After 15 minutes of floundering around like a giraffe on ice, I decided it was now or never. If I was going to tackle the hill, I had to do it before my nerve abandoned me. I sat on the bench and waited for the walkway to clear, and then I took off.
My arms flew through the air like a drowning man grasping for the surface and I suddenly saw nothing but trees, a trash can, and what appeared to be a very chilly pond. I wondered if the screams coming from my mouth sounded as much like a 5-year-old girl to onlookers as they did to me.
As my wheels ran out of pavement, I crashed, head-first. My brain went through a limb check, and I was happy to be in one piece, but too afraid to look around and see who had caught my show.
“You okay?” a blonde woman asked as she knelt down in front of me. She wore red knee pads, but they weren’t scratched at all. They were either new or she was a bit more advanced than me at this body-sacrificing ritual of rollerblading.
“Yea, I’m fine. Thanks.” And I was. Nothing was really hurt more than my pride.
“That was a heck of a fall.”
“I’m new to this.”
“Oh yea? Ever think about maybe learning to stay vertical before tackling a hill?” she laughed.
“Between a deadline and lots of pride, I figured I oughta just man-up and see what happened,” I defended. Though having women laugh at me wasn’t something necessarily new, having an attractive woman do it this close to me was probably adding a bit more red to my cheeks than I’d like.
“Well the good news is the fall should’ve knocked all the pride out of you. Can’t help you with the deadline,” she said as she extended her hand.
“Yea, I’ve got a client that suggested rollerblading, and I, of course, acted like it wasn’t a problem. I figured surely I could learn over the weekend.”
“So you figured if you just attacked the hill, it would submit?” she asked with a smile so big that it washed away my humiliation.
“Men don’t ask men for help with new sports,” I said. “We just learn it. It’s man code.”
“Do men ask women?” she asked.
I returned the smile. “After a fall like that–”
“Jackie!” a man’s voice yelled. “I was wondering where you were. Did you get lost or something?”
I looked up at the man that stood about an inch taller and two inches broader than myself. Suddenly hitting the gym didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
“Just helping–” she turned to me, “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”
“Mark,” I said as I extended my hand his way. “Mark Roberts. I took a slight fall and she was just offering to help.”
“Slight?” she laughed. “You may have left a permanent impression in the cement.”
I forced a laugh. “It wasn’t that bad was it?”
“That’s Jackie, always coming to the rescue,” the man said.
“I’m a nurse,” she said. ”It’s in my blood.”
“What kind of nurse?” I asked without thinking. “I’m sorry. That’s really none of my business.”
“No, that’s totally okay. I work at St. Lutheran’s in the ER.”
“And she volunteers at St. Michaels on the weekends,” the man said.
“That’s that new county-run hospital, right?” I asked.
“Yep. We are all volunteers right now.”
For just a second, I looked into her face and saw something I hadn’t seen in quite a while—pure goodness. She was real. As I lost myself in her deep brown eyes, I realized I must’ve been making her uncomfortable.
“Jackie, we need to get outta here,” the man said.
“I think I might hang out here a little while,” she said as she returned my gaze.
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that maybe the little spark I thought I saw, really was there. Could she really see me as anything but a fumbling idiot after that crash?
“Not an option. Mom’s expecting us for lunch, remember?” the man said.
“Mom?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “Duke is my brother.”
The relief must have been obvious. “Oh, I just assumed—”
“What, they we are together?” he asked. “Nope, Jackie is one of the most eligible bachelorettes on the East Side. She can’t get away from saving people long enough to meet someone.”
“Maybe she just hadn’t saved the right person before,” I said. The words flew past my lips without even checking with my brain.
“I’ll be in the car, Sis,” Duke said as he extended his hand to me. “Nice to meet you.”
“Okay, well I guess I’ll be going too,” she said as she swept her brown curl behind her ear.
“Do you rollerblade a lot?” I asked.
“It fills my need for speed,” she said.
“Are you up to teaching a newby?”
“Sounds like you are in a bit of a time crunch,” she said.
“I’ll meet you whenever and wherever,” I said, hoping I wasn’t being too forward.
“How about here in a few hours? I have tonight off,” she offered.
My brain worked double-time. Don’t be an idiot! Play it cool. Cool and confident.
“That sounds perfect. And maybe after the lesson I could buy you dinner?” I offered.
“We’ll see what kind of shape you’re in when I’m done,” she smiled.
“It’s a date,” I said.
She offered a flirty wave and I watched her glide away.
© 2012 Jamie Anne Richardson The link to this site may be shared, but the story cannot be reprinted (in whole or in part) without the expressed written consent of the copyright holder.