Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
She walks across the snow-covered ground, steps heavy and deliberate to carve footprints in the otherwise perfect carpet of snow. Her cheeks were pinked from the cold, and her hands were shoved deep into her mantle’s pockets.
It is still in the early morning of a cold February, and it is curious to see her deliberately daring the snow in such hour, yet without a clear direction. She simply wanders the neighborhood, leaving her footprints along the roads as if waiting for someone to catch up to her.
There used to be one.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
As if on autopilot, her feet bring her to a still empty playground where she used to frequent. She pauses at the entrance for a moment. This is a place she used to spend her time. With him. At least, until about a few months ago.
Slowly, she makes her way to a wooden bench near a dried tree, and settles herself there.
“It’s been two months, Aran,” she tells the empty playground. “I miss you.”
“Aran must have wanted you to have this.”
She simply stared at the wrapped gift presented before her. The dark green wrapper was adorned with a simple golden ribbon. The box was small, and she couldn’t think of what might be inside of it—what he might had left for her.
“I found this when cleaning up his room,” the woman, Aran’s older sister, explained with a somber smile. “There is no name on the present, but I think it’s for you. So I waited until today to deliver this. I’m sorry.”
Right. It would be her birthday tomorrow, and dark green was her favorite color, too. The color of a forest. She had been friends with Aran for the longest time, even Karen, his sister—and probably his whole family—came to know so much about Sera.
Karen left soon after, leaving her with the small present. Sera went to her room, and for a moment, just contemplated the small box, before finally deciding to unwrap it.
It was a simple wooden box with a lock. There was no key.
Frowning, Sera turned the box this way and that, and finally found a note taped at the bottom.
‘I am a mother and father, but never birth or nurse. I am rarely still, but I never wander. I stand in a place of your memories, where laughter and tears blend into one. Find me, and I shall give you the key.’
* * *
She holds up the little piece of paper, haven’t had figured out what the note Aran left her actually means. ‘Silly Aran’, she says inwardly, ‘I couldn’t sleep all night trying to figure this out.’
It is just so like her best friend to give her riddles to puzzle over like this. Only this time, he is no longer here to give her any clues. She has to figure this out herself.
What a birthday gift, she muses.
“Why’d you have to leave so soon,” she murmured, feeling the telltale of a teardrop in her right eye.
She folds the note and pockets it back, blinking her eyes a few times to blink back tears. Taking a deep breath, then exhales.
Her eyes land on the monkey bar a few feet away, seeing her younger self sitting on top, while her bespectacled best friend sat on the lower part, twisting and turning a Rubik cube in hands.
They used to come here after school, too, just sitting on the swings and just talk about nothing and everything.
Everywhere she looks, she is reminded of him, and though it has been two months, it feels like only yesterday Aran was gone.
‘I stand in a place of your memories, where laughter and tears blend into one.’
Sera’s eyes widen in realization and she stands up, hastily pulling out the note and rereading it once more.
“I am a mother and father, but never birth or nurse. I am rarely still, but I never wander.” She reads aloud. “Something that can breed but not giving birth… and not move—in a place of our memories…”
She turns her head so fast her neck feels a little strained. But she pays it no mind as her eyes rest on the tree right beside the bench.
This—this is their tree.
She walks over there and crouches, examining the trunk closely—and then she sees it. A carved sign pointing down to the ground.
Silence, then, “Great, now I have to go home and get a shovel.”
Another wooden box, unlocked. Inside is the key to her present. Still crouching under the tree, she inserts the key into the gift box she has brought from home along with the shovel. The box unlocked with a soft click, and Sera opens it with anticipation.
There is a necklace, and another piece of paper.
The pendant is made of stone, carved with a symbol Sera isn’t familiar with. She turns to the paper and it reads, “Odo nnyew fie kwan—what is this, is it Chinese?”
She turns the paper around and finds another note written on the other side, ‘Google it.‘
“Really? Urgh,” Sera fishes her phone out from her other pocket to consult the internet. She types the words into google search, and—falls silent.
Odo nnyew fie kwan. Adinkra symbol of West Africa. It means, love never loses its way home.
The air is still, sans the gentle wind caressing Sera’s cheek and the strands of her hair. Silently, a teardrop falls, followed by another, and another…
“Stupid,” she sobs, “Why keep it until now, when I can’t even see you anymore?”
She lets go then, crying her heart out and whispering to the wind, Aran, Aran, Aran…
Then she looks up to the sky, and in a soft, shaking voice, she replies, wishing the wind would carry her voice to him up there in heaven.
‘I love you too.’
*Got the riddle from HERE, I only tweaked it a bit.
** Aran means forest. Sera’s fave color is the color of a forest. Yeah.