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There was something subtly sinister about the man who trudged down the dusk-dusted streets. One would not see it on first glance. His name was Henry. He was middle-aged, of average height with sandy-blonde hair poking from under a black cap, and hazel eyes. Overall, he was not a very threatening man, with a Phillies windbreaker protecting him from the late autumn chill; he looked like the type of man who sat behind a desk for a living. And yet passerby felt an instinctual wariness, an almost imperceptible primitive urge to give the man a wide birth. Perhaps it was the dark cast to his face caused by the dwindling sunlight, perhaps it was the hard set of his mouth or the dark purpose in his stride; but most likely the cause was the black trash bag that thumped ominously against his back as his feet crunched through the acorns lining the road.

As he passed a Dunkin’ Doughnuts, the man paused to observe a couple standing in front of the illuminated windows. The woman blushed cutely as she wiped away sprinkles from her partner’s face with a napkin. Smiling, the man took her hand and leaned in to say something softly into her ear. Some nameless emotion passed over the observing man’s face as he watched the couple interact; he clutched at the trash bag. This scene was so familiar.
Five Years Ago
Her golden blonde hair cascaded down her back in ringlets as she broodingly stared into her empty glass. Henry noticed her immediately. She had occupied the same stool at the same time every Wednesday for the past few months. Her despondency was unusual. Every other time he had watched as she animatedly chatted with the barman as if they were old friends and teasingly flirted with the regulars whom pulled their heads out of their bottles to flirt back with a tone and lightness of expression that bespoke regularity. A red cloud suddenly descended over his eyes, talking with what was HIS! He shook it off just as quickly, observing her expression. The light in her honey brown eyes was dimmed, her usually smiling lips were twisted into a frown. Somehow her sadness seemed to dim the golden light that always surrounded her, the light that placed her on an astral plane further away than he could ever reach. For the moment she had descended to his level and the man finally found the courage to approach her.

He pulled at the collar of his turtleneck, suddenly feeling warm and briefly considered taking a few shots to steady himself. An image of himself, slurring stupidly at the girl bloomed in his mind, and he discarded the idea. So, steeling himself, he approached her and standing next to the empty seat on her right, asked politely, “Is this seat taken, Miss?” She jumped slightly at being addressed, but after eyeing him and not recognizing him, she waved her arm vaguely and mumbled, “Help yourself,” before calling for another beer. The man saw an opportunity as the new bartender’s assistant placed a sealed beer on the counter, and then frantically began searching his pockets for his bottle opener. Trying to act suave, the man reached for the bottle, softly saying, “Allow me,” as he pulled his keychain bottle opener from his pocket. Unfortunately in his haste he knocked over his own drink onto his lap, the cold making him jump out of his seat and into a passing waiter who spilled pieces of roasted pork all over him. The red haze began to encroach on his vision again. It was all ruined! Now she would never—his lamentations were broken by the sound of laughter. He looked up to see the blonde woman doubled over, her light-hearted laughter pushing back the red haze that threatened to engulf him. Some of his feelings must have inadvertently shown on his face, though, because when she caught sight of his expression, immediately interpreting it as embarrassment, she attempted to stifle her giggles as she dug a handkerchief our of her purse and started to dab at the sauce dripping down his face, gasping out an apology. That was the first time they touched. His head never felt so clear! She was like his own personal angel, descended from the heavens just for him. She seemed to recognize the forwardness of her gesture and made to pull away, but he grabbed her wrist to hold it in place, and then smiled at her reassuringly. Trying to set her at ease, he quietly introduced himself, “I’m Henry, what’s your name?” She smiled back, shyly peering into his eyes. They were an interesting shade, hazel-like, a mixture of blues and greens and reds that shifted in dominance in the flickering candlelight. Finally, she answered.

“Margaret.”
One Year Later

The sun brightly reflected off the glistening lake and the glittering ring as Henry slipped it on Margaret’s finger to the applause of the audience. A wide smile stretched across his face. This was the best day of his life. He held her close and whispered in her ear. “I love you. Will you be mine forever?” She looked up at him with happiness radiating from her eyes and replied, “Yes, yes I will.”
Three Years Later
“Here you are, miss. Will that be all?”
The busboy placed a mug in front of Margaret, splashing golden liquid onto the tabletop were it pooled around the bases of three other mugs. She didn’t respond, merely shaking her head within the confines of her black hoodie.
She slouched back down in her booth after the boy left, occasionally glancing at the door as a gush of cold air permeated the suffocating smoke of the warm bar. She straightened as another woman entered.





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