The streets leading up to the river were dry and dusty, but that was because of the construction that was always happening on the outskirts of the boy’s small town. The town was always plagued by the noise of the construction machines performing their construction tasks, but that was because there was never a winter for the machines to take a break; it never got cold enough for snow, and so nothing stopped the machines from continuing on with their endless work of constructing the town. Despite there being no winter in the boy’s town, there were windy days — fantastically windy days that fascinated the boy.
“I wish I were a cloud,” the boy confessed to the girl as a gust of wind blew past, deafening the noise of the construction machines behind them. The girl, who was walking along the street with the boy, looked at him with bright eyes, selfless eyes, the kind of eyes that inherently asked, “Why? Please explain so I can understand.” She was nothing perfect to the boy. She was short, skinny, had long dark hair with ambitions to cut it short, and lived strictly to the laws of her timepiece; however, she made time for him, which meant she was everything perfect to the boy.
The townspeople obeyed their timepieces, and seldom did they make time for anyone else. They followed along the current of this town, all of them, ever flowing in, never changing, a current they could not see or feel — the boy simply swam against it, and the girl followed him, and the boy loved her for this.
“If I were a cloud, I would catch the next wind out of this town.” Another burst of wind spun around the boy and girl, condescendingly. They finally reached the river.
The town was close enough to an ocean for it to be called a seaside settlement but was far enough that the river cutting through the town flowed into the continent and not out to sea. The boy and girl stood by the river and watched their disfigured reflections in the slow moving water.
“Y-you look nice today,” the boy said awkwardly as he peered into the eyes of the girl’s reflection. The girl didn’t reply.
They made their way to a bridge not too far from where they were standing. The walk was as awkward as the boy’s compliment. Another gale of air pushed past them as they stopped in the middle of the bridge. It was quiet right after: no construction noise, no wind blowing, no words said. The sound of the rushing water beneath them was the only thing the boy and girl could hear as they looked to the horizon where the river entered from.
The boy broke the near-silence.
“Listen, you’ve followed me, even though I ran against time itself,” said the boy as he faced the girl. He continued, “I’ve grown… fond of you.” The last three words trailed with what could easily be taken for as courage, but it was regret — he knew it was regret. The girl didn’t break her stare towards the horizon; the boy looked down to his feet.
“I’m sorry,” said the girl, “but I can’t.”
“Oh.” He gulped, and something dropped into the pit of his stomach.
“Don’t be.” The boy hated apologies more than anything in the world — he hated hearing them and he hated saying them. He didn’t hate the girl; he just hated how vulnerable he felt. He hated every word he said, but what he hated the most was how awful the girl must have felt when he said those words: “I’ve grown… fond of you.” Yes, it was definitely regret.
A sharp, cold gale swept over the bridge. The girl continued to look out to the horizon, her hair blowing in the wind, while the boy looked up towards the sky and saw an unbelievable sight: a snowflake.
The boy whispered to himself, “I wish I were a cloud,” and this was the last piece of his vulnerability he gave up before the two followed the river’s current back to town, back to the cacophony of construction machines, and back to their timepieces, respectively.