By: Rebecca Larsen
Kate tugged on her husband’s sleeve. “Let’s go sit on that bench for a while.”
Jolted from his thoughts, Andrew turned toward her. “Are you tired?”
“Not really. But Grandma and Grandpa sat there when they took us to the park to play in the fall leaves. I’d like to sit there for a while.
Andrew smiled. “Funny. My grandparents use to take us there, too. And we managed to get married without sharing that.
She laughed. “We both have so many memories of this place.”
Andrew said nothing. He plodded along, staring off into space for a moment. His feet began to shuffle, leaving two furrows in the leaves that covered the path.
Kate inhaled the crisp cool air. She looked at the brilliant orange treetops and turned her eyes to the ground. It was empty except for the leaves. A squirrel ran from her.
“It looks so empty now,” she said. “There aren’t any children playing.”
“I thought I’d heard they’d extended the school day.”
“That would explain it. I’m afraid kids don’t have enough time to play in fall leaves.”
“Somebody just needs to make a play-in-the-leaves smartphone app. Then they would.”
Kate playfully punched his arm. “Our children will play in real leaves. Not on smartphones. Promise?”
His face grew grave. “Yes.” He turned away and scuffled his feet in the leaves.
They reached the bench.
“Let’s sit down,” Kate said, “Maybe we’ll bring our grand kids here when we’re an old married couple. But our parents will get to bring our kids first.”
Andrew frowned. He said nothing. Kate wondered whether she should have said it.
They sat down on the bench. Andrew put his head in his hands and stared off into space.
“Still deciding whether to take that job?”
He nodded. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get such a good offer again. But it’s so far away. I never wanted to move that far from our families.”
She nodded. “But there aren’t that many good jobs here.”
“Yes. And I could get laid off at any time. And with the baby coming…”
“We’ll need money.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “But I never wanted to raise our children so far from their grandparents.”
“Me neither. But I don’t want to work full-time as a mom. And we have those student-loan payments. And I’d like to be able to afford a private school.”
Andrew nodded. “I could always win the lottery.”
“I believe finding buried pirate treasure in a small Midwestern town is statistically more probable.”
He threw back his head and laughed. “I see you’ve done your research.”
“Of course. I checked the statistics on that. Just in case you suggested it.”
“With your intuition, you could make a great gambler.”
Kate looked him in the eye. “Not a chance.”
Andrew leaned back against the bench. “Maybe I should start digging for treasure in the backyard. It sounds as promising as hoping for a good job here.”
“You have to decide on that job soon, don’t you?”
“Three days. And I’m afraid I’ll regret it either way.”
“I don’t even know what I want you to do.”
“I’ve talked to my folks about it. They won’t tell me not to do it, but I can tell they’d be sad if we left. They know I need a better job.”
Kate nodded. “They’ve been so excited about the baby. And they’re looking forward to spoiling a grandchild.”
She gazed at the leaves that fluttered down. A leaf landed in her hair. She took it out and held it in her hands.
“It was so nice growing up with family close by. It can’t be better to grow up rich far from your family.”
He stood up and began pacing back and forth in front of the bench.
Kate fingered the leaf in her hand. She knew Andrew would consider her opinion. She would hate to leave the town, yes. But she didn’t want him to give up the job for her sake and regret it later. And they could use the money. Especially with the baby coming.
Her hands played with the leaf, and she realized she was about to twist and tear it. She thought of how easily her hand could destroy it. She let it flutter to the ground unharmed. She felt as if a word from her might easily harm Andrew by swaying him the wrong way. She didn’t want to pressure him to do something he’d regret.
As the breeze picked up, more leaves fluttered down on her. She watched as Andrew paced back and forth. When Andrew was first offered the job, it had seemed that they’d have plenty of time to decide. Now, their time was almost up. It seemed the days to decide were fluttering away as the leaves
He came back and stood beside the bench, running his fingers through his hair. “I need to face it. I really should take the job. If I get laid off, I’ll have to take whatever I can get, and it probably wouldn’t be in this town, anyway.”
She slipped her hand into his. “I wish we could afford to stay here.”
He nodded. “So do I. I never thought I’d be one of those people who move far from family for a lucrative job.”
She caught another leaf in her hand. “But economic circumstances are beyond our control. They’re driving us away from here, away from the life we wanted for our children.”
She turned her head to watch more leaves blowing away. “We’re being blown away like the leaves when we’d like to be rooted here like this bench.”
He looked off into the distance. “There’s nothing for us here. Nothing in terms of job opportunities that is.”
“And yet there’s everything in terms of families.”
He nodded. “There’s nothing, and yet everything.”
Kate dropped the leaf and stood up. “Right. It’s time to move on.”
Rebecca Larsen is a writer in Washington state.
She is such an avid reader that she obtained credit for a Literature in English major at Excelsior college by getting a sufficient score on the GRE English Literature test (normally used for people applying to graduate programs).
She has found writing fiction and poetry to be her preferred method of expressing her thoughts and feelings.
Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys art, music, and baking.