The Chance

It’s your sophomore year, a Tuesday morning, just about 8:20. You’re in the dining hall, just finished breakfast, on your way to get rid of your tray and you have to hurry because you’ve got class in less than ten minutes and there’s no way in heck you can be late. Then you see her. She’s a sophomore too, though due to various events in your not-so-distant past that you’d rather not discuss, you’re over a year older than her. You’ve know her for the last year and a half (heck, she was in half of your classes last year), and she’s always been a friend. But right now you’re struck by just how beautiful she is, and for a split second you wonder if she might be the one.

You walk over. She says hi. You stammer back a hello. She asks what’s wrong. You stammer incoherently for a moment before finally gathering the courage to ask if she wants to go to dinner with you. She laughs quietly, asks if you’re serious. You tell her you are. She says she’d love to. You go out that weekend.

It’s your senior year. You’ve been dating her for the last two years. Graduation is coming up soon, and you’re scared to death. Not because of exams, of course; that’s all old hat by now. You’re scared because of what you’ve been planning for the last month. As luck would have it, both of you are in the same class together, and even better, she understands the material and you’ve been struggling with it. There’s an exam coming up, so you call her up and ask her to meet you in the library. She agrees. You’re already there, sweating bullets. You spot her walking in a moment later, and the butterflies in your stomach start flying around again. She walks up and asks you what you need help with. Instead, you pull the box out of your pocket and get on your knee. Her hands fly to her mouth. You open the box, and watch as her eyes fix on the diamond. You ask her. She says yes. The place goes wild.

It’s a year after graduation. The two of you are renting an apartment together. You both found jobs straight out of school: she’s a lab technician at a local pharmaceutical company, and you’re a technical writer for a nearby software firm. You’ve also been working on a novel for the past few months. But none of that matters right now. Right now, all that matters is her, a vision in white walking down the aisle towards you. She reaches the altar, and the minister leads her in her vows. You never remember reciting yours, but everyone says that you didn’t make a mistake. You slip on her finger, your eyes never leaving hers. The minister says the words, and you pull her into your arms and kiss her. Husband and wife at last.

It’s three years after your wedding. You’ve both been promoted and have your own little group of staffers working under you. Your novel was published a year earlier to rave reviews, and you’ve got a multi-book contract with your publisher. It’s your birthday. She says she has a surprise for you. She hands you a box covered in wrapping paper and tied with ribbon. You carefully untie the bow and slit open the wrapping paper, sliding out an old shoe box. More curious than ever, you flip open the box. Inside are a baby’s nightgown, bonnet, and a pair of baby bootees. It takes you a full fifteen seconds to figure it out, and then you throw your arms around her and bury her in a passionate kiss.

It’s six months after your birthday. It was a rough pregnancy; she was taking medications to keep from going into labor and was actually bedridden for the last month. Even now, it’s still three weeks early. You’re dressed in medical scrubs, holding onto her hand as she desperately pushes the baby out. In the last two hours, she’s called you names that would make sailors and Marines quiver in their boots, and you’ve begun questioning whether or not she’s going to let you live after this, because it’s you’re fault she’s in such pain in the first place. Another contraction hits, and she squeezes your hand so hard that you think you feel something break. And then you hear it; the quiet wails of a newborn taking its first breaths. The doctors suction the mouth and nose, clean it up a little bit, then hand it to her. Her anger is suddenly gone, replaced by an overwhelming joy as the doctor hands her her newborn daughter. Your newborn daughter.

It’s eighteen years after your daughter was born. You quit your job over a decade ago and are now a full-time novelist. She’s just been promoted to Vice President of her company. It’s your daughter’s high school graduation. As you watch your daughter walk across the stage to receive her diploma, you can’t help but marvel at how fast the last few years have gone by. Seems like just yesterday your little girl was learning how to walk. Then your not-so-little girl started bringing boyfriends home. Most were decent, but there were a few troublemakers. You set them straight pretty quick, though (Amazing what watching the father cleaning a shotgun will do to most boys’ attitudes) A dull roar brings you back to reality, and you watch as your daughter’s graduating class tosses their hats in the air. As you scan the crowd, she reaches over and kisses you on the lips, marveling with you on how fast the time has gone.

“Hey there.”

Her voice snaps you out of your daydream, and you turn and look as she walks past, giving you a shy wave. You wave back, then start towards the washroom again. You glance at your watch and curse, not realizing you may have just missed your only chance.

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