(Catch up with the story, here)
Eloping with my future—my destiny—is an exciting thought. I can't help but get giddy when I think about it. I thought I'd be okay going to Emerald Isle. Sure, I wasn't happy about bein' put out to pasture, what person in their prime would be? But I tried to make the best of it.
That best lasted about a week.
My past was starting to catch up with me and I couldn't pretend nothin' was going on when I knew I was no better off than a sittin' duck.
I stopped tellin' Jack and Junebug the stories when I realized it would only put 'em in danger. It'd be different if we were back in the homeland, where it would've been their destiny, too. To take up in the family business. But this is America. And Americans don't take too kindly to people of my sort takin' the law into their own hands. Even if that's the only way things get done.
The last time I saw Ruth was right before she got out of it all. She told me she never wanted to see me again. But I'm thinkin' after forty or so years, she's probably forgotten her promise. I'm hopin' so, anyway. She's the only one who can help me.
I stop in a corner drug store and buy a cheap hat. I toss my robe around the corner and pretend the chill in the spring air doesn't chill my old, worn bones. I need to remember the man I used to be. The man who's still there, somewhere.
I pull the brim of my hat down to cover my face. I know they're lookin' for me. Not just the home and Junebug. But them, too. Like one of Santa's workers searching for a missing Rudolf on Christmas Eve. They'll do anything to find me.
And I'll do anything to stay un-caught.
I stop my walk and look around. Everythin's changed in this part of town durin' the last forty years. New buildings with plain exteriors and sharp angles. The brick buildings are gone, replaced by steel and cement. Everythin' looks cold and unwelcomin'. But I know I'm close. I know Ruth's close.
We'd gotten in a fight the last time we saw each other. She wanted out but I wanted to stay in. This was a big promotion for us, being stationed in America. She said she wanted a real life. Get married. Start a family. I told her that wasn't a reality us.
Then she started to cry. Said she knew I'd say that. She already had my bag packed when she opened the door for me. Said she never wanted to see me again—it hurt too much. Promised that if I ever did came knocking, she'd know they gave me the orders to do away with her.
That was the last I saw of my Ruth. My beautiful Ruth.
I sit on an empty bench, to rest my legs. I pull out my wallet and dig into the billfold, pullin' out a worn, soft photo.
There she is. Bright blue eyes, pink cheeks, and a smile that's held my heart since the day I met her sixty years ago. Haven't had a reason to smile since the last day I saw her. I can feel it carving out a piece of my heart every time I try.
I take a deep breath and stand. This is a consequence I can't avoid facing.