This story is by Lilian M Barros and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Colors of Autumn
I’m in London for the 30-year graduate meeting. From inside the cab, on my way to Queen’s road, I enjoy the view with attentive and curious eyes. Leaves are dropping off the green, and the autumn’s colors are already present. This scene transported me back to the fall of 1983. I had moved to London where I would spend two years.
September had arrived; we could already see the yellow saffron leaves in the trees announcing the autumn and its changes. I was starting my first semester at university. I used to arrive early on campus to calmly search my classrooms. It was on one of these days that, when I entered the room, I met a young man, whom I said “good morning” and received a captivating smile. He was tanned, dark-haired, dark eyes, using a mustache, wearing jeans, a shirt with a pullover on top, and had a strong accent. I tried to guess what should be his nationality at the same time that I sat down beside him. As if he could read my mind, he introduced himself: “My name is Nicholas Pasioti, I’m from Cyprus. May I ask your name? “Julia Valente, I’m from Brazil. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I answered. The conversation came easy. We met in some classes and ran into university corridors at coffee breaks, but we had different routines. I did not live on campus, and when classes ended I used to go home, so I did not know about the activities the university presented for the integration of students residing or not on campus.
On a late Friday night, I went to the Kentucky and Fried Chicken for a snack, and while I was there, a bus stopped and several people entered the restaurant, among them was Nicholas who soon saw me and came asking: “Why did not you go to the River Boat?” I had no idea of what it was. He explained to me in general terms, and I got heartbroken for not having participated. I always loved dancing, and, based on Nicholas’ report, it seemed to me to have been extremely enjoyable and fun. I stayed there talking to him until his bus left.
During the following week, I was in the library when Nicholas came in, he sat next to me and, almost whispering, told me about the university party at the Pub on Friday. We agreed that I would meet him there.
Friday arrived and, shortly after school, I went home to get ready to encounter Nicholas. I got to the Pub quite late, and he was not there anymore. So I decided to look for him on campus. I was already in the middle of the staircase that led to his room when I saw him at the top of the stairs, well dressed, in a tie, well shaven, with his mustache trimmed. Looking at me and smiling, he walked slowly down the steps to come to me, while I apologized for being late to which he replied: “It was worth waiting for every minute.” I answered him with my most brilliant smile. We decided to forget the party at the Pub and went out for dinner in a cozy Greek Restaurant in Richmond. We had an incredible evening with good wine, delicious food, candlelight and the pleasure of each other’s company.
We were getting closer. We spent our leisure time together talking and knowing one another. Nicholas was beginning to show his feelings towards me with lots of attention, care and affection. I couldn’t deny he enchanted me.
The dry and sunny days of October greeted us with a beautiful palette of yellows joined by noble red, plum-colored, calling us to romance. Nicholas and I were going to dance at Hippodrome, a great nightclub in Westminster. He was an excellent dancer. When we stopped to drink something, we sat side by side, and our bodies began to speak for us. His fingers slid across my face, and I kissed them gently as we looked at each other in delight. Then, he started kissing my eyes, worked down my cheeks, and his tongue licked the edges of my lips. We kissed for the first time, a sweet and tasty kiss, unhurried to finish.
We had a wonderful time that night. He dropped me at home almost at dawn, and it was hard to say good night.
I changed my routine to stay on campus longer and closer to Nicholas. I made new friends, I got to know people better, their stories and customs, and I started attending university events. At the end of November, we made a day trip to Oxford with the University. The city was beautiful and pleasant; it boasted several imposing historic buildings, many of them in Gothic style. We were deeply sorry that we stayed so short there. Despite the lightning pass through the city, we managed to visit some tourist attractions and take several pictures of our trip.
It was a sunny but freezing day as usual in autumn. We went for a walk around the surrounding streets which usually have pubs, cafes and a commerce very appreciated by those who visit the city. We walked into one of the cafes and asked for brandy to try to warm us up. After a few good doses, we felt better about the cold and much happier. It was late afternoon, and we were back on the bus that would take us to London. We sat on the last bench holding each other tightly to improve the unbearable cold we were still feeling. The driver turned off all the lights on the bus, and amid long kisses, whispers, and caresses we made our journey to London.
The honey-brown sweetness present in the crunchy autumn leaves in December showed us the time was flowing. Christmas break was coming, and Nick was packing. He was going home for holidays while I was going to Switzerland with my family and some friends. We were in his room, his roommates had already gone to their countries, and I was helping him with his packing. He came up behind me and hugged me, whispering “I will miss you.” I turned my head into his face, and I kissed him, again and again, moving my way up to his ear. I grabbed hold of his earlobe and bit down it gently. His whole body shivered. He crushed his lips to mine in a searing kiss evoking such heady feelings. He walked us toward the bed until his legs hit the mattress, he broke the kiss and slipped my blouse over my head. I pulled his t- shirt off. His strong and gentle hands stroked me, his hands, his lips, his tongue. Then it happened – We made love. We spent the afternoon in each other’s arms. We could not have been happier.
One year later Nicholas and I were at Heathrow Airport. Although I had promised him not to cry, the tears slipped down my face. I wiped the tears, but they insisted on coming out without control. He pulled me up against him, kissed me and whispered “Honey, remember the promise we made. We will meet again.”
The loudspeakers announced my flight. It was time to say goodbye to my love, maybe forever. We kissed for the last time, and I boarded.
Time kept running; our letters became scarce until we had no further contact. I went on with my life. I graduated, I married, had children, divorced, I got my post-graduation in foreign trade, had some short relationships, worked for a Bank for eight years and then moved to an international large mining company.
Twenty years had already passed. I was visiting my parents on a September weekend when my father´s friend called him up asking for references from the university I had attended. I googled to get the right address, I entered the University’ page and saw on the main bar “alumni.” I decided to take a chance and left a message without expecting too much out of it. In mid-October, I received an email which headline was “Greetings from Cyprus.” I responded to his message in a light-hearted way, but it was a pleasant surprise to hear from him again after such a long time. Nicholas graduated, got his qualification in accountancy, returned home, worked for an international large audit company for some years, got married, had children and moved to one of the largest Bank in Cyprus. We started exchanging emails, talking on phone and WhatsApp. We found an excellent opportunity to meet again at the 30-year graduate meeting.
The cab enters the campus courtyard at the top of Richmond Hill and stops in front of the door of the impressive main building, which seems a medieval castle for its neo – gothic architecture. My heart is pounding. I take a deep breath and open the door.