A nice little stroll down the memory lane and the people you run into...

Submitted for Contest #44 in response to: Write a story that starts with two characters saying goodbye.... view prompt

78 comments

 

This is not a goodbye Annie, but a promise— to come back to you, to us, to the things we have always planned to do together. 

 

It might have sounded like a cheesy line that time, but a part of me knew that she had meant to keep all her promises. But she didn't, not even one. I am neither angry nor disappointed. She is not to be blamed here. Some promises are like that– too good to be true…

 

***

 

 

Please join us to celebrate the 25th reunion of the class of 1996…

 

I must have already read the email at least a hundred times in the past six months. Did they ever have a reunion before this? I was never invited. So I don’t know. I looked at the name of the sender again. Paul Johnson. I am never good at matching names with faces. There were two boys with the name ‘Paul’ in my class, one with bushy eyebrows and the other one with a croaky voice. The surname doesn’t ring a bell too. Which one is he then?

 

After starting the coffee pot I slouched against the kitchen wall, my eyes still tired from the lack of sleep. Thanks to the jet lag. According to the alarm clock, I only slept for four hours last night. Sometimes I forget that I am not my youthful self anymore. Age is slowly catching up. My shoulders and back hurt when I try to lift something heavy. My knees make a weird clicking sound when I run up the stairs. I would say the fancy line ‘age is but a number’ is nothing but a myth. In my opinion, ageing is the slowest form of torture, like death by paper cut—inch by inch, wrinkle by wrinkle. 

 

Now that I am just a few hours away from the event, I am having mixed feelings. Anxiety mingled with excitement kept gnawing at me. I hope it’s not one of those parties where people would come just to flaunt their career achievements. I knew them all once. After a quarter-century, I don’t know if they are the same people. People change. Circumstances change. 

 

I even bought a new dress for the occasion, almost making my credit card weep. Not that I am trying to impress anyone there. Far from it actually. A lonely widow, old crushes and a high school reunion—sounds so good in a well-crafted romantic story. In reality, well, let’s just say it’s too real. 

 

If not for Selena, I never would have accepted the invitation. Selena. She was the best part of my otherwise uneventful and boring high school. Thinking back, even our first meeting was very unusual. I was sitting in the library one day taking notes when I had a surprise visitor. Jason from my class, whom I had a big crush on, stopped by to ask if I wanted to have dinner with him. My foolish heart melted like sugar in a hot tea then and there. After he left with my phone number, I still sat there with a dazed look on my face. 

 

“If I were you, I would think twice.”

 

A voice spoke behind me, dampening my daydreams. 

Startled, I turned to see a pale dark-haired girl sitting a few rows behind me, with a wide grin displaying her crooked teeth. I vaguely remembered her as the new girl who joined our class a week ago. It irked me that someone who hardly knew me was giving away dating advice. 

I was about to give her a fitting response when she spoke again, loudly chewing her gum between words. 

 

“Would you really want to go out with a guy who probably wears more makeup than you do?”

 

Her keen observation threw me for a loop. There was a time or two when I also thought the same about Jason. He looked too polished and his face glowed all the time. The fangirl in me thought it just added to his handsomeness. But after hearing the same from a stranger’s mouth, I wasn’t sure about that anymore. 

 

A moment of awkward silence later, we looked at each other in the eyes and shared a conspiratorial smile. That day paved the way for a unique friendship—between two people who are as compatible as sugar and salt. I was not an introvert, but I always thought I functioned better when I was all alone. To my life, Selena came like a Tsunami lifting and twirling all my inhibitions from the core. She was someone whom people would easily dismiss as rude and arrogant. But she was also fiercely independent. I idolized the way she took charge of every situation, whether it’s her sick mom or the bratty brothers. After high school, she wanted to go to London to learn photography. She said she wanted to travel around the world and take pictures for the rest of her life. I envied her spirit and determination. I always wished I had half of her confidence. My future had been mapped out by my parents. After school, I was going to study business management and help them out with their printing company. 

 

Fate had other plans though. Selena’s mom passed away and her grandparents flew down from Tanzania. After the funeral, they decided to take Selena and her brothers with them. I remembered the day I went to see her before she left for the airport. She looked devastated and hardly spoke a word. But just before getting into the car, she turned around, grasped my hands and spoke tearfully: 

 

This is not a goodbye Annie, but a promise— to come back to you, to us, to the things we have always planned to do together. 

 

She never called. Never responded to any of my letters. Over the next few years, I wondered what happened to her that made her drift apart from me. That’s the time I met Sam and he kind of took away the pain of losing Selena from my mind. Then life happened—happiness, contentment, loss, grief, loneliness— and I stopped worrying about a lost friendship. I don’t usually look up my classmates on social media. I don’t want to unintentionally judge and compare them by looking at their appearance or how they live their lives. I made an exception in Selena’s case though. A few years back I looked her up on Facebook. There were a few profiles under the name Selena Francis. But none of them was hers. There wasn’t anyone else in the class whom I could ask about Selena. Then, six months ago, I got an email that answered all my questions. 

 

***

 

By the time 5.30 pm rolled around I was already parking my car outside Lavana’s Grill and Chill. After quickly checking myself in the mirror, I stepped out. As I breathed in the familiar aroma of fried onions and grilled meat, a pang of nostalgia hit me. The classy looking two-storey building underwent a drastic makeover in the past years it seems. Lavana’s used to be much smaller, but a popular hangout place for the younger crowd. I had been here a few times with my family and friends, but my first time was with Jason. Yes, I did go on that date. I was curious to know if Selena’s theories about him were right and...they were. Jason turned out to be a boring company. He only talked about himself–what he did, what he does and what he will do. And that was the end of my only high school love story.

 

As I entered the party hall upstairs, a highly charged atmosphere immediately greeted me. There were ribbons and balloons everywhere. All of the four walls in the room were decorated with memorabilia— photographs, trophies, medals etc. The only non-90’s part was Adele’s spellbinding voice filtering through the speakers. People still huddled together in small cliques. Popular gang. Sports gang. Nerd gang. I was suddenly nervous. What if no one recognizes me? What if I offend someone by not recognizing them? Needing to compose myself, I grabbed a glass of wine from the waitress and moved to a table at the far corner. 

 

I was in the middle of checking my emails when a high-pitched shriek rattled my eardrums. 

 

“Annie! Is that you?” 

 

Before I could see the owner of the voice, her arms were around me crushing me in an embrace. Dangling bracelets, overpowering jasmine perfume...Daisy!

 

As she pulled away, I exclaimed: “Daisy, it’s so good to see you!”

 

“Tell me about it.” She rolled her eyes dramatically before pulling a chair and sitting across me.

 

“So where are you living these days? What have you been doing? Why are you so quiet? Say something.”

 

I would if I get a chance…

 

“Oh my. I can’t believe you have been away for so long. Are you back in our little town now?” She cackled.

 

“No... I arrived last night. I am staying at my old house until I leave.”

 

“That’s good.” She nodded. “And Annie, I am so sorry to hear about your hus…”

 

Her phone beeped with an incoming call.

 

“It’s my babysitter. I need to answer it.” Quickly mouthing a sorry, she was gone.

 

God heard my prayers. Saved by the bell, indeed.

 

After Daisy left, I brought my attention back to the crowd around me. Soon enough I saw people I remembered by names and it became a little easier to socialize. It was a nice change to finally see Jason without him looking like a whitewashed fence. A pretty woman was snuggled next to him. A flash of longing shot through me at the sight and I resisted the urge to rub away the ache. The cuddling, the easy way they interact— I had all of that with Sam. And now he has been gone for 5 years, but I still don’t have the heart to get back to the dating scene no matter how many reminders I get from my mom about the ‘infamous ticking clock.’

 

After a nostalgic dinner full of fond memories and inside jokes, where they served us in-house burgers and milkshakes, Paul (the one with croaky voice, I finally figured it out) made the announcement ‘ it’s time to honor the memories of those who were gone too soon’ and a mood of melancholy descended on us. Slowly, we moved towards the other end of the hall where a large wooden hall has been set up. On top of the linen-covered table, there were framed photos with names underneath, a single white candle in front of each photo. My gaze directly went to the third photo. I remember that one, from our yearbook. She looked as if she was stifling a laugh. Knowing her, that is highly possible. 

 

Selena Francis.

Born- 19 April 1979.

Died- 25 January 1997

 

I had six months to adjust to the news. I had six months to come to the realization that she had been gone too long and I didn’t know. But the memory of it still brings a fresh bout of tears.

 

In my mind’s eye, I picturize Selena sitting there, legs crossed, a lit cigarette between her lips. 

 

One look at my tear-stained face, she would huff out a cynical laugh and probably would ask:

“Are you stupid or what to cry over something that happened so many years ago?”

 

I smiled sadly, but proudly. I am glad I knew her. I am glad she was part of my life, even if it was for a very short time. 

 

I will always miss you Sel. This is not a goodbye, but a thank you— for coming to my life, for inspiring me in ways you will never know, for trusting me enough with your secrets. Thank you for being the special one that went away too soon. 

 

 

 

Down the memory lane, don’t remember the loss of a loved one with sadness. Cherish their memories with a smile. Be glad you knew them. Be glad they were a part of you once. 

 

 

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78 comments

Ray Van horn
12:33 Jun 04, 2020

Roshna, that was beautiful with a poignant ending. I wish I could catch up to my best friend from my college days and I hope he's still around to one day catch up. I laughed over the credit card line, LOL

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Roshna Rusiniya
12:41 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you Ray. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule and reading my story. My best friend from college is still my best friend. And I recently got reconnected with a few of my friends from school too. Thanks to social media.

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Writers Block
19:00 Jun 12, 2020

Wow!

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:11 Jun 12, 2020

Thanks!

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Writers Block
19:32 Jun 12, 2020

You're welcome!

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03:16 Jun 10, 2020

I really like this. Great writing style. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:51 Jun 10, 2020

Thank you Catherine for reading and commenting. Really appreciated.

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Laura Clark
20:19 Jun 08, 2020

What a beautiful tale, Roshna! I wish we’d been able to see more of the relationship of Selena and Annie - I think that would’ve made the reveal of Selena’s passing even more poignant. I really like how naturally you show your characterisation and the little details you put in like the ache she feels when she sees a happily married couple gives you a really rich narrative. Lovely work!

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:06 Jun 09, 2020

Thank you Laura for reading and commenting. You have made a valid point there. I had written more scenes between Annie and Selena but I deleted them because I thought the story looked too long even though it was still under the 3000 word limit. Now I feel I should have kept some of them. I will keep these tiny details in my mind for future reference. Thank you for being honest Laura! Take care ❤️

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Emily Nghiem
07:43 Jun 09, 2020

Nice story, Roshna! I agree with your posts above about keeping at least one more interaction or quotation that shows instead of tells the influence Selena had on Annie. Very realistic presentation, and I love the personification with the credit card. This reminds me of some of my own experiences with classmates and reunions. And since many of your other fans said the same thing, that shows what a great job you did capturing a universal theme! Lovely work, keep up the great writing and sharing your stories!

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Roshna Rusiniya
07:57 Jun 09, 2020

Ah thank you Emily for your kind words! I am humbled! I will definitely keep a close eye on the finer details from now on. When I write I just follow my heart and after joining this site I am realising that there are many other factors that decide how good a written piece of work is. And I am grateful to all of you for your valuable suggestions. ❤️

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:06 Jun 09, 2020

Thank you Laura for reading and commenting. You have made a valid point there. I had written more scenes between Annie and Selena but I deleted them because I thought the story looked too long even though it was still under the 3000 word limit. Now I feel I should have kept some of them. I will keep these tiny details in my mind for future reference. Thank you for being honest Laura! Take care ❤️

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Rhonda Allen
16:03 Jun 08, 2020

Amazing and touching story, the relationship is similar to a friend whom I knew only a short time in school but she had a huge impact on my life. Thank you for writing this story so beautifully

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Roshna Rusiniya
16:43 Jun 08, 2020

Thank you Rhonda! I appreciate you reading and commenting. Take care❤️

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Kathleen March
14:23 Jun 08, 2020

So well constructed, with a smoothly-structured narrative. I like the I behind the story. If you don’t mind, I’d like to mention two things. One is developing Selena’s character more, although understandably there are length restrictions for our stories. The other is I would end the story with Selena’s question, end with her voice in the narrator’s ear. Just thoughts. Thank you for a very well-written story.

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:43 Jun 08, 2020

Thank you Kathleen for your wonderful feedback. No, I don’t mind at all. The points you made are very valid and helpful. I cut out some of the scenes between Annie and Selena because I thought the story looked too long. Regarding the second point, I had initially ended the story with Selena’s question and then added the last part on a second thought. Ha ha. Thanks again Kathleen! Take care❤️

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Kathleen March
23:22 Jun 08, 2020

So maybe you should go with your gut instinct. It is always better to avoid too much telling at the end. I had one student who would add too much at the end, and she is a very good writer. I always told her to stop before she thought she should. When I look back at my own writing, I did the same thing - tried to editorialize to make sure readers understood my point. If the story has been told well, it isn't needed.

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:11 Jun 09, 2020

That’s some great advice. Thank you Kathleen! I am already following your previous suggestion about using active voice instead of passive voice. I agree with the too much at the end part. Sometimes I get too wordy towards the conclusion and I don’t know where or how to stop. I always finish my stories by Monday or Tuesday but I just keep editing until Thursday or Friday. Maybe I shouldn’t try to polish it a lot.

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A. y. R
11:46 Jun 08, 2020

Hooked from the opening paragraphs, and the story was just griping throughout! And it was a really lovely quote to end on too!

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Roshna Rusiniya
12:04 Jun 08, 2020

Thank you! I really appreciate you reading and commenting. I love your stories too.

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07:17 Jun 08, 2020

Hey Roshna, I loved the story. For someone who is just going into college, this comes out as something very real and somehow it makes me feel that I should enjoy my time while it lasts. I have lost contact with many of my school friends already but my best friend of 7 years ago is still my best friend. Thank you for this wonderful read😊

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Roshna Rusiniya
07:34 Jun 08, 2020

Thank you Ramayani for reading. I am glad you enjoyed the story. My best friend from college is still my best friend. I recently got reconnected with a few of my school friends. So yes, enjoy your time in college, make friends and make memories together. Those memories are the ones going to stay with you forever. ❤️

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07:50 Jun 08, 2020

Yes! It's so great to reconnect with old friends isn't it! Take care😊

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Erik Meyers
08:28 Jun 07, 2020

What a beautiful story!

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:46 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you Erik! I appreciate you reading and commenting. Stay safe.

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Lara Macgregor
01:37 Jun 07, 2020

That's a good message.

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Roshna Rusiniya
02:12 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for reading and commenting Lara!

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Lara Macgregor
03:08 Jun 07, 2020

You're welcome. :)

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Elsa jude Gazzea
08:08 Jun 06, 2020

Hey Roshna, Sorry for not getting back sooner. This story is amazing. When I read the prompt, I couldn't think of a better story line, than a love story, but that is very far from the case. I love the scenes you have crafted. Like the one with Daisy, or the one where she met Selena for the first time. It's a great piece of work with fantastic, relatable detail. XElsa

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:15 Jun 06, 2020

Thank you Elsa! Really appreciate you reading and commenting! I knew I was going to choose the ‘ goodbye’ prompt but I wanted something other than a typical love story. Then I was talking to my friends about our reunion not happening this year because of Corona and it clicked me.

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Scott Smock
01:09 Jun 06, 2020

This is a lovely story. Very well written and apt to tug on the heart strings of this middle aged man. Sadly, I've lost several precious friends myself.

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Roshna Rusiniya
03:50 Jun 06, 2020

Thank you for reading. Really appreciated. I have lost a few too. Some of them go off the radar and then one day we just come to know that they have left us. It’s sad.

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Anushka Binoy
19:05 Jun 05, 2020

This was such a brilliant, sweet story with intricate detail and imagery - i loved it! Well done!

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:09 Jun 05, 2020

Thank you Anushka! I appreciate you reading and commenting. ❤️

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16:26 Jun 05, 2020

Hi, Roshna! I absolutely loved this story! You turned a high school reunion into a heart warming story. Keep writing and stay healthy! :) -Brooke

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Roshna Rusiniya
16:32 Jun 05, 2020

Thank you Brooke! Appreciate you reading and commenting. Stay safe!❤️🌹

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16:50 Jun 05, 2020

You're welcome! Stay safe as well. <3 :D

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May Mills
13:19 Jun 05, 2020

You made a story as simple as a high school reunion into a beautiful tale filled with vivid detail and brilliant similes. I thought the line that said aging is like slow torture by paper cuts was genius. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story, stay safe and well!

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Roshna Rusiniya
13:25 Jun 05, 2020

Ah! Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback! I am glad you enjoyed it. You stay safe too! ❤️

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Blane Britt
19:52 Jun 04, 2020

Your story reminded me of my 40th class reunion. I couldn't remember anyone even with them wearing name tags.Ha! Ha! Ha!. Thanks!

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Roshna Rusiniya
20:09 Jun 04, 2020

Ha ha. We were supposed to be having our 24 th reunion this year, but corona virus says we shouldn’t. Will see if we can at least manage a zoom session. Most of us still live around the same area and we do have small get- togethers. So I guess no one is going to be disappointed.

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Annora Chen
04:10 Jul 30, 2020

Omg, this us absolutely amazing!! I rlly support the mindset of appreciating ur loved ones that,have alr passed, not grieve over them forever and damage the happy memories with ur sadness, it would just make u feel worse, i hope everyone who has lost a loved ones, pls, cherish ur memories. Those memories r gifts from them, and know that,they're looking after u from above. Uwu, ppl love u, someone out there WILL love u. Thank u for being a part of their lives, and continue to do so, uwuwuwu 💝

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Keith B.
09:03 Jun 10, 2020

I was very moved by the end of the story. I can relate to Annie. Well done.

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Roshna Rusiniya
09:04 Jun 10, 2020

Thank you for reading Keith. Appreciate it!

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Daryl Gravesande
19:35 Jun 07, 2020

I love your story! I'd appreciate it if you could read Arya Preston's stories! Check my follow list, you'll find her. I'd appreciate it!

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:46 Jun 07, 2020

Thanks Daryl for your feedback. Regarding Arya Preston, I have already read her story. I have given feedback too.

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Kate Alexandra
17:15 Jun 06, 2020

This was such a wonderful story Roshna! The way you described love and loss was so beautifully done, you’re truly a talented writer. The ending was so good, and I really enjoyed all the different characters.

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Roshna Rusiniya
18:11 Jun 06, 2020

Thank you Kate for your lovely feedback. I really appreciate you reading and commenting. I am a big fan of historic fiction and I loved your story as well. I was in a hurry, so I just clicked ‘like’. Let me go and leave a feedback too. Take care ❤️

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