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Abandoned, Part II
Chapter 2- The Stranger
One Month Later, March 10
She worked as a waitress at the diner about five miles out of town, just off the nearest highway, Interstate 64. She liked it because she got to work with people, some she knew and, though few and far between, others she didn’t. Today she met one that she didn’t know, but boy would she love to.
He was average height with dark eyes and an equally dark tan. He drove a motorcycle and wore a brown leather jacket; there was nothing about him that detracted her. His personality was even great and he treated every woman in that diner with the utmost respect. The greatest, coolest thing about him she could find though, he had traveled all over the country. She spent her entire lunch break sitting outside talking to him. His name was Christopher.
She drove home in a daze, left reeling from the man she had spent her afternoon with. When she arrived home the phone broke her out of her stupor. It was her sister, calling to tell her that her dress order from New York had been confirmed. It would arrive in Chicago in July, just in time for the late summer wedding her mom and Beau’s mom had agreed on. She couldn’t really gather up the feelings to care about when the wedding date was or what the color theme would be, or even who would be her bride’s maid. She just couldn’t care. Oh, her feelings for Beau hadn’t changed, but that was the problem. She still felt about him exactly as she had a year ago. She had thought that she would feel more deeply for him by now, not quite this semi-platonic semi-romantic feelings she had.
Linda had tried to talk to her Mom about it, but she had just brushed her off and told Linda it was only nerves. Linda hadn’t tried to talk to anyone else. She was along for the ride now.
May 15, 1972
Not only did Linda have the problem of her upcoming wedding, she couldn’t get Christopher out of her mind. She felt so guilty, because no matter what she tried she couldn’t be excited about Beau or anything to do with his proposal.
Those feelings of guilt had also seeped onto her thoughts of Christopher. He had started to court her, bringing her flowers, or little tokens he had picked up from his travels. She had yet to tell him of her fiancé. The only reason he hadn’t heard about him through the town gossip was that he was staying in a bigger town about 15 miles away. Christopher was constantly coming to the diner and taking her to lunch, or just sitting at the front bar, talking to her throughout the day.
The worst part was that she was completely smitten with him.
July 25, 1972
Beau was headed back from Chicago, having just picked up Linda’s dress. It had been their mothers’ idea. She and Mrs. Michaels had wanted to make sure the dress fit before the actual wedding. He had been sent to pick it up in Chicago.
If only he knew what he’d be coming back to in just a few short hours.
Linda had invited Christopher to her house, excited that she had a few hours of him to herself. They had curled up on her couch while Christopher was reading aloud from her favorite book, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Before long she had dozed off, Christopher following soon after. Neither could dream of what they would awaken to.
“Linda? What’s going on?” She awoke to Beau’s betrayed voice just next to her head. For a moment she was confused because her pillow was moving up and down slowly. Then she remembered who she had been with before she fell asleep. She sat up gently, trying not to wake up Christopher.
“Beau…” That was the only thing she could get out. Her throat had closed up as her heart clenched at the pained look on the man’s face. His eyebrows were drawn down, eyes glowing with suspicion, a once soft mouth turned into a hard line. “I…” She couldn’t think of a good excuse for why she would be lying well, more like cuddling, with a man that’s not her fiancé on her couch. He just continued to look at her from under his honey colored bangs. She looked back at the still sleeping Christopher and pulled Beau toward the back porch.
“Linda… When were you going to tell me?” She didn’t have a reasonable answer for that either. “Were you going to tell me at all?” That she could answer.
“Yes, I was. I was just trying to figure out how and when. You made it so hard. You and your little romantic gestures.” Her eyes were watery, but she was not going to cry in front of the man whose heart she had just broken. It wouldn’t be fair. What right had she to cry when she was doing what she wanted to for the past 3 months.
“I believe you. I don’t want to, but I do.” His voice was hoarse and his hands holding the dress bag were shaking. “I think it’s best if we call off the wedding, don’t you?” Linda just nodded softly, hoping that he would leave so she could stop hurting him. “Alright. Alright, I’ll tell my mother, who’ll no doubt tell yours. I can wait until tomorrow so you’ve got time to leave before everyone finds out.” He had to stop doing that or Linda was going to cry. He had to stop being sweet and he really had to stop caring, even thinking, about her well being and feelings. She hadn’t thought about his when this had started, and when she had it was too late, she had already been filled with thoughts of Christopher.
“You promise you’ll wait?” She didn’t deserve his promise, but knew with a guilty heart she would get it.
“I promise.” She wouldn’t blame him if he broke it.
He thrust the dress bag into her hands with a jerky movement and stepped back a few feet. She uttered a small, nearly silent ‘Thank you’ and then he was gone.
That night was hectic. When Christopher awoke she told him that she had to leave. Told him that she wanted him to leave with her, but wouldn’t begrudge him if he didn’t. Of course, he did.
Gathering up a few days worth of clothes, all the money she had, and the jewelry from her grandmother in a backpack she hopped onto the back of Christopher’s motorcycle and left an abandoned house.
In the attic of that house was a box, and in that box an unopened dress bag. About 30 years from the day Linda took off, that box would be opened and the dress found. Only, no one in the town would claim it. Not even the older man with the honey colored hair who cried at the article in the paper. He knew who belonged to that dress, but he wouldn’t tell. He had promised.