– Zani? – as that husky voice cracked, Harle’s face froze, her arms softened and, even before she turned around to see a decade-older version of Alex. He hadn’t changed much, except for a few wrinkles framing now his eyes and also an unexpected thin mustache. Satin robes without a single grain of dust and shoes shiny as a recently waxed floor.
Harle struggled to articulate a single sound. She wanted to disappear, but all she could do was take the child’s hand and rush into the first perpendicular street she could find.
– What’s wrong? – the girl asked – who was it?
– Someone we don’t want in our lives – Harle held her as if the ground could swallow them at any moment, as she stroked her reddish hair.
– You’re hurting me, you know? – said the girl, tapping Harle’s shoulder.
– I knew it was you! – said Alex, catching up his breath – Why the hell did you run away?
Harle turned her back, holding on to the child as she whispered in her ear:
– Shh… don’t move. Don’t turn around – she then faced him – Why did you follow me?
– I just…wanted to know how you’ve been. Who’s this? – he asked, pointing at the 10-year-old ginger girl in Harle’s arms – Is she Cori’s…
And against Harle’s instructions, the little girl turned around facing that tall man with her light blue eyes. Oh, Alex knew those eyes, those sneaky cat eyes.
– I…Irina – she answered.
Alex smirked. A silly, maybe inappropriate smirk, followed by surprise baffled anger as if he’d been hit with the same tree branch for the past decade. He crouched until his eyes were at the same height as the girl’s:
– I’d like to offer you and your mother some hot chocolate. Please.
– Don’t you dare! And don’t look for us ever again – Harle snarled as she pulled Irina’s hand and rushed into the city buzz again.
Irina refused to run any longer when both were close to collapse.
– What’s going on?
– You promised we wouldn’t keep any more secrets. Who is he? Is he my father?
Harle ruffled her hair, took a deep breath, and said:
– No, sweetheart. That was the man who killed your father.
About 12 years ago, my friend Dari started writing me a story as a gift for my 17th birthday. I’d suggest characters, scenes and she’d put them together. Dari was already an amazing writer when we were in high school. At some point, when I had ideas and no means of telling her immediately, I’d jot down ideas, then draft scenes for the story, and I slowly took over. That was my first encounter with writing fiction.
We grew up, our lives changed, and that story stayed behind, almost forgotten. Not really; I can’t forget my first characters. With that story, I felt the joy of creating artificial life for the first time, of building places I had never seen.
However, at that point, none of us had the tools to manage a story or give it the ending it needed.
Today, 12 years later, I wrote this small draft to remind us about the stories we left behind that deserve another chance. We are picking it up, telling it properly, and bringing it back to life.
Those are her drawings in the header; she drew them based on photos of mine, as Harlequin was initially me (and she ended up being an entirely different entity). Make sure to check more of her work here.