December 23, 2009
He tries to blend in, just another man caught up in the Christmas rush surging down Main Street . Pulling up the collar of his worn bomber jacket, he keeps his chin tucked down. It won't help matters to be recognized.
He glances through the window of an overstocked toy store. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" blasts from inside. Searching, searching, his eyes rake over the shoppers clamoring for last-minute gifts. Nothing.
The night air sears his lungs, but the icy grip squeezing his heart is not from the cold. He swipes at his watering eyes. He needs to focus, stay alert.
Forcing his legs into a normal gait, neither too fast, nor too slow, he keeps walking. He is almost to the corner with the two-story brick apartment building, the one he walks past every night. The old lady who lives there now refuses to help him. The people down at the shelter are no good to him either. They all say they don't know where she is.
Since his release three weeks ago, he has walked Main Street morning, noon and night, hoping to get lucky. Tonight he wonders if he ever will. The old anger creeps into his chest.
He stops, throws his head back and silently demands of the heavens,How long will I be punished?
There is no answer.
People bump into him as they hurry by, cursing as they go. "Silent Night" blares from the store behind him. Exhaling deeply, he blows white vapor toward the stars.No. He won't stop searching for her. Not until the day he dies.
And then, for the first time in his long-lived existence, his prayers are answered.
He has the sensation of being shot out of a cannon. His blood explodes through his veins and pounds in his ears. Dizzy, he can't tell if his feet are still on the ground. The street noises become background static. Colors fuzz.
He sees only her.
Walking at a fast clip on the other side of the street is the flesh-and-body version of the woman in his dreams. Nightmares.
She stops to talk to an old man who lives on the streets. Putting a hand on the man's shoulder, she points off in the distance toward the homeless shelter. When he balks, she vehemently shakes her head. It's a cold night and she doesn't want anyone out in it. Smiling, she watches the old man shuffle off in the direction of the shelter.
He is shocked to see the years on her, especially the curves where she once was athletic-slim. Her long ponytail has been reduced to a short bob cupping her chin. He wonders how different this woman is today, but when she tosses the hair out of her eyes, he sees the confidence of old, and he smiles. She hasn't changed, at least not in the ways that matter.
Somehow, she senses him. Does she feel the heat from his stare? Slowly, she turns.Across the busy street, her eyes lock onto his. With the golden glow of the lamplight catching like flames in the strands of her blond hair, she is more angelic than he remembered. And when she smiles?
Lord help him, when she smiles, she is even more beautiful than she'd been the night he killed her.