Aaron Knight sat sipping hot tea in the chilly morning of October in Darjeeling. He was there for a conference which would mean millions to his company and would later go on a solo trek that he always dreamt of. By 30, he was one of the most successful business tycoons of his time. Realizing his dream materializing, he smiles to himself and continues sipping when his phone beeps. It was a text message that read “Send me your temporary address. Or, may I just send you a photo? ”. Aaron places his tea down and picks the mobile, hovers over the text, deliberates on what to type, but instead calls the sender. “Hey Mai! What’s the message about?” He excitedly enquires.
Maithree was his best friend from school. She was there for him through thick and thin and understood him like no one else. She scolded him when he treated the wrong way and supported his wackiest ideas. She had a vital role to play in shaping him as a person that he is today. For this reason, Aaron always answered her calls and always replied to her irrespective of his busy schedule or unmatching timelines.
“It’s an invite to our high-school reunion!! It’s 2 months from now and is a Christmas themed party. 15 long years have passed and our friends – Dayna, Pam, Erin are all going to be there. Dayna will be 4 months pregnant then and Erin just got engaged. We’re going to have a hell of a party. What say? ”. Aaron froze. It was an invite to view his past self, the one he had been running from all along. It was a time to network with people, the same people he cut ties with, and disappeared. His thoughts were cut short by Maithree screaming on the other side “Aaron….are you there?”.
“Sorry Mai, I gotta go. My manager is calling me. I’ll let you know soon” Aaron hung up.
Aaron tried to go about his day – reading emails, preparing for his talk, verifying presentations. But he was not his usual self. His mind kept switching from the reunion to the presentation. Reunion to the presentation. Reunion…. He stopped thinking about the presentation and thought about Daphney Tudor, It’s the name that triggers butterflies in his stomach to this day. All the time he spent with Daphney seems like yesterday. ‘Will she be coming for the reunion?’ ‘Is it worth going to the reunion for a glimpse of her?’ he wondered. But that didn’t help – because she was the reason, he had been avoiding school reunions all along.
The year was 2005 & Aaron was soon to graduate from high school. He was happy to be finally getting rid of the school he hated all along. Though he came from a well-off family with good repute, people didn’t have the same feeling towards him. He never abided by the rules and lived life on his own terms. His father wanted him to take up engineering but Aaron’s heart was in business. He believed he had a natural knack for it; while his father believed otherwise. He’d sell lemonade and fruits in the summer and custom-made sweatshirts and incurred some loss along the way. In his short-termed business venture, he’d never succeeded and his friends, family, teachers had stopped believing in him – except Maithree. She gave him ideas to be successful; take the road less traveled and more. She’d never hurt him. She was the mirror he would see his reflection and rectify himself.
Maithree was an immigrant to the States from India. Having seen different backgrounds, in her 18-year life span, she was very broad-minded and held back her judgments before she knew the situation inside out. She was subjected to bullying, racial discrimination but it never got to her. She always fought it head to head and came out stronger each time. For this reason, Aaron respected her immensely.
As Aaron stepped out from his car in the parking lot, he saw a girl walk past his car. She was all by herself and Aaron was certain he’d never seen her around. She was short and attractive. Aaron ran behind to catch up to her and asked “Hi, you seem lost. May I help you?”
“Oh, hi! Yes please, that’d be great. I.. umm… I was looking for my classroom...ED 131. I’m just confused by the buildings. Where is it exactly? ”
“Well, you go straight from the main door and it’s the last room on the left side, far end. Are you new here?”
“Thank you. Yes, I just moved here. I’m from Regina, Canada.”
“Haven’t heard of it.”
“I am not surprised. You’re very kind. By the way, I’m Daphney Tudor. What’s your name?”
“I’m Aaron Knight. Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy it here. I’m in my final year and I cannot wait to be done”
“Is it that bad?” Daphney gasped. “You’ll see for yourself.” Aaron winked.
By now, they’d reached the main door and Aaron had to go the other way. So, they bid bye, but Aaron stood and watched Daphney as she continued. There was something in her that piqued Aaron’s liking. Maybe, for the first time, someone other than Maithree had spoken so amiably to Aaron.
As Aaron walked to his class, something struck him. All along with his talk with Daphney, they had been subjected to glares from other kids in the school. “How unlucky is the new girl to be befriended by Aaron of all people?” they seemed to say. “Small town girls are never wise at making decisions.” “Or maybe it’s just one of Aaron’s business stunts” they deemed. The thought of these scared Aaron. “I have to inform Daphney”. He waited patiently that evening after school in the parking lot searching for Daphney but to no avail.
It wasn’t until 2 days later that Aaron saw Daphney eating lunch all by herself in the canteen. When their eyes met – she waved and invited him to sit beside her. He abided and then cut straight to the point “Daphney, there’s something you need to know about me. I’ve got to tell you this.”
“What is it, Aaron? I’m all ears.”
“Daphney, you might have noticed that when we talk, others glance at us weirdly. It is just because of my history. I’m in their bad books – all of them. I just don’t function as they expect me to. They don’t see me being like my father – whom they all adore so much. I just don’t seem to have it in me. If you keep hanging out with me, this might affect you too. Please don’t tell I didn’t warn you or you didn’t see it coming. ”
“Oh Aaron, that’s fine. I know I’m being judged as the small-town-girl too. I just don’t care. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what others think of us is none of our business.”
Aaron sat still. Her words touched his heart and he was drawn to her even more now. Eating her sandwich, she seemed like an angel sent from heaven to rectify Aaron’s wrongdoings. His thoughts were cut short by Daphney “Also, do you have your previous study materials that I can borrow?” Aaron didn’t have any of his study materials, nonetheless, he still agreed to lend it to her. He could definitely retrieve it from somewhere.
“Is there a particular subject you’d need assistance in?” he asked.
“Yes, accounting. Can you help me with it?”
Aaron couldn’t believe his ears – all the pieces of the puzzle were aligning themselves. Being the business whiz that he is, he instantly arranged study sessions for an hour every alternate day.
And, so the year progressed – Daphney getting acquainted with the new school, Aaron being her personal guide. Aaron enjoyed Daphney’s company immensely and was falling in love with her. She was all he spoke about in the call with Maithree. He dreamt of her and imagined a future with her.
With the graduation just around the corner, Aaron thought it was the correct time to confess to Daphney. But he wanted to do it big and how! He wanted to organize a party and show his classmates that here was a girl who accepted him as is, least affected by what others thought of him. For all the help he had provided, he was certain Daphney would reciprocate his feelings. So, he decided to do it 2 days prior to graduation. With the help of his father, he’d throw a party and invite students in 10th & 12th grade. He’d set the stage with balloons, roses, chocolates, and then burst the bubble in front of everyone. Maithree would record everything. It was going to be special & romantic.
Like Aaron imagined his father had no qualms organizing the party – after all, it was a school that he cared about. So, it was finalized. On D-day, Aaron was nervous though the party was going as expected. Daphney was there too – she congratulated him and gave him a present before she went out to refill the pop. People were dancing, enjoying the music and Aaron felt this was the right time. He signaled Maithree to be ready and as he approached the main stage, he stopped right in his tracks. He heard somewhere “Aaron and Daphney would make a great couple” and the crowd cheered loudly. He felt blue, he felt his plans were out in the open and turned around in utter disbelief.
It was his Daphney, his name – but not him that was in context. It was some other Aaron. He walked near to grasp it until he could hear it – “So, we have our results out for the match-making contest. In this contest, people had to vote which two single folks would make a great couple, and seems like Daphney Tudor and Aaron Stewart have won the title!!” More cheering and applause. He swiftly searched the crowd to glance at Daphney and there she was – blushing and unsure of how to react but happy. She wasn’t hurt or embarrassed; rather she seemed to play along. Infuriated, he searched for “Aaron Stewart”. He’d never heard of him before nor seen him.
The chair announced, “I request the winning couple to come forward, hand-in-hand for us to cherish the union.” This way, Aaron Knight caught sight of Aaron Stewart. The latter, extended his hand to welcome Daphney who blushingly came forward too. Aaron Stewart was definitely more attractive than Aaron Knight. He was taller too and didn’t have spectacles.
Aaron Knight was hurt – he’d never anticipated Daphney would choose looks over the heart. Moreover, she chose his namesake. Wouldn’t it ever prick her? As he was lost in thoughts he heard Daphney’s voice – “Friends, if I had a penny for every time someone suggested I date Aaron Stewart…..I’d be a millionaire by now. I eventually saw this coming; I knew so many people couldn’t be mad or wrong, there is something in Aaron they would have seen and I hope to see it soon too. But I think one sure shot sign is announcing this relation the day another Aaron nears graduation.” She paused to search Aaron Knight and then continued “Aaron Knight, you have been extremely helpful to me since my first day here. You smoothened the transition and as you graduate and pursue your dreams, I hope your namesake will smoothen your absence for me. I will miss you and all the very best.” As the applause skyrocketed and balloons flew, Aaron Knight held back a tear. He was heartbroken. How could he confess now? The jokes would be on him. How can he face anyone now? His ego was bruised and he vowed to avenge it.
He asked Daphney to return all his materials citing that his cousin needs it. He didn’t apologize for the awkward behavior. Still unsatisfied, he stalked Daphney for a week – he noted her schedule, and just when her accounting exam was around the corner, he borrowed a car and tailed her. In a secluded road, where he was sure there was no surveillance camera, he attempted to overtake, came beside Daphney, pushed her bicycle, and rode off. Daphney fell hard on the ground, injuring her arms and breaking a leg. She was advised bed rest for 3 weeks and had to postpone her exam.
No one doubted a thing. More so because Aaron Knight was never seen in the town ever again. His father claimed to disown him.
Thinking of it, a tear nearly escaped Aaron Knight. Let alone apologize; he could never face her ever again. He had never gathered romantic feelings again. He didn’t trust anyone. To add insult to injury, 2 years ago he found out from a mutual friend that Daphney and Aaron Stewart got married. Daphney tried her best to invite Aaron Knight but to no avail. Aaron remembered the wedding photo and caption that Maithree had shown to him. “Love uplifts you like no other.” He knew she meant how Stewart supported her during her accident. He had no idea why he reacted out of spite. He was filled with disgust. He calls Maithree.
“Mai, I’m going to send you a letter. Please hand it to Daphney at the reunion. I’m not going to be there. Don’t ask me further questions. Just do as I say.”
2 months later
As Maithree goes into the sparkly room, Daphney takes her by surprise. “Hi Maithree, excuse my suddenness. Where is Aaron Knight? I’m sure you’re in touch with him. This is a milestone reunion. I thought he’d be here. I just.. please let me know.”
“Daphney…. Aaron sent this to you. It might contain all the answers you want.” Daphney read through the letter feeling multiple emotions at once. When she looks up Maithree too is nowhere to be found.
The letter reads:
I hope this letter finds you well. Firstly, congratulations on your wedding to Aaron Stewart. I’m certain he’s your knight in shining armor and seeing your love I’m certain love can do wonders if channelized well.
I had several occasions to be a good friend to you and each time I failed. I could’ve let you have the accounting books and visited you in the hospital; but how can I ever face you for I was the one driving the car. I did it out of spite. You see, I loved you all along and when you chose Stewart over me – I couldn’t hold it in. I wanted you to feel my absence and repent.
However, now I mean no harm to you as I’m convinced Aaron Stewart is the one for you. He knew all along it was me who caused the accident. He worked part-time at the store I rented the car at and I noticed it only when I returned the car. He would’ve refrained from telling you because he wanted to preserve the fleeting good opinion that you had about me. I was always the villain everyone deemed I was, but you thought otherwise and he might have preserved that all along for you.
I can never face you after all that I did to you and I wish could undo it. I am really sorry!
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I noticed some slight inconsistencies but practice makes perfect. Good job on romance + Christopher Nolan twist though.
Thanks for the kind words.
Didn’t see the climax coming... well written for first attempt.
Thank you. :)
Any suggestions will be appreciated. :)