A Bridge Over Muddy Waters
Copyright 2014 Kendra Little
Emma wished she was still inside the warm train with the rest of the evening business crowd instead of outside in the icy wind and rain. With one hand clutching her laptop bag, she huddled into her coat and pulled the umbrella closer to her head—so close she failed to notice the clod of mud until it splattered against her legs.
“Damn!” In her hurry to get home, she’d forgotten about the construction site she needed to pass. With a sigh, she began to move on, but a pair of dirty boots blocked her way.
“Sorry,” said the wearer of the boots. “I didn’t see you.”
Emma peeked out from under the umbrella just enough to see the face belonging to the boots. It was handsome with a set of wide, brown eyes that caused her to forget her frustration.
“That’s all right,” she said. “Next time I’ll walk on the opposite side.”
But the next day Emma decided walking past the excavation site was the most convenient way home. Crossing over meant dodging speeding traffic. Seeing a pair of nice brown eyes again had absolutely nothing to do with it.
“Excuse me,” said a deep, resonating voice as she passed.
She slowed and peered sideways at the man now keeping pace beside her. It was the same guy as yesterday.
“I’m really sorry about your coat," he said. "I hope it isn’t ruined.”
“It’s at the dry cleaners. They said it would live.”
He gave her a swoon-worthy crooked smile. “At least it’s dry today.” When she answered with a nod he switched his gaze to the footpath in front of her where several planks of wood were laid end to end over the mud. “I put these down for you so you wouldn’t get your shoes dirty.” He smiled, revealing bright white teeth against warm skin.
“You needn’t have done that,” Emma said, blushing. Embarrassed, she moved past him.
“I’m really sorry about yesterday,” he called out.
She stopped and laughed, her humiliation forgotten. “You said that already.”
“I’d like to make it up to you. Maybe I could buy you a drink on Friday night? There's a nice place near here...”
He wanted to go out on a date? With her? The thought of going out with a complete stranger sent a wave of panic through her. Not only that, he was nothing like the men she usually dated. She knew how to talk to lawyers and businessmen, but a man who worked at a construction site was a different fish altogether.
“I, er, I’m not sure,” she said. She hurried across the planks laid for her without a backward glance. But before she even reached her front door, her heart sank. He’d built a bridge so she wouldn’t get her shoes dirty. Just for her. He seemed like a decent person and she hadn’t met one of those in a long time, let alone dated one. She wanted to apologize. But would he accept it?
The next day, Emma was unable to concentrate at work. On the train, she read the same paragraph of her book eight times before she gave up and stared out the window at the rain. Finally they arrived at her station.
It seemed to take her an eternity before she rounded the bend near the building site. She looked round for the brown-eyed builder but he was nowhere to be seen. She reached the first plank of wood covering the muddy path and almost tripped when she saw him standing nearby. But he wasn't looking her way. With a sigh, she continued on.
She was almost out of sight when the churning in her stomach became too much to bear. If she didn’t say something now she’d always regret it. So she returned and called out to him.
“Can I help you?” Brown-eyes asked. His tone sounded formal and he didn’t approach her. She must have hurt his feelings with her refusal the day before.
She would have to cross over the muddy site if she wanted to apologize properly. She peered down at the quagmire on the other side of the wooden platform. Her shoes would be ruined. It had to be done, however. She stepped off and her heels sank. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry about yesterday and—.” Her shoe got stuck in the sucking mud and she began to tip forward. A pool of murky water approached fast and she let out a yelp of humiliation.
But instead of splashing into the water, two strong arms caught her and hauled her upright. She blinked up into the eyes of her rescuer. Warm, brown eyes.
She attempted a smile. “I think I could do with that drink now. If it’s still on offer.”
He smiled back. “Of course. But you might want to go home and change your shoes first.”