As she jogged along the path flanked by pine trees, dappled with sunlight, Hassana wondered if she would see the cyclist again today. So far, they had passed each other every day this week. For months, she had been jogging here but this week was the first time she had ever seen him although there was something familiar about him. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties and possibly Japanese but she couldn’t be sure. And he was extremely good-looking. She always had a thing for Asian men. She promised herself that if she saw him today, she would smile and say hi.
Toshiro hopped on his bike and headed for the path. He hoped he would see her again today. If he had known that she used to jog there, he would have cycled there before now. For weeks he had admired her from afar, wanting to walk up to her and say hi but fear of rejection prevented him. He had always had a weakness for African women but never approached them because he wasn’t sure if they would be interested in him. Other women were attracted to him and thought he was handsome but he wasn’t interested in any of them. This woman was different. She took his breath away.
The first time he saw her, he almost walked into a lamp-post because he was staring at her and not paying attention to where he was going. How embarrassing that would have been if she had glanced around and saw him sprawled flat on the ground out cold. He was walking back to the office after having lunch with a couple of friends when he saw her coming out of a health food store. She didn’t notice him. He wondered what he would have done if she had.
They were heading in the same direction, so technically, he wasn’t following her but he was curious to see where she was going. They walked for ten minutes and then she went into First National Bank. He stopped and looked in. After standing there for a few minutes, watching, he saw her appear behind the counter. She was a bank teller.
The next few days he found himself walking by the bank and looking in, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. He was seriously considering changing banks. It turned out that he didn’t have to. It was quite by fluke that he found out that they shared the same trail. He decided to ride there one morning instead of going to his usual route when he saw someone jogging toward him.
As he tried to avoid the maneuver his way around the fallen tree limb, he glanced up just as they drew even and his eyes widened when he recognized her. Their eyes met and then she jogged past him. He wanted to look back but didn’t want to end up in a tree so he continued on, making a note of the time. He returned the next day and saw her. Today was Friday and he told himself that if he saw her, he would smile and say hello.
And there she was coming towards him. His heart began to race.
She espied him up ahead and her pace quickened. As soon as we are side by side, I will say hello, she vowed.
They were alongside each other. Now was the opportunity to greet each other as they had planned to since Monday. She jogged past and he pedaled past. Not a word of exchange—only an exchange of glances.
This time he looked back and…
Crash! Startled, Hassana turned around and saw him and the bicycle in a heap among the trees. She raced over to him. He was trying to push the bike off him. “Are you all right?” she asked, concerned. “Are you hurt?”
He nodded. “No,” he said. “Just a bit winded.”
“Here, let me help you up.” She took his arm and pulled him gently to his feet. While he stood there, trying to regain his composure, she went and got his bike. “Your bike doesn’t look as if it’s damaged or anything.”
He examined it. “It looks fine, thank goodness.”
“What about you?”
“I’m fine too. Just a bit embarrassed.”
She smiled. “Don’t be. It happened to me the last time. When you went by, I looked back and ran straight into a tree. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt.”
He smiled and held out his hand. “Toshiro.”
She shook it. “Hassana.”
“That’s a beautiful name. What does it mean?”
“You have a twin sister?”
“No. My mother gave me the name because she liked it. What does your name mean?”
“Intelligent one. Although I don’t feel intelligent right now.”
She laughed. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m glad you’re all right.”
“Thanks for your help,” he said. A pause then: “Would you have dinner with me tonight?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
They arranged to meet at seven outside of The Botanical Bar.
“I’m looking forward to this evening,” he said quietly.
“Me too,” she said. “I’ll walk with you.”
Smiling, he pushed his bike along the path and she fell into step.