(The Search Engine Fiction prompt this week is Let it Go. Here is my story)
After the Parting
When they met, started falling in love, there was a thing he did that decided it all for her. When they were parting, he would hold her hand for as long as possible. She would move away and he would hold her hand as their arms stretched out between them. It was as if he couldn’t quite bear to separate from her and needed to hold on those few seconds longer. She would move farther away and their hands would slip apart and only the ends of his long fingers would touch the ends of hers until they finally fell apart too and she walked away. He loved her so much he couldn’t easily let go. His wanting to hold on to her until the very end, that was what told her he was the one.
Years had passed and somewhere along the way he stopped doing it. In the blur of pregnancies, babies, houses to clean and parties to give, she hadn’t noticed, she’d forgotten about it.
She’d dropped the children at school that morning. It was a warm May day, sun shown through the odd spaces between the towering oaks making a puzzle of light and dark on the sidewalk. She’d parked the car at the far side of the square. Now with all of the kids in school, her days were completely her own and she liked to sometimes drive out of her way in the morning and take a leisurely walk.
On the square, people rushed in and out of the capitol building. Young mothers sat with their babies in strollers enjoying the cool shade. Retirees fed the squirrels. A group of children followed in a long, single-file line behind their teacher, like ducks following their mother, heading for a tour of the capitol. They’d like it, she thought. She did. Sometimes she would cut though the rotunda, with its library smell. She liked running her hand over the cool, smooth marble of the columns and the solid, grain of the cherry wood banisters.
That morning though, she only wanted the warm, lilac scented air in her lungs, so she didn’t take a short cut, but walked the complete square. She was searching for herself, the calm bit where she preferred to stay. Connor shook her from there the night before- yet again. He came home late, annoyed by something at work. Shouted at the kids. Drank three whiskeys and then when the kids were asleep, started with her. Nothing she did was right. Why couldn’t she see that?
She never fought back; she didn’t see the need for it. She knew she hadn’t changed, he had. Now he wanted her to be who she wasn’t. She couldn’t refuse straight out, but she knew she’d never do it. She didn’t expect him to be who he was not. It seemed dishonest, a violation of a pact they’d made to ask her to stop being herself. She knew she’d not be able to take much more of it. She was so weary.
She sat down on one of the stone benches to watch a mourning dove perform his ritual dance for a nearby female. He bobbed his head, puffed out his chest while she continued pecking at things from the ground, at one point turning away completely. As she watched, her eyes were caught by a couple standing on the steps of the Esquire Hotel across the street. At first she wasn’t exactly aware why they’d caught her eye, but then the memory rushed in, flooding her with images that burned and crashed and brought back feelings she was unused to.
The man on the steps of the hotel wouldn’t let go of his lover’s hand. The woman needed to go. She wore a suit and high heels, maybe she worked at the capitol in an office where messages waited to be answered and people waited to be attended to but none of that mattered to the man. All of those everyday things meant nothing in the face of his love.
She watched the hand stretch out between the couple and felt the painful fraction of a second when both knew that separation was the only option. And then the hands fell away from each other and the woman hurried away looking back only once to be sure the man waited, watching her, longing to run after her and take her back in his arms. It stamped in her heart that he loved her, that he ached for her when they were apart. One look to confirm what she was sure she knew, and then she was gone around the corner.
She continued watching the man through eyes blurred with tears. As soon as his beloved turned the corner; he looked at his watch and walked off quickly in the opposite direction; unaffected by his loss; it already forgotten. She thought she heard him whistling.
She walked back to her car, weak from the emotion, but ready to see things a bit clearer.