She knew that inviting him over had probably been the wrong thing to do.
She knew from previous experience that ending a relationship quickly was the
only way to do it. The problem was, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to end it..not
entirely anyway. It had been a very long time since she had met anyone who
made her smile....and laugh, the way he did. She felt completely at ease with
him, and that’s what scared her.
She had perfected the art of letting men down easily. It had become
second nature to her....a fact she wasn’t proud of. Glancing at the clock
repeatedly, she listened intently for his footsteps out in the hall. At exactly 7:30,
her doorbell rang. She opened the door to a life sized poster of Al. “What in
the....” “Pretty neat, huh?” He said, his eyes twinkling. “Vince is planning on
adding them to ShopZone. We each got one. What do you think?” “Did they
have to include that in the picture?” she asked, pointing to “Head.” “We kind of
go together,” he said. “These pictures are supposed to reflect what you see in the
She nodded thoughtfully. “I brought this for you,” he said, rolling it up
and handing it to her. “What do you expect me to do with it?” she asked. “Why
not hang it in your office. It’s a real conversation starter.” “Yeah, if the
conversation is about where to lock me up.” “Ha, ha,” he said. “So where’s the
pizza?” “It’ll be here in a minute,” she replied. “I thought maybe we could talk
“Sounds serious,” he said. “Well...I guess maybe it is,” she admitted.”
“Ok,” he said, taking a seat on the couch. “Fire away.” She lowered her head,
unable to look into his eyes. “I’m really glad we’ve gotten to know each other,”
she began. “I’ll admit,I had some pre-conceived notions about you. But I was
wrong. You’re a very special man. “ “Well, thanks,” he said. “You’re pretty
special too.” She paused, searching for the right words. “The thing is....” And just
then the doorbell rang.
“Must be the pizza,” he said. “I’ll get it.” “Damn that 30 minute delivery,”
she mumbled. “Smells good,” he said, bringing it inside. “Good timing too. The
show’s about to start. He clicked on the TV and smiled at her as she brought in
some plates and soda. They settled in to watch, Al kept her laughing woth his
constant play by play. When it came time for his match, she sat forward, eagerly
watching the screen.
The action went back and forth, with both men getting in their shots. Then
suddenly, Al was down in the corner with Rikishi poised to do his signature
move, “The Stink Face.” “Oh no,” she groaned...”he isn’t!” Then just as suddenly
Al rolled out of the way. In the end he he was declared the winner, and Elise
breathed a sigh of relief. “Had you going there for a minute..didn’t I?’ he teased.
She nodded and smiled. “It’s nice to know you care,” he said. She looked up and
their eyes met. He slowly leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. He
leaned back for a second. Then, taking her face gently in his hands, he kissed her
again, letting his tongue explore her mouth gently. For several seconds, Elise
became lost in the warmth of his kiss, then suddenly, she pulled back. “Oh
God....I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have done that.” She placed her fingers
against her lips. “Why not?” asked Al. “It was all right with me.”
Elise stood up quickly and walked across the room, trying to put as much
distance between them as possible. “That’s what I was trying to tell you before. I
don’t think we should let this relationship become anything more than a
friendship.’ “But why?” he asked. “I can’t speak for you....but something tells me
that we could be onto something good here.”
“Al,” she began, “I like you...probably a lot more than I should. But I’m in
no position to get involved in any kind of serious relationship. It wouldn’t be fair
to you to let you think otherwise.’ He stood there completely confused.
“Elise...you just kissed me. And it wasn’t the kiss of a friend.” “I know. And I’m
sorry. That was my mistake.” “So I’m a mistake?” he asked, the hurt clear in his
eyes. “No, I didn’t mean it that way,” she said. “I would just rather keep things
between us the way they are now.”
“I see,” he said quietly. He stood up and headed for the door. As he
stepped into the hall, he turned and looked into her eyes. “I’m not one for
starting relationships at the drop of a hat. In spite of what a lot of people think, I
do take some things seriously. You were one of those things.” She looked away,
ashamed by the pain she was causing him. “I’m sorry if I was the source of any
discomfort for you,” he said. “You’re a terrific woman. You deserve to be happy.
I hope you figure out how to do that.” He slowly walked away from her door.
She closed it silently, leaning her head against it. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
But she wasn’t sure if she was sorry for Al or for herself.
She slept fitfully that night, unable to shake the vision of him walking out
of her life. She walked out of her bedroom, heading straight for her coffee maker.
As she passed the sofa, she stopped. Lying there was the poster he had given her
the night before. Walking over, she picked it up and unrolled it slowly. “I used to
know how to be happy,” she thought, thinking of his words from the night
before. For several minutes she stared at his image. “You deserve someone who
can give you her heart completely,” she said. “Not someone like me.” She rolled
the poster up and placed it in the hall closet.
When she got to work she avoided talking to anyone. She intended to
keep herself as busy as possible. Maybe then then she could forget about what
had happened. Shortly after lunch she was called to an emergency meeting with
Mr. Harrris. While she was out of her office, Al appeared from the elevator. Even
though he hadn’t known her for very long, he could tell how serious she was
about what she had said to him. The problem was, he didn’t think she was telling
He was very attracted to her, and he honestly believed she was attracted
to him. There had to be another reason she was pushing him away, and he was
determined to find out what it was. He slowly opened the door to her office,
disappointed to find it empty. He turned to see a nurse passing by. “Excuse me.
But do you happen to know when Elise might be back?” The nurse turned and
smiled. “Mrs. Dillon is with Mr. Harris. She could be a while.” “MRS. Dillon?” he
asked, making sure he heard what she said. She nodded, still smiling. “Thanks,’
he said, turning to go back to the elevators.
The door slid open and he was face to face with her. “Al,” she almost
whispered. “What are you doing here?” “I’m just asking myself that same
question,’ he said. He stepped into the elevator and turned to her. “Just tell me
something. Were you planning on keeping your marriage a secret?” “My what?’
she asked. “You don’t have to hide it anymore. I already know......Mrs. Dillon.”
“Al, I can explain,” she began. “So can I,’ he said. “You can’t very well date me if
you have a husband now...can you?” The doors began to slide closed. “Al...wait
please. You’re wrong about this.” “No Elise..I was wrong about you,” he said, as
the doors closed completely.
She stood staring at the elevator doors. “Ok, fine,” she thought. “That’s
what I wanted. He understands how I need things to be.” She turned and walked
back to her office, and by the time she sat behind her desk, she was crying. “But
that isn’t the way I want it,” she thought. She was so tired of being afraid..so
tired of being alone. And now she had sent away the man who had finally
broken through and made her feel happy again.
Elise stood up and gazed out her window. Suddenly she saw him...sitting
on the same bench they had shared the night she had opened up to him. Before
she could talk herself out of it, she ran from her office and out into the hall.
Seeing a large group of people waiting to board the elevator, she ran past them
and quickly pushed open the door to the stairs. Without pausing, she headed
down. Four flights later she was out into the street, frantically scanning the park
to see if he was still there.
When she spied him, she ran out into the road, causing several cars to jam
on their brakes. Al turned when he heard the screeching tires. She ran up to him
and stopped, gasping for breath. “Are you crazy?” he asked her. “You could
have been killed.” She glanced back over her shoulder, just realizing what had
“I had to catch you,” she said between attempts to catch her breath. “I
have to explain.” “No Elise..you really don’t,” he said. “You’re married. It isn’t a
crime you know. It just would have been nice if you had told me right from the
beginning.” He stood up to walk away.
Elise quickly grabbed his arm and pulled him down. “Are you at least
going to give me the chance to talk?” she demanded. He looked into her eyes
and saw quiet pleading in them. “All right,” he said quietly. She dropped his
hand and took a deep breath. “Before I start, I want you to know, that I never
intended for you to get hurt. In fact, I was trying from the very start to avoid
getting involved with you at all. But you can be very persistant.”
“So I’m told,” he said. Elise smiled at him. “I know I said I just wanted the
two of us to have a friendship...but that wasn’t exactly the truth.” Al leaned
forward trying to see into her eyes. “You made me feel things that I haven’t felt
for a long time...and it scared me. I tried so hard to fight it...but you just can’t
take no for an answer.” He reached over and took her hand....and she didn’t stop
“Elise...it wan’t my intention to cause you any pain. When I met you..it
was like being with someone I had known all my life. I didn’t have to explain
myself to you. You understood me...as hard as that is to believe.” She laughed
softly at his words. “I’ve missed that sound,” he said quietly. “Al...” she began.
“Your husband is a very lucky man,’ he said, running a finger down her cheek.
“Al...I’m not married,” she said.
His hand froze as he stared into her eyes. “Say that again?” “I said, I’m not
married.” “But that nurse...she called you Mrs Dillon?” “I was married...Frank,
my husband...died a little over a year ago.” Al took his hand and gently lifted her
chin “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I don’t know,’ she said. “I guess I just figured
that you and I would never get to the point where you would even have to
“How did he die? I mean...if you don’t mind my asking?” She shook her
head slowly. “No, I don’t mind. He was sick..very sick...for quite some time. The
doctors kept telling me he had very little time left....but Frank kept fooling them.
He lived six months longer than anyone thought he would.” She looked up at
him. Even though she was smiling, there were tears in her eyes. “Just another
man who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
“After Frank died I told myself that there was no way in the world I was
ever going to leave myself open to that kind of pain again.” “What do you
mean?” She stood up and walked to the fence, looking down at the late season
flowers. “Every time there was someone in my life that really meant
someting..someone I really loved..they were taken away from me. “My
parents...my grandparents...and then my husband. You get to the point where
you just give up and say... enough. And that’s what I did. The day Frank died, I
decided that the only thing I would allow into my life was my work. I don’t have
any close friends anymore..and up until I met you, I never even considered any
kind of relationship.”
Al walked up behind her and rested his hands on her shoulders. “And
now?” he asked. “And now..I’m still not sure,” she replied. She turned to face
him. “Do you think I like being alone? Don’t you think it hurts to see couples
walking hand in hand? Don’t you think I wish I had someone to love? Someone
to love me?” “But you can have that,” he said.
She turned away, still afraid to look into his eyes. “Yeah, until it’s taken
away from me.” “So you spend the rest of your life alone and miserable because
you’re afraid to take a chance?” he asked. “I’m afraid to be hurt again,” she
persisted. “Elise..being alone..and unhappy..is not the answer. There aren’t any
guarantees in life. But if you never take a chance..if you pass up on all the
opportunities you get..then you’ll end up being unhappy anyway.”
She finally looked into his eyes. The warmth and tenderness she saw there
melted her heart. “Does everybody know this side of you?” she asked teasingly.
“Very few people,” he admitted. “Only the people I truly care about.’ “Al..I don’t
want to hurt you..” she began. “As much as I want to get to know you
better....I’m still afraid...very afraid.’ “Look, “ he said, taking her hands. “There is
no way I can promise that I’ll be around forever. Things happen. Mick Foley
could finally snap and it’ll be goodbye Al Snow.” She laughed as he spoke. “But I
can promise you this...you mean a lot to me. I can’t explain it...but I just know
that you and I have a connection. The only way I’d leave is if you sent me away.”
Elise could feel all the barriers she had spent months putting up,
beginning to crumble. “All I’m asking for is a chance,’ he said. “Come on...if you
discover that you really can’t stand me...I’ll go...I swear it.” She reached up and
slowly put her arms around his neck. “Al?’ “Yeah?” “Please don’t go.”
The kiss they shared was like nothing she had ever felt before. She was no
longer afraid to admit that she needed him....cared about him. It was Al who
finally pulled back. “Umm..don’t you have to go back to work?” “Work?” she
said quietly. “Oh my gosh!” she said, looking at her watch. “I was supposed to
be in a meeting ten minutes ago.” “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not,” she replied,
kissing him once more before she turned to leave.
“Will you meet me after work?” she asked. “What do you think?” he said.
“I think you’d better,” she said, quickly running back to the hospital. She hopped
into the elvator and leaned back against the wall, re-living the past few moments.
She was still smiling when the doors slid open. “Are you getting out?” She shook
her head and realized she had been completely in another world. “Sorry,” she
said with a sheepish grin.
She made a quick stop in her office to grab her reports. Still smiling, she
strolled to Mr. Harris’ office. As she opened the door, his secretary looked up.
“You’re late,” she admonished her. Elise never even acknowledged her. She
sailed past her and into the meting room. “Well, Elise, nice of you to join us,” he
said. “No problem,” she replied, dropping into her seat. “We were just
discussing the new budget....the one you and I were discussing the other day?”
“And what have you decided?” she asked him. “I’ve decided that maybe
you had a point. Since you and I spoke,several people have approached me to
tell me how much your program has meant to them. After some careful
consideration, I’ve decided that we can probably find some extra funds.”
“Meaning?” she asked. “Meaning...you won’thave to cut your staff.”
Elise leaned forward, smiling brightly. “Mr. Harris, I take back every
nasty thing I’ve been thinking about you.’ “You....well I .....umm thank you,” he
said. She leaned back smiling. “This day is just getting better and better,” she
thought. On her way back to her office she stopped in the play room to sit and
chat with some of the children and their parents.
Out at the nurses station they watched her carefully. “I don’t know,” said
Susan. “But something is different. Yesterday there was a dark cloud over that
woman. And today? Well..look at her. She’s so happy it’s sickening.” The women
around her laughed. Elise was well liked even though she had always made a
conscious effort to remain just somebody they worked with.
“There has to be a reason she’s so happy,” offered Susan. “Oh there’s a
reason all right,” said Marion. “And I’ll bet his name is Al.” The other women
turned in surprise. “You’re kidding. I mean he was very nice...not to mention
absolutely adorable. But him...and Elise? “ “Oh don’t let her fool you,” said
Marion. “Underneath that “all business” exterior, I think there’s a woman just
dying to have some fun. “ “Well I don’t care what it is,” said Suasan.. “I’m just
glad to see her smile.” “And if Al feels the way I think he does,” thought Marion,
she’ll be doing a lot more than smiling.