A lonely man takes a trip down memory lane and visits the bridge where he used to meet his high school sweetheart and finds a lock with their initials on it.
Martin Underwood leaned over the bridge's railing and looked down at the swirling water. He'd stood on this bridge many times before but never alone. Helen had always been there.
Martin and Helen had been so in love... They had been just seventeen, but Martin was sure he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Helen, so sure they had made a pact to meet and place a lock on the bridge -- as a symbol of their unbreakable bond.
Martin and Helen were just 17 but they were in love. | Source: Unsplash
But that evening, Martin had waited on the bridge alone. Helen hadn't come, and when Martin had gone to her house the next day, it was standing empty. The whole family was gone.
He'd known that Helen's parents disapproved of their relationship. Helen's mother had commented several times that they were too young to be so serious -- they should date other people, play the field.
Parents should not separate their children from those they love.
Now it seemed they had taken Helen away without warning. Martin had been devastated. How could Helen leave without a word? For years, Martin waited for a phone call, a letter, a postcard -- all in vain.
Helen had vanished without a trace. His life went on. He went to college, got his degree, and became a successful lawyer, but something was missing. Even though Martin dated occasionally, he never again allowed any woman into his heart.
They were supposed to meet at the bridge but Helen never showed up. | Source: Unsplash
He couldn't bear the thought that he would go through the same pain. He knew he could never dare love anyone again the way he had loved Helen. Then his sister Magda had stunned him with a casual remark.
"Martin," Magda said quietly. "Unless you make peace with the past, say goodbye to Helen, you will never get over her."
"It's been 33 years," Martin said. "I'm over it!"
"Really?" she asked. "Where is your wife? Your family? You don't live, Marty; you exist. You deserve better!"
After 33 years Martin was still heartbroken. | Source: Unplash
So here he was, on the same bridge. "Helen," he said. "Why did you go? Why did you leave me?" Martin felt hot tears burn his eyes and gripped the bridge's railing.
Then he felt something under his hand. It was a lock painted bright red, with the initials M. and H. and a heart in between. "Helen!" Martin shouted. "Are you there?"
He examined the little red lock and saw that a phone number was written on the back. He dialed the number with trembling hands, and a woman's voice answered. "Helen?" Martin asked. "Is that you?"
"I'm not Helen," the woman said. "Please wait for me; I'll be at the bridge in 20 minutes."
Martin was stunned when he saw the lock on the bridge. | Source: Shutterstock.com
Martin waited impatiently, and twenty minutes later, he saw a slim, pretty woman walking toward him, her hands in the pocket of her overcoat. "You...You know Helen?" Martin asked her.
The woman smiled. "Yes, I'm Helen's daughter, Cynthia," she said. "I've been praying that you'd find the lock. She asked me to place it here for her. It was her dying wish."
"Helen is...gone?" Martin could hardly speak through the choking grief.
Cynthia placed a gentle hand on his. "Yes, I'm so sorry; I forgot you couldn't know," she said apologetically. "You are Martin?"
Martin called the number on the lock. | Source: Unsplash
"Yes," he whispered. "So she remembered? She remembered me and the bridge?"
The young woman had tears in her eyes, and Martin saw that they were precisely like Helen's. "My mother thought of you every day of her life," she said. "She didn't want to leave you. She loved you.
"The day she was coming to meet you, her parents took her away; they moved the whole family to France without a word of warning. It was a complicated time for my mother."
"She never said a word; she never contacted me..." Martin protested.
The girl on the bridge had Helen's eyes. | Source: Unsplash
"My mother thought you'd married, that you had a family," Cynthia explained. "She didn't want to disturb your life."
"I never married," Martin said bitterly. "But I see that she did!"
Cynthia shook her head. "No, she never did," she said. "I was her only child... and yours."
"Mine?" gasped Martin. "My child? My daughter?"
Cynthia nodded and held out her arms to hug her father for the first time. Martin took back his life and held his daughter in his arms on that bridge where he'd kissed Helen long ago.
Martin found his daughter and meaning in his life. | Source: Unsplash
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