He sat there, alone.
On the table were a cigarette ashtray, a decent drink of hot caramel latte served in a rather unusual looking cup, a folded newspaper and a quite old but well taken care of Zippo lighter. In his hand was a pack of Winston Light 20's, juggled over and over as his hands throw the helpless cigarette box in the air. His eyes were looking at the empty counter of his usual coffee shop outlet, the place where he often went to whenever he was free at any time of the week, but his mind was somewhere else. His sharp look indicated that there was another thing being rapidly analyzed in that wonderful head of his.
After some point he stopped juggling the box and instead opened it up, taking one stick out and planted it right at the end of his lips. He took the silver Zippo and opened the top cover, giving out that classy, easily recognizable clicking sound and struck the flint. The wick caught on fire, and from that fire he lit his cigarette before slamming the top cover back to its place, clanking metal sound filled the rather silent and calm morning air. He inhaled the intoxicating smoke and exhaled it after few seconds.
He took a close look at the lighter. The engraving on it, though the surface had very much suffered from wear and tear, the weatherbeaten lighter was still able to show the beautiful image of a heart that was surrounded by a serpent with its tongue protruding out to the center of the heart. There was a deep scratch that crossed the image. He admired the engraving and with his thumb he slowly rubbed off the oil stains on the engraving. The surface reflected sunlight and shone onto his face.
And then he felt it.
Though he very much admired the metal art on the lighter, the pain he felt whenever he looked at it never seemed to go away at all. He closed his eyes and took another long puff of his cigarette, and placed the lighter on what he expected was the table, but missed by a couple of few millimeters. The lighter fell onto the floor and broke the silence at the empty coffee shop on a misty, cold morning. He let out a sigh, opened his eyes and bent his body over wanting to reach the lighter that fell and lied dead at the end of his legs.
As he was about to reach it, a hand came and took the lighter up.
He raised his face to look at this mysterious person, only to realize that he could only see the silhouette of the person, wholly darkened by the glaring sun at the back. But he knew that body shape. He knew that hair pretty well. And he instantly recognized the smell of the perfume right away. And he got even surer that he knew the person very well.
Oh he knew her very, very well.
* * *
Mid May, 2003.
"I just can't believe you."
The air was humid that evening. Both of them were spending some time earlier at a cornered end of the main campus lake earlier, admiring the sunset that was to happen in half an hour and less, until she broke the calmness. He was thrilled, for he was completely unknowing, let alone suspecting, that she will ever did. It was very least in his suspicions that she will ever grew tired of him. He sat and looked at her, who was at the time crossing her hands together, standing facing him with a very, very angry face.
"This is insane!" She yelled. "How could you do this to me? How could you prevent me to do things my way?"
He just stared at her.
"How could you say no to almost everything that I like? What is your problem, really?"
He took out a stick of Winston Light and then took out his lighter. It was a Zippo, and it shone out in the evening sun. As he about to strike the flint, she slapped the lighter away from him, causing it to fly a few feet away and hit the pavement with quite a bang, and this soon hit him hard. He stared at it before he stood up, and with unbelievable face he stared deep into her face; the projection of anger from those eyes was so terrifying that she stepped away a little bit.
"Because what you do is foolish," he calmly said, though one could easily tell that he wasn't calm at all, and with a raised voice he continued, "and your foolishness will soon destroy you!"
"But you are hurting the person you love, you are hurting me, sayang!"
"It is because of love that I should keep your sanity."
Upon hearing this, she broke into tears while maintaining her cold face, while his stayed dead. She shook her head a few times in disbelief, and slowly she turned away from him while facing the setting sun. He sat down and looked at her; her long, wavy hair that got blown in the slow breeze, the smell of that very familiar and soothing perfume, the silhouette representation of her sensuous, lovely apparition. He felt sorry for what he did, and so he stood up and went to her, reaching her arms with his hands.She turned around in an instant, pushed him away. Her face blazed in fire.
"Don't you dare touch me!"
"I'm sorry. I'm doing this because I care, because I love you."
"And I'm sorry too," she said, "for I no longer feel the love for you."
This shook him a little. How could feelings changed in seconds?
"Don't say that," he said. "You know you love me."
"I did," she said, "but I changed my mind."
And with that she turned around and stepped away from him. He called her name many times but to no reply. Slowly she got far, far away that she no longer heard him. And there he stood on the pavement looking at her disappearing from far. And when she did, he bent over to pick up the lighter that she bought for him on their second anniversary in relationship, only to see a deep scratch crossed the love-and-serpent engraving on it, as if it cut the heart into half, most probably from the fall it took when it was thrown away from her slap just now. He rubbed the engraving, and he fell onto his knees.
As the sun set, he wept in agony.
* * *
She sat facing him, sharing the same table. She ordered herself a drink and made herself comfortable in the cozy cushioned chair. He lit another cigarette and took a look at her. Well, she had grown up so much, he said to himself. She was just this girl he fell in love with merely more than ten years back, and now in front of him was no longer that ill-tempered girl but a deem attractive lady - the trait she never really got to lose. She still kept her long, wavy hair and still wearing the same perfume. Strange, he thought, that not many had changed in time, and this he doubted, including his feelings for her.
"So," she said. "What's up?"
He didn't reply directly. Instead he stared at her first for sometime; at those sensuous lips and beautiful eyes. her long, pretty fingers and her fair, smooth neck. He noticed that she did not have a ring in her finger.
"Why are you here, Anna."
She smiled at him and leaned back. She looked excited to meet him while he kept his cold appearance at large. Strange, again, he thought, for she was the one who left, and she was the one who found him again after all these while.
"I work there," she said as she pointed out a tall building a few blocks away from them. "I came over to take something and decided to drop by for a cuppa."
He nodded. He knew that building that belonged to a quite established, multinational engineering company.
"So?" she asked. "What is up with you? What do you do now?"
"I'm an engineering consultant," he said. "Nothing great."
"Well that's good." she said. "It really has been a while."
"It's not a while," he replied. "It has been precisely seven years, four days and eighteen hours since we ever met like this."
This, of course, caused the stirring environment between them to grow even more awkward. She stared at him for a while, and so did he.
"You still hate me, don't you."
"No," he said. "No, of course not. Why would I hate you? All you did was leaving me with no clear closure after we were in love for almost two years, and ended up in arms of men just weeks after and did all the foolish things I was protecting you from doing. No, I don't hate you. Not at all."
"Oh, you," she spoke softly as she reached his hand with hers. He just looked at how she rested her hand on his. He didn't pull it away, for the warmth he felt when her skin touched his brought back all the sentimental feelings and memories he had for her and still.
"Don't do that. I'm married."
"No you're not."
"How could you be so sure?"
"Dr. Izam," she said in a calm, loving voice, "you were never married. You were not even in a relationship since I left you."
He felt a slap so strong on his face from her statement, and the turmoil in him grew so badly that his face changed instantly.
"Now, now," she patted his hand slowly. "I'm not saying anything. I just want you to know that I know who you are, Iz. You never really faded from my mind regardless how badly I tried all these years by meeting endless number of men and do things to keep my mind of you."
She let out a sigh. He listened to it.
"And you were right about me doing foolish things. I have learned over the years that I had grown into something that I myself am ashamed of. I have grown up from these things, Iz. I guess you were right all along."
He didn't move nor say anything.
"And all I am now is just a heartbroken girl who could not really move forward, nor I can fall back. I have nobody else anymore. My days are over and all I have now is nothing but my bitter memories from the day I did the mistake of leaving you."
He noticed her eyes were teary as these words were spoken right from the deepest pit of her heart. He could feel her body shaking from her hand that laid on his. His supercold, heavily fortified heart started to melt right away.
"I miss you, Iz," she said in tears. "I miss you so much. I tried finding you but you were gone before I knew it. I'm sorry for what I did to you, for all the sufferings that I caused you that later caused me endless sorrows, and I'd do anything to make it up with you. Please, I'm begging you, please don't despise me for what I did when I was young and foolish. Please, I'd do anything. I don't want to be unhappy no more, not anymore!"
He just let her poured all her heart out for some minutes. Not a word was spoken. Not a gesture was made. It was not until some point that he arranged his words and stated them. He stared at the serpent, the heart and the scratch on them on his lighter. He put his fingers in between her and clasped them together. When the time was right, he cleared his throat and he did it.
"Would you," he said very softly. "Would you marry me?"
To be continued