Fiction

Healing

‘So I suppose you want to ask me why I left town.’ He arches his right eyebrow in a way that makes my heart ache.

I shrug, downplaying my eagerness to hear his version of events. ‘Only if you want to share.’

He starts to tell me why he left without a word four years ago, but I have trouble focussing. His face is exactly as I remember it. Sure, he currently sports a stubble, but I can still glimpse the dimple on his left cheek and imagine my hands caressing his strong jawline. He has lost a bit of weight and I realise he has been working out. As he leans towards me, I see his muscles flexing behind his shirt. This from a guy who swore never to enter a gym.

I smile at the memory. He continues to talk earnestly, and I force myself to listen.

‘…so, I’m really, really sorry I left without telling you. But as you can see, I didn’t have much of a choice.’

‘What made you decide to become a tour guide though?’ I ask, gesturing to his ‘office’ – the opera house and harbour bridge in the background remind me of postcards my aunt used to send us.

He grins. ‘Easiest way to hide undercover. It’s a busy city; no one’s going to find me here. Didn’t think anyone from our neck of the woods would be coming here any time soon.’ He pauses while the waitress brings us our coffees.

I sip my long black, taking in the crowds at Circular Quay. It’s nothing like our town where everyone knows everyone. He’s right. It is easy to hide in plain sight here.

‘Of course,’ he says, ‘funny coincidence you ended up in my tour group this arvo. Didn’t think you’d venture out of that shithole’

‘I don’t believe in coincidences,’ I say.

‘Are you saying it was “meant to be“?’ He uses air quotes and chuckles.

I feel a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach that has nothing to do with the caffeine I have just ingested. I look everywhere except at him, waiting for the feeling to pass. I am surprised he continues to have this effect on me. I watch the seagulls scrambling to steal hot chips from passers-by. A little girl shrieks, scaring one of the gulls.

‘You broke me when you left,’ I say. It comes out in a whisper. Not how I’d hoped.

‘C’mon,’ he says. ‘We were only sixteen. Surely you didn’t think it was forever, did you?’

‘No,’ I lie. This time I look at him. ‘I didn’t. But you could’ve done the decent thing and broken up properly.’

My voice trembles but at least, I’m not whispering anymore. He has the decency to blush this time.

‘You’re right,’ he says. ‘But you gotta understand. I had no choice. Like I said, I didn’t want the coppers after me and then there was Dusty and his mates as well. I thought if I told you, they’d know how to find me. And I didn’t want to worry your pretty little head with any of that stuff.’ He beams at me.

I clench my jaw and look at him. He still thinks I am the sixteen-year-old he left behind. And around him, I do feel that way. I take a deep breath but before I can say anything he stands up.

‘I better head,’ he says, nodding towards the bridge. ‘Got my next lot of people in fifteen. It was good seeing you.’ He pauses and looks away. He turns back to me, ‘Don’t tell anyone back home you’ve seen me, yeah?’

I nod.

‘I have a new life here. I don’t want to go back to that shithole.’

He gives me a hug. ‘Stay safe!’

I watch as he loses himself in the crowds. I unlock my phone with my thumb and open up my recent caller list. I ring the first caller. He answers after the fourth ring.

‘Hey Dusty, you’ll never guess who I ran into in Sydney.’

***

I wait for the train at Central station to head back to my ‘shithole’ town. I delete all the emails from the private investigator I’d hired. She was great. My heart feels heavy, but there is no burning sensation anymore. As my therapist says, ‘healing happens in many ways.’

© Sanch V @ Sanch Writes

Prompts: Occupation prompt – tour guide, First sentence – So I suppose you want to ask me why I left town.

Featured image by Rijan Hamidovic from Pexels

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  • Esha M Dutta
    22 August 2019 at 1:09 am

    Loved this piece of writing, Sanch! You’re very good at fiction. So effortlessly you made the story unfold before my eyes.
    Esha M Dutta recently posted…Self Care in Stressful Times | #MondayMusingsMy Profile

  • Roshan Radhakrishnan
    22 August 2019 at 2:43 am

    You have proven in the past too that youre awesome at fiction… keep writing more.
    Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted…Doggy Desktop #WordlessWednesdayMy Profile

  • Jayanthy G
    22 August 2019 at 2:51 am

    I loved it. That was so real. Good one Sanch.
    Jayanthy G recently posted…Life is Certainly BeautifulMy Profile

  • Heidi Lobecker
    22 August 2019 at 9:44 am

    I could clearly see these two people and the setting around them, very nicely done. I like the idea of such a stubborn M.C. who holds onto a sixteen year old hurt, what most people would dismiss, and turns it into a revenge grudge. “I will not be dismissed!” is how I think of this satisfying ending for this character. I did think it was a bit extreme for poor Dusty. Perhaps more hints of the M.C.s malicious character would help “waiting for the feeling to pass. It doesn’t”
    On the other hand, I kinda feel anyone who says “don’t worry your pretty little head” deserves what he gets 🙂

  • Unishta
    22 August 2019 at 4:05 pm

    What a story. Loved the way you built up the tension and the denouement! Look forward to more crisp stories
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  • Soumya
    22 August 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Healing does happen in many mysterious ways! Loved this one, Sanch!
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  • Srivalli Rekha
    22 August 2019 at 9:56 pm

    That ending was cool. Her pretty head, huh. He sure is going to have some surprise.
    A little more info would have helped, but this is good too. 🙂
    Srivalli Rekha recently posted…Green and BlackMy Profile

  • Jen Mierisch
    23 August 2019 at 2:25 am

    I did not think this was going to turn into a revenge story! I was so pleased that it did 🙂 You made him just enough of an asshole that I was glad to see him get his comeuppance.

  • Lisa
    23 August 2019 at 4:32 am

    Funny how so many of us turned against him based on the “pretty little head” comment. I guess too many of us have been dismissed that way! I agree with someone above that a little more foreshadowing of the MC’s vendetta would have been helpful to drive the end forward. I like the phone call to Dusty ending!

  • Melony Boseley
    23 August 2019 at 6:30 am

    Amazing work, Sanch! I love how as the story progresses, there was a hint of the MC’s intentions and that nothing happens by chance.

  • asha
    23 August 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Your scene setting was exceptional. The hints of Circular Quay, the sails of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the seagulls — all so familiar and vivid. I also really love the naturalness of the dialogue in this piece. You’ve captured the ease of conversation between these two characters that shows the reader the depth of their relationship, their comfort around each other. It goes such a long way to establishing backstory. The little snippets of backstory you do give us are rich. The pokey country town established through the postcards of the big city her aunt used to send, the drama that caused his sudden exit established by the mob who are after him, the abandonment she felt established through her wavering voice — all shown through small moments. It was a lovely way to avoid using too much exposition. The character development (of the m/c) and the development of their relationship was really well crafted. My nitpick here is that the plot was sacrificed a little. I wasn’t clear about what had happened to make him run, what he was running from (other than the ominous Dusty and his mates). What was the inciting incident that made him leave in the first place, and then go into hiding never to return? Having said that, I like the way you’ve left the ending open to possibilities — it invites the reader to imagine what the future might hold for each of the characters.

  • Shalzmojo
    24 August 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Reading this piece took me back to the Boy Swallows Universe book – I almost expected this to be a fan fiction 🙂
    Very well written and the narrative pace is good. Loved the diabolical ending.
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  • Rajlakshmi
    3 September 2019 at 11:03 pm

    Ohh I didn’t expect the ending. Absolutely loved the story. Your description of Circular Quay and the seagulls stealing chips is so lively. I could imagine them sitting in a cafe and chatting.
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