I sat in the cafe with a coworker eating lunch on Friday. It was 12:49 PM when my phone rang. I glanced down at the screen, then blinked hard to make sure it was real. It was a number that had been in my phone for over twenty years, but it had never called. I stood up and walked outside with no explanation and my heart in my throat.
“Hello?” I said, knowing that this call would change everything, and fearing the worst.
“Hey Sophie, it’s me, Kevin. Can you talk? I’ll understand if this is a bad time.”
“There is never a bad time to talk to you. I always love talking to you,” I said, trying to hold back my emotions.
“This is going to sound lame as hell, but I found a letter you wrote to me and I just had to call. I feel terrible that I never answered it.”
“God, that was like ten years ago,” I said. “I always wondered if you got it.”
“I did, and I wanted to answer. I kept putting it off, and well, now it’s been ten years. The last few weeks you have been on my mind and then today I found the letter and I couldn’t stop myself from calling.”
“I’m glad you called. I think about you all the time,” I said.
“Of course I do,” I said.
“Look, I’m really sorry I didn’t answer before. When I read your letter today, I could hear the sadness in it that I didn’t notice ten years ago. I was hoping not to hear sadness in your voice today, but I do and I’m so sorry that I didn’t reach out back then.”
“But you did now and that means more to me then you will ever know.”
“It’s not enough, not for you. If I could go back in time I would call as soon as I got it.”
“If I could go back in time, I would go back to the night I met you and do it all again but better this time.”
He took in a breath and sighed. “I don’t know what to say to that. I never expected you to say something like that to me.”
“Why not? I have kept so much inside for the last twenty-five years and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to wonder how you feel about me, I want to know. Even if it hurts, I want to know.”
“Hey, we’ve got to go! I paid for your lunch,” Tina said, scowling at me.
“I have to go back to work,” I said.
“I heard,” he answered. “Can I call you tonight?”
“I’ll be waiting,” I said.
“Good, talk to you then,” he said.
I took a deep breath and got in the car.
“Here’s the rest of your lunch. I had them put it in a doggie bag,” Tina said. “I hope that call was important. You didn’t order the special and your lunch was way more than mine.”
I grabbed a twenty-dollar bill out of my wallet and tossed it in her lap. “Is that enough?’ I asked, knowing that my lunch was less than half that much.
“Yeah, that’s enough,” she said.
I faced the window the rest of the way to the office.
The afternoon drug on endlessly. At 4:45, Lindsay stuck her head in my office and said, “Are you going for drinks with us?”
“No, not this time,” I said.
“Please? I don’t want to go with them by myself. You are the fun one.”
“I wouldn’t be fun tonight and I’m expecting a call. Maybe next week,” I said.
“It must be important. I hope everything is OK?”
“I think it is, for the first time in a long time maybe,” I said.
“If you need someone to talk to, I’m here,” she said.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said. ‘Nosey much?’ I thought.
When five o’clock finally came, all my stuff was already packed up. I clocked out and slipped out the side door and somehow managed to avoid everyone. I hoped that was a good sign.
I went home and changed into sweats and a t-shirt, then I looked at myself in the mirror. “No,” I said out loud. “I’m going to dress like he will be able to see me.”
I found my favorite dress, it was blue with a tropical flower print all over it. I put my hair up in a cute bun and then I slipped a pair of pumps. When I looked in the mirror again, I smiled.
I opened the refrigerator but closed it again almost immediately. There would be no dinner tonight. ‘Maybe a margarita? Just one,’ I thought.
After making the drink, a double. I took my phone outside and sat in the swing and waited. He didn’t call until 7 PM and I did have another drink.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I said.
There was an uncomfortable silence that went on for several minutes.
“It’s your turn to talk,” I said.
“I know. And I know what I want to say, but once I say it…..” he said.
“You can’t unsay it, I know. I’ll go first. Kevin, that night in the parking lot of the Gulf station when you got out of your truck it was like being struck by lightning. It was surreal like something out of a movie. INXS was playing on your radio, Never Tear Us Apart. In that moment I knew I loved you and I wish with every cell in my body that I had lived up to that moment for you, for us. But I didn’t and I’m so sorry. I never told you this before because I was afraid of losing you, but I did anyway. So today I’m telling you, late for sure, but hopefully not too late.”
“You felt it too? I wanted to throw you in my truck and drive as far away as we could get and start a new life and I didn’t even know your name yet. I thought if I told you that, you would think I was crazy. So I didn’t,” he said.
“Instead, you said, ‘You are a good girl and I’m a bastard. We are just friends, got it?’. And I nodded my head and agreed when all I really wanted to do was kiss you.”
“I wanted to kiss you too,” he said.
“God, we were stupid,” I said.
“That’s an understatement. I feel like I have wasted every day since then not spending it with you.”
“Me too,” I said.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“Home,” I said.
“Where is that?”
“Oh, sorry. Dallas,” I said.
“I’m still in Pascagoula,” he said.
We were both silent for a long time.
“If I came home, would you like that?” I said, hesitantly.
“I would love for you to come home. I have an extra room, we could take some time and figure it out, if you wanted to.”
‘Could I really pack up and leave? Quit my job and go? What was really holding me here? Not a damn thing,’ I thought.
“I’ll start packing this weekend and put in my notice on Monday,” I said. “If you really mean it.”
“I really mean it! I can’t believe this is real,” he said. “The next two weeks are going to be so long. Do you want me to come and help you?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I need to sort through all this stuff and figure out what to take and what to get rid of. I have wanted to come home for so long and didn’t even let myself feel it. I don’t know why I stayed here after my divorce. There’s nothing here.”
“Well, you decide. If you want me to come I will. I can’t wait for you to get here,” he said. “I’ll clean out that room this weekend. What’s your favorite color? I’ll paint the room for you,” he said.
“Plum,” I said.
“Plum it is,” he said.
“I hope I don’t wake up and this has all been a dream. If it’s a dream, I hope I never wake up,” I said.
“It’s not a dream, it’s real. I promise,” he said.
We talked until the sun was coming up. We filled in all the missing years and shared our hopes for the ones ahead.
As we reluctantly hung up, he asked, “Can I call you tonight?”
“I would be sad if you didn’t,” I said. “But I need to start sorting and packing. I need to call and get a truck to bring my stuff to your house. I can’t wait to come home.”
“I can’t wait for you to get here,” he said.
I didn’t have much. I left most of what I had in the house I shared with my ex. What I did have was mostly from thrift shops and yard sales. I would sell most of it instead of moving it. The list of what I was taking was short. Other than my clothes, I was taking the iron bed I had found at an antique shop, my antique clock, my desk, my rocking chair, and my camping equipment. The rest would go in a yard sale next weekend and whatever was left would go to GoodWill.
I turned in my notice first thing Monday morning and cleaned out my desk of everything personal, which wasn’t much. Then I added the things I was selling to the local yard sale group Facebook page. At lunch, I was assaulted with questions which I answered as vaguely as possible. This made me ridiculously happy for some reason, ‘Maybe sharing every detail of your life on social media is overrated,’ I thought.
By Wednesday, all my furniture was sold and a big chunk of the other stuff too. I gave all my kitchen stuff to a guy who was getting divorced and had nothing. That meant I could cancel the yard sale and concentrate on packing.
Kevin and I talked multiple times every day. I never thought I would feel this way ever. I thought I had missed my chance to be in love. I hadn’t realized how unhappy I had been until I wasn’t anymore. All my friends and coworkers saw the change, but they had no idea what caused it and I wasn’t telling.
By the next Monday, everything was packed except for the things I used every day. My car was packed with things I was taking with me. Every day I felt more strongly that I was doing the right thing and I couldn’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life.
The truck was coming on Thursday morning. I was planning to call in ‘sick’ for Thursday and Friday. It would take the truck two days to get to Pascagoula, they were only allowed to drive for eight hours. I was leaving soon after the truck. I would be there Thursday night.
Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to last forever, I couldn’t believe how much my life had changed in just a little over a week. I had been working at a soul-crushing job, with no hope for anything better to come along, now the whole world seemed to have opened up and anything seemed possible.
I woke up Thursday morning and I felt more alive than I ever had before. I ran to the corner to grab some breakfast, took a shower and packed everything that wasn’t packed already. Then I waited for the truck. They were supposed to be there at 8:30, they were early. It only took them thirty minutes to load the truck. I signed the paperwork and they were off.
I walked through my tiny apartment one last time, laid my keys on the counter and walked out the door to begin my new life.
It was a ten-hour drive. I talked to Kevin almost all the way. When I was two hours out, he said he had things to do to get ready for me and he wanted me to be able to concentrate on driving as I got closer. When I rolled into the city limits, I felt a peace wash over me that I hadn’t felt in such a long time. I was home, where I should have stayed. I passed landmarks that brought back so many memories, mostly of Kevin.
Those last two miles seemed to take forever, but finally, I turned down his road and into his driveway. My hands were sweating and I had butterflies in my stomach. ‘Oh my God,’ I thought. ‘I haven’t seen him in ten years, what if he hates how I’ve changed?’
I took a deep breath and got out of the car. The back door was standing open and I walked into his kitchen, I didn’t see him anywhere. ‘He changed his mind when he saw me get out of the car,’ I thought. I turned to flee. Then I thought, ‘What if I caught him in the bathroom or something?’
I was standing in the kitchen facing the living room and hallway as the minutes ticked by, the urge to run growing stronger and stronger, when I felt him move up behind me. I turned around slowly, and there he was. I threw my arms around him and held him as tightly as I could. He did the same.
I’m not sure how long we stood there like that, but at that moment I knew I had finally come home.