For All Time-II
(a continuation of the story Retrospective by Pam G)
written by: WAMsLite@aol.com
††††††††††† Alex tossed and turned, trying almost desperately to let sleep reclaim her. Finally, surrendering, she twisted and looked at the clock on her beside table. Five a.m., way too early, she thought, pulling the covers back over her head in a vain attempt to block out the early morning sun. Why today of all days? Silly question, she knew exactly why she was awake this morning. Much as the blonde would have preferred to spend the day in the oblivion of sleep, it seemed fate had other plans for her.
††††††††††† Walker's wedding day. Not that it should make any difference to her. She wasn't the woman who would be sharing it with him. It wouldn't be her eyes he gazed into and repeated the words of commitment and forever. It wouldn't be her finger he slipped a simple gold band upon as a symbol of his love.
††††††††††† After all the years and all the tears, it had never been her. He'd proved that so easily. First by letting her go. Then by not asking her to come back. And finally, after less than four months, by announcing to the world his intention to marry another.
††††††††††† She knew now with certainty that Alex Cahill had never been any of the things forever meant to him, and it seared to her very soul. Because for her, there would never be another but Cordell Walker.
††††††††††† She'd worked hard at building her new life in Richmond, especially in the month since the invitation to the wedding had arrived. Settling in to her new job and slowly making new friends. An occasional phone call back to Dallas kept her in touch with C.D. or Jimmy, just enough to know all was well. That he was well.
††††††††††† Neither of her dear friends had pressed when she'd said she wouldn't be able to make it back to Dallas for Walker and Marileeís wedding, accepting without comment her excuses about a heavy workload and the continuing organization involved with her new position. All three knew it was more than that. For so long everyone had thought it would be Alex that the red-bearded Ranger finally invited into his solitary home - and his solitary heart.
††††††††††† But that hadn't been reality. Reality was that Merilee Summers had come back into his life, and with none of the hesitation he'd used with Alex, Walker had soon made room for her in his heart. The lovely blonde was happy for him, truly and deeply, but how could she return to Dallas? Listen to the music of joy on his wedding day when her own shattered heart played a death knell?
††††††††††† Up until the last week she'd been congratulating herself on dealing with it so well. Then, out of the blue, feelings of Walker had swept over her like a flood's raging torrent. It was almost as if he were there. Sometimes Alex was sure if she turned around, she'd see him just behind her. More than once in the last few days she'd forcibly stopped herself from suddenly turning in traffic and returning a route she'd just traveled because she'd imagined having seen the familiar silver-blue Ram somewhere behind her. His memory haunted her. And she knew it wasn't healthy. I have to let this go. I have to find a way to let him go.
††††††††††† Alex checked the beside clock again. Five thirty. In less than nine hours her dreams would die forever, at the moment the rest of Walker's life began. The life he chose to share with Merilee. She closed her eyes almost painfully, trying to force away the memories. And the questions.
††††††††††† What was missing in you, Alex? she asked herself for the hundred-millionth time. What didn't you have that he needed? There were no answers. Would never be any answers. Defeated, Alex covered her face with her hands. Damn you, Walker. Why couldn't you love me? And how am I ever going to make you go away?
††††††††††† With a deep sigh Alex rose from the bed at last. No, fate wouldn't be so kind as to allow her to pass this day blissfully unaware. It would force her to live every moment.
††††††††††† Originally she'd intended to carry on as she always did. Work and home late in the evening to prepare for the next day's work. Usually losing herself in the job gave her peace. But as the wedding day had drifted closer and closer, her focus had begun to evaporate. The strain of trying to forget the date only making it loom larger in her mind.
††††††††††† Two days before, after rushing out of the grocery store because she thought she'd seen a dark hatted Ranger passing by the window, Alex had admitted to herself that she would have to deal with the demons alone. And made the final decision to spend the day trying to place her past in perspective. Trying to find a safe place to store the dreams of what might have been so she could move into the future that would be.
††††††††††† She'd rescheduled appointments, made sure that all the cases and bases were well covered, and taken the day for herself. At least this way if I want to sit in a corner and cry, no one will be there to see, she thought sadly. But it was only last night she'd settled† on a plan. Hiking on the mountain trails in the area outside Richmond would give her a day of solitude, to work things out without distractions.
††††††††††† It wasn't yet six-thirty when the blonde woman grabbed her gear and the supplies she'd prepared and headed out the door.
††††††††††† He was stalking her, and he knew it. For days now he'd stayed just out of her line of sight, but followed the blonde's every move. He didn't want to, but couldn't seem to help himself. Obsession. The word echoed in the dark corners of his mind. Am I obsessed with Alex?
††††††††††† It had begun to override every other consideration, until he'd come to this. Following, watching, feasting on the sight of her in an attempt to save his starving soul. It can't go on. I have to stop. I have to leave her alone. He was about to drive away at last, until Alex stepped out the front door of her apartment building. With a sigh of resignation, he was behind her again. Perhaps this time he'd find the courage to approach, to speak to her, to make her understand.
††††††††††† Alex walked for hours. Away from the easier, more well traveled trails frequented by tourists and what some called 'Sunday strollers'. She wanted to be alone, and headed almost instinctively onto the more isolated and rugged stretches. Occasionally the sun would peek through the high clouds that scudded by overhead, for a moment highlighting a piece of the scenery before disappearing again.
††††††††††† She paused a few times to rest for a moment, or to simply enjoy a particularly lovely view, but some inner part of herself kept urging her forward and farther away from any chance encounters with other climbers. It was past noon before beautiful DA found a spot that satisfied her need for isolation and she settled down at last.
††††††††††† The blonde woman knew she should have been hungry, yet found no desire to open her pack and remove the sandwich and fruit she'd placed there. Instead she sat on a flat rock warmed by the day's heat, staring out over the landscape displayed before her. Some time passed before Alex even realized she'd instinctively turned to face the west.
††††††††††† To the west. Toward Dallas. Toward home. No, not home. Never home again. I gave that up when I chose to leave. Today Walker will marry Merilee, and it's because of me. He might never have said anything, but I knew he cared. Maybe If I'd given him a little more time? Maybe if I'd stayed? Maybe if I'd spoken first? Maybe. Too many maybes now. And it was my choice. Alex struggled to stop the tears as she lowered her head and covered her face with her hands. My choice.
††††††††††† Staying behind her wasn't hard. She was paying attention to her path, but didn't seem concerned with any others that might be around. Silently he followed as the blonde woman worked her way higher up the trail and farther from the places where casual climbers stayed. Though not as well used as the lower and gentler paths, the route she followed was well marked and he had no difficulty staying far enough back so that she remained unaware of his presence. Twice he nearly turned back. She wants to be alone, I should leave her in peace. But each time he found himself instead continuing behind her.
††††††††††† Alex was just in his view when he saw her veer off the path and gaze at the panorama spread before her.† Then she moved to a large flat rock nearby and sat quietly, continuing to stare off into the distance. Cautiously, knowing that now that she wasn't moving any stray sounds he might make would be detectable, he worked closer, staying behind cover of trees and brush. Just a little closer, he thought. I won't disturb her, just be a little closer.
††††††††††† Finally he stopped. He'd found a spot where he could study her profile as she gazed over the landscape before her. His mind whirled. Alex. If only I could talk to you. If only I could find the words to make you understand.
††††††††††† He watched as she covered her face with her hands, saw the silent sob she fought so hard to hold in. He ached for her. One hand reached out toward the trembling woman, as if he could caress her cheek from the distance between them. Unconsciously he took a step forward, closer to her, and a twig snapped beneath the errant foot. Startled out of his thoughts, he ducked quickly back behind a large tree.
††††††††††† Alex spun, the snapping branch echoing loudly in her mind. She peered into the trees in the direction the sound had come from. "Who's there?" she called. When she got no response a terrified lump rose into her throat. Another hiker would simply identify himself and move on, the silence was ominous. "I said, 'who's there?'" she pressed, struggling to keep the fear from her voice. "Come out, right now. We're not that far from the main trails, if I scream others will hear! Now, who's there!"
††††††††††† Knowing that there was no way he could leave without being seen, he stepped from behind the sheltering tree. "It's me, Alex."
††††††††††† The lovely blonde's eyes flew open wide as she covered her mouth with her hand and scrambled from the rock, backing away. "What are you doing here?" Alex questioned quickly, shock evident on her face. "And how did you find me?"
††††††††††† Face reddening, he scuffed at the leaves by his feet, "I followed you this morning. I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to disturb you. I just wanted to see you."
††††††††††† "You followed me?" Alex stared in simple amazement.† "You've been following me, haven't you? I wasn't imagining it. How long have you been here, Walker?"
††††††††††† "Two...no, three days. I didn't mean to frighten you, Alex. I...I needed to see you," he answered softly. "Only, once I was here, I didn't know what to say. Didn't even know if you'd want to see me."
††††††††††† "But...what are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Dallas! Today's your wedding day!"
††††††††††† The red-bearded Ranger gazed fully into her startling blue eyes. "There's not going to be any wedding, Alex. We called it off almost a week ago. It was wrong and Merilee and I both knew it. I wasn't in love with her."
††††††††††† Alex sat down slowly on the large boulder, motioning for him to join her. "I guess we have some talking to do, don't we?" she said slowly.
††††††††††† "I don't know why I pretended for as long as I did that I could go through with it," the Ranger continued as he took a seat beside her. "I guess I figured if I went on with it, I could convince myself. But Merilee was never what I really wanted. She knew it, too. We finally talked it out, agreed it would be better to walk away than to get into a marriage that had no chance. And it never had a chance. I didn't love Merilee. I couldn't. I'm still in love with you."
††††††††††† The blue-eyed attorney felt hot tears streaming down her cheeks. "But you never told me that, Walker," she almost whispered. "You never breathed a word."
††††††††††† Walker sighed. "I know. There's no way to undo the hurt I've done you. I can't explain it. I'm not even sure what happened. Alex, I meant to tell you so many things. It's just that...that I never did." His voice breaking slightly, Walker went on, "You were always there. And I guess I let myself believe you always would be, that I had time. Then you said you were leaving."
††††††††††† This time it was Alex who sighed, wrapping her arms around herself as she stared off into the distance, "Oh, Walker. I thought I had to. I didn't think it was fair to either of us the way things were. Why didn't you ask me to stay? I'm not as good as you at hiding my feelings, you must have known how I felt?"
††††††††††† "I don't know, Alex. I wanted to," the bearded man hung his head. "I guess I thought that if we were meant to be, we'd find a way to be together. That something would happen and you wouldn't go. When you actually got on the plane that day, I thought I'd blown my chance with you. That you needed to move on, to get away from the fool I am. I didn't think I had the right to ask you to stay when I'd never spoken before."
††††††††††† "If you had said even one word..." The lovely blonde stood once more, walking a few steps away with her arms still holding herself tightly. "I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay with you so badly, but you never said you wanted me to. And I couldn't bear the idea of hanging around forever, waiting for you to feel something you didn't feel. I thought...I thought that if I left, you'd have to make a decision. That you'd tell me. I even had this silly schoolgirl dream that you'd come charging up here and insist I come back to Dallas with you."
††††††††††† Alex took a long, shuddering breath, fighting the tears once more. "And then the wedding announcement arrived. That day I knew what a mistake I'd made in walking away from you. That I'd never know if you could have loved me, because I'd given Merilee the chance to take my place. And what hurt most of all was how quickly it happened, how easily you made the decision when it was her and not me.
††††††††††† Oh, Walker, I thought you could never have felt for me the way I felt about you. Because if you did, how could you have asked Merilee to marry you, and yet not even have told me you cared?"
††††††††††† The bearded Ranger followed her to her feet, moving to stand behind her and resting his hands on Alex's shoulders lightly. "I wish I had the answer for you. Maybe...maybe telling you how I felt meant that you might tell me you didn't feel the same. If that had happened, I don't think I could have taken it. You're that deep inside me. It was like ripping my heart out when you left. I stopped breathing. I stopped living. Everything was just shadows."
††††††††††† Walker used his hands to gently turn her to face him, his heart breaking once more at the anguish on her face, pain he knew he'd caused. "Merilee was just another shadow. I thought I could ease the hurt of letting you go if I pretended it wasn't there. I was wrong. Again."
††††††††††† Alex sobbed suddenly, burying her face in her hands, and he wrapped his arms around her shuddering form. "Oh, God, Alex. Forgive me. If I could take it back, I swear to you I would. If I could step back in time, and say the words that would have kept you from going, I'd do it."
††††††††††† "I'm sorry, too, Walker," the lovely woman whispered when the tears finally slowed. "I should have talked to you, should have insisted that we decide together whether there was a future for us. Instead I made a choice to walk away, and hope you would come looking for me. I hurt you, too. I know how hard it is for you to share your emotions, what a risk it is to you. And yet I chose to try and force you to do just that on my timetable instead of yours. If I could only undo it, I would."
††††††††††† For a long moment they stood silently, feeling the rightness of being together again, until the blue-eyed woman spoke again, "What do we do now, Walker? Where do we go from here?"
††††††††††† He looked down, searching her eyes with his own, "Come home, Alex. Come back to Dallas. With me. Please."
††††††††††† "I...I don't know, Walker," she whispered, breaking her gaze from his. "Can we do that? Can we just pretend the last five months never happened?"
††††††††††† "No," he told her firmly, tipping her chin upward so she looked at him again. "We can't. I would never ask you to. It would be very different, Alex. I have a lot of making up to do. No more hiding my feelings from you, or from anyone else. I want you by my side forever. I love you. Come home, Alex. We can't start over, but we can start again. Let me show you."
††††††††††† Alex studied Walker's face, saw the love and the promise shining in his eyes, and knew she'd go. That they'd find a way past the hurts each had endured and find each other again. Together they could conquer anything. Smiling through tears, tears now of joy, she nodded. "Yes. I want to go home. I can't leave right away though, I have responsibilities here I'll have to take care of."
††††††††††† "I know. I wouldn't have expected anything else," Walker said with a smile of his own. "I'll stay with you here until you're ready. We'll go home together. The way it should be. I love you, Alex."
††††††††††† Wrapping her arms around him at last, the lovely blonde whispered, "I love you, too, Walker."
††††††††††† The sun broke through the clouds again, casting a golden glow into the clearing and surrounding the couple as their lips met at last.
Walker Texas Ranger and itís characters belong to CBS Inc., Top Kick
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