Aisha stared blankly at the darkness. Every once and a while, the windshield wipers wiped away the rain from the glass; but nothing wiped away the lone tear that slid down her cheek.
Random flashes of lightning, illuminated the interior of the car, unveiling Clyde’s face distorted with rage, and revealing Clyde’s big hands clutching the steering wheel as if he was going to tear it to pieces from the column.
How could his mood change so fast? Less than an hour ago, they were having a great time together at the football game, until she paid Jeremiah a little too much attention again; what would have looked like a civil conversation between lifelong friends was, to Clyde, a betrayal of trust.
“Aisha, are you listening to me?”
Aisha listened. But she knew there was nothing she could do or say to escape Clyde’s venom.
“It won’t happen again, Clyde. Just drive me home; I’m tired.”
Clyde slammed on the breaks, his furious eyes flooded with angry tears, his hands squeezing the steering wheel tightly. “Get out!” he growled, gritting his teeth.
Aisha’s eyes widened before they narrowed and she took off her seatbelt. “Fine. I’m tired of your screaming anyways. I’ll walk home!” She got out of the car and slammed the door. She watched as the two red tail lights faded out into the darkness and rain.
She raised her middle finger in the general direction where Clyde last was while screaming a few choice curse words. Alone, she knew Clyde could not hear or see her, but it still felt cathartic.
She regained her composure and walked until she came upon an empty field. The grass was up to her thighs. Another bolt of lightning struck near Aisha and for a moment, she took in the lone maple tree, still green and flourishing in the early Massachusetts fall they were having.
It was all she could see, it was so grand. Tears threatened to fall and a sudden tingle of shock ran through her nerves, as she took in the gargantuan tree before her. Ok! Don’t panic!
She bit her lip unsure of herself and walked towards the tree that seemed to rise right under the moon. As she neared it she could hear a slight humming coming from under it. It was soothing and sent tingles through her very being. It’s almost like coming to peace with one’s self. Complete peace. What the hell is it?
“Come under my tree dear child. I don’t bite,” an old voice rang through the field.
Aisha shivered. The voice was deep but not menacing. Still, she had serious doubts about stepping inside the tree’s bough. If she did that she would be trapped with who knows who under there. Aisha paused just under the awning of leaves, right before the tree.
She peered inside but it was far too dark to make anything out. A flash of lightning and a cold breeze made her step inside the cozy little bolt hole made from the boughs of two trees, not one, colliding and twisting to make this secret place. Fireflies lit the space making it pleasantly warmer inside the tree’s shadow than outside it.
“Why are you wandering around at night in a storm?”
She turned to the voice and found a small Chinese man sitting with a large leatherbound book in his lap and a sack of red threads at his side.
She smile nervously wondering what an old man was doing out in this cold weather alone. “I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you, but may I sit with you until the storm passes?” she asked.
“Of course! I don’t own this space, laughed the old man.
She took a seat on a root poking out from the ground.
“ You are not disturbing this old fogie, but I sense a deep sadness within you. What has brought you to Yue Lao?”
Aisha crossed her arms in defiance of the cold wind that had swept in. In her rush to get away from Clyde, she had left her jacket in the car. “What makes you think I’m sad?”
“Only the broken hearted can find this place,” he said, gesturing to the ethereal field and the tree.
“Brokenhearted, hmm? I had a fight with my boyfriend again. I know I’m too passionate with my greetings, but I am loyal! Never once have my eyes strayed!”
“I see, that is a problem. Tell me, child. What do you know about the red string of fate?”
Aisha squinted at him. “Is this a trick question? It’s a well-known legend”
“No, child. An honest answer, please,” he said flipping a page in the book
Aisha rubbed her hands together as another cold wind blew into the small space. “Well, it’s said that the red string of fate brings together two souls to one destiny no matter the time or circumstances. Soul mates.”
The man sighed. “It is much more, child. The legend of the red string is a way to understand our journey of encounters with others where every chance encounter, every smile exchanged, every look between lovers is woven together...every story we weave with the red string of fate… the paths we opted for, or decisions we have taken, are the only ones we were destined for. There were no wrong choices, better paths, or poor decisions. Everything is connected by the red threads of fate, and yes so is your partner for life.”
Aisha thought of all her encounters with the opposite sex so far. It hadn’t been pleasant. Every time she thought she met someone worth her wile, something was screwed up.
She was too independent, too passionate too...everything! Was she supposed to believe destiny was at hand? That she was meant to meet a-holes like Clyde? It was destined?
“If these strings exist and nothing we do is a coincidence, then why are there so many unhappy people in the world? Wouldn’t everyone be with their soulmates?” she asked, wiping silent tears from her eyes.
Yue Lao chuckled. “It isn’t a quick fix like that, my dear. There are many complications and sometimes soulmates are better off not found.”
Aisha scoffed. “That’s ridiculous! If I had the power to see my soulmate I wouldn’t let them go.”
Yue Lao’s eyes shined. “Ah, a challenge, from one so young? I accept. Sometimes the hard-headed must be left to fall like an ass,” he muttered chuckling but Aisha heard him and hmphed. “I’ll show you an ass!”
He stretched his hand out. “Shake on it, as the Americans say,” he chuckled.
Aisha placed her hand in his and then the world exploded before her eyes, as for an instant the world was covered in a tapestry of threads.
White blinded her vision and the world spun.
Instead of a giant field with a lone tree, she found herself looking back into pissed blue eyes. She looked around. The tree and the old man were gone. In its place was a cold concrete road and a wire fence. The backdoors of the restaurant Melvin’s Kitchen was overlooking the road.
“Well, are you getting in or not? I haven’t got all day..”
“Shayla? But? Where am I? What happened?”
“That asshole boyfriend of yours calls up and tells me he left you near Melvin’s Kitchen, alone and without a jacket. Sis, where do you pick your guys? A-holes-R-Us? Geez.”
“We can’t all land a mister perfect the first time,” she rolled her eyes. Shayla and Michael were great together. One of those timeless couples that went together as well as Hershy bars in smores
Shayla smiled. “Yeah, Michael is pretty dreamy and the greatest guy you can find. He would never turn his back on me.” Shayla was worse than Aisha in her affectionate hellos and independent ways and yet she managed to find Mr. Right. “You love him?”
“I think he might be the one for me. So getting in or not?”
Aisha pulled open the door and slid inside. She pulled a sweater on and sighed.
“I’ll need that back soon. Michael loves that sweater,” said Shayla as she made a u-turn and got back on the I-90.
Aisha smiled and nodded and they drove for Fairview Banks where Aisha had a small apartment.