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A Close Encounter (2)

by Torsten Daerr

I want to meet her, Steve thought. He walked toward the windows.

Steve:  Excuse me, is this seat taken?

Woman:  No, I'm sorry, let me move my book.

Steve:  Thank you, what are you reading?

Woman:  Reading? Oh, I don't know; a friend gave it to me to read on the plane.

Steve:  Are you taking a long trip?

Woman:  Yes, I'm flying to Chicago. And you?

Steve:  I'm going there too, on company business. How about you?

Woman:  I just wanted to get away from San Francisco for a while.

Steve:  There's a lot to do in the city. I'm hoping to do some sight-seeing after the meetings are finished.

Woman:  That sounds nice; my sister is going to show me a few touristy places.

Steve:  I am really fascinated with museums. Every time I travel, I try to see the local museums.

Woman:  I enjoy that, too. You can learn so much about cultures that way. You've probably been to the San Jose Rosicrucian one.

Steve:  No, I haven't. I'll have to put that one on my list and it's a lot closer. (They both laugh.) What's there?

Woman:  It has the largest Egyptian artifacts collection in the western US. Very interesting! You almost feel like you are in Egypt.

Steve:  I'd like to see that. By the way, my name is Steve.

Woman:  I'm Natalie; nice to meet you.

Steve:  And nice to meet you, Natalie. Since we both have to wait so long for our flight, would you like to get a cup of coffee with me?

Natalie:  That would be great; I could really use a cup of coffee! I've been awake since 4 am. (They walk toward a coffee kiosk.)

Steve:  Did you have a long drive to get here? (They sit down and a waitress takes their order of two coffees.)

Natalie:  Not really, I just had trouble sleeping. My husband is an invalid and I was nervous about leaving him for the next few days. But John insisted I go visit my sister. He's right, I guess. I just haven't left him alone since his accident.

Steve:  Do mind my asking what happened to him?

Natalie:  He was working construction in downtown San Jose, the foreman asked him to go up on the roof to finish laying the boards. A section of the roof collapsed and John fell through. An investigation determined the boards were rotten. The foreman was taking a "kick-back" by using poor quality materials. He disappeared before the case went to court.

Steve:  That's terrible!

Natalie:  The worst part was the insurance agency would not pay for John's medical care. They cited fraud was responsible for the accident. Fraud! Can you believe it? I thought we could have fought the decision until finding out the foreman did not pay all the premiums. (She sips the coffee, then adds cream and sugar.)

Steve:  How in the world are you managing?

Natalie:  It's been difficult; almost all of our savings are gone. That's another reason I didn't want to go on this trip, but my sister bought my ticket. But then, something happened… (She pauses, seems to hesitate.)

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