Dave and April had been friends since kindergarten. They lived one street over from each other and shared the same street number, 1001.
Their community was rather small and shared a city park with the municipal buildings that housed the police and fire administration offices as well as the county courthouse.
Once they reached middle school age, they were allowed to walk home together, “straight from school” they were told. Sometimes, they would linger in the park as they cut through the tree lined path to people watch. It seemed they never ran out of “suits” to watch come and go through the park to the many offices in the century old building.
They walked the well-worn path through their middle school years and on into high school. The cracked sidewalk, at times, was lined in the winter with fresh shoveled snow and in Spring the white cottonwood blossoms drifted along with them to land upon the tall green blades of grass laid between the fountain and gazebo, under the elder sycamore and maple trees.
Although April was born in the Spring, her favorite time of the year was Fall. The colors of the season wakened her like nothing else, well, except perhaps the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins baked fresh, daily, at The Rim Coffee and Tea shop. They were only available for 3 months a year starting October 1st. No earlier and no later — no exceptions. The muffins were enormous and one was more than enough for the two of them to share. They looked forward to this day like the last day of school, summer pool season, and the next episode of Friends.
Dave loved to see April’s green eyes widen with delight when she became most alive in the Fall. That year, he had begun to look at her differently. Her long auburn hair, captured the Sun’s golden rays and Dave’s eyes on more than one occasion. He sometimes drifted deep into thought, imagining her freckled nose drawing close to his and sharing a kiss with her. He didn’t know when these feelings began, but, he was bursting to share them with her.
Dave had decided that he would wait until their favorite day of the year to share his feelings with her, over the chocolate chunks, darting from the top of the pumpkin muffins, that sometimes stained the corners of their lips when they devoured them without a care in the world.
The day had finally arrived and,
as planned, Dave was ready to share his heart with April. He was a ball of nerves, though, and asked her to wait at the bench on the other side of the park. He needed a few minutes to gather his courage and thought that the time it would take to walk to the coffee shop and back would give him just that.
The bells hanging from the coffee shop door rang softly as he closed it with their muffin in hand and his heart in his stomach. He began to walk toward the bench and noticed a few more police cars and fire trucks than usual parked at the corner of the park. As Dave began to approach, his heart sunk even further when he didn’t see April waiting for him on the park bench.
The brown paper bag slipped from his fingers as he was overcome with disbelief seeing April’s soft auburn hair spread out among the fallen leaves and her pale eyelids, closed and concealing the beauty of her emerald green eyes. She was gone, in an instant, when she had tripped over the buckling sidewalk where an old knotty root had pushed its way from underneath. She landed in the path of an oncoming vehicle unable to stop in time.
Dave went on to college
and when he inherited his parents home, having aged and been moved into assisted living facilities, he became one of those “suits” they often watched together. His steps often tread along the cracked sidewalks and worn paths they shared cutting through the park so long ago. For many, April was gone and forgotten, but, for Dave, she still lingered in his heart and mind.
She was in the leaves, changing colors of red and gold like her hair. She was in the tiny dew drops hanging upon on the tall blades of green grass like her wide eyes staring at him from behind a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. She was in the smell of Fall that swirled around within the winds, changing the landscape of the park from its summer festivals and 4th of July dances to the season and the day that would always bring Dave to the park bench, to sit and remember his best friend, blossoming love, and the day of her passing, 10-01, marked upon the white wooden cross
he had pounded in the ground with a hammer so many years ago. Indeed, this, too, was his home address, 1001, for he never felt more at home then there; Autumn in the park, with his best friend, all their memories and one, uneaten, pumpkin chocolate chip muffin.