It was on a sunny day in the year 1995. I stood by a tree in the park, with a box brimmed with origami hearts – it was what she wanted, or so she told me.
“Hey!” I called, waving her over in the middle of her game of hide-and-seek.
“What?” she asked.
Her hazel eyes reflected my grin, as I handed her the gift. That day, she wore a yellow floral dress with puffed sleeves. Alike a princess, she caught my breath in her innocence and grace.
“What’s this?” she asked. “And who are you?”
“It’s what you wanted,” I said.
“My mummy says I shouldn’t talk to strangers.”
“And your mummy is right.”
She frowned, as bewilderment glazed her small face. I had the urge to reach down – to brush her hair – but I pocketed my hands instead.
“Anyway, that’s for you. Happy Valentine’s Day, Emily,” I said.
“Eww!” she exclaimed. “You’re not my boyfriend.”
I chuckled. And just when she proceeded to unwrap her gift, I left.
1995 was the last year I saw her. It was also the last time I did something for her. But it wasn’t the only time. At least, in this respect, I was in control.
It was on a rainy day in the year 2007. I stood outside the diner, with an umbrella and a bouquet of velvet roses. It wasn’t something she wanted, but perhaps something she needed.
She once recounted a tale of being stood up by her date. The boy blamed the weather for his no show, and she laughed at the absurd excuse. But as I caught the glistening tear, trailing down her cheek that evening, I needed to rewrite history.
Entering the quiet eatery, I confidently strolled to her booth. In the warmth of the building, she wore a polka-dotted, monochrome mini dress. When I halted before her, she gazed at me expectantly. Then realising I wasn’t her high school crush, she turned away. Her disregard of my presence broke my heart. But I wasn’t there for me – I was there for her.
“I have something for you,” I said.
“I don’t know you,” she replied, eyes fixated at the barren street outside.
“Someone asked me to deliver these to you,” I added.
Shoving the bouquet in front of her face, I left her with no choice but to accept it. And when she did, she promptly asked, “Who?” Her dejected mien now replaced with curiosity and anticipation.
“Not whoever it is you’re waiting for, that’s for sure,” I replied. I had to tell her – he wasn’t worth her time.
“Your secret admirer.”
“I have a secret admirer?”
I nodded. I contemplated on asking if I could join her, but the eyes behind the counter narrowed on me like a hawk. So after acknowledging the presence of the stranger, I turned to her and wished, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Emily.”
“Who’s my secret admirer?” she repeated. “Tell me.”
I shrugged in reply. Then before I raised further suspicion, I stalked into the wet outdoors – leaving her wondering from behind the glass window.
2007 was a memorable year. I lingered for months to see the result of my intervention. It didn’t alter the course of history, but it did repaint a memory in good light. That was my intention all along… after I failed her.
It was on a cloudy day in the year 2017. I stood by the sidewalk, moments before her death. She wore a red, fitted dress – one I told her not to, but she insisted anyway.
“I’m ready,” she said.
“No. Let me try again,” I replied.
“You said it yourself. Nothing you do can save me.”
“Please let me try.”
“How many times have you said that – how many times will you watch me die?”
She wasn’t afraid of death. The fear in her eyes, and the dryness in her voice, were for me. She fought back the tears, threatening to break her in the face of death, for me. And at that moment – the moment I’ve experienced countless times – I knew it was the last. Her words were different. Her countenance was foreign. In this timeline, she embraced her fate.
“Emily,” I pleaded.
“I don’t want you to live your life on repeat. Please let me go this time.”
“I can’t do that. I cannot let you go.”
“You can. And you will.”
“No, I need to go back. There’s a loophole somewhere. I know there is.”
She sighed. Then reaching for my hands, she said, “If you must go back, then go back. But when you do go back, don’t return to this moment.”
“Let this be our first and final goodbye.”
A wrenching pain wrapped inside my chest. Its asphyxiating nature dragged my soul into a darkness I never knew existed. My throat tightened in response. My head scrambled for words I couldn’t say. And my eyes blurred in her final moment alive.
“I love you,” she said, with a thin smile.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
That was, indeed, our first and final goodbye. Of all the endings to her life, I’d found the one with the most peaceful facet. And so I heeded her words – I went back.
It was on an ordinary day. I stood before the place I called home. As I reached for the door, ready to accept the life within, the door opened from inside.
“You’re back!” she squealed. “Happy Emily Day!”
With a smile, I picked her up for a tight hug. That day, she wore a navy blue jumpsuit.
“Happy Emily Day, Emily. Did you miss me?” I asked.
“Every second of every day.”
“I missed you too, Emily.”
Every second of every day.
Love, hearts, and roses were words given by breezyonthebeach. In fact, they were given as a Valentine’s Day prompt last year. I thought, since it’s Valentine’s Day next week, I might as well run with them.
Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. If you’re not up for a fictional tale, then recount your Valentine’s Day with these 3 words. It shouldn’t be difficult… unless you’re as single as I am.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2017 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)