Found In November
By: Mackenzie M. Hebner
Their names with Noah and Kayla. Nayla as some people referred to them. They were the perfect couple in the sense that even in their imperfections they meshed. It was their three year anniversary and their one year of living together. Ever since she had moved in three-hundred and sixty-five days ago they had accumulated several heartwarming traditions. Just a few to note: every morning, including this one, they would trek up the little hill in the communal neighborhood backyard to watch the immaculate sunrise fill the waking sky with the most fulfilling array of extraordinary colors, picture-perfect every time. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Kayla made coffee and breakfast and Noah made dinner. Tuesdays and Thursdays Noah would make coffee and breakfast and she would handle dinner. Saturdays they would make coffee and breakfast together and then go out for dinner. Sundays were more of a fend for yourself territory. She was always up before him for church so she made her own breakfast and it was always Sunday Movie Night in the evenings so dinner became less of an assigned adventure of preparation and more of an “all you find in the cupboard” snack buffet.
Kayla was a very talented painter. It’s actually how they met. It was two years after she graduated from the art program she had been lucky enough to be accepted to. Though, after graduating, it dawned on her how difficult it is to contract jobs or opportunities of any kind when you have very specific desires, or desires at all, in the world of painting. So, those next two years she found herself picking up odds and ends jobs, designing and painting murals for the city or businesses to “help spike morale,” as they had called it. She actually rather enjoyed it. It wasn’t entirely what she had pictured herself doing, but she knew that she was still young and had plenty of time to get where her dreams placed her, but to get her name out there and create beautiful works of art to help others in the process, didn’t seem like so bad a segway.
It was on that particular day, exactly three years and three weeks from where our story began, that Noah had been pacing down the back alleys of downtown, wrapping his sporadic mind around the events that had just taken place between him and his suffocatingly overbearing parents. Drips of rain danced across his forehead and down his sharp and well-formed, pale features. Some even slid down the now watered down lines of deep brown hair that once rested neatly gelled atop his head. He was pulling his black overcoat further around his body, tucking the tan scarf into its warming grasp, when he first saw her. Slim and petite, passion dripping from her methodical madness. Adorned in all black from boots to sock to leggings to turtle neck to glasses to her dark brunette locks almost looking black themselves, she still managed to stand out amidst the gray clouds above and the dark colors of looming rain around them.
He was stopped in his tracks at the newfound knowledge of her existence in the town he had called his own for over four years now. He watched, transfixed, as her brush moved across the cement structure to create something wonderful. How a surface he remembered trudging by time and time again in his frivolous frustrations suddenly went from being a tone to match a crying sky to a masterpiece of wonders drawing the eye from everywhere and implementing a new sense of life into something that once seemed without breath. Suddenly, something came over him, and he was being propelled forward by a new force, one that no longer resembled pent up anger and feelings of betrayal, but something entirely new, something exciting, invigorating, dangerous. Nonetheless, he was walking towards her, and he realized that though he noticed it a little too late as he came into her attention when she spun around to reach for a new color, he wouldn’t have stopped himself if he had realized sooner. After all, sometimes all we need is a little push to do the things that may be out of our comfort zone, but may also make all the difference.
“Um, hey.” He clears his throat, the knowledge that he has no idea what to say to the intimating and intriguing and talented and beautiful girl in front of him just now washing over him.
She doesn’t reply, simply offers up a look compiling appreciation for his attention and confusion for his lack of explanation all into one expression.
“It’s amazing what you’re doing here,” he manages, all in one abrupt exhale.
“Thank you.” She’s sincere and sweet, but also seemingly anxious to get back to her project without further interruptions to the creative process.
“Yeah, of course!” enthusiasm all of a sudden consuming his tone. Though, he immediately regrets it, picking up on her fidgeting fingers waiting to continue her masterpiece. “Well, just thought I’d let you know this is awesome,” he concludes, hoping he hasn’t left her without the desire to remember his name. His name.
“Thank you,” she replies again, her body beginning to turn back to the task before her.
“Oh, I’m Noah, by the way.”
“Kayla.” This time she offers a genuine smile with a sense of less impending irritation.
“Nice to meet you, Kayla.” And he gives her one right back. Warmth filling up inside of him.
“You too, Noah. Have a good day.”
“You as well.” Though, as he turns to walk away, he cannot bring himself to go just yet. You only get to meet so many beautiful and authentic and talented artists named Kayla in your lifetime, could he really walk away from this? Could he really be so foolish as to leave without so much as a hope for another opportunity while butterflies boil over in his stomach? Answer: no. No, he could not. So, not ten feet away, he flips himself back around one last time.
“Are you free tonight?” His heart is beating out of his chest and his fingers are shaking in every direction as they fidget amongst each other.
“I am.” She seems less rushed this time, newly welcoming to his continued interruptions.
“My buddy has an open mic tonight at this little cafe downtown. Would you care to join me? It’s at six o’clock.”
She looks back at the work in progress behind her, and then down at the ground momentarily, red pigment filling her soft and freckled cheeks. She lifts her eyes and eyebrows to convey that she is considering and going through her mental timeline before coming to her final conclusion.“Okay.” It wasn’t much. But it was hope. It was a guaranteed chance to try again and to learn more about this enigmatic girl who had been the first to stop him in his tracks.
“Yeah?” The surprise accidentally slips out in his elated intonation, but he quickly pulls himself together to make a smooth exit, hopefully leaving her wanting more, anticipating that night. He shuffles around in his left coat pocket for the mini notepad he always carries with him and pulls his overly priced pen from the clasp it holds on the shirt hidden beneath layers of coat and scarf. “Here’s the address.” He scribbles down a few digits and compiled letters in failed penmanship, strewn by the shiver instilled in his extremities from the chilling November weather. Looking down at the crooked numbers, he is slightly disheartened in his attempt to make a presentable address for her eyes, no doubt holding the high standards of art as their base line comparison.
Her pail, smooth, thin, fingers reach out and take the paper from his grip. She doesn’t offer another exchange of words, instead simply saluting him with her newly acquired information and turning back to her art, now around five minutes behind schedule. But, as he turns back to glance one last time before disappearing into the crowd of his every day life that had been entirely put on hold for a moment, she is bent down by her cans of paint, brush dipped into one of them, but refrains from moving it, as if she is lost in thought, as if he too may have stopped her in her tracks. So as he turns back around to find his office somewhere two streets or so down, the predicament with his parents now decades away, and as she rises to resume the activities of her day, it is entirely vital to recognize that on this day, three years and three weeks ago exactly, two strangers’ lives collided in the backstreets of a big city on a cold November night, and nothing would ever be the same for them again. That day, in that moment, routine faded, reality shifted, hope fueled motivation, and butterflies incited excitement and passion on a level neither one expected.
That night was even better than Noah could have ever imagined. Six o’clock rolled around and at exactly 6:03 she walked in through the glass door unveiling a room of rising steam off of freshly brewed coffee-influenced beverages and a collage of music enthusiasts, old friends, first daters, and single livers adorning each chair, couch, and barstool. Her ruby red turtle neck tucked into the black jeans highlighting her figure fit perfectly with her black boots and mustard yellow clip purse. Her dark hair was slicked back into a low ponytail, enveloped in waves. She scanned the room to locate Noah, but he had already found her from the moment she swung open the door.
There’s more to their story, but that’s for another time. Their friends always love to hear it though, constantly asking for them to retell the story of how they met.
Now today is a big day, for those of you who don’t quite recall, it’s their three year anniversary and one year of living together. So, as they do every year to celebrate the miracle of their connection, they venture back to that little mural that replaced a once lifeless mass and gave breath to not only the building on which it had been created, but also to both of them. It was a once in a lifetime story, but that’s all it needed to be, once in a lifetime, because that’s all they needed, one another, for a lifetime. Which is why, tonight, three years and three weeks later to the date, Noah had something very special in store.
You see, it was tradition for them to go back each year to the place they met, get coffee at the cafe were they had their first date, and then venture to the quaint little body of water they had come across that very night and stayed at for hours on end discovering new truths about each other. But this time, tonight, Noah had a plan to change things up just a little. They would go all three places, as tradition, because who was he to mess with tradition? But, when they got to the water, to the pier where they had dangled their feet over the edge, transfixed in conversation, he would turn to her, stars in his eyes, and start with this, “Kaya May Anders, from the day I met you all those years ago, I knew there was something about you that would never allow me to get you out of my mind, and I was right. From day one, your passionate and genuine heart caught my attention and has never let me go since. You are everything I want in this life: the calm to my madness, the creative to my bland, the highlight of each of my days, and the final piece of the puzzle that is my heart,” then he would get down onto one knee and reach into his left chest pocket on the inside of his overcoat to retrieve a little black jewelry box that had been secretly tucked inside. She would throw her hands to her lips, completely caught off guard in the best kind of way, and the words, “Will you marry me?” would roll off of his nervous tongue, and she would say yes. And, as the stars twinkled on that cold November night, love filled every particle in the air, and the moon’s reflection danced across the ripples of the lake, calming him as he watched the movement of nature’s sparkle, she did say yes. And they did get married. And they truly did live happily ever after. Well, as happily ever after as two people madly in love can live.
And just like that, discovered in the blink of an eye in frozen time, the sincerest, deepest, and most precious form of love was found in November.