by Melanie-Anne

He met her in the Fall. Even now, years later, he remembers the first time he saw her: standing in the gardens outside the library, absolutely still as wind whipped red and gold leaves around her. Her hair had been shorter then, falling just below her shoulders, and she'd been wearing autumn colours: brown and créme, and the sun had been shining just so. How could he do anything but stop and stare?


She looked at him and he thought she smiled. Embarrassed, he hurried into the library but couldn't get that picture out of his mind. At the time, he didn't realize he would never be able to forget.

When she sat opposite him, he hoped his surprise didn't show.

"We have a class together." Her voice was low and warm.

"We do?" How could he not have noticed her before?

She smiled, looked away. "I'm sorry. I don't usually do this. You know, just walk up to a guy and start a conversation."

"You know, girls don't usually just come up and talk to me either."

He decided he liked her laughter. She leaned across the table, her voice dropping even lower. "I have a confession to make. I need a favour."


"There's a guy outside. We went out a couple of times, but I'm not interested. The thing is, he won't take the hint, you know?" She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "Would you mind walking me to my car?"

"How do you know I'm not a serial killer?"

She didn't answer immediately. "My gut says you're a nice guy."

He held out his hand. "Jack."

Her smile widened. "Laura."


It's Fall again. Irina is wrapped in a shawl, sitting on a park bench, a novel open on her lap. Jack approaches slowly, sits next to her, but doesn't look at her. It's hard to resist; after all this time she is still the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

"It's better this way," she says, and he wants to ask how, exactly, this is supposed to be better. He says nothing.

Irina closes the book, lays it between them. "She wants to see you. She misses you. I miss you."

"You know my sudden disappearance would raise too many questions."

"We could arrange your death, if you'd like." Now he turns to look at her, and once again she's that carefree girl he met in the library.

"Not yet."

She shrugs, stands. When she's gone, he picks up the book and flicks it to where she'd left the photograph. Smiling up at him is their daughter, her husband, and the grandchild he has yet to meet.


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