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Love on Wheels, Part 3

Since Christmas that year, Tristan and Victoria saw each other almost every single day. They would cycle and explore the neighbourhoods together. They would walk endless paths together and get lost in the forest. Tristan would help Victoria with her studies at the veranda. They would make chocolate together in the kitchen. They would laugh and share secrets together by the quiet balconies.

Some days, when there was nothing much to do at all, they would just spend time quietly together, with each other, under the shady oak trees. Or they would go to the jetty and enjoy the sea breeze together as well as to watch the boats that came floating by, carrying with them their dreams.

Tristan would tell Victoria how much he had hoped to be reporter working for a newspaper in the future. He wanted to see the world and tell people everywhere about it. He was all excited about this career prospects.

Victoria said she just simply wanted to stay home and help her father with the chocolate business. She said she would just be at home and wait for Tristan while he toured the world.

In the following years, Tristan wrote many poems and short stories for Victoria to read. She enjoyed every piece that was written and clearly saw the talent in Tristan. She encouraged Tristan to go abroad.

September 1912. Tristan’s father had arranged for him to go to England to further his studies. The whole household was extremely delighted with this arrangement for Tristan certainly showed a promising spark for his future. Everyone was happy for Tristan, especially the elders, but Tristan and Victoria were grieved to part each other. It would be the first time that Tristan was going to leave Victoria and go to a foreign place so far away from home.

On a quiet evening, the night before Tristan left for England, the young couple sneaked away in their bicycles and came to their favourite meeting place — the jetty. It was this jetty that had shared with them, their many quiet evenings and sweet promises together.

Tonight, there were not many people around at the jetty. Two men were fishing and an old couple were standing nearby watching and holding hands. Another couple came strolling by with their two little kids hopping merrily around them. It was a peaceful scene. With the sun setting beyond the horizon, it was certainly a picturesque sight.

Tristan placed his arms around Victoria as she rested her head against his shoulder. They were sitting on a few wooden planks and looking out into the sea. Everything was about serenity, but their hearts were filled with unease.

A few moments passed, neither said a word to each other. Perhaps, the mere presence of each other was comforting enough. Tristan took a deep breath and hugged Victoria tighter in his arms.

“What?,” whispered Victoria gently into his ear.

“Nothing,” Tristan gave a short laugh and kept quiet again. After a while he said, “Don’t move, I just want to hold you longer. I like it like this.”

“Tristan…”

“What?”

“How long is two years?”

“Very long I think,” Tristan gave a sigh and looked at Victoria in the eyes. “But it’ll pass, very soon. Trust me. I’ll surely come back. This is my home remember? And there is… you.”

Victoria went back to her silence. She had wanted Tristan to do well abroad. Now that the time had come for them to part, she felt it was difficult to let him go. It was like the past sixteen years with him had never been enough. Not even a lifetime with him would satisfy their love for each other. She felt tears swelling at her eyes and quickly buried her face in Tristan’s embrace.

“Hey, I love you,” came the soft comfort from Tristan.

“But I’m so scared. I don’t want to be alone without you,” cried Victoria.

“Remember you said you’d wait for me? I’ll write letters to you, everyday, I promise.” Tristan was finding it hard to conceal his sadness as well.

Soon, they were engulfed in silence again. Only the soft chatter from the people fishing and the waves of the sea could be heard. After some time, Tristan spoke again.

“Vicky, will you marry me?,” came his dreamy voice, almost hoarse with emotions.

Victoria sat up, not believing her ears. “What? Marry? But I’m still so young.”

Tristan brought Victoria back into his bosom again and said, “Yes, I know. But it doesn’t matter when. It’s a promise that you will, some day. To me, it only matters now.”

Victoria looked hard at Tristan and then softened into a smile, “Yes I will. Tristan, I will.”

The happy couple felt a comforting sense of relief over them, like a new hope had been given to them.

“Vicky, one day I’ll surely marry you. Trust me.”

They kissed and that night, the constellation was the witness of their love. They spent a very long time at the jetty, both unwanting to leave. Finally, they fell asleep in each other’s arms. The next morning, before Tristan was leaving for his train to get to the city port to catch his steamer, he went out and bought Victoria a silver wedding band as a token of his love for her. At the station, he put it on her finger for her and she was touched with tears. In exchange, she gave him her favourite silver locket. It had her picture in it, so he would never forget her.

They kissed, standing on the platform, with the crowds passing around them. Then they parted. For the moment, for two years, but in fact, it was like a parting of a lifetime. It was a cruel fate playing upon their love, but they never knew.

©1998 Jessica Yeow