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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Fiction

In the Shadows of the Past
Joeseph Grant

Winter had been very bad that year. It had been bitterly cold and had dropped the most snow on the City in recent memory. And just when the winter was at its peak, the sun came through the clouds one afternoon and melted everything into the sewer of memory.

The City was gradually coming back to its own and all forms of life began to stir beneath his apartment window. on days when inspiration would be lacking, he would find himself at the same corner bookstore staring up at the racks filled with the immortals in order to get himself going. It was during one of these afternoon pilgrimages that he saw Amy again.

He remembered the very first time he saw her, when he told himself that she was the one. But he had been wrong about her, as wrong as he had been about any other thing in his life. And as with many things in his life; time, like any other mistress, saw fit to come between them and eventually tear apart what he and she had worked on against everyone's supposed better judgments. It had been at college when he first met her and started to date her and they had been intimate but with her family's money and his decided lack of it, it was doomed from the beginning. This is the tragedy that can befall everyone and anyone who has ever been in love if one isn't committed. Thinking back, his lack of money wasn't the only problem. Amy was always cagey about close personal relationships and would always be uncomfortable of emotional stability. Then she started dating someone else while she was dating him.

Now he was looking upon her lovely face again. His eyes searched her face, that comely face. His eyes fell to her hair. It pleased him that she hadn't changed that dark, luxurious chestnut hair. She wore it in bangs and it was still the same exquisite length, the same way she had it in college and still wavy and woven in thick mysterious strands that curled around her shoulders.

Ethan could not believe it. He wondered what Amy was doing in New York City. She was a Tennessee girl and she had always hated the City, she told him. He noticed her standing in the Travel Section of the aisle across from him.
"Amy?" He asked quizzically and walked casually over to her.
She looked at him and then quickly away. Then back again. "Ethan?" She responded excitedly. "Ethan Graham?"
"Yes." He smiled as they awkwardly held out hands, laughed and hugged.
"What?" She shook her head. "Now what are you doing here?"
"I'm just browsing.." He smiled.
"See anything you like?" She smiled back.
"Yeah, I see some things I like." He flirted. "I like that you've kept your hair long, like I always liked it."
"Lil ol' me?" She said capriciously with her Southern accent still intact. This made Ethan smile at the memory of it.
"Yes, lil ol' you. Points for keeping it long like that."
"Ethan, I didn't keep my hair like this for you, just you alone, hoping I'd run into you some day." She smiled.
"Uh-huh." He nodded. "So, what're you doing in New York? "
"I moved here." She said with her adorable country girl smile. "I guess you can say my career path sent me here."
"Oh, you're still working for that greeting card company?"
"No, silly! That was college, Ethan, geez!" She grabbed his arm as she said this. "I'm pursuing a career in dance and Catherine Van Rolfstein has opened up a new studio here."
"Really? I thought you hated it here."
"I do, I mean, I did when we were back in college. I was homesick, I guess. I was a kid, then. I've grown up since then, Ethan. we both have."
"Gee, thanks, remind me that I've put on a few pounds." He said and jokingly patted his mid-section. "But you, you look great."
"Thanks, I'm dieting through dance." She joked.
"Huh..." Ethan said absently. "I thought you were studying economics."
"I was, Ethan." She said and paused. "That was before, well, after the...uh, well, it doesn't matter."
Ethan shook his head, not understanding. "I'm sorry."
"Doesn't matter." Amy said and touched his hand. "The point is that I was bored by hotel management. So, after we, um, broke it off, I changed majors, completely." She smiled. "I got up one day late and asked myself if I wanted to go to that stupid class ever again and so I switched majors, completely. I caught a lot of heat for that. I took up dance and I think you had dropped out by then. Daddy sent me here when his friend, Miss Van Rolfstein opened up a school."
"How is your father?"
"Oh, Daddy is just doing great. He'll be tickled I ran into you."
"I bet he will. I remember his right cross."
"Oh, hush. He just had a lil too much beer to drink that one afternoon, that's all."
"He didn't have to hit me."
"Oh, Ethan, honey. That was a hundred years ago." She waved him off. "I'm sure Daddy will be happy I saw you. Daddy was very supportive when I changed majors, but Mama wasn't. He told her to hush and said I should do things that make me happy in life. He wants me to be happy. I guess, so he doesn't have to hear me." She laughed. "And ya'll?"
"I write."

Amy's face twisted and she rolled her eyes. "I know! I was just joshing. C'mon, Ethan! You could never tell when I was kidding, could ya'll?" She poked him. "I read ya'll in the reviews. Mama sends them to me. She says I should have stayed with you, but I think that's just to rile Daddy." She chuckled. "Ya'll are famous!" She smiled and then exclaimed: "Look everybody! It's that famous writer, Ethan Graham!"
Ethan's eyes darted around, hoping no one had actually heard her. A few people were staring at them both. "Stop it, Ames!" He said with an embarrassed flush.
Her demeanor changed and she beamed at him. "Wow, I haven't heard anyone call me that since you." She said softly. "It's nice to hear that again."
"Been a while, huh?" He said weakly.
"Hey, let's go over and look at your books." She said and grabbed his hand and nearly yanked it out of the socket as she took off down the aisle.
"Look, there's one and there's one..." She smiled.

Embarrassed by this, he begged her to leave the bookstore and get a cup of coffee. They did so and strolled the city of their youth and back to all of their old haunts, some changed irreparably and some not changed at all. That night they spent back at his apartment, reuniting over and over and soon thereafter, she gave up the expensive SoHo apartment her father had leased and moved in with Ethan.

However, he noticed that she still possessed the tendency to pull back when things got too serious. She was filled with a lot of self-doubt and annoying still she had the old habit of saying something completely irrational or doing something that would provoke a fight between them.

One night, as they both lay in bed sweaty and out of breath, there was a certain sense of abandonment, of something being amiss. He was afraid to spoil the moment by saying something but when she did not sense his disquiet, he spoke.
"Is there something wrong here?"
"No." Her answer lilted in a bored, far away echo.
"C'mon, Ames, there must be something wrong. You're very quiet."
"Why do you ask?" She said as she played with the hair on his arm. "C'mon, fess up."
"I don't know." He sighed. "Don't take this the wrong way, but it seemed like you were just going through the motions."
She stopped playing with the hair on his arm and peered up at him. "Really? I didn't fake, if that's what's on your mind."
"I don't know. Maybe it's me."
She looked up and smiled at him with nervous apprehension. "Can I say something to ya'll?"
Ethan looked down, his chin pressing into his collarbone. "Yeah, sure."
"Promise ya'll won't get mad?"
"I'd have to hear it first." He reasoned.
Amy breathed a sigh and began. "Well, I've never told you this, I've never told anyone this, but back when we were dating in college, I got pregnant. "
"What?" You never-"
"Let me finish. I was young and stupid and didn't practice birth control, you may remember. I got pregnant, right about the time we broke up and I hooked up with Bryce."
"You never told me you were pregnant."
"I was ashamed, you know, from a deep religious Pentecostal background and Daddy being a prominent businessman, 'bout tore him up."
"Did you give it up for adoption?"
"No." She shook her head sadly. "Daddy was fit to be tied and that was the reason why when you came over that last time, he punched you."
" I thought he was just drunk."
"My Daddy wasn't a drunk." She sniffed.
"Whatever you say."
"Daddy was just terribly upset."
"He blindsided me. I can still feel it." Ethan felt his jaw.
"Daddy took care of it. He wanted to have you and the other guy I was dating at the time strung up."
"You mean he sent you away to have the baby?"
"No, I never had it."
"Oh." Ethan said solemnly.
A tear ran down Amy's cheek. Ethan went to wipe it. "No, don't." She move away.
"Well, was it mine?" Ethan gulped.
"I don't know, Ethan."
"Imagine that." He said with a brief smile. "I could have been a father and had a son or daughter."
"I try not to think about it, but I thought you should know."
"But you said it might not have been mine."
"I'm not sure, but I think it was. Me and Bryce had only hooked up once or twice."
"Could have been his, too then."
"I think it was yours. As a matter of fact, I'm certain of it."
"Wow." Ethan said and sat up. "This is a lot to absorb."
"I thought ya'll should know."
"Why? Why now?"
"I don't know." Amy said. "Are you bothered by me telling you this?"
"Honestly, it's a lot to hear all of a sudden"
"Are ya'll angry with me?"
"I don't know. I mean, it's something I have to think about. I mean, I don't think I'm mad but, hell, I don't know. I don't know what to think, Amy."
Amy looked at him for a few seconds before speaking. "Ya'll, hate me, doncha?"
"It's not that, Amy. I don't know what to think."
"Ya'll hate me, I know."
"Why'd you even have to bring it up?" Ethan stood, exasperated. "We were having a nice time and you had to tell me about this."
"Ya'll are upset!" She started to cry.
"I could have done without this." Ethan said and began to get dressed.
"Where are ya'll going?"
"Where?" Amy sniffled.
"Just out."
"Please, don't leave." Amy pleaded.
"What do you want me to do, Amy?"
"Stay with me and hold me."
"Everything was going fine. You had to go and tell me this. This is just another one of your emotional roadblocks, you know that? I need to go and think." Ethan said and slammed the door behind him.

When Ethan returned in the early morning, Amy was nowhere to be found. She left no note. But her not being there said plenty. She had always dwelt in shadows of the past. Love equaled fear for Amy. She was not willing to compromise and was inexplicably gone. Love had a way of doing that to some people
© Joeseph Grant August 2009
JPG8820 at

Wedding Gift
Joeseph Grant

J Grant has been published in 161 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Underground Voices, Nite-Writer's International Literary Arts Journal, Howling Moon Press, HackWriters, New Online Review, Literary Tonic, Six Sentences, NexGenPulp, Is This Reality Zine , Darkest Before Dawn,, FarAway Journal, Full of Crow, Heroin Love Songs, Bewildering Stories, Writing Raw, Unheard Magazine, Absent Willow Literary Review and the upcoming first Absent Willow Anthology and a story in the anthology of horror, Northern Haunts, as well as three UK literary reviews, Bottom of the World #1 & 2 and Cupboard Gloom and Write -currently resides in Los Angeles. He also write a monthly newsletter column for Literary Mary.

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