It was raining the day I left her. As I watched through the rearview mirror, I tried to convince myself that her cheeks were wet with tears not raindrops. She didn't chase after me or beg me to stay. It was as if she'd been waiting for this day. I wasn't the first man to walk out on her. An irresponsible father, immature high school sweetheart and gold-digging fiancé trampled on her heart before I ever had the chance to break it. Even knowing the emotional damage it would do, I couldn't stop myself from deserting her.
It seems fitting that the day of my return is sunny. I see this as a new beginning. It's foolish to think that she's still waiting for me after five years, but I can't help but wish that she would be. Regardless of the outcome, I have to see her again, if only to ease my guilty conscience. How hard did she take my leaving? Did she hide behind that cool façade she wore so well or fall into a self-destructive downward spiral?
As I pull into the driveway of the two-story Victorian, I note the shiny black convertible sitting next to a cherry red Jeep. There is no sign of the monstrous silver luxury sedan she bought while we were together. Gathering my courage, I quickly walk up the sidewalk and ring the doorbell. After a minute or two, the door swings open revealing a bare-chested, muscular man with bright bleached hair.
"I-I'm looking for Ms. Hayes." I stammer, acutely aware of my ever-receding hairline as well as the few extra pounds I've picked up over the years. If the fates are kind, she's moved far away and this is not my replacement.
One scarred eyebrow lifts as he studies me carefully. "Ms. Hayes hasn't lived here for three years." Piercing blue eyes bore into mine as if trying to judge my intent and read my soul. He steps away from the door and jerks his head towards the back of the house. "She's in her bloody garden."
Before I can thank him, the door slams in my face. I carefully make my way through the damp grass trying to keep from ruining my new Italian leather loafers. As I round the corner of the house, I stop in my tracks at the sight before me. There she is, the angel who has haunted me every day for half a decade, but she is not the woman I knew.
Gone are the boxy power suits, severe chignons and heavy makeup. Her hair has been lightened to the color of caramel and cut short to frame her delicate face. She appears comfortable in a pair of faded jeans and pink sweatshirt. Sensing my presence, she peels off a pair of muddy gardening gloves and slowly rises to her feet. Her greeting is soft and sweet as a summer breeze. Surely this earth goddess is not the same urbanite corporate lawyer I loved and left.
We engage in small talk for several moments but it is too awkward to continue for any length of period. What do you say to an ex-lover without sounding trite or callous? I don't know if bringing up the past will hurt or if ignoring it will offend. I need closure, but not at the risk of causing her any further pain. As if following my train of thought, she smiles sympathetically. "There's no need to apologize. It's all ancient history now."
The backdoor door opens and the blond man steps out on to the porch. He raises one hand to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight as he slowly approaches. After snaking one strong arm around her waist, he presses a soft kiss against her temple. I do not imagine the faint possessive growl coming from his throat. I can't hold it against him. If our positions were reversed I'd be doing the same.
She rolls her eyes at his behavior and playfully slaps his arm then turns her attention back to me. "I was broken long before I met you. I tried to tell you, tried to make you understand but you wouldn't listen. You tried your best to make the pieces fit. When your patience ran out, when you realized that I couldn't be who you needed me to be, you walked out. It didn't matter that I was still broken and even more jumbled up than before. Your leaving hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt before. I built a wall around my heart and refused to let anyone get close. If I couldn't be good enough for the man who supposedly loved me, how could I ever be good enough for anyone else? I didn't want to go through that kind of pain again."
She pauses to offer her mate a radiant smile. I don't even bother to delude myself by believing she ever looked at me that way. Maybe if I'd been more understanding, more willing to help her work through her insecurities….
"Then he came along: brash, crass and so unlike anyone I'd ever met. He broke through the walls and without even trying made the pieces fit. I feel whole again." Her green eyes are full of compassion and wisdom as she helps me close the door to our past. "There was nothing you could have done. The timing wasn't right… we weren't right together. It's better this way. Someday you'll find someone who accepts you and all your quirks. I bet she will be one hell of a girl."
I kiss her smooth cheek and lose myself in her embrace one last time. Without a word, I turn on my heel to head back to my car. There is nothing more that needs to be said. I didn't ruin her life as I feared and maybe now I can let myself fall in love without being afraid. If she can find happiness, there's still a chance for me. She should have hated me and refused to give the resolution I was seeking but instead she gave me hope. For that she'll always have a piece of my heart.