They met as teenagers spending a summer in Paris, he with his grandparents, she with her father and stepmother. What each dreaded at the start turned out to be a summer of first love. Sweet innocence. Desperate pining. Carefree afternoons on the lawns of Sacre Coeur. Strolls along the Seine. In those long days of summer, they had magic before they even knew what magic was.
But as summer drew to a close, a quiet came over them. A careful avoidance of the subject, a purposeful attempt to stretch out time. Moments of childlike laughter became punctuated with uneasiness, each trying not to upset the other. Their hearts were breaking, and they did not have words for the pain.
On their last afternoon together, he held her hand as they walked to the Pont d’Arcole. His other hand was clenched in his pocket, wrapped around the summer, holding fast to her. They promised to love each other forever the way young lovers do, then he reached into his pocket for the red padlock with a white heart. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she smiled and laughed softly when he held it out to her. They fastened the padlock on the bridge where they shared their first and last kiss and said goodbye.
Years later he sat in a quiet corner of a cafe, nervously tapping the empty glass in front of him. Life and distance had made it easy to leave her in the past, but now he was back in Paris. Suddenly he glimpsed a figure making its way past the crowded bar. The figure hesitated before it started walking toward his table. Gradually the flickering candlelight revealed the girl from that summer who frequented his dreams, and he was once again the boy clenching a red padlock in his pocket.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.