Hazel Dummond was from a small town in Vermont. Unlike usual tales, Hazel was a girl in the middle of the school hierarchy. She neither hung with the high and mighty nor with the invisible introverts. Hazel participated in a little of everything; she was a cheer leader for 3 years, tried chess club for one semester, and remained in the book club, the welcome committee and honor roll. But there was one thing, or should I say person, that she had committed to for 8 long years…her pen pal Kenzie.
Kenzie Elliot was on the other side of the world; Glasgow, Scotland. When both girls were 10 years old, they had filled out a form in a magazine to find friends from different parts of the world. Based on their compatibility and hobbies, like their love of poetry; their addresses were then exchanged. And since then they've continued to write back and forth, twice each month.
Both girls now attended college and had finished their first semester of their freshman year. This was the time they had waited all their lives as they had promised, for years, to finally see each other. Hazel would be the one to travel in the winter break. Not having much traveling experience, this was definitely the biggest trip she would ever make in her lifetime.
Nerves were escalating on both ends. They knew each other better than anyone else but no matter how many letters, pictures or video conversations…nothing compared to meeting in person for the first time. Hazel booked close to a two week trip to stay with her friend, and while she was an only child, Kenzie had four younger siblings. Culture shock was the least of Hazel's worries.
One of the things on Hazel's to do list was to sit in on Kenzie's poetry club gathering, called Thought Exchange. Hazel was very familiar with the members according to the descriptions shared in her friend's letters. She couldn't wait to copy paste the faces and places of everything mentioned and familiar.
Once the girls finally met, their emotions overwhelmed them, as they couldn't stop leaping in excitement.
"Ah cannae believe yoo're haur!" Kenzie said repeatedly.
Followed by Hazel's response, "I know me neither!"
They had so much to do. Kenzie wanted to take her to every favorite spot she could remember. Needless to say the next couple of days would be nonstop for the two, not to mention the accent adjustment.
On Friday, both girls were ready and heading towards the café where the poet's club met. Hazel knew there were about a dozen off them, including the English major who led their meetings. At first Hazel was thrown off by the barn-like outward appearance but once she came inside and saw the rustic furniture and dim lighting, it took her only a matter of seconds to warm up to the place.
Their little nook was all set up, chairs in a semi-circle and two centered with a microphone stand. They found a couple of friends waiting there, anticipating their guest's arrival.
"We're sae glad ye coods visit us!" said one of the gentlemen shaking Hazel's hand.
"I absolutely love it here!" Hazel expressed.
"Dae ye loch it mair than America?"
"I do, very much. I'm still trying to get used to your dialect though."
"Och weel gie it some time." he finished.
Just then the other half of the group, including their mentor, had walked in and settled into their seats. He sat in the one facing them and looked for a book in his back pack. Brayan McGregor was twentyone and a semester shy from graduating with a Bachelor's in English Literature. Already practicing his ambitions of being an English Professor, he enjoyed teaching this small group hoping to further their passion of poetry. Too focused on starting their meeting, he hadn't noticed the unfamiliar face in his audience.
"Yoo're assignment was to share a poem ye felt was most toochin' for ye. Ah chose A Fond Kiss by Rabbie Burns...
A fond kiss, and then we sever;
A farewell, and then forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.
I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Nothing could resist my Nancy;
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love forever.
Had we never lov'd say kindly,
Had we never lov'd say blindly,
Never met-or never parted-
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
Fare thee well, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee well, thou best and dearest!
Thine be like a joy and treasure,
Peace. enjoyment, love, and pleasure!
A fond kiss, and then we sever;
A farewell, alas, forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee!"
Brayan had been so intent on finishing that when he finally looked up his breath had lost its way momentarily. A sudden feeling of nakedness overcame him as he had just recited in front of a stranger. Then the news that was shared with him last week came to mind… Kenzie's friend had come to visit after all.
"Ye must be Hazel, whit did ye think aboot th'poem?"
Hazel was at lost for words. She had heard them but couldn't get over the person who had just spoken them. This dark haired man with the deepest bluest eyes she had ever seen, had captivated her attention in more ways than she could fathom.
"I thought it…it was very romantic yet sad. I felt his sorrow from the departure of his lady. He expressed every weight that emotions tend to carry when enduring a separation." Hazel replied.
The rest of the hour was followed by an open discussion on the rest of the selections. Hazel was immediately plotting how she could live in such a foreign place, a place that she could easily become attached too. And the thought of hearing Brayan speak every Friday didn't hurt either. Kenzie soon picked up on her friend's distraction and nudged her when she became too obvious.
"Just tell me now. He has a girlfriend doesn't he?" Hazel sighed.
"Actually he jist broke up wi' 'er a coople ay months ago." Kenzie whispered back.
Hazel understood then why the choice of his poem. Meanwhile, with his heart still a bit tender yet well enough to feel the drawing of this new girl, Brayan did his best not to look her way too often. Compelled to draw nigh and simply listen to her American accent for the rest of the night. The meeting was soon coming to a close and all but one person had shared a poem.
"Hazel…Is there a poem ye can think of yoo'd like to share with us?" Another member asked.
"…If thou must love me, let it be for naught except for love's sake only. Do not say 'I love her for her smile -her look -her way of speaking gently -for a trick of thought That falls in well with mine, and certes brought a sense of pleasant ease on such a day' - For these things in themselves, Beloved, may be changed, or change for thee, -and love, so wrought, may be unwrought so. Neither love me for Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry - A creature might forget to weep, who bore Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby! But love me for love's sake, that evermore Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity." Hazel recounted by heart.
"By Mrs. Elizabeth Barret Browning… lovely." Brayan choked.
While everyone else had nothing but friendly and welcoming glances towards their new friend, Brayan was having a hard time making out his own first impression of her. And after she shared such a stunning poem he couldn't be more stricken with intrigue. Undoubtedly there are times when all it takes is that first glance to realize one another's affections, but then there are also those rare occasions where the person's affections aren't so obvious.
Truth be told, both Hazel and Brayan experienced an uneasiness and insatiable curiosity about one another, unfortunately that night nothing would be resolved. As the girls were on their way to Kenzie's house, Hazel could do nothing more than to replay the poem that Brayan had read admirably well. It was to be expected but it wasn't predicted that she would find someone.
A week had passed; Hazel and Kenzie's friendship had now grown stronger. All they could do was ignore Father Time and enjoy all the time they had left; even if that was teaching Hazel to speak with a Scottish accent. But there was definitely something that Hazel needed to say, she couldn't bite her tongue any longer.
"I wish I could see Brayan again before I went back."
"Dae ye loch heem 'at much?"
"There was just something about the way he read that poem…" Hazel said recapturing the moment.
"Ah can call heem?"
"What would you say? I'm just going to seem too forward."
"But ye loch heem."
"No. It doesn't matter, I'm leaving soon anyway."
Kenzie wasn't about to let it go. When her friend wasn't around she quickly made the call and managed to find a diversion to get Brayan to come by her house.
Later that afternoon Kenzie said she had to make a run to the store to get some milk for her little brother and left the house. Minutes later Hazel heard a knock at the door, Kenzie's mom asked if she could get that for her.
"Awrite." Brayan spoke.
"What?" Hazel didn't know what that meant.
"Oh, right. Hello. Uhh, Kenzie just left for the store. But she should be back in a couple of minutes."
"Actually, am here tae see ye. Kenzie said ye needed help wi' some writtin'?" Brayan told her.
"Fancy some coffee? Ah ken a place nearby."
"Aye." Hazel answered smiling.
"Is 'at a wee Scottish accent Ah hear?" Brayan smiled back instantly.
"I can't help it, it rubs off. Let me grab my coat real quick."
Shortly after, they were in Brayan's car and headed towards a deli café. After getting their drinks at the coffee bar they approached a couple of soft chairs to recline in.
"Ah know only a wee a-bout ye." Brayan said slowly trying to articulate better his words.
"You know your accent isn't as aggressive as others, or even Kenzies'." Hazel pointed out.
"Mah uncle is a professur at Oxford. he insists oan me practicin' better English if Ah want tae go tae America."
"Oh really, you plan on going to the states? Where do you want to go?"
"Aam fascinated wi' New York. But it willnae ever happen... Aam afraid ay flyin'."
"Oh no. I mean I haven't flown much either aside from this and a smaller trip with my parents, but it's actually pretty nice and safe."
"Ah cannae explain."
"What time is it?"
"What do you do for fun at night around here?" Hazel asked hoping to further her plans with the lad.
"Weel…" He smiled more. "We hae a coople ay pubs." He raised his shoulders not knowing if she would be interested.
Hazel looked down at her clothes, very simple. "Is this alright?" She said indicating her attire.
"Wheesht, we're gonnae!"
"Okay except I didn't understand that first part."
"Basically…be quiet." He laughed.
Slowly but surely they carried on their conversation. They went from pub to pub walking the night streets and falling a little deeper, until it was too late for a gentleman to keep a lady out any longer. Brayan drove Hazel back to her friend's house. Hesitation lingered, unwilling to embrace the cold weather from their comfy corners.
Hazel didn't want this to be the end. She most likely wouldn't get to see him again for her flight left on Thursday, just three days away.
"So yoo're leavin' in coople ay days… Ye sure?"
Hazel wasn't sure what he was insinuating. Or at least she hoped he didn't like the idea of her leaving. She merely nodded and kept her hands in her coat pockets.
"I'm sorry I'm going to miss your next meeting. I really enjoyed that."
Brayan looked at her, tilting his head wanting to throw her a compliment but at the same time not wanting to complicate things.
"Ah had a blast! Ah see why ye an' Kenzie are good friends."
"Yeah. Well thanks for showing me around town a wee bit." Hazel smiled and was about to open the door.
"Lit me gie 'at!" Brayan said briskly running out and around his car.
Hazel waited as he opened the car and politely escorted her to the front door.
"Why do you say that?" Hazel asked suspiciously.
"Naethin' Ah jist have a soft spot for...nevermin'."
Only Hazel saw the tones in Brayan's face change, although he suspected it as well. He didn't want to leave but them just standing there running out of words to say wasn't the best plan.
"Ye shoods try an' keep in tooch, Ah wouldn't min' a 'pen pal'." He smiled.
"Only if ye promise to write in proper English." Hazel laughed.
"Ah can. Ye stop teasin' me!"
The fireworks of attraction couldn't be louder or brighter, and with that Hazel knew when it was time for the girl to take over and make the first move, although Brayan had already claimed to want to further there communication. She almost took a step forward but swayed right back, feeling more nervous than excited at that instant.
"Okay, Ah guess I'll lit ye gie inside."
"Oh right. Yeah it's pretty late…So keep in touch?"
"Och aye, dae ye have a number?"
"Yes that seems easier doesn't it?" Hazel gave him her number thankful the delay continued.
"I hate this…" She mumbled unaware.
"Hate whit?" He repeated.
"Ye talkin' tae yeself?" He grinned.
Hazel felt the need to leave before she made a fool of herself but the night didn't feel over according to her. Any other spectator would admit to them looking like a couple of idiots, but they just couldn't get to where they wanted.
They finally said good bye and began to walk their separate directions. Hazel was already feeling the weight of regret. But while she was walking with that load inside the house, Brayan was texting her good night on her phone so that she could have his number.
Once she received the message she looked out the window and saw that his car lights had just turned on. Not having removed her coat yet she charged outside and ran around the back of the car, just in case. She tapped on his window just before he could step on the gas. He hadn't a clue what she wanted but couldn't help be glad to see her again. She pointed at his car lock.
He opened the door carefully as to not hit her, while she tugged on her fingers mustering up the guts needed. He stepped out now more curious waiting for her to nervously speak. He wanted to ask her if she was alright. But now her actions would be too aggressive if she was to simply GO for it. Fearing she would back down, that's exactly what she did; except she didn't have a plan b to cover up.
Feeling rather foolish she said "I forgot what I was going to say…I'm sorry." She chuckled as if she was typically this unpredictable. But it was too late; he was going to kiss her instead. She turned to casually head back towards the house when…
"Hazel." He called her.
When she turned around feeling caught, she was indeed; her chin in his grasp and his warm lips pressing her cold ones. And there in the midst of the cold night there was another warm corner. She stood on her tippy toes to reach closer and slide her arms around his neck. His hands drifted from her face to her waist where he held on to her. For the first time he felt like he could conquer the fear of flight but only for a moment.
They simultaneously thought how funny it was that you could spend a whole evening trying to understand someone's words but when it came to the kiss…it was a universal language. They didn't want to let go, for that meant a confusing goodbye. Neither one wanted to deal with the repercussions. But they didn't want to leave things as is either.
Hazel forced herself off, as though she had split in two. Her eyes read of sorrow to have to part from him.
"Ye have three mair days reit?"
Hazel nodded sadly.
"Ah will see ye again...Ah promise." He said holding her arms.
"Okay okay. I hope to. Goodnight…finally!" She giggled.
"Ye make me smile… Aam gonnae make ye miss 'at plane."
"Hah, I'd like to see ye try." She mocked him and continued for the door.
She heard a commotion and turned around to see Brayan only a few feet away. Even though she was in the middle of teasing him she received him with open arms in another yet stronger kiss. It was like burst of sudden energy.
"Ye know th' problem wi' poets?" He waited for her reaction "We dae stoopid things for loove… so Hazel dornt go."
"You want to be stupid together?"
It was inevitable, her return back to her normal hometown. No more unreadable accents, no more Kenzie or Brayan. The last day was just as worse for the both of them, having started a path of feelings that neither one could finish together. As much he dreamed of America it was doubtful he would ever get to travel there. And the thought of how long it would take Hazel to raise up the money to fly back to Glasgow wasn't going to be anytime soon.