As they walked arm in arm out of the airport, so many thoughts were flowing through their mind. Finally, finally, they were together. But something was bothering Michelle. She didn't know why, after all, they had both wanted this for six years. But doesn't six years change a person? After all, look at the physical changes. She had bumped into the man she loved and didn't even recognize him. Whatever, silly notions.
"Gary, I got a rental car, I need to go to the hotel to put my things away."
"Nah, don't bother. I'll show you my place and we can get your car later. It's been a long
time. We have so much to catch up on."
Michelle smiled and said, "Yeah, I guess we do, don't we?"
"Are you still living with your Mom? I noticed the return address on the letter was the same one. How is your Mom anyway?"
Gary looked down. "Mom passed away about three years ago. She left me the house."
"Oh Gary, I'm so sorry, I didn't know. Your Mom was a wonderful person."
Gary looked at the sky, with a slight tear in his eye, "Yeah, she was the greatest."
Mrs. Parks was like a second mother to Michelle. There weren't many children in the area, which is why Gary and Michelle had become such good friends. There was no one else their age in the area. Michelle remembered the good times when they were children, walking in the woods, with crisp leaves beneath their feet in the cool autumn air. They would pick blueberries, make quite a mess, and bring them back to his Mom. She made the best blueberry pie.
Michelle came back to life again when Gary opened the car door for her. She smiled at him and got in his car, a Toyota Corolla. As they drove to his home she looked at the 'scenery'. It was no longer the beautiful woods, but a community of condominiums. Before she left, she knew this was going to happen, but seeing it disgusted her.
She looked at Gary. "Do you remember when we tried to protest this horrible scene? And when we marched with signs, claiming 'Save our Woods'?
"Yes, I remember that, we were such children then. Progress is progress, we didn't realize it then."
Michelle was puzzled. Who was this person? The person she remembered loved nature and swore he'd do anything to stop this from happening. He loved nature so much, that's why he was studying to be a Botanist.
"Gary, what are you saying? That's your okay with this now? It doesn't matter anymore?
At home, I'm a member of the Nature Club. I'm so sorry you've changed." She looked at him and shook her head. What she had originally thought was right. People do change after six years. "Oh, by the way, did you ever get your degree in Botany?" I knew you were in the war for two years, but…"
"Look, Michelle, Botany doesn't pay the rent. I went to school on an accelerated program. I just graduated last year. I got my MBA and am now working for a real estate company. I work for the owner of the condominium complex. I'm making some great money."
Michelle couldn't believe her ears. He had sold his soul to the devil, the people they hated. And why? For money. Everything they ever believed in, he had turned his back on. She was pondering this as they drove into the driveway.
They entered the house, and she couldn't believe her eyes. She kept forgetting they were no longer children, and since Mrs. Parks had passed away, Gary had the right to fix the house as he saw fit. The furniture was brown leather with sofa and matching chairs. The floor was hard wood, with throw rugs around. On the walls were very nice art work and his college diploma along with some other accolades he had received throughout his life. There was a very nice bar., made out of hard wood. All in all, it was very nice, but seemed to have no personality. She was remembering the things Mrs. Parks had put had on the wall from what she had made. Their house was early American, and Michelle remembered the one rocking chair in the middle of the room that was her favorite. Looking at the changes made Michelle wistful for their long gone childhood. She was sorry Gary felt the need to get rid of anything that belonged to his mother. Michelle looked at the wall again and noticed his mother's photograph. Next to her photo, was another one; it was her at 16 years old. He had it blown up to 24 inches. She looked at him and laughed, "What's that? To scare the rats away?"
"No," he laughed. "It was to keep me in line like you always used to."
They sat and talked about the old days and what had happened in those missing years. There was just so much. After they had talked for several hours, had some ice tea, and ordered out for a pizza, Michelle knew she had to go. She had to get her things back to the hotel. Gary drove her back to the airport to pick up her rental and she went back to the hotel. Gary followed her with his car. When they got to the hotel, she went to her room. It was on the bottom floor and the entrance was outside. While she was holding her keys, he turned her towards him and kissed her gently on the lips. It was a sweet kiss that lay dormant for six years. He looked at her and said,
"Do you realize that was our first kiss? We've known each forever, even though we were robbed of six years. I should have done this before you left."
Michelle teased, "Your loss, I never stopped you."
"Yeah, but you were like my sister our whole lives."
"True, but I'm not your sister, now am I?" She looked up and kissed him again.
"Good-night, Gary. I'm going to see Karen tomorrow. I'll stop by later, okay?"
He smiled and walked away.
Michelle went in the room and put her things away. She fell down on the bed and looked at the ceiling. What a bittersweet day it had been! It was wonderful to see Gary, or whoever that was. She couldn't stand what he had become, but he still had the sweet part of him she loved so much. Suddenly a thought came racing through her mind. Why had she never thought of it before? Karen. Karen knew about their feelings for one another, yet never interceded. Why?
She could have saved six years, but didn't. As a matter of fact, she was the one that told her Gary didn't care. Some best friend. Tomorrow was going to be interesting.
Mary E. Lacey