Falling In Love Blinded Her to the Truth

Anna and Amory corresponded long-distance for over two years before they met face-to-face.

She was a writer and he was a painter. She needed artwork for her books and he wanted more exposure in the art world. The more books Anna wrote, the more accolades Amory received for his artwork–the more accolades Amory received, the more people bought Anna’s books. They made a great team.

Until she discovered a secret . . .

It was finally time for Anna to board a plane to meet with Amory in Germany. They decided to start a new business venture together, and they both thought it would be best if they worked out the details in person.

Though their relationship was purely professional, Anna packed all her most fashionable outfits, best make-up, and she got her hair done just a couple of days before she headed overseas.

She had an inordinate amount of butterflies every time she thought of meeting Amory in person. Though she realized she was developing feelings for him, she tried to ignore the fact that hearing his voice made her feel like a high school girl getting ready to meet her crush.

Finally meeting Amory felt like a dream . . . until it turned into a nightmare. Once she was in his territory, Anna had nowhere to hide and Amory would do anything to protect his secrets.

An American in Germany

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Anna heard the train coming, so she ran toward the platform holding the straps of her backpack so it wouldn’t slow her down.

“Excuse me,” she said as she swept her bangs out of her eyes, “What time does the train leave for Hamburg?”

The gentleman looked startled by the question, then he looked up at the boards, “It looks like this is it.” He gestured to the train door about to close.

“Oh, thank you! Sorry, I’ve never been here before. I would have missed it!” She headed quickly through the doors and smiled as they closed.

The gentleman smiled at her genuine and awkward nature. “Where are you from?” He mouthed as the train began to depart.

“America! Where are you from?” she asked with exaggerated enunciation just moments before the man was out of sight.

She was 99% positive he answered, “Hamburg.”

“I’m Real.”

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As the train picked up speed, Anna looked around for a seat. In the middle of rush hour, there were two to choose from.

One between a giant sleeping man and a teenage boy listening to German punk through his earbuds. The other, next to a harried-looking mother holding her crying child.

Anna decided to stand.

She removed her backpack, held on to the metal pole near the door, and watched as the city and then the country rolled past the train’s windows.

She recollected the events of the day–a trip to Luneberg where she strolled the quaint town, stopping in at an old church, a cafe, and an old locksmith’s shop.

The latter is where she bought a blue metal padlock and had it engraved, “I’m real. 2017.”

She reached into her coat pocket to feel the small paper bag in which the padlock sat. “It’s still here,” she whispered to herself. “I’m still here.”

Anna’s Long Journey

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Anna just arrived in Germany.

Though she had taken a German class before she left Missouri, Anna immediately realized she underestimated how difficult it would be to make her way through Hamburg. As it turns out, knowing the sentence, “Where is the library?” didn’t end up being as helpful as her textbook led her to believe it might be.

Having just arrived and been sleep-deprived after hopping planes, trains, and automobiles for 36 hours, Anna texted one of two people she knew in the bustling, beautiful city.

“I’m here :)”

She stood at the exit of the airport, waiting for his response.

Traveling With No Plan

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It was about 10 am in Hamburg. As she waited, she stepped through the airport doors and into the cold February air.

Suddenly, she was no longer tired but invigorated. She smiled broadly, all of her senses heightened. She didn’t have much scheduled for this trip, but she had been looking forward to it for weeks. She preferred to travel without an itinerary as she wanted to be free to go wherever each day tried to take her.

Feeling the sunshine break through the cold wind blowing across her face, she sensed an adventure was about to begin.

Her phone vibrated in her hand.

“I’ll See You Tonight.”

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“So, you’re real after all!” His text made her laugh. “Take the underground to the Strenschanze station. The Movenpick hotel is just up the hill. I’ll see you tonight.”

With that, Anna studied the subway map on her phone and began her journey into Hamburg and toward the man she came to meet, Amory.

The Passionate Artist

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Amory was a painter.

He didn’t grow up thinking he would be an artist–he was more sensible than that. He had a degree in business.

Having followed that path, he was a successful business owner. But it wasn’t his passion.

Amory left his day job at 2 pm sharp three days a week to teach painting and illustration at Hamburg University. After class, he walked several blocks to an art studio, where he conducted an adult painting class.

He was a man of routine–business by day, art by night. On Saturdays, he turned to his easel.

Anna had come to know his routine by heart.

Meeting On a Dark Street

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Anna left the Movenpick hotel at dusk. She had a basic understanding of the direction she should head, and she figured she’d rely on her google translator to do the rest of the work.

After several wrong turns and having to rely on the kindness of strangers–some of whom pointed the way, others of which gave her directions in broken English–Anna found Amory’s art studio.

She stood in the darkness on the sidewalk across the street. The air was so cold she could see her breath as she sighed, “I’m here.”

Watching Him Through the Window

The sidewalk lined a quiet street filled with cars. It was quaint. Old. The buildings were made of brick and stone, and they towered above Anna–four and five stories high. She didn’t expect the middle of Hamburg–a bustling city–to feel so much like a small town.

She was early, but she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Anna ducked into the entryway of a building facing the art studio to get out of the wind. There, she waited.

As she did, she could see through the drapes of the art studio. Suddenly, she spotted Amory’s profile. He was walking back and forth–from easel to easel–helping his students with their paintings.

The moment was surreal. Anna had seen Amory’s profile in photos. She was familiar with his face and his hair. The shirts and sweaters he often wore in photographs, all of which were black.

Amory’s walk was foreign to her. The way he moved. She watched as he moved across the studio.

Synonymous With “I Love You.”

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Under the lights of the studio, Amory moved like a dancer. He was surprisingly graceful as he talked and laughed with students. There was an ease about him that immediately calmed Anna and terrified her at the same time.

She was here to talk business. She was here as a writer he hired to help him with his art book.

The first time she contacted Amory was through his website. She asked him to use some of his paintings as illustrations for her poetry and short stories. She wondered if they could strike a deal that might be beneficial for both of them.

Delighted by her proposal, Amory’s first response to her was, “Are you real? This is delightful news!”

“I’m real.” That’s the way she began the following email to him. Thus, this phrase became an inside joke between the two.

One that would eventually become synonymous with, “I love you.”

He Stepped Into the Darkness

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Anna forgot about the cold night air.

She looked into the sky, and she noticed that the moon was full and bright. It seemed to hang lower in Germany than it did back home. She looked up through windows of the buildings around her–all these people living their daily lives right here just like she lived her life an ocean away.

She always had this thought at some point when she was traveling. We all get wrapped up in our lives as though ours is the only reality in the world. And yet, sitting on this dark street lined with twinkling lamp posts, Anna was a stranger. In a strange land. No one knew who she was. And yet, somehow, all these people lived their lives without her.

Her thoughts were interrupted by movement across the street. Amory stepped out into the night.

She Called His Name From the Shadows

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Anna stood up. A little disoriented by her thoughts and bringing herself back into the present moment.

Amory stood in the doorway of his art studio as his students brushed past him on their way onto the sidewalk and down the street. They said goodbye to him as they passed him, and he smiled briefly at each, but he was distracted.

He was looking for Anna.

She was just about to step into the street but, instead, she stayed in the shadows for a moment longer.

A grin grew on her face as Amory moved–like a dancer–looking for Anna. She called his name.

“Where are you?”

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“Amory!”

He turned his head toward her voice, but he couldn’t see Anna in the shadows.

She called again.

He said, “Where are you?”

“I’m here,” said Anna as she stepped close toward Amory. She was now standing directly under a streetlamp.

“You’re real!” Amory crossed the street, smiled broadly, tilted his head as though he wanted to hug Anna but might choose to shake her hand instead. “Hi!”

Anna forgot to feel self-conscious or awkward. She threw her arms around Amory, and he hugged her back. After months of long-distance correspondence, Anna and Amory no longer needed words. For a moment.

She Went from Observer to Participant in His Life

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Anna and Amory held one another for just a moment longer before breaking to look at one another. The awkwardness returned, followed quickly by playfulness. Like two old friends whose time apart could not sully their connection.

“Come see my studio!” Amory and Anna crossed the street together, leaving the darkness of the road for the sparkly lights of the art studio.

It occurred to Anna how quickly she went from observer to participant in the daily life of this street that existed an ocean away from home.

How quickly time and distance could be crossed into the present moment. Anna suddenly had a feeling she couldn’t put into words. It wasn’t until later–when she remembered this moment–that she could define it.

Reservations for Two

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What she felt, but didn’t realize at the moment, was there was nowhere else she would rather be. It was a foreign feeling to Anna.

She wasn’t sure she liked it. It felt equal parts enchanting and terrifying. As a writer, she was used to observing life–and her emotions–from a safe distance.

After giving her a studio tour, Amory invited Anna for dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant. “It’s my favorite place, and I’ve been waiting to take you there. Don’t worry. I can read the menu for you.” They both laughed.

Anna replied, “As an American, I only eat hamburgers and french fries, so I hope that’s what you’ll order!” Another inside joke.

A Warning Ignored

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Over the next three days, Amory and Anna spent all their waking moments together. Amory cleared his schedule and led Anna on tours of Hamburg, Berlin, and Bremen.

The two followed one another down city streets, into museums, restaurants, and on and off ferries. Along the way, they learned about one another the way you learn about another person when you’re adventuring side-by-side.

This is how Anna preferred to spend her time–moving, exploring. She wasn’t much for meeting people in office buildings or coffee shops. She liked to talk on busy sidewalks, hiking trails and wandering through art museums.

At the end of their third day together, Amory brought Anna to a restaurant famous for Weinerschnitzel. The two made fun of their own choice because it was so obviously German–like getting someone visiting America a burger at a fast-food restaurant.

“I’m here,” Anna laughed. “I might as well see what all the fuss is about.”

“Good!” replied Amory. “But I have to warn you not to eat one part of the dish.”

Anna Called Upon Her Courage

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“The fish,” Amory told Anna she didn’t have to eat the anchovies that came on top of the Weinerschnitzel. She took it as a dare.

When the server brought their dishes, Anna marveled at the presentation of what was basically a fancy cutlet of veal. “Everything is fancier here.” With that, Anna pulled the anchovy from the top of the plate, “Bon appetite!”

Amory’s eyes widened, and his smile quickly grew into laughter as Anna immediately regretted her decision. Her eyes began to water, and her face winced as she committed to finishing what she started, “Yum,” she said as Amory laughed harder and harder.

“Maybe Now You’ll Trust Me.”

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“You’re quite stubborn, aren’t you?” He was beginning to love this about her. “I’m courageous,” Anna corrected him. Then, she asked the server for a large glass of water.

Sharing this moment of uncontrolled levity broke something between Anna and Amory. It was a wall of propriety—an unspoken agreement to maintain their professional relationship. With tears of laughter running down Anna’s face, Amory reached across the table and used his napkin to wipe them away. “Maybe now you’ll trust me.”

Anna was surprised by his touch. “Maybe I will.”

The Legend of the Padlock and the Keys

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After Amory paid the bill, the two walked back into the cool afternoon air. Almost as though he planned it this way, the first turn they took out of the restaurant took them to a bridge known to both tourists and locals to Hamburg as “Love Lock Bridge.”

Anna marveled at the beauty of the river and bridge as they walked over it, and she asked Amory, “What is this place?”

Amory recited the poem to Anna:

The legend of the padlock goes like this:

When two people fall in love

During that time of bliss–

Before church-bound vows,

When sparked by passionate kiss–

They should seal their fate

Simply, like this,

By securing a padlock to a lover’s bridge,

And throwing both keys into the abyss.

Anna felt her stomach fill with butterflies. She knew fate had brought her and Amory to this place at this time. Amory asked Anna, “Would you like to go back to my art studio with me?”

Anna said yes, and Amory held his hand out to her. The two walked through the streets, quietly this time, making their way to his studio.

The Old Locksmith Behind the Counter

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On the fourth day of her trip–and two days before she would have to travel home–Anna took a day trip to Luneberg by herself while Amory returned to his routine. He made plans to meet Anna at the shore of the River Elbe to show her the tunnel that connected one side of Hamburg to another. Then, the two would have dinner at a local restaurant.

While Anna was in Luneberg, she ducked into an old locksmith shop with padlocks hanging in the window.

She picked out a blue padlock and asked the man behind the counter to engrave it with the words, “I’m real. 2017.”

Noticing the time was nearing that she should head back to Hamburg, she hastily grabbed the small brown bag the locksmith handed her and headed out the door. “Thank you!” she said over her shoulder as she ran toward the train station to meet Amory.

On the Way to the Hospital

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Amory’s wife called him from home. “I know you have a business meeting tonight, but Leo is sick. We need you to come home. We may have to take him to the hospital.”

Amory was on his way to meet Anna. He hadn’t worried about it earlier in the day, but his cell phone battery was running low–he didn’t think he needed it. Maybe he wanted it to drain itself before nightfall so his wife wouldn’t know where he was.

Amory responded, “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s running a fever. 102. He’s been feeling bad since last night.”

“Okay,” said Amory. “I’m on my way.”

He hung up. He sighed deeply and looked at his watch. Just then, he heard Anna calling his name, “Amory!”

“Finally. I’ve Been Waiting to See You All Day.”

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At the sound of her voice, Amory smiled. “Finally. I’ve been waiting to see you all day.” He pulled Anna close to him and kissed her like it was the last kiss he would ever give.

As he pulled away, Anna teased him, “Well, we should spend the day apart more often.”

Amory told Anna he had an urgent business meeting he had to attend. He apologized profusely and asked if they could meet for breakfast the following morning.

Disappointed but understanding, Anna replied, “Of course. But, before you go, I want to show you something.” Just as she handed him the small paper bag, Amory’s cell phone rang again.

A Promise and a Choice

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“I’m so sorry. I have to take this,” he quickly told Anna.

“It’s no problem!” she replied.

He held the bag up to her. “What is this?” he asked.

“Meet me tomorrow, and maybe we can throw away the keys.” She felt nervous about revealing what she had bought.

Amory’s phone continued to ring. Realizing the weight of the moment, he silenced it.

Amory was suddenly aware of the sound of the river lapping against the shoreline. He could hear vendors making deals with tourists over cheap hats and sweatshirts. He spotted a dog walking with its owner, both of them wearing red coats. He was in the moment. Reality hit him.

“Anna . . .”

Unexpected Departure

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Anna stopped him with a kiss. “Go on. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Amory kissed her back. He turned to leave, and his cell phone began to ring. He answered it and said, “I’m on my way.” He turned back to look at Anna. She smiled and waved, and that was the last time he ever saw Anna again.

Anna turned into the crowded riverwalk and got lost in a sea of foreign voices, the music she had never heard, and people she had never seen. Just how she liked it.

The following day, she was startled awake by a phone call.

She Texted. She Called. She Panicked.

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The airline canceled Anna’s evening flight. If she wanted to make it home and back to work as planned, she would have to take an earlier flight.

She was torn. She knew she needed to make that earlier flight, and she knew she had to meet Amory before she did.

Anna texted Amory to ask if they could meet right away. He didn’t respond.

Figuring he may still be asleep, she got ready for the day, packed her suitcases, and headed out the hotel door. She sat on a bench outside the hotel. For a moment, she breathed in deeply. She noticed the clouds and sunshine showcasing one another and how the cold air felt against her face. Anna was at once wholly content and utterly miserable.

She called Amory. No answer. Another hour went by.

His Secret Revealed, She Has Nowhere to Hide.

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The time was nearing when Anna would need to head to the airport. She jumped onto the underground and made her way to Amory’s studio. She didn’t know where he lived, or she might have gone to his home and knocked on his door. She didn’t want him to think she had forgotten about their date.

But why wasn’t he answering?

When Anna arrived at his studio, she noticed it looked different during the day. The lamp posts were just lamp posts. The buildings had more graffiti on them than she realized on her first night in town.

She knocked on the studio door. No one answered.

Anna turned to make her way back to the underground when she saw Amory walking down the sidewalk. He was holding a small boy in his left arm–his free hand was holding the hand of a woman Anna had never seen.

He Ran After Her

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Anna ducked into the same entryway she had ducked into only four nights before. As surreptitiously as she could, she watched as Amory opened the door of his studio, said goodbye to the little boy and woman, and ran out the door and down the street.

“He’s going to meet me,” Anna said, almost as though she were vomiting the words into the air.

Anna felt sick. She wasn’t sure whether to go or to stay–whether she should follow Amory and ask him what the hell was going on. Who was that woman? Is that his child?

In a moment of sheer commitment to the logical side of her brain, Anna stepped onto the sidewalk and walked toward the underground. For the first time in four days, she was going in the opposite direction that Amory was going in. Every step felt like a mile.

Amory ran to the restaurant where he had plans with Anna–the padlock and keys were in his pocket.

He Frantically Searched for Her

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Anna didn’t show.

Amory pulled his phone out of his pocket only to remember it ran out of batteries last night while he was at the hospital with his wife and son.

He had no way to reach Anna.

Amory waited for another hour. When he was sure she wasn’t coming, he made his way to the hotel at which she was staying.

The manager told him Anna had checked out.

Amory thought, “Is it possible she’s waiting for me at the Love Lock Bridge?” He got back on the underground and went to the bridge.

Torn Apart

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As her airplane took off, Anna felt despondent. Angry. Sad. Confused.

Amory felt the same.

His Last Connection to Her

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Amory hailed a taxi and directed him to the bridge. From the backseat, Amory pulled the padlock from the small brown bag. He ran his fingers over the engraved words, “I’m Real. 2017.”

He opened it with the key. Then clicked it shut again.

When his cab pulled up to the bridge, Amory paid him and stepped out. He found himself alone, except for a dog that was limping along the sidewalk.

Amory knelt by the bridge, clicked the cold metal of the padlock onto Love Lock Bridge, and slipped both keys into his pocket.

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