Such eyes can only be seen once in your lifetime, you know. So dark and mysterious, and sparkling this beautifully; so dark they almost seem black; these eyes just like marbles. The eyes which make the time freeze around you, the eyes which create a separate universe for you to look into them; and for this split second when they meet yours nothing can ever exist…
…or so it seems.
The next moment, she heard a loud clatter, raised voices and a high-pitched scream. Judging by the tight feeling in her throat, it could have been hers. Her knees hit something hard, and her face was pressed into something that caused strong itching.
‘JESUS CHRIST!’, someone yelled in distress. She felt some hands firmly grab her waist and pull her back upwards. ‘Are you alright?’
‘Me?’, she asked, rubbing her face. The itching was terrible.
‘You’ve just walked straight into this Christmas tree, for God’s sake!’
The voice now sounded both angry and concerned.
She opened her eyes and glanced around. An encounter with a Christmas tree, indeed. The tree must have been quite pretty, and definitely on the bigger side. Now it lied hopelessly smashed on the ground, its branches flattened and broken, Christmas lights tangled in between them, still twinkling merrily. Some middle-aged man had been trying to pick the tree up and return it to its shape, but after a couple of failed attempts he was just scratching his head, his eyebrows arched and raised high on the forehead.
‘Oh yes, I did,’ she muttered in confusion. She started remembering. Those marble-like eyes had distracted her a tiny bit too much, apparently. ‘My face is itching, but other than that I’m fine, I guess.’
‘Well it’s good that it’s a pine and its needles aren’t that bad.’
The people who stopped to look at this bizarre event had already gradually returned to their Christmas shopping. There was a light snowfall and the temperature fell below zero, so even such extraordinary sight could not keep their interest for too long. Their hot orange earl greys and living rooms smelling of gingerbread were waiting elsewhere, after all. The air was filled with a buzz of a Christmas market, carols playing in the background, children laughing, and their parents rushing them away from toy stalls. Three days were left until Christmas Eve and the market was quite crowded. Still, the atmosphere was rather peaceful; the nerve-wrecking struggle of finding last minute decorations and all the missing presents was still to come. Snowflakes drifted slowly towards the ground, adding a white frosting to the sidewalk, and leaving blueish sparkles in the people’s hair.
The owner of those marble-like eyes must have been gone anywhere by now, she thought. Finding him in this crowd was impossible.
‘What happened?’, the voice asked, now amused.
‘Well,’ she shrugged. She had made a laughing-stock out of her already anyway. ‘I saw this guy with dark brown eyes and I got totally overwhelmed, and—’
She rubbed her face again and looked at the man she had been talking to.
What a cliché.
Well, at least she got to see these marble-like eyes twice in her lifetime, which was a plus.
‘This situation must be the weirdest compliment ever, to be honest,’ said the dark-eyed man, laughing nervously. ‘But I guess it’s one.’
She nodded and shrugged. Her entire face must have turned red. How embarrassing, she thought, but at least there was nothing else to lose.
‘Definitely; I’ve never seen eyes like this before,’ she said in a quiet voice. The man looked at his feet, smiling, and then glanced back at her, and she felt her insides melt. His eyes, his smile, snowflakes in his hair, it all was so stunning.
‘Oh, Jack! There you are! I’ve been calling you!’ The silence was broken by some woman who appeared out of the blue and approached them. The man turned his head quickly to look at her. He produced his phone and nodded.
‘Yeah,’ he said, reaching for the woman. He put his hand around her waist and gave her a kiss on the forehead. ‘Are you done with your shopping?’
‘Mhm,’ the woman grinned, showing him three bags filled with all sorts of Christmas gadgets.
‘Good then.’ The man looked at the smashed tree again. ‘Will you be alright?’
‘I think so,’ she answered, looking away. No wonder he’s got a girlfriend, she thought. Her stomach felt heavy and tight. ‘I’ll have to go now, thanks.’
She looked at him once again and walked away. Her knees hurt a bit, but she tried to walk as quickly as possible. At least her home was not that far away from the market square.
The snowfall intensified, and the farther from the market square she was, the emptier the streets were. The merry buzz and Christmas carols faded out long ago, and all she could hear now was the screeching sound of her shoes pressing against a layer of fresh, sparkly snow. She clenched her fists in the pockets and walked faster, leaning forward to protect her face from the frosty air.
One hundred and thirty-three, one hundred and thirty-four, one hundred and thirty-five.
She would always count her footsteps in order to keep all the depressing thoughts at bay. There was no orange earl grey waiting for her at home, nor was there the smell of gingerbread. Not even a bough of holly. What was the most important though, there was no one she could prepare this orange earl grey for either. For a second she had thought that maybe she could have invited the dark-eyed man over for a tea that night, but his girlfriend burst the bubble almost as quickly as it had formed. If he was not meant to become her new beginning, then no new beginnings tonight, she thought. Not yet.
She opened her flat’s door and took off her coat.
‘Hey, there,’ she said loudly into the empty rooms. Even though she knew there was no one there, she would always do that. Some old habit perhaps, but this kind of habit which left unbearable emptiness once given up.
Living alone was very difficult. Having no one to talk to, sometimes she would stay silent for days. There was nothing that could surprise her, and the atmosphere felt as if there was too much of her in these rooms, as if she herself was peeking from every corner, every cupboard, every shelf. The flat was not big at all, but big enough for one person to feel that it is empty without anyone else living there.
She turned on the radio to break the silence, but George Michael started singing Last Christmas so she turned it off again. Silence was much better than love songs, and also it was much better than Christmas songs. They reminded her of all the previous years in which Christmas would indeed be the most wonderful time of the year. It’s almost ridiculous how much can change over a couple of months, she thought, smirking.
They say it is some kind of new beginning, this time of reconciliation and summarizing the past months in order to become someone new for the New Year. She stared out the kitchen window for some time, tracing the snowflakes, following them until they faded into the whiteness. She has been waiting for a new beginning for months now, and it never came. She glanced at the countertop she was leaning against. A pile of medications of all sorts, and a schedule next to them, helping her remember when and which pills to take. In addition to this, there was a pager somewhere at the bottom of her bag. She had promised to carry it with her at all times, and there it was, bound to ring when the right heart donor is found. It has been silent ever since she got it. She sighed and looked out the window again. It was getting dark outside and the street lights made the snow look orange.
Listening to Christmas songs felt completely different at the market square, though. The yesterday’s snow was lying on the ground, and children were running around, laughing out loud, throwing snowballs at each other. Looking at them made her feel warm on the inside, and she grinned widely. You could think that working at a Christmas market makes you fed up with this atmosphere, but for her it was the only situation in which it was in any way bearable, and the only place where she could appreciate it at all.
‘Can I have this one, please?’, a lady asked her, holding one of the baskets she was selling.
‘But of course,’ she smiled. ‘That will be twelve pounds, please.’
She accepted the money and wrapped the basket in a decorative paper.
‘Thank you very much and have a merry Christmas this year, child!’
The lady waved at her, walking away. She followed her for a moment, but soon the lady disappeared in the crowd.
It seems we’re going to have a white Christmas this year, she thought, looking at the sky and stretching out an open palm in front of her. Tiny, beautiful snowflakes were falling on her glove. It was cold enough so that they did not melt, and she could compare their unique shapes. Snowflakes were just like stars, she could look at them for hours and never get bored, they reminded her of how amazing the world is. She let her thoughts wander around, remembering all the physics laws that ruled nature, and admiring its effortless beauty. It’s all so complicated and yet so simple, she thought in awe.
‘Aren’t they all so pretty,’ someone said in a familiar voice, and this voice sent shivers down her spine. She immediately remembered that she was at work, at the Christmas market, and that daydreaming like this was far from what she should be doing. She looked at the man nervously. She had recognized him as soon as he spoke; this voice could not have been mistaken for any other.
The dark-eyed man.
The time froze around her when their eyes met. His eyes so dark they almost seem black, sparkling this beautifully, these eyes just like marbles. Such eyes can only be seen once in a lifetime, and yet there he is, standing before her again. This will be the third time. Seeing these mysterious eyes makes the entire world around you disappear, and nothing else can ever exist for this moment…
‘Isn’t your phone ringing?’
‘My phone?’, she asked in confusion. And then she heard it, and it was not her phone.
It was the pager.
After all, maybe these eyes did carry a new beginning.
Author: Joanna Burkiewicz