Five Times You Met Him (Plus One Time You Didn't) A Short Story
First: On a Wedding Day
The sun was awfully hot that day. You found yourself cursing high and low as you sauntered back to your car, throwing your snack bags on the passenger seat. You waited for your gasoline's tank to fill before scouring your purse for the payment. Munching your fries with inconsistent grabs, you manoeuvred the vehicle upon the long stretch of dirt and asphalt.
It was your sister's wedding day and you're a tick away from being late if you didn't go any faster. Ten minutes before the start of the mass, you finally arrived at the meeting place. Grabbing the pins from the dashboard, you tried to tie your black wavy hair into a nice bun. If only you had risen an hour earlier that morning, you would not be having trouble fixing your defiant hair and your make-up in an impossibly fast pace. Three minutes and full pad of hairpins later, you finally gave up. Groaning, you settled for arranging your dress and taking up the pink-ribboned bouquet.
The church was lovely - Basilica de San Martin de Tours was the same church where your parents had wedded. You've always dreamt of walking down the church's long aisle and exchanging vows before its pristine altar. You were on your way when you made a wrong step. You would have your face planted on the ground if only the hand holding your arm didn't catch you soon.
Thanking the Lord for good luck, you straightened your posture and held your head to meet your rescuer.
When you did, you met the brownest eyes you had ever seen.
"Thank you, " you whispered, a pale pink blush creeping up your cheeks as you and the stranger held the eye contact. His touch was burning that part of your arm with a solid strength.
"Anytime, pretty, " he replied, smiling at you, his pearly white teeth peeking from his lips. You found yourself staring at the man - from his uneven cut long hair, styled to frame his face with a complementing fashion, his pointed nose, and his bright eyed, to is suit that hung from his broad shoulders. You tried to get a grip of yourself - well, it's not everyday that you appreciate a man with his appearance, but before you made him think you're quite insane, you smile back.
The whole ceremony passed in a happy and solemn blur, and you could still feel his stare - giving you a pricky feeling of being religiously studied. You wondered why, but you didn't dare say anything. You were on your way back to the reception when he passed you a note.
"Tomorrow. Starbucks. 1:00 pm. See you, pretty, "
Second: At a coffee shop
You didn't want to go, honestly. He was a stranger and you were kind of afraid with the way he looked at you - Like he was trying to memorize you...bottling a part of you inch by inch. You could not help but think that he knew you. Like he wasn't a stranger at all. Shaking your head, you promptly head to find him in the café. That wasn't hard, you thought, as you saw him waving back.
"Hi pretty," he cheekily greeted and you smiled at the endearment. "I've ordered for you, if you don't mind," he said, offering you a cold cup of coffee.
"Cinnamon dolce latte," he continued, and you were surprised that he got your favorite cup of coffee.
Pretty, you silently read the cup's paper cover. You looked at him quizzically, wanting to ask something but words failed you at the moment.
"I've always called you pretty, Erika," he answered. And you frowned because you felt the words registered at some part of your brain, and you thought you heard it a million of times.
"Have we met before?"
Third: At a high school reunion
When you received an invitation that morning, you cocked your head and waited for something to register with the words "High School Reunion: Batch 05." When nothing happened, you flipped the paper open and read the details.
And then, you realized, something was definitely wrong. You could not remember your high school years - let alone the classmate' that had given the invitation. You would have scream in frustration when the
room suddenly felt so suffocating and stuffy-the air floating around you with a discreet mischief but you could never breathe it. You cried because after calming your shaking hands, you never remembered a thing.
The place was massive for a small kind of reunion, you thought, as you stepped into the edifice. Searching for a familiar face, you tried to wonder your way without offending the greeters of Hi's and 'Hello's. You tried to cheer yourself up but the constant utter of your name Erika - "Erika..... Hello, Erika,"brought you a sense of depression you had never felt, Because you swore, it was the first time you heard those voices.
Gulping the tightness of your throat, you lingered against the wall, a glass of wine swinging against your trembling hand.
"Hello, Pretty," you heard him say. A shiver went down your spine when you saw him standing across you, a smile painted his handsome face.
You wanted to cry when yoy heard his voice, wanted to ask him why he was here before you realized that you must had forgotten him too.
"Hi, Paolo" you whispered before you reached of him and cried.
Fourth: The same coffee shop
It was three weeks after the reunion. You woke up that day from a haunting dream - too many Blurry faces and places for you to remember. With a sigh, you looked at the person next to you - his form splayed upon the bed as he continued to sleep. You stared blankly at his slumbering face, noting how Manuel's face differed from Paolo. Your fiance for a year, Manuel had love you faithfully and you had always considered yourself lucky. But you asked him that day the question you were itching to ask, he sobbed against you hair. Never uttering a word but your name. Never answering your inquiry. Until both of you forgot you ever asked.
Yesterday, you went to your doctor. Since your parents' death four years ago and your sister's marriage, you learned to live by yourself. You tried, but sometimes, life taught you how hard it was to live on your own. You went alone to the hospital even if you wanted someone to hold you during the process. You directly aired your sentiments, pausing at small, fragile details and willing your heartbeat to calm down.
"I'm sorry. Erika But your parents begged me not to tell you and asked me to let you move on, " he said.
It stunned you a little, admittedly, to know how the answer could be as simple as that.
You were walking from the hospital when you felt your steps halting with time. You fought back the tears when you saw him there, on the same seat at the same coffee shop you met the second time. He was alone, his eyes glassy and faraway as he waited...waited and waited. But nobody came.
The sun's setting by the time he stood up, his form defeated and his face forlorn. From the bench you sat on, you willed yourself not to run to him. It was too late.
You realized something you would regret for the rest of your life.
He waited but you never came. You never came because you did not remember.
"I'm sorry, " you whispered, hoping that the wind would take your words upon his ears.
Fifth: The night before
You decided to continue the wedding. It was the right thing to do, You believed. The past stil haunted you like waiting death, but although the puzzles gave you enough clues, it was never fixed and fitted pleces to pieces
You called Paolo and met him at the coffee shop where the memories of you and him seemed to reside with tight chains restraining them against the corners.
"I'm getting married, " you admitted. You smiled but it did not reach your eyes,
"I know," he replied. The answer's smple but broke your heart when you saw how his broke the very second you uttered the sentence. "It was never ours to keep, wasn't it?"
You nodded because it's the only thing you should do." I'm sorry Paolo, " you finally said.
The tears started coming from your eyes when you heard him say."it's not your fault, pretty," he whispered, holding your hand against his wet, cold cheeks.
You stayed silent, gripping his hand so painfully, not wanting to ever, ever let it go. You stayed silent because the truth spoke for itself.
It was your fault because you remembered him too late.
First and Last: Your Wedding Day
The wedding march echoed against your ears as you walked slowly, dragging your feet against the dusty, red carpet. You felt the dress weigh heavier with each step, felt the way it constricted your lungs to breathe and your heart to beat.
You looked at the end of the aisle and saw Manuel standing there with love hanging from his lips. You smiled because it was your wedding day on the church of your dreams, You felt memories seeping against the corners of your mind, rushing like mad water against a cold, hard rock.
It was the second time you walked the aisle, you remembered, But the previous one remained as an unspoken tragedy. And you never saw again the man you exchanged vows the first time.
One step closer, you wished the memories of him to go away, to vanish like tiny, frail bubbles.
One step closer, you wished you died the day your heart forgot him.
One step closer, you wished to see him standing there, with his browm eyes twinkling the love that went deep beyond time and memory.
But he never came. He must have been tired of waiting.
And with the last step, you let go of hope. You let go of him.