It was 3:00 p.m. on a brisk New Year’s Eve in New York. Everything felt dead and dismal. It was if time’s pendulum had stopped swaying. Sarah’s life had not been the same since Julian left seven years ago. That was the night when their capsized ship would no longer sail through the stormy sea of love; when their relationship would sink into a bottomless ocean and never rise to the surface. She had had enough of his broken promises and weak excuses. They were supposed to spend the holidays together, but Julian had canceled their plans at the last minute. He called to say that something urgent had come up, and he needed to leave town right away. However, Julian did not elaborate with the details. When Sarah questioned him about it, he abruptly ended the conversation and then became icily reticent.

After his ambiguous telephone call, Sarah grew angry and bitter. Seven years went by without any word from Julian. Sarah picked up her life as an emerging New York Times journalist.

Before she realized it, New Year’s Day had arrived. Sarah was jolted back to the present when she heard a knock at the door. When she answered it, Sarah was surprised at the face staring back at her. After a brief moment of silence, Sarah finally spoke.

“Hello, Julian,” Sarah said coolly.

“Hi, Sarah,” Julian smiled.

Hesitatingly she led Julian into the apartment.

“So what are you doing in New York?” she sputtered nervously.

“I came to see you because there are some things which need to be resolved between us.”

“Resolved? Are you going to explain why you suddenly left me seven years ago on New Years Eve? Sarah said sarcastically.

“I would certainly like to try if you’ll give me a chance.”

“Sarah, the past seven years have been painful and it was difficult walking away from you. The place you filled in my heart can never be filled by anyone else.

“Julian, wait. I know what you’re trying to do here. You think that by admitting your guilt, you can sweet talk your way into my heart again. Well, you’re sadly mistaken. I waited a long time for you to come back into my life and you never did. I finally realized that I was deluding myself into thinking that this fantasy of us together would come true. I have finally moved on with my life.”

“Sarah, I didn’t come here expecting a romantic reunion with you. I know that I have hurt you far too deeply to ask you for anything more. I just want you to know why I left and that my love for you is still real.”

“I know how your type operates and I’m not going to fall for it anymore. I want you to leave and don’t come back!”

Julian looked at her in utter surprise, walked away from her and slowly left the apartment in silence.

A couple days later, Sarah received a note from Julian.
“ Sarah, I’m sorry about what happened the other day. I know that it must have been a shock to see me after all these years. Could we talk over dinner? I’ll be at the Greenwood Terrace at 6:00pm. Hope to see you there. Julian.”

Sarah was angry at first, but after mulling it over, she decided to see him. When she arrived at the restaurant, Julian was sitting at a corner table by the window.

“Hello, Julian.”

“Hi, Sarah. Thank you for joining me.”

“I want to apologize for the other day. I know that I should have listened to what you had to say, but it was difficult seeing you again.”

“I understand. You had every right to be upset with me for just showing up like that.”

“So why did you come back to New York anyway?”

“Well for starters, I am here to showcase my work for a big art exhibition at the Blumberg Art Gallery this week.”

“And secondly, I wanted to see you and reveal why I left seven years ago.”

“Sarah, what I have to say is both painful and heartrending. I regret not telling you sooner, but I simply was not ready to reveal that part of myself.”

“I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but none that I regret as much as this one. Sixteen years ago, I married my college sweetheart, Amanda who was the love of my life. Then one night on New Year’s Eve, our lives were instantly shattered by tragedy. We were celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary at Montrachet, a nice Italian restaurant in Tribeca. As we crossed the street from the restaurant, an SUV unexpectedly zipped in front of us, knocking Amanda on the ground. Her body lay crumpled on the frozen ground and an ambulance came right away to take her to the hospital. I sat there all night waiting for some sign of life, but the doctor told me that there was a great deal of brain damage and she was now in a comatose state.”

“For five years, I patiently sat by her bedside reading letters and talking to her about daily news and events. One night I received a call from the hospital, telling me that Amanda’s organs had shut down and her heartbeat was irregular. Immediately, I rushed to the hospital and was asked to make a difficult decision. After several hours of no improvement, I shakily told the doctor to remove Amanda’s life support system.”

“When she was gone, I was completely beside myself. It was as if my life had just disintegrated before my eyes and I didn’t know how to survive. But somewhere deep inside, I found a way to emerge from the pit of darkness through my passion for art. As time went by, I opened the Blumberg Art Gallery and that’s when your friend, Melissa started working for me.”

“The first time you walked into the Gallery and talked to Melissa, I thought it was Amanda. After we got to know each other better, I realized how different you were from her. Amanda did not share my passion for art or quite read me the way you did. You seemed to bring out the best in me during a time when I thought life was not worth living.”

“When you and I became romantically involved, things started to change. Whenever you glanced at me and donned your sexy smile, you reminded me of Amanda. All at once, the memories of her came flooding back and I felt like I had betrayed her. I was afraid of getting too close with another woman again after Amanda died.”

“When we were supposed to spend New Year’s Eve together on the anniversary of Amanda’s accident, I couldn’t relive that pain again. I was confused and needed time to sort things out.”

When Julian finished his startling revelation, Sarah sat there speechless. She could not imagine just how shattered Julian’s life must have been. For years, Sarah questioned his love for her or if he was having any affair with another woman. “I’m not sure how to respond to all of this. It’s just so much to absorb all at once.”

Touching the top of her hand lightly, Julian whispered “I know, Sarah. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for the anguish I have caused in your life. I still can’t forgive myself for abandoning you the way that I did. It has been so hard without you in my life. Only now do I realize what I fool I was to ever let you go. I’m not expecting anything in return but no matter what happens, I will always love you.”

Sarah slowly moved her hand away from Julian and then walked across the room toward the window. Questioningly, she began wondering why Julian had shared this haunting story with her now. Was Julian really concerned for her or was he just easing a guilty conscience?

How could she ever compete with Amanda’s memory? Would he really be able to let her go in his heart and commit himself to Sarah?

“I need some time to think things through right now.”

“I understand. Here’s the number where I’ll be staying for the next few days if you want to talk.” With a mesmerizing smile and wink of his eye, he softly murmured “Goodnight, Sarah.”

Two days later, Sarah was awakened by a knock at the door. Groggily she arose from a long catnap and answered it. To her surprise, there was a deliveryman holding a long white box wrapped with red and pink ribbons. Slowly she opened it and discovered a dozen red and pink roses; six of each fragrant beauties. Inside the box was an invitation which read: “S, your presence is requested at the Blumberg Art Gallery for a special gala at 5:00 pm. Hope you can make it. J.”

Baffled, Sarah placed the roses in a porcelain vase and went about her day. By mid-afternoon, Julian was putting the finishing touches at the gallery when Melissa walked into the studio.

“Do you think this is going to work?” Julian said wistfully.

“I know it will, Julian,” Melissa patted his shoulder and smiled.

Slowly but steadily Sarah walked into the foyer of the Blumberg Art Gallery. She spotted a string quartet melodiously playing “Moulin Rouge.” This was the same song that was playing in the gallery when Sarah first met Julian.

Then a minute later, Julian came out to the center of the studio. His chestnut eyes and princely facade formed a smile as he approached Sarah.

“I’m so glad that you could make it.”

Smiling shyly, Sarah said “Thank you for inviting me.” Without another word, Julian led Sarah into a smaller studio filled with large canvases. The lights dimmed slightly then got brighter.

Standing before her, Julian spoke earnestly. “For a long time, I wanted to give you something of myself, but I never knew how. I was foolish back then and I regret the years we lost together. So tonight I want to reveal that hidden soul.”

Julian released the curtain and unveiled an entire portrait collection of Sarah. Sarah. Each painting captured something unique and special about Sarah’s features. Astonished, Sarah stared wonderingly at each detailed piece of work. On the center wall was a shadow box with framed mementos including photographs, poems, and letters from Sarah to Julian.

Stepping back in surprise, Sarah turned toward Julian.

“Julian-“ her voice quivering.

“It’s OK. You don’t have to say anything. I know this is all hard to understand. I want you to know how much I love you and always will. For all of the gifts you have given me, I can never thank you enough. It’s my turn now to give something back.”

“Julian, I never knew that you felt this passionately about me. When I saw you on New Year’s Eve, I was scared of facing you and setting myself up for an emotional fall. Yet, I now realize how much you suffered after your wife died and why you were so distant with me at times.”

“Yes, but I was wrong for treating you the way that I did and I will never do that to you again.” He held her hand tightly and didn’t let go.

Then without another word, Sarah wrapped her arms around Julian, brushed her hand against his cheek and kissed him delicately on the lips.

Clutching her securely in his arms, Julian stared dreamily into Sarah’s eyes.

“Are those tears I see?”

“Only happy ones now.” She grinned gleefully.

“Forever mine you’ll always be. I love you, Sarah.”

“I love you too, my beautiful darling.”

As they tenderly embrace, all sense of time and place begin to fade in the distance.

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