Libby leans back against the heated leather seat, listening to the low hum of the radio while she sits in the warm cocoon of her car. Should I stay or should I go? The frigid November rain has been falling relentlessly since the previous morning and the heavy sheet obscures her surroundings. Littleton, Nantucket, Providence, Bayside, Boston? Squinting her eyes, she scans the parking lot for familiar signs but the buildings and cars are blurred, the colors running together. It’s beautiful, as surreal as an Impressionist painting. She could be anywhere; a different time, another place.
Lifting her digital camera from its case, she removes the lens cap and adjusts the focus to capture the watercolor created by the fat droplets of rain on her windshield. Click, click, click. She takes a dozen photographs and smiles to herself as she reviews them. These are good. I may be able to use these. There’s a new series here…
She returns the camera to it’s case and pulls her wool-lined raincoat close to her body, taking deep breaths in and out, deliberating whether to get out of the car. She’s not afraid of braving the storm outside; it’s the one raging in her head stopping her. I’m safe here, she thinks, leaning her head against the steering wheel. Nothing can hurt me if I stay. She arrived thirty minutes early and has been sitting in the parking lot for over ten. This is her opportunity to escape without being seen. He’ll be here soon and the choice will be much more difficult to make once she sees him.
What am I doing? The past few times they got together were agonizing, both of them pretending to be fine, trying to pick up where they left off before that fateful day. It’s impossible! If there’s one thing she’s learned over the past couple of years…you can’t go back. There is no rewind button. One split second decision is all it takes to change the course of someone’s life.
Everything is different now, their lives unrecognizable from the ones they were living just a few months ago. She’s changed. He’s changed. Holding onto the past can only cause her pain, and that, she does not need! She’s created a good life for herself out of the wreckage. The kids are happy; her career is satisfying. Why would she deliberately put herself in emotional harms way?
Because I love him. But too much has happened. It’s too late.
Knock! Knock! Knock! Libby jumps in her seat, her heart stopping in her chest. Someone is fiddling with the handle on the front passenger side door and she takes a moment before rolling down the window a crack, then breathes a giant sigh of relief when Ginger’s face comes into view.
“Jesus, Libby! Let me in!” Ginger cries, her face wet from the rain, hair sticking to her face.
Libby unlocks the door, quickly clearing the camera case and random papers from the seat to make room for her friend.
“Oh my God!” Ginger says, climbing in. “It’s crazy out there!”
She slams the door shut and Libby hands her the few napkins she finds in the console to dry her face.
“Well?” Ginger asks after a minute. “Are you coming in?”
Libby bites her lip and turns her face away, then shakes her head.
“No,” she whispers.
“C’mon, Lib,” Ginger pleads, resting her hand on Libby’s. “Just one cup of coffee.”
“I can’t do this, Ging. I just can’t…” her voice trails off.
Ginger leans her head back against the seat, her eyes closed.
“I can’t force you, Lib,” she murmurs. “I just wish things were different.”
So do I, Ginger. So do I.
“I’ll call you later,” Ginger sighs and kisses Libby on the cheek. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” Libby replies, relief flooding her body.
Ginger climbs out of the car, then races across the parking lot and into the coffee shop. Libby turns the wipers on to watch her go and a minute later, shifts the car into drive. Before she pulls away, she notices a man standing a few feet in front of her, the only person not running for shelter. He’s wearing a raincoat, the hood pulled up covering his hair and most of his face, but it’s unmistakably him.
He raises his hand in greeting and she hesitates, then shakes her head slightly, and lifts hers in farewell. Their eyes lock for a long moment, then he nods and walks away.
Copyright © 2016 Jayne Conway
Plain Jayne Ink
All rights reserved.