No Littering in the Park

"Are we there yet?"

"Not yet, dear." I responded, "Just a few more minutes, okay?"


The day started off like any other day, the sun was shining and the winds blew through the harsh October air. For me, going to the park was a nice way to let off the stress. Ever since moving into this town, it has been rough trying to adjust and convincing myself that everything should be normal.

After passing by a clearing in the wood, we finally arrived. As I was setting down on a remote parking spot, Amy was already ahead of me trying to get out of the car.

"Momma, where's my ball?" She asked.

"Just hang on!" I said as I grabbed our stuff from the car.

I tossed the ball to her, "Remember Amy, no wandering off. You know how worried I get. You stay close to Momma okay?"

She nodded, "Okay!"

We made our way to the grassy knoll area of the park. The park, in general, was nothing special, sort of like our little retreat from our chaotic world. It was one place where I could wipe my worries away, at least for a while. Kids and their parents played sporadically throughout the lawn, without a care in the world.

I felt a tug on my shirt, "Momma, can we play over there?"

I looked over to the place she was pointing at, it was relatively quiet around a set of benches. Not many people were around, so it had me worried.

"Are you sure, Amy? There's lots of kids playing over here, you could always..."

She crossed her arms, "No, over there!" she answered defiantly.

Wanting to avoid a tantrum in public, I grudgingly agreed. Sitting down on a solitary bench, I gazed at the environment around us while my daughter played next to the giant oak tree.

As the wind blew harder, I put up my hand to wipe the hair from my face and was suddenly caught by glare. What the heck was...

Oh. My engagement ring.

"Julia, why do still wear that thing?" "You know, you technically don't have a fiancé anymore. He could be dead lying around in an alley somewhere."

To be honest, I still don't know why. When I met Evan, he seemed like the perfect one to be with. Considerate, gentle, and understanding to my needs. He had a stable job as an accountant in the city and promised to help me out.

It was good at first, we were happy and lived in a small home apartment. We argued, we cried, we laughed but we did everything together. Amy soon came into the picture and Evan couldn't wait to be a father, and subsequently, husband. I remember him saying: "I'll always come for you and our child, no matter what."

Then it happened. We didn't get laid off immediately, but it was a gradual cutdown of our resources. Our jobs became mere titles as we only came in once a week. I was hopeful that our luck would change, but Evan thought differently.

First, it was the late nights with his friends. Then it was the long cold silences in the day. His eyes, once so full of wonder and cheer, had dissolved into hollow pools of grey. Finally came the syringes and the needles.

Evan had no qualms about hiding his habits from me, even at the expense of ignoring our newborn child. Most of the time, he would spend the days on his own only to come back dazed and confused at night.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. My daughter hardly had a father figure around her. Our rent fell far behind and we were at risk of being kicked out. After kissing a passed-out Evan goodnight, I quietly packed my belongings and took Amy with me onto the next train out of town.

Call me an optimist or an idiot, but I never stopped thinking about him. Wistfully, I hoped that he would come back. That he would finally sober up, that he would come running in saying that he's sorry, that he would hug and hold our daughter like the father he promised to be.

But that day never came.

As I was lost in my thoughts, the sound of my daughter playing suddenly stopped. I looked around, but she was nowhere to be seen.

"Oh my God, Amy!!" I shouted.

No response.

At that moment, it seemed as though my world was falling apart. everything, my only connection to this wretched society was suddenly gone. In my panic, I ran under an old stone bridge in an attempt to collect my thoughts.

But who could possibly...


I don't care if he followed me here after all these years, there was no way I'm letting that creep get to my daughter. Life had taken everything from me, but for God's sake, not my baby girl.

"Hello, Julia."

It couldn't be...he had to be dead by now.

In the midst of my tears, I hurriedly turned to the mysterious voice. I couldn't make out his face, but the tone was unmistakable.

"It's been a long time. How have you been?"

It was almost as if he is mocking me, trying to hurt me when I was most vulnerable.

I tried to put on my brave face, "What have you done with her, Evan? Iif anything happens to her..."  

"I believe I asked the question first." He interrupted.

I took a deep breath.

"Fine," I replied, "Much better off without you and your...habits."

He chuckled, "Is that so? Last I heard, you were barely making ends meet without me around. How's waitressing holding up for you? Enough to support our little girl?"

"Shut up."

"You're pretty much the same as you started before you met me, aren't you? A lonely girl living in a fantasy world, hoping to make it through sheer luck? As if some magical Prince Charming was going to sweep you off your feet?"

Choking back tears, I attempted to speak, but no words came out.

He continued, "Julia, you were doomed from day one. What were you going to do? No degree, no family, no means of supporting a child except through conniving and selling yourself for money."

I gritted my teeth, "Show yourself, Evan. Come into the light if you want to taunt me so bad."

He sighed, "If you say so."

It was almost as if time stopped as he stepped forward. His face, once so handsome and alluring, was now scarred and riddled with dents. Skinny as a lath, the man looked like death personified. I didn't bother to look at his forearms, knowing that they were damaged beyond repair from his depraved lifestyle.

"As I was saying..."

"Evan, what happened to you? What happened to the man that promised me so much hope?" I asked.

"Gone with the wind, as the weather suggests." He replied. "But at least I'm not hiding behind a facade. I'll admit it, drugs ruined me and turned my heart to stone. There's no changing that."

He pointed a crooked finger at me. "But you, Julia, are the WORST."

I stood up, "And who is to blame, Evan? You destroyed me!"

"You destroyed yourself, Julia! Look around you!" He shouted, "You lie to yourself every day hoping for your luck to change, for someone to save you. Falsely cling to the hope that I will return."

He clenched his fists, almost as if he expects me to fight him.

My nostrils flared, "Shut up, Evan! I didn't need you to come back. You're dead to me, you hear? Dead!"

"Tell that to your left ring finger," he retorted. "Any sensible person should have chucked that in the bin and moved on. You're a failure, and will always be a one if you keep this up. Perhaps I should find Amy myself and..."

At that point, I snapped, whatever love I had for this monster disappeared as I lunged at him. Expecting a body, I instead hit the cold, hard ground.

I turned my head, trying to adjust to my surroundings.

"Momma, where are you?"

Amy came out from the field and under the bridge. Mud was covering her boots, but she looked the same as she'd always been.

She burst into a grin, "Ball fell in over there. But I found you, Momma!"

I wiped a tear off my face, "Yeah...I guess you did. Want to go play catch by the trees?

"Yeah!" She ran off into the clearing.

I looked down at my left hand, my ring had cracked in two and was hanging by my finger. Taking the pieces in my right hand, I hurriedly threw them as far away as possible behind me.

As I walked over to my daughter, she had an inquisitive look on her face.

"Momma, what's this say?"

I glanced over at her gaze, noticing a bright red sign.


"It's nothing, dear... nothing to worry about."