Tag Archives: novelette

Serendipity for Christmas

The train doors slid open with a mechanical sweep and she stepped in amongst the other passengers.

Always, she is plugged into her earphones and always, she prefers to lean against the glass panel at the doorway.

The doors remained gaping as the last human trickles filtered in, as he did, through the very doorway she had entered.

Like her, he chose to lean against the glass panel at the doorway, right across from her.

Instinctively, she looked up in the same instance that he did.

Their eyes met.
And they held each other for a few moments.

And in those few moments, her mind was darting through her memories to recognise his face, as he too seemed to be doing.

A sense of wonderment surged through and made her hold up a hand to her mouth in delighted astonishment; across from her, amazement shone from his eyes as a smile crept onto his face, and he came towards her.

To quote him, a serendipitous encounter as such is a magnificent Christmas gift.

And it is. 🙂

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(I Hate This) Love Song – part three

He pushed his fork into the spaghetti and twirled it, then pulled up the caught strands and put them slowly into his mouth as I watched, enthralled at the carefulness with which he ate, thinking how much like a little boy he resembled at that instance. Chewing as carefully, he looked up to meet my gaze and I smiled.

“How’s my recommendation? The food’s good isn’t it?”

“Yeah I like it. Coffee’s great too.”

“I come here to feel young all over again,” he grinned. “But seriously, that it is a social enterprise warrants our support.” “Now I can’t wait for dessert,” I grinned back.

I put my spoon down and took a sip of my ristretto. Warm lighting bouncing off the creamy-white walls amidst the already rowdy ambience of the cosy cafe, and it was barely lunch time. Outside, lush green trees threw shadowy patterns onto the stony sidewalk while bright blue skies beckoned in the distance. It would be a beautiful albeit sweltering day.

Returning to his presence, my eyes met his. He held my gaze, unwavering and steadfast, a slight smile curling up the corner of his lips. I felt uncomfortably aware of myself and wondered what he saw in my eyes. He did not turn away, still motionless yet relaxed, and I began to squirm inside. Flustered, I broke off abruptly and looked away.

He didn’t.

He was still looking. Still stripping me down layer by layer, slowly but surely, till finally I stood before him, bare to my being and naked to my soul.

I took his gaze again, pleading with him to stop. Stop rendering me helpless. Helpless to prevent myself from sinking deeper into his eyes. Eyes that drown out the world, that everything ceases to exist except the two of us.

“I’ll get them to serve our desserts now,” he said finally. I let out a breath, and he laughed and winked.

“What are you thinking?”

“Just wondering…”

Desserts came, a pretty arrangement of sweets and ice. I picked up my dessert spoon as he did. Then he stopped.

“Such a heavenly view.”

I’m gonna give you my heart
I don’t care –
Even if you tear me apart
I want to die in your arms.

 

– End of part three –

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(I Hate This) Love Song – part four

Had done this some time ago but was waiting for part three to kick in. I guess part four’s a rebel that ran away with me.

 

Funny how the simplest things are always the toughest.

Wryly, I pressed the knob on my phone and watched the screen light up for the umpteenth time then wane again. I sighed and turned my attention to the mangled slip on the table. The faded numbers called out, familiar yet distant.

I’m too old for this, I griped silently. I turned the screen back on and unlocked it. The message I composed looked up and I stared down at it a while before I keyed in those crumpled digits.

Then I sent it.

For the rest of the day I immersed myself in work, refusing to give in to my curiosity. Yet when I finally checked my phone, still a tinge of disappointment with the non-reply. “Well, at least I’ve done what he asked.” With impending deadlines, I quickly shelved the incident from my mind to focus on them.

“… so with the new tone that the client’s looking at, we’ll have to tweak the copy a bit…” Another meeting with more edits. I was taking notes on my phone almost frantically when an incoming call interrupted my fingers. Apologetically, I excused myself and placed the phone to my ear, walking briskly out of the room.

“Hello? Sorry, who’s this?”

“Ah. Hang on please.”

I could hear two voices in the background as I waited, then a rustle and someone spoke.

“Hello.”

I froze.

“Hey it’s you. Good to hear from you. I was thinking you might not have gotten my message.”

“Yes, I got it. Sorry I didn’t reply till now; it’s been hectic.”

“I can imagine. So yep, ankle’s fine, no worries.”

He laughed; that nasal, deep chuckle.

“But there’s one part of the message I didn’t quite get. You said you didn’t mean to ask for my autograph?”

“Oh… er, it’s a long story, but never mind. It’s good anyway.” Damn, shouldn’t have added that in.

“So you didn’t want my autograph?”

“Er… no, that’s not what I meant! I mean er… ahh…” I was tongue-tied with the sudden need to explain, worsened by the knowledge that the whole meeting entourage was waiting for me.

“Yes?”

“Erm…. can I call you back? I’m….um, actually in a meeting.”

“Ah, sorry to interrupt. Yes, you can call me at this number any time today.”

“Okay. Sorry about this. I’ll get back to you.”

“Sure. Hear from you then.”

“Alright, bye.”

 

– End of part four –

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(I Hate This) Love Song – part two

Making my way through the last of the dispersing crowd, I went towards the stage. The crew was beginning to take everything down. Scanning the area frantically, a sinking feeling hit my gut as I realized he had probably left.

As though answering my dismayed thoughts, I heard echoes of his voice. Interspersed with deep laughter and other voices, it was trailing from backstage and fading fast. Without thinking, I sprinted towards its direction. Suddenly I heard a loud crash and my view shifted abruptly downwards, followed by a slam as my left shoulder hit the ground.

My world started to spin as a sharp, searing pain at my ankle made its presence felt, and I began to feel nauseous. I heard voices shouting and the sounds of running footsteps but I could not concentrate on them. There were only two things on my mind – the finality of my lost chance and the excruciating feeling in my leg. I pushed myself up painfully and sat holding my spinning head with my right hand, trying to recover from the nausea of the pain.

From the voices swimming around, I heard someone ask me if I was alright. “I’m sorry… I’m fine… really, just let me… let me make a call… I’m…” Before I could continue, someone knelt at my side and then an arm encircled my waist. That same person took my left arm and draped it around his shoulder.

“Can you stand? Let’s try slowly.”

I stiffened and turned. There he was beside me, and there I was, in a most unglamorous state! Embarrassed, I could not bring myself to look at him but simply nodded and bit my lip. Supporting my weight with his arm, he grasped my left hand tightly against his shoulder, then slowly heaved me up on my good foot. I gasped as the pain threatened to intensify and his grip tightened.

“It’s okay, lean on me. Think you can walk a bit?”

“Yeah… I-I think so…”

I turned to look at him. There was a serious look of concern in the way he regarded me. I forced a weak smile and nodded. Someone offered to help; he shook his head but nodded towards my spilled belongings on the floor.

“We’ll try to get to the dressing room. I’ll go slow. Let me know if it works up.”

It was one of the most arduous journeys I made on foot. Though the dressing room was just a short distance away, every step sent excruciating stabs through my body. Gritting my teeth, I forced myself to go on. In the privacy of the dressing room, he helped me into a chair. Then he knelt down and slowly pulled up the cuff of my jeans leg. His expression changed when he saw the swollen, bruised joint and I braced myself for his next question.

“Doesn’t look good. We’ll have to get you a doctor. What were you doing on the stage anyway?”

“I er… I uh… I heard you guys leaving and um, I needed… I wanted to speak… er… I wanted to speak to you.”

“To me? What about?”

I was stumped. Who was I to assume he wasn’t the person he was portraying on stage in real life? He’d think I was cracked up. “I… er… I wanted an autograph,” I stammered lamely, feeling utterly foolish.

“What would you like me to sign on?”

“I uh… I er… forgot to um, bring it.”

He laughed, a reverberating deep-chest chuckle that made me flush at the silliness of what I had just uttered. Then he stood up and pulled out a slim leather case from his back pocket. Flipping it open, he rummaged through and drew out a slip of paper. He scribbled something on it, then with a hint of a twinkle in his eyes, placed the slip of paper in my hand and said, “It says ‘recover soon and all the best’. And that’s my signature below it.” Just as the exhilaration of getting his autograph kicked in, someone came in to say the ambulance had arrived.

He nodded, then turned to me and said, “The ambulance is here, but I can’t stay. They’re waiting for me outside.” I nodded. “You better go. I’m sorry about this and thanks for the autograph! Real swell, no pun intended!” He smiled at my effort to lighten the situation, then hesitated. Then, he took the slip of paper from my fingers and scribbled something on it again before returning it to me.

“Look, I’m not supposed to do this but I’m partly responsible for your injury. Would you drop me a message about how it goes? As for your hospital b- “

“That’s okay, I’ve got that. I’ll pop you a message about the ankle though.”

He paused, then added, “That number belongs to my manager, but he’ll pass me the message. Not that I don’t trust you but- “

“Yep, no worries. Even I don’t give my number to just anyone I meet, what more an artiste like you.”

He grinned, and again, that twinkle in his eyes.

“Well then, I’m off.”

“Thanks and sorry again. Hope you guys come back soon to perform again.”

“We’ll try. Thank you for your support.”

As the paramedics and their stretchers came in, I watched him give them an acknowledging nod before he left the room, while my senses were still in an amazed stupor over what had just happened.

 

– End of part two –

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(I Hate This) Love Song – part one

I have been getting quite a bit of inspirational snippets for a new short story recently, and they wouldn’t relent till I put them down in text. Since the muses have forced me up from bed today at really unearthly hours, here is part one:

 

The standard welcoming message rang out within the confines of the vessel, jolting me back to reality from my blank thoughts. I slung my satchel across and stood up carefully. It leaned against me while I adjusted my shirt and brushed the creases on my shorts. Running my fingers through my hair, I turned on my phone. Soon, the first passengers shuffled out the exit, and I too joined them.

I was nervous, yet a strange sense of calm prevailed in my mind. It was as though it had all been planned – the route I’d take, the journey I’d make. Perhaps it was so, from the first time I heard his voice. Presenting my travel documents at the counter, I could hear the radioed announcements, the never-ending rhythms of people moving, walking, running and the loud, happy chatter of other tourists. Should I be feeling happy too? I wasn’t sure.

Unbelievable resonance.

That was the first thought that came to my mind. I could feel my hair stand on my arms and neck and the thrill down my spine as he continued his repertoire on the stage with his band mates. It was the first time I paid attention to them, and the first time I heard that song.

It was the first time I heard him.

And how his voice penetrated the depths of my soul. It was deep as the sea, yet unpretentiously gentle as the morning sun. It killed as instantly as it revived. And there he stood, unaware of it all, a faint smile curled around his lips as he wiped across his brow with the back of a checkered sleeve while the crowd screamed for more.

He was confident and he had swag, yet somehow, there was an untouchable core – carefully concealed, recoiled and brooding. A strange surge of emotion rushed through my veins and I stopped for a moment to ponder what it was, then quickly brushed it aside. I had to speak with him.

He was sitting a distance away, in the second seat of a front row of conjoined plastic chairs, dressed in fitted indigo denim, a simple grey tee and a tailored black suede jacket. Bent forward at a slight angle, he was staring into the distance from behind his sunglasses as he sat clasping his phone in both hands. I walked up and seated myself abruptly beside him. Hastily he straightened himself and glanced over, then broke into a faint smile and removed his sunglasses.

“You’re here. Why didn’t you call me?”

“I didn’t need to. Already spotted your hair.”

“Haha… it’s that bad huh.”

“Nah, it’s fine. So let’s get out of here. I’m famished!”

 

– End of part one –

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