It was such a beautiful, sunny day that after visiting her aunt, Jessie decided that she would go to the park and spend an hour or so before heading home. She loved this old park. As a child she used to come here with her aunt and her cousins. She went to her favorite area where there were three benches facing the pond. As she approached them, she noticed a very attractive man sitting on the one in the middle. Their eyes met when she walked past him to get to the third bench. She sat down, placed her handbag beside her and leaned back, crossing her legs.
She was acutely aware of him and wondered if he was there alone or waiting for someone. Unable to resist, she turned her head and her heart skipped a beat when she saw him watching her. His arm rested along the back of the bench. Although he was dressed casually in a pink tee shirt and jeans there was an air of elegance about him. He looked like he was in his mid to late thirties. They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time and then, he smiled.
Heart racing, she smiled back. This was so exciting. Here she was making eyes with a perfect stranger in a park she visited frequently. Does he live around here? She wondered. That seemed very unlikely. He looked out of place in this modest neighborhood.
Her heart leapt when he got up from his bench and went over to her. “May I join you?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes,” she replied, sounding a little breathless. This close he was even more attractive. He had the most amazing green eyes and smile. She pulled her handbag closer to her to make more room on the bench.
He sat down beside her and held out his hand. “Paul Bentley.”
She shook his hand. “Jessie Moore.”
“I don’t usually approach a woman I don’t know in a park but I had to meet you.”
She smiled shyly at him. “Do-do you live around here?” she asked.
“I used to,” he said, surprising her. “I grew up here and then my family moved when my father started his own business. I still come back here sometimes, though. Life was tough at times but we got by. What about you? Do you live here?”
She shook her head. “No, my aunt lives here. I used to spend weekends with her and my cousins and we used to come to this park. It has changed a lot since then but I still love coming here.”
“Do you live with your parents?”
“No, I live on my own.”
“Do you live far from here?”
“Not really. I take the tube and it’s about a twenty minute ride.”
“What about you?”
“I live in Canary Wharf.”
“That’s a really nice, upscale area,” she exclaimed. “I went there a couple of times and loved it.”
“I like living there. I especially enjoy going to the park or walking along the docks to unwind after a long and tedious day.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I’m a High Court judge.”
“You’re a judge?” She stared at him. “But, you look so young. Most of the judges I see are older men.”
He smiled. “I’m thirty-eight,” he informed. “I was appointed to the judgeship two years ago.”
“What sorts of cases do you preside over?”
“I sit in the Family Division which deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment. The Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children’s welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in ward-ship cases.”
“Do you like what you do?”
“For the most part. Although sometimes the decisions we make are seen as controversial as in the case where the hospital was given permission to separate conjoined twins without the parents’ consent and the woman who was allowed to have her life support machines turned off but a husband wasn’t allowed to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent. We have faced a lot of criticism but ultimately, we practice law and equity. ”
She tried to envision him in a robe and wearing a white wig, seated on the bench with a gavel in his hand. “I’ve never met a judge before.”
And I’ve never met a woman who makes me want to lose myself in her eyes and her smile. He couldn’t get enough of her. He wanted to know everything about her. “Tell me about yourself. What do you do when you’re not sitting in the park talking to a judge? Do you have brothers and sisters?” Never once did he imagine that he would be attracted to someone who looked much younger than him but from the moment he saw her, he knew he had to talk to her.
She looked at him, feeling shy again. His eyes were intent on her face. She began to tell him a little about herself. “I graduated from university last year. Got a job at Trends as a Digital Copywriter. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. My parents are retired and my mother volunteers at a women’s shelter. On the weekends, I go vintage shopping or the cinema or pop into the library or hang out with friends or stay in and read a book or watch television.”
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-three.” She hoped that her age wouldn’t matter. It would be a shame if it did because she really liked him.
“I’m not married,” he said, startling her. “Do you have a boyfriend?” He could tell that she was attracted to him too but he wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a relationship because that would only complicate things.
She shook her head. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Relieved, he said, “I would like to continue our conversation over dinner.” He glanced at his watch. It was six o’ clock. They had been talking for an hour. “I know a nice family run trattoria where we can go.”
“That sounds good,” she murmured as she took up her handbag and stood up, excited that they were going to spend more time together.
He got to his feet and she felt small beside him. For a moment they stared at each other, their bodies close together. She was really quite beautiful. “Jessie, I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I would really like to see you again after we have dinner tonight.”
Her heart was racing. “I–I would like that too.”
He smiled. “Good.” Unable to resist, he raised his hand and brushed his knuckles gently against her cheek before they headed to the entrance of the park.
Over Penne Arrabiata and non alcoholic wine, they made plans to see each other again. Two years later, when they went back to the park where they met, they were married and expecting their first child.