1 Chapter 1

It was the coldest time of the year, smack in the middle of December. Walking through the lonely city that lit up in celebration, she had the faintest smile, a smile of contempt for this city and its people that hid behind the warmth of the lights.

The old lady at the flower shop chatting away with her customers about the spirit of giving but wouldn't bat an eye when a child comes begging for a piece of bread or five minutes of shelter. There's a crowd growing angrier by the second outside the rundown bakery as the single mother running the business struggles between attending customers and her crying toddlers. The young couples and old come out to enjoy the snow and, more importantly, the Christmas sales, but no one heeds the young teen trying to sell old tinkers hoping to earn enough money to buy a fresh meal and some candles to support his sick father in this cold weather.

Even embellished in golden lights and festive spirit, the city fails to bring any warmth to Maya. And so she smiles in contempt, or maybe it is indeed a smile for joy. She remembers someone telling her about the joy these festivities bring. Joy, she had never actually experienced, but she hopes for.

She knows better than that though, twenty-four years of life had taught her well about hope and dreams. She had learned the more she dreamt, the more pain she would encounter. So she tucked her hand deep inside her coat pockets and pulled it close, walking away from the superficialities of these festivities. The city was always cold to her, and she preferred it that way. She made her way towards a park by the river that ran through the middle of the city. This park was a small quiet one at the end of the road with considerably less crowd than the newer park next to it. It was an unchanging scenery except for the people who offered some variety.

Today, on her way to her usual spot, she had seen a couple who didn't have eyes for anything else other than each other, a group of young college students engrossed in loud drunken chatter and a few lone visitors. The one who caught her eye was an unlikely face that sat in her usual spot. Clad in a black hoodie, smoking a cigarette, he was a face she recognised from TV. Her mind ran over several questions, but the one that irked her the most was, "Why is he sitting on my spot?"

She liked familiarity, and she wasn't ignorant of her stubbornness. As she stood there contemplating her next move, he noticed her dark shadow. Looking up at her, he faced her intense stare. Somewhere between annoyed and sad, she answered his questioning look with a sigh. Confused as he was, his eyes followed her as she made her way past him and sat down some distance away from him.

He pushed away from the concerns of his hard-earned solitude being disturbed as he watched her plugin her earphones. She glanced at him one last time before stretching her legs and lying down on the cold grass. She closed her eyes as Nirvana's Come as you are, played.

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