Everything around seemed to be an aching reminder of the muted past. The wafting aroma of strawberry cake from the nearby café piqued my nostalgia. The first bite of the cake was exclusively for me always.
‘Twas the same cafe that had witnessed two souls falling in love. Unlike most, I can absolutely remember the first words spoken by or to the love of my life. The first time we’d met at the café was on her 25th birthday. Since then, meeting at the café on her birthday every year had become a ritual. I liked everything about her, be it her freckled skin, her flaming locks of auburn hair, or her almond-shaped eyes.
On our first meeting, the silence was loud and tumultuous. I gauged her emotions even without her having to say a word.
The herbed tea, strawberry cake, and shortbread cookies were her absolute favorite which eventually forged its way into my favorite list as well.
For four decades I’ve been fantasizing that our spark for attraction will still be there, only to realize that true love in its absolute form has many purposes in life and beyond.
For the past four decades, my existence has been engaged only in observing.
“Herbed tea, strawberry cake, and shortbread cookies please.” I hear a familiar voice!
Finally, I see her! There’s my Emily and it’s her 78th birthday today. The same freckled skin, the same all-pervading smile. Her almond-shaped eyes reflected her tiredness. Her wrinkled skin chronicled the grief of umpteen chaotic prejudices.
I sat on the table adjacent to her and placed my order.
“Herbed tea, strawberry cake, and shortbread cookies please.”
With a start, her gaze shifted toward my table. With staggering steps, she inched closer to my table. She chirped, flashing that lovely smile.
“You’re a spitting image of my partner. I lost her four decades back in a mishap. She had exactly your messy bramble of brunette hair, the same full lips, and the same diamond-shaped face. We met here in this café, for the first time.”
I felt her eyes linger on me a little longer, similar to those old times. Gathering myself I uttered,
oh… I’m so sorry for your loss, in an attempt to console her. While doing so, subconsciously I’d placed my hand upon her frail hand. With sheer elation, she clasped my hand and planted a kiss.
“Settling down as per societal standards, today I regret my silence. I still fail to comprehend how a same-gender relationship diminishes the legacy of social righteousness” Emily lamented.
“Okay… how about you, young lady? Do you love someone?” She continued.
Ummm… I… uhh…
Before I again dissipated into the howling wind, I glanced at Emily one last time. Four decades later, her eyes were still luminous, emitting pure love, and her kiss still magical!
The solitary piece of strawberry cake lay untouched on her table.
Everything around seemed to be an aching reminder of the muted past.
Author’s Note: The story was an entry for a contest, that required penning a 450-500 words story, that begins and ends with the same sentence!