Kay sneezed. It was freezing. And though the park looked lovely, the gloomy sky and sharp wind kept people inside today.
Kay fumbled around her pockets for a tissue, lowering her mask to blow her nose. She was quite alone, only two other couples strolled around the neatly trimmed paths.
Crazy in love, she thought. Why else would they be out in the middle of winter?
She lifted her mask onto her face, more for the warmth than the protocol. Sighing, she glanced at her phone. A text from Nick. Her heart skipped.
“Hey love, train’s delayed a bit. Looks like I’ll be there at around 4 ish”
Kay texted back. “Hey, ok I’m at the park, but it’s kinda cold. I can just meet you at the station?”
His response was quick. “No! I want to see the park, it’s been so long! Why don’t you go to a café or something? Wait there until I come.”
Kay sighed. She typed ‘ok’, using an emoji to downplay her irritation.
She made her way towards the exit, shivering with every step. This always happens, she told herself. I’m always waiting. She exhaled and increased her pace.
She never thought she’d hate this park.
Nick shifted impatiently in his seat. The train had come to a standstill, but the hum of the wires above made it seem like they were about to take off.
He glanced at his phone, exhaling at the screen and the text from Kay. He smiled at the letters that spelled out her name, the profile picture of her face not smiling but not unhappy either. It was his favourite thing about her.
Nick started bobbing his knees up and down as he tended to do when he was excited – or impatient.
“You’re like a dog with a tail, honestly!” Kay would smirk.
“I can’t help it,” Nick would reply, shrugging and giving her his best puppy dog eyes.
Nick placed his phone on the table in front of him and pulled open his laptop. He might as well get some work done, seeing as he had the time.
An inspector bustled into the carriage to announce that they’d be setting off in five minutes. A murmur of relief spread over the passengers.
Nick exhaled and paused. Should he text Kay to let her know?
Nah. He’d have time to buy her some flowers if he got there early. He smiled to himself.
He reached down to the pocket inside his coat surreptitiously, fingers tracing over the square box with the expensive ring inside.
I’ve been waiting for this, he told himself.
Kay slid onto the seat at the counter inside the café. She pulled off her scarf, her coat, her gloves, and her hat. Laying it on the seat next to her, she shimmied to get more comfortable.
The counter faced the street outside, where people were passing up and down quickly because of the cold. It was warmer inside the café. The smell of coffee was strong in the air and strong in the cup in front of her.
The weather had bought people inside, so it wasn’t as quiet as Kay would’ve liked.
But she was alone, at least. She had some time to think.
She thought about what she was going to say to Nick. She picked up the cup and took a sip, putting it back onto the saucer immediately.
Nick’s sister had texted her that morning.
“Heyy hope you’re well! I know Nicky’s coming to visit this weekend so why don’t you guys come to our place for dinner tonight? Malcolm’s making toffee pudding!”
Kay hadn’t responded. How could she, when she knew that after today, after what she was going to tell Nick, neither of them would care about Malcolm’s toffee pudding.
Kay scrunched her face up, heart pounding as a wave of anxiety came up from her stomach. She pushed the cup aside and put her arms on the counter in front of her. Glancing around for a second, she placed her forehead on her arms and shut her eyes.
Six months ago Nick and Kay had gone to a friend’s wedding. Nick made a speech; it was lovely really. All about how opposites attract, and how perfect their friends were for one another.
“Farah, I can’t think of anyone who is a better match for Sean,” Nick gushed. “We all know he’d be lost without you. You complete him!”
Farah threw the bouquet afterward. It landed at Kay’s feet, though she was nowhere near the group of women waiting to catch it. She picked it up hastily when the guests around her began applauding and whistling loudly.
“You complete me,” Nick had said to her afterward, smiling stupidly, the wine finally catching up to him. The bouquet sat in Kay’s lap merrily, almost like a confirmation of how perfect, how romantic this scene between them was.
But when Nick got onto a train the next morning, back to his home city, his separate life, Kay didn’t feel incomplete.
She had not felt complete for a very long time.
Nick sent two emails and called it a day. His laptop was packed away in his backpack on the seat next to him. He started snacking out of boredom, eating crisps, and staring out the window. It was wet and cold outside, the mist took over the view.
I hope Kay’s okay waiting.
He wanted to text her, but he hesitated. He’d gotten the feeling lately that she was getting impatient.
It hadn’t been easy, living apart for over two years, and barely seeing one another after the lockdowns. But they had both waited. And now their patience would finally mean something.
Nick sighed, wiping away crisp crumbs and leaning back against the seat. He closed his eyes for a minute.
Six months ago, they went to Sean and Farah’s wedding. Kay looked beautiful. but for some reason she was nervous.
“You worried about getting FOMO?” Nick asked playfully, nudging her.
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly,” she said quietly.
They were sitting down, waiting for the wedding to start.
Nick leaned in closer to her and put his hand on hers. She started at his touch, but relaxed quickly, smiling and looking up at him.
“I know its been rough, but I’m here now, for today at least…” Nick began.
Kay shook her head. “Oh Nick let’s not talk about that now.” She smiled and put her other hand on his, squeezing it.
Nick sighed. What could he do?
He thought about it all through the ceremony, through the glasses of wine and scotch, through his speech. He thought about what he could do to show her that he was there, that he cared.
And then, she caught the bouquet. He was begging for a sign all day, but it ended up right at Kay’s feet.
And, as he watched her pick it up, Nick couldn’t have felt more certain than he did at that moment. He stared at Kay, blushing beautifully at the kismet of it all. She held on tightly to those flowers all the way home, tearing up when he told her that she completed him.
Nick opened his eyes suddenly, feeling his phone vibrating in his hand. His sister sent a text asking him not to bring wine when they came over.
“Malcolm and I have champagne!!! We can’t wait!
Nick smiled. He couldn't wait either. He was just half an hour away.
Kay crossed the street reluctantly leaving behind the café. The weather had worsened, and small flakes of snow started falling.
Nick texted that he was making his way to the park, so she gathered up her layers and covered herself before stepping back outside.
Kay walked through the ancient iron gates, remembering how she’d met Nick here three years ago.
It was spring then, it was warmer, much more pleasant. Kay was taking pictures of the flowers, just beginning to bloom on the branches.
“…you know I love you Nicky - but…”
Kay paused. She lowered her camera and looked around. A couple was standing just a few feet away, quarreling animatedly.
“I don’t understand what you want from me!" The man exclaimed, running his hand through his hair.
The woman turned away from him, covering her mouth with her hand. It was a romantic drama, not a romantic comedy.
What a shame, Kay thought.
She turned away from the couple, walking further down the path to take more pictures.
Later as she was leaving, she saw the man sitting on a bench. He was perfectly situated against the strong iron fence, where green creeping stalks snaked up along the bars. The sun was setting around his forlorn frame, as he stared into space.
Without thinking, Kay lifted her camera and started snapping. She took several shots before he turned to notice her. She lowered the camera hastily and looked away awkwardly. He stared at her for a minute before suddenly rising from the bench and coming up to her.
“Hey,” he called out, as she tried to walk away. “Hey, you with the camera!”
Kay stopped and turned to look at him.
“Were you taking pictures of me?” he asked breathlessly. His face was flushed, hair a mess.
“Stand here,” Kay said suddenly, gesturing for him to move.
“I – what?”
“Stand here,” Kay repeated impatiently. She closed the gap between them and grabbed his arm, pushing him into position.
“Hey!” he exclaimed.
“Now look away, look there at the fountain,” Kay said, ignoring his protests.
“Look that way!” Kay demanded.
The man was startled, but he followed her instructions. Kay raised her camera and snapped. She looked at the picture of Nick on the small screen and inhaled.
Kay stood on that spot now, where she had made him do pose after pose.
I can’t believe he actually did it, she mused sadly.
The snow was building upon the ground as she walked to the bench that Nick loved. She brushed away some debris and sat down, feeling the cold under her.
Weeks after their first meeting, Kay saw Nick sitting on the same bench as though he’d been waiting for her.
Nick bobbed his knees in the taxi, breathing impatiently. He glanced at his phone.
“I’m at the bench”
He looked out the window. Snow was falling.
“Hey man, do you think you could go straight to Providence Park instead?” Nick asked the driver.
The man grunted in agreement. Turning on the indicator, he switched lanes so suddenly that Nick slammed into the door.
“Thanks,” Nick muttered weakly, straightening and rubbing his arm.
He glanced at his phone again. No emoji. Something was wrong.
Nick shoved his hand into his coat pocket. He pulled out the little box and fumbled with the clasp. Snapping it open, he looked at the ring and breathed a sigh of relief. Closing the box, he put it back in his pocket.
He didn’t have time to get flowers, but it was fine. He was going to the park, to the bench. And that was the most important thing. Kay would know what it meant, that’s where they first met after all.
He looked out the window again, watching the white flakes gather on the car door. He thought about that day and smirked.
“So you’re a photographer?” Nick had asked her, suspiciously.
“Yea,” Kay replied. She held out her camera to him. “Here, look at the pictures if you don’t believe me.”
He reached out and hesitated. She nodded and pushed the camera towards his outstretched hand. He took it from her, looking at her strangely.
He scrolled through the camera roll and gasped.
“You did take pictures of me!” he said, glaring at her.
Kay blushed and put her hands in her pockets guiltily. “I’m sorry! I just – I was taking other pictures too...keep scrolling!”
She waved her hand frantically around the park, looking crazy.
Nick grimaced but did as she said. Why he kept doing what this strange woman asked him to do was a mystery to him.
Kay stood next to him, a few feet away. She hovered anxiously. Nick examined the photos that weren’t of him and saw pictures of the park.
He saw pictures of the fountain and the flowers, people laughing on the green grass and under the trees.
He looked up at her. “These are…actually...good,” he said handing the camera back to her.
“I – thanks,” Kay said taking it from him. She looked away, smirking at the compliment.
“I want you to delete those pictures of me though,” Nick said frowning.
Kay turned her eyes to him in surprise. She paused, opening her mouth as if she wanted to argue, but then closed it.
“Yea, okay…I mean of course. I’ll delete them,” she said tightly. Looking down at the camera, Nick watched her push the buttons a little aggressively.
“Thanks,” he replied.
“No problem,” she replied impassively. She held up the camera. “You want to check again?”
“No that’s alright, I trust you,” Nick said in spite of everything.
Kay smirked. “Good. Well I’m going to get going, sorry for all the -” she waved a hand around, gesturing wildly.
“It’s fine,” Nick said shaking his head. “Do me a favour, next time you’re taking pictures, just ask me.”
Kay paused, staring at him. “Next time?”
“Yea,” Nick said backing away from her. He pointed. “Next time, I’ll be sitting on that bench over there. So, ask to take my picture.”
Kay’s face twisted into confusion, but she smiled at him politely. Despite getting dumped hours earlier, Nick’s heart skipped.
“What makes you think there'll be a next time?” Kay asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Because I’ll be waiting,” Nick replied.
A few weeks later, Nick took an early train back into the city. He walked to the park straight from the station, savouring the warm spring sunshine.
Nick walked around idly. He didn’t really expect to see the weird woman again. Or maybe he did, but he just didn’t want to get his hopes up. A couple of kids were sitting on the bench when he got there, so he turned away and paced around nearby.
Across the lawn, small groups of people were picnicking and lying on the grass. Near the fountain, people sat on the edge, taking selfies and pictures.
Nick saw Kay before she saw him. She was kneeling on the ground, her camera glued to her face, taking pictures of the crowd around the fountain.
Suddenly feeling nervous, Nick turned away and walked to the bench. He sat down on the far edge, and the kids looked around at him. Nick glanced up, eyes searching for Kay again. He saw her walking away from the fountain, coming towards the bench.
She was staring at the camera in her hands. She hadn’t seen him yet.
The kids on the bench stood up abruptly and left. They glanced back at Nick suspiciously, his knees bobbed up and down. He waited.
Kay came closer and closer. Suddenly she looked up and turned her eyes to the bench. Nick saw her lips part in surprise, the camera hung loosely from her hand as she stared at him.
He smiled. She paused, smiled back, and walked toward him.
She looked up and squinted in the dimming light of the evening.
He ran up to her, hands in his pockets, backpack bobbing behind him. Kay stood up unsteadily, hands at her sides. She swallowed.
“Sorry I’m late,” Nick breathed as he slammed into her, pulling her close to him.
Kay pressed her head into his chest, anything to keep from looking at his face.
“It’s alright,” she muttered.
He pulled away suddenly, looking breathless.
They stood there in silence for a moment. Kay inhaled and looked up into his eyes, trembling slightly. Nick’s breaths were short in the cold air as he stared at her expectantly.
“We need to talk,” they said in unison.