The curtain wall is foggy and dazzlingly bright as the sun’s rays fall on it from a little angle. They hit on its surface perpendicularly, making it exceedingly hard to look anything beyond it, as if they mark a shiny shield in which you are well-sheltered behind. Various people in professional dressings come and go as they grab their hot morning-coffee from displeased employees behind the cash register. A few of them sit down in the little round tables dispersed into the area, making chit-chat as they read their newspapers. I, on the other hand, have found a little spot in the outer corner of it, right before the big glass window, as I casually drink my little black coffee. I blend in with the rest of them that paid their visit this morning before work, yet my purpose is totally different than what they would assume. Across this little corner cafe, in the outer part of town, lies the house of Lily Brown, a 30 years old, beautiful blonde lady that her charm and elegance could seduce even the most austere man.
She lives on the second floor of an old apartment that has a big black round staircase and is filled with multiple green and colorful plants around the balcony. It also contains a little window on the side that is facing the little cafe that she sometimes sits on. A remarkable sight, worth of all the trouble in the world to experience, if you ask me. Yet, the actual reason I am here is not her beauty but a new discovery that shed light on some very old, far-forgotten events, that traverse well beyond the current timezone and involve an innocent little love story between me and her.
It’s exactly 9 o’clock and I see her descending the stairs of her apartment as is her usual schedule. She is always punctual and precise. With a beautiful white dress reaching the levels of legs right below the knees and a blue ribbon around her hair, she walks filled with excitement and finesse across the street. I wonder if she would be able to recognize me after so many years. I know for sure I never forgot her and the great time we had together will always remain imprinted in my mind. You see what we shared exceeds the standard little childhood flirt and goes well into the realm of the most perfect teenage love that could happen to two young people by all standards and measures. A love that lasted for a whole full year but changed me forever.
She is working as a stylist in a fashion company that produces female clothes. She has no kids and she is engaged to Nick Robbins, a bank employee that has made his way in the corporate world by stepping and profiting in the work of others. He is a filthy cheap, bastard that takes advantage of every person or opportunity he gets his hands on and disentangles it till he gets every ounce of value out of it. And pure little Lily would suspect nothing about it with her innocent and naive mind or about the various affairs he keeps behind her back. His fake kindness and charming words cover up fairly well any mistrust on his face putting out a well designed, smooth mask for everyone to see. All, except me that is.
«Sir, would you like a refill?» asks me the waitress with the white prone, holding a big can in her hand.
I raise up as I deny her offer. «It’s fine, I was just living anyway,» I say as I make my way out.
I drive down the refineries facilities where I have been working on for the last few years. It’s a bleak place under a bleak cloud, where each dime you earn needs to pass through your soul first. Working conditions are tough and strict, counting down to the last second of your work and allowing only a specific set of brakes at your disposal. Entering the area I see the big fat pipes that stand tall to the sky, smoking earth out of them, like a big, fat cigarette. The factory consists of 5 departments all distributed through an area, approximately the size of a stadium, and each day could be completely different in where exactly you are gonna find yourself working.
In front of the main entrance, all workers have been standing together listening to someone speaking to them. There must have been some sort of anomaly, for usually, this is the time by which everyone is already at his post working.
I park the car and approach the group in front of the main area.
«James, you are not gonna like this» a friend of mine says as I approach.
«Why what’s up?» I respond, «Is everything ok?»
«They had a leakage in one of the facilities and they will have to maintain it for security reasons.»
«Maintain it?» I scratch my head with my hand. «Did they say how long it is gonna take?»
«Well, this is what we are trying to figure out, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic.»
«Optimistic, like taking a few hours or the whole day?» I ask.
«Optimistic, like it could take a couple of weeks if not more.» His response cut me out of surprise as I lean slightly back. «And don’t expect any compensation on it. You know these bastards will keep the whole pie for themselves without batting an eye.»
I glance at the employees around the manager that are trying to convince him on finding a better solution. A waste of time and energy as he is probably just conveying the message for a decision that is already taken. I wear my hat and walk back to my car after a few minutes, taking the way home. At least we will have some time out of this shithole.
My place exists in a little apartment out of town, with a little garden in the front, amidst a peaceful and friendly neighborhood where not much is going for most of the year. My mother has moved in along with me since my father passed away and she is unable to move her feet for the last year or so. Thankfully she still has her full mind in place, but she has to use the quadriplegic pram if she is to move at all.
«Shouldn’t you be at work right now?» she asks me the moment I set my foot inside.
«There was an establishment issue» I respond, «It might take a few more days to fix.»
She sits in front of the TV as she stands with her military strict expression and the frowned eyebrows. I take out some food from the fridge and bring it over to her to eat together with her pills.
«Here you go, mother. Make sure you eat it all now, ok?»
Her hair is washed-out white, flying out as if they were electrified.
«Didn’t I tell you to find another place to work? These bastards always find ways not to pay their dues,» she utters as she changes the channel, but I ignore the comment.
Last week I found something withing the storage room that shattered anything I thought I knew so far. Within a little box, buried in the corner, she had kept a series of letters sent by Lily to me right after the last summer we spent together. It was right when their family decided to move to the other side of town while our love was still boiling with heat. I was writing to her every few days, the way we had agreed to and I was receiving letters from her as well, till at some point they stopped coming in. I kept going for a while hoping that it was temporary but she never wrote to me again. Or so I thought. Now that I found these letters in the box, I realized that all these years I was living a lie. I thought she had forgotten of me, she got bored with all the letters and the distance and decided to let it go when in reality all her letters were directed away from me on purpose.
I still try to understand how different things would be if this hadn’t happened. I never once in my life got passed the incident and the whole event scared deeply in my psyche as if it was a real knife. I was abandoned, unwanted, a toy to play with, and be discarded as pleased. I spent my whole life being a loser, keeping my head down when the reality was totally different. But how could I have known, it all came from the person that was suppose to love me the most. My own mother.
«James, can you pass the telephone, please? I need to call the doc?» she yells from the other room.
«Sure mother, bringing it now..» I say as I walk towards her.
For the next few days, I kept visiting the little coffee area every day. I would wait for Lily to walk out every morning and watch Nick follow along a little bit later with his over-refined suit and leather case making his glorious way towards money and exploitation. The kind of person that someone ought to stop but nobody has the courage to. The kind of person that shouldn’t even exist in our society.
The other day I walked right across them in the afternoon as they were getting back home. I was curious to see if Lily would recognize me. I raised my hand slightly as I whispered a weak «Hey..»
She didn’t turn her head right away but she must have noticed me with the side of her eyes cause after a couple of seconds she burst up with a glorious smile on her face as she held my hands.
«James! Oh my God, is that you?» she yelled with a high-peached voice. «I can’t believe it I haven’t seen you all these years, I’ve missed you so much,» she said hugging me tightly with her white-gloved hands.
Her beautiful, big blue eyes with the dilated pupils, were looking straight into my soul and it felt as if it never passed a day from the time we were holding hands fully in love with each other. It was like our souls were always united all this time and never separated. She my girlfriend, I her boyfriend, no matter what happened to us, we belonged to each other.
«I didn’t know you were here,» I replied casually, «I’ve only been coming over the area for some business the last few days. It’s so lovely to fall into you..»
«Ohh yes it surely is. Hey, let me introduce to you my fiance. Nick!» she uttered calling him on her back as he was ducked inside the car looking after his stuff. «You won’t believe who this guy is…»
I kept smiling as he approached us.
«Who is it, honey? I don’t think I’ve met him»
«It’s James! My childhood love. The one I used to tell you about.»
«Wow, I have heard so much about you mister,» he replied as he extended his hand with a big smile.
«Very nice to meet you sir,» I said holding his hand.
«James I would love to meet you sometime over dinner or coffee. Here is my card.» She took out a white card with her telephone number and name. «Make sure you give me a call and we can arrange something. I would love to catch up»
I nodded my head as I greeted them still holding the card in my hands. She hadn’t forgotten about me all this time as I’d never forgot about her. The love of my life…
For the following few days, I gave my full attention on Nick. He was a scumbag that deserved the worst. He would sell loans to people that couldn’t afford them and would use any means possible to profit from poor people. He would even persuade them to handle money to him to manage through the stock market, only to capitalize on any last savings these people may had. He would simply stop to nothing for money, and I wasn’t gonna let him play his games for too much longer.
One day that both of them were missing, I sneaked into the house and stole his bank account. Through his credentials, I made a number of moves from the company sources confiscating money that didn’t belong to him. After passing the information to the police it was only a matter of time for them to bust in and arrest him for theft. It was an unethical act, for an ethical purpose as he deserved to be caught and be put away. As far as I am concerned I was doing a service to anyone.
I waited a couple of days and knocked on Lily’s door. Her eyes were bruised from sadness but she needed to understand, her cries were wasted on someone that didn’t deserve it.
«James, thank you for passing by,» she said sluggishly, «but you would excuse me if I can’t speak to you at the moment. This is not a good week for me.»
«Lily, you don’t need to go through this like this. Nick wasn’t the right person for you. He was a crook. A thief that would appropriate every person he could get his hands on.»
«No, no, don’t speak like that for Nick, he was a good man. He would never do something like that. It must all be lies that are gonna be revealed sooner or later.» she sat down on the bed as she glazed over the window.
«It’s not lies Lily. Your fiance was a fake of the worst kind. He is not made for you. You deserve better than him.»
«A fake? Why are you saying that? How do you even know all this?»
«I know because I saw it with my own eyes. I realized what he was and exposed him for the whole world to see.»
«You?» she said in a haze. «You did this?»
«Lily, listen to me.»I said laying my hands on the sides of her shoulders». «This person is not right for you. We belong to each other. I never read your letters all these years, I never knew..» I paused as I turned my back on her, «that you had continued writing on me.»
«What are you talking about?» she asked as she pulled my hand around.
«Your letters were hidden from me all this time. It would have been different. We would be together right now having our kids, being in love.» I looked straight into her eyes as I leaned on her. «Give us this chance, to the two of us. We deserve better..»
«So you did all this because you thought…we should be together? After all these years?»
I stood there looking at her without responding.
«You are crazy. How could you do something like that? You are out of your mind completely.» she walked tensely back and forth as she held her dress tightly. «You gave on Nick for no reason. No reason at all. You shouldn’t have done that» she yelled as I approached her trying to bring her to reason.
«Lily stop it. Listen to me, this guy is a thief, don’t you understand.»
«You are nuts. I would never be with a guy like you. How could you even think of something like that? What we had was a stupid childhood flinch to spend our time.»
«Shut up» I uttered.
«No, I won’t shut up. You attacked my family without any right at all. You accused him publicly calling the police. I’m gonna call them right now.»
«No, stop it damn it» I yelled as I slapped her.
She started screaming for help hitting her hands on the door as I run towards trying to stop her. I threw her on the ground but she wouldn’t stop even then. I fell on top of her and grabbed her by the neck pressing as hard as I could making her stop yelling. By the end, her eyes had turned still and stable as she lied down with her limb hands on the ground.
I run back to the house, entering inside furious in my steps.
«You destroyed me,» I said pointing to my mother.
«Child are you ok what is wrong with you?»
«You kept all these letters from me. Why did you do that?»
«The letters? what letters?»
«The letters!» I yelled. «Don’t act as if you don’t know what I’m talking about.»
«Oh don’t be stupid now. » she grinned her face in disgust. «She was a distraction for you. She would consume you with all these stupid letters and make you waste your life on her while you would forget what you had in front of you.»
«Stop it. You had no right to do that. These were my letters. My.» I yelled.
«I said stop damn it,» I screamed.
«You god damn loser how dare you attacking me like that. I’m your mother and I know better than you.»
«I hate you so much,» I said as I grabbed her by the neck killing any last sign of life that had left inside her. And the moment her soul flew away I gave out with my hands in the ground leaving any last regret lying inside out of me. The right end for a lost cause, I thought as I heard the police siren becoming stronger and stronger.0