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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Quiet Places

There was this bench in the park. It was located away from the path most joggers took. Away even from the nooks most lovers squeezed in to. Hidden away behind a wisteria tree that was purportedly a hundred years old. For most of the year, this spot was left alone. But many people came to see the tree when it bloomed in April. But even so, they didn’t pass through the floating pink and purple curtain to investigate what lay on the other side of the tree.

It wasn’t very grand, what lay on the other side.

A small stream, most likely a storm drain outlet, overgrown with reeds. Beyond that an ivy-covered wall, marking the limit of the garden. And the bench.

It used to be the only place Tabi could go to when he needed to remind himself to breathe again.

When he was younger, Yuki dated a boy who had this peculiar quirk. Statues of people gave him the shivers. He couldn’t even pass a monument to a famous personality on the streets without averting his gaze and quickening his step. Trips to the museum were out of the question. And Yuki would need to put away his anatomy studies whenever the boy was coming over.

Needless to stay, introducing him to his mother was out of the question. After all, the cemetery was full of effigies of the dead. In marble and alabaster and bronze. Pitted with age. Cast in cement. Covered in bird-droppings. Peaceful. Melancholic. And sometimes, just what his spirit needed.

It was a pity, really. Yuki had liked the boy.

Mayu didn’t really need a quiet place. She was good at tuning out the noise. It came from a lifetime of being told to be who she wasn’t. And she liked crowds. Every time she was surrounded by strangers, it gave her a thrilling sense of power, like there was a secret that only she knew. If she needed to take a break, her brain would just go offline for a few moments. Even if she was in the middle of a conversation.

In a lot of ways, Mayu was her own quiet place.

She hefted the tray with both hands. It was laden with crusty sourdough, coffees as well as a selection of butter, jam and cheeses. Behind the carved wood screen, separate from the rest of the cafe-section of the bookstore, by a wall niche full of books and manga, sat her two favourite customers.

Well, metaphorically speaking of course. Because boyfriends didn’t pay.

Yuki sat with his feet up on a chair, earphones plugged in, doodling something on this tablet, his foot tapping to the rhythm in his head. Tabi with his straight back pouring over a paperback like it was his bank statement and it was the end of tax season.

Mayu smiled and placed the food between them. One of them would bring it back with the dishes. Because boyfriends cleaned up after themselves.

She kissed Yuki on the head. He squeezed her with one arm distractedly. She gave Tabi a peck on his cheek. He made a disgruntled noise.

Mayu went back to her place behind the counter, greeting another family that had found its way in.

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