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The Runaway

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Sophie packs up all her things and leaves the Reynolds’ house just as morning light starts to peek through the trees. Her last 24 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster, stealing secret kisses and touches with the man who had been consuming her thoughts since she met him, finding out his dream was coming true, then having reality come crashing in. Keith was married. Keith had a daughter who had seen them as they laid curled in each other’s arms at the reservoir. As she realizes what she has done, it leaves her no choice but to finally make the right choice and run and never look back.

She did a great job at the first part. Seven years later and she was still working on the second.

Keith always wondered what had happened to the girl who had stormed into his life, tilted his world off its axis, and then left just as quickly as she had entered. Had she realized that he was just an old man, past his prime who was trying to cling to a glimmer of her youth and brilliance? Had he taken advantage of her, did she not feel the same way about him as he did her? Years later he would almost swear that she had never even existed, she was just a ghost, a figment of an active imagination.

Now, eight years after she ran from the Reynolds family, Sophie is a moderately successful pianist as well as a piano teacher. Living in Manhattan, Sophie teaches a few young pianists which allows her the flexibility to perform in small concerts throughout the states, though the majority of her performances are in the city. Although performing is undoubtedly her passion, she loves the time she spends teaching piano to the children.

She’s always loved kids, and adores their innocent passion for music and learning. She thinks a large part of her enjoyment with teaching stems from the closeness she feels with her uncle when she watches a young musician finally catch on to a concept, or finally play a song all the way through for the first time. It may not just be her uncle’s closeness that she craves when she teaches piano, but whenever images of glasses and plaid shirts pop into her mind, she pushes them aside.

‘You really have to forget him and move on’ she tells herself just after her last lesson of the day. ‘He probably hasn’t even thought about you for years, and you aren’t getting any younger. You really should try to put yourself out there and try to date again’ she thinks as she removes the sheet music from the stand and starts to pack up.

All of her relationships since Keith have been disastrous to say the least. She didn’t date for quite a while after him, probably out of a tiny sliver of misplaced hope that he might try to find her. Then there was Cameron, a chemistry student who was probably the exact opposite of Keith, outgoing, charming, cocky, buff and very abrasive. Cameron didn’t last long. After Cameron was a one-night stand (yes…big mistake, she knows…she was desperate for a distraction.) Then there was Josh who was in a single word, amazing. Josh was kind, good-natured, intelligent and protective, everything Sophie could’ve wanted out of a man. They dated for a couple years before Josh proposed out of the blue. Some part of Sophie wanted to say yes, Josh was the kind of guy Sophie wanted to want, but he wasn’t it, he wasn’t him.

‘On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t start dating again’ Sophie thought as Josh popped into her head. ‘Don’t want to end up in that position again, turning down one proposal was horrible enough’ she thought as a wave of guilt and shame washed over her. ‘Maybe I’ll just get a dog. Yeah, a dog might be a great compromise, and the students will probably love having one around.’ With that thought, Sophie turned her mind to thoughts of what to have for dinner.

Eight years after Sophie’s disappearance, Keith was still performing with the NYSO, but had also started a band of his own, getting a few of his old bandmates together to do some small performances. He was living in Brooklyn, and loved being back in the city doing what he always dreamed of.

When Keith looked back, he realized that it wasn't just Sophie he lost in that time, Lauren also started to act strangely around him. He had no idea why, but for the rest of the year she could barely look at him, and their previously easy-going relationship had become tense. It was a few years and a country of separation that allowed them to slowly mend their relationship, until finally Lauren started to treat him like her dad again. Now, they talk regularly and visit often, especially since she returned to the East Coast with her family.

After Sophie left, it took Keith a while, but he eventually realized that he didn’t need to stay trapped anymore. It was about 10 months after Sophie ran away, ans Lauren had already moved into her dorm at UCLA when Keith realized there was no reason to stay in a dead-end marriage any longer. Not long afterwards, the house was sold, he was divorced and he was moving back to the city to start the next part of his life.

Throughout this entire time, Keith often considered dropping everything and trying to find Sophie. Not long after these thoughts popped into his head, common sense would take over and he would realize that Sophie ran away from him. She wanted nothing to do with him, and who did he think he was that he would try to invade her life. He realized he had to be content with his music and his daughter, and that his love life was over the day she disappeared in the night.

Lauren never spoke up about what she saw at the Reservoir that day. When she got the phone call the morning after her confrontation with Sophie, telling her that Sophie had gone missing and they had no clue where to find her, she realized that it was better to keep quiet. For quite a while it was nearly impossible for her to look her dad in the eye, but once her parents were divorced and she matured little she realized there was no use holding a grudge.

Her parents’ relationship was obviously strained even before Sophie’s entrance into their lives, and looking back, she can better understand her dad’s feelings, although still not condone them (kissing the exchange student is a pretty horrible thing to do). Seeing how happy he was with his life in the city, and his music, she realized how lost he must’ve been back then. She realized the sweet-tempered, caring, thoughtful dad that she knew so well didn’t just disappear that day, he was still the same guy she had always known.

Lauren was happy to be back home and close to her parents again. Despite their divorce, her parents remained amicable with one another and they still spent almost every holiday together as a family. Lauren’s husband, Evan was also from the East Coast and once they were both graduated, they were eager to get back.

Evan and Lauren were married just after graduation, and 9 months later they had their first son, Johnny. Johnny was now 4 years old, and Lauren was 5 months pregnant with their next. Keith absolutely adored his grandson, and Lauren adored watching the two of them together. That was another great thing about moving back home, free babysitting!

Lauren was really happy with her life, and despite a few road bumps, she thinks that it’s been pretty great so far.

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It was December 23rd and Sophie still needed to buy a gift for one of her good friends, a fellow piano teacher named Mary, as well as something to bring to their Christmas eve party. ‘I guess I’m going to have to brave the Christmas crowds’ she thought to herself as she put on her scarf and left her apartment.

She stopped at a grocery store to grab a few things to make an appetizer for the party and then decided to hit Barnes & Noble. She figured it would be crazy this close to Christmas, but even she wasn’t prepared for the massive crowd of people in the store, all rushing to grab last-minute gifts.

‘I’ll find Mary’s book first, and then head over to the Kid’s section to find a couple books for the students’ she thought as she tried to weave through the crowd. She quickly found a book by Mary’s favorite author, and then proceeded to try to follow the herd towards the Kid’s section of the store.

Thankfully, once she reached the Kid’s section, Sophie spotted an empty aisle, and rushed to get there so that she could take a breath and have a little personal space again. She booked it to the aisle, and started to browse the books, looking for a few that might interest her students.

She was lost in her browsing, and didn’t immediately notice her new companion that had joined her in what was likely the only empty aisle in the entire store. Eventually she detected movement out of the corner of her eye which made her turn to look at her new visitor. Looking down, she noticed a small child who was all alone and looking very lost.

‘He can’t be more than 4 or 5 years old’ Sophie thought to herself.

The toddler had blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, and was dressed smartly in a Christmas jumper.

“Hey little man” Sophie said softly, trying not to scare him away as she crouched down to get onto his level. “Have you lost your mum?” she asked.

At her question, he shyly nodded.

“That’s okay, I’ll help you find her okay?” She said nicely.

He still didn’t seem to completely trust her, but was starting to warm up to her a little, giving her a little smile before nervously turning to look back at the crowd.

“My name’s Sophie, what’s yours?” Sophie asked, hoping for a reply.

“Johnny” he said proudly, obviously trying to put on a brave face.

‘Gosh he is a really adorable little boy’ Sophie thought before speaking, “Nice to meet you Johnny, why do we go try to find your mom okay?” she said, slowly standing up.

Johnny just nodded at her again before he slowly reached and grabbed her hand.

Sophie’s heart melted at the little boy’s show of trust, and she continued to chat with him (mostly one-sided, he really was shy) as they made their way towards the cashier’s desk.

“Oh my god, Johnny, there you are” came a woman’s voice from behind Sophie.

“Mama” Johnny said with obvious relief in his voice as he let go of Sophie’s hand and ran towards his mother.

Sophie turned around to greet the relieved mother, only to be stunned at the woman whose eyes she met.

“Lauren” she said, in shock. ‘I haven’t seen her since that night…’ Sophie thought, feelings from what seemed like a lifetime ago rushing back to her like it was yesterday.

“Sophie” Lauren replied, equally surprised. Her voice held an edge that was previously absent in her reunion with her son.

They both stood looking at one another, neither knowing what to say, or even how to feel, finally facing each other after so many years.

Johnny finally broke the silence, obviously with much more courage now that he was reunited with his mother “Sophie is my new friend” he said, unaware of the tension between the adults.

“Thank you, Sophie” Lauren said honestly, before turning to her son “I was looking for you everywhere Johnny” she continued, bending over to give him a one-armed hug.

Johnny smiled into the hug, before his mom released him and turned her attention back to Sophie.

“I’m glad I could help” Sophie replied, watching Lauren interact with her son. “Listen, Lauren, about everything that happened…” Sophie trailed off, not knowing how to put into words how poorly she felt about what she did to their family.

“It’s ancient history” Lauren said, noticing Sophie’s obvious regret. “I’ve moved on with my life, and so has my family” she said.

Sophie nodded, still feeling horrible, and trying not to imply anything from her mention of her family. ‘You don’t need to know about him’ she told herself. ‘It doesn’t matter whether or not him and Megan are still together, just like Lauren said, they’ve moved on, and so should you’ she tried to convince herself.

“Johnny is a great kid, you’ve done a really good job with him” Sophie finally said, hoping to change the topic to something easier to deal with.

“Thank you” Lauren replied, getting the look on her face that only mothers can get when they’re proud of their kids.

“And congratulations” Sophie quickly followed, looking down at Lauren’s obvious baby bump.

“Thanks, we’re very excited” Lauren said, her hand moving to rest on her stomach.

“Well, I should probably go” Sophie said, eager to end the awkward conversation. “Thank you for understanding, you know…about…” she trailed off.

“Of course, bye Sophie” Lauren said before squeezing Johnny’s hand, “say goodbye to Sophie Johnny.”

“Bye Sophie” Johnny said with an innocent smile as he waved goodbye.

With a little wave back, Sophie turned around breathing out a huge sigh of relief. ‘I guess that could’ve gone worse’ she thought. ‘I knew there was always the possibility of running into one of them in the city but I never thought that it would actually happen. At least it wasn’t Keith’ she thought, returning to the Kid’s section.

Still rattled, and her mind lost to memories of another lifetime, Sophie absentmindedly grabbed a few children’s books for her students and headed home.

Keith was headed to Megan’s for Christmas dinner. He was grateful they were still friendly despite their divorce, since it meant that he got to spend every holiday with Lauren. According to him, neither Megan nor Lauren ever found out about his short-lived relationship with Sophie, which was very fortunate for him. He couldn’t imagine not being able to spend the holidays with his daughter and her family. The day his grandson was born was the first day he felt true joy and elation since…well since Sophie, but she didn’t count because she was gone.

Johnny was his pride and joy. He had so much character, he was playful and mischievous, but also eager to please and very selfless. When Johnny could only barely speak, he spent every holiday just trying to give his grandpa everything he could get his hands on. Food, trinkets, even the cat, Johnny would bring them as offerings to Keith who would proceed to thank him profusely for sharing with him. ‘God, I love that kid’ Keith thought as he reminisced on his way up the stairs to Megan’s doorstep.

The food was delicious, and the company was great. Keith approved of Lauren’s husband, Evan, he was always respectful and helpful when they visited, and he treated Lauren and Johnny properly and lovingly which were the only things that truly mattered to Keith.

Keith was gazing into the fire as they all sat in the sitting room, not paying complete attention to the others as they conversed around him. He was pondering his life and how it was all unfolding, when he heard her name.

“……. Sophie today in the city” he caught Lauren saying.

Snapping to attention, Keith was very eager to hear any information Lauren might have on his runaway love. ‘Sophie is in the city!’ he thought. ‘She didn’t go back to England for good’ he thought hopefully. Sophie was an ever-present thought in his life, a mystery he thought he might never solve. He also knew he would likely never resolve his feeling for her.

“Sorry I missed that, what did you say Lauren?” Keith asked trying to mask his eagerness.

“Oh, just that Johnny and I ran into Sophie the other day in the city” Lauren repeated. ‘I knew I shouldn’t have brought her up’ she thought to herself. ‘I never told Dad that I know what happened between them. This really is the worst subject I could’ve brought up’ she thought, upset that she put herself in this position. ‘I thought he wasn’t paying attention and I needed to tell someone about it, it’s been stuck on my mind since I saw her.’

“How strange” Megan said, completely unaware of the turmoil going on in her ex-husband’s and daughter’s heads. “I never thought I’d ever hear about her again, after I got that call from her aunt.” She continued, “I’ve always thought it was odd how she just disappeared in the middle of the night without even a thank you or a proper goodbye, but I guess she was homesick and was desperate to get home” Megan finished, taking a sip of her drink.

Keith just nodded, trying to clear his head of hazel-green eyes and a lilting accent, but failing miserably. “Excuse me” he said, leaving the room, and exiting out to the back porch into the cold December night.

‘I am so hopeless’ he thought to himself as his warm breath fogged in the cold air. ‘C’mon Keith, you’re happy right now, you have your band, your music, you’re doing what you love, you can’t be this upset about a girl from years ago’ he told himself.

But the truth was that he was upset about a girl, he was devastated. ‘But she wasn't just any girl’ he thought.

“She’s Sophie” he softly whispered out into the night, only heard by the falling snow.

Sophie had a pretty good Christmas, all things considered. Her aunt arrived late on the 23rd and stayed until the New Year, which was nice since Sophie hadn’t seen her for over a year. They both celebrated with Sophie’s friends on Christmas eve (Mary loved her book, and the handmade scarf Sophie bought for her) and then had a small Christmas dinner just the two of them. Sophie spent the whole time actively trying not the think about Keith.

Sophie was a professional when it came to not thinking about Keith, but her run-in with Lauren was making even her well-practiced self falter. She wondered where he was now, if he was playing, if he was still with Megan. Mostly, she wondered if he still thought about her. She knew their relationship was about as brief as they can get, but something about Keith made him really stick with her.

‘I loved him’ she thought, resigning herself to the thoughts of him that plagued her mind. ‘I loved him, and we got no time’ she thought, before feeling guilt and shame fill her. ‘How can you fall for a married man’ she told herself. ‘He’s not yours to fall for’ she firmly told herself.

Despite these firm convictions, and promises to herself that she would spend not a single second longer thinking about his scruffy beard and careful hands, she spent the rest of her Christmas break with cloudy-blue eyes on her mind.

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Keith and Sophie continued on with their separate lives, each unaware that thoughts of the other plagued them each day and each night.

At the beginning of March, Mary and a couple of their other friends surprised Sophie with tickets to the NYSO.

“We've all noticed how for years now you always seem to want toread their posters and flyers” Mary said as they celebrated Sophie’s birthday. “So, when we heard they were planning a big concert we knew we had to surprise you” she said excitedly.

“Wow, I don’t know what to say” Sophie said, shocked. She couldn’t tell them that it was her desperation for any news on him that led her to seek out NYSO flyers and information. ‘I guess I’m going to see the symphony’ she thought to herself. ‘I mean, what are the chances he still plays with them anyways’ she thought, and with that comforting thought, she returned her focus to her friends and her party.

“Thank you, guys, this is really thoughtful and special” Sophie said, giving them each a hug.

“We love you Sophie, we can’t wait to go all together!” Mary said, their other friends quickly agreeing. “It’s actually only in a week or so, so I’m really looking forward to it” Mary said.

“Me too” Sophie replied, though she was unsure if it was only the night out with her friends that she was looking forward to.

Keith was in a pretty comfortable place with the NYSO, having been a part of it for over 8 years now. His friend Shelly was also still a member, which made rehearsals and performances a lot more enjoyable.

The NYSO’s concert tonight was a special one, so they’d been rehearsing pretty vigorously for a few weeks prior. Apparently, some important vice-president or prince or something from some country was going to be in attendance, not that Keith cared of course. Keith just loved the music, he loved the stage, he loved the pureness of the connection between the musician and the listener.

Keith and Shelly had their usual pre-show chat before the curtains opened and the conductor counted them in.

Sophie and her friends were keen members of the audience, Mary, ever the enthusiast, even let out a small squeal as the curtains started to open. Sophie just gave her a small smile and tried to calm her racing heart.

‘He’s not going to be on stage, he’s not going to be up there’ she repeated to herself until the curtains opened fully and her eyes were immediately drawn to the celloists, not even hearing the music that had started to play.

‘Keith’ was all she thought as she laid her eyes on him for the first time since that night. Her heartbeat was so intense that she thought her heart was going to fly out of her chest. ‘It’s really him…’ she thought.

He was dressed in his usual tux with his hair slicked back, making her fingers itch, wanting to run through the strands. His beard was gone, leaving him with only a 5 o’clock shadow.

The last time she saw him, they were sharing secret smiles over their books as they read in the living room after dinner. She still remembered the happiness she felt for him as he realized that his dream of being a full-time musician was becoming a reality. Her last image of him is his form retreating up the stairs, sparing her a quick glance back and a reassuring smile before going to bed. She thought that her last memory of him would be that smile, and his kind eyes, she never thought she’d see him again.

‘How can he look so good, even after all these years’ Sophie thought.

Waves of longing started to fill her entire body as she watched him perform, still completely unaware of her presence in the audience.

‘Maybe it’s just because he looks so good, maybe I’m just attracted to him because he so good looking’ she tried to think, but knew those thoughts were so far from the truth.

It was the way he opened up to her, not afraid to bare his soul and mind to her. It was the way he seemed to see right through her, right to her core, making her want to share every aspect of her life with him. It was the way he respected her and valued her thoughts and opinions. It was the way he played the cello, its melodies revealing more about him than words ever could. It was the way his smile seemed to take up his entire face. It was the way her hand fit perfectly in his. It was him.

Sophie felt a few tears escape as she watched him, and only him. He never noticed her in the crowd, too focused on the music and unaware that anyone he knew would be in the audience, but she never took her eyes off of him. Sophie let herself bask in her feelings for him, past and present. She let them wash over her as the sound of his cello filled her ears. It was a beautiful concert.

Keith played his last notes, before hearing the roar of the crowd. The orchestra did very well, all those extra hours of rehearsing had paid off. As the curtains closed, he turned to Shelly,

“Pretty good one, hey?” Keith said with a small grin.

“Pretty spectacular one you mean!” replied Shelly as they started to pack up their instruments.

As they buckled their cases, Shelly turned to Keith, “Wanna go for a smoke?” he said.

“I thought you’d never ask” Keith said.

They went to their usual spot outside, watching the people of the audience leave the theatre, chatting about nothing in particular.

“Hey isn’t that the exchange student you had forever ago?” Shelly asked, interrupting Keith's anecdote.

Keith’s heart immediately started to race, and he snapped his head in the direction Shelly was looking, searching for long dark hair and hazel eyes.

“Remember, the Chopin girl, I totally think it’s her” Shelly continued.

Still not seeing her, Keith whipped his eyes through the faces of the crowd, desperate to at least lay his eyes on her once more in his life.

“Where Shelly?” Keith asked, maybe a little too harshly.

“Right there” Shelly replied pointing to a group of women getting into a taxi.

It was her. She was wearing a sleek black dress down to her ankles, and had half of her hair pulled up, leaving the other half to lay down her shoulders and back.

‘It’s her, it’s really her, it’s really Sophie’ he thought. ‘I didn’t make her up, and she’s even more beautiful than I remember.’

He only laid his eyes on her for about 2 seconds before she got into a cab with her friends and drove off, though her effect on him lasted much longer.

‘I haven’t been able to get her off my mind for years without having seen her. How am I supposed to forget about her now?’ He thought. ‘Why did she have to leave without saying goodbye? Why did she leave me?’

He knew that Sophie had many, very good potential reasons to leave him including the fact that he was married, old and washed-up, but not-knowing had been eating him from the inside for more than eight years. ‘I need to know; I need to see her again’ he thought.

“Did you see her?” Shelly’s voice interrupted Keith’s thoughts.

“Yeah, I did” Keith said.

“Whatever happened to her?” Shelly asked, “I thought she went back to London or something” he continued.

“I thought she did too” Keith said, still staring in the direction she had left in.

‘I can’t see her again’ he thought, changing his mind. ‘I have to let her move on with her life, she made her feelings very clear the night she left, she wants nothing to do with me’ he resolved. ‘If I want her to be happy, I have to let her be, I have to let her leave’ he thought, his heart feeling as though it was breaking in two.

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If Sophie thought Keith was always on her mind before she saw him, she was wrong. After seeing him perform, she felt as if she had reverted back to her 18-year-old self pining for an already taken man twice her age. Every night her dreams were filled with alternate realities in which they ran away together, never looking back, or reunions in which they jumped into each other’s arms and ran into the sunset together. It was horrible.

Keith was struggling in very much the same way. He couldn’t sleep. He’d close his eyes and see hers staring right back at him. He could swear sometimes that he could feel her touch on his skin. Almost every moment of his life, she was always on the back of his mind. He replayed that split second of her getting into the cab a million times, he imagined himself running over to her, taking her in his arms and kissing her senseless. Shortly after he would come back to reality and realize that she could never be his.

One day, about a month after the concert, Keith was babysitting Johnny for the day while Lauren and Evan went to a doctor’s appointment and did some errands to prepare for the baby. Keith was happy to have a distraction, and he always loved getting one on one time with his grandson.

He took him all over the city, they spent the morning in the library reading picture books, then stopped at a diner for grilled-cheese lunches.

“How about we head to the park to feed the ducks?” Keith asked Johnny as Johnny munched on the remainder of his sandwich.

“Bfyeah!” Johnny said excitedly with his mouth still half-full.

They stopped to grab some oats on the way to the park, and then Johnny rode on Keith’s back the rest of the way in the beautiful spring sunshine.

Sophie was looking for distractions, for anything to take her mind off of Keith. She’d had a few performances booked which were good short-term distractions, and her students did a great job of engaging her long enough to take her mind off of him momentarily, but her thoughts always found their way back to him.

Since the weather was starting to get nice again, Sophie had taken to walking around the park. She liked watching all the people go about their days, and found it comforting to be around so many people. It reminded her of how small her problems really were, and how everybody has issues they’re dealing with, it just might not be a married ex-lover (is that what she should even call him), that they ran away from in the middle of the night because their daughter found out about them.

‘I just need a little perspective’ Sophie thought as she walked through the park. ‘It may seem complicated, but it’s only because I still have feelings for him, if I could forget him and move on, it wouldn’t be complicated at all. He’s not even a part of my life anymore’ she thought, glancing at the duck pond as she walked by.

“Sophie!” someone yelled from the direction of the pond.

She turned her head to look and see where the voice was coming from and saw Johnny, but he wasn’t alone. It was Keith, and their eyes quickly found one another’s.

‘Oh no, what am I going to do’ Sophie thought. ‘He’s going to see that I still have feelings for him and it’s going to be horrible. Or he’ll confront me about leaving in the middle of the night. Maybe he’ll even blame me for seducing him away from his wife.’ Her mind was turning at ten miles a minute, panicking at the idea of facing him after nearly nine years.

‘It’s really Sophie’ he thought, so shocked that he almost couldn’t form a coherent thought. He could tell she was panicking based on the look in her eyes, and he just kept trying to come up with anything to say that would make her stay. Luckily, he was saved by his grandson.

“Sophie, come feed the ducks with us” Johnny said, breaking some of the tension between the two adults.

Sophie still had her gaze locked with Keith’s, but managed to reply, “Okay sure, Johnny” she said, tearing her gaze from Keith’s.

She walked towards them on shaky legs, unsure of how to behave, finally face to face with him.

“Grandpa, you have to give her some oats” Johnny said, impatiently pushing Keith’s hand holding the bag of oats in Sophie’s general direction. As he stretched his arm out to offer her some oats, they found their eyes locked once again, this time only a few feet away.

They were both frozen once again as their eyes tried to find the answers to unspoken questions in the other’s. Each of them could feel the years of feelings between them, though both still unsure if their feelings were still returned.

Keith was just thankful for any second he got to spend near her. He never thought he’d get to see her again after she vanished into the night without a word, and yet here he was for the second time this month getting to lay his eyes on her.

Sophie was still too stunned to speak. ‘At least he doesn’t seem mad at all’ she thought, still studying him, trying to figure out what he was thinking.

Johnny, having been the only one to really speak throughout this interaction once again broke the silence.

“You have to take the oats Sophie” he said. “Here let me show you” he said proudly.

Keith once again reached his arm out with the bag of oats and gestured towards her, raising his eyebrows in question.

Sophie broke her gaze from his, and gingerly grabbed a small handful of oats from him, carefully avoiding brushing his fingers with hers in the process.

“Good, now come over here to the ducks” Johnny said, grabbing Sophie’s free hand and pulling her even closer to the pond.

Johnny ‘taught’ her how to feed the ducks very well, as Keith sat on the grass and watched them from a distance. ‘It seems I’m not the only man of the Reynolds family that Sophie has that effect on’ he thought, watching his grandson fawn over Sophie. ‘She is so wonderful’ he thought as he watched the two of them play together. ‘If I wasn’t already hopelessly in love with her, I would’ve fallen for her in this exact moment’ he thought as the sunlight lit up her hair while she listened intently to his grandson’s prattling.

Sophie refused to let herself look back at Keith, and tried to keep her entire focus on Johnny and the ducks, but failed miserably. She managed to not look back, but her entire body seemed to be hyperaware of Keith's presence and his gaze. Johnny walked her through feeding the ducks, and then started to tell her all about his school, and his dad, and his toys.

‘I can’t believe I thought this kid was shy’ Sophie thought as she continued to listen to Johnny’s stories as he grabbed at her hands, her hair and even the grass as he talked.

The best stories he told were of his Grandpa. It seemed like Johnny was very fond of his grandpa and looked up to him a great deal. She learned all about how grandpa let him play his guitar, and how grandpa had built him a sandbox in his backyard, and how grandpa always made the best grilled cheeses. Sophie loved these stories, and each one made her heart ache for the man that was ten feet away but was entirely unreachable.

Not long after, the sun started to lower in the sky and Keith had to interrupt their little heart-to-heart.

“Hey Johnny, we should probably let Sophie get back home” Keith said. “It’s getting pretty late and I was thinking we could have a campfire and roast marshmallows after dinner tonight” he said.

“Marshmallows!!! I lovvvee marshmallows!!!” Johnny exclaimed hopping up from the ground, finally releasing Sophie from her entertaining duties.

“Thank you, Sophie, it seems he’s taken a big liking to you” Keith said sincerely, trying to catch her eyes again.

“I’ve taken a big liking to him too” Sophie said meeting his eyes, one part of her hoping he understood her double-meaning, the other praying that he didn’t.

“Can Sophie come for marshmallows?” Johnny asked, looking up hopefully at his grandpa. “Plllleeeaaaassseeee” he begged.

“I’m sure Sophie is a very busy woman, maybe some other time, alright bud” Keith said.

“Sophie’s not busy, are you Sophie?” Johnny said, trying to get around his grandpa’s words.

“Ummm… No I guess I’m not busy” Sophie said, not entirely sure what came over her. ‘Why on Earth did I say that’ she thought. ‘It must be these charming Reynolds men; they know exactly what to do and say to get me to listen.’

Keith was shocked that she agreed. ‘Does this mean she wants to spend more time with me?’ he thought, before squashing that train of thought. ‘Don’t be silly, she just likes being around an adorable 4-year-old, who wouldn’t’ he thought, but couldn’t quite get rid of that small glimmer of hope.

“It’s all settled then” Johnny said goofily, imitating something he must’ve heard an adult say, before grabbing Sophie’s hand with his free one, and dragging the two of them in the completely wrong direction.

Sophie and Keith shared a small smile over the toddler between them and swiftly steered him the other way.

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The drive to Keith’s cabin was both better than Sophie expected, and completely unbearable. It was better than she expected since little outgoing Johnny filled the silence with stories and anecdotes and observations which saved her from having to make small talk with Keith. It was unbearable because about 10 minutes into the drive she remembered Megan.

Sophie thought that she had grown up and matured, and that if she was in the same position now as she was eight years ago, she never would’ve acted on her feelings for Keith because she would be aware of the fact that he had made vows to another. Now here she was in her twenties making the same mistake that she had years ago. What is Megan going to think when Keith comes home with not just Johnny, but her too?

‘God, how did I manage to agree to this’ Sophie thought as she worried about where the night was headed.

Keith spent the whole drive trying not to stare at Sophie, and calming his innermost thoughts that screamed at him that tonight was his chance to woo Sophie and re-visit the relationship that went awry so many years ago. ‘She’s probably got a boyfriend’ he told himself. ‘Actually, she’s definitely got a boyfriend, who wouldn’t want to be with her’ he thought.

Sophie was on edge as they entered the cabin, trying to keep on the lookout for Megan. Once she ascertained that Megan was not currently in the cabin, she relaxed a little and let herself look around the entranceway. It was pretty small, probably only 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, but it was very cozy and had lots of personality.

Sophie’s study of the cabin was interrupted as Keith entered.

“I was inspired by a girl a long time ago to get out into nature more” Keith said, looking at his grandson, although Sophie knew the words were for her. “So, I decided to buy a place that I could always come to, with or without a reason to” he finished, taking off his and Johnny’s coats and hanging them up.

His words struck a chord deep within Sophie, and she was transported back to their time at the reservoir, and the words and intimacy they shared that day.

“Sophie, let me take your coat” Keith said, interrupting her thoughts before she could get too immersed in the feelings of the past.

“Thank you” she said, taking off her coat and handing it to him. As he took it, their fingers brushed and Sophie felt a shiver course through her body at the faint touch.

Unaware of his effect on her, Keith hung up her jacket, still feeling tingling where their fingers met, and led them into the living room.

It was a little too early for Keith to start cooking dinner so they decided to watch a movie. Johnny picked “The Lion King” so as Keith cut up some apples for them to snack on, Sophie and Johnny got settled for the movie. Since it was such a small cabin, there was only room for one sofa in the living room, so Sophie quickly claimed one side and placed Johnny on the middle cushion beside her.

‘I can’t be too close to him because I don’t know if I can control myself anymore’ she thought. ‘We weren’t short on intimacy before, but this is feeling very family-like which adds a whole other factor’ Sophie thought, trying not to let her feelings for him cloud what this actually is. ‘He just didn’t want to let his grandson down; he had no choice but to let me come’ she thought.

Keith sat down with their apples just as “The Circle of Life” song ended and tried not to enjoy the domesticity of the situation too much. ‘She’s just being friendly, stop reading into it’ he thought.

The tension between the adults was almost palpable throughout the movie as both of them tried to push down their feelings for one another. As soon as the movie ended, Keith got up and figured he would start cooking them dinner. Johnny had fallen asleep in the last half an hour, which was perfect since it would allow him to focus more on cooking. Despite insisting her feelings for him were long gone by now, he still wanted to impress Sophie with a nice meal.

“You can just leave him there” Keith whispered to Sophie as she slowly got up, trying not to disturb him.

Sophie nodded in reply, and placing a blanket on top of Johnny before following Keith into the kitchen. They stayed silent for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say to break the silence.

“Would you like a beer?” Keith eventually asked, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, I’d love a beer” Sophie replied, hoping the alcohol would calm her nerves a little bit.

They returned to silence, this time a little more bearable. Both of them kept trying to steal glances at one another while the other wasn’t looking, as Keith moved around the small kitchen efficiently.

“Can I help with anything?” Sophie asked, feeling pretty useless.

“You can just sit there and be amazed” Keith said back with a cocky grin and a wink, easing the tension between them considerably. “Actually, in all honesty, I’ve been practicing my cooking and am really eager to see if I’m actually any good or not” he continued. “You see, all previous test subjects have either been 4 years old, or the cook themself which I’d say is a pretty biased sample” he finished, still moving around the kitchen, mixing ingredients.

“I guess I can offer my services as a guinea pig, although us British people aren’t necessarily revered for our taste in food” she replied with a small smile. She tried to ignore the implications of him eating alone, and what that meant about his marriage, but didn’t quite succeed.

“I’ll take what I can get” Keith replied smiling, before turning back to cooking with renewed vigour.

They continued to make polite chit chat as Keith finished cooking, neither of them broaching the topics of their past relationship, or her running away, or his marriage, or what her presence in his cabin today even means.

Johnny awoke just as dinner was being completed, and the three of them sat down for a beautiful meal. Keith cooked them a wonderful dinner, (though Johnny ate a modified version since he was a picky 4-year-old) and it was the best she had eaten in a while; therefore, Sophie felt no qualms about telling him her completely unbiased opinion of his cooking.

As promised, after dinner was cleaned up, the three of them bundled up in lots of clothes and built a campfire. Sophie had to borrow one of Keith’s sweaters, since she hadn’t brought extra clothes to the park, and Keith tried to suppress the idea of his clothing representing some sort of claim he had of her. Sophie just loved that his smell completely enveloped her when she put it on.

They roasted marshmallows, Johnny being his usual entertaining self, and Sophie and Keith trying to secretly study one another over the fire.

Soon, it was time to put Johnny to bed. Sophie helped Keith brush his teeth, put him in his pajamas and put him to bed. It was a pretty eventful day, so Johnny was out like a light as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Chapter Text


‘Now what’ was the first thought that crossed Sophie’s mind as they put Johnny to bed.

“Why don’t we go sit outside at the fire, we still have plenty of wood left” Keith proposed, almost as if he had read her mind.

Sophie nodded in agreement, so they returned to their seats across from one another at the fire. They stayed in silence once again, but this time, they both knew that the next words spoken would carry much more weight than their previous talks.

“Where is Megan?” Sophie finally broke the silence with a question she thinks she had already pieced together the answer for.

“Back at her house, with her husband Bill” Keith said plainly, keeping eye contact with her.

Sophie nodded slowly, trying not to show her relief at his answer.

“Are you still playing the piano?” Keith asked, now that it was his turn.

“Yes, I used to do more concerts but I’m not wanting to travel as much anymore so I’m mostly doing small venues in the city. I also do private instruction, but that’s mostly for fun and because I love the kids” she answered, a little worried at his response to her teaching.

“That’s great Sophie, I’m not surprised that you make a great teacher” he said, “and you’re obviously amazing with kids, so they’re extremely lucky to have you” he continued sincerely. He really did think she would be an awesome instructor.

Sophie was relieved at his response, and they shared a grin over the fire as their eyes sparkled in the firelight.

“I watched you play” Sophie said. “A while ago, with the NYSO, my friends bought me tickets” she said.

“I know” he replied. “I saw you leaving the theatre.”

“Oh…Well I thought it was amazing, even more spectacular than I remember” she said. “You were more spectacular than I remember” she added softly, but keeping his gaze.

‘Is this really happening’ Keith thought. ‘Is there a chance that she still has feelings for me?’

“Are you in a relationship? Boyfriend, husband?” Keith abruptly asked, eager to hear her answer, really hoping that she wasn’t already taken.

Sophie just shook her head in response. Sophie didn’t know what to think of this conversation, it wasn’t anything like she was expecting. She was expecting him to be mad, to accuse her, to brush off her feelings and say that they were just a schoolgirl crush. What she wasn’t ready for was the hints that suggested that he still thought about her that way, even after all these years.

Keith slowly stood up and walked to her side of the fire and crouched down next to her. There was just one more thing he needed to know.

“Why did you run away?” He asked.

Sophie could see the pain in his eyes at his question. ‘He doesn’t know?’ she thought. ‘Did Lauren never tell him that she saw us? Or did she, and he didn’t connect the dots?’ Sophie didn’t know what to say, she ran away because it was the right thing to do, she needed to stop tearing apart an innocent family, but she only realized all of this because of Lauren. How could she tell him and ruin his relationship with his daughter all over again? They were obviously doing well if he was babysitting her son.

‘I can’t tell him’ she thought. ‘If I tell him, we might be able to finally be together, but I’d be risking his relationship with his only daughter, I could take him away from his only grandkid. I’d be doing exactly what I’d done eight years ago, tearing apart a family.’ With these thoughts, Sophie became determined.

Keith could see the inner turmoil that Sophie was facing with his question. ‘Why isn’t it an easy question to answer?’ he thought. ‘Maybe she did leave because she was disgusted with me and she can’t tell me the truth now because she’s too nice.’

“I left because we’re not right for each –“ Sophie started but was interrupted as Lauren and her husband entered the yard.

“Hey Da…” Lauren trailed off when she noticed Sophie.

“Lauren, hey!” Keith said excitedly, standing up and moving away from Sophie, trying to hide the serious nature of their talk. “Look who Johnny and I ran into in the park today” he continued “Johnny insisted that Sophie came over for marshmallows, and there was nothing we could do about it” Keith finished laughing half-heartedly.

“Sorry I should probably go, it’s getting late, thanks for dinner” Sophie said, before fleeing into the house and calling a cab.

“Wait…Sophie…” Keith tried to get her to stop, but failed.

“Dad, what was she doing here?” Lauren asked somewhat angrily.

“I told you, we were in the park –“ he started to explain before Lauren cut him off.

“– tell me the truth dad, I already know about the two of you” Lauren said, staring at him accusingly.

“I…wait…how…when…” Keith started sputtering, shocked by Lauren’s statement, then it hit him. ‘Now it all makes sense’ he thought. ‘Lauren found out. I don't know how but she did and that’s why Sophie left, and that’s why Lauren barely talked to me for a year. I can't believe I just thought it was moody teenager stuff' he thought to himself.

“Sophie told you” he said, sure it was the only possibility. ‘Sophie told her and then ran away so she didn’t have to face the aftermath’ he thought.

“Sophie didn’t tell me anything, I saw you two at the Reservoir!” said Lauren, starting to get frustrated with her dad. ‘Why is he denying it, I know they must be back together’ she thought.

Keith was stunned once again. ‘Lauren saw us. Lauren has known about Sophie and I the whole time’ he thought, his mind spinning. He started to feel weak, as everything he thought he knew about his past came tumbling down.

“Sophie ran away because she found out you knew…” he finally said, collapsing into his chair.

“She finally did the right thing and took herself out of the equation” Lauren said, calming down as she watched her dad crumble. “Dad look its fine, I forgave you a long time ago, I know you were just in a rough place and latched on to the first shiny thing that could take you out of it” she said.

“No” Keith said, “She wasn’t a shiny thing, she was the shiny thing. I didn’t fall for Sophie just because I was unhappy in my marriage or my job. I fell for Sophie because she was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, she’s smart, thoughtful, kind, empathetic, stubborn and we understand each other. We don’t even need words sometimes, we just know” he said. “And she was just trying to do the right thing again. She was going to leave again rather than tell me that you knew” he said, finally putting all of the pieces together. “She tried to save my family again” he said, getting extremely emotional.

“Wait, so you’re not together then?” Lauren asked.

“No…we just ran into each other…” Keith said, staring off into the distance. “Listen Lauren, I’m really sorry I put you in that place eight years ago. No matter how I felt about Sophie I should’ve put my family first, I should’ve put you first” he said, feeling the shame that he had suppressed for years coming to the surface.

“Dad, you did put us first” Lauren said, grabbing his hand while she realized that she probably shouldn’t have made a scene when she arrived. “All you’ve done through my entire life is put me first. You gave up your passion to allow me to grow up in a stable household, you never missed a single swim meet and you took care of me and mom.” She said trying to comfort her dad. “I’m not saying you didn’t make a mistake; you just had a small lapse in judgement and then you quickly started putting me first once again” she said giving him a hug. “All you’ve done since I moved back home is put me and my family first Dad” Lauren said, realizing what she needed to do. “Put yourself first again dad, go find her” she finished, releasing him from her grip.

“No… it was a mistake to think we could ever be together” Keith said defeatedly. “She obviously doesn’t feel the same way.”

“Dad” Lauren said, making sure he was looking at her before she continued, “if she didn’t feel anything for you, why would she come here.”

‘Maybe she’s right’ Keith thought, feeling a small flame of hope return to his chest. ‘Even if it’s only the smallest possibility I have to try,’ he decided.

“Lauren, I have to go” he said, with renewed excitement. “Johnny’s asleep in the guest bedroom, I’ll call you later okay?” he finished rushing towards the car, desperately hoping he could catch Sophie.
“Oh, and Lauren,” he said turning back to her, “thank you” he finished before quickly disappearing into the night.

Chapter Text


Sophie was thankful that there happened to be a taxi already in the neighbourhood, so she only had to wait 5 minutes before leaving Keith’s cabin. Once safe in the backseat of the cab, she had a minute to reflect on her day.

‘I am so hopelessly in love with him’ she thought helplessly. ‘I wish things weren’t so complicated. Why couldn’t I have just met him somewhere in the city, so that we could’ve had the chance at a normal relationship’ she pondered, feeling her heart break as she stared out the window at the silhouettes of passing trees.

Keith had no idea how to find her, as he sped down the dark streets back towards the city, he tried to figure out how he would manage to find her in a city of millions. As he tried to form a strategy, his phone started to ring, and realizing it was Lauren, he pulled over to the side of the road to answer it.

“Hey dad, it’s Lauren” she said.

“Hey, is everything okay, is Johnny hurt?” Keith asked, worried that there was some horrible reason why she needed to call him so soon.

“No, god no, everything’s good here, I just figured you might have no clue where you were going and thought you might want Sophie’s address” Lauren said.

“Yes, thank you Lauren, I left in such a rush I had no clue where I was even going” Keith said, relieved that at least his daughter was smart enough to come up with a plan.

“I found it online, I’m going to text it to you now, okay?” Lauren said.

“Okay, thank you Lauren… honestly I know you don’t approve so this....this really means a lot to me” he said.

“No, dad, I know it’s weird because of the history and everything, but I want you to be happy, and if Sophie makes you happy then I wholeheartedly give you my approval” she said. “Now hang up and get your butt moving, you have a girl to find!”

“Alright... thanks again Lauren, I don’t know how I got so lucky to have a daughter like you, you make me so proud” Keith said, realizing he must’ve done something right to create an amazing person like her.

“Thanks dad, I’m hanging up now, good luck!” was the last thing she said before Keith heard the call end. He plugged Sophie’s address into his phone, and got back on the road towards the city.

As soon as Sophie got back into her apartment, she leaned her back against the door and realized that she was still wearing Keith’s sweater. She could still pick up his scent in the cloth. She started to cry, longing for a man she could never be with as her back slid down the door, leaving her collapsed on the floor, clinging to his sweater like it was a lifeline. She didn’t know how long she was there, laying in a miserable mess of memories and feelings before she heard a knock on the door.

She debated not getting it, she was in no state to see anyone, trails of mascara running down her face, clinging to the sweater of the man she loved and lost. Her mind was currently replaying images of him from earlier that day, as well as ones from eight years ago. She almost didn’t get up, but realized she couldn’t put her entire life on hold because of something that never happened. Sophie picked herself up off the floor, unlocked the door and pulled it open. There, standing on her doorstep was the very man her thoughts were locked on.

She was too shocked to say anything, and too embarrassed about the sight she must’ve made, bawling her eyes out, clinging to his sweater.

“Sophie…” Keith said, looking devastated at the sight of her. ‘Did I make her this sad?’ he thought to himself. ‘What do I do, I can’t stand seeing her this way.’

“Look... this isn’t really the best time” Sophie said, her voice catching slightly due to her tears.

“I know that Lauren knows” Keith said, ignoring her dismissal. “I know, and we talked and it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past” he continued. “Sophie, I don’t know if you think I’m a washed-up, has-been, silly old man, but I haven’t been able to get my mind off of you for more than eight years. Tell me if you think there’s no chance for us, or if you don’t feel the same because I will leave you alone forever and never bother you again. But if there’s even the slightest chance that you feel the same, I have to tell you. I love you Sophie Williams, I have loved you since you changed my life eight years ago, and I will love you for a hundred more” Keith finished, still standing, hopeful in her doorway.

During his speech, Sophie’s tears slowed to a stop, and flutterings of hope and love started to bloom in her chest. ‘Is he telling the truth, does he really still feel the same?’ she thought.

“You love me” Sophie repeated back at him, still unbelieving.

Keith nodded desperately in reply. “I love you” he said.

“Even after all this time?” she said, her heart beating wildly in her chest. “Even after I ran away?”

Keith nodded, before replying. “You’re the one for me Sophie, there’s no one else. There could never be anyone else, ever since the moment I first heard you play” he said, locking his blue eyes on her tear-filled hazel ones.

“I love you too” Sophie finally said, convinced that he was really there on her doorstep, not just a figment of her imagination, or a dream she never wanted to wake up from.

After that, there was nothing else to say, Sophie slowly grabbed Keith’s hand, stroking her thumb against his skin before pulling him inside and shutting the door. Once inside, Keith reached his hand up to wipe away some of the tear stains, and softly stroked her cheek, his other hand still locked in hers.

Sophie finally let go of his hand, moving one of hers to rest on his chest, while the other gripped the hair at the nape of his neck. She softly tilted her head up and met his lips with hers for the first time in eight years.

They didn’t rush. They had all the time in the world.