
It worked. She brightened and said,'I think he loved me in his own way. I just wish he'd really shown it.' She gloomed again.
'I've got a bunch of family and associates who think you can buy love. It always rubs me the wrong way.' I paused and her hands gripped the wheel. 'May I tell you that your outfitis lovely.' I smiled my best disarming smile
She smiled and said,'Yes you may. I always liked dress up. Parties were always fun.' She bubbled a little.
'Very retro. Your hair goes with the silver dress.' A lot of youger women were into retro 30s party gear or boho chic for casual. That last was a nod to the girls of the 60s/70s and that was a nod to American Indian dress.
'I don't pay attention. I wear what I like.' She tilted her head back and I noticed a dimpled chin.
'You wear it well Jean. Um, I didn't want you to get the wrong idea. This is kinda different. I tend to tell people what I think.' I meant nothing untoward. My word was my bond and my way.
Jean smiled again and replied,'I know. Thanks for your honesty. It's rare at least for me. So many men have said how beautiful I was, just to get their way with me or try to get my Dad's money. Comes with the territory.' She concentrated on her driving but glanced at me now and then.
'I'm going to tell you, I like women. I enjoy relationships. But, lying just to get in someone's pants always well ticked me off.' Something about her kept me from being too vulgar. This whole evening seemed back in time.
'I've always had my own mind when it came to men. But love, my life, my life has greatly lacked it.' A tear rolled down her cheek. 'Would you come have a drink with me? I trust you. Is there any reason I shouldn't?'
'I looked at her squarely. 'No Jean. I like you and would love to have a drink. alas, I was just out for a walk. No money and well look at me. Shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. I'm a little underdressed.'
'Hey, i invited you. Drinks are on me. My place anyway. It's near downtown. Somehow, I don't want crowds tonight.' She smiled a very deep smile, the corners creased.
'You should smile more. It suits you Jean.'
We drove to an old home, near Downtown. It was three story and was one of the original houses built in the city. this meant one of the prominent families nust have owned it. Guess Jean was seriously into retro.
The interior was the same. It was fully restored to how it must have been in the 1930s. Crystal chandeleers, wine colored carpet up the winding stairs, even a checked foyer. The furniture was well cared for antiques.
'I'm impressed. I love old things too. Well done Jean.'
She strolled to a drink tray in the sitting room.
'Cognac ok?' She made to pour from a crystal carafe.
She did so and we retired to a large wine toned sofa.
'I just don't have long. I,', she looked down then up with crystal clear brown eyes,'I wonder if you'd love me.'
I was a trifle taken aback, but managed composure.
'Well Jean, we've just met. You are beautiful, wonderful company. Love takes time.' I wondered what was going to happen. I found myself hoping their was time.
'I'm just about out of time. I believe you would love me. You aren't like the others. The gigolos, the college fops, the socalled men Daddy arranged too. You are nothing like them.' she leaned forward and kissed me.
It was like a spark igniting a possible future, a promise of more. I kissed Jean more deeply.
In each other's arms, I felt something good awaken.
So did she. Jean beamed and said,'Oh how I wish, I wish we could. I love you. crazy as it sounds. Please believe me.'
'Jean I don't doubt you. But it would take time. Please. I'm willing to see if you are. I can see love sure as dawn is coming.'
She started slightly and kissed me once more. Her lips were so smooth and she tasted of cognac and something, perhaps a bit of sweet spice.
'Oh yes please, I accept your promise.'
As she spoke, the sun beamed its dull gold onto her sweet face. At the same time see seemed to slowly disappear, her smile blending in the sparkle, and as the sun increased, Jean was gone.
Astonished, I sat up still feeling her warm lips.
I slowly woke, Jean's lips still touching me, caressing my spirit.
Was it real? Somewhere.
Was she loved? I think so.
It wasn't til much later I read of a young woman's ghost. She had died alone, her Auburn a twisted wreck, never knowing love. It was said her spirit wandered, driving and searching for the love that had escaped her in life.
Rest in peace and love Jean.