Here are two short stories I wrote back in 2004...
A Heart-shaped Lease
He returned the key to its long lost place, next to his home key and half of a key chain framing a faded photo. He shut his door and left his apartment. As he walked down the street, he could almost swear he saw her. His mind was brimming with memories of her and her smile. It was the kind of smile a person could never forget, no matter how hard they tried. He had tried to forget too many times over. The girl he thought of had long, wavy light brown hair that looked very natural and swayed ever so slightly when she walked. Her eyes were also very beautiful and soul binding. One gaze into her eyes and your soul was hers. Maybe you didn’t know it at first, but somewhere along the line, you’d find yourself re-attaching a once shared apartment key to your key chain.
The sights of the city around him were the same the day he left those five years ago. That day, he broke her smile. She wasn’t a fragile person, but she was passionate about everything and everyone in her life. He did see her once after that day, one or two years after it happened. She still looked the same, her mane lightly whipping the air around her with a strawberry shampoo scent. But when she smiled, his heart ached. A smile that had been the reason he even woke up some mornings was shattered. The rock that was cast and the fingerprints found were traced back to him. Unrequited love never hurt him in this way before. He wasn’t able to love her and she was never the same.
The sounds of ordinary city life were drowned out by his thoughts. The only thing he could hear was the familiar sound of a key clinking against a photo frame and the scent of strawberries was fresh in his nostrils. His hand found his pocket as he turned on the corner of Washington and Oak. He ran his fingers over the key like he did once every year after that day.
Her apartment building was slowly coming into sight as he stopped for coffee on a street corner. He ordered it the way she used to drink it; two sugars with just a drop of cream. He smiled as he remembered his first morning in the apartment. She made him a breakfast that could’ve fed four other people besides him. The amazing thing was that with every mouthful of the meal, he could feel the love she put into it. He drank his coffee slowly and turned to look down the street. For a moment he heard her voice ordering a cup of coffee; a gentle, loving voice like hers. He slightly turned his head to catch a glimpse of her and his nose found a lingering scent of strawberries. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the girl at the street corner vender had short, dark hair, and dismissed his suspicions. The girl thanked the vender and walked away briskly.
He crushed his empty Styrofoam cup under his foot and continued to walk. He pushed his matted hair out of his right eye; she liked it when it did that. Remembering this, he pushed it back over his eye. It was becoming closer now and he looked up at her window. Scuffing his feet as he walked, he looked down at his shoes. He wore the very same sneakers that day. She loved them. The old canvas sneakers were drawn on and it was hard to think that the rubber parts were once clean and white. He sat down on the curb across the street from the apartment building. He read the song lyrics written on his right sneaker, written so long ago in her handwriting. Their song ran through his head as if it weren’t locked up and forgotten for five years. “There is no end to the long fall of love. Only detours and caution signs to speak of…” He learned how to play it on his guitar and would sing it to her. It was because of her that he even thought of picking up a guitar. She believed in him and supported him so much. She suffered through long hours of learning and practicing and practicing, but her smile and support never wavered.
He looked up from his shoes on the street to find that it was raining. According to the dampness of the street, it had been raining for a while. He shrugged, laughed and stood; listening to the rain hit the ground. She loved listening to the rain. A vision of her dancing in a rain shower their last summer together flashed in his mind. For a moment, he forgot why he left her. For a moment, he felt like he never left her. He crossed the street and stood in front of the building, waiting for someone to leave or come home. He sat on the cool, wet cement steps. Finding the key, he removed it from his pocket and examined it. He remembered when she gave him the copy and asked him to move in with her. The photo in the frame was of her and her smile. She had the other half of the key chain, with a picture of him in it. He wondered if she still kept it after that day. She didn’t ask him to give the key back.
A sound of a door opening startled him and he jumped up. He caught the door just as it was closing. The elevator was full, so he decided to take the stairs. Every flight had its own memories of her. The first set of stairs was of her running ahead of him and teasing him. The next flight was when she tried to slide down the banister, but failed, ending up in his arms. Last, was a painful memory. It was of that day. He was walking down the stairs with his bags and guitar, and he turned around to see her standing at the top of the stairs. She forced a smile and a tear left her cheek. He turned around and it was the last time he would see her look at him with love.
He climbed the final stair, turned and walked down the hallway toward her door. He clutched the key so tightly in his hand that his palm started to bleed. He stood outside the apartment door and suddenly became aware of his appearance. He was soaked, but he knew she wouldn’t care. He pushed his hair forward over his right eye. He took the key from his left hand and held it out to unlock the door with his right. He stood there in that position for a duration of five minutes that felt like five more years. He couldn’t do it. He shoved the key back into his pocket and turned away from the door. He faced the elevator, ready to go home: to go back and try to forget her again.
The doors opened and his heart skipped as he faced a girl with short, dark hair. She was looking for something in her purse. She looked up and was holding a key attached to a photo frame.
False Hopes for Autumn
With a salty taste in her mouth and a blurred vision she walked to her old trampoline. She removed he tightly secured sneakers and hopped up onto the edge while grabbing the safety net. Leaves and twigs had collected in the middle of her childhood remains, so she pushed them off with the backside of her arm. She sat, Indian-style clinging to the net.
A light summer breeze weaved through her freshly cut hair. She could hear the voices of autumn and wished they didn’t sound so near. A branch from the tree near the trampoline hung itself over the side of the net. She outstretched her arm with an open hand, but the last green leaf was just out of her reach. She flopped onto her back, feeling a familiar sense of security. It had been long since she felt anything.
She breathed deeply and slowly let go of the net her fingers were entwined with. Yellow leaves fell from the sky and most landed on her body. But the few leaves that remained air-born were carried away with the breeze. Sighing, she believed that they knew where they were going. She swept the leaves from her chest and rolled over onto her stomach. The world looked differently from this point. She liked it. Everything was at eye level, equal to her.
Today was a good day. Not just a day that falls among the rest with neutral placement. Feeling neutral was what she sis best. Nothing hurt or upset her and nothing excited her. She thought with her mind and not her heart. Not long ago her heart over saw all of her thinking. It was this way she was hurt. Her heart was now an intruder in her body.
A wave of sobs overcame her, so much that she gasped for air. No one had sensed this change within her the past year and it stirred a recognizable feeling of heartache. She pressed her cheek against the trampoline and the cool air from beneath caressed her tear-stained past. The sobbing stopped as quickly as it had begun and she was indifferent again. She didn’t think that it was the way a person should live their life. She kicked her feet up so that they were parallel to her body. She swung her lower limbs like she did when she was young; when her heart was well known. Trying hard to remember happiness, she found a memory in a bout of déjà vu. She had come to this very place on her trampoline before. She was upset about some trivial point of life, but right then, she would’ve given anything to feel that strongly again.
The wind whipping her hair into her eyes brought her back from her place years ago. Sitting up, she tamed her wild mane, lassoing it with an elastic band. Making sure no one was around, she began to bounce a little; she smirked. She stood up and inspected her yard from this point of view. She was up higher than she remembered being. She bounced a little again but grabbed the net. Each time she bounced, she rose higher above the world that had scorned her; it felt good. She began to laugh and let go of the net. She continued for a while but flopped into a sitting position when her knees began to feel weak. She took off her socks and threw herself back up, smiling. Looking over the side of the trampoline, she decided to jump off. Landing on the soft summer ground, the grass tickled her feet. She sighed a content sigh and walked toward her house, leaving her sneakers and any other restraints behind her. The last green leaf on the branch was released to float above the slow-changing earth. It was more satisfied as a part of the unpredictable wind.
7 years ago