Fall

The wind lashed at her face as she made her way across the street; her gloved hands clutching onto the binder for dear life.

The nerves, she figured, would pass.

The November air seemed too chilly as it raced down her spine, with little to no mercy. But, she had always been a winter baby; entertaining a love-hate relationship with the cold.

Yet, fall, happened to be her favourite time of the year.
It was perfect; not too cold, not too hot. It wasn’t as cheery as summer and not as gloomy as winter- nature’s blend of the best.

Change, that’s what it brought. Hope.

As she kicked the withering leaves on the ground, she understood her own obsession.
Funny, she thought, maybe somethings really don’t change.

Before she knew it, she’d already entered the little café she’d worshipped, just shy of a year or two ago. Or maybe it was three; she could hardly remember, anymore. That part of her life was so meticulously packed and hidden in the back of her mind, she could no longer grasp it in its entirety.

Just a few fragments remained, bits and pieces that more often than not, made her want to forget it all over again.

It was over. That phase had passed. For a long time, she’d successfully steered clear of the mess. No matter how precious or important, if it had anything to do with him, it was gone. And it had worked. Until now.

Stepping in, she immediately realised why she’d avoided it for so long. The memories rushed at her; things she’d forgotten, things that were Meaningless. Careless details of sharing a sundae on a hot summer’s day, or the french doors opening to the garden at the back.

Maddening. It was deafening.

Because nothing had changed. Even though the years had slipped by, it felt like time hadn’t budged in the forgotten coffee shop.
The wallpaper, decorated in that familiar beige and pink floral pattern was just as beautiful as it’d been. The paintings were still the same; the lone wolf in the middle of a field, the strange couple holding hands under a willow Tree.

Seeing it did nothing but bring back the ache she’d forgotten even existed. In that moment, she wasn’t her, anymore. She was again that silly little girl; pinning away for something that could never be hers. For someone who wasn’t worth it.

Too much had happened, too much time had passed. And yet, it felt like yesterday when she’d had her heart split in two.

It was painful. Cruel.

She knew wounds would heal, but they’d always scar. She knew it. It’d been engraved in her head since she fell off her little bicycle with the training wheels to the sides.
She knew all about healing.

What she didn’t realise, was that some aches never truly disappear. Some times, the pain dwells beneath the surface; never breaking the skin.

She still recalled the time she’d bugged her mother about it- asking, incessantly, what was the most painful experience of her seemingly mundane life. And then watching, with regret, as the mere words morphed her usual expression of glee to hurt in the matter of seconds.

“Your father’s passing. That was hard.

That was it. That was enough. Because she knew, just from one look at her mother, how her pain never left.

This was that pain.
This was her pain that never left.

Because even when he hadn’t dwelled in her heart, for years, he still had a way of dwelling in her entire being.
He was still there, living in the back of her closet– shoved against the things she’d forgotten but never gotten rid of.

Nothing had changed. Because even if the days had passed and the reality had settled in, the memories hadn’t faded away. They were there. They were always there.

How do you even hate something that’s just as much a part of you, as it isn’t?

You can’t. You just can’t. It doesn’t work like that. All you can do is seal it up- nice and quick- watching it simmer down and back up. Resurfacing and drowning in the folds of your consciousness.

Wishing, it’ll pass just as everything does.

And,
All you can do is wait, hoping that’ll be enough.

Only, it isn’t.

As she caught sight of the familiar leather on his back, sticking out like a sour thumb, she knew all of that was just for show.
It wasn’t enough- it’ll never be.

He turned, a smile breaking onto his face. No matter how hard she willed herself to not return it, to not fall into that familiar trap, the more welcoming it seemed.

That smile was a reminder of the best of her days, and the premonition of the worst.

Why was she here? Why was she doing this to herself?

She did not have a clue, anymore.
She thought she’d come here and make peace with the past, to hopefully forget about it once and for all. Now, as she made her way towards the booth, she wasn’t sure.

“Well, well. We meet again.”
There it was. That silly smile.

“You haven’t changed.”
She meant it to come across as an insult; something that’d wipe that smile off. Instead, it only seemed to do the opposite.

“You know how it is. I’m not really the out with the old type.”
He smirked,
The old sense of humour was still intact.

Any other guy in his position would have you worship him; milk the family’s rich lineage- the almost castle that came with the mere mention of his name. Any other blue blood wouldn’t have missed the chance.

He chose to ignore it. He ignored quite a lot of things.

At that moment, he was doing anything but.

He stared at her, noting every little change, every single detail. knowing the chances of them meeting ever again were slim.
Her nose still had the piercing, though the ring was now replaced by a tiny stud. Her hair was how he remembered them to be; brown, silky and poker straight. Though, they’d grown well past her shoulders, almost reaching her waist.

Beautiful.
She was still beautiful.

“You have certainly changed.” He said

She had. She wasn’t seventeen, anymore. She wasn’t that little girl. The same one that would’ve jumped at the chance of sitting on the same bench as him.

Now, she was a responsible adult, or however close you could get to being one- living her life as every other twenty something year old did- With piles of paper and work.
That was her life, now. It was a blur. A caffeinated one, at that.

“I have a class to get to. I don’t have time for small talk.”

She was trying to brush him off. She had to. Because if she didn’t, he’d manage to make her fall under his spell, once again.

“Right. My apologies. Shall we get right to it, then?” He said, his voice taking on a clipped tone.

She fidgeted in her seat, knowing what she’d done was wrong. But, she couldn’t help it. It was a reminder that they both needed.

This was about business. This was the present. They weren’t supposed to be discussing the past.

He pushed the coffee he’d ordered towards her. He still remembered her exact order; 3 spoonfuls of milk and 2 sugar cubes. Frothy. It was engraved in his head- whether he liked it or not.

Clutching onto the warm cup, she let herself wonder. She gave into the old habit of reading too much into his actions. A habit that got her in the mess she was forever trapped in. She had to physically shake her head to get back to reality.

“What exactly do you need my help with?”

He sighed, knowing full well that what he was about to say wouldn’t go over well.

“Those cupcakes, are you still making them?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer. She was the best Baker in town.

“Ofcourse.”

“Can I get fifteen of those? Red velvet.
She nodded, tentatively.

“I need them on Saturday. They’re Important.”

He was rolling his ring between his fingers, something he’d always done whenever he was nervous; an old habit that had never disappeared.

He glanced at her.

He had a problem with those, anyway.

“I suppose I can do that. Anything else? A cake or a pie? What’s the occasion?”

In her heart, she already knew. Knew that the only person that came to mind, when he mentioned red velvet, had the hair to match the sickly perfect treat.
She sighed.

“It’s, Uhm, for a meeting.” He said, coyly.

A meeting? More like a date.

She tried reading his expression, but like time, it had also changed. She could no longer read him.

She couldn’t bring herself to ask him- ask him why he wasn’t just saying it like it was. Why he didn’t just say he wanted them for her.

She chose to mind her own business.

“Well, Do you want anything on it? Any message?” she questioned as she noted his order, marking the date on her planner.

“Yeah. Can you spell out ‘Will you marry me?‘ on it, please.”

The pen about slipped from her fingers. Marry. It wasn’t a stupid meeting; he was going to propose. To her.

She could feel the anger surging in her veins- feel the need to fling her forgotten coffee in his face, and march out of his life for good. She wanted to slap him, to kick him. Make him as miserable as she felt in that single breath. To inflict as much pain as she felt at that moment.

But, she didn’t.

Doing that would mean that she cared; that she was still bothered by the fact that the once love of her life was now marrying her best friend– the very same one he’d cheated on her with. The same one she hadn’t spoken to in years.

“Sure. Do you want them in a box or a bag?”

She forced herself to ask, her mind still reeling.

He blinked in shock- his ears ringing with the calm in her voice. He wasn’t the best man- coming to her of all people to announce his wedding plans. It was selfish, asking her for help. Wanting her by his side as he signed the rest of his life away with someone else.

But then again, he was never a good man to begin with.

He had expected her to dump the coffee on him; that was the jilted lover he remembered. But this one, the one that sat infront of him- with her lips sealed to the cup- couldn’t care less.

Was she really okay with it?
why did he even care?

“A box, please.” He answered, unsure.

She had had enough, she realised. Making sure to set her share of money for the coffee he had ordered for her, she quickly made a grab for her bag.

“It’ll be at your house by noon. I take it your address hasn’t changed?”

She didn’t wait for an answer, rising to leave the place as fast as she could.
She couldn’t bare to hear his voice, ever again. And so, she didn’t stop when she heard him calling out after her.

Soon, she was far away and the voice had disappeared. As she took a seat on the park bench, she realised how stupid she had been, running after his call like she always did. Even after what he’d done, she’d still answered.
She was still just as foolish.

She wanted to cry, she wanted to let it go. But, that didn’t happen.
And as the sky changed colours under the withering trees, she realised just how easy it was to forgive.
She had forgiven them long ago.

It was forgetting that was hard.

She was lost, again.
Her class was long over, she had missed the bus home. She couldn’t bring herself to care, though. It was past that point.

She’d let herself believe that she’d crawled out of the darkness, only to realise that she’d merely fooled herself into thinking the same.

She was dancing with the sins of the man she’d loved, thinking with time the music would fade away.

How wrong had she been?

“Hey!” she heard someone shout her name in the near darkness.

She turned, half of her wanting it to be him while the other wanted to run away.

Instead, She turned to the voice, only to find a mop of bedhair sticking out of a car’s window.

He reached over to open the door for her, curling his finger in her direction with a glare.

“What’re you doing here? You missed an important class, you know. You’re lucky I saved your ass in there… “

She couldn’t help but smile at the man; so clueless yet welcoming. So ignorant of what she had just faced. It was soothing.

This, she could deal with.
This was what she needed.

“I am sorry. I got stuck with some work.”
She kissed his cheek, watched him trying hard to stay mad at her.

In no time, they were on their way home.

The trees seemed to close in on her, the sun a forgotten melody.
It was dark, again, she realised. It was always dark.

She remembered how much it hurt the first time she found out about the two of them, how much she hated them.
Because one day she had everything, and the very next there was nothing.

It was powerful; just how much she despised them. She wanted nothing more than to make them suffer. To make them pay for the hell that they made her go through, all on her own.

Now, she wanted nothing to do with them.

All she wanted was to be left alone; to forget they even existed. She no longer had a right to be mad, to be upset. She knew their love was doomed the second she found out the truth.

It just wasn’t meant to be.
He had never been hers to keep, in the first place. They never belonged.

She just wished it’d ended in a better way.

“Hey, you okay?” He asked

she smiled. For once, it wasn’t misplaced. Because now, she had seen what would happen.
She had answered her ‘ what if ‘ and there was nothing else left.

Because if true love was eternal, and pain was the inevitable conclusion, then she was caught somewhere in the middle.
On the other side of forever.

But what mattered was that she was ready to leave that place.

It was finally over, now.
She could move on with her life.
She could live, again.
She was going to be okay.

And so, she answered him with a smile on her face.

“I will be.”

This time, she believed her own words.

~Simran Khurana

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