Shawn looked down at the empty seat beside him, trying to imagine Elizabeth there. He tried to remember the smell of her hair, the sound of her voice, one of her smiles. It all seemed just out of reach.
She wasn’t there. She would never be there again.
He came here, in part, thinking some time alone might help. He was tired of pretending to be fine. It was exhausting. Pretending to see scenes out the window, pretending to read a book, pretending to listen. Elizabeth preoccupied his every waking moment. Shawn had known a depth of love with her he’d never imagined possible, a love he was sure most men would never see, not in a lifetime.
“Care for another cup?”
Shawn looked up toward the sound. “Excuse me?”
“A refill on the coffee? It’s on the house.” The waitress, all smiles.
“No thanks. I’ve got to be going.”
He stood up to pay the bill. The Corner Room Restaurant hadn’t changed a bit. If he closed his eyes, he could almost see their old college friends, all sitting in their proper spots. He’d gotten a room at the hotel upstairs but wasn’t ready to turn in for the night. Too much left to do. The main reason he came back was to remember her, to reclaim moments of time, conversations they’d shared, places they’d visited. He wanted to see and feel all these things again. To do anything that helped him see and feel all these things again.
Before it got too late he decided to call Patrick. He walked toward the back by the restrooms to use the pay phone.
“That you, Shawn?”
“You get in alright? Everything okay?”
“I’m fine, Dad.”
“I suppose you want to talk to Patrick. I’ll get him.”
His father never did like to talk on the telephone. He heard him yell Patrick’s name, heard Patrick shout some loud, happy thing in the background. Shawn smiled. At least he still had Patrick.
“Hey little man, how ya’ doing?”
“I’m fine. You at your college?
“I sure am.”
“When you coming home?”
Shawn must have told him three or four times he would only be gone a night. But after all he’d been through, Shawn didn’t mind telling him again. “I’ll be home tomorrow, before dinner. You be good for Grandpa till I get there.”
“I will. Wish I could be with you.”
“Is everything all right? Is Grandpa treating you okay?”
“Yeah. I just miss you. You were gone so long before.”
“I know. But I’ll be home before you know it.”
“You still going to do what you promised?”
“Uh…yes…” Shawn tried to remember what he apparently had promised.
“You know, you said when you got home you’d tell us about how you escaped from those Germans after your plane crashed.”
“That’s right I did. Yep, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.”
“Mrs. Fortini wants to hear it too. Is that okay?”
“Also Miss Townsend wants to hear it. Okay if I invite her? You know the lady who ate Christmas dinner with us? The one who took care of me?”
“I remember her. But I don’t think she’d really want to drive across town to hear some war story. She sounds like a pretty busy lady.”
“I know she would. Don’t you remember she asked you about it Christmas night? Can I just call her and see?”
Shawn didn’t want to say yes. He sighed. “Okay, I guess you can call her.”