avatarBritni Pepper

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AI Adventures: A poignant encounter

Duck in the Park

Memories of the Fall

A fall in the park. (AI by NightCafé)

Sunlight dappled the Botanic Gardens, autumn leaves shimmering like confetti against the crisp Melbourne sky. My Scarpas crunched on the gravel path, scattering gold and amber flakes, my mind lost in the rhythm of my stride. That’s when I saw him, leaning against a gnarled old tree, the low sun sculpting shadows under his eyes.

Nathan.

My heart paused, reflected, a forgotten mist rising. Twenty years. Two decades distilled into a single halting heartbeat. He hadn’t aged much, just a whisper of silver at his temples, the same playful crinkle at the corners of his eyes. Then I noticed the woman beside him, her own laughing lines creased into her face, mirroring his smile. And beside her, a girl with Nathan’s mop of brown hair and a cautious grin. The teenager I’d been.

The wave of lost affection nearly knocked me off my feet. Nathan, my first everything: first date, first kiss, first fumbled intimacy under a sky bursting with fireworks. We were fireworks ourselves, once, sparking bright and hot. But the heat eventually singed, leaving scars I’d buried under layers of time and new experiences.

“Britni?” his voice, deeper now, a touch of disbelief lacing it. I stepped into the sunlight, blinking away a sudden blur of memories. “Nath. Fancy meeting you here.”

The moment crackled with unspoken stories. Then, his brow furrowed, and a grin bloomed on his face. “Remember that time,” he began, and my blood ran cold. “Here. The Gardens? The … thing with the duck?”

My thoughts, a home movie of rose-tinted nostalgia, turned into slapstick farce. The duck incident. The day we, fueled by cheap cider and teenage bravado, attempted to serenade a particularly grumpy drake with an off-key rendition of When You Say Nothing at All. The day I tripped, face-planting into mud, filth smeared across my cheeks like tragic war paint while a duck danced in triumph on my body and a laughing boy rescued me.

Twenty years I’d spent burying that memory, convinced it epitomised my teenage awkwardness. And here it was, quick and vibrant, living rent-free in Nathan’s head all this time.

A bitter laugh escaped my lips. “Oh, the duck. How could I forget?” But the bitterness was laced with something else, a raw honesty that had been absent for too long. “You know, maybe that’s why it didn’t last, Nathan. We were good at awesomely stupid things together.”

I’d wanted it to be perfect — like in the movie — but he always turned to the comedy moment.

His grin faltered, his wife’s hand finding his in a silent gesture of understanding. Her eyes, soft with an affection of shared years, met mine. A web of spidersilken truth stretched between us, two women who loved the same man, albeit in different ways, at different times.

“Maybe you’re right,” he finally said, his voice tinged with the echo of our lost youth. “But hey, at least we could make a duck blush.”

I looked at his daughter, rolling her eyes, a touch of pink on her cheeks. I was on her wavelength.

Then I chuckled. “I remember.”

We stood there for a moment, the setting sun painting the park in shades of amber. Twenty years of what-ifs and could-have-beens swirled around us, but underneath it all, there was a quiet acceptance. We weren’t meant to be, not for the long haul. The fireworks eventually fade, leaving behind wisps of smoke that mark the place of brilliant ecstasy.

As I walked away, the duck incident, once a moment of shame, had become a shared joke, a funny reminder of a young love that burned bright and brief. And in that acceptance, in that shared laughter with his wife, I finally understood why I had let him go. The path I hadn’t taken led me here, to my own sun-dappled life, and for that, I was grateful.

Britni and Bard

A collaboration. An experiment. I asked Google Bard AI for a story, giving some details of a poignant encounter. Bard gave me a brief narrative, and I added and cut and made it my own. Bard had added something I hadn’t seen before:

This is just a starting point, of course. You can add more details to flesh out the scene, the characters, and the emotions involved. Don’t be afraid to play with the pacing and dialogue to find the voice that feels most authentic to you. Remember, deep and honest doesn’t have to be devoid of humor or lightheartedness. The best stories are the ones that resonate with truth, in all its messy, bittersweet glory.

I hope this inspires you to write a beautiful and poignant story, Britni.

I’ve changed a few things from Bard’s outline. Some details were just too far from the truth.

And some too close.

But I still love that movie.

Britni

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