The story so far:
At first I couldn’t comprehend what he was asking me. He had to repeat his question three times before it sunk in that he was asking me to take his only daughter with me as I walked my way to New York. I thought about what I had been through and the ways it could have altered if I had a little girl with me. Would it have been worse, more attempts made on me due to the innocence of this child? Would it have been better, more cautious as not to disturb her playful manner? At first I refused, my journey to dangerous for a girl of seven. I wasn’t sure I could keep her safe, but Craig persisted.
“Why?” I finally asked.
“Because I’m headed out of town,” he said. I almost knew instantly what he meant. He was headed towards the asteroid, the middle of the States I was sure no longer existed. He explained to me he had family in Chicago, his mother and two sisters. His father died several years ago and as the only male left he felt it was his responsibility to go find them. He had wanted to leave weeks ago but knew he couldn’t take Sarah with him. He was almost sure he wouldn’t survive and he wanted to give Sarah the chance to live. I was that chance.
The decision wasn’t easy for me and having sensed that he made me a proposition.
“Give me two weeks. Stay with us, get to know Sarah. She’s a remarkable child and I just know you’ll fall in love with her. Please, it’ll give you time to rest up.”
I told him I would think about it. I had till ten the next morning to check out so I gave myself the night to think. I contemplated the idea, someone to talk to, to interact with. She’s only seven, I had to remind myself. She deserves stability, she deserves a home and I wasn’t sure if I could provide one for her. If he didn’t come back, her well being would be in my hands. I would be her parent, her mother. I always knew I wanted to be a mother someday. When Howard proposed, I imagined my life with him full of children and love. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the responsibility the decision involved.
As always my mind drifted to Howard. I could no longer picture his face, his physical features vanished. All I had were the memories and the feelings behind each moment. I took out my engagement ring. I had placed it in a black velvet back to keep it safe. It was the one thing I refused to lose. I hadn’t looked at it since I took it off my finger, but thinking about Sarah and being a mother figure to her made me want to gaze upon it. It was as simple princess cut ring, platinum, single stone. It slid perfectly onto my finger. I went to sleep dreaming about the proposal.
Howard took me to see Romeo and Juliet that day. It was always my favorite Shakespeare play and Howard got tickets to opening day at the theater. He insisted we get dressed up, so he wore his best black suit that fit him perfectly and I wore my little black dress that hugged my curves. We sat fifth row center and when the curtain opened, I was in Verona gazing upon the scene before me. I didn’t even notice him pull out the Tiffany’s Box just as Friar Lawrence was marrying the star crossed lovers. I screamed and all eyes turned around to see him ask me to marry him right there in the middle of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. I don’t think I could have pictured a better proposal.
I checked out of the hotel and as I stood on the sidewalk with Craig’s address in my hands, I pictured Sarah with her curls and big smile skipping around me talking about this cute boy at school. In just one day she made an impression and I wondered what two weeks would do, what 2 months would do and I found myself wanting to spend time with her. Because of her, I had actually stopped in my first town since Arcadia. Because of her, Margaret no longer plagued my thoughts. Instead, I thought of Sarah and thinking of her made me smile.
I approached what seemed like a small cottage: a stoned walkway towards the fenced porch and maroon door. The house looked quaint, unlike a single father with his only daughter. Without hesitation, I knocked on the door.