"The Bench"

Posted by Amber Herbert on .

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I meander through Acacia Park after my mid-afternoon shift at Red Lobster, knowing one day I will walk through the abundance of green bushes and trees to see my favorite tree - our tree - being sawed down to the nub by overpaid employees of the state. As I walk along the narrow, crumbling sidewalk, I pass joggers and lovers enjoying their day.

Enviously, I stroll past. I walk alone, the sound of my golden pendant bouncing off my crooked “Seafood September” button, driving me close to insanity.

I slowly approach my favorite bench and take a good look at it before planting my backside on its old, splintered planks.

There are plenty of graffiti marks embroidered upon it, but nothing too profane. There are countless hearts and initials carved into the old wood, a collection of markings that surpass the relationships they once symbolized. I take my seat before I can inspect further, hoping not to feel too sorry for myself in the process. I sling my purse over my right shoulder and start to rummage through it. In a matter of moments, my hand tosses the half-empty Marlboros to the other end of the bag and carefully cradles my smartphone. I pull out my hand and begin to press my five-digit passcode into the keyboard. I rest my hand against the plank beneath my left buttock and search for the carved initials with my index finger as my phone slowly wakes up.

I divert my attention back to the dimly lit screen of my crimson Motorola and scroll through my email. Before I can stop myself, I glide my finger over the email I’ve read half a dozen times today: Connor’s email.

Luna, 

It’s so great to hear from you after almost a decade of silence! If you would be so kind as to meet me on OUR bench, I would be forever in your debt. I would love to catch up and converse with you about everything in person. Meet me in Acacia Park at 2:30 this afternoon. 

Your favorite ex-boyfriend, 

Connor

After receiving that email last night, I knew I had to make an appearance; it’s not every day you are given the opportunity to rewrite something you wish you had never done in the first place. I peer up at the top right corner of my phone and see that it’s 2:25. Connor should be here soon.

I poke my hand into my purse once more and retrieve my cigarettes and a lighter. I light the end of my cancer stick with a quick wave of heat and take a slow, satisfactory inhale. Taking in the scenery around me, I evaluate the trees, the playground, and the littered sidewalk, trying everything in my power to stop myself from glancing at my phone every few seconds. I take another long drag and see a young male walking toward me. I exhale with a loud cough and stamp out the cigarette with a motion so inelegant I could feel my cheeks flush.

Before I can catch my breath, Connor captures my gaze and smiles in anticipation. His dirty blonde hair is cut short, revealing his sea blue eyes I always took for granted. His green t-shirt accentuates his chest, making it impossible not to stare. He opens his soft lips and exclaims, without hesitation, “Aren’t you stunning!”

My heart stutters and I comment before filtering my response. “If I’m stunning, you must be blind. Because you stand before me more charming than ever and here I am in my dirty apron reeking of tobacco.”

Connor lets out a boisterous laugh. “Oh, honey, if anyone can pull those things off, it’s you.”

I smile back at him and gesture toward the left side of the bench. “Please, make yourself at home. After all, we might as well own this bench.” He takes a seat next to me and looks down at the plank between us. He traces over the heart with “C.B. + L.L.” enveloped within it and reaches for my hand. I offer my hand, naturally.

“Luna,” he begins as he methodically rubs the back of my hand with his thumb. “I know that we’ve had our differences and I don’t blame our fallout on you. It was as much my fault as it was yours and I’m sorry for breaking it off so rashly. I realize now that I should have handled the whole situation differently, and for that I am truly sorry.”

I look into his enchanting eyes and know in my heart that what he said is true.

I go over what I want to say in my head before I spill my guts. I inhale quickly and squeeze his hand gently before starting. “Connor, I know that you regret how everything ended, and so do I. I just want you to know that I was the one who pushed you away. Instead of mending the wounds we had, I cut even deeper. I didn’t know how to love you properly back then, but I know that I would be a much better lover now. You being here proves that there’s still love between us and I don’t want to underestimate our feelings for each other.”

Connor soaks in my words before he replies. “I’ve never loved another girl the way I love you. I still love you, but we’re completely different people now. We have grown apart, yet our souls have been entwined for the last decade. If we were to make this work, we would have to start from scratch… like strangers meeting for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I love you more than you’ll ever know, but there’s so much about you that I need to relearn and we both need to be on the same page before we can move forward.” He looks at me quizzically, searching my face for an answer.

I lean in to kiss him. His warm lips meet mine and I am intoxicated. I’ve reminisced over our first kiss more times than I can count, for no one ever pulled me in the way he did. But this kiss, our reunion kiss, trumps even that. I pull away slowly and take in his expression; he bites his lower lip and lets out a contented sigh. “Does that answer your question?” I ask with a grin.

Connor stands up sharply from the bench and offers me his hand. He helps me up from the rickety seat and he looks at me longingly. “Miss Lockhart, would you care to join me for dinner? I believe we have a lot of catching up to do.'”

With a wink and a peck on the cheek, I nod and say, “Mr. Bell, I would be delighted.”

Connor takes my hand and we slowly walk back to the city.

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