The day I was born.
- Peter, do you love me? – Susan asked him softly.
The man muttered something under his breath and put his other hand under his head. He looked at the bright warm sun, musing about something. The summer was in full swing and every living creature around was trying to make the most of this beautiful day. A bee hurriedly flew over them towards a large group of chamomiles, buzzing excitedly at the view as if those were the last flowers with such tasty nectar on the meadow. Grasshoppers were jumping around and chirping animatedly, absorbing every bit of sunlight and seeming to need more and more of it, basking in it with obvious pleasure. And somewhere above splendiferous large white clouds were floating magnificently in the azure firmament akin to ships that tried resolutely to make it somewhere in time amidst deep waters of some endless ocean.
It was almost an idyll to be in such a place with such a handsome man, who made all girls in a village swoon over him. His ravishing smile, lustrous blond hair and strong build was just a prelude to something truly mesmerising – his blindingly blue eyes that seemed to thoroughly charm everybody who looked into them with their ethereal quality. Not that strikingly attractive appearance was his only best feature. Surprisingly, it was organically complemented by a lot of admirable qualities, a perfect combination that hardly anybody dared to grumble about, let alone criticise.
Having won his attention, she was immensely proud of herself and inadvertently caused a great deal of jealousy among others. As luck would have it, something was missing in her otherwise perfect achievement. However hard Susan tried, she could not for the life of her work out why her feelings towards him were not reciprocal. They have spent many days together and every time she seemed to come up against an invisible wall that separated her from Peter. How she wished she could see that genuine bright sparkle in his eyes at the sight of her!
Now they were lying amidst field flowers on a huge meadow that was a riot of summer colours. Sunflowers swayed quietly in the wind surrounded by navy blue knapweed and bellflowers that gave way to occasional vermillion poppies, purple cornflowers and lupines. Tall succulent grass stretched all the way to the sky and covered them well from unwanted stares of those who happened to be wandering nearby. It was a veritable summer paradise with a barely visible and yet quite well-felt caveat that bore the name almost.
Having watched the clouds in the sky for a while, Peter looked at Susan and broke into a faint smile. It was difficult to take umbrage at the absence of any direct answer at the sight of his affable face, so she decided against pressing it. Although for the last two years she kept looking and hoping against hope that her feelings for him would finally be reciprocal. For now she decided to change the subject to avoid spoiling such a good day.
- What do you think of this new group of people who arrived last week? – she asked him.
- They seem to be a bit odd but otherwise quite decent folk. Haven’t had enough time to talk with them, though. Why?
- My neighbour said some strange things about them. They are some militaries who will be working at a base fifty kilometres away. Everything else is shrouded in secrecy, as it happens.
The mentioning of the base made him frown for a second but the next moment he came back to his usual self.
- Well, can’t be bad for us, anyway. Winter is coming. They will send in some advanced snow clearing equipment to our village and clear all the streets of snow. Things will finally change for the better.
- Yeah, you are an incorrigible optimist, Peter. That’s what I’ve always liked about you – she said with a tint of wistfulness.
He looked at her, averted his eyes and said nothing. Only a small blade of grass that he was chewing on showed some movement that she could see. As for what was going on inside his mind remained a total mystery that always showed her rigid boundaries. A light breeze ruffled Susan’s hair, a silent gesture of true nature affection she was seeking around and could not find enough of.
Why was she waiting for something when it was not coming? The answer came to her once again and reminded her about the good time in her life that she had spent in his company. It was not what one could unequivocally call love but Peter had always been nice to her and despite his detachment and indifference, forgetting about her existence for weeks while being with friends at multiple parties, playing golf or pursuing his own interests, did not leave her. Surely, she was not going to give up on him and hoped that he would see her someday. So…
For a moment she flashed her mind back to childhood, reminiscing her good days with her multiple friends, unable to escape memories. A never-ending whirring of insects was beginning to make her somnolent and her grip of the tuft of grass relaxed.
A few minutes later some movement snapped her out of the reverie and made her come back to the immensely beautiful Peter’s eyes, where all of a sudden something new appeared. Having flashed so brightly, it immediately started to dim. She squinted and tried to make out what it was, and the next moment saw something white there that, inexplicably enough, started to move. Her mind was still trying to work out what it could have possibly been when Peter’s hand clutched hers, making her wince with pain. It was the first time he had done it so forcefully, which only added to her rapidly rising confusion and fear. Something alarming started to well within her but was no match for the force of the hand that made her stop gazing at his face and turn around.
Somewhere at a distance she saw a huge mushroom cloud rising and expanding rapidly into the sky. An immensely powerful updraft picked up tons of dust and made a very thick stem, holding a huge flattening rounded cap. Almost at the same time a powerful shockwave radiated outward, followed by the sight of thousands of trees and buildings being knocked down and crushed in a matter of seconds. Massive centuries-old oak and pine trees disappeared in a roaring nuclear maw that upon devouring all nearby forests and villages rapidly started to approach them.
The now forgotten pain from Peter’s forceful hold did not disturb Susan anymore. She stood next to him, gaping at the imminent disaster that left only charred wasteland in its wake. Thousands of thoughts were racing through her mind like mad wild horses failing to find any solace and peace anywhere. Everything seemed so unreal that she could no longer focus on anything. Even a survival instinct seemed to be overwhelmed by the catastrophic event that was unfolding before them in all its lethal beauty. It became abundantly clear what the end would be and neither she, not Peter made any attempts to escape what had so unexpectedly transpired.
Suddenly she felt a receding pressure, after which two muscular hands gently weaved around Susan and turned her away from the sight of the explosion. She looked at him and despite the turmoil and quickly increasing roar felt how the time suddenly stopped and everything went quiet. There was no wall anymore between them, the impenetrable layer of detachment was gone and in its place was a feeling. The most drastic change could be seen in his eyes that now resembled those ones of a sage at a very advanced age who managed to comprehend the true meaning of life, and at the same time gave away boundless sparkling youth and feeling.
- Yes, I love you, Susan…. I want to exchange this minute for a hundred years of senseless roaming in the dark and be with you forever.
With these words he gave her a long, passionate lingering kiss and held her gently, but even before the roaring wave swallowed them, they had felt and seen something that gave an entirely different meaning to their sudden new and very short life...