Memories

When in tumult, her mind always wandered back to Andrew, to his sun kissed hair, to those bottomless blues that never seemed to age. Everything she was, everything she had, she owed it all to him. Even years after he was gone, it was always him that she missed when anything wonderful happened. It was always him she wanted to turn to, when she was frightened out of her wits.

Running into his father was completely unexpected. She was meeting Daniel for lunch at the diner around the corner from her office. It was a rare afternoon when both of them could make it. The diner was a no-frills place, but they both liked it there. It was unusually empty this afternoon, the only other patrons, two young men in army camouflage, silently eating their meal. Looking back, perhaps she should have taken it as a sign, but she had never put much stock in such things.

After lunch, Daniel was walking her back to her office when they ran into Mr. Halford. As always, his face relaxed into a sunny smile when he saw her. He walked towards her with renewed vigour and gathered her into a hug. Her first reaction was utter shock at the comprehension that this is what Andrew would have looked like when he were older. They had the same shape to their faces, the same eyes, the same smile. Of course, one of them would never age, never wrinkle, never develop a slight stoop to the shoulders…

Mr. Halford had become much thinner than she remembered, he joked that his age was catching up with him. She could see the haunted look in his eyes, even as he smiled. He greeted Daniel genially, gripping his hand firmly. They had met at the wedding, of course, she remembered now. Mr. Halford had made it a point to attend, he said he wanted to tell her on the most important day of her life how proud Andrew would have been of her, for all that she had accomplished. She had almost cried then, and he patted her on the head awkwardly, as he used to, when she was a child.

Daniel was a good man, he made her very happy, and she did love him, a lot. But there was always a part of her that felt that perhaps, he loved her more than she could ever love him. There were moments, when she looked into his dark green eyes and saw a flash of blue, when she ran her hand through his black hair and missed a sandy hue. There were days when she looked back in time and saw a young man in army camouflage at her door, his hair shining in the sun, with a lone red rose in hand, and a shy smile on his lips.

What was she willing to give up for love ?

Anything…everything.

She had nearly given up everything for it.

She often said to herself that she was too young then.

But in her heart of hearts, she knew that she still will, even today.

She had always been reticent to speak about it, even think about it. Remembering the love without the grief had been quite a task. The loving, the crashing and burning, all are intertwined in her mind. Almost a decade has passed since the event, but that grief still calls a part of her heart its own.

She used to be a romantic. As years passed, it gave way to cynicism, bit by bit, until she didn’t know where her skin ended and her sarcasm began. It seems almost like a cliché, a girl with solid upbringing, dreams of unicorns and rainbows and princes, kisses toads only to know that in real life, there are no princes, just you pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, trying to stay afloat.

And then he asked, ‘Do you believe in love ?’

She answered, ‘Yes’.

‘What kind of love ?’

‘That which smolders forever’.