Leonard was absorbed by the red hues of the wide Arizona desert. It was hot outside in the late spring, the cascading layers of rock enthralling and the green shrubs and cacti complementing the red cliffs. Here Leonard could be alone with his thoughts, far from the problems of his life.
No one was chasing him in the desert. No one was telling him he wasn’t allowed to set fire to buildings. No one was insisting Leonard couldn’t punch a guy in the face and start fighting because Leonard didn’t like how the guy was looking at him, or that the guy had a hot girlfriend which Leonard did not. In the desert, no one knew how much money he’d stashed away in offshore accounts from the company where he’d been an accountant with a falsified identity, these past two-years.
Out here in the desert, there was serenity and quiet. Leonard would in an hour, catch a private plane and reclaim his offshore funds. But he wasn’t counting on the rattle snake who bit his leg when he stood up and stepped on the snake accidentally.
The snake’s poisonus venom made Leonard numb in minutes. Quickly he was fading into obscurity and death; the bright red Arizona desert claiming him for all his wrongs. How curious a snake would kill a snake.
“Yeah, I guess. This is it.” Carter murmured. He was holding Melanie’s hands in his and couldn’t seem to let go of them.
“I can’t believe it,” she said.”We’ve traveled all over the world together since Amsterdam. Now I’m probably never going to see you again.” Tears slipped down Melanie’s soft white cheeks.
She had promised herself she wouldn’t cry.
“I’ll visit.” Carter promised.”I’m sure I’ll end up in Montreal sometime in the future.”
“But that’s just it Carter. You can’t promise that.” Melanie said wiping her cheeks. “You travel the world for your job. You take wild and fantastic pictures for National Geographic.”
“I’m an accountant trying to finish her CA. I want to start my own business and I want to stay in Montreal. I grew-up there and my parents and other family live there. I can’t imagine leaving them for longer than I already have, travelling the last two-years.”
“I could settle in Montreal someday . . .” Carter mused.
“Don’t say that.”
“Make promises you can’t keep.You grew up in Tuscany, in Italy. Your family maybe American but you live on this beautiful land where you make wine, as your ancestors did for generations.” Melanie said.
“Your home in Tuscany, it’s your anchor and it’s where you love to go when you’re off.” Melanie said squeezing Carter’s hands tighter.
“You’re not Canadian. It’s beautiful but I know for you, it’s not home.”
“Perhaps, you’re my new home?” Carter said gazing in Melanie’s sad green eyes.
“Don’t lie to my like that, Carter.” She chastised, “If you say something like that you have to mean it. If we were to maintain our relationship, you’ d have to see me more than every once in a while. Can you do that with your work and family?”
Carter was frustrated and unhappy. “No I can’t. I can’t make promises to you right now. There’s too much of the world I wan’t to see still. I can’t see myself settling down for years and if I did . . .No not in your beautiful Canada.” A tear escaped Carter’s milk-chocolate eyes; he was embarrassed.
Melanie was outright crying now.
Carter took her in his arms and held her. After a while her cries turned to sniffles. She turned her face up to him and he kissed her for what he knew would be the last time. He drew the kiss out, knowing he would need to remember it for a lifetime.
“You have to go soon. You have to get through customs before your flight leaves.” Melanie remarked he voice hoarse.
“I know,” Carter said depressed.”This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done Mel.If it’s meant to work out, maybe one day it will?”
Melanie smiled. “No more promises you can’t keep. I’ll miss you Carter, so much.”
She had such strength; Carter always admired Melanie’s strength of character.
He stared back at his beautiful Mel as she waved to him and he walked away. Her auburn hair was braided and her beautiful green eyes full of unshed tears.
Carter somehow knew, he’d never see Mel again. They might chat over Facebook or he might see her pictures on Instagram. But he doubted in person, they’d ever meet.
He’d never forget his last image of her, attempting to smile while hiding her sadness. Carter waved to Mel and tried to look forward to his next photo shoot in Copenhagen.