First appeared in Demon Minds
The First Love
By Fariel Shafee
It was a stormy and dark night when Bill was driving
home after work.
He would miss his reservation for
their anniversary if he did not hurry. Many times he
had thought of getting
a house closer to his office.
However, the charm of a large abode could not be
resisted. The two storied Victorian
in the middle of a neatly kept lawn with ivy crawling
up the walls was worth an hour’s drive.
weather was not always bad! If he turned the radio on
and watched the sun slowly fade on the glistening
and green leaves, time passed by. He had even
composed a few poems on his commute. Never after
high school had he imagined that he would be
getting creative material written! Not after he had
chosen to move
to the dry field of jurisdiction.
Bill accelerated a little recklessly. Of all the
days that May, the
storm had to come on the twentieth!
The last five days were sunny in a row. A little too
sunny, he had thought
when the sprinkler was turned
on. Some of the grass in the western corner was
showing a sign of yellow.
He had hoped for rain for
some days, but the prayer was unanswered. All of
sudden, dark clouds hurled that particular
The weather man the night before was not sure whether
the storm would come. There was a fifty-fifty
he had said with a happy face, and Bill had hoped for
the best, not for the grass, but for his date this
road in front of him was barely visible now. He
could hardly speed above forty and at this rate he
would not be
able to reach home before eight. The
reservation was for seven thirty. Le Bon was a fussy
You would have to place a reservation at
least a month ahead and there were always people
waiting. Fifteen minutes
late – and your spot would
be given away.
He could not afford to lose Mary. He did not want
lose Mary. It was Mary’s idea to get married! He had
a different life planned for himself. He was
interested in law and wanted to be a painter. Mary
needed money, and she was pregnant.
had gotten married hurriedly after the news was
out, under pressure from their parents. After nine
months, a still
born child was born. Bill, however,
was stuck with this life and
the burden of this
career. He had missed many years, and had become
middle aged. In those years, he had
very slowly lost
most of what was left of “Bill.” He had then given
the relationship more chances,
had made more
sacrifices and over the years it had only become
worse. One day he came to the realization that
little of his own existence was left in his life, and
the time lost was irreversible. His entire future had
redesigned for Mary. Most of his life was lost
for Mary, and the happiness that was promised when he
to gamble away the rest of his identity
never ever came. Mary could not just leave him now.
rain was getting heavier and the wind much
stronger than it was when he had left his office. It
to see a foot ahead. The road too was
rather slippery. There was a deafening sound
accompanying the lightning
when he was about to cross
the narrow bridge.
Bill had thought of writing to the authority to repair
many times, but did not manage to sit down
with the pen and paper in the end. The bridge was
at the turn of the last century. In a
very strange manner, it was a mixture of wood and
stone. Moss had grown
at the edges, and he feared
being thrown into the river each time he crossed it.
However, the river was more like a
creek and the
bridge was not too high. He would not be dead in case
of an unfortunate event, and that silver lining
stopped him from getting out of his laziness to write
a letter to the mayor.
It was that horrid, inclement
night in front of that
modest but eerie bridge that he found a piece of his
precious past back from probably a bizarre
A flash had appeared in front of him when he was
momentarily blinded. It was possibly a lightning that
hit a nail or a tree close to the swamp to his
left. The spike was sharp and dazzling. It was
anything he had seen, and quickly spread
about for a second. Bill was not sure if he had seen
a lightning of this
type ever before.
Suddenly there was a face, almost semi-transparent,
disappearing into the shrubs. It flickered
for a few
seconds and could not be found again as Bill squeezed
his eyes and reopened them. The face was too
It was his teenage love.
He knew that Jane was dead. It was an accident.
There wasn’t much he
could have done to save her. She
had died in his arms. They had sneaked to the top of
the lighthouse. He
had promised her a heavenly sight.
There were white gulls flying around them. He had
said he would catch one for
her and make that bird her
pet. Then he tried holding her tight to kiss her lips
while she was looking at the
bird. Jane was rather
taken by the white creature floating in the air and
was little prepared for Bill.
She had lost her
balance momentarily to meet her demise more than a
hundred feet below. The most beautiful moment
Bill’s life had at once transformed into the biggest
of all nightmares and the change was so sudden that he
hardly feel anything or talk for some time.
The light must have been overwhelming. He certainly
Jane had left for good and had
taken away with her a part of his soul.
True, at some point, Bill had thought Mary
sweetest girl after the death of Jane and had wanted
to offer all. Within a week of their courtship, they
created a new life, and when the news leaked out,
he was ready to take risks. When Mary came into his
picture of a thousand gulls flying in the
sky surrounded by the thought of the perfect happiness
would appear in his
mind and he knew that it was a
feeling he could make last. He had this exact emotion
before and he had seen those
thousand gulls, and he
knew that it would stay longer if he tried hard. He
had let it slip away into the turbid
swirl once, and
this time he wanted keep it, no matter what it took.
He had seen his redemption in Mary.
in his reverie, Bill had almost lost control
of the car before finding it stuck in a grassy area.
There was mud all
around, and no matter how hard he
tried to accelerate, the car could not be moved.
Stunned and shocked, cursing at
the weather god or
whoever sent this nasty storm, he got out of the car,
and tried to push it out of the puddle.
He had found a small silver box in the grass that day
before making it back home in time for the dinner.
box was rather ordinary, and was probably dropped
by a passer by. He had stumbled upon the box while
reach the car’s rear. It was only a few
inches across with a solid exterior. The inside was
empty. He did not have to pick it up, but he
could not resist either. The box smelled of Chanel.
Jane wore Chanel. The tiny empty box had transported
him to his teen age days
that night when he decided to
put it in his pocket.
When he came home in that storm, the clock said just
Mary was waiting in the patio
impatiently. He still had the silver box in his side
pocket when he took her to
the dinner. It was the
first time in six months that they came back looking
happy at night and made love on the
Two months had passed after their anniversary
Bill’s life had changed. It was unbearable for him
the last few days. He was sitting next to Mary
hospital. Those were her last days after the fall.
Mary could barely speak and had bruises all over her
Half of her bones were broken and there were
internal injuries in her brain. She was delusional
and was put on
a heavy dose of codein. Each time she
woke up though, she would start to scream. She said
she wanted to
die. Bill was hopeless. He wished he
could let her die, but that was against the hospital
He sat next to her bed, watching her
helplessly as she slowly perished, as if torn from
within, her soul devoured.
had gone insane all of a sudden a few days after
the anniversary. She could hear voices at night, she
believed her. She said there was a woman
– tall and slender, with strikingly blond hair. That
would hurt her horribly. Things were happening
in the house: there was a woman’s brush on her table,
a lace -- not belonging to Mary, and a half faded
picture of a stunning girl smiling. She could hear
at night and feel her soft steps. One
evening when nobody was home, Mary had discovered her
door drilled down
and a trace of Chanel around it. No
trespasser could have come into the house – she knew
that for sure.
doctor was a school friend of Bill’s who had
promised to take extra care. He listened to Bill
as Mary sat still with a stolid, pale face
and a pair of eyes with no expressions. Mary was even
after that visit. She wanted to go
away. “Let me leave and have my life,” she had
day she just let home and Bill fetched
her from the train station. Her hair was disheveled
and she was not wearing
her glasses when Bill had
found her sitting silently on a bench. After coming
home she was seen going over a rack
of old photo books
and albums looking for her old friends. One day Bill
had found her calling up people she barely
crying and begging for help. “I will die if I stay
here,” she was heard begging to distant relatives,
let me come and be with you.”
Mary had moved away from her old
town after the
wedding, and most of her life revolved around the
newly-made social circle of Bill and a few
in the city. She had shed her old life
like a snake’s skin when she dreamt of a new
wanted exactly what she did, agreed
about everything and had the drive and promise. They
would go far, she knew.
The old friends were rather confused to get a call
from her after all this time to hear such bizarre
“She is a little unbalanced; it happened
after her parents died. I will take care of her,”
assured them calmly.
Bill had then told Mary that she was indeed going mad,
and would ruin all that he had done
life for her -- the job, the reputation and the house.
Then she started to bicker and yell and demanded
Bill let her leave. He could not do that in a sane
mind. She was alone in the city. Her parents
passed away quite some time ago and the poor, crazy
girl had not a friend who could be trusted properly.
The doctor had then written down a note saying Mary
was incapable of taking care of herself and that Bill
be in charge. He advised an immediate transfer
to hospital, and they were packing her bags. Bill had
to the living room to pick up a hanger when he
heard the window open. Suddenly Mary was nowhere
inside the house.
Half an hour later an ambulance
rushed in, but the doctor had very little hope that
she could survive the fall in the
After the funeral, Bill sat on the black leather couch
their living room for some time. It reminded him
of how he and Mary had made love on it after their
dinner. He could not bear to walk into
the bedroom. There were her clothes lying all about.
like her, and he felt like crying aloud.
He stayed in, ate little and sat still with his phone
turned off for an entire
As he sat on the couch thinking about Mary, he thought
of their still born
child, and he wished that it was
alive. He wanted to fall in love again and longed to
go to the hospital
not filled with helpless fear, but
with the expectation of a new beginning. After a
week, he packed his old life
into boxes and donated
them to the salvation-army. He gave the land-lord a
month’s notice and moved to a
As he hung his coat in his new house after a month, a
small silver box popped out of the pocket.
of Chanel. It transported him to his teen years. He
took the box out carefully and placed it
on top of the
fireplace. He then went into the kitchen and took out
a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
He had met
Alice today. They were in grad school together. She
had heard that his wife had passed away and
see him that night since she was in town. Bill picked
his favourite CD and turned on the stereo as he
the couch and waited for the bell to ring. The small
cassette with his teen age love’s voice that
recorded next to the sea on a happy sunny day in June
while the breeze blew her hair stayed locked in his
for the time being together with her red