Alexia pulled up two houses away from his home and put the car in park. Her breath was shaky, and she gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white and the leather began peeling off into her palms. A bead of sweat appeared on her hairline, but she kept her steady and looked to the house.
It was different now. The weeds had overcome more of the plants outside; the combination of lackadaisical keeping and the harsh summer sun. The house itself was the same: a fresh coat of mint green paint on the outside perhaps, newer gates by the porch door, different bed sheets hanging on the line by the garage, but still in the same corner where he always liked to hang them. There was a child's tricycle by the front door, faded in color with rusty pedals. On the corner of the roof's gutter, hung a glass wind chime in the shape of small frogs and butterflies. In the back, stood a homemade wooden pen where a few chickens clucked softly. The mailbox was now rusted with weather residue. The numbers had begun peeling off long time ago, and had just recently started to fade away.
A lot of things were fading away.
She bit the skin around her thumbnail excessively until she tasted blood in her mouth, but it was all she could do to stop the shaking. She debated with herself for minutes upon minutes, wrestling with the confrontation in her mind. It had been so long, and she didn't want to mess it up. She had so many questions for him.
Him. She couldn't even say his name. Not in her mind, not in her breath or her voice. Her bruised soul pushed it in the bottom of her heart long time ago.
The wind picked up and she heard the familiar squeak of the tricycle handle bars as they turned with the gust. She returned to that sound a mere 20 years ago, when she sat softly on the seat and looked up into his eyes. Those familiar hazel eyes that she wished she had, but she had gotten her mother's. She reached her hand out to his face, and he pretended to eat up her fingers. She squealed in delight as he then picked her up, tricycle and all, and put her on the driveway, determined to see her fly. She let out another loud squeal, and felt her hands on the back of the bike as he started pushing her lightly down the little hill and onto the sidewalk, never letting go. Not even for a moment. She closed her eyes, trying to force the memory into the back of her mind but only opening a Pandora's box of others.
Nights in the hammock cuddled up to his side.
Watching him in her grandfather's shop, sanding a long piece of wood, the smell of cedar and oak enveloping her senses.
Him giving her a juice box out of the truck before he left for his job.
Her calling out to him from her grandmother's green house as he left again.
Her mother crying and throwing a ring across the room.
Herself crying in the corner with a bear that she scribbled his name on, clutching it tightly to her chest as the batteries in its heart died.
The evident smell of cigarettes and alcohol on his breath and clothes.
The palm of his hand blocking her presence from his.
Meeting her "brother" for the first time.
Doors slamming with every possible tone until she could play them in her mind like a piano.
Coming back every other year to see him, feeling the discomfort grow as much as their distance.
Until he eventually forgot, though she never did.
She gripped the door handle, and gave every strength she had to open it. She put on her sunglasses and pushed her way out. The wind caught her hair like a false hope, and as she closed the car door, she heard the squeal. The squeal of a girl laughing uproariously from the joy of being free. She felt the patter in her heart, and for a moment she felt like her memories were projecting out to the horizon. A small girl, no older than four, running with her arms outstretched as if flying. She tripped in the grass, and for a second as she looked up, she caught Alexia's gaze. Alexia felt her soul leave her body as she saw her face. And His eyes, looking right into her. The girl smiled as she pulled a blade of grass out from the earth, and her gaze broke as someone else ran out to get her. Him.
He looked different too. Time had strained him. As did the weather and the drinks. But his voice had that same tone of promise and haphazard honesty. He picked her up and swung her around until she held onto his neck. They walked back towards the yard and in that quick moment, it was all over. Alexia pictured it so differently. She would storm up to his door, pound until the walls shook and the glass cracked, and begged for an explanation.
Why he left.
Why he chose the bottle, his friends, anything over her.
Why in all those years, he just didn't want to try.
Why he didn't want to care.
Why he cared so much for any other child except for her.
Why he couldn't find her. Couldn't recognize her. Couldn't notice her...even on an empty street with nothing but quiet houses, a bright red car, and a tall, grown up woman standing outside watching as her heart broke for the hundredth time.
Why he....couldn't love her.
And she would sob into his arms, knowing that he would not know what to do but to just hold her head on his shoulder and wait for it to pass so he could get on with this better life.
The picture dissipated. Alexia knew it couldn't and wouldn't happen that way, as much as she wished it. She felt a small, throbbing pain in her abdomen and looked down at her protruding belly. She rubbed it softly, smiling between the tears falling on either side of her face. Another hand met hers, and she looked up to see him. The man she fell in love with and loved her in return; who loved the life inside her even more. He wiped her tears, and put her head on his shoulder as she felt the summer wind die went down to a whisper. As the sun moved down, he led her back into the car and drove past the house for the final time.
She didn't look back. She looked towards the horizon and waved her arm outside of the window, catching the last of the wind like a wave. She put the other hand on her belly, and with the steadiest breath she had that afternoon, she wished for the baby to have her eyes.