I met her during the winter, sitting on a now-white park bench with a book in her hand. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. Her long, dark hair cascaded over her shoulders, catching the scattered light off of the fallen snow. Her eyes were a deep brown, like pools of liquid chocolate, and her lips were full and inviting. I couldn't help but stare as she looked up from her book and caught my gaze.
"Hey, do you mind if I sit here?" I asked, pointing to the empty spot next to her.
"Do as you please," she replied with a cold expression, "I don't mind."
A long silence followed as I tried to find a topic of conversation. I glanced at her once more and found my eyes on her pale, white hands gripping a delicate foreign book (at least, foreign to me). I couldn't hold back my curiosity and turned to ask her the book's title.
“That book you're reading, mind telling me what it’s about?”
‘Do I ask again?’, I thought to myself. It would probably be weird if I continued to bother this complete stranger despite my one-sided interest in her. With that in mind, I decided to start the task I came out here for. That of course being to waste time until my next lesson. It would have been nice to have someone to talk to..
“It’s called, Dream of the Red Chamber”, she responded, raising her hand to softly cascade her inky hair behind her rosé tinged ear. ‘This woman is dangerous’ flashed through my mind as I observed her minute movements. ‘Beautiful’, is all I could think of hearing her reciting the name of the book she was reading. The aloof face she had been making previously was nowhere to be seen. Through her eyes never left the pages of the book. Gently turning them with her almost diaphanous hands.
"You said it was called Dream of the Red Chamber? It must mean a lot to you, judging by your smile." I couldn’t help myself but to say that aloud. She didn’t seem to mind as she ignored my praise and continued reading. “Mind telling me what it's about?”
Although silence once again filled the park bench, this time the chirping of birds congested the white space. The soft glow of the morning sun reflected off of the fallen snow, and subsequently her ebony hair. The sheen of gold gave her an angelic aura, complimenting her unearthly cadence. ‘What do I talk about now? I suppose I could ask her her name, no it would be rude to not give mine first.” Finished with my internal dialogue, I turned to give her my name.
“By the way, my name is Niamh. What’s yours?”
“Dream of the Red Chamber, also known as The Story of the Stone, is a classic Chinese novel written by Cao Xueqin in the 18th century. The novel is set in the 18th century and tells the story of the rise and fall of the Jia family, one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in Beijing, through the eyes of the family's young heir, Jia Baoyu. The novel explores themes of love, family, and the rigid social hierarchy of 18th century China. It’ s a good read if you're looking for some traditional literature, though I would recommend starting with Quiet Night Thoughts by Li Bai to enrich your experience further.”
She spoke without pause, to the point that I could just barely keep up. “Li Bai’s poems you say. Do you have a favorite?” Despite her ignoring my inquisition of her name, she answered my previous question with in depth details. She seemed to have a habit of that while reading, almost as though time slows down for her to digest the words she reads.
I decided to-
“Mai…my name I mean.”
Mai interrupted, finally answering my question. I was surprised but also relieved that she was willing to share her name with me. I smiled and introduced myself properly, "Nice to meet you, Mai. I'm Niamh. So, do you come here often to read?" I asked, trying to make conversation and hopefully get to know her better. She simply nodded and returned to her book, but I couldn't help but feel a spark of hope that this chance encounter would lead to something more. I sat quietly next to her, content to simply be in her presence as we both lost ourselves in our own worlds, surrounded by the peaceful winter landscape.
As Niamh sat next to Mai, lost in her thoughts and the peaceful winter landscape, she suddenly woke up with a start. She realized that it had all been a dream, a vivid and beautiful dream that left a longing in her heart. She couldn't shake off the feeling of disappointment as she got ready for her day, knowing that the chance encounter with the mysterious and beautiful Mai would never be real. She couldn't help but wonder what could have been if their paths had truly crossed, but for now, she would have to be content with the memory of her dream. Niamh smiled to herself, knowing that the dream would stay with her for a long time.
As it turns out, Mai was also having a dream about Niamh. A dream where they met in a park, sitting on a white bench surrounded by snow, and they had a lovely conversation while reading. She woke up with a smile on her face, feeling a strange connection to Niamh, someone she had never met but felt like she knew. She couldn't shake off the feeling of disappointment as she got ready for her day, knowing that the chance encounter with Niamh would never be real. She couldn't help but wonder what could have been if their paths had truly crossed, but for now, she would have to be content with the memory of her dream.
As they both went about their day, they both happened to glance outside their windows at the same time, and they both saw a butterfly fluttering by. The butterfly seemed to be beckoning them, and they both couldn't help but feel a sense of longing and curiosity. Just as they were both contemplating the significance of the butterfly, they were interrupted by someone calling out to them, drawing them back to reality. They both couldn't shake off the feeling that the butterfly was a sign, a sign that their paths may cross in the future, and they both couldn't help but hold onto that hope.
A butterfly in winter dreamt,
Through skies of white and trees that bent,
With wings of lace and heart of fire,
It danced in a winter's desire.
But as the dream began to fade,
It longed to stay in this winter glade,
For it knew that it must wake,
And leave the dream for reality to make.