Other People’s Problems – Guilt

Aside from the occasional social gathering, Tanya always wore workout clothes from that trendy designer label. She never actually exercised, did not attend yoga, had given up on dance fit, and only pretended to jog in the park. They were comfortable, and allowed her to demonstrate that she’d regained her trim figure despite being the mother of two preschoolers.

The day Jared approached her it was a bit chilly, autumn was on its way, and Tanya was dreading the confinement that winter would bring. Her jogging sessions, every night after dinner and midmorning on the weekends, were planned to coincide with the time when her children were most agitated. Her departure left their father to deal with the weekday bedtime/bath routines, or playtime on the weekend. She stretched her absence to at least an hour by explaining that warm-up and cool-down routines extended the 40 minute run. Her supportive partner never questioned the situation.

When Jared approached, Tanya was on her favourite park bench reading a novel on her phone. The most she did in terms of exercise was walk from her car to the bench. She loved sitting in the sun, watching the world go by, and had noticed Jared on other occasions.

He was tall and slim with thick dark hair and a square jawline. He wore jeans that seemed to be faded by wear, rather than purchased that way. On this particular day he had the hood up on his black windbreaker and his hands were shovel deep into his jean pockets.

“Mind if I sit?” he asked.

Tanya was startled when he spoke. She had not heard him approach. “Sure. There’s plenty of room,” she replied, gesturing to her left.

Instead of sitting at the end of the bench, of even half way between Tanya and the end, Jared sat so close his thigh almost touched hers. “I’ve noticed you here before. I’m Jared.” He held out his hand.

“Oh, hi. I’m Tanya. Nice to meet you.” She took his hand, which was warm from being in his pocket.

“I have something you might be interested in.” Jared reached in his pocket and pulled out a small velvet drawstring pouch. He opened it and poured two purple earrings into the palm of his hand. “Here.” He lifted Tanya’s wrist and dumped the earrings into her palm.

“Ah. Um. Very nice. Great colour.”           

“It’s amethyst,” said Jared.

“Yes, I know. It’s my birthstone, for February.”

“Well, what do you know?” Jared smiled and seemed to lean closer. “These really are meant for you then, aren’t they?”

“Oh… I don’t think so.” Tanya tried to hand the earrings back but Jared’s right arm was on the bench behind her and his left hand was back in his pocket. “I’m just here to get some exercise.”

“Exercise?” Jared’s laugh was soft and kind. “I’ve noticed that you’re glued to this bench.”

Tanya put her head down and fiddled with the earrings. The stones were multifaceted and caught the light beautifully. “Well, I guess exercise is not exactly the right word. It’s more of a break really. You know, fresh air, a bit of quiet time.”

“Sure, I get it.” Jared relaxed and stretched his legs, but his arm remained extended along the bench back.

Tanya thought she felt Jared’s hand brush against her shoulder blade. “I have two kids; three and eighteen months.” She rubbed her thumb against the stone’s surface. “It helps to have a bit of time away from them.”

“You have the right to look after yourself. You can’t be a good mom to those kids if you burn yourself out.”

Tanya turned to look at Jared. Prominent cheekbones gave sharpness to his face, while full lips stretched into a smile that revealed perfectly aligned white teeth.

“So, Tanya, who were you going to be, before you had kids?”

Tanya smirked at his choice of wording. It did sometimes feel like she had become someone else. “Oh, well, I have a university degree in Fine Art. I wanted to be a painter. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“Realist? Abstract? Expressionist? Jared raised one eyebrow. His smile was drawn off kilter revealing a dimple.

“Portraits. I love faces.” Tanya closed her hand around the earrings.

“Vermeer or Picasso?”

“Oh, Vermeer, for sure. I love the way he captured light, the eyes that revealed so much about the character. And Rubens, such rich colours, and eyes that seem to follow you.” Tanya realized that she had shifted her hips so her body faced Jared. His eyes were brown, with huge pupils.”

“I’m a fan of Edvard Munch myself. A little looser on the strokes and some unexpected use of colour.” Jared’s left foot began bouncing. He needed to close this deal. “It’s nice to meet a fellow art lover, Tanya. I’m glad you have an appreciation of beautiful things.”

“Yeah. I never get to talk about art anymore.”

“That’s a shame. Now, back to those beautiful earrings. I think destiny brought us together today. Those earrings are definitely meant to be yours. What do you say to… $30.00. A special deal for a fellow art lover.”

“Oh… ah, sorry. I didn’t realize that you were asking me to buy them.” Tanya tried to hand them back again, but Jared did not move. “You see, I don’t have any money with me.”

“Your purse is in your car. I don’t mind waiting. In fact, I’ll walk over with you.” Jared stood and waited for Tanya to rise.

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Marion Reidel, Upper Canadian Author with a wicked sense of humour. Buy her book, visit her on tour, and also get the tattoo.