You weren't expecting that to occur. It was a horrible reality check, brief and unexpected, like the immediate emptiness you felt an hour ago. But why did you even expect everything to stay the same, you uncomfortably questioned yourself? Did you expect nothing would happen to her?
If so, which you-deep down-knew you did, you were wrong.
Suitcase in hand, your journey to the train station was the very proof of that. To add to that, the increasing darkness and the accumulating clouds indicate that you'll be soaked if you don't get into the train fast enough.
The train doors slid open, and you sank into one of the familiar bouncy gray seats, lost in thought. The conductor came by to check your ticket, and all you could do was helplessly hold it out, staring at his polished dress shoes. He left, and then your hand was hanging in midair, the ticket about to fall from it. The train starts, and your hand quivers, and your ticket slips from your fingers, spinning like the maple leaves you and her would watch as they fell from the towering trees.
Others are staring, murmuring to each other, giggling, pointing. Your reputation comes to mind, and you straighten your back and pick up the ticket and pull out your phone. But all you do is stare at the lock screen, well, stare at the picture on your lock screen. It's a picture of you and her when you had gone to that water park in the city.
The picture was snapped mid-laugh, and your eyes are filled with tears from laughing so hard, and she had leaned against you, weak from giggling. You stare at the waterfall in the background and marvel at it unknowingly; it looks just like a veil. It's so wide-spread it's practically transparent, and it sprays across in such an elegant arc that for a moment, you imagine a falling bride, turning her head. Her veil swishes behind her as she beams at you.
Why does the bride look like her?
And the events of your return replayed through your mind. You had left from the small town sixteen years ago, had become one of the most successful businesspeople of the decade, and come home expecting your childhood friend.
Instead, when you knocked on the door of the worn brick house, number 101, you found a little boy, and a small baby girl tottering not far behind. For a moment, all you see is her in his face. And then the boy asks you who you are, a serious expression on his petite face, and it vanishes, and it's a little boy and his baby sister again.
You hear a man's voice call out to the children, and the boy whips his head around, running towards a man looking to be about your age. His facial features alight with recognition, and he explains that he's seen your pictures, that he's heard a lot about you.
You laugh awkwardly, remembering you were on a business trip during the wedding. You stare at your feet, and then you remember the reason for your presence. You asked the man about her, and he smiles, all too fake. He looks up for a moment, reddened eyes focused, seemingly crying, but you can tell that he doesn't have any tears left. The man clears his throat.
She passed away a few days before your arrival, from lung cancer.
You nodded, unsure of what to say, and while you were still standing upright, you felt empty inside. Everything just vanished, melted, sunk.
When you had fallen apart sixteen years ago, she had pulled you back together, slowly, calmly sewing the broken pieces together into something new, something better. And now this-this was pulling out every stitch, one by one, and you were falling apart all over again.
And now the slideshow of events is over, and you pull out the letter she had sent a week ago.
I know we haven't talked in years, but I'd like you to come to my house. It's the same house that I lived in before you left. I hope you can make it.
You smile from the irony. I made it.
Staring out of the sleek steel-paneled window, watching the trees and bushes and buildings melt together into a blurry streak, you can't help but compare yourself to the train.
You've got your life figured out. You have a specific destination you'd like to reach. You've chosen this path for yourself, and there's no turning back. You're zooming through life, your surroundings blending into each other; you simply don't care about anything else. But now you do, and you realize that you shouldn't have gone so fast. You shouldn't have burdened yourself with work that you would need to complete five years from then. You should have paid attention to what was going on with her. Not only her, but you should've spent more time with your family, with your other friends. How long had it been since you'd visited or even checked up on your family? How long had it been since you'd had dinner with your friends? You should have involved yourself with her more.
Her wedding was unattended by you-business trip. There was no gift from you on the teetering pile of gifts at her children's birthday parties, your presence not there-gala with the elites. You had finally made it now, for the first time since you'd left, just not fast enough. Your train had been hurtling down life's tracks, and for the first time, it was too late. It couldn't make it in time.
You examine the envelope and trace your finger over where she signed her name, slowly, carefully.
A. v. a. n. i.
(Note: Thank you for reading my story!! For the next few weeks, I am dedicating one story to each of my followers! This is dedicated to Avani Gupta; make sure you check out her account and stories! Thanks for all the support :D)