Summary: (Sequel to "TCS") Three months after their reencounter, Kevin makes a generous offer to Harry in hopes of finally burying the hatchet, while also giving him the closure that he needs.
Rating: K+ (for language)
Disclaimer: "Home Alone" and its characters do not belong to me. I make no profit from these writings.
Kevin managed to slide his truck into an empty space along the sidewalk, the coffee shop just few away, with the 'Open' sign still flipped over against the door. After pulling the keys out of the ignition he reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed for his jacket. He probably should have brought a heavier coat. Despite it being late March, it was still quite cold, especially without the aid of the sun.
After locking his truck up, Kevin made his way up the sidewalk towards the coffee shop, slipping his jacket on. As he opened the door to the shop, he noticed the place was almost empty, with the exception of a young couple sitting near the back. He wasn't expecting the place to be packed, as it was scheduled to close very shortly. Looking over at the counter, Kevin noticed Carl at the register, handling the money. He glanced at the blond and smiled. "Hey there," he greeted. "How're things going?"
"Pretty good," Kevin replied, taking a seat at the counter. "Today's been a bit busy since it's my birthday," he added, grinning broadly.
"Oh really? Well, happy birthday, then. I hope you're not just saying that so you'll get a free donut," Carl joked.
"Nah, nah. I've got too much cake, ice cream and pizza in me to eat anything else."
At that moment, the restroom door opened and Harry emerged, quickly catching Kevin's eye. He glanced down at his watch. "Kinda late, kid. We're gonna be closing soon."
"Yeah, I know, but I wasn't interested in coffee. I'm more in the mood for beer."
Harry furrowed his brows. "You sure you weren't drinking before you got here? 'Cause you know this is a coffee shop, not a bar."
Kevin grinned, nodding. "Yeah, I know. I was planning on hitting one of the bars around here. I'm kind of celebrating."
"It's his birthday," Carl chimed in.
Harry glanced back at the blond. "So…that would make you…?"
Harry nodded. "Well, I still don't get why you felt the need to drop by and tell me this. I ain't got no present for ya. And believe me, you don't want to get a present from me."
"Well, actually I came by because I wanted to ask if you wanted to tag along," Kevin replied. Interest flashed in Harry's eyes as he thought it over.
"Well…I could use a beer, but why would you want me to come with ya? Shouldn't this be something to do with your dad?"
Kevin laughed, suddenly thinking about his mother. "Well, my dad would have happily given me a beer, but not with my mom around. She can't stand the idea of me drinking. My oldest brother is almost twenty-seven and she still gives him grief whenever she catches him drinking a beer. Dad said he'd take me out soon, just me and him, but I really had my heart set on going out tonight, but I wasn't going to unless someone tagged along with me."
"What about your brother?"
Kevin wrinkled his nose. "Think about it. I came to you next instead of him, what does that tell you?"
"He can't be that bad, now can he?" Carl asked.
"Well, he made life hell for me when I was a kid."
"Sounds like an okay guy to me," said Harry, smirking. Kevin ignored the jab, having grown used to the man's constant pokes.
"So…are you in or not?"
Harry glanced at Carl. "Do you mind if I knock off early? We ain't got long 'til closing, anyway."
Carl laughed as he waved the man off. "Yeah, go on. I'll finish up here."
After having clocked out, Harry unclipped his nametag and shoved it in his pocket, going to grab his jacket off the coat rack by the door.
"But you better not come in with a hangover tomorrow, you hear me?" Carl added firmly, pointing a finger at the man. "Because if you do, Debra will be here to scream in your ear."
"I got it, I got it," Harry replied, waving to the man as he followed Kevin out the door. Kevin pulled his keys out of his pocket and clicked the button on the lock, which unlocked both doors to his truck. Harry gave the navy blue Dodge Dakota a quick look over, looking mildly impressed. "Not a bad looking truck," he complimented, opening the door. "Although the inside could use a little work," he added, brushing some trash off the seat.
"What are you, my mother?" Hopping into the truck, Kevin switched on the engine. "Not so sure where to go," he said, buckling his seatbelt. "I don't really know of any bars around here. Never bothered to look."
"I know somewhere we can go."
Kevin pulled his truck into the dimly-lit parking lot of a bar that Harry had pointed out to him, luckily managing to get a parking space at the front door. "It's been a long time since I came here," said Harry, unfastening his seatbelt. "I wasn't even sure if it'd still be here."
The two entered the bar and were immediately greeted with the strong scent of cigarette smoke and the loud cracking of cue balls. "Marv and I used to come here," said Harry, taking a quick look around the bar. "The place hasn't changed much."
"I'll be damned," a throaty voice said, quickly catching the attention of both men. Looking to their right, they noticed a man of average height, both arms decorated in tattoos and a long, gray beard framing his face. Even amongst all the facial hair, his smile was still very noticeable.
"Billy?" said Harry, looking stunned. The other man grinned even wider, going over to clap Harry on the back. "You're still working here?"
"Well, what else am I going to do? Go back to male modeling?" Billy joked. "You know I ain't got the hips for it."
"My God, how long have you been working here now?"
"Sixteen years next month." Billy draped the rag he had been holding over his shoulder and placed his hands on his hips. "You know, I still got that picture of you and Marv. Ain't never took it down."
The man shook his head, nodding for Harry to follow him. "Nope, come see for yourself."
Harry quickly followed after him, Kevin trailing right behind him out of curiosity. Billy led them over to a wall near a doorway that led to the restrooms, nodding to a large bulletin board that was completely covered in photos that had been taken of numerous customers over the years. Billy let his finger hover over the board as he tried to locate the picture. "Where…where…? Ah! There it is," he said, finding the picture on the far right of the board. Harry leaned in to have a look and was unable to stop himself from laughing, having completely forgotten what he had even looked like back then. Both his and Marv's physical appearance were different, with Marv being completely clean-shaven and Harry having a head full of thick, black hair. The two were sitting at one of the round tables in the middle of the bar, with Harry only partially smiling, not so keen on having his picture taken, though Marv was all too happy to smile for the camera.
Kevin leaned in to have a look himself. "When was that taken?" he asked.
"Spring of '86, wasn't it?" asked Harry, and Billy nodded.
"You know, I just couldn't believe it when I read about you two going to jail in the papers. Just could not believe it. I never would have known. You two just didn't look the part. Especially Marv. He seemed like such a good kid. He did wonders for this business, too," the man added with a laugh, his gaze momentarily finding Kevin. "He'd always come in here and flirt with every girl that walked in here, and he always managed to get a beer in the face. Never was good with the ladies, but it worked in my favor, because every time a girl splashed him with a beer, they were forced to buy another one. Once he went to jail, profits went down."
Both Harry and Kevin laughed at this.
"So where is he, anyway? He's not still in the joint, is he?"
Harry sighed, knowing this question was coming. "Umm…no. Back when we were both still serving our sentence, he sort of…got into a bit of a scrape. The guy damn near bashed his skull in. He hung on for a couple of days, but he was gone after that."
"Ah, geez," Billy sighed.
"I tried to get the bastard off of him, but he took me out with one punch."
Billy shook his head. "He was a good kid, but he clearly didn't have the best head sitting on his shoulders." The elder man looked at Harry firmly. "You aren't pulling that crap anymore, are you?"
"No, I've given that up."
"Good. I oughta bust your ass for pulling those stunts."
"Please, I wouldn't want you to aggravate the ol' Civil War wound."
"Clearly, prison hasn't done much to tame that smart mouth of yours."
Harry glanced back at the bulletin board, his eyes returning to the old photo of him and his best friend. He looked back at Billy hopefully. "Do you mind if I take that picture?" he asked, nodding to the photo. Billy shook his head.
"No, take it. You should have it."
Harry removed the pin holding the photo in place and pulled it from the board, momentarily reminiscing as he gazed at it with an increasing sadness.
"So is this your new playmate?" Billy asked, nodding to Kevin. Harry glanced at the blond and scoffed.
"I can't get rid of 'im. I tried tossin' a ball an' driving away when he chased after it, but he keeps finding his way back to me."
Kevin glared at the man. "You're hilarious. I'm his friend, he just doesn't want to admit it yet."
"I take it you two didn't always see eye to eye?"
"If that ain't the understatement of the century," Harry laughed.
"You look a little young, kid. Are you old enough to be in here?"
"I am now," Kevin replied, pulling out his wallet. He flashed his ID with a smile. "I turned twenty-one today."
"Well, then, I guess this would be a good reason to celebrate, then." Billy nodded to an empty table, and the two men quickly went to have a seat. "So what's it gonna be?"
"What'd you have?" Kevin asked.
"Just about everything. We got Miller Lite, Budweiser…"
The blond chuckled sheepishly. "I guess in my case, it really wouldn't matter what I got. I guess I'll have Miller Lite."
Billy nodded and glanced at Harry.
"Corona," he said.
"All right, I'll be right back."
As Billy headed back to the bar to retrieve the drinks, Kevin suddenly smiled. "He seems pretty cool," he said.
"Bill's great. When Marv and I used to come in here, we'd sit in the back and watch him break up the fights without breaking a sweat. He knew how to take a punch."
"How often did you come here?"
"About every week. We were Bill's best customers."
Billy returned moments later, a bottle in each hand. He handed the darker bottle to Kevin and reached the lighter one to Harry. "Enjoy," he said, smiling.
Harry forced the slice of lime into the bottle and sloshed it around, bringing the bottle to his lips. Kevin slowly lifted his own beer, taking a reluctant sip. He cringed slightly, new to the taste of alcohol. "I think that's going to take some getting used to."
"Don't tell me you're one of those goody goodies who actually waits until he's twenty-one to drink?"
Harry shook his head, taking another swig.
"Well, when did you have your first beer?"
"When I was nineteen. The guy that I was working for, Stanley, brought a few beers to the diner with 'im. Sometimes after closing, we'd all hang around and play poker if we didn't have anything better to do. I told 'im I wasn't old enough yet, and he just shrugged and said, 'Close enough.' Now he was the kind of guy I could work for," Harry laughed.
Kevin reached over and touched his finger to the slightly bent photo, sliding it towards him. "He looks young," he commented. "Well, you both do but Marv especially."
"Well, he was young. He was only thirty-two when that was taken."
"Well, he looks younger than that."
"That's just because he didn't have any facial hair."
Harry retrieved the photo, looking over it for a moment. "It was really because of him that I even made it out of prison."
"I thought he was the reason you were there in the first place."
"No, as I recall, that was you," Harry pointed out with disdain.
"Hey, you two shouldn't have been trying to break into my house in the first place."
Harry glanced back down at the photo. "Marv didn't belong in prison. Well, legally, he did but not mentally. He couldn't cope with it. He was tougher than he gave himself credit for, but I could see it. Every day, his mental stability just seemed to deteriorate. We were lucky enough to share a cell together, and if he wasn't able to be with me, I don't know what would have happened. Every once in a while, he'd crack. He never did it in front of me, he'd always do it when he thought I was asleep, but I'm not the heaviest sleeper, and he always managed to wake me up. Normally, I just pretended to be asleep and let him cry, 'cause I knew he didn't want me to see, but one night I just couldn't take it anymore, and I ended up hauling my ass out of bed and sitting with 'im all night.
"It felt like déjà vu. Suddenly, we weren't in prison anymore, we were in the orphanage. It was almost like we had stepped into a time warp; I was seventeen again, and Marv was seven. Sometimes in the middle of the night, he'd come up to the room where I slept and crawl into my bed while I was sleeping, then I'd roll over and nearly squish 'im. I kept telling him to stay in his room, but he'd always come back. One night, he started crying, and I finally gave up and let 'im have his way. I didn't argue with him after that. I mean, what kind of defense does someone have against a blubbering seven-year-old?"
"He was obviously scared."
"I know he was. Who could blame him? But he was always scared. It never mattered how old he got." Harry shrugged. "Maybe that's where it all stemmed from. I mean, when you're six years old and you get shipped off to an orphanage after your parents die in a car crash, how exactly could you deal with it? How exactly could you deal with anything ever again? It's too traumatic for a person that young to cope with. I don't think he ever got over it."
Harry paused to take another sip of his beer.
"While we were in prison, Marv swore to me that he was going to get out. From then on out, he was going to clean up his act and never look back. I just sort of waved him off and said 'Yeah, great,' but then he told me that the only way he was going to do it was if I did it with 'im. He said there'd be no point if I wasn't with him. I thought it was stupid. He had a hell of a lot better chance of getting out of there than I did, but he told me that if he ever got released, he'd just find a way to get thrown back in. Nonetheless, I agreed. It wasn't like I didn't want to get out of there, anyway.
"After he got beat up, they almost didn't let me into the infirmary to see 'im. For almost twenty-four hours, I didn't even know the condition he was in. Finally, they let me in to see him the next day. At that moment, I had almost wished I hadn't gone in there, but now I know I would have hated myself if I hadn't. I barely recognized him. His face was bruised, one eye was swollen shut, and his head was bandaged. It was the worst I had ever seen him. I just sat down next to 'im and held his hand. I didn't know what else I could do. I couldn't even talk. He was awake, but it wasn't for very long. All he managed to say to me was that he loved me and that he wanted me to, quote, "get the hell out" of there. They took me back to my cell, and that was it; I never saw him after that. He died twelve hours later.
"For a while, I didn't grieve, I didn't cry, nothing. I was pissed beyond comprehension. I just wanted to scream and throw things and get my hands around the throat of the guy who killed 'im. I really was thinking about killing him, or at least trying to. If I could have just done some amount of damage, I would have been satisfied!" Harry said angrily, retrieving a single pretzel from the small basket on the center of the table and biting off a piece. "It really didn't seem to matter anymore. I mean, Marv was gone. I realized pretty fast that I needed him as much as he needed me. Whether or not I got out of prison didn't seem to matter anymore. I had nothing on the outside to look forward to. After Sarah died, life only became bearable because of Marv. Once he was gone, I just didn't care."
"But he wanted you to get out."
"I know that. Those were his dying words. I owed it to him to get out of there. For his sake and for mine, I had to get out." Harry took a moment to glance down at the gold band around his finger. "And I know if she could have…Sarah would have told me to get the hell out of there, too."
Seeing his thoughts drift to his late wife, Kevin suddenly looked curious. "Have you visited her grave yet?"
Harry looked up. "What?"
"You said you haven't been to her grave in years. Have you been there yet?"
The elder man looked slightly put off. "No," he answered quietly.
He sighed. "Because it's not exactly around the corner, kid. She's buried in Ohio."
"Yeah. And I'm hopeless when it comes to directions. I can get turned around if I'm just going five miles down the road, if I'm not familiar with the route. I've only been out to the cemetery twice: once when she was buried, and then a second time like fourteen years later, and it took me about three hours longer to get there than it should have because I kept getting turned around."
Kevin appeared thoughtful for a moment. "What part of Ohio?"
"Williams County, around Bryan."
Harry furrowed his brows. "Perfect, how?"
"I have family near Toledo. We drive through Williams every time we go to visit them. I've driven that route I don't know how many times."
"So, I can take you there. When you're driving that far on a route you're not familiar with, it's always best if someone goes with you."
"And that someone just had to be you, didn't it?" Harry sighed. Kevin grinned.
"Admit it, you love me."
Harry held the blond's gaze firmly, curious of his reasons. "Just explain to me why you want to waste your time driving me out there."
"I feel like I owe you."
"Yeah. I'm not going to sit here and apologize for everything. When you tried to break into my house, I was acting in self defense. You asked for all that."
Harry flashed him his scarred palm. "You branded me like cattle," he snapped defensively.
"Okay, okay, maybe that was a little mean-spirited. But what happened in New York was really overkill."
Kevin sighed. "Can you let me get this out?"
Harry sat back and kept silent.
"All right, when you guys robbed the toy store, I could have easily just called the cops right away. I know I could have found a way to stall you both long enough for me to get to a pay phone to alert them. I could have had you chase me into the park, and that would have been the end of it, but instead I had to play around with you first before I called the cops. Let's face it, that time I did it all for the shits and giggles. There was no justifiable reason to do all that all over again." Kevin paused for a moment, taking in Harry's understandably surprised expression. "So here's my peace offering," he continued, extending his hands across the table in a pleading gesture. Harry looked down for a moment, unsure of a response. "You need to do it," Kevin pointed out.
"I know I need to do it," Harry replied, looking back up.
"Well then, just swallow your pride and accept my offer. C'mon, I know you don't hate me that much."
"Are you willing to bet your life on that?"
Kevin frowned. "C'mon, Harry."
Though he was reluctant to, the elder man sighed in defeat. "When should we go?"
Kevin seemed pleased to hear this. "Well, we should go when work isn't an issue."
"Well, I don't know about you, but Sunday's my best day since the coffee shop's closed."
"I can probably get off, no problem. I have a lot of unused sick days. We should probably leave early, that way we can get back before dark. Maybe seven?"
Harry nodded in agreement. Kevin took another sip of his beer as his thoughts drifted back to Marv. "If Marv hadn't died, would he and I have gotten along?"
Harry smiled softly, unable to mask the pain in his voice. "Yeah. That was the thing that set us apart; he could never stay mad about something. It was too much work for him. It was always harder for him to be angry than it was to be happy."
Kevin and Harry left Sunday morning at around ten after seven. They couldn't have picked a better morning for travel. Given the fact that it was a Sunday, they didn't have to worry about the morning commute, which made driving less stressful. Kevin could easily cruise the interstate without constantly having to be on high alert of cars cutting in front of him.
The first hour into the trip was mostly silent. Most of the time, Harry stared out his window, while Kevin concentrated on his driving. Occasionally, he tried to think up some way to get a conversation going, but in the end he always figured Harry valued silence over talking. However, after twenty, long consecutive minutes without a single word spoken, Harry decided to break the mind-numbing silence.
"Did your parents ever know about us?"
Kevin glanced at the man briefly before returning his focus to the interstate. "You mean did they know you tried to break in?"
"You never told them?"
"Never told 'em."
"So they didn't have a clue about anything?"
"Well, when they saw you in the paper and found out that you had robbed the Murpheys', they did ask questions. Mom was especially hysterical. She actually recognized you from when you had dressed up like a cop, and immediately she started interrogating me. But I told her nothing happened. I mentioned seeing the van driving around the block, but I lied about you guys ever trying to break in. I just couldn't bring myself to say anything. My parents were already eaten up with guilt, and my mom was mentally exhausted from the whole experience. If she knew that you guys had tried to break in, she would have hated herself even more, and I just didn't want her to go through that. She worries enough as it is. And I know that if I had told her, she never would have let me out of her sight again, and then I'd be the one suffering. She would have been scared to leave me alone at seventeen."
"You had a big mess to clean up, though, didn't you?"
"Yeah, but it wasn't that difficult. The feathers were the hardest. But the tar…yeah, that didn't get cleaned up. I tried, but there was no getting that off the stairs."
"So what did you tell your parents?"
Kevin began laughing. "It was pretty stupid what I told them. I told them that when I was down in the basement doing laundry, I thought I saw a giant rat, and I was afraid it was going to get into the house, so I put the tar on the stairs so it couldn't climb."
"You've gotta be kidding."
"Nope, and they believed it. It kinda sucked for my dad, because he had to replace the stairs, and it also sucked for my mom because then she thought we had a rat infestation and ended up calling the exterminator."
Harry shook his head, looking away to continue gazing out the window. "You have a way with making people's lives difficult."
As the hours crept along, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper that he had used to scribble down the directions to the cemetery. Kevin could only take them so far before he would need Harry to step in and direct him to the correct exits. It wasn't a straight shot to where they were going, and they had to change highways a couple of times. Harry could only hope that they didn't end up in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"Okay, this is the exit," Harry said, and Kevin slowly eased off the highway. "It'll still be about half an hour before we get there."
"You remember how to get there?" the blond asked, coming to a red light at the end of the ramp.
"Well, I've got the names of the streets written down and the landmarks I remember. It'll be easier to spot them with an extra pair of eyes. You'll turn right here, and then you'll go straight for a while."
Kevin flipped on his signal and turned onto the four-lane road. Harry folded the sheet of paper and sat it down in the floor. "This really isn't any trouble for you?" he asked, looking skeptically at the younger man.
"Trust me, whenever we come out this way, it's to visit my Uncle Frank. For once, it's nice to drive out here knowing I don't have to see him."
"So…you hate your uncle?"
"Well, I mean…he just wasn't that nice to me as a kid, and he always manages to weasel his way out of paying for something. He's very difficult to love."
"Believe it or not, he's what makes your family complete. It ain't a real family until there's that one relative that pisses everyone off."
Kevin snorted. "Well, he passes with flying colors."
They drove on for a while, Harry keeping close attention to their surroundings and reading each and every street sign they came upon. "Okay, turn onto this road," he said as he pointed to a narrow, two-lane road on the right side of the street. They drove for about three miles when Harry spotted a small flower shop on the side of the road, a shop that had been there the last time he had been to the cemetery. "Stop here for second," he said, nodding to the shop. Kevin pulled his truck into the gravel-covered lot and slowed to a stop. "Good, it's open. I'll be right back," he said and hopped out of the truck. Kevin left the engine running as he waited, not expecting the man to take very long. When he returned, he was carrying a small bouquet of flowers. "These were the freshest they had," he said, climbing back into the truck. "She deserves 'em."
They drove for another five miles, passing other cemeteries as they went. Finally, Harry spotted the road they had been looking for and pointed ahead. "That's it."
The road was a mere dirt path, extending up a hill, with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other. Trees loomed overhead, casting shadows and small patches of light onto the path. They passed through an open gate that led into the cemetery, first taking notice of the much older tombstones just off to the right of the path. "Just go ahead and stop," said Harry, and Kevin slowly pulled his truck to a stop and parked it. After climbing out of the truck, he had a quick look around. The cemetery was one of the prettiest he had ever seen. The best thing about it was the fact that it was secluded, giving them privacy. Looking to his right, he saw several rolling hills, which eventually disappeared into a thick backdrop of trees, most of which had yet to acquire any leaves. The only green they saw was from the evergreen trees, which were in abundance.
Kevin allowed Harry to lead the way, trailing closely behind as they walked among numerous tombstones, some of them decades apart. "There it is," Harry said, pointing three tombstones ahead. As he approached the grave, it almost seemed as though his wife had been laid to rest just a few days ago.
SARAH W. LYME
May 14th, 1944 - January 8th, 1971
Beloved daughter, sister and wife
Harry noticed that there was already a bouquet of flowers placed in the funnel, which was secured in the ground directly in front of the tombstone. They were slightly wilted, which indicated it had been several days since they were placed, or possibly a week. The tombstone was wide enough, so Harry simply placed his bouquet on top of it.
"Could you…give me a minute?" Harry asked and Kevin nodded.
"I'll be over there," he said, pointing to the much older tombstones on the other side of the dirt path. Harry waited until he was out of earshot, and then turned back to the grave.
"Well…" he began, "it's been a while, hasn't it?" he said. "I feel kind of stupid talking to a tombstone," he laughed. "I feel like I'm talking to myself. But I need to get all this out, so I'm just going to pretend that you can hear what I'm saying." Harry glanced up for a moment, inhaled deeply, and then looked back down again. "I know I ain't got an excuse. It's been over fifteen years since I was last out here, but I was actually in prison for a while. I kinda made some bad choices. I got into burglary and stole thousands of dollars worth of crap. I know, it was stupid and crazy. I just completely lost sight of myself. You just didn't know what it felt like without you there. It was like I died with you. I didn't know how to move on from it. People always learn how to live with the grief and not let it consume their lives, but I couldn't. It was like a virus. It made me realize pretty fast just how weak I was.
"When I fell into burglary, I forgot all about it. There were actually days when you never once crossed my mind, and I'm ashamed to say this now, but I was happier than I had ever been since your death. I know if you could, you'd slap me for saying this, but not having to hurt anymore just seemed more important than the fact that I was breaking the law. Soon it just became an addiction and there was no breaking away from it."
Harry paused, and then laughed at himself.
"Listen to me, I'm standing here trying to make excuses for myself. Well…I'm not doing that anymore, I promise. It's all behind me. I've been out of prison for over a year, and I've been working an honest job."
Harry turned and glanced behind him, spotting Kevin slowly weaving his way around the old tombstones, reading over each and every one. "You see that kid?" Harry continued as he glanced back at his wife's grave. "He put me through hell. How I'm able to be within three feet of him without killing him is beyond me. I mean, look," he said, flashing his hand. "The kid branded me his bitch for life." Harry winced at his choice of words. "And now I'm going to have to kill myself for saying that." He glanced back at the blond again. "But he did drive me all the way out here just to see you, so I guess he can't be all bad. You could say he kind of grew on me…like a disgusting mold that keeps coming back no matter how many times you think you've gotten rid of it."
Harry laughed at his words, and then lifted his hand to gaze at his wedding band. "Look…" he began with more pain in his voice, "I can't do this anymore. It's been thirty years. That's a long time to not move on. I've never been with any other woman, Sarah, not a one, and for a number of reasons: I didn't want to seem like I had forgotten about you, and I wasn't even sure if I could love a woman the same way again. But I think the biggest issue was the possibility that I could and the fear of history repeating itself. I couldn't deal with that all over again. I couldn't face another loss.
"But what if I lived my entire life by the fear of what might happen? How would I ever accomplish anything?" Harry held up his hand, the sunlight catching his ring. "I've never taken it off. For thirty years, I've never taken it off!" He lowered his hand as tears began to well. "I have met someone. We work together, actually. Her name's Debra. We're not dating, and I don't even know if she likes me, but I do like her. She reminds me a lot of you, so I guess that's why I'm drawn to 'er. I don't even know how possible a relationship would be with her. She got out of a bad marriage about two years ago, and she's already got a four-year-old daughter, so given that factor, I'm not sure she'd be too keen on being involved with an ex-con. But I just had to tell you that, because this can't go on anymore."
Blinking back tears, Harry slowly lifted his hand and took hold of his wedding ring. "I'm taking this off, Sarah…because I need to move on with my life," he said, his voice beginning to crack. He slid the ring from his finger and clutched it tightly in his fist. "That doesn't mean I'll forget you. You know I won't forget you, and I will keep this with me, always." Harry slid the ring into his pant pocket. Lifting his hand, he kissed the tips of his fingers and touched them to the top of the tombstone. "I love you," he said softly, turning away. He shoved both hands in his pockets and slowly made his way back to Kevin, who was crouching before a large, very old tombstone. Harry made his presence known as he cut a path through a vast collection of dead leaves that had fallen months prior.
Kevin glanced up upon hearing his approach. "This thing is ancient," he said in wonder, looking back down at the name and date carved into the stone. "This person died in 1805."
Harry had a quick look around at all the old tombstones, which stood out against their younger counterparts. They were all dull and cracked and even had some large chunks missing. "These were obviously the first that were buried here when they opened this cemetery," said Harry. Kevin rose to his feet and approached another tombstone, which was missing part of its base.
"This girl was only five when she died."
Kevin went to the next row of graves. "And this person was just twenty-four."
"I'll bet a lot of the people buried here were young," replied Harry, following the blond. Looking over each grave, his frown deepened. "I've lived more than twice what most of these people did, and what have I accomplished? These people probably did more by the age of fifteen than most people today manage to accomplish by thirty. By this time next year, I'll be sixty. I've wasted most of my life."
Kevin glanced at the man quizzically. "Wasted?" he asked. "How have you wasted it?"
"You don't call rotting in prison a waste?"
"You're not in prison anymore, and you're certainly not dead," the younger man pointed out with a laugh. "If you want something to happen, you've gotta do the work. You've still got time."
The elder man looked away and glanced up into the canopy of trees overhead, this thoughts returning to Debra.
"So…do you feel better?"
Harry looked back at him and nodded. "Yeah, a lot."
"Are you going to start coming here at least once a month from now on?" Kevin asked in a tone similar to that of a mother asking her son if he was going to clean his room like he was supposed to.
Harry chuckled and nodded. "Yeah. I think I can probably get here without any trouble now."
Smiling, Kevin approached the man and wrapped his arms around him, who was nothing short of startled by the display of affection. "Umm…okay," he said awkwardly, patting the blond on the back. "Yeah, I get it. All right, that's enough…Get off."
Harry managed to pry the blond's arms off of him and back away from him. Kevin didn't seem offended by the reaction. In fact, he was grinning widely.
"Stop smiling at me like that," Harry scolded, though he, too, was smiling. After a bit of hesitation, he managed a difficult, "Thanks." Kevin's smile grew, and Harry quickly held up a hand. "Do not hug me again."
The two men turned and started making their way back to the truck, their consciences finally at ease.
Harry flipped on the light to his bedroom, his eyes immediately landing on the dresser sitting directly across from the foot of his bed. Atop that dresser were several things: loose change, a few receipts that he had yet to throw away, and a small flashlight that he kept in case of blackouts, but among all those things was the small collection of pictures. One particular picture that he was especially fond of was of his mother, the only one he ever had of her. It had since been restored and touched up, making it look like new, or as new as a black and white photo in the twenty-first century could possibly look. It was also matted and framed, a far cry from being folded and stuffed in his wallet.
Propped up against that picture was the picture that had been taken years ago of him and Marv. It wasn't quite at home yet, as it didn't have a frame, but Harry still planned to get a suitable frame for the picture.
Finally, his eyes landed on the wedding photo, a photo that could stand to be touched up as well. Sighing, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, finding the wallet-size photo of his late wife that had stayed with him for more than thirty years. He reached over and gently tucked the small photo inside the frame of his wedding picture, smiling softly. He then fished around in his pocket and located the wedding band. Securing it between his thumb and index finger, he kissed it briefly before placing it atop the dresser, where it would forever stay, serving only as a memory of the one he loved and no longer an excuse to hold on to the past.
Turning, he walked to the doorway and paused, momentarily looking back at the only material possessions of the few good memories he had. He smiled and turned off the light.
Author's Note: This story has actually been in the back of my head for the last two months. After writing "The Coffee Shop", I actually wanted to carry on with the story and write some kind of sequel. I came up with several ideas, but not one of them ever really branched out and took on any life. However, this story was actually a scene I had planned to weave into a possible sequel. No matter what the story, I wanted to write this scene and stick it in there somewhere, but I eventually gave up on the idea of a novel-length sequel. But this story was still sticking with me, and I just didn't want to throw it away, so I decided to go ahead and write this scene and just make it a one-shot. There was no sense in letting it go to waste.