Hannah Broznan rarely visited the cemetery.
The grassy knolls and quiet, sad whispers were not necessary for her to remember Tom and Alicia, because they did not live in the confines of a garden of stone, but in Hannah's heart.
Where they would always live.
But on this day, Hannah climbed out of the car, slipped on her sunglasses, and gazed across a sea of cold, gray tombstones. Her heart ached as she drew a slow, shaky breath.
Much as she didn't want to be here, it was time. Despite the emotions warring within her, Hannah knew she had no choice. She needed to come now, just as she'd needed to come two years ago when Matt Brosnan asked her to be his wife.
By then she had grieved the loss of her first husband, and with a strength that was not her own, she'd survived. Enough to tell Matt yes, to believe there was indeed a new life for her and young Jenny on the other side of a darkness and pain that had nearly destroyed them both.
Coming here had been difficult back then too, but it had given her a chance to say good-bye to Tom, to thank him for all they'd shared, and to release him. To let die a flame she thought would burn forever. Hannah set her gaze in the direction of their tombstones and pulled her sweater tighter.
Her eyes welled up. Now it was time to let go of Alicia.
This was a private moment—one she needed to share with Tom and Alicia alone. Regardless of shaded grounds, the glasses would stay. She walked amidst the markers, her fingers brushing against an occasional cold stone as she made her way across the cemetery to the place where their markers lay, side by side.
Her eyes drifted from one to the other. Dr. Thomas J. Ryan . . . Alicia Marie Ryan. The birth dates were different, but the date of death was the same: August 28, 1998.
A lump formed in Hannah's throat, and she swallowed hard as she knelt down, sitting back on her heels. She wiped an errant tear from her cheek . . . Alicia would have been nineteen, finished with high school and making her way through college. In love, perhaps, or dreaming of a career.
Alicia, I miss you, baby . . .
It was harder to picture them now, harder to see the crisp definition in her mind's scrapbook . . . how Tom's eyes sparkled when she was in his arms, or the way Alicia's smile lit up a room . . .
They'd lost so much in one terrible moment. A drunk driver, an awful collision . . .and the life she and Tom had spent years building was shattered.
Hannah exhaled, and the sound mingled with the breeze. You can do this. She squeezed her eyes shut, searching for the strength to move ahead. She and Matt had worked out the plans for more than a year. It was the right thing, she was sure of that much. Even now, with sadness covering her heart like a blanket, she could feel the excitement welling within her, convincing her that somehow, sometime soon, it would happen.
She would be a mother again.