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A Sky without the Moon

Rushali is the author of two short story collections called Unexpected Encounters and Until We Meet Again.

a-sky-without-the-moon

It was past midnight, the night sky looked extraordinary. The flickering light at the stairs of the overpass had now given up; the length of the pass lay silent and dark, lit by the faintest glow of the street lights below.

It wasn't this dark that day though.

His blonde hair swayed in the wind as he made his way up through the stairs. He stopped for a moment.

This is where we met, on the stairs under the flickering light. This is where I first looked up at you with an unusual fear in my heart and an unsure smile on my face.

His forehead which was usually hidden by the short waves of hair stood exposed today.

'You should try slicking your hair back. I think it would suit you'; they were mere words, but to me it felt like you cared.

He walked past the spot and up the stairs, a vivid picture of hers in his mind. He rested his wrists on the railing and leaned forward, looking out at the cars passing below on the highway, a blurry mess of colours and lights. Sitting down on the concrete bench that was beside him, he laid the paper in his hands down and took out a pencil from his pocket.

So you are an artist, she had asked. I hope you can draw me before we part. I nodded happily to her wish. I wanted to be selfish this once, I had ignored the mention of parting.

The crisp edge of his pencil scratched against the smooth surface of the paper; in repeated motions he sketched out her hair, the high pony, her sharp features and the trench coat she was wearing that day.

In our happiest times, why do we not think about the sadness that is to come? Why do we ignore the happening of an obvious end while we cherish the beginning?

He looked up at the sky; like a veil of darkness pulled over a bed of a thousand stars. No matter how bright they shine, the darkness that surrounded them mattered more than their luster; it will always be at the pity of a moon that showed itself in its full glory every thirty days.

A month ago, I dialed the number I had received from the church. She had finally agreed to meet me.

He took out an old photo with damaged edges from his wallet. A pretty young girl stood with a baby in her arms under the shade of a tree, a little taller than her. A small and pretty church in the background.

She hadn't changed much. She was living well; I should have been glad, but I wasn't. If she had been miserable, would she have come looking for me before I did? Would I have been someone she needed?

He looked to his side, the cross atop the steeple shone in red at a distance. It was different from the photo; the tree had grown taller and wider, its leaves reaching out to the sky. The church had been rebuilt, beautiful than before; the orphanage now had a bigger playground. He looked back at the photo in his hands. The only object he was left with, as he was abandoned.

'I came to tell you to stop; searching for me, contacting the orphanage about me. You grew up well alone. Strangers; we are better off that way'.

The words played over and over in his mind. He wanted to blame the wind for the tears that now built up in his eyes.

I didn't answer. She turned around; her driver was waiting in the car. Mother? Should I have called her as she left? Should I have told her I would wait? I watched as she disappeared down the stairs.

He looked to his side, the narrow pathway that led to the opposite side. Nothing was going to change. He put the photo back into his wallet. He looked at the paper on the bench, a beautiful portrait of a woman he had only met once as far as his memory helped.

I waited under the flickering lights. And today is the last day I will do so. To exist without a moon, I have to come to terms with it; a sky that will continue to exist under the veil of darkness.

He crumbled the paper in his hands and tossed it in the bin next to the stairs.

The light flickered, it had found the hope that I had learnt to let go.


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