She was set to marry Alex, and then she heard from an old boyfriend.
The Old Boyfriend
The rain started as I was reaching inside my mailbox. I took a moment to open my new umbrella -- navy and white striped and very stylish. A cold wind was blowing with increasingly heavy sprinkles. I shivered and once more felt inside the box. When I made contact, I pulled the mail out: a new "Scientific America", my weekly "U.S. News and World Report", a gas bill, a phone bill, and an overly large, tan envelope. My hands stroked it for a second, admiring the rough texture. Then I turned it over and almost dropped the rest of the mail.
It was from Steve. It’d been two years; yet I knew that handwriting, the arched and elegant D of my first name, Debbie, the way each letter was perfectly constructed. . . My hands shook as I traced the dark, printed letters on the side that announced “PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL.”
Carelessly, as if it didn’t matter, I bundled all the mail under my arm, shoving the manilla envelope into the heap. Then I walked toward my covered front porch and climbed the short flight of stairs. My heart beat louder than the rain pounding down on the roof, but I pretended I didn’t notice.
I reached into my pocket and drew out the key. I fumbled it, dropped my umbrella, the bills, and both magazines, but the heavy envelope somehow remained in my hand.
“Darn it!” I whispered. “Why now? Why couldn’t you have written me two years ago?”
A gust of wind blew against my legs. Hurriedly I scooped up the slightly wet mail, inserted my key, and pushed the door open. Inside it was warm. It smelled of fir trees and Christmas. I let out the breath I’d been holding and laughed out loud.
“What does it matter?” I said. "I’m in love with Alex. I’m going to marry him in two weeks. Why do I even care that Steve wrote me? I should throw his letter away. I shouldn’t even read it."
I talked a good argument as I went about, hanging up my coat, shaking out my umbrella and leaving it to dry in the bathtub. I slipped on a two-sizes-too-big sweatshirt and put the kettle on for some tea. Then I dropped onto the couch and curled up with my toes underneath me.
The "Scientific America" was only a little damp. I thumbed through it: an article about ADD and children sounded interesting. An ad for Dell Computers brought a smile since I owned some of its stock. The rest of the magazine didn’t catch my interest. I dropped it onto the coffee table, right beside Steve’s envelope.
“What does he want?” I asked myself. The windows rattled from a sudden surge of wind. I pulled up the throw cover my mother had crocheted for me and covered my legs. That helped. So did the teakettle singing its readiness. I stood up and went in to fix my drink. Carrying my tea back to the couch, my eyes fell on the envelope again.
I groaned. Just in time, the phone rang.
“Hi, baby. How was your day?”
“Steve,” I cried out with delight, and then realizing what I'd done, I tried to repair it.
“Who’s Steve?” Alex wanted to know.
I sighed, picked up my cup, and took a sip. Naturally I burned my tongue.
“Nobody, Alex. I just slipped."
“I’m coming over.”
“But, it’s raining. You’ll get wet.”
“Something’s wrong. I feel it. I’m coming over, all right?”
I felt like I was being pushed into a corner. I didn’t like the feeling, but I couldn’t say “no.” Alex was right. I needed to see him desperately.
I fixed a store-bought, frozen pizza, doctoring it up the way Alex and I liked with frozen spinach, mushrooms, and canned artichokes. Then I popped it into the oven and started on a salad. Alex was at the front door before I was even finished setting the table.
“Okay, what’s this about?” Alex demanded as soon as he’d kissed me hello. I didn’t answer him. I just handed him the envelope.
“It’s from my old boyfriend, the one who just took off, no explanation, no goodbye.”
"Oh, that Steve," Alex said, his face paling.
"Open it, please, Alex. I have to know what he says."
Inside, just as I’d figured, was a letter. As Alex pulled out its folded whiteness, a photo dropped to the ground. I picked it up and stared. It was Steve all right, Steve with two children in his lap and a woman next to him whose left hand wore a shiny, wedding ring.
“What does it say? Read it, please.”
I thought Alex would refuse, but he just led me over to the couch, gently pushed me down, and sat beside me.
It was wrong never to tell you that I was married. I had left my wife and kids, just like I left you. You see, one day, sanity returned to me, and I went back to them. Please forgive me. I wish you the best always.
“I don’t believe it,” I said. “All this time I wondered what happened. I thought it was my fault. I didn’t know why he’d left me. I thought I’d . . . “
“. . . caused him to?” Alex laughed softly. "My angel, any man who left you had to be guilty of something. No one could ever walk away from you.”
My tears came then. I hugged Alex and kissed him. I told him how sorry I was for worrying him. I guess I would have said more, but the timer for the pizza went off.
Outside the rain pounded, the wind gusted, and the sky grew black as the devil’s heart, but inside with Alex there, I saw only the love in his eyes, and once more I realized how much I loved him.