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Thomas hates the aisle of self-help books he has to pass through to get to the serious non-fiction section. “Rubbish,” he mutters, noting the titles. How to Deal with Loss, The Answer is in the Stars, Quantum Way of Thought, My Mother and Me, How I Fought Obesity, My Anorexic Journey. These books sell millions because people seek magical formulas to deal with their problems. All this sharing, support groups, as though they have no brains in their heads.
A towering stand for a best-seller dominates the middle of the aisle: The Key to Happiness. ‘The winner of the rotten tomatoes top prize for the worst title,’ he thinks. He picks a copy from the stand and flips through the pages. While perusing the blurb, he hears a female voice behind him.
“I lost my keys,” she says.
He turns and faces a petite woman. “Here?” he asks.
“Here, there and everywhere,” she replies. “Happiness is hard to find.”
“You’re pulling my leg.“ He chuckles.
“I’m serious,“ she says, blinking. “Shall we look for it together?”
He pauses for a moment, then decides to play along. Who could ignore those dark, mysterious eyes?
He follows her out of the store, into street. Bustling lunchtime crowds scurry along the pavement in both directions.
“This way,” she says, pointing west.
Thomas joins the flow, walking next to her.
“First we must define it,“ she says.
“Happiness. What is happiness?”
“A much over-rated notion, which doesn’t exist.” He smirks.
“Is that so? See the blind man crossing the street, using his cane. Happiness is being independent.”
“Unhappiness is being disabled.”
“You mustn’t do that. Laws of attraction will hear you and bring you the opposite of happiness.” She points to a sparrow, searching for food by a garbage bin. A morsel of bread discovered on the pavement, the bird takes off to a safe location to enjoy it. “Happiness is being able to escape,” she says.
Leading him to an empty table at a street café, she drops her handbag on a chair and grabs her wallet. “Sit here and I’ll be back.”
She returns with two mugs of coffee and a generous portion of dark chocolate cake.
“Happiness is a cup of coffee and piece of cake?”
“You’re learning,” she nods.
The serotonin from the chocolate washed down with coffee takes Thomas to a moment of bliss. “Happiness is sitting next to an attractive woman and sharing a forbidden delicacy.”
Holding his arm, she takes him to the park across the street, and settles on a bench “Happiness is finding a vacant bench on a sunny day.”
Thomas watches the children racing their miniature sailboats on the pond and remembers his childhood. “Happiness is having friends.”
“You’re getting there.” She pats his hand.
His gaze falls on the woods, bordering the park, on the other side of the pond. “Happiness is being an evergreen, dressed for all occasions.”
Thomas looks into her eyes, speckled with gold beams from the sun. “Are you the author of the book?”
“No, I’m Samantha, just a reader. I read on your face you were in need of a burst of cheerfulness. The key lies inside you, not in a book. It’s up to you to unlock the door or to keep it shut.”
“I’m Thomas. Samantha is a lovely name. Mine’s plain, yours is melodious. All this positivity could be addictive. It’s like taking drugs.”
“It’s better than scepticism. There are so many things we can’t control. Every single day bad things happen in the world. If we don’t look for happiness in little things, we won’t be able to cope with the serious problems.”
“What now? “ he asks.
“It’s up to you.” She flutters her eyelids.
“Can I invite to dinner tonight?”
“I’d like that.”
They part at the park entrance. His gait livelier than ever, Thomas heads towards his office block. He’s looking forward to seeing, discovering more about the beguiling Sa-man-tha tonight. “Carpe diem,” he mutters. ‘Less history, more lightness, living -being.’