The cold wind hit him like a punch to the gut. It was like ice, numbing his face, making him feel nothing. Instinctively he bent his head and dug his hands deeper into his pockets. But his precautions were useless, the cold still nipped at his face and a shiver emerged from his chest. Despite it he drove onwards, ignoring the temptation to go back home and hide under the covers. He wanted to escape life, at least for a little bit.
The streets were deserted. It was late and the darkness had already set in. Street lamps lit the path for him but he wandered aimlessly. Strangely, it made him feel liberated not to have to think out his every move. A year ago he would have been shocked at his own carelessness, but not now. As he walked, he saw faint signs of life. People sprawled on the sidewalk in a fetal position, trying vainly to keep warm. Seeing them made him feel colder and he wrapped his well-worn jacket more tightly about himself.
His eyes caught a light different from the lamps and his feet eagerly ran towards it. When it came in front of his eyes, he saw it was a small fire with beggars huddled closely around it. He couldn't resist the temptation of warmth so he walked towards it. The beggars made way for him but their faces betrayed them. They were full of surprise, shock and even suspicion. He ignored the looks, and held his fingers to the fire. The warmth spread through his fingers, making them tingle, and he noticed to his shock that they had become mildly blue.
“You dropped this,” said a beggar, holding up a piece of paper.
He looked at it. Even though it was folded, he could make out the cursive handwriting. A clawing anger rose in his chest and it made its way upwards. His eyes blazed as his face filled furiously with colour. Without meaning to, he reached forward and snatched the paper from the beggar's hand.
“Don't you dare touch it!” -- he hissed.
The beggar was taken aback, maybe even a bit frightened. At first he looked like he was about to retaliate but thought better of it, turning his attention back to the fire and shuffling away from him.
Now that it was in his hands, he couldn't resist opening it as he had done several times over the last few days.
By now you have probably heard the news from our mutual friends. I thought it was best to write and explain to you lest you thought something else. I am getting married. You should have realised at the beginning that we could never be together. I can't hurt my parents, they really like the boy and I couldn't bring you up. I think its best that you forget me.
Also for what it's worth, I love you.
A bitter laugh escaped his lips. Her words spoke of honesty and he felt pathetic inside. Despite what she'd written, he had not thought at the beginning that they wouldn't last. He had loved her deeply but it was all gone now. The last three words hurt the most. How could she write them? How could she be so cruel?
The fire was beginning to die down and the beggars had already moved away. He was alone. He crushed the paper in his hand and looked at the fire. Then he stretched his arm and dropped the paper into the embers. He watched it burn until it was a curling strip of black. Quietly, he got up and walked away, disappearing into the darkness.
Faizaa Fariya Hridi, 16, is a grade XI student at Playpen School.