This is a random short story heavily inspired by a day I had a while ago. A few people I know read it and thought it was good so I edited it a little and sent it to a few magazines because I was feeling adventurous. I didn’t hear from them and so I decided, “What the hell? I’ll just post it on my blog” as it will be out in the world, at least.
Calm, electronic instrumental played in the cafe dimly lit by the orange sunset light that crept in through the horizontal opening of flowers and leaves. The sunlight fell on his grey sweatshirt as he sipped his coffee. His high school sweetheart sat across him in her red jacket. They smiled. This wasn’t usual for them. Far from it.
Turns out you can be good friends with your ex-girlfriend. He thought as he kept his cup back on the saucer, “Glad we don’t fight anymore”, he chuckled almost spontaneously post that thought.
“Yeah”, she laughed, “We used to fight on things that didn’t even matter, right?” She continued laughing.
“Especially when we did that in front of the whole group”, he burst into laughter. She reciprocated her laugh half out of shame for her younger self, half out of the situation.
“I pity her. I pity myself from two years ago,” she said as she poured some more honey into her otherwise sour honey lemon tea she had ordered out of curiosity. To her dismay, the honey, tea and lemon was all served separately and she had been trying to get the ratio right ever since the waiter put it on the table. She took a sip and squinted.
“Still sour? I need to get this on video”, he said as he opened the camera application on his phone.
“No!” She put her hand forward as to hide her face. He laughed. The music continued in the background, picking up pace. “You ass”, she said loudly while taking a sip and squinting again. This time slightly less. She was getting it right now.
“Life turned out fine after school, right?” he said as the music turned to a nostalgia inducing xylophone. They looked at each other as the bit grew louder and more jolly. “This is a nice track, isn’t it?” He said as he started to track it using an application he had. He tried to push his phone away toward the edge of the table to not make her feel he was more into the music than into what she had to say.
She noticed. He still relies way too much on apps, she thought and smiled to herself, guess some things never change. “Yeah, everyone is doing fine, I guess. Look at Alan, he’s good at his academics, isn’t he?” She said as he picked up, “Exactly, and Peter has become an awesome photographer already, hasn’t he?”
She nodded in agreement as she finished her half-bit French fry. “Yes, he has. I heard Amy is going to try and become a journalist. She’ll obviously nail it. Look how fit Jack has become now. He used to be well, not so fit when we were in school.”
“Yeah, he has abs and all, the whole shebang. Even you are doing good by all standards and I’m trying to do fine too. I’ve started writing more, you know? I might just do it a little more seriously now”, he said knowing all too well that she’s aware of him picking things up and dropping them on impulse. He gave her a stern look for reassurance. She took it gladly. She knew he was serious this time around.
“Guess a lot changes in two years, huh?” he threw the rhetorical question and sipped his coffee again. This time, taking a longer sip. That gave her enough chance to speak. “You and Amy, huh? Who’d have thought?” He tried to interrupt and explain. She interrupted him in turn and said, “No, it’s nice. You guys look good together”. He could see that she wasn’t jealous at all and that was a good thing. They had shared so much together, her being uncomfortable with him dating another friend was something he had long expected. She did not react oddly at all. He was glad about it.
“I wonder, if it’s because we left the city that we turned out okay. I mean, I find it funny, alright? The things I used to get angry on and crib over don’t even matter to me anymore. On the contrary, I find them funny. Getting angry on them, funnier. I guess it’s all about this environment, this city”, he smiled, “a small towner is in fact, a small towner despite everything else.”
“Yes, this”, she said, “and you know once you go out and even though you’ve come back, you know how things work. At least you have a better idea. You’re good at dealing with things you couldn’t deal with once. It all checks out and it looks easy.”
“True”, he said as he saw her touching her cheeks and remembered how she used to do it when she felt cold. Even though they had not seen each other for about two years now and even though things had changed, both spotted the quirks and habits that had carried over for all that time.
He saw his phone had still not tracked the song that was playing soothingly in the background of their conversation so he tapped again. She noticed. “I remember this track, give me a minute to remember it”, she said as she started to think. He kept his phone further toward the edge.
“Remember that article you sent me a few months back? The one about how the time we have is very less if we see it in weeks and activities?” he asked excitedly. She gave him a look of affirmation indicating she remembered it and started nodding immediately. “That article changed my life”, he said, “I look at things differently now. Guess, I’m happier.”
“So, I changed your life, huh?” she joked and grinned. “More than once”, he laughed a little, then smiled.
“For good?” she mumbled to herself only to say it a bit more loudly, “For good, right?”
“For good”, he smiled and looked at her. For a second, he stood there, looking at her. Coincidentally, the xylophone started playing again in the background. What is it about this track? He thought as the track made her and the moment appear more beautiful than they were. For a moment, he went back in time and a long flashback of memories passed in a few minutes. They had practically grown up together. He felt a warm and fuzzy feeling in his heart. He knew she was one of the few people who really understood him and he looked at her in better light now.
She moved a bit to avoid the uncomfortable gaze locked on to her for a few seconds. Fidgeting with the salt shaker she said, “We’re all going to hang out on the 30th, you’ll join us, right?”
“Maybe. You know why I come home. Family is priority. I’ll try. I do want to come it’s just that I prefer one on one interactions with friends now instead of group reunions.”
“You do get to talk more, individually. I agree”, she said.
“Exactly. The group just laughs, eats and everybody heads home”, he slapped his hand over the other excitedly.
She remembered how excited he was when he was younger. It had just been a few years but he’d gotten fairly composed. He was no longer the hyper active kid brimming with ideas and things he needed to say out loud. She smiled and looked at him and wondered how a boy she once knew was now a man who could handle himself. She remembered how they went out for coffee only twice because he hated coffee. Now, she listened to him talk about coffee with such interest. He had come a long way.
“It’s funny, isn’t it? We’re having coffee two years after we broke up and you rarely took me out when we were together. Almost ironic”, she giggled.
He smiled and pitied the stubborn boy he was when they were in school. Then he chuckled, thinking how dumb someone could be to not take their girlfriend of three years out for coffee. He remembered being stuck up about what he thought being the absolute. He remembered the first day he really accepted he was wrong about anything. It was a year after they had separated when he had the epiphany that it wasn’t a decision as great as he once thought it to be. He chuckled a bit harder at that thought. All of those memories went by in a flash.
He looked at her phone buzz and asked, “Vince? How are things moving between you two?”
“Things are really good besides the fact that his mother hates me”, she laughed, “guess, a northern girl isn’t a very good influence on her southern kid. He’s cool though. He’s amazing actually.”
“That’s good to hear”, he said gleefully. He was genuinely happy that she was happy now even though it was with someone else.
“You know, you’re in high school and you think, life is all but planned and suddenly, one day, it’s not and everything you once thought to be sure was suddenly not there and it’s…”, he said.
“I know, right? It’s like the people who are furthest away from real-life are most sure about it. We were all naïve”, she said interrupting him.
“Guess we’ll be saying something like this…”
“…about ourselves a few years later”, she completed his sentence. Both laughed. In-sync again.
“Anyway, I should be heading home”, she looked outside and then at her watch, “it’s getting a bit late.”
“Wanna walk?”, he chuckled knowing how corny that reference to pop culture was and knowing too well how she publicly despised corny but secretly liked it too.
“Nah, I’m good”, she neglected his invitation and pulled her tongue out. He noticed the birthmark on her tongue. Smiling, he got up followed by her, as they both paid the bill and wore their jackets.
He waited for her to walk down the stairs. She remembered how he often used to do those by the book things. As they both descended the stairs, they saw the tree near the gate and smiled.
“See you on the 30th, maybe?”, she asked him as she headed out the gate on the north.
“Yeah”, he said, “maybe.” He turned toward the other gate. The tree they had both smiled at a minute ago, stood in between the two gates. As they moved away from the tree and left through the two gates, both caught a last glance of the bark. Their names, barely visible now, were still carved on it. The heart however, had faded.
Did you like it? Where can I improve? Was it worth the read? Anything to say at all? Pour it all out in the comments section below so I do better in the next attempt.
Oh and by the way, the track was Diskostrand (Instrumental) by Lakechild, just in case you were wondering. This isn’t the instrumental version but it’s just as good.