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Better to forget

26 minute read

Things never happen for a reason to Susie; she always blames it on chance and afterwards tries to give it some kind of meaning. She was sitting in the hectic airport, retreating to the comfort of her romantic novels, when a man touched her shoulder. 


               ‘Susie Bennet?’ he asked. Her complexion was pale at the sight of a man she mistook for a ghost. ‘It’s me, remember? Troy?’ He stood tall, wearing a pair of black striped trousers with an untucked, chequered blue shirt. She gawked and shook her head, speechless, unsure if he was real or some form of phantasm sent to haunt her. She put her book down and tugged her wavy brunette hair back. ‘We dated back in senior year?’ he continued.


                Words finally escaped her mouth as her eyes watered up. ‘How can I forget?’ She hugged him, and he placed his hands on her tense shoulders. The room was coldly silent and empty. ‘I just thought,’ – she held him tight, restraining the urge to break into tears – ‘I mean, after what happened, we all thought you….’ She fell silent for a moment; his hands on her shoulders wrapped around her into his chest, embracing her dearly.


                ‘Don’t mention what happened, Susie,’ he whispered with her hair under his chin- ‘It’s been a crazy ride to recovery.’ He sealed his eyes and held her. After what felt like a long while, he gently pushed her back. Her hair appeared stuck to her cold, pale face. ‘Hey, come on – I’m walking, talking again… perhaps too much,’ he joked.


                Susie took a tissue from her handbag. Trembling, she dropped her handbag unexpectedly. Troy caught it falling and put her bag back on the chair beside her. Both of them looked at each other. They had so much to say, but at that moment, standing face to face, they both remained wordless.


                ‘It’s great to see you, Susie,’ Troy finally said. He pointed to the other side of the airport lounge. ‘I saw you from across the way. Are you travelling to New York too?’


                ‘Yeh – yeah… I live there; I was just in Dallas to visit my mom.’ She shrugged as she dried her cheek. Anticipating his next question, as she always used to, she told him: ‘She’s the same old, same old, y’know?’


                ‘Ah yes, Mrs Bennet,’ he said with a short laugh. ‘Do you remember when she at me in the park when we were kids for pushing you over? I was terrified.’ A shadow crept across his brow, blinking forcibly. ‘Funny thing, memory.’


                Slightly troubled by his comment, Susie changed the subject. ‘What – uh, what are you doing in New York?’


                ‘Believe it or not, I’m a motivational speaker now,’ he said, snapping out of his daze. ‘Are you free tomorrow? I have a seminar tomorrow; I’d love it if you were there.’ Her cheeks blushed and confirmed with a slow nod. Seeing her silver eyes ripple, he smiled and put his thumb up. ‘Hey, our flight is in a couple of hours; rather than killing time, do you wanna go, get a bagel and a coffee?’ She packed her romantic novel and picked up her hand luggage without a word. ‘Ladies first.’ Troy gestured towards the coffee shop next to the lounge entrance. Of all the chances and possibilities in the world, Susie thought, walking past him, doesn’t he honestly remember what happened?




Fifteen years ago, the world was a different place. No smartphones, no social networks. Even the internet was in its infancy, used only by computer programmers and technicians.


                The breezy Dallas hills glimmered under a cloudless blue sky. A quick change from spring to summer seemed magical in Aston Park. Vast and distant from the city, with lush green grass, and tall, dark trees, the park breathed under a bright, warming sun.


                A graceful gust of wind blew a young Susie Bennet’s wavy dark hair around her face. The eighteen-year-old girl sat quietly on a bench at the top of a small hill. She captured and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She wore her orange sweater, tight trousers, and favourite walking boots as she basked in the sunshine.


                Her sight levelled on the horizon, observing the city blocks surrounding the park. Her gut tightened. A dreaded feeling stole her smile from her face. Troy was offered a scholarship in San Diego for Athletics. She knew he was going to leave Dallas and move away. Susie recalled a conversation she had with him the night before. He mentioned he had something important to tell her.


                Butterflies tossed and wrenched in Susie’s gut. Her hands sweated with her fists clenched. Quietly she prayed it was him telling her he would stay in Dallas; they would be together forever. She dreamt about them both settling down in Aston, Dallas, having children together and how she would work in the local elementary school. Susie wanted to be near her family and friends and always believed she would be blissfully happy.


                But what about Troy? she thought, biting her lower lip. What would he do in Aston? He was a great athlete and received a scholarship from the best college in the country; it could probably lead him to the Olympics. She believed he could get a gold medal and be the next American role model.

                Suddenly the fear of him leaving turned into the dread of him staying. He could work in Daddy’s company? she thought quietly. He sells Xerox machines; Troy could be a renowned salesman or technician, which is also a great profession. She stood up, tying her hair with an elastic collet, and sat back down anxiously.


                The smell of freshly cut grass rushed through her nose; she breathed deeply again to calm her nerves. ‘But it’s no Olympic Gold medal,’ she said aloud. Closing her eyes, her teeth dug deeper into her lower lip again. Her head hurt as she tried to shake these thoughts out of her head, going back to being excited.


                Troy arrived at the bottom of the hill wearing baggy blue jeans, his lucky sneakers, and his green t-shirt flung loose in the wind. ‘Susie,’ he called, hiding a rose at his side. Susie pushed herself off the bench and couldn’t wait to hold him. She raced down the hill, dispelling her fears instantaneously.


                He spread his arms out wide to receive her charging down towards him. She reduced her pace and leapt upon him, squeezing him tightly. Troy dropped the rose as he laughed playfully.


                They had been together for over three years and had their share of good times and hardships, but after the passing of Troy’s mother, his father fell into a heavy depression. Troy was lost, but with Susie’s help, he excelled in his studies, especially athletics. He was always grateful to her; she was his north when his world crumbled.


                Susie placed her feet back on the ground and stared at him with starry eyes. Her face full glowed with an innocent joy which radiated from her cheeks. Troy couldn’t stop smiling, beholding her beauty. ‘Hi sweetheart… do you remember what we talked about last night?’ he asked.


                ‘Yes!’ she said excitingly. At that exact moment, however, she couldn’t remember what he was precisely talking about.


                ‘You know… I really, really love you?’ he said with an enormous grin. He couldn’t help kissing her after those words, unleashing a rush of passion and making their hearts pound ecstatically. He stepped back, and she stood entranced as he knelt to pick up his dropped rose and hand it to her. She took the flower and breathed in the sweet aroma. He didn’t stand up and remained on one knee as he presented her with an engagement ring. ‘Would you do me the honour of being my wife?’

                Susie’s heart exploded, and her body froze. The electricity of happiness flooded her body. She was paralysed, and tears of joy rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t speak, although she was trying to say ‘yes’, her voice had vanished entirely. She moved her lips, but words got lost in the excitement. ‘I can’t,’ she finally said.




Susie and Troy sat in the airport café. It had been newly varnished with wooden tables, classy leather chairs, and typical cafe accessories hanging on the brick-adorned wall. Susie thanked the waiter for bringing them their coffee and looked back to Troy, who continued to tell her about his father. She took her cup and added a sweetener to her cortado coffee. Although she was delighted to see him again, she was very careful not to mention what had happened.

                Troy took a sip from his hot expresso. ‘Do you remember our last talk before the accident?’ she daringly asked.


                ‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t remember anything from the actual day.’ He burned his tongue and put his cup down. ‘It’s just a black spot in my memory, Susie. I went to hypnosis, everything but… it just seems to be completely erased.’


                ‘I suppose it’s for the best,’ added Susie, stirring her coffee. ‘Nobody was ever the same after what happened to you.’ She took a sip and bit the heat.


                ‘Do you still see anyone from school?’ Troy asked.


                ‘Sometimes,’ she mumbled, bouncing her head from left to right. ‘We all moved on, Troy; after what happened, everyone just… moved on.’


                ‘That’s life, I suppose.’ he said, picking up his espresso. ‘What about you, though, Susie? What are you doing these days?’ He blew his hot beverage to cool it down a little.


                ‘Don’t try to change the subject Troy… you were always good at that.’


                ‘And you were always good at being vague, Ms Bennet.’


                ‘That’s Mrs Anderson to you,’ she responded with a sly smile.


                ‘So, you got married?’ he continued with raised eyebrows. ‘Who’s the lucky man?’


                Susie looked down. ‘We’re getting a divorce,’ – she huffed, looking back at him. – ‘Things didn’t quite work out.’


                ‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ he said rather morbidly to show a little sympathy. ‘There’s not much to hear; he was a great guy, but he just wasn’t,’ – she paused. For a brief moment, an image of a younger Troy appeared, sitting opposite her.


                She didn’t want to continue telling him, a man she hadn’t seen for fifteen years, that he was still the love of her life. That every man she had been with since his disappearance was nothing compared to him; although Susie believed she had gotten over Troy, he was always on her mind, and she lived a life of regret after what happened. ‘Never mind.’ She took another sip.


                ‘Well…’ breaking the awkward silence. Troy coughed. ‘Are you going to come to my seminar tomorrow? I’ll get you a special pass.’


                Feeling awkward suddenly, the joy of seeing him had faded, and her body had become shaky. He did say that he didn’t remember anything, she thought, calming her guilty conscience. ‘Absolutely,’ she answered. ‘I’ll be there. Less enthusiastic yet still excited to see Troy on stage, presenting to a crowd.


                For the following couple of hours before their flight, they shared company in the café. They talked of many memories of their youth and told each other stories of what they had been doing over the years. Troy was interested to know about everyone from Aston, where they had all gone. On the other hand, Susie always tried to steer the conversation away from the day of the accident, talking about his more recent years.


                Troy’s flight was scheduled to leave before Susie’s. He walked with her to the terminal of her flight and wished her a safe journey. Susie invited him to her favourite restaurant in Little Italy called El Chico Benito that evening. ‘It’s a date, Ms Ben… Sorry, Mrs Anderson.’


                ‘Oh, Troy.’ Her cheeks flustered. ‘Please just call me Susie.’ He kissed her on the cheek, and she froze. He swallowed uneasily and apologised, but she told him not to be. He rushed off to catch his flight; Susie stood still, placing her hand on her cheek. The feeling of his lips on her once more was like lightning, paralysing her body with a static warmth.



Troy chuckled lightly, sitting opposite Susie in the dimly lit El Chico Benito restaurant. ‘Are you serious he told Mrs Persal that?’ She nodded and took the final sip of her wine. ‘Lee was always a joker.’


                Susie brushed her hand across her neck; a shine from her necklace bedazzled Troy, who stopped laughing. Her green dress revealed her slender white shoulders, and Troy’s pulse raced, realising how much she had changed. From the young, innocent schoolgirl he recalled, she had become a woman of perpetual beauty.


                Susie knew he was looking and gazed out the window at the rain. She hated the rain, especially since that day she lost Troy. It felt ironic that fifteen years later, they would come together on a day when the rain beat as furious as it did that day. Headlights from a passing car crossed her sight; she quickly turned away.

                ‘What’s the matter, Susie?’ Troy asked.


                She pulled her napkin to her eye. ‘Excuse me.’ Troy sat confused, watching her race off to the restroom.


                Does he really not remember? She entered the lady’s room and saw herself in the large mirror hanging over the sinks. Her dress tightened around her waist; she stretched the emerald fabric as focused on her running mascara, then sniffed to retain the tears welled in her eyes. ‘What am I doing?’ she asked herself. He knows what happened… I mean, he must remember, it is a day I’ll never forget. She gulped and looked up at the well-decorated ceiling, squeezing her eyes shut.


                She turned to the mirror, fixed her mascara, and ran her fingers through her hair before tying it back. It doesn’t matter, she thought again, brushing off her emotions. She left the restroom and strolled back to the dimly lit dinner table.


                Troy asked if she felt fine, watching her pull her chair out and sit down. ‘It’s nothing,’ she told him. ‘It’s pretty late. Can we go?’

                ‘Sure.’ Troy replied, gesturing to the waiter to ask for the bill. One waiter brought the receipt in a leather binder; another passed Susie her coat. Troy asked her again: ‘What’s the matter?’ She put on her heavy brown jacket and walked to the restaurant entrance.


                Troy paid the waiter with his credit card and spoke to him in Italian. He put on his heavy raincoat; the waiter gave him his umbrella. Susie walked outside in the rain. ‘What are you doing?’ he said, putting up his umbrella.


                ‘I can’t do this, Troy.’ Troy saw her eyes welling in tears. She repeated herself and fell onto his chest under his umbrella.

                ‘Then… don’t,’ he told her. Susie’s eyes widened, pressed against his chest, creeping up to catch his dark eyes and seeing his face unleashed an explosion deep inside her chest. Their lips met in unison; despite the cool rain which poured around them.




The view of the city from the twenty-second floor of Troy’s hotel suite was spectacular. The New York City skyline looked so immense that the Empire State Building and other buildings stood like tall trees in the concrete jungle. Susie woke in the early morning hours to see Troy sleeping, lying next to her, facing towards the window.


                Holding the silk sheets over her body, Susie paused, scanning across the undressed Troy, exposed under the low stream of light beaming from outside; she saw his thick scars along his thigh and hip. Her fingers reached out and gently touched them. A metal bar under his skin felt sturdy and cold. He snored abruptly but didn’t wake to her curious caress. Susie looked away and put her head in her palm. She couldn’t help but pity him under her breath.


                Her legs slipped away from under the sheets. In the dark, she rose, letting the moonlight from the large window engulf her smooth naked body. If only he knew, she thought again and walked to the window.

                Red lights blinked from other rooftops. The rain had cleared, revealing the star-studded sky and the half-crested moon beaming down on the city. Her bare hands touched the glass. The window cooled her heated hands as a tear rolled down her eye; it flowed down from her cheek along her entire body to her left foot.


                Maybe this is God’s way of giving me – giving us a second chance! she thought. Her ears pricked up; she looked back to see Troy getting out of bed and walking towards her. She dried her eye, and he walked towards her silhouetted figure. They both stood naked in the moonlight as two shadows in silence before they embraced to become one.


                Susie couldn’t stop repeating in her head, however. Things could have been so different.




Troy remained on his knee and didn’t hear what she said. He continued smiling, waiting for the response he wanted to hear. ‘Will you marry me?’ he repeated a little louder.


                Rattled, Susie was aware of what she said and couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get the word ‘yes’ out of her mouth. Her heart screamed at the top of her soul’s desire, but something stopped her.


                The brisk summer breeze had become motionless over Aston Park. Her imagination took over; she saw them living in a perfect little house with a big garden in the suburbs, children running around, holding hands and looking at their ideal world. A new image of Troy came to Susie’s mind. He looked happy, yet Susie knew that he had the potential to be great but would have settled for a life with her rather than reaching for greatness.


                Susie told herself he could be a great athlete, looking at her boyfriend on one knee. She thought if they got married, he would never be the man he could be. Her throat tightened, thinking: Only the man I wanted him to be.


                A flock of birds flew above her, cawing before she told Troy once more. ‘I can’t.’


                Silence followed. Only the sound of the spring breeze over the hills, the trees blowing from side to side, reminded them that this was real. Troy’s eyes gradually darkened. The glimmering stars in them became hollow like a sink drained of water. His cheeks flushed red with embarrassment.

                She knelt on the floor in front of him. ‘It’s not what you think,’ she started, but Troy was trapped in a shock-like trauma. Her mouth moved, but her words became muffled, like being spoken to him by someone underwater.


                The beautiful sunny day turned dark, the sun hid behind a cloud, and a cold wind sucked the air from their lungs. ‘I can’t.’ He heard her say one last time before his throat dried up.


                Troy launched up from kneeling and pulled himself away. He stood in a defensive stance without hearing Susie’s explanation. She couldn’t make a coherent sentence either, saying over and over again: ‘You are here for greater things; you will be someone important.’


                His knees wobbled, and he balanced with his arms in mid-air. His head spun, and his insides tensed, painfully tightening around his heart and stomach. Troy closed the box of the engagement ring and held it firmly. Running to his car, Troy thought of his mother, her untimely death, his father’s depression and alcoholism, and how everyone had disappointed him or made him feel worthless.


                His skin turned pale, and his face stretched with dark bags forming under his eyes. The only person who hadn’t let me down, he thought, was Susie. ‘Well… you now join the long list of failures and disappointments in my life!’ he dryly reminded himself. He looked at his withered, shaking hands to see the rose still attached to his grasp, then threw it onto the floor. He ripped the car key from his pocket, unlocked the door, and sealed himself in.


                He recognised he was crying as his vision blurred and sat behind the wheel. He didn’t feel the tears fall from his eyes. He didn’t feel anything. His body was numb, cold. He stared back at his hands on the steering wheel, vibrating, then shoved the key into the ignition, firing up the engine. The car shared in his rage. Troy ground his teeth, followed by a scream that resonated throughout the vehicle. He refused to wipe his tears in an act of defiance against the injustice he suffered. Holding the gearstick forcefully, he put the clutch into first and second and drove off hastily.

                Susie didn’t try to stop him. She watched him charge away in an uncontrollable temper. The image of his face changing from unconditional love to distress and disappointment had startled but also saddened her. ‘Why couldn’t I just say yes?’ she asked herself.


                The sun vanished behind stormy rain clouds as Troy drove further away from the park, faster and faster. The rain beat down hard on his windscreen. He turned on the wipers squeezing his steering wheel until his hands turned blue. His seat belt began to wrench against his chest, and all his muscles stiffened. Something happened. The car, his so-called pride and joy, disappointed him too.


                The tires lost traction on the wet pavement, and the back wheels spun out of alignment, tossing the rear end into the air. Seconds turned into minutes as the car lifted. Troy’s heart froze. His eyes widened in panic. Suddenly, a lamp post on the curb towered in front of him. He winced, pulling his face back. The car rammed into the lamp post, shattering the windscreen. A barrage of shards mixed with rain droplets flooded into the vehicle. The airbag exploded open, covering Troy’s tear-filled eyes shut.


                Unconscious, trapped, Troy could feel his heart beating in all corners of his body except his legs. He could not see from his left eye, just a red blur of dark shadows. Blue, red flashing lights overwhelmed his hazy vision. A paramedic rushed out of an ambulance outside. How long was I unconscious? Troy thought, realising he couldn’t hear anything except the pounding of his own heart. He listened to a humming which gradually turned into a whistle. The sound grew louder, forcing him to grasp his head in his hands.

                ‘Can…’ a voice came from the flashing lights. Troy focused. ‘….. hear me.’ The misty figure cleared up, revealing the paramedic next to him. ‘Can you hear me?’ he repeated. Troy tried to shake his blood-drenched head. ‘Don’t speak or move; you’ve been in an accident.’ Those were the last words he heard before his brain swelled up and his stunned body shut down.




The morning light sneaked in through the large bedroom window. Susie woke up to the warmth of the sunrays burning her bare lower back. Troy was already up. She opened her eyes to see he was signing the receipt for room service at the front door. He wore running shorts and a T-shirt with the words’ Tokyo Marathon’ on the back. His clothes were all sweaty from his morning workout in the hotel gym. She turned over and pulled the sheet up against her. His face brightened up as he rushed over to kiss her. ‘Good morning.’


                She stretched, whispering, ‘Hey.’ She smiled, feeling the touch of his lips on hers. A flux of energy ran along her body from head to toe. She asked: ‘What time is it?’


                ‘It’s a quarter past seven.’ He took off his shirt and started for the shower before Susie rose out of bed and quickly held him in her arms, her warm body cooled to his sweaty physique. She kissed his chest softly, creeping up to his face where he passionately kissed her and slipped off his shorts. The two were infatuated with each other and made love once more.


                Troy couldn’t stop capturing the look in her eye, revealing a deep attraction from her that he desired and longed for. Susie, too, was unable to control her emotions for him. Her guilty conscience briefly played on her mind as he lay beside her. However, she forgot everything in the moment of lust and passion.

                Afterwards, they both showered together and continued to joke playfully with one another. Susie finished rinsing herself and stepped out while Troy finished showering. She picked up a towel, folded it opposite the sink, and gave another to Troy, turning off the shower. They both put on a courtesy dressing gown she found hanging in the bedroom closet.


                Still drying off, they went to a small dining table next to the window where the breakfast was brought in earlier. Troy pulled open the chair and offered her to sit down. Her silver-brown eyes thanked him. ‘I can’t believe I got to see you again,’ Troy said, sitting beside her. She served him a tall glass of orange juice. ‘It’s a shame we’ve never managed to meet up all these years.’


                Susie’s eyes remained fixed on a toast she was spreading butter on. ‘I wanted to, but,’ – She glimpsed his curious expression before looking back down. His head tilted like a curious cat, waited for her to answer. – ‘Your Dad… he wouldn’t let anyone come, see you… when they moved you to the other hospital, he sold the house; nobody knew where you went.’

                ‘My Dad… He sacrificed a lot for me, y’know? … he sold everything. Do you know he had to work five jobs to get the money to pay my hospital fees when I was in a coma… five jobs! That’s insane.’ His stomach rumbled, and he took a yoghurt from the breakfast tray. ‘He changed so much, Susie. Even when the doctors told him I was better off dead after three years… he still believed in me, and I pulled through. What a man!’


                Troy wiped a watery eye. Susie stood up to comfort him. She wrapped her arms across his chest and held him. Three years! Susie thought. Was it that long? She didn’t ask how long he was in a coma nor understand why Troy’s Dad insisted on nobody visiting him. The last time I saw him was shortly after the accident in his run-down house. He was distraught and had Troy not survived... She hugged Troy tightly; his father may not have.


                We all cope with tragedy differently, Susie thought, some seek solace, whilst others seek solitude.


                ‘I have to tell you something, Susie,’ Troy said. She stood up slowly with her arms still across his chest.


                ‘What is it?’ she asked with a slight tremble. She released him and slid back in her seat next to him.

                ‘My father sold everything… except one thing.’ he took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and smiled again. ‘It was a wedding ring. It was on me during the accident. The paramedic who attended me gave it to him… I believe I was on my way to meet you, ask you to marry me that day.’ Susie looked at the sincerity in his bright oak-like eyes. She could see he genuinely did not remember what had happened.


               She held his hand on the table and opened her mouth. ‘Troy, that day you pur…’ –

               ‘I have done countless hours of therapy, Susie,’ he interrupted; she closed her mouth and nodded. ‘I tried to remember my past, but that day… it just won’t come back to me for some reason. Nothing. In the end, I have concluded that whatever happened, happened, you can’t change the past.’ She hesitated, squeezed his hand, and released it with a coy look on her face.


                He’s right, she thought; telling him what happened would only break his heart again. ‘It’s true.’ she agreed and turned to the window. The hazy morning smog over the city hid the incredible view she beheld at night. Troy walked over to her and gently raised her chin towards him.


                He kissed her again and gazed intently into her eyes. ‘I’m sorry for any pain I may have caused you.’ Susie opened her mouth briefly. Once again, she wanted to tell him what had happened but bit her tongue. ‘Eat up!’ she uttered. ‘You have a busy day ahead of you.’




‘What would you do?’ the words of Troy startled Susie as she snapped out of her daze. The seminar was in an old, restored theatre with dozens of leather seats without armrests. The walls had old-fashioned lights facing upwards, softly brightening the reddish-orange rustic walls. Long crimson curtains hung alongside the elevated stage with a large white screen behind it.


                Spotlights lit the dim hall and shone on Troy, presenting for more than an hour to hundreds of people. He had been showing his life-changing experience that inspired hundreds of young professionals to appreciate their lives and not look for excuses for their shortcomings.


                What would I do? she thought. What should I do? The words echoed in Susie’s mind. She was so proud of Troy and how he had recovered from his ordeal. He talked about climbing to the Base camp at Everest, running triathlons, and finishing an Iron Man race. It was incredible how much he had done.


                Susie always knew, deep down, he could do anything. She remembered how she felt on that fateful day, how she could have held him back had she said ‘yes’ as they both wanted. ‘… all that we know is…’ Susie paid attention to Troy. What he told filled her mind: ‘… something else exists beyond our control, beyond our understanding, believe it or not, people, it guides us against our will, we are flowing with the choices of a wise omnipotent presence…’ – the crowd fidgeted unsoundly. – ‘Call it God, destiny or coincidence. It’s something that has its plan for each, every one of us. We just have to have faith that everyone has to happen for a reason.’


                Troy looked at Susie and winked. Her entire body tingled as she blushed bashfully and couldn’t stop smiling, reminding herself how lucky she was to reawaken their romance. It’s a shame, she thought. Why does someone suffer so much to appreciate the life we all take for granted?


                A shadow crept across her face as she looked around the packed auditorium. She knew why he drove off in a rage that day, but she never truly understood why she said what she did even when she wanted to say ‘yes’.


                The crowd laughed once more as Troy continued to joke. ‘No, no, no! I’m serious; we’ve all got to face adversity before we can appreciate reward,’ – he paused, briefly staring at Susie. – ‘I, myself, must admit, by pure chance, I met a dear friend yesterday. We have rekindled an old spark which I thought was lost forever.’


                He turned back to the crowd with his hands open. ‘I am so happy and… for a long time, feel more complete than ever. It was a wonderful… no, a miraculous reunion.’ He saw Susie blushing, and some people nearby grinned as they knew he was talking about her. ‘She takes me back to a version of myself in a different time, yet… I feel like a new man. It’s a strange feeling... a feeling I can only hope is true love.’


                Susie knew she loved him wholeheartedly even though the shadow of the past hung over her; the light of the future shone within. ‘Come up here.’ He gestured to her to join him, and she stood up nervously. Troy looked around at everyone. ‘I’d like you all to meet Susie Ben.. sorry, Anderson.’


                There was a round of applause; Susie slowly walked past the security guards, who let her get onto the stage. ‘Now… You may all think I’m crazy; I haven’t seen this woman for fifteen years; I see her one day the next, and I’m shouting out how wonderful and happy I feel.’ Laughter and a cheer broke out from the audience.


                ‘Hey Susie.’ he said to her, offering her his hand and covering the headset microphone with the other. ‘Are you ok? I hope I’m not embarrassing you, am I?’


                ‘Only like… a lot,’ she softly giggled. He received her hand and pulled her close. The energy of their reignited romance radiated across the stage like a burning bonfire as the crowd cheered. Troy kissed her softly and held her hand, stepping back gently.


                They both looked and saw each other as young teenagers again. The stage, the audience, the spotlights, everything was stripped away, and they were back in Aston Park on that fateful day.


                Seeing the young Susie in his hand, Troy dropped to one knee, re-enacting the same scene as he had done fifteen years earlier. Susie also saw him as he did back on that day and felt a shudder of dread run down her spine. She feared she might answer the same way as before, but something was different. She was different.


                ‘Would you do me the honour of being my wife?’ Her heart exploded again; she couldn’t feel herself; it was like being in a dream. Susie couldn’t believe this was happening again. A new bolt of electricity passed through her, and she was paralysed. She moved her lips, but as she did, she saw something in Troy’s eyes. They lost their shine. Troy squinted momentarily, wrinkling his brow.


                A sense of déjà vu came over his face. He remembered, and everything returned to him in a fraction of a second. The missing piece of the jigsaw he had sought for many years finally fell into place. He looked down at the ground, troubled; an imaginary breeze blew his face upward to her. Susie saw it in his eyes.


                Her hand in his sweat became slippery, but he held it steady. The fear of him getting angry and rejecting her came to mind. Her former fears, too, fear of denying Troy’s dreams, becoming a husband bound to a world of mediocrity, and not fulfilling his potential, came back to her. She loved him so much that she feared she would never be the woman he deserved. Not this time, she heard her inner voice saying. The hell with fear and insecurities!


                The moment felt like a lifetime; he gazed at her with wooden eyes. He nodded and said, mouthed: ‘I love you.’ He took the same wedding ring from his pocket and presented it to her again.


                She bit her lip and answered: ‘Yes, a thousand times.’ The image of Aston Park in their minds dropped, and the stage they stood on returned. The audience applauded, with Troy standing up to kiss her. He placed the ring on Susie’s finger, and it fit perfectly.


               The diamond ring sparkled on the stage as the spotlight shone on them. Susie felt a huge weight lift from her shoulders and started crying. She was freed from regret, freed from guilt, and, most importantly, freed from fear. ‘I love you.’ she told him, and he held her in his arms.


                He covered the microphone. ‘I remember, Susie.’ he said.


                ‘I know.’ she replied. She did not worry. She wasn’t afraid. She was happy.


                He was delighted that he could finally fill in a very important piece of his memory which had been missing since that day when fear won. ‘I love you, and I always will.’ Troy told her. His words echoed throughout the hall.


               After applause and cheers, Troy kissed her again and asked her to sit in the front row. ‘Thank you, everyone.’ he continued. ‘I must tell you all something.’ he began, chuckling. ‘In this moment… I have become more fulfilled than I could possibly imagine! Not only have I revived the love of my life, but I’ve also remembered something… something which would have destroyed me. But, I remembered in a moment what made me stronger,’ – Susie shone in the audience and couldn’t stop smiling. – ‘And made my struggle worthwhile.’


                The audience fell silent, agreeing with his plight, seeing the man on stage come to terms with his past. ‘All my life, I’ve asked why? Why things happen… only to learn later that it had to happen. There are no accidents; we are all part of the waltz of life, and just because we miss a step a two, it doesn’t mean we should stop dancing.’

                The audience agreed as he finished the seminar and walked off the stage towards Susie on the first row. She applauded with the congratulating group around her. Susie never believed that everything happened for a reason, but that afternoon, she made her peace with destiny and took a chance.



The End

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