He told me one last story. He used his aged, ruined voice like an old manÃÂs hands to pick the lock on his past, on our past. I lay quietly in a web of tubes, wires and intravenous drips. We both knew that it wasnÃÂt these things that kept me alive; it was his voice. I could still hear it, a warm, familiar rumble amidst the ominous beeps emitted by the numerous life-support machines designed to keep me alive. I was pinned to the bed like a butterfly to a corkboard; any movement would send a searing pain down my neck. So I just watched him, and listened.
We met in high school. I was the ÃÂitÃÂ girl, he was the outcast. My life was one endless party, a constant whirlpool of money, clothes and guys. I was gorgeous and I was the envy of all the people in my school.
I knew that, and I lived up to it. I had an insatiable thirst for popularity and attention, thinking that maybe, just maybe, they could make up for the dysfunctional family I went home to every day.
I lived in a big house on the corner of the street. I hated that house. It was too big, too empty. My parents were never, ever home. Even when they were, they couldnÃÂt have cared less about what I did with my life. They provided me with an endless supply of cash and freedom, two things I would have readily traded in for just a little bit of their attention.
If I was at the top of the social ladder, David would hit rock bottom. He was the kid who lurked in the corners and stayed in during lunchtimes. He kept to himself and people kept their distances. A large part of this was due to the scars that ravaged his face ÃÂ the result of being caught in a fire many years ago, but what really spooked people was the dark and powerful aura that seemed to permeate the air around him.
We had never spoken; my friends avoided him like the plague. I didnÃÂt know much about him either, but I knew that behind that disfigured face was a brilliant mind. He wrote for the school newspaper, and it never ceased to amaze me how such a withdrawn person could churn out articles that were so incredibly engaging. Despite that, I never gave him much thought and I went on with my life of endless, and almost desperate, partying.
It was during the end of winter when the staring began. I would catch him watching me from a distance. I donÃÂt know why, but I seemed to be acutely aware of his presence. We would be in a crowded hallway in between classes, and I would just know it when he was nearby. I was always surrounded by my friends though, and I would be too caught up in their incessant gossip to pay much attention to him.
The weeks flew by, and the staring intensified until one day, I couldnÃÂt ignore it anymore. I decided to confide in one of my close friends, Gina. It was something I would come to regret later, but I was pretty desperate at that moment. I dragged her into an empty classroom and told her about him and how he was beginning to freak me out. Gina listened with the widest eyes and scrunched her nose in disgust when I was done. She thought the whole thing repulsive and told me to keep my distance from him.
The very next day, I started getting strange vibes from the people around me. I could feel the burn of peopleÃÂs eyes on me as I entered the school. The usual chatter dropped to heated whispers when I walked down the hallway. I was so puzzled and it wasnÃÂt until break time that I realised what was going on. Rick, the school football captain came up to me and slyly inquired if ÃÂScarfaceÃÂ was still stalking me. Scarface? So is this it? I flushed a deep red and stalked towards my usual table where Gina sat. She waved when she saw me coming but her smile faded quickly when she saw the expression on my face. She apologised profusely and swore she only told two people. I rolled my eyes and tried to think of a way to escape from this unfortunate incident with my popularity and reputation unscathed. Gina assured me that it would all die down real soon and that I had nothing to worry about.
As usual, Gina was wrong. The constant glancing-my-way went on for the rest of the day and it really irked me to the core. Now in addition to DavidÃÂs unnerving staring, I had to endure the gossip and whispers of a hundred other people whom I didnÃÂt even know. The last straw came when I found ÃÂScarfaceÃÂ creatively scribbled across my locker. I was furious; Furious at Gina, furious at myself for trusting Gina, but most of all, furious at David for bringing this unnecessary mess on me. Why me? Why complicated my already miserable life?I found him in his usual corner, slumped over a book. My face was black as thunder and my tongue stung with the cruel, acid words I planned to hurl at him. I felt my hatred build up as I advanced on him. He heard me coming and his lips curled into a crooked smile.
Then he looked up.
He had the clearest, most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. They were the colour of a thousand green emeralds gleaming in the sunlight. Those eyes pierced right through mine and I felt my breath catch. I froze in my tracks and suddenly, I wasnÃÂt even sure why I was there. But the momentary shock wore off and I felt the rage build up in me again as my mind began to register the red, angry scars on his face. I opened my mouth but before I could say anything, he reached out and touched my arm.
Once again, my mind lost all coherent thought and I recoiled from his touch like it was a snake bite. His eyes flashed and he told me, in a low, smooth voice to sit down with him, he had something to tell me. Hell no, I thought. No way IÃÂm going to sit anywhere near him. But my legs had a mind of their own. They buckled under me and I found myself face to face with an intriguing creature that both terrified and fascinated me.
He told me his first story. It was a vivid story of a search, a frustrating, fruitless search that left the person exhausted, dry and empty. It was a story of pain, of emptiness, of love found and love lost. It all sounded so vaguely familiar to me, it was like I had heard it before. It wasnÃÂt until halfway through the story that I realised that that person in the story was me.
By that time, I was completely and utterly transfixed. His voice had a pleasant, hypnotising quality to it and it drew me into another world. I was taken on a journey to a beautiful place, a place full of colours and sounds and dazzling sunlight. I swear I could have sat there forever, listening to his honey-smooth voice and watching the flash of his green eyes, if the school bell hadnÃÂt rang and jolted me back to the harsh reality of life.
I stood up hurriedly and glanced at my watch. What on earth had just happened? My mind was whirling with questions. David had stopped talking and was now watching me with those dratted eyes. How could I have not noticed them before?I stood there, unsure of what I should do next. Stay? Leave? Definitely leave. I mumbled a barely audible apology and walked quickly away without glancing back. I could feel his eyes boring a hole into my back and it wasnÃÂt until I turned a corner that I managed to get my breathing back to a somewhat normal rate. My head was in a million places and I couldnÃÂt stop shivering. Thinking about what just happened in the past hour sent a tingle down my spine. Nothing made sense at all. I couldnÃÂt even tell if I was dazed from happiness or half-dead with fright.
I slumped down onto the floor in an attempt to regain my sanity. Students had started to stream out of the classrooms by then and a few were shooting curious glances at me. I was way past the point of caring, all I could think of was this strange feeling I had. I couldnÃÂt quite put my finger on it. It was so weird, but not unpleasant.
That night, like every night, I came home to an empty house. The servants had all gone home and the house was deathly quiet. However, the loneliness did not hit me this time. I was too engrossed with replaying the strange scene over and over again, trying to extract some sort of meaning from it all. I was still awe-struck by how he, just by using his voice, had managed to take me away into another world where loneliness did not exist. I lay awake the entire night thinking about my life, and David.
The next day, I came to school with a sense of trepidation and expectation. My friends looked at me funny and Gina commented that I looked like a ghost. I told her that I felt like one too. I walked slowly to my locker, shooting furtive glances around for him. He was nowhere in sight, not even in his usual corner. My spirit fell just a tiny bit, but when a note fell out of my locker, my heart skipped a beat. ÃÂWant another story?ÃÂ it said.
My face must have lit up like the moon, I was so happy. Gina looked at me curiously and snatched the note from my hands. ÃÂWhat is this?ÃÂ She demanded. I snatched it back and shoved it into my pocket. ÃÂNothing,ÃÂ I mumbled and walked off to class before she could protest.
During lunch, I met David at his usual spot. I was so nervous, my voice cracked when I said hi. I couldnÃÂt believe the way I was acting. Since when did I stutter? And where did all my confidence and pomp vanish to? I didnÃÂt have time to think though, because DavidÃÂs eyes were already working their magic on my mind, instantly derailing my train of thought. He asked me about my day and I found myself telling him all about my life. I told him about the loneliness, the emptiness in my life and how I tried so hard to fill it up. All the time I was rambling on, his eyes were fixed onto mine, and the scars on his face no longer intimidated me. In fact, I hardly notice anything else except for the brilliant green glimmer of his eyes.
When I was done, he told me his story. Like yesterday, I sat spellbound, absorbing every single word and every single lilt of his mesmerising voice. He brought me into his world, into his life. To my surprise, I found that our lives were so very similar. As the story went on, I found myself being drawn deeper and deeper. By the end of lunch, we had created a bond that I knew would last a long, long time, if not forever.
From that day on, I spent my lunches with David in that corner. I partied less and I no longer felt the pangs of loneliness and desperation that so often engulfed me before. Every day, David told me a different story. And each day, I learnt something new. I learnt to be stronger, I learnt about the healing power of love and I learnt that looks can be very deceiving. I still hung out with the ÃÂpopularÃÂ group but I was slowly becoming a completely different person. My friends couldnÃÂt comprehend the change. They didnÃÂt know about my daily meetings with David. In fact, no one knew, but I really couldnÃÂt have cared less if they did. I wasnÃÂt afraid of what people thought of me anymore.
High school ended and by some miracle, David and I ended up in the same college and later, the same university. We still had our lunches together, and by then, dinner too. The stories still flowed, and I was always, forever riveted to his dancing eyes and voice. I, myself became quite a storyteller too and we would transfix each other with our stories.
We got married. The people at our wedding saw DavidÃÂs scarred face and thought him extremely lucky to have me as his bride. I told them that I was the lucky one. Without David, my life would have remained a picture of bleakness and disillusionment. David did more than fill the hole in my heart, he patched it up. He gave me a sense of self-worth and belonging.
And now, as I lay here watching DavidÃÂs eyes, I found the strength to carry on living for another day.