This story is by Tracy and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Fall was when it all began. From that moment forth it was a bittersweet time for Troy. A time he remembered with a curious mix of hope and regret. Often he wondered what could have been but it was no use looking back when the opportunity had gone. His father had taught him that a long time ago.
“Backwards is for fools because it is a place you can never return to. Not all the money in the world can give you back one moment in time. Remember that – especially when the arrogant try and make you feel inferior. Money isn’t everything.”
No, Troy thought idly, but you can’t deny it helps. He had kept that thought to himself and nodded at his father’s words and now, he would give almost anything to be stood next to his Dad and hear his voice again. But his father had passed away several years ago and all Troy had left were the memories. It was the start of his love-hate relationship with the Fall.
His father had died in the Fall – in Autumn his mother said in her soft Welsh voice. Autumn not Fall. His father had always laughed at that and said Potato- Potart-toe.
Troy though the Fall was rather apt. His parents had met and fallen in love in Autumn. His father had been on a tour of duty in Carnarvon, Wales, a young soldier, and had bumped into a young Welsh girl, his mother. They had married in Autumn and moved back the States in the following Fall.
Idly Troy picked up a loose stone and skimmed it across the water. The pale sunlight was flickering through the darkening clouds. It hit the water glinting like summer sun and Troy was thrown back a year.
In his mind’s eye, he saw clearly the autumn day, unseasonably warm and without the cold wind characteristic of that time of the year. The park was full of people enjoying the last vestige of summer and he had been sat on the bench, eating his lunch. He had looked around and seen her with her striking blond hair. She had been laughing at something she could see across the pond. It was her laugh that had caught his attention.
A joyous laugh that belonged to young woman of about his own age of twenty-five. She had reminded him of a sort of Ellie-May Clamplett. With flowing blonde hair and eyes that sparkled when she turned to him to share the joke with a stranger as people sometimes do. He had followed her gaze and saw a father and child at the other end of the pond area trying to fly a kite but the child had managed to wind the string around them both instead and kite had fallen on the father’s head. Both father and son were laughing as they tried to untangle themselves.
The woman had come to sit beside him. “I’m Diana,” she had said and held out her hand.
“Do you come here for lunch often? I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
“No, usually I eat in the office,” Troy had admitted ruefully. “Too lazy to get out.”
“You should. I’ts not good to stay in the office all the time.” Diana had replied earnestly. Her eyes searched his face. “You need to get out more.”
Troy nodded. “Are you here often?”
“As often as I can.”
They had begun to talk lazily of the park, of the city, of a play they had both seen. She had laughed again at that. “That doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy.”
“I didn’t – but my Mum does.” Troy had confessed. “And since Dad died, it’s the least we can do.”
“That’s sweet. I’m sorry about your Dad.”
“So am I. So am I. But as he said, you have to look forward not back.”
“Wiseman – but sometimes,” she had said looking at him curiously,” there is comfort in looking back.”
And Troy had found himself telling her all about his Dad’s accident, the drunken driver that had crashed in to their car and the long days at the hospital until when there was no hope, the life support had been turned off. Diana had listened sympathetically and had reached out to touch his arm empathically. Troy had met her gaze and shocked himself into learning forward.
There was something about her…something good.
They had met often after that. Sometimes having lunch together and sometimes just sitting and talking. He’d plucked up the courage to ask her out and she had agreed. It was as she had said yes that he’d realized he’d fallen in love and in the Fall.
Love was new experience for him. This kind of love – the kind that wasn’t dependent on looks or attractiveness but on something much deeper. Something that encompassed all of what he was and added something more. Something truly wonderful.
It had been a glorious Fall and an amazing Winter. Then Spring had arrived. Troy had been full of hope so in love. He had decided then to ask Diana to marry him. And he planned to do it at the pond where they had first met all those months ago.
He arranged to meet her for lunch that day. He still remembered the sense of excitement he had felt. He’d even arrived early to arrange the picnic complete with rug, basket and champagne. But instead of joy, his whole world had collapsed.
Diana had been there; there with someone else. A man, a tall handsome blonde haired man and she had been laughing, leaning towards him with a bright smile and a look in her eyes, Troy had recognised and seen too many times directed at himself. He watched them kiss – not like friends but like lovers.
And Troy had frozen. Something must have given him away for as the couple disengaged, she turned and had seen him. Galvanised into action, he had stepped back and walked quickly away, leaving everything behind; ignoring her voice calling his name, telling him to wait. Ignoring the hole in his heart he still didn’t know how to fill. Ignoring everything but the need to flee.
Shaken back into present. Troy closed his eyes briefly. He hadn’t seen her again after that. He still didn’t know what sort of excuse she had been going to tell him. Perhaps there had been an innocent explanation. He didn’t know. He would never know.
But still he kept coming back to this park on the off chance that maybe she’d be there and he could stand his ground and ask for his explanation. She wasn’t and he would return to work.
He wasn’t sure but as he passed through the gate he always thought he heard his name called. But he didn’t turn back. He never did. Backwards was for fools.
Really, the Fall was a forlorn time – trees lost their leaves, bushes went brown and the birds started to fall silent. The wind would whip the leaves up and rustle reminded him of the old Western movies – the tumbleweed and emptiness of a forsaken town.
It reminded him too much of his life. Empty without the light that was Diana. Empty like his mother’s life had been since his father’s death. Oh, she put on a brave face but Troy knew she missed his father so badly and finally now he was starting to understand.
His mother knew everything and yesterday she had looked at him and shaken her head with a mother’s exasperation. “Sometimes looking back is what carries you forward. If I hadn’t looked back, I wouldn’t have tripped on the pavement and your father wouldn’t have caught me and we wouldn’t have married and you wouldn’t have been born…There’s looking back and then there’s LOOKING back…”
Troy had shrugged not quite understanding. Besides, it was too late now anyway. He looked around the park one last time and shivered.
There was no else about. It was too cold a day. The threatened rain started to fall as Troy made his way back from the pond towards the western gate and his workplace a block down the street. As he reached the gate, he heard her voice again, call out his name.
He paused,as always but his mother’s words rang in his mind. “..looking back and LOOKING back.”
And this time, this time, Troy looked back.