The silence was not what scared me. It was always silent through this barren stretch of road. Through the tunnel you couldn’t hear someone scream outside. And yet she heard the noise again, the slight chirp of a bird, somewhere in the distance. Singing its song of fear. And the roar. The quiet roar of the engine, which slowly conjured up a noise getting greater and greater, she quickened my pace. Then it stopped. It stilled to a slow rumble, placing a monotonous tone into the air. She kept walking, thinking the rumble would fade; the light at the end of the tunnel was near, she could see the trees beside it. The rumble remained the same, no matter how slow or how quick she stepped, the rumble did not rise or fall. Her heart beat faster and faster. She dared not turn, dared not see who followed her. Three steps and she’d reach the open. The scuffle of a show made her stop. She slightly turned her head and took another step. No scuffle but the rumble remained the same. Slowly she turned.
She looked for a car and only saw a small boy. His golden hair fell in curls over his cheeks, his thin frame stood stock still, his dark complexion made her think that he dyed his hair, for how could a black boy have such golden locks. But it was his eyes that shocked her. Deep purple stared back at her, entrancing her. A placid expression was spread across his face. He must’ve been no older than fourteen and much shorter than her, quickly measuring him up she concluded that she could easily beat him in a fight, but he was not scared.
The boy stared through his purple eyes at the girl, sixteen years of age, straight copper hair just touching the shoulders. Her brown eyes showed the fear but also the almost confidence.
She took a step forward, drawn by her curiosity.
“Who are you?” Her voice echoed off the tunnel walls.
“Who do you want me to be?” His voice was melodic and showed years far beyond his age. She waited for his echo but it did not come.
“I want you to stop following me and go away,” there was a command in her voice; it was more than a statement.
He shrugged and ripples were sent through his body. He turned and began his graceful steps away.
“Wait,” it was her voice who spoke.
He stopped but did not turn.
“Wanna walk me home?” She suggested.
He turned then and nodded.
He paced his feet towards her, seeing if she would run. When he reached her, she turned and dropped into step with him.
“How old are you?” She spoke.
For a moment she saw his face contorted as if he was struggling to say something but couldn’t. Finally he settled for “I’m older than you think.”
“Well you can’t be more than fourteen, fifteen at the most,” he was silent so she continued. “What’s your name?”
“Jaffa,” he answered simply.
“Jaffa,” she gawked. “Like the lolly.”
“A least me name don’t match me air, Copper.”
In that one sentence he revealed more to her than a lifetime ever could. His accent had changed from perfect to rough and un-hewn. He cut off his words as if he were from years ago.
But a bigger problem poised in her mind. How had this stranger known her name?
She stopped and looked turned to face him. For a moment his face was twisted with pain then he smoothed it out into its placid expression and waited for my question.
“Why have you been following me?” she asked, her voice plagued with curiosity.
“I’ve followed many people,” his voice was back to its melody.
She was silent as they turned the corner and walked the short steps to her house.
They stopped and she turned to face him.
“Who are you?” She asked again.
“I’ll tell you something if you promise not to tell anyone.”
She nodded cautiously, her head moving slowly.
“I’m 201 years old and I have been waiting for 186 years,” he spoke slowly, picking his words carefully, trying not to reveal too much about himself.
She decided not to reply to his statement, instead staring at him, trying to get the truth from him.
His face didn’t change but still she did not believe him. How could she believe the impossible?
He shrugged as if knowing what she was thinking.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“I guess, I’ll see you around sometime.”
“Maybe,” he replied. He paused a moment then span slowly and paced away.
She watched him move his feet, spilling the rest of his body away from her. She looked until he turned the corner and disappeared.
The next day, she meet him again, on the same tunnel. He was waiting for her this time and they walked in silence.
When they reached her house she spoke.
“Who are you?”
“I had a sister once.”
She paused for a moment, then. “Goodbye.”
He nodded and span and walked away. She watched till her was out of sight again.
Each day they passed this placid exchange. They meet, walked in silence and at her house she would ask him the same question, who are you?” He would spread his life throughout the air, saying some little thing about himself. She’d speak goodbye and he would nod, turn away from her and walk away. She’d stand staring at his empty shadow.
She remembered each word he spoke, they played through her head as she waited each day for the walk home.
She quickly learnt that his sister’s name was Marie, she had been beautiful, he had never gone to school, he liked to read and he couldn’t sing.
After 365 days he meet her again and again they walked in silence.
Again she asked “Who are you?”
He sighed this time. A heavy sigh which hung in the air, a sigh which troubled her for an unknown reason.
“I am 202 years old and I was waiting for 186 years.”
She had already heard this, she remembered his words from their first meeting. But she waited patiently, waited for him to speak.
“I have been waiting for you, Copper.”
She was speechless. This person who had shed his life to her, had finally shed his one true secret.
“Why?” She stuttered softly.
“I have been trapped, in the age of fourteen for 188 years and I spent one year searching for an answer to release me and I found that the only way was to wait for you, so I waited and I found you and I spread my life into you, so you would love me, because the only way for me to be free was if you loved me, but you couldn’t know so, do you love me?”
He spoke unhinged. He released all his words that had been building up in him for 188 years. Every time he saw her he had wanted to spill this to her, so every time he spoke only what was needed and no more.
For the second time that day, she was speechless. She barely knew him. But as this thought passed through her mind, she realized that she did. She knew so much about him, about his family, about his life. He had been preparing her for this day, when he could reveal his true intentions. And then the question, did she love him?
She took a step towards him.
“Jaffa,” her voice was soft but filled with confidence. “I...I... I want to say that I love you-“
“Let me finish. I want to say that I love you,” she repeated. “So I’ll just have to. I love you Jaffa, I always will love you.”
She learned towards him and he moved towards her. They both shared their first kiss, and for both it was perfect.
He leaned away. He had expected to feel different, to feel older but he still felt young, he still felt trapped. He searched through his mind for the riddle, the riddle which had told him the answers. As his mind passed over the riddle he became urgent. “My eyes, what colour are my eyes?” He rushed.
She sensed the urgency in his voice and felt scared from the change from his usually placid demeanor.
“They’re purple, like before.”
“Purple, purple, purple,” he whispered. He was scared, more scared than he had ever been. He had always had something to hope for and now, where was that hope?
“What’s wrong, did it work?” she too felt scared. He showed the fear, his whisperings, his eyes.
“Is there anything else, can I do something?” Her voice was sincere, her new found love for him released many things in her.
“Nothing, nothing, wait,” his mind was passing over the riddle once again. The words, the last ones at the end, the ones he had ignored... until now. “To change a story, change a life, to change a life, change a story,” the words resounded loud in his head, falling over each other, the meaning clear in his mind.
She saw the change in tone, the menace in his body. To change a story, change a life, to change a life, change a story. What did that mean? She didn’t have time to ponder.
He saw her fear and knew he had to act. He advanced on her, stepping the few steps to be next to her. He knew he was strong enough, he had time to work on his strength.
She didn’t react as he advanced. Three steps and she could feel his breath on her skin. Her mind processed that she had to run but her feet were connected to him.
He moved his arms, hoping to strangle her. A life for a life, that was fair, he had been waiting longer.
She saw his arms twitch and spun. Her feet speed on, she raced through the streets, recalling the first day they meet. There had been engine behind her, following her. Now, nothing. There was silence throughout the neighbourhood.
He watched her run and slowly followed. He didn’t have to run, eternity gave him some advantages. He walked silently, quickly gaining on her. When she risked a glance back he was there.
She gave up then, stopped her feet and faced him defiantly.
He looked at her and saw the past year in her face. The past year which had made him happier than ever. He looked away. Then regretted it.
She saw him turn and she took her chance. A fist to the stomach and he should’ve been gasping. But he wasn’t.
He felt the fist but did not react. He did not feel pain. He grabbed her and pushed her over, falling with her. His fists closed around her throat and he slowly tightened his grasp.
She felt his hands around her neck and she did the only thing she could. She cried. She let the tears fall down her cheeks, marking the end of her life.
He saw her tears and it was that moment that said he couldn’t kill her. How could he kill such beauty? He released his grip and collapsed against the ground.
She felt the air fall into her lungs. She felt him laying beside her and slowly she sat up. She watched him lying there. His golden air limp, his flawless skin seemed marked and his eyes... his beautiful purple eyes were... “Blue,” she whispered.
He was surprised that she was still there, not running when she had the chance. He heard her whisper of blue. “Blue?”
“Your eyes, they’re blue,” her voice changed to ecstatic.
He heard her and as he did he felt changed. He felt older, he felt alive. And so for the first time in 188 years he laughed.
His laugh was deep and beautiful, like the rest of him and she laughed with him. They lay there laughing together until they grew cold and rose to walk.
They walked hand-in-hand, silent as they retraced the steps they had both rushed through.
As they reached her gate, they stopped and for a moment they lingered in each other’s touch.
They let go slowly and dropped their hands back to their sides.
“I guess I’ll see you around sometime,” she said.
“Maybe,” he smiled and she returned his grin.
Then still smiling, she pushed open her gate and walked down the path and up the stairs. And as she took out her key and unlatched the door she didn’t turn around, she didn’t stare his into deep blue eyes.
For the first time he watched her disappear, and as he watched he saw all the beauty he had missed in his anxious days and he knew that for the rest of time he could enjoy the beauty of life.
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