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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Love I Left Behind by Christina Cole

Is this what you really want?

I sat on the rocky ledge gazing at the Arizona sunrise. With a smile I grabbed my backpack and pulled out my pastels and sketchbook. In shades of pale pink, soft lavender, and bold strokes of yellow, I sketched the dawning day.

Yes, I wanted this time and place. I wanted this chance to pursue my art, to prove I had an artist's vision, an artist's voice. But that other voice -- the one inside my head -- insisted otherwise. It nagged at me that morning, as it had done every morning since I'd come to Sedona four weeks earlier.

"Yes, this is what I want!" I said aloud. For the first time I heard my own uncertainties.

I wanted this free-spirited life, but I wanted more.

I wanted Eddie, the love I'd left behind.

Or had I really left him behind? The voice inside my head belonged to him, and the aching in my heart came from the memories I carried with me.

After several hours, I had little to show for my morning's efforts. I'd spent most of my time staring off toward Thunder Mountain as though the majestic rock could give me its strength if I stared long enough -- strength enough to hold on to my fading dreams.

Thick, gray clouds gathered overhead. Angry with myself for wasting another morning, I put away my pastels and sketchbook, then slung the backpack over my shoulder and hiked down the rocky cliff.

My stomach grumbled with hunger, and I considered driving into town for a late breakfast. I decided instead to save what few dollars I had. The money I'd brought with me hadn't lasted long, and needless to say, tourists weren't beating paths to my doorstep to buy my artwork. To get by, I did odd jobs: trimming bushes, walking dogs, running errands.

I could always go home. But going home meant giving up Sedona, the sunlight glistening off the russet-red rocks, and the breath-taking vista of the canyons.

I pulled my battered old jeep off the highway and headed down the graveled road toward the cabin I'd rented. Dust hung in the air, and I frowned. Someone had been there. Worried about intruders ransacking my cabin, I pressed on the accelerator. As I rounded the bend, I saw an unfamiliar car parked out front, and I leaned on the jeep's horn, blaring out a warning.

"I don't know who you are, but -- " My jaw dropped in disbelief when I saw Eddie smiling at me.

"You're hard to find, Galinda. I spent hours this morning asking around town." He gestured toward my little cabin. "Interesting place you've got."

I couldn't get my head, or my heart, to stop pounding. "What are you doing here?" I already knew the answer. He'd come to tell me how foolish my dreams were, to point out my failures, and persuade me to go home.

Maybe he was right.

But I wasn't going to admit defeat quite yet. I had the glory of Sedona, the reckless freedom of being myself, and the one man I truly loved all together in one unforgettable moment of time. I savored it.


***


One week, we agreed. At the end of the week, we would go home together, or we would say good-bye. Forever. I had already made the decision. The moment I'd seen Eddie again, I knew how much I loved him. I would go with him, but I needed those last few days in Sedona.


***


Together, we hiked up Thunder Mountain, rode horseback through Oak Creek Canyon, and visited the local galleries and shops. We saw Coffeepot Rock, and Cathedral Mesa, and the energy of Sedona swirled around us. I wished the week would never end.

I awoke at dawn on the final day and stepped outside to gaze one last time at the beauty around me. Soon, I felt Eddie's hands on my shoulders. Strong. Warm. Comforting. He brushed a kiss against my neck.

"Beautiful morning," he said in a quiet voice.

I nodded, and tears began to fall. I loved Eddie, but as much as I wanted to be with him, I had to stay. Giving up my dreams would be too great a price to pay.

"I guess it's time to go," I whispered. I whirled around and looked up at him. "Eddie, I love you --"

He shook his head. "Don't say it, Galinda. I came here to find out why you walked away from all we had. I needed to see for myself what you wanted from life." His brown eyes held a look of understanding. "I've seen now how much your art means to you, and I know you're happy. I won't ask you to come back with me."

Another tear fell. It was over between us, but I would always remember our time together.

Eddie's arms went around me. "I won't ask you to give up what you love, but I won't give up what I love either."

"What?" I blinked in surprise.

"I have to go home today, but if you'll have me, I'll come back. To stay," he added. "I've loved you for a long time, but in this past week, I've seen the world from your eyes. I've seen what's in your heart. I've fallen even more in love with you."

***

We kissed good-bye and as Eddie drove toward the airport in his rental car, I floored the old jeep and headed toward the mountains. I'd climbed halfway up the rocky cliff when I saw the tiny plane soaring overhead. I waved, then stood watching until the plane disappeared from view.

Is this what you really want?

The old question made me laugh. I threw my arms upward, embracing the sun, the skies, the clouds, and the trees.

"Yes!" I shouted to the world, and the world echoed back a resounding affirmation.

About the Author: Christina Cole has recently returned to writing after being away from her desk for many years. She has been published in confession and inspirational markets, and now plans to devote herself to romance writing. Christina lives in the midwest. She is currently at work on a full-length historical romance. http://www.christinacoleromance.com

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