She stood alone on the deck, watching the waves roll and swell. The cold wind blew in gusts, but she remained still. The wind was not as cold as her heart, so she ignored it. The last time she saw the ocean, life was different, better, and warmer, and that was just last year.
She remembered him with a smile. Like the storm, he blew into her life suddenly. But she had welcomed the disruption. She couldn’t fight it, even if she had wanted to. He was charming, brave, and noble. He made her laugh. And oh, those eyes of his had made her weak in the knees. After their first blind date, she was hooked. He was her person, and even better, she was his.
The whirlwind romance took off quickly. Some said, maybe too quickly. Karen and Matt never thought that though. They were hungry for time together, each other. That became obvious to their friends and the “too fast-too soon” worries faded away. And after a couple of months, their friends couldn’t even remember Karen and Matt being single. They seemed to be made for each other, a perfect match.
Karen sighed as she recalled Matt, his touch, his laugh, his kiss. He had a way of calming her when no one else could. And he’d make her laugh till her stomach hurt. She ran her hand across her stomach and smiled. “Oh Matt, you’d be laughing now. I wish you were here,” she whispered to the wind.
He was supposed to be here, on this cruise with her. It was going to be their one-year dating anniversary celebration. Now, everything was different. The happy trajectory of her life had stopped immediately when a bullet ripped through Matt’s body while he was on patrol. Her worst nightmare had come true that day, and part of her died when she saw his fellow officers walk towards her with their somber faces. “Karen, we are so sorry….Matt was killed….in the line of duty…” It was a memory like no other, one that would not go away. The scene was burned into her head and froze her in place, like it did now.
“Are you OK sweetheart? Can I help get back inside? This storm looks like it’s getting nasty,” said a fellow cruise ship passenger.
Karen looked up to find an older woman with a kind face staring at her. “Um, no. I am fine.”
The lady smiled and nodded. “Well, do you need an ear? I couldn’t help but notice your crying my dear. Cruise ships are not normally a place for tears, so I thought I’d see if you needed something.”
Karen reached up and wiped the tears from her face. “I didn’t even notice I was crying. Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks I guess.”
“I understand. I’ve had those kind of tears myself. They never leave you, but they do get easier in time.”
Karen took a deep breath and tried to smile.
Then, the two women stood in silence for a few minutes, just staring at the storm as they held onto the deck railing.
Finally, the kind woman looked at Karen. “When are you due dear?”
Karen looked down at her barely bulging belly and caressed it. “In January. I’m about four months now, is it that obvious?”
“It is to a woman who knows that look. I work in a women’s clinic. But to others my dear, I am sure they haven’t even noticed since you look fabulous.”
Karen smiled weakly. “Thanks. But I guess it’s time I let my family know. I’ve just been waiting for a better time.”
“And when would that be?”
“I thought it was about two months ago, but that’s when my soulmate, Matt, was killed. He was a police officer, and someone ambushed him…now, he’s gone…and I’m here on our cruise…alone.” She looked down at her belly and laid her hand on it. “Well, sort of alone.”
“I see. That explains the memories streaking your face. I thought I had recognized that look too. You see, my Frank was stolen from me too. Not the same way, of course. He was in a car accident. Three years ago. I miss him every day, every second, and I thought I recognized that pain.”
Karen looked the woman in the eye. “Does it ever go away?
“I wish it did sweetie, but no. But, you can find a new normal, in time. And, what a blessing he left with you,” she gestured to her belly.
“Yes, indeed. I just wish…I had been able…to tell him…He died the day I was going to tell him…I waited too long,” Karen struggle to get out through breaths.
Just then, a big wind gust created a small shower of flower petals from a nearby plant and thrust open the double doors across the deck. The woman and Karen looked at each other and smiled.
“I’m thinking your Matt knows my dear, and just might want you to get out of this storm.”
Karen looked around, like she finally realized the storm’s presence.
“Oh. Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
The woman held out her hand. “Come. Let’s get a cup of coffee. You can tell me how you met Matt and I can tell you how I met Frank. It was really romantic too.”
“I can’t wait to hear it,” Karen said as she walked toward the kind stranger and out of the storm.