It had been two years since he had last seen Amelie. Shelby had finally divorced him after having a whirlwind romance with his best friend. He didn’t blame her. She wasn’t happy and had cheated to keep their marriage intact.
“I hate cheaters.”
“Hmm”, she said taking her glasses off and peering at him with her intelligent eyes. “May be they’re truly selfless to do that”.
“Amelie”, he sighed, “I know you’re almost a saint but even you can’t say anything that would make me validate cheating”.
“It doesn’t need our validation, Jared! It’s a complex relationship tragedy. No one plans on it. It just happens.”
“So you don’t think cheating is a bad thing?”
“I don’t know, Jared! I don’t have any judgement for cheaters. Sometimes it’s a coping mechanism. Sometimes a way out. I read somewhere that men cheat to stay in marriages and women cheat to get out. It’s a complex decision that individuals reach at the cost of soul-wrenching experiences. Don’t judge them. Have empathy!”
“You know, Amelie!” He said shaking his head, “You’re way off on this one.”
“May be I am. But I don’t think we know anything about what two people’s relationship is like. There is a lot more than what meets the eye.”
“What do you think is the biggest flaw of our relationship?”
“It’s not flawed at all”.
“So we are perfect?”
She had played with his soft brown hair.
“Any relationship that you are a part of is nearly perfect”.
And yet Shelby has left and claimed half of his assets.
His daughter needed some books and so he took her to a book store. They were paying for the books at the counter when he heard an excited voice,
He turned and his heart stopped. It was Elizabeth.
She came running to him and hugged him like a child. Jared’s daughter, Amelie, stood looking over.
“How’re you and what are you doing here?” He asked with the biggest smile on his face.
“I’m meeting with the governor of your extremely backward state and trying to convince him that love is love”. She said importantly.
“Oh Elizabeth! Can you not be a good girl and let people be?”
“What are you talking about? I’m letting them be. Your government isn’t”.
He suddenly realized something and turned to his daughter,
“Elizabeth! This is Amelie, my daughter! And Amelie! Meet Elizabeth. One of the strongest women in British history”.
As Amelie stuck her hand out to shake Elizabeth’s, Jared was aware of the overwhelmingly knowing look in Elizabeth’s face. Then he saw her expression clearing and knew she had caught on. She was truly her mother’s daughter. Smart as a whip.
“Nice to meet you, Amelie”, she said. “A little exciting piece of information! My mother’s name is Amelie too”.
She even spoke like Amelie.
Amelie smiled and muttered something about it being a coincidence. Elizabeth didn’t say anything. She had put all the pieces together just like her mother had when she had found out that he had named his daughter after her.
“I’m good. I was going to call you”.
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Got busy”, she sighed, “life of an agent of change”.
“Oh my”, he mock-blessed her, “I hate seeing the weight of the world on your shoulders. How’re your boyfriends?”
“Are they still the same four?”
“Hell no! I rotate them”.
“You rotate them?”
“Yup! Like tires”.
He laughed hard. Amelie didn’t really have a sense of humor so she must have gotten it from her father.
“Hey I wanted to take you to dinner and feed you. You look emaciated “. He said.
“Well emaciated would be an overstatement. I’m heroin-chic”.
He burst out laughing again.
“I’ll pick you up at 8”.
“Where are we going?”
“You ask way too many questions”.
“One of the things that a genius does”.
He picked her up and took her to one of the coolest roadside restaurants in town. Elizabeth was impressed.
As they sat down and started ordering food she said,
“Mom said hi. Do you guys not talk? She didn’t know I had met you”.
We talk all the time, he thought. It’s just hard to actually speak to each other. So we’ve become telepathic.
“How’s she doing?” He asked casually.
“She’s okay”. She said shrugging her shoulders.
“She’s still working the same?”
“Oh yeah! She is a workaholic. And you know, now I think it’s best for her to work and be busy. She gets very sad when she’s alone”.
They ate in silence for a few minutes and then Elizabeth asked nonchalantly,
“Jared! How come your daughter’s name is Amelie?”
A straight shooter like her mother, he thought.
“She’s named after your mother”.
“Hmm. And your wife was okay with it?”
“I didn’t think so. Did she know about my mom and you?”
So she knew!
“Why did you give my mom that collection of books?”
“I can’t anwer that. It’s our secret”.
“Okay. I’m sorry I’m being nosy. I’m just very possessive about mom. She usually gets screwed by people”.
“I understand and I appreciate that”, he said smoothly.
They were quiet for many minutes. Then Elizabeth said,
“Mom is an amazing person. She’s the gentlest, kindest, most human human being who ever walked this earth. She didn’t deserve her heart broken. Did you break her heart, Jared? I’ve come to love you as a family member long before I even knew you. Mom would tell us stories and Alby and I thought you had written those books. We loved you like a family member. Then we grew up and some of the memories with the books faded. But when you came to visit us I saw how you and mom exchanged silent words. I asked her after you left but she didn’t say anything. My mom and dad had a passionate and extremely loving marriage. Dad loved her beyond reason. She still loves him. She had her heart broken a second time and I hate that distance won over love but we can’t control that”.
He asked with his heart trembling,
“Elizabeth! Your dad’s okay, right? Where’s Isaac?”
She looked at him with a world of surprise and said,
“You don’t know? He passed away eighteen months ago”.
Jared stared at her. The man who had unknowingly, inadvertently become his arch enemy in the game of life was no more. He stole Amelie without any formal duel. Then he had kids with her, built a life with her, and now he was no more.
He felt a closeness with his enemy. He felt like Isaac was blinded by the aura of Amelie’s presence just like him. He could identify with Isaac so much. Amelie wasn’t someone to let go. In the game of love, Isaac had definitely played a better game to take the prize home.
Elizabeth was watching him.
“I’m sorry, Elizabeth”.
“Don’t be sorry. He is in a better place. He had a massive stroke. I worry for Mom. She’s lonely and sad”.
His heart broke into pieces and he was too tired to pick them back up. So many of the pieces were permanently lost now that he could never make a whole heart anyway anymore.
Her phone lit up.
She smiled and texted back,
“When you’re as old as I am, you don’t sleep. You spend the night counting the stars and looking for traces of morning“.
“How old are you, Amelie?”
“Way too old to even remember“.
“I was thinking of coming down to your place“.
“Really? To do something?”
“Nothing special. Eat a little food. Listen to a little music. Find a little love”.
“How can you find it here?”
“You didn’t lose it here.”
“So can I find it where I lost it?”
“So you’ll have to come down then”.
“I am on call all this week”.
“It’s okay. I’ve waited for decades. A few more weeks don’t matter”.
“You’ve certainly become very patient”.
“And handsome, if I may say so myself”.
“Oh yeah! That too”.
“I met Elizabeth”.
“She told me”.
“Before you yell at me, she figured everything out herself. That little minx! I didn’t tell her anything”.
“She’s a smart girl. But she has Isaac’s heart. Gentle and pure”.
“I’m sorry about Isaac”.
“Are you sad?”
“Very. You can’t lose two soulmates in a lifetime”.
“Was he your soulmate too, Amelie?”
“Yes, Jared! He was my soulmate too”.
“Can we have more than one soulmate?”
“Depends on our capacity to love”.
“That’s fascinating. Can you love me one more time?”
“One more time? I never stopped loving you”.
“Really! Do you know what Rumi says about love?”
“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along”.
“So we were in each other all along?”
“Something like that”.
“Was Isaac your lover too, Amelie?”
“Yes, Jared! If I couldn’t get you then the powers weren’t too unkind to me. They gave me Isaac. He took away some of the pain”.
“I’m sorry I hurt you, Amelie”.
“We both hurt each other. But we hurt when we love. And we love when we hurt”.
She was coming today and he wanted to do something special. He hadn’t been with another woman for so long that he had moments of fear and trepidation at being awkward or just dumbfounded.
“But she’s not just another woman”, the inner guy said. “She’s the woman who you were created for”.
He sat by the river where 27 years ago, on a brilliantly lit evening they had celebrated her birthday. She had given him a diary of quotes. He had showered her with presents. It seemed like yesterday when she explained to him how to use the diary. He had used it. He had brought it with him too.
He opened it at the page where two years ago he had met her.
“I exist in two places. Here and where you are”. Margaret Atwood.
He sighed and put it down.
He saw a small-framed silhouette appear in a distance. He looked at her. She slowly came into vision. She wore a light pink dress with gold strappy sandals. There was a large bag in her hand and she looked unsure. Of all the years that he had known her, she had never been unsure.
“Hey”, she came over and smiled.
He patted the place next to him and she sat down. They silently watched the sunset.
“I’ve always been”.
“I’m saying it so there is no confusion”.
“There never was any confusion”.
“You’ll be my wife. I just want to clarify”.
“Like my life partner. Legally married to me”.
“Yes, Jared, I understood the first time you said it”.
“Okay. Because we don’t have 27 years to pine”.
“I don’t want to pine”.
He moved closer to her and put an arm around her.
“Don’t put your moves on me, Jared”. She said, teasingly.
“This is nothing. I’m going to take your virginity tonight”.
“Promise me you will”. She asked quietly.
His head came down and kissed her. It was like no distance ever came between them. Amelie’s mouth hadn’t gotten old. It reminded him still of promises and dreams. She kissed him back. Several minutes went by.
His hands roamed over her body. She had always been so small and petite.
“I could put you in my pocket”.
“Since you lost me for so many years before , that would be the safest place”.
They laughed. Laughing with Amelie was so easy. There was never an awkward joke or weird comment between them.
She ran her hands through his hair,
“Gosh! Your hair is to die for”.
“Don’t die for my hair before seeing my package”.
“Jared!” She said, shaking her head, “Crassness isn’t a turn on for me”.
“I only speak the truth and would be happy to provide references”.
“Aren’t you a virgin?” She joked.
Yes, I am, Amelie, he thought to himself, smiling inside. I’ve had sex but I’m a virgin .
They lay on the sand for hours, making shapes and people out of the clouds above them, talking about Isaac and Shelby, discussing how their kids would take the news.
“You know, Amelie, when I see our kids I’m somewhat happy with the distance that happened”.
“You are?” She asked happily.
“Yes! They made everything easy. And we wouldn’t have had them if distance didn’t happen”.
She traced his unconventionally attractive face with her fingers. She held his eyes for many minutes. Finally she snuggled with him.
“I’m so glad you said that”. She said softly.
“I couldn’t have said that a few days ago. Getting you back has put things into perspective. Now I don’t feel so sad for the time lost”.
She kissed his neck and he felt aroused by her closeness.
“If you keep kissing me, I’ll have to have you before dinner”.
She laughed throatily.
They had dinner by the river. It was the same setting that was many years ago on her birthday. The sun took a long time to set.
“Hey! I got you something”. He suddenly said after dinner as they were getting ready to leave.
He turned her around to face him. She had the ring on the string around her neck, his bracelet on her arm.
He took the string off. He removed the ring. He took her hand and slipped the ring.
They kissed. For many minutes. Many suns went up and down while they kissed. Seasons changed around them. Time rushed by and then stood still. Distance circled them and finally stood, defeated.
He took her home that night and lost himself to her.
Jared woke up . She wasn’t in the room. He started aching for her. Didn’t she know she could never leave him?
“I’m in the shower, Jared! Don’t panic”.
“I panic when I don’t find you around”, he yelled lazily from the bed.
“You’re so dramatic”, he heard her laugh.
He thought about last night. Dancing with Amelie, talking with her late into the night, making love several times before drifting off into a peaceful sleep, then waking up and making love again. He didn’t remember everything. She was right. We don’t remember when we are intoxicated.
She came out, with a robe around her.
“I’m not a great cook but can feed you. What would you like to eat?”
Amelie Atkins making him breakfast? The unreality made him stare at her.
Amelie Atkins was his fiancé now?
Somehow trivial descriptors weren’t for her.
She laughed at him staring at her and said something about getting eggs and bread together.
He turned over, feeling like his 28 year old self that met her years ago. Young, virile and content.
He noticed the diary she gave him lying next to him. Curiously he picked it up. She had been writing something in it on the page with yesterday’s date.
The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of crafts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing
I love it when you read to me
You can read me anything
The book of love has music in it
In fact that’s where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb
I love it when you sing to me
You can sing me anything
The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know
I love it when you give me things
You ought to give me wedding rings
I love it when you give me things
You ought to give me weddings rings
You ought to give me wedding rings
(Peter Gabriel “Shall We Dance?”)