“Come on, let’s go!”
His voice was anxious, masking the excitement and enthusiasm of a well-kept
secret only he knew.
She was reserved, almost scared. Where were they going? Why?
What would be there? How would they go? How long would it take? Her mind was a
whirlwind of questions. She probably appeared dazed too, perhaps betraying her
confusion to the outsider. So much, that it prompted him to reassure her. “It’ll be fine. Don’t be so afraid. It’s
going to be fun!”
He took her hand and led her to the car. He smiled at her,
his eyes glowing. She smiled back nervously. “Sometimes you don’t need to have all the answers,” he said.
When the car stopped, he turned towards her. She was gazing
outside trying to figure out where they were. “Close your eyes”, he said. She was almost shocked. “Come on, close your eyes. You’ll ruin the
surprise otherwise. Don’t you trust me?” It was a cheap card to play – the trust
issue – but he knew she would cave to it. “No
She gripped his arm as he led her out of the car and up a
grassy hill. The fresh air penetrated her nostrils and filled her lungs with
oxygen. It helped her get her mind off the fact that her heart was pumping mad
with anguish about this unknown event.
“We’re here,” he
said. She timidly opened her eyes.
In the middle of a picture-perfect scene – green valley,
tall trees in bloom, colourful flowers, peace and quiet – there lay a picnic
feast waiting for them.
She laughed wholeheartedly and jumped in his arms.
“Sometimes not knowing
too much is the best way to keep calm,” he winked.
There are certain things you (can) do to get your mind off certain
circumstances. Especially when those thoughts cause a change in mood, dishearten
you and bring you down. One of the most recommended one is to clean the house. It
is the best way to keep yourself occupied. Plus you get the added bonus of
having a clean lodging afterwards.
When Marie put on her rubber gloves and took to general
cleaning, she never expected the surprise she found wedged between the living
room wall and the bookcase.
It was a note folded in four. It appeared worn in the sands
It was handwritten in a blue pen with calligraphic lettering
that revealed sentiment in the script.
“May you live each day
as if it is a wonder. May yourevel
at each new experience. May you never cease to learn, to read, to live. May you
always be inspired by everything around you so that you too may be the
inspiration for those around you. May you acknowledge your worth even when
others don’t. May you never stop caring
for others, no matter who they are, small or big, two-legged or four-legged, bigger
or smaller. May you dream, aspire, struggle, accomplish. May you comprehend
that we achieve something even in our failures. May you be brave enough to
survive the hardships, take the tough choices and be courageous enough to
change things when it is time. May you always smile. May you never stop
believing in magic.
When Grandpa got up with the rising sun, he did not expect
that the front door wouldn’t open. Neither the back. He knew it was going to be
a difficult day. But for some, it would be exactly the opposite.
He tip-toed into Jenny’s room and gently shook her to waken
her from dreamland. She half-opened her eyes and stretched every inch of her small
“Good morning, Grandpa,”
“There’s a surprise
outside your window,” he smiled.
She jumped out of bed and looked outside.
Everything was white. An impeccable white blanket had
covered everything as far as she could see. It was snowing all night and it
continued to do so now. They were snowed in.
Grandpa was concerned because they were somewhat isolated in
the village and their resources were scarce. He was planning to go into town today,
had the weather permitted it. But few things in life usually go according to
Jenny was excited; she was jumping up and down and rushing
to put on warm clothes in order to run outside. It was freezing, but enthusiasm
always keeps you warm.
“Come on Grandpa, let’s
go build a snowman!” she called as she tried to open the door.
The old man used a shovel, back-aching and almost sweating
in the sub-zero temperatures, striving to open the door.
When he succeeded the little girl ran outside and dived into
There wasn’t much he could do anyway. He just had to wait
for assistance. So they might as well have some fun in the meantime.
Snow beautifies everything. It is nature’s magic that fills
your soul with wonder.
The things you remember are the things that are strange. The ones out of the ordinary, that are often nothing like expected.
When Mario told her he had a surprise-picnic planned, what immediately sprung to mind was something romantic, in a green field, with tall trees, flowers, silence and plenty of fresh air for them to breathe in and relax. They would also preferably be alone.
What happened though, was something Marisol could never forget. Mario took her to the neighbourhood park, where he prepared a mini-barbecue, under a sculpted tree.
He said this would surely create a lasting memory.
He was waiting for the fireworks. For a week now, it was all he could think about. She was excited too, but she had many other things on her mind that were consuming her attention. She relished the fact that he was so thrilled. Sometimes all it takes is someone else’s smile to make you smile even wider.
That night there was a fair, accompanied with the grandiose of a market, stalls, candy, street food, a Ferris wheel, lights, dance, songs and, of course, at the end of the night, fireworks. That splendid display of low explosive pyrotechnic devices that always make people stare at the sky with awe and amazement.
Tonight he had something special planned though.
As soon as the fireworks ended, he had arranged with the local DJ for her favourite song to play. As soon as she heard it, she turned at once towards his direction, her eyes now wide and bright, glistening in the night. He stretched his hand to clasp hers and drew her into an opening. And there he led her into her favourite dance. She was amazed. He had learned all the moves she enjoyed and managed to surprise her in a way she never expected.
For her, the fireworks came later. And that was all that mattered.
The footsteps in the snow were still there when he woke. It was the last thing she left him when she slammed the door the night before.
She was tired of fighting. She was tired of the sudden mood swings. She was exhausted that every time everything seemed almost perfect, something – the tiniest glitch – would come along to ruin it all.
And it was usually an action incited by another person.
With Harry’s consent.
Because Bertha knew well that if he had not wanted it to happen, he could simply say no. He could set his limits. He could actually show his girlfriend that he respected her. That he heard her when she told him repeatedly that she was bothered by certain behaviour. That he was loyal to her alone. Things, that if were the other way round, Harry would not have reacted so calmly or tolerate it all.
Bertha tried to be the bigger person.
But sometimes, even the strongest people break too.
Because all a person truly wants, is the certainty that the person they love will choose them over everyone else, under any circumstance.
She gave him a choice. She shouldn’t have had to.
But he did not choose her.
She threw away the balloons and the present she was to give him during the surprise party she had organised for him the next day.
It didn’t matter now.
He had not chosen her.
He had placed everything else above what she thought was something that would last through hail and storm.
She would have given him the world. But he was too stubborn to even give her a star.
It arrived on time and appeared just like any other of its type. It had four double doors symmetrically situated across one end, large windows, and an advertisement painted across both sides. From its exterior, it seemed like a normal bus. Even inside, it did not differ from others – it had enough space for passengers to be seated or standing and it was in great condition. Almost new. But there was something that made this bus special. You couldn’t tell at first. And most of all, you never expected what would come.
You would stop the bus at the stop and get on, maybe even find a seat. You presumed it would take you to your destination – the city centre – relatively quickly. But half way there, the bus would suddenly change course. If you were too distracted in your own thoughts it would take you a while to realise you were off course. Others would acknowledge it as soon as the bus took a “wrong” turn. Some passengers would react. Others would stress that they would be late for their appointments. Some others would simply remain silent, waiting to see what would happen. The driver would not respond to any.
After a while, you would realise the bus was not going to the city centre. The passengers that reacted intensely would soon tire and be quiet. And as the bus took an unknown route, almost all passengers would begin to plan scenarios in their head of where they would end up. These ranged from a serial killer bus driver that would throw them off a cliff, to a surprise destination where a millionaire would host a party to advertise a new acquisition. You would conjure in your head whatever you wanted, but you would be well aware that expectation was always the root of all disappointment. So you would try and pretend that you didn’t care where the bus was going.
After a long while, the bus would return to its course and, taking double time, would end up at the city centre, where it was supposed to be going in the first place. But, during that route, all passengers would have calmed down and, lost in their thoughts, dreams and mental to-do-lists, would not realise they had arrived. That was the point of this bus – to make you understand that what matters most is the route and how you get to your destination, not so much your final point of arrival.
“Don’t touch that!” The fire chief yelled as he ran towards Levi. The latter raised his glance in fright and froze in place. Wasn’t this what he was trained to do? To prevent bombs from detonating?
The fire chief raced to Levi’s position, gasping for air as his glove-covered hands passed over the black box. His fingers barely came into contact with it, but he was already trembling as if the lives of thousands of people who worked in that building depended on it.
All residents and employees of the tower had been evacuated and for the past twenty minutes, it was only the fire fighters and bomb squad who were found within those walls. They could feel the time ticking menacingly away and with every second that fled, they felt their breath grow shorter.
This was the fire chief’s ultimate act. He was going into retirement the very next day. This was his last mission. But it was Levi’s first. As experienced and as calm as the chief was, Levi was exactly the contrary, trying to masque his anguish and fear through a calm demise.
The fire chief opened the box with fingers shaking and sweat dripping from his forehead. He didn’t know what to expect – it could be anything, from a ticking bomb to a mere post-it informing of a prank. He wished it would be the latter. But instead, inside the box he found a smaller black box, and inside that, another even smaller. His temperature began to rise as his cheeks flushed. Levi looked on with eyes wide open. He could feel his heart pumping eager to beat out of his chest.
The fire chief took the smallest box in his hand and with a move worthy of a surgeon carefully opened it. Inside was a cupcake. That’s right. A small muffin-sized cake with icing on top. He examined it on all sides and was assured that it was a harmless dessert. That is when he finally lifted his gaze.
His men were standing around him, giggling and waiting for his reaction. It took him a while to figure it out. They had surprised him with one last adrenaline-rush. But all this was, was a farewell party.
Levi smiled. If only all bomb detonation missions would be as easy and happy-ended as this one.