Happy Valentines. By Adrian Tullberg.

The man stood in the park. His clothes were anachronistic, his hands clasped a single rose. His shock of long-ish brown hair couldn't mask the unreadable, but stoic expression on his face.

He looked at the ground, and began to speak.

"Hello ... I know it's been a while, but I thought ... why not. Why not come and see you." A grimace crossed his face. "Oh dear, that didn't come out right at all, did it? Sounded like I was coming to see you out of obligation, like getting that trip to the dentist out of the way." He remained silent for a moment, then kept on speaking.

"Anyway, I thought we'd catch up on old times ... what little times we had together. When we first met ... well, you almost killed me. Literally." A brief laugh, and he pushed his fringe aside. "You knew it wasn't your fault almost immediately afterwards, but you still took on the responsibility. Wouldn't let it just go away. Not like so many people do these days. If it's any consolation, I don't blame you for that ... I never did."

"I ended up in your lap. Knew I could ask for your help. That wasn't the right time of course ... end of the Millennium and all that, greatest party of all time ... still, we made sure that there were other New Years."

"Afterwards ... you wanted to ask me about your future, how you did great things. But you were confident in yourself, your own abilities ... you didn't need a horoscope, or the like."

"I can't tell you how proud I was of you then ... how strong you were. I still can't ... I like using words, but they have their limitations. Or maybe the words we use are the limitations we place on ourselves?"

The man closed his eyes briefly, expression pained, then looked up again, expression the same as before.

"I wish you had a different future ... than the one I had to offer."

"I wish that your great destiny was that of medicine ... that cybernetic heart design you created in medical school became reality, for example. Or some wonderful new medicine that wiped disease from the face of this planet."

"I wish that you served your destiny in any other way rather than dying."

"You shouldn't have crossed that road. Oh, the little green man was on ... but that car was going too fast ... and the brakes were sub-standard. You had to push that boy out of the way ... he couldn't see that vehicle."

"That boy became a father, his child became a great leader. That leader saved millions after that T-Mat debacle, organising new food shipment lines, preventing worldwide starvation. He wouldn't have done that if you hadn't ran with all your might ... "

The man stopped, took a deep breath, and started again. "Your father took it personally ... organised a worldwide campaign for new safety standards ... saved more lives along the way, with the new laws he campaigned for ... and won. Funnily enough, he became known as a great reformer in his own right. Most industrial 'robber barons' don't get stuck with that label."

The man knelt down, on one knee, on the grass. "I also wanted you to know ... that night ... next to that tree...? When I finally remembered, and ... well, you know what happened ... I don't think I was ever happier, in this life, or the one before it."

"I think ... I think you helped me grow up, a little, that is. I know ... I've got a long way to go, you're not the first to say that ... or the last, not by a long shot. I was even proud of it once, trying to justify the need to be childish to counterpoint adult responsibilities."

"Thank you ... thank you for being there when I took that first step."

The man lowered the rose to the ground, on the simple brass plate on the ground.

He turned, and walked away, more quickly than what was usual for him, not looking back.

***

A more sombre contribution to Valentines Day.

Dedicated to Daphne Ashbrook because ... hell, I liked her performance.

Please send any and all feedback to atullberg@my-deja.com