Dedicated to Charlie
Submitted by Tina
When I was 24 I had to move and live under a false name to escape my abusive ex-boyfriend. But almost every day I would see someone who reminded me of him and would scare me enough that I would be shaking after.
This never stopped until I met Charlie. Charlie worked in a shop near the market, and always managed to be outside the shop when I walked by. He would flash a quick smile before pretending to resume his work. His smile was what really got me, I could tell that there was nothing but gentleness and love inside.
After a few weeks we began dating, and for the first time in a long time I felt safe again. I even stopped seeing my ex’s shadow everywhere. I can’t begin to explain how soothing that was for me.
One evening, though, when getting ready for a date with Charlie, I heard fighting in the alley alongside my apartment. I looked out and there was my ex, standing over Charlie, kicking him. My ex saw me and rushed at me, and I was just quick enough to close the side door, flee out the front, and make it to the corner before he came out. I felt terrible for leaving Charlie like that, but I couldn’t help it. I was so scared I didn’t stop running until I was on a bus for my sister’s, who drove me to a town about 100 miles north. In the months that followed I sooo wanted to call Charlie, to apologize for leaving him like that, not even knowing if he was okay, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Once again, I was seeing my ex wherever I looked, and the world just closed down around me again. I pleaded each night that Charlie would somehow come find me. “Please let him find me” were my last words before sleep for a long time.
4 years later, when my ex died of an overdose, my sister asked me to come home. But there was only one place I wanted to be, and that was back where I had last felt safest, with Charlie. I drove back to my old apartment and saw the elderly woman who lived upstairs. She invited me in and asked how I was and if I had ever caught up with that ‘young gentleman that was so sweet’. She told me that after I left, Charlie (I could tell by her description) would come by almost every day to ask if she had seen me. As time passed he came by less frequently, until the last time she had seen him was over a year ago. Each time he came he would leave a note on the door downstairs for me, and she had saved them. All 47 of them were addressed to “Stacy” since I had never told Charlie my real name.
I read a few each day until I could read no more through the tears. He told me how much he missed me and loved me, how I was not to blame for what happened, and how he would hope beyond hope that someday he’d come back and find me here. He even hired a private investigator, but they found nothing. The last envelope was dated 14 months prior.
I searched for him, but couldn’t find him. The cell number he listed in the cards was no longer in service. After a few weeks, I also hired a private investigator, though the news I got from him was the last I wanted to hear. Charlie G had died in a car accident a year before, a few towns away. I was devastated. After that, that town never seemed to hold the serenity I had hoped to find. I moved into the city hoping the busy life would keep my mind occupied.
I got a job in the mail room of a high-rise and used to eat lunch with a workmate at park across the street. One afternoon we heard somebody yelling out “Stacy!… Stacy Greene!” over and over again, but kinda faint. It had been almost 5 years since I had used that name, and I didn’t even think anything at first, but by the time it dawned on me it could have been meant for me, the voice was gone. I looked around, but never saw anyone, so figured it really was nothing. We walked back to work and I put it behind me.
That event got me thinking about the past, missing my Charlie, wishing he could have found me. Maybe if I had tried to find him sooner, maybe if i hadn’t run away… so many possibilites that left me feeling sad and very much alone.
One day, almost a full month later, I arrived to work and began chatting with a few coworkers in the lobby. Suddenly someone burst through the front doors and ran frantically past us towards the elevators yelling “Stacy! Stacy!”. All of the elevator doors were closed so he turned back to us asking if we had seen anyone get in. I recognized him instantly but he was so flustered he didn’t even see me until I ran forward and wrapped my arms around him and hugged him like I would never let go.
As it turned out, Charlie had moved to the city three years before, and would drive back occasionally to look for me. Then one day he was sitting in a bus at a stoplight and happened to look over, and there I was, eating lunch at a bench just a few meters away. As the driver pulled away he tried to get him to stop but couldn’t. The windows in the bus didn’t open, so he just began yelling my name at the top of his lungs, hoping I’d hear him. The bus didn’t stop until the end of the park, and by the time he ran back to our bench we were gone. He immediately took vacation time and spent every day sitting at that bench, walking all around the park, looking everywhere hoping to find me again. After having used up almost all of his vacation time, he spotted me that morning walking into work at the far side of the park.
Charlie never wants me out of his sight now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.