"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov


Sunday, January 12, 2014


      Elaine walked quietly up the gravel path toward the slightly dilapidated wooden bench under the old Sycamore tree. Settling down to wait, she watched the ducks float lazily in the lake, just far enough below her that they looked like childish toys drifting in the gentle breeze that stirred the water.

     Every year on this date she came. To sit on this bench, to wait, to see him again. No matter how painful, she needed this one moment to make the rest of the long days bearable.

     After the accident had torn them apart, she couldn’t stop herself from returning here, to their favorite place. Lonely, lost, she'd come one day--on the anniversary of their wedding--climbed the hill, taken a seat on the bench and cried until she was weak from it. A short while later, hardly daring to believe, she saw him appear from the dense shadows covering the path below and walk toward the lake. As the bright splinters of sunlight glinted across the water, she was sure the sight of him was nothing more than a mirage, conjured from longing.

     But no. He had really been there. She watched him open a plastic bag, absently tossing bits of bread to the ducks. Her tears fell when he stopped and abruptly doubled over, hands gripping his stomach as if he’d been stabbed.  After throwing the empty bread bag in the waste bin, he wiped his shirt sleeve across his eyes before turning to wander aimlessly down another path, his steps halting and uncertain. Oh, how she’d wanted to go to him, chase him down, throw herself into his arms. Joe.

     He came every year, just as she did, but he never looked up the hill because their world had revolved around the lake.  It was where they’d met, where they'd talked and laughed, fed the ducks and had picnics, fell in love, and married in the gazebo built over the southern rim of the water.

     So today, once again, Elaine sat patiently, quietly waiting for him. Smiling to herself, precious memories drifted through her mind, each one hoarded like a bright, golden coin. But as the hours passed and the sun dropped lower in the sky, she began to realize that maybe this time he wouldn't come.  Had she missed him somehow, lost in her daydreams? Mistaken the date?  No. Something had happened. Why hadn’t he come?  Trembling, she surged to her feet, a terrible sense of dread making her frantic with worry.

     “Oh God. It is you.” Though she hadn’t heard his voice in a very long time, the deep, warm resonance slid across her skin with an intimate awareness that made her knees shake.  Desperately flinging out a hand, she steadied herself against the tree trunk, then slowly turned her head.

     “Joe,” she whispered hoarsely. In the fading light, Elaine could see the shock on his face, the burning questions in his eyes. His fists were clenched at his sides as he stared at her.

     “I saw—” He shook his head, then cleared his throat. “I saw someone sitting up here. She looked like you.” He swallowed audibly. “I had to see…” His voice trailed off as his eyes roamed over her body, her face. “How can you be here?”

     Mind whirling, unable to keep standing, she fell hard onto the bench. Joe stepped closer, shock slowly transforming into a hot anger that she could feel building inside him.

     “I come every year,” she said quietly.

     “You’ve been here every year and never once let me know? Never once let me see you?”

     “I’m so sorry. I wanted to, but after the accident—”

     He fell to one knee in front of her and tentatively took her hands as if she might not be real after all. Eyes locked on her face, he softly asked, “Why did you leave me, El?”  Lowering his head, he rested his forehead on her thigh.  “Why?” The muffled word was raw.

     Pulling a hand free, she smoothed it over his hair. “I’ve missed you so much,” she murmured. “To see you, even from a distance, kept me from despair.”

     His head shot up. He growled, angry again. “I didn’t have that luxury. You took everything when you left me!”  Eyes shadowed, he said bitterly, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

     Elaine took his face in her hands and leaned toward him. Her kiss was soft and tender. “I…I just…couldn’t.” Breathing the words against his lips, she whispered, “I love you,” before she kissed him again.

     Joe resisted for several heartbeats, then with a groan, moved to the bench and pulled her into his lap. The feel of her arms around him, the bittersweet touch of her mouth, the weight of her body, was almost unbearable. He had dreamed of this, on so many long, dark nights after she’d gone. Lifting his head, he gently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear in a gesture so familiar and easy it made his breath catch for a moment. “You’re still so beautiful.” He frowned slightly. “Why are you here? Why have you come back to me now?”

     Elaine kissed her husband once more, then slid off his lap and stood in the quiet under the old Sycamore tree as early evening settled over the landscape. She smiled and held out her hand. Joe took it and got to his feet.

     “Let’s take a walk around the lake,” she said. “I have so much to tell you.”

     As they made their way down the slope, Joe said firmly, “I won’t let you go again, Elaine. I mean it.”

     Smiling at the scowl on his handsome face, reveling in the solid clasp of his hand, Elaine said softly, “No, we won’t let go this time.”

                                             ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

     The caretaker was on his way to lock the iron gates for the night when the headlights on his little cart illuminated the shape of two people in a passionate embrace. He veered in their direction to tell them it was time to leave, but before he could get closer, they began fading in a soft misty shimmer of light.

    Unfazed, the old man carefully turned the cart around. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen couples reunited here, and it wouldn't be the last.  Love was a powerful bond after all. Smiling, his eyes roamed fondly over the neat rows of headstones as he drove slowly toward the cemetery gates.


  1. Cool to see you keeping up this blog. Yeh, it was sappy in places, but also gut-wrenching. Well done.

    1. Thanks. It turned out a bit...sappier??...than I expected. ;D

      Next one will be lighter...