I hear my phone ring, but I don’t bother answering it. I told everyone this was my day off and that I was taking a break from everyone and everything. There is only one person who would ignore my request and that was Alyssa. “She’s probably going to rope you into something for her wedding that she could do on her own or with her fiancé,” I think to myself. I shut my phone off and go back to reading, happy that I finally did something for myself. I finished reading my book and a few hours later realized I had read right through breakfast and now I was starving.
I decided to walk to the local café. As much as I hated driving in my little college town, I loved being able to just walk out my door to delicious, fresh market food. It helped that the hipsters moved in and took an interest in being the next big thing in town.
I pull open the door to the little café and smell all the delicious goods that had just been baked this morning. I grab a bagel and sit down to eat and watch the people walk by the window.
Then he walked in.
Then he walked in.
Tall with broad shoulders, his dark hair hidden by a beanie worn to keep his head warm, his eyes swept the room and locked with mine. I never understood what it meant when someone said eyes were the window to someone’s soul until I looked into his. They were hazel and kind. His eyes were the kindest eyes I had ever seen, and made the world stop. Everything slid away and disappeared and all that I saw were him and his eyes.
“Now who’s being cliché?” Pete chuckled.
I snap back to reality and look away, blushing, wondering how long I had stared for. It didn’t matter because he was walking right up to me.
“Hi, I’m Zach,” he said. “Would you mind if I sat with you? The café seems full and you have an extra chair.”
“Um, we’re the only ones here right now.”
Zach looked down and smiled. “You caught me, how about this, I really like to people watch at this table and it’s something I like to do every day.”
“That’s a better excuse,” I reply. “Help yourself.”
We talked for hours, he talked about how he loved to draw and really wanted to be an artist, I told him I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I “grew up” but that it wasn’t what I was doing now. By the time we parted ways, I knew he was the one.
Suddenly everything sped up, Pete came back into view and explained, “I’m highlighting here for you” and then slowed down to a new scene.
I’m running out of a bathroom waving something, screaming “Zach! Zach, you have to get up here!” Zach comes running up the steps and cries out, “What, what is it?” I leap into his arms and scream “You’re gonna be a daddy!”
My arms shift into the clouds a little deeper. I feel my stomach drop and Peter looks over at me, “have you had enough torture yet?”
“Keep going Pete, I need to see how this ends.”
The next scene cuts in and I see Zach holding me, rocking me as we both cry into each other’s shoulders. There is a mural on the wall behind us, it’s something Zach has been painting in an empty room and looks like the beginning of a jungle.
“It’ll be okay, Katie. We’ll figure out what went wrong and make it better. I promise.”
“It’s not fair!” I push Zach away and run white paint over an elephant’s happy painted face on the wall.
And then Pete fast forwards.
I look exhausted but happy. I’m in the hospital and Zach’s bright, happy eyes smile at me. “Meet Emma” he says triumphantly and hands me a little bundle.
My eyes meet Emma’s and the world stops again. She has her father’s caring eyes, and that makes everything right in the world.
I become engrossed in this life; this was the life I was supposed to lead. Pete begins to move on to the next scene, I beg him to stop, to stay in this moment but he shakes his head, “Katie, you shouldn’t have opened Pandora’s box.”
Emma is older now, I can see her grabbing mail from the mailbox and running up the stairs to the house.
“Mom!” she scream, “I got accepted! I’m going to Stanford!”
Zach runs into the room and we all laugh as we jump up and down with joy.
Pete slightly fast-forward’s, not much. I can tell only a few months have passed.
I’m standing in Emma’s room, empty of everything that made it Emma’s room
Tears well into my eyes as Zach grabs me and pulls me close, “She’s only a few hours away, love. We can visit her anytime.”
Pete looks over at me and smiles. It isn’t a happy one; it’s more of a sympathetic smile. “Don’t ask again Pete, just keep going.”
Emma is now the one in the hospital. Zach and I are waiting impatiently in the waiting room. It didn’t feel like it took this long to meet Emma, why does this feel like forever?
Finally our son in law comes out, “They’re here! I’m a daddy to twins!”
We rush each other and give one another big hugs. There is so much whooping and laughing, I can’t tell who is doing what.
I step into the room and hold my granddaughter while Zach holds our grandson. “Meet Katie and Zach”, Emma says.
Those eyes again.
Pete fast forwards again, “we’re gonna wrap this up now.”
“No, Pete, please don’t fast forward.”
I’m lying on a comfortable bed now, my hair is grey, my skin is wrinkled. Zach sits by me, much older than the last time I saw him but his eyes give him away. Even in his old age, his eyes are happy and youthful. He begins to tear up and breaks my gaze.
“Katie, if I ever did one thing right in this life, it was marry you. The purpose of my life was to be your husband and Emma’s father. You can relax now, I’m not going anywhere. I love you more than I could ever express.”
My eyes close, everything goes black.
“Pete, I made one wrong decision. Let me go back and do it again. That life was supposed to be the one I led!”
“I can’t Katie. I’m sorry but you can’t change what has already happened, but I do want to show you this.” Pete swirls the clouds open again and I see Zach sitting at his desk. Even with the windows closed you can hear the cars driving past on the highway. The highway I was on when I died.
Zach is hunched over something that he is drawing and hears the sound of a crash. He gets up to look out the window and I look down at the picture.
It is a drawing of me.
Full version of the story is available here. If you took the time to read this, first off thank you! Secondly, I really hope you liked it.