Wandering Cranes’ Challenge

Character: Lydia
Setting: Parking garage
Object: Rose
Emotion: Hope

Tonight was supposed to be date night. So, of course Lydia’s boss had asked her to work late. She was frustrated. She was annoyed. And she was in the office alone.

In reality, Lydia couldn’t understand why she, and all her coworkers for that matter, weren’t asked to work from home at this point. So many of her friends were posting images of being quarantined at home with their out-of-school kids. They were managing to put in a full-ish work day from home while making sure the children were keeping up with their studies. At least, as well as they could without the aid of a classroom.

But Lydia’s office kept on chugging along. Thankfully, her kids were old enough to take care of themselves while she and her husband continued going to work each day. Thankfully, her kids were also trustworthy enough to actually keep up with the homework that had been provided for the quarantine, rather than spending eight hours playing Fortnite.

Looking out the window, Lydia noticed how dark it was getting. Glancing down from the 14th floor of her office building, the sidewalks were nearly deserted. The city had become a ghost town, with so many opting to stay inside. “Social Distancing” was shaping up to be the phrase of the year. When she returned her focus to her computer, she saw that it was nearly 8:00.

“That’s it…” she sighed as she began to shut down the system. Lydia stuck around long enough to get as much done as she felt she could alone. A handful of others only cared enough to stay roughly half an hour after the supervisor left for the day. After all, if the lady in charge couldn’t be bothered to work late, why should they?

But Lydia prided herself on her work ethic. Her only fear was that, tomorrow, the entire team would get credit for the things she did on her own. That’s just how it seems to be. She shook her head, closing her laptop and turning off the desk lamp.

Walking toward the elevator, she pulled out her phone to text John, letting him know she would be home soon. She didn’t wait for a response, dropping her phone in her bag and pushing the down button.

Lydia made her way through the lobby, saying good night to Albert, this evening’s guard on duty, then crossed the street to the parking garage. A week ago, crossing this street would have meant waiting for traffic to come to a standstill or dodging cars coming from both directions. Traffic really wasn’t a problem tonight.

Usually, her car was easily lost among a fleet of others on the second floor of the parking garage. Tonight, hers was the only one that was still in sight. And as she approached her Honda, she noticed something odd. Something was out of place.

On the hood, she found a single long-stem rose and an envelope with her name on it. She smiled as she picked both up, knowing the handwriting was that of her husband. Lydia smelled the rose and opened the letter from John.

Don’t drive home. Drive up to the roof instead.

She laughed to herself a little, then followed her husband’s simple directions. Arriving on the roof, her headlights illuminated a table for two, John, and a stranger who looked suspiciously like a waiter.

“What is all this?” Lydia asked as she exited her vehicle.

John walked toward her and revealed another rose he was holding behind his back. “Date night. Or did you forget?”

“You know I didn’t forget. But the restaurant closed down because of the virus. And then I had to work late.”

Her husband scoffed, “Like that could stop date night!”

John held out his arm, which Lydia happily took, and he escorted her to her seat at the table. As she had thought, the stranger joining them was a waiter who placed salads in front of them as soon as they sat.

“How did you pull this off?” Lydia asked.

“A magician never reveals his secrets.”

“Please, you’ve been using that line since college.”

John just smiled and took a bite. Lydia shook her head and followed suit.

For the next hour, the married couple enjoyed a delicious meal and genuine conversation that had nothing to do with work or what the kids were getting into or how long this pandemic would have them on the ropes. For the first time in days, Lydia felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. She was amazed at how good for her a little bit of time away from reality could be.

John thanked and tipped their waiter then turned back to his wife. “Race you home?”

“Shouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as how we’ll be two-thirds of the entire driving population.”

Confused, John asked, “Two-thirds?”

Lydia pointed to the waiter and John laughed. She leaned up and kissed her husband before pulling away and saying, “You’re on,” and taking off toward her car. Well, taking off as fast as her high heels would allow her to run.

Driving down the ramp and through the garage, Lydia couldn’t help but smile. For the first time in a long time, in spite of the stress of her job, in spite of her kids spending most of their days unsupervised, in spite of this illness that was keeping people locked away inside their homes, she felt a genuine sense that things were about to get better.

Thanks to Wandering Cranes for this week’s challenge! Head over to their blog and check out what they’re up to! I’m still planning to keep this up each week, so if you haven’t submitted your challenge, you can still click here and leave something for me in the comments.

Feature Photo by Jordan Graff on Unsplash

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