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The Ocean Between Us

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

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The rocks shifted under the tyre as it steered through the rough road. The falling snow weighed down the leaves of the Douglas firs dotted across the forest. Driving past the unpaved road and the sparse forest, he parked the car beside a downward slope. The cold breeze gave him goose bumps as he got out of the car taking his backpack; he brushed his hair with his hand getting the flakes of snow off his head. He carefully trod downhill, the twigs crunching beneath his oxfords.

It's tiring. It's the same everyday; the exhausting routine of an undistracted life.

The light layer of fallen snow masked the crunch of the forest floor as he made his way down the steep slopes. He walked further down, stepping cautiously onto the stable ground avoiding the slippery rocks. He rubbed his hands together, warming them up.

I looked back and held out my hand; a gesture that had grown on me over the past years. As my hands stretched forward, waiting for you to grab hold of it, little did I realize that the path you needed to cross over was only getting longer.

He sighed and pulled his hands back, putting them back into the pockets of his trench coat. Looking ahead of him, he continued until he reached a small track leading to a tree. He walked to the foot of the tree with a tarpaulin cover at its base. Grabbing hold of it, he pulled out the tent from beneath it, along with the equipment for a campfire.

She would smile sending the barely collected snow my way as I set up the tent. She would carefully blow on the steaming hot dumplings as she put them in my mouth. We would smile, talk and fall asleep in each others arms. The best memories I ever had, but why don't you feel the same anymore?

He poured the hot water into the instant cup noodles and kept it aside. Draping the blanket around himself, he took sat down in the tent, watching the fire rise up. The stream was now dotted with snow that melted into it before being carried downhill, splashing beside the rocks and curving through the roots of the trees that stood in its way.

It still feels like yesterday. The last winter we spend together. This place had warmed our hearts in the coldest of times. As we looked at each other, as your smile made me smile, as our lips touched and despite the freezing cold, each others warmth was all we felt. Those moments that we thought would come every year. What had gone wrong?

He sat back in the tent and pulled out the thermos sipping the coffee. He took off his gloves, holding out his hands beside the fire. Through the flames of the fire, he caught on a silhouette across the stream. As she worked on the tent, he stared hesitantly. Finally, a fire was lit and then she cozied away into the tent.

As I look beside me, our memories came flooding into my mind. As you said you couldn't do this anymore. As you said you didn't feel the same about me anymore. I listened, I tried to but never understood. As you said you had fallen out of love, my heart ached but I let you go.

He looked across at the tent behind the fire. Another shadow had walked down the hill, sitting beside her in the tent. He picked up the noodles beside him eating it before it got soggy. He changed his gaze from the ground to the sky, flakes of snow still made their way into the stream, the stream still splashed on through the hurdles in its way, the sky still had the stars that twinkled in the darkness.

This place still warms my heart; as I sit watching the stream make its way through the crevices in the rocks, I still wear off the exhaustion. But instead of my side, you sit across me, your gaze no longer lingering on me, your smile no longer caused by me, you no longer mine. As I sit, I realize it's not a stream, but an ocean between us.


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