It was two and a half hours later that Crystal was able to rid herself of the weighted robe and swapped into a more comfortable attire. Instead of her smart formal dress and heels, she was in a knee-length striped dress with a cardigan and wedges. She ditched her purse for a backpack. She observed as the next batch of cohorts gathered outside with their family members and the student volunteers ensuring that all went well. She smiled to herself, relieved that she was able to freeze today’s event with her peers on digital. It had been another reason for attending the graduation in person - with her friend, Harry. Although they were of the same degree, he arranged his study plan in such a way that she graduated earlier than him. In fact, she was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to take time out from his schedule to watch her graduation. She looked at the clouds around her while she waited for Harry to leave his tutorial. Much to her dismay, it was gloomier - as if it was sad to see her and her cohort go.
I’ll wait at the phone charging area of the library, she texted him.
She then made her way into the law building and easily assumed the role of a continuing student. With her frazzled look and concentration on her laptop, she’d have fooled anyone into thinking that she was under the stress of the killer subject. Which was why she chose the seat to the wall. No one could see what she was doing.
“You changed clothes,” a voice commented above her forty-five minutes later. It was Harry.
“Yes, I did,” she replied as the person took a seat next to her. “How was Politics of Law? Are you hungry?”
“It was good. Yes, can we have tea instead?”
“Now you know why I recommended you to enroll in it. It fits you like a glove. Let’s go to the beachside cafe then.”
Something is not right, he thought. This girl never visited the beach unless she was emotionally occupied with something. He knew better than to ask her and waited with patience instead. If there was one thing he learnt about her, it’s that she will share her thoughts only when she wanted to. He followed her cue after she parked her car and killed the engine. After a short distance of awkward silence that was accentuated by the waves splashing against the rocks, she stopped and gestured to the seats ahead of them.
It was moments later that they made themselves comfortable in the beachside cafe after the waitress took their orders. She trained her eyes on the waves splashing on the rocks outside. Now that she was alone with Harry out of campus, it’d be easier to speak her mind and relieve her heart of the burden that lodged itself in the abyss since last year. The one that threw her into a state of dilemma. So, why was she struggling to let the words roll her tongue? It wasn’t like she needed to confess to a crime either.
“Is something going on?”
“No,” she lied. “What’s up?”
He peeked at his surroundings. “You’re worrying me. It should be a joyous day, but I sense hesitance instead.”
“I don’t know. I’ve mulled over this since the start of last year, but I don’t know how you’d react to this…” She took a breath and avoided eye contact. “It was obvious that you wanted me to remain in town and you’d do anything possible to prevent my departure. But I can’t stay. This place has continuously forced me to revisit the dark days of my past. At every corner, I see memories or triggers of what I’ve endured. Yes, my home is here, but I’m itching to run. It’s good that you came along for the ride because there is something I have to give you.”
She rummaged through her backpack and found the item she looked for. A sealed envelope addressed in Harry’s name. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” He fiddled with it and debated whether he should read it now or later. There was a twinge of urgency in Crystal’s voice, which made him antsy. He knew her long enough to expect sporadic letters - be it one of comfort or gratitude - from her. He just wasn’t sure of his emotions once he opened the letter.
She misconstrued his hesitance as fear. “There’s nothing and no one to incriminate us. Me, maybe, but definitely not you.”
There was a long silence, in which he tore open the envelope and perused the three page long letter. Peppered in the content were her fears of leaving their friendship for a better opportunity interstate. An elaboration of her dark days. Suicide attempts. Mistrusts. Personality changes. “I wish you told me earlier,’ he whispered.
“Sorry, Harry, but I didn’t want to show my vulnerability until I could fully trust you.”