She and I were together for years. We shared a first kiss and a first slow dance, and always assumed we would be together forever in the way that small town first loves always do. Then the unthinkable happened. They moved.
Her grandparents stayed on the family farm, but Laura went to Chicago with her father. We called each other constantly, but the distance was just too great, and our plans to go to college together fizzled. Then she got married and I went through two divorces and the only times I thought of Laura anymore were when an old John Hughes movie would be found via channel surfing. Then I would remember my first love.
All that changed when I got a letter with familiar handwriting. I don’t know how she tracked me down in Paris. Nobody back home knew where I had gone, and with both my parents long dead I could not see how she could find me. But she had.
The letter was only a note really. “Meet me at the old oak tree on a moonlit summer night.” No signature or return address. Not that I needed them. I knew what she meant. There was an oak tree halfway between our two family farms where Laura and I had shared many an adolescent thrill. A moonlit summer night could only mean one date. Among other things, Laura and I shared a birthday, July 12. Two months from now.
I picked up the phone to call the airline.
I sat on the porch and wondered if it were moments like this that made people write books about time travel. I felt twenty years younger. I was half expecting Dad to walk out on the porch and start talking about the Cubs game. I had never understood what it was that would not let me sell the house. At least, not until now. I think I finally got it. As long as I still owned the house, I had a place to retreat to if things went wrong. In all the years since mom died, I had never come back. But the point was that I could have.
I thought I was going to have to bury ol’ man Kelly after talking to him on the phone the other day. He reacted like he had heard a ghost. I suppose ten years of getting a check to keep the house up but never talking to me had thrown him off. When I told him I was coming home he had said to give him a couple of days and everything would be ready. He was as good as his word. Everything looked like I had just left the week before. There was even beer in the fridge. I promised myself I would remember it come Christmas time.
The sun dipped towards the horizon. Soon the crickets would begin their chorus, and a few hours after that I had a meeting to attend. One that was wracking my nerves and turning my insides to jelly. I couldn’t understand it. I had sat at tables where there were a couple hundred million under discussion without feeling this way. Of course, in those games I was usually playing with house money. Not so tonight.
I sat the empty beer bottle down and let the porch swing creak as it swung. Some things may not change, but I no longer believed people were one of them. I wondered if as much had changed about her as I felt had about me. The suit I was wearing cost three times as much as my first car had. I had toyed with the idea of buying some boots and slipping back into my adolescent uniform of jeans and tee shirt but discarded it. Despite the venue, I didn't feel like this meeting was going to be about our past.
So, this was sitting on my hard drive. One of those forgotten beginnings. Should I continue it? I've quite forgotten who I intended Laura to be, and where the piece was going. It could be interesting to see where it ends...