My father always said that I should think before I act. I've always had a bad habit of absent-mindedly going against that advice. Or any other advice, for that matter. It's not intentional, it's just my father's words of wisdom don't come to mind until after they're needed.

The whole "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." tidbit didn't hit me until about the third time around. My ex-husband cheated on me after 12 years of marriage and four kids. I chose to turn my cheek. I found evidence he was cheating again and was assured, by him, he wasn't and he really wanted to work things out. Even though I just knew this was complete bullshit, I turned the other cheek. Months later, after he got obscenely drunk one night, he decided he needed to go for a drive only to call me about an hour later to come get him because he wrecked his car. I knew from his location he was on his way to the woman's house he wasn't having an affair with. Thankfully, he didn't hit anyone. Unfortunately, the true victims turned out to be our marriage and our four children. Just before the divorce was finalized and just after my soon-to-be-ex's girlfriend broke up with him he decided I was "great and beautiful" and I "deserved another chance" to see what a wonderful changed person he is. Gee, mighty generous of him. No thanks; I'll pass. I remember he told me, after finding out about his first affair, I should thank his lover because she talked him out of leaving me and to try and work things out instead. Funny, I still don't feel thankful toward her, at all.

After what was one of the more traumatic events in my life, you would think I would finally heed well meaning and well given advice. Some people, unfortunately, always have to learn from their own mistakes.

A short time after the divorce was finalized it became clear working shift work as dispatcher and being a divorced mother of four was not compatible. Even though dispatching in law enforcement is a fulfilling and rewarding, yet mostly thankless job, I loved it. For the most part. There was one kind of call I wouldn't miss. It went something like this:

"9-1-1. What is your emergency?" I'd ask in my most peppy, earnest voice.

"There's a cow in the road!"

The first time I got this call, I asked, "Excuse me, did you say there was cow in the road?" Surely, this was joke. I quickly discovered how wrong I was. The more 9-1-1 cow alert calls I received, well - the police department received, the more I felt like asking the concerned citizen if the cow had an AK-47 and was taking out vehicles as they passed this mad cow. Ever the professional, I refrained. One day a man accused me of causing lightening to strike the power converter which caused the traffic signal to fail making him "one f***ing hour late for a very important f***ing meeting". Gosh, you mean God granted me a power superior to that of dealing with irate jerk-offs who say really stupid things? Cool. Now, if I could only find a way to channel such power. Again, I only thought this since there is no time to get riled up over morons when you have people who use 9-1-1 for what it was intended and you have to give live- saving instructions over the telephone, while checking on the safety of an officer who is out on a domestic disturbance and dispatching an ambulance to the 9-1-1 call and a fire truck out to another scene.

Spending the majority of an eight-hour shift communicating with civil servants over the radio and local citizens over the phone, and in person, gives one little time to eat and just about no time to use the bathroom. I mean, you can eat at your dispatch console, but you can't 'use the facilities' there. Your partner, if you're lucky enough to have one, may not be too comfortable with watching you cop a squat, besides it not being very sanitary.

Which is why I was ecstatic with the new job I found; I got to have an entire hour for lunch away from my desk. I had no idea what I was going to do with all this new found freedom during the work day, so I explored the area and found a nice little park with covered tables only seven minutes away and a library right down the street from there. For a little book nerd like me, this was truly heaven. Although, little might not be the best term to describe me. I'm 5'9 and have been since I was about 14 years old; unfortunately, after 20 years and four children, I'm no longer a size 5, but a size 12. I no longer have fantasies of being a 5 anymore, but 9 would be nice. Hell, so would being a 10. Fat sure can be stubborn about leaving once it gets attached to you. Why do I have to be so damn lovable? My ramrod straight, shoulder length brown hair is usually scooped up into a pony tail and, thanks to LASIK surgery; my almond shaped green eyes are no longer hidden behind glasses.

A week or so at my small slice of heaven and going on my third murder mystery, I notice there is someone else at the park doing the same thing I'm doing: reading a book while eating lunch. His lunch. I thought he might have been a local kid, but as I walked by on my way to my truck, I saw he was wearing business casual clothes. Most kids I know wouldn't be wearing such conservative clothing; especially in the summertime in Texas. The only other thing I could tell you about him is he had short hair as black as pitch. A month went by and, everyday, there we both were escaping into a world someone else had created. For the most part, it was jus the two of us, except for the occasional Stay-at-Home Mom or jogger, utilizing the small track around the park. I, sitting at a single covered table and he, sitting at a table in the covered pavilion area.

Then one day, I arrived at the park a little later than usual. And there he was, sitting at my table. And this is where the thinking should have come into play.

Bastard, I thought, didn't he have any reader's courtesy or, at the very least, respect for squatter's rights?

Walking not quite so nonchalantly over to my table, I stopped at the edge of it and glared down at him. He acted as if he didn't even know I was there. So, I cleared my throat and said while tapping my book on the table, "You know, this is where I sit."

At first he didn't say anything, but just looked up at me. My God, he had the most gorgeous milky brown eyes. With amused curiosity he asked, "Really?" Only the way he said it, it sounded more like an accusation than a question.

"Yes. Really," I replied while leaning onto the table with my right hand, "Every day for the past month or so I have been sitting here and you have been sitting over there." I pointed to my left and then swung back around to face him. "Ring a bell?"

"You know you could have just sat over there," he said nodding his head in the direction of the pavilion area, "instead of coming over here harassing me."

"I don't want to." I almost pouted the words.

He smiled a smile that was so warm and inviting I had to bite the inside of my lip to not smile back. "Why's that?"

"Why's what?" For some reason, I was suddenly having trouble concentrating.

"Why don't you want to sit there?"

"Because this is where I have been sitting every day and I'm comfortable here and," I continued grudgingly, "because I don't like to sit over there. It feels lonely there in that big space." Why in the world did I just tell him that?

"But, you are alone." He was still smiling and the sparkle in his eyes told me he found this conversation way too amusing. That or he found me amusing. The thought that he was somehow laughing at me caused my cheeks to burn slightly.

Seeing as I had already dug my grave, I might as well lay down in it, "Yes, but over there I feel alone." Exasperated, I continued, "Look, if you are not going to move, you're just going to have to learn to share." With that I plopped down next to him and opened up my book; although, it was hardly even close to where I left off. Damned if I was going to show him my frustration by flipping through pages.

"By all means," he said, now only smirking, and turned back to his own book.

There was complete silence and I sat there mentally scolding myself for not saying all the things I should have and could have said. As usual I was completely bereft of any snappy comeback at the moment I could have used it. I mean what good is a comeback a full minute later.

"What are you reading?" he asked, jarring me from my self- belittlement.

"Nothing. Now." I replied bitterly.

"Well, maybe you can read Nothing more quietly."

"What are you talking about?" I cocked my head to the right to face him.

"You keep sighing and shaking your head."

Leaning into him, I said, "If it bothers you, you should move."

"Didn't we already have this conversation?" He had leaned so close to me, I could feel his breath on my lips. I couldn't move or speak. All I could think about was how sweet his breath smelled and wondering if his kisses would taste just as sweet. I looked into the milky way of his eyes and his thoughts seem to be echoing mine as I caught his gaze darting from my lips to my eyes. My heart was beating as fast a rabbit's foot thumping the ground, warning of danger and any thoughts I may have had were drowned out by that sound. His lips touched mine, a faint soft lingering touch that hinted of an intense passion I've never known and now needed to explore. The kiss intensified and our tongues found each other mingled in a soft sensual slow dance. We had turned to face each other on the bench, my right leg draped over his and curled behind him. His left hand was on the back of my neck and his right was on my lower back pulling toward him; holding me close. He was taller than I was and my right hand was feeling its way up his body to feel his hair between my fingers when a primal moan broke the silence.

Whether it came from him or me, I don't know, but it was enough to bring us both back to reality.

Still holding me close, with his arms wrapped around me he said, "My name is Steve."


"So, Denise, would you like to go out some time?"

"Absolutely, Steve."

I fell in love right then and there, only to hear someone's faint voice saying to never mistake love for lust. So, we took things slow; after the first few times, anyway. And after two years of waiting for the bottom that never dropped out, we were married.

For once not listening to my Dad's advice had paid off. Then again maybe it always had.

They do say everything happens for a reason.