They were seated together under the shelter of the maple trees. The leaves, lush green in the spring, swayed overhead in the soft breeze, a few stray leaves taking flight to unknown destinations, others descending and performing a frenzied dance on the footpath below. Dappled light, shining through the gaps in the foliage above, created patterns of light and shade on their faces. The melodic chirping of birds – robins, perhaps – filled the air, along with the euphoric squeals of playing children, barking dogs, and the never-ending, incessant stream of chatter. To most bystanders, the crowds of people were viewed as a disturbance to the otherwise tranquil, placid atmosphere of the park around them.
The couple under the trees, however, had an entirely different interpretation. It was as if they were surrounded by their own perfect little sphere of serenity, oblivious to the world outside yet somehow a part of it at the same time. Her hand lay in his as they watched it all unfold, spectators to the main event. A small smile played upon her lips as she cast a sideways glance at the man beside her. A rogue strand of light blonde hair stuck up at a ridiculous angle from underneath his navy-blue hat, ruining his serious azure gaze and solemn, almost expressionless visage.
Laughing, she gave it a flick, startling him out of his thoughts.
“What?” he asked, blinking several times in confusion. The expression on his face only caused her to laugh harder. He stared at her, baffled. “What’s happening?”
She shook her head, smirking. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she told him.
“No, seriously,” he said. His grasp on her hand tightened as he met her eyes. She bit her lip to contain her laughter. The air around him was so fervent, so grave, that she couldn’t help but find it absurdly hilarious. “Please, __________, tell me what it is.”
“Why should I?” she joked, looking up at him.
Oblivious to the fact that she was playing around, he replied, straight-faced, his deep blue eyes searching hers, “Because you can trust me.”
Unable to hold in her amusement any longer, she burst out into loud guffaws. He could only watch perplexedly, brow furrowed, as she laughed at what he hoped was not him. He was still new to the idea of relationships, like a child riding a bicycle with training wheels. She was a natural despite, as she assured him, never having had any experience, and to add to that, she was compassionate, beautiful, assertive and intelligent – all the reasons why he loved her.
When she had subsided into mere chuckles, wiping tears from her eyes, he said, “Do tell me what that whole ordeal was about.”
“Lukas,” she said simply, (e/c) eyes alight with mirth.
“__________,” he answered, the small, crooked smile that she loved so much curving his lips.
“I wasn’t done! Give me a chance to continue, will you?” she teased, cracking into a grin. Lukas smiled back – a genuine smile, a rare occasion that changed his sombre countenance into one of joy, lighting up his features. Unfortunately, it faded just as quickly as it appeared, but it sent shivers down her spine nonetheless. †
“Well, go on, then,” he insisted, eyebrows up in expectation.
“It’s just… you,” she relented.
“Me?” he queried, bewilderment written across his face. “What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing.” She beamed at him. “You’re just so serious, is all.”
“There is nothing wrong with that,” he said indignantly.
“I know,” she said, “but you need to lighten up a little.”
“Lighten up,” he mused, head cocked to the side.
“Lukas means ‘bringer of light’, you know,” she informed him matter-of-factly.
“No, I didn’t, actually,” he said, a small smile blossoming on his face. “Thank you for telling me.”
“You’re very welcome,” she replied, smiling in return.
Suddenly, his eyes lit up. “Oh yes, and, ah…” he began, only to trail off.
“And what?” she prompted, suddenly curious.
“Would you like to teach me how to…” He looked up at her from under his eyelashes, those lovely cobalt eyes holding a spark of amusement. “… lighten up?”
A wide grin plastered on her face, she leapt up from the bench, grabbing Lukas’s hands and hauling him to his feet as she did. He felt a brief flash of surprise as they began to spin in circles, around and around. She led the way, laughing, her (h/c) hair airborne and both of his hands clasped in hers. He went along, giving into her whims as he watched her, spellbound. She was so carefree, so brilliantly joyful, that it was infectious. Soon enough, he found himself smiling as well, joining in with the merriment.
The sounds of their elated laughter filled the air, attracting attention from passers-by, but they either did not notice or did not care. In that moment, in their minds, no one but the two of them existed. It may have been a short, blissful instant but for the few minutes that it lasted, they were happy. To them, that was all that mattered.
After one last rotation, they collapsed onto the grass below, gasping for air. The world revolved dizzyingly around her as she whispered, only loud enough for him to hear, “I love you, Lukas.”
“I love you, __________,” Lukas replied, closing his eyes to shut off the nauseating turn the world had taken, “til slutten av tid.”
“Til slutten av tid?” she repeated.
“Until the end of time,” he translated, his voice barely audible.
Her (e/c) orbs were wide as she asked breathlessly, “As in… forever?”
Lukas opened his eyes again, staring up at the cloudless, vibrant blue sky through the gaps left by the shelter of the leaves. “Forever,” he confirmed.
Clutching a bouquet of red roses in one hand and a birthday card in the other, she joined the long queue waiting in line for the cashier. At this time of day – visiting hours – the gift shop was always packed full with people purchasing last minute presents. It was just her luck that she happened to be caught in the thick of it. She counted heads and found that there were at least a dozen others ahead in line. It did not help that she was in an irritable mood today.
Mentally chastising herself for not having the foresight to have arrived earlier, she bounced up and down on the balls of her feet impatiently and glanced around the room. The gift shop was approximately the same size as her bedroom – to put it simply: small, which made for a tight fit for the twenty or so people crowded inside. As her eyes skimmed across the different faces, some gave her a small smile. She had become such a regular at this place that people had recognised and remembered her on more than a few occasions. Of course, those who were familiar with her tended to visit recurrently as well – and that was not necessarily a positive.
She glanced down at the card in her hand, pushing her thoughts away. It was one of the more presentable cards the shop had in stock, at least compared to the neon colour scheme, stylised cartoons and upbeat bubble writing of stereotypical gift shop birthday cards. This particular card was white, with Happy 20th Birthday printed in simple red cursive on the front – she had presumed he would like the unpretentious, nondescript design, although it was not the best. She hoped that she would get the chance to buy him a better card next year… if there was a next year.
Don’t think like that, she told herself, biting her lip.
Without her realising it, she had become first in line. The cashier was sending a concerned look her way.
“Are you okay, Miss?” he asked as she strolled up to the counter.
“I’m fine,” she said a little too abruptly, placing her items on top of it. “Thank you for asking.”
“Doesn’t seem like it,” he said, eyebrows raised. Had his eyes not been downcast as he scanned her purchases, he would have been on the receiving end of a glare.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Dunno.” He shrugged, passing the scanner over the card’s barcode. “Seems like you’ve got a lot on your mind. Might I ask, who are these for?” He indicated the objects with his free hand.
“My boyfriend,” she said, handing him her payment. Scooping her purchases up, she added quietly, “He’s in the oncology ward.”
The cashier’s expression softened. “Sorry to hear that,” he said in a gentler tone.
“Me too,” she said, turning away before the tears could flow. As she was about to briskly stride away, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Hey,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to accept a little sympathy sometimes.”
“Like I said, I’m fine,” she said tonelessly, “but thank you for your consideration.”
Before he could reply, she stormed off, head down. You idiot, she berated herself, don’t cry. You have to be strong for him.
The hospital had almost become like a second home to her. She had visited almost every day for the past few months, so she knew the path to Lukas’s room like the back of her hand. Allowing her feet to guide her along, she mustered up an expression of confidence and tried to maintain it. As she entered the elevator, head held high, a few strange looks were cast her way. Nevertheless, she remained adamant – she was going to be strong, supportive and resilient. She could not break down. Even more so, she could not let him see her break down.
The elevator doors slid open on the fifth floor and she marched out indomitably. She was known for her positivity – the tower of strength during tough times, a shoulder to cry on, the one person who succeeded in cheering everybody up. Today is going to be no different, she told herself firmly, though she truly doubted that claim. Even then, as she walked down the immaculately polished tile floors, the sound of her footsteps echoing off the walls, she made herself – and Lukas – a promise.
They were going to get through this, no matter what it took.
Despite her upbeat, optimistic attitude, her resolve almost broke when she reached the door to Lukas’s room. Suddenly, the hospital smells of antiseptic became too strong, the dim lights too bright. She could hear the pounding of blood in her ears and felt her throat going dry.
What if he’s gone when I open the door? What if it happened and no one told me?
Swallowing anxiously, she placed her hand on the doorknob. Don’t be ridiculous, she thought, shaking her head to clear away her thoughts, he’ll be there. He’ll be fine. Relax.
Gathering up her courage, she twisted the doorknob and the door swung open with a creak. It revealed a room bathed in shadows, for the curtains were drawn closed over the windows. There was minimal furniture – two small chairs and a table, a dresser and a bed in the centre of the room, surrounded by whirring, beeping medical machines, their glowing lights luminescent in the darkness. As the thin sliver of light from outside illuminated the figure lying in the bed, she realised with a start that he was awake.
Her breath caught in her throat. For a moment, all her worries vanished as her eyes fell upon him. Even in ill health, he was striking. White-blonde hair fell over one eye, rendering it unseen, the other holding a trace of happiness upon seeing her. His signature lone unruly curl of hair remained untamed. The blue hat and cross barrette he wore so often sat on the dresser beside the bed. A weak, though genuine, smile curved his thin lips.
It was a short-lived moment of ignorance of the world around them, ignorance of their situation, where she could finally believe that nothing was wrong, today was just another ordinary day and Lukas was perfectly well – but reality came crashing down on her like waves against a cliff. She began to notice all the little details she had failed to grasp before: the shadows under his eyes, the excessively pale tone of his skin, the way the hospital gown hung loosely on his gaunt frame.
At least today is one of his better days, she thought, trying to keep positive. It hurt her to see him like this but she knew there was nothing she could do to help. The doctors couldn’t help and they were trained professionals – what more could a mere university student do?
“Hello, __________,” Lukas said, interrupting her train of thought. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and waved off her small noise of protest. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”
“Lukas—” she began, about to tell him off, only to realise she was holding gifts in her hands. Clearing her throat, blushing, she said, “Um, hi. Happy birthday. These are for you.”
“Oh?” he asked, raising his eyebrows as she handed him the flowers and the card. After giving the roses a delicate sniff, he looked up at her, smiling. “Thank you.”
“Glad you like them.” She nodded at the card lying on his lap. “Go on, take a look at that.”
“Nice,” he murmured in approval, picking it up.
She felt a small burst of triumph. It was hard to buy things for Lukas and even harder to have him commend them. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long – her victory quickly turned into failure as he flipped the card open, frowning.
“There’s nothing written on it,” he noted, eyes flicking up at her and then back down to the blank surface.
She cursed under her breath, smacking herself on the forehead. “I’m such an idiot,” she muttered.
“Why? What is wrong?” Lukas asked apprehensively.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologised hastily. He stared, stunned into silence, as the words began to tumble out of her mouth. “It’s just that I slept in today because I had to stay up until three in the morning last night finding my lecture notes and finishing my essay for English Lit, and then the bus was half an hour late – †not to mention that the traffic on the way here was horrible! When I finally got here, it took me eons to find a normal card, plus the fact that the stupid line went on forever and—”
“__________,” he interrupted, holding up a hand. “Relax. Please. You’re not an idiot and I don’t mind about the card. I’m just happy that you remembered my birthday at all.”
She drew in a shaky breath and then exhaled slowly. “Sorry about that,” she said, running a hand through her hair. Lukas watched her, his expression unreadable. “I’ve had a rotten day. I know I shouldn’t take it out on you, especially on your birthday.”
“Oh, __________,” he said softly, a forlorn expression forming on his face. “You don’t need to worry. After you went to all that trouble just for me… I do not know what to say.”
“‘Thank you’ would be nice,” she said half-heartedly, making an attempt at jollity.
“Thank you,” Lukas said, staid as ever.
“I was only kidding,” she told him, candidly smiling this time, as she took a seat on one of the chairs in the corner of the room.
“You were?” he asked, brow furrowed in perplexity.
“Yeah.” She placed her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her hands, gazing at him. It was times like these when she was reminded of how things used to be – she would crack a joke and he would mistake it for a sincere comment. She felt a pang of melancholy in her chest as she realised that there would be no going back to those times unless Lukas managed to survive. He’d made it a year so far but she didn’t want to test their luck.
“I can never tell when you’re joking,” he said. “Is it just me?”
She hesitated before admitting, “It’s just you.”
Lukas made a noise of frustration. “I need to work on my… ah… what’s the phrase?” He paused. “‘People skills’?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Yes, that’s the phrase,” she told him.
“Good,” he said with a relieved smile. There was a moment of silence – she was not sure how to reply to his statement and he was not inclined to continue the conversation. After all, Lukas was a man of few words. She had learnt to be accustomed to this, hence why none of the silences that occurred between them were awkward. They were merely comfortable: two people enjoying each other’s presence without having to worry about the act of conversation.
Absent-mindedly, she fiddled with the circular locket that hung on a silver necklace around her neck. He had given it to her as a gift last year on their first anniversary before he had been admitted to hospital. She flipped it open, revealing the contents: two photos of her and Lukas taken in a photo booth at the local theme park. They looked so jubilant, so overjoyed, that she could hardly believe that the people in the photographs were the same two people sitting in the small hospital room, dreading the future to come. Overwhelmed by memories, she snapped the locket shut and let it fall back against her chest.
Meanwhile, as a brief glimpse at him revealed, Lukas seemed to be growing restless – if fidgeting, sneaking nervous glances at her and tugging at his hair were any indication. She sent a reassuring smile his way and he returned it, albeit a little edgy. Unconcerned, she leant her head against the wall and sighed, leaving Lukas to his own devices. He had behaved like this several times before but she had passed it off as nothing major. He opened his mouth on multiple occasions throughout the next few minutes as if to speak but made no sound; thus, the silence continued. It was not until she glanced at the IV bag hanging on a pole beside his bed that the banter resumed.
“Lukas,” she said, rising from her seat and walking over to his bedside, “your IV bag is almost empty.”
“Is it?” he asked, squinting up at it. As he finally realised that the contents were near depleted, his eyebrows rose. “Indeed it is.”
Troubled by his lack of concern over the issue, she frowned anxiously. “Would you like me to call for a doctor?” she asked. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m well. Actually, no, I’m not,” he said.
She stared. “Um… Lukas?”
“I’m sorry, it’s just…” He faltered, clutching at the bedspreads. “The entire time you’ve been here, I’ve been thinking and I’ve tried not to show it but... __________... I think it’s about time I told you something.”
Shocked by the sudden change in the conversation, she fell silent, mouth opening and closing several times. “L-Lukas,” she stuttered after a moment, “are you alright?”
“Emotionally? Not at all,” he admitted. Locking his dark blue orbs with her (e/c) ones, he asked quietly, “Have I ever told you how much I love you, __________?”
“I… I think so,” she said hesitantly, anxiety evident in her voice. If his strange behaviour earlier had led to this… “Lukas, please—”
“Do you remember what I said?” The look in his eyes was so intense and forceful that she could not help but feel a little frightened.
“No,” she replied. “No, I don’t.”
“Well, I’m going to tell you again,” he said slowly, “so make sure you remember this time, okay?”
“What?” she asked, incredulous. “Lukas, what on Earth is goi—”
“Promise me,” he interrupted, an edge of desperation to his voice. “Please, __________, I beg of you.”
She made a strangled noise of vexation. “Lukas—”
“Okay, fine, I promise! But don’t expect me to—”
That was when he kissed her.
His hands gripped her shoulders, unexpectedly strong for someone who looked so frail. Taken by surprise, she made a noise of alarm that was muffled as soon as his lips touched hers. As bemused as she was by his actions, she was unable to resist. It was a pleasant, indulgent kiss, his lips soft and sweet on hers – but it was also more than that. There was a hint of profound passion, of secrets untold, of desire and longing and desperation, all compacted into one gesture of affection. She could not help but respond, bringing her hands up and running them through his silky hair as she broke away to take a breath.
When they reconnected, she understood what he had meant by saying he was going to tell her how much he loved her. His affection could not be measured by a simple number or figure – it was unfathomable, infinite, beyond mere words. This was the only way to convey it. As the kiss deepened, she found herself pouring all of her own emotion into it as well – all her pent up frustration and resentment at the disease, at the doctors, at the world in general – at all the things that were unfixable. Lukas was the only one who understood how she felt.
Of course he would, a small voice in the back of her head said, because after all, he’s the one you’re worrying about, isn’t he?
At that thought, she came back to her senses. Drawing away from him, she stumbled backwards until her back was pressed against the cool surface of the wall, spots dancing in front of her eyes.
“Oh my God,” she whispered. “Lukas, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have.”
He looked crestfallen. “You didn’t like it?”
“Oh, no! On the contrary, I liked it very much.” She gave a fleeting, nervous laugh before immediately turning solemn. “But… I don’t understand.”
“__________,” he said guiltily, “I have been keeping something from you. I did not want to tell you for fear that your opinion of me would change but… I cannot withhold it from you any longer.”
“What is it?” she asked tenderly.
He looked away before answering, “The cancer… it has spread.”
There was no infliction in his voice but she could feel rather than hear the underlying pain, could tell that it was so hard for him to tell her this. She clasped her hands over her mouth, eyes widening in alarm. Her body began to tremble as thoughts raced through her head, quick as lightning – I knew it would happen, but why now? Why him? Why? – and all she could feel, or not feel, was an eerie sense of detachment.
“When?” she asked, her voice coming out as a squeak. “Just now? A few days ago, right? Because in that case, at least you’ve got three more months, maybe five. Right?”
He was silent.
“Lukas, please,” she pleaded distraughtly. “When? Tell me, please!”
He looked down at his hands, at those long, beautiful fingers. “Three months ago.”
Her blood ran cold in her veins and her emotional wall came crashing down. All the feelings that had previously been suppressed in that brief period of numbness and disbelief – grief, anguish, heartache, despondency – came flooding in. She sank down, her back sliding against the wall, to sit on the floor. Burying her head in her knees and clutching locks of (h/c) hair in her fists, she felt deprived of air, as if all the wind had been knocked out of her. Don’t cry, she thought. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
“Three months ago,” she murmured, rocking back and forth. “But three months ago… the doctors told me… they told me that you had at least another year…”
“Because I told them to,” Lukas conceded.
She looked up to stare at him. There was so much woe, so much contrition in his eyes, despite his otherwise impassive countenance. “Why?”
A sad smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “Because of you.”
She choked back a sob with all her effort. “Lukas… you didn’t have to.”
“Yes, I did,” he said defiantly. “Don’t think I do not know you. I know how you can get. You’re overprotective – not that that’s a bad thing but I do know something that is. You worry too much, __________. Too much for your own good.”
“Why would it matter? It wouldn’t have made a difference,” she argued.
He chuckled lightly. “There’s the __________ that I know.”
“Lukas!” she said accusatorily. “Answer my question. Please.”
She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth – the sorrowful look in his eyes returned and she instantly cringed in remorse.
“I’m sorry—” she began.
“No. It’s okay. You deserve an answer,” he interrupted, taking a deep breath. “If I had three more months to live, I would want to live them with you – without you having to worry more about me than you already are. I love you, __________, and I know the feeling is mutual. I do not want what we have to change. I do not want you to pity me, to watch over me every waking hour. I have come to terms with the fact that I am going to die but please; don’t treat me like I am. I don’t want you to think of me any differently than you ever have. I don’t want any sympathy. I just want to cherish what we have before it’s too late. Please, can you do this for me?”
“Oh, Lukas,” she said softly. “I don’t know what to say.”
“But I know what you can do,” he told her, gesturing for her to approach him.
She stood up, brushing phantom dust from her jeans, and made her way towards him. He outstretched a hand and she took it, pulling herself on to the edge of his bed.
“How much longer?” she asked, feeling her heart shatter into pieces.
“I don’t know. A month at most,” he replied dejectedly, “but that does not matter.”
“Yes, it does! You can’t just act like your life is usele—”
“Shh.” He leant forward and placed a thin finger on her lips. “It’s okay, __________.”
“No, it’s not.” Her voice cracked on the last word and so did the barrier holding back her tears. She made an effort to stop them but it was hopeless – they came streaming down her face and on to Lukas’s bed-sheets, creating distorted splotches on the fabric. Soon after, she was sobbing her heart out. He pulled her into a hug, making comforting noises, and she let him. They stayed embraced, entwined as if they were one instead of two, until the last of her tears were gone and she was left feeling hollow, an empty shell of who she once was.
“I’m sorry, __________,” Lukas said ruefully, “for not telling you. It was selfish of me.”
“It’s not your fault,” she whispered.
“No, it’s not.”
“Just admit it.”
“No, damn it.”
He laughed and so did she, caught on the edge of hysteria. If these were their last moments, they might as well make them worth it.
“I love you, Lukas,” she whispered. “No matter what happens.”
“I love you, too. Til slutten av tid,” he whispered back.
“No,” she said, turning around in his arms to look up at him. “Don’t say that.”
“Why?” he asked, nonplussed.
“Because the end of time for you…” She did not need to complete the sentence for they both knew what she meant – The end of time for you could be in less than a month.
“Well, then,” he said, kissing the top of her head lightly, “what would you like me to say instead?”
“How about…” She smiled. “Forever?”
“Forever it is.” He nodded austerely.
It was snowing.
Delicate flakes, dancing and swirling, fell from the overcast sky above. A chilly breeze blew, fluttering around the ankle-length coats and thick, woollen scarves of those rational enough to shield themselves from the cold, harsh winter. In spite of the abysmal weather, the snow-blanketed city remained as busy as ever, streets crowded with bustling citizens eager to reach their destinations. Whether there were no rays of sunshine, no warm, summer heat, people always pulled through, proving that not even the great forces of Mother Nature could disturb their fortitude – one of their most admirable qualities.
In the chaos, nobody stopped to scrutinise the lone figure standing in the cemetery at the edge of the city, all alone, slowly being shrouded in a layer of white. Nobody stopped to wonder how long she had been there – evidently long enough to have collected an overlay of snow. Nobody stopped to question her motives or the red roses she held in her gloved hand – the same kind she had given to her boyfriend in a small hospital room a year ago.
The same kind that he had been holding at his funeral.
She had skipped her lecture today, much to the dismay of her parents, to come here instead. For the past year on the same date every month, she had visited the small cemetery, bearing flowers and various other gifts. Sometimes she would sit down and talk out loud, in hopes that he would appear soundlessly, as he so often would, and return her communication. He couldn’t be gone. Maybe he’d moved back to Norway, his hometown. Maybe they’d broken up. Anything – anything – would be better than the reality, because at least he would still be alive. At least she could still talk to him, if not face to face.
That day in the hospital room – had it really only been about a year ago? – was the last time she saw him well. Perhaps he had been lucky, perhaps Death had granted him once last day to live with her, to tell her what she needed to know. The day after, his condition had already deteriorated. The doctors began to increase his medication and treatments in order to prolong his life for as long as possible, even though they all knew nothing could be done to save him. She had been there at his side every day, sitting by his bed and holding his hand in hers, murmuring sweet nothings of comfort as he slept. Two weeks on, he had fallen into a coma and she was no longer allowed to visit him. That was the last time she had seen him alive.
No one had been able to come to terms with his death, not really. The memory of his funeral was still fresh in her mind – it was a simple affair, only close family and friends invited. She was one of the few people allowed to see him before he was… no, it was too painful; but the image was etched into her thoughts like pen on paper: inerasable. He had looked so young, so at peace, his pale blonde hair spread out around his head like a halo. She should have been glad that he was finally rid of the suffering but all she had been able to feel was misery. Unable to take it any longer, she had bent down and placed a kiss on his cold forehead before rushing out of the room, bursting into tears. She did not return until the service began.
Now, a year later, the scars still had not fully healed. There was a place deep in her heart that belonged to Lukas and Lukas alone. Regardless of the fact that he was no longer with her, that place still remained reserved for him. For most people, if they came to lose a loved one, it would feel as though a large chunk was missing from their being; they would never be whole again. For her, it was different. She had brooded over it for a while but recalling something Lukas had said mere days before his passing, she came to a realisation.
When I die, he had said, I want my memory to live on through other people.
Maybe it’s something like that, she thought, kneeling to place the flowers in front of his gravestone, eyes skimming over the engraved words for what felt like the hundredth time today. Lukas Bondevik, they read, 1992-2012. Beloved son, friend and lover. May you rest in peace. Straightforward and humble. He would’ve liked that.
Straightening up, she beheld the scene she had just created – brilliant red blossoms resting against the tombstone, contrasting with the stark white winter snow like fire and ice. Another month would pass and again she would return to replace and replenish them, to hope for Lukas, to repeat the never-ending cycle. Seasons would change – clouds turning to sun, snow turning to rain – and still she would remain. Whether she was able to fall in love again or not, no one could ever replace him. Lukas, that exceedingly serious, otherworldly beautiful man, had left her but that didn’t mean her ardour for him was diminished. If anything, it kindled the flames and they burned brighter, leaping for the sky.
But why must it hurt so much?
She turned away, the embedded sorrow that she had become so accustomed to consuming her whole. Blinking rapidly to clear the teardrops blurring her vision, she stalked off, a hand subconsciously reaching up to touch the locket around her neck. Lukas was gone and nothing could change that, but there was nothing stopping her from keeping him alive, at least in the hearts of those dear to him. After all, she had made a promise.
As she joined the throngs of people in the city on the long walk back home, her fingers traced over the one word she had etched into the golden surface of the locket.