“Let’s end this.”
Like stars twinkling above the misty night sky, those three words almost unintelligibly fluttered across the dining room. Friday nights used to be full of life, as you could remember, but it was one of those solemn dinners in Lukas’ house. With words barely ever expressed, you decided to break the stillness and give voice to your thoughts.
“I’m sorry?” Lukas asked, resting his fork and knife on his plate, his eyes flashing slight perplexity.
“You heard me…” you said with a reluctant gaze. “I don’t think we can go on like this, Lukas. Let’s end this.”
His face turned paper white, realization draining the blood out of him. “But why?”
You and Lukas had been children together. Hand in hand you crossed the path of youth, discovered what others call life. You knew each other very well, even the sound of your footsteps. Born and raised in a city where everything can change in a blink of an eye, together you realized the rest of the world as you chased your dreams and promised to build something permanent. As time gone by, together you laughed, cried, learned and loved.
Time heals all, so they say. Like old photographs, could it be that time makes feelings fade as well? Deep inside you, no matter how hard you try to disprove it, you could feel the love dying. Gone were the days of childish delight when everyday was an adventure in a happy, magical world.
Lukas was an endearing little child. He would always tell you stories about his fairy friends, regards you with his bright blue eyes sparkling with intelligence. He was never unhappy but he rarely smiles. Seeing his million-dollar smile would make you feel like the luckiest person on earth. During stormy nights, he’d let you hug his pink plush bunny whenever the roaring thunder scared you and he’d give you comfort although he was suppressing a laugh. As you came of age, he’d become a charismatic young professional. He was absentmindedly drawing attention to himself, turning ladies’ heads everywhere he goes. For your part, you’d been the object of envy of every girl he’d ever met.
But unlike his brothers, Lukas was reserved. Even those closest to him could never really know what’s on his mind. Even you who have known him all your life still feel like an outsider. Falling out of love might be the consequence of his incapability to bring romance between the two of you, being the sensitive lady that you are.
“I think… I think we’re both tired of each other. This can’t work between the two of us.”
You were only months away from tying the knot and suddenly, you were telling him just to throw it all away? He didn’t say anything. Appetite dissolved into thin air as the two of you didn’t bother to finish the meal. You waited for his response, wondering if he was only taking time to say the words but he kept silent. You started to lose faith in him. He can’t even express his own thoughts.
The moonlight made more sound while Lukas drove you home. His face was an inscrutable mask, absorbed with a million thoughts while contemplating the winding road. Nothing seemed to make sense outside the window as he accelerated further. The silence only crushed your heart that you were afraid it might stop beating any second. Trying to distract yourself, you thought about how your week went and chose to decipher the dark figures outside the windows rather than to study his unreadable face.
“Is there anything that I can do to change your mind?” he finally asked, cutting the engine upon reaching your house.
You gazed at him with those sad (e/c) eyes, inhaled sharply as you fiddled with your faded silver pendant. It was a gift from your father during your seventh birthday, the only gift you’ve ever received from him. Nobody else aside from Lukas knows its story.
“Here’s a question for you,” you said. “Let’s pretend that we took a trip to the countryside and I happen to lose this necklace deep within the steep rocky cliffs. Retrieving it would definitely cost your life… Would you take the risk for me?”
He frowned. Instead of opening his mouth to protest, he avoided your eyes and said, “I… I need a little time to think about that… I’m sorry.”
Right then and there, you knew it was coming to an end. You wanted to scream, tell the world how it feels to find love‒ the only one you’ve had all along‒ die. Wishing he couldn’t see your face glistening with flowing tears, you fought for a smile.
“Goodbye,” you whispered as your lips brushed against his cheek.
In a heartbeat, Lukas was all by himself.
“____________!” a soft, cute voice repeated your name. “Wakey wakey!”
“Mm-hm? Mm-hm? Mm-hm?” you grumbled, feeling tiny hands jiggling your arm with strong intensity.
“Wake up!” the voice said. “I have something for you!”
The blinding light created a silhouette of your Canadian cousin’s plump face. Slowly opening your swollen eyes, you were greeted with sweet little Matthew’s toothless grin. You carried him up and laid him beside you.
“What do you have for me, chap?” you yawned and stretched your arms.
“This!” Matthew presented a flat, rectangular gift modestly wrapped in your favorite colors. Receiving unoccasional gifts was not an unusual thing for you since you started living under the roof of your Uncle Arthur. The six-year old would always give you a present, be it a doodle he made at school, random cutouts or a song and dance number just to make you smile.
“Ooh, a DVD,” you declared. “Let’s watch this!”
Matthew cheered. You put the TV on and joined Matthew who was all comfortably propped up on your bed. You were grinning ear to ear, expectant of a good cartoon show while cuddling Matthew in your arms until a familiar blond about the same age as your cousin appeared on the screen. More photos flashed, the succeeding ones portrayed the younger versions of you along with the familiar boy. Your heart skipped a couple of beats as you watched the clips, almost found yourself stopped breathing.
Childhood memories flashed before your eyes, the strongest ones rekindling the feeling you thought what ceased to exist. For a while, you were a child once again. It was naptime at the kindergarten and Lukas was lying beside you. He would always go to sleep after you. When he made sure that you were asleep, he’d hum himself a lullaby until he fell asleep. Laughter seemed to be the most beautiful music, as the children’s smile is a genuine gift. The clips continued, showing some episodes of your thrill-seeking teenage days. Lukas had grown into a charming young man. There was the day when he drove you to the seashore after sneaking the car and video camera of his older brother, when you spent half of the day watching the sunset. You would always lose track of time when you were together. Nothing else seemed to make sense. But just as every episode or every show, the video reached its end.
Hurriedly, you searched for your phone which you found under your bed. What was his message behind the video? Is he letting go? Is this goodbye? A voice message had the answers.
“__________,” he began with his low, calm voice. “I asked you to give me a little time to think about your question because I don’t want to make the wrong choice. Now that I have the answer, I’m asking you to listen attentively… No, I won’t do it.”
It was enough to break your little heart to pieces and never put them back together again. Tears voluntarily fell from your eyes but you were oblivious of it.
“But please listen why…”
Little Matthew, although unaware of the situation, was sensitive enough to give you a heartfelt hug.
“Remember when we were kids?” Lukas continued. “You didn’t know how to cross the street. I need my hand to hold yours so we can cross together. Whenever you feel cold, I need my arms to hold you tight and keep you warm. You would always fall asleep in the car; I need my arms and legs to carry you home. I need my hands to put the ring on your finger on our wedding day as I need my voice to say, ‘I do’. _________, I want to spend every waking moment with you until we grow old.”
You didn’t know how much tears had flowed from your eyes, even your phone wasn’t spared. Your knees, as well as your hands, were trembling so much that you didn’t know how long you could still support yourself.
“Unless there’s someone else who can do those things for you, I can’t be so sure that I’ll ever want to leave you… But if you’ve already made up your mind, send me a sign. Show yourself through the window and I’ll know your decision. I’ll leave. I’m waiting outside your door.”
On that last note, you embraced your cousin and spun him around, grabbed a jacket and a pair of shoes and stormed out of the room. Uncle Arthur came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea in his hand, face full of concern upon seeing you.
“Are you alright, dear?” Uncle Arthur asked but you were out the door before you could answer.
There he was across the street, waiting.
Hands buried inside his pockets, breath coming out as small puffs of fog, he stood outside the cold waiting for you. Even without raising his eyes from the snowy ground, he perceived your presence. You ran and threw your arms around him. The anxiety in his face was immediately replaced by with a smile. He returned the hug, burying his face in your hair. Time ceased.
No words were needed to be spoken. All was said and done.
You were telling yourself not to cry but to live the moment. His warmth spread all over your system, sending sparks underneath your skin, but it worried you that the warmth might be of fever. His nose was red from being out for too long.
“Who told you to wait outside this long?” you asked sternly through chattering teeth.
He only smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “I told myself I wouldn’t go without seeing you.”
“Stubborn,” you said, tugging at his woolen scarf until he was a little closer. He stroked your hair. You glanced at your childhood friend, still stunned of the man he had become in years.
“Jeg elsker deg…”
He cupped your face in his hands which gave your turn to smile. While you were about to reply, he pulled you closer and strapped you into a kiss.