The day was a usual one. She was walking down the streets. The weather was just beautiful. The exact reason she had decided to walk and had asked the driver not to pick her up. The foreign land in the early days of her visit had seemed a little unfamiliar but now she felt like she knew every corner. Her job was great, the apartment was beautiful with a view, her friends had a job in the same city. They got together every weekend. Her parents had a visit every couple of weeks. She could not have been more happy in life. The best was that she had a loving husband. They had been married for five years now. Every moment that she could think of him, she felt as fond as it could ever be.
She stopped by a café. It was one of the regular places she visited. The owner waved at her as usual. She smiled and walked towards the counter. The yellow lights gave away a faded glow. That and the special smell made her always seem to stay. She chose her cosy seat by the window. It always seemed to be available whenever she visited the cafe which was always loved. She opened up one of the newspapers and read. The music was at the volume she liked, faded.
“Your coffee miss.”, he smiled.
“Thank you Jack. The place is not crowded as usual today.”
“Yeah. Just one of the days. It seems the snow is going to be rough this year.” He pointed to the weather report being displayed on the TV screen.
“Yes. But I am not complaining.”
“Wouldn’t expect you to. You have always loved it. I’ll leave you to your latte. Oh and before I forget, I got the album you were looking for.” She felt a sudden glow in her heart as she touched the cover. She had been hunting it for weeks now. She made for her purse, but he waved away.
“Just keep coming back. It feels good to have the regulars. People who I know personally and not as customers.” He turned to wipe a table. She went back to her latte. She did not see a man enter the café. Maybe she would have recognized him from back somewhere, maybe not. It had been a decade since they had last known each other. He walked to the counter and asked for a coffee. He paid the money and looked around for a comfortable corner. Besides a couple, an old man, a father with his child and a lady, it was only the owner and him. He was about to walk away when something made him look at her again and he recognized her. He could not believe his eyes. He almost decided to walk past her but something made him stay. She still hadn’t looked up from the paper. Well, its been a long time, he thought. He walked towards her as she looked up. An awkward silence followed as she stared at him. It took a few seconds to recognize him. He dared to sit down.
“Hello. Quite an unexpected surprise.”
“How are you?”
“I am good. And you? ”
“I am fine. ”
A silence followed as she stared at him and he stared all over the table. He seemed to be working on the conversation when she decided to interrupt.
“What are you doing here?”
“Oh I am here on a visit. I am staying at the hotel just around the corner. I was just grabbing a coffee around here.”
She wanted to say “I got that since you visited the café.” But she kept that to herself. She noticed he had given her a lot of details compared to his secretive nature years ago.
“No, not that. Why are you here, all of a sudden. Sitting in front of me.”
He felt lost in his words. He knew what she was referring to. The past few years he had been hoping to run into her somewhere. He had a certain realization with him that had never let his heart get rid of some feeling that made him uneasy. He had run around years , planning the conversation in his head, the scene about how it would go, what he would say, what she would say. Now, the rehearsals left him the way he had left her years ago.
He had been the one to ask her after a long time crush and pursuance. When she had agreed , he had promised to keep her happy. The start was all about love. Then over the next few months, she noticed a change in him but her trust kept her going . Then all of a sudden, after a few months , she had a letter handed to her through a common friend. She thought it was so sweet. Only till she opened it. The long heartless paragraphs were about how he thought she did care and love him, but he could not continue with her and how she was different than him and he no more felt the same way.
She had called him but he had not answered. She tried for a couple of days but to no avail. She decided to be brave about it. The next week she had her answer. He had left her for another girl. As he sat with his arms around her, she had silently walked past the scene unknown to him.
He avoided her. She had thought of him as a brave person. He was a coward. A pathetic coward. She did not feel angry. She felt sorry for him. After all the struggle, trying to meet him and talk to him, he had not considered her, turning a deaf ear to her feelings. She did not feel angry. She felt sorry for him. Him being considerate and his patience was all she had asked for, despite all other ups and downs to his side. The pretence had hurt her, the cowardice had been unexpected. She sometimes felt during days that followed when he had left, if she should have fought for him more than she tried. The day the truth was revealed, she felt good her intuitions had prevented her. That was the day she had left him forever for she realized, he wasn’t someone worth holding on to.
After all these years, he was here , sitting in front of her.
“I am sorry. I really am. I shouldn’t have left you…..”
She interrupted “ You have the girl you wanted. I knew. I did not confront you on the spot because I did not want to spoil her life, she would never have trusted you. You did not deserve but she loved you. I left because I knew she would love you. I let go because you were naïve. All I asked was for you to understand ‘ us ’ with time, but you are a selfish man. You gave me a load of convincing about the reasons for us not being able to stay together but I knew if you wanted to stay every reason would have faded. I let go that easy because you only fight for something that is yours. You never have to force it to stay,to be yours.”She was silent for a few minutes.
“Now, I assume this expression of guilt may have a price. ”
He welled up. “I was wrong. I thought you did not have an understanding. But no one cared like you did. Her love passed by. Your’s would have stayed and I let go for momentary pleasure.”
She suddenly stood up.
“I actually thank you. I had looked for a man who knew how to take care of his woman, not her needs. You were a boy. I have my freedom, I have my husband’s comfort. He has me. I know have what I really wanted. ”
She stood up.”And if you ever happen to be in the same place as me and see me, just avoid me the way you have all these years. As a parting gift, I let you go for someone else. This would be mine.”
She walked out of the café. She felt good.
He did not have the strength to move. He felt hollow.