This isa short story I wrote, based on a song I like (can you guess which one?). I added a bunch to it of course, but I like it. Also I changed names. It's kind of got a dumb ending, but it's late and I'm tired, and what can I say? Meghan >


Ian and Beth

It had been more than six months since it happened. It had been working out fine until she suddenly decided that she needed to clear her mind and start fresh. She moved to Austin, Texas. She never left a number. Ian had no idea where to contact her. Every day, he hoped that she would call, but she never did. Ian was devastated.

But his friends picked him up again and got him going. He got a new job helping program computers for a small corporation. But every day, coming home late, he would check his answering machine for messages from Beth.

But she never called. Ian stopped obsessing over the phone and got on with his life, never expecting a call. But every day, he changed his answering machine message and hoped that someday, she would call.


The morning dawned bright and beautiful. Beth woke up with a smile. Moving here was the best thing I have ever done, she reflected peacefully.

It had been a year since she had moved here. Since then, she had gotten a great job studying the native flora and fauna. She loved her work. She had never been happier in her life.

Except…

No. She wouldn't think about Ian. She had moved to get away from relationships like that in the first place. Thinking about him would just make her want to move back, and that was not possible.

Not if I want to keep my job.

Beth got up and prepared for work. Today she was going to study the drier-country animals in Texas. This would be exciting for her research facility. Their group had been studying oceanic animals for the past year, and now it was time to change topics. Everyone on the team was excited for this day.

And I will be too if I just quit moping around the house, she thought.

On her way to work, she got a call on her cell. It was from one of her friends back in Tennessee. Another thing she missed about moving was all her friends back in Knoxville, but that couldn't be helped. She loved her work, and she wouldn't move for anyone but herself.

"It's Beth," she said into the portable device.

"Hi Beth!" screamed Mindy, her best friend. "I haven't talked to you in ages! But now's not the time to chat. I have to go to work. I just wanted to tell you who I saw yesterday at the store. You'll never believe it!"

Mindy had never been known to be quiet. "Who?" Beth asked her.

"Ian!" Mindy said, freezing Beth's heart. "I saw him picking up groceries! I couldn't believe my eyes! I thought he had moved, but when I talked to him it turned out that he had been living in his old apartment the whole time. He got a job at a computer programming company, you know? He was always the techno wiz anyway. And it was weird, because I always figured he'd have to find a housekeeper to go to the store for him. You know how horrible he was at shopping, always buying plain TV dinners and frozen pizzas! You must have fixed him up, because he had all sorts of good foods to eat in his cart. We sat there and chatted for a while, then I had to go to work, and he was already late! But I had no idea! You really should come back for a visit, Beth, really. We all would enjoy it!"

When Mindy finally took a breath, Beth asked, "So how is he?"

"Oh, flourishing, flourishing, I can assure you. He has a well paying job and plenty to do! And speaking of plenty to do, that's what I have as well! Sorry, hon, but I can't chat! Call me later!"

"Alright Mindy, have a great day," Beth said in a daze.

She flipped the cell cover shut and stared at the road ahead of her. It was completely deserted this early in the morning.

Ian. Ever since Beth had left, Ian had been on her mind. She could never get his memory to leave her. She told herself that it was just guilt; that he probably was devastated that she hadn't called. But she had ignored it all the same, and had gotten on with her life.

And now Ian was perfectly happy? Had he forgotten her as easily as that? Didn't he stay awake at night thinking of her?

She resolved that she would call his old number as soon as she got to work.


The phone line rang seven times before picking up the answering machine. Beth, disappointed, hung up the phone.

"Beth, did you hear?" One of her coworkers came up to her cubicle. "We're going up to Tennessee in a few days! Boss just decided that desert animals already were studied enough in the past and that we needed more information on landlocked states! He picked Tennessee because that's where he grew up, in a town near Knoxville. We'll be staying there for a month or two, then we'll come back here to analyze the data we'll collect. Oh, this is going to be so much fun!" She walked away, unaware that Beth was silent and ghost-white.

Tennessee? Knoxville? But…but that was too close to home! She would be tempted to see old friends, and that included Ian. Especially now that she knew where he lived.

But...would that be so bad?

If Ian had forgotten Beth, then couldn't she visit for an hour or two to say "hi" without troubling him? Besides, if she was going to be near Knoxville anyway, her guilty conscience wouldn't let her pass up the chance.

Guilty once again, Beth called up Ian's phone number once more. Again, the answering machine picked up. She listened to the whole thing this time and waited to leave her message.

"If you're calling about the car, too late, I already sold it," Ian's voice said over the line. "If it's Tuesday night, I'm bowling, or if it's during the day, I'm out with friends or working. If you're selling something, you're wasting your time, because I'm not buying. If it's anybody else, wait for that little tone you'll hear in a little bit, you know what to do. And P.S. If this is Beth, I still love you."

The phone dropped from Beth's nerveless fingers. P.S. If this is Beth, I still love you. P.S. If this is Beth, I still love you. The last sentence rang through her head over and over, like a song on repeat.

He still loved her. He still loved her! She wasn't the only one spending sleepless nights tossing and turning!

And she loved him too. It had taken her this long to realize the fact, but it was true. She loved him, and even a wonderful job in Austin, Texas wasn't going to stop that fact.

She pushed down the receiver and picked it up again. She dialed Ian's number once more and listened to the seven rings and his amazing answering machine message. When the line beeped, she was about to leave her number, but lost the courage to tell him anything and hung up again. What was wrong with her? Ian loved her, he had said so.

But what if it's not true? An inner part of herself asked. What if he's just trying to get you back for all this time and not calling him?

That was a possibility, her logical self answered. But it wasn't likely. He loved her, it was true.

But she didn't have further time to argue with herself, because her boss chose that moment to come over and speak with her.

"Well, Beth, I think it's time we go for a trip, what do you say?" he said in his deep, jovial voice.

Beth just nodded.

"We'll be staying near both our hometowns, now isn't that a treat! Ha, I thought you might like that. We'll be leaving tomorrow. Today we're spending the entire day in prep for the trip. So let's get packing, shall we? That's a good girl."

Beth got up and started putting files and testing equipment she would need in a box to pack. She spent the rest of her day indoors, packing for the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee.


She didn't get another chance to call Ian that day, or the next, as she was busy packing her own things and then catching a flight. Once in Tennessee, she couldn't call because their flight got in late, and they spent the rest of the night setting up a temporary lab for the next month and a half.

Beth slept until noon the next day, Friday. When she woke up, it was with resolution on her mind. She'd had three days to think it over. She called Ian on her cell.

His answering machine picked the line up once again. She listened to the message again, but this time it was different.

"If it's Friday night, I'm at the ball game, try me later. And first thing Saturday, if it's nice outside, I'm headed out for the lake. It's a nice hike, and I'm going with friends. I'll be gone all weekend long, but I'll call you back on Sunday afternoon when I get home if you leave your name and number. And P.S. If this is Beth, I still love you."

The line beeped. Beth was silent for a moment, stunned that she wouldn't be able to reach him until Sunday, but after a few seconds, she left her cell phone number, and nothing else. Then she spent the Friday exploring her hotel and Saturday working at the temporary lab, setting things up the way she liked them and looking at a few different plant samples the others had brought in earlier.

On Sunday, Beth's nerves were as tight as over-tuned guitar strings. She waited and waited for the call on her cell phone, but none came. She went back to her hotel room, sure that Ian had known who it was who called and hadn't bothered to call her back.

It was late at night when she heard the ring of her cell phone on her nightstand. She sat up and looked at the number and froze.

Ian

3 rings

She watched as the ring count went up. Four rings. Five rings. Six. She picked up the phone. Seven. She answered and repeated what she had carefully rehearsed in her head all Friday and Saturday.


When Ian had gotten the two blank messages on his machine on Tuesday, he had assumed that some prankster was having fun with him, so he ignored them. On Sunday after his nice hiking trip, he listened to his messages and found that one of them was from a woman who just left her number and nothing else. He listened to the rest of the messages, but nothing else about that mystery revealed itself.

It was late, because Ian had spent the rest of the day over at his friend Brian's house, playing poker with the boys and joking about politics. He wondered if it was too late to call.

When he did, he listened for a while. The phone rang seven times. Ian was about to pick up when someone answered the line.

"If you're calling about my heart, Ian, it's still yours. I'm sorry, I should have listened to it a little more. I shouldn't have waited so long, to show you where I belong. And by the way, this is no machine you're talking to. And P.S. Ian, this is Beth, and I still love you."

Ian fell down on his bed, stunned.

I still love you. I still love you. This is Beth, and I still love you.

How many times had he repeated that message over and over on his answering machine, hoping against hope that Beth would call and listen to it?

"Beth?" he whispered.

"I'm in Knoxville, Ian," she whispered back. "We came with the lab."

"Come visit me," he said, happiness welling inside him.

There was deadness on the line. At first, Ian despaired, but then a knock came at his door. He got up slowly and answered it.

And there was Beth, the woman who had haunted all of his dreams since a year ago, staring at him with tears in her eyes. They stood there for a little while, staring at one another, Beth crying, Ian confused, and then Beth threw her arms around Ian, crying into his shoulder.


The next day, Ian drove Beth around Knoxville looking for jobs for a Biologist. There were several places she applied to that day, and she knew that she would have several offers. She resigned from her lab in Austin at once.

She moved in with Ian. He had a big enough apartment, but he had never shared it with anyone since she had left. "It hurt too much to try to go out," he told her.

Within the week, Beth was hired by a slightly bigger biologist company researching the mysterious new animal that just was discovered in a nearby forest. Beth was completely happy, with no qualms for the first time ever. She married Ian the next month and they lived happily ever after.