Millin Ibranov was a fist. Reduce the symbolism and you're left with white knuckles and taut skin, edges and borders. Millin had always been a force that I had in vain tried to unfurl like one does with a fist to shake a person's hand. Yet, he had always had his hand in a fist, had always resisted me.
There were times when we were growing up when he used to be kind to me. His cheeks hallowed in the middle, highlighting his dimples. He used to laugh at my awkward, strained, jokes. He'd had the power to make me soar, to make me feel both invisible and powerful. Millin Ibranov had the kind of charm where he could make outsiders feel like kings by merely flashing them his dimples.
Four years, spanning from the first day back to school after Yuri Karamov's injury, to me having kissed the boy I had sworn that I would never talk to again, I had come face to face with Ibranov a handful of times. Out of those rare occasions, only three stood out in my mind. Millin had looked distinctly different each time.
The most recent was a day in August when the telephone wires in Dronesk were sizzling in the hot air. The asphalt on the roads smelt of tar and petrol. Our first year of high school had just commenced. Eline had begun to worry that I was growing isolated in Ljerumlup, so she sent me off to the post office, on an errand. I agreed under the pretense that I needed some air. I did, but not the one in Dronesk. I was planning on sneaking off to Rujga with the afternoon train and returning in time for supper.
Earlier that summer, my father had opened a bank account in my name. I was financially independent for the first time in my life, which meant I could leave Dronesk whenever I wanted. I couldn't stand my loneliness staring back at me in my darkened bedroom windows. I suspected Eline knew that I left town from time to time, but like most things in our household it was one of those things that went unasked and unsaid.
The post office was located in a cluster of buildings downtown which we referred to as the Center. Healthcare clinics stood side by side upscale restaurants and boutiques. The Center was connected by a series of narrow, cobbled streets and tall buildings with decaying art nouveau facades.
I was walking down one of these streets when a motor scooter, parked outside of a family café, caught my eye. There was nothing special about this scooter, other than that my mind connected it to its owner. My steps slowed down to a halt in the middle of the street. The sight of the black and white monster was one that was commonplace downtown, yet I still grew wary. Wherever the scooter was parked was a sure sign of Yuri Karamov's presence.
I drew closer to the café windows, and sure enough, I caught sight of owner's head. I peered closer, but there was no sign of Yuri at the table where Millin was sat. Millin had his back to me, his arm was slung across the backrest of the chair next to him. His buzzcut, and the self-assured manner in which he was lounging marked him out of the twenty or so guests that were spread out around the room.
He threw his head back in laughter, shifted in his seat. The reflective surface of the window dimmed as the sun hid behind a cloud. That's when I first laid eyes on the girl seated next to him. She was smiling in a way that had turned the lining of my stomach inside out. Everything about Adriana was the same as when I had seen her earlier that day. She wore the same black chemise and shades, which now sat perched on top of her head. Yet, it had taken me a second of intent staring to recognise her in her expression.
She tucked her ash-blonde hair behind her ear. I was transfixed by the way she leaned into him. The way that he drew into her in response.
The moment their lips touched was but a speck compared to the feelings that had coursed through me when Millin Ibranov caressed my cousin's cheek. All doubts of her infatuation were crushed. I kept telling myself that there had to be a logical explanation for their encounter. How I wished my eyes were playing tricks on me. But there was no mistaking the way he weaved her into him. The way she hung on his every word.
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If We ExistGeneral Fiction
🏆A 2018 Wattys Winner🏆 Two boys, one ethnically segregated town. Two sides, one war. Yuri Karamov's existence is like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both dead and alive. In Ru Konstantin's mind, Yuri is still the same vibrant young man he was w...