Deep down, Sebastian understood the value of choices and decisions but what about destiny? He wondered whether the change of his choices and decisions changed everything to his favour. What if it's just Destiny? What if it's meant to be? 🔸🔸🔸🔸🔸 Sebastian shook his head washing all those thoughts away and then walked over to her. He stood silently behind her, leaning against the locker. On the outside, he looked calm and cool with a smug look on his face but on the inside, he was trying to muster courage and arranging what exactly he was going to say to her. “What do you want, Gray?” the apparent boyfriend of Charlotte spoke, matching eye level with Sebastian. “Anything but you,” Sebastian spoke with a devil smirk. “Back off, Seb,” Charlotte ordered, placing a hand on his chest, “You're not needed here.” Sebastian took a step back and spoke softly, “Lottie -,” “Don't. Don't use that nickname,” her face showed signs of hurt, “It's… just don't use it.” “I wanted to talk --,” “What's left to say, Sebastian?” she raised her voice, “We don't have anything to talk about. You chose every other thing over me and I don't think talking can sort that out.” The apparent boyfriend was now an awkward spectator. Dozens of eyes in the hallway stilled on them but a glare from Sebastian compelled everyone to do their stuff. His gaze softened as he looked down at her again and started to say, “I --,” “Yeah,” Charlotte sighed, “I know what your excuses are. It was freshman year, we were kids and we had no idea what we were doing and shit. What we were doing, Seb? We're just in for an unforgettable bond but you chose other things.” Sebastian didn't say anything but looked into her eyes and tried to read it off. “It's all about priorities, Seb. We choose our priorities ourselves and it's absolutely fine you chose yours. I don't have anything else to say,” she said, softly, and then turned on her heels and left. Sebastian felt a pain creeping up to his heart. He gave himself a small nod and walked off towards the boy's locker room. He had no idea whether to stay positive that there's no such thing which can't be fixed or to drown in negativity because of everything around him. He just had no idea. The day passed pretty fast around his toxic companies and bad habits. When he came home, he was feeling tired and his heart was heavy. Amidst all these, he forgot that it's his last day of being in the future. When night fell, he retired to bed as usual after having a busy social life. “Wakey, wakey, sleepyhead,” a male voice shook him out of his sleep. He peeked an eye open and Nathaniel's face came into his view. “Good morning, Nate,” Sebastian replied in his cute little sleepy voice. He blinked. Once. Twice. And then it struck him. He sat up, wide awake. He ran to the mirror to see himself and came face to face with his seven-year-old self. His eyes drifted off to the calendar and it was the morning of 31st December. He felt like he just woke up from a very realistic horrible nightmare. He focused on the floor, drowning in deep thoughts but he's still the seven-year-old kid who goes to the elementary school. “Breakfast?” Nathaniel's voice cut his thoughts. Sebastian hummed and walked down to the breakfast table with his brother. “Good morning,” Sebastian said in his little cheery voice, warm and sunny. Mama and papa Gray wished him good morning as everyone sat down for breakfast together. “Who's excited for the fireworks tonight?” Sebastian's father asked. Nathaniel snorted and showed little enthusiasm and everyone looked over at Sebastian as he didn't reply. He looked gravely at his breakfast plate and fiddled with the food. Nathaniel furrowed his eyebrows and asked, “What's wrong kiddo?” “Nothing,” Sebastian replied briefly. “Alright,” Nathaniel deadpanned and then met his parents' somewhat worried eyes. Relief flooded on the worried adult faces when Nathaniel mouthed ‘I got this.’ “C'mon,” Nathan said hopping down the chair and giving his brother a playful smirk, “I've got something for you, kiddo.” Little Sebastian raised his eyebrows and snickered as his brother slapped his back. Once they were back on the porch aka their hangout spot, Nathaniel nudged his brother and said, “Spill.” “What?” He tried to act innocent. “C'mon kiddo, you know what. Spill whatever is going on in there,” Nathan tapped his head. “You won't get it,” Sebastian said disappointingly. “Okay, and what made you feel that?” Nathan wiggled his eyebrows and sat down on the porch. Sebastian sat down abruptly on Nathan's lap. Both of them watched the winter sun hardly reaching the backyard and the dewdrops still clung onto the toppling heads of little grasses. “Nate,” Sebastian began, “Do you believe in Destiny?” “Yes, I do, kiddo.” “We can't control it, can we? So, what's the use of everything we do,” Sebastian asked, turning his head towards his brother. Nathaniel chuckled. “No, Kiddo. We can't control destiny,” Nathan agreed and Sebastian sighed. “But neither can it control us,” Nathan said wrapping his arms around his brother, “Destiny is something pre-decided but what we want to make out of it depends on us.” Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and angled his head to have a look at his brother. “Destiny is like a piece of cake that you'll have anyways at the end of the day but you get to decide whether it'll be red velvet, chocolate chip, black forest or…,” Nathaniel trailed off. “Or?” Sebastian asked. “Or carrot cake,” Sebastian scrunched his nose as soon as he heard carrot cake. He wasn't exactly a fan of those. “But how do I decide which cake I want? How do I get the cake I want?” Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows again. “You choose that one cake which you love the most, that's how you decide the right cake for yourself,” Sebastian thoughtfully nodded his head to his brother's advice. “But how do I get it?” Sebastian hung his head down on his chest. “I said it just now. You choose it. Kiddo, life is a road, just like that one,” he pointed towards the road,“ and you're on your bicycle, on that road.” “So basically it's fun,” Sebastian's voice was cheerful. “Are all the days on your bicycle fun? Remember the time when you came home with bruises?” Nathaniel reminded. “Of Course it's fun. It's going to be lovely but there will be times when you'll fall down, have bruises or cuts. There will be times when your bicycle will be down and you'll get stuck in the middle of nowhere wondering what you should do. There will be times when there will be four-way crossroads and there will be a lot of places on the way where you'll have to pause. There will be a lot of it,” Nathan said combing his fingers through his brother's hairs. “But all of it doesn't matter. If anything matters, then it's the fact that irrespective of everything, you gotta get going. When you fall down, make sure to be right back on your bicycle after regaining your breath. When your bicycle gets punctured and you get stuck in the middle of nowhere, try to find a way out. Do not just do nothing and expect someone to fetch you out of that ‘nowhere’. Try to find a way out and you'll get one 'cause the solution to all our problems are always found in the problem itself,” he picked Sebastian from his lap and made him sit down, facing him, “When you face the crossroads, choose the one you feel is right. Don't go too far with top speed if you aren't sure with your choice, you might not be able to find your way back. Go slow and return as soon as your gut says that it's not the right road. Come back to the crossroad and again choose the one that you feel is right. Kiddo, be careful and try to choose the correct road on your first try because not everyone gets a lot of second chances and there will be a lot of crossroads, trust me.” “And what do I do where I have to pause?” Sebastian asked. “You push the brakes and stop your bicycle. You stand for a little while and stare for a moment. Appreciate life, stay there as long as you want to. Admire and when you feel, get back on the road again. Maybe alone, maybe not.” It was silent between them and the atmosphere was getting thicker both from the seriousness of the conversation and the cold weather outside. “Coming back to the cakes, how do you get the cake you want?” Nathaniel cleared the silence, “Till a time in life, mom and dad choose everything for us. Choose everything that's best for us but then as we grow up there comes a time when we stand at the crossroads all alone. If we choose the right roads every time, then after the end of each level, you get the cake you want. Remember, only if you choose the right road. Choosing any wrong road may lead to a cake you don't like or want.” “Only the right road…,” Sebastian said after his brother and trailed off. “But Nate,” he looked up at his brother, “What if I get lost? Will you be there?” Nathaniel was silent. He fixed his eyes on something afar while Sebastian was looking at him for an answer. “I'll be Kiddo. I'll always be there when you need me. I'll be there when you'll be lost. Always,” he said and a smile broke out on Sebastian's face. “But,” Sebastian's smile disappeared as the conjunction appeared. “But --,” his pale blue eyes looked expectantly at his older brother. “I'll always be there but I can't bring you home. I can drop hints and guide you. I can point you the way out and drop you occasional advice but then again it's up to you to pick up on those hints and find your way back home or wherever your destination will be. It'll be your choice whether or not to choose the way out I pointed or use the advice I left.” “And what about people Nate? Should we hold onto them forever or should we let them go?” Sebastian asked and this time Nathan furrowed his eyebrows. “Kiddo, you're just seven,” he chuckled, “but I think I should tell you this: Nothing is permanent kiddo. Nothing and nobody. People come and go just like seasons but there will be a handful of them who'll be permanent; who'll always be there no matter what even if not physically then mentally or metaphysically, be in any means they'll be there. You gotta choose that handful of yours very carefully. You gotta choose them like a sapodilla fruit from a thousand kiwi fruit. They might look the same from outside but you know right? How different they look and taste from inside?” Sebastian nodded and stayed put. “No, we shouldn't hold onto people forever. We should give them all the love and care. We must put efforts to make them ours and keep them close forever but if they still want to go after all the love and effort then we must let them go. We can't hold back someone against their wishes now, can we?” “No,” Sebastian answered quietly. “Again, it comes to choice. We choose who we want our constants to be and they choose whether to be with us forever or not. Remember, not to hold onto those who leave you, but never forget them. Never forget anyone or anything, good or evil, happy or sad, constant or temporary, no-one. Just don't forget any of it.” “So it's just our choices that make us who we become?” “Yes and no.” “No?” Sebastian asked again. “We don't become someone, kiddo.” Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows, “Isn't growing up becoming someone?” “No, it's not. Growing up is about finding who we are from here,” he pointed at his heart, “and creating the person we want ourselves to be.” Sebastian nodded like a 35-year-old man. Thoughtful and experienced. “So yes, it's our choices that make us what we want to be.” “What do you want to be when you grow up, kiddo?” Nathan asked, for the first time in a while. After a prolonged silence, Sebastian spoke, “I --,” he paused, “I want to be a good human being. A great friend from all aspects. A good student to my teachers. A great boy to my parents. A good brother to you,” he looked up at Nathan and he smiled, “A great captain to the football team and an inspiration to some,” he paused again as he looked up to see Nathan's reaction, “Kind. Brave. Courageous. Friendly. Helpful. Loyal. Understanding. Loving….” “I want to be all of those things,” he said looking up at his brother, “Someone who knows how to do things right. Someone who doesn't mess up. Someone who won't break hearts. Someone who will live his dreams.” “Kiddo, none of us know how to do things right, we all learn. All of us mess up but you need to know how to make it correct again. We all break some hearts sooner or later, with or without knowing, but we should fix it back while there's still time,” Nathan said. Sebastian nodded and exhaled noisily. “I guess, I just have to be me and a better version of myself as I grow up. With each level I pass, I shall become a polished version of myself. Better and better with time.” This time, it was Nathaniel who just nodded. The words coming from a seven-year-old kid struck him like a bolt of lightning. He could see a glimpse of maturity and understanding of life in his little brother's eyes. That day, on the eve of the new year, the little boy with big blue eyes and a cute button nose, grew up.
Written by: Sanyukta Paul
Illustration: Aninda K. Nanda