Ella’s deflated voice was another bitter reminder of our disastrous vacation. My precocious daughter had been so excited to see a real castle. I should have known better. How could a six-year old see past her Disney-colored glasses at the beauty of this twelfth century wonder? I looked up in awe and imagined an idyllic Camelot, my own unachievable idea of happily ever after.
Time for a change.
I knelt next to her and pressed my hand to her heart. “Sweetie, happily ever after isn’t in a castle. It’s in here.”
Just ahead, she saw the alley in the sunlight. If she could make it she would be safe. Her heart pounded and she felt the package tucked inside her sweater. Father Daniel had trusted her and she couldn’t let him down. She heard footsteps behind her but didn’t turn to look. Father Daniel said if she could make it to the Cathedral, a Friar would be waiting to take possession of the package. Suddenly she felt like she was in a bad novel. She stepped into the sunlight and turned right. Hopefully her story had a happy ending.
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“There’s a hurricane coming. You should stay home.” He stared at the darkened sky, inky black in the distance.
“This interview is huge. I can’t miss it. And I have my lucky charm.” She jangled the bracelet he’d given her for their anniversary. “Besides, they won’t run the ferry if it’s not safe.” She kissed him softly, sweetly. “I’ll be fine. Call you tomorrow.”
~ ~ ~ ~
Turning on the morning news, his coffee mug fell and shattered, hot liquid rivulets snaking across the tile floor when he saw the lead story.
Sophie pushed through the crowded terminal. She had to make this flight. In ten minutes the doors would close. She picked up her pace and prayed she didn’t clip anyone with her rolling carry-on bag.
She thought back to their conversation the night before. She and Nate had a nasty fight and she’d said some awful things. The kind of things you can’t un-say. She’d tried to call him back to apologize but all twenty calls had gone straight to voicemail. She’d done the only sane thing she could think of – booked the first flight to Boston. Sane is in the eye of the beholder.
Downtown traffic was heavier than usual and she was close to missing her flight. Just ahead in the crowd she saw a pocket open and she rushed forward, hoping to move past the lollygaggers. She stopped abruptly when she saw it – the statue of the lovers, reunited and locked in a passionate embrace.
She thought of Nate and imagined him holding her in just that same way. Kissing her and telling her all was forgiven. A wistful smile crossed her lips and she moved again with renewed energy toward Gate 47A. Toward her future.
She stood in the rubble, memories flooding back like ocean waves. She was twenty-two and dressed to the nines. The sounds of jazz and laughter filled the air. Then she saw him and the room faded away. The melody that rang out from his trumpet was like a siren call. She knew he was the one. Sixty years later, after the funeral, when she was alone, she returned to the place where they first met, where she first fell in love. She found the place in shambles, much like her heart. And she said her final good-bye.
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Dark, ominous clouds matched the fog in her head. The statue looked vaguely familiar, as if she’d been here before, but she wasn’t sure what she was doing here now. Sitting on the marble pedestal below, she held her throbbing head and searched her memory. Images ran wildly like an old carousel slide projector. A small hotel room overlooking a piazza. A cup of cappuccino at a sidewalk café. Holding hands with a man near a fountain. A Celtic tattoo on his forearm. A shiver of fear ran through her. Why couldn’t she remember more?
“Are you okay love? That bump on your head looks bad. I can take you somewhere to get it checked out.” She looked up into a smiling face. He spoke with an Irish brogue and seemed friendly enough. She reached for his outstretched hand and noticed the tattoo on his forearm. A memory flashed through her mind. A struggle inside the hotel room. A broken lamp. Running down a stairwell and disappearing into a crowded piazza. His smile was suddenly sinister and she pulled her hand back. A shiver of terror ran through her. “Now Abigail, let’s not put up another struggle.”