This story is by Sydney Sprouse and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Cool autumn air chilled the driver’s seat of her car as she sat in quietude and paced back and forth through the equally cold and confusing memories of the previous months. Rain drops rolled down the windshield and she watched each bead, sometime slowly, sometimes quickly, slide along the glass. She noted each drop and refused to let them become tears of her own.
He was getting married today; when, she did not know. She couldn’t bear to know the time or place for fear of going there and telling him again how she had loved him. His love for her was love only given to a friend – yet it was shrouded in the mystery and romance of a first love. They had shared a bond, known only to them, long-suffering, sincere, and safe. Her love for him was unrivaled, while his indifference was hidden from her.
He had smiled and been inviting. She had needed a friend. New to town and wide-eyed innocent, he had taken her under his wing and been attentive, kind, sweet, and affectionate. With an arm around her waist and Caribbean blue eyes, he welcomed her into his world, while slowly stealing her away from her own.
With time and friendship came trust and companionship. He doted on her and she relied on him for guidance – he a shepherd and she the devoted follower. Led by his hand and never knowing where he’d been she peered into the future with him in her heart and in her mind.
Stoic and silent in the car she sat and waited. She longed for the days of her ignorance and innocence, before she had met the other woman. Always in the background of his mystery, a woman known to few but loved by him dwelled. Nurtured by secret conversations, stolen glances, and coveted meetings, their romance grew. While she was with him, the woman was tucked away, and he hid the woman from her. With the woman kept secret he continued to shine brightly in her eyes, until the day she saw the reality of his fools’ gold gleam.
One morning his loving glow wore cold and gray. She asked him what was wrong, he replied with unusual silence and sharpness. In the fall, she faded from his favor like the changing brilliance of the leaves. Unsure and unaware of the woman in his heart she pleaded with him to restore what had once been theirs. He left, and she followed. He fled to a place of hurt and shame, a world she did not know and a place where she was not welcome. The woman he loved lived there. Though she confessed her deep and passionate love for him, he returned her sentiment with only mild praise and affection. He also loved the woman in the other world and told her he had to go to her. He had always loved her, seven years he said. The woman had been his past, and he had promised to be her future.
So suddenly, he departed. Without much recognition of the months they spent together, he thanked her for her friendship and left her world alone. She, distraught and demoted to mere acquaintance, retreated back to the brighter world where she had felt at home.
Now, one year after, she was blank and dim without him. She was cold and uncomfortable in the happy place she once knew. She asked after him, not wanting to know the answers but needing to hear his voice again. He would tell them that he was happy, how, she did not know. But she knew that he would marry the woman today, and she knew that she could not stay. She turned the key and looked down the road to leave him behind. In the place where they had met and she had fallen and he had left, she packed her things, and disappeared just as suddenly as he had.
The road behind and beneath her, lined with the brown leaves of maples, drifted and became cloaked in the mist of the evening rain. In time, it would be light again, and in time so would she.