Staff Feature: Abbey Downey
New York City
Hazel marched down 59th Street, her Oxford pumps crunching through dry leaves that swirled on the breeze. Crowds of parade-goers rushed to claim the best viewing spots, all with overcoats buttoned tight against the late November chill. It was a thoroughly festive atmosphere for Thanksgiving Day.
The sidewalks along the parade route were filling up quickly, but Hazel had the perfect spot in mind, right on Columbus Circle by Central Park. With any luck, Harvey was already there holding a place for them. The reporter in Hazel couldn’t stand to miss an event like Macy’s putting on a parade that shut down six miles of New York City. Even if none of the other journalists thought it worthy of coverage, she knew it would make a great story.
Rounding the last corner, she came to a halt. Her perfect spot was already taken—by a cluster of uniformed firemen staring up into a tree at the edge of the park.
Moving closer to the onlookers crowded around, Hazel spoke to a woman in a large straw hat. “What’s going on? What are they looking at?”
The woman didn’t look away from the tree as she responded. “There’s a fella up there, I guess. They’re waiting on a ladder to get him down.”
Now there was a story. Stepping closer to the tree, Hazel secured her felt cloche hat with one hand and peered up into the branches. She could only see a pair of trouser-clad legs dangling from a sturdy branch. Easing through the crowd, delightfully broad shoulders came into view, straining against jacket sleeves while cradled around something she couldn’t make out.
Finally, she got a good look at the most familiar face; red-tinted beard, wide lips she loved to kiss, and bright blue eyes she could never stare into enough. “What on earth are you doing, Harvey Dunlop?”
His look of surprise at seeing her melted quickly into sheepishness. “Oh, hi, Doll. I’ll be down in a jiffy. I hope.”
“But why are you in a tree at all?”
Harvey squirmed, his strong arms flexing around whatever he held. Was that a bit of orange fur? Sure enough, a tiny face peeked out between his arms as he struggled to keep the animal from wriggling out of his grasp.
A little voice behind her made Hazel turn toward a darling girl with a tear-stained face standing by her mother. “He’s getting my kitty.”
Harvey grinned down at them. “The kitten got scared by some jalopy backfiring, and I saw it run up this tree. I thought I could go up a branch or two and save it. But it went a bit higher than I realized.”
After five years together, she really should expect this sort of thing. His soft spot for children and animals was one of the qualities she loved most about him. But, as endearing as it was that he wanted to save a kitten for a little girl, she would rather have Harvey safely at her side on the ground.
From the street, a blast of band music signaled that the parade was coming closer. Startled, the kitten nearly lunged from Harvey’s arms, causing him to stretch too far and slip halfway off the branch. The crowd, including Hazel, gasped as Harvey shot one hand out to grab the trunk at the last second. Visions of what might happen if he fell tore through Hazel’s mind. What would she ever do without him? He was the steadiest part of her life.
Before her imagination could get any more carried away, another fireman pushed his way through the crowd with a ladder. He positioned it against the tree while a man went to each side to hold it. Then he climbed up to take the kitten and complete the rescue.
Finally, Harvey was standing safely next to her, and she could breathe again. As the girl got her kitten back and the scene cleared, Hazel threw her arms around him, soaking in the feeling of his solid chest pressed against her.
She’d had a moment of fear she might not get to experience that thrill again. “I’m sure glad you’re safe.”
He worked one arm free from her grasp and ran his hand up and down her back as he let her hold him. His voice was low and rough. “Sorry I scared you.”
By the time Hazel dragged her attention away from him, the last parade float was nearly out of sight, heading along the route toward 34th Street.
She watched it disappear with a groan. “Look, Harvey. We missed the whole parade. It took a lot of convincing, but Jenkins promised me a front-page spot if I got a good story about it.”
Without letting go of her, Harvey slid one hand into his pocket. He withdrew it and held a ring out toward her. “Hazel, I know you didn’t get the story you wanted today, but maybe a lifetime of me loving you will make up for it. Will you marry me?”
Stunned, Hazel had to let his words sink in. But there was no doubt about her answer. Harvey was her forever. She knew it long before the possibility of losing him to a fall from that tree.
Once again, Hazel clung to him, her heart pounding for a different reason now. “Yes, Harvey. Of course, yes.”
She pressed her lips against his, the heat from his body dispelling any chill from the November air. Harvey’s arms wrapped around her, lifting her slightly off the ground as he met her kiss full-on. She had no idea how long they remained there but jostling from passersby finally broke them apart.
His eyes glowed with satisfaction. “Well, fiancée, if we hurry, we might get to see the end of the parade at Herald Square.”
Shaking her head, Hazel pushed up on her tiptoes to start another kiss. “This is the best view I’m ever going to get. I don’t want to miss a moment of it.”
Connect with Abbey at www.abbeydowney.com.