The sound of gravel crunching under foot startled Alicia. She threw the covers off the bed and slowly, stealthily got to her feet. She mustn't make any noise, she couldn't wake them. Alicia moved the curtains quickly and looked out into the dark night. It was still and calm, no sign of any movement. Alicia inhaled deeply to steady herself. The contradiction of her racing heart and shaking body against the serene and tranquil night was not lost on her.
She glanced at her watch, ten to midnight. She was hot and uncomfortable, she was wearing jeans and a tee shirt under her pajamas. She reached under the bed and pulled out her suede, duffel bag and checked the contents once more. Passport, cash, toiletries, clothing. She pushed the bag back under the bed and went to look outside again. Where was he? He wouldn't let her down now surely, he loved her, she loved him. She was willing to sacrifice everything for him, her family, her reputation, her lifestyle, her whole future.
They had tried to end things, tried to walk away, but they couldn't, they were meant to be together, their love was stronger than anything.
She glanced at her watch again, midnight, he hadn't said what time he was coming, just that he would be there. She had to have faith he would be here.
A bat fluttered by causing her to jump, she was so on edge. What if they were caught? Both their lives would be in danger. She knew as soon as she met Niam that he wouldn't be accepted by her family and that she would be told to give him up. In fact, it was the first thing she said to him when he came over to say hello to her at the college leaving party.
“My parents would have a fit if they knew I was talking to you” she had blurted out.
“Yet you're still here. I`ll take that as a good sign” he smiled. The minute she saw that smile she knew he was the one for her.
They started meeting in secret, the danger, the excitement, living on the edge seemed to make their relationship stronger and it developed much more quickly. No matter how hard she had tried to act normally, her parents had read her like a book, they knew there was something different about her. She was in love and it emulated and radiated out of her very being, changing her outlook and the whole way she saw life.
She peered out of the window again, could she see a moving figure in the darkness? No, it was just her imagination, just her desperation. She checked her watch again 12.17. Why wasn't he here? Had something gone wrong? Had he changed his mind? No he wouldn't have.
She remembered back to when he first told her he loved her and would die for her. He took her hands in his and said
“I can't live without you, I'm totally in love with you. You're everything to me, we have to be together. I would die for you.”
She had felt the exact same way.
“We have to do this, you and me forever”.
They had hugged like it was the last time they would ever see each other, like condemned men on the gallows, scared to let go. They cemented their love for each other that night under the stars. He held her in his arms and stroked her hair.
“I need time to plan but we will be together, a new life in a new country. Trust me, I can make it happen”. She believed that with all her heart then. Did she still believe it now? She had to, there was no one else, nothing else.
Did she hear a car door slam? She looked out of the window once more. Only her father's car was in the driveway, no sign of any other cars, no lights. She listened really carefully, it was very difficult to hear above the sound of her own heartbeat pounding loudly in her chest. She could hear footsteps, definitely. She opened the window as quietly as she could and put her head out, no sound, no footsteps.
She heard voices downstairs, quickly shut the window and got back into bed, pulling the sheets over her head. What were her parents still doing up at this time? She glanced at her watch 1:00 am.
“Is it done?” her mother asked anxiously, twisting her wedding ring around and around, the way she always did when she was nervous. Her father nodded solemnly.
“He's gone” he answered “Forever.”
She exhaled with relief.
“He won't be found?” she asked tentatively.
“No” he answered firmly “It's over, let's never speak of this again. You go to bed and I'll put my clothes in the washing machine”.
She nodded. He saw she was shaking and reached for her hands.
“Listen this was for the best. She will meet somebody else, someone of our choosing, someone who's right for her. She will forget him in time. She couldn't lose her innocence, once her reputation is gone, no one will marry her.”
“I know, I know” she agreed. “It's going to be tough for a little while, but we have her best interests at heart. We've solved the problem”. Pacified she walked slowly up to bed only hovering when she reached her daughter's bedroom. Did she hear sobbing? She wanted to go in and tell her everything was going to be alright but she couldn't face it. Not tonight.
Alicia checked her watch one more time. 2.18. He wasn't coming. The tears streamed down her face, it was difficult trying to cry silently when she wanted to howl, to scream, to sob hysterically, to fill the void within her.
Tonight was it their only chance. He had the tickets booked. Everything was closing in on them, imploding. Her parents were talking about her meeting someone, someone they knew, someone who would be “good” for her. It was all planned, she was waiting like he told her to. He said he'd be here. He had changed his mind, they were too young, he didn't love her enough....
Whatever, the reason was of no consequence. She had lost the love of her life, her own life was ruined, she would never recover from this. Her hand rubbed her slightly rounded, pregnant belly.