Joyeux Noël, Elinor by Élodie Garroway
This place is so beautiful, and I stop to gaze out across the woods bordering my family’s property and Henri’s. I’m not sure how long I stand there before I hear approaching footsteps.
“I didn’t have the heart to sell it for months after the renovations were complete.” Henri said coming to a stop next to me. “I saw too much of my mother in every room, too much of my childhood in the orchards. The family that eventually bought it are really good people. It just took a long time to sell because I was holding on to something that wasn’t really there anymore.” Henri is standing beside me, hands in his fleece-lined jean jacket’s pockets, looking out towards the forest as I am.
Holding onto something that wasn’t really there anymore.
“Why do you think you did that?” I know I shouldn’t pry, yet my mind cannot seem to understand that the man next to me may be Henri but he’s a stranger. “I’m sorry that’s none of my—”
“No,” he interrupts me and I turn to face him. “It’s fine for you to ask. I think sometimes we feel safe in the past. Good or bad, when we hide in the past, we know what to expect, how to react, when really it can hold us in that same pattern. On ne peut pas y échapper.”
We cannot escape. I sigh and look away.
“Do you find yourself stuck, mon ange?”
My angel. I feel those old feelings of affection, of love, flooding into my heart. I shouldn’t let these feelings warm me. I’ve just ended a three-year engagement. I am so needy for affection; Henri doesn’t deserve to be a rebound.
“You can’t call me that,” I stammer, closing my wool peacoat tightly around my throat as if that would keep this new warmth in my chest from spilling out and giving me away.
“But weren’t you my angel first?” He whispers.
My heart beats faster and the warmth is spreading throughout my body.
We never dated. We never even kissed. At this moment, I do wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been sent away? What would things be like now?
It’s foolish to wonder so I take a step back and turn towards the house.
As I walk away, I look over my shoulder. Henri is watching me retreat, with eyes just as warm if not hotter than the feelings bouncing around my heart.
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