He saw her before she saw him. He knew that back anywhere, the curve of her spine, her black hair pulled back and twisted into that strange bun of hers. It had to be her, even though he had not seen her for more than ten years, he was sure it was her.
He reached out to touch her but then he hesitated…his hesitation meant the woman turned around before he could put his hand back to his side. For a moment or two, it seemed his hand would remain indefinitely in mid air…but it did not…it found its way back to his pocket and for that the man was glad, he did not want the woman to see his sweaty palm.
“So…there you have it…finally…what did you think?” he asked.
“It was beautiful, beautifully violent. You should be very proud”
“You did not think it was too much?
“Did you like the last scene? I keep thinking there was something missing…”
“Isn’t there always something?
“Yeah.I don’t know…”
There was a silence that had always been there, one that had always been theirs…ten years ago and Maureen would have tried to fill it with a joke or a witty comment but that night, she let it settle over them like a comfortable fog.
“So, I see you’re back huh?” she asked the question in that sneering way she adopted when she knew she was right…he knew she was saying “I won”. Her stare was unflinching as she draped a black shawl carelessly around her shoulders. She was the only woman he knew who could do this…stare at somebody so resolutely whilst performing another action.
“Yeah. I needed to get this done. I am surprised I am here…I never expected this…I just wanted to get it done”
“Well, I am not surprised. I believed in you”
“Yeah, you always did”
She looked down at her shoes before looking casually around, as if expecting someone.
“So, where’s Yvonne?”
“Oh….we are divorced now…almost five years”
“I see….did you ever get your team of little Macauleys?”
Joe laughed, he could see she was trying hard not to, he wanted her to laugh too, but she kept a straight face.
“Yeah, I did, twin boys and a little girl…they are with their mother…I am afraid I became that kind of dad…”
“The one you always detested becoming….Well...that’s life”
Again the silence enveloped them, as they starred at each other, each trying to assess the damage age had done or perhaps they were remembering the days of their youth, when optimism and a desire for change had made them embark on journeys that weren’t theirs. The days when they ate and breathed the street. Every life mattered; every story had to be told.
“I have been so proud of you Maureen, you’ve done well…I read the last book, it was great…many times I wanted to call you…and say that ”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I don’t know. I was not sure if you have forgiven me…have you?”
“So what happened with law? Was it all that you dreamed it would be?”
He knew she was avoiding the question….the question of forgiveness. That night, so many years ago, she had looked him straight in the eye and said “I will never forgive you!” It was a night he would never forget, a night that changed both their lives forever…he wished now, he had handled things differently.
“Law….it puts food on the table, bread and butter…but no, it was not all I dreamed it would be….and you, your writing?
“It is all I dreamed and more….much more than you can ever imagine”
“I am happy for you Maureen. Truly I am…I just wish…”
“I wish...no, forget it...nothing...well, congratulations....” he said, looking knowingly at her huge stomach.
“Yeah...due any day now...”
“Really? Wow! And what the hell are you doing here? You should be home, with your feet up”
“And miss your premier? Never!”
“I hoped you will come…I wanted you to be here…it is as much yours as it is mine”
“You did it Joe, your grandma would be proud”
“Will you ever forgive me Maureen?”
“I see you put a new scene in...the one with the pregnant woman...fits right in doesn’t it? You’ve always been good at that…reflecting fucking reality....”
“Maureen please! When you said you were pregnant…I thought of my dad… I was just sick of everything you know…the streets, the constant fighting…for what? To prevent what? Who the fuck did we help?...we were both young…hell…all we had was our youth…and to spend it fighting for a bunch of worthless junkies…and you…you were so beautiful…so young…I got scared. I did not want to become my father…and every day, no matter what I did…the street was taking its toll… all I thought of was becoming like my father…or ending up like my mother…I hate myself for what I did to you…everyday, I have hated myself”
“You are not your father, you never were and you never will be”
He just wanted her to say the words “I forgive you, Joe, I forgive you”....instead, she was now reaching into her bag and showing him a picture of her first son.
“How is he?”
“Joseph is fine. He is doing great”
“I am so sorry Maureen, so sorry”
“Like I said, I will never forgive you”
He watched her walk away; he watched the great love of his life disappear with the picture of his first child in her bag. He watched her kiss another man on the cheek and it was only then he noticed the piece of paper....
“Maybe, someday...” it said.