Today’s story is inspired from this couple of leaves that dangled off a dry branch. The leaves had been burnt gray in the winter frost, yet they caught my eye for the sparkle in their texture was hard to miss. These are most probably oak leaves and I just loved the way the dark veins were popping out against the ash gray.
“Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.” – Frozen by Walt Disney
There was a couple sitting in the cafe when I walked in. As the light was low, I didn’t know who they were until the woman turned around, and I saw it was my wife. Her eyes sparkled with the familiar intensity as her mouth curved up in a warm smile. My heart skipped a beat as always and I rushed to greet her. I couldn’t believe I had found her so easily.
Just then the man said something to her and she looked up to him, laughing uproariously. The green monster bit so hard into me and I looked at him keenly.
Who was he?
Why was he with her?
How could he make her laugh like this?
He seemed to be a young man of about 25, fairly good looking with a cheeky mouth that matched the impish twinkle in his eyes. Who was he? I decided to walk up to their table with an intent to figure out his identity.
Just then they pushed back their chairs and got up to leave. His easy familiarity with her was obvious in the way he helped her to put on her coat. Abandoning my earlier plan, I decided to follow the couple.
I walked out and my eyes were assaulted by the bright light after the dimness of the café. Blinking my eyes helped and when I could focus, I saw them at the end of the block. Laughing and talking, they walked arm in arm in obvious comfort of each other’s company.
The first seeds of doubts took root in my head.
Had she moved on?
Did she just forget me so soon?
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Even as I gazed after them, a cacophony of colors swum in my line of vision, making me blink very hard. It was a bunch of helium balloons, swaying in gay abandon as the peddler coaxed the passer-by into buying them.
She loves them and whenever I would buy her one, she would tie it to one of her fingers. We would march hand in hand around the block while the blown up bauble would amuse her with its drunken swagger. Mind you we really made a spectacle of ourselves, much to the amusement of people around. But she didn’t care and would do it every time.
There was an ache in my chest by now as I yearned to buy her one. I wanted to hold her, run my finger through her auburn tresses and tell her how much I have missed her.
Would she remember me?
Would she be angry at my abandoning her?
Doubt after doubt began tearing up my confidence.
I followed the couple morosely, trying to nudge my bravado. It took another hit when I saw her ruffle his hair affectionately. He jumped back in mock horror and chided her for ruining it. Their easy banter suggested this was a routine thing between them.
I was by now very conflicted. If she had moved on and rightly so as I did leave without any explanation, then maybe I shouldn’t barge back into her life. She might not thank me for it.
Was I ready for her angry and hurt recriminations?
Was it better to let sleeping dogs lie?
“Love is putting someone else’s need before yours. ” – Frozen by Walt Disney
But I couldn’t will my feet to turn around. I had to meet her once and make amends if I could. Thrusting my hands deep into my pockets, I cut into a brisk walk to catch up to them. They were standing at the curb, waiting for the lights to change to cross the road.
I caught up to them and cleared my throat nervously to signal my presence. Neither turned around to notice me. I lifted a hand to gently poke her on the shoulder. I nearly passed out in shock when my hand just went through her.
What just happened?
I held up my hand to the sunlight and gazed at it in disbelief. A misty vapor of a hand winked back in the sunlight at me.
I looked back at the couple and realized for the first time, how much the young man resembled me. Another shock jolted me to note this was Adil – our first born! Up close I could see the light creasing around her eyes and mouth and the flecks of gray in her tresses. The winter of our separation had been a long one, but she seemed to have eased gracefully into it.
Oh god he hadn’t exactly abandoned her; he had died twenty years ago!
In the times of Corona Virus, I have taken to get back to creative writing and this is the second installment. These stories are prompted from the photographs I had taken on my recent vacation in Uttarakhand. I would love to hear what you thought about this. So please don’t be shy or hesitant in leaving me some brickbats in the comment section. I promise not to hyper ventilate and plan an insidious revenge on you 😉