Sunday, September 6

Black Roses

Black Roses
Written by Maksim Markusevich

This is a story about 4 different people with different backgrounds brought together by a twist of fate. In time they discovered that they were leading complicated love lives: one was juggling multiple lovers at the same time, the other was struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship whilst secretly indulging physically with unknown people, another was dealing with unrequited love with a best friend, and the last one was having every imaginable problem jumbled up.

Black Roses: Chapter I

Black Roses
Chapter I

“Milton, I want a second chance. Give me a second chance, please? I still want to be with you…”

Milton was shocked to hear that through the phone.

“I…I need time to consider this. It is too sudden. And I’m going to board the plane in 5 minutes.”

“I will wait for your answer, Milton. Do call me when you reach Johannesburg. Please. Call me, okay? I still love you, you know...”

“…Okay. I will call you. Take care, Anna.”

Milton pressed the red button and ended the call. Anna calling him months after their breakup, and of all times when he was about to board the plane to Johannesburg made Milton stop in his tracks. His mind was immediately stunned. Stunned by the memories of his past relationship with Anna. Why now? Why not yesterday? Why not 2 weeks earlier? The call certainly disturbed Milton to the point where he was practically standing still all alone in the departure hall.

“Sir, the plane is going to take off soon. You need to board the plane now. Do you have any problems, sir?” said the air steward politely, while gesturing Milton to go through the boarding gates.

“…Oh, yes. I mean, no problems. I am going to board the plane now. Thank you.” Milton replied back, while feeling inside his coat pockets for the boarding pass. Having found the boarding pass, he rushed towards the boarding counter and showed the pass to the boarding officials.

“Thank you, sir. Have a nice flight and safe journey.” the young, smiling, woman officer said to Milton as she handed over the pass over to him. Milton nodded and returned the smile, although not as enthusiastic as the woman did earlier, as he walked through the gates towards the aircraft.

“Mr. Milton Myers-Stevens, welcome aboard on the Royal KLM Airlines. Please, let me direct you to your seat. Do you want anything for now?” said a friendly steward by the name of Bjorn.

“Hm? Well, I do not wish for anything for now. Maybe later? Thank you so much.” Milton replied with a grin – but his mind was still in a muddled state.

“Certainly sir, anytime you wish for anything, just call upon us.” said Bjorn, as he helped Milton to load his hand luggage into the overhead compartment. With a smile and a slight gesture of politeness, he left to his station, as Milton was settling down into his seat. The plush cushion, the spacious seat, the refreshing scent of the air freshener – all were pampering and comforting enough for the other patrons of the 1st class flight. All except for Milton. He was still tense, worried, and his sigh became heavier and heavier with every breath he took.

It all started in May 2006. Milton met Anna online. One thought the other was interesting, and so did the other. Their feelings were mutual. Everyday they would chat at least 2 hours. From just normal internet chat buddies, they brought their relationship to another level. They became more than just friends. But there was one problem. At that moment, Milton was already in another online relationship with Josephine, whom he met online earlier 2 weeks before finding Anna online. Or rather, Anna was the one who found him. At that moment Milton had to choose only one – being the man who believes in being faithful and who thought sharing was out of the option. He knew he was attached to Josephine, but he also knew that his heart was stolen by Anna in ways he never felt before. And Milton thought what life was without taking risks, and he also thought that when true love comes knocking on your door, you would be a total fool to leave the door unanswered.

So Milton decided to break up with Josephine, thinking that the earlier he did it, the better. Better hurt now than being hurt later, as the pain will be immensely magnified, he thought. But how to do it? This was his first relationship, and they had only been together for like 2 weeks. Maybe it’s not even a relationship to begin with, in that short period of time. So, Milton summoned all his courage, every bit, every piece of it and told Josephine that their relationship is not working out. Josephine was shattered by Milton’s sudden decision, and she wanted an explanation. And it better be good, she warned.

Milton was at a loss. Although he told Josephine the main part, he forgot about the small, intricate details that trailed behind the naked truth. He needed a reason for breaking up with her. He can’t say to Josephine that he has found another “true love”– it was out of the question. From his childhood years, Milton was taught that honesty is the best policy. But, he didn’t give in to honesty just yet. He resorted to the darker opposite of honesty: lies and deception. It was disgraceful and cowardly, he knew it very well – but he went on anyway with this plan of his. So, he told Josephine that he was “diagnosed with cancer”, and he was so “sad” with his miserable life, and he wouldn’t want to include Josephine in his “suffering battle against cancer”. Josephine, although young, had the mind of adult way beyond her years – she offered to stand by him until day’s end, and this troubled Milton even more.

After subsequent attempts to convince Josephine to just leave him and find someone else failed, Milton decided it was time to play aggressive. He shut Josephine out from his life. Just like that. He deleted her number from his phone. He removed her from his friends’ list in Friendster. He blocked her in Yahoo Messenger. He did everything possible to prevent her reaching out to him through every known communication ways. And he felt the pain of guilt ever since, until today.

But it was not long until he somehow forgotten the pain of being guilty, thanks to the loving tender affection that he received from Anna, Eventually both of them met face to face during Milton’s summer holidays, and that strengthened their love for each other even more. They spent 3 magical weeks together in London, everyday celebrating their sweet moments together. But that joy was short lived. Milton had to go back to New York to continue his studies. Anna too had to return to Paris – she was studying there. As they said their last goodbyes, they hugged each other so tightly at the airport, wearing their matching couple T-shirts – and that stirred up the ahhs and oohs of the airport officials who saw their love display. And off they went in their separate ways.

Everything went on smoothly since they were back on track with their studies. Long-distance relationship was a thing they could handle effortlessly. Daily chats, voice chats, emails, and SMSes was enough to keep the flame burning. Everything was fine. Until one day Milton met Vera at a charity event in downtown New York. The svelte Russian blonde swept Milton from his feet before she even said priviet. After that first acquaintance, Milton and Vera were constantly seen together around town. Milton slowly developed feelings for Vera without even noticing it coming. But Milton still was in love with Anna. Or was he? Slowly he started to find every fault with Anna, which he believed if they were present before – he was too “blinded by love” that he failed to notice them, he assured himself. But he hesitated to tell Anna. Perhaps the time was not right yet.

On one fateful winter night, apparently the “right” time surfaced itself. Milton was a bit tipsy that night, thanks to a few shots of vodka. Seeing Milton in that unpredictable situation, Vera decided to send Milton home. As he reached home, vodka-charged Milton was feeling courageous. He felt he had the courage to confront Anna and he wanted to tell Anna the whole truth. So, he reached for his cell phone, browsed through the contacts list and found the name Anna Isabella Sorano. Without hesitation, he pressed the green button and the moment he heard Anna’s cheerful voice, he blurted out everything. Every single thing, The truth that hurts. Then to his surprise, Anna retaliated by confessing that she actually had a fling with his best friend, Harvey. Milton didn’t know what to make of it. Be relieved that she actually was experiencing the same dilemma that he is having? Or be disappointed that she was being unfaithful behind him? Or should he be mad with Harvey for betraying his trust? All those myriad of feelings made Milton numb, He didn’t feel a thing anymore. He didn’t know what to do. How to react? He didn’t know. There was only one thing in his mind – to run away. To press the red button again, like he did to Josephine. History is going to repeat itself, he whispered to himself. With that, he pressed the red button slowly. Call ended.

The next day, Milton realized his mistake. He tried calling Anna. She didn’t pick up. After several futile attempts, he decided to just write to her an email explaining everything in detail. He kept on checking his mail ever so frequently, just to check whether Anna has replied to his dire S.O.S. Her reply only came in a few days later. A confused Anna tried her best to reply to Milton’s email, but clearly her confused mind got the better of her. Milton couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, Finally, the both of them decided to step back, and conceal themselves from each other, as time heals them. Milton continued his life as normal, still very much attached to Vera. Only God knows what Anna was going through during that difficult period.

After a few months, Milton found out that Anna actually was in a relationship long before their first meeting at the charity dinner. He was shocked to know that she was romancing with his colleague at the university – a senior by the name of Daniel. It is too late to realize that he is now caught up in a nasty love triangle. After engaging in a furious exchange of word within the triangle, Milton decided to back out – thinking that Daniel was the first one who got Vera, thus he had more right to be with her. So a defeated Milton went back home and slumped on his sofa. While scanning across the room, he caught the sight of a picture of Anna in the corner of his eye. Anna! Oh dear Anna! He immediately grabbed his cell phone and straightaway called his beloved Anna. He asked for her forgiveness. He begged her to give him a second chance. He promised to not do the same mistake again. He still remembers her reply until today.

“Once done, it is already done. Once done, you might do it again in the future. Once done, it cannot be undone.”

She didn’t even say I will think about it.
She was so straightforward about it.
Milton was devastated.
Maybe this was her breaking up with me, he thought as a tear rolled down his cheek.

“Sir, would you like the steak sirloin or the seafood hors de’ouvre?”, asked the stewardess. She startled a day-dreaming Milton, snapping him out of his imaginary drama scene.

“Oh, it is time for lunch already?” replied Milton with his cheeky smile. “I’ll have the seafood-hors-whatever-you-call-it, please. I was never a big fan of steak anyway.”

“Alright, sir. Here you go, sir. Any drinks with that, sir?”

“Hmm…how about an icy glass of fruit punch? Do you have that on the menu?”

“Yes, we do, sir. Please wait for a minute, I will get that done for you.”

“Thank you, err – Belinda,” Milton said, coyly looking at her nametag. “Sorry for the trouble.”, he said further, with a smile.

“It is not a problem, sir. Glad to be of service. Please excuse me." Belinda replied, as the made her way towards the back of the aircraft.

Milton said grace, and he slowly enjoyed his lunch as he enjoyed the view of the dancing wispy white clouds upon the background of the vast blue sky.

“Another 8 hours more to go,” Milton sighed, as he chewed on a piece of scallop.