Emma sat staring at the invitation that had arrived in the mail. On her way to the office, she had stopped by the box in her building and picked up the normal missives. This one had stopped her heart when she had seen, and for someone that brokered millions of dollars in mergers and acquisitions daily, that was hard to do.
The invitation looked innocent enough, in the pretty off-white paper, but the return address with the scrolls sent her back down memory lane. It had been four, no five years, since her feet had traveled down that path and it was a painful one to return to, for certain. She had left her small community, friends, and everything she held dear to pursue a career opportunity in Hong Kong and hadn’t been back since. Now, truth be told, she had run away and tried to never look back. Regret and hindsight, though, plagued her as she climbed the ranks of the company.
Now, she was headed stateside for the first time, taking a job as the VP of M&A in that region. She had been trying to work up the courage to call her mom and let her know when this came. She hadn’t expected to return to Stetson, Wyoming that quickly. Someday she knew she would have to go back and make peace with the past, but not this quickly.
As she put a finger into the seal of the envelope and released the invite from the envelope once again, she found the date. It was four weeks from now, two after she would be stateside again for good. Jackson Hemming had been a few years younger than Elizabeth, Gavin, and herself, but still part of her immediate circle, as he was Gavin’s younger brother. The three amigos as Gavin, Elizabeth and Emma were known for years, had been a tight-knit threesome, who had a breadth of friends.
From the moment they met as toddlers the three of them had been tied at the hip, inseparable. Until the accident. That single-night changed everything for all time. Gavin and Emma’s engagement, which was to have consummated as the wedding of the decade for their small community, ended. She left. And everything that mattered to her, but a career that kept her busy enough to dull all other thoughts, was her only companion now.
She had tried to replace those friendships, but high school, first loves, first crushes and decades of secrets bonded you in a manner that was not easily forgotten. While she did her best to put it behind her, she knew that some things just weren’t meant to be gotten over; all you did was survive and keep moving. The ghosts of past mistakes always haunting future decisions. She slid the invitation home and focused on the tasks that needed to be carried out to ship items from her office, and later today it would be her home. She would miss Hong Kong, but it had never been home, just a stepping stone to the next adventure in her career. Life, now that was something else.
She did have a few great friends here she would miss, nothing as profound at those she had left behind in her youth, but they still mattered. She did work eighty hours or better a week, so it had been hard to foster great relationships. Also, the culture, while difficult at first to adapt to from Wyoming, had succeeded in winning her to a new way of life. She had gone to college for business and mathematics and put that education to effective use. Her student loans were gone, and she was financially secure. Most of the associates her age were marrying and starting families; she sighed, that was not on the cards for her.
The one love of her life had been tragically twisted into a cautionary tale the night Elizabeth died. While Emma rarely focused on said event, she found herself recalling Elizabeth’s sweet face. She was to have been Emma’s maid of honor a few weeks after the accident occurred. The wedding never took place without her, and the grief of losing her in such a shocking manner had rippled through their community; Emma not knowing what to do with all the pain, did the only thing she could, run!
It had been a fun night out, listening to bands, trying to make a final decision for wedding music. Gavin and Emma in the front seat, and Elizabeth in the back. They were discussing directly the merits and downsides of each of the four musical groups they had seen. Also, there was a lot of jesting going on as Elizabeth had run into an old boyfriend that evening. It had been one of the best memories in a long time for Emma, as Elizabeth had just returned from university. She had gone to pre-med and been a thousand miles away from Gavin and Elizabeth. Distance had made them desire to spend much more time than normal together when finally, they were back in their home state. Everything had, for a moment, looked like their lives would turn out to be the fairy tale version of what they had dreamed as children.
Then a drunk driver in an old beat up pick up, had ended all that with a blood alcohol reading that should have never been behind the wheel of a vehicle. Emma squeezed her eyes, as that final picture of Elizabeth that haunted her dreams floated into her mind. It all died with her in that car that night, and everything since had simply been learning to find a way to live alongside those bad memories.