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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Second Chances by Michael Bracken

Sheryl McCann stood in the center of the shopping mall and watched a handsome young man carrying a single red rose. He paced back and forth in front of her mall cart for thirty minutes before she finally stopped him.

"May I help you?"

"I had a blind date," the conservatively dressed young man explained sheepishly. "I was supposed to meet her here, but it seems I've been stood up."

Sheryl looked him up and down appraisingly. He was her age, give or take a year, with closely cropped black hair, a firm chin, and kind blue eyes. "The poor girl doesn't know what she's missing."

The young man blushed and ducked his head. "You're too kind."

"Did you have big plans?" Sheryl asked. She hadn't had any customers all evening and appreciated the opportunity to talk to someone. Anyone. About anything.

"Dinner," the young man explained. "I was hoping for a good meal, some good conversation, and the possibility of a second date."

"It sounds as if you had reasonable expectations." Sheryl had been on many first dates with even lower expectations. She brushed a long blonde bang away from her heart-shaped face.

"I thought so," he said. He glanced around, obviously still looking for his missing date. "Blind dates can be so unpredictable."

"So you've been on blind dates before?"

"A few," he admitted. "My friends keep trying to set me up."

"They do?"

"But the women my friends think are perfect for me never really are."

"That's a shame," Sheryl told him. She knew what he meant, though. She had never understood what possessed her friends to match her with particular men. Perhaps her friends really believed that opposites attract. Or maybe her friends didn't see her the way she saw herself. The young man standing before her seemed unlike any of the men she'd met on her blind dates, and she wanted to know more.

"You seem like a nice guy. Not many men would wait half-an-hour for a blind date."

"Yeah. Well. I guess she isn't going to show." He squinted at the name badge Sheryl had pinned above her left breast and then held out the rose. "I hate to waste a beautiful rose, Sheryl. Why don't you take it?"

As she took the rose from his outstretched hand, their fingers touched.

Sheryl was surprised by the warm tingle that raced up her arm and coursed through her entire body.

Unexpectedly flustered, she asked, "Do you have a name?"

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I should have introduced myself earlier. I'm Dave Stewart. And you're Sheryl--?"

"--McCann," she finished. The rose was wrapped in white tissue paper that crinkled in her hand.

"Thank you for rescuing me, Sheryl," he said with a shy smile. "I might have been pacing around here for another half hour."

"That's what I do," she told him, "rescue people."

"So you've saved other lost souls wandering around the mall?"

"Mostly I save them from high cell phone charges." She pointed to her mall cart and the promotional material stacked on it. "At least, that's what I'm supposed to do." She lowered her voice and leaned forward conspiratorially. "But honestly, I'm not sure our deal is all that much better than anyone else's."

"I might be the last person on Earth without a cell phone," Dave said."Maybe if I had one I'd know what happened to my date."

"So why don't you have a cell phone?" Sheryl asked. "Are you a Luddite?"

"I'm a 911 operator," he explained. "I spend all day on the phone, and the last thing I want to do when I get off work is take another phone call."

Surprised, Sheryl asked, "So you really rescue people?"

He shrugged. "I guess I do. Sometimes."

She looked him over again. The young man standing in front of her was handsome and self-effacing. She wasn't sure she'd ever met anyone like him before and she was intrigued.

They talked for a few more minutes before Dave said, "I know you have to work, so I should stop bothering you--"

"You're not bothering me at all," she said.

"--but before I go, may I ask one question?"


"May I see you again?"

"The mall closes at ten," Sheryl hinted. "That wouldn't be too soon, would it?"

He caught the hint and mentioned one of the restaurants on the far side of the mall parking lot. "That won't be too late for dinner, will it?"

"That would be perfect," Sheryl told him. She still held the rose and when she lifted it to her nose to draw in the scent the tissue paper crinkled again. "You're not afraid of being stood up a second time in one night, are you?"

Dave smiled. "I'll take my chances."

About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of Just In Time For Love, a YA romance published by Hard Shell Word Factory. His short romantic fiction has appeared in New Love Stories, Sun, True Experience, True Love, True Romance, True Story, The Long and the Short of It, and many other publications. Learn more about Michael at

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