The White LilacThe dark—it frightens, it soothes. The light—it resurrects, it hurts. The mirror—it troubles, it reminds him of what he has lost—her.
The dark—it frightens, it soothes. The light—it resurrects, it hurts. The mirror—it troubles, it reminds him of what he has lost—her. The world says men must not cry, so he laughs for the people every day, and every day he dies a little inside. He is empty now, his insides hollow, and nowadays, he doesn’t even feel his own heartbeat. He has become a ghost of himself, a mere shadow.
He opens his eyes, remembers the call from her brother. “It can’t be true,” he whispers, “No, it can’t be.” He runs outside; the rain hits him. He reaches the church. She has already been laid down into the earth. He places a small white lilac in her hair; she would have loved that lilac. The earth consumes her slowly, and his desire to live goes along with her. He sits down on the wet earth. He doesn’t cry, but deep inside he knows he will never be whole again. She has taken his heart with her, to her grave. The crowd disperses, but he doesn’t leave. Rain pelts down harder masking his tears.
The phone rings. He wakes up. It’s three in the morning. Too groggy to think who it could possibly be, he picks up. “John,” she sobs. “Lily,” he says, trying to calm her. “Lily, no, please don’t cry.” She sobs harder. “John, I am sorry.” “Lily, please don’t cry. It’ll be okay, I promise. I guess it’s Charlie again, but please don’t cry.” She screams in agony. “Lily?’ he calls. “You’re my wife, get it?” Charlie’s voice is heard, “You failed to satisfy me, woman. I didn’t cheat on you, and you have no right, absolutely none, to share matters that should be left between you and me with your dear lover at three in the morning. After all, I love you. You know, right? Now say that you love me too, dear.” “No,” she screams, “I don’t love you. I was a fool to fall for you. I just don’t-” “Ah,” Charlie says, “All right, you don’t. Now be a good girl -” John hears ripping of clothes, hears her screaming and shouting. Her wailing breaks his heart and, as tears roll down his cheeks, he shouts, “Lily, I love you. I always have and forever will.” She screams, “John, I am sorry.” A smash is heard. “John”, she shouts. All falls quiet. “Lily,” he whispers, “Lily”.
Lily. She looks dazzling in her wedding dress and he knows she can never be his. It’s her wedding today, he knows that she is exchanging vows with someone else. He knows, but his heart doesn’t listen. It beats for Lily, and he knows in his heart of hearts, that she might belong to anyone, he will still love her. She walks down the aisle, accompanied by her father. She walks past him, turns back. She whispers, “See all these lilacs? I told you. Aren’t they beautiful?” He nods speechless. Deep inside, he says to himself, ‘Tell her it was you’ but instead manages to smile in spite of it all. “John, how do I look?” He stares at her, puts a stray strand of hair behind her ear, “You’re looking stunning.” She smiles, hugs him, and walks away. “As always,” he whispers to himself. “You may now kiss the bride.” He looks away as Charlie takes her in his arms.
He never tells her, but every time he looks at her, he falls in love with her all over again. He knows that she doesn’t love him, she has fallen for that handsome guy all girls swoon over, and he is just a good friend. Yet knowing that his heart will never get what it wants, he still loves her unconditionally, just more today than yesterday but less so than what he will love her tomorrow.
“John,” she says. “Yes, Lily?” he asks. “I just love these white lilacs,” she says. “I know,” he says deep inside, “I know that you love them and that is the reason I planted them.” “What a coincidence,” he remarks, “I find them beautiful, too.” She smiles and tells him about her dream wedding, “And there will be white lilacs instead of red roses everywhere. Then, the prince of my dreams will go down on his knees and give me a white lilac. It shall be the white lilac for me, and I’ll cherish it forever.” She finishes, stands up and says, “John, I must go now.” He nods his head. As soon as she’s out, tears run down his cheeks and he struggles not to fall weak.
He remembers the first meeting. “John”, mom calls, “Get up for heaven’s sake.” Rubbing his eyes, he gets up reluctantly, sprinkles water on his face, comes down to the table, grabs an apple and sits at the table. “John,” mom starts, “A family has just shifted,” The bell rings. “That’ll be them alright,” she says softly. “Coming,” she says as she opens the door. The light enters and he makes out two silhouettes—a lady with a girl, maybe his age. Mom calls John over, introduces them, and tells John to take care of Lily, who is new to the town. Lily’s mom puts her hand into his and pats her, “Sweetheart, now don’t you leave his hand until you reach school.” Lily nods, reluctantly. As soon as they are out of sight of their mothers, Lily pulls her hands, rolls her eyes and says, “I hate boys.” John can’t help smiling. She storms off, angry at John’s nerve. John scurries after her, but she walks away too fast. When John reaches school at eight in the morning, she is nowhere to be seen. He remembers she is new to the city, and that she is his responsibility. He looks at the gate and, without thinking, darts out of the school. He pauses at the marketplace, and after going in circles twice, he finally comes across Lily who is crying. He looks at her, she at him. She rubs her eyes, holds his hand, “I am sorry.” If there is any particular moment to fall in love, this is it for him; her smile is all that he needs. Both run back to the school. It’s eight thirty, and the teacher makes them stand outside. She smiles at him, and he smiles to himself.
He remembers her hands in his as if it was yesterday. He remembers her rolling eyes. He remembers everything from the first day. He remembers her dreams, remembers her million dollar smile when she found a wedding venue decorated with white lilacs, remembers her in the wedding gown, remembers getting lost together and being best friends for all these years. He remembers confessing his love to her, remembers not telling her he decorated the hall with white lilacs, and her grave. He remembers everything, from the beginning, because he has been and will always be in love with her. He will love her until his dying day.
He puts a white lilac on the tombstone, engraved: LILY STEELE (1969 - 1993). He gazes at her name and, as the sun rays fall upon him and a soft breeze passes by, he stares at the words “All that you have been is all that I will ever need” and smiles, for first time in days. The white lilac sits peacefully unperturbed by the gentle breeze.