If You Go Out in the Woods Today…

Jamie’s resolution for New Years was no resolutions. Not one. Zip and zilch.

No promises to lose ten pounds, not another chic haircut, no drinks with fascinating friends, no passionate vows to exercise five…no three…maybe once a week…if there was time.

But above all, no wholesale restructuring of herself to fit someone else’s ideals. No hiding who she was. Maybe her resolve, Jamie decided wryly, was to be her unfashionable, quirky, satisfying self.

If her brief romance with Rob had taught her anything, it was that acting like someone she wasn’t hadn’t been any fun after all. In fact being one of the “in” crowd on Rob’s arm was a fast slide to gloom and a much smaller bank account.

She had wanted to try the excitement of being on the social fast track and so when Rob began to flirt with her, she had intentionally pushed away all her awkward, goofy ideas, and shimmied into the intoxicating world of cool. He had been her tour guide until he danced off with her friend, Deb—but not before he’d convinced Jamie to run up credit card charges for new clothes, good wine and fine food. Briefly fun, ultimately expensive.

A learning experience, she decided, with a shake of her head.

Resolve (not resolution) firmly in place, Jamie wrapped her scarf tightly around her throat, tucked in the ends, and picked up the envelope that needed to get to the lawyer’s office immediately. Couriers and special delivery options were possible, but it was only five blocks and she felt like a walk in the brisk air of the new year.

Along her route, couples sipped lattes in the coffee shop, held hands browsing the post-Christmas sales, and even shrieked and laughed in the park. The few guys (who she was NOT checking out) were hurrying along, clearly absorbed in business or errands, with nary a glance to spare for a slightly awkward woman bundled up against the cold.

Her decision to eschew all but the most practical was firm, but Jamie couldn’t help a small sigh escaping her lips. Was she so ordinary that she was doomed to never find a soul mate?

Her steps slowed as she passed the park. It had been her only taste of nature as a kid growing up in a financially chaotic home. Now (once she had repaired her bank balance) she could afford to travel to more exotic locales, but that tiny, bare-leafed woods were still magical.

On impulse, Jamie veered off the sidewalk and down the path towards the stand of trees. Her steps faltered when she spotted a man in a red jacket busy with a hamper of some kind, right in her favorite spot.

She froze.

He had his back to her and was absorbed with unpacking his box. He pulled out his phone and glanced at it. Fighting off a quick jab of envy, Jamie saw he was clearly waiting for someone special.

Glancing only once over her shoulder, Jamie retraced her steps back to the practical sidewalk and made her way directly to the lawyer’s office. It took about twenty minutes to get the partner’s ear and explain the envelope’s urgency.

Then, her mood a little dulled by the piling grey cotton clouds, she walked slowly back towards her office.

At the edge of the park, Jamie hesitated again. Surely, she could walk through the trees – savor that emotional lift that being around nature always gave her. She wouldn’t disturb the man and whoever he had been waiting for. She just needed to feel that childhood magic wrap her up again.

Chin high, Jamie stepped onto the winding path. Sound became muted as fat flakes floated down. And again, as the snow drifted and the branches lifted toward the sky, it was her enchanted place, the one where her dreams could be acted out with her throng of imaginary friends. The one where she could escape from the troubles of her childhood and be utterly herself.

So caught up in her memories, the world so muffled by the snow, she nearly tripped over the man before she noticed him.

“Oh no…sorry,” she stammered. She recognized him then – a new business rep she had met at the big office holiday party.

His look of happy expectation faded, then a pleasant smile was forced onto his face. “No problem…I thought you were…” He looked down the path glumly while Jamie examined his set-up – a red cloth laid over the snow, two large mugs, a steaming teapot, napkins, and a fine china plate piled with goodies.

He looked back at Jamie and his face flushed.

She grinned. “A tea party in the woods!” Her eyes met his dark brown ones. “Whoever she is, she is one lucky woman.”

He sighed. “Yeah, about that. She didn’t show.”

“Seriously? So…can I take back lucky and change it to having no clue about what she’s missing?”
He laughed and gestured around. “She’s busy…and has been saying that we don’t have the same outlook on life. Guess she’s right. I thought this would be fun.”

“I think so, definitely.” Jamie stepped closer. The steam from the pot identified it as hot chocolate…so much better on a winter’s day than tea or coffee. She looked up again at his ordinary, pleasant face. “Want some unexpected company? I’m Jamie. We met at the office.”

“Teddy. I remember.” He held out his hand, deep brown eyes gleaming like the very best chocolate. “Could I offer you a warm drink on a cold day?”

They sat on the blanket, laughing and talking until the afternoon sun slipped away. By the time Jamie remembered she was supposed to be at work, they’d exchanged cell numbers.

As she settled at her desk, her phone buzzed a text. “How do you feel about Sunday afternoon at the zoo? Too corny?”

“Not corny at all!” She smiled and hit send.