Cecilia was sitting on a bench, rather uneasily, waiting for me, when I reached the place. She had decided that we would meet here, for the last time. I still couldn't understand. A cemetery?
The cemetery was silent - the kind of silence that glides over your skin and pierces you, making you want to break its steely grasp - a silence to be afraid of; the silence before the storm.
The breeze blew the leaves that crowded my path marking for me a clear road to Cecilia. I walked with fast steps towards her. She stood up, while I hurried to tell her to continue sitting.
"No need," she replied in a cold tone, "we came in through this end of the cemetery, we can walk to the other end. And talk too."
She wore a black kurta laden with golden embroidery. Contrasting colours - and I guess even more ironic for the occasion although it suited the location. The usual kohl under her eyes was missing today. Her long flowing hair was restricted to a bun.
We walked with slow, perhaps unsteady steps. There were thousands of gravestones around us. Some were sparkling white, few were freshly dug and the soil was uneven. Most were greying due to neglect. Some of the crosses had fallen apart, the angel's wings had come off. These untouched graves provided the famished atmosphere for us to talk in.
"So, should we get on with our talk?" I asked, knowing anyway what was to come.
"It's not working, Charlie," she said, looking away from me, "you know it too."
"There's nothing that can't be repaired, Cecilia," I protested, "there's still time. We can convince your parents."
"You say this after knowing my parents. I don't know if that's arrogance or ignorance."
"It's neither. It's just plain hope."
"Or living in denial," she retorted.
That swift tongue!
We continued walking. I saw a gravestone that bore the deathdate April 7, 1985 - my birthdate.
"So, you want me to forget you? Just like that? After all this time?" I asked. I was on the verge of pouring all my anger on her.
"See Charlie," she said hesitatingly, "I know it's difficult, but..."
I stood rooted to where I was, ""Difficult? It's not only difficult. You think it's very easy to forget that we went around, kissed, shared the same bed - all in one go? It may be easy for you, but not for me."
I was shouting now and my voice echoed because of the stillness around. A few mourners at a nearby grave had stopped the rosary and were looking at us. 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.'
Cecilia shrieked, "Don't you raise your voice at me, Charlie."
"You've given me reason to do so."
She stayed quiet. I became aware of the breeze blowing the weightless, dead leave around. I heard the whispers of the mourners praying again. I heard myself breathing heavily. I heard sniffles of despair.
She looked at me, straight into my eyes, perhaps for the first time that day.
"I know what I am doing to you is unfair, but life is unfair. It has been unfair to me too. You don't have to listen to the abuse I receive everyday, you don't have to feel the pain I feel everyday. It's the cycle of life Charlie, we just pass on the unfairness that we have received to someone else. And in time everything gets alright. You too will be fine, Charlie."
"But," I protested, "the love we shared was..." I was at a loss for words. Was our love pure? Eternal? I was even beginning to doubt whether it was love.
"The love we shared," she whispered, "was good while it lasted. It's over from my side now. I think you should get on too. There's a time and season for everything, right? You used to sing that. Our's has just passed."
We had not moved since we had last stopped. Cecilia turned to face the opposite direction.
"I'm sad we couldn't finish our little walk."
"I'm going back from here. I have to meet Jude."
"Take care of yourself. I'll meet you perhaps to give you the invitation card."
I looked at her. She was looking in the other direction. Her voice was shaking. Why couldn't she say it looking at me?
"Wait Cecilia," I quivered. Trying to strengthen my voice, I said, "I want one question answered."
"Okay, just one question. What is it?" she asked impatiently, still not looking at me.
"Why here? Why the cemetery?"
The still air blew furiously now. The leaves flew around, some into our faces.
Cecilia turned around, and for the last time faced me. Her eyes were red.
"You always say your last goodbyes here, don't you?"
And then she turned around and walked away, never to return again.
The mourners were at the end of their rosary, signing themselves.