Short Stories

Path Mistaken – A short story

– Based on a real story – 

 

Pathways
Photo credit: Google

It was dark and rainy, and the thunder boomed in Cathy’s ears. She ran through the dark woods as fast as her legs would take her. The tall grass and low branches on the sides of the path hit her small body as she ran past them. She was scared and wet, and she was lost.

She tried to hold back tears as she looked around for any signs of her friends. but the dark shadows and pouring rain limited her visibility. She followed the crooked path through the woods until it forked into two. Both paths ran in the same direction parallel to each other. Cathy didn’t know which road to take. It was too dark to see where the roads were headed. She sat down and begun to cry, feeling hopeless.

From the trees behind her, a boy appeared. He was Henry, from a town nearby, and he was familiar with the woods.

After talking with Cathy a bit, he was able to calm down and assure her he would help her get home. He helped her stand up and gave her his umbrella when they heard voices in the distance.

“Cathy!” they heard a voice call.

“Dad!” she cried as she saw her father walk up the path. She ran up to him and hugged him, and he quickly hurried her away home.

Henry watched her walk away with her father and disappear among the trees. The rain poured down on him as he thought sadly that he would never see her again. But they met again soon after that and became close friends. They both loved the woods and often wandered around and played there.

On one of Cathy’s birthday, she became ill. Her friends didn’t show up at her birthday party fearing her illness to be contagious. But it didn’t stop Henry from coming.

When he came to her room, she was lying on her bed crying. She quickly cheered up when she saw Henry. He gave her the present she bought for him. It was a small book with a red, leather cover. They ate all the cake themselves and joked and laughed till their stomachs hurt.

“I’m so happy you came,” she said giving him a hug, “I was sure it was going to be my worst birthday, but it has turned out the best!”

He just smiled and looked into her grey eyes.

Their friendship continued on. They became really close and almost inseparable. On Cathy’s graduation day, Henry watched as she cheerfully received her diploma. She had grown into a tall, graceful lady. Her smile filled the air with happiness and her clear voice sounded like music among the crowd.

“I’m so thankful that you are here,” she said excitedly as she came up to Henry, “You are the best friend ever.”

He looked at her smiled. He had an urge to tell her how he felt. He wanted to tell her that he loved her and wanted to be more than just a friend. But he knew that she just saw him as a friend, and so didn’t say anything.

A few years later, Cathy’s father had an accident and died. Henry went to see her after the funeral. He found her walking in her garden alone. The sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing, but she was sad and downhearted.

“Oh, Henry,” she said when she saw him, “I’m so thankful you could come. I’m so happy to have you as a friend.”

She hugged him and let her tears flow pour out. He held her tightly and again had the desire to tell her how much he loved her, and how he wished to be more than just a friend. But he remained silent, knowing that he was just a friend to her.

They grew older and went in their own direction. Cathy got a job in their town, while Henry went to a university far away from town. He made new friends and lead a new life. One day, he heard his friends talking about an engagement in his town. But it wasn’t until much later that he was able to find out the names of the couple, which were Fred and Cathy.

Henry was disturbed by the news. He tried to imagine Cathy happily engaged to Fred, but didn’t want to believe it. He left his studies and rushed back to town. He needed to see if she was really happy. He needed to tell her he really loved her.

As he arrived at his village and on his way to her house, he saw a wedding ceremony taking place. He was just in time to see Cathy walk down the aisle. At the end of the aisle stood Fred, he was tall and lanky, but he had a pleasant face.

Cathy blushed and wore a big smile, which convinced Henry that she was happy and really in love with Fred. Henry watched her say “I do” and kiss Fred. He longed very much to tell her how much he wanted her. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her. He waited for a chance to tell her his deepest desire, but when he met her before she drove away,  he only smiled. It was too late. He knew she would only love him as a friend.

“I’m so thankful you came,” she said wiping tears away from her eyes and laughing, “I didn’t want to do this without you. You are the best friend I’ll ever have.”

She kissed him on the cheek and drove away.

Henry went back to the university right after that. His town had lost its attraction for him and he would probably never return to it, he thought. But a few months later, he got a call from Fred saying that Cathy was ill and would like to see him when he was free.

Henry rushed back to his town and went to visit her, but he was again too late. The house was quiet and people cried silently into their handkerchiefs. And upstairs Cathy lay in her bed, just as she lay years ago on her birthday, but she was cold and lifeless. The rosiness of her cheeks and the sparkling of her eyes were all gone.

The room was gloomy, but now there was no way to cheer it up. A small red, leather-covered book lay by her pillow. He picked it up and held it. It was the book he had given her on her birthday.

After the funeral, he walked through the woods. He came to where the path forked into two and took the path on the left. He recalled the time he met Cathy for the first time. He imagined her there again walking down the path on the right with her father before they disappeared into the trees.

They had lived their lives side by side, but now Cathy had disappeared, just as she had done then.

He took out the red leather-bound book from his pocket. He opened it and looked through the pages. They were all blank, except for one, which read:

“Whenever I see him, I want to tell him how I feel. I want to tell him how much I love him. I wish I could be more than just a friend, but I know that he sees me only as a friend. Henry, I love you more than anything else. I wish I could tell you that.”

Tears rolled down his face.

“I wish I could too,” he whispered.

 

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