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When It All Crumbles
The box clattered to the floor, and she nearly jumped at the sound. The lid had flown off, revealing the corners of her forgotten past. She picked it up gently. How strange it was, to be holding the memories of the life she had tried so hard to push away. For years the old, faded box had stayed untouched in the back of her closet. But now that she was moving out of her lifelong home and into a shabby and ridiculously expensive retirement complex she felt compelled to clean the place out.
The house was empty, as always. The sun was setting, providing just enough light for her to see as she placed the box on the cluttered table. She swept away some of it and turned her attention back to the shoebox-sized box.
The first picture she found stung her with the sadness of a heartbreaking memory. It was one of him, her old fiancé. It brought back one memory in particular- the day he had left her with no explanation whatsoever.
“Come on,” he had teased, well ahead of her as they raced up the hill that was now nothing more than a promising construction site. She was lagging behind, almost dragging the picnic basket, but her face was shining with happiness. They were together, after all, and with only a month to the wedding she was buzzing with excitement. It hurt her to remember that little detail.
“You got a head start,” she exclaimed playfully, finally catching up to him. They collapsed into a heap, laughing at their own foolishness.
By the time they had finished the picnic, he was watching her from afar. She caught him staring and smiled gently.
“What’s the matter?” she whispered, turning to where he was staring; the setting sun casting its colorful rays across the blue horizon.
He wrapped her in his arms, bringing her small hand into his and kissing it softly. It was a long time before she realized he was crying. Tears were streaming down his heartbroken face, and he made no effort to stop them.
“I can’t,” he murmured. She twisted to face him, eyes clouded with fear and confusion. He had never been like this, ever.
He shook his head, pushing himself away and turning his back to her and the sun. “I can’t love you.”
As he walked away, she turned, missing the two words that could have changed everything.
She knew now what had caused him to leave so quickly. It hadn’t been her; it had been the guilt that was eating away at him. The photo of her best friend did more than remind her. It taunted her, throwing now painful memories in her face and laughing at her discomfort. She had been such a fool back then, to think that going to him would somehow magically make everything right once more.
She walked to his apartment, her steps unsure. He hadn’t said a word since that day, and she hadn’t tried to contact him. With only two weeks away from the wedding, she was becoming desperate for any kind of contact with him. And if he wouldn’t initiate it, she would have to take matters in her own hands.
When she stopped in front of his house, she was trembling.
Her first knock was timid; her second too forceful. But when the door finally opened, she felt like she was being blown away, and not because of the harsh October winds.
“Oh, it’s you.” Her best friend, Amelia said. Her eyes kept wandering back to the inside of the house.
“Yes,” she replied lightly. “I thought you were in Paris.”
Amelia shrugged. The air was awkward and she attempted a smile.
She took in Amelia’s rumpled appearance and felt disgusted and heartbroken.
There was no other explanation as to why Amelia was there, and she didn’t even try to deny it. She didn’t even check to see if he was inside, watching her. She simply nodded and walked away. The wedding was to be called off, apparently.
The months that followed the encounter happened in the blink of an eye. She didn’t see them; she didn’t care anymore. She moved to Verona, trying to erase the events that haunted her mind in a city that breathed romance. She held onto the house; the only thing keeping her tied to her old home.
It wasn’t until she came to visit some old friends that she saw them, together. The party had been crowded, but it hadn’t been hard to spot them through it all; him in a tuxedo, her in a flawless green gown that pooled down from her waist. It made her envy them, even from afar.
She slipped through the crowd, refusing to look for them. But it wasn’t long until she found herself face to face with them.
“Hello,” he said curtly. Amelia nodded her way with a newfound stiffness in her actions, but neither had any more to say than that. The couple turned away arm in arm, heads close together, as the way she remembered doing with him.
It was then she realized he really was gone.
She had never dwelled on her relationship with him; never even shed a single tear. Even though he was now happily married and she a loveless old maid, she had always been above that. But as she sat alone in the empty house, she let her head fall to her hands and her tears flow freely for the first time in her life.