The piece this week was inspired by this painting called "512 South"
by Florida artist Lauren Graham Cunningham. Enjoy!
Henry only had an address. He must have looked at the message, written in perfect calligraphy, at least a hundred times. It was permanently etched into what little remained of his vacant mind. 512 South. And he had one hour.
Henry wrapped his fingers around the wrinkled parchment they’d given him just moments ago. He knew this was an exception to the rules. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
Yet the excitement fluttering through his body quickly transformed into rampant apprehension. Was this a good idea? Would he even recognize her? It had been so long since he last saw her porcelain face and those captivating eyes. Their encounters, however brief and distant, had been the essence of his existence since he left her side all those years ago.
The café was a few doors down on the corner. Henry slipped inside when a young couple pushed through the entrance, laughing and hugging each other like newlyweds. Their contagious smiles made Henry feel whole again.
He wondered if she was that happy. For so many years he worried that his limited time with her caused more harm than if she’d never known him at all. Life often has a funny way of shaping a soul, and he hoped that his departure hadn’t destroyed hers.
Looking around the crowded room, Henry didn’t see her. His breath caught in his throat and the world began to spin. Perhaps they were mistaken. Perhaps she wouldn’t be here at all. He crumpled the paper and rolled it back and forth across his knuckles. It was a movement reminiscent of his days in the clubs and one that instantly soothed his nerves. He let out a deep breath. No, she would be here. They were never wrong.
Henry drifted like mist through the room and sat in a chair near the window. A newspaper lay open on the edge of the table, left behind by its previous occupant. The lone glass of water glistened with droplets of moisture trying to escape their liquid prison. Henry watched each one trickle down the opaque barrier until they splattered against the table in celebration. He had forgotten how to enjoy these little intricacies of life.
The door chimed and Henry turned to face the woman he’d been given one more chance to see. She was taller than he expected, although her blonde hair and bright green eyes were just as he remembered. She moved as gracefully as a ballerina with a precision that radiated confidence. If Henry could still cry, his eyes would have been filled with wistful tears.
Her face lit up as she joined a man sitting at a table nearby. It was obvious to Henry that this was someone important. He watched her laugh, flirt, and occasionally brush her hand lightly against the man’s arm. Listening to her voice and seeing her smile, Henry warmed withen memories of their last moments together.
Her mother had warned him to cut back on the red meat and sweets. “You’re not a young man anymore,” she teased.
He promised to start the diet next week, but right now he wanted to be with his new baby girl. She was a combination of Henry and his wife, yet she seemed too ethereal to be from this world. For hours he would stare at her angelic face and squeeze her plump little toes. With every giggle he felt his heart swell. How could one tiny person bring so much joy into his life?
Henry would have just two more days with his first and only daughter. Two more days of memories to hold on to. His heart had failed him, and for thirty years he worried that he’d failed her too.
As the café began to fade and the whiteness enclosed around him, Henry knew his hour had passed. But he was at peace now, knowing she had survived.