February Short Story – David O’Sullivan

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LOVE - a memory.
I moved back to my old town because I had heard an old friend was going through a divorce. We had been best friends in high school but we had lost contact when I moved away. I thought it would be good to move home. I had recently quit my job and I wanted to take a year off to write a novel and since the city is so expensive I figured I could live in my home town for next to nothing. My old town is very old, in the sense that the buildings were about two hundred years old. A big old river ran through it which I used to swim across when I was boy when the summers were honest and hot.

My friend, Neil, had married a blonde girl when we were nineteen. I had come back for the wedding and regretted every minute of it. His wife’s name was Momi, a strange name but I was in love with her. It had broken my heart when they had married and I swore I wanted to leave this town and never come back.

I arrived in town early, just after five in the morning on the first train. It was just coming into summer and the sun rose above the horizon hot and red. The train snakes around the back of town and it gave me a chance to glimpse the old buildings of my childhood. The place was still pretty. I had organized to meet Neil for lunch.

At lunch, to which I had also arrived early, Neil came swinging into the cafe. He was wearing a pink shirt and he had put on weight. I had also put on weight but Neil was looking fat.

“Hello!” he cried and came up to me, slapping me hard on the shoulder.

“Hi Neil, good to see you,” I said.

He sat down opposite me. “So you’re back in town. I remember you saying you were never coming back here.”
“Well I’m here now.”
“I can see that. I suppose you heard about Momi and me.”

“I heard. I am really sorry.”
He looked at me when he said that. I could tell we could never have our friendship back. Not like it was. There was something between us, like we were trying to outdo each other or like he was desperate to show he was superior now. It may have been all in my mind. I was struggling to work it out.

“It’s not your fault,” he laughed. “I’m glad it’s over anyway.”
“What happened?”
“I was having an affair.”
“She caught you?”
“No, I left her. I wanted to move in with Sarah. Sarah’s a nurse and she is my soulmate.”
“What was Momi?”
“I thought she was my soulmate but things under the surface were bad, simmering. She was picking fights and nagging me all the time, it was killing me.”

I nodded.

“What’s Momi going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was she upset?”

“Of course,” he was silent for a moment, looking at me with spite. “I suppose you think you can come back and pick up with her?”
“What?” I asked.
“I know you have a thing for her. I knew in high school,” he laughed. “If I am being honest it is probably the reason I married her. I showed you didn’t I?”
I sat there, shocked. I had nothing to say. He sat there laughing at me across the table. I suppose I had been eager to come home, I had thought of sending Momi a message to see how she was, but I had not, I had sent this jerk a message to meet for lunch and now he sat there laughing at me.

“It’s OK, you can admit it. She wont want anything to do with you though. She told me when we were married, she doesn’t like you at all.”

“I came back to town to write,” I said which was partly true. I stood up and left. He called after me, something that sounded nasty but I kept going. I went out the cafe, down past the old court house to the river and sat on the bank and wondered if I had done the right thing in coming back.