It had been a year since they spoke, over an unorthodox phone call that he couldn’t quite forget. He wasn’t a saint; he couldn’t pretend that he hadn’t thought of giving up. But she hadn’t let him.
He remained obscured as he pulled his coat around his chin. A strange liquid fire coursed through his stomach, but a chill ran down his back. He peered at a tiny rectangular box, probably the size of his palm, wrapped neatly in blue and silver gift paper. Beside it were two familiar cups seated neatly by the doorstep. Her doorstep. He couldn’t recall the route he took to get there. He couldn’t tell how long he had been driving. He almost couldn’t recognise the waves of realisation that hit him when he spotted two cups of unclaimed coffee, now cold from the winter chill, waiting for him. He could only remember that his resolve was broken the minute he picked up his phone that morning.
She had reached out to him with a simple text, one that he could hardly negate, reading it five times over, or more.
“Just about a year ago in the midst of the not-so-cheerful festive season, I received the strangest yet most heartwarming call. I’ll like to share the love this time. I’ve been wanting to leave a little something for you, but I still don’t know who you are or where I could find you. I’ll leave it at my doorstep, like you once did.”
His eyes stung with unshed tears. Why, he had asked. Why had she entertained his misbehaviours? Why had she conceded to his impertinence? Why hadn’t she demanded an answer, or threatened to walk away when she didn’t get one?
“If you’d wished to remain a secret, or set ground rules to this, I guess I have no right to challenge it. I was hoping I could recognise you somehow; grab a coffee or something. It’s been a year, and I haven’t. That didn’t mean I hadn’t wanted to give up. But somehow you were always there. Always here. You didn’t let me.”
They were afraid to lose what they shared, yet they had trudged on since their serendipitous encounter, in little ways they each knew how to. She had asked if he would come by. He had impetuously dialled her number and hung up almost instantly when the line got through. He felt juvenile, although he couldn’t help it. He was certain he would have spilled the emotions clamped within his chest, and blurted words he didn’t want her to hear; at least not over the phone, yet. But it wasn’t a game, and he should have known that there shouldn’t be rules. His heart writhed when he imagined what his compulsion might have made her feel.
She was stronger than that.
“Maybe one day, when you’re ready to break the rules, you’ll let me know who you are.”
He stood at her door, his knuckles white from the grip he held on his phone. His right index hovered hesitantly, momentarily, almost precariously, over the doorbell.
His finger remained poised over the ‘send’ button on his screen.
He retreated, slowly tucking his finger within his palm, into the shelter of his gloved fist.
This is Part 7, and the final installation of a story about two strangers.
It started with a call that can be found here at Part 1 here. The rest of the parts are linked up at the end of each post.