Fiction Inspirational Sad

The wind howls mercilessly as you emerge from the sea of people crowding the sidewalks as usual on your way to work. As you round the familiar street corner that leads to your office building, you see a young woman in the park. You see the way she sits on the neatly-trimmed grass, cross-legged and back straight, her smiling face angled towards her book; she’s buried somewhere in a tiny universe of sweet solace amidst the chaos of the city that surrounds her. Hers is a face full of such serenity and tranquility that you can hardly believe your eyes. She turns the page, gently, as if she were brushing her thumb against the cheek of someone she could be trying to forget. How can she sit like that, so still, for so long, without a care in the world? How does she remember to simply stop and listen to the voice of nature as it carries her far, far away from reality?

But she is a stranger, and strangers don’t ask such things. And you’re going to be late for work. So you look away from her and hurry down the street, bearing the knowledge that she may be gone by the time your lunch break arrives.

And sure enough, she is. And you sigh bitterly because you know, somehow, that you’ll never see her again.

Later that day you make your routine walk to the coffee shop, seeking refuge from the sharp winds of winter. As you step inside, the small golden bells on the door tinkle merrily—the happiest sound you’ll hear all day. You order a black coffee and a muffin because that’s what you always order, and goodness, there’s no time to peruse the menu and try something new; you have to be back at the office soon. You tuck yourself away at a table shoved in the corner of the shop, not wanting to bother anyone, although that area by the window does look rather nice.

As you sip your coffee—no longer wincing at its bitterness, for you have become accustomed to the taste—your eyes land on an old woman. You’ve seen her here every day for as long as you can remember. Her silvery-grey hair is pinned neatly into a bun, but a few stray strands flutter loosely above her head. They remind you of the kite string you used to hold so tightly as a child, but you don’t do that anymore; you’re too old for kites. Her veiny hands reach up to her neck to clasp the pendant of her necklace, bringing a smile to her face as she does so. It makes you wonder what’s so special about that necklace; what memories come with it that make her smile like that?

But there isn’t time to ask, you remind yourself as you check your watch. You get up from the table and leave the shop, deciding to eat the muffin on the way back to the office. You take the shortcut across the cemetery and, thankfully, make it just in time.

The old woman isn’t at the coffee shop the next day, or the next, or the day after that. When it’s been almost a fortnight since you’ve seen her, you furrow your brows in worry, deepening your already pronounced frown lines that are the result of endless hours spent shut away in an office cubicle. You shrug it off and pull on your jacket as you stand up from the table, muttering something about how work never stops.

You take your usual route past the cemetery and notice a group of people standing around a grave. It looks new, its stone surface smooth and warmed by the soft rays of dusk, something whole amidst the sea of scratched tombstones and broken hearts. And even though you don’t recognize anyone there, even though your ticking watch is an ever-present reminder that you have somewhere else to be, you find yourself wandering over to join the small crowd. Your dark jacket blends in, allowing you to merge soundlessly to the front of the grave just as the crowd begins to disperse and you are left alone to read the engraving upon the headstone:

Sylvia Raine

1932 - 2018

Beloved wife, sister & grandmother

As your lips silently mouth the words, you notice a glimmer of gold amongst the wreath of flowers. You crouch down and recognize a familiar, antique pendant hidden behind the rose petals.

And it seems as if a part of you has ceased to live as well.

You pick up the locket, very well aware that you could look inside. You would know at last whose face brought back such memories to the woman...to Sylvia.

But you can’t bring yourself to open it. You had your chance to know. You’d had the chance to know for years, and you’d simply never asked.

Instead of the locket, you open your hand, and the thin chain slithers between your fingers before thudding softly upon the velvety petals. You turn away from the grave, away from your grief, and for once you’ve never been happier to go back to work.

That same night, you return to the cemetery, a bouquet of roses clutched in your right hand. It took you a while to pick them out; it’s been ages since you’ve delivered flowers to anyone, living or dead. You tread lightly upon the soft soil and green wands of grass until you reach her grave. You set the flowers down and read the engraving again and again until the words are ingrained in your memory.

You look up at the stars and wonder how many secrets they must hold, how much they must know. How much you could have known if only you’d had the courage to ask. Your mind drifts to the young woman in the park, not dead, but somehow also forever gone. And a single, solitary tear trickles down your face as you remember, and regret, all the things you did not say.

March 03, 2021 00:05

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Kennedy Plant
16:57 Mar 11, 2021

Hello! I saw you liked my story and then I got picked to be in the Critique Circle for your story. What a small world! I found your story very emotional and I liked it very much. I was looking at the rest of your stories and they are also very good. I couldn't find an issue with it. Keep writing! (:


20:49 Mar 11, 2021

Thank you so much, I loved yours too!


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Maliha Versi
02:40 Mar 11, 2021

Omggg I LOVE this story!! I really like the second person too because it connects to the reader a lot as well!!


20:49 Mar 11, 2021

Thank you!


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