The Other Side of the Moon

The First Love

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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 building erected
in the middle of a neatly kept lawn with ivy crawling
up the walls was worth an hour’s drive.  And the
weather was not always bad!  If he turned the radio on
and watched the sun slowly fade on the glistening red
and green leaves, time passed by.  He had even
composed a few poems on his commute. Never after
leaving 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 evening.
The weather man the night before was not sure whether
the storm would come.  There was a fifty-fifty chance,
he had said with a happy face, and Bill had hoped for
the best, not for the grass, but for his date this

The 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
restaurant.  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 to
lose Mary. It was Mary’s idea to get married!  He had
a different life planned for himself.  He was never
interested in law and wanted to be a painter.  Mary
needed money, and she was pregnant. 

They 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 very
little of his own existence was left in his life, and
the time lost was irreversible.  His entire future had
been redesigned for Mary.  Most of his life was lost
for Mary, and the happiness that was promised when he
had decided to gamble away the rest of his identity
never ever came.  Mary could not just leave him now. 

The rain was getting heavier and the wind much
stronger than it was when he had left his office.  It
was impossible 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
the bridge many times, but did not manage to sit down
with the pen and paper in the end.  The bridge was
probably created 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 had
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 dream.

A flash had appeared in front of him when he was
momentarily blinded. It was possibly a lightning that
had hit a nail or a tree close to the swamp to his
left.  The spike was sharp and dazzling.  It was
whiter than 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
familiar.  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 in
Bill’s life had at once transformed into the biggest
of all nightmares and the change was so sudden that he
could hardly feel anything or talk for some time.

The light must have been overwhelming.  He certainly
was hallucinating.  Jane had left for good and had
taken away with her a part of his soul.

True, at some point, Bill had thought Mary was the
sweetest girl after the death of Jane and had wanted
to offer all.  Within a week of their courtship, they
had created a new life, and when the news leaked out,
he was ready to take risks.  When Mary came into his
life, the 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.

Engrossed 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.
The box was rather ordinary, and was probably dropped
by a passer by.  He had stumbled upon the box while
trying to reach the car’s rear.  It was only a few
inches across with a solid exterior.  The inside was
totally 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
seven thirty.  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 couch. 


Two months had passed after their anniversary and
Bill’s life had changed.  It was unbearable for him
the last few days.  He was sitting next to Mary in the
hospital.  Those were her last days after the fall.
Mary could barely speak and had bruises all over her
body.  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
policy.  He sat next to her bed, watching her
helplessly as she slowly perished, as if torn from
within, her soul devoured.

Mary had gone insane all of a sudden a few days after
the anniversary.  She could hear voices at night, she
said. Nobody believed her.  She said there was a woman
– tall and slender, with strikingly blond hair.  That
devil would hurt her horribly.  Things were happening
in the house:  there was a woman’s brush on her table,
and a lace -- not belonging to Mary, and a half faded
picture of a stunning girl smiling.  She could hear
her laugh 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.

The doctor was a school friend of Bill’s who had
promised to take extra care.  He listened to Bill
patiently as Mary sat still with a stolid, pale face
and a pair of eyes with no expressions.  Mary was even
more irrational after that visit.  She wanted to go
away.  “Let me leave and have my life,” she had
pleaded. One 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 knew,
crying and begging for help.  “I will die if I stay
here,” she was heard begging to distant relatives,
“Please 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
acquaintances in the city.  She had shed her old life
like a snake’s skin when she dreamt of a new
beginning.  Bill 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
stories.  “She is a little unbalanced; it happened
after her parents died.  I will take care of her,”
Bill had assured them calmly.

Bill had then told Mary that she was indeed going mad,
and would ruin all that he had done throughout his
life for her -- the job, the reputation and the house.
Then she started to bicker and yell and demanded that
Bill let her leave.  He could not do that in a sane
mind.  She was alone in the city.  Her parents too had
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
should be in charge.  He advised an immediate transfer
to hospital, and they were packing her bags.  Bill had
gone 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 end.

After the funeral, Bill sat on the black leather couch
in their living room for some time.  It reminded him
of how he and Mary had made love on it after their
anniversary dinner.  He could not bear to walk into
the bedroom.  There were her clothes lying all about.
They smelled like her, and he felt like crying aloud.
He stayed in, ate little and sat still with his phone
turned off for an entire week.

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 new neighbourhood.

As he hung his coat in his new house after a month, a
small silver box popped out of the pocket.  It smelled
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 wanted to
see him that night since she was in town.  Bill picked
his favourite CD and turned on the stereo as he sat on
the couch and waited for the bell to ring.  The small
cassette with his teen age love’s voice that he had
recorded next to the sea on a happy sunny day in June
while the breeze blew her hair stayed locked in his
drawer for the time being together with her red
scented ribbon.