(I truly meant for this to be Flash Fiction, but the story just developed. Sorry about the way – over word count.)
Grandma June huffed at Natalie, her granddaughter visiting her at home.”You’re not getting any younger, you’re thirty-eight. You can’t barely have babies anymore!”
Natalie rolled her eyes at Grandma June,”Gran, I’m an elementary school teacher. I like going home and not having to worry about kids.”
June sighed,”It was that man, you were supposed to marry. He’s a thief and stole your heart; I’m right aren’t I?”
Natalie ignored June’s question. She hated when her Grandma or anyone, talked about Christopher. She’d never admit he was her one.
He hadbeen since she was in grade ten and Christopher an attractive senior in high school. It was when he had first asked Natalie out. They’d broken-up, having had incompatible lives with Christopher away at university soon after.
Then, seven-years-ago, they’d ran into each other and started talking and dating again. Natalie had convinced herself this was finally it. Sadly, a few weeks before the wedding, Christopher had disappeared; the memories were agony for her.
Two-week’s later, Grandma June called Natalie up to invite her to a wine and cheese night she was hosting for her neighbours. She had tried to decline but June was adamant Natalie attend.
She arrived at her Grandma June’s surprisingly lively wine party, in jeans and a white t-shirt. She had barely bothered to apply makeup as Natalie had come from the gym and was worn out.
“Oh you came,” Grandma June said excitedly, approaching Natalie as she let herself inside. She hugged June and kissed her cheek, as June poured Natalie a large glass of red wine and filled her plate with bread and cheese. She winked at Natalie and left her alone in a small sitting room to rest before joining the other guests.
“Natalie?” A deep voice said. She turned on the sofa towards the sitting room door. Christopher’s voice shocked her, she had almost doused herself in red wine. His familiar timber filled Natalie with great pain. She peered up at him feeling raw, as if he’d only left her yesterday without explanation.
Tears began dripping down Natalie’s cheeks; she was crying and couldn’t stop herself. Christopher immediately sat down on the sofa beside Natalie and pulled her close; he wiped her tears away with his thumb. She tried to jerk out of his arms, but he wouldn’t let her move.
“I’m not letting you go, ever again,” Christopher swore.”I can’t explain much about why I had to leave you, only that I didn’t have a choice.”
Natalie shoved him hard, “You have nothing more to say, nothing at all?”
Christopher was noticeably upset, “I told you I worked as an IT consultant. But I could never tell you or anyone who I worked for until recently. I worked for Special Forces in the army and I was called out to a job. It’s the only thing I can’t about. The job lasted years, and I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone. We saved countless lives, but it was awful what I did to you and being without you. I’m sorry.”
Natalie rubbed her swollen eyes, “You’re a liar Christopher. You could’ve mentioned something, anything. What do you want now? To stay for a while and then leave?To rip me apart again?”
Christopher buried his face in his hand, before gazing up at her: “I’m out now Natalie. I swear to you I work for regular businesses now, nothing to do with Special Forces or the army. I’ve no more secrets other than experiences of war and blood. I came back here for you, I even moved into a house on your Grandma June’s street. I hoped somehow, you and I could be together again. I love you.”
Natalie made a sound of frustration. Emotions of both anger and feeling relieved assaulted her. Despite her anger at Christopher, Natalie knew inside, there would never be another man for her but him.
To Christopher’ surprise, Natalie moved to sit in Christopher’s lap and be closer to him, to breathe in how delicious he smelt.
“Marry me now and we can do whatever celebration our families want later. I’m still mad at you Christopher but you’re it for me. I’ve always loved you and always will. If you can be with me and never leave me like that again, I can forgive you.”
Christopher nodded at Natalie, saying: “I promise.” He held Natalie tightly and kissed her lips hungrily.
Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the sitting room door and Grandma June walked in, a smile on her face. June’s boyfriend Nigel was with her and so was the local United Church minister.
Natalie looked at Christopher, “Did you do all this?”
Christopher shook his head, squeezing Natalie tight and kissing her cheek. He pulled out a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring set from his pocket. He slid the engagement ring on Natalie’s finger, and Grandma June handed Natalie a ring which had been her Grandfather’s wedding ring.
June smiled at Natalie and Christopher, a gleam in her clever blue-eyes. All was at it should be, she thought as her and Nigel witnessed her granddaughter’s wedding ceremony.
Maryanne frequently found herself on the Greyhound bus travelling here, there, and everywhere. She didn’t understand what triggered the travelling gypsy in her, but she felt when she found what she was searching for, she would finally have a place of her own. She would find a decent job, have a car to drive, and most of all, have people to love in her life.
As if on que, a stray dog yipped and walked out of the alleyway nearby. While she waited an-hour-and-a-half for the bus to Raleigh, Maryanne decided the dog was indeed homeless and picked her up gently. She brought the startled mut on the bus pulling into the station and named her Betsy.
She was Maryanne’s first step towards finding a home.
This picture makes me think of mazes and labyrinths, finding your way through a winding place. I found three good quotes on GoodReads to represent this theme. The movie Labyrinth in no way inspired this, I hate that movie!
1.“ [It] became a world whose rules I lived by, and I understood the moral of mazes: sometimes you have to turn your back on your goal to get there, sometimes you’re farthest away when you’re closest, sometimes the only way is the long one . . . That when you seem farthest from your destination is when you suddenly arrive, [it] is a very pat truth in words, but a profound one to find with your feet.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust
2. “ . . .A labyrinth has only one path and you merely have to follow it; it’s a symbol of life or, rather, of life and death; labyrinths twist and turn, but they have a beginning and an end, through darkness into light.” ― Ariana Franklin, The Serpent’s Tale
3. “This maze is laid out such that should you step through the correct path, by its end you will have learned the most extraordinary dance, such that any coronation would be proud to see you at the height of its feast, such that any holy dervish would weep and call you his devotion.”― Catherynne M. Valente, In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Caden wasn’t sure how he arrived at the park; his feet had walked themselves there. He sat on a park bench feeling empty and worthless. In front of him sat an old Chinese stove, but he gave it little thought.
He’d lost Caroline for real this times and Caden didn’t know how to get her back. Lyrics from the song playing in the pub as she walked away from him, were on a continuel loop in his mind; she loved that song. He sighed, begging his mind to forget the painful lyrics.
“She’s imperfect but she tries, she is good but she lies. She is hard on herself, she is broken and won’t ask for help. She is messy but she’s kind, she’s is lonely –most of the time. She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie; she is gone but she used to be mine.”
Caden hadn’t ever felt so low. What did a man do when the woman he thought he’d stay with forever disappeared and wouldn’t talk to him?
No one seemed to know where Caroline was. He had almost cried in front of her Dad saying he only wanted to apologize and win her back. Caroline’s Dad patted Caden on the back saying,”Things will get better soon.”
Caden stared at the odd Chinese Stove wondering what its purpose was. He attempted to distract himself with the stove as the lyrics from that damn song floated back to him:
“If I’m honest I know I would give it all back for a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two. For the girl that I knew who’ll be reckless just enough, who’ll get hurt but, who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised . . . she is gone but she used to be mine.”
Caden pressed his hands against his ears, trying to block the words out.
Suddenly, Caroline was standing in front of him, “How did you get here?” He asked her.
She gazed at him, “You look horrible Caden. Did I do that to you?”
He gasped shocked at seeing her, truly there now sitting beside him. Caden couldn’t hold back, he cried into Caroline’s neck as she stroked his hair; he held onto her tightly.
“I thought you would never forgive me,” he said.
“It’s alright,” she crooned to him, “I’m not leaving you ever again.”