The knife's handle protruded from his abdomen. In the dim light from the doorway, she knelt beside her rescuer and looked beyond the grey speckled beard at the eyes that she instantly recognized. To her horror it was Kevin lying and bleeding next to her.
For Alice the night started out as so many others had. She left work at 5:30 and hurried to meet some friends in the Old Port. As usual the bars and shops were filled with people enjoying one of summer's last gasps before autumn's cool breezes started blowing from off the Atlantic. She met two other women in Gritty McDuff's, famous as a local microbrewery and pub. After some gossip and a couple of drinks one woman left. Alice was never one to say good night early, so she and her other friend decided to visit another local bar. When she walked into Cadillac Jack's many of the men took notice. Even at 50, Alice's appearance always commanded attention. She was 5' 4" with auburn colored hair, hypnotic green eyes and a shape that men find irresistible. For those that may have missed her entrance, her vibrant personality and uninhibited laughter made it impossible for her to go unnoticed for long . Within minutes she had struck up conversations with several men.
In the corner bar stool, furthest from Alice, sat a man sporting a speckled brown beard. He was sipping the same beer, he had been nursing since his arrival shortly after Alice. For more than an hour he just sat and watched Alice dance and talk with one man and then another. At 10:30 the woman she was with, whispered something into her ear and left. Alice was left to fend for herself. But in this bar with so many men she was anything but alone.
He watched how each man she talked with seized any opportunity to brush up against her. He watched with jealousy and longing as their gazes were drawn from her finely sculptured lips towards her ample cleavage.
It had been sixteen years since they were lovers, and that wonderful experience had been all too brief for him. His mistake with her then was that he loved her too much, and she knew it. He once told her he'd do anything for her. She said, "Never tell anyone that." He now knew what she meant. If someone understands the power they have over another that person may be tempted to exploit it. Had he been exploited, perhaps. Their affair lasted for a few months but than winked out as stars flee from the approaching day. As the twinkle faded from his heart he reconciled himself to just watching her. He knew there was no room in her life for him. He knew he obsessed after her--after all she was the love of his life and he wouldn’t do anything that would make her hate him. He was careful not to reveal his obsession; she'd hate him for it. He couldn't live with that. It was hard enough to live without her. He certainly wouldn't do anything to hurt her. So he only watched her in public places, where his beard concealed his identity. On evenings like this, he would sit at some bar stool or behind her at a theater and quietly watch her and all too often remember. On these evenings, when she was finally ready to call it a night, he'd discretely and distantly follow her back to her car and make sure she was safe inside. At least in this small way he felt he was still looking out for her. He'd watch her each night pull her car away from the curb and it's tail lights dim in the distance. And each night he'd again be awash in the sadness of being apart. He saw beyond her façade of happiness. He knew better than anyone that she guarded herself against feeling too much for anyone. Many times he wanted to approach her and speak with her again, but it had been 5 years since they last spoke. He didn't want to upset her. He scratched the beard on his chin wanting to shave the hair, wanting to reveal himself to her. He wanted to return to the days when they laughed and talked for hours on end, and made love until the faint glimmer of the sun etched its pink and orange hues across the morning sky.
So many years before, his love for her had turned his life upside down. Since her, he couldn't love anyone else and found life cold and meaningless. Falling in love with her hadn't taken long. But it was taking forever for him to learn how to live a happy life without her. His greatest problem was he was certain she wasn't happy. If only she was happy with her life than he thought it would be easier to let her go. She walked up to the bar and took the stool next to his. She smiled and said, "Hello!" But he only nodded, never taking his eyes from his beer. He could feel his face going flush and was again thankful for the concealment of the beard. She sipped her cocktail and struck up a conversation with the man on her other side. He listened to her but only focused on the song of her voice. He remembered all the secret phone calls, her suggestive, sensual talk and her coy, girlish laughter. He remembered the cottage by the sea where she came to visit him. He remembered all those wonderful times that they held each other in their arms. All of that was before he began to ask her how she felt. When he began to look for more from her than love making she began to offer less of herself. Sex was easy for her but love was very difficult. He knew that then, but felt that if he could keep them together than his love and devotion would work through this barrier. The dream never materialized.
She thanked the man who payed her tab and then he watched her leave. He nodded to the bartender and left her a generous tip for he felt guilty for nursing the one beer. He walked to the door, and stood out on the sidewalk. She had slipped out of sight. He wasn't certain where she may have left her car, but she was a creature of habit and he knew where she commonly parked. He started to walk down towards Commercial Street, near the docks and the harbor. It was late in Portland, the night’s fog had rolled in, and these popular streets were quiet. He listened to the clop of shoes on distant cobblestones and smiled, knowing from the gait and the confident stride that it was her. He heard a muffled scream and his heart raced. Like a sprinter at the start, he rushed from dimly lit street into an alley. He saw a shadowy figured slammed against a dumpster at the back of the ally. In horror, he knew it was was Alice, she was in trouble. As he raced towards them, he cry for help cut through his own fear, as the blaring fog horn from Portland Head Light. He threw himself at the taller of two figures and wrestled the man off her. He threw two solid blows to the man's stomach before the blade entered his abdomen. The assailant ran off down the ally and the bearded man slumped to his knees and rolled onto his side. Then he heard her shouts for help.
An intense white light engulfed him and beckoned him forward. In the distance, he heard voices and shouts, but they were barely discernible, growing fainter, further away. Ahead, towards the light was the future, behind was the pain of his past, yet he heard one voice that made him linger. "Kevin, please come back, it's me!!!!" The love he still felt for her surged through him and he knew he could fight his way back, but at the same time he knew his pain would just surface again. "Kevin, I do love you", she whispered into his ear. As Kevin stepped into the light, he thought one last thought about her. "Alice, I love you. I'll wait for you on this side where you won't be afraid."