Sunset

She sits down on her usual bench, even though the wood is still damp owing to the the morning downpour. Instinctively, her hands make their way inside the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt the next second, and find out that she’s out of cigarettes. She looks at the pigeons perched along the edges of the tin roofs of low buildings, and remembers the time when she longed to fly among them.

Much like a rescue, a scrawny, moustached tea-vendor approaches her and asks “चिया खाने हो बहिनी?”, despite his visually induced suspicion that she may not understand the dialect. She arduously simulates a smile as she answers, just as he decides he needs to repeat himself in English, “हजुर, एउटा बनाईदिनोस न,” with no trace of an accent. He walks back to his sooty coal-fed tin stove, emptying his mind of everything but the mission he has just been assigned, and her lips quickly drop straight from the curve that had exhausted her entire body. The sparsely clouded orange sky does little to comfort her.

From across the expanse of the autumn leaf covered asphalt, someone watches her. Unlike her, he’s in the attic of the town’s once-famous chalet. Unlike her, he is not at a loss of purpose, but just like her, he belongs here. Her story was no secret to him and he knows he has to alter its course today.

He has taken his time to commit himself to his task, and he believes she would thank him for it if only she could see things as they really were. She may not know it yet but she needs him to do this. He is meant to do this. But the closer his moment of trial draws, the more his resolve wavers. The fact that he has calculated every possibility his actions may lead to does not keep him from doubting his own preparedness. Through his lens, he watches the tea-vendor return with her order, receive his payment, and pass along to look for other prospective clients. She takes a sip from her glass and puts it aside on her bench because her hand does not want to part with her pocket. He takes a second to take in the world around him a final time before he changed his life and hers forever. His town is as beautiful and as loved as it is cold. His body grows warm despite that. Then almost like a reflex, he mutters, “Target acquired.”

It is only moments later that he realizes he has no idea what he means by that anymore.

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