He remembered the sideways light of the sun getting lower in the sky. He remembered the way it seemed to illuminate her like a spotlight.
“I am so in love,” he told his best friend when he saw her for the first time.
“Dude, you’re always in love. Besides, you have a girlfriend,” his friend replied as they eyed the two young women.
“Yeah, but this is…different,” he said, knowing that he had just set eyes on the woman who would define beauty and attraction for him for the rest of his life.
“But Jen is hot,” his friend told him as they got closer.
“But look at her,” was all he could say before having to stay quiet as they were approaching earshot.
They were standing in front of his friend Rachel’s house. His friend Mike had a crush on Rachel, and at times Rachel returned Mike’s attraction. This was one of those times. In fact, they were headed to Rachel’s because Mike wanted to flirt with her and he only decided to go because Mike practically begged him. He wasn’t really looking forward to their flirting as he would just be standing around twiddling his thumbs, but he also thought that maybe Rachel and Mike would actually get together so Mike would finally shut up about her.
He didn’t know Rachel had a friend over.
When he thinks back on it, he can’t remember why she was there. He thinks her brother may have been dating Rachel’s older sister. Or maybe her and Rachel met some other way. He knew Rachel for years, and had never seen this lovely young woman before. He might think to ask her sometime.
He broke up with his girlfriend the next chance he got, and after that they were always together. He remembered meeting her at her locker. They went to different schools, and he got out before her. As soon as he was done, he would head to her school and wait for her right after class. He remembered holding her hand, and being so happy in her presence.
He remembered her scent. She smelled like baby powder and flowers. He loved the feel of her porcelain skin as he would kiss her neck softly and breathe her in whenever they embraced.
He remembered the way she would kiss the back of his neck. The shivers she could send throughout him. Her touch was electric, not just to his body, but to his very soul.
He remembered the way she spoke to him. Deep and poetic, aware of the strength of their love. She had a deeper understanding of things than anyone he had ever met or would ever meet in his lifetime. Their connection was immeasurable.
He remembered her kiss. Her lips so soft. She kissed him with both love and passion, and despite their young age, he had never been kissed better. He remembered the kiss in the snow at night at the park. The snow falling all around them. He remembered telling her he loved her and knowing it was the truth.
But for years, he didn’t remember any of that.
All he could remember about her was the pain he felt when she told him she didn’t want to be with him anymore.
Twenty-four years later, he drove to pick his son up from soccer practice. Apparently, his mother had not shown up again so it was dad to the rescue. It made him so angry that she even wanted full custody considering how little she seemed to care about him. He never let his son see how much he detested his mother, and even though he knew he could use the example in court during the upcoming custody appeal, he was still very upset his son was left alone. He was a little glad to be picking him up, however. Sure, he drove forty miles out of his way to get him, and his son was left alone, but at the very least he would get a chance to spend time with him, and maybe even take him for dinner and after-practice ice cream.
The sun was getting lower in the sky and cast a sideways light across the field as he walked to find his son. He saw him at the far side of the pitch, standing with another boy from his team and…her.
His heart pounded in his chest as he approached. Then some of the wonderful memories of her began to flood his senses.
“It’s you,” was all he could manage.
She didn’t say anything as a wave of emotion swept over her. After what seemed like hours, she finally broke her gaze into his eyes and looked down at the two boys waiting and wondering what the hell the adults were they doing.
“Ian is yours?” she asked.
“Yes, but he lives with his mother,” he told her, trying to let her know definitively that he was available. “Thank you for waiting here with him.”
“Of course, Xavier and him are best friends. They are like brothers,” she told him.
He thought about the fact that she also had a son. It must have shown up on his face. He was searching his mind to find the right way to ask about Xavier’s father when she spoke again.
“Ian talks about his father all of the time. He always talks about how great of a dad you are and how he wants to live with you. I wish Xavier’s father had ever met him, or cared about him at all.”
They talked and decided to get dinner and ice cream. They sat together and talked as they kept an eye on the playing children. There was a lot of laughter and obvious love. In a rare silence, he leaned in to kiss her, but she stopped him.
“I didn’t want to break up with you, back then,” she told him.
“Okay…” he said in a way prodding her to continue.
“My father found out about you. He was a monster. He made me leave you. He said he’d kill you for dating me,” she told him.
“Yet here we are,” he smiled as he finished leaning in for their kiss.
In the next year, he would win custody of Ian. Her and Xavier moved in after about eight months, and they married. The happiness of their love unlocked all the memories that he had buried after the pain of the breakup. As happy as he was to have those memories back, that happiness paled in comparison to how happy he felt knowing they had the rest of their lives to make more.