It's something that you thought you would never see, something that you had pictured a million times over and over but in a different setting.
There's a spot of pureed carrot on her shirt. Her wild curls are short and swept back with barrettes, save for the few strands yanked out by tiny fists. She looks exhausted but beautiful all at the same time. Her lithe body has been changed into one more curvaceous, still thin but with more swell in some areas and more sway in others. The hardened look that she once spurned is long gone and now she looks soft.
You feel a twinge of self loathing for not taking advantage of it, but then you feel a surge of anger to replace the self-loathing.
She was better than that, she deserved better than that and there was a reason that you let her go.
Cristina Yang wasn't supposed to be just a mother and a wife. Cristina Yang was destined for greatness- for a red letter career and countless awards. There was nothing average about her, nothing that she couldn't take on. You almost looked forward to seeing her name surpass yours, even though it usually brought on the wave of grief that rippled through your being- made you long for the days that you could hold her in your arms.
Call her your own.
Sometimes you wish you would have- okay, most times- but then again what kind of man would you be?
What kind of man would you be to tame such a fierce creature into a domestic pet to run your offspring to ballet practice and soccer games? What kind of man would you be to take a brilliant flourishing career and dampen it with promises of loving and cherishing for your own selfish gain?
What kind of man puts out the spark that was once Cristina Yang?
You watch from a distance as she carries an infant in her arms, see the little girl toddling behind her and another- a boy about five, holding her hand and trying to help his mother in any way that he can. For a fleeting moment, you wonder if she holds a different opinion now in regard to a son's love for his mother.
She never did quite understand the relationship you had with yours.
An unfamiliar man with auburn hair and a million stories etched into his face comes to her side, leans over to kiss her cheek and your jaw clenches as you watch. He takes the baby, takes the kids and walks through a set of sliding glass doors into the sunlight.
There's a weight that she still carries even though her arms are empty, a slump to her shoulders that the Cristina you knew never had. Her hands run through her hair, fingers fidgeting with loosened curls and she looks down at the fingerprints on her shirt.
You watch as her eyes trace to her reflection on the glass nearby and you see her shoulders sag more. Never so much in your life have you felt a need to reach out to her, tell her that you still think she's beautiful- that she still takes the very breath from your chest. She always has- she always will.
Even if she's covered in baby food and her hair is a mess. Even if there are circles under her eyes.
She'll always be stunning to you.
You wonder for a fleeting moment if he says those things to her, if he makes her feel loved. You wonder if she feels like her life is complete, if she's happy, but then-
Then she turns in your direction and her eyes find yours immediately, as if drawn by some magnetic force. Your eyes stay fixed with hers, your posture straightening slightly as you take her in. You can't even see her anymore, the old Cristina that you loved so much. You see sadness, entrapment.
You see a wild spirit begging to be released from the monotony that is her life.
Her eyes water and you want to reach out. You want to enfold her into your arms and hold on like hell, tell how much you love her – how you never stopped. You want to take her pain away.
Instead, you try to convey the words to her without saying a thing – No matter what, I'll never forget you. Who we were. No matter what, I'm always proud of you. You don't think she hears them because she still looks incredibly sad.
It kills you to walk away, but you know that you have to.
What kind of man would you be if you didn't?