Vibrant yellow dandelions blanketed the landscape around the pond.The evening Sun was refusing to descend. Aleksi stood there on the pier reminiscing those moments they had spent together.

Missing her had always started with thinking about her sanguine smile, the flawless face and her graceful gestures. She wore a naivety that was both a magnet and a shield. As he filled his mind with memories of Milla, he could feel the sweetness spread all over his conscience and blur it with an unknown ecstasy. 

The ecstasy quickly transformed into naught. A nothingness as dark as the night that fell on the dandelions. Everything was black. She was gone. And Aleksi had no clue where she had vanished.

He wandered for a while around the pond, as the cricket choir dutifully sang its hymns.

It was past midnight when Aleksi’s car pulled in through the gates. Mr. Sedrik saw his son’s silhouette through the curtains of his bedroom. Aleksi’s undaunted quest for Milla bothered Mr. Sedrik more than his own disease. 

Not very long ago did Mr. Sedrik have the entire province under his reign. He was an iron and steel baron, and despite his terminal illness, his business yielded profits. He was waiting to pass the sceptre for quite a while, and yet Aleksi hadn’t paid any heed to it.

The few tenebrous hours of the night felt like forever to Mr. Sedrik while fatigue made Aleksi surrender to slumber. The following dawn brought with it a message of an urgent business travel. Aleksi heard his dad stumbling in his room. He rushed down and saw his father trying hard to walk to his wardrobe. 

Aleksi had a remorseful look on his face. His father concealed his. In the next few minutes Aleksi was on his way to complete the first ever task that he had volunteered for.

The pine-lined road was a feast to the eyes in summer. He remembered his childhood days, going for a ride on horse drawn carts through those roads. Every year, his father would plan for a travel to distant countries during the holidays. “Milla! And the cottage by the pond!” Aleksi would persist. 

And every time, Mr. Sedrik would give in to the demands of the motherless child. Milla was more than a friend to Aleksi. She was the angel who made him overcome the sorrow of his mother’s death. 

Aleksi pressed hard on the creaking brakes as he encountered a herd of moose. It was a massive herd loitering lazily on the road. He spotted a maundering calf. It chewed on a twig that partly hung out of its mouth. The calf walked with a rhythm, shaking its head to maintain balance. It was the calf that approached him but all that he could see was Milla in front of his eyes!

“No Milla, I’m scared! Let’s not do this!”

“This is my friend, Aleks, just like you. It won’t knock us down, come on, climb on it!”

“Look at that big moose, it’s taller than my school gate. What if it comes on us, and there are so many of them, I’ll run out of fingers counting them!”

Milla chased Aleksi and they both ran on the green-yellow pastures until their legs were too tired to move. Then they both lay on the grass, looking up at the sky.

Aleksi woke up on the middle of the road among the grunting moose, just inches away from being trodden over by them. He got a warm spray from the one that crossed last. 

Aleksi kicked the rutting moose. He wanted to kill each one of them.

He tripped on a fallen branch as he tried to get himself up. Like a lunatic, he looked for a weapon to hunt the moose herd. Aleksi wanted to destroy everything that reminded him of Milla.

How heartless and selfish she was! He refused to come to terms with the fact that she had disappeared and there was nothing he could do about it. 

He took out the last letter that she had written to him. It was hidden in the burrow under a willow tree by the pond, their favourite place to hide each other’s toys as children.

He wanted to catch a glimpse of her words one last time, before shredding them into pieces. He was determined to do it that day. 

…and I don’t want the fortune that my paintings would fetch, I have no interest in those castles encircled by moats, the mighty Alps, the pebbled isles or a travel across the sea on the ships that carry the steel from your estates.

Any place is a barren land covered with sheets of ice if you are not with me.

Your absence feels like a terminal winter my dear. All I need is to watch the orange sky as the sun kisses the horizon by the azure pond, hand in hand,  just you and I. 

I’m playing, arguing and fighting with you, all in my dreams. Just come back to me. 

Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you.

Forever. 

Love,

Milla.

He brushed her name gently with his lips. He carefully rolled the scroll up. “Milla! Milla! Milla, where are you? You can’t do this, this just isn’t fair.”

The self-sympathy made him feel low. Aleksi was a tall man, with broad shoulders, handsome features and a sharp nose. There used to be a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, that never surfaced since her departure. He looked at his reflection in the rear-view mirror, the tear drops and unkept hair were unapproving of his aristocratic pride.  He slapped himself hard. 

Aleksi buried his face in his palms for a while and slowly regained composure. He looked around to check if anyone had seen him. Not any human, no moose either. He wasn’t sure how many herds walked past him as he lay on the road. There was a chillness in the air that announced the arrival of dusk. 

Aleksi steadied himself. He decided to move on.

The pinnacle of pain is liberation. For the first time, he embraced the thought of letting go of it. 

However, deep inside him there was another self, assuring him secretly that he would continue the quest, and look for her in the castles, the islands, the mountains and the beaches! 

Is love mightier than pain?

Before deciding on anything he badly needed a refreshing snack. He kept driving through the woods, until he found a beachside inn. 

The twilight sky had thrown streaks of bright yellow light on the sea. The distant ships with bright white sails looked like a bank of swans on the shimmering water.

He entered the cafe and placed an order for Pulla. 

***

His eyes fell on a painting. The painting that adorned his palatial living room. She had done an admirable work. Mr. Sedrik thought to himself. Milla’s choice of colours and subtle representation of reality in her work added life to it.  She had emulated her dad as an artist. She sure was talented. 

But she was slender, she was naive. She wasn’t educated like his son. According to him, Milla, undeniably was a misfit in his imperial estate. He hated to even imagine her as the mother of his grandchildren.

He gestured to one of his stewards. Mr. Sedrik was taken on a wheelchair to the dungeon. He had orders for paintings from the Americas, Middle East, Rome and England. The dim light in the dungeon added an ethereal beauty to the paintings. He was more than satisfied. He really wanted to meet Milla. The attender whispered that she had fainted and was resting.

Mr. Sedrik raised an eyebrow demanding more details. The hesitant attender blurted it all out. She had worked on her own painting collection without food and rest. 

Mr. Sedrik got infuriated. He wanted to make a fortune out of each of her creations. The room that had Milla’s secret paintings was barely lit. Candles were brought and Mr. Sedrik pushed the wheels by himself. He was already making a list of potential buyers in his mind. It took a couple of minutes for him to realize what those artworks illustrated. There was one with kids playing by the pond, one with kids watching the sky, one with a boy gifting a doll and a girl jumping in joy. 

He hated the stunning reality in the pictures. The features were so clear. Nevertheless, he kept moving. He saw Milla placing a scroll in the burrow. He saw his son in the graduation gown.  Mr. Sedrik was puzzled as there were more. 

There was a painting of Aleksi and Milla in wedding attire, painting of a passionate kiss, painting of love making, and of children. There were unfinished paintings of Milla and Aleksi in middle age.

He moved closer and touched the faces of those two children. 

He ensured no servant followed him, they all knew Milla as his friend’s daughter, whom he loved so dearly. 

Milla hadn’t met Aleksi in four years. Not after he went out of the country for his education. But her paintings showed his face like a mirror, through different stages of his life. 

Mr. Sedrik recalled his conversations with her. He had challenged Milla that his son would forget her once he went out of the country. He had promised to let her go and meet her parents (whom he had kept in exile) on the day Aleksi took charge of the estates.

Sedrik was speechless. Remorse, anger and a strange feeling of failure took turns to disturb his conscience. It was all on the same day when he started getting hopeful. It appeared that his predictions were shattered to fragments! The special device for communicating over long distances made a noise from the floor above. He summoned the steward to push the wheels of his wheelchair.

***

Aleksi walked towards the painting, ignoring the pulla that was placed on his table. The orange sky, the dandelions, the silhouette of a man and a woman! A vine of joy sprouted inside him and grew like Jack’s beanstalk, and a smile bloomed on his face, spreading a fragrance of hope.

He forgot all about the bread and started his enquiry. The café owner had bought the painting from an antique shop in Madrid. Aleksi didn’t waste any time. He whisked himself to his motor car.

The car didn’t move. He abandoned it there and decided to take a steam ship to Spain. The hunger, fatigue and pain had all disappeared.

***

A waiter attended the call, before Mr. Sedrik could arrive. It was a message from his employees. There was no representative from Mr. Sedrik’s estates at the meeting. 

He smirked. He started feeling good about the defeat, about his misjudgment and the immobility.

He lost all hope. Aleksi wouldn’t come back. 

That night he passed orders to release Milla by daybreak. Mr. Sedrik didn’t survive to see the  dawn.

Milla’s fragile body refused to cooperate. She wanted to rest. But what she heard was the hope that kept her alive for years together in the dungeon. She staggered through the walkways, the bright light blinded her. She was not sure if she would look for her parents first or Aleksi.

As she approached the gates, Milla wondered why the servants were in such a hurry to send her out. She grew suspicious over the whispers and hushed conversations among them. She turned back and looked at the bungalow. She wanted to meet Mr. Sedrik before taking his leave. A bunch of stewards who were planning a loot, denied her an entry.  Milla avoided their protests, walked straight back to the dungeon and asked her attendant to bring the painting of her wedding.

She placed it in the main courtyard and declared,  “I am the wedded wife of Mr. Aleksi and the daughter in law of Mr. Sedrik. It’s true we had broken relationships in the family but that doesn’t mean that you hide anything from me.”

There was a deafening silence for few minutes, then the servants spoke among themselves and broke the news of Mr. Sedrik’s demise to her.

Milla instantly took charge of the situation. She made the necessary arrangements for the funeral. She gave instructions to spread the message of his death through all possible means to places far and wide. Milla made telephonic calls to ensure nothing got halted in the business due to 

Mr. Sedrik’s untimely death.

She knew it was just a matter of hours before Aleksi would come back to her. Forever!

(Love doesn’t hurt, Loneliness hurts, rejection hurts, losing some one hurts, in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again – Liam Neeson.)

Glossary:

Pulla – Bread 

Credits: 

The lines in Milla’s letter ‘wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you’

are from the album A Night out with Friends by Richard Marx

Inspired by:

Sivagamiyin Sabadham authored by Kalki Krishnamurthy,  published in Tamil in 1944. 

***

Photo By:  Madhusoodhanan Sayeenathan

***

(This is an entry in ArttrA-4, a room8 writing game at ArtoonsInn. We’d much appreciate you rating the story and leaving a review in the comments.)

 

Thanks for reading.

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