She is his dirty little secret. A voice, a memory, a yearning from the past.

He loves his wife. Adores his children.

Which was why his memory of her felt so wrong at the beginning. Something he would never share, something he couldn’t.

Everyone else dismissed her out of mind years ago, when she’d gone. Forever. And because she was gone forever, holding on to that memory felt almost like a betrayal. Not quite though. Not enough to still her name in his mind. Not enough to quieten her whisper in the darkest of hours. Not enough that her mocking smile didn’t egg him on when he thought he couldn’t.

Did it make him unfaithful, this affair with a dead memory? A ghost of the past that would not quite quit. Was it just a manifestation? A want, a need, to regain that youth?

That freedom.

That easiness.

To wear responsibility so lightly again.

Was that behind her smile?

A reminder of what was, what could be again.

He never gave his heart to her, so why did she haunt him now.

Why did her name now mean so much?

The glimpse of her face behind the crowd in old photos. He looks at them again and again and again.

Those eyes.

The eyes that smiled and smiled and smiled. Even when she hurt, those eyes still smiled. They still smiled through the actions of reckless youth, of careless youth. Those eyes still smiled and thought the best of everyone. She’d thought the best of him, and he was guilty. He saw it happening and never stopped it.

So now she’s his dirty little secret. Those memories, even fleeting, occupy his time.

Those paths in the woods, she is sitting by the two.

To remind him.

And her name will be on his lips as he kisses his children goodnight… And her name will be the last thing he screams into the darkness, when he goes.

She’s his secret, his conscience, an uncomfortable presence.

Maybe it was love, and now she won’t leave him be.

But when he is completely honest with himself, he doesn’t want her to go.