Darkness surrounded her constantly, never leaving her alone. Wherever she went, darkness followed. It was futile to try and run for it, she knew; after all, she had tried countless times before without success. The moment she woke up, darkness was there to greet her. Before going to sleep, the last thing that graced her mind was darkness. It was like a neverending circle.
Once, she had even attempted to trick it, letting it believe she had surrendered, before bolting out the door and running in the busy streets as if there was no tomorrow. Unlucky for her, darkness is very wise and knows mortals far too well to be fooled in any way. And so it had patiently waited for her return in the same spot she had left it. Night came and exhausted, she returned to her apartment only to see that it was still there to welcome her back.
That day she cried herself to sleep, knowing that no matter what she did, darkness would always come back. It was also the last time she tried to win and escape it.
She couldn’t remember when it had first presented itself at her door anymore, it felt like ages ago, almost as if she had been born with it at her side. There were some rare times when she tried to think about when it all started, but she was only left with a pounding headache and a strange feeling in her chest. Sometimes it felt like someone was squeezing her heart so hard that all the blood would abandon it and leave her there lifeless.
With time she got used to the darkness’ presence as if it had become her only friend. Sometimes she even found herself looking forward to it as if nothing could be wrong with that. Every morning they greeted each other kindly as if it had become the most natural thing in the world. They’d leave her bedroom together and spend the day together, she would do her stuff and darkness would loom over her like a shadow. In the evening, they’d arrive home, say their goodnights, and she’d close her eyes, feeling its presence just next to her. As she grew, it became comforting to have it by her side, looking over her.
Years passed by before the day she woke up and felt different as if something was missing. She looked around, the familiarity of her four walls still present in the air. Nothing seemed out of place.
Her laptop rested on her working table with her books and pens scattered near it just like she had left it before snuggling into bed the previous night. Her clothes were neatly folded on her desk chair, a stark contrast to the mess just a mere meter away. She looked at the wall in front of her where her bookcase was. Scanning through the shelves, she paid attention to the titles of the books and the order in which they were organised, but she didn’t find anything significantly different, not even there.
A cold breeze caressed her face once she sat up in bed, her covers falling helplessly in her lap. She furrowed her eyebrows before it all clicked in her mind. With her lips slightly parted, she carefully got out of bed and slowly walked to her open window.
It wasn’t open last night.
Each step she took, her heart beat faster, and she faltered as if going slower could slow down what was coming. She licked her lips, feeling as if her heart might explode from her chest at any second.
Closing her eyes, she inhaled the cold air of the night. She could feel the moon’s rays on her skin, illuminating every inch of her.
How many times had she stood before that same window and had waited to feel free? How many times had she hoped that the darkness would leave in the night and tell her last goodbye? How many times had she waited for the wind to touch her with its warmth or coldness? How many times had she hoped that the moon would grace her with its presence? How many stormy nights had she stood before that open window, letting the rain soak her? How many times had she hoped to finally feel?
It all seemed so different and distant now. Lighter somehow.
She concentrated on her heartbeat once again and noticed how slow it beat now. The thrill of the anticipation and the unknown had been substituted by a realisation. Something she had never expected or would have guessed if not for the open window and the wind’s presence.
The missing thing wasn’t something out of place or something that had been stolen as she had thought earlier. No. It was the darkness’s presence and that hold on her heart, or lack thereof, that had unsettled her. They were gone. Gone into the night.
She turned around, giving the moon her back and letting it shower her with its candid light. A state of perplexion invaded her. Unanswered questions swirled in her mind, battling to get free as if they were trapped. Where was it? Why did it go, especially after so long, after she had finally found a friend in it? The more questions she asked, the more confused and angered she got.
Several hours passed by and the moon left its place to dusk, its pastel colours becoming more marked with the sun’s arrival until they ceded their home to a blue hue. Her eyes burned with unshed tears and exhaustion. She hadn’t been able to get any more sleep after that revelation. How could she, when it felt like a part of her was missing? Even if her heart hadn’t ever been that full before? How could she, when no one was by her side anymore?
At the same time, though, those thoughts unsettled her. She could never forget how desperate she had been to escape it, how broken she had been when she realised it would never leave her alone. Always following her like a shadow, never faltering. And now that her long lost wishes had been answered, she wasn’t sure how much better it would be.
Hours became days and days became weeks, and soon she forgot how it felt to have darkness by her side. Her days were spent with new friends, colleagues, going to the park or on a trip. She lost count of how many wonderful things she had the courage finally to do, free of anything. Nothing holding her back. Many were the people that saw the change in her, but few were the ones that noticed how lighter her shadow seemed, how easily it disappeared when night came and how bright it shone when the sun was high in the sky.
It was during one of those trips that she met her match. The first time she had seen him, she was left breathless. The familiarity of his lineaments and the depth of those forest green eyes that seemed endless had surprised her. Had they met before and she couldn’t remember? She continued to stare at him as if she was trapped in a trance. It was the moment their eyes met across the library that a burning sensation erupted in her chest, quickly expanding through her whole body. She gasped in surprise. In exchange, he furrowed his eyebrows before they shot up in disbelief a few moments later. Had he felt that too?
After what felt like an eternity, they met halfway and with a silent understanding, they both exited the old structure. They quietly wandered to a nearby park and there, sitting in the freshly cut grass, they got to know each other all over again. Every day they would meet at the same spot and talk for hours without interruptions, ignoring everything and everyone around them, as if they were alone. Before they knew it, it was time for her to travel back home and go back to her mundane life. With the promise of staying in contact and never forgetting each other, they separated ways, eager to meet again in the future.
In the following months, they wrote and wrote to each other daily, always found time to have a call and spend every single free moment together. It was going very well, and their friendship had blossomed into something they both cherished, sometimes silently wishing it could be more. Another season rushed by before they had finally finished planning their reunion. But as life gives, life takes, and not far before the fateful day they had dreamed of since that first goodbye, he was assigned to an important job and had to stay behind. Their calls that once were hours long were reduced to mere minutes, and soon they became non-existent. Even their daily chats became shorter until one day, there were no more.
Sometimes they would write an email to each other, trying to cram everything that had happened since the last one, but it was never enough. It was never how they had imagined a long time ago. With time, even those emails became rare, and one day, they stopped coming.
In the beginning, after not receiving an answer to her email, she was perplexed and started wondering what could have happened. She even thought of the worst. Although she was heartbroken that they had lost touch, mainly due to the deep connection they had had and their close friendship, life went on and months became years, and soon the young man became just a bittersweet memory.
As she grew older, she succeeded in her career and got to travel the world, every week in a new place, surrounded by different people and cultures, soaking in everything she could while enjoying this newfound happiness and passion. It was over a decade later when she finally found herself in the city where it all had started. Memories came crashing down as she strolled through that park, and so she sat down in that freshly cut grass, closing her eyes while being helplessly overwhelmed by old buried emotions.
A sound nearby pulled her from her thoughts, and when she heard her name leave someone’s lips hesitatingly, her eyes snapped open, and she turned in the direction the voice had come from. The late afternoon sun almost blinded her with its bright colour if it hadn’t been for her fast reflexes. She shielded her eyes with her arm before directing her attention to the silhouettes ahead. There, in front of her, stood a tall man and a few steps behind trailed a little boy. The man repeated her name again, this time with a hint of hope in his tone. Slowly standing up and brushing her jeans, she looked at him. Her eyes instantly met with the stranger’s as if he was hoping it, almost expecting it. Her heart took a leap.
Brown eyes clashed with forest green ones.
His name left her lips like a surprised caress before they found themselves engulfed in each other’s arms. How right did it feel…
They probably would have stayed in that comforting embrace for eternity if it hadn’t been for a small, timid voice coming from behind them. Reluctantly, they let go of each other, and he picked up the young child, holding him close to his chest. She silently looked at the exchange before meeting those deep eyes again. They were filled with sorrow, and a weak smile crowned his features.
The realisation hit her, and just a simple ‘oh’ left her lips. His expression softened even more before he asked her if they could meet later that night for a drink and catching up. She nodded, and after agreeing on the time and place, they left.
Once night came, they found each other in front of a little café before entering and sitting at a small table near one of the big windows. Devil’s ivy plants hung from the ceiling and firefly lights adorned the place resting on the uneven brick wall, giving it a simple yet cosy atmosphere. After ordering a dark hot chocolate, and a mint tea, a silence settled over them. Both seemed immersed in their own thoughts, his hands resting on the table, and hers placed around the mug, almost in a protective manner. It might have looked as if she found solace in the warmth of the beverage in front of her.
Some time passed by before he whispered her name to ger her attention. He explained to her how he had lost his laptop during flooding and everything that was on it with it. He had unsuccessfully tried to retrieve his old contacts, accounts, emails, anything but it had been useless. After many futile attempts and years passing by, he had been resigned to the notion that he had lost one of the most important people in his life with no way to get her back. Then, before he even knew it, he met his wife, they started seeing each other and what seemed like a short chapter of his life, became the main one. Reluctantly he expressed his happiness with his choices and where life brought him, but he admitted with a hint of regret, that he had wished things ended differently between the two of them. He actually had hoped they wouldn’t have ended at all.
A warm hand was placed atop of his, and when he glanced up, he saw her sad eyes and a small smile looking back at him. No more words were needed. Life had played a bittersweet game on them, separating them for far too long and once their paths were ready to cross again, it had something else in mind, blowing them far away from each other, only to let them meet way later, with no chance to become one.
After the night was over and they had exchanged a hug that held all their lost wishes in it, they separated ways once again promising they would keep in touch if not meet again.
Winter left, and a blossomy spring took its place.
The two adults kept in touch as they promised, writing emails during busier days and settling on calls on those rare occasions they both were alone and free.
As spring came, it went. Summer took over with its hot days and numerous holidays.
The correspondence between the two continued undisturbed, save for the news of a new arrival in his family: a little girl to whom they had given her name.
Summer said its last goodbye and a colourful autumn graced the cities. Season after season came and left and years passed by.
They had lost track of how many calls they had had or how many emails they had exchanged. There were too many to count by then. His children grew into men and women, and so did the two of them get older, their dark hair slowly giving to grey.
It was during a stormy night on a spring day when she suddenly woke up in the middle of her rest. Her window was open contrary to how she had left it before going to bed and the rain was entering her small room. She slowly walked towards it, careful not to slip on the wet floor. Her long nightgown brushed her feet, and yet she didn’t falter. Once she was in front of the open glass doors, she halted, closing her eyes. She inhaled the fresh air of the night while some droplets fell onto her exposed face. It felt so familiar and yet, she couldn’t pinpoint out why.
The moon was hidden behind the dark clouds, but some rays shone through the rarer ones and caressed her features. The wrinkles around her eyes were more marked; nonetheless, she didn’t look her age. Her red lips were now a duller colour but still full. Her neat hair, probably styled with old fashioned rollers, shone brighter, almost as white as the moon. She had preserved her beauty through the years, no matter what life had thrown at her.
A small smile appeared on her face when a shadow covered her from the moon’s touch.
“Evening my old friend.” Answered it, with its usual regal calmness.
She opened her eyes to look in the depths of the ones in front of her. Oh, how she had missed that sight. How much she had missed that calming feeling that came with it. How good it was to finally have her old friend back.
No other words were spoken between the pair after the initial greeting. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and thought of him one last time.
His face hung in her memory as if it had been yesterday when they had met. His radiant smile, those forest green pools that looked back at her every time their glaze met, the way his dimples would show themselves every time he laughed. Ah, his laugh! It could still grace her ears and spread the joy that came with it.
A sigh left her lips before she opened her eyes again.
Darkness extended its hand to her, and without further delay, she intertwined her pale fingers with its black ones ready to tell her old friend the rest of her story.
They had been each other’s ’the one that got away’, but in the end, she had become the one he had left behind.
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