Inspired by a brief comment in an episode, this story imagines what might have happened if two people met one summer's day, and reminds us that this thing called life takes many twists and turns. Who knows? If things might have been different, things might have been....


Fireworks
By Jane Endries

July 4, 1982

"Have a safe trip," he called as the people hurried into the airport terminal, trying to get out of the pouring rain as quickly as they could.
"Thank you," they called back.
After they were out of sight, he looked at the cash in his hand. The couple had given him a fifty-dollar bill for a thirty-dollar fare. Hmmm, he thought, working holidays does have its advantages. Maybe I'll treat myself to a large pizza tonight.
As far as he was concerned, though, being away from his family on a holiday was advantage enough. He looked at his watch -- it was just after four.
For a moment he thought about what they would be doing. The rain would have moved the outdoor grill inside the garage. His father would be finishing up the first six-pack by now. The children would probably be whining about why couldn't they play outside in the rain. And his sister and brother-in-law would be putting on a happy front for the company.
No, he didn't need to put up will all that bullshit today.
He got back in his cab, completed all his notations, then started to drive out of the terminal. As he neared the bus stop, through the drops of rain on his windshield, he noticed one lone woman standing under the canopy. She was soaking wet and shaking. She was also young and pretty, he thought.
He pulled up in front of her, got out of his cab, and, using a newspaper as an umbrella, called to her, "You need a lift?"
She shook her head, smiled an embarrassed smile, and told him, "I don't have enough money. I'll just take a bus...thanks."
He looked her over -- nineteen, twenty, twenty-one maybe. Long brown hair that was plastered to her face and clothes because of the rain. An open taupe London Fog raincoat covered her short blue jean skirt, and a large brown backpack rested on the concrete sidewalk. He couldn't tell if she was rich or what. But he decided he couldn't leave her like this.
"Buses are only running once an hour today," he told her.
She smiled, "Yeah, I would have to pick a holiday to travel, huh?"
"Where you going?" he asked.
"Central Park West."
So much for the pizza, he thought. "With the bus schedule and the weather, you'll be lucky to get there by dinner time. Come on, I'll take ya," he said, shutting his car door and heading over to her.
A smile seemed to start in the corners of her mouth. "But I told you, I don't have enough money. I've only got...maybe five dollars on me."
Pretty, sweet, humble, and honest. What his mother use to call "a nice girl."
He opened the back door for her and took her backpack. "Don't worry about it. My last fare just gave me a big tip."
She hesitated, "But I can't do this.... My parents will have some money. Will you wait for me to go in the apartment and get some cash?"
He chuckled to himself, wondering if there really were any parents. But he didn't care. He made the offer, and he was going to see her home safely.
"Whatever.... Come on, it's wet out here," he said with a smile as he covered her head and watched her get into the back seat, her soaking wet panty hose clinging to her. Nice legs, he thought. I wouldn't mind...
He shook off the thought, as he handed her backpack back to her, and got back in the driver's seat.
"So, Central Park West you said, huh?" as he glanced into the rear-view mirror.
She was trying to run a hairbrush through her wet brown locks, "Yeah, 847 to be exact... Thanks, I really appreciate this."
He liked her smile. He gave her one back. "No problem.... So, where you coming in from?"
"California."
"You some famous celebrity that I should be recognizing?" he grinned.
"Yeah," she chuckled, "I'm really Jaclyn Smith... No, I go to Stanford."
Okay, she's got a few bucks, he thought.
"Oh, yeah? What are you studying?" he asked, trying to keep his eye, and his mind, on traffic as he pulled out of the airport.
"Psychology."
"Hmmm, pretty heavy stuff. You like it?"
"Yeah, it's okay. 'Heavy stuff' and all."
He took another peek at her in the mirror, "So what year are you? Sophomore? Junior?"
"Well, I'm taking extra classes to get out early. So, technically I'm a junior. I'm taking an internship this summer at a hospital."
"Fun?"
"Long hours," she said, with a bit of forlorn in her voice.
"So what's your hurry?" he wondered.
"Just want to get out there and start making some big bucks," she said with a grin. "No, really I've always been an over-achiever. Wanting to be the first or the best or the youngest..."
"...Or the prettiest?" he interrupted her with a smile. Well, he was giving her a free ride home. He figured that entitled him to a little flirting.
She bit her bottom lip as she smiled and bowed her head. "Thank you."
"So, you wanna work at a hospital when you graduate?" he asked, trying to imagine her in a white lab coat.
"I'm thinking about it. It'd be good work. A lot of people who get beat up come into hospitals, and some of them might need to talk to a psychiatrist -- abuse victims, rape victims -- those kind of people. I just want to help them if I can."
Yeah, he thought, definitely a 'nice girl.'
"Yeah, they'd need to talk to someone. Their heads are probably messed up. Just like the people who put them in the hospital."
"True."
"Ever thought about delving into the criminal mind?"
That shut her up for a moment. He looked in the mirror. She seemed to be thinking about the idea.
"No, I never did...but that could be fascinating, too. Why do you ask," she said, tilting her head and smiling. "Are you intrigued by the criminal mind?"
He laughed, "Yeah, I better be. I'm at the police academy." "Really?" She seemed interested, "Heavy stuff?"
He looked in the rear view mirror, as he heard his own words back to him. Her one eyebrow was pitched upwards, like Mr. Spock.
"Yeah, heavy stuff," he replied with a smile.
For the remainder of the trip, they talked about their studies, loves, and lives. He thought about asking her out, but then remembered where she went to school. A romantic relationship with someone who goes to school three thousand miles away would be pretty ridiculous. But...she said that she wanted to come back to New York after she graduated. Maybe... he thought, you never know what the future holds.
He stopped the cab in front of 847 Central Park West, got out of the cab, and went around to the passenger door to open it for her. The rain had finally lightened up, and he didn't exactly want to end this conversation.
"So," he started, as he offered his hand in helping her get out of the cab, "when you heading back to California?"
"Sunday night."
"You gonna need a ride back to the airport?" he asked hopefully.
"No, my folks will take me...but thanks for the offer," she said sweetly.
He didn't know what else to say. He was about to ask her out, when the front door opened.
"Ahhhh, you're home!" called an older gentleman, coming out of the front door. He came down the steps, and hugged the woman. "Welcome home, pumpkin."
She kissed him on the cheek, "Thanks, Daddy. It's good to be home... Oh, Daddy, do you have any cash on you for the cab driver? I've only got five bucks on me."
"No, don't worry about it," he told her. "I just wanted to make sure you got home safely."
Her father interjected, "No, no, that's very kind of you, but I insist. How much is it?" He grabbed his brown leather wallet out of his back pants pocket.
"Really, sir, I didn't even have the meter running," he tried to explain.
"Well, it was twenty-five dollars when I took a cab from the airport last month," the older gentleman said, ignoring the protest. He pulled two tens and a five dollar bill out of his wallet and handed the bills to the driver. "How about that?"
He relented, grabbing the money, "That'll be fine, sir. Thank you." He put the bills in his front pocket.
"No, thank you. It's nice to meet a cab driver who's not consumed with gauging every penny out of you."
"No, Daddy," she piped in, "he's not a cab driver...well, not full time. He just drives part-time to help pay tuition. He's..." she looked at him, with a lost expression on her face.
"...Mike," he answered her unasked question.
"Mike's at the police academy."
"Well," the older gentleman shook Mike's hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mike."
He returned the handshake, "You too sir."
"Daddy" grabbed the backpack, and headed up the stairs, calling into the house, "Jackie, Liz is home." He turned back to his daughter, "Better hurry up before all the flies come in."
"I'll be right there, Daddy."
She turned back to Mike, and extended her hand. "Well, Mike, it's been nice talking to you."
He tilted his head, "You know, I don't even know your name."
She smiled, "It's Liz. Liz Olivet."
"Mike," he answered, and shook his head when he realized she already knew that, "Mike Logan."
He liked the feel of her hand in his. He wanted to hold onto it longer, but he knew her family was waiting for her.
"Well, Liz, if you decide to delve into the criminal mind, look me up when you get out of school."
Liz laughed, "Well, with grad school and a residency waiting for me, that could be another five to ten years!"
"Hmmmm. That long, huh? Well, I'll be out of the academy and on the streets by then. Maybe even a Detective. Homicide, hopefully."
"You and that heavy stuff," she said with a smile, as though she wanted to see him again. "Okay, you've got a date."
"See you then, Doctor Olivet," he said with a cheshire grin on his face.
"You too, Detective Logan."
Mike got back in his cab, and pulled away from the curb. He looked in his rear view mirror, and saw Liz waving to him. I wonder if I'll really ever see her again, he thought.
 

end

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