John paid the cab driver and stepped out onto the sidewalk. In front of him stood a brick building with a sign on the door that read Andy's mechanical services. He made his way inside and the bells on the door chimed. Andy rolled out from beneath a car and stood up to greet him.
"Hey, it's John, right?" John nodded. "Great. I was wondering when you would come and get your truck. I called and left you a message."
"Sorry I didn't answer the phone. But I heard your message last night so I took a cab here."
Andy walked to the back of the shop and John followed along. They reached John's truck and he stopped. "Okay, there it is. Turns out you had some engine problems and needed an oil change. I saw that your left rear tire had a little hole in it so I changed that, too."
John walked over and examined the car. "Thank you so much. I had no idea what was wrong with it. I don't think I would have been able to fix it on my own."
Andy smiled. "No problem. Just doing my job. Now go to the front desk on the other side of the shop and someone will be there to give you some papers and your keys."
John walked out the same way they came in and spotted a desk a few feet away. He walked towards it and looked around before spotting a bell on the counter. After hitting it a few times, he waited. No one came and he lifted his hands to ring it again before someone stopped him from behind.
"Don't break it. It's the only one we have." As soon as John heard her voice, he knew it was the woman who helped him last week. It felt a bit weird for him. Not the fact that he saw her again, but the fact that he remembered her voice so well.
The woman looked up and he could see in her facial expression that she recognized him, too. "Oh, it's you. You're here to get your car, huh?" She sighed and he could tell she was tired. She reached underneath the counter and pulled out a clipboard with a few sheets of paper attached. She grabbed a pen from a cup and handed both to him.
"Just fill out these forms. I'll go get your keys." She walked away and through a side door. John stared until she was gone and began filling out the form. He was done before she came back and spent a few minutes looking around. He looked on the desk behind the counter and saw a small picture frame. In the picture, he saw the woman. He hadn't really been paying attention to her appearance the last time he saw her but in the photo, he could see that she had red hair. It wasn't completely red but a nice rich shade with a touch of ginger, which, from afar, could have her mistaken for a brunette. She was smiling in the photo and next to her was a little girl, who looked to be about five years old. She was smiling as well and they both had their arms around each other.
"Okay, here they are." The woman walked in, waving John's keys in the air. She grabbed the clipboard and quickly examined it, flipping through each form. "All right, you're all set." She gave him his keys and wrote a receipt and handed it to him. John stuffed his keys in his pocket and took the receipt. He stared at her for a long time before opening his mouth. "I'm sorry." He said softly. She looked up at him, urging him to go on. "For what?"
"For being a jerk last week. I was just feeling stressed about my own life and I wasn't really in the mood to talk to anyone. Even a kind person who helped me out when I really needed it. I know my behavior was immature, ungrateful, and inexcusable but I just wanted to apologize. Just because I was having a crappy day didn't mean I should have put that on you."
She sighed and her breath flew a strand of her ginger red hair around her face. John tried to read her facial expression but found that he couldn't.
"Okay. I was wondering when you'd apologize. You seem like one of those guys that has a guilty conscience." She said.
John shrugged his shoulders. "You're right. And thank you. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come along."
"No problem." She looked at her watch and looked back up at John. "Well, I've got to get back to work."
John nodded. "Yeah, yeah, of course."
She looked down and read the clipboard. "It was nice seeing you again, John. And I really do mean that, considering the last time was a disaster."
John let out a small chuckle and watched as she walked back to the side door. As she pushed it open, he suddenly felt an urgency to stop her. "Hey." He called out.
She stopped and turned around. "Yeah?"
"Is it too late to ask you for your name?"
She briefly smiled at him. "Yeah, it is."
John began to frown and she laughed. "You're such a baby, but I'll pity you. It's Sydney."
John smiled and took a few steps back. "Well, Sydney, it was nice seeing you again, too."
Tim brought out another pitcher of lemonade and set it on the table on the porch. Mia picked it up and poured herself a glass before wiping the sweat from her forehead. "Sorry. I feel like I'm drinking all your lemonade."
"It's okay." Tim said. "It is a little hot out here. But I like it."
"Likewise." Mia began to type on her laptop. Since their encounter the previous week, Tim and Mia had been spending quite a bit of time together. Catching up and reminiscing about old times. That morning, Jeremy had sent him over some paperwork and Mia was going over it with him, helping him write notes and important points.
She typed some final words and crossed her arms in satisfaction. "There, all done."
Tim looked at the laptop. "Really?"
Mia nodded, her jet black hair blowing in the wind. "Mmm-hmm. How lucky are you to have me?"
"Very lucky. So you finished all of them?"
"No, just the first one."
Tim laughed. "I thought you meant you were done with all of them."
Mia shook her head. "No way. I may be smart and efficient, but I'm not a miracle worker." Tim laughed again and she joined him.
Tim heard footsteps and Savannah appeared on the porch. "Hey, how's it going?"
Mia grabbed the pitcher of lemonade. "Great, we just finished the first sheet, which means we'll be done in about twelve years."
Savannah smiled. "Good, just make sure I get my husband back before he hits his senior years. I don't think I'll like him as much with wrinkles." She teased. Tim reached over and put his arm around her waist before kissing her hand. "I'll take that, as long as you promise to make it up to me."
Savannah giggled and bent down to kiss him. "I should get going. I have some errands to run."
"Where are you going?" he asked.
Savannah's eyes drifted toward the stables. "Just to the store and a few other places. But I promise I'll be back before dinner." She gave him another kiss and waved to Mia. "See you later."
Savannah ran her fingers along the cold vinyl of the hospital bed. She looked up and occupied her time by reading the various health posters on the wall. She wanted so bad to distract herself, but she knew that she would fail, just like she always had whenever she was in there. She knew it was wrong not to tell Tim where she was going and more importantly, what she was doing, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. It had been about three months since she started going there and every time she returned for the same thing. The shame she felt whenever she would go home and he would kiss her and ask her how her day went never went away and she could always feel the bottle weighing heavy in her purse. She always felt her heart drop when he would stare at her, wondering why she wasn't pregnant. There had been numerous times where he would try to suggest that she go check out a doctor, but she always shut him down, telling him that it would happen in time.
There was no doubt that he loved her and if he ever found out that she didn't want to have children with him, he would most likely be upset at first, but eventually he would let it go. He always did and that was one of the things that killed Savannah. He was one of the most forgiving men she had ever met. Whenever they would have an argument, sure they would yell for a few minutes, but usually, it ended with him apologizing first, admitting how and why he was wrong, and telling her how much he loved her. That was why she couldn't tell him. It would be great that he would respect her wishes, but she wouldn't be able to live with herself knowing that she was the only thing standing in between Tim and his happiness with having his own children.
She liked to think that she was doing the right thing, but she knew deep down that she wasn't. Maybe for her, but definitely not for Tim. Instead, she was being extremely selfish, instead of being honest with the one man that she should have loved the most.
The door swung open and Dr. Graham walked in. He took a seat on his stool before extending his hand. Savannah shook it and he grabbed her folder on the table.
"Okay, Mrs. Wheddon. So it says you're just here for a check up."
"Yeah, I had a headache and some nausea the other day, but I'm better now."
"Okay. Well from the looks of some of these tests, everything seems to be fine. It was probably just a little migraine."
Savannah nodded and Dr. Graham closed her folder. "So how is everything else, Mrs. Wheddon? Do you have any questions for me?"
"No. Thank you, Dr. Graham."
"You're welcome." He stood up and picked up her folder. "It was nice seeing you." He walked towards the door before turning around. "Oh, I almost forgot to ask. Is the birth control working okay?"
The words stabbed her like an array of knives, just like they did any time she heard them. "Yes, it's working just fine."
Dr. Graham smiled. "Great. Tiffany will have your subscription at the front desk so you can pick up some more. Goodbye, Mrs. Wheddon."
Savannah looked down, feeling shameful. "Goodbye doctor Graham."
The cool breeze blew on John's face as he walked through the park. He had to constantly wipe the sweat from his hands onto his shirt. He hated how nervous he was. It wasn't like it was his first time meeting her. But yet, his heartbeat sped up anytime he heard footsteps, thinking it was her. What he hated even more was how disappointed he felt when it wasn't.
After he called Savannah, they had spent a few minutes talking on the phone. He didn't expect them to talk for hours and hours as if nothing had changed, but he was still a little surprised at how quick their conversation ended. He felt that they both had a lot to say and a simple phone call wouldn't be enough. They owed it to each other to say everything in person.
They had decided to meet in the park. It was only a few blocks from John's motel and he hopped in his truck and drove there. He had spent the last half an hour walking around waiting for her.
"Sorry I'm late." Savannah said. John turned around and she was walking towards him. "It's okay." He answered. It was still strange for him. He was so used to picking her up and kissing her every time he saw her, but it was different. The urge was still there, though.
Savannah smiled at him and started to walk beside him on the sidewalk. They walked in silence for a while, neither of them knowing what to say.
"I love walking out here." She said. "It's peaceful. There can be chaos and a million little kids running around screaming, but for some reason, it always feels like you're trapped in your own little world."
John stared at the ground. "Mmm."
"Why did we come here, John?"
John stopped walking and Savannah followed suit. "I don't know, Savannah. I mean, I know we talked on the phone, but I feel like there's a lot we left unsaid. I just thought it would be better that we speak in person."
Savannah sighed and sat down on a nearby bench. She picked a piece of grass from the ground and twirled it between her fingers. John opened his mouth to speak, but quickly shut it. He stared at her. He could see the deep lines of concentration on her face and he knew she was thinking hard about what she was going to say. She finally looked up and he saw that her eyes were welling up with tears.
"I'm so, so sorry." She whispered. He sat down next to her. She continued.
"There's no way for me to express how sorry I am. For years, I've dealt with the guilt of betraying you and going behind your back. I should have told you. I should have called you as soon as it started but I didn't. I waited and I led you on, making you think everything was fine. Meanwhile, I was here and my whole life was changing. I wanted to tell you so bad. But I always held on to the little hope that you would come home eventually. That you would marry me and we would spend the rest of our happy lives together and I could pretend that nothing had ever happened while you were gone, but it would have been a lie." By then, the tears she tried to hold back fell freely over her face and she was sobbing uncontrollably.
"I didn't know it was going to happen. It just did, John. I couldn't stop it and at one point, I didn't even want to. Suddenly, I wasn't spending my nights alone and I had someone to hug me and comfort me. I needed it, John. I needed it so bad and you weren't here to give it to me. At first, I thought Tim was just helping me fill the void I felt when you left, but it was so much more than that. I fell in love with him. He became one of the first things I thought about when I woke up and when we were apart, I felt myself longing to be with him." Savannah wiped away her tears, but new ones quickly took their place. She turned around to face John, who was listening intently.
"I wanted to wait for you. I really did. But I couldn't. I couldn't go on pretending that our relationship was fine when it wasn't. I admired you for what you were doing for our country, but I was hurting inside. I was hurting so much and you were the reason for that hurt." She stopped talking and looked back down on the ground. John took a deep breath and noticed she wasn't going to continue.
"Look, Savannah. It hurt me, too. Everyday I was in constant danger. I wondered if I would even live. Anytime those thoughts would come into my mind, you were the first thing I thought about. I thought about how devastated you would be. You don't know how happy I would be to get one of your letters. But I would also be crushed. It killed me that I had to read a letter from you instead of being able to wrap my arms around you. I spent all those days, counting down the minutes until I could see you again. Until I could look at your beautiful face again. But when I got that letter-" John's voice cracked as his throat became dry. He felt the tears coming out and he tried hard to swallow them.
"When I got that letter, my whole world came crashing down. I didn't care if I got shot or if a bomb exploded right next to me. I felt like anything would be better than living my life without you. I loved you so much Savannah. I wasn't even living my life before I met you and to have you leave me, it was like putting the world to a halt. I didn't want to believe it, but I had to. Especially after seeing you and Tim together. And I couldn't be angry because he's so good to you, Savannah."
John placed his hand on her cheek and they both looked at each other. "He's so good to you and he was there when I wasn't. He took my place and I had to accept that."
Savannah shook her head and spoke softly. "He didn't take your place, John. No one could. He has a special place in my heart, but there's things that we have that Tim can't ever give me. There are things that we've done that I can't ever do with Tim. He is my husband and I hate that it has to be like this because I do love him, but you will always be a part of me. No matter how much I may not want you to."
John removed his hand from her cheek. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I know that I made the right decision to leave, but I feel terrible about the pain I caused you."
"I understand why you did it, John. Tim was sick and I was so stressed. Taking care of him and Alan. Having you here would have made things so much more confusing. It took me a while to realize that, but I did. And I appreciate it so much."
John nodded and Savannah wiped her face again. "I know we're a long way from being friends," she said "but maybe we can try talking every now and then. I know that this is really dangerous and we would be taking a huge risk, but now that you're here, I can't afford to lose you again." She wiped away a tear from John's face and looked into his eyes.
He looked into hers and for the first time since he'd been back in Lenoir, he felt his guard fall down. He was completely vulnerable and hid no trace of emotion he felt. This was what he needed. Closure. All the anger and sadness he had been building up in the last three years was gone. It felt so good to talk to her. To actually talk to her and see that she still cared. He spent the last six months wandering around, trying to feel something, anything, and for the first time, he actually did feel something. And there was no way he was letting it go.
John brushed a strand of her brown hair away from her face. "I can't afford to lose you again, either."
A/N: Thanks for reading. I know I haven't been updating frequently but I promise that will change so please keep checking for updates and please review. Thanks.