May 22nd, 2018
His whistle matches the train's, and this has become routine. Daily, he passes the train station, a bottle of water in hand. Sometimes, she appears; other times she does not.
Though the clouds are absent, the sky appears grey; however, this is commonplace. Sidewalks cracked, to the point where one feels threatened by the earth, the earth that is unafraid to swallow anyone whole. And the buildings, they crumble, ready to trap those who are swallowed by the earth underneath their colossal frame. But he passes the train station nonetheless, because sometimes she appears, and at other times she does not.
Today, she does not.
His mother has not arrived, and most likely will not. If she is not home at this time, she won't be home anytime soon. That is how it has always been. He removes his boots, but while he unzips his second boot, a note falls out of his backpack. Picking up the note and tossing the backpack aside, he contemplates who it is from. Never has he seen that handwriting, flowery and graceful. Furthermore, in an age where hardly anything was written by hand, the calligraphy stunned him just because it was handwritten.
"Leonel, I'm sorry. But I won't be seeing you anymore. I can't. I'm going away. I've never written to you before, nor have I mentioned that I love to write. But I have little time now. So I must tell you, I will be gone. You won't talk to me anymore. You won't see me anymore. You won't think of me anymore. You won't remember me. I will be gone, not only physically, but from your memories. I'm sorry you can't follow me this time. The World Cup begins soon--you'd do well to enjoy it, so please do. It will help you forget. You always talked about how events that bring the world together make you happy. It might hurt, but you will forget me completely soon enough. Goodbye."
He clenches the letter to his chest, and sheds a single tear. His complexion remains fairly unmoved, however, and he becomes immediately confused. He does not know who wrote him the letter.
Leonel refuses to eat that night, or study, or even sleep. He has been told the streets are dangerous at night, contaminated by reckless criminals. But the train station compels him to leave home, demanding his presence. The streets appear endless during the night, and without his boots the ground burns his bare feet, for heat remains wherever the dark traps it in this overtly radiated world.
Upon arriving at the train station, Leonel notices a policeman napping uncomfortably on the benches. Sound emanates from below the train station, perhaps the subway underneath. The sound, roudy music, makes him nervous. But Leonel is compelled to visit the train station tower. He spent his days there alone before arriving home.. Climbing the ladder, another tear falls, and disappears from view before hitting the ground. He reaches the top, but the atmosphere appears vacant, amiss, as if he forgot something important.
He intends to read his letter here, atop the tower, but reaching into his pocket he feels nothing. After several seconds of searching, he consoles himself, convinced the letter was left at home. He looks up at the sky, and though it appears pitch black, to him it is perfunctorily grey. The only difference: he cannot tell if his eyes are opened or closed.
That night, Leonel falls asleep after a lengthy bout of insomnia, at an eerie 3:38 am. He dreams a horrid nightmare, in which the simplest yet most confounding event occurs: he revisits the train station only to pull out the letter and have it disintegrate in his hands, down to ashes that were blown away by the ghost of a wind.
Upon awakening, he is unsure of what really happened to the letter. It is nowhere in his immediate vicinity or in his coat or backpack, so he suspects it truly did disintegrate. He leaves for school after putting on his boots, pouring himself a cup of tea, and taking out the trash.
May 2nd, 2018
"But I don't get how you could enjoy that play so much!" Leonel stutters in disbelief, playfully nudging his best friend Hanna with his shoulder. She takes his arm and puts hers through it, and rests her head on his shoulder.
"I just want you to go with me, bored or not! I'd appreciate the company," Hanna shyly utters. "You know, I've never once been with you anywhere except for right here."
"I like this train station tower. I love to see trains, even though I've never ridden one," Leonel sighs. With that, Hanna pulls away and her eyes opened wide, and she tugs at Leonel, demanding his attention.
"What's this? Never?" Hanna gasps.
"Tell you what. Accompany me to the theater, and we'll go by train. Is it a deal?"
"Maybe," Leonel laughed, shoving her aside. He pushed her a little too hard and she lost her footing, and Leonel quickly grabbed her to make sure she wouldn't fall off, and they both broke into laughter. Leonel stared up at the sky, and continued, "I just want to go somewhere far away. Japan, or England, or South Africa, or Argentina or..."
"I get the point. And if you accompany me to the theater tomorrow, I'll go with you."
April 21st, 2018
"I'm not even a big fan of soccer. I suck at it, truth be told. But when the World Cup comes along, everyone just stops. They drop what they're doing. No more war, no more liberals, no more conservatives, no more religion, no more atheism, no more conflicts of any sort. We just stop, and we watch together as we cheer. Most people cheer for a team, but I...I just cheer," Leonel explains to Hanna. She rubs the single tear falling down his cheek away as she opens her mouth to begin speaking, but Leonel continues before she can. "I could really care less about what brings us together, as long as somehow, something does."
"What do you mean?" asks Hanna, rather curiously.
"I mean that it doesn't matter if it's a sport or a movie or a food item. If something brings the world together instead of apart, I'm happy. I understand that sometimes war is necessary, but what isn't is corruption and addiction and those sorts of things."
"Leonel..." Hanna sighs, turning away from her best friend. She looks at the floor, twenty-five feet below her, and glances at the oily sidewalk. Off in the distance, the two hear a train starting up and taking off.
"Nevermind. You're just naïve. That's all." Hanna laughed, and Leonel appeared confused.
That night, as Leonel walks home from the train station, he thinks deeply of what Hanna said. "She couldn't have meant it seriously," he whispers. He abhors war, but acknowledges that his opinion is strictly biased.
Two years ago, his father left to serve. There has not been a single word that Leonel has heard about his old man from the government or his mother since then. The last thing his father mentioned was that it was necessary.
Leonel unlocked his door to discover his mother had yet to arrive. He started his work and fell asleep after much contemplation over what Hanna said.
May 5th, 2018
"So when are we going on that adventure?" Leonel smiles. "Over the holidays?" I'm done with the university December 15th. My mom will give me the okay. I'm practically nonexistent to her."
"Don't say that!" Hanna exclaimed. After they looked at each other for a short moment, Hanna opens her mouth to ask, "when do I meet your mother?"
"I'd rather you didn't," mumbled Leonel, scratching his scalp. Hanna pulls his hand away with hers and then rubs her fingers through his unkempt, light brown hair.
"And why is that?" Hanna asks seductively. "Afraid she won't approve? And seriously, stop slouching!"
"Approve of what?"
"Of me as your best friend!" Hanna cried out, laughing. "What'd you think, silly? I'm sure by now your mother is concerned if you have any friends at all. Maybe she'll like that you actually have a female friend for once. Twenty years old and you've never taken a female to the house? Even I'm concerned!"
"My mother doesn't give a rat's ass about me. And you know that."
"I doubt it, but if it's true then you shouldn't care. I say I get to meet her eventually."
"Eventually then. But I have to go. I'll see you soon," Leonel murmurs. He descends down the ladder and Hanna follows, and they embrace with a tight hug before heading their own ways. The sun is out, a rare occurrence.
Hanna unlocks the door to her apartment, and not surprising to her, a man in a trench coat awaits her. She tosses her scarf aside and before she even looks at the man, she monotonously asks, "what is it now?"
"The process is taking too long," the man responded, lifeless. He pulls out a cigar, lights it, and sits down on Hanna's couch.
"No smoking in here. You know that," Hanna snarled. She removed her coat and began to undress herself in her restroom, out of the man's view.
"His father is dead!" The man shouts abruptly. "If you expect to retain some form of order in this world, we need those genes! This boy is the only way we'll get genes like that to replicate what his father was working on. We don't have the legal permission to take the boy, so that's why we created you: to seduce him--not fall in love with him! Do what you have to do, you witch, and then leave him be. It should've been as simple as a one-night-stand."
"It isn't," Hanna cries. She looks up in the mirror and her mascara runs down her cheeks alongside her tears. She wraps a towel around herself and steps outside.
"I don't understand," the man mumbles. He takes a puff of his cigar, blatantly ignoring Hanna's earlier request. "You're a clone. You're not real. I could shoot you tonight and replace you tomorrow. I wish it were that easy, but the CIA would be on my ass more so than it is already."
"By the end of the month," Hanna utters, helplessly pounding her fists on the table, almost hitting her keys. "Those are my only requests. A month with him, and the memory pill. He doesn't deserve this. If we're going to continue, I want to be gone from him completely, so that it does not hurt him. I'm everything he's ever had."
"You don't get to make these sort of requests! And if you don't wish to hurt him, why are you wanting to spend more time with him? You're a defunct creature. I'll give you until the end of the month. Then I'll kill you myself if you don't go through with it. And we were going to give him the memory pill anyway."
"You were?" Hanna asks as she stands up, her blue eyes opening wide. She stares with a glimmer of hope at her superior.
The man in the trench coat nods, and examines Hanna's gorgeous body. Her lengthy, silky blonde hair allures him as he stands up to grab it. "You're the perfect specimen," he whispers. Hanna glances at her feet and then the floor, as the man places one hand on her white moon of a face, and with the other unwraps her towel. She closes her eyes and mumbles the word "sorry" under her breath.
May 9th, 2018
"I'll only tell if you promise to tell me yours," Leonel smiles. He stands up and sits on the railing, putting himself in danger of a fatal fall. Hanna follows him and sits next to him.
"Fine, but you tell your secret first," Hanna decides. "I'm interested now."
"Well then," Leonel thinks. He stands up and walks around the small platform, a perfect size for two. "I can't back out now, can I?"
"Nope," Hanna utters, biting her lip. Leonel stares at her lips, and a strange thought crosses his mind. Before he can think about saying anything, Hanna interrupts abruptly. "Go on! I'm waiting!"
"It's about you," Leonel murmurs. He moves towards her and hugs her, and she is taken by surprise. "I really don't have secrets. I don't speak to my mom. I never had friends before or now. I study computer engineering. I enjoy reading and music. My father is most likely dead. And you already knew about all that."
Leonel pauses for a moment. "What does this have to do with me?" asks Hanna, genuinely intrigued.
"The first time I saw you, disembarking the train...I followed you," he confesses. To his surprise, Hanna smiles. "It's creepy, I know. But somehow I had to. And to be honest, I thought maybe it was just because you're the most stunningly beautiful woman I've ever seen, but there's much more to it than that. I can't tell at this point in time."
"I had no idea," Hanna cried, a single tear forming. But she lied. That was her intent. She had to make Leonel fall in love with her. It was her job, and sole purpose, and she thought she wouldn't like doing any of this. But she did.
"Now you tell me your secret," Leonel urges.
"Well," Hanna laughs, trying to hide her sobbing. "It's hard to believe."
"I'll believe it. I trust you," Leonel consoles her.
"First, stop slouching. And here we go! It turns out I'm a clone who works for a secret agent, and I'm supposed to make you fall in love with me. Why? Because we need your super awesome genetic code to make clones of you because...well, you're a super genius and you're super awesome. Then after that I have to delete your memory," Hanna giggles while telling this rather exaggerated version of the truth.
"Well, I told you I would believe it," Leonel laughs, shrugging his shoulders. "I have to go. Tell me your real secret later." Hanna watches as he descends the ladder and turns the corner on the street, and she breaks down sobbing after that.
May 12, 2018
"So do you believe in all of that?" Hanna asks, shaking her head side-to-side, full of energy. "Spirits, fate, souls, god?"
"Why are you asking such random questions today?" Leonel exclaims.
"Now I know why you and your mum don't get along. You're so defensive and unwilling to share anything with her, or other people!" Hanna shouts, smirking rather curiously.
"Where did that come from?" Leonel demands, taken by surprise. Hanna shrugs. "Anyways, to answer your question..." Leonel thinks. "I guess I do. Not spirits. Fate is a maybe. I think if you believe in fate..."
Hanna joins him and they say the same thing: "you're weak."
"How'd you know I was going to say that?" Leonel wonders.
"Because I know you, and I agree. Some of us believe we're created for a specific purpose and then we spend forever asking God or a god to guide us to find it. But I think that's weak. I mean, believe what you want to, but why limit yourself to thinking there's one purpose, right?"
Leonel appears confused. He has always been agnostic and is now even more so.
"Please tell me I'm right!" Hanna cries, shaking her best friend rather desperately. She did this often, playfully shaking Leonel. But this time Leonel sees her blue eyes turn gray and the manner in which her lips move show she is not playing. "We're not created for just one role, are we?"
Leonel stops Hanna from moving by grabbing her wrists and then gently holding her. "I don't know, Hanna."
April 17, 2018
"So I've known you for a month now," Hanna smiles.
"True," Leonel jokes. He unbuttons his coat since it is rather warm. Hanna looks at her now best friend and is astonished by his demeanor. He always appears handsome, whether his hair is done or not. His eyes are brown, but deep, and his cheekbones appear strong. He is of average height, but regularly, lazily slouches. Hanna tries to constantly fix this problem, but to no avail.
Hanna presents a rather peculiar question: "What would you do if I didn't exist?"
"If I didn't exist, what would you do?"
"You mean if I never met you that day?"
"I mean if I did not exist."
"Well," Leonel stutters.
"My life would have carried on normally. No frequent visits to the train station tower with you. And that would suck."
"You wouldn't miss me?"
"How can I miss someone I don't even know?"
"I don't know, but I do it all the time."
"What do you mean? Who are you missing?"
"I don't know! That's the point, get it?"
May 14, 2018
Leonel eagerly leaves the university after picking up a sandwich. Tonight at the train station tower, he plans on telling Hanna. Every meeting with her, he becomes more and more fond of her, and easily confides in her. He doesn't understand the mysterious girl half of the time, but she has brightened his days, days he once thought of as bleak and meaningless. Downtown had always been a dangerous place, day or night, and the traffic, while seemingly lively, just bothered Leonel to the point where he was certain that every driver behind every wheel was lifeless. Puppets. Not a single one of them had lives with a figure as central and important as Hanna. After hogging down his turkey melt, he runs to the train station tower, as the sun sets. By this time, he is late, and Hanna awaits him angrily. But to his surprise and dismay, she has yet to arrive.
Leonel waits 30 minutes. Nothing.
An hour; nothing. Two hours--nothing.
Before he knows it, he doses off to sleep.
He would've called her if she had a cell phone, or stopped at her house or wherever she lived if he even knew. But when he wakes up at 2:00 in the morning, he realizes how very little he knows about this stranger, and how very much in love he is.
May 19th, 2018
"Everything has been so strange lately," Leonel murmurs.
"I know, and I'm sorry,"
Hanna responds sullenly. "I...I don't know what to say."
"You're with me now, like you promised," Leonel counters. "Don't say anything."
Hanna begins sobbing. She sits on the railing, digs her palms in her face, and Leonel feels genuine concern. She appears unstable, and unaware that she is in danger of falling. Leonel stands up off the bench, places one arm on her shoulder and looks at her with adoration. She takes her hands off her face and looks back, trying to force a smile, but instead sobs even more, quietly as ever; yet, the tears fall infinitely. With his other hand, Leonel caresses her now exposed face, and slyly follows her fragile but lovely frame until his hand is on her other shoulder. Slowly, he moves in for the kiss, and then pulls her into the safety of his arms.
"Hanna," he says.
She stays for a moment, to enjoy their kiss and embrace, but then with one last glance, says goodbye with her eyes. She descends the ladder and Leonel is bemused. After a short while, he chases after her, but loses her in the shadows of night.
The next few days, he passes by the train station, because sometimes she appears, and other times she does not.
April 27th, 2018
"It's funny how we pass the time like this," Leonel points out. "Just sitting here."
"Somehow, it feels right though," Hanna expresses. "Do you have a problem with it?"
"So I go to school right now, and sadly, still live with my mom. I still don't know what you do," Leonel jokes.
"I work. From home," Hanna whispers. Leonel senses her almost lying, but doesn't say anything.
"And your parents?" Leonel asks.
"I don't have any," Hanna responds, frowning. She seems to contemplate saying something else, but doesn't.
May 7th, 2018
"Hanna," Leonel starts, "why is it that when you ask me a question, you beat me up for an answer; yet when I ask you something, you manage to so easily slip out of the situation?"
"Well excuse me, darling," Hanna laughs.
"There you go again!"
"Truth is," and Hanna pauses. "I've never shared anything as much as I have with you."
"But you haven't shared anything with me!"
"Oh! Shut up!"
"I feel comfortable trusting you. That's if I ever had to. If I had anything interesting to tell."
"Well. That's good to know. I might have to."
"Might?" Leonel ponders.
"Yes: might." Hanna refutes.
"I'll see you tomorrow. It's getting late."
May 10th, 2018
"So where are you even from? You have a British accent," Leonel asks.
"From here," Hanna responds jokingly. "Well it's obvious then, isn't it?"
"Nothing is obvious about you, you mysterious creature."
"I'm a creature now?" Hanna retorts. "You're a sloucher."
The sun begins to set, and the friends watch together. "I broughtyou something," speaks Leonel. Hanna curiously looks at him as he reaches for his backpack. The trains in the distance howl. A bird perches on the railing next to them. And Hanna gently reaches out for it. Before she looks at Leonel, she suspects he brought food.
"This bird is here because you've food with you, don't you? I'm starving. What did you bring?" Hanna asks. "Is there enough for this ugly pigeon?"
"Nope," Leonel replies. "It's your favorite. It's for you."
May 17th, 2018
"So you want me to take you somewhere far away, correct?" Hanna asks, shaking her best friend. "Well, I managed to get my petite hands on these."
With that, Hanna removes two plane tickets to Europe for December 18th. Leonel, confused, takes one and looks up at the setting sun. "Are these for real?" he asks.
"Yes Leonel," Hanna smiles, looking for a smile from Leonel, but failing to find one. "Is something wrong?"
"No, not at all. I just can't believe it," Leonel stutters. He feels like an idiot, unaware of how to accept the invitation properly. "I...thank you!" He shouts, as he hugs her tightly.
"Just two things. We missed that play, so you have to take me. In France. And the other thing..." Hanna pauses.
"Anything," Leonel nods. "I'll do anything."
"But you've yet to hear my request!" Hanna cries.
"I don't care."
"You have to protect me."
"Hanna," Leonel starts. "I'm not quite sure what you mean, but I was under the impression I was doing that already. And I wouldn't let anything bad happen to you."
"You just have no idea. That's all. Oh, how naive you are..." Hanna laughs, telling a half-truth.
"Just promise me you'll protect me. Until we're back."
"Just until we're back? I think I can do a little more than that."
Hanna crawls into Leonel's arms, and whispers it, under the wind, "I love you." He didn't hear, but she didn't want him to. The dryad of the wind her whisper becomes. Like ambient music, she thinks of how the wind soothes her, and more importantly how Leonel soothes her. The train station tower: corner of their world.
The earth spins and Leonel feels it atop the tower, but he holds Hanna as steadily as possible. He does not want to let go.
June 1st, 2012
"The month has ended," the man in the trench coat bellows, lighting his cigar simultaneously. "You've failed. I have permission to terminate you."
"Fine, do it. But leave him alone. He has his own life to live. Don't you dare send another after him. He's safe, and doing well. I gave him the pill on the 22nd, slipped it in a drink, and I guarantee he's somewhere now where you will never find him."
"Naïve you are," smirks the man. "I'll show you mercy then. You'll live. Just to see how wrong you are about everything."
"If that's you're idea of mercy, it's no wonder you're as corrupt as you are."
"We leave her tonight. I'll be putting you back in your cage when we arrive at the facility."
"Tell me just one thing," Hanna demands. "Make your final request."
"When do you plan on sending another?"
"Not until next year. Sources say he was accepted into Stanford. He'll be there in January."
December 16th, 2018
Leonel walks off the stage, accepting his diploma. His mother is not in attendance. But Hanna is. She is intent on telling him all the truth. All their time together. Who was after him. The truth about his father. And that she loved him. And once, he loved her too. And now she had two days to save him. Their plane left in two days.
Leonel passes the train station, his whistle matching the train's. Seconds later, he encounters the most beautiful girl he has ever laid eyes upon, disembarking the train. And the routine has broken.
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