Larkin's Choice

By Eliza Broughton

Romance

Paperback, eBook

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46
3 mins

 

STANLEY PARK, VANCOUVER

It was the end of September and the sun was low on the horizon when Larkin sat on the park bench to wait for the man whose lips she had kissed for the last two months. Today she was determined to at least learn the name of the man who visited her dreams every night.

She first noticed the tall blond man three months ago. He always jogged through Stanley Park at the same time she did on Fridays. In her dreams he existed as the ideal man whose kisses set her on fire. She didn’t know if her imagination matched reality, but was determined to find out. She had tried the week before, but it hadn't gone well.

Last Friday she had sat on this same bench waiting for him after noticing he always took a break at this point in his run. Just as she expected, he sat down and opened the cap on the small water bottle he carried. The conversation that followed was disappointing.

"Nice weather we're having," she said, in a voice that was a little strained.

"It sure is," he said, without looking at her.

"I love running the seawall," she said.

"Me too," he said.

"We're so lucky to have this park here in Vancouver."

"We sure are."

He still hadn't so much as glanced at her as they spoke. She sat there for a few more awkward minutes, waiting for him to say something, fearing that if she said more herself it would make her look desperate. She waited, but he sat there in silence and then got up and continued his run without saying goodbye. So, here she was again, a week later, waiting for the man of her dreams to appear.

He was later than usual and she was about to give up when she saw him move out from behind an older couple strolling the seawall. Larkin didn't want him to think she was waiting for him, so she stood up and put her right heel on the park bench and stretched forward to grab her foot. She was stretching the muscles in her left leg when he sat down beside her and took out his water bottle.

"Hello again," she said.

"Hello," he said.

"I've noticed you often run the sea wall on Fridays. Do you do this run at the same time other days of the week?" She knew full well he didn't. She’d made a point of running other days of the week to see if he showed up. She wondered if that action qualified her as a stalker. He gave her a look that seemed to say what business is it of yours, and Larkin's heart sank, but then he smiled and her spirits lifted. That smile made him even more handsome than he already was. She'd seen him smile often in her dreams, but it did not compare to his smile in real life. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart beat faster.

"I'd like to do this run more often, but the only day I can is Fridays," he said.

"Your work keeps you busy?" she asked.

"Yes." He didn't elaborate and she didn’t want to ask.

"Do you run anywhere else?" she asked.

"Not often, but I sometimes do the Crescent Beach or Boundary Bay trails on a Sunday afternoon."

"I've never tried either of those trails," Larkin said. "Do you recommend them?"

"They're not bad, but I like this one the best."

“This is my favorite run too.” Larkin waited in silence. She felt that the ball was in his court and to say anything more would betray that to her this was more than a casual conversation between two strangers. When the silence became awkward, she stood. She was about to start her run again when she noticed that her right shoelace was undone.

"Do you do this run every Friday?" he asked, as she tied up her shoelace.

It pained Larkin that he had to ask. Obviously, he hadn't noticed her the many times they had passed each other on the trail. She pushed down her disappointment so he wouldn't hear it in her voice as she told him that she did this run every Friday.

"Do you run at the same time all year?" he asked.

"Sure do," she said. "Drizzle and shine, the only time I don't run is if it's pouring rain."

"In a few weeks, it's going to be dangerous for you to run through this park alone," the man said.

"Why?" she asked.

He looked at her with a puzzled look on his face. "As it gets dark earlier, fewer people are out walking, and you never know who's hanging around in the woods. There is more than one homeless camp in Stanley Park."

She thought of telling him what she did for a living, but stopped herself out of fear that it would turn him off. "I feel safe enough, even when I run through here at night. I'm pretty fast if I need to be. And besides, the only person who's ever tried to stop me was too wasted to be a real problem."

"You should still think twice about running through these woods alone when it starts to get dark."

Larkin consciously put a smile on her lips. "I'll be okay, and hopefully if a bad guy comes along, you'll be there to rescue me."

"Hopefully someone does." He put his water bottle away and rose to his feet to continue his run, took a few steps, then stopped and turned back toward Larkin. Larkin felt disappointed and confused. This was not what the man of her dreams would say. "

Listen," he said. "I do this run almost every Friday at the same time. If you want to, you can meet me at the English Bay concession and we can run together."

Larkin's heart soared with joy and her smile was genuine. This was what she expected the man of her dreams to say. "I would like that. It’s always nicer to run with a friend."

The man fished in his pocket and pulled out a card. "Call me if you can't come, otherwise I'll expect to meet you next week at six o'clock."

"So, your name's Peter," she said. "I'm Larkin, Larkin Sims."

"Nice to meet you, Larkin. I'll see you next week." With those words, Peter Van der Molen, Vice President of International Operations and Marketing for Van der Molen Foods, ran out of her life.

Larkin sat down on the bench. Her legs were weak and her heart was fluttering. Since leaving the military, she’d rarely felt so rattled and needed a few minutes to recover before resuming her own run. She stared at the card and felt a twinge of disappointment as she real-ized that Peter wasn't a high school math teacher. She’d imagined that he was a teacher, just like her dad had been. Then she chided herself: Of course, he was going to be different than the man she’d imagined him to be in her dreams.



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