I am again, trying to find the time and to bring together the words that will help Tristan and Scarlett… Desperate attempts…
For the first time, Tristan was at a loss for words as he stood there in front of that Scarlett woman for a good two minutes. As if he did not have enough worries on his plate, she happily added a couple more.
Why did he have to go and see her? Why did he want to erase that image of her writhing in distress in his arms? When he saw her collapse in the room, he had rushed to her like… Like he was supposed to do that… Like he wouldn’t let anyone else touch her. Tristan had wrapped her in his coat and crushed her to his chest like his own life depended on her. Her every scream, every shiver… Gosh… He had totally forgotten there were others in the room. He did not know her. Yet, he had wanted to care for her as he had never done for anyone before. And why hadn’t he cared for anyone before? Was there no one he cared for? That could not be true… no…
“How is she now?” Michael asked Tristan as soon as he got into the car.
“Fine. Just like a fire spitting dragon.”
“Seems like someone got burnt…”
“I am going to pour water over all that fire. I am going to clip her wings. Just wait you… Scarlett… What’s her full name? No, wait, I don’t want to know.”
But he did. He wanted to know everything about her. But why? Tristan was hurt at the way she had thrown his coat back at him. He thought she’ll be pleased. He wanted something from her… with her… Why? Now his coat smelled faintly of her, his own essence mingled with hers. Something so primal, a sense of possession unfurled in his chest at the thought of Scarlett that it scared him.
Eight days later…
Tristan got into his car and started to drive without a destination. He was sick and tired of everything around him. The people, the looks, the whispers, the questions, the confusion… he felt like disappearing again. Not that he knew where he was before but still…
He was not making sense. He was not himself anymore. He knew it. And so did everyone around him. When Jason from the Accounts came and requested an abnormal two weeks of absence because he wanted to take his disabled child to the hospital, Tristan granted them. He was surprised at himself, but not as much as Jason had been. His brain was telling him not to and argued with his heart, stating a hundred different reasons on why he shouldn’t. But his heart just whispered-do the right thing and the right thing was to grant the leaves. In fact, Jason had such a stricken look in his eyes that Tristan had asked more about his family. He had never done this before. He never asked anything that was even remotely personal or in any way social.
Jason was not the first case where his heart and brain conflicted. It happened as much as he breathed. His previous character and memories collided with what he wanted to do now. It was a bloody war in his head. In the end, his heart always won, no matter what the case. This often left his parents, friends, and colleagues in shock. One day, the woman at the front desk ran away when he held the door open for her. Another day he had stopped by the Operations team and asked what their plans were for Friday, the freaking team stared at him for so long that it freaked him out. He knew he was behaving out of character but he couldn’t summon up his old angry self anymore. His dad gaped when he had breakfast with his Mom, while she beamed like it was the rarest of the rare gift she had ever received.
Why was that so unbelievable?
Now that he was back from the dead, a lot of his friends and partners had called and dropped by to meet him. But seriously, he was pissed off at them and with himself. Why was he even friends with them? Some were pure evil. Why didn’t he notice it before? What was wrong with them? Or what was wrong with him? Every time he tried to be that old self, he felt suffocated, his tongue felt heavy and would not move. He dreaded he was going to do something terribly wrong or that his words were going to hurt someone. There was that unbearable pull in his gut that told him again and again to remember, to control himself and to be patient. To remember what? Patient for what? Why?
‘Your reputation precedes you…’ Tristan had not realized this was his reputation and he was not impressed.
Scarlett’s words were a constant buzz in his ears. When everyone looked at him with questions in their eyes, she had looked at him with recognition, surprise. Or was it delight? Had he seen her before? Had he forgotten? He saw how her expression turned to agony and then wiped clean of all emotions. And it hurt him. It still singed…
He did not remember anything, nothing at all from the past five and half years. His last memory was the accusing eyes of Sophia and a lot of thundering noise. The very next one was a godforsaken alley in the outskirts of the city, where he seemed to have woken up. Everyday, every second he tried his damnest to fill the gaps in his memory. He felt ancient in a modern world, like a fragile glass sculpture precariously placed inbetween hundreds of swinging pendulums.
He had met her again a couple of times, though only for fleeting moments. But it always filled him with peace. Sometimes they did not even greet each other. Yet he saw how her face always lit up in delight and then carefully all emotions waned, until nothing was left. This change in her puzzled him, kept him awake at nights and thinking hard even in boardrooms where he was supposed to be negotiating and impressing. It felt strange that she felt good, even her antagonism and indifference.
Tristan had to meet her. He always seemed to come back to her. When the world haunted Tristan, he thought of Scarlett, her face, her eyes. The way she felt in his arms. That’s where he ended every time. They were his anchor. The only things that did not trouble him. Scarlett awakened so many emotions in his heart. He felt he was being built up from scratch. He definitely had to meet her.
He did not know how long he had been driving. It was late and dark and he found himself at the entrance of Magic Brew, another place he loved. It always felt the same, warm and welcoming, and never crowded, just enough people to keep it bustling with activity.
A burst of laughter in the far end of the cafe had him turning, but even before that, he knew to whom it belong to. Maggie. But the lady who had caused her to explode in laughter had him stopping mid stride. Scarlett Williams. She was here. Relief coursed through him like waves.Had he wanted to see her that badly? She was playing like a child with Maggie, trying smear cream on her nose. There was trays and trays of food on the table. Was she really going to eat all that? Then she got up and hugged Maggie from behind and rested her head on her shoulder. It was such an endearing scene. Loving, tender. They both seemed to be friends, no more than friends.
Once again Tristan realized that he doesn’t have such memories. He must have been living his life so wrong. The total absence of sunshine in his memories and past experiences had him thinking that he might have been a corpse, dead and emotionless.
“Oh my God! Look who is here?! Tristan… My son… Oh dear… my dear…” Maggie came bounding down the stairs and pulled him into a hug. Why didn’t he have memories of hugs like this?
“Oh dear… you let me hug! You let me hug. You have never done that before. Something is wrong. Are you okay? Are you in pain? Are you hungry? Did you eat? What can I get you? Oh dear you let me hug you. You are still letting me hug you… Oh dear…”
Was he in pain? Yes, he was. He was deprived of love and concern and care. It was like a stab to realize he had kept the distance. Maggie was still talking, ” … Not that I am complaining Tristan. I was so worried when you disappeared. But now I am glad that you did and you came back a changed person. You boy… are going to leave only after dinner. No excuse. Not one. I’ll be right back.” She hugged him again and went to the kitchen muttering, “He is still letting me hug him…”
Scarlett did not know whether to bolt from the cafe or turn into an invisible wall or mannequin. Watching Tristan under the tiny golden lights in the cafe, she could read him like a book. Though she had no idea about his memories, there was no dispute in his transformation. He was getting used to his own changes, submitting to the new expressions of love and feelings, the sense of loss and regret. She saw it all that in the way he closed his eyes and held on to Maggie’s bear hug. She felt the silent apology for hurting her in the lines on his forehead. She felt his need to be held in his downcast eyes. His sigh said volumes. He looked at her with so much longing that she almost called out to him.
Tristan felt her eyes bore into him. He felt the connection, that understanding of what he was undergoing. He hesitated to go to her. Something like shame stopped him. He looked up to find her leaning on the table and waiting. There was nothing but eagerness and acceptance on her face.
Just what was exactly between them?