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Alexis woke up frightened and looked around for Paul. He wasn’t there. Her hand reached out and caressed the empty, cold mat. “Paul? Paul?” she called out. “Where are you?” There was no answer.

She sat up. Her vision scanned the area around her. Her pumped-up heart skipped a beat. It was still dark outside the makeshift tent that had been home to Paul and her for almost three years, too dark to be blundering around, looking for someone. Tears formed in her eyes. She fell back down in sheer panic, covered her head with the thin blanket, and tried to muffle the sound of her heartbreaking sobs and stop the wet tears that cascaded down her frozen cheeks. She put her throbbing fist in her mouth so no one would hear her. Deep, harsh sobs racked her rigid body just before she fell into a weary sleep, feeling the rats as they pulled at her blanket.

Daybreak came. Her eyes popped open. A silhouette from the sun penetrated her crusty eyes. She threw back the blanket, stuck her foot out from under the tent, grimaced, and jerked it back. It was still too cold to get up. But she had to find Paul. She, reluctantly, sat up, crawled out of the tent, and stood looking around. Once again, she called out “Paul, Paul, where are you?”

He wasn’t there.

Her almost-perfect vision was blurred by the matter that had seeped into her eyes during the night. Her frozen fingers reached up and wiped it away.

She crawled back inside, rolled up her blanket, and walked away from her home. The only home she had known for some time. She was now on a journey to find the love of her life.

Her search was not in vain. She found him right under her nose. Then her life started, once again, for the second time around.

Or so she thought.

--Marva Gathers Williams

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