I am at my desk, reading a review of this new book I already have plans on buying. My manager walks by with a man and a woman, I click down the tab and begin to click my mouse. Next to me my colleague, Benji, does the same except he has the football results up. I glance at him and we both smirk, then put on our professional faces. My manager walks by and my mouse hovers down to my tab again, I’m wondering if I can click and collect it. The trio walk back to my desk.
“O yeah Amy can do that for you, she is our tech girl,” my manager says smiling at the two people she is talking to. “This is Dorian and Lysa.”
I want to roll my eyes, but such actions could get me fired and I have plans to spend money, so I smile genially. The guy, Dorian, is handsome, looks like Tom Hardy my analytical mind points out, the woman, Lysa, standing beside him looks like Yara Shahidi.
I look back down, my finger inching to go back to my page, as I spy Benji who has shrank the footie results to a micro-size, so he can keep reading them.
I get an email from Benji. [You may be the tech genius but I’m the real clever one muwaha]
I burst out laughing then try and style it out as a cough, my manager who has been going on about my skills looks at me in concern as does her companions.
I email Benji a picture of a middle finger. Dorian who has just shifted, glances at my screen sees this and smiles, I am utterly mortified and look at my manager before meeting his gaze, he shakes his head smiling.
Something passes across his features as he stares at me and I am sure I haven’t drawn breath for a solid minute because my mind starts to haze over as I absolutely stare at him. My mind must have short-circuited because I can’t look away and I feel a strange energy build between us.
His companion, Lysa makes a comment and he looks away and so do I. That my face hasn’t caught on fire at how warm it is must be some kind of miracle. I look back at my monitor, my emotions in revolt, I take in a shallow breath, my heart jack hammering in my chest.
I can feel his eyes on me again and I want to look up, but strangely I am afraid, angry at how one look has done so much to me, but clearly some illogical part of my mind disobeys and I lock eyes with him again; electricity erupts between us once more as though by looking away we broke the circuit and our eyes need only meet again before the circuit was complete again.
A part of my brain notes that Lysa looks at him then at me but again I can’t look away for several long moments before sanity returns to me again and I look away.
A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.
Cecelia glanced at the time it was almost time for Theo to come home, Theo, short for Theodore, short for Theodore Asante, she didn’t know if he had a middle name. All she knew was that he had the same slightly uplifted brown eyes of her daughter. The daughter who the police had urged her to be declared officially dead when she’d gone missing almost three decades ago.
She glanced out the window as Theo parked on the street and got out of his new car, a hybrid of some kind, she had heard one of her neighbours commenting on it, said he worked for the UN, was very environmental, all Cecelia knew was that from the first moment she had seen him his smile had triggered a memory and even though her friends told her she was being stupid, she couldn’t let it go, his eyes, those were her daughter’s eyes.
She had wanted to go over there so many times, invite him to the neighbourhood, apologise for the one and only time she had seen him, and had been tongue tied. He had been part of their neighbourhood for almost three months and she had been waiting for an opportunity, today finally she had one, a package had been delivered and she had all but rugby tackled the delivery man, who had looked like he was debating whether to drop the parcel off to Father John or Imam Yousef who were always the natural choices for undeliverable items.
Now she waited patiently as Theo walked into his house, then back out again several minutes later, his gaze on his cellular device. He knocked and Cecelia went to the door after a few moments, making sure the smell of cookies was prevalent throughout the house; her daughter had loved chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, always dark chocolate never milk.
She opened the door and her voice deserted her, as Theo glanced at her, an exact copy of her daughters beautiful brown eyes.
“Mrs Vandervu?” Theo said waving a hand in front of her face a small smile on his lips
“Please call me Cecelia, and do come in Theodore,” she said finally finding her voice.
“Sure,” he walked in and looked around, “this place smells delicious,” he said his gaze going to the cookies she had strategically placed on the counter, the part that could be seen from the front room.
“Please help yourself!” Cecelia said delighted. “Chocolate chip oatmeal,”
He walked past his package and made a beeline for them.
“Delicious,” he said as he ate one and reached for another.
“My favourite is actually blueberry like my mum; my dad loves chocolate, not dark though,”
“Does your mum like dark?” Cecelia said eagerly.
Theo shrugged; he was very tall, well built, most likely from his father.
“Did you paint these?” He asked looking at the water colours hanging on the walls.
“Yes, my daughter and I used to love to paint together,”
“My dad is into art, my mum prefers her books,”
Cecelia nodded and noticing that he had finished his cookies and was eyeing his parcel rushed to ask him more questions.
“Does your mum like spaghetti with garlic sauce and sprinkles of cheese?”
Theo raised an eyebrow but answered anyway, “No she can’t actually eat cheese, lactose intolerant.”
“What about watching movies on mute and guessing what the actors say?”
“My mum would hate something like that!” Theo said laughing.
Cecelia was undeterred and kept firing questions at him but the more she asked the less she wanted to know. Finally she ran out of questions.
“Thank you for humouring me Theodore,” Cecelia said unable to keep back the tears that had sprang to her eyes.
“Erm, you welcome Mrs Va – I mean Cecelia,” He said slowly, “look I can come by and help out with something’s if you want, I mainly work at home anyway.”
“No, that’s fine, take care now,” she said attempting to usher him out.
He hesitated at the door, his eyes so like her daughters, similar, but not the same, blinked slowly before he nodded and left.
Cecelia burst into tears, the pain of losing her daughter overwhelming her, it felt like the first time she had found out Monroe had gone missing whiles kayaking, the grief more than she could bear. She spent the next few days in bed, her head pounding, her eyes watering every time she saw Theodore.
Her friends came around to cheer her up, but it didn’t work, and she told them that they had been right; she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up.
Almost a week later a knock came at her door.
“Cecelia? Mrs Vandervu? It’s me Theo please open up, I really need your help,” he said slowly.
Cecelia stood there wiping her eyes before setting her shoulders back, this young man may not be her daughter’s child but he was a good man, and if he needed her help she would help him. She opened the door.
“Please come in, is there anything I can help you with?” She said softly.
“Those chocolate cookies, my girlfriend loves them, do you think you could show me how to make them, I have some ingredients,” he said gesturing to his backpack.
Cecelia smiled, “of course, follow me.”
Despite his eyes still triggering painful memories every time he looked at her in a certain way, she spent the rest of the evening with Theo, he was kind, just the kind of man her daughter would have raised.
She had just taken the cookies out of the oven when his phone rang, he was using the toilet and she glanced down at the screen.
She almost dropped the cookies – an image of her daughter, of Monroe, older, but still the same stared up at her, she touched the screen with shaking fingers. Tears in her eyes.
The phone stopped ringing just as Theo came back; Cecelia had the phone in her hands.
“Mrs Vandervu?” He said hesitantly.
“My…my daughter,” she wordlessly went into her bedroom and took the last picture she had taken of Monroe, she showed him a picture of Monroe and he jumped.
“That’s, that looks like…” his hands went to her eyes.
“It is your mum, my daughter,” Cecelia said.
“You’re my grandmother?” Theo asked his voice breaking.
Words failing her again, Cecelia nodded and embraced him.
What happens when the person that you love, does not die, leave but is simply lost. What happens with the love that you shared? Where does it go? Does love find news homes in new souls, or does the love inside you change alter, mutate become something other? Does it disappear slowly over time, leaking from your pores like water, before the well finally runs dry? Or does it shift from one person to the other, a new love taking the place of where the old love was, replacing the stored memories with new ones? I can’t justify loving someone that is lost, nor can I justify not loving someone that is here, so where is it, all that love that was shared?
I can say that I love him still; his departure did not teach my heart to forget. I can say that I know what it means to love. I would say I felt regret about being heartbroken now that the object of my affection is gone but I don’t, my heart is delusional in its patience as if he will return, breathing new life into this love affair I have paused since his departure. My mind understands, it does not accept but it understands. But my heart, hopeless and illogical, stubborn in its inability to see reason is patiently waiting, a timer not set, no end date required. But time will not wait for me, and though my heart is steadfast my head knows the truth.
Though the truth is slowly fracturing my heart, I will not bring myself to remember the past with regret. I have been in love and have been loved, wholly unconditionally and without restraint. I have loved and been loved deeply without abandon, cared for so sweetly that my soul has been imprinted upon. This phenomenon is rare. I know what I had was real. Even if I was only able to taste heaven for a moment, I am a believer for life, I have been converted. Even though only I know, even though I have no discernable evidence, I believe. I have lived in that feeling for an infinite moment.
Is it enough to believe in love, even if you are no longer in it? You have seen Heaven, but now you are on earth once more, so is it enough? Is it enough to know that it exists even if you can’t have it ever again? What is the point of love if when you scour the world forever you may only be a silent witness. Or is love, akin to a treasure map, a wondrous prize we hope to find one day, never really knowing what we will do when we reach the X on the map, is love about the possibility, about the hope of it.
When I was in love, I was afraid and content. The emotions warring within me. Part of me was afraid of how much I had given of myself to another person, and how much I still wanted to give. How integral they had come to my way of life, how they had woven themselves into the fabric of my existence, my happiness a fragile ball they protected just as much if not more than I had. I was astounded and suspicious. If love felt like this why wasn’t everyone falling? I knew the answer before I had even asked the question; to be in love was to be afraid, because this person, this piece of your soul could leave, or die or break you in ways that you would never recover. It is terrifying, and the more you feel the more afraid you become, but your heart does not cease loving because of fear, and I found that John Donne was right, winter will not abate the springs increase. There is no capacity for love, it just keeps expanding and expanding, the heart forever growing, gorging on the love it keeps taking, its appetite insatiable. It can’t stop, it won’t stop and a part of you marvels at the feeling. A little slice of heaven, immortal in our love for each other.
I was content because here I had what everyone was looking for and I had found it almost accidently, without really searching. It wasn’t happiness, although there was a lot of that or sadness though there was some of that. Love to me is being perfectly content. My body at an equilibrium where it wants for absolutely nothing because it had found it in him. He wasn’t perfect and nor was I but somehow we had found peace and I was content.
Even though I lost him, my love, our love is everlasting. That love that we shared was soul deep. I can convince my mind that he is gone, my heart may never believe, but my soul? That I have no control over, that is his, there is a space inside my soul that will always be his no matter who I end up with. He will own a piece of my soul and I will own a piece of his.