No regrets.

He lay in bed contemplating his life. The past, present, and future. It had been a long fulfilling life. He had ventured the world without regret. Traveling to places once forgotten, to the foreign, and divided. He knew where his passion lied and pursued it to no end. He moved up the ranks in his industry until he had gotten to the top. He mastered his trade. He even made his family proud and even established one of his own.

He didn’t live with any regrets. If anything, he felt unworthy of his life. How did he get so lucky? Sure, his life wasn’t perfect. He had made some mistakes but felt overall that he had made up for them. He strove to make his wife happy and even facilitated the birth of a beautiful baby girl. His pride and joy. How she had him wrapped around her tiny little finger.

She was grown now. Almost on the brink of beginning her own family, excited to take her tenure as a resident doctor at a prestigious hospital. He couldn’t be more proud. As he laid there he imagined her smile when she announced that her longtime boyfriend had finally proposed. She was so jubilant. Her childhood dreams, to be the princes rescued by her prince charming was finally coming true. He hoped she also found refuge in herself as a mother.

Being a father had given him so very much. He felt most fulfilled when he was with her. He remember how he used to swing her around, legs spinning, as she giggled hysterically. He beamed with pride when she excelled in school. He taught her everything he knew and more. He became a better person because of her. There wasn’t a moment he didn’t try soak up with his soul or or a want he didn’t indulge her in.

As he laid in his bed, a memory caught him off guard. Many years ago, he had been gifted a book by a young woman. Someone from his past. He had taken it home but never opened it. He had placed the book on his shelf which was promptly moved from year to year, house to house, country to country. He never opened it because he had seen no cause to. Now all of sudden, he had gotten this urge to go to his den and open the book. What an odd inclination.

He got out of bed and walked his way down the narrow hall to his study. Something driving him there, unforeseen and fortuitous, but still his feet carried him. He opened the door half expecting to see his daughter or his wife by the fire but he did not. The room was empty. He moved towards the bookshelf closest to the bay window that let in the moonlight, half full.

His wife was away on business and his daughter had since moved out. He was alone. It was something so new to him. He had become accustomed to two decades of constant chatter, the rush of public work, and constant deadlines. It was only recently that he was left to his own disposition, his thoughts. He had not thought about this person in many years. He was intrigued by the sudden urge found inside of him.

He grabbed the book. It was leather bound, a signed copy from the author, a book of poetry that she had bought for some holiday he couldn't remember. Although he had never opened it, it was secretly one of his most prized possessions. Even to him, he had not understood the real meaning to it. Perhaps it was the thought that counted. She knew that he loved poetry and writing. Suddenly, he yearned to write like he used to.

He pushed the urge away and grabbed the book. Before opening it, he walked over to the sofa in front of the fireplace. He put the book on the end table and walked over to the fireplace. He grabbed a couple pieces of timber from the steel black rack that sat next to the square opening. The regular lighter that laid on the top of the mantle was missing.

He sighed heavily as he made his way back through the narrow hallway towards the kitchen. Opening a drawer where all the junk went, he began sorting through its contents. A power charger to a phone, a booklet for an old DVD player, and some tacks. Triumph, he found a lighter underneath the nick-nacks. He walked back down the hallway, unquestioning his motives all of sudden.

Lighting the fire, he sat back down on the sofa and opened the book. After skimming through the first few sonnets, a piece of paper fell into his lap. What’s this? His mind wondered for a moment to a different time, a moment that no longer made any impact on the fibers of his being, but still nevertheless, brought about some long forgotten emotions.

He unfolded the piece of paper slowly. The paper was so thin from time even though it lived in this unopened book for decades. There was a moment where he second guessed himself again. He knew that something awaited him that wouldn’t be unseen. He did it anyways.

He opened the piece of paper to find a letter addressed to him from nearly 30 years ago. He read it slowly.

“My Dearest Muse,

I know I broke you. A piece of you died when I betrayed you. I remember how your boyish charm showed through your obsession with love before. You were a hopeless romantic and I left you a hollow shell of a man. You used to be all about the loving surprises, flowers delivered to my door, poems read to me before bed, the most thoughtful words. You allowed yourself to get caught up in the emotions, almost like a film. A virtue no longer conceded.

I also knew you were shallow. I could tell that you had loved before. I assumed I was a fad, something that you would throw away as soon as you got bored. I didn’t believe you actually loved me because I didn’t see myself as your equal. How could a trailer park girl every compete with the debutants, the Science Po, the Oxfords, or your expectations.

I know that I once killed the child inside of a man. The boy that dreamt of marrying the woman that they loved above and beyond this realm. Something so intimate that there’s not way to deny another life after this. You were on the brink of believing in something more, even as an atheist, something that would cure your melancholy. It was the hope that all this hard work wasn’t for null.

Sure you gave your everything to a higher cause but you always felt like it wasn’t enough, like something was missing. For a moment, that hole was filled with my love. Instead of respecting you, showing you that love is real, I turned inward and became selfish.

I left you when you needed someone the most to guide you, to let you know that you’re not alone. I couldn’t see beyond my own pain. You took the brunt of my hurt from this relentless cold world. I’m not naive or self indulgent to think that I was the only one. I know it was a conglomeration of many women. I just know that I left you jaded and in a place that allowed them to push that boy inside of you even deeper inside.

You’re still jaded. It’s why you continue to hurt the ones you love. It’s the reason why you still find love outside your most meaningful relationships and I’m so incredibly sorry. My only regret in life is what I’ve done to the most amazing boy that I ever met.

I know one day you will move on from it. I believe in you. I just want you to know that I love you more than anything. I will never stop loving you. Even if it means you never speak to me ever again. I hope this apology still shows you that the love wasn’t fake. It wasn’t a lie or some youthful fairytale. The love we felt was real. All I wish for you is that you feel it as passionately again with anyone. You’re worthy of that type of love.

Do not stop yourself from falling that deeply again. Love is real despite your painful memories. Love does conquer all, but only if you let it.

My deepest and undying love,

Emily Stone”

As he finished the last line, realization washed over him with a force so profound that he let out a loud whimper. Emotions that he had not felt for nearly three decades took hold and he began to cry.

How had he walked on this earth without ever loving someone as much as he loved her. In that moment, he knew what she said was true. She broke him and left him unable to allow love inside. From the moment she broke up with him, he built a wall with guards all around.

Surely, he loved his wife as much as he could but it was not the same. Before he met Emily, he believed in love at first site and of soulmates that were the beginning and end all. She had destroyed the boy inside him.

She had apologized once in person but he was too stubborn to believe her. Surely it was for accolades or because she was trying to win him back, a trap. This time, decades later, her words hit him differently. There was no hope of winning him back, only the sense of time that had buried his feelings deep inside.

He felt his body wretch but couldn’t control the shaking with sobs that were not ending. Suddenly, that boy reappeared and all he wanted was that love again.




Venture Novelist, Change Catalyst, Intersectional Geographer, and wannabe Scientist.

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Charla Burnett

Charla Burnett

Venture Novelist, Change Catalyst, Intersectional Geographer, and wannabe Scientist.

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