I can’t precisely remember when or where I had first met her, as she seemed to be an acquainted face, but I know that we introduced ourselves on a day in October; the reddish-brown and yellow leaves were drifting to the ground and covered it like a carpet of colourful delight.
She smiled at me at a distance where I could barely recognize whom she was looking at, but as I was the only person on the road I assumed she had been smiling at me or at some inner thoughts, which I didn’t really consider, as life then did not give you any pleasure to smile at in midst of the street.
When she was only a few steps in front of me and I was completely sure of her smiling at me, she took a further big step into my direction and said without hesitation: “What a beautiful day Dr. Chester, isn’t it?”.
At this point I think it of high importance to introduce myself, even though I won’t be able to tell you many things about my childhood. My name is Roderick Chester, born in a small town in Cheshire, currently living in an even smaller town near London. Almost everyone around here knows me, as I am the only doctor in town. I’m also known for not having children nor wife, but all this is highly connected to my childhood and to my young adulthood, of which I do not want to talk about. All I can say is that I am an honourable man, I will always tell the truth and there is no risk that I may be unable to tell you a story because of forgetting anything. My brain is still young and as I never drink a sip of alcohol, I will not talk about blurred happenings, in the contrary, they will always be crystal-clear.
To get back to the story, the first thing that came to my mind when she talked to me was that she could have been one of my patients, but I could not remember having seen her dark-green eyes within the last few years. “It is, indeed, a quite beautiful day”, I replied after I had analyzed her pale face and dark hair, “but, without wanting to be impolite, dearest Lady, I cannot recollect having seen you here around.”. She smiled again, soundless and somehow emotionless. “I am new in town, but I’ve heard of you, that’s why I recognized you. I am sorry if I have troubled you.”, she said, and without having been able to reply or to say that she did not trouble me at all, she had already made her way towards the centre of the town. I watched her for a few seconds, how she almost danced around the falling leaves and how her dark hair fluttered in the light October-wind.
“Who was she?”, I thought when I had returned home and was putting in order all the letters I had received but not yet opened. I did not know who she was, even though I was almost sure I had seen her somewhere, somewhere different. The image of her haunted me even in my dreams that night, I saw her beautiful green eyes and dark hair glittering and sparkling, as if she was a sort of magical human-being. You may think now that I was attracted to her the way every man would be attracted to a beautiful woman, but it was something different that made me dream of her. It was something irrational, something I am unable to put in words.
The morning came too fast and too bright, sun-rays were burning against my face and branches were tickling the façade of the house with an almost unbearable sound. Luckily it was Sunday, as it was almost noon when I woke up, and had it been a work-day people might have died until I would have shown up at their houses. On Sundays people did not get sick and they surely did not die on that day. So I leaned back into my bed and smiled, even I a bit emotionless: “No people dying today”. Still, I was a bit confused, I didn’t oversleep for years and I felt even more exhausted in this morning than in the evening. I knew that it had to do with the dreams I had. That young woman, approximately twenty years old and twenty years younger than myself, had made me hers in less than twenty seconds. Not in a sexual way though, no woman could stir up such desires in me, the one who could have, was already gone, but something about her made me curious, maybe it was the witness in her eyes or the melody of her voice. I knew I had to meet her again. I had to know what it was that made me almost go mad.
A few moments later I found myself in front of the town council’s house, knocking impatiently at the wooden door. When the old man’s face appeared, still sleepy and quite surprised seeing me on a Sunday, I smiled faintly, asked pardon for visiting at such inappropriate moments and said “I need your help really quickly, I am sure it won’t take you more than 5 minutes.” He opened the door widely, asked me to come in and offered me a cup of tea or coffee, which I both rejected and rather took a glass of cold water to freshen up my mind. After we had accommodated ourselves I started telling him the reason for my unexpected visit. “It is of greatest importance that I can take a glimpse at the inhabitants-list, just to make sure everything is going well with my job. Mr. Marten, you won’t believe me, but I have found myself in big trouble the last week. Can you believe that? I! The town’s only Doctor, being pushed into big problems!”, I said, raising my voice, and I could feel my ears becoming hot, and my cheeks starting to blush, my heart pumping blood throughout my body faster than ever. I hadn’t lied for a long time now, actually I couldn’t even recollect when the last time had been I used this kind of strategy to reach my goals. Naive Mr. Marten looked puzzled, “Why, of course you can have a look at the list. What troubles you Mr. Chester?”. He got up, walked towards a pile of paper and started looking for that list. “Thank you, Mr. Marten, I owe you something! Well, I’m not sure how to put this into words, dear Sir, but people nowadays spit lies like salutes. I suspect that one or two men handed me in their wrong identities, I want to clear that up. You know, Mr. Marten, I surely do not want to operate against the law.”, I said, realizing how ironically I talked about lies. Mr. Marten though, naive and kind as he was, had already found the list and was handing it to me, saying: “Oh, I understand.”.
Bernice Hayton, 21 years old, born in Cheshire. I would have thought it possible to have seen here there, but I am already living in this town for 22 years now and I never visited my hometown in those years. Of what use her name was, I did not know yet, I still didn’t know why her appearance was such a familiar one.
“Bernice Hayton.”, I whispered and repeated over and over again, until I reached my old and yet beautiful and pleasant house. The light shone so brightly upon my door and my big windows that I wasn’t sure if I was seeing Bernice’s ghost there waiting for me, if it was an illusion or if it was her. I closed my eyes several time to clarify the mystery and somehow I felt crazy, mad and tired as her silhouette did not disappear. Without saying a word I opened the door next to her, waved my had to welcome her and closed the door slowly as nothing strange was happening. I did not care what my neighbours would say the next day, I let her in, Bernice, my yet unknown visitor from Cheshire.
She followed me into the dining room where I served her a cup of tea, without asking her if she wanted some or not. I sat down in front of her, still not having said a word and still quite bewildered. Her cheeks where pale, almost white, her hair dark, she looked unhealthy but beautiful. Yes, indeed, she was a very beautiful and cruel young lady.
“Thank you, Mr. Chester.”, she said, after having taken her first sip of tea. “Roderick, it is my pleasure.”, I replied after some seconds and asked, “what brings you here Miss Hayton?”. She laughed. It was a warm laughter, warm and frightening, unusually loud for a woman. “You know my name as well, I see.”, she said, her eyes fixed on mine. This lady, I thought, knows no shame, even though I grew up in a time where shame was everywhere, everyone had a reason to feel shame, shame was part of every furniture. Puzzled I stared back, shameless, returning her favour. “Roderick, I am not here to steal your time, nor to talk to you about anything in particular. I moved here only to hand you this letter, it was difficult to find you, but I did.”, Bernice said with a calm voice, reaching out a letter. I took the letter, always staring at her eyes, thinking of how long I could look at them without getting bored. Her eyes seemed like the universe, deep and dark, known and unknown. Her eyes were magical.
She had left. Right after I had taken the letter from her, she walked out of my house, noiselessly and swiftly. I turned the letter in my hands, totally lost inside of my own memories. It had only taken me a few moments with her, to realize some of her habits, as for example her rarely blinking. I did not know how to explain how it was possible to keep the eyes open for so long. When she blinked, she did it slowly, she pressed her lids together and kept them close, so that her green eyes disappeared for what seemed to me almost an eternity. Thinking of her, I had already opened the letter, consisting a writing similar to mine.
I have waited for you enough years to return and yet you did not come, you did not write, you did not want to know where your family was. Have you completely forgotten where home is?
You cannot imagine what has happened here, your vanishing did cause us many troubles and I am disappointed of you. How could you leave us without saying a word?
Mother is sick, she does not sleep at night, she talks of monsters who show up at night and want to harm her. She talks of father, who died six years ago, after you have left, she still sees him when the moon shines through the windows into our broken house. You have made your parents sick, father has died of dishonour, his only son having left him in the mud. He was right when he told me you were an incredibly bizarre person, but I have always refused to believe that you were bad. Now I know better.
Louise is upset, she married a young lad who treats her well but nothing more than that. You know your sister, she dreamed of marrying her great love, but apparently love does not exist. Or as you always said: “Love is a once in a lifetime thing, there is basically no chance that you will meet love. Or maybe you’ll meet love at the wrong time, just like me.”
I have a daughter as you see, Bernice Hayton. Or should I say I have raised her as my daughter? She does not know her parents, but you, my dearest brother, you do know them. Does she not remind you of someone? Does her recklessness not remind you of a specific person?
You have ruined me, but this is no tragedy. How beautiful it would have been if you had only ruined me. Roderick, you destroyed your whole family, your beloved ones, your friends and most of all, you destroyed Bernice.
More confused than ever I let the letter slip through my hands, and watched it drift to the ground. I did not expect my family to find me and I did not expect them to write to me now, after many years have passed. I stood there as if roots were tangling the floor and furniture around me and I did not know how to move. Suddenly I forgot how to use my feet properly, how to hold something in my hands, how to think and how not to.
My dearest Elizabeth, dearest Mother, dearest Louise
I have received your letter and I know that one should say thank you for it but I am unable to thank you for what you have told me now, after 22 years. You all know that I am no good with words, so I will keep this letter short.
Yes, I have left without saying anything and I did not regret it until now. I should have told you why I left, why I hated home, not you, but home. And no, Elizabeth, I have not forgotten where home was, I simply tried to retrain any emotions towards all of you. Home was not safety, nor warmth, home was an evil place, I had to leave, as it almost made me go mad. Maybe I am mad.
My dearest condolences regarding father’s death. I do not know what to say more. I am a mess. I am sorry.
As the ink floated upon the paper, alcohol floated throughout my body. Sip after sip, my world became darker and scarier, I could not see the words I wrote clearly, everything was blurred. “At least I haven’t forgotten the address”, I spoke out loud, laughing pathetically and closing the envelope of my letter.
As the sky had already become dark, I lit a candle and made my way towards the mirror, holding onto the wall, as I was about to fall to the ground that now seemed to me like an abyss. Reaching the mirror I could feel my cheeks getting wet and a faint smile overcame my rather stiff face. “I haven’t cried for years”, I thought, as if those tears meant victory to a war I had long before lost.
The candle flickered furiously near my eyes, as I gazed into the mirror. My cheeks, usually pale, almost white, were now slightly blushed, as if the wine had run through them. My eyes ached, they felt exhausted, but yet I have to admit, their green colour made them seem vivid and mysterious. I stared at my own reflection, as shameless as Bernice did, and it made me sick, it made me want to pull out my graying hair, which once was dark brown, it made me want to tear out those eyes and go blind. I did not want to see myself, nor did I want to see Bernice within this mirror, but my feet refused to walk away.
So I stood there, glaring at my own reflection, until the candle burnt down.
Jehona Thaqi ©