Ecclesiastes 7:10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Lilly swung her legs over the balcony. “Goodness, this seemed so much shorter back then, didn’t it?”
Chris shuffled his feet on the ground, “I suppose we’ve grown since then.”
Lilly nodded. The iridescent autumn scenes played through her mind as if they were happening as they spoke. Running, laughter, embraces, adventure… She could almost taste his lips that da-
Her train of imagination took a turn too fast and skidded down the mountainside when she caught a glimpse of his wedding ring.
Chris took another sip of coffee and sighed. “So much has happened since then.”
“It feels like it was yesterday…” Lilly muttered, suddenly feeling her stomach churn.
“It doesn’t feel right.” Chris paused, leaning against the old oak tree. “It doesn’t feel right to be here without her.”
Lilly bit her lip. “She’s still under treatment?”
“She was supposed to get out today. It was her idea to meet here, for us to all make new memories.”
Lilly dropped her eyes to the tangled wire grass. Her stomach refused to stop churning.
Chris ran his finger along the old oak’s bark. Lilly was looking fabulous as ever, but her mind was far away. He turned his wedding band with his thumb absently. No matter what absurdity Lilly spun, no one could ever match for his dear Hope.
“Well, maybe you should go then.” Lilly looked away again.
“Maybe.” Chris sighed, standing up straight. The winter haze settled over his imagination like a blizzard. Lilly’s bright eyes and Hope’s radiant smile. Mark slipping under the ice.
Chris shook himself back to the summer day. “You’re right. We should try again when she’s well.”
“Maybe.” Lilly smiled again, watching him fade away.
“How was it?” Hope reached out for Chris as he kneeled at her bedside.
“She hasn’t changed a bit.” He forced a warm smile and kissed her hand.
Hope sighed. “She still loves you, huh?”
Chris turned away, “Why did you send me there?”
Hope ran her fingers through his hair, the tiny gray flecks sprinkled through the field of golden locks hardly aged him a day. “I miss her, us. The gang.”
“You know it can’t be like that, not without Mark…” Chris trailed off.
Hope bit her lip, “You don’t have to compete with the past, dear.”
“Then why is it still there?!” Chris gripped her hand tight. “Why is it that every time I see that old lake, I see him slipping away again? How do you not hate me for it?”
“Chris…” Hope cradled his hand, flinching as the needle shifted in her skin, “Everything is different now. There are no old days to go back to.”
“You loved him, though.” His hands were shaking.
Hope gripped his hand silently. A tear slipped down her own face.
After a moment, Chris turned to her. “Just don’t die on me too, okay? Please promise me that.”
Hope smiled weakly, squeezing his hands. “Darling, life makes no such promises. All we can do is to live with every ounce of ourselves in this moment. I promise you that.”
Lilly took another sip of the lukewarm coffee. The old oak seemed to groan under the summer heat, but as the sunset slipped through the leaves, she found herself in a dream. They were all kids again, and Mark was still there to entertain Hope. She reached for Chris’s hand and found herself tumbling into the water. Mark dove in after her and everything went black. Gasping for air, she found herself back in the car, parked in front of the hospital.
“Oh Hope, forgive me.” Tears slipped down her face. Through the haze, she saw Hope’s letter on the dashboard.
“Write yourself a new story, and make it a good one.”