Noah often found himself in this very spot; perched atop an outcropping of stone peering down into the depths of the river, lost in thought. Some instinct, perhaps handed down from his Biblical namesake always drew him to the water. The almost inaudible murmur of the water lapping at the banks seemed to hypnotize him allowing his mind to fold inward away from the trivialities of his daily grind. It was in that state of inward focus that he did his best thinking.
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Rolling a water polished stone in his palm, Noah gazed across the darkening water as the sun began to slide behind the bruise colored cloud bank that lay on the horizon. As nightfall approached and Noah found himself wondering which ghost of memory would rise from the water.
It was something about staring into the darkening depths at sunset that drew his mind to the past, conjuring up past triumphs and failures, long forgotten lovers, enemies and friends. As expected the shadowed whorls and shimmering ripples of the current brought her face to mind.
Their relationship had always been stormy. When they met and fell in love she was involved with another man, and for reasons he never quite understood couldn't bring herself to terminate that relationship. He stuck it out, played second fiddle providing the emotional nuturing that she so desperately seemed to need. They finally ended up together, the ex having flown the coop. It didn't take long before the question popped out of his mouth like a shot, almost by accident and they ended up married. The divorce came a year later and he found himself penniless, drowning in the vaccumn where his dignity and self esteem used to rest.
Those days were years ago, and Noah found himself a little disturbed that her face was the one he found in the water. He hadn't allowed himself to think of his failed marriage in longer than he could remember. Noah allowed his thoughts to wander along the path revealed by the shifting currents of the river as he studied the shimmering image of her face on the surface of the water. As he recalled those first few months he spent after her abrupt departure, and the handful of brief failed romances that followed he realized what it was that had held him back, keeping him alone when all he wanted was a companion.
She had stolen his belief in the security of long term relationships. When they married, Noah believed with all his heart that she would be the mother of his children and that they would grow old together. But when times got rough, she ran away refusing to hold true to the spirit of their vows. Noah now realized that he was still afraid of believing in forever, in lasting commitment, and had never really trusted any of the women that entered his life post divorce to stick beside him in the long haul.
Pondering these revelations about his past, Noah reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and withdrew a small plush box. Inside it was a simple circle of gold topped with a square cut diamond. He had planned on asking his current girlfriend, Nicole to be his wife later that same night over a candle lit dinner in a cozy out of the way restaurant not far from where he stood. He had been confident in the rightness of this decision, but now doubt assailed him in the watery mirage of his former wife's face. Could he trust Nicole to stand by him, to share in his dreams for the future and help him make those dreams a reality? Would she pull away when times were hard? Would she crush his heart, and betray his hopes for a happy family? But most of all could he truly believe in her, believe that her love for him would be more than temporary and mature into something deeper than the heady passions of their courtship?
Reeling from the many questions that battered his thoughts, Noah clutched the jewelry box in one hand and the river stone in the other until his knuckles whitened. Damn her for making him doubt the woman he loved because of her cowardice.
Noah turned away from the water and took a step towards his car waiting a few yards away. But the pull of the water drew his gaze with a strength he had never before encountered.
"Damn you", he said turning to face the apparition of his exwife's face his arm rising to his ear. But before he could hurl the stone, he was stunned into stillness. A new face had formed in the patterns of shadow and light on the water's surface; Nicole's.
This was the first time the river had shown Noah a face from his present rather than from his past, and in those darkened waters he found his answer.
He had a reservation to keep.
Smile if you're stupid,
laugh if you understand.