A Hazy Shade of Winter - One Shot

                    The snow falling and the sun setting made Mullingar look picturesque and beautiful. The sky was painted with an array of reds and oranges, a fireball almost. The shops were filled with people, bouncing about from one store to another, trying to get some last minute Christmas gifts. Children all had smiles on their faces, a twinkle in their eye and a bright aura around them. Some children even kicked around snow, earning them a hard look from their parents.

                    Nayeli giggled and hugged herself, wrapping the jacket tighter around her. Her snow boots made a crunch sound as she maneuvered through the thick crowds. She, herself, was doing some last minute Christmas shopping, trying to find the perfect gift for her grandparents. Nayeli sighed in despair as she realized she was lost once again. This was only her first time around Ireland. Though she was born and raised Mullingar, her parents moved her to the States when she was 10. Due to recent events and a tragic accident, her grandparents forced her to move back at the age of 18. In all honesty, she couldn't remember life in Ireland, for she was extremely happy in New Jersey.

                     Trudging along the sidewalks, Nayeli entered a random shop in hopes to get warm. She pulled off her pink beanie, letting her light brown hair fall just above her shoulders. She sighed again and looked around, noticing that she was currently in an antique shop. It was crowded, the shelves filled with intricate and minuscule items. Nayeli let her eyes trail over every object, amazed at all the wonderfully vintage things. It gave her a sense of familiarity, remembering how her parents once ran an antique shop of their own back in New Jersey. One of the things she fully remembered.

                    She walked further into the shop, her boots leaving a slight water trail. Nayeli had arrived at the back of the store now, still admiring everything and gently running a finger on the abnormal bits and pieces she spotted. That was when she abruptly stopped in front of a jewelry stand. A single bracelet, adorned with a silver dove charm, had caught her eye. Her hand instinctively flew to her neck, a necklace of the same variety hung loosely and she gently caressed the very same dove. She cocked her head to the side, a look of bewilderment plastered on her face.

                    It was the same exact necklace with the charm and silver plaited chain, only the one on display was of course a bracelet. Nayeli couldn't fathom, for the life of her, where the necklace came from. All she could remember was having it in New Jersey and never once taking it off. She shook off that unknown feeling and quickly left the store.

                    Outside, the winds had picked up and the snow began to fall harder. Nayeli put the beanie back on her head and started walking into the distance, not really knowing where she was going. She turned a corner, looking down at the snow and bumped into someone. Hard. Nayeli almost went tumbling to the floor but an arm had wrapped around her waist and saved her from the snow bath she could have received.

                    Her eyes were closed, so she didn't see her savior until he spoke up.

                    "Nayeli?" the boy questioned, his smooth, Irish accent sending shivers down her spine.

                    Nayeli opened her eyes, her brown orbs connecting with a pair of baby blue ones. She gasped in surprise, mesmerized by the ocean like orbs.

                    "Uhm... Oh, hi," she sputtered, blinking feverishly. A look of confusion crossed her face as the stranger smiled widely.

                    "Nayeli, it's good to see you." The stranger enveloped her in a tight hug but that was when she started freaking out. She wriggled out of his grasped and put a few spaces between them. "Nayeli...," he started but all she did was shake her head.

                    "I'm terribly sorry," Nayeli whispered, looking down at her feet. "But thank you. I have to go now." She walked past the blonde stranger, her shoulder accidently brushing against his, before she was halted in her tracks. The stranger wrapped a hand around Nayeli’s wrist, causing her to turn back. The boy looked confused and afraid, Nayeli gathered, but she, herself, was just as afraid. A look of fear crossed her eyes as he took a step forward and looked at her necklace.

                     “You still have it,” he breathed out. “I can’t believe you still have it.” The stranger took another step forward causing Nayeli to take a step back. He held a certain familiarity that was brought on by his eyes which were then covered up by hurt as she started increasing the space between them. Nayeli was now terrified of the stranger. A beautiful man he was but a stranger nonetheless.

                    She turned around and took off running, scared of what had just happened but also scared at the fact that her heart was racing a million beats per minute and not because he was only some stranger. There was something more hidden beneath their awkward conversation –if Nayeli could call it that – that made her weak at the knees.  She didn’t know what it was nor could she remember ever seeing him part from today and that simple thought just gave her a headache.

                     As she was running, Nayeli swore she heard a faint “wait” coming from behind her, but she didn’t wait and she didn’t stop. She just kept on running, completely forgetting that she was shopping for her grandparents, and didn’t stop until she was sure she was nowhere near the shopping center.

                     Leaning against a lamppost, Nayeli took two deep breaths and looked around.  She was a couple block away from her grandparent’s house now. She didn’t realize she ran that much, considering she was practically lost. Nayeli walked at a tremendously slow pace towards the house now, catching her breath in the process.  Her face was red and puffy and her eyes felt watery and heavy. She was ready for a nap, a nap that will hopefully let her forget about the eventful day that she just had.

                    Nayeli made it home five minutes later to the smell of apple cinnamon. Her grandmother was in the kitchen, no doubt, cooking her head off. Nayeli took off her boots and coat and placed them by the front door. She walked through the foyer and living room and went into the kitchen to see her grandmother placing a pie on the counter.

                     “Smells delicious, mama,” Nayeli told her, leaning in to kiss her grandmother’s wrinkled cheek. Even for an almost 60 something woman, Grandma Betty still had the twinkle in her eye and a certain bounce to her step. 

                    “Thank goodness you’re home, dear,” Grandma Betty expressed, patting Nayeli’s cheek. “There’s a snowstorm that just bound to happen at any minute.”  She went into the fridge and cupboards pulling out all sorts of ingredients. “I’m about ready to make some dinner for your grandfather. Would you like anything special made?”

                     “No, thanks, mama,” Nayeli gingerly shook her head. “I’m going to go take a nap.  Today really wore me out.” Nayeli kissed her grandmother’s cheek once again and made her way up the stairs and into the room. She didn’t think about anything except how good it would feel to take a nice long nap. Once she was in her room, Nayeli jumped into her bed with a soft thud and immediately felt her eyes droop in exhaustion. The last thing she remembered, as she drifted off into a deep sleep, were a pair of brilliant bright blue eyes staring down at her.

----------

                    “Nayeli, Nayeli wake up,” a voice whispered into Nayeli’s ear, gently shaking her in the process. Her eyes fluttered open and she was met with her grandmother’s worried face.

                    “Mama, what’s wrong?” Nayeli wondered, sitting up.

                    "Oh, thank goodness," her grandmother sighed in relief, placing a hand over her heart in the process.

                    "What's the matter?"

                    "You've been asleep for awhile, dear. I just thought..." Grandma Betty voice trailed off, as she looked anywhere but Nayeli.

                    Nayeli's face softened as she leaned in to hug her grandmother. "The doctor said I was fine. There's no need to worry, mama."

                    Her grandmother smiled and nodded, getting up from the bed. "I'm going to make dinner and tomorrow is Christmas Day," she reminded Nayeli, bouncing on the balls of feet. Grandma Betty scurried out of the room causing Nayeli to giggle.

                    Downstairs, Grandma Betty was looking through the cupboards when the doorbell rang. She looked towards the door, unsure of who would be out at this time and in this weather. Grandma Betty held a surprised look when she opened the door.

                    "Niall," she squealed, almost sounding like a teenager again.  "Come in."

                    Niall held a sincere smile as he walked into the house. His blonde hair was plastered to his forehead, wet from the falling snow and his blue eyes didn't hold the same spark as they once used to.

                    "Let me get you so hot chocolate dear." Grandma Betty rushed into the kitchen, leaving Niall to follow behind. He stopped in the living room, taking off his coat just as he sat on the couch. Niall looked around, taking in the familiar surroundings. He remembered coming here almost every day when he was a child. He loved coming over and admire all the bizarre paintings hanging on the walls, the walls were painted with the same cream color Niall helped chose for them. Back then, this was Niall's second home but now, though everything was familiar, it felt like he was stepping on foreign territory.

                    "I'm guessing you already know she's back." Grandma Betty handed Niall the mug of steaming hot chocolate and Niall was immediately grateful for the warmth transferring from the cup to his freezing hands.

                    Niall nodded at her statement, taking small sips of the hot chocolate. The hot liquid scathed his mouth and burned his throat but it still warmed up his body.

                    Grandma Betty sighed, almost sounding on despair. "I'm sorry, Niall, but she won't remember you."

                    "What happened?" Niall begged, placing the mug on the small table in front of him.

                    "She doesn't remember anything from her childhood." her tone sent a chill down Niall's spine. Her grave voice was all she needed to let Niall know that something bad had happened.

                    "Tell me," he whispered, grabbing a hold of the old woman's hand. Grandma Betty sighed and sat on the love seat next to Niall.

                    She gently patted his hand before looking up at him. "About two months ago, Nayeli's parents were in a dreadful car accident. Nayeli and her little brother were in the back seat when her dad, Ben, swerved off the road. It was a tight space, the road, and a drunk driver was speeding on a winding road on a mountain. Ben, he...." Grandma Betty trailed off for the second time that day. Tears started forming in her eyes as she thought about her late son. “Ben and Anne didn't deserve to leave this Earth. And Tommy. Poor, poor Tommy. He was only ten and now...”

                    "I'm terribly sorry," Niall gasped, noticing the tears streaming down the woman's face.

                    Grandma Betty shook her head. "They went off the road. It's a miracle that Nayeli came out with only a concussion and a couple of bruises. But that head trauma caused her to forget things. There are holes in her memory and she doesn't even remember having a brother for some strange reason.”

                    Grandma Betty stood up and walked into the kitchen. She wiped her eyes with the hem of her apron and continued cooking dinner. Her voice was hoarse now. "The medics said to not put any strain on her memory. If you force her to remember something, it could just cause her head injury to become worse and possibly slip into a coma."

                    Niall was in the kitchen with her now. "Nayeli doesn't remember me." It was more of a statement than a question but Grandma Betty still nodded.

                    "I'm sorry, Niall, but the girl you knew back then is gone. I think you should go now," she said quickly when she hear shuffling above her.

                    Niall solemnly nodded, gathering his things from the living room and making his way to the front door. This wasn't what he wanted hear. Niall wanted to start right back where he and Nayeli left off. Even though it was many years ago, Niall knew, or thought he knew, that Nayeli was still the girl that left him and Mullingar behind.

                    Niall was snapped out of his reverie when an older man stepped through the front door, covered in snow.

                    "Betty, dear," he wheezed out. "The snow storm is coming towards us and the roads are blocked. There was no way I could get to the market." he shrugged off his coat and shook the excess snow from it.

                    "That's quite alright, Seamus. I can make do with what I have here." Grandma Betty hollered.

                    Grandpa Seamus finally looked up and spotted Niall standing awkwardly near the foyer. Seamus's eyes lit up and a grin formed on his wrinkle face. For an old man, his teeth were still intact and his hair seemed to be as long as Niall's, just whiter. Seamus's once baby blue eyes were now a cloudy gray, but they still held that fire.

                    "Niall," Seamus gleamed, patting his back as he made his way into the living space. "It good to see ya, lad."

                    "You too," Niall mumbled, immediately regretting not being his smiley self.

                    "It looks like you're going to have to spend the night," Seamus mentioned, pointing towards the window. He was quite right. The snow storm was coming toward them and though he lived a couple blocks away, it was still dangerous.

                    "How are you ol' chap? Feels just like yesterday when you were here with little Naye..."

                    "Seamus," Grandma Betty snapped, leaning against the door frame of the kitchen. She had a stern look on her face that made Seamus immediately shut his mouth. He quickly nodded at her and gave Niall an apologetic smile. Seamus knew that Niall had found out about the accident.

                    "I've been alright," Niall said, ignoring Seamus's glance. He settled down on the sofa and stared at his hands.

                    "It's gon' be aright, ma' boy," Seamus said sitting on the sofa beside Niall. "She'll come 'round." Seamus gave Niall hope but he kept his little confrontation with Nayeli earlier today. Now as he was thinking about it, Nayeli was frightened. He had scared her off and now she probably never wanted to see him again let alone speak to him.

                    "I should go," Niall said quickly as he realized he couldn't stay here.  He got up from the sofa but was pushed back down by Seamus.

                    "No, no, no." Grandma Betty came bustling into the living room, handing a cup of tea to Seamus. There was a bang upstairs causing the others to stir. Niall's eyes grew wide as he had a slight hunch about who was upstairs.

                    Nayeli slammed the door to her room trying to accommodate the searing pain in head. She had taken her medication thirty minutes prior but it wasn't helping. She leaned against the wall outside of her room before gaining enough strength to walk downstairs. She was hungry and Nayeli thought that a nice, home cooked meal would help the pain in her head.

                    Once downstairs though, Nayeli stopped dead in her tracks, her headache getting worse. She saw the stranger from the shopping center fitting the sofa next to her grandparents. Her head started throbbing as she thought back to their They all stared at her in wonderment, puzzled as to what she was doing.

                    "Mama," Nayeli whispered, cradling her head in her arms. She sunk to her knees and leaned against the banister of the staircase. Grandma Betty gasped and Nayeli faintly saw the stranger rush to her side.

                    "Niall, get her to the sofa," Seamus said, standing up and Removing the pillows. Niall picked Nayeli up from the floor, placing one arm around the back of her knees and the other one security around get back.

                    Nayeli immediately leaned into him, still holding her head in her hands. Niall gently laid her on the sofa.

                    "We need to get food into her system," Grandma Betty panicked, rushing into the kitchen and coming out moments later with a plate full of spaghetti. "Here Niall, feed her." She shoved the plate of food into Niall's hands and scurried off upstairs.

                    "She's gone off to get her medication." Seamus pointed to Nayeli's limp body on the couch. His voice was gruff, filled with so much emotion that it seemed as if he was going to break sown.

                    "Here, Nayeli," Niall said, gently lifting her up into a sitting position and offering her some food.

                    Nayeli tightly shut her eyes but opened her mouth. She wasn't thinking about anything but the pain and she never realised who was feeding her. If she had any sense, Nayeli would have jumped in fright or screamed. But she didn't do either one of those things. Instead, she let Niall feed her small spoonfuls of her grandmother’s spaghetti.

                    Tears escaped her eyes as the pain became unbearable and she curled up in a ball, ignoring Niall's request to take some more food. Slight buzzing sounds emitted in the back of her mind, on and off, like a bee flying annoyingly around her. It became more frequent and Nayeli suddenly yelled in pain. Niall, who had set the plate down, cradled her in his arms. Nayeli whimpered and moaned as the throbbing in her head didn’t cease. Her vision blurred and when she finally kept going in and out of unconsciousness.

                    In her head, Nayeli saw a white, snowy front lawn decorated with an assortment of Christmas lights. The sun was setting and there was a slight snow storm. She looked around and noticed that she was standing by a window in her grandparent’s living room. The house was decorated with festive decorations and a Christmas tree as well. There were a large handful of people in the house casually making conversation or eating around the dining room. She walked into the kitchen and noticed Grandma Betty taking out a homemade pie from the oven. Nayeli’s smile grew as she ran towards Grandma Betty, her stomach begging for a piece.

                    Nayeli passed a mirror that hung on a wall in the kitchen and noticed that she wasn’t an 18 year old girl anymore. She was now a ten year old dressed in leggings and a very poorly made Christmas sweater. Her hair, which was a bit darker and shorter, was adorned in two pony tails.

                    As she made her way to her grandmother, she was stopped by a woman who looked very similar to Nayeli. They shared the same eyes, same nose, and same hair. Her mother. Nayeli’s smile grew wider as she hugged her mother tightly.

                     “Mama made pie!” the girl squealed. Nayeli’s mother laughed and nodded.

                     “But there’s someone waiting for you right now,” her mother told Nayeli, dragging her into the living room.

                    The room was now filled with many people but Nayeli immediately spotted that one boy who she always seemed to find in a crowded room. She jumped for joy and ran towards the blonde haired kid. She hugged him as tightly as she could until he stepped back from Nayeli, her small arms unwrapping from around his waist.

                    "I have something for you," Niall said hesitantly. His boyish hands dug into his pockets and produced a silver necklace. The silver dove hung by the silver chain, slightly swinging back and forth.

                    Nayeli's eyes lit up in astonishment, reaching out to grab the glittering piece of jewelry. Niall retracted his hand.

                    "Turn around," he stated and Nayeli did so, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Niall gracefully, or as gracefully as he could for an eleven year old, placed the necklace at the base of her neck, clasping it closed.

                    Nayeli admired her new necklace, playing with the charm between her fingers. "It's pretty," she sighed, smiling up at Niall. There was a tint of redness forming on his cheeks causing Nayeli to giggle between her petite hands. She took small timid steps towards Niall and on her tip-toes; Nayeli placed a delicate kiss on Niall's cheek. He grinned wide, looking down at her. That was when he got an idea.

                    Gently, yet awkwardly, Niall slowly leaned down. Nayeli's eyes grew wide and she looked around the room. She looked at Niall, his lips puckered and his eyes tightly shut. Nayeli took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She has seen plenty of movies with couples kissing and her parents did it constantly. Nayeli could handle this.

                    She leaned in as well and their lips connected in an awkward but gentle peck. They pulled back almost immediately, both of their faces red as tomatoes as they realised a crowed formed around them. Their hearts were racing and smiles played on their lips.

                    "My baby just had her first kiss!" Nayeli heard her mom yell somewhere in the crowd.

                    Nayeli looked up at Niall who had outstretched his hand. She took it and hugged him tightly. There was still a slight awkwardness but it would eventually fade. They've been best friends since they were in diapers and them being each other’s first kiss was just another thing they shared.

                    "Happy Christmas, Nayeli," Niall mumbled. Nayeli was happy even for a ten year old.

----------

                    "She's coming around."

                    "Oh, thank goodness."

                    Nayeli moaned, rubbing her head in the process.

                    "How are you feeling, dear?" Grandma Betty fussed, fixing the pillow Nayeli's head was currently resting on.

                    "Like I got hit in the head with a truck a billion times," Nayeli mumbled, slightly sitting up. She heard a snicker coming from the other end of the couch. Nayeli looked up to see the stranger from the shopping centre. She scooted away from him, almost at the edge of the couch now, causing a slight frown to settle on his lips.

                    “Take these,” Grandma Betty ordered, shoving two pills into Nayeli’s hand along with a glass of water. Nayeli immediately took the two tablets and swallowed them with a small amount of water. The whole time, she felt the stranger’s eyes on her, staring at her with a deep sadness. “Niall, take this to the sink, would you?” Grandma Betty asked, tenderly handing Niall the plate of half eaten spaghetti. Nayeli’s eyes grew wide and she started choking on the water. Her grandmother roughly patted her on the back until she was fine.

                    Niall, Niall, Niall. The name kept repeating in Nayeli’s head, a mantra of sorts, over and over again. Niall. That was when she was taken back to her dream. Two little kids who looked almost exactly as them at a party that was held in a house like her grandparents. It was a weird dream, Nayeli couldn’t doubt it but it didn’t stop her from whispering Niall’s name.

                    His head whipped towards Nayeli and Grandma Betty gasped, jumping on the spot. The plate he was holding fell to the hardwood floor, shattering in a million little shards. Niall slowly walked over to me, eyes large and glistening with tears. He sat down next Nayeli, who didn’t seem to cower or move out of his way. Niall attentively reached for her hand and gently intertwined their fingers together. His touch sent shockwaves all throughout Nayeli’s body and that was when the pain in her started again. She gasped in surprise as the dream she had came to her. The more she watched it replay, the more she realized it wasn’t just a dream. It was a memory; a memory she never knew she had.

                    Almost instinctively, Nayeli squeezed Niall’s hand tighter. She was instantaneously thrown into a sea of lost memories floating by her. They all came so quickly that, even though the pain in her head had vanished, she was still short on breath. An abundance of memories from her childhood filled her head now, all involving the same blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy.

                    “Niall,” Nayeli whispered again as she jumped into his arms. Niall hugged her so tightly that he was afraid of losing her again. It’s been eight years since they last saw each other and even though they were young, it was undeniable that they should be together.

                    “I’ve missed you so much, Nayeli,” Niall whispered into her neck. Tears formed in his eyes while Nayeli was already crying her eyes out. Grandma Betty had left the room awhile ago, thrilled that Nayeli had regained some of her memory back, but deep down, she knew that not all of it could be returning just as easily.

                    “I did too,” Nayeli whispered, loosening her embrace on Niall’s neck and giving him a watery smile. She stared into his eyes, his bright blue, ocean like eyes. “I didn’t even realize it until now and…” she trailed off, not knowing what else to say, and looking down at her lap

                    Niall smiled happily, lifting her chin so they were staring at each other. “I’m just massively thrilled that you’re here now.” Taking his hands away from her body, Niall searched through his jacket’s pocket until he retrieved something. He opened his hand and Nayeli gasped. It was an exact replica of her necklace only on a bracelet. It was adorned with the same dove charm and same silver plaited chain. Nayeli continued to weep but because she was happy. Niall clasped the chain around her wrist and looked at her. “I saw it in the antique shop you ran out of and I remembered the necklace I gave you. Do you like it?” All Nayeli could do was nod. “Exactly eight years ago today,” Niall said, glancing at the clock. It was 2 in the morning indicating that it was Christmas Day now, “I gave you that necklace and something else…”

                    Ever so slowly, Niall started to lean in causing Nayeli’s heart to jump to her throat. They’ve been separated for eight years and she felt as though they were rushing things. But one look at his face told her differently. Never had she felt this way, her heart beating, and hands sweaty. Niall was one of a kind, a lucky charm for her and it was very rarely when someone came around and made Nayeli feel like the way she did at the moment. It never happened but Niall just made her go weak at the knees. Even when she only saw him as that eerie stranger, he still managed to make Nayeli melt. She closed her eyes and leaned in as well.

                    Their lips met in a slow, sensual kiss. The softness of his lips made Nayeli’s heart flutter and drop to her stomach. It was passionate and filled with so much love. Whether it was puppy love or the real deal, Nayeli didn’t know, but she didn’t care. It made her feel right and alive. Nayeli was happy and she was once again reunited with her childhood sweetheart.

                    “Happy Christmas, love,” Niall’s Irish accent whispered into Nayeli’s year for a second time in eight years.

                    They say that the heart that truly loves never forgets. In this case, it took love to remember what they had once forgotten.