A short story I wrote this afternoon on love, memories, and moving on.
I had been waiting for a little over an hour, long enough that I could notice the spring tide draw closer to my outstretched legs. I watched with trepidation as gentle waves drew forwards and back again over the rocky shore.
Fae had often kept me waiting through the years, so this was not unusual. Often I had resolved to anticipate her behaviour and arrive later than I had arranged – Instead I grew to accept that she would arrive after me and would seek out a quiet spot from which to reflect before she should arrive. On the odd occasion she would catch me off guard and turn up on time – on an event such as this I would tease her and pretend that I was still at home and would be ‘leaving soon’
Today, however, I was unable to imagine her running up to me and catching me by surprise as she had done so many times. I was unsure whether she would turn up at all, besides she hadn’t spoken to me for a week. I had asked her mother to pass on my message but I did not trust her when she knew Fae was angry with me.
Tentatively, the strongest wave brushed against my legs. Perhaps I had been here longer than I thought. I had no way of telling the time since I had broken my watch, but the sun had long since set so I knew the evening was growing deeper.
Enough was enough, I was ill prepared to spend the night on the beach wearing just a zip-down sweatshirt and jeans. I would go to her house (it is worth noting that I had previously made a promise that I wouldn’t arrive uninvited at her parents house when we were arguing, she was petrified of making a scene) and demand that she spoke to me.
With some considerable effort, I pulled my heavy body from the rocky shore, deep impressions clear on my pale skin. As I turned away from the beach, I saw an approximation of a woman appear in the distance. I stopped to see if this was her.
I had not moved from the spot where I had been sitting just moments ago by the time she reached me, by this point we were the only people on the beach – it was still February and off-season so there was no evening entertainment drawing people to the beach-edge.
Absently, she let out a faint hello, and quickly looked away from me and out to the ocean, eyes fixed on the dark expanse.
Neither of us spoke for some time after this, she, seeming not in the right space-of-mind to talk, and me, well, I had said everything I wanted to say.
I was sure that she would know why I had asked her to meet me here, of all places, in the dank, carry of February. I could sense something of a change in her though, I couldn’t place a thought on it that day, though and perhaps she was just trying to punish me for asking her the way that I did.
Now, though, I believe quite strongly that it was not what had been said that night, but the reality she had faced when she made the decision to leave, me, and this town behind.
Please bear with me, for my memory is not what it once was, and this is a period of my life that presents the strongest of haze. This said, there was one exchange we shared that appears to lay, imprinted on my mind.
She turned her body round to face me, held my hand in hers, let out a heavy sigh and said these words.
“In your call to my mother, you told her to meet me here, and it would all make sense? Why here – what do you mean?
Now, I knew that asking her to come here was last ditched, and emotionally manipulative, but I figured she would know why – we came here once before, three years ago.
“I will miss you… I think… but my mind is elsewhere, elsewhere but here. I don’t know how to put it, but you are firmly rooted to the spot, you told me yourself that this is your home and you don’t want to ever leave”
She paused for a moment, to take a breath. Now, I remember this because I was about to speak in turn.
“Matthew, you know what I have said is true… please do not fight me on this, I am weaker than before”
A faceless, incessant dawn chorus erupted to shake me from my rest. Another Sunday. Another day in this city. Unperturbed I drifted back to sleep, since I was living alone (give or take five housemates) I could get up when I pleased (give or take five days of the week). I was perhaps, enjoying the solitude and self-determination a little too much and had let my appearance slip a little…
I had been living in the ‘city’ for six-months, half-a-whole-year. I had, as of yet had very little contact with university friends since graduating from the university a few miles from my home-town, but today I had agreed to meet Emily, a nice girl who I always suspected had a sweet-spot for me.
Emily was a friend of Fae, but never really made it past that title. Hard to make too great a friend with someone you only know through your girlfriend. There’s at least two things standing in your way, 1) You only ever see them when your girlfriend is there to mediate your contact and 2) What do you do if the person who introduced you, you never see any more?
Well, I can answer the latter – you ask them if they would show you round the new city you just moved to because, they I quote ”Are desperate for a familiar face”
Emily was also ”dying” (also a quote) to learn how the city life was going, and was suitably shocked that I hadn’t packed it in yet.
I was, however, less en-fused at playing tour-guide to the good-friend of a painful memory. It would be easy though, Emily had never been to the city before she moved in last week and everything was new to her – I knew exactly which tourist-hot-spots would do the trick.
I suggested that we meet at a nice little Ethiopian restaurant just down the road from my flat. This ticked all the boxes (two, to be exact) you see. It was ten-minutes walk from me, and exclusively served vegetarian food. Emily had just turned vegetarian after graduating (she hadn’t told me, it was just very clear from her online-presence)
I had been having issues remember certain details about Emily. I knew that she was in almost all of my lectures as we seemed to have an unnerving ability to pick the same ones year and year. This, I remember was the sole way we were able to bond, and occasionally this made it a little awkward when we would see each other constantly and ran out of things to say. I remembered what she look liked, but I couldn’t decide whether this was just because I had spent not an inordinate amount scrolling through her social-media to decide if she was more successful than me.
Running a little late, I arrived at the restaurant to find Emily already sat at the table that I had booked. I instantly apologised for my lateness, assuring her that this was a rarity for me (It wasn’t – I had grown far less punctual since moving).
She was prettier than I recalled, or was she always this way? She had on a long blue dress with flower-detail that almost reached her ankles. Typical Emily, I thought: so conservative. She didn’t seem to be the slightest bit annoyed at my lateness and instead I sensed a warm contentedness about her person. Although I suspected this was not my doing.
“I ordered us both some tea, I hope you don’t mind” she said quickly as I arrived, throwing her hands in the air as though she was recalling something she had been trying to remember.
“I don’t mind at all” I said. Telling her that I would have ordered some anyway, complimenting her on her choice.
Recently it had been getting worse, to start with I would lose minor details from memories, inconsequential qualities such as what the weather was like that day, but with an unnerving frequency I had begun to feel like parts of my life that I thought were my own felt like they had been lived by someone else.
Though I had purposely avoided mentioning Fae when I had met with Emily last week, my worsening condition had brought a change. I was now desperate to know if Emily had been in contact with her, was she well?
I began to question the fact that Emily had not brought Fae up, not even one. Weren’t they close? It was late and I lay restless in my bed. I decided to message Emily. My mind turned around again and again. No contact for two-years.
“Will you meet me this week”, my message read
As though she was waiting for my message, she instantly replied to say “let’s do tomorrow, there’s something we need to talk about”
We met outside Emily’s flat, I recall it was one of those mid-rise ex-council flats that were sold off in droves in the 1980s.
I knew a coffee place nearby that wasn’t too loud so I suggested we go there for a drink so she could say what was on her mind. I sensed it would have something to do with how I was thinking the night previous.
I bought us both a large-coffee and sat down at the table.
“She sent me a letter, actually she has sent me many letters, but this one is for you”
“You mean Fae, don’t you” not knowing if I wanted the answer to be yes.
She pushed the letter my way, it had clearly been read a few times already. It read as follows:
I hope you’re well. I hear you’re moving to London soon… that’s cool. I am sorry I haven’t written to you for a while, i just need some time to collect myself, you see I have trouble remembering people and places these days.
I know we were close at university, but I am struggling to remember many times we spoke, as for Matthew I have only one memory that holds in me. My mother said that we were together for three years, she also told me he has been living in London for a while now. I hope you both can stay in touch, but if it’s not too much trouble would you be able to pass on this message for me. You may think me a coward but I don’t know what I would do if i saw him – how could I say this?
I know we shared something special, I can feel it when I hear your name or when my mother tells me about days we shared. I can feel my heart shiver as if my body has held on to something that my conscious has long since lost. I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten you completely and I don’t think that I ever will.
I still remember the night you invited me to the beach by your parents home, two years from when I write these words. This day has stained on my memory, I even remember the way you looked at me that day – it is because of that I am sure of how strongly you felt for me. I hope that one day I am ready to see you again, but until then we are better apart. Please live your life.
I know why you asked me to go the beach that day.
I read that letter several times before coming up for air. I had to see her.