Six

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Six
☢☢☢

There is a man who never waits for anyone. Time.

And there was also a man who never waited for time. Daniel.

He set to work the same day he measured the plot. Lily would sit by him on the couch and paint her nails something new every other day, experimenting, admiring, celebrating... She'd tell him he was a workaholic and that she personally didn't find it very healthy.

And then she'd tell him, "You need a chill pill, a pill chill."

"Take a look at this," he said, turning his laptop screen to her.

"I thought you were designing a brick house," she said as she scooted closer and assessed the wooden cabin; relatively small but two-storied with a front porch and trees all around. At least in the blueprint.

"I don't have enough capital for a brick house, right now. I'm not sure I even want it. At least not yet. Wouldn't a cabin look better in the hills? I think a brick house would look out of place."

"Yeah. That also makes sense. You don't need a big house anyway. You can build your brick house when you have a wife and children. Where's my room?"

"Here." He pointed to the room upstairs that had a balcony and Lily couldn't help her excitement.

With every word they spoke as they added details, the tone of her voice kept rising. And at the end of it all, she finally managed to get him to agree to get out of the house. But by then the sun had fallen and it was time for dinner. He took her out for a walk and ice cream though. They circled by the Khoibu community's turf ground where some testosterone-charged adolescent boys were still playing basketball, sweat and noise and all. The two decided to sit on a bench at a distance and watched them play from afar, relishing their ice cream cups.

Juliana called and Daniel had to move away and talk to her for a while. When he returned to Lily, he plopped down on the bench with a loud sigh and smiled at her.

"Was it bad?" she asked with an equal smile.

He laughed, closed his eyes, and threw his head back. Every other thing went by as he had planned, only this part concerning Juliana. Though he grew up with a plan, though he grew up following the plan and hitting all the right notes, he'd failed to include the part concerning having a girlfriend and working it out in ways that is fairly acceptable for both the entities in the relationship.

"Did you guys never talk about this in your four years of being together?" Lily asked.

"Of course, we did. I think she never believed I'd actually leave my job. Guess she thought it was only a dream."

"So, she's unhappy now."

"She hasn't been happy for a while now."

"Do you think it'll work?"

"I wish I could say it would but," he shook his head, "I think it's already not working."

Lily entwined her fingers with his and held him in a firm grip. Since his return home from the city, she'd often seen him pacing around the backyard at night, trying to reason with her.

"I'm sorry," she said in a voice that was gently retrieved from the depths of her heart and softly placed to his, "I can see it's not easy for you but I doubt you'll even love yourself if you give up on your dream. I hate to say this. I like her. She's nice but maybe she's not the one for you, maybe you can patch up in the future, maybe you gotta let her go for now and figure it out later? I mean if she's asking you to give up aaaaaall that you've ever dreamed of just because it doesn't serve her then. . . I say, leave her! She's not the only girl."

And Daniel chortled into the night.

"What?" Lily demanded with a smile of her own.

"You don't really like her, do you?" Daniel laughed. He'd been watching her intently and reading into every expression and every word she said, fake or real.

"No," she mouthed it. In a whisper. Laced with guilt. Doe-eyes gazing up at his with an I'm-caught-red-handed smile. "I've never liked her," she confessed. "She seems to think only for herself. I don't think she even loves you. Sorry but let's face it. I swear she's with you only because of your credibility and your achievements. She doesn't deserve you at all."

"Ouch."

"I'm sorry. I really don't like her. But don't you worry I'll get you a girlfriend prettier than my boyfriend."

The turf lights went off and they were suddenly plunged into darkness. Lily tightened her grip on his hand. They heard the boys leave the ground at the other end. The night was neither warm nor cool. It was gentle and open. When Lily turned up her face, she saw the universe without stars but a bright and full silver moon beaming at them.

She looked back at Daniel and questioned, "What is the other name for our moon?"

"Tanglaa," he answered in Khoibu.

"Not that!"

"You asked me the other name. It has many other names. Tanglaa in Uipo, Khou in Poula. Chaand in Hindi. Which other name are you asking?"

"The one I'm thinking of."

"I don't know."

"Luna." She flicked her eyebrows at him. "Did you know that? I bet you didn't."

"Yes, boss. I didn't know that."

"You would be here for Haichingbawng this year, right?"

"Oh, yes! I'd love to see you dance under the moon," he beamed at her, genuinely interested.

"I was beautiful every year. It's your loss that you didn't get to see me on my best days."

He slapped a hand to his chest and pressed his forehead to her shoulder, remorseful. "There's no loss on this Earth bigger than that." He then met her eyes and said earnestly, clutching her hand in a firm grip, "I promise I won't miss it this year. I'll make sure you're the first one to get a sparkler and that you don't run out of it till the end of your dance."

Lily had danced in the biggest annual harvesting festival of their tribe three years in a row, and Daniel had failed to witness all three events. She sent him pictures of course, but that could never make up for the other things he missed. What about the full moons of those clear October nights? The dance was always performed on the full-moon night of October. How about being the first guy to hand a flower or a sparkler to the girl he loves as she danced, fully clothed in their traditional attire and ornaments? Back in the day, it was read as a sign of a man choosing his bride. And if the girl accepts his gift, that's a happy ending. Although that was far from the case with him and Lily, of course, still, he wouldn't miss another October for the world. He was going to do everything in his power to make her feel like the most beautiful, the most desired girl in the entire universe.

The air became even quieter and a cooler wind blew across the open space, sweeping past their summer skin. Neither of them had the thought of opening their phones or going back home. Left, right, and about, Lily looked, adjusting her eyes to the darkness and the space, and she saw them. Fireflies. Slowly ascending skyward from the bushes behind them. She sat upright and grabbed Daniel by his arm.

"Fireflies!" she told him in a very loud whisper, her eyes gleaming.

☢☢☢

What have y'all been up to? I'm still going to college and working on another dissertation. I'll be finishing my course by August. Hopefully, I'll get more time to write after that. My schedule, for now, is actually very tight.

But thanks to all the new readers, and those who have read this story before, I hope you enjoy the edits and the new additions 🙃

Love, Hermyne 😘

Keep leaving comments and lemme know what you think!

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