I want to thank each and every one of you for dropping by, during April, and taking a look at what I was doing.
I have appreciated your visits and enjoyed your comments immensely.
During the month of May I will be inviting you to read the "behind the scenes" making of this Challenge submission. As well, I will be featuring some of the individuals that helped make this epic journey a truly wonderful and invigorating experience.
Again, I thank you most sincerely for your interest in this piece and for those that stuck with it from start to finish high fives all around - I feel deeply blessed!
She sat, fingers at the ready...the ticking of the kitchen clock, the little dog’s asthmatic breathing and the whistling of an arctic wind were all that kept her attention present.
Her mind was adrift to a day long ago; a lifetime ago...someone else’s lifetime it seemed.
Her eyes refocused their attention on the screen; his words seemed clear enough; the question he asked was simple - but then, was it a question that needed answering or was it rhetorical?
Her answer had taken almost no time to assemble and yet, she wondered, was it wise to make another attempt at communicating; sadly, the truth was never absent from her mind...she knew it was absurd.
He was there, she was here; yet her acceptance of this fact would not come easy; not without added sadness and regret.
The sky, outside her office window, was turning; blackened by the hour of day and lack of sun, she felt winter’s presence. Even as the furnace billowed forth blasts of hot air throughout the house she could not shake the cold bearing down on her over-burdened shoulders.
Slipping back easily into yesterday’s memories she relived the brief moment which defined the changing of the seasons in her heart.
She remembered the embrace, the soft gentle kiss on her cheek; and then, before she knew it, he was gone - again.
Reflecting on that brief moment, she recalled how it was the bittersweet sound of confusion, in the form of an elderly bystander’s comment, which had broken her reverie, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.”
Looking beseechingly at the woman she remembered glancing backward that one last time; seeing him, standing stoically by the exit, she would always wonder if, by chance, he had had a moment of regret.
Her computer dimmed, it had been a while since she had touched the keypad. As there was no other light on in her office the change brought her back from her deep, reflective thoughts.
This current set of circumstances had confused her; leaving her with unrealistic hopes and dreams that only clouded her reality.
She had sent back a reply to his question; a calculated comeback that was still clear and concise. Careful not to mince words, or send a confusing message, she had reread her words several times and concluded they would do.
Throwing caution to the wind, she had hit the Send button and promptly felt her heart constrict.
Distant shores draw those daring enough to direct their souls across wide open seas; she knew, from experience, wide open seas were often dangerous and required strength, courage and determination to navigate; this was her current dilemma, and what to do about it was distracting her from her daily duties.
As she pondered her mind’s deteriorating condition she smiled; it had weathered some pretty disastrous storms...this would be no different.
Deciphering his written words had always been difficult - debilitating to say the least, but now, she could only deliberate over his recent note, with its dangling question, for so long before becoming disheartened and discouraged.
His lack of direct communication would not be a deterrence, nor a point of frustration, or despair. She was determined to move forward, one backward step at a time.
Entertaining thoughts over their recent communications, or lack thereof, she wondered if electronic mail was the death of romance. Could this even be called a romance? She was certain romance was the wrong word, but the sound of it evoked strong and enduring emotions.
Eons ago, after their first encounter, they had put pen to paper taking days to formulate a single letter.
Each of these earlier letters had been carefully written and entwined with embellishments which added to the emotions invested by the extra effort expended.
Unlike today’s electronic mail, a handwritten masterpiece could take up to eleven days to reach its destination; the anticipation of receiving one of these letters was an integral part of their evolving courtship. Expectations were especially high.
Technology espoused bringing people ever closer together, yet she had never felt further apart because of it.
Electronic mail lacked something personal, this much she was sure of - it lacked a certain eloquence; it was too easy - requiring minimal effort and negligible expense, eliciting fewer emotions in the process.
She moved to the front room, where the fireplace was blazing; its warmth filling the room causing her to finally forgo the extra layer she had found necessary to add while sitting, fending off the frigid air, in her office.
Closing her eyes she pulled forth another memory of those long forgotten years and recounted the fleeting moment when she had felt the warmth of love’s first blush.
There had been a brief moment, in the elevator, during their first encounter, where a connection started to form but faded too fast denying them the time to set a friendship in motion.
The failure to formulate this fundamental foundation, in the form of a friendship, would be a formidable obstacle in the future.
She had not conquered her fears back then, what made her think she would overcome them now, she wondered; and as her eyes grew heavy the night closed in.
The warmth of the fire finally found its mark...she was adrift on a turbulent sea with fear as her only friend.
The flames of the candles glittered and danced gleefully inside their glassy prisons; she had always loved this part of her day - a quiet time set aside to enjoy her front room and the warmth of the fire - tonight she felt herself going under; unable to gasp for air.
The only audible sound, generally, was the beating of her heart, but tonight the humming, generated by her fridge, was also grabbing her attention; gnawing at already frayed nerves.
Grasping at straws, growing weary and sad, she wondered what was going on.
Gone were the days of rushing to her mailbox, at the front gate, to gather gifts and letters from a distant land. Now she need only tap a few keys and the entire world gushed forth; yet the glaring emptiness, on the grey screen, was all the greater.
She had gazed at the greeting before her - she had read it again and again - each time feeling the grip on her heart tighten...how much more could she endure.
She thought his had been a greeting given in kindness; had she guessed wrong, again; she grappled with her grief trying to gain upper ground only to find the ground had gaped.
And so another evening drifted by...the humming and heartbeats acting as her personal guides to another world.
Eyes heavy, heart burdened, she rose and headed for bed - a safe haven from the howling winds that haunted her soul.
Here, between the sheets she would run free, laughing and feeling the energy of her youth and the joy of decades earlier.
Hers had always been a deep, sound sleep, one of happy thoughts, where hills called out to her and the heavens had no limit; until her demons caught up with her.
Hidden deep in the corner of her heart, was the little box where she had neatly housed her sorrow and heartache. It had been sealed for decades until that harrowing, fateful visit when her heart had been hurled in harm’s way.
Now the little box was the haven her demons haunted.
Often, when enduring one of her late night, restless sleeps, she would stop running from her demons and ponder if what was in the little box was still alive.
It should have died long ago from the inattention given it over the many years it lay ignored and neglected inside the little box, in the corner of her heart.
Indeed she had thought it was dead but due to indecisions and indoctrinated ideologies, ingrained so long ago, she felt incapable of letting go of what lived on in there.
It was that fateful walk, one icy winter's eve, a few years earlier, which ignited her imagination inducing her down the path to where she now stood.
No longer immune to the indescribable insecurities and angst imbedded in her mind she was imprisoned in thoughts of idyllic times; wine in hand, infectious laughter and the innocence of youth held her tight in yesterday’s intrigue.
Tonight, in spite of her inherent inclination to follow her intuitive insights she peeked inside the little box; as always this indulgence would have its price.
A week had now passed since his communication; a simple greeting; a question asked; a statement made - but what was his real motivation, the real reason behind his need to keep the door into her world ajar.
She had answered, without hesitation; it hadn’t crossed her mind to jettison his electronic mail into her Junk folder - no, she refused to be jaded - she still held hope; still held onto the notion he cared.
Jarred awake, she blinked and looked into the blackness which filled her room; rolling over she buried her face into the empty pillow beside her and wept.
She muffled her cries as to not attract the demons she was running from. They always found her - in the corner of her heart, where she kept the little box.
Juggling her emotions she could see the remnants of yet another nightmare which had jangled her nerves. Reaching for her journal she jotted down what she could recall before the visions jumbled together and turned to jelly.
She vaguely recalled a jury, made up of only herself, passing a harsh judgement. She knew it was a just sentence, but she would never jump, it was not an option.
She wondered if it would be easier to jump into reality and joust with her demons in the light of day rather than in her nightmares which were leaving her spent and jittery, jeopardizing her sanity in the process.
As more time passed she would have paid a king’s ransom for any kind of communication.
Grateful for work which kept her busy, and kindred spirits that came in the guise of concerned friends, she knew the knot in her stomach was slowly killing her.
Nights were still the death knell for her spirit. When she finally did fall into a restless sleep she would find herself running aimlessly in what used to be a thoroughly kempt and orderly place; a mind once trained to keep out demons.
Feeling the cold knife of despair, just inches from her back, she ran until the blackness overcame her.
When she finally collapsed from exhaustion she let the emptiness flood over her like a unrelenting storm keeling a fishing boat under its towering force; there was little to keep her afloat.
Armed with the knowledge that he did not know how to emote his feelings she kept her head above water - a king’s ransom indeed would have been a small price to pay for the knowing.
Had it not been for the laughter and lighthearted banter of a longtime friend she would not have learned that on each of the roads she travelled there was a lesson lurking in the shadows.
Feeling she had been lead down yet another dark lane by this libertine, living in a land far away, she tried to realize how lucky she was to have left with only a broken heart and a longing for a time that never was.
The possibility of losing so much more had never crossed her mind.The longer he let her linger, in this land of no reply, the more likely it was she would start letting go of this lost love.
She was losing hope and with that the lid on her little box was starting to lock down.
If he had replied to her last letter what more would she have learned? She already knew he was a lost soul and she was, after all, lightyears away - a lifetime ago.
Another Monday was upon her and the madness continued. What was the mystery that caused her mind to migrate to memories of him.
What must he be doing at this moment…
He sat in the dark; head buried in his hands letting the memories engulf him. Mortified that she had replied so quickly, he froze within minutes of receiving her mail.
More months than he could remember had passed since last seeing her standing, immobilized on the spot where he last embraced her, moments before she departed from his world.
He had seen the matronly bystander motion to her - he had not been privy to their conversation, but the mannerism and motherly affection, from the old woman, were enough for him to know a moment of sadness had passed between the two women.
Months of reliving the memory of her visit tortured him. Lying on his bed, looking up at his ceiling, he was momentarily lost in those first minutes of her arrival. Why had he not wrapped his arms around her and made it clear he was mad for her; but the moment passed and they had moved on.
He raised his head and shook it to clear his mind. It would never have worked he mulled - she was there and he was here - miles apart, yet memories together.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained she thought as she negotiated traffic. On route home a reoccurring thought niggled at her. The notion of needing closure was not going away. Now more than ever she needed it.
Nearing home she pulled off the road as a favourite, nostalgic song echoed forth from the radio. Numbing her senses she reached for the knob and decide the time had come...she could no longer neglect the truth...he never cared; neither then, nor now.
No amount of negating this truth would make it easier. She needed to nullify her feelings and stop nurturing the hope that somehow he needed her; it was not in the cards...and the cards never lied.
Oscillating between thoughts of olden days, and of recent ones, she pondered what her options were.
Letting go of the past was the one thought that kept orbiting her mind and when she finally laid out her beautiful Oracle cards, which confirmed this thought, she knew there was only one option.
If opting out of life were ever an option it might have been one she would have entertained given the intensity of her current ordeal.
But it wasn’t - and never would be, she would need to find another way out.
After several lingering moments of letting memories, in the guise of a favourite melody, wash over her, she felt it was time to organize and formulate her final note; an obituary of sorts; her only option.
There had been a point, after returning from that fateful trip, a few years earlier, where she had entertained the possibility of jumping on a plane and returning to his place with a proposition.
But tonight, as three weeks had now passed since her reply to his electronic greeting, she knew it was pointless. He had not pursued her then, when she was in his world, even though she had not discouraged the possibility, and he was not pursuing her now.
There comes a time when a woman knows she no longer holds the power of persuasion over another person, namely the one person she would have followed to the ends of the earth and possibly further.
So, as her pillow flattened with the weight of her head pushing into it, she pondered what she would say in this final prose.
With a purpose, and a push from her cards, she paused and breathed in deeply; in her mind she played with the wording of the note waiting patiently in her Draft folder.
All the note needed was a final perusal and her finger pressing the Send button. She knew once this was done all her procrastinating would finally come to a painful end.
There would be peace at some point, she assured herself, but not without a price; this was a promise her demons would keep, with pleasure.
Quick to press Send her message was off; no quandaries and no regrets - she was quite sure there was a quality to her words that would convey sincerity but also her quest for closure.
It had cut her to the quick when writing it but she needed to quit playing war with her emotions and quantify her sadness.
She queried, and questioned, what his reaction might be…
Sitting, enjoying the quiet solitude of his home office, he heard the beep as an incoming message was received - he quelled his nerves and quickly retrieved it.
The note started out quite quaint, as if written in a light hand and a cheerful heart, then it quickly turned into a torturous nightmare; a quality arose amongst the words that quickened his pulse and quaked his nerves; he suddenly felt queasy.
If he could have but one wish, this evening, it would be for a quick death - he had fallen into quicksand and was drowning in his own sorrow.
Why did he quash her overtures? He had pondered this question, over and over, while sitting staring at his quivering reflection as it bounced off the uncovered window to his right; the black of night had closed in and engulfed his otherwise quiescent world.
He knew, in his heart, he was not ready to quit, not quite yet.
Watching refracted rays of light, from a roadside lantern, ricochet off her bedroom walls she realized it was time to reflect on the lack of response that had been rendered with respect to her recent, and final, note.
She had not really expected a reply, but hoped, regardless, one would have registered in her Inbox.
Reasoning she had finally taken hold of the reins of her life she fought the rising tide of regret and wondered if she had reacted too hastily rather than acting with a rational mind.
She refused to accept the feelings reeling in her heart; though she recognized the cards were right she wasn’t ready to relinquish her love for him just yet.
She would have to radically revise her view of reality before she could replace the lid on the little box, which had recently been relegated to the darkest corner of her heart.
It was her only recourse if she wished redemption from this ravaged relationship.
Standing still for no one, time staggered on.
Several days had passed since sending her final note electronically through cyberspace, supplanting the need for old-fashioned stationary.
With sadness, weighing heavy on her soul, she sat in the shadow of the sinking sun. Soon the chill of the night air would surround her, swallowing her up; she dreaded this segment of her day.
Since sending the note she had not spoken his name out loud for fear it would summon the demons circling the little box, now solemnly situated in the darkest corner of her heart.
They still searched for a way in and a chance to stir her feelings and shatter her stoic resolve; she was weakening, becoming sentimental, and those soul snatching demons knew it.
So often, in the light of day, when her strength and will appeared their strongest, she snookered herself into believing she had survived the loss of her soul-mate.
It was a different story once the sun set; sadness surrounded her, chilling her to the bones; even the deep and restful solitude of sleep had ceased being a safe sanctuary.
She dreaded succumbing to the call of night but she had learned to surrender herself willingly, like sheep to the slaughter, it was just simpler.
Time ticked on and every day that passed tempered her temptation to talk to him.
Truth was she thought she might still hear from him and this thought threaded through her mind like a twisting tornado; always leaving her tense, tired and deeply tormented.
Sometimes, when she was truly living life in the present, she would tilt her head back and let out a throaty laugh.
It was thoughts of theatrically performed epic love stories, with all their tension and turmoil, that left her thoroughly spent and wiping tears from her eyes.
There had to be humour somewhere in this turbulent tale; she had laughed at the thought of it, wondering if she had gone totally mad in light of it.
Then a tantalizing idea trickled forth, maybe this was an epic tale that needed telling; a tragic tale of two lovers trapped in time.
Thus she started taking notes, translating feelings and deep thoughts; and so, began her transcript.
Tickled by this type of thinking she could tell the threatening tide was finally turning.
Ultimately the undoing of this unity, which had been an unexplored opportunity, was the willingness of the universe to upend and undermine a union where an unconscious connection had been unified.
Thinking back twenty years earlier, when he was a university student and she an unwed mother, she wondered if the untimely failing of this unplanned affair was the underlying differences of their unique worlds.
Back then, unabated feelings, undulating throughout her heart, had left her unable to function. She feared being unmasked; the unavoidable feelings of vulnerability she experienced had caused her emotions to run unchecked leaving her to act uncharacteristically unkind.
Hers had been the ultimate unrequited love; had she unveiled her heart, back then, she would have won his - but she had hesitated. She could never undo that unforgettable moment.
Sadly, what he had seen in her uplifted face, as she stood there before him on that first visit, had unravelled his resolve and left him unsure of what to do next.
She had placed a subconscious value on the fleeting moments they had had together; vacillating between happiness and sorrow; acutely aware of the various effects these emotions were having on her view of love.
She had not vilified him in her final note but maybe he felt like a villain nonetheless.
She wondered whether he would ever verbalize his feelings, his true feelings, which she knew were vying for a chance to be heard...
He vaguely remembered walking to the bedroom; or even lying down.
He had viewed her incoming note and realized she had validated her final thoughts and feelings over the greeting he had sent, months earlier. It had vexed her, he was sure, but that had not been his intent.
Lying there, looking up at his ceiling, he knew he had always cared deeply, as he did now; so deeply it ripped at his heart like a vulture tearing the skin off its prey.
Every moment of every day her vision clouded his reality - she was his fantasy; his little rose on a planet long forgotten.
The void in his life was never more visible than now. He needed to be acquitted of not loving her, but how? He could not bear to be verbally chastised again; he had barely survived her volatile words from their very first visit.
Her most recent visit had further vanquished him - how could he possibly claim victory now. He had already lost, there would be no vindication for him; he could say nothing; even if he did he knew it would be pointless.
He had known then that she would never understand his voiceless words; they were not visible to her heart. Her vision was clouded with a need he could never fulfill.
“One only truly sees with the heart, words are the cause of all misunderstanding,” he had told her. But she had still wanted his words.
She sat, staring at her screen wondering how his world looked from where he was...
He knew she had wiled away many hours waxing and waning over the way her words were woven together in her final note, which now filled his screen.
He felt she might have worried they would not wield the message in the way she had hoped - but she need not have for they did their work all too well.
Unable to bear the impact of her words any longer, he had opted to take a much needed walk to her favourite place.
Sitting on a wooden bench, overlooking the vineyard, he willed an answer from the universe; what should he do?
He reflected on how he could no longer trust his written words; they had worked against him at every turn.
He missed the way, in those earlier years, he had worked passionately for hours putting his thoughts, dreams and wishes on a page; he would then whisk his masterpiece off to the post where it would journey to another world taking over a week to arrive safely in her waiting hands.
Now, those were but lingering memories of a world long gone; washed away by distance, by time, and by fear.
All he had ever wanted was to whisper in her ear the words she longed to hear; he wanted her for eternity in all their wanderings in both their worlds; he wanted her with him now.
Sitting there, on the wooden bench, he wished for words he knew would never come.
Note: due to the limited available "X" words I am using "X" sounding words to complete my narrative. Thanks for your understanding.
Sometimes extreme measures are needed when dealing with extenuating circumstances.
When she was unable to extract a response from him she started planning her exodus and to leave behind the baggage she knew she could expunge without exciting suspicion.
Her plan had been simple to execute and would not require any extra measures to implement, other than excising her heart…but then hadn’t that already been done years earlier, she mused.
Having a flash back to when she had travelled an extreme distance to profess her love, only to be rebuffed and have herself exposed to exceedingly painful heartache, she realized she needed to stop making excuses for him.
He exacerbated her - the pain was still raw as she relived those excruciating memories - only an exceptionally deep, heartfelt explanation would exonerate him.
And while she was experiencing this ongoing exclusion, into his world, she hoped her final note had expressed the need for him to reply expeditiously - she could wait no longer.
What she did not know was he was his own judge and executioner...
He had extracted a high price from his soul every time he excluded her from knowing the extent of his true feelings.
He wondered if he could even exist without her?
Would he yield to his heart’s yearning? This question niggled at her and as days drifted on she tried to unyoke her feelings and move forward.
When the phone rang it startled her awake; with the grey cloak of early dawn still wrapped tightly around her she reached for it and answered.
His voice was that of the young man of yesterday - it took her breath away; she froze.
With closed eyes she felt the warmth of his breath caress her neck; he was there in her world yet the distance was like that of two galaxies at opposite ends of eternity.
Returning her thoughts to the moment she knew the time for hesitation was long over; she asked him the question she longed to have answered.
The silence was unbearable; would he finally yield to it or would he leave her to drift aimlessly amongst the stars yet again?
The engines hummed smoothly; the lights had been dimmed; the hushed voices around her were slowly fading.
She smiled to herself as she reflected on the last few months.
The handsome man, sitting in the window seat, had looked her way, one last time, before wrapping the blanket over his shoulders; leaning against the hull, with only a thin pillow for his head to call home, he was off and would probably remain so for the duration of their flight.
They had chatted at length, in the lounge, before boarding.
Looking at him, remembering his smile and the way the lines around his eyes crinkled when he laughed, she realized she was warming to the idea of answering the gentle knock, now audible, on the door of her heart.
Yes, she would answer and invite him in; she knew the time had come to start writing the next chapter of her life story.
She adjusted the overhead light, topped up her wine and continued reading the book before her.
There, amongst the pages, the zeitgeist of the woman she had been, years ago, lived on; though her heart no longer ached the words aroused a profound sense of sadness.
She had read the book dozens of times, before and after its release, and yet each time was like the first: never easy; never kind; always sad.
They had liked it enough to encourage the second, which she was now delivering; she knew there was a third in her but wasn’t ready to share it with anyone just yet.
This had been a long journey and as the hours drifted by, and pages turned over, she wondered what awaited at the end.
At that moment the twinkling of a singular star, in the midnight sky, caught her eye as she looked toward the window; she could almost hear it laugh, but then, she mused, it was just a little too far away; it was there and she was here - some things would never change.
Smiling, she wished upon it anyway.
Thank you for joining me on this epic journey from A to Z.
Now...how would you have ended this tale?
Do you think “she” is happy?
Do you think “he” has moved on?
Just curious...that’s all!!