Tangled Lives

This is my first novelette or any kind of work which isn’t a flash fiction. So read as much as you can, give any and all feedback. bookmark it if you need it. Anything from you would be valued and appreciated a lot.

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TANGLED LIVES

A NOT SO LENGTHY

PROLOGUE

Anything else you need, Jay?”

“Oh! Nothing at all. You already did a lot. You are such a good friend, Ece. Thank you!”

“Aww, no problem, Jay, I just do what I can. I just want you to get better. I really need you back on the park. Alice is killing me with all her questions!” She is being modest. She has been practically my mom for the last week. Alice?

“I’ll be out of this nasty sick bed in a day, Ece. Don’t worry about me, you do well on your exams. All the best!”

“Aww, thank you!” she planted a kiss on her fingers which was later carefully transferred to my forehead.

“I just got sick, I’m not a child” I shouted as she left my room. She turned back and smiled at me before vanishing like a little fairy.

If it wasn’t for this high school sophomore who lives opposite to my big, lonely house, nobody would even care even if I disappeared for years. I can’t blame anyone, I’m hardly an ideal neighbor or one of any kind for that matter. Except when it comes to Ece. The kindhearted teenager who have a weakness for cute things has got me hooked since my first day here. She lives opposite to my house in a small two storey brick building with her mom and dad. Her room in the first floor is the main attraction of our otherwise boring street tucked inside the belly of a giant buzzing city. The walls outside were painted pink and boasted an unbarred lancet window. When she would occasionally peek through the window, it makes you feel as if you were transported a spring evening on a Shakespeare play. She is five feet tall and weighs around 55-60 Kg with a hair which can turn blonde anytime. As for me, the guy who knows too much about his neighbor. I’m 35. I once had a job which I don’t like to talk about. The old money and internet is enough motivation for me to never get out of house and, well, at least get out of house. So I have all the time in the world to lazy around in my house. That is until I met her! Now, I spent hours in our park. Always trying to create something to impress her. Or to keep her interested at least. Most of our good times are spent under the shades of Drew, the massive 100-year old banyan tree in our local park.

I woke up to the sound of my mobile phone. There were continuous texts from Ece. She was checking up on me from school. I replied her that I’m well and told her to come to the park directly.

“Jay? Are you sure you can do that?” she texted me.

“You are grossly underestimating me!”

“You are not gross *Kiss*”

“I didn’t say I was gross -_-”

“Alright, I will be there.”

My texting turned really weird since I started talking to her but that’s the least of my concern these days. I’m knee deep in a relationship which is blurring the dimensions. I have to admit, I feel closer to her more than I have ever felt closer to anyone. Feeling this way about a girl who is much younger than me is very confusing. I don’t think about it. Or at least try. When I trimmed my overgrown beard and mustache. It reminded me of her, sometimes she just touch my beard and say, “How’s my little forest growing? Should I water it?” with a delightful giggle. I put on a white cotton shirt and black jeans. A brown blazer to hide my age. With my mobile and a book on each hands, I left for the park.

The bright sunlight reflected from the red brick pavement. Why do I feel like a vampire turning human again? At the end of the five minutes’ walk to the park, park’s majestic steel gated entrance welcomed me with a creek. I took my time crossing the threshold, cherishing it. I walked to the far end of the park where the mysterious drew stands with his million roots hanging all over the place. I sat under him and opened my book. The rest of the world disappeared.

******

The

MIDDLE

“You know you look really old and cute when you are reading!”

I was surprised to see her sitting beside me on the bench. She brought me back to reality like how the sun peeking through the window wakes you up in the morning.

“When did you come? I’m so sorry for not noticing.”

“Oh it’s alright Jay, I know how old people are, I spend most of my time with one, and they get sleepy easily.”

“I wasn’t sleeping, I was just reading books” Am I too old to pout?

“Shh! it’s alright, Jay.” she bursts into laughter, “I’m just kidding. I know how you read books, it’s alright. I’m so happy to see you well, I missed you being here. Drew is so boring, He never talks about anything except wind.”

We laughed.

“Anyway, who do you always call me ‘Jay’? Aren’t you too young to call me ‘Jay’?”

“Aren’t you too old to play hide and seek with me last week?”

“Point taken!” I say with a straight face.

“And also what else can I call you? Old man? Blondie oldie! That would be a very good name, too bad you are not blonde”

“I can dye it!”

“Yes-“

“If you dye your hair red!” I bait with a smirk.

“Demi would kill me!” she actions slicing throat.

“MOM! Its mom. Why do you call everyone with their name?”

“What else are they for?”

We laughed again.

I want those precious moments when I feel lost in her smile every day.

I don’t remember why but we laughed again.

*******

“Just differentiate it!” I pointed to the equation on the note.

“And how should I do that?”

“Did you even look at the formulae I gave you yesterday?”

“Do you know a new song of Justin Bieber coming out today?”

Oh! Not him again. I wonder why she like him. He is not even good looking like me. It makes me crazy.

“How’s that have anything to do with our math lessons?” I flip through the book to find the differentiation formulae for her, while she ramble on about how he went to a trip and met some poor people and wrote that particular song on the way back.

“… So it’s in a different language and I had to find someone who knows how to translate it. So I spent all night on that and totally forgot about math. Oops!”

“Here! Read it now, then we will continue the lesson. Did you even bother asking me? Maybe I would know, what language is that?”

“But, do I have to learn all this now, I have an exam tomorrow, how about you give me some shortcuts?” she nudges her elbow on my arm and wink at me.

What is she? Why do I freeze every time she touch me?

“You are thinking shortcuts right?” she grins.

“What? Shortcuts?”

“I thought you are thinking differently shortcuts for me!” she roll her eyes.

“It’s differentiation.”

“Potato – Tomato!”

I started laughing uncontrollably. I don’t remember who else made me laugh this much in last… decade. What a boring life I had lived!

“I’m leaving! You are making fun of me, so I’m leaving!” her diamond eyes melted into a puddle.

I grabbed her instinctively, “Don’t go! Don’t! I need you!”

She stopped.

The very second I saw her eyes and the sad curves on her face, my heart filled with grief. Every moment with her was worth more than a lifetime. I can’t screw this up. I can’t scare her away, I can never lose her. At least not until she understands how I’m feeling about her. I have no choice, I have to make that cursed choice. I will play it cool.

“I mean… You need me! How else are you going to ace that math exam tomorrow and win the challenge with your mother and go to Disneyland! You may not know it now yet, little girl, but you need me.”

“More than you know!” I let her hand go.

She sits down silently and stare her book beyond the words.

“So are you ready to learn the shortcuts?” I grin.

“You are kidding! Really?” she is finally climbing back to her cheery self.

“On one condition! That you would read the formulae first!”

“Then why do I need shortcuts?”

“There’s a big difference between choice and ignorance. If you learn the formulae and use shortcut, that’s a wise decision of solving the problem efficiently. But if you don’t learn and completely rely on the shortcuts, its ignorance and ignorance is only bliss when you are lucky! So why don’t you start with a simple exponential one.” I turn to look at her snoring, her head face down on the book.

“You are kidding me right?”

“The ignorance of differentiation is exponentially lucky!” she whispers and giggles.

“I’m leaving!” I try to get up when she grab my arms with both of her hands with a big smile on the face, “Now we are even!” she winks.

“And don’t leave! I need you!” she says before start reading.

I sit there waiting, for the day she would say those words the way I want to hear them.

*******

I reached the park few minutes earlier today. I had to. I couldn’t sit in my house which is gloomy and heavy without her. I also decided to confronted her about few things, so I decided to came earlier and prepare myself for a conversation. Planned conversations are always so hard. I ran different scenarios within my mind, every time it always ended happily. I’m not sure if I argued too well with myself or I was stupid enough to believe everything I said. There’s only one way to find out. It’s like I’m locked in a cave, the one that is lonely, depressing and suffocating. Except for that time of the day, when a ray of sun visits me and with it brings everything a person need to live and be happy. What I’m about to do now is blast that tiny bit of hole so I can be free and one with sun and run alongside the wind in a field made of colorful flowers. The risk, as always is my sudden explosion could make the ceiling cave in and lock me alone forever without light and air. So yes, what else can grow wrong?

When I saw her entering the park gate, my legs started twitching and my eyes looked at the exit on the far side of the park and my mind was immediately routing a quickest path to it. I could have taken that route and disappeared and sleeping in my bed in 15 minutes if not for her hands waving at me from the gate. She signaled me to come towards her and I, like a thunder following the lightning, got up and started walking towards her.

“Did you get suddenly older?” she grabbed my hand to quicken my pace as we walked the circular path closer to the outside wall.

“Oh! You mean you never knew I was 35 before this moment?”

She squinted her eye and stared at me with a faint smile. I could just fall in love with her again just for that face.

“Ah! Don’t feel bad for not noticing before, my charm and British accent can do that!”

“You don’t have a British accent!”

“Bullocks. Poppycock, I have a very good British accent, Mate!”

She burst into laughter, “I’ll admit, you are old, charming and British! Everything a girl need it.” There she goes casually making a compliment which confuse me and flood my thoughts with that question. Maybe it’s time, to finally blast of that roof.

“Do you really believe that?” I slow down.

“Believe what?” she smiled at our park acquaintances.

“Hello, Jay. How about you join us, we could tell you about our new book. It’s very interesting.”

A minute hesitation could be my death. So I quickly reply, “Oh next time for sure.” I shout to the fifty group who looks at me puzzled. They might look innocent, but I still have another fifteen years to reach that place.

“If you want, you can join them! Alice has her eyes on you.”

“What? Alice? Alice, who?”

She laughs loudly, “She will be heartbroken if you tell her you don’t even know her name. Alice is the one that wearing the blue dress, look, she is staring at you. She is fifty though, if you are into those things.”

“Aren’t you too young to talk about these things?” I snapped at her, getting irritated from all the distraction.

“I’m not.” she quickened her steps and kept her head fixed straight.

What? How did this even happen? I’m supposed to steer the conversation into a romantic place where I could ask her that question. But now she is mad at me, all because of that old Alice and her friends. I followed her for a few minutes before gathering the courage to apologize. “I’m too old to walk this fast, you know. Being old and everything.”

She stopped and turned to face me. Her eyes were glittering with sunlight captured in her clear tears.

“Hey, are you okay?” I held her shoulder and led her to the closest bench.

“I’m really sorry, Ece. I didn’t meant to snap at you, those old people bring out some bad memories.”

“I’m not too young.” she repeated, her eyes were cold and still.

“I know, you are probably more mature than those groups. Combined!”

“I’m not young. Everybody thinks I’m too young to talk back, too young to understand, too young to help, but I’m not.”

“Who said those things? You are not too young to do anything. Remember I always get help from you. I always tell you everything. I always considered you as my equal.”

“Except when you called me too young?” she looked at my eyes. Her beautiful brown eyes covered in tears.

“That was a mistake. I’m really sorry. How about I make it up to you? Let me buy you an ice cream.”

“I’m not a kid, you can’t apologize by buying me ice creams!”

I fell silent realizing my mistake and my eyes starting to search for the ant which went under my shoe.

“Buy me dinner!”

I look at her, her tears starting to dry and she blinks at my smile.

“Alright then. I’ll buy you dinner, you can tell me what’s all this is about. Deal?” I get to and extend my arm to her.

“It wasn’t about anything.” she grabbed my arms and lifted herself up from the white wooden bench and we continued our walk.

“You may not be too young but I’m old enough to know about these things. And also,” I stop before the ice cream cart, “Nobody is too old for ice cream, ever, not even Alice and her mummified friends.” I point towards under the tree where the sixties are eating ice cream and laughing.

Her smile finally came back.

*******

“Is that a book? Did you seriously bring a book the diner?”

“Yes, it’s your math book. Remember you wanted me to teach integration.” I show her the book which I was keeping under the table.

“How did you have my math book?”

“Did you know where your math book was for the past week? If you knew, you wouldn’t ask this question. Small tip, it was in my house.” I whisper sarcastically.

“Who needs math book anyway? I want food. Did you know I like Burgers?” she wink at me.

“Oh! I’m not sure. You only talked about it every time we talked about food, so maybe it was on my mind,” I extend the book towards her, “Here! I marked the integration formulae, just read them when you have time.”

“I’ll read them when I come to your house so just keep it and I’ll be back after ordering,” she jump out of the chair and walk towards the counter.

She was wearing black skirt with pink over-knee socks. A white t-shirt on the top. I could have done this very differently only if she wasn’t wearing a pretty dress like that. Now I can’t concentrate enough to be brave or clear. So I wrote my question on a piece of paper and put it on the book, but for a guy who spend so much time with her, I have chosen the wrong place to leave notes. It’s time to think some contingency plan.

Maybe I can kiss her at the end of the date. At the thought of kissing her, I go crazy. I think I’ll just die of heart attack before the end of the night. I saw her walking towards me, it’s time to be finally man after all these years.

“I have to ask you something.”

“Oh! I ordered the same as for me, a chicken burger with extra meat!”

“What?”

She laughed, “I’m just kidding. Yes ask!”

“Do you think we have changed? I mean not individually, but as a couple. Not that we are a couple, just as in two people who are together or just not alone. You can stop me anytime you want!”

She burst into laughter. Her iconic laughing combined with her concern for me, she closed her mouth and muffled her laughing for few seconds before answering me, “Maybe! I never thought I would be having dinner with you when I first met you. I changed a lot in the past few months, more on that later!” She waved her hands towards counter.

We discussed Ece’s best friend Nina and her boyfriend throughout the dinner. It wasn’t what I hoping to talk about tonight, but what can I say? I’m pretty happy that she admitted something is different. She mentioned something about other changes, I hope it doesn’t include any other guys.

“So I asked her if she wants to be with a guy who doesn’t love her or be single.”

“Wow! That was straight to the point, what did she say?”

“Guess?”

“He is my life and soul, I can never be alone?”

She snorted her Coke and started laughing loud.

“Did she really say that? Or am I being too funny?” I smirked and grabbed a napkin and wiped her chin.

“Thank you! She didn’t say that, but something very close. I just don’t understand her, if he doesn’t love you after six months, when will he love her? A year? She have to waste her all that time running behind him? I don’t even care if he doesn’t love her, shouldn’t he have to at least care? He is just keeping her for sex.”

Now it was my turn to snort, “What?” I asked between my coughs.

She grabbed a napkin and smiled at me, but I plucked it from her hands before she reached my mouth. She gave me a confusing look.

“It’s cute when an old man do it for you, but it’s sad when you do it for an old man,” I wipe my nose and mouth. “What kind of logic is that?”

“Don’t worry about that. Do they really have sex?”

“Yes, I guess! Both of them says it, so it’s probably true.”

“You do know that sex before 18 is illegal right?”

“Doesn’t matter! I’m not too big on laws. 18 or not, no sex before you really understand what sex means and the risks and consequences behind it!” she casually gobbled a fries.

“And you know that?”

“I wouldn’t be talking about that if I don’t know about that!”

I carefully watched her as she went to war with her French fries. Like I thought behind all this childish nature of hating math’s, playing, joking, she is indeed mature, maybe even more than me! Maybe she would understand if I clearly say what’s on my mind, still that doesn’t mean she will accept it. Even more so, I don’t really know what to say. I have thought so much about for the past 5 days, since our differentiation class, but I could never understand it. What role an old guy who completed his life can play in her life, life which she hasn’t even started? Wouldn’t I be ruining her life? But Wouldn’t I be ruining her chance of happiness by staying away or hiding my feeling? Maybe I should wait for her to say something clear, maybe!

We finished our dinner and took a slow walk towards our home.

“It’s integration!” I broke the silence in the way I know.

“Not this again,” she frowned, “Do you want to talk about my other changes?”

“Oh! Yes, tell me.” with the constant chatter in my head, I completely forgot about it.

“Alright. I have been spending some time on internet.”

“Oh! That’s- “she watched my face closely, almost expecting something. Maybe she won’t tell me if I am not welcoming, “interesting!”

“It is very exciting actually!” She looked shy. It’s not good.

“What’s exciting?”

“Promise me you won’t tell my mom. There’s this guy. I think I like him.”

*******

“What do you mean you like him?”

“You know like ‘like’ like him. It’s a long story. I’ll tell you tomorrow on our morning walk.” her little feet ran into the house and I left there with a nod and smile to her mother who was standing near the door.

That was the last conversation I had with her since last week. It’s amazing how long I survived without ever leaving my house. For obvious reasons, I didn’t go for the next day morning walk or evening to park or the next day, well, so on and on here. I’m eating my last piece of bread toasted with the last piece of butter. I am now facing the inevitable awkward meeting. From time to time, she did knock the door or ring the bell even bang it sometimes or kick it maybe? I couldn’t muster up enough courage to open the door. I don’t know what I can say to her but more than that I’m scared of what she will say to me. Will she be mad at me? Well obviously, but would it be a love quarrel or friendship quarrel? My mind was buzzing with thoughts when I opened the door for the first time since that night, I forgot to notice her, looking at my door from the first floor window of her house.

“So what do you think?”

What do I think? Does it even matter?”

I kept my face down and held the milk bottle heavy on my hands as I hurried towards the shop around the corner. Few steps away from my house, I heard those familiar footsteps with a rhythm like any good poem would have. I did not dare to turn around. I hoped that it’s not her, it shouldn’t be her. I can’t meet her until I can express my actions clearly. But life is never really does have patience,

“You saw me, right?” she pulled my shoulder. There was a strength in her pull which I didn’t think she possessed.

“Hey, Ece!” I waved my flimsy hands awkwardly, “What do you mean?” Sometimes the best solution is the simplest ones.

“Don’t Pretend!” or not.

“I don’t know what you are talking about?” I hung my head down. I didn’t have the strength to keep pretending when I can see right before my eyes that she is deeply hurt.

“If you are just going to keep pretending then do that. If it wasn’t for my mom, I would have busted you on the first day. Have fun breaking hearts, Jay.” she spit the words while struggling to breathe between coughs and started walking towards her home.

“I am… I’m sorry”

There was nothing but silence and the sound of her footsteps, until mine joined them.

“I guess we have to talk, How about park after breakfast?” I clutched her hands as I reached her side. “You didn’t eat?” her eyes doesn’t want to see anything except the ground and our legs.

“Well, a pack of bread and a potato can only last so long.”

Even Though it was faint, I would take that as a success. I can still make her smile.

We walked in silence until we reached my home after our detour to get milk and eggs. As I was about to reach my pocket for keys, I realized it was still busy holding her hands. For the past few minutes, I never thought I’m holding on to something until I took a look at it myself, I think that’s what it meant to be in love, before we even have time to take a look at it, we are hooked and together, for life.

“Are you mad at me?”

I don’t think I have that kind of rights!?”

I struggled with my left hand in right pocket when she decided to grab the key for me and open the door wide open. Does women really take that much time to notice or are they just like to wait for men to announce it? Because just to be sure, I did.

“Should we make breakfast the same way? I would say you’re left and my right make a good pair?” I smiled at her and lifted our hands. The time with her is indeed amazing, I even forgot all of my guilt for making her sad in the last few days.

“You, may be good at math, but you are terrible at cooking!” she announced on her way to the kitchen.

“I would say I owe you a hundred more personal insults for the last five days.” I followed her.

“It’s not that easy, Jay! I know what you are doing, but I can’t really say anything until we have that talk.”

“I understand!”

She smiled at me faintly which brought all the guilt back. The room started to feel heavy and dark. “But can you tell me, what you meant by busting me? I thought you thought I wasn’t at home.”

“Well, hiding in home,” she weighed me with her eyes, “or hiding in general is one more thing you are terrible at. Scrambled or omelet?”

I have enough confusion for now, “omelet” I answered sinking deep into her words. What did she mean hiding in general? Does she know something? If yes then why didn’t she say anything?

Soon after that breakfast we had ‘that talk’ in our regular bench. It was the last day we spent as friends and our first moment as couples. Everything was right with the world after that.

“You have!” she ran inside her house pushing her mother to the side who is oblivious to our conversation

If only life is simple as my perfect mental simulation, there would be no need of psychiatrists.

*******

I finished telling him my entire experience with Ece on my third session. The weary old guy in front of me watched me like hawk for all that six hours while I spoke, never interrupting or never questioning. Maybe I am being overly specific explaining each moment of our encounter for the past three months and my mental state during each one of those, but I want a solution, so I did.

“So when did you see her last?” he asked me laying back on his perfect couch, finally releasing me from his sight.

“This morning, before coming here. She was talking to her mother in front of her house.”

“And when did you last spoke to her?”

“Last week, in front of her house.” “It seems to me that you know what you have to do. Whether or not, she is currently committed, you can never be in a relationship with her of a sort other than a friend-”

That was the last word which reached my mind. He continued to talk for almost another thirty minutes while I sat there running different scenarios in my mind for how I can walk out of there to piss him of the maximum amount. While I was in the middle of my decision, he left the room finishing the session. I sat there embarrassed for the reasons only I’ll know. In a weird sense, I felt young. To be forbidden of a relationship, to lose a chance to piss of an old guy reminded me of my childhood days with my father. Like him, this old man succeeded. I left the room after a planting my dusty feet on his couch.

I found myself walking happily and swiftly through the crowded roads when I stumbled on to her house front door like the dove on the magician’s hand. I finally found the courage after six seconds to pull the golden bell hanging on the side of the door. Her mother opened the Door after about a minute later with a determined look.

“She is sleeping.” she spoke the words before I could make up my mind on the way I’m going to apologize. She looked contended, maybe even happy. It’s not her fault, who would want their seventeen year old daughter to have a lover’s spat with an old man, not that it’s love or anything.

“I understand. Just tell her that I dropped by and I finally came back to my senses, after recovering from my fever I mean,” it’s not that it would fool her but it was my duty to at least give it a try.

“You were sick?”

“Was. Kind of. Tell her I’m visiting the park this evening if she wants to take a walk.” I departed the awkward moment after the acknowledging nod from her. I glanced at the window on the first floor, only to catch a glimpse of the little mermaid on the blue curtain.

The talk don’t have to make us couples or change the things between us forever to come but I have to fix the broken bridge so I can finally reach the world of living.

*******

As always, I was waiting under Drew for the past 20 minutes when she entered the gate. She deliberately avoided the eye contact until she was sitting next to me. She looked at me in eye for a second and said, “Hi.” At that second it was as though nothing happened between us and everything is perfect. But I know it wasn’t the case.

“Don’t you think he is a bit too formal for us?”

“Yeah well, I too don’t know what kind of rights I have with you.” her words stung me sharper than a needle.

“You know we can’t get mad at people who we are not close with, so it’s really good that we can get mad at each other.” I explained my observation.

She stared at me silently for a second before getting up.

“I’m sorry, about everything. I wish things didn’t happen the way it happened but can I get a chance to fix it?”

“I already gave you one but you are very interested in wasting it with sarcastic comments.”

“I wasn’t being sarcastic. I know we are close and I know I have huge interest and rights in your life. I getting mad at you is a proof that I care about you.”

“Oh, continue!”

“So when you care about people, it’s inevitable that you take some-” she interrupted, “What’s inevitable mean?”

“For this situation, let’s say unavoidable. So when you care about people, it’s unavoidable that you get mad at them when they do something, uh well, something which you don’t like. I’m not saying its right for me to get mad, but I’m just saying it’s a mistake, so please forgive me, Ece.” I took her hand and clasped them tightly within mine. Her hands felt cold and warm at the same time. The softness of it soothed my soul while my heart listened to the rhythm of the blood flowing within it. She was slightly taken aback from my gesture. I place her hands back on her lap slowly. She silently watched my actions without uttering a word, making it all too hard for me to understand if I did something wrong or right, “So can I take that silence as an acceptance of my apology.”

“Not yet! Maybe after a cup of ice cream.”

“I thought you don’t like ice creams.” I remember her breakdown on our last visit to the park. I totally forgot to talk about it in the dinner because of my feelings and all.

“Well, it’s not like I ate my stomach full for the last week. I’ll eat what I can get.”

I’m beginning to understand how my actions affected her over the last week. It’s time to make amends, “Then how about three scoops of strawberry ice cream after the dinner tonight.”

Her face like always explained her thoughts all too well and they screamed surprise and concerned. I spoke before she overthink anything.

“I promise, tonight dinner won’t end the same way,” I assured her calmly and tried to slowly grab her arms but failing.

“Tonight?” her face turned bright in more surprise.

“Well, I’m free!”

“Me too.” She swung her hands finally giving me the contact which I have been trying. Our fingers touched and I wrapped my hand around for a second before she pulled it away.

“I kicked a doctor’s couch!” I cut our silence with my rebellious experience from the morning.

“You did what?” she burst into laughter.

*******

“Please tell me you didn’t bring a book!” she screamed when she noticed me from the far end of the restaurant. I threw my hands up in the air to indicate that I am holding nothing and laughed.

“I’m coming over then,” she ran giggling towards the table and came to my side and hugged. I gently pulled away from her in surprise and smiled. She went to sit opposite of me and kept her smile pasted on her face.

“You look really happy, what’s the reason?”

“Food here is very good, do I need anything else?”

“You don’t but is there?”

“Okay, I wasn’t sure if I should tell you this, since you asked, I’m telling you. But before that, promise me, you won’t get mad,” she continued after my nod, “Do you remember the internet guy?”

My face twitched in all directions while I tried hard to hold myself from having a breakdown of some sort. She continued unaware of my internal struggle, “Today I blocked him!”

I barely stopped myself from jumping up screaming.

“What?” it’s no use, no matter how hard I try, I can’t hide this smile. I pulled a napkin and hid my mouth.

“Yes!” she continued after taking a sip from water, “I was dying to and waiting for the right moment. Today, he said something inappropriate, boom! That’s it!”

“But Are you okay?” I felt genuinely concerned somewhere between all the jumping to heaven and earth.

“Am I okay? I’m great. Today is my luckiest day I had since months. I threw away something bad and received something good.” she smiled at me shyly.

“I’m glad then.” I smiled back. In that second, no words were necessary. We were in a moment of suspended reality and complete understanding. We exchanged glances and meaningless smiles which warmed my heart and made me happier than I have ever been in years.

“We should probably order before they call the emergency to inform about a two weirdos who are playing statue in their restaurant,” She said, “Also I’m super hungry!”

I laughed gently, “I’ll go order then. Usual?” she nodded.

I quickly placed my order and hurried back to my seat in the hope of continuing our looking contest. When I reached our table, she had her phone out and smiling on the screen. My mind began to wander and so did my mouth. “So what are they saying?”

She took few seconds to understand my question and shrugged little, “Nothing important!” Her voice felt mature, So much more than her age.

“People are boring!”

“That’s why I hang out with you.”

“Here’s to us,” I raised the glass of water.

“Here’s to us,” She shouted enough for the entire restaurant to hear and giggled hiding behind the menu card. She checked her phone from time to time between our pointless talks and reason less giggles. I finally decided a way to politely ask her about it.

“So did your friends knew about the internet guy,” I motioned towards her mobile.

“Oh, No! I can’t tell them. It’s my friend Lara, She will either kill me or won’t care at all. Either way, it doesn’t go well for me.”

“Oh! That relationship sounds more complicated.”

“You have no idea! She would tell me everything and would expect me to tell her everything. But after telling her, she will react like I pushed my thoughts down her throat forcibly. Teenagers!” She shrugged.

“You make it sounds like you are not one.”

“I’m not, Jay. I have been a grown up since I was five years old.”

“True. To the grown up you!” I raised my glass again.

“To the grown up Ece!” she raised hers.

“You know, there’s a famous quote from an author, ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ but I know at least one person who I can say without a doubt is not wasting her youth.

She suddenly got up and hugged me from across the table, “I’m glad you are back, Jay. I missed you,” she whispered behind my head and kisses my Cheek quickly before settling down on her seat.

I felt frozen, with a sudden wave of happiness flooding my heart and mind. I suddenly lost my appetite and felt an immediate urge to hug her tightly and to never let her go again.

“I’m sorry!” I apologize immediately as the guilt overcame me.

“What’s done is done. Let’s look up to our future,” she motioned her hand to the right and pointing the server bringing food, “For now it’s filled with chicken burgers and freezing coke!”

“Not to forget the ecstatic French fries.”

We laughed and received the food and held our burger in hands and glanced an all knowing look in to each other’s eyes before taking a bite. Five minutes in to dinner, she suddenly made a comment holding a French fry in her hands, “The most important reason why French is so sexy!” I laughed and nodded in agreement.

I noticed a bit of ketchup on her lips. I quickly grabbed the napkin and the opportunity to reach my hand across the table and wiped her lips. She nodded thanks and continued eating as if nothing happened.

I decided to talk about subject of the night when she was sipping the last of her coke, “I hate to be the old guy spoiling the fun, but I have to talk about something.”

“Don’t tell me you hid a book under the table,” she quickly ducked under the table with a laugh.

“That’s for dessert!” I joked before continuing on serious tone, “What happened that day at park? Why did you cry?”

“You know today has been the perfect day I had since your little stunt last week. Can we do this later?” She pleaded placing her coke on the table without finishing.

“If you are being honest then of course I’m okay with that, but if you are thinking I’ll forget this, it’s not happening.”

She sighed tiredly and took a long pause before breathing, “Mom and dad are fighting. A lot, recently. It’s so obvious what’s their problem is but they are not searching the solution rather searching for a way out.”

“What?” I shouted in surprise. I may not have known them enough for that to be a surprise but Ece never mentioned the seriousness of their fights.

“That day, I finally decided to step in and advised them but they dismissed me saying ‘I’m a kid’ ‘I don’t know anything’ ‘you are too young to talk about this’ like they can talk, they are fighting like kids when the solution is right in front of them.”

I quickly realized how insensitive my comment might have been that day. Even with all these she never showed her sadness before that second. I reached and held her hands firmly as she struggled hold back her tears. Before I could reach, she wiped her tears with the napkin in her hands.

“I’m sorry, Ece. I didn’t mean to make you remember all of that.”

“It’s not like I could ever forget. Things like this don’t go away. I was planning to tell you, I didn’t want to scare you away or something.”

“Hey! You can never scare me away. I promise that’s not what happened that night.” I squeezed her hand firmly.

“Then what happened? What did I do wrong, you had to hide from me for a week?”

I hung my head down in shame and confusion of which answer to give her.

“Answer me, Jay! Isn’t that the whole point of this dinner?” She pulled her hands away from my grip. I felt like I was about to be drown and disappear into the darkest depth of the ocean. With a quick motion, I quickly grabbed her back instinctively. She seemed somewhat surprised and understanding from my actions.

“I don’t want to lose you!” I fought back the tears which can wash away my manliness, “You are my lifeline in this world and without you I would suffocate and die and disappear. If it wasn’t for you, nobody would notice if I die and rot in my house for years. Of course if not the smell.” I noticed the sudden dark turn of my speech and quickly made amends. “I was jealous that if you started having a relationship, you wouldn’t spend time with me.” I revealed the truth as much as I can without confusing her with my feelings. She placed her other hand over mine and comforted me and assured me she would always spend time with me. I may have very well turned this into an old man’s fear of being alone. We left the restaurant after composing ourselves, our hands still entwined, finally my dream coming true, piece by piece.

“So where to next?” she asked after checking her phone, “I still have 20 minutes before curfew.”

I pulled her hands without a word and started walking towards an ice cream shop I saw on the way to that immature shrink. I explained her everything about my sessions as best as I could without mentioning her or my feelings for her and told her a lie that it was mandatory visit prescribed from my doctor.

“Why don’t we send them to that doctor you visited?” She screamed as if she was listening to my thoughts.

“I’m not sure. He looked kind of dumb. ” I dismissed her idea and fastened the pace.

“Did he call you old?” she giggled.

“No! Yes, but that’s not the reason. Either way he is not a relationship counselor so how about we find a relationship counselor for your parents,” I added sarcastically, “If they are not going to listen to you for free, let them listen to a guy say the same thing for money. They will think he is a genius.”

“Actually, that’s sounds like a great idea. Let’s do that.” We reached the ice cream shop as we discussed how we should search and agreed on internet search and strawberry.

I licked hiding my desperation, “What’s the solution you were talking about? You said its right in front of them.”

“Sex!” She rolled her eyes unwrapping her ice cream. Is she really just seventeen?

*******

“So when is the last time they did that, you think?” I tried to awkwardly continue the conversation.

“Sex? Not for months.” She threw the wrapper in the dustbin and came jumping towards me. She entwined her fingers with mine and gave it a swing like it was the natural thing to do with hands for us.

“Maybe we can help them do it?”

She stared at my face for a few seconds before whispering, “Sex?” Her lips widened when she saw my face cringe. She came dangerously close to my face and gave me an evil smile before Shouting in my ears, “Sex! Sex! Sex! Sex!” From her echoing laugh, I knew that my facial reactions were very satisfactory. I felt like our roles were reversed. It’s not like I’m a stranger to sex. I had my fair share of sex back in the days, or at least half the fair share! Hearing that word from her mouth feels as if there’s being another dimension added to our relationship, when I’m fairly struggling with existing ones. The new one is extremely dangerous and illegal, not to mention. I grew nervous by second while my heart was beating faster and faster. I was witnessing two worlds merging within my mind, the ones I have never linked before but was always meant to be one. She slowly turned to a women right before my eyes from a small girl. The appearance might not be different but my perspective definitely different from a few moments ago. I quickly diverted my glance, cursing myself which have to be careful about yet another matter.

Her smile vanished, while I was lost in my thoughts, rather like fighting my thoughts. She glanced at her phone and put it back in her pocket murmuring something, “I have to go.” her last words were loud enough for me to hear.

“Oh!” Suddenly I was worrying about only one thing, the thought of not seeing her till the next day.

We walked in a hurried pace towards our home in silent. Various thoughts fought inside my mind like gladiators in an arena, finally one rose victorious amongst the fading thoughts, “Morning walk tomorrow?” I expressed my immediate concern.

“Shit!”

“Language!”

“Sorry,” her eyes apologized while her lips cringed, “We are going to a wedding tomorrow. It’s a cousin from dad’s side of the family. I’ll be back after the weekend but they might stay.”

“Are you sure you can be back? Where’s the wedding?” my stomach started turning slowly.

“Yes, I guess! I’ll try my best to catch the last train!”

“That sounds dangerous,” I smiled on an exciting thought, “Why don’t I come pick you up?”

“Late night train, Car ride with you,” she balanced her hands, as if she is weighing her options, “I would say, Car ride with you is the dangerous one.”

“Address??”

“I’ll text you before I leave.” She smiled innocently.

I stood there unable to shake the stupid grin on my face.

“Thank you,” her face calm and serious, “For everything!”

Before I could open my mouth, she ran inside her home waving her hands towards me. I left there after replaying that evening in a montage of her smiles and laughs. I have a feeling that today is something different, that it’s a start of something special, but to tell the truth that’s how everyday with her feels. It’s all the first day of a brand new life.

*******

“Millennium Park – 609109”

I held the phone firmly in my hands and went to my door. I peeked outside through the transparent glass panel next to the door. As my brain starting to wake up, I heard the sound of their door opening and a slow chattering. Her mother came rushing out of the house with a bag in her hands. As she reached the car and placed her bags in the trunk, I saw a bright smiling face appear out of the darkness beyond the door. She was slightly pulling her dad’s hand and led him to the car. The awkward dance between the husband and the wife reminded of Ece. My chest felt heavy on the thought of how she is going to handle them. Soon the car left my view and I felt a sadness and loneliness creeping around me. I took my phone out and replied her.

I assume ‘three letters’ didn’t happen yet.

The reply was quick enough to question the human involvement behind it.

You were standing near the door, right?

Don’t worry about them, I have a plan!

Do you have cameras installed inside my home?

Also, Good luck with the plan, whatever it is!

Thank you!

You are welcome!

I went back to bed and wrapped myself with a thick blanket, forgetting the existence of anything beyond it. My mind wandered to our last night conversation on phone. I quickly grabbed it and read them again, reliving that moment. I had texted her ‘pills?’ as an idea to get her parents resume their long last sex life. According to Ece, they didn’t have sex for at least a year! So who knows what can happen!

I woke up around 10 to the sound of my house bell ringing continuously. I slowly stumbled to the door and took a minute to pace myself before opening the door. The bright sunlight hurt my eyes equally as the sight of the person standing before my eyes. It was candela, my ex-girlfriend from the college. She invited herself inside the house. Rudely. Before I could decide which question to ask her first. An anger rose inside me as I took a deep breath and asked her, “What are you doing here?”

“Aww, what happened to your kind nature? You used to be so warm!”

My mind shoot to Ece’s face when I heard the word ‘warm’. A smile escaped my lips before I composed myself.

“See! You are happy to see me! Same for me too!” she shrieked, every word, unnecessarily excited.

“I’m not happy to see you. Can you leave after answering me why you came here?”

She slowly opened her purse and ran her hands through it, “I moved few streets from here with Dra, remember from my high school, and I just thought I would invite you for a housewarming party,” she handed me a small minimalistic invitation. “Oh that’s nice, few streets here! Out of all the planets in the universe!” I said, “Do you want breakfast?” Damn these habits! Please don’t stay. “It’s 1 in the noon, Jp, so I already had breakfast. Dra is waiting for me in the car anyway, so I’m leaving.” She turned back swift and walked away from the house in to a black sedan parked in the front.

“Candela, Wait!” I shouted.

“Aww, do you miss me already?”

“No, Never! I just have one thing to ask.”

“You can ask me anything, my darling.”

“What kind of stupid name is Dra?” I hope she takes that as no.

“By the way, don’t call me ‘Jp’ ever,” I shouted as she hurriedly lowered the side mirror, “I’m not your darling anymore.”

*******

I glanced my wrist. It was 9.15. I haven’t worn a watch in the last decade, haven’t rode a car for the last few months, never thought about asking out a girl who is heck of a lot younger than me. What the hell is happening to me?

As soon as I entered, I saw the bench which stood under a gigantic oak tree in a corner of the park, I immediately knew that will be the spot.

I tapped a finger on her shoulder, secretly hoping that she would scream and run into my arms. She did not. She flashed a pleasant and content smile, “Which sky do you think is beautiful?”

“Which sky?” I took a seat beside her, my hands met hers in halfway and our fingers did the rest of the job. For a second, I dived to deepest of oceans and came back.

“Yes, Which one, night or day?”

“Oh!” I backed off, “I can’t choose.”

Her eyes were wide in surprise prompting me to continue.

“Well, the sky is like my parents. Day is my mother and night is my father.”

Her squinted eyes peered into my soul disapproving, I continued before she would smack my head. I genuinely thought she would, if I don’t provide a lengthy monologue. I took a breath in.

“Morning sun wake me up with a hand so warm and it fills me in with courage and hope for the day, like my mother have done for years and years. I am never afraid during the day. There was no reason to be. Noon sun burned me, a few times, but she always calmed down with a smile over the horizon in the evening and soothed my soul. Night on the other hand,” I sighed my lungs out, “Nights are cold, dark, unforgiving. Nights are how winter sneaks into the summer. My dad is a winter, a long and freezing one, which pushes us to be utterly careful and efficient on every little things. But even in all that cruelty, he only wanted to lead the best he can, to make me the best I can, by guiding me with his cold moonlight.”

“I feel like you already have a favorite.”

“Days are comforting, but it is a dangerous thing. It will drown your identity. After all, a story without struggle is never interesting, much like mine!” I stood up, her hands still stitched with mine, “that’s why I say, always swim against the current”

The quick pull jolted her out on legs. She instinctively started walking down the path, swinging our hands.

*******

“You did what?” I started laughing uncontrollably.

“They probably be humping right now,” she said plainly.

“Humping? What happened to you in this weekend? You were mesmerizingly romantic just a few seconds ago!”

“I guess you just don’t know me completely!”

“I somehow doubt that. You are one of those rare things which I’m extremely good at,” I smirked.

“Really? Alright, quiz time! What’s my favorite color?”

“Easy-”

“Wrong! It’s Pink, not easy. What’s my favorite food?”

“Burger and fries”

“Duh! Wrong again. Chicken burger and French fries.”

I smacked her softly in the back of her head, “You are cheating.”

“Did you just hit a girl? That was low, Jay, Way too low!”

I laughed, “By the way, where did you get those pills anyway? Viagra, was it?”

She gave me her cynical look before answering, “I have my connections. Like I said, you don’t know me.”

“Maybe!”

******

A simple

Epilogue

It’s been a few months since that night. I have completely given up on asking her out. It’s just too risky. Until today! She came home with a guy on his bike. So I asked her to come to the diner. I said ‘Come and witness your life change right before your eyes!’ what was I thinking?

“Why did you order already?” She pouted while sitting.

“No, It’s just coffee. Sorry, I was nervous.”

“Why were you nervous?”

“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Who was that girl? The one who dropped you at home.”

“Oh it was not a girl. A guy from my class.”

“Please don’t date him!” words flew out before I could stop.

“Who said I’m going to date him?” she chuckled.

It’s not too late, I can still save some face, “Please date me!?” Not anymore.

“What?” she left before I could discern her reaction. I ran outside and up to her. My hands magnetically getting attached to hers, “Why can’t we?”

“Jay, I thought you are smarter than this.”

“Please don’t talk about age. Age is just a number when the heart matches. Everybody says love doesn’t know color or gender or distance, but they lose their mind when it comes to age. Is age difference in relationship really that bad? It’s not like all other relationships are perfect. People break up all the time, Cheat many times. But can we start saying love is bad because of that? Like that you can’t have a prejudiced opinion about a relationship just because there are other people who misuse it. You know why age matters? It’s because people of different age tends to think different, but does age really matters when two people are perfectly blended just like us? Please don’t say no to me!”

“Jay! I wasn’t going to say no. Also who do you think opposes age difference? Every celebrities and rich men have a relationship with enormous age difference. Nobody would care if we suddenly start dating now!”

“Then what did you mean?”

“Uh! I meant we are already DATING! Look at us, we practically spend all our time together, obviously care about each other, Love- Shit. No”

“Wait! What?” Don’t you dare fail me now, my ears!

“The answer to your question! I’m leaving,” her face was red as cherries as she began running.

“You know I’m going to change my Facebook status to ‘in relationship’,” I shouted.

“Why are you so old?” she laughed, her eyes shining like a distant star.

Because it took me too long to find my love.

*****************************************************

© All rights reversed – Jeren Nazuto.

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14 thoughts on “Tangled Lives

  1. I had a lot of mixed feelings about the topic and feel of the novel Jay, I must confess it’s not a genre i would be comfortable reading but then there are those that will relate to this story very deeply.

    I liked Jane’s advice and comments and she is a talented and intelligent writer I’d take her very helpful comments. Before I continue, let me just say that I respect your writing and so salute your effort in getting this out. so that if the comments are too negative you will forgive my stinging words! you do dialogue well, but to me there was too much of it. i liked your descriptions, gives me a good visual picture of where they are in the story and what they are doing. This is your talent.

    I cringed at the relationship that was developing but in about 10 years for these two that would not have made a difference it does at present time. however it was good that you gave this guy in the story a bit of a conscience about pursuing the relationship. Love is weird right, we don’t choose who we love. but the girl could have had more substance or was it your intention to create a typical teenager? then you succeeded! maybe if she had more depth she would have been more likable (to me!). or maybe he was trying to capture a youth he had been denied and found her exuberance irresistible.

    you have created a novel that would make a very interesting and animated book club discussion! as it sort of your first draft, it’s a huge accomplishment, now time to refine it even if gets slashed and reinvented you have the passion to do it and i am sure it will be given a lot of good improvements.

    Lastly thank you for the privilege to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so so much, Gina! For these wonderful feedback. I can’t thank you enough.
      I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for dialogue, I just can’t imagine a scene without dialogue because I personally feel all our real life situations are filled with dialogue of varying intensity and lengths, so if you have some more words on how I should handle them, it would be a great help.
      I know the topic was a bit scary, I felt intimidated by it, but when we have a story to tell, can we ever resists no matter how unconventional it is, can we?
      Also I was going for a typical teenager because I’m not sure really why. It’s just how that character was conjured by my mind at that time.
      I think “love is weird” a sentence anyone can relate to!
      I am honored that you think this can be discussed at a book club!!!
      You are welcome and thank you so much again for the great tips!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll comment here because I can see this is just a first draught. But if you want to publish something, best not to post it on your blog. It counts as publishing and you’ve lost first publishing rights on it.
    First i’d say it’s generally considered not a good idea to start with dialogue for the simple reason the reader doesn’t know the people who are speaking. Introduce them first. Also, you use their names in conversation far more often than is natural. I can see you have to do this to differentiate the speakers when all we have is dialogue. I’d fill the intro out more so you don’t have to do that.
    The prologue doesn’t seem to be a prologue in that it doesn’t fulfil the function of a prologue, it’s just the start of the story. The section called The Middle also launches straight into dialogue before we really know much about these two. I’d take time to get their characters sorted out especially as you’re entering dangerous waters here with an older man’s relationship with an under age girl.

    I’m having problems with internet this evening—very slow—so I’ll have another look at this tomorrow.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. i understand, Jane. Maybe its just about the viewers perception as long as our writing is good as a certain level. I still think i can learn a lot from you, though!

        Like

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