Emma gazed at the stately old buildings across the river and wondered who had lived there before—100, 200, 300, or more years ago? She felt like she was slipping into a dream again when reality interrupted.
“You know, a lot of the Old Town was blown up by the Germans, during the war,” Stephen said. He surveyed the Charles Bridge and the Bedřich Smetana Museum as if he was checking off a list.
“We’re in Prague,” Emma said. “I don’t want to hear about war. I just want to see what’s here.”
As on cue, there was a murmur in the tree crowns over them as a soft breeze caressed the park, with its tourists and lovers.
Emma closed her eyes and thought of a number. 1852.
Her autistic brother loved numbers, but to him they were different. Michael said he sometimes felt the numbers had colors, even personalities. To Emma they were gateways.
“Well, what do you see?” Stephen asked, arms crossed.
“Maybe I see two lovers, eloping—running away together, never to come back.” She smiled, knowing what the response would be.
“You read too many romance novels,” Stephen said and shook his head. He checked his phone again. “The guide says we could catch the Beer Museum and the Bedřich Smetana before they close if we go right over the Legion Bridge now. Or maybe—” he looked north “—we should go back and cross over Charles Bridge on the way. Then we’ve done that one, too.”
“Sure, Steve.” Emma still had her eyes closed. Who were these young people? They had run away together but why?
Emma saw the woman clearly in her mind’s eye. As clearly, as if she was right there—between Stephen and her—breathing frantically, running to all that life in front of her she craved, never looking back.
If she could run fast enough could she outrun the chains of her past? Perhaps an angry father who had forbidden her to marry the man she loved? Poverty? Something about a war her man was about to be drafted for but he did not want to go, did not want to leave her …
“Are you coming?” Stephen snapped the phone shut. “We don’t have that much time left.”
“No,” Emma said and bowed her head. “No, we haven’t.”