A whole year.
I sat on the grassy bank looking out to the sea. It feels like an out of body experience. Everything hurts. It spreads in waves through my body, licking and burning every single cell. My chest is incredibly tight, squeezing every breath out of me.
Where are you?
I don’t know what to do. It’s been a year and now I am starting to doubt that he is real, that maybe it was my imagination but just that thought it brought fresh tears to my eyes.
I am angry all the time because there is so much pain. I covered my face to prevent the tears from falling but they still did. An agony scream is building up inside of me. I could feel it crawling and digging its way up through my body.
Please don’t leave me, please come back, I silently cried out.
Ever since meeting Niran, he stayed true to his words. He came to visit me the next day and took me out on dates. Everyone in the village knows he is courting me. The girls in the village are envious of the attention I am receiving from the village chief’s son.
Niran isn’t a bad person. I learned a lot about him and his perception of life and marriage differs from his father’s. He is honest and loyal. A complete gentleman when it comes to dates.
Just recently, he professed his love for me. I declined it and pushed him away. I told him never to come to see me again and that this shouldn’t have started in the first place. He took full blame. He knew I wasn't emotionally available but he still pursued but that doesn’t stop what he feels for me. Our last meeting, I lashed out at him, punched him in the chest and pushed him away. He left broken and angry but I remembered his last words.
“I know that you don’t love me but I am a selfish and desperate man. I will take what you can give and if it is your body that I can own and not your heart. I will take it.”
Niran’s family had come to my parents’ home yesterday morning to ask for my hand in marriage. Niran knows my heart doesn’t belong to him. I have made my intentions clear but the man was persistent.
My father couldn’t turn them away. He was the village chief’s son after all. When they asked my father for my hand in marriage it was in the utmost respect. A high-ranking official wanting to engage his son to his daughter. If my father denied the request, it will bring shame to our family and to my father.
The wedding is scheduled to happen at the end of the month.
I bit my lip hard and squeezed my eyes tightly shut. My hands fell to the ground and I dug my fingers into the dirt. I tried to focus on my breathing but the scream still escaped. I let it out. My misery. My heartache. My love for him.
Happiness is fleeting...
When I was a child, I might have not known what the feelings I had in my stomach were. The way I looked at Raiden, I knew he wasn’t a relative. I never looked at him like he was a brother. I liked him when I was a child. It was a crush.
And then he entered my dreams and the man stirred a desire inside of me that I have never felt before.
When I met him, I was angry with him but underneath all that anger and frustration, I liked him. I never knew that the thumping in my heart and the flutters in my stomach was associated with my love for him. When I did realize it, it was too late.
By now, I had stopped screaming but silently crying. I wanted to be like the wind, let it carry me away. Alive and carefree.
“Anna,” Niran’s voice came from behind me.
My eyes flew opened and I wiped my tears before turning to look at him with a glare. He saw the anger in my eyes and a look of sadness and hurt passed through his. He walked over to me and sat down on the grass beside me. I wanted to punch him and push him away but I focused instead on what’s before me. I took slow steady breaths.
“I know you are upset with me and you have every right to but you have to understand why I did this.” He pleaded while looking at me.
I clenched my teeth, “I know why you did it.”
“I love you, Anna.” He said and it was like someone poured hot oil over my heart. They were words I long to hear but not from him. I swallowed the lump in my throat and turned my face away to stop the tears from coming.
He cupped my cheek and turned me to face him. His thumbs swiped the tears that escaped.
“I know you don’t love me.”
“Then why are you doing this? You deserve someone that would love you.” I replied.
“Because I won’t love them the way I love you. Even if you don’t love me, I will love you with everything I have. I will give you everything you want.”
Niran’s eyes were filled with pain and I knew that he wanted my love.
“Why bring us both pain?” I asked in a whisper.
“Because even though there is pain, there is love.” He answered. He released his hold on my cheek and looked away from me.
“I know I hurt you by asking your hand in marriage. You are an independent woman and I forced you into this marriage with me. I am bad and selfish but I promise you that as your husband, I will love only you. There will be no other.”
I remained silent. He was apologizing in his own way and admitting to his own selfish reasons. I should hate him for this but I can see why he did it.
“Can you tell me why you can’t love me?” He asked.
I inhaled slowly to ease the ache in my chest, “I love another.”
“who is he?” Niran asked. I can see my response hurt him deeply.
“He is the man that wakes my dreams. The one that roams the sea. A shadow. A whisper.” I laughed sadly and looked down at the sea. “He might not be real but he is real to me.”
“He isn’t real?” Niran asked further, clearly confused.
I shook my head, “I don’t know if he is.”
“Then why chase a dream when you don’t know if it will ever come true?” He asked.
“Why get married to someone who doesn’t return your love?” I answered his question with one of my own, turning to look at him in the eyes.
He gave a small sad chuckle, “Hope.”
We were silent for a long while. I don’t hate Niran. I am upset with him but I can’t hate him. He is a nice man but matters of the heart are not controlled by the human. It is reckless and selfish. It wants what it wants and leaves no room for argument.
He chuckled and shook his head and I turned my gaze to him in silent curiosity. He turned to me and flash me a smirk.
“I know you don’t love me and have doubts about my love for you. If that man in your dreams is real and his love for you is real than I love you if not more just the same way as he does.”
“I don’t know about that,” I told him. “The man that I am talking about waited for me for ten years.”
He waited for me for ten years and I couldn’t return the same. One year I waited and now I am forced to get married to Niran. The feeling of guilt and self-hatred flowed through me. I wish I can change things but I respect my father. I love him and I know that if I refuse he will be shunned from the community.
I should hate Niran for what he was doing but strangely I don’t hate him. I hate myself instead.
Niran blinked in confusion, “Then he must be old.”
For the first time, my lip twitched into a smile.
“No, he isn’t old.”
Niran looked away still confused but he shook his head.
“Well, when you are pregnant with my child and more than likely fat and round. I can promise you that you will still be the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.”
“What about after I give birth and have saggy belly skin?” I dared further.
“Even then.” He smirked. “Wait, are you agreeing to our marriage?”
The smile slipped from my face and I shook my head immediately. I turned away. I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. I still don’t want this wedding.
“No, I am not,” I replied. A flash of Raiden and my ceremony flickered in my mind. I looked away from Niran but he nudged me in the shoulder to get my attention again.
“I’m kidding. I know you are not happy with my marriage proposal.” He assured me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “You deserve so much more, Niran.”
“But I don’t want anybody else. I want you.” He replied before sighing and changing the subject. “I came here for a different matter. I know that you’re upset with the marriage proposal but I have another proposal for you.”
I turned to look at him with scrunched eyebrows.
“There is an influential businessman who has taken interest in our village. I went into the city a few weeks backs to gain a few investors attention. I did a presentation but no investor approached me but him. He told me he liked my presentation. He wants to invest in our village and help provide our village with better education and medical care.” He smiled happily.
I returned his smile because this is exactly what Niran and I both shared. We both wanted this for our village.
“That’s amazing. Do you know what the plans are?” I asked.
“He will be coming in a few days to visit our village. After, he will make a decision on what he would like to do next. Quite honestly, we really are depending on his money. I hope that his visit here works out. Our village does not have enough to build new schools or hospitals.” Niran admitted.
“He must be a very kind man,” I told Niran.
Niran smiled but his eyebrows were furrowed in confusion, “It’s funny because when I asked him why he took interest in our village when the other investors clearly were not, he said that the little things in life are what makes the world a greater place.”
“Sounds like a wise man,” I replied.
Niran nodded in agreement, “The man is a young entrepreneur. He is around our age but he has already accomplished a lot. The man has millions of money and is invested a large amount of money in expanding businesses. Highly influential. Kind of intimidating too.”
I giggled then and Niran gave me a silly grin. “But he did want to meet my family. I wanted to ask if you would like to meet him. I know how you majored in architectural design. I can help put in a word for you.”
This was what I wanted. I wanted to be able to build schools and hospitals. Expand this village to something greater. I couldn’t wait and for the first time...I am excited to meet this guy.