“Two Red Roses”, status: in progress

In listening to the song “Remember When” by Alan Jackson, I decided to write a romance story. Originally, it was going to be a dabble, but I’m liking where it’s going! Let me know what you think! Now, without further ado, “Two Red Roses”!

I’m going to put in all the parts in one blog posts rather than put out several posts for the same story. Look out for updates for this post!

——————————————– September 26, 2015

Every step she took away from him, with her lush auburn hair gleaming in the sunlight as the waves rolled the strands across her back, caused his heart to catch into his throat. Her hand gripped the rubber handle of one of the last bags being placed into the car packed tight with clothes, small furniture, notebooks, and miscellaneous supplies. Even as she made it official a few months ago that she would be leaving for months at a time, he could barely breathe. Water crept into his eyes. He had to blink them back so that he could show her he’d be strong like he promised her.

Words stuck in his throat as she turned to look at him. The sun made her glow and cause her to seem even more magnificent than he knew her to be. She forced a smile and waved at him, a gentle one. Though he didn’t know it, she too could hardly hold back tears.

She remembered when they went to the fireworks celebrating the 200th anniversary of their town, holding each other’s hands. In her eyes, spectacular fireworks lighting up the sky with colors and designs could not compare with sharing the night with him. It was not the sky that sparkled. Rather, it was his own eyes, which captivated her attention. The night grew chilly as the breezes softly blew around them, but neither shivered. He radiated the peace and affection that warmed her soul. As the car crawled down the driveway and she offered the last waves he would see for a long while, more fond memories of their past, even those from their sixth grade spanish class when they fumbled over pronouncing simple words together.

The family vehicle entered the highway with the sun on their backs not long after and dread settled in her heart. Checking on her phone, she saw a sample text. “Safe travels, Tami.”

“I’ll miss you, Jian.” Her phone was placed in her lap as she stared out the window. Blinking back the tears, she began to text, “I’ll be calling and sending you letters, real ones,” but he replied faster.

“We’ll make this work, remember?”

What if’s clouded her mind as trees whizzed by and exit after exit came and went. What if he finds another girl? He’s so nice and gentle. He cares so much about others and it’s easy to see. Being on the football team at his new college will make him a star. What if . . . what if he forgets about me?

She wanted to curl up and cry into her CDU sweatshirt. Her face grew hot as she contemplated him leaving her, but he wouldn’t do that. Deep in her heart, she knew it, but miles continued to distance them.

That night, he called on video chat. Seeing his sweet baby face and hearing his mirthful voice made her smile so wide, tears fell down from her eyes.

“Remember when we played hide and seek as kids, but you refused to give up your hiding spot?”

“You had to hide in the bathroom closet and my mom found you when she was looking for soap!” She laughed.

“And remember when I challenged you to an arm wrestling competition when we first met?”

“Hardly.”

“You beat me hands down!” he cried out. “I felt ashamed of thinking I was ever good at it and didn’t think I’d ever want to be friends with you.”

“But you did it anyway.”

“And it was the best decision I ever made.”

—————– September 28, 2015

Her face warmed as her cheeks rose, so she tried to hide her face, only to fall from her chair.

“You okay?” he asked when he saw only the back of the half-decorated room. Muffled noises followed until Tami could get to her feet again. “You’re such a clutz.” Contagious laughter ensued, causing both rooms to be filled with it. In the hallway, passerbys took second glances at her door, wondering what could possibly be happening.

Once they calmed down, peaceful silence settled in.

“What am I going to do without you here?” Tami asked.

“Make new friends, study hard, enjoy life.” He smiled, but even with the low quality of the video, she could tell her lips were pursed.

“But you won’t be here.”

“I’ll be there in your heart, when you’re in class, when you walk around campus.”

With a chuckle, she could not believe him. “You’re so cheesy.”

“But you should know that already!”

“And I do. I just like saying that.”

They both smiled.

“What are you up to the next week?” he asked.

Tami seemed to search her desk for something. “I couldn’t have already lost this pamphlet . . . here it is! So all freshman get to go to a celebration tomorrow, and then classes start three days after that. And you leave in two days.”

Jian nodded. “We’ve got quite a week ahead of us. Just be careful in those streets. I know that you can take care of yourself, but your campus is still integrated into the city. And -”

“I’ll be fine, Jian,” Tami insisted. “Public safety is around to keep students safe.”

“I know, I know.”

“I’ll let you sleep now so you can show your enthusiastic energy to everyone!”

“Ok. Night, Jian.”

“Goodnight. I’ll mail you a letter after I’ve settled in.”

“I hope your flight goes well.”

“Me too.”

“Night.”

“Night.”

—————————- October 2, 2015

In the dead of night, Tami awoke to a rapid pounding and utter darkness. The crackling bed beneath her wasn’t hers. Neither was the simple wooden desk or relatively tiny closet. It gave her a momentary panic attack that nearly caused her to call the police. Before she did, the weather app on her phone told her a different city than her own.

Tambram, OH.

She stumbled out of bed to get to the closest window, perhaps leap out of it if possible, but when the old screens screeched upon rising, she only sighed. This was her new home.

Croix Deluam University. The words still seemed strange to her. Although she’d been hearing them for months now, between people asking her if she was excited or what school she had chosen, it did not feel like home. Home was where he was.

He’d be leaving home that morning, just a few hours into the future, embarking on a dangerous journey for him. Flying had always been his greatest fear. It didn’t help that his father relayed every instance of plane accidents to him since he was a toddler. Before even applying to the institute in Denmark, Jian had told Tami that convincing his father and mother that flying there for a much more affordable education and for a broader cultural experience was harder than writing an eight-page entire research paper in three hours at 3am. He had to convince himself that it would be fine, that statistics said one in five million.

“I’ll be one of the surviving 4,999,999, Tami,” he had said while his right leg bounced frantically against the ground.

————————— October 5, 2015

Taking her keys and phone, Tami quietly left her room with her feet shuffling against the thinly carpeted floorboards. It seemed almost incredulous that not long ago cries of laughter of a game of Apples to Apples had filled the air, though the cookie crumbs on the table reassured her. Howls from the wind outside, rustling the branches and leaves with all its might did not cause her to take a second thought as she stepped out the door and onto the paved sidewalk that never ended. The nearest bench was worn down and its black paint peeled from the metal beneath. Regardless, Tami sat down and attempted to even her breathing.

“Good luck on your journey, Jian.” Each finger trembled as they hovered over the screen, though not because of the wind.

“Thanks, Tami. I’ll text you when I arrive, ok?”

She seemed to see him in front of her, speaking the words to her heart, comforting her. The text was not merely filled with characters. They were real words, meaningful ones.

“Ok. I’ll sit by my phone until you do.”

Only a few hours later, at the start of new student celebration, the phone vibrated violently. The repeated vibrations woke Tami from her worrying state, increasing her energy tenfold. As she stepped out of the crowd, all else dulled around her.

“Hi Jian! Thought you were going to text!” Her excitement practically flew into the phone along with her words. “How was the flight?”

“Is this Tamerine?”

“Mr. Gamorith? Yes, that’s me. Is everything alright?” she asked while covering the phone with her second hand.

“Has Jian contacted you recently?”

“Why? What has happened?”

“I – we’re – worried about Jian on a plane.”

“It’s just a plane ride. If his plane is still in the air, he wouldn’t be able to call or text. You’re really jittery about planes, he wasn’t kidding.”

“It’s more serious than you think, Tamerine,” Mrs. Gamorith jumped in. “People disappear.”

“You’ve said too much, Anu.”

“No. She needs to know.”

Tami’s chest heaved. “What do I need to know? That plane accidents happen? I know that already.”

A long, faint argument came soon after. The only words she could hear were “Jian’s not going to come back!”

“What do you mean he’s not coming back?” Tami cried. “He’s just leaving for Denmark!”

“Tamerine, dear, I know you love our son very much and know everything about him. But that’s not true. What I’m saying is there’s something you need to know about him. About us.”

————————– October 8, 2015

“What are you saying? You’re not refugees, are you? Not that that’s a bad thing or anything,” she said quickly.

A long, tired sigh came through the line. “No, Tamerine. It is. . . more complicated than that. Dear, do you have any idea how to explain this?”

Nothing came through the phone for a minute or two. Perhaps he was still resistant to telling Tami much more, even though he usually seemed rather open whenever she came over for dinner and played old board games with him on Saturday nights. He would always talk to her, Jian, and Mrs. Gamorith, especially her, as though the nights would never end and time could just slip away without a soul noticing.

“Tamerine, do you know of the Silk Road?” his voice finally came inquisitively.

Tami shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Before I begin, I must make sure of two items. The first, do you have time on your hands?”

“As in calling? I think that I have unlimited.”

“No! Not that! Ugh.”

Mrs. Gamorith murmured, “What about Jian’s gift?”

“Ah!” Mr. Gamorith exclaimed. “Have you the box Jian wrapped for you as a parting gift?”

“Yes, but how do you know about that?”

“He talks about you often enough, dear,” Mr. Gamorith chuckled. “It happened to spill one day. Anyway, we, Jian’s mother and I, added a little to the gift.”

At this, she flew to the box she had not yet opened. A twirled red ribbon lay over a repeated design of cascading waters carefully draped over a box. The sight caused her lips to curve upwards and her heart to sigh. He remembered. She’d always loved waterfalls, majestic in their natural ways. There was a hesitancy the past few days to tear open the present. It would make it all too official that they were apart. Mr. Gamorith, however, made it clear that the time dawned. From his hint of time, she expected a watch, or at least a device that resembled one. Something else lay there. Colored tissue paper was thrown around in the box, reminding me of the clouds being showered with colors as the sun begins to set. Beneath it all lay a picture frame holding an old picture of the two of them trying, and failing, at creating a sandcastle. She was sure that this was not the gift Mr. and Mrs. Gamorith had added. It was too sweet. As much as she loved them, it wasn’t like them to do such a thing.

She brushed through the rest of the tissue paper after she carefully placed the frame aside. Nothing.

“Mr. Gamorith? I don’t see anything in the box.”

“What? Impossible.” Annoyed murmuring that Tami could not truly understand came.

“Dear? This is Mrs. Gamorith. Did you check the picture frame?” she asked patiently.

Turning it over and over, I found nothing new. It was just a picture frame. Or so I thought.

————————– October 13, 2015

Click! Narrowing her eyes, Tami carefully turned over the picture frame as though she was holding a bomb. Perhaps it happened when Tami rubbed the sides of the frame or when so much movement had been made that a latch fell out of place. Regardless, it now sat in her hand. The object itself stood no taller than her pinky and was skinnier than the new TV screens. Despite its size, it was as firm as a diamond.

“What’s this?”

“One of the pieces of treasure stolen during the Byzantine ages in the 15th century. You see, the Byzantine Empire was well known for its trading. Trade routes to the Middle East and Asia were opened, allowing goods across numerous lands. The object you have now had traveled along these routes, and because of its special qualities, many merchants had their eyes on it.”

“That’s a great story, Mr. Gamorith, but why did you have it and why did you give it to me?” Tami asked, having little patience for history.

“The object, called the tempus circuitum, or “time compass” in English, was stolen while on its way to a little village in China. Actually, it was one of many lost to thieves on the roads. Between the crusaders and the thieves, no one wanted to retrieve the tempus circuitum even though it was worth the future of the empire,” Mr. Gamorith explained, though he seemed to ponder even more toward the end. “The thief who took it must have dropped it when on his way to wherever he was going and it ended up in the yard of our ancestors. Ever since, strange things have been happening to us. Some of the males have gone missing in the night and never returned. We figured that moving to the United States that the misfortune would leave us. We even changed our last names to seem inconspicuous to the public eye. Recently though, a contact of ours said that our fortune of safety over the past hundred years would only continue should we lay low. Now that Jian’s in the air, he may disappear too.”

Tami immediately dropped the object on her bed. “And you’re giving me a cursed object? I need all the luck I can get to ace my classes!”

“Calm down, Tamerine,” Mrs. Gamorith commanded bluntly. “When it’s not in our hands, the holder is left in peace. We’ve left it with a good friend of ours over a weekend and nothing happened.”

“I still don’t get why you’re giving this to me.”

“Dear, since it’s connected to our bloodline, it can tell when one of us disappears. We figured that Jian, being the one not staying low like our contact instructed, may be next. We know how much you care about Jian, so you having it would give you peace of mind.”

“That doesn’t even make sense, Mrs. Gamorith,” Tami insisted.

————————— October 16, 2015

“Just keep it for us, dearie,” she insisted, with almost a pressuring voice, an odd feature to a woman who never seemed willing to even kill a mosquito as it sucked her blood.

Tami’s mouth opened for her to ask them again why it mattered so much when the tempus circuitum, as they called it, changed its physical form. Its extremely hard plastic coating melted off to reveal a smooth, metallic layer curved around. She wouldn’t have noticed if the light shining from the small bit of light provided in the room had not reflected off of its surface and ran for her eye. Clapping her eyes, she dropped her phone onto her bed without thinking. It nearly fell off the side. Knowing some of the physics of reflection, Tami shuffled across the floor until she hit the mini-fridge before opening her eyes.

“Tamerine?” a small voice echoed from my bed.

Tami couldn’t believe my eyes. Even as the plastic concentrated on a tiny spot on the object, forming a rectangular grip she supposed, she didn’t move. Questions swarmed her mind. Like flies, they passed before her eyes so fast she could hardly process them all. First and foremost, were her eyes processing correctly?

“Tamerine?” the voice called again.

Without losing my focus on the tempus circuitum, Tami picked up the phone after minutes of shock left her legs cramped and knees prone to cracking. The screen felt cold against her face. “That gift of yours . . . it just, I don’t know. Tell me again,  what is it? I mean, really?”

“Why do you ask?” Mr. Gamorith asked on the edge of his voice. “It’s a special object taken along the Roman roads and silk roads hundreds, even thousands, of years ago.”

With my free hand, Tami tapped the object, hoping to not have her skin seared off by the heat it must have exerted when melting off the plastic. She had to tap it several times until it seemed safe enough to hold. She flipped it over in her hand, wondering what was different, aside from its composition. The shape remained the same as did its mass. One thing about it in particular that struck her were the fingerprints. They weren’t on it. Tami must have left at least fifty in those few minutes of checking it over and over, but not a single mark lay on the glimmering surface.

“I thought you said that it wouldn’t hurt me. That it wouldn’t do anything when it was with me besides tell me if Jian was ok.”

“It’s not going to hurt you. Look, Tamerine, we’ve done it before with a friend and everything turned out just fine.”

These were nearly the same words used before, though Tami believed it less. They never said it would shift form. For all she knew, it could explode spontaneously.

———————- October 25, 2015

Tami’s phone started to ring, startling her.

“What is it, Tamerine?” Mr. Gamorith asked.

“I’ve got to go. Another call is waiting.” With all her heart, she wished it was Jian, hoping he’d make everything seem normal again.

Moments later, the call terminated. The number phasing in and out had no ID. No area code she recognize was there.

“Hello?” she asked.

“Tami?”

“Oh my gosh! Jian? I’m so relieved to hear you’re okay!”

“I’m calling from the airplane using a satellite phone.” Something about his voice was . . . off. It shook like it did before final exams. “There’s something wrong with the airplane. I think the pilot has lost control of the controls. I can’t deal with this. My father was right about planes.”

“You’re supposed to tell me that your father was wrong! He’s making me believe that a thing he called a tempus circuitum is safe, and then it’s not.” Tami eyed the device now lying on her bed. “Get me out of this dream, Jian.”

“You’re telling me!” he shouted. “I’m so sorry. I’m just doubting everything right now. This plane could crash. I might die. Tami, we might never talk again.”

“You’ll make it, Jian,” she told him sternly. “Believe it. Everythi -”

Beep. . . Beep. . . Beep. . .

“Tami? Tami, are you there? I need to tell you I love you before I go down today.” His voice faded as Tami listened to the world around her.

Beep. . . Beep. . . Beep. . .

The underside of the tempus circuitum started emitted a slowly pulsing green light, illuminating the bedsheets for a fraction of a second.

————————–

CONTENT BY BRIANNA G HARTE

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G Harte. All rights reserved.