As they rode through the woods, trailing the guide, his mind subconsciously slipped into a conversation he last had with Neema. Stacy was riding in front. He had his eyes fixed on her but his mind was elsewhere.
“Do you love her?” Neema asked.
“Yes, I do,” Lawrence responded.
“Does she really love you?”
Lawrence paused half a minute long before answering. He knew the answer but was afraid to say it loud. Afraid of what it would make him feel about the whole situation.
They made a bend and got to level ground. The guide at the front said aloud, “Try and relax your pedaling. We have a mountain ahead of us.” Lawrence thought he saw Stacy look over her shoulder briefly to catch a glance of him. Then he slipped back into the earlier thought in his mind.
“I’m not sure.” He fidgeted, moving his index finger around the ring of his cup of coffee. “I think she likes me….I think it’s love.”
“What does that even mean?” Neema asked him, looking squarely into his eyes. “You know you deserve better than this, right?
“But I really love her.”
“So what? Doesn’t it make any difference that she doesn’t love you enough?”
“Lawrence….Babe….Hey…Lawrence.” Stacy was calling.
He snapped out of his flashback and responded with a jolt, “Yes!”
“Are you okay? I’ve called you like ten times.” Stacy was slowing down a bit. The instructor had signaled to them to stop for a short break before riding up the slight hill ahead.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” He clinched the brakes and came to a halt, his bike thrusting dust and pebbles on the side.
“We should come back here. I like the nature trail. How is it up there?” Stacy asked, looking at the hill ahead.
Lawrence had visited the place before, a couple of times actually. No wonder he rode the circuit on flight mode, his mind teleported to a place where Neema was. It was unusual that he was thinking about Neema when he was in Stacy’s presence.
“It’s not too steep, at least for me.” He said.
“Well, let’s find out.” Stacy fetched a water bottle from her small backpack and took a few sips. “What are you thinking?”
“Are you sure? You seemed lost in thought a few seconds ago.”
“Uhm, I guess I was in my nothing box.” He stared at her. “No biggie, I’m good.”
One thing he always found hard to reconcile in his heart was this; he genuinely loved Stacy. A strong bond of love and affection lived between them, at least from his end. Sometimes he felt that love reciprocated, like today. Other times he found her indifferent. It left him confused thinking about the fluctuating love he experienced from her. One minute she loved him, one minute she didn’t. How was he to deal?
The guide called off the break and they all mounted their bikes, pedaling up the hill.
It wasn’t long until his mind wandered back to his talk with Neema.
“What next?” Neema asked.
“I don’t want to think about it,” Lawrence responded. They were done having breakfast and Neema offered to walk him out of the restaurant as they continued to chat, before he left.
“You know what you need to do, right?” Neema prodded further.
“I don’t want to let her go Neema, I love her too much. I don’t even think I’d have the guts to see her with another man.”
“Would you rather live a miserable life with someone who doesn’t love you?” He didn’t respond, at least not immediately, so she continued. “I love you, Lawrence.”
“I know you do Neema.”
By now they had reached the peak of the hill. True to his words, it wasn’t steep and Stacy really got a kick out of the whole cycling experience. She asked him to take a few pictures of her and couple of selfies before they rode back to the base.
“Sure,” he said, pulling out his iPhone to take the snaps.
Stacy was always at her best in front of a camera. She was pretty, amusing and mysteriously captivating. Her eyes ever so enchanting.
Before they started out on their ride back, she whispered to his ear and said, “Time to go home Babe, time for that making-it-up-to-you thing you’ve been complaining about, haha.” He knew exactly what she meant.
He mounted his bike and followed her down the hill. Though his mind was thinking about the apartment now, he still had Neema etched in it. Especially the last conversation he had reenacted in his mind.
NEXT: No Valentine’s | 6