International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Fiction
the Shadows of the Past
had been very bad that year. It had been bitterly cold and had dropped
the most snow on the City in recent memory. And just when the winter
was at its peak, the sun came through the clouds one afternoon and
melted everything into the sewer of memory.
The City was gradually
coming back to its own and all forms of life began to stir beneath his
apartment window. on days when inspiration would be lacking, he would
find himself at the same corner bookstore staring up at the racks filled
with the immortals in order to get himself going. It was during one
of these afternoon pilgrimages that he saw Amy again.
He remembered the very first time he saw her, when he told himself that
she was the one. But he had been wrong about her, as wrong as he had
been about any other thing in his life. And as with many things in his
life; time, like any other mistress, saw fit to come between them and
eventually tear apart what he and she had worked on against everyone's
supposed better judgments. It had been at college when he first met
her and started to date her and they had been intimate but with her
family's money and his decided lack of it, it was doomed from the beginning.
This is the tragedy that can befall everyone and anyone who has ever
been in love if one isn't committed. Thinking back, his lack of money
wasn't the only problem. Amy was always cagey about close personal relationships
and would always be uncomfortable of emotional stability. Then she started
dating someone else while she was dating him.
Now he was looking upon her lovely face again. His eyes searched her
face, that comely face. His eyes fell to her hair. It pleased him that
she hadn't changed that dark, luxurious chestnut hair. She wore it in
bangs and it was still the same exquisite length, the same way she had
it in college and still wavy and woven in thick mysterious strands that
curled around her shoulders.
Ethan could not believe it. He wondered what Amy was doing in New York
City. She was a Tennessee girl and she had always hated the City, she
told him. He noticed her standing in the Travel Section of the aisle
across from him.
"Amy?" He asked quizzically and walked casually over to her.
She looked at him and then quickly away. Then back again. "Ethan?"
She responded excitedly. "Ethan Graham?"
"Yes." He smiled as they awkwardly held out hands, laughed
"What?" She shook her head. "Now what are you doing here?"
"I'm just browsing.." He smiled.
"See anything you like?" She smiled back.
"Yeah, I see some things I like." He flirted. "I like
that you've kept your hair long, like I always liked it."
"Lil ol' me?" She said capriciously with her Southern accent
still intact. This made Ethan smile at the memory of it.
"Yes, lil ol' you. Points for keeping it long like that."
"Ethan, I didn't keep my hair like this for you, just you alone,
hoping I'd run into you some day." She smiled.
"Uh-huh." He nodded. "So, what're you doing in New York?
"I moved here." She said with her adorable country girl smile.
"I guess you can say my career path sent me here."
"Oh, you're still working for that greeting card company?"
"No, silly! That was college, Ethan, geez!" She grabbed his
arm as she said this. "I'm pursuing a career in dance and Catherine
Van Rolfstein has opened up a new studio here."
"Really? I thought you hated it here."
"I do, I mean, I did when we were back in college. I was homesick,
I guess. I was a kid, then. I've grown up since then, Ethan. we both
"Gee, thanks, remind me that I've put on a few pounds." He
said and jokingly patted his mid-section. "But you, you look great."
"Thanks, I'm dieting through dance." She joked.
"Huh..." Ethan said absently. "I thought you were studying
"I was, Ethan." She said and paused. "That was before,
well, after the...uh, well, it doesn't matter."
Ethan shook his head, not understanding. "I'm sorry."
"Doesn't matter." Amy said and touched his hand. "The
point is that I was bored by hotel management. So, after we, um, broke
it off, I changed majors, completely." She smiled. "I got
up one day late and asked myself if I wanted to go to that stupid class
ever again and so I switched majors, completely. I caught a lot of heat
for that. I took up dance and I think you had dropped out by then. Daddy
sent me here when his friend, Miss Van Rolfstein opened up a school."
"How is your father?"
"Oh, Daddy is just doing great. He'll be tickled I ran into you."
"I bet he will. I remember his right cross."
"Oh, hush. He just had a lil too much beer to drink that one afternoon,
"He didn't have to hit me."
"Oh, Ethan, honey. That was a hundred years ago." She waved
him off. "I'm sure Daddy will be happy I saw you. Daddy was very
supportive when I changed majors, but Mama wasn't. He told her to hush
and said I should do things that make me happy in life. He wants me
to be happy. I guess, so he doesn't have to hear me." She laughed.
Amy's face twisted and she rolled her eyes. "I know! I was just
joshing. C'mon, Ethan! You could never tell when I was kidding, could
ya'll?" She poked him. "I read ya'll in the reviews. Mama
sends them to me. She says I should have stayed with you, but I think
that's just to rile Daddy." She chuckled. "Ya'll are famous!"
She smiled and then exclaimed: "Look everybody! It's that famous
writer, Ethan Graham!"
Ethan's eyes darted around, hoping no one had actually heard her. A
few people were staring at them both. "Stop it, Ames!" He
said with an embarrassed flush.
Her demeanor changed and she beamed at him. "Wow, I haven't heard
anyone call me that since you." She said softly. "It's nice
to hear that again."
"Been a while, huh?" He said weakly.
"Hey, let's go over and look at your books." She said and
grabbed his hand and nearly yanked it out of the socket as she took
off down the aisle.
"Look, there's one and there's one..." She smiled.
Embarrassed by this, he begged her to leave the bookstore and get a
cup of coffee. They did so and strolled the city of their youth and
back to all of their old haunts, some changed irreparably and some not
changed at all. That night they spent back at his apartment, reuniting
over and over and soon thereafter, she gave up the expensive SoHo apartment
her father had leased and moved in with Ethan.
However, he noticed that she still possessed the tendency to pull back
when things got too serious. She was filled with a lot of self-doubt
and annoying still she had the old habit of saying something completely
irrational or doing something that would provoke a fight between them.
One night, as they both lay in bed sweaty and out of breath, there was
a certain sense of abandonment, of something being amiss. He was afraid
to spoil the moment by saying something but when she did not sense his
disquiet, he spoke.
"Is there something wrong here?"
"No." Her answer lilted in a bored, far away echo.
"C'mon, Ames, there must be something wrong. You're very quiet."
"Why do you ask?" She said as she played with the hair on
his arm. "C'mon, fess up."
"I don't know." He sighed. "Don't take this the wrong
way, but it seemed like you were just going through the motions."
She stopped playing with the hair on his arm and peered up at him. "Really?
I didn't fake, if that's what's on your mind."
"I don't know. Maybe it's me."
She looked up and smiled at him with nervous apprehension. "Can
I say something to ya'll?"
Ethan looked down, his chin pressing into his collarbone. "Yeah,
"Promise ya'll won't get mad?"
"I'd have to hear it first." He reasoned.
Amy breathed a sigh and began. "Well, I've never told you this,
I've never told anyone this, but back when we were dating in college,
I got pregnant. "
"What?" You never-"
"Let me finish. I was young and stupid and didn't practice birth
control, you may remember. I got pregnant, right about the time we broke
up and I hooked up with Bryce."
"You never told me you were pregnant."
"I was ashamed, you know, from a deep religious Pentecostal background
and Daddy being a prominent businessman, 'bout tore him up."
"Did you give it up for adoption?"
"No." She shook her head sadly. "Daddy was fit to be
tied and that was the reason why when you came over that last time,
he punched you."
" I thought he was just drunk."
"My Daddy wasn't a drunk." She sniffed.
"Whatever you say."
"Daddy was just terribly upset."
"He blindsided me. I can still feel it." Ethan felt his jaw.
"Daddy took care of it. He wanted to have you and the other guy
I was dating at the time strung up."
"You mean he sent you away to have the baby?"
"No, I never had it."
"Oh." Ethan said solemnly.
A tear ran down Amy's cheek. Ethan went to wipe it. "No, don't."
She move away.
"Well, was it mine?" Ethan gulped.
"I don't know, Ethan."
"Imagine that." He said with a brief smile. "I could
have been a father and had a son or daughter."
"I try not to think about it, but I thought you should know."
"But you said it might not have been mine."
"I'm not sure, but I think it was. Me and Bryce had only hooked
up once or twice."
"Could have been his, too then."
"I think it was yours. As a matter of fact, I'm certain of it."
"Wow." Ethan said and sat up. "This is a lot to absorb."
"I thought ya'll should know."
"Why? Why now?"
"I don't know." Amy said. "Are you bothered by me telling
"Honestly, it's a lot to hear all of a sudden"
"Are ya'll angry with me?"
"I don't know. I mean, it's something I have to think about. I
mean, I don't think I'm mad but, hell, I don't know. I don't know what
to think, Amy."
Amy looked at him for a few seconds before speaking. "Ya'll, hate
"It's not that, Amy. I don't know what to think."
"Ya'll hate me, I know."
"Why'd you even have to bring it up?" Ethan stood, exasperated.
"We were having a nice time and you had to tell me about this."
"Ya'll are upset!" She started to cry.
"I could have done without this." Ethan said and began to
"Where are ya'll going?"
"Where?" Amy sniffled.
"Please, don't leave." Amy pleaded.
"What do you want me to do, Amy?"
"Stay with me and hold me."
"Everything was going fine. You had to go and tell me this. This
is just another one of your emotional roadblocks, you know that? I need
to go and think." Ethan said and slammed the door behind him.
When Ethan returned in the early morning, Amy was nowhere to be found.
She left no note. But her not being there said plenty. She had always
dwelt in shadows of the past. Love equaled fear for Amy. She was not
willing to compromise and was inexplicably gone. Love had a way of doing
that to some people
© Joeseph Grant August 2009
JPG8820 at aol.com
J Grant has been published in 161 literary reviews and e-zines, such
as Byline, New Authors Journal, Underground Voices, Nite-Writer's International
Literary Arts Journal, Howling Moon Press, HackWriters, New Online Review,
Literary Tonic, Six Sentences, NexGenPulp, Is This Reality Zine , Darkest
Before Dawn, strangeroad.com, FarAway Journal, Full of Crow, Heroin
Love Songs, Bewildering Stories, Writing Raw, Unheard Magazine, Absent
Willow Literary Review and the upcoming first Absent Willow Anthology
and a story in the anthology of horror, Northern Haunts, as well as
three UK literary reviews, Bottom of the World #1 & 2 and Cupboard
Gloom and Write -currently resides in Los Angeles. He also write a monthly
newsletter column for Literary Mary.
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