Cloud and Sky | By: Andrew Nop | | Category: Short Story - Fantasy Bookmark and Share

Cloud and Sky


Cloud and Sky 

      A young boy is kneeling down panting heavily, blood trickling down his right knee. The playground sand is being gripped by his left fist supporting his body to stay upright. A book titled The Lion and the Mouse remains on the ground along with a ripped teddy bear's head torn from its body and stuffing coming out like a squeezed Twinkie bar. There is a red ribbon on the bear's neck. A young girl is sitting crying with her hands held to her eyes and her dress is dirty. Four bullies remain on the ground defeated. Two are face down as one is grasping his stomach in the fetal position. The other slowly moves. Still panting, the young boy picks up the teddy bear pieces. One bully places his elbow on the ground to prop his head up.

“Why do you stick up for that loser? She can’t even speak!” He grumbles in pain.

With the teddy bear remains, the young boy presents them to the girl. The girl withdraws her hands as a shining light emits behind her blinding the boy. Claude’s eyes open up to a familiar ceiling.

***

      I had that dream again. It has been reoccurring more frequently ever since my arrival on Aqua. Due to cryo-freeze on the trip here our dreams lose their color. However for some reason that red ribbon keeps appearing as the color red. Now I am one of those believers in that dreams occur for a reason. That red ribbon is telling me something but I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Four years has passed since I left Man-home. I guess you can say I ran away. It was during that moment four years ago where I thought I had everything planned. Right out of high school I shot up to six foot & one inch, the jus below average height for the sport of volleyball. To us pacific islanders, volleyball is a way of life so of course I had to play. I thought it was my destiny to continue college while playing for the intercollegiate team. That moment four years ago I was diagnosed with a condition that resulted in being ineligible to play. Degeneration of the knee tendon is what the doctors labeled it. They say it starts due to an infection of the knee cap. Pretty much the muscle in my knee is slowly degenerating and repetitive jumping in the high impact sport would eventually make me handicap in the near future.  So after the second semester I left for Aqua to start anew and forget about my dream. The reason why people come to Aqua is to forget the past tragedies on Man-home. Because the trip takes about two years, visitors from Man-home are frozen within the cryo-freeze unit on the shuttle. The negative side effect (or positive since people want to forget) is that freezing causes the amnesic effect. People tend to lose long term memories during cryo-freeze. Another side effect found is the loss of color while in REM sleep.

      “Two birds lying in the nest, here in this very place they rest. A strong wind blows rustling the trees, as one bird falls within the breeze. The fallen bird unable to fly can only look up to his sister in the sky.”

      That must be Mizuki singing again outside. She is one of the undines in the city of Neo Venezia. They are considered the token beauties on the planet Aqua. Undines are beautiful young women who are gondoliers. According to Greek mythology, these undines are called water nymphs. On their gondola's they create feelings within and amongst people. Through the magic of song they sing lyrics that can lift up depressed spirits, bring couples in love closer together, or empower the shy with courage. I get up gingerly as my feet touch the wooden floors. Creaks bellow below as I place the weight on my left leg first than slowly on my right to stand up. Looking out my bedroom window I see her white colored gondola tipped in blue lining on the edges, cutting through the water in the canal below. Mizuki is dressed in a white sailor outfit lined with blue ribbons to match her gondola. Her sailor hat, also outfitted with a blue ribbon, keeps her long blond hair in a silhouette. The short blue skirt swishes ever so slowly with the smooth rocking of the gondola peeking in at the silky smooth legs she possesses. Other residents are doing their morning duties like the old men fishing on their boats, the fruit man untying his boat full of Neo Venezian produce, and kids leaving for school from the row houses lined in front of the canal.

“Ara... Claude! Good morning!”  Mizuki calls out to me in her Japanese & English accent.

Mizu means water in Japanese so her name fits the part perfectly. With the way she pronounces my name it almost sounds like she is saying cloud.

Picking up my head from the window sill I wave back. “Good morning!” 

“So how are you this morning?” She asks as she steadies her oar to slow her boat in front of my grandmother’s row house.

“Eh... I had that dream again.” Mizuki always offers me free gondola rides and so far knows pretty much my whole story of what happened four years ago.

“Claude.” Mizuki seems to sigh. “They say yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is the present. That is why it is called a gift.”

“You tell me that every day.” I respond with a hint of annoyance.

“Well do you want me to remind you to change your boxer’s every day?”

“No thanks my grandmo...” 

“Claude don't forget to change your boxers!” I hear my grandmother call out.

I can see Mizuki giggle as I feel a blush rush across my face.

“My grandmother already does.”

***

      A brass bell clangs against a door normally signifying a customer is leaving or entering this small cafe. The outer walls are decorated in a white matte color. The bell sounds to a young boy as he runs out the brown colored door decorated with a rainbow mosaic window. He runs along the streets of Neo Venezia with stores and houses to his left and the ocean on his right. Seagulls soar above on this warm, cloudless day. Bikers pass by and people walk along to visit the shops of this city. Mostly tourists come to this planet. Aqua is 95 percent water and 5 percent land. Like Man-home, it contains water, a breathable atmosphere, and life. However there are rarely any noticeable season changes. Due to Aqua’s constant warm weather, snow rarely occurs on this planet. There is a saying on Aqua though. Snow occurs only when destiny has been written. Snow on aqua is shaped like gumballs found in 25 cent candy machines and float down like snowflakes.

      The city of Neo Venezia is the first colony established on this water world. Stone structures and cobble ladened streets mimics the city of Venice on Man-home. The canals travel through the city like a maze with indescribable scenery and undiscovered mysteries. The Undines masterfully navigate through the labyrinth singing their songs for the people and giving rides to those who wish it. Claude enters the cafe shop as the bell rings.

“Excuse me I am looking for a job?” Claude asks in the seemingly empty cafe. A fan hovers overhead with lights on the ceiling. The spinning fan causes shadows to overlap the sugar and empty tea cups placed on the cafe counter face down. The wooden floor creaks as the employees only door opens up revealing a woman approximately in her late twenties. She is dressed in a waitress outfit; with black pants, a white dress shirt, and black apron. A hand towel sits on her hands as she flicks her silky black hair back with one strand remaining in front of her face.

“Hello, may I help you?” She asks smiling. Walking towards the counter she invites Claude to sit at the counter.

“Thanks very much.” Claude responds as he sits down. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a newspaper with the Help Wanted section. “I was actually looking around Neo Venezia for a job to help support my grandmother and noticed this cafe was on this list.”

The woman looks at the ad and smiles. “Yes we are.” However her smile turns into a frown. “Our manager is out for a while so unfortunately I am unable to hire without his approval especially since we have new tourists entering this city looking for jobs.”

“I see...” In defeat Claude inserts the newspaper back into his backpack and slings his bag over his shoulder. “Thanks again for your time ma'am.”

“No problem and sorry I couldn't be of any help.” She responds holding her hands in prayer fashion as a sign of apology. As Claude leaves the brass bell rings again as the woman attempts to resume her duties. She then thinks to herself now where is my son?

---

      The young boy, still running, races a blue lined gondola on the right slightly beating it. He passes a young woman handing out ice cream to other kids from her ice cream cart. The cart is decorated with a yellow and red striped patterned umbrella. Distracted by the thought of ice cream, he suddenly runs into a young adult who sits on the edge of the dock.

***

      Thanks to my grandmother's embarrassing boxer announcement, I have decided to leave the row home early to continue my job hunt. Despite the fact that she can be embarrassing at times, she has still provided me with the love and care I need on this world. Using her retirement fund she has graciously provided me with food and shelter on Aqua so I feel like I must find a job to assist her as best as I can. My grandmother is considered to be a big lady who I call fluffy. With her grandma muscles she cooks, cleans, and chiropracts my back when I am ill.

“Claude you’re going out again?” I could hear my grandmother call from behind me as I slide on my last shoe.

“Yah grams I am still looking.” I reply standing up ready to exit the door.

“Good luck hun.”

“Thanks grams.” I exit the door as the sun blinds my vision. Looking out I can see the azure firmament and the rising glowing orb in front of me. It has cleared the horizon giving me clear sight of the ocean kissing the sky. Bicycles rush by as I hear the church bell signaling the 8 a.m. hour. I grasp my school bag across my shoulder and go along my way.

      “The lone bird travels alone, who knows how when he will return home? The injured wing unable to fly will hopefully heal with time passing by.”

      Within earshot I hear Mizuki sing out on her gondola. It has been hours now and so far no one is hiring. I decide to rest to contemplate my next step and possible job sites. Sitting on the dock looking out to the ocean I witness the gondoliers and their cadences out at sea. There is a couple hugging each other closely. Perhaps it is a song of romance? Another gondola has a lone veteran soldier from the Earth war. The Undine's cadence is one of courage. His expression slowly turns from a depressed state to one that looks more of a happy one. I sigh as I realize my job hunt might be pointless. Suddenly I feel a heavy weight impact my side.

“Owwww!” 

To my right, a little boy sits up with his head down and grasping his left elbow.

“Are you ok?” I ask worriedly. There is a reddened spot on his elbow. Coming to the conclusion that he probably ran into me, I look to see an ice cream cart with a yellow and red patterned umbrella. “Come on kid I will treat you to some ice cream.” The young boy nods his head as I assist him to his feet. He holds out his hand as I accept it. We walk over to the ice cream cart where a young women smiles at us. She is dressed in a pink skirt, white t-shirt, and an apron with a stuffed bear on it. Also a ribbon is tied to her brown hair in a pony tail. She displays her hand in front of the ice cream pictures presenting to us which ones are available. I could feel a strong breeze instantly cool my tan skin from the perfect summer solstice.

“So which one do you want?” I question the little boy who is still holding my hand. With his finger in his mouth he looks at the pictures on the cart.

He then points to the chocolate ice cream cone. “This one!”

“Haha alright then...” I look at my selections and decide on my order. “We will have a chocolate ice cream cone, a chocolate popsicle, and a strawberry ice cream cone please.” The young woman smiles as she opens up her cart.

He has yet to let go of my hand as he stays within the shade of the umbrella. Our hands divide the difference between shadow and light. “So what is your name little boy?” I ask him in curiosity.

The boy remained quiet before he answered me back. “Leo”

 “Well Leo, where were you running off too?” I ask smiling.

The boy looks down. Woops perhaps I made him feel ashamed. So I came up with a response to help him feel better.

“Y...You know... that was quite an impact, you got some running strength in ya kid!” I respond in praise and laugh hesitantly.

Leo looks up at me and smiles holding his arm out flexing. I laugh at his antics. The young woman hands us our ice cream selections. I give both chocolates to Leo. “Here, the ice cream is for you and the popsicle is for your arm. After you’re done your ice cream you can eat the popsicle!”

His eyes widen in glee as he accepted the treats. “Thanks older bro!”

I was taken aback. Older bro? Hmm, maybe it isn’t so bad. I ruffle his hair up. “So how much do I owe you?” I direct my question to the ice cream girl while looking down at my wallet. 

***

      A young woman hands out ice cream to kids from her red and yellow umbrella, smiling at the notion that she is delivering happiness to these kids on Aqua. People around Neo Venezia know her as the teddy bear ice cream girl. The teddy bear apron is her insignia and kids run to her for delicious ice cream. Her slim body attracts mostly the male teenagers as well. She doesn’t attempt to strike up a conversation with anyone, she just hands out the ice cream to her customers and shows them the price via here finger tips. The young woman witnesses the little boy, Leo, run into the tall, tan person known as Claude. She brings her hand to her mouth as she begins to smile at the scene. Leo grasps his left elbow as Claude assists Leo to his feet. The two walk over to the ice cream cart as they ponder their selection. The young woman still smiling squints at Claude as a wind blows through her hair. The ribbon keeps her hair from flailing all over. He proceeds to speak his order as the young women smiles and reaches into the cart shaking off her previous thought of Claude’s familiarity. She brings out the ice cream and hands it to them. Claude asks her how much he owes her. She then holds up her hands showing the amount via her fingers. However Claude does not see her hold her hands up. She thinks to herself, I wish it was not like this. After the exchange she watches the pair walk away. Claude looks back and see's her looking at him. Another gust blows as it swishes her skirt and she combs a strand of hair behind her ear.

***

      The sun is high in the sky. The streets have become a little more crowded now that it’s around lunch time. Restaurants are filling up as some have seats located outside to enjoy the weather. I see Leo licking his popsicle. I ponder to myself as to why she did not tell me the cost of the ice cream?

---

“So how much do I owe you?” I ask looking down at my wallet. I pause for a couple seconds waiting for a response when I look up to see the prices of the ice cream on display on her cart. “Silly me it was right here. Sorry!” I respond as I hand her the money. As we walk away I look back to see her as her skirt is being blown and she flicks her hair with her hand. I look at her and she looks at me.

---

“Older bro?” I hear Leo call me bringing me out of my memory.

“Yeh kid?” I ask. We are still walking the cobble stone streets as the cadences can be heard in the canals to our right being echoed by endless passageways. The buildings resonate with the songs being sung within the canals. I can hear Mizuki’s cadence:

      “The sister left in the nest can only ponder where her brother has gone, whether nature did what’s best, if he will return by dawn.”

“I'm lost...” I see Leo look down. Still holding his hand I grab him and place him on my shoulders. I could hear his breathing panic for I might have scared him a little bit.

“This way you can see where your house is.” I reply trying to soothe him. I could hear his breathing slow as I feel his arms rest on my head.

“Ok let’s try over there!” He says as I see him point over towards the canal. We follow the canal through winding pathways as we are surrounded by stone gray Neo Venezian apartments. Undines row by with tourists under the colorful charade of laundry. The produce man has a crowd of people surrounding his gondola under the bridge. He hands a volleyball size orange to a customer. Neo Venezian fruit tend to be slightly larger than Man-home’s, a god-send solution to possibly end the world hunger crisis. We cross the bridge to reach the other side of the canal. I see the Neo Venezian trout, with diamonds on their backs, swim up against the flow of the canal. A Neo Venezian frog with six legs jumps from the road ahead of us into the lily pads floating to our right. It startles a Neo Venezian dragonfly the size of a pigeon, that hovers away from the splash, exits my vision by flying under the bridge and re-enters my vision headed towards a clearing to our left. These little creatures closely resemble the marine life back on Man-home however with the title of Neo Venezian and a few different anatomical body parts. The sun begins to disappear behind buildings as the shadow changes from it chasing us to us chasing the shadow. We eventually reach the clearing ahead with the sun setting at our backs. Leo and I stood on top of a man made hill that provided a panoramic view of Neo Venezia square. I was taken aback at the sight before me. It was like looking down at New York Times Square from a picture in my history book. As the shadow grew to encompass the square, the lights turned on in melody. The view of the lights turning on in sequential order along with the top down panoramic view of Neo Venezia Square was a sight that I never witnessed before. It left me awe inspired on what an opportunity I was granted to witness.

“There it is!” Leo points to a building down below.

“Ok let’s go!”

---

No kidding… I thought to myself as I stood in front of a white colored café. Leo opens the door as a bell rings.

“Welco…LEO!!!” A voice yells. I enter holding the brown door with a colorful window.

“Hi mom…” Leo replies seemingly half scared. The older woman’s frown turned to a sigh of relief. She still hasn’t noticed me yet.

“Um…” I announce my presence once again in this café.

“Ah it’s you!” The woman looks at me in a seemingly surprised manner. “Thank you so much for finding my son!” She proceeds to grasp my hand in gratitude as I scratch the back of my head with my other.

“It was no problem.” I graciously respond.

“Well this is quite the coincidence.” She smiles. I look down at the wooden floors a little embarrassed at our second encounter. I can see a strobe like pattern occur from the hovering ceiling fan. “I will do anything to repay you back for finding my son, anything at all.” I could hear my heartbeat within my ears from the growing excitement.

“Anything? Really!?”

“Sure.” She smiles as a strand of hair falls across her face.

“Well how about reconsidering my offer to work here at this café?” I asked with a hopeful response from her.

There was a pause as the woman closed her eyes and crossed her arms across her chest. She then opens her eyes. “Well since the manager is not here… I am technically in charge of the café, so perhaps I can explain to the manager when he returns of our newest employee.” Leo begins to clap his hands.

“Really!? Thank you so much!” I respond happily.

“No problem.” She responds with her smile. “But be ready to work hard.” She finishes winking at me and pointing.

“O… of course!” Befuddled in my own words yet inside I am happily jumping.

“My name is Avena. This little trouble maker whom you met is once again my son Leo. And you?”

“Claude.” I shake her hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Well now be here tomorrow 7 a.m. bright and early.” Avena commands.

“Yes ma’am.” I respond in excitement. I turn towards the rainbow colored mosaic window.

“Y’know.” Avena calls out. I look back over my shoulder. “If you hadn’t found my son, you probably would still be looking for a job. Guess you finding him happened for a reason eh?”

For a moment I had a reminiscent thought of the reason why I came to Aqua. With the thought in mind I happily smiled back and responded. “Yes.”

***

      Several months have passed and the summer has changed to the Man-home season of winter. No one knows the mysteries of Aqua’s weather nor can the experts predict it. But why would they when almost every day is 78 degrees with barely a cloud in sky? Still the inhabitants still practice the holidays to remember the celebrations back on Man-home. The café is now decorated with red and green ornaments. A Christmas tree stands in the corner of the café as customers are consuming their orders. Claude is wiping down a table as the monitor overhead blares.

“This week’s weather for Christmas looks like it may possibly snow! We have not had snow on Aqua in nearly thirty years! The temperature is predicted to fall to a near forty degrees! Who knows how low it can go!”

Its seventy degrees right now you kidding? Claude thinks to himself.

“Claude!” Avena calls from the kitchen.

“Yes ma’am!” Claude replies as he brings the towel to his shoulder.

“Please take this order to table five!”

“Yes ma’am!” Claude proceeds to walk behind the counter as he ruffles Leo’s hair. Leo sits by the café counter drinking some iced tea. Claude has been working hard around the cafe. Leo looks at a bucket on the floor behind the counter. He remembers how there was a leak in the roof and the bucket kept filling to the top every time it rained. They didn’t bother to fix the roof because the weather was near perfect every day. However when it rained, that bucket would be full that night. Now that Claude works at the café he has gone through the trouble of fixing the leak. Claude has also done several other odd jobs as well, like clean up the dock after a festival, help push gondolas stuck in canals, even chase Neo Venezian seagulls off the boardwalk. This was Leo’s favorite because he would actually help Claude by running around screaming. Claude presents the food to the guests at table five. “Please enjoy!” He smiles and walks behind the counter to continue washing the dishes.

“Thank you.” Avena says coming out of the kitchen. “Why don’t you go on your break? I can hold down the fort from here.”

Leo’s eyes light up. “Older bro let’s get ice cream!” He exclaims as he jumps off the stool.

“Fine, fine...” Claude hesitates as he removes his waiter’s apron. This is a tradition now for the pair. After the lunch hour news special Claude would take Leo to the teddy bear ice cream girl. Leo rushes through the door as the brass bell rings with Claude following behind.

***

      As we walk towards the docks I reminisce of how I achieved this job.

---

“There is one thing you must do in order to get this job.” Avena states.

“Yes?” I reply in anticipation. There is a silence as I see her eyes are closed. She then opens them.

“You must have one thing special you can do.” Avena finishes with what seems to be a serious face.

I think to myself how ridiculous it was but decided to play along with it.

“Can I get an example?” I ask curiously

“Well… I know sign language.” Avena states placing her hands on her hips in a confident matter.

I think to myself: So that’s what she meant. I pause before answering.

“I keep having this dream, and this ribbon keeps appearing as the color red. I believe it is occurring for a reason.”

I see Avena stare blankly at me. Oh no! I think I screwed up!

She then smiles and begins to laugh. “Ok you got the job kid!”

---

      We finally reach the ice cream cart as I look at the selections. I can’t explain it but I keep getting a feeling of nostalgia every time I encounter the ice cream girl. She merely smiles back and gives us our ice cream. We proceed to sit on the benches next to the cart. I could see the young woman clean her cart with a towel as I feel a tugging at my shirt.

“I have a question older bro.” Leo asks with those puppy eyes.

Unable to say no I reply. “Shoot.”

Leo looks down. “What is this dream you keep having?”

***

      The young woman is wiping her ice cream cart with a towel. She ponders to herself how she has the same two customers at the same time each day. Looking into the café shop every day, she looks in to see Claude running around. The young woman always smiles at his antics and admires him for his hard work. As the sun hits noon she proceeds to her spot on the docks. She delivers ice cream to the little boys and girls and her valued two consumers.

“I have a question older bro.” Leo asks Claude

 “Shoot.” Claude responds

Leo looks down. “What is this dream you keep having?”

Claude pauses before he answers. “Well it’s about this girl, you see. And in this dream I can’t see her face. Also for some reason I am little boy again, about your age and I beat up these bullies.”

The young woman stops wiping the cart as she listens in on the conversation within earshot.

“You see there is this teddy bear with a ribbon on it and you know how you only dream in black and white due to the amnesic effect?”

Leo nods his head in agreement.

“Well for some reason this ribbon keeps appearing as the color red.”

“Oh…” Leo replies in amazement.

The young woman drops her towel. She almost topples over at what she hears. The young woman then looks over to Claude. He looks at his watch and thinks to himself Oh no!

“We gotta go kid, your mom’s gonna kill me if I don’t get back before the break is over!” Claude stands up with ice cream still in his mouth. He turns to the young woman. “Mank oumm” Claude mumbles with a cone in his mouth as he runs towards the café.

“Claude, wait for me!” Leo exclaims frustrated. He runs and stops in front of the young woman and says: “He said thank you!” After, he runs off chasing Claude. The young woman holds her hand out and attempts to stop them by saying something, but nothing comes out. She watches them run farther into the distance. A feeling of nostalgia rushes over as she brings her hand towards her chest to feel the racing heart between her lungs. The young woman then proceeds to open up a compartment in her ice cream cart. Inside there is a schoolbag. She unzips the bag to reveal a rusty old book and open’s it up to the last page where the lion says thank you.

***

      “The sister soars in the sky now being able to fly, looking down searching for her lost friend; time passes by as she sees him down by the river bend.”

“Claude!” I can hear my grandmother call from downstairs as she interrupts me listening to the song Mizuki is performing outside my bedroom window in the canal below. Right now I am nice and cozy in my bed under my mink blanket. The weather report was right as today shot down to thirty six degrees. Luckily the café is closed on Christmas so I decided to sleep in.

“Yah grams!” I yell back as I watch the news report. The reporter is dressed in a Santa outfit and chuckling with every report. Behind her are the citizens of Neo Venezia walking around town looking comfy in their coats and scarves carrying presents. I hear footsteps approach my room from the creaking of the panels below me.

“Claude, it is Christmas! You should be out there having fun, not in here.” Grams says as I feel the bed sink knowing she is sitting on it. I feel the blanket being removed as the darkness within the covers brightens up to light.

“Merry Christmas.” I happily respond giving her a hug. Reaching down underneath my bed I present the gift to her. It is a tea cup set from the café, (which I bought for a discount of course.)

“Thanks hun, Merry Christmas to you too.” I feel a warm fluffy sensation on my cheek as I look to see a yellow scarf. “I have been knitting it all week. Talk about last minute gifts.” She chuckles.

“Thanks grams” I reply giving her a hug. The smile I gave slowly turned into a frown. It was around Christmas time four years ago when I found out about my ailment.

“Claude… I know you heard the news of your condition during Christmas and I know how much it hurts to remember being diagnosed.” She says with a look of worry. “But I hate to see you when you’re not trying.” I sit up and face her. “You have tried so hard to get a job and support this row house with me and I like that Claude. He never gave up. Remember the Claude that asked me for my savings to go to the college he wanted to, to play the one sport he loved to do the most? I was more than happy to because it was what you wanted and strived so hard for to achieve. That’s the Claude I like. So don’t you sit in here on Christmas. Go out and live.”

At this moment I forgot how much my grandmother sacrificed for my happiness. There is nothing I can do to repay that. I look up and smile as she smiles back at me.

“Thanks grams.” I respond wrapping the scarf around my neck.

“That’s the Claude I know.” She gets up. “Now I have a Christmas party with the old ladies. So you go out and enjoy the festivities tonight!”

“I will grams.” 

She then gets up and approaches my door.

“Hey grams?” I call out to her. She stops and turns around. “I love you.”

She smiles. “Love you too my grandson.” She then closes my door.

I get up once again softly laying my right foot down while placing the weight on my left leg. “I can still enjoy today” I say to myself with a new found confidence holding the scarf.

***

A young woman is dressed in brown boots with black stockings, a red skirt, and a pink overcoat with a ribbon tied to her brown hair. She walks through the streets of Neo Venezia witnessing couples close together, families carrying presents, and children smiling in joy. The young woman see’s the white matte café shop and excitedly races to the window. To her dismay, the lights are off and her smile fades away.

“Hello and welcome to Neo Venezia News! It’s Christmas time here at Aqua and we are doing our special of… Christmas Singles! Its 7 P.M. and Christmas is almost over. This is the special where we grab a lonely little lady and try to find her a date by allowing her to express her qualities on the big screen! Today we have…” The news reporter spots the young woman looking inside the café window. She grabs her arm startling the young woman and brings her in front of the camera. “We have this lovely lady! And wow what combo! She looks really cute today fellas hope you are watching!”

A crowd slowly forms a circle around the camera crew and spotlight. The young woman looks around frantically.

“So young lady, what is your name?” The reporter asks as she presents the microphone in front of her. The young woman waves her arms in embarrassment and trying to decline the offer. “No need to be shy hun!” The young woman embarrassed looks down. The camera crew and the crowd quiet down. She then holds her hands up and begins to use sign language. The crowd becomes startled.

The reporter leans in and whispers to the camera man “Does anyone know how to interpret sign?” 

Avena notices the crowd formed around the café. She is holding wrapped presents with Leo grasping her coat. The two walk into the crowd as Avena notices the young woman signing. She then walks up to the young woman and signs back. The young woman seems to have an expression of relief.

“Why we have a young mother here who can sign.” The reporter announces. The crowd then claps. “And your name is?”

“Avena.”

“Well Avena lets help this young lady find her date!” The reporter enthusiastically says as the crowd cheers.

“Ok!” Avena replies. She then smiles to the young women. “Go ahead hun!”

The young woman nods her head and begins to sign.

“My name is Sky.” Avena translates.

***

“I recognize that voice” Looking up at the main monitor atop Neo Venezia square I see Avena. The cool wind kisses my cheeks as I exhale a puff of smoke.

“For many years I have been wondering about someone. I have not seen him in many years. But recently I have seen him; in fact we have had several encounters together even though he himself may not have realized it. It wasn’t until this past week where I found out it was you.” The young woman looks at the screen while signing as if she is looking at me.

“It was you who saved me many years ago on that playground back on Man-home.” I see Avena translate.

It can’t be… the ice cream girl?

The young woman proceeds to untie the ribbon in her hair. Her hair softly fades down as she brings down the red ribbon towards her chest.

The ribbon… 

***

      Claude runs through the city along the canals.

“They say things happen for a reason. Events occur in our lives that places us in certain destinations at specific points in time for a purpose.” Avena translates

He jumps over a broken bridge to cross the canal in the direction of the café shop. Claude is knocked off balance with the pain upon landing however grits his teeth and continues to run.

“You are always working hard and it has given me the strength to work hard as well.” 

“Excuse me… pardon me…”Claude pushes his way through the crowd.

 “And now that you have appeared in front of me. I may have lacked the strength to say it before, but now, meeting you again, has given me the courage to finally say…” Avena translates as Sky stops her signing. A hushing silence sweeps the crowd.

Claude eventually approaches the crowd encompassing the young woman accompanied by Avena and the camera crew. Exhausted he places his hands on his legs with his head down catching his breath. He rubs his right knee. Within earshot Mizuki sings:

“One simple decision can send ripples through time. Like the two birds split apart by the ripple of fate, they are once again reunited by destiny.”

***

      I pant heavily with my hands on my legs. The pain still shoots in my knee. Finally regaining the wind within my lungs I look up at Sky. I look at her and she looks at me. A smile then forms on her face which in turn warms me with a feeling of completeness; a feeling that I belong here on this planet, during this very time, at this very moment. It gives me the strength to stand up straight and face her. A gust blows as her hair dances with the wind. The ribbon releases from her hand as it floats towards me. I reach out and grab it. Looking down at it I ponder, things happen for a reason huh? I look up to see her lips motion, as I hear those words…

“Thank you.”

***

      A lone snow drop falls, sending ripples through the waters of Aqua.

 

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