It was a perfectly sunny July afternoon and as usual on an afternoon such as this in New York City, Central Park was packed. People whizzed by on bicycles, roller blades, or even their own two feet. Groups of teenage girls could be seen laying out on the grass, trying to take advantage of the suns rays as they inconspicuously checked out a group of guys performing skateboarding tricks on the blacktop. Little children clung to their mother's hands, licking ice cream cones, or carrying balloons, heading in the direction of the infamous Central Park Zoo.. It appeared that all of New York City was taking advantage of the beautiful weather.
In the middle of it all was Alyssa Martinelli just sitting contently on a park bench taking the whole scene in. This was one of the things she loved best about New York City, the sense of anonymity it gave her. One of her absolute favorite things to do was just to sit there and watch the people walk by and wonder what their lives must be like. On a day like today, Alyssa could probably sit there all day and go completely unnoticed. I never could do something like this in Florida, she thought to herself.
Florida... Why did she all of a sudden think of Florida? God, it must have been a good three a half years since she moved back home with her parents in New York, So why would she just randomly think of Florida now?
Who was she kidding? Florida and her old life there had been at the back of her mind all day. It was with good reason too. Today was her 25th birthday.
I should be out celebrating with friends, she told herself. Instead I'm sitting on a park bench in the middle of Central Park recounting the last five years of my life and how screwed up they've been. Too bad there really were no friends to call. She'd left them all behind in Florida and had lost touch with them by now. She supposed if she wanted to she could take the train out to her parents house on Long Island and have dinner with them, but how pathetic was that? Or she could take the train in the opposite direction to visit her older sister, Megan, in New Jersey, but being recently married and just settled down in her first real house, Alyssa couldn't help, but feel intrusive barging in on her.
And to think you could have had all that too, a small voice in her head reminded her. Alyssa sighed as she tried to ignore it. Somehow she knew that even if things had gone smoothly, her life as a married woman would have never been as stable and healthy as Meg's appeared to be. It just would have been impossible.
She probably should give her younger sister Stephanie a call and they maybe could meet up for dinner at least. At 19, Stephanie was too young to get into any bars although Alyssa doubted that anyone would bother IDing her because she already looked to be about Alyssa's age if not older. Stephanie was entering her sophomore year at NYU and currently living in a dorm while she was enrolled in some summer program. It's so true what they say about the youngest being the most spoiled, Alyssa thought with a smirk. She had to fight tooth and nail with her parents to get them to allow her to attend college in Florida and even at that Alyssa had to postpone her freshman year while she worked to save up money for an apartment because her parents were so against her going that they refused to help her pay for a place to live down there.
Maybe I should have listened to them, she told herself. Maybe parents really DO know best. She'd moved down to Florida, gotten involved with a guy, and wasted two years of her life, only to wind up back in New York living with her parents and struggling to finish up college almost two years behind schedule. It had only been that May that Alyssa had finally graduated with a teaching degree and moved out to New York City where there was a better chance of getting a job. Sometimes she wondered how her life would have been different if she had stayed down in Florida, much less how different it would be if her and Nick had actually worked out.
Nick.... Exactly the person she did not want to be thinking about today of all days, but like always he haunted her thoughts. Her and Nick. How could two people go through so much together in only a little over two years and honestly overcome all of it? Let's see, she thought. In two years we've been engaged twice, but never married. I've been cheated on by him only to find out that the "other woman" became pregnant as a result. We would be on one minute and off the next, yet no matter what he did I'd always come back to him.It was probably best that things finally ended for them because those obviously were not signs of a healthy relationship.
Yet, he had been the one to break things off with her. More oddly so, at a point in their relationship when things finally were looking up for them. All because he decided that he didn't want to get married after all. Why go through all the trouble of proposing if you're only going to break it off only a few short months later because you "aren't ready?" Alyssa wondered to herself.
Yeah, he had messed her up pretty good. So good that Alyssa had no choice, but to come running home to Mommy and Daddy with her tail between her legs on defeat. Three years ago and it still hurt like hell. Maybe it always would. She knew that since she'd moved back to New York it had become impossible for her to have any sort of relationship with anyone else. Not that there hadn't been offers. She'd try to convince herself to give a guy a chance, but she must not have been very convincing, because there was never that second date. In fact, most of them had told her flat out that they didn't feel as if she was interested in them and they were probably right. Alyssa had no clue what it was that she was looking for, but was hoping that whenever she found it, she would finally feel complete She'd tried the whole one night stand thing thinking that maybe sex would lead to fulfillment for her, but she quickly discovered that it only left her feeling used and even more alone.
Of course Nick did not seem to be having the same problem from what she heard. Maybe it was her. Maybe she was just too much of an emotional person.
OK,enough is enough, she told herself as she got up from the park bench and gathered her things. You're only making yourself feel worse by thinking about him, she reminded herself. Nick was in the past. She needed to forget about him and move on already if she ever wanted to have any kind of a successful future. I'll go back to my apartment, call Stephanie and we'll make dinner plans, she decided as she began to walk away.
On her way to the park exit, she passed a large fountain. Superstitiously, she dug into her pocket for a penny. Staring at its gleaming copper face, she silently wished, I wish that I could finally find happiness with a man again, and flung the penny into the water.
Strange how wishes wind up coming true in the most unexpected of ways.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Alyssa reminsces about a past love and her life since then.