Fear The Dawn: Chapter 41

The rising sun signalled the start of a new day, bringing light and warmth to the world below, yet for many of the passengers on the 7:30AM train this spectacle of nature passed by mostly unnoticed.
Aidan leafed idly through the morning paper. There had been another big sell-off in the stock market, and the analysts were predicting disaster, as usual. He rolled his eyes and flipped to the next page. He'd seen it all by now, the major firms were well insulated against such market fluctuations, and most private investors would just hold on to their stocks until they eventually rose again. In truth, the world was a pretty stable place, much more so than most would like to admit.
The sun caught his eye for a moment, reflecting off the bay. He folded his paper on his lap and glanced out the window. It was a clear day today, hardly a cloud in the sky. He shifted his back a bit so the light was out of his eyes and went back to his paper.

The train pulled into the station around 8:20. It was Friday today, so it wasn't as crowded as some mornings. The lineup at the coffee shop was short enough that he might have been able to stop for a snack, but he'd had a full breakfast today and had a lot of work to do in the office. It was a crisp day outside, not quite cold yet, but cool enough to keep him walking at a brisk pace. He crossed the few blocks leading up to his building, just the same as he had every morning for all these years.
Good morning, sir”, the receptionist greeted him.
Good morning, Brad”, he replied. Brad had been the doorman at his building for a few years now, ever since Nicole left to go back to school. He was faultlessly polite, but a very private man, Aidan doubted anyone at the office knew him terribly well. Aidan took the elevator up to his floor, went to the coffee machine for a cup of coffee, then walked into his office, sat down in his chair, and set about unpacking his briefcase. He still had to finish summarizing their accounts for today's meeting. He took out the papers he had finished last night, laid them out neatly on his desk, and started typing his notes into the computer.

He had finally achieved his goal a little less than a year ago. The directors had decided that Walder Financial needed to be more proactive in the technology sector, so they had created a new team to focus specifically on technical investments. Few of the established mangers had much experience in that area, so they felt they could use someone younger to lead the team, and his initiative and experience had brought him to the top of the list. His was a small team, a handful of kids fresh out of school who spoke in complicated technical terms he rarely understood, but it was his all the same. His hard work had finally paid off, though in truth his life hadn't changed terribly much for it. The work was a bit more interesting now, and he no longer had to work late at nights, but he found he had to take more of his work home now so he didn't really have much more free time than before. The pay was a lot better, but he hadn't been spending a lot of it, so far most of it was just going into his investment portfolio, squirrelled away for a time in his life where he might have more use for it. He flipped to the next set of reports.

Aidan was still working on his presentation at lunch time, having spent much of his morning on phone calls and short little meetings with his employees. They were all headed down to the lunchroom now, chatting away about their computer games and TV shows. Aidan almost never ate in the lunchroom anymore. The other managers went out for lunch most days, but Aidan didn't really fit in with them yet, and Dan had left the company at least 5 years ago now, so most days he ate lunch in his office. Today he needed to work through lunch anyway, he had a presentation to finish and he wanted to make sure he would be done all of his work before the end of the day because he was actually going out tonight. Dan and Nicole were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary and they had invited a handful of friends over for a party.

It seemed hard to believe it had been ten years since they were married. He could still remember the wedding, Dan had insisted that he be the best man after he had encouraged him to pursue the relationship, but after what had happened between him and Nisha he hadn't felt terribly up to it. He had done his best to be cheerful and boisterous anyway, but privately he had been sceptical that they would last. Clearly they had proven him wrong by now, and by all accounts things seemed to be going wonderfully for them. Dan had worked hard to get a better job so he could support the family, Nicole had quit her job as a receptionist to go and complete her degree, and they also found time to have a child together. He hadn't seen Dan for a while, but every time they spoke he always sounded very happy.

Aidan sighed. It had been around ten years since he'd seen her, too. He had stayed put this whole time, making it easy for her to find him if she ever wished to, but he hadn't seen or heard from her even once since that night she walked out on him. He picked up the little picture he kept on his desk and glanced at the happy young couple staring back at him. He hardly even recognized them anymore, it felt like a lifetime had gone by since he had been that person. Several times he had thought about getting rid of the picture, but he could never quite bring himself to do it. He settled for laying it face-down on his desk so he could get some work done.

Later that afternoon he had his meeting with the higher-ups. His presentation went well, they never really questioned what he had to say, though he was always afraid that they would. The meeting wrapped up around 4:00, and most of the executives packed up for the day. Dan's party wasn't until 7:00, so Aidan took the time to chat with some of the other managers about the general state of the business, then went back to his department to check on his employees and tidied up a few other things in his office before leaving the office around 5:30. He picked up a bottle of wine and got on the bus to head over to Dan's new place.

Aidan! You made it!” Dan said, giving Aidan a hearty hug and accepting the gift. “Come in, come in!”
This was actually his first time visiting Dan's new home. It was smaller than his parents' house, but much more lively, especially with all the guests over that night. Not counting Dan, Nicole, and their two children, there were eight all told, though he didn't recognize most of them. He thought he had seen one of them a few times when they used to go Carson's together, but the only person he knew well was Tina. He was a bit surprised to see her, even though she had been Dan's friend too they had rarely associated except through him. Aidan hadn't spoken to her much lately, things had kind of been awkward between them ever since that night when he told her off over the phone. He knew that she and Frank had divorced a few years ago, and she was here alone tonight, just as he was.
Nicole's been slaving away in the kitchen all day”, Dan said, gesturing towards his wife. “She locked me in the garage after I got in her way too many times.”
And yet somehow you kept coming back”, she added.
Hey, I said I would help”, he said, snuggling up to her.
And I appreciate your help, honey, just not when we have guests coming over”. Dan laughed as she brushed him aside again. Aidan could tell they were very close.
It does smell very good”, Aidan said. The sweet scent of glazed ham filled the whole house, and all of the guests seemed to be looking forward to it.
It's almost ready”, she replied, handing her husband a stack of plates. “Why don't you pour everyone a glass of wine and help me set the table?”
My pleasure”, Dan said, leaving Aidan to mingle with the other guests.

The dinner was excellent, so much so that there wasn't a lot of conversation, though they did propose a toast to the the cook and the happy couple. After they finished eating the adults sat around and talked while David played with their younger son, Mark. Though they were many years apart, the kids seemed to get along well, and seeing the whole family together Aidan couldn't help but feel like he had missed out on a few things. He met the rest of the people at the party, they were mostly people from Dan's new job, and they talked very cordially about themselves and their livelihood. One man seemed very interested in Aidan's work with technology, so he talked for him for a while. Eventually, Dan took a couple of the guests downstairs to see something or other, leaving the rest of them to their own devices. Aidan spoke with Nicole for a bit, he learned that she had originally been studying science when she had David, but now she was taking engineering to try to make it easier to find a job. She knew she was a bit old to be starting a new career, but she was hoping to find work in the public sector. She also told him a bit about the kids, David was going to be starting university soon and she was very nervous about it, but Aidan reassured her that he would do fine. Eventually she went to talk to someone else and he was left alone for a moment.

Hi, Aidan. It's been a long time, hasn't it?”
Hello, Tina. Yes, it has.”
So, how has your life been?”
Not bad. I'm a manager at my company now.”
That's great, congratulations.”
How about you?”
Oh, same old. Still writing, mostly freelance now. It's not as consistent but I get to write what I want.”
That's good. What do you think about Dan and Nicole making it ten years?”
I'm happy for them, but I'm not really surprised. It's a bit of a strange pairing, with the age difference and all, but when I saw how happy they were at the wedding I knew it was going to last.”
I wasn't so sure.”
Oh, really? Dan seems to think you were the one who got them together.”
Well, that's true, but it just seemed a little... far-fetched, I guess.”
Ah, well, I guess that was just after... nevermind.”
He knew what she wanted to say, anyway. They stood there in silence for a moment before Dan returned from the basement.
Ah, Dan's back, I guess I should probably get going. It was good to see you again, Aidan.”
Yeah, you too.”
She turned to leave, but then she stopped for a moment. “You know, we should get together again sometime, for old time's sake. I have a new place now, so I'll give you my new number. Maybe you could give me a call sometime.”
All right, we'll see.”
Tina returned to talk to Dan for a moment, then she went to see the kids. Aidan doubted that he would call her any time soon. She was still his friend in a way, but they had drifted too far apart. They were basically just strangers at a party now.

Aidan took a seat in one of the chairs and just sat down for a while, not sorry to be away from it all for a moment. It had been kind of a strange evening. Dan and Nicole had definitely changed a lot, but Aidan felt like he had barely changed at all, and he couldn't shake the feeling that he didn't really belong here anymore. He thought back to the nights they used to spend in that bar, back when Dan's desire to ask Nicole out on a date was just a pipe dream. What had he done differently that things had worked out for him? He tried to remember if there was anything that had set them apart.
Dan, honey, could you run this bag out to the curb? I'm trying to get the kitchen cleaned up.”
All right, sweetie, I'll be back in a sec.”
Aidan followed him out. It was a crisp, dark night tonight, not unlike another night they'd been out together, a long time ago.
Oh, hey Aidan. Enjoying the party?”
Yeah, it's been great. You're a very lucky man, Daniel.”
Heh, I sure am, and I owe a lot of that to you, buddy”. He slapped Aidan on the back. “We should see each other more often, you know?”
Yeah. You know, there's something I've been meaning to ask you.”
What's that?”
Do you remember a long time ago you told me that you sometimes had these dreams that seemed so real you could hardly tell them apart from reality?”
Dan thought for a moment. “...Not really, no.”
Well, you were pretty drunk at the time”, Aidan admitted. Dan laughed.
Do you ever still have dreams like that?”
Well, maybe sometimes, but most of my dreams are about my family now. Besides, they're just dreams. It's what we do in this world that matters.”
Yeah, I suppose you're right. We should probably head back inside.”

Not too much later they said their goodbyes. Aidan had to leave in time to catch the last train, and a few of the other guests were leaving as well. He thought about what Dan had said as he made his way back to the train station. It made a lot of sense, but he couldn't quite forget what he had felt, either. He wondered just what Dan had dreamt about way back then, and how different his own life might have been if he had chosen to ignore those dreams all those years ago. There were a lot of of thoughts going through his mind, and he also found he was very tired. It had been a long day, and when he finally reached his seat on the train he found himself starting to doze. Half-awake, he stared absent-mindedly out the window and watched the city go by.
Then he saw it.
The moon, shining over the bay, bathing the water in shimmering white light, just like it had been that first night with Nisha. He was alone now, but it was still just as captivating as it had been all those years ago when she had first shown it to him. All this time, he had always thought that he needed her to appreciate the beautiful things in life, but it was a part of him now. That was her gift to him, and it had never been taken away. For the first time, he thought back on the time they had spent together and remembered it happily instead of feeling full of regret.

We had a good time together”, he thought, looking out over the bay. “Maybe it's time for me to move on.”
It wasn't the first time he'd thought about letting her go, but he had always been afraid that there would be nothing left for him afterwards if he did. He had been trying to stop time for the last ten years, but it had kept moving forward anyway. Looking out at the full moon, he felt like he was ready to live again.
Yet one thought lingered in his mind. What about her? Was she doing all right? He remembered the way she had appeared in his dream, crying, broken, and he had felt compelled to protect her. She seemed so upset when she had left, too. Had she recovered and moved on with her life by now, or was she still suffering? He couldn't quite bring himself to abandon her if she still needed him.
Nisha,” he silently asked the sky, “are you looking at the same moon tonight?”

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