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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mr. 7:13 by Liz Lafferty

“Is there a doctor here?” Priscilla shouted out at the Friday night travelers.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake. I don’t need a doctor,” I said, feeling more embarrassed about her inappropriately loud voice than the fact I was laid out on the Handley train station platform flat on my back. My luck was so bad.

“Jane, if you could see your ankle, you’d know why I’m screaming for a doctor.”

I rolled my eyes, regretting that my best friend had talked me into seeing the Blue Man Group -- again. “Just call 9-1-1. Nobody else needs to be involved.” I grabbed the lapel of her jacket and pulled her toward my face, so she could hear my whisper and know that I was serious. “And can you help me to a bench? I don’t want people looking at me.”

“Is there something I can do?” Mr. 7:13 squatted down beside me, his hand on my shoulder.

The pain in my ankle vanished, replaced by an acute need to melt into the cement.

I called him Mr. 7:13 for a reason. I’d seen him every morning for the past year across the platform. I was southbound -- downtown. He went north on the 7:13 train. It was just plain wrong that he was on my platform tonight.

“I think she broke her ankle,” Priscilla said. That voice! Why had I picked her to be my friend?

His hand disappeared from my shoulder only to find its way to my ankle. I gasped at his touch.

“It’s okay. I’m a doctor.” He smiled at me. His train platform manner convincingly competent. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes.”

Under my short skirt my legs were bare, a normal thing to do on a warm summer night. His fingers skittered across my skin making it feel very unnormal. He slipped my Louboutin heel off with ease.

His serious frown didn’t quite reach his green eyes. There seemed to be a concerted effort on his part not to smile.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he said. Priscilla clutched my hand in support.

“It’s broken,” I said with matter-of-fact dignity.

“Yes. Irreparably, I think.” He held up my shoe. The heel had snapped off.

“Oh, no! I just bought those.”

“Your ankle is broken, and you’re crying about a broken shoe?” Priscilla snapped.

“He didn’t say my ankle was broken.”

“But it is,” he said, confirming Priscilla’s diagnosis. “Can you call an ambulance, please?”

“I’ll go wait out front,” Priscilla said, easing away.

Mr. 7:13 turned is gaze on me. “So, Miss Book-a-week, how did this happen?”

“Book-a-week?”

“That’s what I’ve called you for the last year. What’s your real name?”

“Jane.”

Our conversation seemed to have ended as we stared at each other. It was disconcertingly embarrassing to talk to this familiar stranger, the man I watched every morning, fantasized about one weekend too many and now wished to –

“A nice solid name for a clumsy girl.”

“I was pushed.”

“Oh.”

The ambulance siren wailed as it drew closer to the train station. I already regretted that I couldn’t ask him more questions, find out more about him, but he was on his way to somewhere and I was just another stop on the line.

Just my luck. I finally meet him, while lying flat on my back, one shoe off and the southbound Metro pulling out of the station.

“You missed your train,” I offered with a weak smile. I suppose I was trying to apologize, even though I wasn’t really sorry.

“No problem. I’ve always been lucky that way.”

The milling crowd had all but disappeared. It was just the two of us.

Restraint would have been good, but I couldn’t help myself. I attributed that to my weakened condition. “I always wondered-”

“What color your eyes were,” he finished. “Green, just like I thought.”

“Right this way!” That would be Priscilla.

“Time to go back to our routine. They’ll take good care of you,” he promised.

The paramedics rushed to secure my ankle and loaded me onto a gurney within minutes. Mr. 7:13 waited and watched, even escorting me to the ambulance.

“What hospital are you taking her to?” he asked.

“Northland.”

Priscilla was allowed in the ambulance with me. He waved as the door shut.

By the time I arrived at the hospital I was pleasantly buzzed. My loud friend was consigned to the waiting room while I waited behind a curtained area on a hard hospital bed. My remaining Louboutin still resided on my left foot.

“Hello, Jane.”

I blinked a few times before I asked. “Why are you here?” As opposed to the alternative statement, will you marry me and let me have your babies. Thank goodness I was drugged.

“I work here. I decided to see how you were doing. And I’m looking for the owner of this glass slipper.” He held up my broken shoe.

“That woman has bad luck,” I said.

“Friday, July 13th -- not so unlucky after all.”

I smiled. Mr. 7:13.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. "Mr 7:13" is part of a series she wrote about familiar strangers, people we see every day, but don't know a thing about.

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