First published in Apollo's Lyre (2007) - read editor interview
Her name was Margo Smithers. We were sixteen, and I learned from her what it felt like to be in love.
We met at the Pocono Adventures summer camp. I was pretty shy around girls back then, but Margo was easier to talk to than those snobs at my school. It turned out we both played clarinet in our high school bands and we liked to roller skate. In fact, the only thing we disagreed on was that she liked Coke, and I preferred Pepsi.
The hours I spent with Margo were the happiest times of my junior year in high school. My life collapsed the day her Dear Albert letter arrived. I was surprised, but couldn’t think of anything to say to change her mind. She lived in a small town forty-five minutes away and, since neither of us could drive, getting together was hard. Our parents were good about chauffeuring us around, but they could only do so much.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her—long enough for me to marry twice. The first wife packed up and left. She complained I wasn’t home enough. The second … Let’s just say she got what she deserved. And every time I found myself single, I thought about Margo and wondered how different my life would have been if we’d gotten married.
I asked a friend to help me find Margo. He tracked her down, and she came to see me today. I felt like I was sixteen again.
I recognized her as soon as she entered the room. She’d put on weight and her hair was lighter than I remembered, but her eyes still sparkled like they did that summer; and I’d never forget that smile.
I waved and stood to greet her, pointing to the metal chair on the opposite side of the dented table.
I managed to squeak out a hello, even though my mouth felt like it was full of dry oatmeal.
“What a surprise it was to hear from you.” She watched her fingers knit a pattern with the ends of her cloth belt. “I wasn’t going to come today, but my curiosity…” Her eyes panned up to mine. “How have you been, Albert?”
She was still beautiful and her voice was the same one I heard every night when I closed my eyes and remembered that afternoon at the lake. She lurched back when I reached for her hand. The guards dragged me out of the room before I finished asking her if we could date again. That’s okay. I’ll be out in eight months. I can ask her then.