Tara left Michelle and Aaron’s house feeling much better. She and Michelle had a glass of wine, but Tara left before her brother got home. She didn’t want to face him. He could see too much most of the time. Tara knew her brother had seen a change in her since Rick left, but he kept it to himself lately.
Except the looks he gave her.
Tara didn’t want to see the looks. She was too on edge already with her birthday only a few days away. She couldn’t handle her brother’s too accurate looks on top of that.
Tara drove around town, not wanting to go home alone. Rick was on her mind more and more as she approached her birthday. Every year she ached for him to return. And every year she was disappointed.
Despite the chill in the air Tara parked in front of the lake. She always visited around her birthday, and many other times during the year, letting herself remember her one night with Rick. It had been her first time, but not his. She appreciated the tenderness he exhibited that night, as if he’d known exactly how much the night would mean for her. She assumed he had, although they never talked about it. Every other experience she’d had since paled in comparison to Rick, but Tara knew the moment he touched her that no one would ever make her feel the same way again.
Tara filled her lungs with a deep breath of the cool air, something else lingering. She glanced around, seeing another car parked nearby, but few people. She shook her head, knowing her imagination was working overtime. He hadn’t been there in years and believing she could smell him was almost as foolish as believing he might ever come back.
She was too old for childhood fantasies. Sure, she’d been the one to tell him to leave, but she never thought he’d actually do it. She was hurt. She said things she didn’t mean. But she saw him kissing someone else within an hour of them sleeping together. There was no way to explain that away.
Not that she let him try.
She knew what she saw. And there was no excuse for it.
Tara couldn’t deny that the years had taken the sting out of his behavior. She’d ached for him to call her and explain. To tell her what really happened. To tell her he’d been thinking of her. Anything.
But it never came.
Tara gave up hope she’d ever see Rick again. It hurt to know she’d never see him, but she told herself it was for the best. She could move on with her life, not that she had yet, but she would.
She let him fill her mind as she walked, wondering what he was doing, where he was, how he was. She wondered if he was married or had kids. She wondered if he was happy. Tara could ask Aaron. They were still in touch, something he worked up the courage periodically to talk to her about. Tara never let him though. She didn’t want to hear how great he was when she was so miserable. She wished him well, but not too well. A big part of her wanted him as miserable without her as she was without him.
When Tara reached her favorite spot she lowered herself into the sand. The beach wasn’t large, but Tara didn’t care. She closed her eyes and breathed deep. The wind blew gently past her, lifting her hair from her neck and sending a chill through her. She smiled into the breeze and finally felt a little peace.