Prologue

August 8, 2011
It’s a dark, rainy afternoon. The rain has been falling all day, as if the saints in Heaven are crying and there is nothing to console them. She is walking slowly, clutching her black and gray striped umbrella by the handle as if it’s the last breath of life within her. Her hair is damp and frizzy because of the wet weather. I should have worn it up today, she thinks to herself. Too late for that now. Her shoes are wet and her toes are starting to curl because of the cold. It wasn’t as chilly in the morning, so she hadn’t brought a raincoat. It’s mid-autumn and it’s getting colder every day. She keeps walking.

He’s soaking wet. His socks and shoes are soggy, his jeans have holes in the knees from slipping in a puddle. His hair is a mess and dripping masses of it are sticking up beneath his black hoodie. He’s wearing a dark green t-shirt with a black and gray plaid, flannel shirt. He’s been walking for 36 minutes. He checks his phone, yep. 36 minutes exactly. He keeps walking. He’s willing to sacrifice the cold because he knows that in a matter of moments, he will have forgotten all of it. He’s a few yards from the street. Any minute now. And then... there she is. Her head is down. He figures he has about 30 seconds of being invisible before she looks up and realizes that someone else is inhabiting the street. He looks at her. She is exactly as he remembers, but older. Her strawberry blonde hair, her bright blue eyes, her small figure. This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

She’s been keeping her head down, watching for gaps or puddles on the sidewalk. She reaches the end of the sidewalk. She stands for a moment and looks at the sky. It’s a deep gray, something that might make someone sad, but today, it only makes her smile. Suddenly, she feels someone watching her. She slowly looks up. It’s like slow motion... Then, she sees someone. A dark figure, with a hood pulled over his head. She knows it’s a guy because he’s about 5’10 and there aren’t many girls she knows that are that tall. He also has holes in his jeans, and Nike tennis shoes on- a dead giveaway. He’s reaching up... what does this mean? For a slight second, she panics. He could be anyone. He could be dangerous. Maybe she could turn the corner and keep walking before breaking into a run. No, that would only make him chase me, if that’s what he’s after. But he’s only removing his hood. She gasps. It’s him.

Despite the rain and approaching thunder, he miraculously hears her gasp. It’s slight and short, but he hears it. He had been expecting it, and almost waiting for it, and it makes him smile.

He smiles. It’s the smile she remembers. She takes it all in. His dark black hair that is sticking up from being under his hood. She moves down to his eyes. His eyes. They tell her that everything is okay and she is safe. There is no question in those eyes, there are only answers. They are reflecting the single street lamp that has flickered on. It gives the effect that they are twinkling like little stars. She looks at his face, the contours of his chin and cheeks, his slight dimples and grin lines. His strong shoulders that have bore so many trials but that have somehow overcome them. Is this real? Is this really happening? Please... don’t let this be a dream.

He takes a step forward. He watches her take a step back. He takes another step forward. He’s crossing the street, but there’s no reason to watch for cars because the street is as quiet as a church after Mass on Sunday.

For every step he takes forward, she takes another step backward until she backs into a wall. She can’t move anymore. She is trapped. She can’t breathe. He keeps moving closer until he is an arm’s length away. This is really happening. This is really happening. She watches him open his mouth, but no sound emits. Please God, let him say something so I know this isn’t a dream. Please...

He tries to say something, but he can’t. She’s right here... she’s actually, really here. He finally says it, so quiet he can barely hear himself.
“Catie.”

She gasps again. “Catie”
He’s saying her name. It has been so long since she heard his voice. She’s afraid to break the silence... but she has to. She can’t let this magic fade away. “Michael.”

“Michael.” He closes his eyes and sighs. He takes a step closer. He can’t stand to be apart from her any longer. He needs to hold her... to let her know that he’s here and not going away. He needs to reassure her that he is here to protect her, to listen to her, to love her. He takes one more step and then... she’s in his arms. He’s hugging her and she isn’t letting go. “Is this really happening?” she asks, so quiet and gentle that he’s afraid if he holds her any tighter, he’ll break her. “Yes, this is happening.”
“You’re hair is a mess.”
He laughs, “yeah, the rain took care of that.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to surprise you. Your parents know, but I told them to keep it a secret. I flew in last night, and they told me to meet you here on your way home.”
“You came... for me?”
“Yes, of course. I’d do anything for you.”

She hugs him tighter. “I love you” she whispers. And then she realizes that she has never told him to his face. She looks up at him.
“I love you too. Let’s go home.” He takes her hand, and they walk across the street.

The house is quiet, but the lights are on. He knows her family is expecting him. They walk up the front porch steps and she moves to open the door. He pulls her back, ever so gently and leans down to kiss her on the forehead. She smiles at him and squeezes his hand. She opens the door, and they walk in.





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