Bonfire

“Can you see anything missing?”
“No.”
“Are you mad?”
“No”
“Are you glad?” 
“No” 

James walked into the house to find it visibly uncluttered yet unable to clearly remember what those things were whose absence left the rooms empty. There was a huge pit in the backyard, only ash and dust was left of what had clearly been a bonfire. Sophia had been waiting outside their house for him, to decipher his reaction. James had very charitably offered to call his house, theirs but now he was having second thoughts about having welcomed Sophia so generously into the house and his life. 

Sophia and James were college sweethearts. They got together when he was a senior and she was a junior. When he got into a University in the US for his masters, they decided to tell everyone that like every other sensible couple, they were breaking it off, while secretly trying out the long-distance thing. They did it quite properly too, and she went about her last year in college casually flirting and going on occasional dates to keep up the pretence of being single. She accepted a nice job offer and went on her way after college was done. 

They finally met each other at his Graduation from the University in the US. Sophia, now earning, was able to comfortably make the trip and their college friends who were stunned to see them together, took pictures and sent them back to their friends in the country. Pictures of the couple spread like wildfire, everyone was surprised and excited to see them together. Some felt betrayed though, the boy who thought something-might-be-happening was embarrassed to know that his attempts had been futile. The couple was the epitome of dignity as they had managed to overcome the ‘long-distance’ hurdle which was a deal-breaker in college. After this, everyone thought that there was no breaking them up. 

Next they knew Sophia was engaged, to someone else; someone being James’ best friend and the boy who was embarrassed, now wished he had pursued her a little bit more. Post this, no one knew with clarity what was happening. James’ name, which was always taken with hers, even when they were thought to be broken up, was being recalled less and less. As the stories about Sophia’s life got weirder and vaguer, James was slowly forgotten. 

They saw Sophia on the big screen once, in an Indie flick that garnered great reviews. She didn’t act after that. Sophia opened for Lady Gaga at an intimate concert and even though Gaga asked her repeatedly, she refused to perform again. Nothing was heard of the engagement. Sophia disappeared after a point, as the people involved forgot to keep track as they had their own lives, careers and children to take care of now. 

The last of the kids for whom the couple was the stuff of legends in college, moved on and they were not remembered anymore. Sophia called him after seventeen years, after that fateful dinner on his Graduation day. He had proposed and she had agreed and he had escaped out of the window of the bathroom and she had casually escaped through the main door pretending to be on phone. Both of them, not knowing what the other had done and feeling ashamed and guilty, texted each other almost at the same time. But Sophia was hurt that he had proposed and fled, and James was upset that she had agreed and fled. They patched up on text and made plans to meet for breakfast but James stayed at home and Sophia was texting from the airport. 

When Sophia called him seventeen years later, he picked up the phone excitedly. One thing led to another and they decided to give it another go. Sophia showed up at his doorstep with a duffel bag the very next morning. They kissed at the door, they kissed as he took her bag, they kissed as she shut the door and they kissed as two must who haven’t in seventeen years. The first three years were fine. Rebellious like in their youth, they lived together, answering no one. They didn’t know what they were doing or what they were going to do. From the first day, when James showed Sophia to her room in his house, they lived in their respective rooms minding their own business, unconcerned about what the other or anyone else was doing, sufficient in their small world. They occasionally slipped into each other’s bedrooms at night but there never was any talk. That is until today, when James found a bonfire that had to be of his things. 

“Can you see anything missing?” 
“No.”
“Are you mad?”
“No.”
“Are you glad?”
“No.”
“Do you want to get married?”
“No.”
“First thing tomorrow?”

“Yes.”