The darkening sky pushed the crimson sun towards the horizon, and the blue sky gave way to orange as a familiar figure appeared at the gateway. I thought I was hallucinating at first, but then it hit me that it was not possible. She stared at me from afar and bit her nails; I suppose she was wondering if she should have come at all. Her hesitating silhouette stood motionless in front of the iron gates. But then she stepped in and as she moved towards me, I saw that she had brought me blood red roses; I smiled in spite of myself, I could not believe she had remembered.
She placed the flowers right beside me and looked at me with grim, grey eyes. She still had faint traces of laugh lines but her frown lines were much more pronounced than I had remembered. Her hair too, was different: straight, brown and tame instead of wild auburn. I felt like shaking her till she woke up from the trance she was in and telling her that the facade of normalcy she was putting on was not going to impress me at all.
She reached into her overcoat and pulled out a piece of paper with her trembling hands. A scarlet flame crept in a swift diagonal across her cheeks. A jolt of surprise went through me as a few tears softened her seared vision. A single tear drop flowed down her cheek and onto the wrinkled sheet of paper; I had loved her half my life and I had never seen her cry. She started reading:
“I seem to have loved you in numberless
Forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and
Remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear around your
Neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.”
And as she read, I relived it all in my head, as I had millions of times in the last 20 years we had been apart. My mind tinged these memories in a romantic sepia shade as we walked hand in hand in the deserted roads of our hometown. I could hear the crunch of the autumn leaves as we stepped on them carelessly. We swore that we would change the world someday. I fell in love with her more and more each time I thought about that day. The taste of chocolates still lingered on my tongue and I could still see her tangled auburn hair disheveled in the chilly wind. I gave her a bouquet of roses with this very poem written in a piece of paper hidden in it. It was the best day of my life.
That was the day before the accident. The day before I lost myself, plunging into a dark abyss. The day before I died. She didn’t come to my funeral. I left a piece of my soul in my grave, hoping that she would be here someday. It only took her 20 years.
I lay as dead as the day in the darkness of the night as she apologised for not seeing me for all these years. She had left town the day after my death, she told me, and this was the first time she had come back. She sat with me for hours in silence. At the end, she stood up to leave. A gusty breeze blew her hair around as she whispered, “… even when death does us apart, in life, after life, at every age—forever!”