Katie Crawford can’t reach things on the top shelf and has an immense love for both cats and ketchup. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @katiegcrawford.
“I’ll give you $500 in cash to get me to the Met as fast as you can.”
The rain was pouring down at JFK that gloomy afternoon. Jeremy’s construction crew had been let go early due to the storm. Storms made Jeremy nervous. It had been storming the night his wife and daughter got in that crash.
The traffic was heavy at the departing gate. Jeremy was at a stand-still when he heard knock in his window.
The woman was dressed in a large fur coat, her makeup smudged from the rain, and her elegant curls had fallen flat.
“I hate to break it to you, ma’am,” said Jeremy. “But this isn’t a taxi.”
“Look,” said the woman. “My driver was supposed to wait for me while I took my daughter inside, but I can’t find him anywhere and my phone isn’t working thanks to this storm.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am,” said Jeremy. “ But can’t you get a taxi or something? I’ve got to get the truck back soon or my supervisor is going to have a fit.”
“Please,” said the woman. “There are no cabs nearby and I have less than an hour to get there.”
Jeremy looked at her. She looked frazzled, tears were welling up in her eyes, she was clearly desperate. Taking pity on her, Jeremy agreed.
The woman hopped into the passenger’s seat. The pair sat in silence for several minutes as Jeremy maneuvered through the airport traffic and the heavy rain.
Jeremy glanced over at the woman. She had pulled a compact out of her purse and was attempting to fix her smudged makeup.
“So what’s going on at the Met?” Jeremy asked. “It’s a little late to be taking a tour, isn’t it?”
“An event my company is hosting,” the woman said shortly, focused on her own reflection in the tiny mirror.
“Cutting it pretty close then,” Jeremy said.
Silence followed. Nothing could be heard except the occasional crack of thunder, blaring car horns, and yelling from angry pedestrians. Jeremy glanced over and saw that the woman was now fluffing her damp hair.
“So where is your daughter off to?” Jeremy asked. “School trip? Vacation?”
“Home, actually,” the woman said. “She lives in Chicago, she was just here to visit.”
“That must’ve been nice,” said Jeremy.
“She got engaged,” the woman said. “She came home to tell us.”
“That’s exciting,” said Jeremy.
“My husband and I weren’t pleased by this news,” said the woman.
“Oh?” said Jeremy.
“He used to work for our company,” said the woman. “We hired him right out of college. He was an amazing employee. Then he lost our largest client. Cost our company millions. We fired him immediately and that’s when he decided to start dating our daughter. I’m convinced they only got together because he wanted to spite us.”
A long pause followed the woman’s confession.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I don’t even know you and here I am spilling my personal issues on you.”
“No need to apologize,” said Jeremy. “But if you want my two cents, I doubt they would go all the way to marriage just to spite you and your husband.”
The woman said nothing, her eyes focused on the raindrops trailing down the window, her fingers drawing patterns in the condensation.
“Look,” said Jeremy. “We’ve established that we don’t know each other, I just know I would give anything to meet the person my daughter loved enough to marry.”
Silence inside, the Manhattan traffic and pounding rain raging loudly outside.
“Do you have kids?” asked the woman.
“I did,” said Jeremy.
“Did?” said the woman.
“No offense, ma’am,” said Jeremy. “But I don’t even know your name, I don’t want to waste your time with my sob story.”
“Paula,” the woman said, smiling softly. “That’s my name.”
“Jeremy,” he said.
“Pleasure to meet you, Jeremy,” said Paula.
Jeremy sighed, hesitant to pour his soul out to a complete stranger, albeit a complete stranger whose name he knows.
“My wife and daughter were killed in a car accident several years ago,” said Jeremy.
“Oh dear lord, that’s awful,” Paula said.
“It changes how you look at things,” said Jeremy. “The last thing I said to her was something about how I didn’t like some boy she had her eye on, then my wife drove her to their little date and I never saw either of them again. Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I had said something different.”
The pair sat in silence for the rest of the ride, each consumed in the workings on their own minds.
Once Jeremy pulled up outside the met, Paula reached into her purse and pulled out a stack of cash.
“Here,” she said shortly, continuing to rummage around in her bag to find her phone.
“Good luck with your event tonight,” said Jeremy, Paula gave a quick wave to acknowledge him as she held her phone up to try and get a signal.
“Yes, one bar!” said Paula, hitting the contact that said Michele and holding her phone up to her ear.
“Hi sweetie,” said Paula. “Have you boarded yet?”
Jeremy turned to Paula, his eyebrows raised.
“I just wanted to apologize for what I said about Ryan,” said Paula. “I’m happy for the two of you, I really am.”
Smiling, Jeremy handed the cash back to her.
“No, this is for all the trouble,” Paula said after she hung up her phone, pushing the stack of cash back towards him.
“Keep it,” said Jeremy. “You’ve got a wedding to pay for.”