An Inevitable Meeting
The dark coat of the figure behind Miyo curled slowly into her peripheral vision as she hastily
turned another corner, disposable coffee cup long discarded in a bin as panic rose unsteadily in her chest.
If she’d been paying attention after she’d left the café, she would have noticed the
figure nonchalantly peel themselves off a bus stop seat and pocket the newspaper they had been holding in faux interest to slink after her.
But Miyo’s sixth sense had alerted her too late that she wasn’t alone.
The figure had clung to her heels incessantly even after she had pulled every trick they taught at self-defence classes: crossing the road, taking a detour, walking into public places. Every time she reluctantly half turned her head and strained her eyes as far round as they would go, she wished, unsuccessfully, that she would find herself alone.
Miyo’s keys formed a makeshift jagged knife in her fist, hidden deep in her bag.
The blood in her neck beat heavy and sharp, spiking up to her temples until her head ached.
The gnawing throb in her jaw burnt as she readied herself – and then she spun around, thankful that her voice wasn’t shaking as hard as her body.
‘Are you following me?’
The tails of a dark coat fluttered to a stop – and the relief Miyo felt was dizzying. A woman
stared back at her. Her hands were buried in her pockets, one of them holding a hastily folded newspaper.
They were similarly dressed and could even have been co-workers in their identical
business clothes: smart white shirt and carefully pressed black trousers. Miyo’s mind
scrambled to rationalise that it was entirely possible she and the woman worked in the same
area and were simply both headed to work on the same route.
That she wasn’t being followed at all and their paths had crossed by pure coincidence.
She could have rationalised everything if the woman hadn’t been looking at her like that. Like
they weren’t strangers at all.
She looked at her the way Miyo imagined pining friends would chance glances at each other when their backs were turned. Like they had settled into a domesticity reserved for married couples: cooking together in a too-small kitchen where their elbows couldn’t help but touch, coming home to each other’s quiet company, binging late-night films and falling asleep on the couch to wake up underneath a tenderly spread blanket. Until one day the realisation that they shared an intimacy deeper than friendship forced them to either come closer together, or drive them apart in unspoken tension.
The familiarity in the woman’s gaze unnerved her.
‘Do I know you?’ Miyo’s voice wavered.
The woman's smile was luminous. ‘We haven’t met before. I’m Shreya.’
Shreya liked to think of the universe as a puppet master.
She, like everyone else in the world, was just another puppet dancing on a system of complex, interconnected strings hoping that sooner or later the hands that controlled the strings would pull her and Miyo closer together.
Every tug on her string was deliberate and predetermined by the lordly powers-that-be and she followed them accordingly. How could she not? They were tethered to her limbs in unbreakable knots.
And now – it was really her.
At first this enlightenment had frightened her. It wasn’t all romance to know her fate.
It was actually rather hindering.
It had made her so wary of every movement that it had scared her into inaction, scared to put her foot down on her next step in case she walked wrong. A few centimetres off the path today would be a few metres within weeks. Or worse, she would have veered off her path so badly that her fate would never intertwine with Miyo’s on this specific street at this specific time.
She looked back on her naivety with fondness.
Shreya now understood that whatever she did, it was never a mistake. What she previously thought of as a stumble was an intentional dip in the ground.
There was – there is – a singular path that her foot would come down on, unfailingly, time and time again as she walked towards her destiny.
And now here she was, suddenly, in startling clarity. The path that seemed so random had guided her all the way to a meeting she had waited a lifetime for.
Yet – somehow in the moment she was fucking it all up.
Predetermination had given her the privilege to know that she would meet her lifelong partner during her morning commute today.
They would talk for four minutes before Miyo carried on. The next time she would see her would be in the evening at the same coffee shop that they both liked to frequent.
Completely by chance for Miyo and unavoidable for Shreya.
She knew so much about Miyo that a life without her felt wrong, like a pair of outdated glasses that made the world around her all blurry, letters on the street signs disappearing into a haze and buildings becoming indiscrete walls of brick and glass.
Everything blurry, except her.
Miyo was always in startling focus, like a filmmaker had trained their camera on her and only
Shreya knew that they’d have a long life together, living in an overpriced apartment. A cat from the local shelter would have her taking antihistamines every day, but she didn’t mind because it made Miyo light up when it curled up next to her on the couch in a ginger bundle.
Silly intimate moments shared in secret until one day they would look at each other’s grey hairs and smile lines and realise that decades had gone by since their first encounter.
Shreya had forgotten, amidst her excitement, that Miyo would be suspicious of her.
Her next words – ‘This is going to sound absolutely insane, but we were meant to meet here,’ certainly didn’t help.
Miyo laughed uncomfortably, because what else could you possibly say to a
stranger on the street who proclaimed out of nowhere that you were destined for each other?
‘I think you have me mistaken for someone else.’
She turned to go and suddenly Shreya was struck with a fear that she would lose her right here, despite the path she’d seen for both of them.
‘Wait – please. I promise I’m not crazy. I can just –’ Shreya scrambled for the right words to
describe the way she just knew what would happen because, the universe was determined and there was only ever one possible outcome, before finishing lamely, ‘- I can see the future.’
Miyo’s face morphed into something akin to pity and disbelief.
‘Sure. I’m late for work. Have a nice day.’
It was at times like this that Shreya damned her incessant practicality. Always looking for evidence instead of just feeling that, well, they had to be more than passers-by.
If Miyo wanted evidence, she could give her some.
‘Your parents – they’re retiring right? What if I told you that they’d call today and tell you they
were moving back to Japan in a month. Or at work your boss is going to tell you you’re being
promoted and you’ll celebrate by ordering takeout for lunch and charging it to the company
card.’ Minor details about her day that Shreya was sure would come to pass. ‘There’s so much more I can tell you if you want to know.’
Shreya knew Miyo was hesitating, curiosity getting the better of her.
She watched her weigh up the insanity of it all with the chance that Shreya was telling the truth.
‘Only if you’re right about all this. If my parents really do call and I get promoted, I’ll come talk to you.’
And in her mind’s eye, Shreya imagined two strings of fate crossing over each other and
interlacing gracefully like lovers’ fingers.
‘I’ll be there.’
Miyo gave her a tentative half-nod and turned to go before she realised.
‘You didn’t say where!’
Shreya’s grin was radiant as she called after her.
‘Leave it to fate!’
About the author:
Grace is a London-based philosophy and film enthusiast, as well as having scientific interests in physics. She is a volunteer at besea.n , advocating for positive ESEA representation in the media, and enjoys working with youth science journals in her spare time.