It was the quintessential New England fall day, and he spent the sunnier hours of the afternoon wiling away the day reading, people watching, and just admiring the brilliant autumn leaves. Usually lost deep in thought, it felt refreshing to have a day free from the usual weight of his own mind, and, later, thinking back, he would describe that Friday in October of his Junior year as “happy,” a word he didn’t use often (not because he was unhappy on other days, necessarily, but because “happy” was too simple to capture the complexity of emotions he felt most of the time).
Once the sun started to shift in the sky and the day dimmed to evening, he packed up his school books and trekked across the quad to pick up Chloe. He knocked on quietly at her door and she greeted him with her usual smile and timid kiss on the cheek.
“Is it chilly out? Should I grab a scarf?” She asked after letting him inside her dorm. He put his books down on her desk and stood awkwardly in the center of the room while she dug around in the closet. She appeared a few moments later holding a red knit scarf and a camel-colored jacket.
He reached out his hand to take her jacket and helped her into it. She fixed her hair and spun around to kiss him, but he stopped her, just wanting to look into her dramatic, brown eyes. They worked a special magic on something in his soul, made him feel passionate, melancholy, wistful, and ecstatic all at once. He smiled, squeezed her hands, and turned to lead them both out of her tiny room.
Once outside, she snuggled into him to keep warm as they made their way back across the campus to where the bonfire was being lit. He breathed deep — wet leaves, distant fireplaces, hot apple cider, Chloe’s enchanting perfume — and they walked along the pathway admiring the leaves and the last vestiges of daylight as the sun slipped below the horizon. The lamp posts sparkled on and they could see the students gathering around the big wood pile just as it started to blaze.
He pulled Chloe a little closer and had an intense, momentary daydream about his future, as happened to him quite regularly at that time — a wild, red headed woman with piercing green eyes, a feeling of deep regret, an intense yearning for something he couldn’t quite grasp — and he felt a sadness wash over him when he realized that this moment, these simple days of his life with Chloe, a girl he loved so easily and so completely (though he never found the words or strength to express this when he should have), would all come to a close. Chloe, as if she sensed his thoughts, pulled away.
“But I love her so much” he thought to himself, “how could I possibly love another more?”
He wouldn’t know the answer to that question until five years later when the red head with the green eyes from his daydream that night at the bonfire with Chloe would come walking into his classroom. His heart would erupt in flames and it would be his undoing.