- Carole McLaughlin -


Her 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.


Carrie 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 somedayÖ.


Moving 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 dadís 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.


"I can make it okay for twenty minutes, Carrie. I may be unable to get out of this bed, but Iíll just have a nap now and I wonít even know you are gone."


Carrie 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 isnít too long a line at the counter."


Having completed her errand, Carrie returned home in less than a half-hour. She was not surprised to find the front door unlockedÖshe 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.


Her surprise had her standing still, leaning slightly against the open door. "I didnít mean to interrupt, Dad," she said. "I have your medicine, though, and you really should take it right away."


The 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."


"Jeff?" 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 callÖnothing!


Carrie was not one to condemn a person for what seemed like abandonment, but she had refused to open Jeffís 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.


Now 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.


"I know you must be surprised to see me, Carrie, but if youíll hear me outÖ."


Ignoring the man who rose to his feet and started toward her, Carrie moved toward the bed. "Are you okay, Dad? He didnít tire you out, did he?"


"No, Kid, he didnít 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 youíll just give me that medication, Iíll be off to dreamland."


Once 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.


Carrie 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 Jeffís favorite. What in the world had brought him back? Why had he come here now, just whenÖ? Shrugging her shoulders, she finished preparing the two cups of black coffee and took them into the next room.


Jeff 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.


Oh, 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.


Carrie felt the tingle of anticipation as she looked at this man from her past and waited for him to speak.


Jeff turned those beautiful eyes toward her as he spoke. "You didnít 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."


"Everyone has choices, Jeff," she interrupted. "It would only have taken a minute to call me before you left."


In 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! Iím sure you realized that I couldnít make choices back then. You know now why I left and you probably know why Iíve come back." He pulled her down beside him and lightly kissed her cheek.


"Oh, Jeff! Iíve missed you so! Four years! Four long years, youíve been gone. Iím 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!"


"I 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 didnít 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."


"And was it all worth it, Jeff? Was it worth four long years out of our lives? Was it worth taking the chance that I wouldnít be waiting when you came back?"


Jeff 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."


Carrie looked into the eyes of the man he had become and remembered the boy she had loved all those years ago. "Itís the man I really love," she realized with great joy.


Wrapping 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 forever!"


As she snuggled into the warmth of Jeffís 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

                     Click here to go to Carole's World of Words