Shelley Reuben: Parking Space: A Love Story

By Shelly Reuben
Shelley Reuben: Parking Space: A Love Story

Chapter 2 - The Big City

Love is a tumultuous sort of magic, and this particular enchantment began at about 7:15 a.m. on a Monday in January, just after Lilly Snow got off a bus at the intersection of Chestnut Avenue and 84th Street in The Big City.

The magic would have started ninety seconds earlier, except that it was snowing.

After Lilly got off the bus, she had started to walk down the sidewalk, thinking that she could pull her rolling suitcase behind her. But its wheels got stuck in the snow, and forward momentum was impossible. So she retraced her steps to the corner and began to walk down the middle of the street instead.

Half-a-block later, a car recklessly sped past the building where, after numerous phone calls to realtors and the overnight delivery of a signed lease, Lilly was about to occupy her very first apartment.

She sprang to one side.

Then, instantly forgetting the near miss, she took two steps into the empty parking space in front of that building, and raised her eyes to the gold painted numerals on the arched window above the lobby door. She read aloud: One. Five. Eight. Two.

She smiled.

Her eyes danced.

1582 Chestnut Avenue. Apartment 301. This was to be Lilly Snow’s address. The one she would put in the upper left hand corner on envelopes of letters to her parents. The address she would put on job applications. The one she would inscribe on tax returns and official forms.

Her first home-away-from-home.

Lilly thought that 1582 were wonderful numbers, and that “Chestnut Avenue” sounded as if it should be the title of a book or a song, like “Forty-Second Street” or “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

Or “Give a Chum a Cheer on Chestnut Avenue!”

The American chestnut tree is an endangered species, but horse chestnuts thrive, have huge pink flowers, and bear fruit that street vendors sell hot in small white bags at Christmas. They even inspire poetry: “Under a spreading chestnut-tree, the village smithy stands…”

Nor was Lilly dismissive of the word “Avenue.”

Avenues, she decided, are marvelous things. They go east; they go west. They go up; they go down. They go under arches. Through parks. Under bridges. Alongside promenades. Here…there…

Lost in thought, Lilly sighed, “I am so happy!”

She stood in the middle of the parking space, in the middle of the block (now her block), in the middle of the city to which she had moved on that very day. Fat flakes of snow speckled her hair, plopped onto her nose, and melted in fluffy patches on the shoulders of her winter coat.

Her hand released the grip of her rolling suitcase, and the suitcase flopped into the snow belly side down like a beached whale. Ignoring it, the street traffic, and the passersby, Lilly flung out her arms and began to twirl around and around like a ballerina on a music box. As she spun,

she chanted: “I am Lilly Snow in the snow. I’m Lilly Snow, all aglow and made of snow. Lilly Snow, in the snow.”

She threw back her head, alone for the first time in The Big City and exhilarated by her freedom and her youth.

Lilly Snow laughed.

A snowflake landed on an eyelash.

She blinked it away. Suddenly she heard more laughter, but not her own. Laughter that would have been accompanied by the sounds of polite applause, except that the hands doing the clapping were sheathed in wooly gloves.

Lilly stopped twirling, blinked again, and turned toward the sidewalk. She saw a small crowd gathered around her parking space.

What the people watching her saw was a woman—more a girl, really—with curly light brown hair, a freckled pug nose, and huge round blue eyes. She was wearing a short red wool coat, short red boots over black tights, and a smile like the birth of morning.

She waved at them and chirruped, “I just moved here.”

A tall, slim woman whose face was obscured by the furry fringe of a hooded parka chuckled. “We figured that out.”

A bulky man wearing a camelhair coat, an old-fashioned fedora, and leading a black lab puppy on a leash shouted, “Welcome!”

And a skinny teen wearing a ski cap and carrying a snow shovel winked at her and said, “Me ciudad es su cuidad.”

Then all three wandered off.

But Lilly did not notice their departure, because her attention had been diverted by a frighteningly close and abrasively honking horn.

Originally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - evesun.com Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.