WAIT FOR ME
Nature and circumstance seemed to have made this woman for this man and to have thrust them in each others way.
( Zola, E. Therese Raquin p.73)
A novel in four parts. From the end of the twentieth century in England, through 1860’s India, 1920’s Austria , the same two souls meet in six very different lives. Can the twenty first century give them hope and set them free at last?
One Last Kiss.
You came into my life
And changed it forever.
A meeting of hearts and minds.
Never paralleled before.
How can I survive
Without the nourishment
Your love brings.
Must I let you go
Will you walk away
Can we parted?
Without one last kiss.
WAIT FOR ME.
In my old faded jeans, black polo neck jumper and grey woollen socks, on top of my bed; I lie very still and wait. Comforting myself, corpse like, arms across my chest, fingers tucked into my armpits with just my thumbs showing, wishing his hands could replace mine. Nuzzling the edge of my jumper I realise that fabric softener is outdoing my perfume. I make a mental note to use less.
I glance at the phone on the bedside table. It is still there. I placed a metal tray underneath it, so if I was in the bathroom. Foolish. The ring reverberates around the whole cottage without any assistance.
It’s early yet. The sky is bearing down, closing in, full and grey. It has been all day, except for a brief appearance of a watery sun around noon. Rickety sash windows allow heat to escape. You’d be a lot cosier in the flat up by the shop, on the main road. My new landlord had tried to convince me. I explained that the open fire in the living room would more than compensate. Three bedrooms and just you? I paid two months, cash, and so he sighed and handed me the key.
The three upright panels in the left hand side of my bedroom window are much older than the right. May even be original, my landlord thinks. When the sun hits those panes the reflected pattern on the ceiling is mottled, dappled with the faint colours of the rainbow. The other side has new glass and is smooth, without character.
I stare at the left hand panes wondering what they have witnessed, finding it impossible to transpose seventeenth century memories into a bedroom awash with fading Laura Ashley walls, at the end of the twentieth. I close my eyes and find the centre panel has filled with a bright green light. Slowly I open my eyes, scanning the room to locate the source. Sometimes the smallest object is chosen and thrown back into the mind’s eye but I can see nothing green. I shut my eyes again and there it is, the centre panel filled with an effervescent green glow. This time I raise my head, propping myself up on my elbows but there is no strength to the daylight, so I am puzzled .
The phone waits attentively. There are a dozen chores I could be doing, none of which would prevent a call getting through but I don’t move. The lead is still attached to the wall. There have been no gales in the last hour capable of blowing down the telegraph pole. Foolish. I allow myself a wry smile at my stupidity. It’s early yet. He always phones, when he can. He should be finishing his shift soon. Busy day, even busier night. People making preparations. People rushing. He may have to work longer. But he’ll find time. From the beginning he said. I’ll always find a minute, before midnight.
I listen. Outside everything is still. No excited voices, no footsteps crunching on the packed snow, no squealing tyres. Three thirty. Last minute shopping, no-one moves about at this end of the village. Two doors up, the landlord’s children were building a snowman in the field opposite, at ten o clock this morning. The horse didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps they thought he’d like company. It had been a good choice; my cottage, detached, next to a pair of semis, then open farm land. Not to mention an abundance of summer fruit and autumn vegetables from the garden.
The memory fights to warm the chill niggling inside me. Help yourself. The landlord said.
The ground is frozen solid now. An unyielding mass of sleep and decay.
I lie back down and close my eyes. The green light has gone. The middle panel is filled with a deep, deep red. The same intensity as before but bright and red. I lie very still. I know there is nothing red in my bedroom. A small red pottery vase had been relocated to the dining room only last week. There are only soft. sleep inducing colours in this, my summer bedroom. I’m not sleeping in here at the moment but there is a phone socket by this bed. And then the, tick, tick, at the far side of the room reminds me. A carriage clock. Red and gold. Five to four. The light is fading fast.
I close my eyes. If I keep my lids shut for five more minutes, I can avoid the transition. The moment when dusk becomes the cloak of night. No point grasping those last rays. For dusk is like dying, neither alive nor dead just the slow process in between.
I shake my head hoping that the colours can be dislodged. As if my head is nothing more than a kaleidoscope.
No green, no red now, just white light encompassing all three panes. They merge and become one with no horizontal support. And now I know as surely as any knock at the door. As certain as the details written clearly on a small piece of yellow paper.
RTA. Date. Time. Name.
I lie very still. My breath is short and shallow. No more waiting, just knowing.
At last his final journey has begun. I won’t be far behind.
PART ONE: 1990.
I know that voice. At least my body does. Every pore tightens as a shudder crosses my shoulders and zigzags down my spine. Goosebumps. Tremor. The pale lemon silk of my blouse nudges my bronzed skin. I glance up at the bulging black hold-all on the rack. It is crammed full of laundry. The jeans and silk shirt were the only things left to wear. I wonder if he is a skilled ‘commando’ detector.
“Would you mind watching my jacket while I get a coffee?”
Simple enough. A strangers request. Unusual in this day of non-public-communication, but not unreasonable.
Later, he would say; “Bag, I said watch my bag.” But the details weren’t in the words.
I dare not move; but he comes into view, brushing lightly past my left shoulder. I’d just nestled my new blond bob back against the tired blue velvet seat, preparing myself for the journey. Three yellow and black scarves dangling from wrists, belts and necks barge their way past the voice. Opposite a pale one year old, barely walking, is being fed fat, carbohydrate and salt from a hastily opened crisp packet. I wonder if this constitutes child abuse. An upright middle aged woman, with a no nonsense hairdo, of the ’I don’t normally travel by train but the Volvo is in for a service’ brigade, catches my eye and seems to concur. The one year old’s older brother snatches the half empty red and white aluminum packet with one hand emptying it into his mouth without relinquishing control of a Game Boy with the other. The ‘mother’ also pale, is busy. She is reading Cosmopolitan.
The voice has another question. Our eyes focus, recognizing themselves.
“Would you like one?” he asks. I nod, reaching with my right hand for the purse poking out of my handbag. I’m pleased that my manicure had not been ousted by the practical tasks of the last three months. I lay my left hand on the turquoise blue Walkman as it begins to slide towards the edge of the table .Shifting my chewing gum to the side of my mouth, I speak.
“Black, two sugars please.” I smile as he shakes his dark, close cropped head at my gesture.
I notice the scar in his left eyebrow. I want to reach out and touch it, run my fingers down the side of his face, move across to outline his mouth, gently tracing his full top lip, pressing my index finger upright in a silent kiss, and let it rest there forever.
My heart does a little jig, alerting my adrenaline store, although I feel neither the need to flee, nor fight. They’ll be calling this panic attacks in the next ten years and you’ll be able to get drugs for it. I had to calm down before he came back with my caffeine and sugar.
“Leave it until I come back.” He offered and he was gone, but the hiss of the sliding door warns me that it‘s unsafe to turn my head. He says he will return. A sudden dimming of the lights and the train chugs and heaves itself away from the platform. The tannoy alerts would be passengers of the departure. So helpful; always good to know what you’ve missed… I pick at another loose white cotton thread being pushed forward by my knee, threatening to cut my jeans in half.