Thanks For The Memories

Losing someone is painful. But the question is--how painful can it be?

The sun was hiding behind the thick clouds that day when Jared finally decided to visit the special place once again after how many years. The wind was then fairly cold and gentle, like it was echoing the man's feelings, telling him it knew and it understood. A few small birds decided to accompany Jared too when they hovered in the skies, chirping melodies of... Sympathy? None could tell. Maybe they were, indeed. The sun, the wind, the birds--they all share in the visitor's sentiments, whatever it could be. He seemed to carry with him a heavy spirit.

Under all these lay a broad hill filled with tall olive grass and blooms of small flowers here and there. In the middle of the hill stood a rather big tree. Its trunk was strong and dark brown but its leaves were withering and falling. The place was different now, Jared reckoned with disappointment. Once, the place was lush, flowers grew everywhere, and the big tree boasted of its green and flourishing leaves. 

It's happening too fast--change was. Jared feared he could not keep up with it. 

With strides of a tired man, Jared walked up towards the tree. Upon reaching it, he put a hand into its trunk and, feeling the rough and dry texture, remembered the memories he had been trying to move on from. He sighed. He was never gonna do it; he was never gonna forget everything. It was something he was not capable of. Not now, not ever. 

"I used to come here when I was a child."

"Does your parents approve of this? It's far away from your home," Jared asked his companion. 

"I never told them!" she laughed, and it was the sweetest thing Jared ever heard. 

Jared's vision blurred as tears were unintentionally filling both his eyes. He immediately wiped them away with the back of his hand, and he started to debate with himself whether it was a good idea to come here at all. It just made the pain grow worse, the memories more vivid. But he can't help it. He just missed her so bad it hurts. 

He knelt down to the roots of the tree despite the knowledge that doing so would only trigger more images of her. For there he saw, in the base of the tree, a handwritten carving with the following words: 

Jared and Elise. Always is, always will.

Then pangs of sadness gripped his heart, making it feel very tight, as he recalled. 

"Done!" Elise squeaked, a grin on her face. She and Jared were sitting below a massive tree, enjoying the shade its green leaves brought. For the past thirty minutes, Elise had been busy carving while Jared prepared their little snack by laying them one by one on the blanket they were sitting on. 

"Always is, always will?" Jared read the carving on the tree. It was in Elise's familiar handwriting-the J was stylish and was larger than the rest of the letters of his name, same with the E for Elise's. There was an imperfect heart surrounding the whole thing. It was cute, and sweet. 

"You don't like it?" A frown replaced the grin on Elise's beautiful face. Despite the frown, she still looked stunning. For Jared, she would always be. Her eyes were dark sapphire, her long wavy hair a shade of a mahogany wood, and her lips--they were perfect. 

"It's good." With that, the smile returned on Elise's face and she wrapped Jared in her arms. But Jared--he held Elise by her shoulders and every so gently, untangled her from him. He didn't seem to be comfortable with hugs, after all. 

But Elise didn't mind. No, not at all. In fact, she understood. She always knew Jared was like that--somehow cold and boring--yet that didn't change her feelings towards him. In fact, it gave her a reason to love him more. She was going to heal Jared; she was going to take the pain that made him like this go away--whatever that is. "Fine. You don't like being hugged? Then I demand a kiss," she said, wishing there was enough authority in her voice. 

Jared said none. Perhaps thinking, considering...

"Come on! You look all tough on the outside yet you're afraid to kiss the girl you love? You must be kiddi--" but Elise didn't get the chance to finish her taunt for Jared, with perfect grace, leaned forward and kissed Elise... on the forehead. 

Jared leaned back to the tree, proud of his work. Elise was now becoming really red. It started on her cheek, then crawled throughout the rest of her face. She was dumbstruck--her face surprised. She shouldn't have taunted him. She, of all people, should had known better. Jared just couldn't help but smile at her. "Come here," he said, referring to his right shoulder. 

And Elise, after having recovered, leaned her head on Jared's shoulder. His arms then held her back, his right hand on her shoulder. With Elise in his arms, Jared wished for nothing more.

Nothing but that moment to linger on forever. 

"This hill will be our special place," Elise spoke. "Fifty years from now, after we get married and have children and grandchildren, we will return here, Jared. And we will remember this moment." 

When Jared gave no reply, Elise looked up at him. "Promise me, Jared?" 

"I promise." 

Jared had kept his promise, but it wasn't fifty years from that day, nor was it after they got married and had children and grandchildren. How could he do that, anyway? When none of those hadn't happened yet. When none of those will ever happen--except the fifty years part. 

Jared never married Elise, nor had he any chance to get down on one knee and ask her the words she longed to hear for so long. She was taken away before he got the courage. And somehow, he hated himself for being a coward. He had been a soldier at war--he shouldn't have fear--yet he was afraid he couldn't give Elise the life she deserved. 

It's too late now. Jared had lost Elise. However, her memory remained--a memory that would always be with Jared all the days of his life. It was her life that had given him strength to live on, a remedy for all the sins he had done in that past that kept on haunting him. 

He hadn't really lost her after all. She was still with him; she was the life he breathed. He never really knew how Elise did it--teaching a man who did a lot of things he regreted to learn to love again. Not just others, but his self, too. Yet she did. 

Of course, she had always got what she wanted; she always did everything in her power to get what she wanted. With that fighting spirit of hers, she could move mountains if she ever wanted to. She was that brave--braver than he ever will be. 

Jared got up and looked at the sky. It was a gloomy day, like the weather missed Elise too. There were tears in Jared's eyes but for the first time in the long time, he managed to smile. He would have to be brave just as Elise was brave; he would have to do something that would make her proud of him. So that one day, when they finally meet again, he would be fulfilled.

He only hoped that wherever magical place Elise may be now, she was happy. 

And that she was waiting for him. 

The End

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