“Wait up, Rick. Let me catch my breath” Sara said as she struggled to keep up.
They were trekking up to the graveyard on top of the hill. Sara wasn’t used to trekking. In fact she had never trekked in her entire life. This was her first attempt at it.
Richard and his family had a pattern every year, ever since the incident. Every year on the fifth day of may, they went their separate ways. Matthew, their father went along-with his brother to the Bahamas, where he spent his time drinking. Martha, their mother went to her birth home to meet her mother and siblings. Richard went on this trek to the graveyard on top of the hill. Every year, like clockwork, they followed this ritual. Every year since Raymond died.
Raymond was Richard’s twin brother. They were inseparable. Everywhere Rick went, Ray went. Everywhere Ray went, Rick went too. They didn’t ever get angry at each other. They never competed with each other. They were identical in more ways than just their appearances. Their love was an envy of many. And above all, both had boyish charms; also, identical.
One day, Richard and Ray were coming back from their father’s office after giving him his lunch. It was May; the school didn’t reopen until June. Their father had forgotten his lunch back home. Matt worked in a factory just outside the city and their house was a 10 minute cycle ride away from it. They both took their cycles and raced to the factory.
Upon giving their father his lunch, they wandered around the factory talking to his friends, easing up with the secretary they both found attractive. Well, at least Ray did. Richard had a girlfriend, Sara, of course. Richard filled the wing man position, as he helped his little brother pursue his interest. Soon, their father yelled at them for being a distraction to the employee, although he masked in his voice the pride he had for his double trouble.
They laughed and gave him a hug and left the office. They then decided to race to the supermarket to buy a few things before they headed home.
This was when the fated accident happened. They were at an intersection for the traffic to clear, a truck from behind rammed into Ray’s cycle and he then hit the oncoming traffic and he was severely injured. Richard then rushed to the hospital with him but the doctors were helpless.
Sara remembered how the incident had affected the family. They were pretty much never the same. She remembered how Rick had spent a week holed up in his room, barely eating, barely talking. She wasn’t able to meet him either. He had forced himself into isolation and nothing she did brought him out. She had left a million messages, even tried going over, but she wasn’t able to reach him.
Lost in these thoughts, she trudged alongside Rick who was walking slower on purpose so that Sara could keep up. She looked up at Rick who had a reflective glaze over his eyes. He was always like this around this time of the year. He went alone to the shrine where his brother was buried and stays there for a few the day and returns back. He had been doing that since the year his brother died.
This year she had forced him to take her with him. He hadn’t been happy about the prospect, but after a lot of forcing on her part, he agreed to take her along.
They continued their swift stride for around three quarters of an hour more when the shrine became visible at long last. This made them gain speed; they rushed to the shrine and went in to greet the priest.
The priest was a kind old monk who was happy to receive any and all guests. They sat down by the trees and sipped their tea.
“Are you feeling alright?” Sara asked, concerned. They had remained silent for the most part of the trek except for when Sara would whine about the climb.
“Yes, I am alright. How about you? Feeling tired yet?” Richard asked grinning.
“Idiot” She said laughing, as she swung her arms to his face faking a punch.
Sara and Richard had been in a relationship or over six years now. They had gone to school together, college together and been good friends through all of it. Rick, Ray and Sara had been inseparable, tight knit trio of friends.
Richard and Raymond both had been interested in Sara romantically. One day Richard had gone to Raymond in his room and talked about this. Raymond, who also had strong feelings towards their friend, felt his heart sinking. But he chose to be happy for his brother. Richard had then asked Sara out and they had been going out since. This happened when they were in their college. One year before the accident happened.
The accident had affected Sara too, but she hadn’t shown any of her feelings for fear of driving Richard insane. She kept it in; she didn’t even attend the funeral for fear of breaking apart. She had loved Raymond like he was her brother and the loss was hard on her as well.
And every year in this time, she’d give the family their space. But this year, she realized it had been five long years since the incident and she wanted to put this past her. She wanted to move on with Richard and she wanted to be with him for better or for worse. They had come too far to not work their way through this too. So she insisted to join Richard this time around for the yearly visit he made to the graveyard.
They finished with the tea and the crackers, and then visited the spring nearby to wash up. Then they sat with the monk and listened to his stories.
Richard, Raymond and Sara loved the stories the monk used to share. They used to visit this shrine a lot since their childhood. The monk had been there for over two decades now. They loved the man. Sara hadn’t seen him for a few years now. She missed his stories. She insisted they stay for a couple of hours so that she could take it all in, a major part of her childhood that she had given up for the greater good.
Soon it was evening and Richard made his way to the graveyard. Sara tagged along behind him, constantly checking his face for any signs of distress. She did not want Richard to feel she was an unwanted presence in his otherwise calm yearly ritual. But he didn’t seem to mind; in fact he kept staring at her for long periods of time. She didn’t really mind getting stared at by the man she loved. It made her happy, if anything. But his expression seemed strained; it seemed distant somehow which worried her. But that much was expected seeing as it was his twin’s death anniversary.
Soon they reached the graveyard. Slowly Richard made his way to his brother’s grave which was in the far right. Slowly still, Sara followed him. No one spoke a word. An eerie silence hung in the air. Richard had brought a bouquet to leave at his brother’s grave. He had brought his mouth organ too, presumably to play their favourite tune.
As they neared the grave, Richard looked back at Sara, and without a word proceeded to sit next to his brother’s grave. Sara followed.
The gravestone that she had never gone to see, the funeral site she never visited, the eulogy she never heard, the etchings in the stone made her gasp. It read
“Richard Brendon Adams (1990 – 2009)
A good son, a good brother, a good soul”
Sara’s head spun. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her mouth formed no words. She went blank. She looked back at the brother grieving next to her.
“R… Ray?” She said, choking as she voiced his name.
“Yes, Sara. It’s me. Please let me ex…” Raymond said as his words were cut short by a hand that hit him across the face.
Sara was crying audibly now. She couldn’t control herself; she slapped Raymond, left, right, left again.
Ray made no effort to stop her. He just kept looking at her, eyes clearly showing the pain that he had been suppressing for half a decade.
Soon, Sara calmed down; Raymond hugged her in an effort to calm her down.
“I meant to tell you Sara, I came so close many times. But I made a promise to Richard.” Ray said, as he proceeded to explain how both of them had loved her equally, but Richard had been the first to man up about it. Then he explained how Richard knew all along and at his death bed, had made him promise he’d take care of Sara. And in a desperate attempt he did the best thing that he could think of.
He told her how he dissolved his identity to fulfil the promise he made to the man he loved, for the woman he loved.
Sara looked at Raymond, trying to muster up the anger she should be feeling. But she couldn’t fetch any. She had loved both the brothers equally. She did feel betrayed, but she knew Richard and she knew he would have asked that on his death bed. That’s the man she had fallen in love with.
She took Raymond’s hands and cupped it in hers. “Why did you not tell me anything before this” She asked, trying to reason with herself, if anything.
“I told you, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to lose you, and I was desperate. I was losing it, Sara. This was too big a secret to keep. I didn’t want to deceive you anymore, so here we are.” Ray said, in a soft voice. He felt as if he had been drained of all his energy. He felt light in his head.
He lay down on the grass next to his brother’s grave, tears rolling down his eyes, trying to think how betrayed Sara must feel right now. Thinking Sara would hate him; probably never speak with him henceforth. He knew that’s what he’d do. He had done something that didn’t deserve forgiving.
To his surprise, Sara lay down next to him, looking up at the stars. “What do you think Richard must be thinking right now, if he was looking down at us?”
Ray fought the tears with minimal success and tried to think what his brother would say. He said “He’d be disappointed, but then he’d give a grin saying ‘You stole my girl, you bastard’.”
Sara smiled as she said “That does sound like him, doesn’t it?” then she looked at her best friend, she thought for a moment then said “So, where will you go from here?”
Ray was taken aback by the question. He thought for a little and nodded his head and said “The past, my life.”
Silence hung in the air as the two thought about everything that they went through, when Richard was alive, and when he was gone. After what seemed like an hour, Sara took his hand in hers, and said “No, Our lives.”