Though our life is constantly changing, places remain the same. Beaches, forests, hills do not experience with us despair or hope. They are always so patient and quiet. It always startles me when I come back to the same place after a long time.
Thistles clung in the hem of my lacy dress and high heels sank in the sandy path. If I knew that we would go for a walk, I would wear shorts and sandals. But it wouldn’t be suitable for such an occasion. I was about to meet Jack’s parents. Finally.
Other girls I knew used to spend weekends with families of their boyfriends, but Jack still didn’t introduce me to his parents. Have they even heard about me? Since we started to date about five months ago I wanted to ask him, but was afraid to hear the answer. And then one evening, drinking the second glass of red wine, I confessed to my friend Ann, how much it hurts me. Ann spoke to Jack and blurted that if he takes this relationship seriously he should introduce new girlfriend to his parents. And, quite unexpectedly, Jack agreed.
In August afternoon a crowded bus was approaching the small seaside village where Jack lived. Choking smell of fumes mingled with the sweet scent of suntan lotion. Squeezed into a crowd of sunbathers I could hardly breathe. I saw only somebody’s tanned back in front of me, the strings of someone’s costume were tickling my ear, and a coarse towel was brushing against my calf.
Passengers could not wait to spread a blanket on the sand. But I could not feel the holiday spirit which resounded in tourists’ chatter interrupted with laughter and children’s cries. For me it was like taking an important exam on a hot day during the summer session in college. Jack was my first love I had dreamt of for a long time. I didn’t want to spoil this relationship. Not for the world. Maybe I shouldn’t have forced him to this meeting?
Bus door opened. Jack did not wait at the bus stop. For a moment I wanted to stay in the bus and go further, however, the crowd of tourists carried me and I had to leave.Jack will soon come. Surely. He’ll be just a bit late.
Unlike the tourists I didn’t take the way to the beach, but stopped and looked around. Lovely place. Along the narrow street squatted houses with sloping roofs, surrounded by gardens, where mallow and roses swayed. The chatter quieted down in the distance. I took a deep breath. The air smelled of sand grains. Maybe since now I would often visit this place?
Finally, around the corner appeared Jack and waved to me. I imagined he would run up to me and hug me tightly, but it wouldn’t be his style. We took a narrow street and then a sandy path. He didn’t even ask whether it was convenient for me to struggle through the thistles in such an elegant dress. He walked a few steps ahead and only occasionally turned back. I wanted him so much to embrace me. However, since the first enchantment passed by, Jack drew back whenever I tried to touch him.
Sandy path led to the edge of a majestic cliff. I looked down. Miniature people were strolling along the beach and further stretched the dark blue sea.
“How beautiful!” I sighed.
“You had such a long journey so I decided to show you the most beautiful place here.”
“So today he won’t introduce me to his parents” I thought.
Jack looked straight ahead. I realized he hasn’t looked into my eyes yet.
“I wanted to tell you something…”
His voice sounded monotonously like a distant sound of the sea. I held my breath. Even the cheerful summer breeze paused for a moment to overhear their conversation. I didn’t have the courage to look at Jack, so I stared at the blades of grass under my feet. I hoped that the time will stop and I would never hear what Jack wants to tell. But he hesitated only for a moment.
“You deserve someone better,” – he said, and flicked a ladybird that sat on his shoulder.
Every word separately hurt me. You. Deserve. Someone. Better.
“No…” I struggled to make a sound. “I’m very happy with you. When it comes to your parents…”
“It’s not about my parents,” he cut. “I prefer to be alone.”
His voice didn’t tremble even for a moment. It was as if he wanted to say this for ages and finally felt relieved.
“That’s the end,” I thought. “I do not deserve to be loved. I waited so long for love, and couldn’t keep it.”
I moved closer to the edge of the cliff.
Jack looked at the see with squinted eyes and shifted from foot to foot. As if he didn’t even want to wait until I got what he said. He preferred to go away. Forever.
He didn’t even notice that my foot slipped further, beyond the edge of the cliff.
And then, behind our backs, there sounded somebody’s voices.
Another young couple approached. Tall blond guy embraced a dainty brunette and kissed her on the forehead.
“Here we are, my Tiny!” said the guy. They stood on the edge of the cliff.
The dainty brunette glanced at me and then looked with surprise at my foot, protruding over the edge of the cliff, so I quickly stepped back. And then I realized that me and the girl looked very much alike.
“Are you ok?” asked Mark.
We walked through a sandy path leading to the sea. Although I put on comfortable sneakers, my feet were sinking in the sand.
“Look, it’s already over there!” said Mark, and then embraced me and kissed me on the forehead.
We stood on the edge of the cliff.
“Here we are, my Tiny!”
I looked down. Miniature people were strolling along the beach and further stretched the dark blue sea.
“I was here once in the past” I whispered.
A long time ago, at the end of a distant summer, I stood in the same place next to Jack and my foot slipped near the edge of the cliff. I would like to look into the eyes of that girl I was then and tell her that it wouldn’t make sense. That so much good in life awaits her.
The story was originally written in Polish and translated by the author.
Polish fiction writer who writes uplifting stories