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Fictory Stories

#BookbedFictory 023: ‘See Your Face Again’

by Celestine Trinidad
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. Enjoy this one!

Prompt: You have met the perfect person for you, except it seems you can never remember their face.

She had always been really bad at remembering faces. She could remember everything else about a person: their full names, what they did and where they worked, even all the things they liked and hated. She just couldn’t remember their faces. She had so few friends because of it, she knew.

But she thought she would at least remember his face, at least. Because he was—what was he, really? “The one?” People would chide her for thinking that so quickly, but this was…different, somehow. He was different. 

Or maybe she just wanted to believe that, to hold on to that.

It had been a terrible day at work. She had been passed over for a promotion she wanted, and it had hurt, deeply. It was odd how things like this mattered so much, back then. But as she always did, she simply swallowed her disappointment and kept on with a smile on her face. And she thought she had kept that smile on even while she was already out of the office and sitting in the P2P bus she always rode in on the way home, until the guy sitting beside her suddenly spoke.

“A sad scene is coming up.” She looked at him, eyes wide. He pointed to the TV screen at the front of the bus. “The movie. The hero’s father is going to die protecting his son.” He smiled, small lines appearing around his eyes. Were they dark brown? Black? She really couldn’t remember now. “You can go and cry then. Everyone will think you’re just crying about the movie.”

All color left her face. This complete stranger sitting beside her had noticed, when no one else had noticed. She told everyone she was okay, everything was fine. She was about to ask him how he had noticed, but he was looking out his window now, eyes fixed on the road.

And just as he said, the hero’s father died in the film. While the hero wept, so did she. She rummaged through her bag, looking for the pack of tissues she knew she kept somewhere in there, when she finally noticed the white handkerchief he was holding out to her.

They said nothing else throughout the entire bus ride. Their bus finally stopped at its final destination, at the station in front of the mall near where she lived. When they both stood up at the same time, she finally worked up the nerve to speak. 

“Um, sorry about your handkerchief. I’ll wash it. How do I give it back to you?”

“No, it’s fine. You can keep it.”

But she insisted, and he said, “Well, I always ride this bus on the way home from the office.”

“Oh, great,” she said in relief, “I do, too.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow, then.”

“Wait,” she said. She was about to reach out for him, but her hand stopped in mid-air. “What’s your name?” She knew she might forget his face, and she had to have something, anything, to hold on to, so she could find him again. 

He told her his name. He smiled again, and she felt her heart lift.

But the next day, the world was never the same again.

There was a disease in the air, they said, and everyone had to stay home for their safety. Police and soldiers roamed the streets, making sure no one went out. And she followed what they said. She did all the things she was supposed to: she stayed home, she wore a mask on the rare times she had to head out. She held onto the hope that someday things will go back to normal, that she will ride the bus on the way home from the office again, and she will finally be able to give his handkerchief back. Maybe they could even have dinner after that, and more.

But things only got worse and worse. Eventually she joined her family and friends as they clamored on the streets. You cannot fight a disease with guns, they all shouted. But their cries were left unheeded. Eventually, they were proven right, after all. Even their leaders began to succumb, they who thought they were invincible, untouchable by the disease. 

The nation soon collapsed under the immense weight of the failure of its leaders, burying many people under the rubble. 

She was among those who survived the first wave, but the fight was not over yet. They had to rebuild the nation from the ground up, all the while fighting a disease that was still there, a constant threat to their survival. Even so, she tried her best to help, hoping against hope.

She tried looking for him in the lists of the people who had died, but she could never be sure if he was in them, for she didn’t even have his last name, and she still couldn’t remember his face. He was often in her dreams, too, but her memory of his face always faded upon waking.

One day, on a day where they lost another one to the disease, she stepped out of the makeshift clinic inside their camp, just to take a little breath, a little time away. She knew the smile she always kept on her face was still there, and no one would have seen her falling apart.

“It’s going to rain soon,” someone suddenly spoke. She looked up. There was a guy standing near one of the trees outside the clinic. He pointed at the dark clouds hanging overhead. “You can cry when it starts to rain, so everyone will think it’s just the rain coming down your face.” His face was covered in bandages, and only his eyes were visible above them. 

Her eyes filled with tears. She pulled out the white handkerchief she always kept inside her pocket. She held it out to him, whispering his name.

He smiled, small lines appearing around his eyes. ☁️

Celestine Trinidad is a licensed physician (particularly, a pathologist) based in the Philippines. In her spare time, she writes speculative fiction, romance, and children’s short stories. Some of her other stories have been published in other print and online venues, such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Alternative Alamat, and the Southeast Asian Fantasy volume of Insignia, and her first novel, Ghost of a Feeling, which is part of the Romance Class books, is available on Amazon.

2 replies on “#BookbedFictory 023: ‘See Your Face Again’”

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