A First Love. A Second Chance.
A young widow travels to New York on business a few days before Christmas. She has reluctantly made a date with a lover she hasn’t seen in 20 years, and she is nervous and apprehensive. Twenty years before, she made a difficult decision that has both troubled and haunted her ever since. She knows she’s about to come face-to-face with her past and she’s hoping for some redemption and resolution. She also wonders if she can somehow pick up where she left off 20 years ago and start again.
An exciting chance encounter changes everything. Now, not only will she face the past with hope to rekindle an old romance, but there is the possibility that this chance meeting will bring her love and happiness she never thought possible.
Once again, she will have to choose. She will have to make the right decision. She will have to believe that Christmas miracles can still happen.
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the married writing team Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse grew up near the sea, roaming the beaches, reading and writing stories and poetry, receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University. She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress and a speech-language pathologist. She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed five novels: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Christmas for Juliet, Wanting Rita, Christmas Ever After, The Christmas Town and The Christmas Diary.
At the center of the bridge, Olivia stopped, hearing a saxophone in the distance, the musician softly playing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It was a lovely moment, as snow fell and a gentle, cool wind caressed her face. She leaned against the railing, smiling with pleasure, taking in the railing features, its gothic cinquefoils and interlaced spiral designs. She was reminded of the many sketches she’d drawn of them and of the surrounding paths, the lights, the trees and the skyline over Fifth Avenue that rises up from the trees.
All the anxiety suddenly vanished, just like it always had when she’d visited the bridge. She felt calm and hopeful. She felt revitalized. It was wonderful to feel that girlish freedom again—living life unplanned and uncalculated in the timeless contentment of the bridge, her bridge.
She remained for a long time, and although she was cold and hungry, she didn’t want to leave. She hadn’t felt so light and peaceful in years.
She was vaguely aware of someone approaching from the opposite side of the bridge, and wandering toward her. There were plenty of people around, so Olivia wasn’t concerned for her safety. The figure stopped only a few feet away from her. From the corner of her eye, she saw it was a man. He leaned against the railing, gazing out.
They stood there for a time, watching, listening to the music, before he spoke.
“I love it here,” he said, almost at a whisper.
Olivia didn’t respond. She glanced at him with a certain suspicion and reluctance. To her surprise, he was quite good looking. He was in his middle 30’s, hatless, with plenty of brownish hair. He was wearing an expensive Italian leather jacket, blue jeans and white silk scarf.
She lowered her gaze when he continued.
“I always feel better after I’ve been here. Always feel easy. Whenever I have to make a big decision, I either come here or I picture myself here.”
Olivia didn’t respond, aware he wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were fixed on the water and the distant glow of the Fifth Avenue skyline.
Olivia gathered her nerve, but she didn’t look at him. “And do you have a big decision to make?”
He turned, and it seemed to Olivia that he was seeing her for the first time. His eyes cleared and he focused on her. It occurred to her that he may have been talking to himself, completely oblivious to her.
He pocketed his bare hands, nodding. “Yeah… Yeah, I do have a big decision to make.”
Olivia studied him. He was tall and well-built, with a pleasant, handsome face. It was a “boy back home” kind of handsome, appealing and trusting.
He shrugged, loosely. “So here I am, at my crossroads, as my mother used to say.”
They stood, staring, listening to the sax player. “Good music. He really puts you in the Christmas spirit, doesn’t he?” the man asked.
Olivia turned toward the sound and smiled. “Yes, it’s quite lovely.”
“You must be from the South. Georgia…maybe Tennessee?”
“I like Kentucky. I’ve been there. Been to Louisville and Lexington.”
Olivia just nodded, not looking at him directly.
“What about you?” the man asked. “Do you have a decision to make or are you just sightseeing?”
Olivia looked down, her mouth forming a half smile. “I made my decision a long time ago.”
“Oh, I see. And was it a good decision?” he asked, quietly.
Olivia shrugged. “Yes and no, like most things in life.”
“Yeah… like most things, I guess. There’s some good and some bad in everything, so you just have to go for it and hope there’s more good than bad.”
Olivia breathed in, feeling the cold seep into her bones. “It’s cold tonight.”
“Yeah. Going down to 25 degrees, or so the weather people say.”
And then there was an awkward silence. Each wanted to say something to keep the conversation going, but the words wouldn’t come.
“Well… I should go,” Olivia said, but she hesitated. She didn’t want to go.
He studied her, and his gaze was direct before it drifted away. “Maybe you could give me some advice.”
Olivia blinked. “Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m not so good at taking my own advice.”
He grinned. “I doubt that. You seem like the well-grounded type. The steady, confident type. Like you don’t need many warm-up pitches in the bullpen before you go to the mound to throw three strikes and win the game.”
Olivia laughed a little, and she saw it pleased him. She’d never heard that line before. “Well… I don’t really know what to say. I was never very good in sports. I was all legs and tangled feet.”
“My name’s Brett, by the way. I hope I’m not bothering you. It’s just that…I don’t know you from anybody, and I could use an-anybody-I-don’t-know right now…well to help me with this thing—with my decision.”
Olivia wasn’t sure about Brett. He seemed genuine, but maybe he was a practiced New York manipulator.
“I don’t think I’m the one to help you,” she said. “I’m sure you have good friends who know you and could give you good advice.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of good friends, that’s for sure but…” he paused, sighing. “Well, let me put it this way, they see me a certain way and it’s hard for them to see me any other way. Do you know what I mean?”
Olivia looked up slowly, tilting her head, as if trying to read him better. “I’m not sure I do know what you mean.”
“I could explain it to you,” he said.
“I really should go,” Olivia said, ducking her head and moving the strap of her purse from one shoulder to the other. “It was nice meeting you, Brett, and I hope you make the right choice. I hope you find the right person to give you advice.”
She turned and started to walk away.
He called after her. “Did you make the right choice a long time ago?”
She stopped, abruptly. When she turned back to him, she thought he looked distressed.
He moved toward her and then stopped. “Can I buy you a drink?” he asked, hope in his eyes. “Or Coffee? Food? A hotdog? I have this strong gut feeling you could really help me with my decision.”
Olivia considered his offer.