- Carole McLaughlin -
dream was a simple one. To close her eyes and see her dream come true took
very little effort and even less time. Yes, the dream was simple and to
the point and, she guessed, not a very original one at that. It was her
dream, though, to do with as she wished.
was not one to spend too much time dreaming; she had responsibilities and
a great many other, more important things on her mind. Her dad had been
ill for such a long time and she was his sole caregiver; her
responsibilities left precious little time for dreams. Still she carried
this one simple dream that someday….
swiftly toward the little car parked in her driveway this particular
morning, Carrie glanced toward the sky. If she hurried, she could get to
the drugstore for her dad’s prescription before the rain came. If only
she had not wasted all that time trying to find someone to sit with her
father before she left the house. She should have known better than to
expect she could find someone on a workday. Dad was good about it, though;
he waved her off with a sweet smile and words of support.
can make it okay for twenty minutes, Carrie. I may be unable to get out of
this bed, but I’ll just have a nap now and I won’t even know you are
hated leaving him alone, but there was no choice, really. "Alright,
Dad," she said as she planted a kiss on his forehead. "I can get
back in just twenty minutes if there isn’t too long a line at the
completed her errand, Carrie returned home in less than a half-hour. She
was not surprised to find the front door unlocked…she had left it that
way. She was amazed as she entered the bedroom, however, to find her
father entertaining a guest. Sitting with his back to the door, facing the
side of the bed, was a stranger. Wearing blue jeans and a casual sweater,
the man looked as relaxed as the older man lying in the bed did. There was
a checkerboard spread between them.
surprise had her standing still, leaning slightly against the open door.
"I didn’t mean to interrupt, Dad," she said. "I have your
medicine, though, and you really should take it right away."
stranger turned, smiling at the young woman who had entered the room,
clutching a bottle of pills in her hand. He spoke softly. "Hello,
Carrie! Your dad and I were just enjoying a quick game of checkers."
The words came with a whispered sigh. She had not seen her ex-fiance since
he had left town abruptly four years earlier, leaving her with not as much
as a good-bye. No note no call…nothing!
was not one to condemn a person for what seemed like abandonment, but she
had refused to open Jeff’s letters or answer his calls after he had left
her. She had grieved her loss in her own quiet way and as the years sped
by and she became responsible for her father, Jeff had more or less faded
into the background.
he was back, looking fit, trim, and quite successful. Why now? What had
brought him back to this little town in the back of nowhere? Why had he
come to her home without first asking if she wanted to see him? The
questions sped through her mind as she stood there in partial shock.
know you must be surprised to see me, Carrie, but if you’ll hear me out…."
the man who rose to his feet and started toward her, Carrie moved toward
the bed. "Are you okay, Dad? He didn’t tire you out, did he?"
Kid, he didn’t tire me out," smiled her father. "We had a nice
little chat while we waited for you and then started this game of
checkers. I do think I would like to finish the game later, though. If you’ll
just give me that medication, I’ll be off to dreamland."
the invalid had been given his pills and settled comfortably in his bed,
Carrie and Jeff quietly left the room. Neither spoke as they headed toward
the living room of the small cottage.
gestured toward the couch, muttered something about getting some coffee,
and swiftly left the room. Mixed emotions swamped her brain as she went
about preparing the strong, hot brew that she remembered was Jeff’s
favorite. What in the world had brought him back? Why had he come here
now, just when…? Shrugging her shoulders, she finished preparing the two
cups of black coffee and took them into the next room.
put aside the magazine he had been thumbing through and patted the cushion
nestled next to him, inviting her to sit close. Instead, she chose the
chair opposite. What could he possibly have to say to her that would
change things? Why had he come here? Again, those same questions
threatened her happiness at seeing him again.
he looked handsome! His dark hair was neatly combed, but just as she
remembered, the one dark curl had flung itself downward and was reclining
on his forehead like a naughty child. His smile was still to die for and
his deep voice settled itself, just as in years past, directly into the
region of her heart, triggering an escalation of its rhythmic beat. His
smiling blue eyes held secret memories of their past together.
felt the tingle of anticipation as she looked at this man from her past
and waited for him to speak.
turned those beautiful eyes toward her as he spoke. "You didn’t
answer my letters or my phone calls, Carrie! What was I to think? I know I
left without contacting you, but I felt I had no choice."
has choices, Jeff," she interrupted. "It would only have taken a
minute to call me before you left."
her anger, Carrie jumped from her chair and began to pace the floor. In
one swift movement, Jeff reached out and grabbed her wrist as she flounced
past the couch. "Come off it, Carrie! I’m sure you realized that I
couldn’t make choices back then. You know now why I left and you
probably know why I’ve come back." He pulled her down beside him
and lightly kissed her cheek.
Jeff! I’ve missed you so! Four years! Four long years, you’ve been
gone. I’m sorry if I made you angry by not answering your calls or your
letters, but I was so hurt that you had left like that!"
know, love, I know! It hurt me too! But I realized that if I called and
talked to you about it before I left, I would never have been able to take
that job offer; I would not have been able to leave you. I was young and
cocky and I just knew that you would forgive me for leaving like that,
without a word to you. When you didn’t answer my calls, I nearly lost my
mind. Instead, I buried myself in my work, hoping that I could someday
come back home and make it up to you."
was it all worth it, Jeff? Was it worth four long years out of our lives?
Was it worth taking the chance that I wouldn’t be waiting when you came
smiled down at her and drew her closer to his side. "Carrie, nothing
can make up for what we both lost when I pulled that crazy stunt. Some
good came from it, though. I am now co-owner of the company that enticed
me to California. I am also in a position to open a branch of our company
here in Briarville. So, love, if you will have me, I am here to stay. We
can hire a nurse to help with your dad and be together every day. Please
say yes, Carrie! I have missed you so very much and, as much as I regret
leaving you like that all those years ago, I am now man enough to admit my
mistake and do my best to make it all up to you."
looked into the eyes of the man he had become and remembered the boy she
had loved all those years ago. "It’s the man I really love,"
she realized with great joy.
her arms around him, she whispered softly, "Yes, Jeff. I still love
you and I love the man you have become. I want to be with you always and
she snuggled into the warmth of Jeff’s embrace, Carrie thought back to
the beginning of her day. "Carrie," she told herself, "it
looks like you are going to have to find a new dream."
used by permission
Copyright © Carole McLaughlin
All Rights Reserved
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