By Fran Johnson All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Scifi


Alicia is an ordinary person transported into an extraordinary event with the man she once loved, lost,and now holds dearly. Can they rekindle the romance and make a new life in this new world.


In each ending: a new beginning exists

Chapter One: Alicia

Where two hearts meet: there is no space between

Alicia stood silently cradling the phone gently in her right hand. Glancing up, she noticed her reflection in the mirror across the hall, snapping her out of her momentary trance. She smiled a wry smile at the image; nodding amusingly, as if they somehow shared the same secret. So much time had passed. The caller was David. She hadn’t heard from him in years. For him to get in touch with her now, after all this time, surprised her under any circumstances. The reason for the call seemed even more fantastic. She returned the receiver to its nook as her mind continued down its wandering path.

Her thoughts raced uncontrollably back to earlier days. He was a memory filled with substance. She could split her life into clear sections, dividing before and after meeting him. One day he appeared in her life, and off they went mutually captivated. A whirlwind romance, an event she would’ve scoffed at a short time before. Not anymore. From the start he adored her, and she loved him just as intensely. That’s all each could fathom. Standing in front of her mirror, in such a sudden way, he once again became her all-consuming thought as she pleasantly embraced yesterday’s moments. The memories captured her mind and she found a smile lifting the corners of her lips.

Before they met Alicia lived a quiet life. Her days a repetitive pattern of work, followed by her long commute home. She would have a bite to eat, maybe a chat with a friend, and sleep. The next day her actions would be dutifully repeated. A drink with the girls from the office would happen on occasion, but a quiet night watching a movie with her cat was more her style. She had little to look forward to, with few rewards along the way. The daily drudgery and futility of paying bills and living month to month. She was in a rut which seemed to deepen with each passing day, but wasn’t sure how to go about changing her life, or, even if she should. Then David came along.

Since the first day they met they were inseparable. All couples flush with the excitement of a fresh love are, but this seemed different. Alicia sensed a destiny together: Kismet. David instilled a joy in her life she’d never experienced. He took her drab, monochromatic existence and filled it with color and magic. She could hardly wait until the end of each day to laugh with him as they enjoyed their lives at each others side. They became best friends and lovers, walking blissfully hand in hand towards their promising future.

To Alicia they blended like a cresting wave moving across a mysterious ocean. Mornings found them rising with jubilant smiles. They greeted each day with a childlike delight, hearts ready for whatever may come. Those beautiful times were wonderfully simple. They camped, kayaked, and laughed: creating memories bursting with a rich ebullience. Every step saturated with their new love. Life became a grand escapade. This idyllic pairing led to marriage. Neither harbored a single doubt and believed they knew each other better than they’d ever hoped to know another person.

She looked at herself again, standing transfixed in the same spot. The recollections filling her senses surprised her. The simple act of hearing his voice was enough to bring a flood of distant long forgotten images into her mind. Alicia ruminated about the beginning years. Those happy days brought a smile to the reflection in the mirror. They loved with an all-consuming passion of two souls inhabiting a timeless space. They lived for each other, and would’ve been willing to die to protect the sanctity of this treasure. A connection so deep inside neither could imagine living without it. Their love transformed them into something new and mystic and possessed a life of its own; transcending individuality; and transporting them to a place of beauty neither of them ever thought possible.

It didn’t take long before they joined hands and hearts in the sacred vows of marriage. So what if they hadn’t been together for what their family and friends considered a long enough time. That concern was for other people to worry about. They believed an aura of the unknown strengthened the union. Alicia recognized differences existed, but was excited to learn how they would merge and fit into their lives together. With love painting the horizon they’d be invincible. She caught her reflection again, still glued to the same place. The flood of nostalgia surprised her. David’s voice was enough to trigger a myriad of pictures in her mind. Memories filled with laughter sketched a picture of contentment on the image across the hall.

The recollection of the last talk removed any thoughts of bliss. She vividly remembered standing in the kitchen of their two-bedroom house. In planning to buy the cozy bungalow they agreed they needed two bedrooms. The second would be for their offspring when they decided to have children. Her dream quashed as David explained why he couldn’t be with her anymore. Why they should separate and go their own ways. Why he needed to move away. She remembered all too well the late May afternoon. The twentieth to be exact.

Certain events in life cannot be predicted without due passage of time, and as so often happens, the differences did matter. These areas became the breeding grounds where misunderstanding would flourish. At first, the issues seemed minor: the everyday struggles all couples encounter. David remained his usual optimistic self, and she tried to follow his lead. Both hoped the rough edges would work themselves out, and they would seamlessly return to the shared happiness they found in the beginning. Alicia convinced herself the pressures of marriage, combined with David’s change in jobs, caused this undue temporary stress. The metamorphosis from single person to married couple isn’t easy for anyone. With patience, they would find a way. Nothing had ever been so important to her.

It’s rumored it takes one year to know a person casually, and three for a real friendship to evolve. The results of the quick love affair meant they hadn’t spent an adequate amount of time getting acquainted. The troubled rough spots she thought would smooth out did the opposite and magnified. The gaps widened. Each dream she dared dream dissipated and shattered beyond recognition. They reached a point in each argument where they abandoned logic. One of them would walk out: discussion over. Communication became less clear, and neither possessed the skills necessary to compromise. This was new territory for them, and they made a complete mess of the situation.

The first three years went well. Over the next two an ever-widening abyss began to materialize between the two of them. In an attempt to save the relationship Alicia relinquished more of herself. It didn’t help. On the rare occasion David took a brief moment to reflect he wondered where the woman he’d fallen in love with had gone.

Most of the time his busy schedule didn’t allow him the time to acknowledge much of anything. Their current life was postponed as he strove to build a career which would sustain the two of them in the incredible future he imagined. Every promise awaited its fulfillment on some far off horizon. For Alicia, having children was paramount to being successful and content. A family is what she wanted most in life. She began to lose faith in a potential future and no longer believed the dream would ever manifest. Rather, everything seemed to be dissolving into a fruitless vacuum.

They argued more often. Storm clouds would rise from nowhere. The issues always shelved for a later date as the pile of unresolved disputes grew. Each of them felt misunderstood and deeply wounded. In truth, while the disagreements hurt, the lack of them was more serious. When the arguments tapered off they found themselves moving in different directions causing a dull, painful anguish. They no longer tried to communicate and built walls instead of corridors. Afraid of further exacerbating the abrasions, they tip-toed around each other, hoping to clear the battlefield, and once again find peace.

In retrospect, she could delineate where their lives began to fall apart. David’s new job with the World Government Committee, (WGC), was a big break for him. Not so much for their marriage. He received a substantial promotion to a middle management position with lots of potential for upward mobility, and envisioned an incredibly ideal future for the two of them. Perhaps they could even consider having their first child sometime in the next few years, once he became well established. There would be necessary sacrifices, but he never considered their relationship to be one of them.

The demands of the new station instigated changes. Free time to spend with Alicia became less frequent. Projects, teleconference calls, and meetings soon eclipsed the couple’s time together. When he did make it home for supper he’d spend the entire meal talking to one associate or another. Business conferences were now his constant companion. The house would be invaded by these multiple calls continuing long into the night, hours after Alicia retired for the evening. Too often his work load would keep him at the office until late at night. Alicia would end up being in bed sleeping before he quietly slipped into the house. The couple enjoyed little, or no, alone time together. She was lost and adrift, unloved and unwanted, as they became nothing more than roommates as David’s time became overfilled with work concerns.

His colleagues didn’t help the situation. He worked closely with several women considered beautiful by many standards. The thing perturbing her the most was their tendency to flirt with him seductively in an ingratiating manner. They shared mutual work areas and had his undivided focus. Whenever she stopped to visit they’d interrupt with what appeared to be minor matters. If she hung around long enough she found the conversation invariably turned to something personal.

What hurt the most was his continued attention, as though she never entered the room. Invisible in her corner she observed their comfort level when in close proximity. The situation bothered her more than she wanted to admit. Most of the women treated her as an unimportant underling. David allowing this to happen irritated her even further.

Years later she learned he never detected the manipulations going on behind the scene. This secreted truth didn’t help at the time. She would leave the building feeling like an uninvited intruder. To Alicia, these women had the upper hand in any type of competition. What did she have to offer anyway? Her self-esteem crashed to an epic low. It didn’t take long before the seeds of doubt germinated in her mind.

There is an old book entitled ‘As A Man Thinketh’ by a man named James Allen penned around 1919. It likened the mind to a garden. Whatever is planted there will find root and grow. Alicia’s insecurities fertilized the seedlings. David attempted to reassure her when her anxiety got the better of her. The effort temporarily soothed her feelings, but the core problems never got addressed. The most recurring one not being sure of her place in his life. Perhaps they were a tragic mistake and she was holding him back. Had he envisioned his success, would he have held out and married a more glamorous woman? It would be so easy to fall in love with him. This belief made it difficult to muster any anger at the actions of the people involved.

She couldn’t relax in the societal gatherings he attended. The women at the office blended beautifully into the black-tie affairs and fund raisers. Alicia would never be the person who would be able to ‘work a room’, a fact she realized early on. David understood her uneasiness on these occasions and capitulated saying she didn’t have to attend his functions. He didn’t particularly enjoy them himself, but they were a necessary part of his position. Alicia was sure he made the offer with the best of intentions, but considered it to be part of his moving on. Another piece of his life she wouldn’t be involved in.

No longer willing to fight against the inevitable she agreed not to accompany him, as much for his comfort as her own. She never guessed the truth: David longed for her to be by his side. Ironically, each step he took forward pushed her further away. The boring committees and never-ending social charades didn’t excite him in anyway. The façade of an extroverted trendsetter no more than an act. A harlequin for the rich. The long hours he endured were being done for her and their future together. This idea never made it across the gulf into Alicia’s heart. Without the proper script, she didn’t grasp the magnitude of her action.

She remembered his words at the beginning. He told her at first glimpse he considered her to be a tantalizing beauty. At the drop of a hat he would take her in his arms and make a pledge to her exquisiteness. Alicia responded with a joy she barely contained. The first few years they took time to be together and would stroll through the local park hands clasped, and then grab a bite to eat downtown before enjoying a movie.

Those activities ceased as work increasingly demanded his undivided attention. Now the affectionate words were sparse. She believed he developed different tastes. His world changed into something no longer recognizable to her with an unknown aspect to his personality now emerging. This evolving David had new needs. The people around him possessed skill sets she didn’t have, and access to the topics essential to gain entry into his domain. She tried to tell him her thoughts, what was happening inside of her. At first he said he understood, and when it didn’t seem to help, he placated her. Eventually he wearied of her uncertainties.

David’s long hours finally caught up with him. On a night when he didn’t get enough sleep a serious argument erupted. Alicia happened to still be awake and commented on his arriving home so late, adding a remark about Rebecca probably working late too. Overtired and sullen he berated her for being petty and jealous. Couldn’t she see these people were only co-workers? Anything she witnessed merely duty on his part. How could she be so totally inept at figuring out the people in his life? He felt guilty afterwards and tried to reassure her of his love. He reiterated her feelings weren’t justified in a softer, tender tone. A bit too late though. In her world, his words validated every thought she ever entertained.

Alicia recalled her own remorseful feelings about the day and the situation in general. He worked hard trying to get ahead, while she added strain to his arduous work load. With a grim determination, she vowed not to burden him again. She would be the quiet devoted housewife and stop sharing the things bothering her so deeply. There would be an immediate sacrifice, but she would be comfortable just being with David.

This resolve started a period of limbo for her. Issues were ignored as she created what she considered to be the perfect home life. Alicia made sure a healthy meal waited for him when he got home from work. She loved the idea of having this one thing she could personally offer to her husband. After all, most nights he tumbled exhausted into bed, and fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. It added up to a dismal sex life edging on extinction. Alicia could see they weren’t progressing as a couple, but she had fulfilled her main concern of stopping the regression.

As for David, he valued her efforts, even though he rarely had the time to express his appreciation. In these changing times at the WGC he needed to keep on top of current events.

His ability to handle the stress of shifting allegiances provided him with the network he needed to continue his upward mobility. Yes, the climb up the governmental ladder meant an increased workload, but not one he thought would go on forever. To Alicia, if she needed to sacrifice that was perfectly okay, as long as she could enjoy this simple way of showing her love for him. Tomorrow they would have more time. Tomorrow.

Financially, things got better. A series of lucrative raises provided David with an elite salary. On a more intimate level their marriage was an abject failure. Their platonic relationship was something she needed to address. Any dream of having children wouldn’t happen this way. In a desperate move, she decided to try something a little out of her comfort zone. Although this would be a big step for her, it was time to rekindle their passion. Alicia left a message on his work phone saying she would be going out and couldn’t be sure when she’d be back, but didn’t think she would be home to make supper. He should pick himself up a bite to eat on the way home. All part of her plan. A ploy for him to be concerned: to worry about her a little for once.

Alicia transferred hundreds of credits from their joint savings account to a daily use tab designed for household expenditures. She intended to use the money to give herself a complete makeover. A fresh hairdo, nails manicured, and a spa treatment. From there she would use the monies to shop for more elegant clothing and some revealing lingerie. If all worked out she would return early enough to catch him by surprise with this brand-new version of Alicia.

It didn’t turn out as expected. David grabbed a sandwich at a local deli and acted as though nothing different happened from any other night. She pointed out her new wardrobe and he replied by saying certain perks came with being fiscally secure, if she wanted to spend money on girly things she should. It wasn’t right she spent so much time on her own. Get out of the house and enjoy yourself more often. His explanation for not mentioning the clothes shopping spree: he didn’t want to make her feel guilty about the cost of the items. It never got to the frilly undergarments stage of her plan. She went to bed thinking her time was wasted on any attempts to be more attractive to him.

This disappointment marked when their marriage starting to spiral out of control. He would call to say he’d grab a bite to eat at the office, or pick something up on the way from work on a regular basis. It made her heart heavy to know she forfeited this important piece of the puzzle. She’d been trying so to garner some of his attention, and it backfired. Her desperation reached the point where she would even welcome an argument. Anything would be better than the emotional void she currently lived in.

In hindsight, she should’ve been assertive and used the moment to open some kind of dialogue between them. The fact became a thorn stuck deep inside of her. She wished she could revisit the past to open the vault of words imprisoned inside of her. Pride and fear kept her from taking the step. The emotional toll too heavy to chance.

The doubt created an uncertainty in Alicia she didn’t have the skills to cope with. To her regret the interaction never happened. She remained silent about such matters, only wanting to spare David the depth of her angst. As her reservations smoldered, the need to have a child exponentially grew. On a gray dismal winter day, she brought up the idea of trying to get pregnant. The subject flopped miserably. Along with it the conviction of building a concrete future for her family vanished.

The topic became a toxic wedge between them. His advancement to new heights made children at this point non-negotiable. The logic became circular. The more adamantly David refused, the more she thought the refusal was tied to another woman. Someone at the office. It reinforced her thoughts of being last year’s model. Pretty to have around, but not exactly what fit into his life. On a doctor’s visit for her yearly physical she learned she was barren. A sadness overwhelmed her heart at the news. That night she approached David hoping to share this loss with him. To find comfort from her devastating emotions within his gentle arms.

“Sweetheart, we need to talk.” She felt lame, but moved forward tentatively. “You know I’ve always wanted a child.” He immediately stopped her from proceeding.

“Not now, Alicia! Can’t you see I’m in the middle of an extremely important assignment? This needs to be handed in by tonight. How could you imagine this is even close to the right time for this kind of a discussion? Your selfishness is astonishing!” His annoyance a dagger going straight to her heart.

“David.” was all she got out before he turned and left the room. She was left to accept her loss in a solitary prison built for one. Pain and confusion saturated her being leaving her unable to react. Despair festered over the coming winter. The tragedy that had become their marriage would culminate in the spring.

The early months of the year were frustrating as the area received a steady mixture of cold rain, ice, and sleet. Temperatures hovered around the freezing mark most of March, and April started with a crippling snowstorm. Alicia began to believe spring would never arrive. She was tired, edgy, and depressed by the continuous bad weather. The events over the last several months added an additional stress magnifying the problems they already faced in their strained relationship. The combined forces created a vortex seeming to suck all the positive energy out of her. Drained and dejected: she walked through the days like an apparition no longer belonging to this world.

‘If I can hold on a little longer’, became her mantra. Intoned in the desperation for warmer weather and a new beginning. ‘Spring is coming. It’ll be here any minute.’ She sensed the upcoming year would be critical to their future together and now it seemed so far off. She was being cheated out of even this simple pleasure. She endured too many dark days over the winter when her only focus was to make it to spring. If she could keep it together she was convinced a revitalization would capture their souls. David taught her optimism. Tomorrow the bright beacon of hope. Her resurrection forever somewhere in the near future.

Spring became her anchoring point for better things to come, while in reality they grew further apart with each passing day. She clung to an unrealistic promise of once again going camping or kayaking. She visualized them on the water, or the trails, free of care and laughing in the wind. A carefree delight in hearing the bird’s singing. The smell of the budding branches on the white lilacs coming into bloom. It had been so long since they took the time to share a moment of solitude together. At the beginning of May, the weather changed for the better. A plentiful dose of warm sunshine improved both of their moods. Alicia was sure the worst was over. They had made it to spring and things would work out. They would find a way be over this rough spot and move forward together. They always had before.

The first two weeks flew by. David spruced up the lawn and worked outside cleaning the garage. Alicia used the time to open windows and remove the stale, poisoned air, replacing it with a fresh new outlook. The spring’s warmth bolstered her spirits. With each passing day, her disposition lifted. The awaited cataclysm hadn’t happened and spring was here. Her step regained its energetic bounce, and an inner essence dormant through so many days of depression and loneliness seemed to finally resuscitate.

The memory of the last fateful conversation caused an excruciating grief to rise from the depths of her being. It would bring an end to her dream of being happily married to David. She vividly recalled standing in the kitchen while he explained why he couldn’t be with her anymore. It was a late May afternoon. The twentieth.

The day was a repeat of the beautiful weather leading up to it. Temperatures hovered somewhere in the low to mid-seventies with lots of sun. The string of warm days brought numerous flying insects out of hibernation. They buzzed noisily around the kitchen as she worked. David came in to wash his hands. When he finished, he turned around and told her he was leaving. She laughed nervously. He didn’t laugh back.

As David explained his reasons for leaving, why it was impossible for him to stay, all she could focus on were the pesky houseflies buzzing around the kitchen. It was a surreal moment. She remembered vacantly swatting at them as she tried to find a way to stop his words, to not hear them, to not know, to not break. It was tragically funny. With her life falling apart in front of her the image etched on her mind became the intensified sound of those damn flies.

He chose spring to say his farewells. A brief venting of feelings foretelling a finality that implied forever. There would be no heroes to pick up the wounded on this battlefield. A shiver ran down Alicia’s spine as repressed feelings sprung to life. Unfortunately, the day’s trauma didn’t end there. She had a visitor after David’s bloodletting.

Alicia remembered sitting in a near catatonic state in the late afternoon sun not being able to move. David had spoken his intentions, paused briefly at the door, and left. For the rest of the morning she attempted to do things she thought she might be able to get done. Unable to concentrate on even the simplest task she slumped into a kitchen chair and stared off into space.

Her breakdown was interrupted by a knock on the back door. It was Rebecca, the willowy redhead he worked with on occasion. Alicia suspected her to be the chief suspect in anything going on with David at the office. Not knowing what else to do she invited her in. She couldn’t fathom why she would be here, unless David had viciously sent her. She gasped at the thought of the betrayal. As she stood there devastated it seemed to be a perfectly plausible deed. The truth. Rebecca, being an opportunist, wanted to extract pain for David’s rejection of her. After listening to his confession she knew Alicia would be sitting alone and hurting. Determined to block any thought of reconciliation between the two of them she was more than willing to take advantage of this golden opportunity.

Alicia didn’t have the energy to fight this second assault. As she began her rant it occurred to her that Rebecca knew everything about their problems. David must have been planning for them to be together when she was finally out of the way. Her day already shattered beyond comprehension, she half listened to Rebecca rambling on. Most of it flowed in and out without thought, but she did remember her saying something about their intention to go on an upcoming vacation together. She mentioned a weekend trip planned to Lover’s Beach. A retreat for the two of them.

“So, my darling little Alicia.” Rebecca articulated with a purring snarl, “I thought you and I should have this discussion. Woman to woman.” After a brief pause she continued.

“To tell you the truth, I believed you would have moved on by now.” The discreet ferocity in her tone caught Alicia’s attention. Realizing this Rebecca proceeded with the savored conversation, albeit in a more restrained tone. Physical violence wasn’t in the plot.

“David has become a successful man. Even someone like you should be able to comprehend this outcome. His duties require him to participate in numerous official functions. I’ve watched him attend so many of them unescorted. Surely, you must be on his calendar somewhere.” She said with a snicker. “Anyway. He regularly interacts with fabulously wealthy and high ranking dignitaries.” She stopped for effect. “He obviously needs a woman by his side who can navigate with graceful sophistication through this world. Not hidden in the closet. It’s only natural. You know what they say, like people attract.”

Rebecca psychically stomped on her as she might a vanquished foe. She started at Alicia’s bouncy ponytail, and finished at her bare feet sporting unpolished toenails. The disgust on her face made her opinion very clear and her point painfully made.

Rebecca didn’t suggest anything Alicia hadn’t thought of a thousand times by now. How she managed to keep the tears from filling her eyes and pouring down her face until after the witch left remained a mystery to her. The event became an important moment of re-establishing her self-respect and dignity.

“So terribly true, Rebecca.” She responded slowly gathering herself. “Maybe the stench of the flower isn’t worthy of the fruit. He’s made his choice, and you’re welcome to each other.” She let the words sink in before adding in a quiet, forceful tone.

“You can leave now.” With her mission over Rebecca clumsily detached herself.

“Of course, Alicia. I didn’t mean to barge in, but I felt you should know.” An uncomfortable silence ensued. “Take care of yourself.” Her smile wasn’t a friendly one. A predator who assumed she had her prey trapped in a corner, only to find the victim come out fighting.

Satisfied with the damage done, and not wanting to risk any self-harm, she now wanted to retreat as fast as she could. She opened the door, and trying to regain the upper hand couldn’t resist one last parting shot.

“Take care, little Alicia. I’m sure there’s a person more suitable for you out there somewhere.” The door closed and she was gone. Trying to find balance after this retched state of affairs required most of her subsequent counseling sessions. The emotions on that distant day caused her to sink to the floor in a crumpled, vulnerable mass of empty ruin.

They were over, really over. David left. He would spend the rest of his life with Rebecca instead of her. It was hard to reconcile his leaving, but the idea of him being with this evil incarnation forecast dark premonitions. She wasn’t the right choice for him. Whatever his relationship with Rebecca, they didn’t mesh. As for the two of them. Their marriage had been a terrible mistake, and the ending clearly inevitable. This thought prohibited her from fighting to save the relationship.

When he returned to pick up some needed items a few days later an avalanche of words tried to force their way out, but the muted voice echoed inside of her head. The one most surprised by her silence was Alicia. She had lost her will to speak. Her heart screamed for him to stay, to love her always, and to help her understand, but the words froze, stored deep within a protective shell. At this high cost, she stopped any additional scarring damage to her chi.

David took her unresponsiveness to mean she accepted, and even welcomed, this final separation. He believed she desired him to go. Thinking it was the only option remaining, he did just that. Hand on the doorknob, he turned one last time to glance at his beautiful Alicia. She stood in stolid immobility and said nothing as he walked out of her life.

The next time they saw each other was months later in the courthouse. She rushed to be by his side. The short time alone had torn at her soul. She knew she didn’t want to live without him. After he left she’d come to her senses and believed some horrible misunderstanding had occurred. David simply made a mistake in judgment. Surely, he would see it the same way. It had to be. A love being the only truth in her heart could not end like this. But David had built a wall she couldn’t penetrate, or go around. However, beautiful the beginning: the conclusion was etched with acid burnt into a suffering heart.

She managed to get up each morning, go to work, and come home again. Beyond that, she lamented. Separation and divorce is a series of multiple self-inflicted injuries. Alicia understood she didn’t handle the breakup well and entered a therapy group with supplementary private counseling. It took six months to achieve any kind of real balance. In a final farewell she conducted a ceremonial rite close to the place where they honeymooned, burying her dreams at Chapel Beach. She would heal, but everything would be different.

The uncontested divorce finalized after several months of furtive paperwork. Meetings in which only lawyer’s words would be heard. He left her the house and paid off the mortgage. She supposed Rebecca would want a much larger home in a more prestigious neighborhood. Alicia asked for little, but he left most of their lives together behind: including the kayaks and camping gear. Rebecca would hardly be the type to hang out in the wilderness. In addition, David placed a substantial amount of money in her personal bank account.

Alicia found support groups who offered friendship, and a solid inner circle developed helping her to deal with the lonely, empty hours. She was grateful for the people who were there while she tried to create a new life. Which brought her to the present. Here, today, so much time had passed. She lived a satisfying life and felt strong again. In the beginning, terrifying nightmares of the day would surface. For a long time, it kept a smile from reaching her eyes.

The dark days living as a specter drifting aimlessly slowly subsided. The tedium of an existence without the inspiration of a goal marked each day’s passing. When asked by family members if she was okay she would simply say, ‘Yes, I’m fine.’ Followed by an attempt to show she meant it. This happened so often after a while people came to believe it was how Alicia expressed herself. The catchphrase became her new normal. The singular exception to the rule, Jennie. The one person who carried Alicia through the worst and knew her well-hidden secrets. Jennie had grown up since those days. Life has a way of aging a person. She had been in an abusive situation, and had a certain amount of healing in her own life going on. They met before therapy one day, and became best friends. They would go out for coffee together and talk for hours. Over breakfast one morning Jennie suggested Alicia get a job where she worked.

“You need to be doing something.” She chided her.

Alicia followed her advice. The focus of working and meeting people did help. The long, torturous hours following the divorce slowly became days. One at a time. Weeks and months converted into years. Alicia never again risked her heart where love was concerned. The potential for pain too intolerable. Her friends gave up trying to introduce her to men they thought she might be interested in.

Eventually, life took on a semblance of normalcy and she recovered a happy contentment. Ten years has a way of blurring even the severest mental bruises. Like chalk on a sidewalk, the scars gradually disappeared. She filled her time with hobbies and interests, comfortable with the idea there would always be traces she couldn’t erase. Life goes on.

Somewhere during the phone call, she realized it was nice to talk to David again. His voice transported her to a wonderful place of peace. She had been smiling while they talked. The conversation evoked a comfort long forgotten. The years of loneliness melted away in a sudden rush like a spring thaw.

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