Too Little, Too Late
She grabbed a washcloth and quickly dabbed at the liquid foundation that spread over the picture she had retrieved out of her sock drawer that morning. The Blushing Beige that she had so carefully chosen seemed to be eating away at the aged snapshot: College sweethearts at a Halloween party. Faces plastered with drunken smiles. He was looking at her with adoration – almost love sick. The look was unmistakable. Drunk or not, he meant it that night. He wanted to marry her. “I want to give you the world,” he had said. She shook her head. What kind of an idiot lets someone like that walk away? He was grounded, stable, and he wanted a family right away. But she was too free-spirited then to think about the confines of a routine, domestic life. How things change. The very thing that made her shudder then was the very thing she wanted, no, needed, now. So she called him. He agreed to meet her. It was a start.
The reflection in the mirror made her cringe. The only glow in that bathroom was from the GE bulb above her. Too much time has gone by, taking the light from her eyes with it. Giving her cheeks one last dusting of blush, she smiled at herself.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” She chuckled. Makeup is a godsend, hiding the dark circles and old scars. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
The years had not been particularly kind to him. Thick, straight hair that always had that cute, tousled look was hidden beneath an expensive baseball cap from some golf course in Hawaii. He was always well off, but that had just been a bonus. Always so assured, fun, and adventurous. She wondered if he was still like that or had the years stripped that away. Time could not hide the fact that he was losing his hair and his waist was sporting more than his money belt. Suddenly self-conscious, she eased her fingers through her dark locks. Damn, she thought. I should have retouched the roots last week like I told myself to. Not that bad, but she still felt older, worn out.
They stood now just a few feet apart from each other, allowing the last 20 years to permeate the air, waiting patiently until it dissolved, until all that was left were memories of what was, contrasted so sharply against what is.
She touched his face. “Remember when, Kyle?”
He smiled. His hand wrapped around hers. “Yeah, I do. Think about it all the time.”
“It hurts, doesn’t it, thinking of what ifs.”
He nodded. “I’m really glad to see you.”
“I’ve missed you,” she said. “We’ve wasted so much time.” She couldn’t keep the pleading from her voice. The change in his eyes was subtle, but it was there. The beginnings of a knot twisted in her stomach. “Where do we go from here?”
“I can’t. The kids. The business. My wife will take it all.” Blinking his eyes made his tears break loose and trickle down his tanned cheeks. “You know I would have done anything for you.”
She felt the sting of her own tears. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” she whispered. “Don’t be upset.”
His lips felt comforting on the palm of her hand. “I’m so sorry,” he said.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’ll be fine. I thought we could go back, but we can’t. I’m sorry I called. I just wanted to say I love you. Never stopped.”
Pulling her hand away, she straightened her shirt. She wished now she had worn something less provocative. Raging hormones and carnal instinct were for kids. She would have felt much more dignified in jeans and a t-shirt, especially now that she was being shown the door. She just felt cheap, like an old whore trying to prove she was still desirable. She knew it would hurt if he turned her down, but not this bad. What was she thinking? She let him go 20 years ago, never giving him a chance, giving him permission to get his own life. What did she expect now?
Mustering a smile, she picked up the keys to her studio apartment and her 1990 Jetta. “Take care of yourself, Kyle.”
Nodding his head, he wiped his cheeks with his sleeve. “You look better then I remember.”
She knew better. She didn’t believe it. “Thanks.” She turned around, not wanting to see him anymore, but she heard.
“I love you, too. Never stopped.”