By Laura Meyer
There she was. Eyes shining with promise. Wearing one of her big toothy smiles. So caught up in the moment, she didn’t self-censor it like she usually did in photos. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a tight ponytail that sat perfectly under the cap, resting on an angle atop her head. The golden tassel that had swung in the afternoon breeze, frozen in motion as it swept across her cheek. The folds of the heavy gown, swam around her thin frame. You could just make out the pair of Converse poking out from the bottom. Her comfy shoes. A connection to her soon to be old life. She held a stiff sheet of creamy paper in front of her chest like a badge of honour. Her name is standing out in black ink along with the letters M.D.Hon.
So much ahead. So much.
The man folds the photo along deep creases, carefully tucking it back into his wallet. Her eternal smile nestles safely next to his license. He pauses, when for a split second, he believes her still there. Somewhere. But the moment passes; going the way of all the other moments he’s had just like it. His thumping heart slows.
A breeze lifts the damp hair from the back of his neck. A welcome distraction from his silent vigil. He shifts his weight as a wave of pins and needles runs up his leg. A cramp sets in. He won’t go just yet. A sharp cry behind him makes him jump. But he remains focused. It’s only a mother crow, calling to her young. He saw the nest when he arrived, balanced in the fork of a leafless tree.
She never had the chance to be a mother. He knew she wanted it; she talked about it without embarrassment or fear of sounding selfish. It was an unrelenting focus on her burgeoning career which meant having children would have to wait a little while. He’d only smiled. He was in awe of this intelligent, capable woman about to start her own life. Leave the nest.
His fingers snake into his wallet once more; seeking her fading smile. The edges of the photo are beginning to feather and one corner threatens to come away entirely. He runs his fingers over her face, his own mouth twitching in a response to hers. As he folds the photo one last time, the sun glints against the gold band, newly homed on his left ring finger. He holds his hand up to the fading light and stares at the ring. It isn’t just a piece of jewellery. It signifies the end of one life and the beginning of another. A different life. I have to let her go, he thinks.
With a final touch to his lips, he lays the folded photo at the foot of her headstone and places a rock over it for protection.
“Goodbye, my love. I’ll always remember what almost was.”
He turns and walks back to his car, to his new wife who waits patiently, understanding, for his last vigil to end.