#52weeks52stories: Week 26
Word Prompt: dream
Word count – 2007 words; Reading time – 7 mins
She was here.
His day went from good to great.
Everything else fell away from his viewpoint as he focused on her every movement.
After clearing the east entrance to the park, she loosened the harness on the huge malamute and looped the leash around her wrist.
Mark Evans had seen his mystery woman at the park enough to know the massive dog who could be mistaken for a small furry horse, was named Midas.
Though his size was intimidating, Mark had never seen the dog misbehave and was sure his mystery woman had no need for the leash.
Mark followed her with his eyes as she and Midas did a slow jog around the park’s perimeter.
She wore no knit cap or jacket today because of the warmer temps of late spring. Her dark brown curls pulled back into a messy ponytail, bounced as she ran.
She was beautiful.
Only she wasn’t a girl.
Mark guessed her age was closer to forty than thirty, and her thick thighs could be proof her park laps with Midas were the most exercise she saw on a regular basis.
But it wasn’t a criticism.
He admired every shapely inch of her.
Mark had never spotted his Dream-girl with anyone else and he wondered if there was someone special in her life. Or a child.
Her unhurried park visits coincided with his own—in late morning—and were more than enough time for her to give her beloved pet some exercise while a spouse was at work or children in school.
Yet, somehow Mark didn’t think so. While the love and attention Dream-girl lavished on Midas was genuine and showed no signs of ennui in her life, Mark picked up on signs of loneliness. The restless way she rested her hands on her ample hips while waiting for Midas to retrieve his toy. Or the extended hugs she bestowed on him for behaving.
Or perhaps Mark was amplifying his own feelings onto her.
After the third lap, Dream-girl and Midas went to their favorite spot on the grassy knoll.
Dream-girl slipped a bright green tennis ball from her pocket and lobbed it across the park. It didn’t matter how far she threw it, Midas always returned it, moving with a speed that belied his large frame. After dropping the ball at her feet, Midas would sit and wait for his reward, mysteriously pulled from a different pocket.
Mark wanted to know her name, what she did for a living, and what she did when she left the park. He needed to know everything about her.
He also wanted to know if she’d ever noticed him.
His park visits began several months ago as the brisk breezes of autumn gave way to the freezing cold of winter.
Mark didn’t mind the cold. It cleared his head and allowed him time to think.
It also made him feel alive.
Like a man.
His future was at first dark and bleak. And while he still had no guarantees, Mark had hope, something that had been missing from his life for too long.
Dream-girl and Midas wrestled when the dog realized she had put the ball behind her back.
Mark could watch her for hours. She got so much joy from playing with her dog.
Not like Bonnie.
Shep would be lucky if she remembered to let him out into the backyard.
But when Bonnie left him, she’d insisted on taking Shep since she picked him out at the rescue shelter. Mark found out from a mutual friend Bonnie sold Shep to a dog breeder less than a week later.
Just something else to add to the list of things he’d lost.
Laughter drew his attention back to Dream-girl. Her laughter was deep. Throaty. Sexy. She could tell him everything would be okay and he’d believe her, soothed by her sultry tones. Minute tinglings of desire buzzed through Mark and he smiled.
Midas scampered to retrieve the ball again and kicked it with his paw, causing it to roll in Mark’s direction.
After a few hesitant steps, the dog stopped and sat. He could not approach strangers.
Dream-girl gave him a quick pat on the head as she jogged past him to grab the ball.
“Good boy, Midas!”
After grabbing the ball, she stood and gave Mark a warm smile that lit up her face.
He returned her smile.
“Hello. You have a beautiful dog.”
Her smile broke into a wide grin.
“Thank you. I think so too, but I may be partial. I’ve had the big moose since I could lift him with one hand.”
They shared a laugh as she backed away. “Treats will only hold him so long. I’ve got to get Midas home for his lunch… before he eats a park bench.”
Dream-girl turned back to Midas and Mark was elated and sad at the same time.
She spoke to him! She took the time to speak to HIM!
And now she was walking away.
He took a deep breath trying to steady himself when she turned to him again.
“Where are my manners? I’m sorry. I’m June. I’ve noticed you here before.”
Mark couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “I’m Mark. Nice to meet you, June.”
“You too. Well, I’ll see you around. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
She threw the tennis ball toward the east entrance and Midas ran, grabbed it and met her before she’d covered half the distance.
Mark watched dog and owner leave the park, still mesmerized by the encounter.
He’d been right about her age. The soft wisps of gray hair forming at her temples and the adorable laugh lines in the corners of her eyes proved she was close to his own age. Her caramel-colored skin was flawless and his fingers itched to touch her face.
And that voice. So deep, rich, and smooth Mark was sure someone had dipped him in hot chocolate.
He wished he’d had more time to talk with her.
“Okay, Mr. Evans. I think you’ve had enough sun today.”
But it wasn’t meant to be.
Miriam, his day nurse, slipped her book into her bag as she walked over to his wheelchair. She returned his seat to its full upright position before releasing the chair breaks and heading for the west entrance.
“Such a beautiful today, isn’t it, Mr. Evans? Not too breezy, not too hot. A perfect day to get some fresh air… and make new friends.”
Mark was glad she was behind him and couldn’t see his face. The wily grandmother was invading his thoughts.
“I couldn’t agree more, Miriam. And why do you insist on calling me Mr. Evans?”
“Because it annoys you and I can’t have you getting too complacent, now can I?”
They both chuckled as Miriam pushed him across the street and continued on to his three-bedroom home a half block away.
June. As warm and inviting as the month she shared a name with.
Her dark brown eyes sparkled like the stars on a clear June night when she looked at Mark.
At his face.
In his eyes.
Not at the chair which served as his prison for most of his waking hours.
Not at the legs held together at the knees by a strap and hidden by jeans now two sizes too big.
June may not have seen Mark Evans, the man, but she saw him as a whole person… and there was no pity in her eyes.
Mark was lost in thought as Miriam pushed him up the driveway and stopped to open the garage door.
He wished June could see him as he was before the accident. Mark would never be mistaken for a male model but he had worn the lost forty-five pounds well.
The accident had also cost him in other ways.
For a short time, he’d lost his memory, but even as it returned, his independence and personal freedom did not.
Paralysis had also cost him his marriage though Mark lost no sleep on that loss. He knew his marriage to Bonnie was a mistake, still, he tried to make it work. But her multiple affairs with younger men and her endless excuses for not starting a family killed any interest Mark had left and just a few short weeks before the accident, he’d decided to end the year a single man.
Though devastating and life-changing, the job-related accident gifted him with the fastest… and cheapest divorce possible.
Saying she didn’t sign on to be a nursemaid and that she wasn’t emotionally strong enough to handle Mark’s injury, Bonnie packed, filed for divorce, and fled even before Mark had a full prognosis.
Had she not been so quick to leave, Bonnie would have found out Mark’s years of paying long-term disability insurance premiums resulted in very lucrative benefits for him. And accepting full responsibility for the faulty crane which dropped the steel beam on Mark, Sunburst Construction avoided a lawsuit… and bad press by paying him his full claim. All eight figures.
Now Bonnie was shacked up across town with some muscle-bound idiot eleven years her junior who supported her with a part-time job as a bartender and selling illegal steroids.
Mark Evans didn’t care about the money though. Except for paying for his round-the-clock care, his bank account went untouched.
What he was glad Bonnie didn’t know was he wasn’t a true paraplegic.
Initial tests first showed the tissue around his spine much too inflamed for clear test readings.
Mark had no feeling or movement below the waist and only minimal movement of his arms. Doctors were convinced MRIs and CT scans would soon show a severed spine.
It never happened.
It baffled doctors how an eight-hundred-pound beam could fall on a man and he not only survive it but also have no broken bones.
Mark Evans was living proof it could happen.
He was also proof swelling in spinal tissue could subside but it didn’t mean sensation in his legs and the ability to walk would follow.
His doctors were cautious in their encouragement but assured Mark the day might come when he could walk again.
Mark’s frustration with his situation soon became depression, and it was Miriam who insisted on taking him out for daily walks, forcing him to concentrate on something other than himself.
And that’s when he saw her… his Dream-girl.
Temperatures were dropping below freezing, but Miriam still insisted on his daily outing. She didn’t stop to read her book on those frigid days but she would push Mark around the paved concourse twice.
The park would be abandoned except for Dream-girl and her dog.
He marveled at her steadfastness and dedication to her pet. He decided any woman so loyal and committed to a pet would also stand by her man.
She occupied his thoughts as he created scenarios on what her life was like.
She occupied his dreams as he dreamed about what life would be like with her.
Miriam said something about lunch and Mark agreed, not sure what he was agreeing to. She pushed him up the ramp to the back patio doors and set the breaks while she opened the doors.
Now his Dream-girl had a name.
And she knew his name.
Mark would give anything to run and play in the park with June and Midas.
It could happen.
It was just four days ago Mark spilled his morning coffee in his lap… and he felt it. Not just the sensation of the weight of the heavy, damp fabric, but also the warmth of the coffee. This morning he’d wiggled the toes on one foot. He’d tell Miriam before Chuck arrived and she left for the day. Mark knew she’d give him hell for not telling her sooner, but she would also be thrilled for him.
It was happening. He would walk again one day. He knew it.
Mark also knew his infatuation with June may never get past greetings in the park and comments about Midas.
But he had hope.
And he had his dreams.
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