FLAME

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What is happiness?

I can't know your pain

But I know your happiness

Trust me and come to me

Share my happiness with me

Without you, it's all vain

Because you're mine and I'm yours

We are each other's happiness.

‘Should we go see what’s up?’ ‘Nah, let’s just mind our own business.’ My mind was fighting a battle with my heart first thing in the morning.

I was ready to leave for school, but I haven’t seen Jay the whole morning. I would have at least had a glance of him even though we are not leaving school together these days. I would finish my breakfast before him since he didn’t want to see me. It was also kind of a protest from my side. He hurt me, and I wanted him to feel the same. I knew he missed me just like I missed him.

I was contemplating whether I should go see what’s up with him or should I just leave tapping my fingers on the kitchen counter while drinking water after sending off my Grandma to her shop. ‘The hell with it.’ I ran upstairs making my footsteps deliberately hard and loud which boomed to the entire house. I opened the door to his room just in time to see jay hiding under his duvet. ‘Good he is awake.’

I tried to pull the duvet down calling his name but he kept it in place with his strong hands like he was expecting e do to this.

“Jay, what’s wrong? Are you not coming to school?” I asked him giving up on pulling the duvet.

‘No answer.’

“Are you sick? Do you want me to bring you some medicine or something?” I was concerned that he might not be feeling well. Still, there was no answer.

“Come on, Jay. Help me out a little, I am worried.”I saw the grip on the duvet loosen after saying that. I gently pulled the duvet, and I saw him lying there with his eyes covered with his forearm.

I examined him if he was fevering by gently placing the back of my palm on his head and neck.

“I am not sick.” He said removing my hand and rolling to the other side. “Don’t you want to go to school?” I asked him.

“I do… but I don’t,” he said vaguely.

“Okay,” I said in confusion. I could sense that something was wrong with him and maybe taking a day off might clear his mind.

“Then take the day off. Take some rest.” I said trying to leave.

“No.” I heard him say.

“Why?”

“I don’t want to be alone.”

“Then, do you want to come to school with me?” I asked him.

“No,” he said again.

“And why is that?”

“I don’t want to be alone.” He repeated his words.

I had no idea what he was talking about but one thing I was sure of, ‘He is lonely.’ I slowly left the room and went to mine to change into my casual clothes from my school uniform. Then I came back texting my mother saying that I was taking the day off because I was sick. If I don’t inform her, she freaks out and lectures me about being responsible for an hour.

I made myself comfortable on the bed beside Jay. It was a cold day, so I pulled the duvet to my lower half of the body.

“What are you doing?” he asked me turning to my side in confusion when he felt the duvet was pulled.

“I am not feeling like going to school today,” I said shrugging and took the book he was reading from the bedside table.

He didn’t say anything and turned around again, showing his back to me. Before he could turn I got to saw his face closer. There were bags under his eyes and his eyes looked red. I realized that he didn’t get any sleep last night. But why?

I moved a bit closer and started massaging his forehead. He likes it when I do that. He used to say that it makes him relax and sleepy. After a while or so he looked relaxed and moved closer to me to give me better access. His breathing was steady, and I thought he fell asleep.

“Sleep baby, I will be here when you wake up,” I said in a hushed voice combing his hair.

“I was lonely without you and Vian with me at school.” He mumbled, and I guess he is half-awake.

“I thought the loneliness I felt will go away when I am around people at school. But I was lonely wherever I go and whatever I do. Even when I was dancing, I wasn’t happy. You know how much I love dancing.”

“It’s okay Jay. I am here now. Get some sleep. Let’s talk later. I am never leaving you alone, babe.” I said kissing his forehead. My heart weighed a ton hearing him say that.

He turned to me and hugged my hand and slept peacefully. He and Vian are used to sleep while hugging each other and I guess that’s part of the reason why Jay couldn’t sleep well. They could never be apart, and I don’t know how Vian pulled it off for the past days.

Since Jay fell asleep hugging my hand, I couldn’t move anywhere. I looked around and found the book again on the table where I left it after I took a peek. I opened the book and read it in the curiosity of knowing what Jay’s been reading recently. I went straight to the page where I saw his highlights.

’I know what’s living is, but I don’t know what happiness is. I saw people around me ‘smiling’ and believed that it is how happiness looks like. I smiled as much as I can mirroring those people’s actions. But after some time, it felt off. I realized that I was faking it, and I wasn’t sure that happiness feels like this… empty.

And then I thought ‘money’ would bring me happiness hearing someone saying that money can buy anything. I tried my best and reached the point where no one can come near me when it comes to the amount of money I have. I bought things carelessly. I have everything but still, I felt like I didn’t have anything. I just felt… empty.

And then someone said ‘love’ can be the answer to my problem. I fell in love with a beautiful girl. She said she loved me so much and she was happy to be with me. Everything felt good and life was bliss… but only for a while. Unfortunately, I lost all my money, so my girl left me for another rich person. Yet again I felt… empty.

One day I was sitting alone on the side of an empty road. I didn’t know where it was. I just walked where my legs took me after I lost everything and then I met a stranger. He sat beside me and we got to talking. I came to know that he got all three of the things that didn’t work out for me and also he seems to be happy. He said he wanted to help looking at my state and asked me to come along with him. He must have thought that I was some pitiful beggar and homeless person.

“Do you know what emptiness feels like?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied.

“Then you can’t help me,” I said bitterly.

How can you help someone if you don’t know what the other person is feeling? All my life I only saw failures and betrayals, and I don’t know what happiness is and that person only saw the opposite of everything I saw. He may pity me and provide me comfort to some extent but he can never help me solve my problem. Since he doesn’t understand what my problem is.

For example, if you are rich and you see someone poor on the road. If you give him some money then that’s pity. You have something and you give. It would only help him temporarily. But if you tell him how you became rich then, that’s like giving him something to end the misery. For that, you need to know what it is to be poor feels like.

I sighed and tried to leave that place, but that person stopped me.

“I may not know what emptiness feels like but I can show you the path of happiness.” He said stopping me. I was excited thinking that finally, I was going to know happiness.

“Tell me,” I said excited and curious.

“Dream but also learn to enjoy the moment. Wish for more but also enjoy what you have. Most of all, Share everything… love, money, smile. This is the path to happiness.” He said smiling.’

‘Wow’, that was the first thing that came to my mind when I finish reading it. This book was like a ray of light inside the dark tunnel. I think I know what’s wrong with Jay and how to help him.

He woke up almost in the evening. After giving him something to eat, I dragged him to the nearby park where we three used to spend most of our time when we don’t have elsewhere to go which is almost always.

That park has the most of our memories. In that park, Jay and Vian taught me how to do a cartwheel and they laughed rolling on the mud when I couldn’t do it. Vian got his first scar on his elbow when he got into a fight with a boy who teased me in that park. Jay showed me his dance skills for the first time, and Vian had his first recital where he played ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ on his violin. Jay and I were the only audiences in the park.

That place was like our second home. I didn’t know why I brought Jay there. I knew how to help him but I was scared that I might fail. I understood that he was just a kid who is trying to learn to swim on his own. He doesn’t need a savior who can pull him up. He needs someone who can teach him while swimming along.

I brought to our usual place. Two swings. We each occupied a swing and got lost in our own thoughts. To my surprise, I got a call from Vian, but I didn’t pick it up. He is not the one I want to deal with right now. I tried to initiate talks with Jay, but he just replied to what I asked and remained silent.

Without knowing what to do I did one thing that I always did every year on this very day. I called my dad. As expected it went straight to voice mail. It was my dad’s birthday. I’ve been trying all day, but it went to voicemail like it did all those years. When he was with us, together with my mom I never failed to wish him. It was one of my favorite days of the year. So I continued calling him every year on his birthday even after he left us. But he never picked my call. I just hope he picks up one day. Because I have so many things to tell him.

When I inserted my phone in my pocket with a long sigh, I noticed that jay was looking at me. He doesn’t know this. I never talked about my dad to them after telling them what was the reason for my transfer here in middle school. It felt like ages ago.

“It’s my Dad’s birthday,” I said with an awkward smile.

“You know my dad was the reason why I am interested in drawing.” Suddenly I felt I wanted to talk about him.

“When we were a family, he was the one who encouraged me to draw. I used to give him a greeting card made by me on his birthday with my drawing, and he loved it.”

“He taught me how to ride a bicycle. He told me to keep my head held high always. He taught me to be selfless. When I think about those times, I don’t remember the times with my mom. Most of it was all my dad. My whole world revolved around him and he was my hero.”

“After we had come to know about his affair, he came back one day to collect his things. My mom begged him not to leave us but he didn’t heed. I remember standing at our doorway watching his every move. My mom was crying alone in the kitchen, and he was avoiding my gaze. Even then a tiny part of me believed that he wouldn’t abandon me.”

“But the reality sank in when he walked past me with all his things without even looking at me. Before getting inside his car, he looked back one last time and our eyes met. It was just a second and then he got inside his car and drove off and he never once looked back.”

“My mom cried, struggled but she moved on. But I couldn’t so I boxed it all up and set it aside in my mind. I was hurt and angry and hated him. I promised myself that I wouldn’t shed tears for such a man. But as days go by I understood that he must have had some reason. I realized that he wasn’t happy with us,”

“So I wished him happiness every day and didn’t bother him except on his birthday so that I would have a reason when I really wanted to just hear his voice.”

I told Jay what’s been weighing me down for all these years. Even though I promised that I wouldn’t cry for him anymore I couldn’t hold my tears. I miss him so much. I just want my dad to hug me like he did whenever he saw me crying.

Jay was sitting there so quietly looking down at his fingers. His face was unreadable, and he was being weirdly quiet.

So I continued, “So Jay, I know you think that I don’t understand what’s going on with you but I do. I know you miss your parents.”

As soon as I said the word, he broke into tears and started crying. I’ve never seen him crying and seeing him like that, I couldn’t hold my tears that were already flowing down.

I practically ran to him getting up from the swing and hugged him. His head was on my belly since he was still sitting on the swing and I brushed his hair softly while letting down my tears silently. He circled his arms around my waist. His grip on me tightened, and he cried his heart out hugging me and I let him.

After so long, his sobs calmed down. I pulled him from the swing grabbing his arm thinking that we should leave but to my surprise he made me sit on the nearby grass ground and started talking.

“I am sorry, Aves. I thought you guys wouldn’t understand, but I was just stupid. I was envious of you guys and got angry just because you have it when I don’t.”

“I just want what you guys have…”


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