Short Story Winner: Belinda Loya

Eyes Never Forgotten

My entire life I have always been afraid to venture out into the world and explore. I had my routine, my rituals and always stuck to them religiously. Friends and family would always invite me on trips and outings, but I always declined fearing they would “mess up” my routine.

“Cassandra, why don’t you live a little?” my best friend would always say.

Pita was my polar opposite, she is a free spirit always out trying something new and getting lost in her own little world.

“Pita you should know me by now, I promise to join you someday.”

And so my life continued this way throughout my twenties and early thirties. I left little to no space for anyone or anything new to enter my world. It was safe to say my romantic life was…obsolete. Love had always been something I never thought about or even cared for, (except for the Mexican heartthrobs in the latest telenovelas) I simply felt unworthy of such wonderful feelings that come attached with the word “Love”. When Pita would tell me her stories about her latest “boo” how he made her feel and the words should would use to describe it all just sounded like a foreign language to me. I will admit I did feel some pangs of jealousy and curiosity because I had never felt that. Until one day…

(Knock! Knock!) “Hello!!? Anyone home? Open the door!! Hurry up! I have some exciting news for you Cassandra!”

My friend Pita had no sense of time, or consideration at that.

“Pita! It’s 6am on a Sunday what could possibly be so important??” I yelled back.

“Oh there you are! Good morning my bestie I have an offer you can not refuse!” Pita proclaimed.

“Yes yes of course offer, can’t refuse, but first coffee, yeah?” I replied with a yawn.

“Sure whatever, so here’s the deal, remember I told you I had this month long trip to Europe all planned out?” Pita continued.

“Yes, I sort of recall” I replied as I poured myself a strong cup of coffee.

“Well my friend bailed! Can you believe her? The nerve! I was very angry thinking I had to cancel and did all possible to make her feel terrible (which worked in my favor) because she offered the whole trip for free to anyone who would take her place!” Pita yelled.

“I think I am beginning to put the pieces together here, my coffee must be kicking in” I replied suspiciously.

“Oh come on Cassandra! You can sound a little more enthusiastic! This trip can be “The Trip” to introduce you to the world outside of your box!” Pita yelled (even louder this time).

A little part of me was beginning to feel excited as I imagined myself in a plane flying across the world, what would I find? Who would I see? So many unknowns, I began to get a little anxious.

“I don’t know Pita, a month is a long time, what if I get sick? Or what if something happens? We would be so far away from home.” I declared nervously.

“You can not think that way Cassandra! Do not let the bad cloud out the good. Just think of all that you would see, what you will eat! All the handsome men you can meet!” she said as she puckered her lips.

“Haha of course Pita you had to mention men.” I replied as I rolled my eyes.

“Oh stop being such a prude!! You need love and romance in your life! Just please please say yes!!! You can not leave me hanging!” Pita cried out.

There I was sitting at my kitchen table barely awake with my best friend pleading for me to join her on a trip around the globe. I went back and forth in my mind about the pros and cons and in an impulsive jolt of electricity or (I really don’t even know what to call it),

I replied “Yes Pita I will go, yes, yes let’s do this!” I hardly recognized the sound of my own voice, it had changed, I was in awe of myself and I was excited.

“OMG, this is going to be epic! Your going to love everything I can not wait!” Pita cried with excitement.

“I sure hope so” I replied regretfully.

The days went by and I never once thought about the trip (except when I talked to Pita, it was all she talked about) in a way I was avoiding the thought of what unknowns I had ahead of me. Until the day arrived. The day we would fly away to our destination, Italy, Rome. I never really inquired about where we were going. Rome would be our first stop, followed by Vienna and Budapest. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

We arrived ,after what felt like a week of flying, safe and sound. As I entered the airport I could not help but to be in complete awe of my surroundings. The people, the language everything was like a dream. I kept bumping into people because I was so lost in this foreign land. I immediately fell in love.

“Pita I love you for bringing me here!” I cried.

“Cassandra this is just the airport, silly” she laughed back.

We grabbed a taxi and headed to our hotel. My eyes were glued to the window soaking it all in. As we came to a stop at a red light, I noticed a very handsome man. He was tall with a squared jawline, blue eyes and hair straight out of a salon magazine. Our eyes met and he half smiled, (probably noticing my drooling) and I slowly waved back.

“Whoa! look at you making friends already! Good work friend” Pita said whole heartedly.

“He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen” I gushed back. “Is this love?” I asked.

“No, well maybe, love at first sight if you believe in that fairy tale stuff” Pita said annoyingly.

Our hotel was amazing, nothing I had every seen nor imagined. We settled in and decided to venture out and explore. The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and so much else we saw that day just blew my mind. I was oblivious to any of my surroundings just focusing on all the beautiful statues and paintings. We sat down in Trastevere to have something to eat when I noticed someone staring at me. As a turned my heart started beating faster and I felt this flush come through my body, it was the handsome man from the red light. He smiled fully this time and I did too. I felt my face turn bright red, and felt this flutter in my stomach. I didn’t know what was happening to me but I didn’t care I was so preoccupied gazing at this gorgeous man, the sky could be falling and I wouldn’t notice.

“Earth to Cassandra, hello? anyone in there?” Pita yelled out.

“Oh hi, what’s up?” I brokenly answered.

“Ha wow look at you, who is this? Ahhh I see now what’s happening. Isn’t that the guy from the red light?” Pita asked.

“Yes it is, isn’t he lovely?” I sighed.

“Ok you can not fall for the first guy you see now, we have a lot of territory to cover!” Pita exclaimed.

“I think it might be too late for me” I replied with a sigh.

Pita dragged me back to the hotel and we enjoyed the following days in Rome before we packed up to head to Vienna.

My obliviousness continued as I once again encountered another beautiful city full of magic. Strolling through the Historic center of Vienna, I could not help but to think of that handsome man. At the same time I wondered how much I had changed in such little time. Stepping outside of my comfort zone had led me to so much adventure that I can not imagine myself going back to that old life. I had fallen in love with this new me.

“Cassandra hurry up, I’m starving!” Pita yelled.

“Hold on, I have to see everything” I replied.

As we entered Stephansplatz, my focus went to the various shops and restaurants. Pita was hungry and knew she had to eat before she turned into “hangry Pita”. As we searched for a place to sit and eat, I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks. There he was my handsome man, having a beer while the sun shone down on him making him look angelic. I could not believe my eyes. He turned and saw me, he saw me in the midst of the crowds of people, hundreds of people, he saw me. My hands got clammy my heart felt like it skipped a beat. My mouth went dry and I lost my hearing. All I can hear was the sound of my heart beating. He waved and I almost fainted.

“Cassandra! Where are you?” Pita yelled.

I heard her voice but could not react, what was happening to me? How can one person make me feel this way? A person I have even met?

“There you are! What happened? Are you okay?” Pita cried.

“I-I am o-kay, Pita, it’s him again, I saw him again” I replied.

“Who? Why are you so pale? Let’s go sit, your scaring me” Pita motioned.

I looked away to talk to Pita and as I returned my gaze he was gone. My heart dropped.

“Pita I have to meet him, I just have to, he has done something to me, something I can not explain” I cried.

“I think your delirious, let’s go eat and drink something please” Pita replied.

As the days went by my mind was over taken by this man. He was all I can think of. His eyes had pierced right through my very soul. I tried to focus on the sites and the conversations with Pita but I always found myself searching the crowds for this man. How could it be that I saw him once more? Was he following me? Or was this all a big coincidence? I didn’t care I just wanted to see him again and finally talk to him.

Alas we had arrived to our final destination, Budapest. What an eccentric city, full of odds and ends. Not to mention their vocabulary, the second most difficult in the world! What an amazing place. Our time was well spent in Széchenyi baths and strolling through Heroes’ Square. I was looking forward to a nice evening on a boat ride down the Danube River. The feature of the city that steals the spotlight, I heard it once be explained. As got ready, I told Pita I wanted to talk to her.

“Pita, my best friend, I just want to thank you for bringing me on this trip. It has completely changed my life. The way I see the world will never be the same. You gave that to me and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am in love with this me. It’s like I have awoken from the dead. I love you my friend” I said.

“Aw shucks your going to make me cry and ruin my makeup. I knew you would enjoy it. And it makes me so happy to know that you love this version of you, because even though I loved you before, I can say I love you so much more now” Pita replied.

At that moment we both realized we had changed each other interchangeably. A true friendship grounded by love. We arrived at Korzo to embark our sea vessel. The night was magnificent, I felt this air of love and magic around me. It was like I was floating on a cloud, everything was perfect. We set away and started our float down the river. And once again I began thinking of this mystery man. I guess things weren’t that perfect after all, he was missing. I had discovered what love felt like. I call it that because (besides googling it) there is no other explanation. I had fallen in love at first sight with a stranger. I stepped away from the crowd for a moment to reflect about my life and this trip, when I noticed another boat coming up beside ours. They too had people enjoying the wondrous sights and beautiful night. As the end of the boat approached and as I waved at the crowd, there he was, my mystery man. He was standing tall and regal with a glass of champagne looking handsome as ever. This time I did not freeze, I did not wait for any reaction I impulsively broke away from anything that would drag me down and leaped into the water. I have never been a good swimmer but that was the last thing on my mind. As my body entered the river it woke me up from whatever fantasy I had conjured up in my head in those 10 seconds that I saw him. I had no clue what I was going to do, so I just swam, I swam and swam until I reached the other boat. As I looked up mystery man was also getting ready to leap into the water. As he did I can hear Pita yelling from afar.

“Cassandra!! OMG! What are you doing??” she yelled.

Instead of being afraid I was smiling, I was rejoiced at the thought of this man coming to rescue me. Everything happened so quickly yet I saw it in slow motion. He swam up to me, and I embraced him, our eyes met once again this time in very close proximity.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Even his voice was handsome, I did not want to reply, I just wanted to kiss him.

“Yes I’m okay, are you okay?” I asked.

I felt immediate regret as I said that.

“Yes haha, why did you jump in?” he replied.

This was my opportunity to confess my love, was I courageous enough? I took a deep breath and told myself the new you does things like this.

“I think I love you” I said.

He stared back and for a moment my heart shattered thinking I had messed this all up. He began to speak, and my heart started beating faster and faster, the butterflies came back and once again I had been enveloped into these irrational feelings of love.

“Your eyes, I can never forget your eyes. They have been haunting me. Your all I think about. How could this be? How could it be that I too love you! Without knowing who you are?” he cried back. If I could describe what was happening inside my chest it would look like fourth of July. I could not hold back any longer, I went in and kissed him. He looked at me and passionately kissed me right back. It was those kisses where the guy holds your head and stops intermittently to look into your eyes. The ones from the telenovelas (sigh). Meanwhile we had crowds from both boats yelling at us if we were okay. It felt like we were down there in the river for hours, time felt like it had halted. But we didn’t care. We had met, finally. We had confessed our love for each other, finally. I had to leave my bubble, step outside of my comfort zone to love my true self, to love my best friend (more) and to finally experience love, real true love. Yes it was at first sight and most people are still skeptical about that, but you don’t know anything about it until you experience it. My mystery man that I found in a foreign land entered my life with eyes that I will never forget, eyes that had pierced deep down into my soul forever.


Belinda LoyaHi! My name is Belinda Loya, a true romantic at heart. During this quarantine I have not really been motivated to write about love since I have been confined to four walls. With all this free time I have been pondering and reminiscing about times I have traveled to beautiful magical places all around the world. And in one of those many journeys I imagined or day dreamt that I would find love in crowd of people. In a foreign land, might sound fairy tale-ish but quarantine will do that to you. My story reflects on just that, on a girl who leaves home who leaves her 9-5,her routine and ventures out and finds the unmistaken feeling of true love. Although my story might be over stretched I truly believe love is hiding in every corner of the world and it is up to you to venture out and find it, when the world opens back up of course. Stay dreaming and stay in love my friends.

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