Amber and scarlet leaves danced on the ground, stirred up by a Southern wind. I pulled my cardigan closer around me. Always a woman who dressed for the season, I had a large collection of cardigans specially selected for the fall. But that’s not exactly important. I took a deep breath. The fresh, autumn scent had a calming effect.
It was a nice day to take a walk in the park.
A man on the path walked quite a ways in front of me, slowly heading towards me. Studying him for a moment, I noticed he looked nervous. I frowned, glancing away, then looked back at him. Suddenly his eyes met mine, and he smiled.
Oh, shoot. Do I know him? Who is he?
He came towards me. Even more surprising, he quickly pulled me into a hug. I was speechless. He was warm, and he smelt good, but I still had no idea who he was.
“Pretend you know me,” he whispered in my ear.
“What? Do I — Who are you?”
“Just do it.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding my head and managing a smile.
He finally released me from the hug and placed my arm through his.
I chewed on my lip. Was he some sort of kidnapper? A serial killer? Was he going to shove me in a car and hurt me?
I stopped walking, gently pulling on his arm, all the while keeping a smile on my face. “Who are you?”
“You could get in a lot of trouble if I told you.”
“I could also get in a lot of trouble if you don’t tell me. How do I know I can trust you? And if I can’t trust you, why should I help you?”
He smiled, leaning towards me, keeping up a good act. “I’m a surveillance operative. I work for the government.” He slipped an ID into my hand. I studied it. It looked real enough. He took it back.
“You’re a spy,” I said. “Wha—why do you need my help?”
“I don’t want to get caught. I need to blend in. You were the, um, best person I could find. I’m sorry.”
“Are you going to help me or not?” His grin could melt the North Pole, but his voice pressed for a quick answer.
I nodded. “What do you want me to do?”
“Just keep walking and talking. We’re friends, okay?”
We continued on, dry leaves crunching beneath our boots.
“So, what’s your name, friend?” the man asked.
“It’s nice to meet you, Danielle.”
“You can call me Dee if you’d like. Um, what’s your name?”
“Maybe just call me George.”
“Well, if you’re going to fake your name, the least I can do is give you a better alias than that. What about Derek?”
I smiled, satisfied. We walked down the sidewalk, coming back into the city, leaving behind the beauty of the park. I had really wanted to enjoy the colours – but things were definitely not going as planned.
We walked on for several blocks, smiling and making small talk. But soon, I started to feel a new mood in Derek. His body was tense.
I chuckled nervously. “What’s wrong?”
Without warning, he gripped onto my arm and pulled me into an alleyway. It was dark and stinky.
“Shh,” he said, covering my mouth with his hand. He pressed my back against the wall, holding me tight around my waist. It was as though he wanted to become one with the wall — sandwiching me in between. His eyes flickered towards the street, watching for something to appear in the distance.
I struggled a little. He ignored me, his eyes still glued on the street. He was too strong to fight with, and too much of a stranger to trust. I shook my head, trying to get loose from his hand.
Finally, his hand slipped from my mouth. His body sagged against mine. “They’re gone.”
“Who?” I snapped, pushing him away.
“The thugs that were following me,” he said simply. “Listen. I’m sorry I got you into all this. It’s definitely not the most professional thing I have done.” He growled underneath his breath. “I’m no rookie, but boy have I made a rookie’s mistake.”
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His eyes shot to mine. “What?”
“You got scared. There’s nothing wrong with that,” I said. “What is wrong though is you keeping me in the dark. I deserve to know what’s going on. After all, it’s no longer just your life on the line.”
“You talk like this happens to you every day.”
“Well, maybe not stuff like this. It’s just that I can think pretty clearly under pressure.”
“Unlike me, it appears.”
“Maybe, but that still doesn’t dismiss the fact that I have no idea what’s going on. Talk to me, or I’m out of here.”
He bit his bottom lip, staring off into the street. A few minutes passed, and he still hadn’t said anything.
I harumphed and started to walk away. With quick ease, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back to stand in front of him.
“Don’t. Are you crazy? That would be dangerous.”
“It wasn’t dangerous until I met you!”
He sighed. “I don’t know how much I can tell you. Above all, this is serious business. You can’t be fooling around.”
Voices sounded from the sidewalk. Oh great. What a suspicious situation this must look like, I thought.
Suddenly, Derek jerked me towards him. His lips collided with mine. His arms wrapped around me. Surprised, I allowed him to kiss me. I sort of knew what he was trying to do – but still, the least he could have done was warn me!
Quiet and quick, the sidewalk strollers passed by. Why disturb the lovers, right? That would just be awkward. But at least they were gone.
Still, Derek continued to kiss me. And, strangely enough, I started kissing him back.
Finally, we pulled away.
He caught his breath. “Ar-are they gone?”
I nodded. “They’ve been gone for a while.”
“That’s, uh, good. I think.” He stepped back a step and cleared his throat. “We’d better get moving again. I need to get back to HQ.”
He offered me his arm. I took it quietly. After a while of silence, Derek actually spoke up.
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“I’m sorry. About, uh, what happened back there.”
“You panicked again. No need to say sorry,” I said. “But, maybe you could warn a girl before you do something like that again? Just some advice for future escapades.”
Derek stopped walking. “Do you seriously think I plan on just grabbing a random woman and doing stuff like this? Believe me when I say this is the first time anything like this, or, uh, that, has happened.”
“I’d hope so. Still, just warn me next time.”
I stared up at him. “You know. When you panic.”
He shook his head. “I won’t panic.”
“So, you won’t kiss me again?”
He nodded. “I promise I won’t. Again, I’m sorry I did it the first time. It violated your personal space, and I overstepped my bounds.”
I lifted my shoulders. “Well, considering everything, I didn’t exactly fight you. And it did provide a good cover.”
Derek stared at me. “Yes. It did. But I promise it won’t happen again.”
Finally, I came right out with it. “You seemed to enjoy it.”
“In all honesty, I did. But that’s beside the point.”
“What’s the point, then?”
“The point is; we don’t know each other. It was just an accidental kiss. And I’m sorry about that.”
“I’m not asking you to apologize.”
I shook my head. “I’m saying I’m just as guilty of enjoying that kiss as you are.”
His brows furrowed as he continued walking. We travelled on in silence for quite a while. I wanted to smack myself. Idiot. You jumped to the wrong conclusion. He doesn’t like you. Who would? You’re just an awkward bookworm!
Suddenly, Derek stopped walking. He turned towards me, rubbing his chin. Then he smiled. “I actually think I’m panicking. Imagine that.” His arms slipped around me, drawing me in until our lips met. After a few slow seconds of that, he drew back and looked me in the eyes.
“Satisfied?” I wondered.
He shook his head. “It might take a lifetime to satisfy this craving. But, I’m afraid there are more pressing matters at hand at the moment. We’re still in danger of being recognized, remember?”
“How could I forget? But, you’re the spy. Tell me you have a plan.”
“Dee, you’ve seen first-hand that I don’t have a plan at all.”
“But you’ve made up for it by being cute.”
He shook his head. “Now, don’t distract me.”
I smiled. “I’ll do my best not to. You have my word.”
But Derek didn’t hear me. He was looking across the street. Then he suddenly grabbed my hand. “Run!”
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Categories: Short Stories