The snow was raining down on her. She still couldn’t believe what she was doing.
“Bronwen, maybe, you ought to take a vacation,” her colleague had told her the previous week. “Look at the dark circles under your eyes. You might as well go get a job in a horror movie.”
Bronwen flinched. “Don’t talk to me about a vacation. You know I’m married.”
“Yeah… to work,” her colleague rolled her eyes. “Get realistic. You live alone.”
Bronwen snickered. “Caught me there,” she sighed. “But seriously, if taking a vacation is good for me, where should I go? It’s nearly Christmas, and all the best holiday spots will be full of people. I hate people and crowds.”
“Ugh,” her friend uttered, disgusted. “Proudly antisocial, aren’t you?”
“Yep,” Bronwen said, practically glowing.
“But if that’s what you are concerned about, you can make a trip back to your high school. Nobody would be there, would they? It’s where anyone would last want to be.” her friend suggested. Bronwen laughed. “Are you so keen on chasing me away?”
“Ah… you know I mean well,” her friend chuckled. “Now go home and start packing!”
And now, she was here. A train ticket had been thrust into her hands by her over-enthusiastic friend and she was practically shoved out of the office doors.
The Christmas vacations hadn’t started yet for the students of her school, so she was planning to ask for a tour of the whole building. Snow was falling in soft, gentle sheets around her in front of the school. She turned around and stalked away, deciding to return later.
She booked a room at a hotel nearby and was laid out what clothes she would wear for the visit the next day.
Her piercing blue gaze swept over the assortment of clothes and accessories she had hurriedly stuffed into her suitcase. Finally, they stilled over an overly stuffed outfit. “Well,” she spoke to herself, “At least I’ll feel warm for the whole day tomorrow.”
She fell right asleep, punctuating her rhythmic breathing with snores rumbling like thunder.
The next morning, she set out for a fresh adventure. She was all ready. Her camera? It was faithfully by her side. Journal? Check.
She strode out firmly after a full breakfast. It was hard to break the habit of getting up early, and she wished she could kick herself for it. Today, the snow was raining down on her instead of slowly settling on her, and it finally hit her-reality. What was she even doing? There was a reason she didn’t want to go back to her high school building. Yet, something drew her there like a magnet.
She gazed up at the tall walls of her school. They had always looked beautiful to her, but she had stopped noticing them ever since she started hanging out with…
Never mind, Bronwen thought, shrugging away the memory of the one person she wanted to see least. She had built her own world painstakingly until now. Bringing him back into her life was the worst idea possible, and her success would come crashing down. It was too fragile, built on a weak foundation of turbulent emotions.
She roamed through the corridors. Everything reminded her of… him…
She suddenly stood still. Speak of the devil. No, that voice had to be unrecognizable to her now. She ought not to respond to it. But still, she turned around.
George, her high school sweetheart was staring at her as if he had been hit by a bolt of lightning.
“I told you long ago not to call me Brownie,” she grumbled. He would usually have displayed his perfectly aligned teeth in a grin by this time, but his mouth was just hanging open. Bronwen closed her eyes. “Are you even going to respond?”
And she promptly kicked him in the shin.
“Ow! What was that for?” he cried in pain. She shrugged. “I don’t know… maybe bringing life into an apparent statue?”
He rubbed his foot. “Anyway, it is a surprise to see you here, you antisocial Brownie! I never thought you liked to visit places like these!”
“Shut up,” she glared at him. “My friend suggested it. All other places would simply be filled to the brim with people swarming around.”
George laughed warmly. “Cities and towns don’t have brims, Brownie,” he corrected her. She pouted. “You better stop using that name. It’s… degrading.”
His eyes went perfectly round as he took her in. “Want to go sit somewhere? Have coffee?” he suggested. She tried her best to crack a smile. “Sure,” she replied. Both of them made their way out of the building into the café that was pretty popular since it stood right beside the school campus. The bell chimed happily as they pushed open the door.
“So… how have you been?” Bronwen asked George. He shrugged. “You know, did what I always wanted to do. Became a psychiatrist. You should see the kind of cases I get, though,” he chuckled. “What about you?” he added. She gave him a matching shrug. “World’s number one publishing company. What else did you expect?”
“I’m happy for you,” he smiled.
It was funny how they had fallen into easy conversation. Anyone would probably think it would be difficult to talk after the memory of a painful breakup still lingering in one’s heart. The oddest thing was, Bronwen herself had decided upon it.
“Let’s… not be together anymore,” she had told him. His eyes had started watering instantly. “What is the matter, Brownie?” he had sobbed pitifully.
It had been a mammoth task for her to keep herself from crying as well. “I- I realized I value my life and success more than anything else. I don’t have time for love.”
As she turned her back to him and started stalking away, her heart had bitterly cried out to him. “Stop me! Say something! Keep me from making this decision! Give me a second chance!” it had yelped. But he had stood rock-still. It seemed as if he had accepted fate very easily. He had always respected her decisions and her life. If she had put her career above everything else, he was not going to be the one to stop her.
But after she had left him, all her successes had felt shallow. No strong backing. No comforting arms waiting for her to fall into them. No brilliant smile, reserved exclusively for her. Pain had buried itself deep within her, ripped her soul apart, and yet, she had not known about it.
“Hey, Brownie… are you still here?”
George was waving a frantic hand in front of her face. She snapped back to reality. There he was at it again- flashing his million dollar smile. But something felt distant to her this time. Something felt suddenly empty.
She sipped her coffee. It burned and uncurled pleasantly in her throat and tongue.
“Do you remember?” she said suddenly. “This is the place where we worked part time together.”
He sighed and looked all around. “Yeah… we were even working on Valentine’s Day. But we liked it a lot, didn’t we?”
Bronwen nodded, the sudden lump in her throat disappearing. Why was it feeling so… normal around him now?
She looked right at him, and noticed that he was averting her gaze. He was not willing to meet her eyes. She tucked two fingers beneath his chin and turned his face towards her.
“Hey,” she said. “I don’t have any feelings left for you anymore.”
He gulped, rather shocked.
Bronwen knew it now- she could feel the weak foundations getting stronger, the turbulent waves of emotions becoming languid underneath. Maybe a meeting with him was all she had to do to clear up her confused feelings. Yes, this was evident now- they had drifted apart as lovers.
“I don’t blame you for anything that happened, George,” she calmly stated to his terrified being. “We were naïve and young then. That love was never meant to be.”
He gently removed her fingers from underneath his chin.
“So, what are we now?” he questioned uncertainly. She beamed. “Really good friends.”
Relief flooded into his face. “Hey,” he chuckled suddenly. “Are you up for a movie tonight?”
She nodded enthusiastically. She had been offered a second chance to take the right direction with him.