**This week’s prompt is a long lost love. Enjoy!**
When I saw him, I was certain I was imagining it. It had been twenty years since he walked away from me, and in the intervening years, I’d hallucinated him in all sorts of places. He was never far from my thoughts, and I thought I saw him everywhere. But every time, it turned out to be another man; someone who was built the same, or had the same color hair, or a familiar looking jacket. It had never been Mark. So I was used to thinking I saw him, and it not being him. The man down the street was not Mark.
Except why else would he be standing in the pouring rain, getting drenched, and staring at me like he saw a ghost?
My heart picked up, and I stood rooted to the spot as the man started walking swiftly toward me. He had a bit of a limp, his gait uneven, and he stepped carefully even as he picked up speed. I couldn’t move, because the closer he got, the more he looked like Mark. An older, much more worn version, but definitely Mark. And then the air stuttered in my lungs, because it was Mark, stopping two feet away from me, looking like a drowned rat with a broken heart.
“Daniel?” His voice was a croak.
Tears stung my eyes, and I tripped forward, awkwardly dosing him with rain off my large umbrella until I could shield him with it too. We stood close, staring at each other, breathing in each other’s air.
“Hi. Wow. Hi.”
Mark chuckled at my eloquence, but it sounded pained and raw. He took another step forward, so he was right in my space. He lifted a hand, but dropped it before he made contact with me. I wanted to throw my arms around him, because I couldn’t believe he was here.
At eighteen, we’d been desperately, madly in love. Hardly anyone knew–it wasn’t safe–but that hadn’t mattered. We’d made plans to run away together, to start a new life with each other as soon as we graduated college. But Mark had joined the Marines instead, without telling me first, and broke my heart into pieces when he went to Basic. He cut off all contact, and it took me weeks to function normally again. Everyone thought I missed my best friend. Which I did, but Mark was so much more than that to me.
“How are you?” I whispered.
Mark shrugged. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
I nodded, and blinked hard to clear the tears. I hadn’t either. I was fortunate his parents were still friends with my mom, because I’d gotten snippets of information over the years. I knew he’d been injured by an IED when he’d been deployed a few years ago, and that he’d gotten a medical discharge sometime later, but I didn’t dare ask for more info. I couldn’t seem too eager, and I didn’t know his situation with his parents.
“You look great,” he murmured, and this time he did touch me, the briefest ghost of fingertips along my cheek. I sighed, leaned closer catching a whiff of him under the rain and damp wool. Earthy, with a hint of citrus. God, that smell. I remembered it well. And for just a second, I was lost in memories. Of our bodies entwined, of long nights in each other’s arms. A horn honked, and I jerked back to the present.
“You look good, too. Tired, but good.” I smiled, and Mark did too.
“It hasn’t been easy,” he admitted with a hint of sadness. Then he cleared his throat. “I bet you have a husband and a passel of dogs and white picket fence now. All those things you dreamed off.”
“Well, I’ve got the dogs,” I said with a small laugh. “And the fence, but it’s wrought iron.”
Mark’s smile grew. “But no husband? Boyfriend? Partner?”
“No,” I said softly. “Not one of those.”
I grinned, unable to stop myself. And then he gave a hard shiver, and I realized he was soaked and freezing.
“There’s a coffee shop,” I said, gesturing across the street. “Want to get warm and have something hot to drink? Catch up?”
He put his arm around me, then took the umbrella from my hand and held it over both of us. “There’s nothing I want more.”