One month. That’s how long he said she held his heart in her palm.
A month of catching fireflies at twilight, by the river bank at the back of her home. A month of learning how to beat him at chess, of him trying to keep himself awake watching her favorite French films and of them struggling to define and protect what they had in the middle of an impending life changer – her family’s immigration plans finally becoming a reality.
She was so naive at ¹9 to say that they could pull off a long distance relationship. I would save enough money to come back every summer, she said, with bright optimistic eyes. Or when we’re settled long enough, maybe I could persuade them to let me come back here and stay.
He laughed at her foolishness. Let’s just stop here, he said. No need to promise each other anything. He was pragmatic and she hated it. What we have is good but the timing is off. Let’s just leave things this way.
And he was gone.
12 years came and stole her innocence and the bravery her heart once had.
12 years, eight months and seven days to be exact.
She came home, divorced, childless and single so weary with life she said she needed a sabbatical-cum-early retirement which her boss did not allow. Just sabbatical. 6 months tops. Please come back, she was told. We need you. Remember, you have a life here.
Drinking on the sight of him – light beard covering his familiar face, his eyes framed by silver-rimmed glasses, the curly hair she used to ruffle with her fingers turning salt and pepper around his temples, cheekbones still high and proud and sharp eyes scanning her inside the neighborhood bookstore that was her sanctuary, carrying questions she know she could answer forever– she dismissed her boss’s nagging voice inside her head.
No. Her life is here. Has always been here.