Laura fingered the alabaster pendant Danny had given her for her fortieth birthday the year before. It was just a chip from the sculpture he’d been working on but it was everything to her. He had carved it into two tiny hearts joined together, placing it around her neck after they’d made love in the grass near the river. He was so happy that summer, excited like a little boy. The mayor had commissioned a statue in honor of his great great grandfather, Tyson Wallace, the first homesteader in the area. Danny jumped at the opportunity to finally have a project that mattered to someone other than himself. He also stood to make a hefty amount of money and the prestige would only help him get more work. They celebrated the unveiling at city hall separately but their stolen glances across the room were filled with heat and passion. She was so proud of him, this profound and soulful man who saw beauty and truth in something as lifeless as stone. Hiding her feelings for him in public had become increasingly difficult and she feared the artifice would soon crumble, putting everything in her life at risk.
That evening, when the house was still and everyone slept, she walked in the moonlight to find him waiting at their usual spot near the river. His rugged silhouette contained an energy that drew her to him as if her feet were no longer touching earth. His presence was like a grip from which she couldn’t and didn’t want to escape. That night he told her was leaving, going to New York where he’d been offered a job to sculpt a piece for a brokerage firm on Wall Street. He’d been given free reign to design it himself. He told her he’d competed for this job a while back but didn’t have a hope in hell of landing it until the mayor’s commission had clinched it for him. It was year long contract and he wanted her to come with him, to leave here and free herself, be his wife. Then he put his hands on her eyes, gently closing them, and holding her right hand he dropped a ring in the palm. It was everything she had dreamed of, to be with him for the rest of her life. She told him she would go, that she would meet him in the corn field by the Morrison’s farm the next morning. When they parted she could feel the doubt and fear devour her promise to him. By the time she made it back to the house she knew she could never leave here, not now. She looked around at the house and barn, at her Apron still hanging on the old rocker on the porch and realized that her fate had been sealed long before Danny arrived in town. Life could be so cruel, there were some things you couldn’t change no matter how much you yearned to for it. The day he left she could feel something come undone within her, as if his physical departure had wrenched a piece of her soul away, leaving it to drift lost and alone until she saw him again. One last time she caressed the alabaster hearts between her thumb and index finger, the diamond engagment ring hidden in her secret box in the attic. She turned the anguish aside, an act of denial she had perfected, to face the life and the choice she had been forced to make. When all was said and done, staying was her only option, she just hoped Danny didn’t hate her for it.