Romance Fiction posted September 5, 2018


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Falling in love at age fifty? Possible?

Jellybean Love

by Spiritual Echo


Even in the sea of humanity spilling out of the office towers, Elly stood out, drawing appreciative glances usually reserved for younger women. Almost fifty, she was used to the attention she credited to the thick, auburn mane that couldn't be tamed. A mass of curls framed her face; delicate features made her green eyes more pronounced, like beacons drawing men and women alike into her aura.

She walked with the confidence of a woman who knew where she was going, and in Elly's case, it'd been straight to the top. Elly never questioned whether it was her good looks that had given her an advantage. It was her credentials and hard work that merited the title and corner office. Still, as brand manager, she knew how to exploit her physical attributes, understanding trends and fashion and made sure she was a walking advertisement for the luxury goods her firm took on as clients.

Her business associates would never suspect her leisure-wear consisted of a threadbare robe, so old the once plush terrycloth resembled dull, cheap cotton, or track pants Nike left behind after a photo shoot. Nor would anyone suspect the depth of Elly's sorrow, except for one man who didn't know her at all--not even her name. Yet, he thought he understood the essence of the woman who crossed his path each day.

Five years earlier, Jerry had walked into the kiosk for the first time, befuddled by his decision to rejoin society. More than ten years had elapsed since his wife died and his world imploded. He was nervous as he unlocked the rolling garage door to open the kiosk, but taking a deep breath, he walked into the next chapter of his life.

His old business colleagues would never have recognized the once polished executive. A ragged ponytail hung halfway down his back. A baseball cap hid his receding hairline. The cargo jacket, denim jeans and scuffed boots made him look like one of the homeless men who trolled downtown streets looking for hand-outs rather than a man who could afford to buy a kiosk in the middle of the commercial district.

The first week as a business owner passed in a blur. He'd imagined he would spend his days as a passive cashier, taking money for the newspapers, confections and the flowers he sold, having ample time to strum his guitar and compose new songs to amuse his daughter. Instead, between fumbling with change as impatient customers, anxious to get to work, thrust their money in his face., he never sat down. He barely got a chance to call home to check on Katy.

Once Katy began school her interest shifted from playing with Daddy. She craved the attention of women and girlfriends rather than baking cookies or the princess games and tea parties she played with Jerry. Though reluctant to back off, he hired a grandmotherly nanny and looked for work. Insurance money allowed him to spend the early years with his daughter and Jerry needed the time to heal, regroup and deal with the grief. He'd been happy to stay home with his daughter, but they both needed more.

Later he would wonder if he recognized Elly because of her scent, the memory of spring--lilacs, wet earth and new--mown grass--or her fragile, porcelain skin. All he saw was another hand stretched out, trying to pay for her newspaper.

For a moment he felt frozen, as if he was expected to reach out, take the delicate hand and follow wherever destiny led him. He looked up, stunned by the kindness, the recognition and loneliness in her eyes. Torn between impulse and reality, Jerry wrapped a bubble around the moment.

"Hey, buddy, I'm in hurry."

"You want my money, or not?"

"For Christ's sake..."

"Is there something wrong with you, dude?"

Jerry blotted out the noise and fought for a smile he couldn't find.

"I thought everybody read newspapers on line," he said, but then, he wasn't sure he spoke the words out loud, or why he would ask such an inane question when his business depended on papers.

"Back off," Elly said to then clamoring customers. "He's new. Give him a break."

For a brief moment their eyes locked, and then she was gone, dropping a five-dollar bill on the counter for a two-dollar purchase.

Jerry was unnerved, and it had nothing to do with the impatient customers. In those seconds he recognized the loneliness, a mirrored echo of his self-imposed isolation. Green eyes and the scent of wildflowers haunted him all day. He tried to shake the flood of emotions that made no sense. It wasn't until Katy threw her arms around his neck when he got home that he regained control over his thoughts.

Over the months and years his preoccupation with Elly became an obsession. They exchanged a few words each day, but on the rare mornings she flashed him a smile, it lit up his day. He learned to smile back. Without acknowledging the motivation, Jerry discarded his beatnik look, bought new clothes and had his hair cut and styled. She noticed.

"Oh, wow! Don't you look nice today?"

Jerry blushed, stunned at his own reaction.

"Why don't you ask her out?"

Jerry turned to face his regular customer as Elly walked away. "What?"

The man was laughing at him. "Everybody can see you're madly in love with her--except maybe you."

"What?" Jerry stammered, repeating himself. "She's way out of my league."

The customer, clearly amused, pocketed his change. "You'll never know if you don't try." He began to walk away from the kiosk, but then turned and gave Jerry a wink. "You know, some of the most beautiful women are the loneliest. Guys like you and me always think we're not good enough."

Gobsmacked, Jerry stood watching the customer cross the street. It wasn't possible, he reasoned. He didn't know anything about the woman. Except...he understood the loneliness.

The following day he was still questioning his emotions, afraid of the feelings he was experiencing, the haunting love he'd shared with his wife. He called in a replacement worker for the kiosk, choosing to take Katy out of school for a few days to play and sort himself out.  But, it didn't help. As soon as he returned and saw Elly, the turmoil returned.

"Is something wrong?"

Elly's voice sounded genuinely concerned, but Jerry hardly looked up. The truth embarrassed him, Worse, he understood by admitting to himself he was completely smitten with the green-eyed redhead had cost him a fantasy.

"You haven't been here all week. Are you sick?"

"I'm fine," he said, avoiding eye contact. "I had someone cover my shift." Genuinely afraid he'd expose all his inner feelings, he busied himself restocking the granola bars.

"Jerry, what is it? What's wrong?"

The sound of his name coming from her lips shocked him. "You know my name?"

"Of course I do. I've been buying my paper here since you started--the first day."

"But...I don't know yours..." His voice trailed off.

"Maybe that's because you haven't been paying attention. I'm Elly."

"I...." He felt like he was surfacing, coming up for air. A surge of confidence restored his courage. He looked into her eyes and felt heartened by her concern. "I'd like to get to know you... very much, Elly."

She rewarded Jerry with a big smile and cocked her head to the side as if she was waiting for something else, but Jerry was tongue-tied.

She patted him on the arm, and turned to walk away. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

The question in her voice released him from his verbal chains. "How about tonight? Dinner?"

He wasn't sure if she'd heard him, but the light turned red; she stopped at the curb.

He didn't stop to think. Ignoring the customers, he grabbed a cellophane-wrapped bouquet of flowers and reached Elly as the light turned green.

"Elly..." He was out of breath, more from the summersaults happening in his gut than the exertion. He shoved the flowers into her arms. She didn't look at Jerry.

"I've overstepped...I'm so very sorry," he said, stepping away and then he backed off, put ten feet between them. He hesitated, and returned to the kiosk. But, he looked back. She hadn't moved, her head bent forward, her gaze fixated on the cement as if she hadn't noticed the pedestrians had crossed the street. The light turned red again and she remained glued to the sidewalk.

Jerry knew it was now or never.

***

For the first time in as long as Elly could remember, she didn't know what to do. She was late for a meeting, and somehow it didn't matter, and more astonishing to her, she didn't care. She stood transfixed, staring down at the bouquet of daisies.

She was certainly aware of Jerry from the first day he arrived at the booth. She had a drawer full of candy bars she didn't want and would never eat, evidence of excuses to return to the kiosk a second time on those afternoons when she got muddled at work. When he hadn't shown up for work she'd become unnerved. During his absence she'd admitted there was a magnetic draw between them, but it didn't make sense--they had nothing in common. Not seeing him behind the counter upset her entire day; put her into a tailspin. What if she never saw him again? Then she'd blown the thought away when he showed up. Why had she walked away?

It was nonsense, probably the melancholy reaction to a birthday she didn't want to acknowledge. She'd had torrid relationships before, but never a love affair, children or a marriage--a family--people who would celebrate, be happy she was alive.

"Ell?" Jerry was standing in front of her. "I'm not very good at this..."

She would never know where the words came from, but suddenly she was blathering.

"I've never been married or lived with anyone. I don't have children--never could--wish I had. I just suddenly realized I hate my job...don't want to get into the elevator one more time and... I'm turning fifty tomorrow. I'm too old..."

"Elly...I used to work in that jungle," Jerry's arm made a sweeping gesture at the office buildings all round them. "My wife died giving birth to our little girl. I quit my job and stayed home to raise her until she started school. There hasn't been anyone else. Katy is the joy of my life, but you've made me want more."

They were blocking pedestrian traffic, staring at each other., looking for truth , trying to predict the future.

"We could skip the awkward parts and just get married," Jerry said.

Elly started to laugh. "Are you ready for that?"

"Yes, ma'am, I surely am." And then... he kissed her.

***


Six months later, on Jerry's 50th birthday, the couple exchanged their vows. Katy, who couldn't be happier to have a mom, threw jelly beans instead of rice. It was the little girl's not-so-private joke. When Jerry and Elly told her they were getting married, she broke into a big grin.

"All my friends have parents, but I'm the only one who gets jelly. Get it? Jelly like Jerry plus Elly?"

They left the chapel filled with wonder, all three members of the new family believed in a happily--ever-after love story. The autumn leaves, burnt crimson and golden ambers swirled around their feet as they walked towards the future. Jelly knew winter was coming, but they had many golden days remaining before the snow would fall.












 


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Artwork by willie at FanArtReview.com

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