#AtoZChallenge: Kindness of Strangers

It was another rainy afternoon in the city and Kate, stuck without an umbrella, wasn’t looking forward to splashing through the streets to get back home. She stayed put in the comfort of the little cafe that she always visited after work. If the weather didn’t let up, she’d probably end up staying for dinner. Kate took a seat by the window, sipping her coffee and willing the rain to stop, just until she was back in her apartment.

“Excuse me, miss?”

She turned around to see an older gentleman standing by her table. His silver hair was cut short and neatly parted, and a neatly trimmed beard wrapped itself around his lined face. He was holding a small black umbrella.

“Perhaps you’ll need this,” he said, his face cracking into a warm smile.

Kate was taken aback. “Oh…umm..thank you.” She looked from the man to the umbrella, puzzled. “Don’t you need it, though? To go back out there?” She gestured toward the window.

“Oh, it’s no worry. I’m meeting a friend here and then we’ll be leaving in his car. And besides, I’ve no shortage of umbrellas. Please,” he said, presenting the umbrella to her, “You’ll get home quicker this way.”

Kate cocked her head. “How did you..?”

“Oh, how silly of me to assume,” the man said, looking sheepish. “I suppose you could be headed anywhere.”

“Yes…I suppose so…” Kate gave him an awkward smile and accepted the umbrella. “Thank you. Really. That’s very kind.”

The man nodded. “It’s no trouble at all, my dear.”

Kate walked home mostly dry. Her shoes were soaking wet and her pant legs couldn’t escape the weather, but she was glad to have the umbrella in her hand. How lucky, she thought, and then turned her mind to other matters.


 

“Hey! Taxi!”

Another cab whizzed past, ignoring Kate and her frantic waving. She cursed under her breath and scanned the road. It was surprisingly empty for a weekday afternoon. She spotted the familiar lit up sign and waved her hand again. And yet another taxi took no notice. She was getting late and getting frustrated.

She had half a mind to just walk to the restaurant and was about to turn around when a car pulled up alongside her. It was a tiny little thing, round and pastel colored. An old woman peered out the passenger side window.

“Are you going somewhere, young lady?”

Kate took a step back. She was wary of getting into cars with strangers, but then again, how dangerous could that sweet old woman be?

“I have a date, actually, ” she said.

The old woman clapped her hands together. “Oooh, how exciting! Well, we can’t be late for an occasion like that, now can we? Hop in, hop in! I’ll drop you there in a jiffy!”

Kate hesitated again. “But you don’t even know how far I’m going.”

“If it’s close enough to get by taxi, I’m sure I can manage!” the woman chirped.

She was clearly out of her mind, but oddly enough, there was something reassuring about her voice. Kate couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but the woman seemed familiar.

“Do I…know you from somewhere?” she asked.

“No, but now’s as good a time as any to change that, eh?”

Kate laughed and got into the car. Fifteen minutes later, she was outside the restaurant. She thanked the old woman, who smiled and drove off. This date could have started off on a bad note, Kate thought, watching the car disappear into the horizon. But it didn’t.

Over the past year, Kate realized, whenever she found herself in a bad situation, some stranger always came by to help her out. She’d never experienced that sort of generosity in the city before. It was really strange.

It all happened after the accident. Kate pursed her lips as she remembered that day and how it changed her life forever. But, she reminded herself, things were better now. And if her odd streak of luck continued, things would keep getting better.

She took a deep breath, cleared her head and walked inside.


 

It was quiet in the little diner. No one was there except for the old man. He had a plate of half eaten eggs and sausages in front of him, and was taking generous swigs from a stained coffee mug.

The old woman walked in and was greeted by a waitress who seemed to materialize out of thin air. The woman waved her a cheery hello and walked over to the booth where the old man was.

“Running a bit late today,” he remarked with a twinkle in his eye.

The woman plopped down on the seat across from him. “Ooh yes, sorry about that. I was dropping Kate off.” She leaned forward and dropped her voice to an excited whisper. “She’s on a date!”

The old man’s eyebrows flew up. “A date? With whom? Did you see the boy? He’s not a beatnik, is he?”

The woman dismissed his questions with a wave of her hand. “Oh, Horace, you’re such a worrywart. I’m sure he’s a nice young man. And if he isn’t, Kate can take care of herself.”

“I know,” Horace sighed. “But its hard not to worry. What if she needs our help again, Minerva?”

“Then we’ll help her, just as we’ve done so far.

I’m just so glad to see her out and about. After the accident, after she…lost us, I didn’t think I would ever see her smile again.” Tears were forming in the corners of Minerva’s eyes; one of them rolled down her cheek and dropped on to the placemat in front of her. Horace reached out and put his hand over hers.

“There, there, dearest. She didn’t lose us for long, did she? We’re still around. Whether she realizes it or not.”

“True, ” Minerva said, with a sniffle. “We’ll always take care of our little girl.”

“Yes, we will.” Horace was smiling, though his eyes were damp too. “Now, how about some coffee? Unless you’d prefer something stronger, of course.”

Minerva laughed. “Coffee will be just fine, you old lush!”

Horace broke into a grin and signaled the waitress.

“So, ” he said, leaning forward. “Just what does this young man do?”

“Oh, Horace!”

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