The Park

January 18, 2008
By Catherine Preusse, Northborough, MA

Leila Alden wakes up every morning to a freshly prepared breakfast in bed and warm bath water running. She comes out of her bath room in a silk bath robe and walks into her closet to pick out a gorgeous designer outfit. She slips on her heels and slides gold earrings through her ears. She brushes out her brilliant blonde hair and applies mascara to radiate her bright green and hazel eyes. Leila is 18 years of age, living in the prosperous east side of New York City, and attending an elite private school. Her life revolves around her schoolwork but more importantly the ability to mingle with her fellow affluent friends.

Growing up, Leila didn’t know anything but the limo rides, the expensive dinners, and carrying herself like a proper lady. Her father was a lawyer, who took the cases for the wealthiest of individuals that the big apple had to offer. Her mother stayed home tending to their house, which by definition really meant shopping.

Every morning before school Leila always stopped at her favorite coffee shop to purchase a latte. She always had time to sit and people watch before jumping back into the town car and being chauffeured to school. Everyday she would sit in the same corner and in same chair of the cafe. As people would walk by, she would always say the same thing to herself. They are normal. She got up, threw away her cup and began another day in her not so normal life.

Leila had been dating the same boy for about three years now. His name was Jake Benton, short for Jacob. He has dark brown hair, green eyes, and perfect white teeth. Jake always wears Leila’s favorite cologne when they go out, and that always makes him hard to resist.
Leila and Jake’s parents are long time friends and business partners. Leila’s father has been working with Jake’s mother at their law firm. When Leila’s mother and Jake’s mother became pregnant within the same year, they joked that some day their kids would get married. They laughed then, but it’s becoming a strong possibility. When a Benton boy finds that special someone, his great grandmother’s 30-carat emerald cut diamond ring will be worn on her hand till they have kids and pass it along. Jake knew not long after they started dating that Leila was the next one in line for the ring.

On a cold Sunday afternoon, Leila walked her small pocket beagle, Luna, down to the park to get some fresh air. She was so amazed with how wonderful the weather wasn’t paying attention to what was around her. She accidentally bumped into a young man who was standing on the side walk texting on his cell phone. She nearly fell to the ground but her heel broke instead of her back. She began to get up. As she looked up the young man was standing infront of her with his hand out helping her up. Leila paused, still sitting on the ground, staring at him. My goodness he is so beautiful, she though to herself. She reached her hand out and he gently pulled her up. She stood there, with a broken heel, dirt on her rear and mangled hair. She was so mesmerized by his beauty.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he said to her.
“No,” Leila said still powerfully starting, “It was my fault I wasn’t looking”

He looked down at her, and noticed that her heel was broken on her left shoe causing her to walk with a limp.

“Would you like me to catch you a cab? I don’t know where you’re going but I’m sure you don’t want to get there with a broken heel”

Leila was about to tell him that she would love that, but a part of her didn’t want to, and that part overruled.

“No, actually, I think I can manage from here,” Leila said with a smile.

She began to walk and realized how ridiculous she looked. He stood watching her attempt to glide away, but couldn’t help but laugh. He walked up next to her.

“What your name?”

“Leila, and yours?”

“Simon, It’s wonderful to meet you Leila”

She just then noticed he had an accent. He shook her hand, and walked away.

That night Leila laid awake thinking of Simon, The next morning she walked to the same park with Luna, hoping that she would see him, but he wasn’t there. She made this a usual routine for the rest of the week. She would go out with Jake, and as they would sit eating dinner, she couldn’t stop thinking of Simon. Who was this guy? Why can’t I stop thinking about him? I can’t… I love Jake…I think?

She decided to go on that walk one more time before giving up. She sat at a bench pretending to read a book. Every once in a while she would look up and scan the area. She was there for about an hour. Eventually she gave up, she gathered all of her things and as she looked up to walk away, there he was. Beautiful in all his glory, he was wearing a black long jacket and black dress pants. He stood there, smiling at her. She smiled back.

They walked down the park talking about each other. He was 22 years old, just graduated from New York University and had just gotten a job in Marketing with the New York Giants. Simon was older, but she didn’t mind. He loves Italian food, sports, and cooking. He grew up in Cambridge, England (hence the accent) and when he lived there, he would go to London for the day just to go to the museum and observe the different pieces of art. The best part about Simon that Leila notices was that he was normal.

They had been walking and talking for about an hour when they finally realized what time it was. She had a dinner party to get to and he had to run errands. They exchanged goodbyes, but as Leila walked away she wished they would have exchanges numbers instead.

They made this a continuous act to “run in” to each other for months. Leila always took that walk at the same time each day. They would talk like they were old friends. Eventually after some time, it became clear the attraction they had for each other. Simon always wished to ask her on a date, but he was always nervous. Apart of Leila always wished that he would ask her on a date, but knew it wasn’t right. Finally, Simon gave Leila his number, just incase they stop “running into each other” and want to get together. She was so excited.

They would still find their ways of spotting each other at the park, and one afternoon they grabbed coffee. They spent some time in the coffee shop just talking some more. They both shared childhood memories and what their family was like. He envied that a wealthy girl such as herself had such a big heart, because he wasn’t used to that. Leila loved that he was a family man, and wanted to have the big family with the adorable house in the suburbs. She never really wanted that, but she did now. When they left the restaurant, Simon went to give Leila a kiss on the check, instead Leila turned just enough so he would kiss her right on the lips. She could feel the butterflies in her stomach and her knees weaken. That has never happened when she kisses Jake.

The next week she joined her family, Jake’s family and several others for dinner. As soon as she arrived Jake was there with open arms excited to see her. She smiled but the smile wasn’t as big as it usually is. He asked her what she had been doing all week when he tried to call. Leila told him about the park and how she found a new special place to sit and read. She never mentioned Simon once, even the time she fell and broke her heal. They ate dinner, and she went home after telling Jake she was to tired to go out later that night.

Jake’s mother sat him down to discuss the ring once everyone had left.

“Do you plan on proposing to Leila, before decisions for college come around?”

“Of course,” he replied, “and I plan doing at a special spot”

Later that weekend, Jake planed a special dinner that afterwards would end with an engagement. He had this all planned out perfectly, all he needed to do was to make sure that Leila was ready.

Leila got ready not thinking anything of what Jake might have up his sleeve. He takes her to fancy restaurants all the time. She put on her dress and walked into her closet. She was looking for shoes to match and she found the broken heel sitting in the corner of the closet. Thoughts of Simon came back to her. Leila went and sat down on her bed. She couldn’t understand why she had these feelings about someone she doesn’t even know. She picked up her phone and called him. He didn’t answer, so he shut her phone and finished getting ready.

Jake was on his way to pick her up. He called her and she came down to the limo. They went to Masa, Leila’s favorite Japanese restaurant. They had dinner and everything seemed normal. When they started to walk out of the restaurant Jake grabbed her but then let go because he could feel himself beginning to tremble and palms getting sweaty.

Meanwhile, coming out of work was Simon, just minutes from the park.

Leila went to get back into the limo, but the driver must have driven away. She looked over at Jake confused.

“Let’s just walk a little, I’ll call him if he doesn’t come by soon.”

They began to walk through the streets of New York, talking about absolute nonsense, but they liked it that way. Jake reached into his pocket to make sure the ring was still there, he was so excited. They began to come to walk towards the park. They both sat down on the bench where Leila would sit to wait for Simon. Leila mentioned how beautiful the sky was but Jake commented that it wasn’t as beautiful as her.

All of a sudden, Jake starts to get up, Leila went to move with him but he placed his hands on her knee as he kneeled down. Leila could hardly breathe, she knew what this was and he certainly wasn’t just tying his shoe

“Leila, will you marry me?”

She was so nervous she was lost for words. She took a deep breathe, and for a second she looked up for a second. There standing was Simon. He wasn’t moving, just stood there with his jaw dropped to the ground. She looked back down at Jake smiling, then again at Simon. Tears began to roll down her face as she saw the 30-carat ring sparkle.

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