How could I?

She smiled and in seconds, my heart was stolen. She held her hand out to me, beaming from ear to ear.

She had the cutest gap-toothed smile. Brown hair cascaded over her shoulders and a thick fringe hung over her forehead. Giggling, she took small steps towards me.

“I’m sorry.” She said, her voice clear as a bell.

“Do you know why you’re saying sorry?” I interrogated her as I bent down to get a close up of her beautiful eyes.

“I pushed him. It’s not nice to do so. I will give him my cupcake so he feels better.”

I sighed and a flicker of a laugh escaped my lips. How could one stay angry at a grade school student? It was an impossible feat.

Popcorn?

My heart skipped a beat as he took a step towards me.

All I could think about were his eyes–his beautiful double-lidded, almond-shaped eyes. They had this reddish brown hue to them, like the bark of a tree mixed with the last rays of the setting sun.

“Hey,” he said as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

“Yes?” My voice felt like a whisper as I leaned into his warmth.

He placed his hand against my cheek gently, tilting my chin slightly upwards as he studied my eyes. The hand-and-tilting-cheek-gesture was always his signal for something romantic. Was he going to plant his lips on mine? Was he going to sway side to side in a slow dance? My heart shuddered and held its breath. There was ambience and all I could hear was the beeping of the washing machine.

“Popcorn.”

“Popcorn?”

“Popcorn.”

A laugh escaped my lips. “Right now? It’s almost midnight!”

He flashed me his signature thousand-volt smile and a stubborn nod. Oh boy. That meant he was going to have his popcorn no matter what. Even if he had to wrestle me to the ground for it.

Just one of the many sides of love I guess.

Here.

“Do you remember me?” I asked and stared into his eyes. His beautiful, double-lidded, hazel eyes.

He shook his head with an expression of both confusion and recognition. It was just after lunch. I couldn’t help but notice how his dark brown hair became an amber halo in the afternoon sun.

“Why do you keep asking me?” He frowned, his eyebrows arching in a questioning stare.

It was day fifty-one.

To him, I was probably this weird person whom he saw everyday, asking if he had any imaginary memories of me. If he did have memories of me, it was probably of me popping around randomly like a lost bunny.

He liked bunnies. He also liked draping his arm around my shoulder and I liked it when he did because it felt like home. I love you so much, he would say, his lips brushing against mine. He loved steak, sausage dogs and shadow boxing too.

Everything seemed surreal the night I received the call.

“There was a trauma to his head,” said the Doctor after the surgery. He had this clipboard in his arms and he was cloaked in white, like a messenger from God. “It’s fortunate that he’s alive. Give him some time.”

Give him some time. The words echoed endlessly in my head and I took in his blank, curious eyes. Part of me wanted to give up, yet part of me screamed for him to remember. It was weird, almost as if I had this split personality inside of me. Sometimes, there was this rage, this unstoppable anger that was like a wildfire. Then there was the deep pool of sadness.

I stood, plastered a smile on my face and waved goodbye.

“See ya tomorrow.” He said, his large hand waving goodbye.

The familiar phrase rang in my ears like a fire alarm; I couldn’t get any sleep that night.

It was day fifty-three. Like always, I went to the hospital for the daily visit. I caught him looking out of the mirror, his eyes moving from side to side as he watched cars drive past. He was so much like his old self that I almost ran into his arms. Almost.

“Hi.” I strode into the room and placed a subway bacon sandwich by his bedside.

“Is that for me?”

“Yup, thought you might like it more compared to the bland hospital meals.”

“That’s for sure.” He flashed his trademark lopsided grin and I stared at him, wide-eyed. It was the first time I had seen his old grin, the first in fifty-three days.

“Do… do you,” I paused and gulped hard. “Do you remember me?” A tiny speck of hope fluttered in my chest and my heart hammered against my ribcage.

“No.”

My heart sank. What was I expecting? Of course he wouldn’t like all the other days. If he did, he wouldn’t be looking at me like that with those sad hazel eyes.

On day fifty-four, I broke my old traditional routine. Instead of visiting that stark white building that placed the old houses beside it to shame, I switched shifts with my co-worker. It was her anniversary. She beamed with happiness that shone through the dark clouds in my mind.

It was day sixty. It’s been six days since I last visited him. I wonder how he’s doing in that place that smells of medicine, chlorine and disease. My nose dripped and I blew it for the twentieth time. Damn colds.

It was three in the morning when the phone rang. I groaned. I didn’t want to answer it since it was all the way in the living room. I pulled the blankets tighter around my shoulders, cocooning myself like a caterpillar.

It rang again. And again. Exhausted and sluggish, I made my way to that damn phone on that damn coffee table. I swung myself onto the sofa and sank into it. It was the hospital. They probably needed more paperwork from me and they couldn’t wait till the damn morning.

“Yes?” I answered, an edge of anger to my voice. It probably sounded like I had a slug down my throat due to the cold. An all too familiar baritone rang in my ears and my eyes went wide despite my drowsiness.

“Hey it’s me… Sorry for calling at this hour.” His voice was apologetic and I could easily envision it squirming a little awkwardly in the palm of my hand.

“No it’s alright,” I smiled despite myself. It was hard to control. “What’s the matter?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“To your question.” There was a long pause and all I heard was his ragged breathing.”I remember how much I love you Violet.”

Brrrr.

The warm aroma of coffee wafted through the air, blending in with the familiar scent of wood and newspapers. A soft jazz tune hummed gently from the hidden speakers in the high-rise ceiling. The tune rose and sank with a peaceful elegance, creating a solitary calmness that filled the coffee house. Square wooden tables were lined neatly in three rows, accompanied by red cushioned chairs with daisy prints.

A young woman in her mid- twenties stood behind a long black counter that was furthest from the entrance. She twirled a strand of her blonde-brown hair and watched small specks of snow float down the wide glass window by her right. Empty streets, cloudy skies, and snow, she thought. That was how it was every winter. One or two customers might visit the shop once in a while, but that was it. She glanced at her leather wristwatch, watching each second pass with every tick of the second hand.

“Brrr.”

A gentle, clean cologne filled her senses as she tore her eyes away from her wristwatch. A tall man clad in a long, black winter coat that skimmed his knee stood by the entrance, brushing off a layer of white from his shoulders. His figure loomed large in the coffee house, and she couldn’t help but notice the way the dull morning light dusted his sandy brown curls. She could almost hear the soft swish of his grey straight-cut trousers as he turned away from the entrance, towards the counter.

“Hey.” Five large strides had brought him to the counter where he greeted her with a smile. His emerald green eyes locked upon her hazel ones. They were gentle, like soft pastel colors matched with the painting of a meadow.

“Hi,” she smiled in return. “Cold out there, isn’t it?”

“It’s freezing!” His eyes twinkled with laughter as he gave her an exaggerated shiver.

“That’s true.” A small chuckle escaped her lips as she took in his long eyelashes, almond-shaped eyes, double eyelids, clean-shaven chin, thin lips, and long straight nose. His olive skin glowed with a slight tan–the healthy kind that resulted from outdoor hobbies. He definitely belonged to good looking.

“Could I have a cup of coffee?”

“Oh yes definitely!” She felt embarrassment flush across her cheeks as she gestured at the two blackboards placed by the side of the counter. Thank god he couldn’t read minds, she thought as she watched his green eyes flicker from side to side as he read the menu.

“A… Doppio Espresso, regular?”

“On its way.”

“Thanks Jessie.”

She stared at him, bewildered and caught off guard.

“Your name tag.” His hearty laugh broke through the gentle sway of jazz and echoed endlessly in her head. Damn, she thought as she felt her heart skip a beat too many. She was a sucker for laughs.

Ghostly.

Her wrinkled hands tightened around the black rubber handle of her walking stick. Blue purple veins ran from her knuckles to her wrists. She took one trembling step, and another.

Short silver curls framed her heart-shaped face. The silver was like moonlight and her once smooth skin was etched with years of worrying and hard work. A scarf wrapped itself tightly around her neck, its ends tucked away safely under her cardigan.

She had an arched back from years spent in the fields. She and her lover, Mike, would often joke about how she was, really, the hunchback of notre dame.

She lowered herself into her favourite bench, the one that faced a wide open field and had a playground on its left. She would often spend her days watching the children, listening to their laughter and sounds of play.

More often, however, were wailing screams of unfairness.

She would watch the seasons change as trees went stark naked and yet became full again. In the summer there were flowers everywhere, children everywhere. In the winter, it was generally quieter, a time when the town became a serene paradise.

She had one daughter, Sara. The night before Sara was born, she and Mike had been arguing about Sara’s name. Mike wanted Anna and she had wanted Serena.

And then came the gruelling labours and she spent hours panting with tubes stuck in her arms. So they’d both decided to take 2 letters–she chose S and R and Mike of course, had to choose double As–and ended up with Sara.

Sara was beautiful. She had Mike’s auburn hair and her hazel green eyes, his determination and her feisty stubbornness.

She would often watch Sara play in the playground and her bubbly laughter was always the loudest. They had both loved swings.

Her daughter grew and changed, just like the seasons. Soon, she and Mike were alone again, in a house that now seemed empty and enormous.

Then, Mike was gone. They said it was cancer.

Wrinkled leaves were by her feet and she stared at them, lost in thought.

When are you coming to take me, Mike?

Milquetoast

Your deep brown orbs bore into me and I fidget under your stare. Somehow, today feels a little different, special even.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Your baritone rings in my ears.

The awkward silence is broken with a simple question, but the nervousness still spreads like a wildfire.

“Y-yes, please.”

A moment later, with coffee before us, we began our discussion.

“Where do you see yourself in ten years, Ms. Abigail?”

I gulped and regurgitated the answer I had written down when I had thought about the potential questions. “Possibly married, with one or two kids.” A nervous laugh escaped from my lips.

“Really?”

Was this what I wanted? To be a passive housewife, to be used as a child-birthing and keep-the-house-tidy machine? What happened to your dreams, your aspirations?

I nodded timidly like one of those solar-powered nodding toys.

Your eyes clouded, your expression unreadable. Then, your thick straight eyebrows relaxed and your face morphed into a charming, smiling angel.

“That’s nice, I can envision you being there.”

With that, you stood and planted a fifty-dollar bill upon the table. I looked up with questioning eyes.

“I always thought you were more…” you paused, searching for the right word. “aggressive, or rather, passionate about life.” A sigh escaped your lips as you extended a hand. I stood and extended mine, shocked by the quick turn of events.

“It was nice meeting you, and best of luck for your next blind date.”

Long ago;

I dreamt of old leaves and these huge, towering trees. The smell of rotting wood, sap and fertile soil mixed with the cool winds from the west.

A raven soared in the overhead canopy. Its wings were jet black with a sheen of silver. The cool air brushed against my skin, its touch chilly, and I took in the rich greenery of an everlasting haven.

“I’ll show you something.”

A mischievous glimmer shone in your amber orbs. Grinning, you ran from the base of one tree to the top of a moss-covered rock. It jutted out from the earth like the invasion of a wisdom tooth.

And there you were.

You flipped through the air like an elegant elf, twirling and flipping as the air carried you in its embrace. Your brown, short-cropped hair formed gentle, silk-like waves, your angled features serene in movement.

My breath hitched, caught like a hiccup.

There, was beauty in its entirety.

Then you were gone and I was alone, trapped in the emerald paradise.