The train pulled into the station at 6:00 P.M., and knowing he had only a few hours before he had to catch the 1:00 A.M. train back to the post, Jason hurried to Ellie. After the usual warm greeting, they sat on Ellie's porch swing and held hands.
"Ellie, if I didn't have you, I'd have to spend my nights on the post and I'd go mad."
Ellie leaned over and kissed him. "Well, you have me and you always will."
Jason smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "Ellie...Ellie, the Army is sending me to Germany in a week. I'll be gone for twenty months."
Ellie stiffened. "Twenty months? We won't see each other for twenty months? Jason, I'll miss you so much," she said looking at him through tear-filled eyes.
"Please, don't cry, Ellie," he said hugging her. "Look, I have six day's leave, so I don't have to report for my flight until next Saturday. We'll spend every minute together," he said as he wiped her tears away.
The six days went quickly, and Jason left Ellie promising that the twenty months would fly by, and before she knew it they would be together again.
The twenty months did pass quickly, and when Jason returned, he and Ellie spent every weekend and most nights together for two months, and Ellie was happy. However, her happiness was not long lived. When September came, Jason went to college and worked two jobs. Because he was so busy, he could only get away two or three times a week to see her. After a while, the number of visits dwindled to two or three a month. After two years, Jason's visits to Ellie were few and far between, and Ellie saw her dreams fading away. When Jason was a sophomore, he became engaged, and after a few months, married. After his marriage, Jason never saw or spoke to Ellie. Sadly, she found out third-hand that he had married, and was so devastated that she mourned for months. Finally, she moved away and made a new life for herself.
After college, Jason married and settled down, and for the next thirty years, he was blissfully happy. One day, at the end of a day like any other day, Jason drove home anticipating a warm reception from his wife. When he got home, his wife was not there to greet him. He called, but there was no answer, so he looked through the house; she wasn't at home. Puzzled, he went to the kitchen where he found a letter with his name on it on the kitchen table. He quickly opened it. "Oh, God. Oh, God, no. She left me…for another man," he mumbled. "Gone? After all these years? Gone? But why? How could this be? Oh, my God. What's going to happen to me? What…what's going to happen to me?"
For several weeks, Jason tried to figure out why his wife left him. Questions haunted him day and night. One Sunday morning, he sat at his kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee when the phone rang. As though coming out of a daze, he looked at the phone for a few seconds, and when it rang a fourth time, he slowly reached for it. From the tone of his voice, one would have assumed he was dying. "Hello? Yes, this is Jason. Who is this? Huh? Ellie? Ellie who?" After listening for a few moments, he came alive. "Oh, my God. Ellie? Ellie? My Ellie? Is it really you? You're here? I heard you moved away. Oh, your husband died and you're moving back. That's absolutely wonderful. Wonderful. Uh, huh," he said as he listened intently to a voice from the past. "Uh huh, yes. Uh, huh. Uh, Ellie, something terrible has happened to me. No. I'm not sick. Ellie, my wife left me. Yeah, she…look, please, meet for dinner, and I'll tell you everything. Yes, tonight. How about the Mayflower restaurant at 7:00. Great. I'll be counting the minutes."
Jason arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early and looked for Ellie. "I don't see her. I wonder if she changed her mind. What will I do if she changed her mind? As he looked around, he heard his name called, turned quickly, and saw Ellie walking toward him. Both smiled happy smiles and they hugged. Holding her hands in his, he stepped back. "Ellie, I would have known you anywhere. You haven't changed a bit."
"Come on, Jason. It's been over thirty years."
"I still say you haven't changed. Oh, it's so good to see you," he said and hugged her. "Come, let's sit down."
They sat at a table and looked into each other's eyes as though they were looking for something. Ellie wasn't sure what she saw, but Jason saw what he wanted to see. Jason saw his savior. He saw her as the woman who came into his life at the time when he needed someone to save him.
"Jason, you said your wife left you. What happened?"
"I don't know. She just left me...for another man. Since she left me, I've been looking for answers, but I can't find any. I was so sad, but Ellie, I have to tell you, I was thinking about you when you called. I couldn't believe it. You came to me just when I needed you. Thinking of you made those lonely nights bearable. The thought of you saved me. Ellie, would you believe it? I thought I had the perfect marriage, and then it was gone. Thirty years. I thought she was happy, but I was wrong. Ellie, I was so unhappy."
Ellie sat back and sighed. "I know what you're feeling. Losing someone you love is painful, isn't it, Jason?"
"Boy, do I know pain," he asserted with conviction." He paused and then spoke in a melancholy tone. "There were some awfully lonely nights after she left," he said looking at his hands for a few moments, and then he perked up. "Then one night, you popped into my mind. I thought about us when we were kids. Those were the days, weren't they?" He said grinning. "What wonderful memories. Great memories...memories, memories, memories. Yup, I...oh, listen to me. I'm going on and on. So, tell me all about your life. What's happened to you in thirty years."
"Well, after you married, I moved to Texas where I met Dean. After we got married, we settled down, started a small business, and started a family. We had a daughter. My daughter is lovely. Here, let me show you her picture." she said taking a photo from her purse and showed him. Barely glancing at the photo, he took a photo out of his pocket. "Here's a picture of my children. We had two daughters. My wife left me just after our first grandchild was born," he said shaking his head. "I couldn't believe it. Thirty years of marriage...poof...gone. One day, I left for work in the morning a happily married man and came home a man without a wife. How could she have left me? I thought she loved me. I loved her, but she didn't love me, and I don't know why she didn't love me."
"I can understand it, Jason. That happens to a lot of people." She leaned forward in order to make sure he heard every word she had to say, and spoke with a touch of anger in her voice. "People pretend. People use people. It happens all the time." She sat back and sighed. "So, why did she leave you?"
"She didn't tell me. All she did was leave me a letter on the kitchen table. I have it here," he said, took the letter from his pocket and read it to her. "Imagine, after so many years together. Gone."
"Well, you're not alone, Jason. I know someone who experienced what you've experienced. She loved a man and she thought he loved her, but he didn't. He used her and then he left her, and when he left her, she thought her world had ended."
"Boy, I know what she felt. The poor girl. Did I know her?"
"As a matter of fact, you knew her quite well."
"Really. What was her name?"
"Her name? Oh, it's been so long, Jason. I can't remember her name."
"I see. Uh, uh...what were you talking about? You started a business and you had a daughter?"
"Yes, we had a daughter. Sadly, my husband died a year after she was born."
"Boy, it must have been pretty rough raising a child all by yourself."
"There were some rough times, but we made it. She's a nurse now."
"Rough times. Boy, do I know about rough times," Jason said pointing at his chest with his thumb. "When my wife left me, I thought my world had ended."
"I guess it must have been awful, Jason."
"It was. It was. Before my wife left me, time flew. After she left me, time seemed to stand still. The nights were so long and so lonely. I never had any idea that anything was wrong. All of a sudden...boy, do I know pain. Oh, there I go again. Rambling. I interrupted you. You said you had a daughter?
"Yes, we had a daughter, Jason."
"That's great. Yeah, that's great."
He looked into Ellie's eyes. "I never had any idea that anything was wrong. Then, all of a sudden...gone. Can you imagine how I felt?" He paused. "Oh, forgive me. There I go again. Rambling. I interrupted you. You were talking about your daughter."
"Yes, I told you that we had a daughter, and that my husband died just after she was born."
"Oh, yeah, I remember." Uh, Ellie," he said taking her hands. "Uh, Ellie, I have to tell you something. I should have contacted you right after my wife left me. I shou…"
Ellie took her hands from his, and then sobbed. She took a hanky from her purse and wiped her eyes as Jason stared bewildered.
"Ellie, you're crying. Why are you crying? What's wrong?"
She glared at him. "Suddenly, after all these years, I'm important. Why did you break off our relationship, Jason? Why didn't you want me...back then? Why didn't you see then that I could have made you happy? Why didn't you?"
"I...I don't know what to say. Life was good until my wife left me, and then I was so unhappy. You don't know what it's like. You couldn't. It was awful, and...and then...then, I thought of you. I asked myself, why did I let you go? Believe me," he pleaded. "But now, we're together. The past is gone. We have the present and the future."
"Yes, Jason, the past is gone, and what we had, if we ever had anything, is gone, too. What you and I hoped for this evening didn't happen. I'm sorry...for both of us. Good-bye, Jason," she said quietly, wiped her eyes, and left.
He stood and reached out to her as she left. "Ellie...please, don't leave me." After she was gone, he sat, took out the letter from his wife, read it to himself, threw it down on the table, and covered his face with his hands and sobbed. "What's going to become of me?"
While teaching at a community college, Mr. Greenblatt wrote stories and stage plays, one of which won a Smith College playwriting competition. Since retiring in 2000, he has been writing short stories, novellas, and novels. In 2011, two of his stories were published by Xica's Love Stories, and two stories will be published in a Pillhill anthology.
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