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Two Year Regrets

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A cold fall breeze drifted lazily through the park. It groggily rustled the leaves of the trees that lined the walk and picked up the falling autumn leaves, twirling them in its grasp as it carried them into the darkness of the park that was outside the range of the small gas lantern. In a piece of that darkness, near a lantern with a broken glass panel and no flame inside to chase away the darkness, the wind found a new target, a trio of targets really. Bringing the fallen leaves along, the wind decided to give this new target a taste of its full, lazy, strength; which amounted to just enough to make the young woman it had decided to pester, shiver.
She pulled her thin coat tighter, though the wind chilled her all the same. She glanced at the young man that stood next to the bench on which she sat, cradling something in his arms. He wore no coat, and the cold didn’t seem to bother him, but he was going to pains to make sure that the something he was holding didn’t feel it. She glanced away from him to the empty pram that sat between them. It was a fancy, much more fancy than it needed to be. Tiny flowers were engraved into the handle, and more were stitched into the basket. Inside, only the softest linens.
The wind suddenly changed direction, bringing the sound of footsteps to her ears. The sound drew her attention away from thoughts of the pram and the cold. Through the trees she saw an older couple walking hand in hand toward her little group. The woman was nearly bent over double from house work and worry. The man stood straight and stiff, supporting the woman with his arm. His hair had prematurely turned steel grey, he said that that’s what happens when people shoot at you and you have to shoot back. His son had the same grey hair.

For the longest time, all she could do was stare, they couldn’t see her yet, because of the broken lantern and the resulting darkness, but they could wait another few minutes. They hadn’t seen her in almost two years, not since the day she’d left without telling them, and they would and could wait another few minutes.
Sudden panic overtook her. What had she been thinking? How could she have been so foolish? She should have never have let Nicholas arrange this meeting! They would never approve the life she had chosen, it was too far from the one they had chosen for her. They would force her home and she would never see Nick or the little bundle in his arms ever again.
That couldn’t be allowed to happen.
She glanced at the other end of the walk and traced it until it disappeared into the darkness, and then on, from lantern to lantern, until it finally emptied into the busy city streets. If she ran now, it would only take a few seconds to be in the darkness, and then a few more and she would be in the street. They would never know she had been there. She would never have to see them again.
The wiggling bundle in Nick’s arms caught her attention. Nick smiled down at the bundle and then at her. His dark eyes held hers for a second, then flicked down the path that led away from their bench. He knew what she was thinking, and she knew he wouldn’t stop her should she choose to go. And she knew he would keep her strong, should she choose to stay.
Watching him, and the wiggling pink bundle that looked so out of place in the cradle of his arms, she wondered how she could have ever even considered running. There was no running, not now, not ever.

The footsteps stopped suddenly, dangerously close. The young woman suddenly found that her clothes were extremely tight and seemed to snatch the breath from her before she could even draw it in. She dared not turn, but she couldn’t stop herself from looking.
The Pair stared at her for the longest second, taking in the new her. When they’d last seen her she’d been just a girl. Now, she was only months from being an adult. Without warning, the old woman burst into tears and threw herself at her daughter.
“Alice!” She cried, wrapping her arms around the girl. Sobs racked her body.
Her father stayed back, standing as stiff as he’d been trained; the corners of his mouth turned down. His gaze cut her to the core and suddenly all she wanted was to find a hole somewhere, crawl in, and die.
But, she remembered Nick, standing not five feet away, and the immeasurable amount of strength and support he gave of his own free will.
Disentangling herself from her mother, she went to stand next him and their wiggly pink bundle. She could feel her father’s eyes on her the entire time.
“Mom, dad,” she said, her voice shaking, “This is my husband, Nicholas. And this,” she tugged a piece of blanket and revealed a tiny hand that grabbed her finger for all it’s worth. “This is your granddaughter.”





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smileytiggr said...
Dec. 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm
Great wording!!!! Incredible cliffhanger!
 
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