A Song of Light and Shadow

Submitted into Contest #104 in response to: Start your story with a character saying, “Are you coming tonight?”... view prompt

14 comments

Fiction Sad

I trace the delicate twist and stroke of her handwriting as though my fingers are tracing the contours of her face, running down the sharp outline of her cheek, the swirls of the letters reminding me of the intricate curls of her jet-black hair. I treat the paper it’s written on reverently, as though it’s a precious parchment which could crumble into the dust of a thousand years. Are you coming tonight? Her handwriting is unmistakable. The words have the power to invoke memories of her which I had thought were long drowned, but now seem to have been floating just below the surface of my consciousness, waiting to rise again with the oxygen of hope. I haven’t seen Philly in over five years, but the memories come flooding back. She was like a shining star, a supernova, dazzling everyone not only with her beauty, but also her wit and intelligence. She loved life, and she burned with a brilliance which forced me sometimes to avert my eyes, lest I be forever blinded. What she saw in me I never knew. I was a sullen, moody man given to fits of despondence and anger, happy to be alone and seeking no-one’s company. We were polar opposites, but maybe that’s what made us attract, perhaps I was the yang to her yin, or perhaps I was the shadow which she required to shine more brilliantly. But in her presence I felt alive like I never felt before. I reveled in her flame, and let myself be consumed by her. I tremble to think that I have the chance to see her again, and maybe exorcise some of the ghosts from my past.


There is no where or when, but there doesn’t need to be. It was always the same place, always the same time. La Riviera, 8pm. The thought of going to our restaurant again makes my guts cramp with anxiety, but also injects a thrill of anticipation into me. I feel alive again at the thought of her, but am also paralyzed by the practical considerations. What should I wear? I’m a writer, but not a famous one. Not even a particularly successful one, and certainly not one who’s ever been to classy publishing parties at the Ritz or Savoy. Would she even want or expect to see me smartly dressed? Back then I simply wore a blue lumberjack shirt, jeans and hiking boots, and she used to accept this as who I was. She of course could shine even if she wore a bin liner. Should I signal that I’ve moved on by wearing something new? Or would she even recognize me if I wore something else? In a fit of nostalgia I decide for the lumberjack, and turn my attention to the scruffy face which observes me in the bathroom mirror. I’ve always had a beard, so that isn’t a problem. It’s just that it’s, well, grown a bit since I saw her last, and invokes more Gandalf than Ben Affleck. I grab a pair of scissors from the bathroom cabinet, and hack away till it presents a more tamed version of its wild self.


It’s only 5pm, so I grab a beer from the fridge and sit down at my computer, forcing myself to concentrate on the manuscript glowing out of the screen before me. I half-heartedly add a new paragraph, then realize I’ve written complete shit. Never mind, I can go over it again tomorrow. No, actually I won’t, because the whole manuscript is complete shit. I sigh, then shut down my computer. The truth is I haven’t been able to write anything decent in the five years since I saw her last. She gave me energy and motivation, and believed in what I was writing. What would she think of me now? I think back to the last time I saw her. Actually, it was the last time I didn’t see her. We had planned to meet at the restaurant, but for some reason I lost my nerve and I didn’t go. I justified this by saying I had a crisis of confidence, I was in one of my despondent phases where I felt I was deep down in a pit, unable to motivate myself for anything. I didn’t go, and I never saw her again. She disappeared from my life. But now the note, and a chance to make things right?


***


I arrive at the restaurant shortly before eight, parking the little Fiat at the back of the car park in the hope she won’t notice that I’m still driving the same car. It’s a late summer evening and the sun is low in the sky, but the air is still warm, humid even. I walk out of the car park and down the small lane which leads to the restaurant garden. We always used to sit outside, and I booked our favourite table earlier. We loved this spot because you can see the water from here. The lake shimmers in the evening sun, and the swallows dart low over the water, wheeling and diving in a display of aeronautical agility as they snap up the insects which hover low over the surface. I’ve ordered a bottle of the house Montepulciano and two glasses, and I pour us each a glass now, in the expectation of her arrival. As I sit and sip the deep red wine, I feel there is an almost magical feeling in the air tonight, perhaps a combining of two worlds with the feeling that anything is possible.


I look up and she is sitting there, although I didn’t hear her arrive. She gazes at me with a smile that is both wistful and melancholic, and I feel a pang of regret cut through me like a hot knife. She looks the same as ever, but somehow the brilliance with which she used to shine is diminished, as though I’m not looking into the sun directly, but rather at a reflection on the water. “It’s time, isn’t it?” I say, and she bows her head as though she is praying for me. We stand up and walk side by side to the water’s edge. With only slight hesitation I carry on walking into the water, and she follows me lightly. “Will you stay with me?” I ask, as the water reaches my waist. She swirls around me, her ethereal form sparkling like sunshine on rippled water. I’ll always be with you she breathes into my ear, and then she is gone, but also still there, in the warmth of the evening, in the ripples of the water, in the last swallows skimming over the lake. She wrote the note five years ago, and it was the last thing she ever wrote. She was as bright as the sun, but she fell like Icarus. She drowned herself in this very lake, on that night when I wasn’t there. My Ophelia. But now we will be together again, as two lost souls were always meant to be.

July 28, 2021 21:34

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14 comments

Webb Johnson
18:31 Aug 05, 2021

I enjoyed this piece very much and agree with the complimentary remarks left by other reviewers. The story's power, to me, lies in the narrative voice. Bordering on formality, it puts an emotional distance between the reader and the First Person Narrator, while still conveying sympathy. The narrator seemed to be striving for connection and understanding while knowing his feelings were too deep and too unique to be understood using everyday vocabulary and rhythm. I didn’t pick up on the word choices that subtlety revealed the resolution unti...

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Blue Green
20:14 Aug 05, 2021

Thanks for your great comments, glad you enjoyed the story :-)

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Daniel Hayes
06:14 Aug 04, 2021

Wow, wow, wow!!! This was amazing B.G. You know those stories that you read that just floor you? Well, this is one of those. I can't believe how incredible this story is. The ending did catch me by surprise, but that's the beautiful thing about it. This line: "I was the yang to her yin, or perhaps I was the shadow which she required to shine more brilliantly" - I loved this line, it was incredible! On a personal note, this story reminded me of my first love. I never had the chance to have that special relationship with her because I w...

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Blue Green
18:56 Aug 04, 2021

Hi Daniel, thanks very much for your great comments! I'm glad you liked this story, and that you even found some personal conmection to it :-) I was itching to do something a bit different from the usual fantasy, and this turned out to be quite spontaneous. I like that line too, though I have to admit, I had to look it up to make sure I knew which was which :-) I don't think it's going to win any prizes, but to be honest I not really bothered about winning - I'm happy if I manage to put out a decent story :-)

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Daniel Hayes
23:29 Aug 04, 2021

I totally get what your saying, but I'm still rooting for you to get the big win :) I write for the same reasons you do. To put out a good story is the most important thing to me :)

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Blue Green
07:21 Aug 05, 2021

Thanks Daniel! Btw, I've got a new one out - it's a completely new genre for me, so I'd be interested to hear what you think :-)

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Beth Connor
20:47 Aug 02, 2021

This gave me chills. You had me hooked at the title. Beautiful writing, and an exceptional story. Well done going out of your fantasy comfort zone.

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Blue Green
10:31 Aug 03, 2021

Thanks Beth, glad you liked it :-) I thought I would move away from fantasy for the next couple of stories to stop myself from getting into a rut! I've seen you got a new one out - I'll check it out soon! As usual it's taking me ages to get my new one finished :-)

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18:19 Jul 29, 2021

I've been saying this a lot lately, but this is my new favorite story of yours! I guess it just shows how much you improve from story to story :) Firstly, I loved how you subtly point to the twist ending. For example, the line "The words have the power to invoke memories of her which I had thought were long drowned, but now seem to have been floating just below the surface of my consciousness, waiting to rise again with the oxygen of hope." Is so clever! Despite these hints, I still didn't see the twist coming, though. Side note, this is v...

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Blue Green
18:44 Jul 29, 2021

Haha, thank you! I'm glad you picked up on that line, as it's one of my favourites. I was originally going to use the word "buried" instead of "drowned", but then I wondered how far with a hint I could go without giving the game away straight away. It seems it's possible to get away with fairly large hints :-)

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13:52 Jul 30, 2021

Yes, it’s definitely possible! :)

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A.G. Scott
22:47 Jul 28, 2021

Wow! The twist actually got me. To me, although this one is short, it's probably my favorite of yours I've read. Not much excess description, very efficient and effective.

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Blue Green
07:47 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you! And I thought I had left so many hints :-)

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Blue Green
21:38 Jul 28, 2021

Very short, and not my usual style, I know :-) Actually I wasn't planning on publishing anything this week, but this story came to me today, so I wrote it down quickly. There's probably a ton of cliches in there, so please be honest with your criticism! The title isn't fixed yet either, but it's the best I can think of at the moment :-)

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