If Only The Past Was Different

Image of a park with a path and benches next to it, to go with my story If Only The Past Was Different.
Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

She just sat there.

Hands in her lap, face turned up to the rising sun, her lips moving.

That first morning, Eli didn’t pay her much attention. He just glanced at her and jogged on.

Eli had jogged through the park every day for the past two years. Same distance, same route, always in the early hours of the morning.

That was why he noticed her.

No one ever sat on that bench when he passed through the park.

She sat in the same spot every day after that — always in the same spot, always facing the sun, and always dressed in the same black long-sleeved dress, and black boots.

After a week, Eli slowed down when he passed her. Where before he thought she made no sound, he now heard the words she spoke repeatedly.

“I just wish things had been different.”

He didn’t want to startle her, so jogged on.

The next morning, he slowed down again.

“I just wish things had been different. I just wish things had been different. I just wish things had been different. I just wish…”

Eli couldn’t shake the feeling the woman in black needed help.

It took him another week to muster the courage to sit down next to her.

She stopped mid-sentence.

An uncomfortable silence settled between them. Eli waited. The woman still sat in the same position — face turned to the sun.

Minutes passed.

Eli cleared his throat.

“Do you need hel…”

She interrupted him.

“My husband left me.”

“I’m so…” Eli started.

“Woke up one morning, and he was gone. He just left me. Not a word. Just gone.”

She fell quiet again. Eli glanced at his watch.

“I have to go,” he said, and stood up.

“I just wish things had been different.”

What she said next rooted Eli to the spot.

“Look at me. Twenty-eight. Dressed in black. Grieving. I’m a fucking widow. I don’t know how to be a widow. I knew how to be his wife. Knew how to take the blows he dished out. I damn-well knew how to hide the bruises. How in the world can I be a widow?”

She turned her face away from the sun, opened her eyes, and looked at Eli.

“All I wanted was rest. Him not taking out his stupid anger on me. The doctor gave me sleeping tablets. I gave it to him. Mixed it in his dinner. He never noticed. Slept like a baby. Not every night, though. I didn’t want him to get suspicious.”

She looked down at her hands in her lap, fidgeted. Eli had to strain his ears to hear her next words.

“Then I found out I was pregnant.”

Eli sat down on the bench next to her, and didn’t know whether he should say something or lay a hand on her shoulder.

He did neither.

“I didn’t tell him. I was three months along when he came home, angrier than normal. He started yelling even before the front door closed behind him. I was afraid of him. Stayed out of his way. Doubled the doze of sleeping tablets. Watched while he ate his dinner.”

She glanced at Eli.

“I didn’t want to kill him. Really, I didn’t.”

Eli looked at her, a sympathetic look in his eyes.

“The tablets took longer to take effect that night. Too long. He got his blows in. Hit me in the gut. I crawled to the bathroom, locked the door and listened to him raging on the other side. Then it went quiet. He was asleep when I walked into the bedroom. I got into bed next to him, my tummy still hurting.”

A tear trickled down her cheek.

“Woke up the next morning in a pool of blood. I screamed and shook his shoulder, but he didn’t move. Dead.”

She turned her head back to the sun.

“I wish I never married him. Wish my baby wasn’t dead. Doctor said he died of cardiac arrest. But I killed him. He killed my baby. Killed him. Killed my baby.”

She sighed deeply, got up, and walked away. Only once she turned around and looked at Eli still sitting on the bench.

“I just wish things had been different.”

Eli never saw her again.

© Rebel’s Notes

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