Short Stories

A Lost Timeline

“Spring Valley” is an area right in the southmost part of the city, bounded by the physical borders of cliffs and oceans which place it in one of the most scenic scenes of the country. It is filled with foliage and parks along its length and has finally started to draw the attention of the upper-class, who would now occupy its residencies as an alternative way of the busy-city lifestyle. All the shabby ramshackles, the shanties, and the shacks of the old days have been steadily revamped as a shameful part that was neglected for a long time and which started taking its own form together with a character that its particular history was highlighting even further.

It was a long time since I passed anywhere close to this district and its whole existence had been mostly oblivious to me for a long time besides my distant familiarity with the area. But today I found myself passing right through its center and heading right along the unkempt bumpy roads it always had that I had been walking through a long time ago, more than I would care to remember.

This was my old neighborhood, the one I got to spend many of my early years before I get out into the world and it so happened that I found a house opportunity that intrigued me and made me revisit this same old neighborhood, not without the accompanying weight the endeavor would carry for that matter.

“A well-preserved apartment right aside the historic square,” wrote the ad. “It comes with two separate bathrooms and its own garden”.

From the moment I read it in the newspaper, I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, and right as I called the broker he bombarded me with his unstoppable banter going through all the possible options he had in the area, which were quite a lot for that matter and ignored my attempts to talk him out of it. For what I was really interested in wasn’t any house at all in that particular region but this one house I recognized through the creviced old walls and the shattered structure that had remained almost intact after all these years. The house I got to live in for more than 10 years of my life.

“I do not intend to waste too much of your time with this one sir,” he said as we entered the property. “This area has much better choices in very close proximity and it would be a shame to spend too much time on this one. As you may know, the whole area is going through steady development as we speak which makes the case for more houses than we can handle at the moment.”

I decided to take all his jabber with a grain of salt and restrained from responding to any of his comments which didn’t seem to bother him at all. He continued untroubled on his fast-forward, rushed manner as he plumbed his belly in between the slender hall-rooms. He was so overweight that every part of his body made the impression that it was shaped like a circle and the contrast in between the skittish, petite halls of the house was quite apparent.

The house still had the same wretched character it always had with its withered down walls and shoddy ground. The surface had been repainted seemingly recently but nothing could hide the worn-out hardware, the shattered windows, and the doors that were still lurking somewhat unsteady. Yes, that was my old house with the flaws and defects just like I loved it once and which I happened to abandon for a place closer in the city.

For all, I knew it went through a number of people after we left all quite impoverished like everyone else in the neighborhood, all quite destitute. Nobody with any sort of remote wealth would ever think to occupy a residence here. And so were we when we decided to move in right when we had given up all of our resources, that is of course me and my then teenage love Lily.

Just to clear the fog and set the record straight what we shared back then was nothing like the frivolous, foolish flinch that teenagers often feel like they do only to disengage the moment they get a glimpse of the real world. I had seen enough of those already all around me back in the day when the self-proclaimed rebels would stick out their heads declaring their passion just to stand out of their unbearable dullness of the time or when they would label a few days romance under the summer night, over the beach with a bottle of wine and some late impulse, love.

No, that’s not what I’m talking about here. Nothing so sketchy or depthless and I would never dare to use a work with such a weight if it wasn’t corresponding to something real.

Of course, the question will always rise and surf out in everyone who ever cared to understand these matters better and surely many people have tried to give their own unique interpretation. What is love exactly? What is this incredible shift that can change a person from the most selfish being in the universe to be ready to give everything away just to see his loved one happy, even when this is despite his own well-being. Is it some chemical reaction in the brain that a scientist could emulate just by giving the right amount of substances? Or maybe an illusion that plunders someone’s mind the same way a person left in the desert is hallucinating water and oasis as a figment of his imagination. Many are those that have given their own interpretations trying to understand it but to me, even though I’m not a scientist by any means or a psychologist studying the human heart or the human brain I can only understand it like a journey.

A journey that takes you thoroughly and wholeheartedly like a huge wave that usurps everything you ever knew and hauls you in without a sign or warning from its part. You have no option to question it or change its course and you have no way to revert the process as it is dragging you along with it wherever it goes. All you can do is follow along with it and enjoy the ride as you find yourself within one of the most magnificent experiences of living.

When I first met Lily we were both freshmen students at the university of Merrion. One that was quite prestigious but not intriguing enough to draw my attention to the bits and bolts of physics and the scientific roadmap. Don’t ask me of course how I ended up there because it wasn’t any dream or particular interest on my part in any way but rather the whims of my family to which everyone seemed to be a worshiper of science and strong devotee of academic research.

My father? Acclaimed professor of mathematics in one of the most reputable positions. He and my mother met at the forefront of the scientific labs right when she was just an associate and he was a respected member of the facility. If you take anyone from my wider family circle you will realize that nearly everyone has a strong inclination to science as well. My brother is a pharmacist, my cousin a PhD student in chemistry, my uncle a linguistic researcher, and one that has published a series of books to the public on the subject.

I had no choice but to follow the path that would somehow hold their aspirations and seemed relatively attractive to me –something which failed to deliver massively later on.

But the situation wasn’t the same with Lily who seemed to be devoted to her studies from the very beginning. When everyone else was lurking around in the haze of the youthful ignorance she would be conscientious and methodical. She would take notes when the rest weren’t paying attention and you would always trust that somehow she would know the answer to every question besides her shy, reserved manner of hers.

I first met her when we happened to take the same lab in one of the first semesters. It was a long time ago and surely my memory wouldn’t be in a position to replay satisfactory any such old events. But I do remember quite well this first day and how she came to make a strong imprint in my mind right from then on.

The whole room was separated into groups of fives which were sparsed into their own unique desks that were supposed to collaborate to fulfill the experiments. I’m not even sure how I got to be in the group I was in since I didn’t know nearly anyone there and nobody else seemed to do so either. All five foreigners stood right across from each other, evaluating and measuring what this new situation was supposed to be. In our case we had to implement one of the classic physic experiments were starting with water, we would transmute it to steam and fuse it into a little wheel that would move fast enough to produce electricity while sustaining the air back to water following a seemingly circular route.

None of us had any idea how to make this work or how to go about it and most above all me who never really paid any attention to the class or cared about any of these geeky experiments –no matter the fact that I had witnessed a number of these in my own home and I always made sure to bypass them in the first notice.

The lab instructor who was rather youthful and vigorous relatively speaking commanded the teams to stop for a moment and make a crucial decision before moving on with the project. Every group should elect a member to act as the coordinator and that was a choice that would make a huge difference in the overall success or failure of it. Nobody seemed especially eager to take any chances with it and so we decided to leave things in luck transferring the decision to the wisdom of someone who was to choose a person blindfold. The weight fell on me and suddenly I found myself right in the center of the scene, while everyone else was looking for some sort of guidance that I wasn’t prepared to give.

It was quite clear to me that no matter how strongly I wanted to escape the room and find a way out of the situation I had no choice but to indulge in it and keep my head straight no matter how strong my impulsion was to leave. Given the particular situation, I had no other way but to plunge right into it and do the only logical thing remaining for me to do. I split off the whole mechanism into four parts in the way that made the most sense at the time and assigned each one of those to the members leaving Lily for last as she was occupying the far end of the counter.

She was standing gloomy with her hands tied around her chest and she was observing me with a rather sullen expression, unwilling to share any of her thoughts with the rest of us, which I didn’t bother to pay any attention to back then.

I asked her to work on the wheel which was the last part of the equation and pointed to her that she should accumulate it to the lamp that was to bind with it through the glass which would make the whole thing come to life once every piece was available but instead of acknowledging her part she reacted in a way I would least expect of her especially given the fact of her previous silence. She ignored my comment completely and took a step closer as she pointed her finger at me in a confrontational manner.

“You don’t have any idea what you are doing do you?”

“Excuse me?” I asked quite stunned.

“You heard me. You are not supposed to work on this sequentially like this and if you happened to observe the class you would know that you are not supposed to attach the lamb to the socket until the very end. Unless you want to risk electricity going through us all of course..”

My mouth dropped down dead in astoundment and I found that I wasn’t sure how to respond to it because for the most part, I knew quite well that she was right and she had unveiled some part that I didn’t want to see really no matter how much aware I was. I kept my composure and showed no sign of my alertness at all.

“Well I just tried my best to make good use of everyone in the team,” I responded. “If you have a better idea about how to go on this, by all means..”

She took a deep breath.

“Well, for one thing, we shouldn’t divide the team into bits and pieces like this. The first part of the mechanism, which contains the main pipe right here.., is the most critical one and we should have at least two people work there to get that out of the way. The wheel will take care of its own if we manage to make this part work so the other two should focus on amending the cubicle and making sure to glue everything together for the lamb to come at the end. This way we should finish in half the time.”

Of course, she exclaimed all this while everybody else stood motionless and she went through it with both shyness and confidence as many knowledgeable people sometimes do. None of us had any such overview of the procedure or had the basic understanding to judge better so we stood there throwing smirk looks at each other as we all came to the silent conclusion that we had no better choice but to follow this young petite girl that seemed to know better than anyone else what we should do.

It was no wonder to me that we actually finished our little project first from everyone else in the whole lab, much to the amazement of our instructor. And neither was this the only time as this pattern followed throughout the whole year where every week we would gather in our little counter with a hidden anticipation on what little miracle this batty, lovable, magnetic girl would bring to the table for us. We never missed the first spot in all the exercises we got and our teacher seemed to be quite curious about her, visiting our little party rather accidentally and always posing some sort of question on her as if trying to deliberately find her weak spot.

“Does the brightness of the bulb depend on the voltage or the current miss Brown?”. “Would you mind explaining to us how reflection works in an optical fiber”. “What is light exactly?”. All questions that would trip the average student in trying to answer them but never Lily who seemed to actually enjoy the challenge. She would receive the questions with the same gracefulness no matter the difficulty of the question and showing her usual dedication and diligence she always had she would handle the case in some obscure manner that only she was capable of.

These were actually the only cases where her brilliance would shine like this since she was one of those people that would never take pride in their skills or at least she would never willingly exhibit them unless there was an apparent reason. For the most part, Lily would be as shy as a rabbit whereas I had noticed numerous times she would keep her silence as strictly as possible even when she knew the issue of discussion better than anyone and would avoid getting into conflicts unless it was for a task. That is on all other people except me of course cause since that day and the following contacts we had it would almost always be the case that she would oppose me in various ways or find a mistake that I had done and point it out on me.

As a case in point, it wasn’t a long time after that it so happened that she was the one elected to be the conductor in the team – we had all well agreed by then to go on a circular basis till all members get through the role sequentially – and when she was to assign the roles to us I got the part with the least amount of work in it justifying it by saying,

“Well, at least now you will have some time left to relax. Isn’t that what you always wanted?”

And the same attrition would follow along for the whole first I would say, being quite reserved against me and blocking any of the attempts I made to smooth things out between us.

My absent mind came harshly back to the moment as the house broker showed me the last remaining rooms as if I was to see them for the first time.

“The bedroom and the spare room are right here at the end of the corridor. Not quite big but assuming someone with enough appetite to amend them he could make good use of them.”

He showed me the rooms that were consisted of a soulless emptiness in the place that used to pulsate with life so long ago. And I could hardly keep my mind from filling out all the missing furniture with the two little low tables in the sides of the wall and the big mirror in the middle of it, that I had so vividly tied this room with. As I was looking at it the sense of it drew me back in time for a moment and it was like listening to Lily’s voice as it would come right through the hall.

“And I think that should be all Mr. Davis,” he exclaimed. “I guess you would like it that we should continue on with it and have a look at the rest of the apartments in the area. I assure you are gonna find some better opportunities here than this.”

“There won’t be any need for that I’m afraid,” I replied. “I’m actually inclined to get this one as it is. If that’s not a problem of course.”

My reply came surely as a surprise to him for he seemed to be scratching his head for how something like this could happen. But after the cumbersome initial steps, we actually got the agreement out and with a little relief for getting over this, we signed the papers and finished the process somewhat faster than usual.

The first time that I saw Lily open up and letting loose of her strict manner against me was right after the final big assignment of the class which got to be quite tricky in many aspects and slipped into unusual paths right from the beginning. When the instructor called us in his office to deliver it to us he seemed to be quite particular in our case and nothing in the whole process resembled the typical assignments that were to be given in such cases.

“I would like you to take on something more interesting than usual”. He said while subduing his eager attitude with a smile.

He had already made sure to welcome us in a hungry way, where he tried to impress us with his elaborate collection of books and his rare equipment of microscopes and telescopes he had in his possession. When he allowed us to examine them as we pleased, it seemed rather strange on his part and although everybody seemed overly enthusiastic about it I kept my share of suspicion on him.

“It is already well established that you are way ahead of everybody else as a team in the whole class. Thus I thought it would be a shame not to give you something more appropriate to your level. It wouldn’t attain to the teaching purpose otherwise anyway.”

Although it was honorable to be labeled ‘advanced’ in such a way and to be acknowledged as capable of dealing with more intriguing problems than usual, something in his whole demeanor didn’t seem right to me and I had the idea that he was more interested in giving us a hard time than actually helping us to learn more.

“I would like you to try something more innovative and progressive. Something that would give you the opportunity to unfold all your talent while using the latest technology we have available right here.”.

Up to this moment we kept on in our position almost motionless trying to defer what this ‘progressive’ thing would be. He seemed quite excited about the idea and he went on prattling about his vision for us to delve into the analysis of the atomic nuclei by using radioactive elements and how the facility had all the tools available to run a number of experiments in it. Of course, something like that would take lots of research and help maybe from more experienced people but he reassured us that we would have all the guidance we would need, and both he and the rest of the personnel would be available to us to help us bring the assignment to an end.

It wouldn’t be an easy task by any means. The process would evolve radioactive elements which were a beast to master on their own and it would take a huge amount of effort just to make the tiniest progress. It seemed to me that this was just a setup to make us fail as if he was tantalized by something and was determined to make it harder than usual.

I didn’t mention anything to the rest of the team who seemed thrilled to be part of this but I realized that Lily was at least as alerted by its prospects as I was and she was quite skeptical about this turn of events. When I asked her opinion on it she reassured me that everything was fine and that we would be in a position to overcome any difficulty. But something was telling me that she wasn’t quite saying the whole truth.

For the following few weeks till the end of the deadline we were consumed almost entirely with the assignment and we hardly had any time to bother with anything else. Each of us was to work on a particular sector and we would all gather up once every week to assess the whole progress. Suffice is to say that not only we hadn’t advanced in any substantial way into figuring things out as per our initial plans but we actually had been stagnating in multiple areas that we had never anticipated.

We had no way to figure out how radioactivity worked and the availability of the labs as they were promised to us were almost to no help at all and it would take months on end before we would be in a position to have an answer to our questions.

To top it all up, two of the team’s members, Oliver and Mia who were granted the responsibility to study the atomic nuclei and contribute to our overall understanding of their structure agreed to abandon the project altogether and they declared their decision one afternoon in one of our usual meetings leaving the rest of us in total confusion.

Three people, having only one week to figure out problems that would take experienced scientists months to solve anyway. It was to my surprise that this was the first time that I saw Lily somewhat discouraged about our overall prospects and anything I tried to lift our spirits up seemed to be diffused by a wall.

“We could ask the help of the Physics Students association. I know a couple of guys in there already and they could probably give us a hand with our situation”. “What if we tried to hire a real professional instead. Surely they would be able to solve the whole issue in just a few days if they know what they are doing”. “Or even we could just jot down our overall conclusions and explain to him that the whole assignment was just beyond our current capacity. They would surely understand given the situations.”

To all these attempts, of course, Lily merely took any of it seriously. She would always take an expression of utter disbelief to my ideas as if she couldn’t believe how somebody could even come with them and she would shake her head in utter contempt for being surrounded by such lesser people. Yet nothing in her apparent arrogance seemed to bother me at the time and instead of getting discouraged by her reactions, I got all the more intrigued by it, being determined to find a way to infiltrate her defenses.

Ellie, who was the last remaining member of the group was rather uninvolved with the whole situation as if nothing could penetrate her endless nonchalant attitude. After enough occasions of meeting her and observing her ways, I was quite sure that she was absolutely not invested in it in any way and it wouldn’t make a difference to her whether we aced or flop the test. With her blaze eyes, she would stand next to us swirling her curly hair and chewing her gum rather ostentatiously while I and Lily would break our heads trying to figure things out.

In the end, Lily gave her ultimatum which astonished me once again and was the result of her working things out on her mind while letting no one else in it while doing so.

“Ι will have to speak to the instructor directly”.

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean I will get to his office and set the record straight with this whole assignment he gave us. It’s clear that it is beyond the scope of an ordinary student so he should agree to reduce the theme to something more substantial.”

The idea seemed logical but something in me was telling me that I shouldn’t let her go for her pride might put her in danger.

“I don’t think you are right that we should speak to him but you shouldn’t do it alone in any way. I think we should all get to him together as a team”

“No question about it buddy. I’m going in alone.”

There was nothing I could say to convince her otherwise and no matter what I tried was rejected before even pronouncing it. All the while Ellie was standing back enjoying her drink as if none of it mattered in any way. In the end, she ended up going her own way and what followed was beyond anyone’s expectation.

According to the narration of the events that followed later, although you can understand were under the most strenuous and frantic conditions as you all well can understand, here is what I managed to conclude out of the whole situation. Although non of it is something I’m particularly inclined in reciting.

Lily arranged a meeting with Brett Bulloch -our assignment’s instructor- a couple of days later and he invited her in his office to discuss the matter at hand. Lily tried to explain to him the situation and how hard things were for us during our work for this assignment and made the point that the task was beyond the average student’s capacity. After listening to her and all the problems we were facing he invited her to elaborate on our work during this whole and invited us to showcase our progress and hindrances in detail. Based on my understanding they ended spending a good chunk of time going through the whole thing and he invited her to the lab where they could make a better demonstration of the task at hand.

There and after having gone already through a series of drinks which he made sure to share with her under the cover of being in good spirits and spending some good productive time with her, his demeanor changed all of the sudden, and made an approach on her without having declared any of his intentions previously. I’m still not sure what were exactly the events that took place in the lab but once I saw Lily after the incident having no clue of what had preceded, Ι realized that something terrible must have taken place and till this day I never faced Lily into such a horrid and dismal position as she was back then.

Ohh my dear Lily if only I could swap all the horror out of you and make you forget about it I would be willing to take all the burden myself and never once I would look back at my decision. Right then and there I promised her that I would make this man pay one way or the other and I would make sure to have our revenge on him once the time was right. But back then our best option was to make a formal accusation and report the incident to the proper people in charge but once again I found myself getting succumbed to her innumerable determination. She wouldn’t allow any of this to go public and she surely didn’t want to involve in the mix of any people besides the directly related ones.

Now even though Lily was always quite stubborn and she never made it easy for others to come to an agreement in the following few days there was a substantial change in her general attitude towards me and it was the first time that she showed signs of opening up. She talked to me all about her past and quite extensively and the poor background she was coming from. She spoke about the hard times her alcoholic father had given to her family and all the troubles they had gone into just for trying to get him back straight. After his early death when she was only 12 years old she ended up taking almost full responsibility for the household, given that the mother never really managed to get the hang of the situation and she had to take care of both of their younger two brothers who were living with her.

You can imagine my dear reader, some of the longest and most sincere discussions where two people reach a level of understanding that is very rarely achieved during a lifetime. She would plunge her pale delicate face in her arms and with her whispery voice, she would expand over anything and everything that was swirling in her mind. Like this, we opened up our souls and treated each other as if there was enough trust to take care of each other, and from that point on we connected in a way that we would never turn our back to us again no matter what would come. Yes my lovely Lily, opened up like a flower that its time has come and blossomed in one moment sharing its gift after a long time that was closed. And I treasured the fact that I was to be the one for it, and right in the spur of the moment she opened up to me fully and we loved each as no other man has ever loved again.

It was one of the most majestic periods we had together, but at the same time, it was the period where the trouble came to face us knocking right at our doorsteps without having any clue on how to deal with it.

You see the thing that I never realized was that Lily wasn’t just worried about herself, but she was trying to protect the rest of us as well from a danger I had hardly registered in the beginning. Brett had insinuated that any word from her would lead to all of us being expunged from the university and he was actually in such a position that he could assert full power over our future and one word from him could mean the end of our careers. An accusation against a distinct member of the university was not to be taken lightly at all and in that particular case, it seemed he was willing to push things to the limit to protect his position.

I was never actually too immersed into the standard physics career through a university and if there was any trace of attachment holding me to it still it vanished in the sheer moment when I was confronted with the events. Life had much more to offer to two young people that were capable and spirited and I knew there were many more opportunities to the table than wasting three more years in a university like this and I actually had an idea on how we could achieve better.

Ian Morrison, a distant cousin of mine and a successful businessman on the other side of the country, had many times expressed his opinion that education was a rather wasteful activity. I still remember the first quarrels he had with my father as they were discussing the subject and Ian hanging on stable on his position that not only most of the lessons young people get is useless for the most part, but that it can also be harmful to them drawing a completely wrong image of the world than what is in reality.

“School is nothing but a puppet factory,” he used to say getting my father in his limits. “It is the great equalizer of our time. You get pure original material on one side as all people tend to have when they come into the world and you get the same customized generalized person in the other one where all of them come to think and operate in the same manner”.

Or as another example “You can’t really be so naive my dear Steven (Steven being my father). Education is nothing but an operation to get into the young men’s minds and control them. You need to open your eyes at last.”

To all these of course I never had any particular interest in the subject other than watching my desperate father having no way to confront his ideas or being staggered into a corner not being able to answer his argument other than his usual,

“Ohh for God’s sake Ian when will you grow up at last”.

Besides his unconventional ideas, it was quite obvious that not only he fully believed the claims he was making but he was also walking the path himself by dropping out of school at a young age to work alongside his father in the shop. Even though it wasn’t always easy as he used to say, he was always a strong proponent of “real work being the best teacher” and he would do anything to support people following this ideal.

If I was sure about one thing was the fact that if the case would come to it he would surely open his arms to help both me and Lily in making a start like this and I was starting to warm up to the idea that this would be the best way forward.

When I presented the idea to Lily she immediately objected to it like it was madness. By that time we had already failed the class as it so happened that Brett finished his great plan by cutting us off for “insufficient material” and chances were that we would have to deal with great trouble before ever making it through the class as long as he was in charge of it. But somehow she still seemed to be stubborn on the idea that we could never abandon a practice like that and it was rather a responsibility on our part to get through it all the way to the end.

It took rather a good few weeks for her to even start discussing the subject and even then it was hard to convince her of taking the step without having something substantial to show for it. Only after me talking to my cousin directly about the issue and explaining the situation to him, she took rather seriously realizing that we actually had good prospects this way and it was an idea at least worth checking given the fact that there was a job waiting for us there.

Ian offered me immediately a position in his office as an entry-level analyst which wasn’t quite bad given the fact that he owned an accountant firm and he was well established in the market as a popular option. And Lily could also occupy herself as a secretary assistant which although wasn’t her dream job it would be sufficient for us in the beginning till we were ready to take our first steps.

In the end and after long discussions iterating and recapping the various possibilities it was to my great amazement that she eventually accepted the opportunity and it wasn’t long afterward that we hit the road to start our little journey with nothing but a bag and the sheer determination of two adolescents. And as it turned out it was a rather turbulent voyage that none of us expecting at that point in time. And it all changed everything for us setting up a stage that would leave a sheer mark on us forever.

There have been some substantial changes in my working environment lately that have made quite an impression on everyone and people have been talking about this general change of affairs quite extensively. Of course, let me just explain myself dear reader for I have mentioned nothing of the sort so far and it is my inexcusable omission for doing so. After all the youthful adventures and the missteps that came along the way, I ended up being the sore owner of a company that I started a long time ago, and which has now grown to be quite a big one while making a respectable yearly revenue. As of now, we get to employ more than 100 employees all of which are carefully chosen, hard-working people that were added after a strenuous battle with the economical forces and it has been an ambition of mine to continue hiring even more of them continuing our stellar advance as we have been doing for so long.

It wasn’t an easy process of getting there by any means and God knows how many traps and pitfalls we have avoided over the years to get here. Our first few years had all negative yield without exception and the few people we were at that point in time had to do overwork just to manage our first steps in the market. Somehow our stubbornness persevered and we ended up with a good few customers that gave us enough leverage to continue. Day by day, the little battles we were winning here and there accumulated and it wasn’t long after that our luck changed decisively and we ended up with a substantial growth that changed completely the overall landscape.

Of course, in none of this was Lily present or she ever learned at all as far as I am concerned, but something is telling me that most of what I did was somehow to prove to her invisible spirit what I was capable of and many of my actions, it has become quite evident to me, were heavily dictated by her even if she was never present asserting an imperceptible influence even in her absence.

As a case in point, it was only a few weeks back that we found ourselves in the final stage of a deal with a tech company that stands as one of the leaders in their area, where a number of progressive plans would facilitate and we would reach out to a younger audience. Of course, our company being one of the top providers of raw materials and having a strong foothold in the market already would be as beneficial to them as they would be to us, economically speaking and in general both parties anticipating the partnership for quite a while now.

Yet when I looked into the company’s history a little bit more deeply I found strong evidence of their negligence to the environment and there were quite a few accusations on their part for having quite a negative impact on it as a direct outcome of their policies. Now, of course, that wouldn’t be enough reason for a company to stop a collaboration, especially when the events were quite a long time ago and they wouldn’t really affect any of our present doings.

But being in the presence of Lily for so long and knowing exactly the way she would react on such an occasion something urged me to change direction radically and follow her path besides being so advantageous in general.

The reactions that came out of it were not fickle and it took a long time just to make the purpose of the decision clear to everyone. And from the moment I made up my mind that Monday morning and let the case be known I felt as if everyone questioned my actions as if something in me had gone wrong.

“Mr. Davis, today you have the appointment with the Bradox representatives. Would you like me to prepare some material beforehand for you just in case?” asked me Sara the office secretary as I run right into the office.

“No, that won’t be necessary anymore, I’m afraid. The deal with Bradox is canceled and it’s time that we move on.” I replied as entered my office.

That day I received a number of visits from people all around trying to defer whether I had gone mad or there was some particular reason for my decision.

“But are you sure about this, Matthew?”. “What if you are wrong about this decision. Maybe we should postpone any ultimatum and discuss the issue till we are all certain”. “We are throwing the opportunity of a lifetime”.

Of course, to all this and to the amazement of everybody I would simply respond curtly and laconically leaving as little room for discussion as possible. “What shines is not gold”, I would reply usually leaving things up to some sort of mystery, or with the allure of sheer determination I would utter “it would do more harm to us in the long run than what we would gain of it right now,” and this sort of thing, that although it would leave everybody displeased and hungry for more information it seemed to suffice to assume that there was some deeper reason behind my attitude that I wasn’t quite able to reveal.

Similarly, Lily is the reason behind the great change of the company towards charity and humanitarian causes. A good 10 percent of our earning is bound to go to poverty foundations, child sponsorship, and elderly aids, under the disguise of course that it is all for the profit of the company who is going to save it through tax expenses and will build a good name to the world although this is hardly the case in reality at least not in the degree they were exhibited to them.

Let me just say that much of my general purpose in life changed radically since I met Lily and my strong ambitions mellowed like a mature grape hanging from the tree for a bit too long and nothing of what drove my wheels back in the day remained alive at all. From the moment I saw her work kids, animals, and any sort of suppressed group of people, in the instance my eyes laid upon her supreme compassion and the total devotion of greater good it was never the case with me that I could simply continue on with my life like normal and something shifted in me that I couldn’t quite control. Oh, my dear reader, there are no words to describe this mixture of dynamism and sensitivity, the character she kept even in the harshest moments that would have scrambled anybody else and the sheer integrity would stop to nothing to help others even in danger of her own.

But let me not ahead with this because this is way later in the course of things as they happened. For the time being what is of some importance was the fact that in the course of the last few weeks I managed to refurnish pretty much everything in the house in as close resemblance of how it used to be as I could manage. I picked the same mahogany table with the subtle streams of the wood and blending shadows that we used to have made sure that it contained golden handles in the drawer we were so keen on. I chose the same rosewood chairs with the curvy skeleton that was filled with subtle furrows in its body and the impressive lambs and vases that I could recreate in my mind as they used to be. If someone was to look at the end result of how it is now and how it was then one could easily appreciate the incredible similarity given the difficulty of the task as most of those things came straight from the memory and many things were sort of old fashion.

Of course, none of it would bring her back and it would be a huge mistake to assume that all this work was a cheap trick to lure her back to me. No, no not all what was the actual reason for all this work was nothing but my sheer pleasure of creating this space as a little window in time that I can travel back in an era that was incomparably more interesting to me. And hopefully, this will be my refuge for when the time is needed.

From the moment we reached the cousin’s house I have to say nothing of my previous reality remained the same. And I don’t mean just the situation, whether this is economical or not, and the close environment you are surrounded with, but rather our psychology as well, our attitude and behavior we carried ourselves with and pretty much everything that came our of that as well. We left the world of the blissful ignorance that comes together with student life and plunged right into its strict opposite where suddenly nothing was a given. We had to learn how to sustain ourselves, how to maintain a home, and how to manage our lives without anyone else being there to do it for us. Of course, we had Ian with his fiance Maria, who were quite supportive and accomodating right from the get-go but even that was something that was bound to end at some point and actually it wasn’t long after that even Ian himself changed face from his initial image and appeared to be quite obnoxious, to say the least.

Now of course I don’t want to sound ungrateful in any way or inconsiderate for everything that he offered us as it is quite evident that he gave us a home when we had nothing at our disposal and he helped us stand on our feet when we had just mere pennies in our pockets and almost no experience of the outer world or how it works. As a matter of fact, it was Ian that in a way taught me pretty much everything that I get to use now and if there is one person that I can point to about how I managed to maintain such a big company for so long and even built it from scratch it was actually him. Him and nobody else.

You see the moment we got to him he was already well into his way of dominating his field almost fully and he had such prominence in the market that people would consider him an authority and would look up to him as if he was the mere holder of a secret on how someone could get there. He always carried a certain smugness in him as if he knew more than he would reveal and you always had the suspicion that he is withholding crucial secrets from you. He was super-tall and skinny with carefully crafted hair that would always slide backward in his head and he would rarely smile or show any amiable feeling because I always thought he would consider any such action a pure sign of weakness.

Right from the moment I met him, he made sure to guide us on everything we had to attend, starting with the work in his office and he gave us his house to stay in till we managed to afford our own. None of it came easy and surely we had to spend tons of time together going through the bits and bolts of what the work was all about. As an accountant assistant, I would have to make sure all documents were in proper order and state at all times, I had to understand the ins and outs of every little intricacy that could make a difference and even the little tricks that could save you under a financial evaluation or scanning of the books. Everything had to be taken care of and been treated with the proper care and it wasn’t a few times that I found myself lost in the seas of information.

But what was the most interesting thing of all was to witness the whole reaction on the floor when it was announced that a certain supervisor was to pay a visit to us or when we had to evaluate the books for the authorities. Mark and Jason the two guys that I was to spend the most time with while in the office and my direct formen, would run around amidst stacks of papers that would hang on top of their desk shuffling and mixing and pounding onto everything to make sure there was no mistake to be found. It was always a spectacle to watch and it would feel as if there was a total transformation of the whole place that changed as if a bomb exploded right in the center of it.

But nothing could compare with the sheer thrill of watching Ian handling his cases heads on. Of course, a person of my age and experience would never be able to witness any of it normally let alone participate in it and being an active member, but given our direct affinity, and the fact that he always loved to play the role of the mentor and expand on to his ideology and set of rules that got him where he was, he would allow me from times to times to jump in into meetings with clients, or partners just to introduce me to certain ideas. It was right in these cases that I got a good glimpse of his sharpness, cunningness, and even ruthlessness that he carried with him and I would have never witnessed it if it wasn’t for the particular circumstances.

Case in point? It was only two weeks in that I was working with Mark on some of the standard workloads when Ian came in and invited me to join him in his office. Of course, when I asked him what this was all about in particular I received nothing but his characteristic nod with the dismissive “just wait and see their boy. There is something I would like you to be part of. It will be good for you”. Ian always preferred this furtive way of communication so I tried nothing else to understand further, especially since I assumed that he was probably going to embark on some new teaching lesson for me.

It was to my amazement that when the door opened a few minutes later three gentlemen in suits and ties walked right in that didn’t seem like rookies at all and the whole event seemed to be of some prominence. All three of them were quite official in their manners and stern and although they made a few light jokes in the beginning there seemed to be quite a lot of tension in the table simmering behind the mild smiles everyone held.

“You seemed to be holding quite well my dear, since the last time I saw you.” said the oldest guy who seemed to be in control of the situation. “And a new office right in the center of town, it must be quite an upgrade for you”

“Well, one must rejoice in the lures of his hard work. Otherwise, there would be no point in doing any of it don’t you think?” replied Ian.

“And you have done quite well over the years as everybody is well aware. It surely wouldn’t be a problem to help us handle our particular situation as well, I assume.”

At this moment the tone of the conversation changed from being elusively light to a deadly serious one and Ian took a few moments to consider his answer while having sheer silence from the other end.

“Of course that would depend on what that ‘particular situation’ might be exactly.”

“I think you know what the situation is”, blustered the guy on the right but he was immediately silenced by the other guy who took the control back with a single move of the hand.

“The situation is..” he began and waited reluctantly pointing at me evidently asking with his eyes how safe it would be to speak in my presence.

“Matthew is a person of trust, you can be reassured of this,” exclaimed Ian giving him permission to continue.

“Ok, so the situation is as you may have heard that currently there is a heavy inspection from the Government in companies like ours, where they try to improve their ratings by making this theatrical play for the world. Of course, we have nothing to fear but these people have been specially hired to expose us one way or the other so we can’t leave anything in luck as you understand.”

“Of course,” muttered Ian with his hands triangled in front of his face. “Of course I understand. It must be a difficult situation for you and no doubt this little display from the Government could be quite annoying. But I still don’t see how we can help you with the matter. After all, we are just an accountancy firm.”

At this point, all three men just glanced at each other quizically as if this was the last thing they expected to hear and the and the old man straighten his jacket with a sharp move of his hand before continuing.

“As you may understand this is a very sensitive position for us and we need to settle this matter as delicately as possible. That is a task not anyone can achieve that easily surely and I know for sure that you have everything it takes to handle it effectively as we would expect.”

“What we do is nothing sort of magical Mr. Francis. We have to dig in the dirt, many times with a risk of our own and we need to handle certain ‘people’ just to be able to get you out of the situation unscathed as you prefer it. What you are doing is you merely transposing the responsibility to us and hope for the best but you forget the sort of risk we have to go through to reach these standards you require.”

At this moment the man on the right erupted once again from his seat evidently angry and ready to explode and once more the old guy stopped him with a single gesture of his hand that was enough to bring him back in place.

“As you can imagine you will be more than well compensated for your services Mr. Morssison. Be assured the prize will be even bigger than what it has been in the past.”

“Bigger is not gonna cut it, my dear, I’m afraid. It has to be double,” he said with an intense sneer that he didn’t bother to hide. “Double or nothing”.

This time the guy on the right stood up and yelled that this was a steal and that they should all leave and find someone else to cover for the services but the old man seemed to be quite enchanted by Ian and worst of all was the fact that Ian was well aware of this peculiar power he was asserting to him that he never quite doubt what was to follow. He just stood smiling in the back of his chair twiddling his thumbs while being confident enough that they needed him more than he needed them. And so it went on that right in front of my eyes the old man once again silenced the enraged one and with the eyes of defeat, he succumbed to my cousin’s will.

“You will have exactly what you asked for Mr. Morisson. I’m sure it would suffice more than enough for all the trouble of yours.”

And with that, they left with a little voiceless nod, and Ian rejoicing in the triumphs of his win.

Of course, that was the first time I witnessed Ian showing a bold character like this. If someone would have told me that he would be capable of handling situations so daringly I would never have believed him for it in a million years. I always thought Ian to be the harmless smartass, the super-cocky, boastful causing that always bragged over his achievements or inflating his success over his losses.

But what I got to encounter was nothing less than a sheer wolf that wasn’t scared to jump on anyone just for the sheer pleasure of hunting. He wouldn’t flinch even if there was an army standing right against him and even more so it was quite obvious that he enjoyed the display of power he had over others and I doubt he was after money more than he was after humiliation. It is quite true that I never saw Ian the way I used to see him before and it was from that day on that his true character became apparent to me through a series of events that shattered that image I had of him for good.

He would never take people’s opinions into consideration, he would always display his arrogant and egocentric attitude by taking all the decisions by himself, many times mocking the ideas of others and even on one occasion, I witnessed him putting down some of his most trusted members during a presentation on which I happened to be present as well.

Two of the most experienced members would iterate over their forthcoming campaign displaying the most notable of intricate information one could imagine and evidently showing extreme care on both their analysis and determination to do a splendid job and beyond anyone’s expectation, he simply belittled them with the most disdainful scorn that left all the rest of us in the room speechless. After being silenced for pretty much the whole hour and adopting the pose of joining his hands in front of his mouth while plunging back deep into his chair -a pose I later came to realize he would use always before reprimanding anyone- he started clapping sarcastically and responded like this,

“What a presentation. What a presentation. That was simply magnificent. Don’t you guys think so as well? They did just a fantastic job there in their analysis”. Of course, nobody said anything to this and I’m sure the whole room was so heavily silenced at this point that you would be able to listen to a small pin dropping down in the other end of it.

“Martin and Sean, two of our most exemplary members. Solid advisors and experienced directors with more than..what is that Martin how long are you two in the firm now?”

“25 years sir”

“25 years, right. 25 full fucking years, that’s a long time isn’t it? After all this time you’ve been here and you present me this? This is your idea about how we should expand the business further? Target a younger audience?”

“We think it would be good sir. We reassure you it would be a good strategy.”

“You think shit, Martin. You think shit. Our expertise comes from a specific group of companies and we want to stay there. None of what you showed up there is applicable in our case and we are not after a total shift. Do you get it? It’s all bullshit”. “Now you tell me because I don’t how much more patient I can be with you, will you take the chance and work again on this properly this time because you have my word, this is going to be the last mistake you make in here. Bring me any shit like this and you are out. You are both out. Got it?”

The meeting ended in sheer silence and nothing could describe the level of disquiet that was to follow. The impact from it stayed in the air for a long time afterward and even I couldn’t understand how someone could behave like this on people who have been loyal and faithful to him for so many years. If one thing was for sure was the fact that my cousin wasn’t the person I thought he was, and unfortunately his character started showing even in the house as well, in the way he behaved towards his fiance and us which set the options for what was to come.

What used to be interpreted as jokes were revealed to me as nagging comments disguised under the veil of good faith humor. All the remarks of the things “we have to learn on our way”, the interventions on how we should do things, and how we should move on from now on, I and Lily, took on a completely different shade of what I had assumed. What I thought naively to be a sort of fatherly guidance and good-natured advice revealed as the arrogant exhibition of a megalomaniac as it really was and It wasn’t long that I started realizing that his place although quite a hospital and spacious was not right for us and soon we would have to depart for something different and even find a different job that we could earn our money from.

By that time we had been under his wing for quite a few months and both of us had already established our patterns in work and our way of living which seemed to cover at least the basics. We had occupied the whole semi-basement floor of the house -a part that was initially denoted to be a storage room- and we were quite comfortable in having it equipped with all sorts of apparel. Lily had found her way as an assistant secretary in which she had to work alongside Laura, and seemed to be quite pleased by the progress as far as the working environment was concerned.

As a matter of fact, as many times as I tried to extract some sort of displacement of negative notion about that aspect, I was always confronted by a positively, determined attitude that everything was just fine and she seemed to click there as she hoped to. Of course, my purpose was not to prove that something was wrong but I knew for a fact that Lily was not the person that would complain about little things and I needed to make sure that there was nothing particular bothering her, especially after having confronted the hostility Ian could show at times.

And on my end things weren’t that far off if you were to exclude the unreasonable behavior of my cousin and I can say that as far as anything was concerned I was quite pleased and happy with it. But that alone was quite enough to ruin everything for and many times I was right on the verge of unleashing everything upon him and throwing it all out just for the chance to get away from him.

On one occasion as we were invited for dinner upstairs it became apparent that he would mistreat even Maria herself and there was nothing really that could stop his narcissism from hurting the people around him. We had all joyfully joined the table for what was supposed to be a nice, pleasant Sunday dinner where we were discussing the various micro things as someone would expect when Ian decided to throw one of his usual confrontation once again.

“We are planning to make quite a nice revamp of the whole place,” started Maria, “starting with walls and the colors and changing the whole decoration to make it have more..I don’t know..more personality,”

“That is fantastic,” replied Lily, “what are you planning to do with it exactly?”

“I haven’t decided just yet, I’m thinking of making it ‘Winter calm’ or just a minor darker layer of grey just to make it easier for the eye. And also, much more importantly, we are planning to have a dog in the house as well which I simply cannot wait,”

All this expressed of course with the highest of warmth and rapture about her future plans and we all joined in with her sharing her good vibes and excitement. All except Ian who remained grudgingly stubborn in his seat and started blubbering in the most ungraceful manner.

“‘Winter calm’. Can you believe this bullshit they come up with?”

“Well I’m sorry honey, do you have a better idea about it then?”

“A better idea? No of course not, you can take this whole place and change it as you see fit. Just do with it as you please. Do you want to turn it upside down? Maybe add a bunch of animals in there and make it a farm? I don’t care. Do as you please.”

“I thought we agreed on this.”

“No, we didn’t agree on anything. You agreed with yourself. And now you want to add a dog in here too? Fuck that. I don’t need any of this. I don’t want to have that stupid dog and you can forget all about it.”

And this way the clash went on with Lily running off in tears after a while and Ian revealing once again that little smug smile of his win. That smile that he would always display when he achieved his goals and that I wanted nothing else but to wreck with a good right punch.

The whole situation turned upside down totally and what seemed to be a place we could relax, proved to be a nightmare we had to escape from. Of course, Lily wouldn’t quite share my fears on this and would always comment that I would over-react or that although despicable this would be a behavior many men would embark on, and given the circumstances, we should try and find a way to make it work for things could be much worse otherwise. It was hard to prove to her the little monster that was hiding underneath his mask and she would always find some sort of excuse of how I shouldn’t take everything so seriously.

For example, for all the cases of his unreasonable bashing on his stuff, she would simply respond with the fact that employers need to do this from time to time and that if they don’t assert dominance they would run a risk on the business and the overall good. He sure wasn’t the best person once could find in any way but he would offer us his place when we were in need and we should show some indulgence in his general misbehavior till we had a more stable foothold.

It was only soon after that the situation culminated and I could sense we were heading in the wrong direction. For one thing, I could sense that he really had no interest in me in particular in the sense of offering a helping hand but he was more after having a person of his own that would report to him the information from inside and I would act as some form of a spy in the company in the things he wouldn’t be able to detect himself.

It wasn’t rare cases that he would ask me about other members, and their behavior behind his back or what was going on in various meetings when he wasn’t present himself apart from the formal conclusions.

That was surely something I had no interest in participating and I always dismissed his concerns with blatant remarks like “Oh it was nothing special”, or “Damn, this meeting was boring like a funeral”.

But on the other hand, and this was even more stressful to me, there were many times that I would catch him looking at Lily in very strange ways or even make innuendos on her under the coverage of humor. The way he would stare at her would give me the impression that he had a strong longing for her and many times he wouldn’t even care to conceal it as if it was quite normal.

Many times he would seek her company when I wouldn’t be present myself and one time I swear that as I entered the parlor somewhat unexpectedly I saw him talking to her in a close distance rather seriously while she had her hands folded around her chest. Of course, I knew that Lily would ever cheat on me and especially with a guy like Ian, but it was also obvious that she would never expose his attempts on her in terms of not creating any conflict between us and she was willing to suffer a lot of hardships just to make things easier for everyone.

Of course, she never admitted any of it, and matter how much I pressured her to disclose what had occurred she always finds a way to play it down, but after that even it was quite clear to me that there was no more room for us to be in that place and that we had to get out of it as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, it was then that I found an old acquaintance of mine in the city and he told me about a position that I might have good chances to get. And with that opportunity, as it came along I decided that it was time to make the move to a new place which was that little apartment in Spring Valley, where we got to spend so many years of our lives and that shaped us to become who we are today.

And so it came and we moved there within a month and both me and Lily opened a new chapter in that little place that I now have the sheer pleasure to own once more.

Yesterday there was a terrible incident that happened during the day in the office that struck me out of the blue. Tony Shaw, one of the board members and respected ex-businessman himself, found me in my office during a matter that was rather upsetting to him. He couldn’t understand how I came to decide that the company should spend money on opening a subdepartment in Clanton, a relatively poor area of the town when in reality there were so many cheaper choices for us and we could delegate the money in a better way.

It wasn’t the first time that I was confronted about my decisions of course but it never happened that someone would question my decisions in such a bold way and it was evident that my long term fear had become a reality and that it was time to face some strong opposition on my actions.

The subdepartment in Clanton although it was accepted by the rest as was my suggestion, it came at a time that Tony was missing and naturally he found my decision a little bit odd, to say the least. Clanton has no real interest in most businesses as it is an area that is mostly secluded and has a small margin of the market. It was one of the areas with the lowest income indexes which made it hard to find any client at all but also it was an area that was making its baby steps and was starting to show some hope for the future and for all its citizens who lived under the worst conditions.

My decision of course was multi-faceted. On one hand, it was supposed to be helpful to the community offering a hand of help by boosting the economy upwards. The more businesses in the area the more development and it felt like a matter of responsibility to take things like this into consideration.

On the other hand, opening a department in an area like this has the potential of great earning on its accord. It only takes a few more moves like this and a whole place can turn upside down taking the upward spiral where you could get multiple earnings on your investment which was quite small in comparison to what it would be required to get a more high-end place.

Of course, I never revealed to anyone the first part cause that would be fatal in the company world but nonetheless, it was still the case that my decision was well-grounded and solid on the ground of taking a small risk with the chance to win big.

“My dear Tony, of course, you were away and missed all the preceding reasoning but I assure you everything happened under strong consideration from everyone.”

“You want to tell me that there is the logic for this decision of yours?”

“It wasn’t just mine, Tony it was everyone’s as a matter of fact.”

“But the rest don’t know how any of this works. You know and I know but everybody else will just follow along to wherever direction you point at even if their eyes are blind shut.”

“And is that a bad thing you mean?”

“Yeah it is a bad thing Matthew. People get blindspots many times. They can get unreasonable or stubborn and lose sight of what matters”.

At this point, he started marching in the room in evident tensity but I knew quite well that I should keep my input as minimal as possible. Whatever idea he had in his mind it was best to blurt it out right then and there and get it on with it immediately instead of forcing my opinion on him and creating a long-term enemy. If there was any chance of soothing his feelings it would be to just go along with it no matter how unpleasing it was.

“You know Matthew I have nothing but respect for you and your expertise in the area. I’ve told you before and I think you’ve been doing a great job. But you know what I think is going on here? I think you are getting kinda soft. You just don’t care about anything anymore certainly not about the profits of this business at least that’s for sure. All this bullshit about the charities and the philanthropies and the tax reductions. You see I don’t bite that. I think you just switch interest and you are more into helping others than running this company. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? You just decided to be a good person and so you are not afraid of spending money even if it is against the rest of us. Am I right?”

“Tony I think you misunderstood the things here a bit. There is no philanthropic cause for this decision whatsoever and I assure you it all happened after thorough examination on what is the best and most profitable for the company. Clanton is quite poor at the moment for sure and it wouldn’t be the first choice for a company under any circumstances. But the thing is Tony, this whole area is on the rise at the moment. There are already other companies that have dared to see at the issue the same way I did and took the plunge to open offices there too”, I offered him some papers denoting all the companies that had opened up recently there, “and things could change very rapidly if things continue to go the same way. Also, all the buildings in the area and the ones we bought were only at a small fraction of what it would be in any other place and we got away by getting it quite cheaply relatively speaking. All in all, we managed to get something at the lowest possible price when in reality it has the potential to yearn for incredible results in just a few years in time. Does that cover your question, Tony?”

My answer finds him quite unpleased for shattering his idea but I was sure that my explanation wouldn’t suffice in any way from him investigating everything further and trying to find evidence of my dis-alignment with the company’s interest. Even though he was quite careless at the time I had to make sure that I would keep an eye for it was without doubt that he would follow up with it sooner or later much more thoroughly than he did then.

There was nothing to describe the expression of Ian when I told him about our plans to move away from the center and head down to “Spring Valley” where I had found my new job.

“But why would want to go there? There are so many great things awaiting you here, plus you can move up the ladder in no time. People with your talent are scarce it would be a shame to lose people like you.”

It took me a good while trying to persuade him that my decision had nothing to do with the job or the particular place I was staying and I made sure to leave no room for doubt as to what was my real opinion of him and his methods. I talked about how important it was to leave the city and how it was always a goal of ours to get in the suburbs where there was still room to breathe. Even though it was hardly the case at the time I knew he would never suspect that anything was wrong with him or what was the real reason behind the move and so he accepted the fact rather gracefully at the end and we departed on quite good terms, reminiscent of all the great time we had since the beginning.

Even though I would hardly believe anything from his part and I knew most of his sayings were usually meant to be a manipulation, that was the only occasion in which I felt he generously was sorry to watch us go and for the first time I could say I felt some sort of sympathy towards him. Either way, we departed just a few days later and embarked on our new beginning and what was meant to be some of the best years of my life. For I would never have anticipated how much better things got once we got away from the trap we found ourselves in and the joy of freedom seemed to overpass everything else in comparison.

Of course, nothing came easy in the beginning and it took a good few months before we were really able to sustain ourselves fully on our own. The house was almost empty and with wrecked old walls that were filled with crevices. My job would pay only a percentage of what I was taking in my previous one and many times I would have to work till late leaving barely some time for me to meet Lily. The job was harder, the room was highly uncomfortable and money was scarce yet it was apparent to me that we still made the right choice and there was no question as to how important that step was for the future.

Lily eventually found a job in an animal center, and it was right there that she actually found her true purpose and her aspirations got to unfold. She started engaging in activism and fight for everything related to the environment or animal abuse and it was right then that she started coming full into her own as the dynamic woman she was meant to be.

The only problem was that after the first year it so came that we would hardly see each other and our schedule was such that we would never make it to meet each other let alone built the foundation for a relationship as it was supposed to be. She would have to work many times in the afternoon which was the only time that I had available if at all and at the most usual we would just bump into each other at the end of a very long day where we would hardly have a few minutes to catch up with our doings.

It is my sheer belief that it was around that time that the first signs of fatigue started becoming apparent with us and it was due to the overall situation that our relationship started deteriorating from our otherwise blissful companionship. It wouldn’t be rare if Lily and I had fights that we would never have otherwise and if we would inflate small things that normally would just pass unnoticed.

As a case in point, it was one of those afternoons that we sat at our little round table for dinner that I tried to relate a little bit more with her doings. I asked the standard questions about her day and how her time had passed as I made a random comment about their actions. From what I remember it was something in the sort of,

“You know it’s funny how environmentalists always talk about the plastic in the beach but they seem to forget that most of it come out of the halieutics.”

As I threw my comment I continued down with the food on my plate for a good few seconds never realizing how badly this utterance was received by Lily. It was only after a while that the silence became apparent to me and raising my eyes I saw her staring at me with a dead expression as if the most terrible thing had happened and it had shocked her so strongly that she couldn’t make a move.

“Is everything OK? What happened?”

“So if you think you know better than everyone else, why don’t you try anything to fix it Mr?”

“Lily, I was just adding to the conversation”

“No, no, no, I don’t think you did. It’s obvious that a man like you that has figured up everything already knows better than those that dedicate their lives to such tasks. Am I right?”

I tried to explain to her that I never meant to sound harsh and it was merely a bad-spoken comment that just conveyed the wrong message. But nothing seemed to stop the downhill that this conversation had taken.

“Do you even know how much work these people are doing to help with all this? How much of their time and money they are giving having no real return while you sit down in your chair trying to make it in the business world? I just think judging them is a little bit wrong, that’s all.”

It was incredible to see for the first time that something so trivial could break up like that but it was obvious that somehow I had transgressed her boundaries with my careless comment and I was rightly being reprimanded.

And the same thing happened when once again while being blissfully ignorant it happened that I made another suggestion to her that was completely misinterpreted for its purpose and it all led to another quarrel between us.

We had made plans to spend the weekend in the outdoors in a little cabin, and only mindfully I prompted her to not forget to make the reservation with the owner. Nothing out of the ordinal and a suggestion that would have been perceived as totally normal in any other case. But to my amazement, I once again seemed to hit her spot and a whole series of connotations came out of it for my lack of awareness of her feelings.

She stirred her self up, approached me in a serious manner, and in the most conflicting manner possible she asked,

“And once again it seems that you can’t trust anyone to do anything for you.”

“No, no that was definitely not what I meant.”

“If you so think that you can do it better then just do it yourself and get over with it. Otherwise, I would suggest you do what normal people do and give room to others.”

The number of these incidents started becoming more and more frequent and it so happened that we would fight any time during the week for things that spanned far away from those that started the conflict and whatever little window we had to see each other it would usually go wasted on some random disagreement that would arise out of nothing. Things started deteriorating before my own eyes and I found myself to be unable to do anything for it.

I could see that activities that we would normally spend together would get scarcer with time and there would be always some reason we couldn’t hang out together. Maybe some random work event, or a meeting with friends that would steal away the weekends and aggravate the situation further as it was obvious that none of these urgent matters seemed to intervene in our lives in the beginning and it was us that were allowing them to separate us.

Now it always occurred to me in the past to ask the question that so many times we refuse to delve into for it being as heavy as a rock. What really makes a good fellow? What is it that we are looking for in a partner really that can make us happy and fulfilled and what are the characteristics that are the most valuable? Could it be money and social status, or maybe intelligence and strong communication or some understanding when nobody else can really get we are coming from? Every person has his own unique perspective of course but if I was to rate my most important one it would be to never give up on your relationship even when the hardship becomes apparent or the friction of everyday life has taken its toll.

Of course, everybody can be happy in the first few years of a relationship, when everything seems fresh and new and you cannot take your hands away from each other. That’s easy and trivial, but what happens when things get awry and you see your partner in a less optimal state where he can be smitten by the cruelty of life. What happens when he gets hurt or he doesn’t have the same rush with things as he used to be and there are things that are troubling him.

It is my sheer belief that a good partner is going to reveal himself in these exact cases and he won’t abandon everything in chase of something new and fresher. He is going to be patient with the person in front of him and he is going to do everything in his power to make things right again because that is what strength of character means. It’s about not giving up too easily.

And let me just say there is nothing more devastating than seeing your loved one getting more and more distant and having no way to reach out to him or do anything to prevent the situation from blowing up. Alas, the few times that we would agree to make more time for each other was more like a fleeting excitement that was as futile as a child’s promise to be more attentive in a boring class. No matter what little pledge we made we still couldn’t make it to fulfill our promises and it didn’t take long for the final blow to come when I least expected it.

I had just head out for the night with some pals that had invited me for a guy’s night out on Saturday. Of course, that wasn’t as rare as one would imagine it would happen from time to time that one of us would be busy or rather uneager for a night of entertainment and so we would still hang out with friends at various occasions with each party maintaining his own social life separate.

But as I got back I immediately alerted to the fact that the house was rather quiet and Lily was missing from everywhere. Her phone was not responsive and I looked for her everywhere before I found that last letter that put everything into perspective.

“My dear Matthew,” it wrote. “I know this must come as a surprise for you and you will probably hate me for what I did but I promise you there is nothing that I want more than to see you be happy again and getting that little spark of life back as you had when I first met you. It has become apparent to me that I’m not in a position to offer you what you are looking for and so I take the plunge for both of us to make things easier. Please promise me that you’ll give your best because I wish nothing than the best for you and your dreams and I hope next time I hear about you you will everything you ever hoped. Always yours, Lily.”

Of course, that is only the short version of the letter as I remember it after so long but that was the gist of it and it so came that at that point in time it was the last thing I would expect of her even given the situation we were in. Somehow I always thought we would work things out and there was some hidden optimism that things would change eventually. But as it turned out I found myself alone after a very long time and I had to work on many aspects just to get back to my feet.

There have been already so many years that I have devoted to this company that I can barely remember how it all started. I have seen it go through the brim of destruction and being saved in the last moment in whims of pure luck and I have also witnessed it triumphing in the world and reaching a level of success beyond my wildest dream. It must have been almost three full decades now that I’ve been rambling towards the same streets every morning, passing the yellow planetrees and the elms along the street, buying the same bitter coffee every morning by the little side cafe, and trudging through the same steps almost every single day that has passed since then. But what I witness a few weeks ago as I passed through the door was like nothing I had ever seen and most definitely not something I would have anticipated on a sore Monday morning.

Tony had gathered together with the rest of the 5 board members in the meeting room where they invited me for a matter that had the highest urgency. As I walked right in I observed them all as they avoided eye contact, keeping their heads down while Tony made the announcement that was representing everybody else’s view.

“We have been examining the result Matheww for the last year and the data are unwavering. We are declining over the past few months almost in a steady rhythm as if we are a sinking ship.”

“Nonsense Tony, that’s how businesses work” I replied, “it’s the period of the investments that are gonna come up in the future for us.”

“Nothing is gonna come back in the future. At least not with you sitting in that position. It is clear to everybody in this room that we have been marching in the wrong direction for quite a while and we have no choice but to commence new voting for the role. As much as we all respect you, I’m afraid there is no choice in that.”

Of course, there was no doubt as to the result of the voting as their expressions betrayed everything that had preceded the meeting. They had all agreed to this before it even starts and they had all decided the company would be in better hands if I wasn’t the one leading it as it was the case for so long.

On the other hand, this sudden change came at a time that I was already questioning a number of things in my life, including my work doings and there was already this inner feeling or sense that I should switch to something more fulfilling. And knowing how powerful habit can be or that false sense of possession when watching your life’s efforts materialize, they are all designed to keep you from ever taking this bold step and I would not lie if I would say that I could detect a certain of relief coming in me as if this was an act of a helping hand that was observing everything that was going on in me and decided to help me get there.

That was the last day that I visited the office and luckily for me, that event set a path out for me that I would have never taken in any other way.

It is such a cliche to hear about how people never appreciate the things they have or they lack that crucial awareness for the things that sustains them per se till they actually lose them. But if I were to describe my situation right after our first break up with Lily it would resemble a wrecked old house that its remains are scattered disorderly after a cyclone had gone right past it leaving nothing but ruins or a colorless painting that all its soul and vividness had been stripped away as if by magic even though the shapes in it still remained the same. I was confused not so much by the reasons that led up to the breakup -which after all were apparent to both of us in some degree for quite some time- but by the potency of the pain, which grew and felt as if you’re stripped from something of your own or a body part like your arm or your feet and been and losing something that was meant to belong to you. I knew that I had to do something about it and unfortunately I had no other but one way to go about it.

Zoey, her best friend at the time and the one she was spending the most time with, was the only contact on which I could learn about her doings. Obviously been so close to her she would definitely know what had become of her and where she was based at that moment but it was apparent that it wouldn’t be an easy task for me to extract anything from her who would by most certainty instructed to not reveal anything to me in case I was to search. Nevertheless, I tried my luck and found her one afternoon in a secluded restaurant she was working on and did my best to persuade her of telling me about her whereabouts.

She was quite stubborn and reserved naturally and kept back most of the time from any information that might be useful. Let me just say it wasn’t an easy task at all and I was just about to abandon all of my attempts altogether before a random comment somehow made her switch her mind and decide otherwise.

As I had given up all hope while enumerating my good intentions and just at the very last moment I said,

“I’m only trying to make what is truly best for her. Are you sure that her new path is better for her?”

And as I turned my back to leave I heard the liberating ‘Wait, I might know something that helps,’ from her which led me to my next step in the process.

She had been living with one of her uncles that were also habituating a place relatively close to us but which somehow I had never heard anything of. As I understood later on they had been through some severe family conflicts at the time which was the reason they were so distant and she never mentioned anything of them but as it turned out they provided for her for the last couple of months of our separation and they helped her out till she was to stand at her own feet.

The moment I saw her scurrying away from her new residence unaware of my furtive eyes I felt my knees tremble uncontrollably. She seemed solemn and stern wearing her big dark sunglasses that would cover all her characteristics apart from her curt cut lips and she would stride along at a fast pace as if she had no time to waste and she had to rush ahead. No matter how strongly I wanted to get and talked to her something in me was blocking me from taking the step and it is to my disappointment to say that it took me a full week of getting there every morning just to see her march along the same path without ever fulfilling my initial purpose. It was unbearable to think that so many things could depend on just one last conversation that could very well decide the foreseeable future and the wrong shift would mean that this could be the last I would ever see of her.

None of it was easy to me and when I actually bit the bullet and went for it I could hardly keep myself from falling down. I told her everything I was feeling and how important it was to give one more try since nothing was the same till she left. She recoiled, flinched, argued that it would all be in vain and nothing would change, and resisted all of my words by simply dismissing them.

“Is there any reason to believe that this is going to be different this time?” she uttered and went about leaving but something was telling that there was more to it and I should fight for it even more. After been together for so long I knew fairly well that she would hardly ever admit her emotional needs to others even when they were apparent and she could for long periods of time in denial just to survey her stubbornness.

I persisted and she agreed to meet me after work where we could have a thorough discussion about it but I could feel her anger boiling deep down and I knew the way forward was to be bumpy.

There is nothing that can really describe my dear reader the amount of hassle that followed and it’s even hard to reflect the actuality of that two-full-hour discussion but it may very well be one of the most controversial tests I had to undergo dealing with the strictest of judgers. She confronted me about every little aspect imaginable and past trying to detect how serious I was about it and she would pound my intentions with carefully crafted remarks that were targeted to reveal the slightest sign of doubt. By the end of it, I was as exhausted as been pounded in the ring by a professional boxer that showed no mercy to me whatsoever but just as I thought all hope had finished her face changed tone radically in a sheer moment, and finally, I got to see the old Lily that I used to know as if revealed out of an alien cover.

It was to my surprise that within just a few days she had returned back to our house almost fully and things were back on track where we left them just a few months ago. It was that period that I could be one of the happiest in my life and it was to last for a good four full years before we had the second incident which followed exactly the same pattern.

Me coming home one day just to see a similar letter denoting all the reasons for her decision. Once again it seemed that something core was missing from her life to make her happy and once again all the promises proved to be futile.

I never really searched for her the second time always thinking that things ought to be left on their own and maybe it would be better to not rush anything like before. I was despondent about it for sure but something felt like the righteous thing not to force things and respect the will of other people as it is.

Up to this day, there must have passed almost 25 years till the second break up and there was not a single day passing that I wasn’t questioning what would be the turn of things if I had tried, what would have happened if things had turned out differently. All this might seem like pointless rumination but it’s quite hard to get rid of once the bug gets into you.

Alas, this morning it so happened that a letter that I sent was answered and for the first time after 25 years another channel of communication was opened. It happened to learn about her new living residence from a good friend and although it seemed like a crazy idea I made the move and expressed my desire to learn about her doings.

In her letter that I have read and reread quite a few times now, she described her later part in life where she got to marry and divorce just a few years back. She now lives alone in the suburbs and still working with the same things she always loved, aka caring for animals and wildlife, and seemed to be happy from what she describes. She even agreed to meet me for a coffee sometime soon which I can’t wait for us to get.

The end