I stood near the children’s area of the Willow Creek library with some of the other parents. Children knelt on the brightly-colored carpet in front of a singing man playing a guitar. Every Saturday, there was a children’s event at the library. I always brought Caleb for the reading circle, but there was always a special event, too. Since we’d been coming, there had been magicians, puppeteers, musicians; on one occasion, there had even been a petting zoo where the handler taught the kids about the animals. Today was musician day, hence the guitarist singing kid songs.
“I wonder if he’s single,” one of the moms murmured to another behind me.
The woman snorted quietly. “Lisa, you are married.”
“A woman can dream.”
I suppressed a small smile at their banter. The man was quite handsome. Even I, a woman who had sworn off men, could admit that. Not that I’m looking. Because I’m not. I was just…appreciating. There was nothing wrong with appreciating; it was doing anything more than that that brought trouble.
After a few more songs, he put his guitar down. “That’s it for today, kiddos.” He grinned broadly at them. “It’s been awesome playing with you guys.”
Some of the kids begged him to keep singing, but the librarian came over and announced that it was time for the reading circle.
As he left the kid’s area, I approached him. “Thank you for playing for the kids.” Wait, when did I decide to talk to him? “You’re a very good singer.”
He smiled easily at me. “Thank you for coming to listen.” He offered me his hand. “I’m Parker Jennings. In case you missed the introduction.”
I laughed a little. “Actually, I did. So thank you. I’m Nora Yuen.” I gestured over to Caleb, listening with rapt attention to the librarian’s story. “That one is mine.”
“The red-haired boy? Not that you mention it, I think I notice the resemblance.” He made his way to a couch and sat down. Without making a conscious decision, I followed him and took the seat next to him.
What are you doing, Nora, talking to a guy? I shushed the voice in my head. I wasn’t looking to date him. What else did I really have to do while Caleb had his group? Besides, men and women could be friends.
“I haven’t seen you here before,” I said. “They usually have the same people at these things.” As far as I could tell, they had two musicians and alternated them in the schedule.
“I just moved to Willow Creek last month.” Sadness flickered over his face but quickly disappeared. “You come a lot?”
I nodded. “When I can. I don’t always work the same schedule, but my brother will bring Caleb if I can’t.”
“No Mr. Yuen?”
“No.” Definitely no.
A smile twitched at the corners of his mouth. “What do you do? You mentioned your schedule is irregular.”
“I’m a journalist.” That was actually how I’d first discovered this program. It wasn’t around when I was a kid, so I hadn’t known about it until I’d been assigned to write an article over the new children’s event the library was putting together. It had been planned as a one-time thing, but there had been such a good response thanks to my article, the library had been given enough funding to make it a weekly thing.
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Some days.” When I got to write something I cared even a little about, I loved it. Like the library piece. But, more often than not, I was still getting thrown the reject stories, the filler articles.
He nodded with understanding. “I get that.”
“What about you? Do you play music for a living?”
He laughed and shook his head. “Oh, no. This is just a hobby. I’m a writer, actually; I write kid’s books.”
“You do? What have you written? Maybe I’ve read some to Caleb.”
“I doubt that,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m not well known – yet.” He grinned. “I’m working on that, though. I don’t think my books have made it far out of Sunset Valley. It was a local publisher that picked me up. The pay is kind of crap, but there’s nothing else I’d want to do.”
“Something we have in common.”
“We seem to have quite a bit in common.”
The look in his eye made me shift in my seat and glance away. The connection I felt here was dangerous. Even though he was a stranger, he felt so familiar, so easy to talk to. But I knew better than to trust any connection I had imagined.
I got to my feet. “I think the reading circle is over. I need to get Caleb. We really have to head home.”
Parker stood up along with me. “Nora, would you like to get dinner with me some time? We can make it a group meal, if you want. I’d just really like to see you again.”
I hesitated. I wanted to say yes, I realized. It was almost out of my mouth when I bit my tongue and shook my head. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. I – I’m sorry. I really am.” I turned away from him and hurried over to collect my son.
Parker’s face lingered in my mind the rest of the day.