Tuesday 10 August 2021

Moitreyee Choudhury, ShortStory 2021 Magazine

My Summer

I met her at my favourite spot. I found her soaking in the last rays of the day in her little summer dress – looking so out of place in the bleak surroundings. It had been a bad day, as most of them usually are now. As soon as the last bell sounded, I found myself rushing out of that hellhole of a place, but I didn’t drive home. Instead, I took a little detour driving around the city and finally arriving to the green, green lake – greener than anything around it. The trees around were dead or dry but I liked how the lake, despite everything, still existed. It didn’t have any fish for me to feed or any ducks for me to look at. I just adored the stillness of the place – it reminded me of beauty in tragedy. Today, when I arrived I saw someone already occupying my usual seat on the broken bench. She had flowing black hair that went past her shoulders and she had her head rested on the back of the bench – eyes closed. It took me a moment to get adjusted to the presence of some life in here. I felt violated somehow. This was my place, my spot. Who is she?

As the leaves crunched under my feet, she opened her eyes at the sound and sat up. It had already been a long day, and I couldn’t bear any sort of social interaction right now. As I approached, trying to look intimidating, she smiled at me. She looked so pure and so lost in that moment that I decided against any ideas of arguments I had been cooking.

“Hey,” I addressed her.

“I’ve never been here before,” she talked to me like a long-lost friend.

“Okay,” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Do you usually come by?”

I was, one could say, a pretty private person. Even though I didn’t know her, I didn’t mind her prying.

“Yeah, this is kind of my getaway.”

She looked at me with twinkling grey eyes, and pretty soon I realised that the twinkling was because of her tears that had caught the light. She started crying. The sun had gone down the horizon, and I could see the night settling all around us.

“I don’t have anyone to talk to,” she confessed, in explanation of her silent mourning.

“You’re talking to me,” I offered with a hint of a grin.

And there it was again, the bewitching yet pure smile. I sat with her till it was completely dark – looking at the inky black sky. We didn’t speak anymore, but I felt a quiet solace in me. As I stood up to walk home, she didn’t ask any questions. She kept waving at me till I was out of sight. I had to go to the lake again, I simply had to see her again. Some part of me worried that she won’t be sitting there, in her beautiful summer dress. Maybe she was a figment of my imagination – I had had a difficult day.

I didn’t go back there the next day. I was scared that I might not find her there. Some mysteries are best left unravelled, right? But the day after that, after having a fight with my mother and feeling like a stranger among my “friends”, I had to go there – after all, it was my getaway. I slowly walked to the bench, feeling the dry leaves under my feet. And there she was in another of those frilly, cute summer dresses. She looked radiant, refreshing in the quaint atmosphere.

“Don’t those make you cold?” I asked, pointing at the short sleeves of her dress – white with pink flowers.

“Nah-uh.” I had to make do with that response. It was the middle of fall and as I pulled my hoodie tighter around me, the breeze left her unaffected. It was strange – but it was nothing compared to how she made me feel. Warm, she was warm. I had not felt this in years.

Soon, I started going there every day. We didn’t talk much – she looked at the lake and I looked at her. We both had our fill. It was my routine after school. I had told my mother I signed up for after school classes. She looked at me surprised, but didn’t ask any further questions. At dinner that night, she made me an extra omelette. I smiled at her weird way of showing affection.

         After hanging out with her for a week, I asked her name. 

“Mm, that’s a tough one,” she giggled.

“Tell me,” I insisted. 

“Isn’t this air of mystery romantic? Why ruin it by knowing my name?” she pouted at me.

“You do present an excellent point,” I commented, and then we both went silent.

“Don’t you want to know my name?” I asked her.

“I already gave you one.”


“I call you Mara,” she looked into my eyes with those alluring grey ones, almost as if daring me to ask for more. When I didn’t say anything, she continued, “It means sorrow, and you look so sad.”

That coming from anyone else, I’d have been hurt and furious. But when she said it, it made sense, it was reasonable. Yes, I was so sad, in such despair. That’s the only name befitting me. 

“You want to know why?” I offered, experiencing the tingly warmth she made me feel.

“I want to know everything you want to tell me, ma’am,” she said with a smile, of course. 

So, I told her. I told her how suffocated I feel in my little town. I told her about being a stranger in the  place that used to feel like home, about not being understood. I told her about feeling excluded and not fitting in. I told her everything that was on my mind and she didn’t question any of it. She didn’t even try to tell me it was okay.

“You have it rough, huh?” she asked after I was done. While talking, tears had pooled at the corners of my eyes and I was holding them back, because there was no point. I was just going to feel drained and empty. 

“I guess.”

And then she hugged me. I didn’t let her go. I stayed in her arms till it was dark and I couldn’t risk staying any longer. She smelled like sunflower fields, mints, petrichor. She smelled like all things summer, all at once. Summer.

“I’ll call you Summer.” I told her as I started to leave.

She giggled and nodded her head. 

I visited the lake every day. And we talked now. A lot. Never ran out of things to say. It wasn’t the usual small talk. She told me about the world, and how painfully beautiful it was. I told her about my little town, and how underwhelming yet lovely it was. She knew about so much, and I loved listening to her mellifluous tones. 

“I wish I could get you out of here,” she told me. 

“Me too.” We held hands that day. Hers were so soft. Her fingernails painted a cool blue. I circled my thumb on the back of her palm and she continually tightened her grip. It was everything for me.

On the way home, I found a wildflower growing by the asphalt. I picked it up and carried it home. 

When I went to meet her the next day, I brought the flower with me. It was almost dying, but I gave it to her anyway. And then I hugged her. It’s ineffable how she made me feel. That day, she told me, “I’m moving away.” It took me a moment to take her words in stride. She took my hand in hers and kissed my palm. I looked into her grey eyes and I remembered the first day I had found her here. After all these months, I still didn’t know anything about her, not even her name. She was just Summer to me – warm, sweet, beautiful Summer. She kissed me. I don’t know enough words to say how magical it was. She kissed me and I didn’t want her to stop. She kissed me like they show it in movies and it felt like they write about it in books. When we finally pulled ourselves apart, I realised the gravity of what she’d just told me. My Summer, she was going away. I couldn’t make anybody stay, love me. We didn’t talk that day. We just held hands and we kissed some more. I wanted to savour every bit of her, every taste. 

    I never returned to the lake. I couldn’t handle the heartbreak of not finding her there. When I had asked for her number, she just shook her head and smiled. Maybe she doesn’t exist outside of my head, or the words of my poetry. But she made me feel warm, she gave me hope. My Summer. I tucked away my love for her in a corner. My days went back to being mundane and uneventful. I was still Mara - sorrowful, sad. But I knew it wasn’t in my hands. All I had to do was wait and work, I had to get out of this town. Summer, she told me about the world, and I believed she existed in all those places she wished she could take me to. I had to see them for our sake. I had to find my Summer again. 

I met her at my favourite spot, she was soaking in the last rays of the day. She was radiant, she was glowing. She told me about life. She held me, she kissed me. But my Summer, she didn’t stay. I believe I’ll find my Summer again. And I’d be her Mara if she’ll have me. After all, there’s beauty in tragedy. 

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