Romance Fiction posted May 13, 2010


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
A love story

For The Old Times

by JeffreyStone

Story of the Month Contest Winner 












            I will never stop loving you

      Though many times I’ve needed to
I may not tell you but I’m sure you know
        I think about you wherever I go
 
I parked my car near the entrance to the Inverness Wire and Metals Company while I waited for Andrea to appear. A little voice inside my head told me she might have changed her mind about seeing me. After all, she and Dennis had been married only three months. The question in my mind was one  I would ask myself time and again as the years passed: Why do I keep torturing myself?  But when she pushed open the glass door and walked into the sunlight, I knew the reason—I was still in love with her.  
 
Six months earlier, I had spent an hour with Andrea, trying to convince her she would make a mistake by marrying Dennis. We stood at her parents’ backyard gate, her on one side, me on the other. The fence between us was more than a physical barrier; it was symbolic of the way Andrea now viewed our relationship. Something had come between us that made her look for a love that would replace the one I offered. She found Dennis, and now it was too late for me to break down the emotional barrier. The fence kept her at a safe distance from me, safe from the touch of my fingertips, safe from my kiss on her lips, and safe from my desperate arms.
 
                                                               * *  *
 
She saw me standing by my car, and smiled. I held open the passenger door as she got in. Neither of us spoke.
 
My heart pounded as I walked around to the driver’s side. The world was beautiful: Andrea was with me again, and for the most innocent of reasons—we would have lunch then I would let her go from my life forever.
 
“You’re beautiful. Marriage must agree with you,” I said as I put the key into the ignition and started the car.
 
She glanced my way with a faint smile then looked straight ahead.
 
I backed the car away from the curb. “Any place you want to go?”
 
“I brought a lunch.” She held up a small brown bag she had been clutching. “We can share.”
 
“Okay. … You always bring your lunch?”
 
“I have to,” she said. “Money’s tight.”
 
As we drove toward the park, I wondered why she had agreed to see me. I supposed she had struggled momentarily with her decision, perhaps regretted it after our phone conversation ended. Maybe she was there because she felt obligated for reasons only she understood. Or, perhaps she just needed to talk with someone whom she knew loved her and would listen as only a best friend will do. For if we were nothing more to each other, we were friends; we always would be. That was the way we parted.    
 
I stopped along the way and bought two Cokes. In the park we found a picnic table out of the sun under an oak tree. She opened the brown bag, took out a sandwich and gave half to me. We sat then sipped our drinks, but ate nothing. I motioned with my hand for her to eat, but she shook her head.
 
“I’m really not hungry,” she said, avoiding my eyes.
 
“So, how is married life?”
 
“Honestly?”
 
I nodded.
 
“Not what I thought it would be.” She glanced at me and quickly looked away.
 
“What’s wrong, Andrea?”
 
"I don’t want you to think badly of me.”
 
“Why would I do that?”
 
She turned her face and looked directly into my eyes. “Because I’m married … I shouldn’t be here with you.”
 
“We aren’t doing anything wrong; just two old friends talking.”
 
“I don’t think Dennis would see it that way. … Would you, if the roles were reversed?”
 
I laughed. “Probably not, but it isn’t as if I am going to seduce you.”
 
She smiled, seemingly embarrassed. “Have you changed that much?”
 
“Well, let’s just say  if I had seduction in mind, I wouldn’t have brought you to a public park.”
 
She reached across the table and patted my hand. “I know,” she said, “and if I believed that, I wouldn’t be here.”
 
I took her hand in mine. After a moment, she appeared at ease. She took a bite from her sandwich, chewed slowly then began to talk.
 
“I love Dennis. If I didn’t, I would never have married him.”
 
“Are you happy?”
 
“Happy? Maybe I am and don’t really know it.”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“Maybe I just don’t know what marriage should be like. What if I’m expecting too much?”
 
“What are you expecting?”
 
By now, she had pushed her sandwich aside and pulled her hand away from mine. “A place of our own,” she said with an unspoken implication: Is that too much to ask?
 
I listened as she continued to talk.
 
“His mom and dad are good to me, but I don’t feel comfortable in someone else’s house. I feel like a stranger in their home.”
 
“Have you told Dennis?”
 
“Yes, but he doesn’t understand. He says we can’t afford an apartment of our own.”
 
“Doesn’t he work?”
 
“I think he gambles all our money away. … He even took the money I saved from my drawer.”
 
“And lost it?”
 
“Yes, and we had our first big fight because of that. His parents heard everything. … It was awful.”
 
“Did he hit you?”
 
 “No, but I threw the clock at him.” She smiled triumphantly.
 
“Hit him?” I chuckled.
 
“It barely missed his head. ... He said I was crazy.”
 
I might have laughed, but the smile had left her face, replaced by a look of resignation. I could see it was painful for her to talk about her problems.
 
Andrea’s wishes, as I knew them, had always been simple. She would have been the perfect wife for a man who wanted a family, a little house with a picket fence and someone waiting with dinner on the table when her husband got home from work. I understood how that dream was fading and how much she wished it could be resurrected. As much as I wanted the dream for her, I found myself taking satisfaction in learning Dennis was not the perfect husband she had thought he would be. That realization made me feel as if I owed her an apology.
 
“I’m sorry,” I said.
 
“About my problems?”
 
“No, about loving you too much to be objective.”
 
“At least you’re honest.” She touched my hand again then looked at her watch. “Oh my God, I only have fifteen minutes to get back to work—we have to go.”
 
                                                                         * * *
 
We drove in silence toward the office. I glanced her way several times, but she stared at her folded hands on her lap. After a few minutes, she looked my way.
 
“Why did you want to see me?”
 
“For the old times.”

“Is that the only reason?”
 
“That and the fact I am still in love with you.”
 
“I wish you wouldn’t say that.”
 
“It’s true, and you know it. I can’t tell you how much longer it will be that way. But for now, it looks as if I will never stop loving you.”
 
“But you didn’t even try to kiss me.”
 
“Did you want me to?"
 
“Yes, but I’m glad you didn’t. It might not have been a good thing for either of us.”
 
I pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car.
 
“Please, don’t get out,” she said.
 
“All right, I won’t.”
 
She pushed open the door and stepped onto the graveled parking lot then bent to speak through the open door. “I’m glad I saw you.”
 
“Me too. Will we ever see each other again?”
 
“Probably not. This time it was good. Next time who knows what might happen?”
 
“Maybe I can call you sometime.”
 
“Please don’t, Mike. It wouldn’t be a good idea…. I have to go back to work now.”
 
She started to walk away then returned to my side of the car where I sat with the window rolled down. She touched my arm. “I’ve tried to think of some easy way to tell you, but I guess there isn’t any. …I’m pregnant. I thought you would want to know.”
 
She stood by the car, holding back tears that filled the corners of her eyes.  
 
I got out and put my arms about her. “Thank you for telling me. … Everything will be all right, honey. It will be all right.”
 
She looked up at me and smiled bravely through her tears. “Goodbye, Mike.”
 
I watched as the door closed behind her and she disappeared into the shadows of the office entrance.
 
My mind was filled with so many confusing thoughts. I realized there were things I could not change, which I would learn to accept. One of those was the fact Andrea was lost to me forever. She would live her life; I would live mine. Perhaps we would never see each other again. But there would always be a bond between us, a trust we would have with no one else. When we thought of each other, we would do so fondly and remember the old times when we were so in love, believing it would never end.
 

 

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