Sixth night after I started working at the store.
I reached home at half past ten hours. I had bought two burgers for me and mom along with a meat loaf, some beans, fruits, vegetables and a pack of breads with a few eggs for morning.
I kept them in the kitchen, and headed to the bathroom to change. My mother was resting in the other room, I did not like to change in front of her.
Until I came of eight, she would dress me up but when I started feeling my breasts growing up, she made me learn how to take a shower and dress up.
My mother looked a lot like me, small grey-green eyes, moderately arched eyebrows, prominent forehead, golden and brown hair with few whites among them and a visible chin emerging out of a neat jaw line. But she was different. I felt her existence to be more than mine. Fragility, I concluded, comes with perks.
She would smile often, with her eyes half closed because of uplifted cheek mounts covering them. She knew a lot, or atleast it seemed so that even while smiling she was not funny, she was rather kind and compassionate.
My father left her when I was three, for a woman named Isabella who worked at the same bank my father did.
I looked myself in the mirror in the bathroom. I unhooked it and close it up towards my eyes. I remember Ian looking into my eyes back at the store. I smiled.
I came back to the room, mother had arranged dinner at the table.
"You are spending too much."
"I have a calculator, mom. Don't worry, I am still saving enough that after the summers I can join college."
"That is a good thing cheryl."
I liked it when she smiled, which she did often and all the same. But I could tell, about what she means with which smile of hers.
"I visited the doctor today."
"I am getting weaker in the days to come."
"Did he say that to you?"
"No, I feel so."
"The world does not run on what you feel, mom."
"Well, in a way he said so."
I gulped the rice, grabbed the water and continued.
"How he said that?"
"He said I have it growing in my lungs, it's infecting me. Also he prescribed more intense treatment. And all I know about that is that I am getting weaker in the days to come."
"You are going nowhere mom."
"Yes dear, nowhere."
I left the dinner table and headed to my bed.
In the night I could see her face in the moonlight from the window.
She looked more beautiful than I ever could get.
I did not believe in souls, but it felt very hard not to think about hers. I assumed she had a better one than most people have. The kind that kills you when you get sick of your life.
Her life had been sick for so long, spent in a small apartment living with her daughter in dearth of money.
She deserved more.
Beautiful people always deserve more than they are likely to get.
And maybe she was going.
When I looked at her, I saw lungs breathing hardly. The infection was eating her, wheezing sounds from her nose. And she would not talk much about anything, so she would smile.
She stopped looking herself in the mirror a few months ago.
The world maybe a beautiful place, and maybe people believe it has some way of working. But I knew it's just a dead place cultivating life out of itself. Hopeless. And my mother, she was a dream from which I did not want to wake up.
I kept looking at her until I fell asleep.
Sixth day at the work.
I hated it that I had to wear either of my only four dresses just to come to store and switch it with the uniform there, and same when I go back home.
But that was just another thing.
I hated many other things more than the uniform switch.
Mr. Patrick was weird, not only that he looked so but also it could be pulled out from his behaviour that he was weird at his mind. It felt like if he had one wish to be granted to him, he would ask for somehow becoming capable of looking through the clothes of women.
Moreover, it felt shitty because I was also not a woman by now.
The boys did not show up yesterday, which I wanted them to. It's not like I waited for them, that is a different thing, that I am not so familiar to. Because waiting depicts certainty of a happening and I had never had certain happenings to wait for.
But I wanted them to show up.
The kind of want you want when you see a butterfly and a flower and you want the butterfly to fly and sit on that flower. Not because you have a camera or that in the hope of some miracle, but because it seems to feel good.
The noon was boring, sometimes it seemed that Mr. Patrick conspired that with his blunt 'I-am-just-trying-to-flirt' skills, my noon should be made boring and ridiculous. Boring, to the extent where I could not tolerate him anymore and tell him to go fuck himself or maybe to come fuck me. And I strongly suspected that he desired for the other option.
But I did not give him a shit, I kept on passing formal smiles and kept on counting the pay after each deal. Subtracting it from the money I would need for college.
I calculated that it would take me just the end of summer to make it. Perfect, I thought.
Mr. Patrick left at eight, which meant I could have two hours of my lovely loneliness in the store. I turned on the radio at low, laid down on the chair with my feet on the window slab and closed my eyes humming with the music.
After a while, I heard the store's gate opening which would ring a bell hung over the gate.
Those boys were back. They were walking slow this time, not laughing. The skinny one, I could see on his lips, was trying to stop himself from saying something which would sound like, "sorry for the day before, we hope you do not mind."
And I waited for them to come to me.
Upon reaching, he said,
"We want two packets of chips and a cola.
"And also, my dear friend still thinks you are gorgeous."
Then he chuckled looking at Ian.
I remembered their names, I just did not want to tell myself that I remembered. Remembering names depicts knowing, which I did not.
His name was Everett.
"Thank you for your friend's words, Mr. The words delivery boy."
I said with a smirk on my face.
"You can't insult my friend while The mighty Ian sits here, in his kingdom it is a crime to belittle king's friends."
"Oh come on Ian, the girl is just trying to find her place among us both."
Skinny one said.
"Whao, no, I am just trying to thank your king."
I said with a smile this time.
We all laughed for a second.
"Whose name on the bill then?"
They left with the bill.
I watched them leave and then again the large one shown up at the door.
He shouted across.
I said back.
I closed the store at ten and left for home.
Fourth day at the store.
Mr. Patrick provided me with a uniform to wear at the work. It had a yellow strip stitched on the front of itself with my name written over it in red letters.
I never liked the red colour, but that one looked good. Again, I liked the fonts.
Most of the times, as it were summers the store would be empty. Patrick was a good company to be in. In days passed he told stories about his grandfather who was a mexican and married a woman from Texas. And so Patrick was here growing up in the south of state until he opened his store when he came of twenty seven and married Martha taylor whom he met at the cemetery at his aunt's funeral.
He talked a lot. Nobody talked much as to the point to bore me, but he did. So, he used to bore me. But I worked at his store so it was not included in my business to get bored of him. So I would often smile, and then he would smile.
But not in the way I'd smile to him, rather in the way a boy of eighteen smiles thinking that he had just impressed another eighteen year old girl and now they are going to have a french kiss.
He never talked of his wife, or acknowledged her presence when he talked to me. Once he said that she was a mistake.
Also, that he hated Evan wilson, whom he thought his wife was dating behind his back.
But often he would seem interested in me. And I had been so used to it, to be an interest topic of people, that I could not care any less about Mr. William Patrick liking me or having been interested in me.
I was just another girl who worked at a store until the summer would finish and colleges start.
And after each transaction, of what seven percent would be added to my pay, I calculated the money I might be saving at the end and if that would be enough. And it never seemed to be.
In the evening, Patrick was finished with his boring stories, 'I-want-you-to-like-me-too' smiles and a thousand times adding 'the beautiful' prefix before my name, he left for the home after collecting money from the drawer.
I was supposed to work until ten and close the store then.
At 8:17 pm, two guys entered the store. Both tall, one of them was bulky, large and golden haired and other was skinny, wore a blue shirt and had a smile bigger than his face should have.
They asked for two packets of chips, a can of cola and two peppermint sticks.
"Whose name is on the bill?"
I asked running my fingers on the bill machine.
Without looking toward them.
I did not look at people until it would become very important to.
"Cheryl campbell, do you know the serological tests based reactions provide evidences of humans being closer to old world monkeys than new world monkeys?"
He said reading my name from the sticker on my chest.
That was, I concluded, a long line someone said while staring at my breasts.
"No I don't, that is none of my concerns.
And whose name is on the bill?"
I said looking at them.
The large guy had a funny face adding up to his weird haircut and moustache, yet he looked smart. And the skinny one looked geeky with hazel eyes, two freckles on his cheeks and straight dark brown hair.
Moreover, he would smile every three seconds as if he knew something I did not.
"It's Ian, Ian Martin. I study science at TSU and this is my friend Everett sparks."
These guys were weird.
I slipped the bill across the window and handled them their packets.
They left the store, skinny one first followed by another.
The large one shown up again after three seconds at the door, I could see the skinny one trying to pull him back from behind the door. He looked and breathed and shouted from across,
"And also, do you know you look gorgeous cheryl campbell?"
Then laughed and left before I could reply.
I sat on my chair and laughed after he left.
They were certainly a lot less boring than Mr. Patrick.
I closed the store at ten and left for my home.
It was a good day.
From the days when it rained
Chapter - 1.
(Dust on the books.)
One and a half year ago.
I lived in a small apartment with my mother in Texas. I had four dresses in my wardrobe, except for the black one which was for funerals. Ours was a one storied two rooms apartment, of which one was kitchen.
A bathroom, made of tin sheets was in the backyard. Out of the window, we could look at the road. And that was the thing, a road is most boring thing to be located out of your only window.
We would often eat boiled beans and stew. And the chicken soup was only for sundays.
In the summers when I was done away with school and was convinced to believe that we did not have enough money for making it to college, I thought of doing a job.
There were three important things about me
1. I was poor, 2. I was not good in studies, but wanted to go to college. 3. I had a beautiful face.
And except for the third premise, I did not really hope anything else would help me get a job.
An evening, going down the block towards the park, I saw a grocery store with the board that said 'Receptionist needed.'
It looked perfect. The fonts looked perfect.
Next morning, in my third dress which consisted of a white t-shirt and blue jeans, I was at the door of store.
"Welcome to the store madame."
I smiled at the man that said.
"Place your order please."
He said from behind the counter.
He was almost six feet tall, well built and brown eyed man with a defined jaw line.
"Oh, sorry but I am for the job here, I saw the board.."
He said with a laugh and asked
"What is your name then?".
I replied with a smile.
"Now, cheryl campbell, do you know how to use a calculator?"
He said in a deep voice, and laughed.
And then continued.
"Of course you do."
Before I would reply, he said.
"You ought to join tomorrow morning, we need you cheryl."
"Mr. Patrick, William Patrick.
You could call me will though."
"Of course, thank you Mr. Patrick."
"See you then, beautiful cheryl."
"See you sir."
I came out of the store and walked through the park to my home, on my way I purchased some chicken.
It was not a sunday. But I had a job.
The sun was high and far, hidden behind the dark clouds. Sky was brown as the leaves of Autumn. I looked down, the sea was vast and horizon seemed to be the last end of this world.
Amanda once talked about horizons, maybe she knew a lot about them.
She believed that they are infinite, one after other and the offing is endless. She believed there is no escape from the miseries of this world. And I hated it now that she was on the other side. That she left me here knowing that there are other ways to get past the world.
I could see water striking the base of cliff.
The white of it is always all on the shores, where it hurts.
I wanted to fall.
There is a point, I knew, from where you could stand up and throw a stone off the cliff telling the other side to fuck off, and go back to your home.
And there is a point, from where you could realize that the only home you have is the world you created around a person who exists no more. And it is hard not to fall when you are on that point.
The leap is not when you fall, it's when you know there is no point in standing.
I stood up, closed my eyes and opened my hands. I looked at the sky, I saw a room painted black, the weak sofa kept in middle of it and the broken mirror of bathroom.
I smelled the air around me, I was sad. I took a step forward, and smiled.
It was my time to go.
And for sure I would have fallen, if it was not Ian grabbing my shoulder from behind.
"Everett fucking sparks.
Were you going to fall off that damn cliff?"
He slapped me before I could reply to him.
"I can't let you die."
He hugged me and repeated the same sentence until he was convinced I am not going to fall.
And when I saw it, the sea from beside his head. I felt stupid of myself.
"Yes, Ian, yes. I know you won't let me die.
We sat on the ground. The sky was clear now, I could see the sun.
I asked him how did he get here.
"I went to your house to tell you that I am leaving today.
You were not there, and your novels were kept open upon the table. I read them. Supposedly you wrote your own falling-off-the-fucking-cliff suicide plan as an ending to each of them."
He laughed saying.
"So, you are leaving today."
"No. we, are leaving today. I have got plans for you as well.
Though we are quite late on our way."
He said in a serious voice,
"I want you to come with me Everett. Will you?"
I stood up, and he followed.
"Yes, but wait, I gotta do something first." I said.
Ian kept looking at me as I went to the end of cliff.
I picked up a stone from ground and threw it off the end.
This was the point, and this time I knew what to shout to the idea of going to the other side.
"Maybe someday, all the stars will fall. But the light will always remain.
Amanda once said,
They are just like me."
My name is Everett sparks, and I am here for a reason. Because Ian martin was right. He was, though I did not want him to be. I wanted the wednesday to last longer, and forget about the passage.
After Ian left, I got out of my house. It burned everywhere around me, like the sun was lying right beside a house of the next block. Houses were painted different and I saw Martha Taylor walking across the park with a child in her hands. She looked beautiful.
My mail box was full, letters were scattered over the ground. I grabbed nearly all of them and threw them inside my house. I liked the touch of paper on my fingers and the smell of rotten brown envelopes.
I walked myself to cheryl's shop.
"You, this time?" She sounded confused.
"I need a half dozen eggs packed, salad, a packet of brown bread, and butter.
Also, I want to know how Amanda porter died."
I said, slipping the cash through the gap between glass window and counter.
She thought for a while and said from across the hole in the window.
"You were the one who was writing novels about it, you told me that a year ago.
I thought you know better.
But from what I know she died in an accident on her way to Tennessee on a sunday.
That girl was beautiful."
"What novels?" I asked.
"I don't know."
She said handling me back the change with items.
I came back home and made myself some breakfast. Arranged all the letters in a stack upon the table, took out all three novels from the shelf. Switched on the music.
And started reading.
Some letters were from Ian, Gilly, Colin and others were from Amanda's mother, and some bills.
I read all of them.
Ian wrote somewhere
"Smart things are not smart until you understand them, the same deal is with stupid things."
All the letters were from months ago, supposedly they had stopped writing to me.
I read the novels then.
Cheryl was right, I wrote them. Incomplete.
I stopped writing them all at the some point, where she leaves.
Because, maybe I did not know the way to get to her.
But I knew she was somewhere people go after all of their stars have fallen.
I picked the pen from the desk and wrote down their endings.
I spent most of the night and next day in crying and sleeping, and writing.
But I did not call her, I knew she was dead.
Now I am here, at the cliff.
I am here because Ian Martin was right. And now I see, here it lies. The way to get to her.
(To be continued, next part will contain the end.)
Ian stood there, looking at me from the other side of the door. He looked afraid, and behind him was light of a thousand suns and fragrances I had not had smelled in a time. He wanted to save me, and I did not know from what, but to get saved was certainly one among all the desires I was left with.
I let him come in.
Ian sat down on the sofa. It was dirty and looked weak. It looked like me. In the light through the door I could see the walls were no more blue, they had turned black.
He glanced at everything and then stared me for a while and said.
"What happened to you, Everett?"
"Well, nothing. And I don't have the exact idea why are you here. We scheduled to show up at the bar on saturday and it's only wednesday by now." I said.
He stopped me in the middle as he shouted.
"That was fucking last year, a whole year ago since you have shown up at anywhere. A whole year since you are in this damn room eating shit at night."
And he said in a low voice then, looking at me while I stood against the slab where the novels were kept.
"Yeah, you heard it right.
"I saw you going to the cheryl's shop last night. And when you were back home, I peeked inside from the front window. You listened to the same loud music which you do daily and talked to someone on phone, which is stupid as after you had discontinued paying the phone bills they disconnected your line. Your mailbox is full of your bills and letters which you have not read since ages."
He took a pause and continued
"You need to leave this place."
I felt my blood being pumped through my heart as I looked at him but I did not want to shout. I said rather in a distasteful manner.
"Maybe your name is Ian, and maybe you are my friend. And even if I consider you are the same guy whom I saw last saturday at the bar with no mustache and a shitty haircut.
There are still no chances that you are getting in my room to tell me I am some mad freak who talks to himself.
And, I think you should leave now."
"You need to leave this place, Everett. I am leaving to Louisiana the day after tomorrow. I want you to come with me."
"I am going nowhere, it has just been a month since I have shifted here. And moreover I am joining Amanda once she would contact me. I am going to join her anyway."
"Amanda porter, the girl with brown hair?"
"Yes" I said.
"She died in a car crash last september, the day she left to Tennessee. The saturday when we were at the bar and you kept singing to me the song you both danced on, at her home last night after the dinner.
And you knew of her death, her mother called you just before you left the bar. And since then, you are nowhere to be found. A year has passed. And you are here. I don't want you to be here anymore. You need to go."
Something in me broke down, Amanda porter could not be dead. She was one of those people who were not born to be dead.
I grabbed Ian by his arm. He stood up.
It escaped through my clenched teeth.
He headed towards the door.
"The day after tomorrow."
He said as he closed the door.
"Maybe all the stars have fallen.".
(To be continued.)
Everyday when I woke up, I remembered that Amanda was gone. And it always seemed that a time has passed since then.
A long time maybe, since yesterday.
I never forgot to dial to her regardless of the fact that it was always switched off.
The room I lived in, was painted blue from inside. The mirror in the bathroom was broken. And I had three novels in my bookshelf , 'The longest night to come' , 'All the starts fell apart' and 'The room painted black'.
I would read each of them, though never was able to finish. However, somehow, I knew how were they going to end.
Days were often the same, and nights too. I spent them sleeping or playing video games and often holding my phone next to my ear trying to call her.
I hated lights, all kind of them. When I would wake up every time, I hoped it's night so that I could walk myself to grocery store without being disturbed.
A night, after the switch off tone on her phone, I spoke.
I closed my eyes and spoke,
"I miss you, so much."
And then it was her voice.
And I was not amazed, I knew she would have missed me.
"Where had you gone?" I asked.
"Somewhere, You can't be here."
"I want to, I want it so bad." I said.
"There is no way to be here." She said.
"There certainly is, beyond the cliff there it lies."
"Have all the stars fallen apart?" She asked after a while.
"No, Maybe all of them broke."
"Save yourself." She said.
And then the voice got lost after I heard a knock at my door.
Who could be here at this hour, I thought. I slide the curtains off the front window. It was day, the light was there and it almost made me blind. Yet I could see Ian martin at my door.
I half opened the door with the chain still intact, and looked through. Ian was there. He looked changed, like he grew up twice in size since last saturday when I had seen him in the bar. He had gotten a different haircut as well with nicely grown pyramid mustache.
"What do you want?" I said.
He thought for a while and said
"I want to save you."
(To be continued.)
The next morning when I woke up, I found myself in a room that felt more lonely than it ever had been. My pillow had a large round spot formed out of my saliva dropping upon it. It felt wet and stuck to the corner of my mouth, I flipped it to the other side and looked at the clock. I figured out that Amanda would have left the city by now.
It felt bad. And It is bad most of the times when you have to bid someone a goodbye before they would even leave and after that they just get back to their home and you to yours. They leave the next day to somewhere without seeing you again and the goodbye feels to be a made up thing.
How bad of a compulsion it is, when you need to say a farewell before somebody has actually left.
I made myself some beans and omelet after messaging her that I missed her.
For the next few hours until it was noon, I played video games and read some books. And when I just knew it was the right time, I switched off lights in my room and set up my bed, laid down and dialled to her phone.
It does not take more than a moment before the lines get connected, but it does take a moment. And in that moment I actually hoped for her voice from the other side of phone. Voices are assurance of one's existence and I liked hers.
I thought about the thousand different tones in which I could say a hello to her and I wanted to try them all.
In a particular meaning to all my feelings, I concluded, I wanted my time with her.
Her phone was switched off.
I did not expect it to be. I dialed again. And again until I was tired of it.
I wanted to apologize to her. Maybe for nothing but in my life I had learnt that apologizing is the safest way to get to talk to someone. However, she was not there and it built a fact that I could not talk to her let alone apologize.
Distance builds premises that you never had thought existed in between certain people and you.
I believe everyone knows how it feels to be alone, but I am assure I felt more alone than everyone else does.
I waited until night to get a call back from her. It never arrived.
I dialed to her again. It was still switched off.
I turned off the lights, flipped the pillow back to the side where it laid the spot. And slept.
(To be continued in later parts.)
I did not sleep that night. I kept thinking about Amanda.
Sometimes, or maybe often, thinking about someone makes you contemplate both their presence and absence at the same time
but it is not as often that it feels good and this time, it felt bad.
There is a time, I thought, when people are needed to be pulled out from our skin.
Like a bandage that keeps hold of the wound getting pulled off it. And while there is a certain satisfaction in actual pulling of bandage and tore skin of the wound; the pulling off people without having them actually close by is plain tyranny.
I rolled in my bed and glanced at the table clock. It was 2:48 am in the clock. I grabbed my phone and dialed to her.
She attended after second ring. Maybe she was awoke too.
"Hello." I muttered.
"I am sad." She said.
"You said we are going, and it's just that we are going to different places."
"I resent that, it felt good while I said it after you. But now I see, by the time sun will cover the clouds of tomorrow, you would be gone. And I shall be here.
It is a honest thing to say that it's not the going that makes me sad, it is the staying that does." I said.
"At a time, I used to think that universe gives a shit to everything I do. Like it counts if I killed a bee today or saved a hen or if the ugly Cheryl young snatched my chocolate.
I would think everyone gets a fair deal in this world.
But it is not so.
Out of everything that could be wanted in this world, I want you Everett. And this wish stays."
"It is hard, you know"
"It is hard realizing you are in love while you are just about to lose it.
But I am in love with you, and now when it appears to be the most obvious thing that has ever occurred to me, I want to say it a million times, quiet and quieter towards the universe, so that you would be the last person to hear it. I want you to remember it until it fades away from everywhere else.
I wish if we could have more days, or a little more of the forever we always talked about."
I felt a tear on my lips.
"Yes, me too." She said.
I wanted more of her words.
And more of everything. The days, her eyes, of voice and of myself and of infinite things those had ever existed while our time had ran out.
After a pause, she said
"Being in love is like knowing the ocean is blue, may or may not its water be. You see, love is knowing without having."
I thought for a while.
"We should sleep." I said.
I disconnected. keeping my phone beside the table clock, I looked toward the slow moving ceiling fan. I sat up with the pillow crushed in between my lap and elbows.
"It is stupid" I shouted.
"It is stupid to think of love as something about knowing without having. Love could be about a thousand different things but it is sure not about not having.
What is the point of being in love with someone without having them?"
There was nobody around to reply.
I fell back on my bed, staring the fan.
I concluded, not everyone gets a fair deal in this world.