Written for the Writer's Cramp Challenge 8/28/19. A 737 word story.
Maureen could hardly contain herself. September, and he, the one and only love of her life would be back. She hugged that knowledge to herself; she just knew that he was coming back for her. Eric had promised and she had held on to that, even when his messages had stopped.
They'd grown up together, living as their families did, quite close, but it was not until they had become teenagers that they had paid each other much notice. Suddenly the annoying boy began to look very different to Maureen's eyes; almost, dare she admit it, attractive.
Still, she did no more than watch from a distance until a school dance threw them, quite literally, into each other's arms.
And that had been that, their first kiss had sealed a pact; one that said 'forever'.
Things had progressed all through school and, on graduation, Eric had presented her with a jewellery box. Two years later and she could still feel the sense of anticipation. It would, she was convinced, contain a ring that would make a declaration of their love public. It hadn't been a ring. Maureen had been pretty sure that she had hidden her disappointment and dismay, as she made appreciative noises about the locket. They would, Eric said, get pictures to put inside it, but somehow they'd never got round to it before he was whisked away to the other side of the world.
"Don't go," she had pleaded. "You're old enough now. Stay with us; I know my parents won't object."
Eric had shaken his head. "I can't just abandon my own family. Besides, it won't be forever, just a couple of years..."
Maureen had pleaded but it soon became obvious that Eric wanted to go. And could she really blame him? What eighteen year-old would turn their back on a chance to travel around almost half the world.
That thought had led her to another idea. She had a passport; perhaps she could tag along too. It wasn't easy for her to suggest it, but as the date for his departure drew nearer and near, she forced herself to broach the subject.
"Sorry, Maur, it's strictly family only." And that had been the end of that.
She had cried when they left, and Eric had looked upset. "But it won't be forever," he'd reminded her once more. "We can write, and we've got our phones, the internet. It will be almost like I'm still here."
After Eric and his family had gone, Maureen had cursed herself for becoming so upset. It had felt almost like he had been relieved to walk away.
It had been several days before she had heard anything from Eric, and then it had been not much more than a rushed email. She had fingered the locket around her neck, wearing it constantly. She gave up her plans for college, there would be time enough for that later, and Maureen had found a job in a local store. She had no social life, but had existed for the messages and calls that Eric would make.
Maureen was not a stupid girl; she could not have failed to notice how the length of time between hearing from Eric grew longer and longer. It was only to be expected. Once he returned, and he would at the end of two years, he had promised, well, things would go back to being how they were.
Maybe she had been naive, Maureen now thought. Maybe he had been duplicitous, dishonest. Why had he not told her? To think of them all knowing, not telling her.
She had not meant to listen, but it was hard not to, when the women were chatting in front of the till she was manning. She knew the women, both mothers of school mates in the past. Not well though; not to speak out to.
"He'll be bringing her with him, of course; his wife. She's supposed to be very pretty."
"Yes, where was it Eric met her?"
"Finland, I believe. They'll tell us all about it! September is so close now."
Maureen felt like the blood flow from her head. Her hands shook as she rang up the purchases, and she quickly retreated to the toilets where the tears flowed from her eyes. She tore off the locket, dropped it in to the bin.
That cruel August day, they tore her heart to pieces with words.