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No Tomorrow(2)
Author: Carian Cole

On Tuesday afternoon the guitarist with his billboard of ink is in the park again. This time he’s playing a different type of music with a Spanish vibe. It’s fast and catchy—a burst of upbeat ambience under the dark clouds looming overhead.

I’m slightly unsettled as I sit on my bench. This is my place to come to relax every day, and now he’s invaded it with his musical backdrop and his odd magnetic pull. I kinda wanted to give in to the gloom today, to be sad with the absence of the sun. But his music, along with the bobbing dance of his head and the obnoxiously bright tropical bandana around his dog’s neck are making that impossible.

He looks up and meets my eyes as I chew my sandwich. The way he stares me down rivals the skill of my cat. Feeling slightly hypnotized and light-headed, I tear my eyes away from his and toss a small piece of bread to an impatient pigeon. A few seconds later I peek back and catch him grinning playfully at me as he shakes his hair out of his face, like he knows he made me feel spastic for a moment.

My stomach does a small flip, and I throw the last of my bread to the pigeon. I glance at the guitarist once more and my heart skips a few beats. He’s still watching me.

He winks, smiles the most adorably sexy smile I’ve ever seen on a man, then returns his attention to his guitar.

Determined to hide my interest in what feels like subtle flirting, I pull my paperback from my bag. But even the weather won’t let me distract myself from the guitarist. A light drizzle starts before I can open the book. The slightest amount of moisture is enough to make my hair look like I went and got a bad perm, which is not a good look on me.

As the rain comes down harder, I clutch my belongings against my body to keep them dry and sprint for the nearby gazebo. I curse myself for not bringing an umbrella today. I have them everywhere—about twenty of them at home, five in my desk, and two in my car. Not one of them with me when I need it.

Once under the shelter of the gazebo, I comb my fingers through my long hair, which is already damp and starting to curl at the ends. Ugh.

“Shit,” I say under my breath. The outline of my bra and my nipples are clearly visible through my white silk blouse.

“It’s just a little rain.” The deep, smoky voice startles me, and I spin around to see none other than guitar guy and his dog standing behind me in the shelter of the gazebo. He drops his old beat-up guitar case and a tattered duffel bag on the wooden floor then runs his hands along the dog’s coat, talking softly. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but I wish I could.

Shivering, I cross my arms over my breasts.

“If it’s only rain, how come you’re in here? You afraid your hair will frizz, too?” I say it playfully, but my heart is pounding as questions race through my mind. Did he follow me in here? Why? Is he just trying to get out of the rain, or have I made myself an easy target for who-knows-what by being alone in a gazebo?

He dries his hands on his dirty jeans and gestures to the dog. In a hushed voice, as if he’s telling me a secret, he says, “He doesn’t like to get wet.”

My fight-or-flight instincts relax as I watch how much care he lavishes on his dog. The guy seems harmless, but I smile and move farther away from him anyway, glancing down at my watch as I do so. My lunch hour is nearly over.

My gazebo partner looks up at the sky. “It’ll stop in a few minutes. It’s just a quick shower.”

I nod in response, my attention drawn to the earring he’s wearing. The small blue feather dangles on a silver hook and nestles against his mane of long brown hair. The effect is very rocker-cool and reminds me of the bird that flew into my skull yesterday and left its little downy feather on my forehead. I wonder if it was some kind of premonition or a sign.

“You work nearby? Or go to the college?” he asks.

“I work in an office a few blocks that way.” I point off to the right, even though my office is to the left. “And you?”

He tilts his head. “You’re looking at it.”

“So, you…?”

With a nod, he pulls a crushed pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and removes one with his lips. He replaces the pack and retrieves a black lighter from the front pocket of his jeans. “Yup. Work and live here.” He curves his inked hand around the cigarette, protecting it from the wind as he lights it.

Oh. I’ve never talked to a homeless person. Seen them around, yes. Talked to one? No. Another shiver shoots up my spine. Crossing my arms tighter around my torso, I lean against the railing, squashing my purse so he can’t grab it. He probably needs money to eat, or he could be a junkie needing a fix. Screw the rain and frizzy hair, I should make a run for it now before—

“This is one of the nicest towns I’ve been in.” His voice interrupts my racing thoughts. “The people are friendly. They don’t treat me like trash.” He exhales a cloud of smoke and snuffs the half-smoked cigarette out on the bottom of his leather shoe. I wait for him to toss the butt onto the grass, but instead he shoves it in his pocket.

A lump of guilt forms in my throat. I relax my arms as I raise my gaze to meet his. There’s no threat, no mania flickering in those eyes. I see blue—the color of the sky just before it turns to night, that subtle transition that marks one time of day to another. Perhaps his eyes are very telling, and he’s also in a transition of sorts, moving from one phase of life into another.

We watch the rain fall, waiting for it to stop, but I don’t really want it to. It’s soft and lulling and brings stillness with it. The park is empty, except for this homeless guy with the amazing eyes, his dog, and me. By the time the rain stops, I’m fifteen minutes late returning to work, but I’m in no rush to get back. Something about being with the quiet stranger is surprisingly comforting. We leave the gazebo together, his dog trailing behind us down the walkway that leads back to my bench, his guitar-playing spot, and the rusty wrought-iron entrance.

“Nothing more hopeful and beautiful than gray skies and rainbows,” he says as we walk.

I furrow my brow and wait in case he clarifies what he means. He takes his place against the brick wall, across from my bench. He sits on the wet ground and I wonder if rainwater seeping through his jeans will bother him or if he just deals with things like damp clothes. When he doesn’t say anything else, I give him a last look and head back toward my office without saying goodbye.

As I pass through the gate and wait to cross the busy street I see it—a rainbow arching across the cloudy sky. And he’s right. It’s beautiful and hopeful.

Chapter Two

The guitarist is here again today, and he smiles a hello when he sees me. I shyly return the smile and sit on my bench, pretending to busy myself with my plastic container of tossed salad. My focus is truly on the incredibly beautiful rendition of “Für Elise” that fills the air. He plays with so much depth and emotion, I get goosebumps as he plucks each note on his guitar.

Pop, rock, classical…. Is there anything this guy can’t play?

A man in a suit tosses a quarter into the Mason jar, and I want to shove his monogrammed black leather messenger bag up his ass. Does he not recognize beautiful music when he hears it? A quarter buys a piece of bubble gum or a ride on a rocking horse outside the grocery store. That won’t buy live classical music. Huffing, I spend the next minute trying to find my pink wallet, which is lost in the file cabinet of crap I call my purse.

I have a five-dollar bill and a twenty-dollar bill. Chewing my lip, I look over at the musician. I like looking at him, though he’s not my type. Not even a little bit. He looks like Jesus with his long hair and denim-blue eyes and that ethereal aura that bounces off him. I’m sure Jesus doesn’t look like a homeless street musician, but if he were to come down and be all sorts of cool, I could see him looking like that. People must flock to him in droves, especially women, because he’s got a strange sexual magnetism about him. The guitar guy, not Jesus.

I’ve still got my hand stuffed in my purse, and I’m holding the five and the twenty. Five bucks doesn’t seem like nearly enough to compensate for his talent. But giving him a twenty could be too much—I don’t want to look like a desperate person buying his attention. Or he might think I’m some spoiled rich girl throwing money at the poor, dirty, sexy homeless guy.

I feel I should give him something, though, since I’ve been sitting here for the past week enjoying his music, even though I try to act as though I don’t notice him and the fluid movement of his hands. And the way the feather blows against his cheek in the breeze. Or how his eyes track me when I enter the park. Or the way his eyelids close so very slowly when he’s completely into the song he’s playing. But just because I notice all those things doesn’t mean I’m into him in that way. Homeless men with feather earrings are of no interest to me. I just want to show my appreciation of his craft. A simple gesture of thanks can turn a person’s day around.

As I struggle between the five and the twenty, I notice a man with a food cart across the park. Yes! Food is much safer. I toss my salad container into my lunch bag and head across the park.

“What’ll ya have?” the guy behind the cart asks when I approach.

Contemplating the plastic menu taped to the front of his silver cart, I wonder whether guitar guy is into hot dogs or hamburgers. What if he’s a vegetarian? I finger the heart charm on my necklace nervously. Maybe cash would have been better, after all.

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