The Leaf

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The woman waited. It wasn’t as if she were in a rush. She had waited this long and she could be patient for just a bit longer. The aroma of coffee drifted out of the store behind her as she sipped her drink alone. She scanned the horizon for him. Nothing. Nothing but the oak tree beside her. Its shadow fell over her from the outdoor table where she sat. The woman sighed. It seemed ironic, really, that the tree that watched it all begin would be observing the end as well. The tree was of great importance to the town, being one of its oldest members.  It was immense, the kind of tree one would expect to find in a dense forest or atop a hill, but never on a street corner. And yet, there it sat, its long branches stretching towards the heavens. Being the dead of autumn, the tree was completely bare, save for a single orange leaf. It clung desperately to the very top of the tree. It seemed as if it were almost in denial of the season change, stubbornly grasping the branch with its weakening stem, determined not to fall. The woman finished her drink, and checked her watch. Each second that passed made him later still.


The voice was familiar. In fact, she had heard the voice for several years now, waking her in the morning, beckoning her from the next room, and whispering nonsense in its sleep. It was a lovely voice, a strong low one, but with playful qualities. But Sarah had to remember all aspects of the voice. She had to remember it when it was boisterous, angry, and yelling. She had to remember it when it slurred its words, and when it sweared at her.

“Hello, Thomas.”  
  Her voice was a complete opposite. It was high and sweet, yet strong and determined. And for the first time in years, it was unafraid.

 “Won’t you take a seat?”
He did, across from her, first crossing his legs, but then deciding on a more comfortable position. The leaf twirled slightly above them.

 “Where’s David?” he asked.

“He told me I should do this myself.”

The fact was, Sarah’s lawyer had been completely against doing this herself. He had emphatically suggested going along with her, but Sarah would have nothing of it. She wanted to do this herself. She wasn’t quite sure why, but she knew that she needed to face Thomas alone.

“Did you…did you see the tree?” He said, motioning towards the silent watcher beside them.

“Yes, Thomas. I did.”

“You remember it, don’t you?”

Of course she remembered it. It was where they had first met, and six months later where he had proposed. Thomas had painstakingly slipped the ring on the top branch, and told Sarah that if she could climb all the way to the top, she would find a lifetime of happiness. But that was a long time ago.

“We’re not here to discuss that. David finished the papers this morning.”

She pulled a thick manila folder out of her purse.

“Oh…is that why you called me here?”

“Yes, Thomas, it is. Now, if you will just sign at the end of each page…”

“Why are you doing this?

Sarah paused. She wasn’t ready for this. “You know why I’m doing this. This is a long time coming.”

“Hon, just give me a chance …”

“I’m done giving you chances.”

“Will you just let me talk?”

His voice had raised. Its playful quality was gone. Sarah paused for a moment, and then silently nodded.

“Look … I know I was wrong. But I can change, baby. I swear I can.”

The wind picked up. The leaf hung on.

“Let’s give it some more time. I haven’t even seen you in months. I’ll stay away from the booze this time, I swear!”

“I’ve heard this speech before,” interjected Sarah.

“But I mean it this time! Come on, hon. Just give me a chance …”

He reached his hand out and rubbed Sarah’s cheek softly. “Don’t,” she whispered, her voice shaking, feeling his hand on her face. That hand, that hand that could cause so much love, yet cause so much pain. He retracted his hand slowly and unwillingly.

“Sarah … I love you …”

“Love is more than just a word. It’s an action.”

They both grew silent.

“Please, Thomas … just sign them …”

There was a pause, until Thomas finally reached out his hand again. Sarah flinched, but he just grabbed the folder.

“Do you have a pen?”

Sarah reached into her purse again and handed him one. She sat in silence as Thomas skimmed over each page, signing each and every one of them. He stopped for a second on the last page, pen hovering over the line, and looked up at Sarah. Her face showed no emotion. He quickly scribbled his name, and threw it back at her.

“So … that’s it, huh?” he said, leaning back again in his chair.

“Yes. It is,” she responded.

“I don’t really know what to say now.”

“Don’t say anything, Thomas. Just go.”

“Your pen …?”

“Keep it.”

After a moment, he stood up.

“Well … goodbye, Sarah.” He stood awkwardly for a moment, and then leaned in to kiss her. She pulled away.

“Same tramp you always were,” he scoffed. And with that, he got up and turned around. Sarah watched him leave, feeling a single tear slide down her cheek. A tear she shed for freedom, for closure, and for love. Thomas moved farther and farther away, until he was completely out of sight.

In his place, drifting slowly to the ground, was a single orange leaf. It landed mutely next to the now bare oak tree it fell off of.

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