Wednesday, November 30, 2016


"And what, exactly, is out of bounds," Zöe asked?

"You'll see," Ryan said.

The car steered around the hotel grounds stopping by a discreet door in the shadows.

"And we're here," Ryan said.

They got out of the car, and walked through the discreet door in the shadows.

The door opened into a small room.  There was an open fire in the corner, a wall of wine bottles, a magnificent view of the lighted slopes and a small table in the center of the room with two chairs.

"This is 'Out of Bounds' ," Ryan said, "a private room operated by the Flame restaurant.  Invitation only and I happen to have a standing invitation."

Zöe was delighted but she said to Ryan, "Well, Mister Ryan, if you think this is going to impress me you're going to have to try a bit harder."

Ryan smiled, nodded to the concierge  who excused himself through a panel that apparently was a door.  They were alone.  Ryan walked to the sideboard and picked up
 two filled champagne glasses, handing one to Zöe.

"What should we drink to," Zöe asked.

Ryan paused, looked at Zöe,  then said, "The path."

"And what is the path," Zöe asked?

"The path is the way forward.  For you and me.  I have to tell you, Zöe, that I love you.  I love you for who you are not what you are.  I love your mind, your laugh, your insight and everything that is Zöe."

Ryan continued.  "We have never dated.  We have never been intimate.  We've never even held hands. But I love you.  I love the way you think and talk and laugh and look at me.  I fell in love with you.  The thing that is you, whatever that is.  I think about you all the time, every waking moment and sometimes when I sleep.  I don't know life without you."

"So, there," Ryan swirled his champagne, "that's it in a nutty shell."

Zöe checked her impuse to launch herself at Ryan and kiss him to the floor.  Instead she asked, "Why me?  Of all the women who could and would throw themselves at a billionaire, me excluded, why me?"

Ryan put down his champagne glass and said, "Zöe, take my hands, please."  Zöe put down her glass and reached out.  Ryan's hands were warm and maybe trembling just a little.  She grasped more tightly.

Ryan looked at Zöe, deeply.  Zöe looked into his eyes and began to fall.  It was a tipping point.  She looked into Ryan's eyes and saw a depth, and she wanted to see what that depth held.  Zöe leaned forward, tipping over and fell ... fell ... fell ... fell into insanity.

Through the fog Zöe heard Ryan's voice. "It was something you wrote, some time ago.  We were talking about our lives and our futures and you said, and I remember this exactly,

"It's obvious
we love
each other."

"Six words.  But, you didn't say 'I love you' or 'You love me."  No, you said it's obvious meaning clear that we, meaning you and me, love each other.  Meaning you love me and I love you and it's obvious."

"I held on to those six words.  They were important to me.  Words of affirmation.

To be continued ..,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Out of Bounds

Zöe usually avoided the Four Seasons hotel.  Too pretentious for her and they charged extra for WiFi.   That annoyed Zöe.  Sure, the company was picking up the tab but, even so, it just seemed wrong.

"I get free WiFi at Starbucks," she thought.  "Why not at a fancy dancy hotel?"

Zöe checked her hair in the mirror by the door as she left the room.  After the door clicked behind her she thought, "Room key!"  But, it was in her clutch.  "I'm losing it.  My mind, not the room key."

Pausing outside of the Bighorn Room Zöe mused if she should walk in sheepishly.  She allowed herself only a smirk rather than the full-on guffaw that bon mot deserved, put on her Corporate Gladiator Look and strode in making a beeline to the bar.

"Chardonnay, please," she said out loud to the server.  And, to herself, "Make that a bottle and do you have a twin brother?"

Ugh, she couldn't wait for this week to be over.  The expo schedule was packed.  She shuttled between presentations, keynotes and announcements; drinking too much coffee, eating too little food.  She was exhausted.   Zöe imagined all the people who came to Vail for a vacation, a holiday, for fun and here she was working herself to the bone.  Oh, just to slow down for a while.

Suddenly Zöe had a flash of insight.  Why hadn't she thought of this before?  She could change her flight, find a cheaper place to stay and take a couple or three days of vacation right here in Vail.  "You're a genius," she thought!

Zöe was so preoccupied with her travel changes that she over-tasked her multi-tasking abilities.  While pulling out her smartphone from her clutch and holding her wine in the other hand she turned, looked down and took a step forward.

A surprising chain of events happened next.

First, Zöe bumped into something or someone.  It turns out it was a someone who had half a glass of chardonnay dumped on him.  Startled, Zöe took a step backwards, stumbled, nearly caught herself on the edge of the bar, but not quite nearly enough, and ended up in an ungraceful heap on the floor, the remainder of the chardonnay pouring down her front.  Through all of this, though, Zöe's main thought was "Don't break your phone!"

"Here, let me help you up."  A hand was extended.  Zöe grabbed it and lurched to her feet still holding the empty wine glass, her clutch and her phone.

"Are you OK," Coffee Guy asked in a tone that struck Zöe as indifferent.

"Yeah, Aaron, I'm fine.  Just a little damp."  Zöe detected a slight smirk play across Coffee Guy's face as she said "damp" but out of habit, experience or just boredom waved it away.  Just another catcall, nothing to see here folks.

"We should probably get some soda water on that before it leaves a stain."  Coffee Guy was looking around, not so much for soda water but for the nearest exit and a way back to his room.  Zöe imagined the gears spinning furiously in his mind.

"No, that's OK," she said, "it's an old blouse, and white wine and it will come out in the wash."

Coffee Guy was undeterred, "Please, I insist. It's the least I could do for getting in your way like that. I should have been more careful."

"Ah, the old Guilt Trip Ploy.  All my fault, eh?  Where have I heard that before," Zöe thought.  The rest of the movie played out in her head.  Oh, let's get you out of those wet things.  Here's a robe.  Perhaps we should order room service while that dries. Champagne?

But, before Coffee Guy could set the stage a voice cut in.

"Zöe, I'm glad I found you.  Did you get my text? If we don't leave now we'll be late and it would be bad form to keep Gordon waiting."

Zöe turned to see Ryan who was trying to look impatient but it came out more earnest.

"Oh, yes, I did.  Sorry I didn't reply.  I got distracted.  You know me - look, a squirrel!"  Zöe realized she was babbling nervously.

Pulling herself together she said, "Good grief, where are my manners.  Aaron, this is Ryan.  Ryan, Aaron."

Aaron and Ryan regarded each other but nothing more was had of it.

Stuffing her phone into her clutch and setting her glass on the bar Zöe said, "Aaron, my apologies but I have to run, even soaked in chardonnay.  Ryan's team asked me to, uh, debrief them, yeah, that's the ticket,  a debriefing of our, uh, offerings and, uh, stuff.  Anyway, I'm late.  Thanks for the lift."

Coffee Guy looked blank.

"The lift," Zöe continued, "You know, the lift.  Vail?  Lifts? The floor thing."

"Oh, yeah," Coffee guy mumbled unconvincingly, "yeah, any time.  Have fun."  During this exchange Coffee Guy wasn't looking at Zöe, rather at a young consultant or possibly an intern, across the room.

"Later."  Coffee Guy moved off to the hunt.

Zöe grabbed Ryan by the arm and pulled him towards the door.  "Where have you been?" she hissed. "All week, where have you been?  I kept looking and looking but no Ryan."

"Well," Ryan said, "I told you I'd be here when services were needed and it appears I arrived just in time."

Zöe softened and laughed, "You sound like James Bond. Seriously, though, where have you been?"

"I'll tell you all about it later, but the short story is that we were bidding on a contract and I was locked away, literally, for most of this week.  Very controlled communication.  That's over, and now we have to go exploring."

Zöe remembered the Calvin and Hobbes reference.  "Where are we going?" she asked.

"Out of bounds," Ryan said.  And with that they stepped into the cold, winter mountain air where a very large car was waiting by the curb.  The chauffeur held the door open as they got in.

"And what is, exactly, 'out of bounds'?" Zöe asked.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ryan 7

Dear Zöe,

I would say that the cat's out of the bag but I'm afraid there are many bags, many cats and they're all out!

Some of my favorite books, plays and movies are about people who miss each other by just this much, driving the reader or audience crazy until they meet in the end.

Zöe, I don't want this to be the end for us, but a beginning.  Not like starting over, "Hi, I'm Ryan.  Hi, I'm Zöe." because you can't go back in time and even if you did, you'd just end up in the same place.  You have to do something new, deliberately, consciously.

By a new beginning I think about the last Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where it just snowed and they're at the top of this hill on the toboggan.  Calvin says something like, "Look at all that snow.  Like the old world is totally new.  A giant blank sheet of paper to draw on.  Come on, Hobbes, let's go exploring."  And they disappear down the hill.

That's what I mean by a beginning.  Put what we've done, said and written into a box, and set off down that hill.

Speaking of which, I assume you'll be attending Vail Expo.  I think I'll wander up that way, myself, if only to offer my services running interference with Coffee Guy.

Hope to see you there.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Zöe 6


I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner but I've been busy with stuff and you know.

That's not true.  That's the sort of thing I would just send out to blow somebody off.  No, I've been thinking of what to do.  What to do about you, and me, and life, and the universe.

So, I think the first thing I need to do, and this is a big deal for me, really out of my comfort zone, is to send you the emails I wrote and deleted.

You are so brave, Ryan, and over the past couple of days that's something that I really love about you.  You step in at the right time with the right words and the right everything.  I'm not sure I'm actually that person you think I am.

My life hasn't exactly been rough.  I've had my ups and downs.  I was a cheerleader in high school and college, entertaining the crowds and enjoying my status as a "cheerleader," but it didn't lead me to anything worthwhile in the long run.  I fell into computing my Junior year and never looked back.  There weren't many female programmers back in the day and moving between companies was easy for me.  I finally decided that programming would eventually end as something I could do, competing against a younger and more talented bunch of people coming up behind me, so I jumped to account management, and here I am.  It's not a great career but it pays the bills.

That's me in a nutty shell.  Anyway, needless to say, but I will, I haven't been too successful in the relationship department.  Work always comes first and "the guy" second.  Every "the guy" I've met hasn't taken too well to that, except for Foxie who only judges me by pets, food and walkies.

Ryan, I found you to be sort of a rock, an anchor in my life of swirling stuff.  You are the one thing I could count on for having my back, giving me support, making me laugh in the face of disaster and just being there.

I want that to continue, but we have to talk.  In light of your recent "revelations" we really need to talk!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Start 3

Zöe read Ryan's message again, taking in each word before diving into the attachment he sent.

Ryan wrote:

"I have to confess I've been less than honest with you.  This weekend has made me realize that if we are going to have a path forward, a way forward (if that makes any sense at all) then I have to come clean.

First of all, I don't exactly work for Cop-co.  Yes, I draw a salary of $1 a year, and, yes, I travel around attending conferences, meeting people, gauging the market, but that's not really me.

I don't so much work for Cop-co as am Cop-co.  I own the company 100%.  It's mine.  I hire people to run the day to day operations but in the end Cop-co is me.  Yes, I'm the guy the press calls the "reclusive owner" of a billion dollar software company.

So, there it is.

The usual story is that I'm dismissed as a dweeb or a functionary until people realize I own the company and their attitude changes.  I hate that.  That has been my life.

Until I met you.

Zöe, it's difficult for me to explain what you mean to me, so I'm going to attach all the emails I wrote to you but deleted.  Yes, I did that.  I wrote a bunch of stuff but didn't have the guts, the confidence, to send it to you.  Yeah, and I'm the same guy who cut the Japan deal.  Go figure.

Here it is, starting at the beginning."

Zöe read the attachment starting with:

"I'm sorry I stood you up last night."

Zöe read it all.  Every word.  Twice.

She cried a few times, laughed a few times but at the end she sat there in her apartment, Foxie by her side, and descended into thought.

Thought gave way to fatigue giving way to sleep ... sleep ... sleep ...

Start 2

Zöe arrived at her apartment loaded down with Thanksgiving leftovers her sister thought she would need - potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and jellied cranberry.  Zöe paused by the trash cans and dumped the entire load.  “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” she thought.

Zöe could hear Foxie running in little circles in the apartment as Zöe climbed the stairs.

Zöe had snagged a few pieces of turkey from the “pity tray” her sister fixed.  Foxie didn’t care about family politics and devoured the turkey dog-style - quickly.

Grabbing a beer and settling on the couch Zöe pulled out her phone to check her email.  Lots of stuff from vendors hyping Christmas sales, a bunch of utility companies, this and that and a message from Ryan.

A message from Ryan.

Zöe hesitated.  A message from Ryan.  Subject: Your Thanksgiving!

She didn’t think her Thanksgiving deserved an exclamation point, but that was neither here nor there.

Zöe clicked on the note, read it and closed her laptop.

“Oh, that happened,” she thought.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Start 1

I need to start over, Ryan thought.  Maybe a new job, a new city, new clothes.  I’ll get a dog.  No, can’t handle a dog.  OK, a cat.  No, can’t handle a cat.  Rat?  Yeah, that’s it; a kindred spirit.

Rat it is.

Ryan felt like a rat.  He had sent Zöe a couple of emails but nothing from the heart, just business stuff and a few quips.  Zöe had responded in kind, but added to the end “xxoo.”

Ryan had Googled “xxoo” only to receive a bunch of disturbing references to urban culture sites.  Surely, Zöe was not implicating that … still …

Young Ryan sat on the dock holding his cane pole.  A bobber was in the water and below that a hook holding a poor, unfortunate worm.  Ryan worried about the worm.  “Probably drowned,” he thought.

There was a movement behind him.  Ryan turned to see Aunt Kay standing there in her long summer dress, big floppy hat and a cigarette in a holder.  She always had the cigarette.   She loved them.

“Any luck,” Aunt Kay asked?

“Nope,” Ryan replied, “I’m not much of a fisherman.”

Aunt Kay sat down on a bench, took a pull on her cigarette, blew a smoke ring and looked at Ryan as if making an important decision.

“What’s your problem, son,” she asked?

“Well,” young Ryan said, “I don’t think it’s so much the bait but how I’m using it.  I’ve seen Uncle Bill pull fish out of this pond with the same worm, but I can’t do it.  There must be a special way I could learn to do it right.  I just need to figure it out.”

Aunt Kay took a long pull on her cigarette, eyed Ryan closely and said, “You’re a careful one, aren’t you?  You take care.  You care about things.  Would you take care of me?”

Ryan felt somewhat alarmed at the question, expecting a catastrophe to descend upon him, but he answered, “Of course, Aunt Kay, I’d take care of you!”  He added, “And your things and your house and this dock and the fish and everything!”

Ryan began to cry.  “Everything, Aunt Kay, I’d never let you down.”

Aunt Kay arose from the bench, put her hand on Ryan’s shoulder and said, “I know you will.  I know you will.”

Ten years later Aunt Kay died and left her entire fortune to Ryan, who in a moment of childish openness pledged his fidelity to her and her dock and fish.

Ryan missed Aunt Kay every day, a worthy woman.  He had never fished since.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Zöe, balancing two pies from the Teashop in one hand and her purse and keys in another, struggled to ring the doorbell.  Success!  Nothing crashed.  That might have been a first she had not screwed up something for Thanksgiving.  She heard footsteps, the door opened and light and laughter spilled out into the cold evening.

"Zöe," her sister exclaimed, "hey, everybody, Zöe's here!"

And so it began.  Another "family" tradition or, rather, obligation.  Zöe would make the best of it, laugh, tell jokes, play with the kids and pretend to like everybody but if she had her wish she would rather ...

Rather what?  Zöe didn't know.  Something else.  Something where she felt a real connection, a real heart connection.  Something with Ryan.

"Ryan, now, where did that come from," she thought, momentarily distracted.

Zöe caught her foot on the threshold, stumbled into the foyer; her sister catching the pies as Zöe ended up sprawled on the carpet.

"Always one for the grand entrance," Zöe's sister exclaimed and everybody laughed.  Zöe got up, smiled sheepishly, straightened her clothes and said, "Well, that deserves a drink.  Who's buying?"

Ryan checked the InstantRead thermometer - 170.  OK, another 30 minutes or so, then out to rest.  Everything else looked good:  stuffing, cranberry chutney, sprouts with chestnuts and pies in the lower oven.

Ryan topped up his chardonnay and looked across the den to the TV playing a Harry Potter movie.  Oh, that Emma Watson, he thought, she's going to be one to watch.  He then buried his Emma Watson thoughts for another time.

Presently, dinner was ready.  Ryan arranged two plates with turkey, stuffing, vegetables, his special gravy, filled glasses with vintage chardonnay and sat down at his table. 

Ryan's condo overlooked the sound, boats floating in the marina, lights reflecting off the water, and the city in the distance.  It was quiet, peaceful, tranquil even, and ... alone.

Ryan looked across the table to his guest, raised his glass in a toast and said, "Cheers.  To Thanksgiving."

The guest chair was empty.  The guest's wine glass condensed moisture that ran off into the tablecloth.  Ryan ate quietly, appreciated the view and thought about Zöe.

Aaron Gant, aka Coffee Guy, thrusted hard and quickly, his breaths coming in gasps, sweat running down his face, chest and arms.  He ended with a strong quiver, gasp and collapsed on his partner who, if he had only known, was just getting started.  Coffee Guy rolled off, breathing hard.

"Whew," Coffee Guy said, "I bet you never had that before."

"Not since 8th grade," his partner replied, somewhat annoyed.

"Hey," he said, "I can't help it if your frigid or something.  Maybe you should consider a C to D upgrade.  Might boost your sex thing."

She reached for the tequila, took a long pull and said, "Yeah, right, I'll get on it."

Coffee Guy lit up a cigar, blew a cloud of blue smoke and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, baby."

"Whatever," she replied.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

End 3

Zöe closed her eyes and fell asleep.

There was a bump.  Zöe stirred.  Another bump.  Zöe rolled over.  Bump!  Zöe woke up.

She was on a plane, going somewhere but she couldn’t quite remember where.  Home?  No, not home.

She sensed someone next to her, turned and saw Ryan.  He was looking straight ahead, ignoring her.  Zöe felt like she had to get out of there but she said to Ryan, “We have to talk.”  She heard her own voice say back, “I know.”  Ryan turned and looked out of the window.

Zöe unbuckled her seat belt, got up and moved toward the aft of the plane.  Many people were crowding the aft galley.  She heard a loud voice demanding fresh coffee.

“I paid good money for this flight and the least you could do is provide fresh coffee!”  There was a hubbub of approval.

“I want coffee and I want it fresh and I want it now!”

Zöe made eye contact with the irate passenger.  It was Coffee Guy.  Zöe felt panic set in as he smiled at her and said, “Fresh coffee, is it too much to ask?”

Another bump.  Zöe steadied herself on the backrest of a seat.  Another bump.  And another.

Zöe opened her eyes.  Foxie was on the bed wagging her tail and looking at Zöe with that “Breakfast time!” look.

Drenched in sweat, Zöe got out of bed and said to Foxie, “In a minute, girl, Mommy’s got to take a cold shower, first.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

End 2

Ryan put his seat back and closed his eyes.

Ryan opened his eyes.  Zöe was sitting next to him, staring straight ahead.

Ryan heard himself say, “We need to talk.”

Zöe stared straight ahead.  “I know,” Ryan heard Zöe say in his voice.

Ryan realized he wasn’t wearing a shirt, but wasn’t too bothered by the thought.  “I’ll swing by my locker and get one later.”

He turned toward Zöe but she was gone.  He looked down the aisle and saw her disappear at the aft of the plane.

Ryan heard a “bong-bong” and a voice saying - 

“For our descent to the Atlanta metro area, please stow your electronic items, bring your seats to their upright, locked position and secure your tray tables.  We’ll be landing shortly.”

Ryan looked around.  The plane was a hubbub of landing activity. Zöe was nowhere to be seen.  Ryan checked his watch and realized he’d been asleep for over two hours.

“I never sleep on flights,” Ryan thought,”man, I must have been some tired.”

As the plane touched down Ryan thought, “Almost home, not quite there.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

End 1

Zöe straightened her hair in the mirror.

“Ugh,” she thought, “I look tired.  I need to cut this short and get some sleep.”

Zöe couldn’t remember the last time she had a good sleep, what with work being crazy for the past couple of months and now this long conference.

Poor Ryan, he deserved better having rescued her from Coffee Guy and been, well, just perfect tonight.  No matter, Zöe was fading fast and it was time to go before she turned into a pumpkin.

Zöe got back to the table just as the dessert they were going to share arrived.

“Everything OK,” Ryan asked?

“Not really,” Zöe said mostly truthfully, “I think everything just caught up with me and I’m fading fast.”

Ryan pulled out his phone and cued up the Uber app.

“What are you doing,” Zöe asked?

“Getting you back before you turn into a pumpkin or something.”

Zöe looked startled.  “What, did I say something wrong,” Ryan said?

“No, no,” Zöe said, “it’s just that I was thinking of … never mind, it’s not important.  Yes, I would like to go if you really don’t mind.  It’s been a lovely evening…”  She trailed off.

When they got back to the hotel Ryan reassured himself that Zöe was going to be OK, then asked, “When is your flight out in the morning?”

“Ten o’clock,” Zöe answered, “You?”

“All I could get was a 6 AM flight.  Yeah, I’m out way early.  Tell you what, I’ll call you when you get back, OK?”

Zöe stepped into the elevator, turned and said, “Yeah, that would be nice.”

The doors closed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fly on the Wall 9

Zöe thought about all the things she had to do.  Ryan was right, there was no time.

Zöe’s sister’s wedding was in the summer and there was so much to do.  Dresses to select, a color scheme, the flowers and all that.  Such a commitment in time.  Also, she had her account to deal with and the renewal of their contract for next year.

Speaking of contracts, Zöe and a girl friend had committed to running a 5k race in the Fall.  She’d need a new pair of running shoes and maybe a cute tank top.  Oh, so much to consider.

Zöe thought about her dog, Foxie, who would be missing her at home.   Poor Foxie!  Always left behind at least once a month.  Did she have friends at the kennel?  Zöe never asked.  Probably, she thought.  Foxie never seemed distressed going to the kennel or coming home.  Dogs, who knows?

Then there was her major account.  Another disaster and she would be tossed out on her ear.  She was working this account hard but, frankly, the tide was against her.  She got the vibe that everybody “hated” her and that perception was reinforced by they assigning some dweeb  to insulate her from the real seats of power.  She hoped she could manipulate this guy, but he seemed pretty dim.  Didn’t take hints well; somewhat of an idealist.

Realizing that Ryan was talking about something and looking oh, so serious, she interrupted.

“Excuse me, Ryan, but I need to, uh, powder my nose.”  Zöe left the table and walked toward the ladies room.

Ryan watched her go.  A grain of sand landed on his head.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fly on the Wall 8

Zöe said, “Time is running out?  What does that mean, Ryan?  Are you OK?  You’re not …”

“Terminally ill?” Ryan finished her thought.

“No, I’m not ill.  I’m OK,” Ryan said.

He continued, “It’s just that the notion of time weighs on me.  I’ve been aware of time all my life and how it … interrupts things.”

Zöe looked puzzled.  Ryan loved Zöe’s Puzzled Look.  Her eyes narrowed and she turned her head slightly to the right.  It was similar to her Annoyed Look , narrowed eyes, head down, lips tightened.  Totally different from her Highly Delighted Look, eyes closed to slits, head tilted back, gasping for air, voice squeaking as she inhaled.

Zöe’s many quirks endeared her to Ryan.  He loved them all, but worried that in time they would transmute from adorable to annoying.  He put that thought away.  Another time, another time.

Ryan worried that he worried.  That was a long time ago.  Ryan had managed to convert worry to concern and concern to awareness.  Ryan was aware, very aware.  And one thing Ryan was keenly aware of was time.  He drifted back to the 8th grade.  Rebecca.  His first crush.

Rebecca.  Dark, black hair.  Hazel eyes.  Smart, bright and funny in her own way.  Cracked up at his jokes.  Accepted Ryan for the dorky kid he was.  Rebecca was easy, she was smooth and Ryan couldn’t imagine a world without Rebecca.

Ryan had it all planned out.  He would spend the summer creating this awesome book for Rebecca filled with poems, drawings, flower pressings - just an awesome book he was going to call “Rebecca.”  He was going to present it to her in August on her birthday and confess his crush.

Alas, not.

Ryan’s father announced to the family in the middle of summer that he had been transferred (whatever that meant) and that the family would be moving to another city in July.

Ryan was devastated. He screamed at his parents for ruining his life, threw tantrums, threatened to never eat again and, ultimately, moved to another city in July.

His mother found the Rebecca scrapbook.  “Do you want to pack this,” she asked?

Ryan looked at it.  Dreams drifting as smoke from an extinguished candle.

“No,” he said, “it’s just a school project.  Doesn’t matter.  Toss it.”

He never saw Rebecca again.

Ryan thought he had all the time in the World.  All the time in the Universe.  All the time in Time.  Rebecca would be there, in time, and he would give her the scrapbook, in time, and she would look into his eyes with understanding and be with him through time.

For Ryan, though, time ran out.  The last grain of sand from the cosmic hourglass tumbled out and time was over.  For Ryan, time ran out.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fly on the Wall 7

Ryan looked at Zöe and said, “We are here because we can be surrounded by people we can’t see.  All I see is you.  I hope all you can see is me.  Everything else is an illusion, put on for show.  Everybody here feels the same.  Look around.  All the couples are focused on each other.  They are unaware of anyone around them.”

Zöe checked out the tables near them.  A man was in an earnest conversation with a young, dewy-eyed lady, rapt in attention.  Over there, a lady was delivering what looked like a lecture to a man who wished he could be a thousand miles away.  Every table had its own story.

“What’s ours,” Zöe asked, “what’s our story?”

Ryan contemplated his martini.  Taking a deep breath he said …

“Do you know how much I think about you?  I mean, during the day or whatever, but when you come into my thoughts?”

Zöe wasn’t sure where this conversation was going, so she threw out an answer, flippantly, “I don’t know,” she said, “twice a week?”

Ryan let out a little laugh, “Good one,” he said, “yeah, that was good.  But, back to the question, more like when I’m awake and sometimes when I’m not.  I think about you all the time.”

A moment of silence descended on the table.  Not a bad moment, but a moment.

Zöe stirred her drink.  Ryan finished his.

Finally, Zöe looked up and asked Ryan, “Why?”

Ryan stood on a cliff’s edge looking down.  He couldn’t see the bottom.  It was a descent into blackness, an untold fate, but not pleasant he knew.  A plummet.  Screaming into the depths below.

Ryan looked up at Zöe and said, “Time.  It’s all about time.  And it’s running out.”

Zöe’s heart skipped a beat.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fly on the Wall 6

Over to me, Ryan thought.  OK, well, we need to slow this down and I think I know just the place.

Ryan pulled out his iPhone and brought up the Uber app.  Uber, please save me, he thought.

Ryan selected his transportation and keyed in a destination.  Pressing “commit” he thought, I hope this works.

He turned to Zöe who was looking nervously at the hotel door expecting Aaron to burst through at any moment, and said, “Uber is two minutes out.  We’re OK.”

He paused, then said, “We have sanctuary.  It’s a good thing.”

At that word Zöe turned around, looked at Ryan and said, “Do you really think so?”

Ryan looked at Zöe in silence.  His eyes said, “Trust me.  I’m doing my best.  I don’t know.”

A blue Toyota RAV 4 pulled up to the curb, the passenger window down.  “I’m Mike,” the driver said, “you Ryan?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said, “that’s us.  Nice to meet you, Mike.”

“Same here,” Mike said, “hop in.”

Ryan and Zöe “hopped in,” bucked up and leaned back.

Zöe looked around and said, “I didn’t think sanctuary would be so spacious.”  She smiled at Ryan.

Ryan felt another heart click.  It wouldn’t be the last.

“Yeah,” he said somewhat nervously, “good leg room.”

They were quiet for a while, looking out their respective windows at the lights of the city passing by.  Mike said nothing, but tapped on his GPS display checking directions and traffic.

Soon they arrived at their destination - Écrevisse.

The restaurant was a swanky joint, a place to see and to be seen.  There were tables of “uncles” with “nieces.”

Zöe was concerned.  “Are you sure this is a place we should be?”

Ryan said, “It’s a place to be seen and a place to be invisible.  We could have a table right in the middle and nobody would see us.”

The Maitre d’ escorted them to a table in the center of the restaurant.  Zöe was seated and Ryan chose a chair to her right, close but not opposite.  The waiter arrived on cue and asked if they’d like a drink before dinner.  Ryan said, “Vodka martini, shaken not stirred.”

Zöe responded, “I’ll have what Mr. Bond is having.”

Drinks arrived, Zöe picked up hers and proposed a toast.  “To what,” she proposed.

“To what,” Ryan said.

They clinked their glasses.

Oooohhh, that martini went down smoothly, Zöe thought, I might stay here a while.

Ryan broke through the fog.  “Where did everybody go,” he asked?

Zöe looked around and, sure enough, everyone in the restaurant was a faded, dull gray.  Only she and Ryan were in sharp focus.

“How are we here,” Zöe asked.

Ryan looked at Zöe and said …

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fly on the Wall 5

“Are we still on for tonight?”

Ryan’s words rang in Zöe’s ears.  So much was happening.  Ryan appearing out of nowhere.  Aaron looking befuddled.  Zöe seeking sanctuary.

Sanctuary.  That’s what the Hunchback of Notre Dame shouted in the old film as he swept Esmeralda to safety.  “Sanctuary,” he proclaimed, “Sanctuary!”

Zöe turned to Ryan and at that moment a strange thing happened.  She felt a click in her chest, not like her heart skipping a beat but a click as if something fell into place.

Then she fell.

She didn’t fall down, but she fell all the same.  She fell into Ryan’s eyes, into his heart.  It was falling into insanity.  Zöe had no fear of falling.  She surrendered to the sensation, closed her eyes and let it happen.  She fell and fell and fell.  Is this eternity, she thought?  Suddenly she felt herself being lifted up, held by wings, ephemeral gossamer things of light that held her tight, safe and sure. 

Time stopped.

It was eerily silent.  Zöe tried to speak but nothing happened.  It was like a dream where suddenly you can’t move your feet.  You are frozen.

“Frozen,” Zöe thought, “frozen.”  She paused to let those words sink in.  An eternity later she knew what to do.  Let it go, let it go!

“Sanctuary,” Zöe shouted, “sanctuary!”

Ryan looked confused, “What?” he said.

“Yes,” Zöe continued, “yes, we are still on.  Yes, we are so still on.  We are like major on.  Let’s blow this two-bit pop stand!  We need to do the on thing right now.  Immediately.  No time to waste. We have to go, go, go!”

Zöe turned to Aaron and handed him her plate.  “Please be a dear and take care of this for me.”

And with that Zöe took Ryan by the arm and dragged him toward the door.  Ryan was caught off-guard by all this, stumbled a couple of steps, but regained his balance and did his best to keep up with Zöe’s pace.

Zöe didn’t look back but if she had she would have seen Aaron standing by the buffet table looking perplexed and holding two plates.

Once in the lobby, still half walking, half running, Ryan managed to ask, “Where are we going?”

Zöe looked up at him, smiled and said, “Out.  Then it’s over to you.”

Over to me, Ryan’s mind raced.  Great.  Over to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fly on the Wall 4

Zöe turned and blinked.

Zöe looked at Ryan.  Ryan looked at Zöe.  Aaron, aka Coffee Guy looked surprised.

“Zöe,” Ryan said.

“Ryan,” Zöe said, “uh, Ryan this is Aaron.  Aaron this is Ryan, a fellow contractor who works around these parts and with clients and things and this is Ryan.”

Aaron straightened his tie and was surprised to find his hair out of place. He got himself in order.

“Ryan, nice to meet you,” he said.

Ryan looked at Zöe.  Briefly, her eyes were pleading, but she blinked , looked around and said, “Aaron and I were just discussing the conference and the final get together.”  She trailed off with that and looked at her shoes.

At that moment the world turned.  There was an audible click.  Ryan’s heart stopped beating.  Ryan didn’t know it but his heart was built to accept certain shapes, like keys but more complicated.  It’s a complex combination.

Some shapes would fit partially.  Those were infatuations.  

Some shapes had deeper parts.  Those were close friends.

Some shapes were pre-formed, perhaps complete or not.  Those were family.

And some shapes were very complicated, very deep, intricate.  Those were love.  Lasting love.  Permanent love.  Love that would last a lifetime.  Love that was predestined.  Love that could not be avoided.  Love that could not be denied.  Love that would last beyond the end of time.  Love eternal.  Love universal.  Love that could not be denied.

In all the World there may be thousands of people who hold that special combination, but the chances of meeting those people are astronomically slim.

But, it does happen.  It happened here.  The world turned and Zöe’s combination fell into Ryan’s heart.

Ryan looked at Zöe and said, “Zöe!  I was hoping to catch you here.  Are we still on for tonight?”

Zöe looked at Ryan.