Brian looked at the mailbox that hung on the gate.
They had arrived at their destination.
Brian’s breath caught in his chest, he felt as if he needed to throw his head between his legs and breathe in hard. Hyperventilation was not far off. This was it, this was the moment.
He felt a hand grasp his upper arm gently. Scott was looking concerned.
“You feeling alright Brian? We’re here.”
“Yes,” Brian exhaled, “Just taking a minute. I didn’t expect it to happen like this. I mean so quickly.”
“It was a pretty easy case.”
“Mmm, I think maybe if it had taken longer I would’ve felt more ready for this.”
“There was a part of me that thought maybe it would never happen, like I’d never even find her.”
“Well she’s in there, or she will be. You ready to see her?”
“Yes” Brian steadied himself as he looked across the yard, “I’ve been waiting for this for twenty years.”
“That’s more like it”, Scott slapped Brian gently on the back, “Want me to come with you?”
“I think I’ll be alright, but I don’t know how long I’ll be.” Brian didn’t like putting people out.
“I’ll just go for a walk. I saw a coffee shop a few blocks away from here, I’ll do some work on my phone.”
“Thanks Scott, I’ll call you when I know what’s going on.”
Brian was filled with gratitude, to feel friendship again was comforting. He gave Scott a quick smile of thanks before he fumbled out of the car, accidentally slamming the door much harder than he had intended. Scott was out of the car too, looking across the lawn to the front door.
“Good luck, man.”
“I think I’ll need it.”
Scott whistled as he walked off in the direction of the coffee shop. Brian turned to the house that he assumed held Sarah. The lawn was brown, the grass under nourished. There were no pansies, like at Sasha and Scott’s house, no picket fence. No love or care were fed into this garden.
It was bleak and, Brian felt, disheartening.
The sun had fried the grass, there were no trees to give any shade. Instead of flowers there were weeds, sprouting out from between the pavers of the narrow path that Brian found himself treading. A garden hose was a tangled mess up against the wall of the house, although there was no tap in sight.
The yard was desolate, unwelcoming, not at all like he had imagined Sarah’s garden. Over the past twenty years Brian had imagined Sarah’s life in many scenarios. Sometimes she was living the fast paced life of a highly successful lawyer, living in a highrise in the city. Other times she would be a busy, overworked nurse, sleeping in the doctors on call room more often than the bed in her flat. Brian’s favourite scenario for Sarah’s life involved a comfortable home in the country, a massive tree with a rope swing hanging happily from it dominated the large yard. Sarah shared the country home with her three children and her husband. Brian imagined that he was her husband.
Sarah had always loved flowers. Daffodils, roses, dasies, sun flowers, orchids. Every flower, except tulips. She would always roll her eyes at the mention of tulips. It was one of her eccentricities. It didn’t make sense but Brian loved her all the more for it.
The fact that there were no flowers anywhere in this desolate yard was worrying to Brian. He couldn’t imagine a version of Sarah without at least a window box full of freshly watered flowers.
A million thoughts were racing through his mind. The one that stood out was the notion that she might not even remember him. Had he fabricated this romance in his mind? What if she simply told him to leave?
Brian was a moment away from turning on his heel and running from the house when he heard someone inside the house approaching the door.
Drip, perspiration trickled down his nose and fell at his feet. Brian frantically started wiping the beads of sweat off his face with his sleeve, cursing his inability to stay cool under pressure. This was surely the greatest pressure he would ever know.
Brian gripped his hands tightly beside his body, the door knob turned. The door opened.
There she stood, it was Sarah. Brian noticed that she had aged, beautifully he thought, but what stood out more was the harrowed hollows that were her eyes. The eyes that used to be filled with sunshine and hope.
She stared at him for a moment from behind a screen door, tilting her head as she scanned his face. She stared into his eyes with recognition.
Brian didn’t know what he ought to do. Should he just burst out with the entire story. Should he tell her, right there on the front verandah, that he loved her. That he had always loved her. Should he explain why he was in front of her now, that he had been fired less than a week ago, that he had flown over seas just to find her?
It all seemed like too much. So he just stared back at her. He drank her in, determined to notice her every feature. Adjusting the mental portrait that he had treasured everyday since he had last seen her.
Finally Brian thought he had better say something, he wanted so much to be close to her, to hold her hand, or maybe just shake it in greeting. Anything. The screen door created more distance than Brian could bear.
Sarah pushed open the screen and stepped towards him. Brian could feel his body grow warm, a smile spread across his face.
“Brian,” Sarah lifted her hand slowly to, tentatively, cup Brian’s cheek. “I thought you’d never get here.”
Brian pulled Sarah into his arms and held her close to him. Deeply breathing in the scent of her shampoo as he buried his face in her hair.
He had imagined this moment thousands of times. The reality couldn’t have been better.
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