She opened the door, not expecting anyone’s visit.
He was standing there, panting, but also smiling.
He must've been running for so long, she thought. She's never seen him before, and yet he looks so delighted to find her.
He raises his index finger, asking her for a minute to catch his breath. She waits patiently, she has nothing to do and she's getting curious to know what this guy want with her. Finally he takes a breath and decides it's about time he talked.
"Hi.." He starts awkwardly. He's still smiling, seems like he'll forever be smiling, she thought. Kindly, she smiled back at him, replying with a friendly hello. "I'm .. I'm sorry to disturb you but ... I think this is yours." He says giving her something she hadn't realized has been with him the whole time.
She looks at it, tries to figure what it can possibly be. It looks like a child's toy, a small, torn stuffed animal, a bunny. "I tried to keep it in a good shape but.. well, I'm sorry that's all I could do." She's about to speak, about to say that this isn't hers. She's a grown woman now, why would this be hers? Of course she would be thrilled to have children of hers, but she has none, so this can't be even her kid's. She starts speaking, instead she stammers, for she doesn't want to let the happy guy down, he would be really disappointed to know it's not her he's looking for.
"I.." He gives her the toy, and she decides to study it as she speaks to him, partly because she wants to avoid the eye-contact. She then realizes this toy's kind of familiar. She looks at it with puzzlement, and he, seeing her like this, begins to talk again,
"Don't you.. don't you remember this?" He asks. He's already starting to get a bit disappointed, and she's already feeling guilty for it.
"I think I remember such a thing, but.. I don't know. Where did you find it again?" She asks. He stops smiling.
"I'm sorry, what's your name again?" He asks. She replies with her name, hoping it would help, somehow. "So you really don't remember." He says as he realizes she is the one he's looking for.
"I'm sorry." He says. "Can you remind me of this? Because it definitely looks familiar. Um, come in." He hesitates at first, then he starts telling her how he doesn't want to disturb her and her husband, when she laughs and tells him that she's single, he starts to get relieved a bit. Letting go of some of the tension he had. She still can't tell what he's been trying to tell her about this stuffed animal. Is it really hers? If it is, why does he have it? Did she give it away and it somehow ended up with him? She tries to think of all the possibilities, she doesn't come up with a lot of possible explanations so she decides to hear him telling the real story. He gets in, compliments her house, sit on the sofa and then starts talking. "The letter on its leg, it's the first letter of your name, that's why I asked." He says. "Of course, I knew what your name is, not only because of the letter on the bunny’s leg but because I can still remember it, you see, I don't quite have a great memory, but I can still remember certain things about my childhood." He looks down and then smiles to himself. She waits for him to continue talking and when he raises his head, he does. "You.. you used to put your hair in a braid, and you liked to pick some flowers to put them in your hair, it was super cute." He says laughing. She realizes he must have known her since she was a child, surprised.
"You were my neighbor.. a classmate?" She asks. He decides to ignore the idea that she can't remember him, even that he remembers her, the picture of the little girl with braided hair is vivid in his mind, it's always been like this. He's never forgotten her. Though she doesn't even know who he is, and it makes him sad, just a bit - actually, it makes him really sad, but he decides not to be disappointed, he's been waiting for this moment for ever, he's always dreamt of finding her again.
"No, I was.. you used to come to a park, get your little bunny with you and just - cry. I used to sit on the bench facing yours. Always looking down, wearing the same clothes everyday, of course," He lets a humorless laugh. "I lived in that park so I didn't have a closet full of clothes collection. It never mattered though, neither to me nor to you. However, you used to wear the finest dresses, they looked so pretty on you, and-" he stops, laughing. "I'm sorry if I'm being rude, I'm not trying to flirt with you here, I'm just describing how the memory is. She smiles, widely.
"No, it's totally fine, I… please, continue, I want to know the whole story, I think I might start to remember something."
"So you're still remembering nothing?" He asks.
"Not nothing, I mean there are some images crossing my memory but I can't make sure of them, they're faded, kinda." He nods, continuing his story.
"You used to go there every day. I was a shy child, and I couldn't let myself ask you about what's bothering you, I've always felt guilty for not asking you, though. You've always looked sad, and I really wanted to help." He pauses. "That's why I decided one day that I should talk to you at last. You weren't friendly at first, then.. then I just sat there beside you. You told me to leave and I refused, saying I won't go unless I either hear you talking about what's bothering you or until I see your smile, at least once. First day you told me it was your parents, that they keep fighting, some other day you told me it was about your dead grandfather, once it was about your school, once about your friends, once about you missing your aunt, you had so many things in mind, they used to really upset you. You were too precious to be that sad. As the days passed, you started talking more and more, I talked too, tried to help you with your problems, giving you a suggestion that might not fix the problem itself, but might let you forget about it or simply stop feeling that bad about it you always used to told me how things work like I told you, you used to make me feel like the wise old guy, the one you'd go to asking for advice.
I knew them all because I was a destroyed little, happy kid. I knew how to keep myself happy, I loved being happy, despite the sad, sad life I had. You once told me about this bunny. You told me that's what it's called. "It's called bunny because it's a bunny. It makes sense doesn't it?" You said. I laughed at this but agreed, bunny was a cute name. You told me that it had your letter name's on it, that your aunt once knitted it on it, so that it'll always hold something to mark it with something yours. She probably didn't know it had your scent all over it, it smelled amazingly." He paused. "You probably don't remember me because this, though it seems to have lasted for long, didn't. It only lasted for weeks- about a month I think. You came to me one day, crying again. I was upset to see you crying, angry even. After the third time we talked, we had an agreement, you promised to stop crying and feeling sad, but that day.. even I wanted to cry. You said that your parents didn't use to know you come to this park everyday and that they found out about you. You said that they're probably going to beat you up or something. I never knew where your house was, for I never followed you anywhere, always thought it would’ve been a private thing that you probably wanted to keep to yourself. You added quickly that you heard your parents talking about moving out of the town last night and you were really upset about it! I was shocked to know all about this. We sat there on the bench you started saying your goodbyes, mentioning how this will be the last time we meet-" By now, she is of course remembering, for she is in tears. She's still listening though, she wants to hear the story from his point of view. She isn't standing anymore, she's sitting on the sofa that faced him, just like they used to sit before they started being friends. "You put your head on my shoulder and thanked me sincerely, saying I helped you a lot as a friend, you kissed my cheek then, and the last thing happened so fast, it was all too terrible for me. Your father came, he started shouting at you, he hit you even, for disobeying his orders and coming to this park. Your bunny fell to the floor as he hit you, then he started dragging you home. You were crying harder than you ever did. You gave me one last sad look, and it was all I got from you for.. eighteen years now. I kept your bunny, I tried to follow you and give it to you, but the moment I realized you left it behind, you were past gone. I used to look for you every day. Every single day. I looked for you everywhere I could think of, but remembering what you said about moving out of the town, I decided to give up. Though the bunny always gave me hope, and whenever I saw a little girl, or a teenager who looked like you, I used to get really excited, but all my hopes would eventually get down once I realize it's not you. Then looking at the bunny again, I decided to never give up, and that I will find you eventually, no matter how long it took. I never got to mention how much you helped me, without even realizing. How you kept me company, how you made me happy, how because of you, I started liking flowers even more. How because of you, I decided I'd help every person I meet in the park. And now here you are, standing in front of me, listening to a story that changed my life.. you don't even remember it, or .. or remember me, but it's okay.." He stops to smile, and she's still in tears. "I learned to keep my chin up. All my life, I've wanted to give you this, to remember what hope and happiness is, and here I am, finally doing it. I'm the happiest man on earth."
She finally bursts.
"I remember! I do remember, I do!" She says throwing herself beside him and hugging him tightly. He stiffens for a moment, thinking this can't really be happening to him. That life can't be this good, it's always been horrible to him. Never has he admitted to himself, until now, how this girl was the love of his childhood. How love never fades. That's why his heart starts beating hard as she hugs him, that's why he holds her closely and closes his eyes, tries to smell her scent strongly, it's really her this time, not just her old little bunny. "I moved back here when my parents died, recently. I came here because there, I've never truly felt home, here it's always been home. I came back to where I grew up, not the house, but the state. This house holds more happy moments than my childhood house does, that's my aunt's house. It was closer to the park than my own house. I used to come over to my aunt's and then sneak out to the park."
For her, this was the best she has ever felt in ages. For him, this was the best he has ever felt in his life. Neither of them could believe that the other person was real and with them right now. This was too good to be true for both of them. He reminded her of the best thing she had with her childhood - him. And she reminded him of what it is like to actually be happy, not force yourself to be happy. More than anything, he was her dream and she was his hope.