The first day of spring seemed like as good a time as any to start fresh. New. I had no reason to stay in Chicago any more – no family, no significant other, and now, no job. I loaded my black ‘98 Honda Accord, pointed it south and drove until I ran out of land. On a whim, I’d taken a right turn in Arizona, visited the Grand Canyon, then pointed the car northwest. I ran out of land at San Francisco. Seemed like an excellent stopping point.
“Trish Barton, welcome to the, um, foggy state of California.” I stood on the balcony of my hotel room, clad in my warm flannel plaid robe. I cradled a cup of coffee between my hands, torn between drinking the steaming liquid for a fast, pick-me-up shot or simply using the cup as a hand warmer.
“The fog’ll clear out by mid-morning. Or so they tell me.”
Startled, I turned to the left, towards the sound of the deep Scottish voice. “I’m from Chicago. No stranger to fog.”
“We have the same weather phenomenon in Scotland as well. Name’s Graham. Graham Alastair.”
“Trish Barton. I guess fog is a universal condition that makes no distinction who it afflicts.” I watched a particularly thick whorl of fog undulate. “It’s almost like it’s alive.”
Graham’s chuckle warmed the cool morning, or so it seemed. “You’ve a fanciful imagination.”
“It’s the fog. I’m positive. It brings out the melancholy in me.” I gave in and sipped at my coffee. I wanted the caffeine hit, but I didn’t want it lukewarm.
“You’re a long ways from home,” Graham observed. He hadn’t moved from where he sat on his balcony, well ensconced in one of the padded wrought iron chairs, fully clothed in tan slacks and a red sweater. I could see the navy collar of his button-up shirt sticking above the neckline of the knit sweater. His breakfast spread before him on the small, round table, but it looked like he’d mostly finished.
“So says the man from across the Atlantic.”
“True. I’m visiting my sister and her family. Ginger married an American, and not one who lived on the East Coast, a wee bit closer to home. We’re relieved Carson didn’t live in Alaska.”
I knew it was my turn to share what brought me to San Fran, but I hesitated. Did I tell a perfect stranger I was relocating? A homeless vagabond in a strange state I’d never even visited before? But what did I have to lose? I wasn’t planning on staying in this fancy hotel more than another night. I did have a dwindling bank account to consider after all.
“I’m in the middle of relocating. Got downsized out of a job. Left Chicago a week and a half ago, and here I am. By way of Arizona and the Grand Canyon. I always wanted to see it, but we never went.”
“What’s your family think of you moving so far away from home? This coming from a man who misses his sister. At least you’re in the same country.”
Graham rose, a frown on his face. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be nosy.”
I managed a small, rueful smile. I’d gotten used to being on my own. It only pained during the holidays. “It’s okay. I was an only child of only children. Lost Dad when I was thirteen, Mom just before I graduated high school. Freakishly, both in car accidents. It’s been over ten years. So. Why aren’t you staying at your sister’s house?”
Graham took my change of subject in stride. “Mum and Dad are staying there, and Ging has three unruly slime monsters who take great joy in using their Uncle Graham as a jungle gym. They’ll be here shortly, so I apologize in advance for any disturbance they cause. Apparently, my sister believes Mum, Dad and I would like to go sight-seeing at the Aquarium near Pier 39.”
“Sounds like fun. I’ve been driving off and on for several days, so I thought I’d walk up and down the Embarcadero once the fog burns off.” I finished my coffee and set the cup down on my patio table.
Graham gave me a long considering look. His dark eyes lit up with the smile that lifted the corners of his mouth. Laugh lines crinkled around his eyes, and I thought I caught sight of a dimple. Maybe even two. I forced myself to stop ogling when he made a suggestion.
“You should go with us. There’s safety in numbers, you know, and the added benefit of a free tour guide.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” I said, probably to quickly. But my demurral didn’t dim Graham’s enthusiasm.
“How can you possibly be intruding? Your presence will fascinate the children. You’ll be doing us a favor.”
“You make it sound like your sister’s children are quite rambunctious.” I didn’t know if I was up to tolerating other people’s possibly bratty children.
Graham’s smile deepened, and suddenly, I had to wonder if he was engaging in a bit of hyperbole in reporting about his nieces and nephews. “They’re not as bad as you claim.”
“They’d still be fascinated by you. C’mon. What do you have to lose?”
“How do I know you’re not a serial killer looking for his next victim?”
“Tell you what,” he bargained. “The crew will be here in the lobby at ten. You can see for yourself if we’re a mad band of serial murderers.”
I had to laugh. It did sound ridiculous when he put it that way. “Okay. I can do that.”
And as suddenly as the conversation had started, it ended with Graham’s retreat into his room. I did likewise, reflecting that maybe, just maybe, this was all the sign I needed that I’d made a good, brand new start.
Story (c) 2014 by Laura Hamby
*Image By porbital, published on 13 July 2013 Stock Photo – image ID: 100183587 @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net*