The day he broke the news, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him very soon. Not the next year, not in a few years, maybe not ever. The December sky had already given me a foreboding that the time had come. Things were quieter than usual and the days were colder ..than usual.
Sombre grey always hung low in the horizon and the mornings were never fresh or tepid. Just frostbiting cold and the fields dotted with sluggish cattle, clumsily grazing with drooping eyelids. Christmas was not very far and I saw little kids skedaddle their way from school; blissful for the inception of the Christmas holidays. Occasionally when I peaked from my window I saw a few seagulls visiting our little town, and each time they flew my heart leapt at the thought of the lands they’ve visited and the people they’ve met.
Nights were freezing cold and our old fireplace did a poor job in warming up the house. It had snowed heavily that year and our streets were flooded with enormous cascades of pearl white snow. People were busy shoveling and clearing their jammed doors and pathways, steams of warm breath emerging from every shove.
All this while nature always informed me whenever something wrong was going to happen, in secret and subtle ways only I could understand. In codes and language only I could decipher, like an old scholar rummaging through an ancient manuscript. Of course the hints were nature’s own self-creation from all the resources it could possibly conjure.
The wind would blow stealthily that day, like a gory murderer slowly crawling towards his victim’s bed. The leaves would rustle frantically, in tuned chords and rhythms. The woods would appear deeper, like there’s some dark secret hidden somewhere in their heart. And the sky would have a gloomy grey spread across its bare chest, like a painting made by a solitary lover. Heavy clouds laden with rain would always hover above, like a distant warning, yet they’d never downpour.
As I tried to figure out what was wrong, I walked towards the most snug, warm and perhaps the only cafe selling the best cocoa in town. My steps were slow, almost hesitant, the image of the hot cocoa mug did not succeed in tantalizing me, something else was troubling me and I guess I already knew what it was.
Pushing the door open my entrance was followed by a slight tingle from the bell above, few heads turned my side and then turned away. After a brief scanning of the arena, I saw him. He flashed a half grin and waved at me, I got instantly pulled towards it, like I always had been. Pulling out a chair, I made myself comfortable. The dense aroma of coffee lingered in the air.
“How have you been?” He said, taking a sip of his coffee. I took a moment and breathed him in, blue eyes, slightly copper skin, light brown softly tussled hair. Although he wasn’t swooning handsome, he was the one man I’d felt ridiculously drawn towards in my entire life, right since 2nd grade.
“Lyla?” he called out. I snapped out of my reverie, “Oh, I’ve been great, better actually,” I lied. “I’ve been thinking about the holiday project and have managed to come up with a splendid idea,” I grinned.
He nodded in approval and said, “It’s good to see you Lyla.” His eyes grew deeper, like an intense suppressed emotion struggling to reach out. It was interrupted by Bernard who placed my cocoa on the table, sweet little freckled boy always knew what I ordered.
School was coming to an end and pretty soon we’d all be on our separate ways. While this blue eyed boy in front of me had been with me since 11 long years, I could never summon the courage to tell him how I felt, out of fear that it might not be reciprocated back which, in my opinion, stood a very fair chance.
“Lyla, I’ve been thinking a lot and last night I made a decision and that’s why I wanted to see you,” he continued, “I think I’ll be leaving for the city very soon. My parents had already been wanting this for me, my cousins are settled there and have been prospering so I’d have no trouble adjusting.”
He sounded disturbed and had been this way for a while. He was always a mystery, like a part of him was always hidden away, stored and somewhere far for the right person to discover.
“Bu..but why?” I mumbled.
He sighed, “To tell you the truth, I’ve been very very alone Lyla. I don’t have any friends and you know I’ve been in seclusion my entire life. Sometimes I feel I’m destined for great things but this town is eating me away. We’re all stuck here and I feel even though Christmas is all about love and cheer, yet I won’t find any, as long as I stay here.
Look around Lyla, there’s no cheer. Just a bunch of sick people dragging another Christmas in poverty and beers. And there sure as hell no love here. At least I couldn’t find it, but I also know that it won’t happen unless I get out and grab her, whoever and wherever she is.
Sometimes you’ve to break all the boundaries and let the winds sweep you away, so they’d land you on the right ground.”
I took a deep breath and fought away the tears. “That’s wonderful Pete. I’m glad you realized your dream and I’m incredibly happy for you.”
“Thanks,” he said, “You know I’ll keep writing to you, don’t you?”
As his train slowly melted away in the distant fog, I waved him a final goodbye. The spark in his eyes had no regrets but just a measly dab of guilt that I could see. Nature had been right after all, I brooded as the train crawled towards the distant woods, Pete’s coach far in front, already marching through the jungle.
What I was to him, if neither a friend nor a love, I guess I’ll never know. The letters came every week, and after an year became less frequent. Telephones were a luxury we couldn’t afford.
I have no idea where Pete is today.
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