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Renee was sitting on a park bench absentmindedly watching the various activities going on outside. I seemed like everyone was outside today doing someting, and the world was bathed in an almost heavenly glow. But that's why she had decided to stay in New York City. Because there's always something going on. Renee decided on a particular interesting game of frisbee to watch. There were four people playing, and no one at all seemed to be able to catch the plastic disk. They were argueing on who was winning so far. She contemplated going over and explaining that they were playing wrong, but decided against it. They looked like tourists, and probably wouldn't be accustomed to the way of the sometimes brash and rude New Yorkers.
Renee shifted her gaze back to her four year old son, Nathan, who was now engaged in a game a kickball with a young man, not much older than she was. Twenty, twenty-two maybe. There was something about him that was familiar though. Extremely familiar. The rich brown hair, the chocolate creamy eyes. Her eyes flicked down from his face to Nathan's and then back up again. Her heart froze solid. She couldn't breathe.
"He cant...he's not...impossible..." She whispered, knowing very well that it was indeed possible.
Nathan rolled the kickball back to the man, and then ran over to him and pulled on his arm. "Come on! Come and meet my mommy!" He yelled with delight, and succeeded in pulling the man who was laughing over to the bench.
"Mommy! Look, here's my new friend! He played kickball with me! His name is Jason!"
Jason. The name rolled of his tounge and stuck like a dagger in her already frozen heart. The pain was excruciating. Her heart felt like it was cracking into a million pieces and falling apart. She sat there as he approached, smilingly, unknowingly. She was positive that it was him now. He was directly in front of her.
"Some kid you got there. He's really cute." He laughed. That sweet musical laugh.
"Leave please." She said quietly, looking fully into his face for the first time, all her New York boldness gone. You said that annoyed you sometimes. Now it's gone. You broke me. Does that make you happy?
"Oh my God." His smile faded and he steadied himself on the arm of the bench. "Oh my God, Renee? Is that really you?" he shook his head. "No, no way. He looked closely at Nathan's face. "It is...this is...unbelievable."
"Believe it." Her mind was racing. Remembering. Uncovering submerged memories she had tried so hard to forget. God, how she tried. The way he smiled, the way he kissed me, that night- the way he touched me. He sat down next to her, she shifted uncomfortably.
"I asked you to leave please." She tried to keep her voice even and uncaring, but inside she was a raging storm of emotions. Anger after what he'd done. The pain of not being loved. The sorrow of having to live with that. And she still loved him despite in all.
"Renee, I..." He had the nerve to look bewildered. His eyes wandered to rest on her unringed hand and then back up to rest on her face. It was the same as always. A little thinner maybe, and she had bags under her eyes, but her pale, creamy complextion and dark eyes still retained that sort of angelic glow about them. "You look beautiful." He finally managed.
She stared at him, studying his features. She looked for the familiar smile that always played at the corners of his lips and eyes and found none. Her eyes strayed from his unringed hand back up to those warm amazing eyes that gave her the courage to speak. "How dare you." She said in a cold, hard voice. Tears threatened to spill and she fought to keep them back. By this time, Nathan had lost interest and was nodding off in her lap. She tried to focus on him.
"I'm sorry. So very, very sorry." He put his face down in his hands and sat that way for a long time.
"Sorry." She repeated to herself. Sorry. Such a simple, easy word to say. You pull it out when you need to avoid what you had done. Even a four year old could do that. Sorry meant nothing. Sorry couldn't change the past. Sorry couldn't make her forget. Nothing could.
"It's true, Renee. It's not a trick." He knew her too well.
"You dont know what it was like. What it feels like to be in love and then just...just deserted." Her voice was weak and trembling.
"Don't I?" He looked up sharply, the years of pain evident in his face. "A world without you is hardly a place worth living.
"You left." She pointed out in the same cold monotone. He had no right to be upset. It was his fault.
"I was a child. I didn't know what to do. It came as a surprise." He looked helpless.
"A surprise?" She laughed bitterly. "I don't think so. You knew exactly what could happen and when it did, you weren't man enough to step up and take responsibility." She touched Nathan's curly head lightly.
"I actly rashly, and I know I have no excuse. I saw how much you suffered. I was forced to watch every day. That's why I dropped out." He looked down. "It was too hard."
"Too hard for you?" I was the one cast out. The one everyone stared at. They knew what I had done, while you hung back and were able to just watch and slip by unnoticed." She took a steadying breath. "Do you know how many nights I've spent up wondering..." Her voice cracked. She bit her lip.
"Wondering what?" His face was the picture of misery.
"Wondering what I had done wrong. Why you didn't love me anymore. You used me and then left." Her voice broke and she started sobbing. "You hurt me. It never went away and it never will."
"You thought that I didn't love you?" He pressed her face to his chest and she was too tired to resist. "Silly girl." He murmured in her hair.
She sat up. "I cant. No, Jason." She pushed him away.
"But Renee, it's different now. We can be together. I'm older. More mature. So are you." He sounded desperate.
"It will never be the same." Suddenly, she leaned into him and looked him in the eyes. "I love you. I want you. But dont you see? We cant. A part of me will always be watchful. Untrusting. Some things can never be repaired." They sat like that, pressed together for minutes, with Nathan inbetween them.
Then Jason spoke. "Can't we still be friends?" he knew the answer before he ever said it.
She shook her head slowly, her eyes brimming with fresh tears. "No. It'll be easier if...if we dont see each other anymore. It's been four years. I can survive."
He looked hurt. "Then I guess..." He pulled her closer. "'Ciao bella." He kissed her.
She closed her eyes and kissed him back, reliving every moment, everytime he had called her "bella". She wanted it back, but she knew she couldn't have it.
"I'll always love you."
She traced her features with her hand. "And I you." When she opened her eyes, he was gone. Her lip quivered, but she did not cry. She couldn't. She wiped the lingering tears away. She was at peace. She had that one thing she always needed. Those last words. That one reassuring moment. I'll always love you.
Renee looked down at the bench on which they had been sitting and smiled. She traced the familiar carving with her finger and repeated the words within the heart to herself. She realized that those same words were now carved into her heart.
"Ciao bella." She whispered, as she looked into the setting sun.