So here’s the second part to The Scientist! I was planning on having it sooner but… I’m me! Yeah! Live with it. Part 2’s longer than part 1 – part 1’s a prologue, part 2 the main thing and so part 3 will be the epilogue. Part 3 will be written soon!
Halloween’s a usual day for me, since I live in a place where you won’t find kids in costumes in Halloween. In fact, my family don’t even celebrate it. Whenever I see people with costumes, I feel like wearing one too, and join them in visiting houses and asking for sweets. Well, I feel sort of happy by looking at their costumes – most look like they’ve been made years to be perfect!
To make up for the lonely Halloween, I watched PewDiePie’s videos at midnight with my brother; it was Lucius Part 4 and Ghost Stories With Pewds-Halloween Special. I really, really, really love his videos! BARRELS! STEPHANO! ALL KINDS OF WEIRD THINGS! I won a doll in Magic Planet the other day. Since he was yellow, I call him Stephano and he’s been that ever since. I always bring him with me whenever we’re watching any PewDiePie videos (hehehehe…. STEPHANO!).
Anyway, here’s the story! Enjoy!
(This story was influenced by Coldplay’s song of the same name.)
“I was just guessing at the numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science, science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
But tell me you love me, come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start
Running in curcles, chasing our tails
Coming back as we are
Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start”
* * *
19:55, Saturday, 13th October, XX12.
That little drama in Hilda’s bar was probably the most humiliating event ever happened in my life. The curious, annoyed and pitying eyes are still clawing my skin like maggots. People should mind their own business; they should just get on with their own lives and leave. Me. Alone. I am content with whatever I am working on right now, no matter how wrong it seems – No, it is not wrong. It’s right. Yeah, it’s perfectly okay. And those who had wronged me will see the results it will give. Hilda can go and bite her tongue as much as she likes, but she won’t change my mind. Neither will Zeke, nor Francis. Not even Bill.
I shove my hands into the deepest corner in my pocket, dragging my feet noisily on the concrete beneath me. Everytime there’s a puddle – usually leakage from the sewer – my shoe laces will be re-painted with foul-smelling water, until its once pristine white colour turn into rotten yellowish-brown. The cold October air blasted my body once in a while, especially when I’ve walked to the outskirts of the town, where not much building are present. Much to my annoyance, the wind takes this as an opportunity to make me feel colder that I already am in the inside. Nah, I’m always feeling cold, no matter how high I set the heater on every winter. Nowadays, I find myself not turning the heater on at all. Maybe it’s all because of Tiff.
Tiff likes the cold. She also likes it when the rain, without any success, tries to break down the windows every spring. At those times, I will find her curled up in her favoured armchair next to the misty window, a mug of hot chocolate in both hands while she’s adorning her trademark gingerbread sweater that highlights her latte-coloured waves. She would stare out the window, cheek flushed on the cold window, her chocolate brown eyes looking out. Counting. Always counting. Tiffany is very clever.
Tiffany was different.
She wasn’t like those stereotypical teenage girls you’ll find anywhere. While she’s a natural beauty with bubbly personality, she’s also a bright gem, always having her hand up for every questions asked in classes. She gets along with everyone – most of the time – but none could keep up with her, thus resulting in her lack of company. She may look normal but once you get to know her, she’s not what she seems.
Most people understand maths, but Tiffany lives maths. Every little thing she sees – the height of the spires of buildings, the convex curve of domes, the volume and circumference of a ball, the distance between one ear to the other (plus the bumps and all) – she knows the exact measurements and the equations to reach the answers. She knows the exact length of a football field and the exact angle in which the sunlight hits the surface of a lake. She sees the world differently from us.
Aside from the one-sided chats, she is a fairly quiet child, but she is not calm, not still. Even when she’s sitting down, her mind is going a hundred miles an hour. Actually, even her body cannot stop twitching. Her eyes would flicker from different objects each time, calculating different things and registering them into her mind; it’s almost like she’ll die if she doesn’t calculate. Sometimes, she would spill out formulas and calculations whenever she’s distressed because honestly, that’s the only thing that calms her down.
But this is also the reason why people avoid her – they could not understand her, and they’ve left her alone because they think of her as a weirdo. But she’s not. Tiffany is very clever.
As I’m about to unlock my front door, my eye catches something at the gate; a dark figure’s just standing there, a long coat and bowler hat as well as a package under his arm. I slowly turn and face the visitor. I may have expected some kind of threatening daggers and other dangerous aspects but it runs out to be Bill. Yes, Bill of all the people I don’t ever want to encounter.
His face is solemn, a great contrast to his usual cheerful grin – no, that was years ago. People change. One thing that had not changed is his love for bowler hats, as proven with his stark red bowler hat that stands like a beacon amongst his shady clothing. I can see snippets of red hair under it; the orange-red and the pink-red clashed horribly with each other, though I guess the reason he buys them is not for fashion. And what’s with the parcel? I’m pretty sure he said that he doesn’t want to even see my face again. I, after all, ruined his life. I mean, the burn scars on his face proves everything.
I turn around slowly, taking in Bill’s details and finally rest my sight on the brown parcel. Then I look back up to his hollow blue brown eyes. “What? Came here to kill me, after all these years?” I sneer, though it sounds tired and weak, much like I feel right now.
Bill stood unmoving and stares back at me. He switches the parcel to his right hand and held it out as if he’s giving it to me. “Yours,” is all he has to say.
“You do realise I’m about five feet away from where you’re standing,” I huffed. I wait for any sign of movements Bill will have to take to get to me, but realising that it’s never going to happen – for he said a long time ago that he will never step his foot into “living hell” ever again – I walk up to him, taking long strides that I believe look as casual as I can make it, because I feel like apologising to him. But for what? Was it my fault? Was it my fault that he’s never going to smile again? Was it my fault that…
I snatch the parcel and regarded it carefully. I hear no ticking sounds, or unpleasant smells, or detect any suspicious features from it. From the weight, size and the sounds it makes, it must be a box of something, something quiet big. Books? Maybe; I remember leaving a few things in his house from the last time I visited.
Brown. I regret looking up to look at his eyes – the agonising look he has is tearing me up from the inside. His eyes – those used-to-be soft, caring eyes. The eyes that used to shine whenever he succeeds in an impossible experiment, or when he discovers an amazing fact. The eyes he used to look at Tiffany with whenever she’s around, how he used to secretly admire her, longing, longing, longing. Always longing – No.
I nod my approval and walk stiffly back to my front door. I need to get inside, quickly – why? Why? – Bill is right there. He’s there. For what? Apologise. No. Talk to him. Why? It’s partly your fault. No, it’s an accident. It could have been prevented! – No, it couldn’t have. Tiff! He wants to see Tiffany!
In the midst of my thoughts, I drop the keys. My hand is shaking so badly, like I’ve been left in the freezer for a month or so. Why am I so skittish? What’s wrong with me?! It’s just Bill! I pick my keys up hastily and try unlocking the door again, shakily, unsteadily. Finally! The door creaks open and I rush in, turning around to shut the door and lock it –
“You’re sorry, too.”
That wasn’t a question.
How did he get it right?
He killed me.
No, I killed myself.
I killed him.
I killed her.
I killed us all.
I killed everybody.
And I am sorry.
But why are you?
Quiet. Too quiet. I could’ve sworn I heard a gunshot. Oh, wait, that was the door. I’m crouched in front of the door, the parcel I hug tightly over my chest. Shivering. It’s too cold in here. I take a deep breath and exhale through my mouth, trying to calm down. Calm down. I straighten my legs out in front of me and gingerly place the parcel on my lap. Now that I’ve calmed down, I notice the writing on the parcel –
I know that handwriting anywhere.
The parcel sat on the table, waiting to be opened. I want to, but can I? What’s inside? Surely not a bomb, right? Bill may have changed but he’s still mushy to the core. Heh, mushy. Sounds funny. I bet he’s still scared of the police and stuff. But this thing… It’s from him, so it has to be at least harmless. But the writing obviously says otherwise. There’s no way. Impossible.
The message taunts me, staring at me, trying to force me to open the parcel. Should I? I’m too scared. This… this is Tiff’s handwriting, not Bill’s. And if my hunch is right, the parcel would be…
I catch my hand as it unconsciously drifts to open the parcel. No, not today. Perhaps tomorrow? The day after that? One week later? Never? Hilda would be nagging me to open the cursed parcel already. Heh, I bet she’ll be already ripping it open and shove the contents into my face, and I would be shooing her away and threaten to never talk to her again. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest threat I can give her.
So I leave the parcel alone on the table and trudge to my bed, where I fall into a restless sleep.
10:11, Sunday, 14th October, XX12.
“Heard Bill visited.”
I turn to Francis, who was idly sitting behind the counter, lazily solving the crosswords. He has his head resting on his knuckles while the left one holds a pencil, tapping rhythmically on the wooden surface. I’m just helping around – I’m bored, and Zeke came over to convincingly drag me out again – stacking comic books into their respective shelves and putting the old ones into the leftover box so the street urchins can grab some. I continue to stare at Francis until he looks up, an eyebrow arching in question. “Hilda told me,” he confirms.
I sigh irritably and resume my work, “And I’m guessing Bill went to get comfort from her, then.”
“Well, everyone needs a spoonful of sugar once in a while. Asthma can be caused by the inflammation of…?”
“B-R-O-N-C-H-I… Oh, okay. Thanks,” Francis drawls as he fills up his crosswords, “And while you’re at it, can you pass me the box on top of the Captain Maverick shelf? There’s something I need to check in there… Seven down: what month was Kayla Storm born in? Bah, this is easy! O-C-T-O-B-E-R… Well, what are you waiting for? Go get the box! Nine across…”
After quickly putting comics into places, I go over to Captain Maverick shelf to find about seven boxes stacked on top of the metal shelf. Which one am I supposed to take? That geezer… “Uh, sir? There’s lots of boxes here… Which one am I supposed to take?”
“Eh? One with the ‘T’,” Francis answered.
The “T”… Ah, found it. It’s the one under the red-painted box. The T box looks small compared to the others but bigger than the red box, about the size of a backpack more or less. I carefully lift the red box, grab the T box and then place the red box back to where the T box used to be. The top is sealed with duct tape, with some parts wrapped heavily with the sticky silver tape; probably holes caused by those rascals or something. The box itself is relatively heavy – maybe it’s filled with loads of vintage comic books or collectibles available in certain events.
I walk to the counter and dump the box next to Francis’s newspaper with a soft thud and sprinkles of dust. “Sorry,” I say shortly. Francis only drops his newspaper and pencil with a heavy sigh. He opens the drawer at his right and takes out a pair of scissors, and closes the drawer quietly before proceeding to cut the strips of duct tape from the box. Since he’s already got what he wants, I plan on resuming my next task, “Yeah, so I should get back to –”
“No. Stay here; I need to show you something,” Francis says. Oh, well, a little time capsule opening ceremony wouldn’t hurt. From the box, Francis takes out – not comic books – notebooks, crippled by the feet of time, the once white pages turned yellowish and the ink, once purplish-blue, had lost its vibrant shine. I recognise these notebooks – these were our notebooks. The notebooks in which Bill, Zeke, Tiff and I used to record our findings and every bit og experiment we conducted. Great, it’s lecture time.
I roll my eyes internally and lean against the counter, eyeing the aged books coldly. “Look, I don’t want to have those cheesy ‘you should move on’ scene so early in the morning, especially not from you. I thought I’ve made it very clear that I don’t want anyone – anyone – messing with my business.”
“The four of you used to come here often,” Francis ignores my warning and resumes his unpacking, “though Zeke used to come here for the comics only, while the rest of you would use the Quiet Room to plan experiments and discuss facts and theories. Honestly, I was pretty happy with you guys around, because not many people come here often so it’s very lonely standing behind the counter every day, and the money’s not coming like rainstorm, either. So, Zeke’s probably the most helpful person out of all of you. No offence,” he added.
By now, all of the notebooks are out; fourteen of them – I still remember the number of notebooks and the amount of ink in a pen we would use in a day. Most of the notes were written by me, while Tiff and Bill would often throw in some suggestions written as side notes in the margins or any available spaces nearby the main body. My notes were written with Purplish-blue ink I favoured, Tiff’s with green ink while Bill used bright red, his favourite colour. I remember the ongoing debate about the multiverse (multiple universe) theory we used to have every Sunday morning, the same time as today; the argument never have a winner nor does it have an end, because new ideas would always come from our mouths each time we meet again. It was fun.
“Since you come here nearly every day, I’ve decided to make a shelf for your books only, so you don’t have to worry much about them; I still have that little bookcase in the Quiet Room, but it’s now used for more comic books,” Francis continues, “and it’s still in the same spot, by that table you used to sit. Wanna see it?”
I’m not sure about the answer. The large part of me want to strangle the old man to death for intruding on my – our – privacy, and tell him not to meddle with any of us ever again. However, the deepest smallest part of me says: “Yeah, sure.” That’s what I told him in the end.
Without further ado, Francis stands up and leads me to the Quiet Room. He unlocks the door and reveals the never changing silent sanctuary bathed in morning sunlight. Our table is by the window with the little bookcase underneath the windowsill. Everything is like the last time I saw it – I feel both pleased and angry. The dusty burgundy carpet is trampled by chairs and tables and there’s a lamp in the centre on each table. The mouse hole in the corner still has the small plate Tiff used to fill with cheese (she insisted that mouse only eats cheese, much to Bill’s and my chagrin).
Slow, baby steps, I approach the wooden table by the window. My fingers brush across the rough surface, recalling memories of each scrapes and dents made by the three of us. The chair by the window, Tiffany’s spot, is always the one with the most light. I remember the way the gentle sunlight made her hair illuminate and how her smile looked brighter than the light itself.
* * *
22:40, Saturday, 31th December, XX05.
It was nearing the New Year Hour, in my basement, during an experiment. It was Tiff’s idea to hold a New Year experiment together to commemorate our fifth year together since our sophomore year in high school. Of course, the only ones there were Tiff, Bill and I – Zeke wasn’t interested in these kinds of things. Plus, he’s spending New Year with his family, doing what they always do (and none of us really know what Zeke and his family does every New Year; he never tells us anything but the blush told us that it’s not that pleasant, for him).
We were planning on making this small firework experiment involving Bunsen burners, chemicals and drinks. We started off with a movie, some snacks and lots of jokes. It was fun – the picked stupid cheesy romance movies just for the sake of making fun of them, but somewhere along the way we decided that they’re pretty good in their own ways. After that, we started the experiment. The three of us mixed the required ingredients – everything started well. That was until took a bathroom break and Bill and I have the Talk.
“You like Tiff, don’t you?” I asked.
Bill looked like a deer caught in headlights. He gulped the rest of the soda in his mouth and started to fidget, eyes cast down to his feet. “How did you know?” he said softly, so soft I almost didn’t hear it.
“It was pretty obvious. You tend to stare at her when you think no one was looking,” I deadpanned, “You even bought expensive gifts for her birthday and Christmas. I mean, who would buy a gold necklace for their best friend? You were obviously courting her.”
“Gee, you don’t have to use that lame word!” Bill tried to joke but fell silent shortly after. “Sorry, man,” he later said, “I know you like her, too. I… I can’t help it.” He smiled sheepishly when he said this, looking at me with apologetic eyes.
I didn’t buy it. I didn’t know if it was because of the drinks’ effects but I just ticked off. “Sorry…? Hell yeah, you’re sorry! You know that I like her yet you still go and do those stupid things like I won’t notice them! You know what? It’s annoying! You’re planning on taking her away, even if you already know that I like her!” I accused.
“No! I would never! I meant nothing to you two! I even tried to organise a date dinner for you two–”
“Yeah, and you couldn’t do it and it turned out to be a get-together!” I yelled, “‘meant nothing’… yeah, right! It doesn’t matter how much you deny it – you will still, purposefully or unconsciously, try to win her!”
“Look, man, I’m sorry.” But Bill changed his mind quickly. “No, I’m not sorry. Tiff is a good girl; she doesn’t deserve a sick man like you! Yes, it’s true that I can’t just give her up and I respect your feelings for her, but I want what’s best for her. I don’t want her to end up at my doorstep, broken, because you can’t control your tiny temper! Does she even like you? You don’t even know what she thinks about you!”
That was it. I lunged towards Bill, attacking mercilessly. Bill fought back as ferociously. And somewhere along the way, Tiff was back and tried to separate us both, shouting at us to stop the fight, anything to stop us from killing each other. She was desperate, tears streaming down her face, because she couldn’t bear to see her two best buddies fighting like mindless animals. No, even animals have more conscience. We were monsters.
Whilst we fight, something was knocked over and other things also broken. Flasks fell; chemicals spilt… the burner tap accidentally turned to maximum. This, unfortunately, made the fireworks chemical to overreact, bubbling and boiling until it explodes in a sea of white. My body felt numb. There was a deafening scream – or roar – coming from every direction. I smelt burning, blood, sulphur, Tiffany’s scent. My head crashed on the cold tiled floor and I felt like I’m in a submarine, the sea’s waves shaking my body in a failed attempt to lull me to sleep. No, to carry me to the Underworld. But I risked one last glance at the real world. To see Tiffany.
Everything was blinding and I couldn’t identify anything for a few moments. By the time I came to, everything was chaos. The basement was on fire; my body was studded with glass shards and burns; Bill’s face was marred with horrible burns and bits of glass, and Tiffany…
She had no chance. Glass shards made their way deep into her chest, forehead and other parts. Her face was mutilated to the point where I didn’t recognise it was her until I notice she was wearing her sweater. Tiffany. She’s gone. Forever.
I crawled towards her, ignoring my body’s protests and the searing heat enveloping the room. I need to go to her. There could still be a chance – No. She was long dead. No! There must be a way! No. You can’t bring her back. “Tiff?! Tiffany! Wake up! Get out of here!” No. You can’t save her. “Tiff, please! Call the firemen – no, talk to me! Say something – anything’s fine! Tiff! Tiffany!” No. She can’t. She’s dead.
And I killed her.
12:00 Monday, 2nd January XX05
The press called it an accident; drunken friends trying to conduct a hazardous experiment. I ended up with a two-year rehabilitation, Bill with a permanently scarred face and Tiffany with her new home six feet under. I repaired the basement and other parts of the house damaged by the fire.
I was left listless after all that. Zeke came to visit first, leaving a stack of comic books. Hilda came next, leaving pastries and fresh juice. Francis was last, leaving silence and a supposedly reassuring pat. But none of these changed the fact that he severed his friendship with Bill, or that he just murdered Tiffany.
It didn’t help him.
* * *
10:58, Sunday, 14th October, XX12.
There are tears on the table. Mine? Ah, yeah. Curse stupid flashbacks and pent up suffering. Francis’s hand then comes into view, a folded handkerchief in it. I look up at him with wet eyes, obscuring my view of him, but I can tell that he’s wearing that same sorry expression he had when he visited me a few days after the incident. I look back at the handkerchief. It was the one Tiffany gave him when we found him crying after his wife’s death.
Before Francis can say I anything, I dash out of the store. I ignore Francis’s calls and ran, ran until my feet hurt, until my legs ache, until my lungs burn. I ran, and ran, and ran, to where I don’t know. Anywhere but nowhere near the past.
It turns out my feet carried me home. Curse you feet – this isn’t where I want to go! I specifically said “Anywhere but nowhere near the past”! Stupid conscience…
The first thing that goes into mind is the parcel. Should I open it now? I don’t want to rip open mu wounds any further but I don’t want to let it heal to only have it open again soon after. Well, might as well get it done with. I went to the kitchen to find the parcel untouched – of course, duh! I touch it lightly, poke and then pick it up, bringing the message close to my face. Tiffany’s handwriting means Tiffany’s parcel, which mean wither Tiffany’s belongings or the like. Why was I not aware of this parcel? Did Bill open it? Guessing from the tapes on the ripped parts, he did.
So then I cut the wrapping open, careful to leave the message undamaged. As I had suspected, it was a box. A polished wooden box like a treasure chest, but more luxurious and groomed. There’s the place where there’s supposed to be a padlock but there’s no padlock of any kind – either Bill had gotten rid of it or there’s none to begin with. Expecting the worst, I open the box slowly, slowly, slowly…
It’s a book. A thick one with leather covers and binds of strong ropes. The cover says “Tiffany’s Awesome Scrapbook”. Oh, so this is the scrapbook she was talking about… She was always asking for something to stick in her scrapbook but she never showed it to anyone. Except Hilda. Yeah, she might’ve shown it to Hilda. I take the book and place it on the table. The book strangely smells like Tiffany. It makes my eyes water…
Nevertheless, I open the cover and the first blank page. There’s a picture of Tiffany as a little girl, with her brother and sister. The next pages also have her childhood pictures, most with families and friends. After a few pages comes the ones when she’s in high school. Most of the pictures include Zeke, Hilda, Bill and I, and a few with Francis (he hates having his photos taken); there are some individual pictures and some group pictures. Along with the pictures are notes by Tiffany, her thoughts on the certain events or just explaining the situation of the pictures.
Some of the pictures made laugh, remembering the happy moments we all shared. The room feels warm when I look at the pictures, like Tiffany’s right beside me, with the others too. I felt fuller and warmer than I had ever been these past years.
The photos ended with Tiffany, Bill and I in front of the research centre we used to work at. Thinking it’s done, I close the book but I manage to catch a glimpse of a piece of paper behind the last page. I take it – it was a photo of me, during a class experiment in college. My dark hair was sent flying everywhere by the goggles on my head, the lab coat smeared with fading chemical stains. I was too engrossed with the experiment in this photo – no wonder I don’t remember having this taken. I flip the photo over and surprisingly, it had a message:
Axel, 19, college experiment.
He looks cute~! Hehehe… should I confess? But I think it’d be awkward…
We’re buds but I can’t help it. Will he go out with me?
Bill’s been giving me weird eyes and expensive presents; I think he likes me too.
I should tell him no before it gets awry – I don’t want Axel to get the wrong idea and giving Bill false hope. Actually, I know Axel likes me but I think he’s holding back (wow…)
Axel has a temper and is pretty possessive about his belonging and stuff (I sound like a doll!) so I should clear up the questions before there’s a fight and horrible misunderstandings.
But when will that be?
I’m such a coward… Let’s hope they won’t start killing each other soon. Well, let’s just hope they don’t find out about each other’s feelings first.
I want us all to get a job at the research centre together.
I still want to hear the end of the multiverse debate.
Huh, so it was my fault, after all. I did what Tiffany didn’t want me to do. I wish I would’ve noticed Tiffany’s feelings about me sooner. The tears are coming back. I haven’t felt this weak before in my life.
Crying is very bad. But I will let it go for this time.
I’ve placed the scrapbook in the box and placed it in my bedroom. Now, I’m standing before Tiffany.
No, not Tiffany, but “Tiffany”, the project I’ve been working on.
Soon after Tiffany’s death, I had been stricken with guilt and sorrow that I couldn’t see things straight. I didn’t know what’s right and wrong, what’s warm and cold, what’s denial and loneliness. I had blocked out anything and anyone that tried to snake its way towards my heart, so I closed it, locked it in the deepest part of my basement where it had miserably continued beating monotonously. Without Tiffany, life is a doodle drawn by God, unfinished and forgotten. Things seemed to go slower than before, or sometimes faster. Either way, I couldn’t keep up. Everything and everyone moved on – save for me.
That’s why I tried to bring Tiffany back.
That was how “Tiffany” was born.
She’s an android, made to look like Tiffany but I’ve been having troubles getting her to sound, speak and act like Tiffany. Everything’s never right. Her voice would always sound too high or too low; her movements would always feel different from the real thing. When I start a conversation, her topics are not what Tiffany would say, and her replies are very artificial, lacking Tiff’s usual witty comebacks; she even lacks Tiff’s love for throwing in random equations and facts about her surroundings, like how she would always brag that she knows just how far a horse could run until it’s exhausted. Well, what can I do? That thing is not Tiffany.
And I’ve never noticed it.
If Tiffany was still alive, she would be laughing at me, telling me how foolish and childish I am. I’m not like her; I can’t move on easily after a great loss – something Tiffany was expertises at since her parents’ death and her pet dog’s sudden leaving. Tiff was a walking sun, radiating happiness and always embracing the people around her with reassuring warmth. And after replaying Hilda’s words, re-enacting my confrontation with Francis in my head and going through Tiffany’s scrapbook again, I’m able to realise that resurrection is impossible. This topic, I remember, was in one of our debates, and one of the few aspects in which we’ve promised to never forget.
That’s why I’ve burned “Tiffany” to commemorate her death and embrace it with all I’ve got.
I needed a lot of courage when I’ve decided to do this, you know. Going to Bill’s place to talk it out may or may not be the worst plan I can think of. That’s why I’m not standing like an idiot at his doorstep.
Realising my loss also meant realising my faults, and I’ve realise they’re bigger than what I had originally thought. I shouldn’t have blamed Bill for everything. I should have controlled my emotions. Scratch that, I should have gone to the therapies my mum had suggested a long time ago. It was a good thing the rehabilitation included psychology treatments as well as physical.
During the long walk to Bill’s house, I couldn’t stop imagining how equally hard it must’ve been for Bill. His face must have scared pretty ladies away, leaving him a lonely mess. Yep, I should’ve apologised.
So… here I am. Should I knock? What should I say when I see him? Apologise? Yeah, I guess so. May not be the most comfortable thing to start with but it’s worth a try. As I’m about to knock, the door fly open to reveal Bill. He’s not wearing his red bowler hat, or any other bowler hats he has. His face stood out most, the ever ugly pyjamas coming second. There he is. What should I say? I fidgeted and rubbed my neck, finally managing a “Hey”.
Bill’s just standing there, his brown eyes dark and distant. After a few moments of awkward silence he steps inside, leaving the door open. I took this as an invitation and so I walk in silently, murmuring my apologies to the unknown residents for the intrusion.
Bill’s house was just like the old days, and I’m actually quite impressed that nothing had changed. I can still remember the house plan like the back of my hand. I wander into the kitchen to find Bill brewing tea. He’s just hovering over the stove, waiting for the tea to boil. I try to make my presence known so I inched closer to him every so often, but I’m guessing he’s already guessed I’m in the room.
I’m just standing there, behind Bill, not knowing what to do. I look past his head and to the backyard, remembering the events that happened there. Most were parties but some were memorable incidents. Tiff used to always say how much she loves how the flowers were always beautiful and impressed by the amount of types of flowers residing in the small garden. One day, Tiffany and I visited to bake gingerbread cookies for Christmas bake sale at school. None of us knew how to cook but we tried anyway, and it went humorously awry when Bill decided to make the cookies cook faster by altering the temperature. Most of the cookies were burnt, but the ones saved were a great hit –
“I’m sorry,” I blurt out before my wits can stop me. I’m suddenly hyper aware of my surroundings, can feel sweat sliding on my skin, the stifling clothes that’s beginning to stick to my skin, how loud my heartbeat seem to sound, Bill’s steady gaze on me. Did I say it wrong? Oh… I must’ve messed up. Despite that, I try again. It needs a lot of power to keep my voice from wavering and to keep my fists from having their own spasm. “I-I’m so sorry. I was stupid, for not realising my mistakes and blaming it on everything – everyone – and made you all worry but most of all, I am sorry for not a-accepting Tiff’s… absence.” I put my gaze on Bill. A strange feeling on my shoulders seems to motivate me to go on, so I did. “I’m sorry, for everything that I did. I’m sorry for lashing out on you when it wasn’t even near your fault to begin with. I killed Tiff over something so trivial and I am ashamed of it. I feel really guilty over what had happened to Tiff, and to you.
“I know you probably won’t forgive me, and that other day – you apologised, when you don’t need to. For whatever reason, I forgive you, even though I believe I’m the one who needs it, but I don’t even think I deserve anything close to that.” I feel my grip wavering. “You were right; Tiffany deserves better. I should’ve known yet I was too arrogant to notice. I read the message behind the photograph and I’ve realised I did exactly what she didn’t want…”
I trail off, not wanting to break down when I have no right to do so. I take a long shaky breath. “I’m… sorry,” I say.
Bill is just standing there – Wait. What? He’s… he’s smiling? No. He’s laughing?! Oh my – Yes! He’s laughing! Wait, why? Was my apology that unsuccessful? Bill laughs and laughs, his face stretching into an overly familiar sight that hasn’t been seen in years. His merry laughter was like music, as Tiffany used to describe. Whenever there’s Bill, there’s always laughter, happiness. Yes, he’s a perfect match for Tiffany. Joy and laughter.
Even I find myself smiling, just a slight twitch at the corners of my mouth. Every muscle in my body relaxes and everything seems lighter. A cool breeze swept through the room, smelling sweet like flowers. Smells like… sunshine. Ironically, it’s evening.
Out of the blue, the teapot hisses, stopping Bill from his (probably) unstoppable laughter, though he still giggles while he’s pouring the tea into two cups. After placing the teapot on the stove, Bill picks up the blue cup, holding it just so he could breathe in the smell of tea. “Sixty-two degrees Celsius,” he says.
Bill chuckles and says, “The tea’s sixty-two degrees Celsius.” He lowers the tea to the countertop, gazing into the brick-red water. “Tiff taught me how to calculate the water’s temperature without using a thermometer and without getting burnt or frostbitten. It was… hard, I guess, but I learnt quickly.” He turns to me; his browns eyes look livelier, warmer, like how they used to be. “No, Tiff was your match. Maybe opposites do attract, like how north and south attract in a magnet. The rest of the apology was true – you were a nuisance.” Great. He doesn’t need to put it harshly! “The research centre…”
“W-what about it?” I ask warily.
“…Hilda organised a picnic at the park next to it for next week.” Bill hesitates before saying, “…Will you come?”
“I… I’ll try,” was my answer.
“You must, actually,” Bill says matter-of-factly, “Tiff wants to hear the end of the debate.”
That was 21:20.