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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Truth About Cupid by Liz Lafferty

Most people don’t know this, but Valentine’s Day is my only day off. People don’t fall in love on Valentine’s Day, they’re already in love. That’s the one day of the year I’m not needed. By the way, my name isn’t Cupid; it’s Leo. I’m responsible for the five-block area around Handley Train Station.

I do some of my best work in the spring. Take April, for instance. Flowers, birds, warm sunshine. There’s something about Spring that makes people willing to fall in love. I’ll have to talk to the season to find out why she’s so special.

Look over there. See them? I’ve been trying since Thanksgiving to get them together.

His name is Jack. He’s brilliant, but he doesn’t have a clue how to interact with women. And if he’d take off those glasses, women might actually find him attractive. When Jack lived in Pensacola, Martin, my cupid counterpart and relationship rookie, really botched up a job. Tried to get Jack to fall in love with a woman who didn’t love plants. He works for the National Parks Service north of the city, but he lives right next to the train station -- two blocks over. He’s all mine now.

Her name is Betsy. She loves the outdoors and has the most incredible raised garden bed behind her little two-bedroom house. She lives on the other side of the tracks. I have to admit, she is one of my tougher cases. She’s had no experience with real love. Poor thing, not even from her parents. She doesn’t think there is anyone for her, but this is just another myth Doubt likes to spread.

But Betsy knows how to love: her friends, her cat, her garden. Jack is perfect for her.

Only four blocks apart and they haven’t even met each other yet.

Last month, I tried a little gig at the corner grocery store. Just at the moment he grabbed a bunch of parsley, she was supposed to be standing there, waiting her turn for the leafy vegetables. Yes, I called in a favor with Frost to stunt her greens.

Someone pulled a melon from one of those pyramid shaped stacks and, in a flash, the entire aisle was filled with melon bowling balls. Betsy was on her knees by the time Jack turned around to see what had happened. Foiled again. Fate was such a cruel foe, but I’d beaten her before. Did you know her middle name was Fickle? Remind me to tell you sometime about the vet who got cornered down on Pine by a poodle-wielding cosmetologist. I still haven’t gotten those two together.

Another thing you don’t know, if it weren’t for me and Martin and all of the others like us, Fate would win every time. People have an odd way of allowing things that shouldn’t be, to be. Especially in matters of the heart. But that’s why I’m here.

I’ve had good luck at Handley over the last ten years. This time I couldn’t miss.

Jack had decided last week to attend the Home and Garden Show downtown. It wasn’t difficult to slip the idea into Betsy’s mind. He wore is ‘I Live For Weed’ t-shirt and a rough pair of blue jeans. He hadn’t yet put two and two together about his t-shirt; he thought it looked cool. See what I have to work with?

Betsy woke like usual, fed her cat, composted the garden and then headed to the train station. You have no idea how many times they’ve been at this train station at the same time and walked right past each other as if they were ghosts.

The ‘Gardeners Do It In The Dirt’ t-shirt was an added bonus. I didn’t even know she had it.

Jack picked up a newspaper. Betsy grabbed a coffee. I cleared the only bench warmed by the rays of the April sun. It would be just the two of them, if all went well.

Jack wandered over and sat at one end. The trees held his attention. He shoved the paper under his arm. He glanced at his watch. Betsy stood for a few minutes by the train station schedule, running her fingers along the departure times. I whispered in her ear and she glanced longingly toward the sun-drenched seating area.

One more little nudge and she headed toward Jack.

I’ll bet you can feel the magnetic pull from where you sit.

Jack glanced up, but quickly looked away, nervously clutching his paper.

What’s this? He started to stand, but I dropped my hand on top of his head and held him there. His paper dropped to the cement, unnoticed. His reaction was unexpected, but it could only mean one thing. He had noticed her before. Sometime’s my job was too easy.

Betsy sat down. I flicked my finger against her garden show ticket and it floated toward Jack. He bent to retrieve it.

He smiled, that first tentative movement of the lips, that said, ‘Hey there.’

“Are you going to the show?” he asked. That’s my boy. Didn’t I tell you he was just a little backward with the girls? Brilliant, but simple.

He flicked his hand through his hair and handed her the ticket. Betsy’s fingers grazed his. He shoved his hands into his jean pocket as if he’d been burned.

“Yes. I wanted to see the new variety of hybrid broccoli,” she said. Betsy watched him with wide-eyed fascination. There’s someone for everyone.

“I’ve read all about it.”

The train rumbled into the station, screeching to a halt. They headed for the door, bumping as they entered. “After you,” he said.

I held out my hand to block him as he tried to turn away from her. He shrugged his shoulders with puppy-like obedience and followed her. There was only one place where the two of them could sit together and Betsy went for it. Two peas in a pod, I tell you.

Once I got them downtown to the garden show, I spotted Mother Nature -- she’d take her course with these two. I can’t let these opportunities go to waste.

Back at Handley Station, I pulled out my list -- six hundred potential matches to make before my next day off. Next up: the pretty little red-headed baker over on Market Street. It’d be a piece of cake.

Remember, my name is Leo. In case anyone asks.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heriones and handsome heros by night. The Truth About Cupid is part of a twelve month series she wrote about familiar strangers, people we see every day, but don't know a thing about.

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