Certain stories have a tendency to stick with me long after I’ve forgotten the name of the book or the author. These may not be the best written stories, may not be literary stories, may not even be stories worth re-reading or have long term merits. But for me, these are stories that changed who I am, how I perceive the world; these are stories that still inspire me today and became the lodestone that keeps me writing.
I grew up during the Stupid 70s and about the only good thing that came out of that era was the short-lived experiment to allow students to custom design their classes. So, I was fortunate enough to take a journalism class for Freshman English, as well as a science fiction short story class. The story in question was in an anthology and I retell it making no apology for the poor storytelling, nor errors in the retelling of details.
He was returning home after being imprisoned in cryosleep for 75 years. His crime? Speaking out against the status quo, having a different opinion, publishing his thoughts in a small book that had the potential to influence society.
He wondered about the girl he loved and left behind, the cruelty of a justice system that had stolen everything from him. As he passed by the landmarks of his home town, he recalled their first meeting, their courtship, the high points of their life together.
Arriving at his home, he was shocked to see it had not changed. The open door, the journal left abandoned on the table, spoke of a hasty departure. Curious, he began to read. And discovered her efforts to wait for him, opportunities and risks she took in order to become part of the scientific advancements in spaceflight, travelling at faster than light speeds in the hopes of slowing time enough to be with him again. She wrote of her love, the burning desire to wait for him, the yearning for his imprisonment not to be in vain.
Frantically, he searches the house for her. Has something happened? Why is she not there to meet him? At last it dawns on him–she is afraid. Afraid time has not been kind, afraid too many years have passed and he will not see the woman he loves in the woman she has become.
With a lighter heart, he walks to the community center; the place where they first met to begin their story. She is there, a rose in her hair, fingers twining and twisting, worry lining the still beautiful face. She is there and she is his and the wait no longer matters.