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The beginning is so far away it all seems like a dream. The only reason I know it happened is because of how she tore my heart out. I don't know if I'll ever be the same again. Hell, I know I won't.

I can tell you don't believe me. I can see it in your eyes, but that's just because it hasn't happened to you, yet. That's why I'm talking to you. Maybe I can prevent it from doing this to you, when it does happen.

Here, don't look at me like that. I may sound crazy, but listen to my story and give it a chance. You haven't finished your drink yet, there's still time ...

The late afternoon was smokey, like it gets in Autumn. The sky was warm blue while the earth below was covered with fiery leaves and the first brisk breath of winter's chill.

I was between classes. I'm a teacher of English up at the University of Utah ... an assistant professor, lucky to have the job.

What they call my office was just too cloying for me to stay there. I was tired of hitting both walls with my elbows every time I turned the page of what I was reading.

"Hi ... Mind if I sit?"

"No, not at all ... I don't recognize you, are you in one of my classes?" 

She looked taller from where I was sitting on the old concrete bench nestled between two elm trees. Her fine, angel gold hair stroked her throat as she laughed and shook her head no.

"You just looked so poetic sitting here, I had to come over and see if you were real ... My name's Jennifer ... Jennifer Warren." 

She stuck out her hand from between the pile of books she was carrying, managing to tumble them all between our feet in the process.

"Oh! Ouch!" Our heads bumped as we each knelt to gather them up

"You didn't have to do that ..." She said, while rubbing her forehead.

"I'm sorry," I stammered. I usually wasn't at a loss for words. Somehow things weren't happening as they usually did. Laughter tumbled out into the air and disappeared into silence. I felt dizzy and wasn't sure it was because of the bump.

"Oh, you're, real all right ..." She grinned, "Are you O.K.? Here, let me ..." 

The books settled back down against each other on the ground as she stepped up close and slid cold hands against my brow. 

"Just be quiet ... I'm good at this ..." She whispered, massaging my temples with steady motion, as pure as the beat of a metronome.

I moved my legs apart as she pressed between them to settle into the massage. Her sweater and skirt smelled like the musky scent of the leaves coloring the world around us. "My name is Dan, Dan Wright."

She slipped fingers down to my lips and pressed my words silent. "Hush ... or this won't help ..." The words of the passing students slipped away as her hands continued to play against my head and then down to my shoulders ... feeling the tension and easing it away.

"There ...."

"You're done?"

"Yes ... for now ..."

"May I sit?"
"Of course ..." I looked up at her face, glowing with the sun behind it as she slipped down onto my knee ... her arms sliding from around my neck to grasp my hand.

"I lied." She said simply.

"I've been watching you for weeks. I even know where you live, what you eat at the cafeteria, what you wear everyday. You seemed like, today, you were waiting for me. ..."

The waitress stopped in front of me waiting for me to order. "Same as his," I murmured. "You want another one? I'll pay." I wanted him to stay. Slow seconds dangled in front of eternity before he answered.

"Ok...yeah, sure. But only one, you hear?"

"Great. I really appreciate it." I could feel the relief wash through me.
"She's talked about me?" I asked. The pain in my throat was raw. I swallowed some of my drink and felt my hand quake as it settled the glass back down onto the table between us.

"Yeah, she has. She's afraid of you. She said you were nice at first..."

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Revised: March 6, 1999
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