Short Story Time–“The Jog”

*Note: This one’s loosely based on a story I heard once.

That Saturday morning in October, he just so happened to take a different route for his morning jog. She was walking in the park, and he saw her. An instantaneous connection, just as it had been when they were teenagers. In the ten seconds it took for him to pass her, he remembered the pain of young love.

He remembered throwing rocks at her bedroom window, secret smiles she’d reserved just for him as they passed in the hallway. The kisses he stole when she least expected it. The night he’d taken her to his favorite spot on the hill to overlook the city, and it had taken just one time in the backseat of his car for her to come crying to him three months later with the news that she was to have his child.

He’d promised her they’d get through it together, promised that he would take care of her and their baby. But her parents had never liked him, and she’d been afraid. Too afraid to go against their will.

He remembered the night he’d cried himself to sleep outside of the abortion clinic. Two months before they graduated, she tearfully told him she could never see him again, that her mother had found someone she could marry, someone who didn’t mind that she was “used goods.” Her future husband was rich, ten years older, and he was a doctor. She didn’t have to go to college or work for her entire life.

The day of her wedding was the day he’d enlisted. He’d thought distance could make him forget. But that didn’t work.

Every woman he’d been with since then had reminded him of her. He’d pretended they were her. Two failed marriages and countless affairs later, here he was. It had been twenty-three years, three months, and two days since he’d last seen her.

In the brief moment before he passed by, he noticed the college girl walking with her. Her daughter. His heart clenched, as he thought she could have been his daughter.

They looked happy.

She looked happy, and that was all that mattered. He ran past her, and she didn’t even look at him. He didn’t look back.

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