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... That brief reflection in the store window was his undoing. In that moment he saw the future, a multitude of sorrows. He saw himself for who he really was, an aging man, dieing more each minute, grasping to hold on to what little life he had left. Right now she was his life; Vibrant and beautiful, eager and hopeful, all of the things he was not, all of the things he had long ago put aside. His death would crush that vitality and whither the beauty.

She would bounce back in the end, as all young and energetic people do, but she would be a changed person. Even his hardened heart could not bear the weight of that change. So in that instant, before doubt could set in, he took action and barricaded his heart once again in order to protect hers.

Before his smile could wain, "I would love to go in with you, but I have other errands to run. Another time perhaps?"

Just the flicker of disappointment lit her eyes and then a smile. "Yes, next time." Bounce.

He politely excused himself happy in knowing that there would be no next time. In two days she would be on a ship headed to a new life, one of comfort and happiness. Later, she would meet someone her own age and fall in love and do all of the things that come with youthful exuberance. Then in the weeks or months to come she would hear, from a friend of a friend, that the old man she had all too briefly known had passed on quietly in his sleep. While a slight sadness might sink in for an hour or a day, she would remain unchanged.

That thought alone gave him solace. Now with his love life safely tucked away, it was time for him to tackle more formidable challenges like where to hide all of the money...