by: Rebecca Taylor

         A light snow was falling as Charlie Reardon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street. He had wants and needs and most of all he had dreams, none of which his girlfriend seemed to understand. He was twenty-four years old and had a life ahead of him; he wasn’t ready to make payments on a house or settle down and start choosing baby names. He wished that Michelle could understand the way he felt but she kept talking about time running out. Her parents had married when they were eighteen and had been happy raising their four children. Charlie was happy for Mr. and Mrs. Lurie but couldn’t convince the woman he cared deeply about that just because her parents had been married when they were so young, it didn’t mean they had to be. As the snowflakes landed on Charlie’s clothing, a chill went through him, he was afraid – afraid that if he didn’t give in to Michelle, that their relationship would suffer but he knew that if he married her, he would eventually resent their relationship. He felt like it was a no win situation and he didn’t know what to do about it. Michelle was a great person to be with when she wasn’t freaking out about how close she was to becoming an old maid. Charlie had tried to tell her that it was the year 2012 and nobody used that term anymore but his arguments fell on deaf ears. Liking children and being ready to commit to their needs for life were two different things in Charlie’s books. He was a spur of a moment kind of guy and that meant grabbing a change of clothes and a few other necessities on the weekends to get out of the city and just go somewhere new. You couldn’t be spur of the moment with a baby in tow, because you had to make sure you had everything the baby needed. Charlie didn’t mind driving in snowstorms, he was careful and he had survival skills. You didn’t take chances like that with a baby. He’d even been doing it less since meeting Michelle because he liked being with her except during her rants. Adventurous Charlie didn’t want to become rush home from work to a family Charlie.

         His cell phone rang and he looked at the screen to see Michelle’s name show up. He slid the phone back into his pocket. He had walked out of the restaurant in order to give himself time to think, time that he needed so he didn’t say something he would regret.

          Toss a coin, make a decision, to be with her or to move on and find someone who wants what you want, said a voice inside his head.

      Don’t give up on the woman you love, said another voice.

     Charlie sighed; it was happening more often that he felt like he was being pulled in a billion directions. He had finished college and just entered the job world – he was getting used to the responsibilities that held, but that was only for eight hours a day, five days a week. Having a child was a lifetime responsibility, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and you didn’t get vacation days.

            Michelle’s not the only woman out there; maybe we should both be seeing other people, but I know I wouldn’t like seeing her with another man. I want to be with her and maybe in ten years I will be holding her baby in my arms but not now. We have time now to have adventures together, we can save our money and go to Paris or Ireland, anywhere we want. You don’t take your baby to see the Eiffel Tower, you go to Disneyland or somewhere that has families and strollers all around you. I’m not ready for that, no matter what Michelle wants I can’t be that guy right now.

            Charlie shrugged his shoulders which were protected by his heavy winter coat. He could feel the tension beating on his muscles.

        “Oh what should I do?” he asked the winter’s evening.

         “Follow your heart,” answered a man sitting on a bench, “and stand up for what you believe in.”

      Charlie looked at the man; his clothing was worn and dusty as he sat at the bus stop. He had obviously done a hard days’ work, but he looked happy and his words were the answer to Charlie’s prayer. He thanked the man and turned around and headed back to the diner. He had to tell Michelle how he felt, that she was in his heart but that he couldn’t turn on his dreams to follow hers. They would have to find a way to make their paths join like the intersection of a street or find another road to walk.