From the July 1982 issue of True Love Magazine
I found love when I least expected it…
It wasn’t exactly the exciting social life I had dreamed about when I’d made the decision to move away from home to a big city. I guess I thought I’d be going out with handsome, exciting men and having the time of my life. Instead, I worked hard at my secretarial job all day, only to go home to my apartment all by myself.
I knew I had been lucky to get this job, since I’d only taken high school secretarial courses; but my boss said I looked like a hard worker, and I was eager to learn. The salary was pretty good, and I had managed to find a small apartment within easy commuting distance to work.
Thinking about commuting brought me back to the present. If I kept daydreaming, I’d end up staying all night. I finished the letters and placed them on Mr. Thompson’s desk, then quickly grabbed my coat and purse. Unfortunately, it had started to rain just as I got outside, and I didn’t have either a hat or an umbrella. Naturally, my bus decided to be a few minutes early, and I wound up standing in the rain for another ten minutes before the next one came.
The weather was so miserable, I considered not getting off to go to the grocery store, but my growling stomach won that fight. I got off the bus and realized that the rain was starting to fall harder than ever. I shopped quickly, selecting only a few items for dinner, and then walked the block and a half to my apartment house.
I started to dig in my purse for my apartment key, when I noticed that my door was slightly ajar. I didn’t understand. I knew I would never have forgotten something as important as locking my door.
I pushed the door open and dropped my grocery bag in horror and shock. My neat, tidy little apartment looked like a tornado had hit it! There were books and papers scattered everywhere.
I ran across the room and found the window open, with the screen torn off. The small television set that had been my graduation present was missing, and so was the stereo system that I had saved for all summer.
I picked up the phone with trembling hands and dialed the operator. When she came on the line, I asked for the police and when I reported what had happened, they assured me that someone would be over immediately.
Once I’d hung up the phone, I didn’t know what to do next. I knew better than to pick up anything before the police arrived, yet I hated to leave my belongings scattered on the floor. Finally, I decided to make myself a cup of instant coffee to try and calm myself. I had just finished stirring it, when there was a pounding on the front door. I jumped up quickly, almost knocking the coffee over.
In the doorway stood a police officer, and I felt a little bit more secure. “Are you the young woman who reported a burglary?” the officer asked.
“Yes,” I replied, my voice trembling. “Please, come in.”
He walked in, took a look around, and shook his head. “Looks like they messed the place up a bit, huh?”
I smiled at him, and I noticed for the first time that he was really very good-looking. “What was taken?” the officer asked, opening his notebook.
“My stereo, a television set. . . . ” My voice trailed off and he looked up in surprise.
“Nothing else?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I’ve been so upset, those were the only things I noticed.”
The officer turned to me, and I could see a look of sympathy in his eyes. “You’re really upset, aren’t you?” he asked. “Look, why don’t you just sit down for a minute and we’ll talk. For starters, my name is Mike Ryan. What’s yours?”
“Judy Winters,” I replied. “Thank you for being so understanding about all this, It’s just that I never expected to have this happen.”
“No one ever does,” Mike replied. “And it can be very upsetting, especially to someone who lives alone. Do you have anyone that could stay with you tonight?”
I shook my head, “No. I just moved here two months ago, and I don’t really know anybody I could call.”
To my surprise, I found myself telling Mike all about myself and my family. He listened sympathetically as I explained why I had moved away and how different it was from what I had expected.
“Well, I’m afraid this kind of incident isn’t going to help your outlook any,” Mike said with a smile. “Now, if you feel like it, we’ll take a look around and see what’s missing.”
Together, we looked through the apartment. I found that my camera, one of my rings, a clock radio, and a jar of coins I had been collecting were missing. Mike wrote everything down, then asked for the serial numbers. Fortunately, I had written those down and I gave them to him.
“Now we’d better check your front door,” Mike said. “I have the feeling you’ll need a locksmith.”
“I don’t understand why the front door was open if they came in through the window,” I said.
“They came in through the front door,” Mike explained. But burglars usually leave a window open for an escape route, in case they hear a noise or someone walks in.”
“Oh,” I answered. “It sounds so—so organized.”
Mike laughed. “Well, they are somewhat organized,” he replied. “it’s probably somebody who’s been watching the apartment building for a couple of days to see when people come and go.”
“Watching me?” I asked, scared.
Mike shrugged. “You and others, I imagine. They probably walked through the halls and figured out who was home and who wasn’t. Still, you’re lucky you didn’t surprise someone. You should never enter an apartment that’s been broken into. Next time, call from a neighbor’s.”
I shivered. “That makes me feel terrible,” I said. “Do you think they’ll come back?”
“It’s not ‘very likely,” Mike answered with a reassuring smile. “They got what they came for, and they won’t want to risk being caught by coming hack a second time.”
“How’s my lock?” I asked.
“That’s beyond repair, I’m afraid,” Mike replied. “I’ll call your landlord and tell him to get a locksmith here right away. He should also fix your screen and put on some window locks for extra security. With a basement apartment like this, it’s easier for burglars to break in.”
“I appreciate all the help,” I said gratefully. “I’m glad you’re the one the station sent.”
Mike gave a deep laugh at that and I noted again how handsome he was. “This is my beat,” he explained. “So if you need any more help, just give the a call. I’m badge 231.”
Once Mike had gone, I felt nervous and tense again. I busied myself putting away the groceries and straightening up the apartment. Suddenly, everything seemed too much for me to handle. I sat down in the living room and began to cry. I had never felt so alone and scared in my entire life.
I don’t know how long I was crying, but suddenly there was a loud knock on the front door. I peered out and saw that it was Mike. I wiped my face quickly and tried to put a smile on my face as I opened the door, but I didn’t fool him.
“You’ve been crying, haven’t you?” he asked gently.
I nodded. “I guess I’ve been feeling sorry for myself.”
“You’re entitled to a little self-pity,” he replied. “It’s been a rough night.”
“Why did you come back?” I asked. “Is there something you forgot?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” he replied. “You see, it was my dinner break anyway, and I got to thinking about you being here alone, and. . . . ”
I stared at him in amazement, before I could think to answer. “That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever heard of,” I said at last.
Just then, the locksmith arrived, so while Mike instructed him on where to put the new locks, I set about preparing a simple meal of spaghetti and salad. Before Mike had arrived, I had completely forgotten how hungry I was. Now, the thought that I wouldn’t have to eat alone brought back my appetite full-strength.
The food tasted delicious to me, but I knew it was because I enjoyed talking to Mike so much. When he began telling me stories about his childhood with his five brothers, I laughed so hard tears coursed down my face.
“Now, that’s definitely better,” Mike said approvingly. “You’re very pretty when you’re happy.”
I looked down, thinking how strange it was that after all that had happened that day, one little compliment could make me feel so happy.
“I guess I’d better get back to work now,” Mike said, pushing back his chair.
“Thanks for dinner, and remember, if you need anything at all, just call the station. They’ll let me know.”‘
After he left, I took a long, hot bath and then went straight to bed. I thought I would have difficulty sleeping, but instead, I fell right to sleep. In fact, I slept so soundly, I didn’t hear the alarm go off the next morning. When I realized how late it was, I called the office. Ruth, the receptionist, answered.
“Ruth, it’s Judy Winters,” I said. “I’m afraid I’m going to be late today. My apartment was robbed last night, and I overslept.”
“Robbed?” she repeated. “You’re not hurt, are you?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” I replied. “But my apartment’s not.”
“Take all the time you need,” she said sympathetically. “I’ll tell Mr. Thompson.”
I hung up the phone and felt oddly pleased. I had thought Ruth was so cool and sophisticated, yet she had been sincerely concerned about what had happened.
I took a little time to clean up the apartment, but I managed to make it to work by ten-thirty. When I came in, everyone gathered around me and pressed me with questions. They all thought I had acted very bravely and made me promise that if there was anything I needed, I would let them know. Ruth and Carol, one of the secretaries, insisted on taking me out to lunch, and Debra, from accounting, invited me over for dinner the following week. After work, Mr. Thompson offered me a ride home and accompanied me inside to make sure everything was in order. For a girl who’d thought she had no friends in the city, I was doing well.
Because I no longer had a television set, I had to find new ways of entertaining myself at night. The first night, I rearranged the entire apartment and hung up some bright posters that I had purchased weeks before.
The second night, I decided to experiment and ended up making whole-wheat bread. I had never made it before, and I felt so proud of myself when I saw those crisp brown loaves coming out of the oven.
Each day seemed like more fun now, because I felt like I had friends to share things with. Although I wasn’t as close to them as the friends I had left at home, I knew that in time I could be. I realized now that I hadn’t given other people much of a chance to be my friends.
The third night, I had just gotten home from work and changed into old clothes, preparing to do the laundry, when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find Mike standing there. It took a moment for me to realize why he looked different, and then I saw that he wasn’t in uniform!
“You’re wearing normal clothes,” I blurted out in surprise.
Mike laughed. “I don’t wear my uniform when I’m off duty.”
“But if you’re off duty, then why are you here?” I asked, puzzled.
“This is a personal call,” Mike said. “I didn’t come here for police business.”
“You came to see me?” I asked.
“Yes—unless you’re hiding someone else in here,” Mike replied with a grin.
“Oh, please come in,” I said. “I wasn’t thinking.”
Mike looked at the pile of dirty clothes. “Looks like you’re getting ready to do laundry. Would you like some help?”
“Sure,” I replied happily.
And, so, strange as it sounds, that’s exactly what Mike and I did. After we’d put the laundry in, we ordered a take-out pizza and shared a bottle of red wine. We laughed and kidded each other as if we’d been friends for years.
At the end of the evening, Mike took me in his arms and held me tightly against him. I snuggled closer, feeling secure and happy in his embrace.
“You’re a very special lady,” Mike whispered to me. “I’m almost happy your apartment was robbed because I got to meet you.”
I tilted my face up for the kiss that I knew was coming, and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped.
Since that night, Mike and I have been dating steadily. We’ll be getting married in about six months, and I’ve invited everyone in my department to the wedding.
The police never did catch the burglar who ransacked my apartment; but, in a strange way, I’ll always be grateful to whoever it was. The robbery brought me a new outlook on life—and a life with the man I love!