In the Wake of Night

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Chapter 24

It is strange to think that I miss boring, humdrum suburban life in Roseville. Technically, we only moved 5 miles down the road, so we are still in Roseville, but it isn’t the same Roseville that I grew up in.

Our new house is positioned on the corner of an estate with views over Diamond Oaks golfing range. My dad loves the nearby amenities. My mum misses the slightly shorter commute to work. Some nights, I forget where I am and peer out of my window hoping to see Sophia’s house staring back at me, but no. It is just the golfing green now. Acres of bottle green flatland.

I spend my days in a perpetual daze. I can’t move forwards, and as much as I long to, I can’t go back. I try to focus on the single most important thing in my life now – photography.

“Ready skipper?” my dad says as he opens my bedroom door, no knocking required.

I shake my camera. “Let’s go.”

We drive out to Folsom Lake, our Sunday morning ritual, coffee mug in hand. An autumn air swamps the vista like steam, muting all the forest shades. The lake’s brilliant blue is now tinged grey – it has lost its summer sparkle. The path crunches underfoot as I snap pictures all around us, attempting to capture the sombre haze with some semblance of skill. Without the sound of distant crickets and bird song, the place would be silent.

“Up there,” my father whispers, pointing to a nearby tree.

I zoom in on a Finch perched on a spindly branch. It turns its black head towards me. It looks straight into my camera lens before soaring off into the frosty mist. My aperture captures the entire moment until it is gone.

I live for these days. If nothing else, recent experiences have brought me closer to my father. We understand how one another feels, without having to discuss it.

We circle back to the car, eager to return for one of mum’s decadent weekend breakfasts. Inside, I close my eyes and focus on the melodies of the radio. I can tell exactly where we are on the journey just by the feeling of the terrain. The smoothness of our new street unfolds, and we slow our pace to a stop.

I amble inside to the aroma of floury pancakes and sweet syrup. I’d drown my plate in the golden liquid if my mum would allow.

Afterwards, my parents ask if I’d like to join them in visiting Francis. I don’t. With nothing to do but enjoy having the house to myself, I peruse my library of books. Which one will keep me company? Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, George Orwell?

My fingers land on the worn spindle of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Book in tandem, I return to bed and my eyes begin to read.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Some way into the pages, I lose track of the words. My eyes fight to stay open until I can no longer compete. Sleep wins.

A feeling of warmth covers my body. The scent of tropical flowers pervades. I lick my lips instinctively. Soft tresses float across the skin of my cheeks and neck, so lifelike that I swat them away. Is that? It can’t be?

My eyes flash open. Her face lingers over mine. Her chalk-white skin like a star of light against the shadowy surroundings.

“Sophia,” I breathe.

“Shhh,” she hushes as she places a finger against my lip. She slowly removes it, caressing the folds of my mouth as she moves. Through all the questions whirling through my brain, a feeling overpowers. I clasp her head in my hands and bring her mouth to mine with a hard, desperate kiss.

“Where have you been?” I murmur against her lips.

“I’ve been following you. How does it feel?”

“But —”

“We can talk later,” she mutters as she slides beneath my sheets. “Just for now, can this be enough?”

I stop talking, stop thinking and sink into the feeling of Sophia between my arms. The enigmatic girl that stole my heart, and beat me at my own game.

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