The wind softly caressed her hair.
She sat, gaze lost. The slow up and down of her chest, the only sign she was still breathing.
The sun was setting, painting the sky with it’s majestic orange glow and spreading a warm feeling all over the park.
Curiously, it never reached her.
Footsteps in the distance, steadily approaching.
There was no need to turn her head. She knew who it was even before the first word was spoken.
She could hear his breathing: slow and deep. Like he was trying to keep his calm.
And suddenly the fact that he had actually come to find her, erased every sentence she had been planning to say and made the words she’d been longing to tell get stuck in her throat.
Unsurprisingly, he was the only one who knew where to find her, when she didn’t want to be found.
With his back to her, he leaned on the bench, looking at his feet.
Silence was all that was heard. She hadn’t answered his greeting or moved to acknowledged his presence, whatsoever.
Maybe this had been a bad idea, a huge mistake. She, certainly, wanted to be alone and he was intruding. But right when he was preparing himself to leave, the wind carried her voice to him, in a quiet whisper. Without still looking his way she said:
He let go of a breath he didn’t even notice he was holding. And before he had any time to ask anything else, her voice reached him once again, stronger, but still smooth and somewhat afraid:
“I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”
“But I was the one-“
“I meant the answer. I’m sorry I didn’t answer right away.”
“Oh, that…” He tried to look at her from the corner of his eye, but she was still looking ahead, as if she just hadn’t been speaking. “Don’t worry. I’ve got plenty of time, now.”
As if she had woken up from a dream, her head and shoulders slumped forward and her eyes fixed once again – not on the horizon, like before – but on her trembling hands, resting in her lap.
She was nervous, he knew it. But why? Could she-
“Why did you come?” Her voice trembled as well, weak, uncertain, confused.
“I wanted to see you. I really did.”
Her shoulders dropped even further and a curtain of hair hid her face from his view.
There was a brief rustling of leaves in the ground, before he decided the silence was too much.
“I missed you. I still do, you know…and I’m sorry if-“
She only nodded yes.
For a moment, he could swear she was crying, but he quickly dismissed the thought.
Why would she? She was happy, wasn’t she?
As if answering his question, she buried her face in her hands with a strangled sigh.
“What the hell am I doing?”
His eyes widened.
Could she still…Had he been wrong? Had she been pretending all this time? For his sake?
Turning his whole body in her direction, he said:
“Look at me.”
She shook her head no.
“Please.” There was an urgency in his voice, that didn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s the last thing I’ll ask of you.” He pleaded.
After a few seconds – that seemed minutes to them both – she finally looked at him. And she was smiling.
It was one of the most beautiful things he had ever laid his eyes upon.
She was crying, as he suspected, but the way her eyes sparkled and her lips trembled while she tried to keep a smile on her face, almost left him breathless.
And when he actually cared to look carefully into her eyes, he saw that, behind the obvious sadness and tiredness, the warmth she had always bestowed on him was still there, maybe stronger than he could ever recall. Maybe it had never left, in the first place.
The only thing he managed to do was whisper her name, while his thumb tenderly wiped away the tears she shed. And when he smiled at her with same warmth she had just showed him moments ago, a fresh wave of tears left her eyes. And, carefully, he brushed them aside all over again.
To what happened next, only the wind, the scattered leaves on the ground and that lonely park bench know the secret.
And that’s exactly how it should be.