Walking along 17th Street with his mind firmly in
the past and oblivious to the historic present, Eduardo Rojas collided with his
future. Not metaphorically, but quite literally.
Both his stack of books and the woman in the yellow dress tumbled to the ground.
"¡Madre de Dios! My apologies, señorita. I did not see…"
His breath caught, his words drifted into a stammer as the woman turned and he
saw her eyes for the first time. Though he considered himself a romantic,
Eduardo had never believed in the concept of love at first sight until that
She settled on her elbows, smiling at the slightly open-mouthed stare of her
unwitting attacker. Though he had seemed quite determined to keep moving before
their impact, he was currently motionless. Torn between wanting to see how long
he would stay that way and a desire to get back on her feet, she decided to flip
the switch on his internal circuit breaker.
"Usually, it would be considered polite to help a lady up—especially when you’re
the one who just sent her sprawling." The harsh content of the words was belied
by their light-hearted delivery. Vivian Long was far less upset about being
knocked down than she was interested in the man who had done so. He wore a brown
suit that was the height of fashion…decades ago. The collection of books he had
been carrying was now split between the pavement and a precarious perch in his
crooked elbow, save the one in her lap. She lifted it and glanced at the spine
while her handsome assailant stammered another apology, letting the rest of his
armload fall in his haste to offer her a hand.
"I am very sorry, señorita. I was trying to make my way through this crowd as
quickly and as gently as possible, and I somehow did not notice you, though how
that was possible, I truly do not know." Eduardo blushed as he realized what he
had just said. It was, however, exactly what he was thinking. Her creamy skin
stood out in a sea of predominantly darker tones. Brown hair in braids, deep
eyes of hazel that had trapped him momentarily, and a figure that filled out her
summery dress in ways that he had best not consider if he wanted to avoid
"Perhaps your mind was in the Andes of the 1500s instead of Washington in August
of 1963." Vivian took the proffered hand, pulled herself up, then placed the
book, Marriage and Courting Rituals among Classes in Incan Society and Their
Effect on Warfare and Politics, in the hand she released after gaining her feet.
She retrieved her sign and helped him gather the other scattered volumes, which
carried similarly scholarly titles in both English and Spanish. "Do you work at
"No, I am merely a student. I did several years in the field after obtaining my
master’s degree in Chile and am now working on my doctorate through an exchange
program at Georgetown College. I apologize again for my carelessness and would…"
His words were drowned out as the surrounding crowd cheered the comments from
the current speaker. The noise quickly died down as the people once again began
to concentrate on the speech.
Vivian smiled again as she pieced together what she thought he had said. "I’m
sorry, are you asking me on a date? I don’t even know your name!" She struggled
to keep a straight face as the man’s handsome features contorted in shame, and
he immediately began a new apology.
"No, no. I simply meant that I felt I should make amends and would like to…."
"Hush." Vivian placed a finger on his lips. A visible shiver passed through him
at her touch, but he did not withdraw. "Have you a specific meeting that you
were hurrying to reach?" She lifted her finger slightly to allow his reply, and
his tongue darted, subconsciously sampling the site of her touch. Vivian felt
the imaginary rasp of it against a distant part of her body.
"Well, no. I simply had not anticipated the immensity of this event and…"
With the heat of his breath brushing her fingertip, she realized he was not the
only one stunned by an inexplicably powerful connection. In that moment, it
became more necessity than amusement to maintain contact.
Once again, Vivian placed the finger on his lips. "Then you can make amends by
standing with me and listening to the next speaker. Witness some history as it
happens instead of reading about it hundreds of years later. Then you can take
me for that cup of coffee, señor…" Her voice trailed off in an interrogatory
"Rojas. Eduardo Rojas Aguilar."
"What a mouthful! Eddie, it is. Please, call me Vivian. Now, stand here and
listen with me. Then you can buy me that drink, and I’ll consider your debt
Eduardo started to correct her undignified shortening of his name, but thought
better of it. There would be time for that later, he realized, still shocked
both at his own forwardness and that he had put himself in a situation where it
could come into play. He decided that it would be a more interesting evening
than he had expected, although he still had reading to do. Hearing the name of
the next speaker and realizing it was familiar from the newspaper, he decided
that he would indeed listen. Afterward, the companionship promised to be, at the
very least, intellectually stimulating.
Vivian watched the conflict play across Eddie’s face before he quieted. She
thought she recognized it, both from her own experiences and those of
acquaintances. She also noticed the quiet intensity that took over as he glanced
down at her sign, then turned his attention toward the stage erected on the
monument steps. He might not be up to speed on current events, but he knew
something of the struggle, she realized. While his clothes were out of date,
there was a fierce intelligence in those eyes. She was very interested to hear
his reaction to the speech, which, by all accounts, would be similar to one
she’d heard the speaker deliver months ago.
"Very well, miss…Vivian," he finished, looking at her and stammering over her
given name as if it was an inappropriately glimpsed undergarment. Since she’d
not supplied her surname, he had no choice but to use the more personal form of
address. There was something titillating about the man’s discomfiture, she
realized. He made her feel like a forbidden fruit, ripe and juicy and begging to
"I take it this is a cause about which you are passionate?"
Vivian cocked an eyebrow, causing him to blush at his use of a word with such
"I mean," Eduardo continued, "with which you are intimate?"