To See Her Again by Priya Vennapusa

“You seriously want me to drive all the way to South Carolina just because you hope your ex-girlfriend will be there?  You’re insane.” Peter glared at his friend vexed.

“It’s my last chance. I have to see her.”  David insisted.

“Dude, I’d have to take time off from work for a wild goose chase.”

“Please man, if we drive in shifts we can easily get there in a day. I can’t afford flight tickets. I’ll owe you big time.”

“What makes you so sure that she’ll be there? You broke up almost a year ago.”

“10 months, 6 days and 3 hours ago”

Peter could only stare at him.

“It is our five-year anniversary this Friday, and that’s where we first met.  I know she’ll be there.”

Peter let out a deep sigh.  “If it means that much to you, I’ll do it.   If she doesn’t show up perhaps you’ll finally move on.”

“I won’t forget this. We’re leaving tomorrow,” David said, hardly able to control his anticipation.

****
I can’t wait to see him. Alice repeated to herself as she flew down to South Carolina. Doubt nagged at her. What if he didn’t come or couldn’t understand? If only I’d told him the truth. We loved each other and we could have worked through it.  I thought I could live without him but that was a big mistake.  I threw it all away.  We’re both alone now because of me. Sighing she pushed away the negative thoughts. She had to try to make things right.

****

“There’s nothing but country music?” Peter switched off the radio with impatience and slumped back into his seat.

“Play a CD.”

“Listen to the same songs for the zillionth time? No thanks! Instead tell me how you met Alice. It will help pass the time.”  There was silence for a moment as David focused on driving.

“The first time I saw her was at her Brother Tom’s funeral.”

“Tom?”

“Tom was my best friend at the University of Michigan. He died in a DUI and the funeral was in South Carolina. I thought her an angel her hair in golden waves down her back and eyes the color of a cloudless sky. Her smile was like sunshine… it made everything around her brighter.” Peter stared at him open mouthed.  His roommate wasn’t the type to wax whimsical about a girl.

“‘You must be David, I’m Alice,’ she said.  All I could do was gawk at her like an idiot.   We were from opposite worlds and the contrast was striking:  I, the dark-haired, underprivileged kid, from Detroit and she, the fair, Southern heiress.  It was love at first sight. She transferred to Michigan those were my happiest years”

“Why happened?”

“As our graduation approached, things fell apart. I found a job with a bank in New York.  Alice got accepted at UCLA to pursue a Masters.  With pending student loans, I couldn’t afford to follow her.  Nor could I ask her to give up her dream.  I became progressively more frustrated. Alice was troubled and became distant, but she wouldn’t talk about it.  The situation became increasingly tense and finally erupted one day.  I said something stupid about never having kids because I couldn’t afford them.  It was meant as a joke, but she got upset and we argued. My frustration poured out and I called her a ‘spoiled little rich girl.’ She walked out on me and just like that, it was over.”

“Bro, if she meant so much, why didn’t you go after her?

“I wanted to. I saw her at graduation and tried to talk to her. If she’d given me even a glance, I would have begged her to take me back, but she looked through me, as if I didn’t exist. I lost my nerve and I’ve regretted it since.”

****

Alice watched the clouds flit past her, her mind dwelling on David. Why didn’t he ask me to go to New York?  I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. I should’ve told him then but was afraid he wouldn’t want me.  How I wish I had done things differently!  Please let him come.  A tear rolled unchecked down her cheek at the memory.

****

It was Peter’s turn to drive and David reclined his seat and stretched out.  Miles sped by in silence as Peter mulled over David’s story. Then unable to contain himself he blurted out his misgivings.

“What makes you think, she’ll come for your anniversary?”

“We visited Tom’s grave together every year. It was our special place.”

“She may not want to see you.”

“I have to take that chance.” David lapsed into silence thinking. I lost all hope when she moved away, but recently my hope has rekindled.  I can’t explain it. It’s as if she’s thinking of me and she wants me to be there.

****

The day was overcast and ominous. Tom’s grave looked desolate.  David was unprepared for the wave of disappointment that washed over him. He choked back tears as pain gripped him in its sharp talons. A glint caught his eye and glancing up, he saw a woman standing by an adjacent grave, her back towards him.  He recognized the familiar tilt of her blond head.  His heart pounding, he approached her calling out “Alice!”

She turned and looked at him with bewildered blue eyes. She held an infant in her arms.

His smile faded.  “Sorry, thought I knew you.” he mumbled.

A brisk breeze weaved her golden waves with the dark wisps on the infant’s head and fleetingly the clouds parted allowing a ray of sunlight to blind him.  In that instant, he saw Alice standing next to the woman, smiling. Dazzled, he blinked and Alice was gone. His heart plummeted.   Tears blurred the inscription on the grave:

Alice Harper

Loving Daughter, Sister and Mother

March 6, 1992 – November 23, 2014.

The woman smiled and spoke. “You must be David.  Meet Alice.”

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