Kathleen’s life was perfect. She was that kind of girl who always got whatever she wanted. She was pretty and smart, she could have the whole world at her feet in a blink of an eye. It seemed like all she had to do was snap her long slender fingers and everything around would immediately turn into gold.
Her parents held a high position in a local business (which of course meant a lot of money), so they could grant their daughter the access to anything she needed, for instance, she was given the opportunity of studying at one of the best colleges, simply because they could afford paying expensive fees.
There was nothing imperfect in her presence, her clothes always fashionable and designer. Sometimes you could nearly go blind due to the brilliance surrounding her flawless posture. Some loved her, while the others were full of hate. They called her either the idea of perfection or the daughter of evil.
Although genuinely, despite the labels people were putting on her, she was just another girl, one of the crowd: smiling and talking with her friends or sometimes, as all of us, having her worse days when she’d rather be alone.
Kathleen ran out of the house into the middle of downpour. She raced straight forward, without taking a single look back. She’d had enough.
Softly illuminated streets were being flooded with heavy rain, falling down from the sky with a vengeance. At that time, the place seemed a bit deserted. Not a living soul could be seen there, on the usually crowded sidewalks.
It wasn’t long before the girl’s clothes got soaked to the skin. She felt the chill upon her face and her hair, utterly wet, was sticking to her forehead. She was slowly losing her breath and she could feel some kind of pain in the back of her legs, but none of that made her stop even for a while.
For a long time, she had been trying to hold everything under control, but some feelings had been growing day by day and they’d been gradually getting bigger and stronger, until the moment she wasn’t able to hold them bottled up inside anymore.
Giving full rein to her emotions, she was running through the unusually empty city center, towards the place she knew so well. The place which held thousands of memories she’d been desperately longing for.
Things used to be different once, a lot easier. Or maybe it was always the same, only she just didn’t pay that much attention? What if, in fact, life was quite simple and it was people who endlessly kept complicating it?
Kathleen gradually slowed down the pace and eventually stopped in the middle of the seaside boulevard, gasping for breath. She knew every little corner there: designer clothes shops and second-hands, elegant restaurants and cheap cafés, souvenirs stalls, sunglasses booths and kiosks with postcards. So many sunny days, so many moments that brought only the positive feelings with them… now it all looked terribly dead.
The girl sat limply on the edge of one of the benches placed opposite to the fountain. You could hardly tell whether it was tears or just raindrops dripping down her face and if it hadn’t been her uneasily shivering arms, spasmodic breathing and quiet weeping sounds she’d been making, nobody would have told she was crying. But she was, accompanied by the whole sky grieving with rain: the thin croissant moon and billions of stars shining above her.
The thoughts she’d been trying to block for so long were now flowing through her head like a devastating flood without an end.
It was the exact place where everything began.
A few weeks had barely passed—enough to turn her world upside down.
A few weeks ago she was sitting on the same bench, the crowded boulevard was bathed in sunlight on that hot day of July. After a successful shopping spree, she sat down opposite the fountain and sipping an ice coffee, she was watching people moving around there and back. Somewhere in the background, the humming sound of the sea could be heard. Kath closed her eyes, enjoying that warm afternoon.
Suddenly, some shadow eclipsed her view of the sun. As she raised her sight, she saw a tall boy standing in front of her, with black lengthy hair sticking up in all directions. That’s when their eyes met for the first time.
“Do you mind if I take a seat there?” he asked pointing his finger at the spare place on the bench, right next to her. Kath, after taking a look around and seeing all the other nearby benches were occupied, nodded in agreement.
She glanced at him as he sat down. The boy was wearing a black t-shirt, dark ripped jeans and a pair of somewhat worn-out sneakers—he definitely was one of those who could with pleasure wear that kind of shoes all year round, no matter if the weather outside was boiling hot or icy cold. At first sight he seemed like he didn’t pay much attention to his outlook. Kathleen noticed he didn’t really look alike any of the boys she’d been seeing every day at the college. Most of all, he wasn’t that kind of guy who spends the whole morning on applying enormous amounts of styling gel on his hair.
“Where are all these people rushing?” his voice pulled Kath out of her thoughts. She wasn’t sure whether the question was directed at her or he was just asking himself.
“I guess everybody has their issues,” she shrugged her shoulders.
“But what is the whole rush for?” his huge green eyes were staring at her. “On such a beautiful day, isn’t it better to just sit on a bench and look at the cloudless sky?”
Wow, she thought. He pretty much sounded either like a poet or someone who travelled in time from a different epoch. Are boys his age supposed to say things like that?
“The sky’s above us all the time,” she said, “while some of the issues are really important.”
“Really important?” he laughed. “Like, for example, buying a new pair of shoes?”
“What’s so funny about it?”
“Nothing. I just feel sorry for these people.”
She didn’t get his point. He appears out of nowhere, sits next to her and all of a sudden, starts talking about feeling sorry for people who like spending their afternoons on shopping.
“Just because,” he sounded more serious now. And kind of sad.
“Never mind. By the way, I’m Jake.”
“Kathleen,” she replied and shook the hand he’d pulled out in her direction.
“It’s nice to meet you, Kathy,” he smiled.
“Because I’m sitting on the bench, staring at the fountain, instead of chasing after nothing amongst all this crowd, yeah?” she returned the smile. “Then, I’m sorry, but I have to disappoint you. Less than an hour ago I was doing exactly the same thing: hunting for a new pair of shoes, and you know what? I’ve found it and it makes me happy.”
“Okay,” he nodded, laughing again. “I have nothing against buying shoes.”
They talked a bit. At first she considered him slightly weird, as if he’d been removed from some completely different tale than the rest of the humans were placed in. Nevertheless, there was something about him that puzzled her a bit, but also, she had to admit, impressed her in some way. And it wasn’t long before she realized how truthful and valuable his words were. She could swear nobody had ever talked to her the way he did and it was quite amazing, regarding the fact they only met a while ago.
Later, he asked if she fancied having some ice cream in one of the nearby cafés and she agreed, although theoretically she should have been on her way back home by then. Before they said their goodbyes, they’d exchanged phone numbers. Then each one of them went off in their own direction, but their paths remained intertwined together.
After that day, they met many times and the bench opposite to the fountain in the middle of the boulevard became sort of their special spot. They came there almost every day, sitting and talking for hours about everything and nothing, discussing some serious topics or carrying on less important conversations. Sometimes they would just stay silent, enjoying each other’s company. From time to time, they would either stroll down the promenade or go to the beach and have a walk along the seaside.
There was something that made Jake different from all of Kath’s acquaintances. Perhaps, it was that he wasn’t as prosperous as them. And maybe the way he talked about life. Or his green eyes, twinkling every time he smiled.
Kathleen had a fair-sized group of people she was used to calling her friends. And not till she met Jake did she realize how often everyone was just throwing the word “friendship” around, not knowing its real meaning. It turns out, the ones she had known nearly all her life were, in point of fact, just another strangers, meanwhile some boy she’d once coincidentally met on the boulevard unconsciously became an inseparable part of her world in barely a few minutes.
Jake impressed her in a way no one else she knew would ever be able to interest her. He was following different priorities in life, which didn’t include the desire of owning and the constant chase after money. He seemed as if he didn’t give a damn about what most people permanently preoccupied their heads with. He wasn’t interested in things like taking high places in “popularity charts” or blindly following the rules imposed from above—by the way, who the hell came up with all that? Jake didn’t care what others were thinking and what labels they were putting on him. He never pretended to be anybody else, he was always just himself.
In such a short period of time, he became the best friend she’d ever had. Thanks to him, she started to appreciate the simple little things, like granules of sand under her bare feet or the wind, full of the sea fragrance, blowing through her long wavy hair.
“People take life for granted,” he said once, “meanwhile it’s very fragile and breakable. It’s so easy to smash it into a million tiny pieces.”
Then she finally understood. She understood what hid behind his smirk while they were watching people scurrying in the streets, each of them busy with their own world, always in the hurry, bumping against one another, with absent gaze, missing so many things. Some of them had been waiting the whole eternity for what they repeatedly passed by on their paths and didn’t notice. Everyone was constantly rushing somewhere, chasing after something that in fact was pretty unimportant, putting their lives off for later, telling themselves: “I have plenty of time.” They thought things would stay exactly the way they were forever, but deep inside they all knew it didn’t work like that.
“It’s sad, isn’t it?” his green eyes seemed like they could see right through her, getting to the deepest nooks of her soul she hadn’t shown to anybody. “Most of us don’t live, only exist.”
Kath had no idea where all of his extraordinariness came from.
“You should write a book,” she said “or become a poet. Your words would touch millions of human beings.”
Jake laughed hearing that. “I would bore everybody to death,” he shook his head. “I’m sure you’re sick of me, too.”
“Not at all,” she objected.
Tonight she was sitting in the same place, so empty it was hard to believe how crowded it usually appeared to be during the day. The shops were already closed, so the people catching bargains were lacking. From time to time you could notice a couple strolling down the promenade under an umbrella.
Kathleen thought Jake would like that calmness and quietness. But now she was stuck there all alone, with the moonlight and the stars keeping her company. Tears mixed with raindrops were running down her face.
At that moment there was no Jake and his poetry to explain things to her and teach her about life.
One day they met in their usual spot and took a walk alongside the seashore. On the surface, everything seemed pretty normal. But she could sense something wasn’t quite right. And then he said it.
“I have to leave.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“There’s something I’ve never told you,” he sighed. “My mother has cancer. She’s been fighting for months, but it’s getting worse. We have to move to another city, where she can get a better treatment. This is the one and only chance and I can’t leave her on her own. I’m the only one she has.”
Kathleen was just standing there, staring at him, speechless.
“I don’t know what to say, I—”
“Don’t say anything,” he hushed her.
If she had known earlier… Well, what could she have done to help him? Ask her oh-so-generous parents to lend Jake’s family some money? She had never even told them a single word about him. And there was no way he would ever agree to that, anyway.
“You could have told me,” she said. In fact, what did she know about him? He was her best friend, yes. They spent a lot of time on talking, but somehow she didn’t get to know much about his personal life.
“I don’t need anybody’s compassion.”
“But I mean, I’ve been endlessly complaining about my perfect sugary life whilst you—”
She felt a lump forming in her throat and it wouldn’t let her finish the sentence. She realized it was the fact that Jake was leaving that made her heart tremble, not that his mother was sick, and she kind of hated herself for being that selfish, but she couldn’t help it.
And then she did that stupid thing when she let her feelings get out of control, though she knew she shouldn’t have.
They kissed. Maybe it wasn’t the best of moments for that, but they did, anyway. It was him who slightly pushed her away.
“Please, don’t make it harder,” he said.
However, she didn’t listen to him and he didn’t really protest, so she leaned in and kissed him once more.
Now she wished she hadn’t. She could still remember the feeling of his lips on hers and it hurt like hell. Every stranger passing her on the street reminded her of him. Every day she would sit on the bench and hope he would materialize right in front of her, like he used to, telling her that his mom’s alright and things would be back to normal. They would sit around and talk for hours or stay silent or do whatever.
She kept telling herself it had to be that way and it was neither his nor her fault. And he would come back some day, wouldn’t he? He promised. And thankfully, they had phones and computers and even though it wasn’t quite the same anymore, at least she had something that kept her close to him, something that gave her hope to see him again.
She wondered whether it was so hard for him, too. Who would have ever thought that two strangers from two different worlds who accidentally met each other on the boulevard would have become two inseparable soul mates?
It was late when it finally stopped raining. Kathleen rised from the bench and headed back home. Maybe, after all, this world wasn’t such a hopeless place to live in.
It took me quite a long time to figure out an ending to this story and I’m still not sure whether I’m satisfied with this one. But well, I’m not the one to judge, so I would appreciate your opinion. Pretty please? : ) And yes, I stole the title from Green Day’s song, because it sounded accurate.