By Theodora-Maria Mrejeru
You are here. That’s good. Now we can start. Where are we going today, you might wander? Well, somewhere close enough to reality and not exactly far from the truth. I will leave it to you, my dear reader, to figure that out for yourself. Because the problem with fate is that only mortals are unfortunate enough to deal with it. I was there when I had to witness the complicated ways of fate.
Maybe the air was a bit too suffocating and the pub was a bit too dark, but I remember well the day when this group of gentlemen were playing pool. They were meeting to play every week, in fact, and they were quite inseparable too. The oldest was wearing his signature red vest because everyone was calling him the Lion. Why? Better not to find out. Some say it’s because of that scar he has on his lower lip and some say it’s because of his temper during the match.
The Lion’s brother has a similar reputation. He is known to have inherited the same temper; that’s why he is called the Hyena. Along these predators there was also the Shark. Nothing can stand between the Shark and the break at the beginning of a game. He is known to always be the first shot and choose the solid balls.
And last but not least, their leader. Even though he doesn’t seem like a very good player, he always has a last-minute trick to pull out his sleeve. There wasn’t a move that the leader couldn’t predict.
That night, a deal was set by one of the men that thought himself good enough to go up against the group. A lot of money was at stake and one thing was certain: neither of the parties wanted to lose.
The group already started to exchange looks after the Shark made the first move and sank two balls, leaving them in the lead.
“We should stop letting him open every time. It’s getting boring,” the Hyena said, elbowing his brother and laughing. Maybe that was another reason for his nickname.
His brother didn’t react, he knew better than to underestimate their opponents from the start.Any decent player could get past that. As he predicted, the gentlemen on the other side soon regained the lead. Right when the Hyena was about to strike, the fire alarm started blasting through the whole building. People started to panic. They jumped out of their seats and were led outside in a straight line.
“The fire started upstairs from one of the candles. Don’t worry ma’am,” said the Shark compassionately to an older lady. Even though his kind gesture didn’t have a kind purpose.
“If you show any more teeth, you’ll scare them off,” the Lion pointed out when he noticed the group of ladies that gathered outside.
“What do you know?” The Shark kept smiling “Where is Alex?”
“Still inside, I believe,” Hyena answered, grinning from one corner of his mouth to another and patting his pockets making them all smirk.
Back inside the Leader was explaining to the angry gentlemen that he was going to offer them a rematch next week. What a shame indeed.
“Thank you, Mr Montgomery. We’ll see each other next week.”
“Of course! And we’ll double the sum from our part,” Alex answered, reminding the gentlemen about the actual loss from that evening.
“We wouldn’t mind if you would actually lend us one of your players instead.”
“We’ll see.” Alex’s expression remained an amused smirk as he walked out.
Who would have thought they would enjoy the small victory? No one would question the Leader, not even the real owner of the pub.
Alex walked back into his office after everyone was finally out. There was no one else who could disturb his peace while he admired the little achievements he had been carrying in his pocket, even though the only thing he could sell was the gold watch he snatched from a lady’s wrist. He could do better.
Leaning back in his chair he took a deep breath. Tonight had been a close call. The rest of the group didn’t need to know that a losing match could get them out of business. That’s why they needed to be careful. Getting caught would have got them the same consequences if not worse.
Even though they had been doing this for years now, Alex had never stopped wondering when it would all come to an end.
He opened the drawer of his desk and, to his surprise, he found a letter. How could that be if he had just that morning been through his mail? He picked it up, nevertheless. No name, no address, no person of correspondence. Just a blank envelope. As he started reading, his expression turned into a frown.
It’s been a while, I know. I just wanted to know if you are well.
We ended things quite suddenly and I couldn’t help but wonder during the past decade what the reason could have been. We were good friends.
I still remember how we used to play almost every week when we were little. You always let me win when we were pretending to be superheroes, even though we both knew I was the villain. Maybe I’ve always been the villain, so I am sorry. I am sorry that I let you down, that I judged you because we chose different paths. I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most. I didn’t know how serious my mistake had been until you weren’t there anymore.
Maybe my apology now means nothing to you, but maybe there is still a part of the old Alex left in you somewhere. I hope there is, because otherwise I suppose I won’t be receiving any answer from you any time soon.
I want to make things right. Will you give me another chance?
Alex threw the letter on his desk and ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. This must have been a joke; a really good one. However, no one appeared. He waited and waited, but nothing. It was only him in the room, the big ancient clock on the wall still ticking behind him.
Only a fool will answer to his past. Only a fool would reply to someone who broke his heart into pieces that he never managed to gather. His best friend chose to write to him after all this time. In ten years, they never exchanged a word and now she had the audacity to send him this letter. Was he willing to give someone like that a second chance? Or maybe the only thing Alex needed was proper closure. That would certainly take the pain away, let him heal and go on with his life.
News flash: he had a new life. Why would he ever try to reach that side of himself ever again? Why would he even bother? There was no “old Alex” anymore. It was only him with his good and his bad. That’s something his friend never understood. It was never about who was the villain. Every person has a dark side, it only matters who decides to stay when that comes to the surface.
The villain? The villain will always get what he wants and if it weren't for the happy ending, the hero would be long dead. There is nothing that can stop a person who has a strong reason not to give up. Alex was an example of that. He had had nothing and now he had an empire. It was an empire that could crumble at any time, but that kept him alive. What’s life without a risk? What’s fate without struggle? Maybe that’s why he received that letter now. Maybe fate had something planned for him?
Alex got up from his desk. He paced around his room for another couple of minutes before picking the letter up again.
I want to make things right. Will you give me another chance?
I don’t want to throw everything away. There isn’t a day that passes without me thinking of you and of the promise that we made.
Meet me at the bell tower. Wednesday at 18:00.
It had been so long since Alex had said that name. Maybe longer than he wanted to admit. Still, Wednesday could be any Wednesday. Maybe Lou had sent him this letter a month ago and now it was too late to meet her. That day was Friday, if she meant the following Wednesday he still had a chance. Or maybe the mailman had brought the letter to the wrong address and Lou had intended it for her lover. Did she have a lover? Or maybe they were more?
Wait a second...
Why was he asking himself such questions? He didn’t care because there was no way in hell he was going. There was no way something would change his mind.
Suddenly someone knocked at the door, and he let himself sink back into his routine.
When Wednesday finally came around, Alex found himself headed to the bell tower. He said he wasn’t going to go. It didn’t matter, he was going to be late anyway. He had chosen to take the shortcut instead of the main road, however.
On the way there, he listed every reason why he should stop walking and head back to the pub. He counted every stone he stepped on and yet his feet were only taking him closer to the tower.
The moment he arrived, he knew it was a mistake, especially when he saw in the darkness the silhouette that was already waiting for him. The hood of a cape was covering her head, but the height and the size matched with Lou’s. Not to mention the blond locks that showed the moment she turned around. His steps must have startled her.
Lou took her hood off and Alex let out the breath he didn’t realise he was holding. She looked exactly the same, except she was 10 years older than the little girl he used to meet a long time ago. The yellow dot in her brown eyes was still there too. He could never forget how the sun embraced her honey eyes. It felt like a treasure that only he got to see.
What did she think of him? Was he the man she imagined he would become? Or maybe she wasn’t recognizing the boy he used to be. He still had the same dark hair and untamed curls that were now slightly tamed under his hat.
There was a longer silence than Alex had expected. Why wasn’t Lou saying anything? Why wasn’t he saying anything? The words were struggling to come out, even though they were right there, on the tip of his tongue.
“Alex. It’s been a while.” He was just about to open his mouth when Lou spoke. “I thought you wouldn’t come.”
But he had. Was she disappointed?
“How are you?” Lou asked to break the silence that still lingered between them. “Alex, please say something.”
“What am I supposed to say? You were the one who left.”
“I said I am sorry.”
“Your apology means nothing to me.”
“Then why did you come? Why bother?”
“We made a promise didn’t we?”