Sunshine Superman

The sun was far too bright for March. It was perfectly bright enough for May, maybe even late April. But for March? The sky was clear, there were a few white, puffy clouds strewn here and there, and the sun was smack dab center in the sky, in all its glowing yellow glory, shining far too bright. March was famous for one thing, being the bane of Elizabeth Graden's existence.

March was far too bland. Some residents considered winter in Massachusetts to be far too harsh. Halloween, while still a part of the autumnal equinox, was always too cold for the children to wear their costumes without coats. Come November, snowfall and freezing temperatures would arrive. December, and especially January, would bring the sub-zero temperatures, and it would slowly and only slightly warm up in February. The arrival of forty degrees in March was a heat wave.

Winter had a varied sort of beauty. The smell of snow, so clear and clean, was invigorating enough to arouse a feeling of mutual calm and excitement in even the hardest of winter-hating hearts, even if only for the length of the inhalation. The sparkling glitter of ice on top of snow the first morning, the breathtaking landscape of white over the once dull and gray city streets, and the firm crunch of land giving way beneath your feet; these were what made winter so beautiful. Maybe later in the afternoon, and especially the next day, was when winter showed another side. The passing cars would kick gray and black slush onto lawns, and soon the landscape would again turn to a mucky gray, only this time wet and cold, with gray walls of sky to match.

March was like the day after a good snow, only a month long. The sky was constantly gray and cloud-riddled. Snowfall would be sporadic week to week, and with the temperatures trying to rise again, would often turn to sleet. March was a gray, dreary world, only brightened by one alcohol-soaked and green day. Grappling for the sunglasses in the dash, Elizabeth sighed. Maybe what made it that much worse was the fact the university she was exiting was made entirely of stone. The architects had wanted to make the university look rich and royal; they had only succeeded in creating a dungeon. Elizabeth should have been happy to have escaped the dungeon and entered into a new world of light, but the trees were still bare and slush still slid around the parking lot. The sunlight seemed too out of place.

Pulling out onto the main road, Elizabeth pressed on her stomach as it rumbled. Forgot to eat breakfast again, she realized. Glancing at the car's clock, she realized she hadn't eaten lunch either. Stopping behind a line of cars, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number.

"Hello?" a breathless voice answered.

"Amy," Elizabeth said. "What are you doing?"

"I'm on…I'm on…hang on," Amy gasped. "I'm on the treadmill."

Elizabeth swallowed a laugh. "Then why did you answer the phone?"

"I thought maybe it would burn more calories," Amy said. She must have stepped off the treadmill, the whirring in the background was gone.

"Well I'm starving, feel like going out somewhere to grab some calories?" Elizabeth asked.

"Um," Amy thought. "Honestly? After that bitch of a run? I'd rather just stay two pounds lighter for now, even if it's just for the afternoon."

Elizabeth sighed. "Fine. Be that way. I'll figure something else out."

Amy laughed. "Have fun. I'll call you later, okay? It's Thursday, we should go out."

"Okay," Elizabeth relented. She craned her neck. By now she had breezed through the intersection and pulled out onto the highway. Stopped at a light, she could just make out the Dunkin Donuts a block away. The drive thru was packed, but the parking lot itself wasn't too full. It was around three. Elizabeth was a creature of habit, and she knew they had just made their second to last batch of donuts. They would be fresh, slightly warm, and flaky. It was the perfect time to get one.

Elizabeth jumped as she heard beeping further ahead. She looked up to see a figure dash out of the firehouse and across the street. She rolled her eyes and she pulled a right; the fire fighters were always running in front of the traffic for their coffee break. They were conveniently across the street from the Dunkin's, but you'd figure a firefighter would cross the street just a little more safely. Taking a left into the parking lot, she pulled her car into an empty spot and grabbed her purse.

The firefighter was already at the counter when she arrived, there was one customer ahead of him and he was staring at the menu with a grin on his face. I hope I don't look that happy to be getting donuts, Elizabeth thought wryly. Glancing around the store, she took him in in bits and pieces. He had short, dark hair, nearly buzzed. His eyes were a chocolate brown, even in a Dunkin Donuts sparking with mischief. He had strong features, masculine to a fault, but his eyes and smile lent a boyish quality that made it impossible to guess his age. He could be in his mid-twenties, he could be ten. Elizabeth did her best to covertly admire how his uniform fit his trim figure. She recognized him immediately.

Her university was located in a central area of town, near the mall and various restaurants, and on the line of one of the major cities on the south shore. There was never a lack of anything to do, and as a large college, never a lack of eligible men. However, if there was one thing females couldn't escape, it was the allure of a man in uniform. Having the police station and fire station so close to the school meant lots of ogling females commuting to school, and this particular firefighter was quite popular. No one knew a thing about him, aside from the fact that during the early fall months and early summer months, he could be found lounging with one of his buddies on the bench outside the firehouse. Run-ins with him at the Dunkin Donuts, however, were stuff of fairy tales. He never spoke to any of the girls who would stand behind him, dreamy eyed and drooling. Nobody even knew his name, but he was legendary.

"I saw that firefighter today," was all a girl would have to say, and the remainder of the girls would immediately know who she was talking about.

Squeals would follow, and questions like "what was he wearing?" "what was he doing?" "was he in short sleeves today?" would ring out. Elizabeth often sneered at the conversations as she passed in the hallways.

He was good-looking, Elizabeth couldn't deny that, seeing him now up close. There was an element of sexiness to him, but Elizabeth couldn't help but wonder how much of it was due the uniform itself. With all the hype, she couldn't help but be slightly disappointed. He was cute, but then, he was only cute. Shrugging to herself, she concentrated on the racks of donuts behind the counter. Elizabeth didn't really feel like becoming one of the girls often vilified and admired at the same time, one of the girls lucky enough to stand just a foot behind him. Elizabeth snapped out of her musings as the line moved forward. Another worker came out from the back and began opening the second register, and soon both Elizabeth and the firefighter were standing side by side at the counter.

Elizabeth waited patiently as the cashier fiddled with the register, staring above the cashier's head at the racks of donuts. She jumped as the firefighter playfully slapped the counter. She had ignored him up to this point; Elizabeth didn't even know what he had ordered.

"You better step on it You expect to get a good tip while you're dragging your feet like that?" He called out playfully at the small cashier, who was skittering around behind the counter, simultaneously making coffee and bagging donuts at the same time. "Come on honey, my boys are hungry over there!"

The girl blushed and grinned at the attention. "We don't really get tips that often anyway," she said softly.

"Hmmm," the firefighter teasingly replied. "I wonder." Grinning, he stood up tall and surveyed the area. He seemed ready to attack again, so Elizabeth stepped in.

"Gee, no one gets appreciation for the hard jobs, now do they?" Elizabeth said to the cashier she was facing.

The cashier looked up with a small smile. She was a slightly older Hispanic woman, and from the looks of it, had dealt with the firefighter's antics before.

"What are you saying?" The firefighter turned to Elizabeth suddenly. The grin was still etched on his face, and he was bouncing on his heels. He seemed ready to pounce.

"Oh," Elizabeth said sweetly. "Only complimenting the patience exihibited by the cashiers here."

The firefighter leaned back onto the counter again, only this time leaned his shoulders to the side and twisted, so he was almost unsettlingly easing into Elizabeth's space. "Are you saying they have a certain need to be patient right now?"

The corner of Elizabeth's mouth twitched, and she found herself trying not to laugh. Turning away from him with a shadow of a grin, she said "medium iced regular and two plain donuts, please."

The firefighter scoffed. "She gets on my case, but I see how it is. She's boring."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. She began to reply, but thought the better of it. She handed some cash over the to the cashier.

The firefighter snatched the bills out of her hand, tossing a couple of crumpled ones onto the counter. They nearly fluttered to the floor on the opposite side, and the cashier had to grapple for them. "What? First you're mouthy, now you don't talk?"

Elizabeth stared blandly at him. "I talk when I feel a response is warranted. And I can pay for my own coffee."

The firefighter laughed. "I'm not paying for your coffee. I'm paying for the coffee and the chocolate crème donut you ordered."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "I didn't order a chocolate…"

"Oh, be adventurous," the firefighter struck back, his grin widening. "I don't roll with unadventurous people.

"I didn't realize we were rolling." The words slid easily enough off her tongue; Elizabeth was more surprised by her lack of surprise than what she actually said.

The firefighter threw back his head and laughed. "What's your name, honey?"

"Well," Elizabeth replied. "It certainly isn't honey." She turned to the cashier, taking her donut and coffee. Realizing the firefighter hadn't replied, she relented. "Elizabeth. And before you go insulting my choice in donut, I see you got yourself a chocolate donut. A plain chocolate donut. Catch my drift?"

"No," he said playfully, poking a straw into a coffee. He deftly balanced the tray of three coffees with the box of donuts in his hands. Slipping the tray on top of the box and holding it with one hand, he pulled one coffee out and took a slurp. Smiling at the girl who had made it in appreciation, he turned to Elizabeth. "Well, Ellie. Since we aren't rolling, what are we doing?"

Elizabeth sighed and acted as though she were thinking hard for an answer. "Nothing special, I'm afraid," she finally replied. Inwardly rolling her eyes at the unwarranted nickname, she decided to ignore it.

"Okay, I'll rephrase that," he grinned. "Well, Ellie. Since we aren't rolling, what are we doing tonight?"

"I'm going out," Elizabeth replied. "I have no idea what you are doing."

"Well I suppose I'm going out too," he replied. "In fact, I suppose I'll be going out to High-Lites."

"That's nice," Elizabeth said dismissively.

"I suppose you should as well," the firefighter continued, taking a few quick steps to beat Elizabeth to the door. Continuing to balance the box of donuts and coffees, he opened the door and held it with his foot, brandishing elegantly for Elizabeth to continue in front of him.

"I suppose I could," Elizabeth replied. "However, I don't see why I should, just because some person whose name I don't even know might be there."

"Well," the firefighter replied. "I guess if you went, you might find out the name."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes and began walking slightly faster. She clicked the remote lock to her car and pulled open the door. "Don't spill any of that coffee on your uniform on your way over," she called out as a good-bye.

"See you tonight, Ellie!" The firefighter called in response, before jumping over the mulched hill separating the parking lot from the street. Raising a hand, he waved to oncoming cars before darting across four lanes of traffic again.

Elizabeth snuck a look over at the firehouse, just at the same moment the firefighter looked across the street, with a big smile and wave. Ellie, she mouthed, giving it one last eye roll, before throwing the gear in reverse. Pulling out, she noticed another employee washing the windows. The employee was staring at her with the look of death. It took Elizabeth a moment to recognize her; she was in one of her classes. "Oh boy," Elizabeth breathed. Without meaning to, Elizabeth had just become a legend of mammoth proportions. She had not only stood behind, then beside the infamous firefighter, she had actually spoken to him. She didn't just speak to him, she had held a complete conversation with him, told him her name, been asked out by him, and then walked out the door that he held open for her. "Well, I'm already screwed," she muttered. Putting on a show for the young girl, she waved and smiled at the firefighter as he sat on the bench with a couple of others outside the station. He returned the wave and yelled something out to her. She could only imagine what it was.

Tapping her fingers on the steering wheel a minute later at a red light, she mulled over the situation. Elizabeth wasn't interested in pursuing anything at the moment, but she figured he wasn't either. He was cute enough, she decided. And hell, he had made her stifle a laugh more than once. Had she not been in her March-blues that day, she may have actually laughed aloud more than once. "Worth a shot," she finally muttered. She pushed her sunglasses up onto her head and pulled out her cell phone again. Hitting redial, she waited for her friend to pick up.

"Hello?"

"Hey Amy," Elizabeth replied. "You know those girls? The ones that always sit on the ledge in the student lounge?"

Elizabeth heard Amy scoff quietly. "You mean the ones that always talk about that damn firefighter?" She replied. "Ooooh he's so hot! Ooooh he's so dreamy!" She pantomimed in a high-pitched voice.

"Yeah," Elizabeth replied. "Well listen, just for a minute, let's pretend that we're…"

"Oh God, not you too," Amy interjected. "Elizabeth, I thought we were above all that crap. Remember? The only way to get a man is to be a grown woman, and to be a grown woman is not to care? That's what you said."

"Okay, okay, I know," Elizabeth replied. "But let's not act like we haven't had a 'he's so hot' conversation before just for fun, anyway. We just haven't been as flighty about it."

"So what are we arguing about?" Amy asked. "I forget now."

"We're going to be one of those girls, just for a minute," Elizabeth replied. "Just less flighty. I stood behind him at a Dunkin Donuts. Then beside him."

"Ooooh!" Amy exclaimed, back to her high-pitched voice.

"And then I actually talked to him," Elizabeth said.

"Ooooh!"

"And then he actually talked back," Elizabeth said. "And then he held the door open for me. And then he asked me out."

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Oh, shit," Amy finally replied. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah," Elizabeth said.

"Well, what was it like?" Amy asked.

"Well, we kind of just…uh…we flirted, I guess," Elizabeth replied. "Or…we made fun of each other. I don't know."

"You're stuttering!" Amy accused. "You like him!"

"I don't know," Elizabeth replied. "What should we do?"

"I say you go," Amy replied.

"Well, I sort of told him I was going out tonight, and he said he was too, and said I should go to the same place," Elizabeth explained. "High-Lites," she added as an afterthought.

"Okay," Amy replied. "Then we go."

Elizabeth sighed and closed her phone. What am I getting myself into? She wondered. Dropping her sunglasses onto her nose, she stared into the sunlight with disdain. It has to be sunstroke or something, she decided.