Life is Fragile
A quiet sigh escaped Tyson’s parted lips as he stood, back against the smooth concrete wall of the train station. The platform was full of life, people hurrying about, briefcases in hands as they glance upwards at the clock displayed on the wall; and next to it, the train’s estimated time of arrival.
Furrowing his brows, Tyson’s lips pressed into a thin line and he shook his head; his thick mop of mahogany hair obscured his vision. Tongue clicking against the roof of his mouth, Tyson resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
He wished that people would slow down – enjoy life for what it was; live a little; take things as they come, not rush about with their gaze fixed on the ground below. People missed out on the beauty that life had to offer that way. All the little things that could make you smile – gone, without having realised it.
With a quick flick of his head, Tyson’s dark hair was pushed from his eyes. As he relaxed, Tyson’s shoulders slumped as he smoothed out his denim shirt. With a gentle push, Tyson moved away from the brick wall and began his way slowly along the platform, observing the people that pushed their way around him.
At the very top of a platform sat a petite girl, no older than twenty in a simple cotton dress, her coffee coloured hair was swept into a messy bun; a plastic umbrella clutched tightly in her small hands. Peering up at the cornflower sky, Tyson let out a quiet chuckle; there wasn’t a cloud in sight!
This girl certainly was different. The way she clutched onto the umbrella, turning it over and over in her hands as though her life depended on it … Maybe she was holding onto it for someone? Or maybe, she was prepared for the unexpected. Tyson wasn’t exactly sure why, but he felt a small smile creep onto his face.
The shrill whistle of the train caught his attention and Tyson glanced up; it had only just pulled into the station now and its wheels screeched loudly against the tracks as it fought against the breaks. The platform’s occupants pushed and shoved one another in an attempt to try and align themselves with the automatic doors.
Making his way to the edge of the platform, another quiet sigh escaped Tyson’s lips and he found himself at the back of a large cluster of people; each one bouncing impatiently on the balls of their feet, necks craned in an attempt to locate an empty seat.
Finally, Tyson made his way into the train, managing to find himself a seat next to the window. Placing his satchel on the vacant seat next to him, he gazed out of the window as the train began to move; the beautiful cityscape speeding by in a blur.
A throat cleared next to him quietly, barely loud enough for Tyson to hear. Slowly, he turned his gaze away from the window and found himself face to face with the girl in the cotton dress; the plastic umbrella was still clutched firmly in her hands. With a quick gesture to the seat next to Tyson, occupied with his bag, the stranger tilted her head to the side. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but do you mind if I sit there?”
Tyson shook his head and quickly slid his bag from the seat next to him onto his lap. Gratefully, the stranger took a seat, sliding the plastic umbrella under her feet and the two, after exchanging one final glance, uttered not another word. Instead, they gazed out opposite windows, determined not to pay mind to the other.
The train ride had lasted just over an hour, and much of the carriage’s occupants had emptied. Yet, Tyson remained, his gaze fixed out the window; and the girl, silent, beside him.
Something touched his shoulder lightly and Tyson broke his gaze away from the passing countryside. From next to him, the girl had fallen asleep, her head resting gently against Tyson. A small smile crept across his face as his brushed the others fringe lightly from her eyes.
Tyson gazed at the sleeping girl next to him for a short while before he furrowed his brows. What if she was to wake and find him staring? That would surely not end well. Breaking his gaze away, Tyson repositioned himself in his chair carefully, so as not to disrupt the others slumber. Shaking his head, the smile still on his face, Tyson turned to stare out of the window once more when something caught his eye.
A piece of paper, or at least, what was left of it – she had been twisting it over and over in her hands for much of the train ride until it had become a crumpled form. Her grip on it had loosened considerably in her unconscious state, and it was threatening to fall through her fingertips and onto the carriage floor.
Without thinking, Tyson reached for the paper, untwisting it carefully and smoothing out the creased surface over his knee. Glancing over it, he sighed thoughtfully.
Go to an amusement park.
Watch the sun set atop a Ferris Wheel.
Make friends with a complete stranger.
Tyson’s brows knitted together as he continued down the page; there were so many things on the list but only a few, somewhat odd, stood out to him. They were normal things; things that everyone would have done at least once in their lifetime.
Have a home-cooked meal.
Buy a painting
Make someone smile.
Fall in love.
Tyson’s eyes widened in realisation at what he was reading. It was a bucket list. How strange. Without thinking, Tyson’s free hand dug into his bag, returning moments later with a pen. Uncapping it, he held the creased paper to the window of the train, writing down his phone number – and a promise.
“I’ll help you with your list,” he murmured quietly, tucking his pen into the pocket of his coat.
Quickly, he folded in the corners; tucking them over, then under, then over once more until a small paper crane rested in the palm of his hand. It looked batted and far from elegant, but it would certainly make the stranger smile when she saw it. Yes, Tyson thought, what a nice way to wake up.
Peering out of the window once more, he realised that he was getting closer and closer to the small rural station in the town in which his sister lived. Placing a hand on the shoulder of the sleeping stranger, Tyson got carefully to his feet, ensuring the other maintained her balance as he stood
A small grin crossed Tyson’s face as he turned his back to the sleeping form of the girl; the countryside slowed down around him as the train came to a stop – the automatic doors sliding apart. Shooting one last glance at her, Tyson stepped off the train, taking his phone from his pocket and turning it over in the palm of his hand.
Tyson hadn’t the slightest expectation of the stranger to contact him and he knew that if he had fallen asleep, waking to find a phone number written on his list, he would not even consider it. But, Tyson decided, should the stranger contact him at all, he would gladly keep his promise.
Tyson hadn't expected her to text. Not exactly. But somewhere deep down, buried beneath his pride and expectations, there was a small glimmer of hope - a small yearning that this stranger would save his number, maybe even memorise it. And if she did … Tyson had hoped that she would contact him. He didn’t care how long it would take as long as she did.
The stranger didn’t have to call if that made her feel uncomfortable – a simple ‘hey, I got your message – thanks for the offer!’ would have sufficed. And that is exactly what Tyson got. Well, kind of.
‘Will you really help me?’
Tyson couldn’t contain the grin that played across his face the day he received the response he had been waiting for.
“Of course,” Tyson murmured, chuckling to himself.
And with that incentive, he went about scheduling a meeting, without knowing so much as a name; hopes high that he will, soon, see this stranger once more.
To be perfectly honest, Tyson wasn’t sure why he was so eager to meet someone he had only exchanged a few words with. But, it was her lack of concern and easy going, pleasant nature that really intrigued Tyson.
When the day eventually came for the two to meet, Tyson found his legs walking him towards the train station with a bounce in his stride. The thought alone of meeting this strange girl for the second time around in order to help her out with her life’s ambitions was enough to calm any nerves he previously had and brighten the gloomy day - well, for Tyson at least.
Shaking his head, Tyson’s lips curled upwards into a lopsided smile. Running his thumb across the smooth screen of his mobile phone, he allowed a small chuckle to escape his parted lips.
The air was crisp in the city that morning, the tall buildings providing little shelter from the icy breeze that wove and wrapped its way around them. Adjusting the navy scarf tightly around his neck to ward off the cold, Tyson took in his surroundings; the snow-topped trees and the lake, coated in a frosty glaze that glittered in the pale sunlight. This was the correct meeting place, he decided at a glance. But the girl from the train hadn't arrived yet.
Brows knitting into a frown, Tyson exhaled, his breath crystallising in front of his eyes. He knew what the stranger looked like, but he had no idea who she was. Narrowing his dark eyes, Tyson glanced across the lake.
There sat a familiar figure, her periwinkle muffler shielding the lower half of her face from the wind; her jacket form fitting and classy, fixed neatly around the chest with small brass buttons.
She was sitting on a small wooden bench a short way away, her gloved hands tearing small chunks of stale bread apart for scavenging ducks who bustled about her ankles. Tyson paused for a moment, watching her laugh happily as the greedy animals fought one another for the biggest chunks before he allowed his shoulders to slump, his body relaxing.
Any previous nerves that he once held were now replaced by calmness as he surveyed the cheerful girl feeding the ducks. Straightening out his winter coat, Tyson began the short walk around the outskirts of the lake before taking a seat on the small bench beside the now startled brunette.
"I am glad to see that you have made it to the meeting spot safely," he said with a nod, a small grin tugging the corners of his lips upwards. “I’m Tyson.”
The girl stared up at him for a few moments before looking away, adjusting a gloved finger.
"Estelle. Will you really help me with my list?" she asked his voice no more than a murmur. Tyson nodded once more, his eyes softening.
Estelle exhaled loudly and shook her head. Glancing away from Tyson, she looked at her feet as they swung back and forth on the bench; her hands disappearing into her pockets.
"Thank you," she said. "I appreciate it, I really do. But even with your help, I know this won't be completed in time."
At this, Tyson raised his brows in confusion. "Why do you need to get it done so quickly?" he asked. "Take your time with it - you'll enjoy it more that way."
Estelle lifted her gaze. When her eyes met with Tyson’s, she offered him a sweet smile.
"I guess I just want to finish as much of the list as I can."
Tyson surveyed her for a few moments before shaking his head, dragging his fingertips through his mahogany hair.
"I told you I'd help you with the list," he said gently. "And that's what I'll do. We'll get them finished. It may take a while, but we will.”
“Promise?” Estelle asked, a small grin spreading across her face. Tyson nodded.
Over the next few days, Tyson and Estelle met at the same spot next to the lake to discuss which goal ("objective," Estelle would interject, wagging her finger at Tyson whenever he would call it as such. "It's an objective!") Estelle would prefer to complete first. After much deliberation, the pair settled on going to the theme park; it was a lot less crowded during the winter months, and the thought of avoiding shoving, restless crowds in sweltering heat was more than appealing.
Estelle couldn’t contain her excitement as she rushed up and down between the stalls filled with goods and treats – she wanted to try everything! Tyson shook his head, a quiet laugh escaping his lips as he observed the energetic girl. Reaching out, he caught Estelle’s wrist, gently pulling the petite brunette back to his side.
“Slow down, Elly,” he said gently, causing the other to tilt her head to the side in confusion.
“But Tyson,” she began quickly, “there’s not enough time to do everything!”
Tyson’s lips tugged upwards into a grin. “There’s plenty of time to do everything, El. Don’t worry. Hey, are you hungry?”
He didn’t wait for Estelle to reply – he didn’t have to. Tyson knew perfectly well that the girl was starving – all of this running around was certain to wear her out.
Towing her down the rows of stalls towards the food corner, Tyson glanced around before something caught his eye.
“Did you want some Fairy Floss?”
Releasing his grip on Estelle’s wrist, he made his way slowly towards the stand, passing the owner some coins.
“Two sticks, please.”
Estelle watched from afar, intrigued by the sugary pink fluff that blew around in the small bubble. After observing the lady dip a stick into the machine, she couldn’t help but more closer to the stall out of curiosity.
Tyson passed Estelle her treat before waiting for his own, and soon, they made their way back through the rows of stalls, Fairy Floss in hand.
“You know,” Tyson began, “you’re allowed to eat it, you know. It’s not that bad.”
Estelle crinkled her nose as she thought about it. “I’ve never tried it before, Ty. What if I don’t like it? You would have wasted your money on me for nothing.”
“No I wouldn’t,” Tyson laughed. “Because I would eat it if you didn’t. Now go on, try some.”
Estelle moved the Floss towards her mouth before pulling it back quickly, surprised by the texture.
“It’s sticky,” she said, holding it away. Tyson grinned.
“That’s the fun of it!”
Extending a hand, he tore off a small piece of floss from his own stick and held it out to Estelle.
Reluctantly, Estelle opened her mouth and no sooner had she done so was the Fairy Floss in her mouth. Startled, the brunette’s eyes widened at the sweetness before the corners of her lips tugged upwards into a slight smile.
Tyson chuckled in triumph as he watched Estelle take another small bite of the sugary Floss.
“See?” he said. “I told you it was nice!” Lips curling upwards into a grin, Tyson attempted to hide the laugh that threatened to escape his lips, instead, forcing out a cough.
“Is something wrong?” Estelle asked and Tyson shook his head, the grin on his face widening.
“No,” he said quickly, “nothing.”
Estelle didn’t buy it and instead, pressed the question.
“Really,” she said, tilting her head to the side. “You’re not good at lying.”
Realising he had been caught out, Tyson offered her a one shouldered shrug. Extending his hand, he wiped the corner of Estelle’s mouth; the pink floss that once clung to her lip vanished.
Estelle’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment and she looked away quickly.
“Tyson?” she murmured, not wanting to meet the others’ eye.
The day was coming to a close, the sky darkening gradually. The sun dipped behind cloud after cloud in its decent, casting the world below into puddles of shadow. Tyson and Estelle made their way through the carnival grounds; Estelle, with a large stuffed rabbit nestled closely to her chest.
Tyson had won a carnival game no more than an hour ago and had asked her which stuffed animal she would like. Estelle, unable to contain her excitement chose the rabbit and it hadn't left her arms since.
Hugging it close to her chest, Estelle felt something touch her arm and he glanced up. Tyson smiled in response.
“It’s getting close to sunset now, Elly. Would you like to go on the Ferris Wheel now?”
An excited grin spread across Estelle’s face and she nodded her head in response. The two walked side by side, laughing happily as they went through the carnival grounds. Even though it was late afternoon, most of the carnival-goers had already left, leaving the pair alone in their walk to the Ferris Wheel.
It didn’t look too bad from afar, Estelle decided. There weren’t any people in this part of the grounds, so the wait wouldn’t be that long. But when the two reached the Ferris Wheel, Estelle's brow creased and she took an involuntary step backwards. Noticing something wasn’t right, Tyson turned quickly.
“Something wrong?” he asked, concerned.
Sucking in a sharp breath, Estelle shook her head. “I didn’t think it would be so high,” she said, his grip on the stuffed rabbit tightening. Hesitating, she drew it closer to her face. “I need to do this, but … I don’t like heights.”
“It needs to be high if you want to be able to see the sun set,” Tyson reasoned.
Estelle took another glance at the Ferris Wheel and turned away. “I can’t …” she murmured quietly. “Let’s just take this one off the list.” She looked down at her feet, afraid of what Tyson would think of her.
Something warm wrapped around Estelle’s hand and she froze, slowly lifting her gaze. Tyson stood in front of her smiling warmly, his big hand held onto Estelle’s.
“It’ll be okay,” Tyson encouraged. “I’m here, and I’ll protect you.”
The brunette was about to protest before Tyson cut her off once more.
"You can only cross this off your list if you go on it," he said firmly. "Come on - the sun's about to set! I'll hold your hand if you're scared."
With her free hand, Estelle gave the plush bunny a tight squeeze before sighing. Slowly, she turned to face Tyson, and the Ferris Wheel.
“Okay,” she said slowly.
She knew that, despite her fear of heights, everything would be okay if Tyson was with her. And it was.
It had been a good three months of the two frequently meeting to complete objectives that Estelle had written down on her crumpled list. And slowly, very slowly, more and more of the things had been accomplished and crossed out with a fine point pen. Of course there had been instances, quite a few at that, where the two had planned to meet up and Estelle had cancelled.
Expectantly, of course. And each time Estelle cancelled their plans, Tyson found himself feeling disappointed. They would leave his days feeling as though something was missing – the days without Estelle by his side felt long; empty.
“I’m sorry,” Estelle would say. “I have appointments.” And she would leave it at that.
But no matter how disappointed Tyson would feel, he knew that Estelle’s apologies were heartfelt. Tyson never once questioned why she cancelled.
“Why are we in here again?” Tyson murmured as he followed Estelle down the rows of different décor. The furniture store was grand, and although Tyson seldom ventured inside of one, he was certain that they weren’t as nearly as big as this.
The scent of treated wood reached his nostrils and Tyson shook his head; his fingertips tracing the smooth surface of an elegant oak wood desk. “I thought you wanted a painting?”
“I do,” Estelle grinned. “But since we’re here, I just thought I’d have a look around.”
“Why?” Tyson questioned quietly, eyeing the employee who trailed a few paces behind, determined to achieve a sale.
“You don’t understand, Tyson,” Estelle replied. “Everything is so beautiful. If we get the painting straight away, then … I just … I just want to spend time out here with you. Is that too much to ask?”
Taken aback, Tyson shook his head.
“No,” he said. “It isn’t.”
After inspecting the different types of décor the furniture store had to offer, the two made their way back towards a row of paintings that were displayed on the wall. The majority were monochromatic, beautiful in texture and composition; each one told a story of its own, the painters’ viewpoint conveyed. The brass frames that held the canvas were elegantly mounded and caught the light.
One painting, significantly smaller than the rest was frameless; displayed on a simple rectangular canvas, its corners folded behind and stapled to the wooden backing. Abstract in design, it was covered with a spectrum of different colours. Bright, bold splashes of yellow here, streaks of viridian there – great big dollops of crimson decorated the centre.
Tyson cringed when he saw it. The canvas looked tacky and held no mystery or story behind it. It was not artistic at all, and he wasn’t sure if it was painted by an adult or a child no older than three.
To Estelle, however, it was beautiful.
“I’ll take this one,” she said, pointing at the bright artwork. “It’s perfect!”
“Elly,” Tyson tried to reason. “Why? There’s no story to it. It doesn’t say anything.”
At this, Estelle grinned, her lips curling into a playful smile.
“It’s not about what it says, Ty,” she said. “It’s about what it doesn’t. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter about what is on the outside to be able to truly understand someone.”
Tyson nodded once, knowing that Estelle had got him there. But he decided to try once again to reason with her.
“Why that one?” he asked. “What about this one? See the texture? The perspective? It’s amazing.”
“It is pretty, Ty,” Estelle agreed, “but it’s dull. This one will brighten up the corridor and bring happiness to those who see it.”
Tilting his head to the side, Tyson studied the abstract painting once more. It wasn’t that bad.
“Sometimes,” he said, “all people need is a little happiness."
It was mid spring when Tyson invited Estelle over to his home for the first time. He was bubbling with excitement at the thought of the two cooking dinner together, and had spent a great deal of time that afternoon tidying everything for Estelle’s arrival.
Everything had to be perfect. Why, he wasn’t sure. Estelle probably wouldn’t even notice should a pillow be out of place, or the newspaper left on the coffee table. But Tyson didn’t care. He wanted everything to be in order, because even if Estelle didn’t notice, he wanted it to be perfect for her.
When Estelle arrived, Tyson was already waiting by the front door, a wide grin on his face. Greeting her quickly, Tyson lead Estelle inside and showed her around. The living room, the bathroom, the kitchen. Tyson couldn’t help but relish at the excitement held in Estelle’s eyes as she explored the house.
After offering Estelle a seat at the kitchen counter and asking to see the list, Tyson scanned over the contents; a sudden pain shot through his chest. The list was dwindling rapidly. Would Estelle still want to see him after the list was complete? Chuckling quietly to himself, Tyson shook his head. Passing the list back to Estelle, he moved to the pantry and began fetching ingredients for their meal. Of course she would still want to see him.
"What's so funny?" Estelle asked, her lips tugging upwards into a small smile as she observed him. Tyson shrugged lightly.
"It's nothing," he said smoothly, changing the subject as quickly as he could. "Why is a home cooked meal on your list?" Crinkling her nose, Estelle pulled a face, unsure of how to answer.
"It's not something I've had for a while."
At this, Tyson snorted. "So you eat out every night? That's not good for your health!"
Estelle offered him a one shouldered shrug and began to rinse the carrots, the icy liquid running over her hands. "Not quite out per se. I don't eat at home, though."
Tyson looked the brunette once over before turning to collect the potatoes.
“Well Elly,” he said, “that just means you have to come over for dinner more often.”
A small smile crept onto Estelle’s face and, as she began to peel the carrots, she pondered what Tyson just said. Did he really mean it? Did Tyson really want her to visit again? A rush of pain surged up Estelle’s arm and she cussed quietly. Tyson moved to her side in seconds.
“What happened?” he asked as Estelle tried to hide her hand.
“Nothing,” the brunette replied quickly.
“Show me your hand, Elly.”
“No, it’s okay,” Estelle defended.
Tyson’s hand quickly shot out and he took hold of the brunette’s shoulder, turning her slowly to face him.
“Oh, Estelle,” he sighed, reaching for the cut hand. Cupping it gently, Tyson positioned the brunette’s hand under the tap and rinsed it.
Although small, the cold water stung the cut causing Estelle to flinch, her hand retracting away from the icy waters reach.
“Are you okay?” Tyson asked, grabbing the hand towel and patting her hand dry gently.
“Yeah,” Estelle murmured, looking away. “It just stings a bit, that’s all.”
Without thinking, Tyson lifted Estelle’s hand, his lips grazing the reddened skin gently.
Estelle’s cheeks heated up when she realised what Tyson was doing, but she kept her gaze fixed on the floor.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore,” she said quietly in hopes that Tyson wouldn’t hear. But Tyson did hear, and he couldn’t stop the smile that spread across his face.
The stars hung suspended, almost magically in the navy sky, the world below illuminated in the pale moonlight. Tyson moved quickly behind Estelle's chair and pulled it out for him before offering his arm and helping her to her feet. They had been talking and laughing for so long, neither had kept track of the time. Passing Estelle her coat, Tyson opened the door.
"It's dark," he said, glancing outside. "I'll take you home."
Quickly, Estelle held up her hands. "It's alright," she assured him.
“You can always stay the night, you know,” Tyson offered. “It’s dangerous at night!”
"I'll be fine, Ty. Don’t worry!"
It took a while to convince Tyson, but once she did, Estelle started towards the picket fence gate.
"I'll see you tomorrow morning then?" Tyson called as he watched the other close the gate behind her. Estelle made a face, turning slowly and offering him a thin smile.
"We'll see," she said and turned away.
Tyson watched Estelle's retreating back until the darkness engulfed her entirely. A low sigh escaped his lips and, with one final glance outside, Tyson made his way back into the house. Collecting the dishes from the table, something caught Tyson’s eye and he frowned, squatting down next to Estelle's chair.
There, folded neatly despite its creased surface was Estelle's list. A quiet sigh escaped Tyson s lips as he picked it up, spinning the small, folded rectangle between his fingertips. Should he call Estelle? Let her know that it must have fallen from her pocket? He dismissed this idea quickly with a shake of his head. No, he'll be seeing Estelle tomorrow, anyway. He can just return it then.
Tossing the list onto the dining table, Tyson moved into the kitchen and began to fill the sink before his curiosity got the better of him. Shutting off the faucet quickly, he moved back to the table and hesitated. Would Estelle mind if he went over the list without her being there? Tyson pushed that thought to the back of his mind with a shake of his head. Of course Estelle wouldn’t mind.
Unfolding it carefully, Tyson smoothed the paper out with his fingertips and glanced down the list once more. He needed to know how much longer he had to spend with Estelle. How many more things they had left to do. He hoped that she would add more to the list; he hoped that they could do this forever.
Running his eyes down the list, Tyson froze, the breath catching in his throat. There, the very bottom objective had been crossed off. It was written hastily, messily; something that hadn't been there when he had looked at it earlier:
Fall in love.
Tyson stood by the lake, his hands tucked behind his back neatly; gaze fixed on the ducks that frolicked and flapped about happily in the defrosting water. His grip tightened on the piece of paper he had rolled up and, allowing his shoulders to slump, Tyson looked away from the lake; a heavy sigh escaping his lips.
It wasn't like Estelle to be late. She was always exactly on time for their meet ups, if not, being so eager she'd arrive well before Tyson.
“Sleeping in again, were you?” she would tease. “You don’t have to worry about beauty sleep!”
Tyson frowned at the thought. Something wasn't right. He began to circle the lake at a slow pace, his mind clouded with not only thoughts, but a great deal of -mostly horrifying- scenarios to explain Estelle's absence.
Tyson’s heartbeat began to quicken as he continued to imagine the scenarios before a frustrated growl escaped his lips. It wouldn’t do to get himself so worked up for something that could be as minor as a traffic jam or a delayed train.
Pausing briefly by a small patch of flowers, Tyson stooped down, plucking a dusty blue flower from the ground. The thin coating of fur on the stem ticked his fingertips as he twirled it in circles. It reminded him of Estelle. Simple, yet captivating in a way that he couldn’t seem to explain.
Reaching the lone, dew covered bench, Tyson’s brows furrowed and he sat down, his hand dipping into his pocket to retrieve his mobile phone. Running a thumb across the screen, Tyson scowled at the lack of alerts he had; one message from his sister and another from a close friend of his, Kris.
Tyson’s thumb hovered over the screen for a brief moment before he opened up his message box, hoping that he had simply misread the meeting time that Estelle and he had decided on. No. Tyson’s lips twisted together in a frown; he was exactly where he needed to be at the time they had promised. But why was Estelle so late?
Exiting out of his message box, Tyson’s fingers seemed to work by themselves as he punched in Estelle’s number; he had spent his nights memorising it as the two would text, laugh and joke after a long day together.
Finally, Tyson hesitated, his thumb positioned just above the call button. Blinking down at his phone several times, a small smile crept onto Tyson’s face. The chances of remembering any number aside from his own (although he was known to forget it on occasion) was certainly something the shaggy haired boy did not expect. But yet, he had Estelle's number memorised; encoded in his brain without him knowing, right down to the very last digit.
Drawing in a deep breath, Tyson shot one final glance around the deserted parkland before tapping the 'call' button. Raising the phone to his ear, he let out a quiet sigh of relief as he listened to it ring.
'Hello?' came the voice on the other line and Tyson found himself smiling at the cheerful tone.
"Elly, it's me. Where are you? Is everything alrigh-"
'Just kidding~' the voice continued. 'Unfortunately I'm unable to answer the phone right now. Please leave your message, name and number and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.'
Estelle's voice disappeared and was replaced with a single, monotonous beep. Cussing in annoyance, Tyson hung up.
What could possibly be keeping her? Maybe she witnessed a car accident and stopped to help out? Tyson shook his head. That was a stupid idea. Maybe she was helping out a traveller with directions? Tyson crinkled is nose at the thought. But that wouldn't prevent her from answering his phone. So, that wasn't likely, either.
Dragging his fingertips through his messy dark hair, Tyson sighed sadly. He wasn't sure why Estelle was ignoring his call or skipping out on their meeting. Their date. Maybe it didn’t mean as much to Estelle as it did to him. But, Tyson was absolutely sure of one thing; he was going to have to have a word with that girl about her misleading message bank.
It was late in the afternoon when Estelle had finally made it to the park. A part of her was still hoping to see Tyson there, waiting for her. But Estelle knew that was just her selfish feelings. Some sort of inner yearning that he would. Pushing those feelings aside, she glanced around; as she had expected, Tyson was long gone.
Estelle knew she couldn't expect Tyson to wait for so long without her contacting him– or, at the least, apologising for being so late. Estelle's brow furrowed slightly. Even though she wasn't there when she had promised, she couldn't deny the pang of hurt that washed through her at the deserted park.
Tugging the beanie farther over her ears, Estelle started at a slow walk, her head tilted upwards at the darkening sky. She would have contacted him; she wanted to. But she had always been told to leave her phone behind when she visited him. He didn't want any interruptions. He was always like that, for as long as Estelle had known him. It was all business, all seriousness. He was the opposite of Tyson.
Continuing along the granite track that ran along the outskirts of the lake, Estelle slowed to a halt when she neared the lone bench on the far side, secluded and seldom visited. It was there where she first waited for Tyson; her excitement and nerves had her stomach churning with butterflies long before she had left that day to meet up with him.
But this time, it was different. She knew Tyson was not waiting for her any longer. Instead of the excitement he once felt at the prospect of meeting him, the feelings were instead replaced with guilt. A sort of incomprehensible sadness that she had brought upon herself.
Something caught her eye. A diamond in the rough. Its powder blue petals stood out against the dull grey, faded wood of the bench. Estelle's lips tugged upwards into a small smile as she carefully picked up the wilted flower; it had been smothered by the original owner, and slowly dying.
Gently plucking the bud away from the stem, Estelle crossed the path once more towards the lake and knelt down at the edge; her hand, cupped, dipped into the icy water, causing goose bumps to immediately cover the surface of her arm.
The small flower floated away from Estelle's hand as she watched it; setting it free in the freezing waters. And even though the vastness of the lake, as dark as it was, tried to swallow the flower whole, it remained afloat, despite its odds; continuing on its journey until it could no longer withstand its fate.
Estelle watched as eventually, the flower began to sink into the murky depths of the lake. And even in the darkness of the icy water, the powder blue bud still stood out; a sole light in a dark place.
Tyson found himself smiling against his will as Estelle wandered around in the garden. He had –initially, at least- every intention to be angry with her for dropping all contact and breaking their promise to meet up.
Of course, there was also the added issue of waiting outside in the cool air for well over four hours and developing a fever as a result, but he was certainly not about to let Estelle know that he waited that long for her, let alone got sick from it.
For now, at least, seeing Estelle was enough. And whilst Tyson was happy to see her, prancing around the community garden, an overjoyed smile plastered on her face, he found that he was also saddened.
Estelle moved quickly to Tyson’s side, her small hands wrapping around his wrist; after one gentle tug, she lead him towards a large stone fountain, the centrepiece of the breath-taking gardens; tall trees blocked out the cityscape around them and creating the illusion that they were amidst a tranquil oasis.
Estelle dipped the tips of her fingers into the crystal water of the fountain, home of two koi fish, monochrome were the colours of their scales, who swam curiously around her hand. Tilting her head upwards, Estelle smiled, a hearty laugh escaping her lips. Reaching upwards with her free hand, Estelle wiped the icy liquid on Tyson’s cheek, stepping away almost immediately; a cheeky grin tugging the corners of her lips upwards.
Tyson spluttered in disbelief as he wiped his cheek dry with the back of his sleeve. Glaring playfully at Estelle, who hovered just out of arms reach, he shook his head.
“This girl,” he sighed.
Estelle stuck her tongue out teasingly before taking off her sunhat, setting it on the side of ledge of the fountain; her fingers dipped back into the cold water once more.
Immediately, Tyson looked away, his hands shaking. He couldn't stand the sight of her, not like that, anyway. He couldn't bare it any longer. It hurt him to see her so happy, all of the time. So happy despite knowing. Raising the sleeve of his jacket to his mouth, Tyson coughed.
"Estelle," he said, his voice hoarse as he fought against the lump in his throat. "Put your hat back on."
Confused, Estelle lifted her hand away from the water and turned in a half circle to face the tall boy.
"Why?" she challenged, a glint in her eye. "You don't like my new haircut?"
Raising her dry hand, she dragged her fingertips through the short, spiky hair that came no farther than her ears; the rich coffee sheen was gone, instead replaced by a dull, lifeless brown.
Her eyes met Tyson 's and she waited silently for a reply. Tyson didn’t like it. He hated it with every fibre of his body. Tyson also knew that Estelle could tell how he felt about it.
Exhaling slowly, Tyson closed his eyes. "No," he said. "I don't."
A small smile played across Estelle’s face and she turned back to the koi fish, sweeping up the sunhat and dropping it onto her head in one swift motion.
"Ty?" she murmured after a few moments of silence, but she didn’t take her gaze off the koi fish.
"You can mark the Botanical Gardens off the list if you'd like."
Tyson fished the crumpled list from his pocket, smoothing it with his fingertips as he uncurled it. A pen slid out from inside the paper roll and Tyson uncapped it quickly, placing a thin, shaky line through the objective that had been scrawled down in their haste.
The list had been expanded; new objectives would be written as Estelle thought of them, and as a result, there was a great many more things Estelle wished to do; more chances for Tyson to spend with her.
Tyson's lips curled upwards into a sad smile as he glanced down the list at the two new additions; one in particular caught his eye.
To be sung to.
Tyson let out a sad sigh as he shook his head.
"Ty," Estelle called as she closed the front door behind her. "Are you ready? We've got lots to do today!"
Tyson didn't respond and a mischievous smile crept onto Estelle's face. Whenever she came over, Tyson would usually hide with the idea of springing up behind her when she least expected it. And it worked. For the first two times, at least. Until it became a regular occurrence and Estelle grew to expect it.
Deciding to play along with it, Estelle kicked her shoes off. “Are you still sleeping?”
As she padded her way softly down the hallway, hands held out at the ready, Estelle glanced around, her keen eyes darting to every nook and cranny that Tyson could have concealed himself behind.
Eventually arriving in the kitchen, a small frown played across her face; Tyson was leaning heavily against the kitchen counter, fingers on his temples. He looked up when Estelle cleared her throat, a soft smile playing across his face.
"You're here," he said, his fingers making quick work of the list that he had spread out atop the bench. "I was just," he slipped the list into his pocket and made his way around the side of the counter towards his, "seeing what objectives we could complete today."
Estelle's brows knitted together. "Is everything okay?"
"Of course," Tyson replied. "Should there be any reason for things to not be okay?"
Estelle shook her head, although she didn't believe him. "You look … Sad, Ty. You're paler than usual."
Tyson felt his chest tighten at her words; Estelle was concerned with his health. His. And yet, he couldn't deny that her observations were not correct. His face was drained of colour; large, dark bags hung underneath ebony eyes that had lost their sparkle. His lids were heavy and he struggled to keep them open
Tyson’s lips twisted their way into a broad grin and he placed a hand on Estelle’s shoulder. "I'm fine. Let's go."
"What's next on the agenda?" asked Tyson as the two exited a second hand bookshop.
They had taken the oldest, most well-loved books and slipped small notes in between the pages; a quote here, a statement there. Either way, it was bound to be a surprise for whoever was to pick them up, and, Estelle had hoped, bring a smile to their face.
"It's still the same," Estelle replied, unable to contain the smile on her face. "To make people's day with the smallest of things!"
Tyson shook his head at the eager brunette as he followed, a few steps behind. "You've made my year just by existing," he murmured quietly. "That has to count for something, right?"
Estelle glanced around in search of their next target before shooting a fleeting look over her shoulder at the other.
"Did you say something, Ty?" she asked.
Tyson shook his head slowly, his lips twisting into a small smile. "No,” he said. “Nothing at all."
"Your hair has gotten shorter," Tyson noted as the two sat in the middle of the outdoor shopping complex, cold drinks in hand; a large tree shielded them from the suns warm rays.
"It is?" Estelle asked jokingly. "I hadn't noticed."
Tyson’s hands tightened on the bottle of water he held, the clear liquid splashing against the sides in protest as the plastic pressed inwards. A shrill noise pierced the air and he lifted his head slightly, shooting a glance towards Estelle who fished her phone from her pocket.
"Hello?" she asked into the receiver, plugging her other ear with a finger to try and eliminate the background noise of the people who bustled around them. "Yes, I'm doing well." A pause. "Today? I can't … No, I'm sorry … I'm with someone right now … I know, I know. Would it be okay if I come by tomorrow then? … Yes, okay. Thank you."
Tyson waited patiently until Estelle hung up the phone before he spoke.
"That was him again, wasn't it?" he asked. Estelle confirmed his suspicions with a simple nod.
Tyson reached out, placing a hand on Estelle's knee.
"I'm coming with you, tomorrow,” he said firmly. “I'm not going to let you be alone with him. Not again."
A silence fell upon the two as they sat there, side by side as they continued to sip their drinks. Tyson finished his quickly before leaning backwards against the bench.
"Do you mind if we rest here for a little longer?" he asked, "I'm tired."
His head had begun to throb – they were out in the sun for far too long for his liking.
A playful grin crept upon Estelle's face. "Getting a bit out of shape, are we?" she teased. "I don't mind, take as long as you like. I'm content to just sit here if I'm with you."
At this, Tyson looked away. He couldn't take it anymore.
Tyson leaned against the wall as he watched the man sit with Estelle a short distance away, the two deep in conversation. On occasion, he would reach across the table and take Estelle's hands in his, turn them over in the palms of his hands and place them back down on the table once more.
Jaw clenched, Tyson moved to stand behind the brunette, draping his arms in front of Estelle protectively, his eyes fixed on the man.
"And you must be Tyson," he grinned toothily, "Estelle has told me all about you."
Instead of extending a hand in a friendly gesture, the man lifted his hand to his face, brushing away what could have been a strand of black hair, had it not been gelled backwards neatly. He did not introduce himself, instead, returned his attention to Estelle.
Tyson, too, made no move to greet the unfamiliar man, nor did he care for introductions of any sort – he was certain this man would only gloat about his status or profession. Or both. Instead, Tyson offered a curt nod in response and his grip on Estelle tightened.
"Elly, my dear Elly," the man began in a slow drawl, "I must ask you – why do you insist on keeping your hair the way it is?"
Tyson’s ears pricked at the question. He, too, was curious as to hear the answer, but this man had no right to ask. Half expecting her to be offended by the bluntness of the question, Tyson was surprised when Estelle offered him a one shouldered shrug.
"You're my doctor," she said, "I know that you are not stupid. You know that I have Leukaemia; I know that I have it, too. And, as much as I try, I know that I can't change that fact. My hair is … "
Tyson’s heart gave a lurch. Estelle had already told him of her illness, but this … This was …
"-the last part of my former self that I can hold onto. I'm dying, I know. But my hair is the last part of my past that I … I don't want to let go. I can't."
"Well, that went well, don't you think, Ty?" Estelle smiled as the two walked hand in hand through the moonlit city. It was empty now as the city slept, but it hadn't yet lost the magnificence that it held during the day. The tall buildings were illuminated by digital advertisements; the streets by rows of lamps that reflected the glistening light on the droplets of dew and moisture.
Tyson remained quiet, his grip on Estelle's hand tightening. Everything was going to be alright, he reassured himself. Estelle can get through this. He hadn't wanted to face the reality just yet; he didn't want to lose Estelle. But what if she … No.
His pace slowed and, with his free hand, Tyson dragged his fingers through his matted hair, his breathing deepened.
"Everything alright?" Estelle asked, shooting a worried look in his direction. Tyson shook his head.
"I'm alright," he replied. "I'm just exhausted, is all. It's been a long day."
At this, a small laugh escaped Estelle's lips. "You slept in until one-forty this afternoon. You're getting lazy, Tyson!"
Offering the small brunette a small smile, Tyson allowed his shoulders to slump. "I had trouble sleeping last night, my head hurt."
"Well then, stop thinking so much!"
Tyson tilted his gaze upwards towards the navy night that seemed to stretch on forever. The moon had passed behind a cloud, leaving nothing but the stars to illuminate the darkened sky.
Stop thinking? It wasn’t as simple as that.
“Elly?” he murmured after a while. Estelle stopped walking and turned to face him.
Tyson swallowed the lump in his throat. Letting go of Estelle’s hand, he pulled her into a tight embrace; one that lasted longer than either seemed to pay mind to, yet neither wanted to let go.
“Please don’t leave,” he murmured as he held Estelle to his chest.
Wrapping her arms around Tyson’s waist, Estelle buried her face into the crook of his neck.
“I won’t,” she said.
“You have to fight it, promise me you will.”
“I promise, Ty.”
“Really?” Tyson murmured, his eyes closing as he breathed in Estelle’s scent.
“Yes,” Estelle whispered. “I’d do anything for you.”
"Hey, Ty?" Estelle asked as he had walked her back to her hospital room; it had become somewhat of a permanent home for his these past few months, and she hated every minute of it.
Whilst she was allowed out during the day, as a sort of 'last wish' type of scheme, the nurses would poke and prod her all night, monitoring his breathing and blood pressure. Everything that could have been done during the day to ensure it was out of the way, Estelle pushed aside. She would gladly sacrifice a decent sleep for a chance of living life. For a chance of being with Tyson.
That changed, however when the two had reached the Hospital’s reception that night. Estelle’s blood test had come back; the leukaemia had relapsed and was back with vengeance. The doctors, unsure of how much longer Estelle had before the disease deteriorates her completely, had ordered her be confined to her bed under doctors surveillance until she would, at last, succumb to her fate.
"Mm?" Tyson breathed, tucking Estelle into her bed. When she didn't speak, Tyson turned to leave, only to have his wrist seized gently by a tiny, cold hand.
"What were you reading yesterday? You know, in the kitchen?"
Tyson paused for a moment before a soft chuckle escaped his lips. "Your list, of course."
"You lie," Estelle defended. "It was in my bag."
Gently prying Estelle's hand from his wrist, Tyson turned. "Since you looked to be enjoying your list so much, I thought I would make one, too."
Estelle's eyes lit up almost immediately. "And you will let me help with your list too, right?"
Tyson shook his head slowly, and leaned forward, his lips brushing against Estelle's forehead.
"You already have," he breathed. "Now rest well."
A quiet hum escaped Tyson’s lips as Estelle lay, her head against the pillow before a soft, flowing tune filled the room. This was it. This was the last thing Estelle had on her bucket list. A lullaby.
"It's beautiful," Estelle whispered, her eyes closing slowly. "Thank you."
As Tyson left Estelle’s room, he felt the breath catch in his throat. He hadn’t noticed it when he had come in, lost in conversation with the other, but now, it was impossible to not notice.
The hallway was stark white, almost clinical, and offered very little. Barely wide enough for two to walk abreast, it lacked enjoyment, hope or life, something Tyson thought was cruel in a wing where most people were terminally ill.
However, there was one thing that Tyson noticed, that filled him with immense sadness. There, on the stark white wall a short way off from Estelle’s room was a canvas; bright in colour and abstract in pattern.
The one burst of colour in a confined space seemed to add a new dimension to the skinny hallway. It stood out amongst the blinding white of the walls and seemed to give a sense of life. Estelle was right – it was beautiful. And what these people really needed was happiness.
Something underneath the painting glittered in the hallway light and Tyson ventured closer to it, he felt his heart give a lurch. There, underneath the bright artwork was a small brass plaque.
Donated by Estelle King it read. Underneath was a date of birth, a dash and a gap, just waiting to be completed.
It was a long, cold walk home for Tyson as he passed through the sleeping city, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his coat. His coughing had worsened at the exposure to the dropping climate but he didn't care.
The sharp edge of folded paper brushed against his skin and Tyson exhaled, pulling it from his pocket. Stopping under the pale light of the nearest lamp, he unfolded it.
Neatly written in the centre of the page were two tasks, or objectives as Estelle would call them. One had been marked off; ruled out elegantly as though it had been done so the moment it was written.
The one thing Tyson wanted, he had achieved. Under it, however, was something he both yearned for, but knew he would never complete. It would remain untouched for as long as he lived.
Those two simple words were what he wanted to do, perhaps even more so than love. But he knew that, in his heart, he never could.
The sky was dark, overcast; the grey clouds clung low to the sky. A slight breeze washed across the countryside, catching the discoloured leaves of autumn and carrying them off into the afternoon sky.
Quiet was the surrounding landscape; nobody spoke, nobody stirred. In fact, seldom did they visit, although they had always promised to. I don't suppose one could blame them, though. It's not like their promises would be remembered, and, of course, the unchangeable past was always something that would, over time, be forgotten.
A variety of stones littered the surface of the area, breaking apart the earth in clusters each one of a different size and shape; tombstones, elegantly carved and highly decorated. Yet not one stone, as elegant as they were could convey the breath-taking beauty and uniqueness that its owner, in life, possessed. Not one stone could capture the personality lost, or the heartbreak felt by the loved ones left behind.
A sole figure walked through the graveyard, their head bowed low in respect for those who rested there; a bouquet of powder blue flowers gripped tightly in their hand. Pulling their jacket closer, the figure continued the walk up the gentle slope until what they sought for came into view; their friend. Their love. Their only.
The breath caught in their throat as they looked upon the limestone monument, eyes red from crying, yet unable to prevent tears from falling. They were helpless without the other; lost. A great piece of them was missing, one that was impossible to get back, not even with the passing of time.
The scent of freshly churned soil reached his nostrils and, kneeling beside the grave, the figure placed the bouquet of flowers by the headstone - a final reminder of the time they had shared together - before their body began to shake violently, and for ages, they remained by their love’s side, curled up, sobbing.
Long ago had the sun dipped behind the horizon, casting the world below into unavoidably dark, moonless night. But not once did the sobbing figure leave; instead, they remained put beside their loved one. One of the last times they could share together.
Lifting their head gently, they extended an arm; long fingers tracing over the name that had been carved into the stone. Allowing their shoulders to slump, they closed their eyes, a soft tune escaping their lips. It was one they knew all too well, the lyrics familiar - unforgettable. The lullaby that had been sung by the hospital bedside the last time they saw one another.
"Don't hesitate another minute; please take away my heart.
Yes, the sharper the better - the night the moon has closed her eyes."
Their heart was aching as they pushed themself to continue; the lyrics becoming off-key and irregular as they were forced out in between sobs.
"Baby don't cry, tonight, after the darkness passes,
Baby don't cry, tonight, it'll become as if it never happened.
You're not the one to disappear into foam, something you never should've known.
So baby don't cry, cry, my love will protect you."
The final, shaky note escaped their lips and they slumped, rocking backwards; a gentle keening sound replacing the tune that he once carried
"Tyson," Estelle choked as she reached out to touch the headstone once more. "How long did you know you had Pneumonia? Why didn't you tell anyone?"
She fell silent as she waited for the response that would never come; her bottom lip quivered.
"They told me I'd had a relapse; they told me I only had a few days to live. But … I held on. I fought it - for you. Tyson … Because I would do anything for you.”
She paused, wiping the tears away roughly with the sleeve of her jacket. "I can't do this without you. I … Why?"
It all seemed to come together at that one moment. Tyson’s fatigue; the oversleeping; the constant coughing; the weakness; the headaches - he knew. He must have. But … He kept quiet. He was more concerned for Estelle's wellbeing than his own.
Estelle sighed as she ran her fingers over her smooth head, the skin, exposed to the wind, was freezing. Shooting a quick glance upwards at the sky, alight with streaks of orange and purple, she got to his feet. Raising her hand to her lips, Estelle then placed it atop Tyson’s headstone.
"I love you," she breathed and turned away. "Goodbye Tyson … Until we meet again."
With her head bowed low, Estelle walked. She didn't care how far she walked or where she ended up. Estelle didn't care who she bumped into or what she passed. The last thing she ever said to Tyson was "thank you"; it wasn't a confession of her feelings. It wasn't a declaration of her love. It was a simple "thank you". And for what? He had sung her a song. One that hadn't left his mind since.
It wasn't as though Estelle had planned the last thing she would say to him, although she had hoped it would be her who would leave, in turn, Tyson remaining behind in order to carry out his life; to be happy; to find another love. But she …
Estelle could never move on. She could never forget. And no amount of trying was going to make her.
Although, deep down, what hurt her the most was not the fact that she did not get to say goodbye. Estelle felt guilty for Tyson’s passing; he had kept his secret hidden from her – he had given Estelle every ounce of support and care he could. And in return, Estelle was not by his side when Tyson needed her the most.
It wasn't fair. But who was it not fair for? Estelle felt her heart sink farther than it already had at the thought – it wasn't fair for her. As much as Estelle would have given anything to be able to help Tyson as much as he had helped her … Tyson had left – exactly how he wanted it.
And Estelle couldn't help thinking that by his being there during Tyson’s final moments, no matter how much she wanted to tell him she loved him and that everything would be alright, it would make Tyson’s passing difficult. Something she knew he did not want.
If Estelle had been there that night, by his side, Tyson would not have wished to leave. It would have hurt him far more than it did.
Estelle glanced upwards at the dark sky; the rain streamed down in thick sheets and obscured her vision, but Estelle continued to walk – the small droplets of water ran down her face, and strangely enough, they tasted like salt.
The dark sky cracked open as a fork of lightning lit up the world for a brief moment before returning to the shadowed state it was previously. Estelle continued to walk, oblivious to the storm as people pushed past her in an attempt to escape the rain, umbrellas –sometimes upturned – clasped tightly in their hands.
What if she were to exchange places with Tyson? What would Tyson feel had Estelle had passed instead of him? Would he have moved on as Estelle would have liked – live a happy life, fall in love once more? Or would he, too, never truly be able to move on?
Estelle arrived home early that evening to her old apartment – it had been so long since she had been allowed to leave the hospital room, and, it was exactly how she had left it. Mostly. The small kitchen was coated in a thin layer of dust and held very little in it. The lounge, consisting of a table, a single armchair and a small television propped up by two bricks and a plank of wood was all that decorated the room.
Exploring the empty room with no more than a sweeping glance, Estelle headed to her room; a single bed was stripped of its sheets and rested neatly in one corner; a small plain wooden night stand stood next to it.
Above the bed, and probably the only thing that Estelle had liked about her home, was the large window that she would stare out of every night for hours on end as she lay in bed; watch the stars and wonder if there was anything beyond.
Breaking her gaze away from the window, Estelle turned away from her room with a sigh – this was her life outside of the hospital. And it was empty. Moving to the fridge, Estelle's brows knitted together. She couldn't remember the last time she had been in her apartment, and, judging by the layer of dust that coated every surface in the tiny kitchen, the apartment, too had seen nobody after her.
Although she wasn't exactly sure why, Estelle tugged the door of the fridge open and surveyed the empty shelves. She hadn't expected it to contain any food, but something compelled her to check, just in case.
Closing the door shut behind her, Estelle crossed the apartment in five steps and, after grabbing her soaking jacket from the coat hook, left the apartment. She didn't bother locking the door as she made her way down the three flights of stairs, onto the street; Estelle didn't know for how long she would be gone, or if she would come back at all. If someone were to take advantage of the fact that she had left her apartment unlocked, Estelle would not be any worse off than she already was.
The storm had worsened during her time indoors and the rain fell heavily; Estelle’s already soaking jacket absorbing the moisture and weighing her down. As she made her way down the streets, Estelle looked at her feet.
She arrived at the pebbled path that lead towards the lake and found herself heading involuntarily down it until the familiar sight came into view. Making her way slowly around the lake, Estelle slumped down on the park bench. Waiting.
Waiting for what, exactly, she did not know. But she remained there, nonetheless. For something to happen? Maybe. Although something deep within her heart told her that she had to wait.
The sky grew steadily darker still and, after what felt like hours of waiting for nothing in particular, Estelle pushed her freezing body to her feet. Long ago had she stopped feeling the icy rain against her skin. Instead, her entire body burned with a constant cold that seemed to eliminate every other sense.
With joints, stiff from sitting for so long, Estelle slowly made her way out of the parkland, back along the trail and out into the city that, despite the downpour, still seemed to buzz with life.
"Why do you need to get it done so quickly? Take your time with it - you'll enjoy it more that way."
"I guess I just want to finish as much of the list as I can."
Estelle snorted at the thought; all this time, Tyson had been in perhaps a worse state than she. But despite that, he was willing to befriend a stranger. He was willing to help no matter what happened to him.
Looking down at her feet once more, Estelle began the journey back through the city. Closing her eyes, Estelle sighed heavily. She felt as though she had no control over her mind or body anymore. It moved on its own. It would think on its own. And right now, her body seemed set on revisiting the places she had spent with Tyson. It was set on conjuring up Estelle’s most treasured memories of him. And to make it stop was out of her control.
A loud ring of a horn and screams of onlookers snapped Estelle back to reality as a bright light flooded across her vision, blinding her.
A truck, Estelle realised; she had crossed into the middle of a busy road without realising. A wave of different emotions washed across her. Her eyes widened in panic, but her body refused to move.
The light burned Estelle’s eyes. She did not know what was happening, nor could she see the surrounding cityscape any longer. Instead, she was surrounded by a spectrum of bright colours, indescribable in beauty.
This was it, this was what she wanted. This is what she yearned for.
To be with Tyson once more.
The light slowly began to fade; the spectrum of colours slowly dissolving into the landscape around her. Estelle's hands twitched as she felt the springy grass beneath her. Pushing herself upwards, Estelle took in her surroundings.
She was sitting in a beautiful meadow, clusters of soft blue flowers surrounded her. To the north was a weeping willow, a small bench sat underneath it, and to the east, if Estelle squinted, she could just make out a babbling river whose crystal clear water and rainbow pebble bed reflected the sun.
The sky, a vibrant shade of cornflower held no trace of clouds, yet with all of this sun, Estelle did not feel any warmth.
A strong pair of arms wrapped around her waist, helping her gently to his feet; a face burying itself into the crook of her neck.
"Estelle," Tyson murmured, "I've been waiting for you."
The moment the sound of his voice reached Estelle's ears, she spun around in his arms, wrapping her own around his neck – and cried.
"Tyson," she managed to choke out. "I thought I'd lost you."
With an index finger, Tyson tilted Estelle's head upwards and brushed away her tears; the other arm tightening in a protective grip, as though he was scared she would leave.
Moving his head forward, Tyson placed a gentle kiss on Estelle's forehead and the second Tyson’s lips touched her skin, Estelle felt warm for the first time.
"Please don't ever leave," she murmured and Tyson shook his head.
"I never will."
Tyson and Estelle walked, side by side, hand in hand through the beautiful meadow. Following the bank of the crystal clear river, they headed up the side of a small hillock before Tyson paused. Letting go of Estelle’s hand, he crouched by the riverbed, Tyson’s hand dipping into the icy waters before he withdrew it shortly after.
Moving back to Estelle's side, he took up her hand, pressing something cold and smooth into it. Confused, Estelle uncurled her fist; a beautiful pebble of marbled blue rested in her palm. It was no bigger than a pocket watch and was shaped like a heart.
"Please cherish it," Tyson said, a gentle smile crossing his face. Taking Estelle’s hand in his once more, they made their way over the grassy hillock.
"Just over here," Tyson smiled, leading Estelle out of the clearing.
Surrounding the pair was a wall of trees; trunks so close together that it was impossible to squeeze through. The only way through was an uprooted tree that rested on its side; it wasn't tremendously high and Tyson scaled it with ease.
Holding out his hand, he offered Estelle a smile.
"We're almost there, love,” he said. "I'll help you."
Balancing on her toes, Estelle grinned. "I can do this," she said.
Placing one foot at the bottom of the fallen tree, she made a grab for a branch. And then, slid back down again. A small, embarrassed laugh escaped her lips as she lifted her gaze to meet Tyson’s once more.
"So, it wasn't as easy as I thought," she said. "But I've got this. Really."
Raising her foot once more, Estelle placed it on the base of the rough bark, scrambling to reach a nearby branch. As she stationed herself on it, she reached for the next one, her balance faltering and she fell to the ground with a light thud.
Again and again Estelle tried to climb over, tears of frustration welling in her eyes. Tyson. He was waiting for her. She had to do this. Feeling a gentle tug in her heart, Estelle looked up.
From his position atop the fallen tree, Tyson offered her his hand once more.
"Take it," he said. "Please."
This time, Estelle nodded and made to take hold of his hand. Each time she would wrap her fingers around Tyson’s wrist, she would find her hand empty; Tyson’s wrist replaced with nothingness.
The tears of frustration turned to tears of panic as Estelle looked around frantically – there had to be a way to get over. She just had to.
"Tyson," she managed to call, but Tyson shook his head, a sad smile curling the corners of his lips upwards.
"Estelle," he murmured. "Look at me. Don't be sad. We can be together some day, but … It's not your time now."
Estelle's eyes widened and she made to grab at Tyson’s hands once more.
"Please," she cried. "I can't leave you!"
Tyson got to his feet, tears staining his cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Elly… "
Something sharp pricked Estelle's skin and she groaned, opening her eyes. Her vision was blurry; her surrounding spun. Bright lights shone on Estelle from every angle and her eyes stung. Pushing herself into a sitting position, Estelle could hear the muffled sounds of people yelling.
They were yelling her name.
And then, she was pushed back down once more.
"Estelle," a doctor said, his voice low. "We thought … We thought we had lost you!"
The surroundings began to stop spinning and Estelle could see where she was now; inside an operating room, her body covered by a blue, plastic material. Every inch of her body ached, throbbing with pain.
A choking cough escaped her throat, followed soon after by a long, low keening sound. Tears fell uncontrollably from Estelle's eyes and her body began to shake. Her body felt numb. No longer did she notice the white hot pain of her battered arms or her crushed legs. Estelle could only feel the aching of her chest, her heart, and that, to Estelle was the most excruciating type of pain she had ever experienced.
She was alive. She was exactly where she did not want to be.
Raising her bruised, swollen hand to her face to wipe away her tears, Estelle noticed something for the first time. Turning her hand over, she gently uncurled her fingers.
There, in the palm of her hand sat a stone, no bigger than a small pocket watch; marble blue in colour and shaped like a heart.