Time is funny, falling in a drip, each drop a memory in a long stream, swallowed whole by the past, a blip in a long thread. Time folds and bends and some constants remain. In some lives, they’re friends, others strangers passing in the night- - shoulders brushing for a single moment, a single sweeping glance-- a soul calls out, recognizing its’ other half, but in the end, each life is a new start. There is no divine power that forces them together, to choose one another time and again. Providence is powerful, but so is free will and individual choice. Sometimes they’re nothing but a possibility, maybe a small mention in a footnote, or nothing at all. Sometimes they love hard, too hard and it falls apart. Others they’re adulterers, or mere acquaintances, husband and wife. Their souls constantly evolve as the cycle continues. A soul knows when a mind does not.
And though many of their happy moments are together, a happy life is possible to achieve without the other.
They never truly notice the absence of the other-- souls may cry out-- but there is never anything missing when no connection has been made.
1665- I Want to Hold Your Hand
The winter of the year prior brought to them an omen in the form of a comet. It was a portent of evil events yet to come, and they all prayed nightly for their father in heaven to save their eternal souls from the damnation of hell.
They had no way of knowing what 1665 would bring, nor how it would destroy everything they held dear.
A young man was set to marry a young woman, the daughter of a prominent merchant in their tiny hamlett. She was a lovely creature with fair skin, quite a lovely bosom, and silky curls, which now that she no longer bore the title of child, she wore atop her head. Their fathers came to a mutually beneficial agreement the previous year, and they used the time to properly get to know one another as arrangements were made for their upcoming wedding. Their mothers planned and their fathers schemed, deciding their futures for them. All they could do was say yes. There were no real choices for her. He could have any, but all he saw was her.
He had never met anyone such as her with a beautiful heart, quick mind, and a sharp tongue. She was witty, educated, and far above most of the women of her station.
They believed themselves to have all the time in the world and they never stood a chance when outside forces began to invade the quiet space they carved out to hide from the loudness.
Her entire family fell to the deathly effects of the ghastly plague, a blight in their kingdom-- sparing none with no end in sight. They covered their mouths to prevent the miasma, but in the end it was a fruitless endeavor as it spread amongst the household, to all except her. She did her best to nurse the members of her family, but her mother succumbed within two days of showing symptoms. The doctor proclaimed it hopeless and asked for the house to be boarded up to prevent further spread, alas it was no use as her neighbor fell victim the next day.
Her younger sister and brother passed into the next realm not long after, with her father finally following his family into the kingdom of God.
Her neighbors began to whisper and spread vicious rumors about her-- the only to survive when her whole family was gone. Accusations were hurled and rumors spread that she was a witch who worshipped at the altar of Satan. They believed she prayed for everyone to perish around her to boost her status, yet he knew her. She had nary a cruel bone in her body and worked tirelessly to help heal those around her. He kept quiet though, afraid to gain the ire of the angry and the desperate.
Many people in her neighborhood continued to fall victim, yet she stayed healthy and went about healing with herbal remedies she learned at the seat of her mother. Some whispered she desired the family business for herself and the position of trusted healer in the community.
It wasn’t long until the discontent amongst them forced them to extreme measures. They tried and burned her as a witch.
Prior to the trial, they stole minutes together, knowing their fates were sealed and futures stolen. She would die with the title of witch attached to her name. His thumbs caressed the smooth skin of her cheeks, downy like a newborn-- savoring the details of her face. Her eyes glistened as her body shook, knowing as well as he the fate awaiting her with the farce of a trial. The court of public opinion had decided long before her arrest and the announcement of her trial.
“My apologies Mistress Clare for what has befallen your family.” He tilted her face up, staring into the depths of her brown orbs. The clouds rolled in and the light fading from her eyes the closer she drew to her death. She walked proudly, head up, neck stretch taut, unwilling to give her accusers the satisfaction of watching her descend into hysterics.
He watched as they tied her up outside of London, her face stony, yet her eyes bore the fear in her heart. Their faces showed their own resentment and fear mingled together as they prepared the fire. Some spit on her, others cackled merrily, and many relished in her condemnation to hell. They were all sure it was where she belonged as God would never let such filth into his home. “Disgusting trash,” they yelled. “Burn the witch,” they chanted gleefully, sinister smiles adorning their faces.
Tears streaked his cheeks as he watched, for he had come to love the woman. He knew there was nothing he could do to save her and she did not wish him to either.
“Close thy eyes,” he mouthed to her because he couldn’t close his. It was happening at a startling pace as the locals tied the rest of the accused witches to their stakes. All of their faces were hidden beneath layers of dirt, their hair matted and knotted, and blood crusted at their bound wrists. Their dresses which weren’t by any means fancy had at least once been unsoiled. Grime covered every inch of their morose, hopeless bodies as they accepted their fates. They were standing corpses, nothing but bone and broken lives.
In total there were ten accused women, some spinsters, others widows, and many provided healing in their respective sectors of the city. Their trials resulted in their convictions to burn as witches as witness provided “undeniable” accounts of their guilt.
Clare’s eyes were downcast and her lips moved quickly. In her last minutes, she found solace in God who seemed to have forsaken her in this life. If she had her beads, he knew they would be clutched tightly in her grasp as she waited for the end. To burn as a witch was heinous and viewed as sending the witches back to where they belonged with Satan.
With precise timing, all of the pyres were lit and the women went up in a blinding blaze of orange. Most of the women screamed in agony; their squeals of pain called to his heart as they begged for release from this life. The voice he wanted but feared did not shriek in anguish as she’d never give them the satisfaction of knowing they caused her pain. Even at the end, Clare was too proud.
The nightmare before his would haunt the remainder of his day, but he had to watch as the embers died around her charred flesh, and the people were finally satisfied their witches were no longer in the mortal realm. None of them would feel guilt if they believed they sentenced an innocent woman to death as they felt justified in their actions.
The dark ashes from the ten women fluttered to the earth, freckling the hair of those who remained and mourned. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
She had done nothing wrong except try to save them all from this pestilence ravaging the continent and their home. She returned home to where she belonged in the form from which she originated: dust.
There was nothing distinguishable left of her body and he turned his head unable to stomach the sight of her charred remains. He sent a prayer up to their Father for forgiveness in his complicity of this heinous act and begged for eternal salvation for her soul as she deserved so much more than had been given to her.
She would gain entry to his kingdom, and perhaps all of them would some day join her and discover her innocence, or perchance they had doomed all of their own souls and he would never see her again. She was no servant of the devil, merely a woman trying to help others around her while they accused her out of jealousy and fear.
“Farewell Clare,” he choked on her name, turning his back, refusing to turn around for he knew the pain was in leaving her behind. If he looked, he would want to stay. But she was gone.
1776 -you were on the tip of my tongue
She was born to a prominent English family in the colonies and he was but a farm boy with nothing to offer. He worked in his grandfather’s mercantile shop, which is where he first saw her.
She was fifteen to his seventeen years and her father was attempting to match her with potential suitors. He heard word of men traveling across the Atlantic, vying for an opportunity to catch her eye and secure her heart. So far she had snubbed all, refusing all offers for her hand in marriage. Some called her uppity and a snob, chastising her foolishness.
He thought of her as a dreamer. Often when he went out on deliveries, he caught wisps of her in the fields. In her lap rested paper and her fingers curled around charcoal as she stared out into the world unknown. She moved the charcoal, sketching something known only to her, but he was never close enough to catch a glimpse. He considered approaching her, curious to address the girl who caused such a stir, but he was not suitable for the likes of her. Her father was tied to prominent loyalists and many in his family had joined the army to fight against the English. His father ran an illegal printing side business, disseminating pamphlets to enlighten the masses of the unfolding events in the colonies surrounding the formation of an army and their declaration for independence. He grew up surrounded by the words of some of the greatest thinkers of the time and though his family could not spare him to his studies, he was by no means uneducated. But still for a girl like her, he was nothing but a shopkeeper's apprentice. He would never measure in her father’s eyes.
And then one day she was there, in his grandfather's shop, moving between the stacks, fingers trailing over fabrics, and that same look in her eyes. She was here but somewhere else too.
Elizabeth Wilson smiled kindly at him as she approached the counter. Her light eyes were bright and warm, and he found himself drowning in them, aching for her to reveal all her secrets. Her spun gold hair was pinned back into an elaborate style, one he had seen only women of her class wear. His mother and sisters had no time to spend on such frivolity and keeping up with the latest trends. There was a house to keep and they had but two servants to assist.
“Good morrow,” he greeted her politely, making eye contact, knees shaking as his fingers dug into the wood of the counter.
There was a demure smile teasing her lips as she silently appraised him. “How do you fare?”
"Quite well m'lady, how can I be of service to you?"
"I require a bolt of the blue fabric, a spool of silk thread, a sack of flour and sugar." She pulled out her pursue, the rattling of coins startling him. “Also a new bit, we’ve recently acquired a new horse,” she informed him, brushing invisible dirt off her skirts.
He tallied the price of her requests and she handed over the coins, daintily dropping it into his waiting hands. He wished he knew how to prolong this moment, keep her there a bit long, but alas time is cruel and fickle. "My father will send someone to fetch my purchases in due time. I thank you for your diligence, Mr. Fraser. I must be getting back home. Mother expects me for my afternoon lessons and told me not to dally in town. Good day," she curtsied and then she was gone as if she was never there.
He did not see her again. Her father boarded her and her mother on a ship, sending them back to England for protection, or so he heard later from his sisters. At times during the war when he slept, clothes hanging off his body from lack of food and supplies, clinging to life after an injury to his leg, and upon his return when he passes her father's plantation, he thinks of that brief moment where she stood across from him. She was a ghost and a dream all wrapped into one.
1863- the long goodbye
Clara sat in her rocking chair, watching as the sun set behind the copse of trees. Her hair flowed gently in the wind, the strawberry blonde strands curled around her face.
Her fair skin was pink as she awaited the arrival of a letter that never came. She tried not to be too disappointed by the lack of news, but ever since the war broke out, she’d been a nervous wreck. With the progression of escalating violence, cousin against cousin, brother versus brother, she worried endlessly about all of the countless victims of this purposeless war.
As a woman, she knew she had no business involved in the affairs of war. She considered becoming a nurse to all of the injured Union soldiers. She heard through stories about a fellow woman from Massachusetts who shared her name doing God’s glorious work healing men from the battlefield. It was said to be particularly gruesome as some lost limbs, eyesight, or their lives.
The previous month was perhaps one of the deadliest battles to ever take place on American soil. Down in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania thousands of men fought over a three day period resulting in a
northern victory. It felt hollow as most things did these days. Very little was considered joyful when thinking of the men and boys (because that’s what they were) fighting.
She never felt such despair and prayed constantly for the end of warfare, for the return of the men, and for the country to solve its’ problems.
Clara was the first person in her family born on this side of the Atlantic. Her parents arrived from Ireland twenty-three years ago, just two years prior to her birth. They spoke no English and struggled to make a living. It was difficult, but they did their best to provide for her and her siblings.
At a young age, she became quite aware she would need to marry in order to leave her parents’ household as they had more than enough mouths to feed. The slums of New York City weren’t ideal for finding a male to provide, not that she particularly thought she was suited towards marriage or any domestic inclinations. It was through pure luck, she met Bostonian James Scott. He was descended from Scots, but his family had been here since the American Revolution, nearly a century prior when her own ancestors were still fishermen.
He swept her off her feet literally as she was nearly trampled by a runaway cart. The moment their eyes connected, her whole world changed in the blink of an eye.
It was how she ended up in the position she was in currently. She rubbed at her swollen stomach as she was almost at the completion of her second pregnancy. Her oldest daughter Eillis was asleep in her cot. She was the reason why she had not gone off to heal the wounded. God bestowed upon her a precious gift before her husband departed for war. Then on his last leave, their union resulted in another blessing.
She wrote to her husband to deliver the news as it was unlikely he would return home any time soon, perhaps not until the completion of the war.
His letters were long yet possessed no true details as to what transpired on the battlefields. Her wrote of his profound love and how he longed to hold her. He missed her truly and deeply, and wished for a quick end to all this nastiness; he feared however the war could go on even longer than they thought.
It was the sound of hooves that alerted her to the presence of someone on the property. She squinted her eyes as she recognized the postman.
He smoothly slid off his horse with a grim smile as he walked nearer to her. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest as she was aware of what it was he held in his hands. She wanted to cry, scream, yell, anything, but all along she knew she would receive this from the start.
Her husband was an honorable man who would never choose the cowardly path. He would fight to the end even if the end was his death. “Mrs. Scott, I have two pieces of mail for you.”
“Thank you Henry,” she said, her voice low, dismissive. “Say hello to your mother for me.” She plucked the letters from him.
The first was one from her husband’s superior. Tears burned her eyes as she refused their release. It was all too much to have the confirmation. Her heart knew when it happened. It was the second day of battle when she felt something cold pierce her heart; she was breathless and in pain, crying out for him. Then she felt empty and alone.
Her breath caught in her throat as she saw his familiar scrawl on the other envelope.
How do I explain that I fear I will not return to you? I’ve had a vision of some sort in which I saw all that will come. We’ve retreated for the night, but tomorrow is another day in which I know to be my last.
I saw you clearer than I have with my eyes open. It is your soul I recognized the day I saved you as it ‘tis not the first time we’ve met. Our lives have been intertwined for over a millennia as we keep working with each life to correct our mistakes. We never can live a life where the issues of the times do not interfere with our chances to be together.
In this life, I’ve enjoyed the pleasures of your flesh. The fruit of our labor exist to display the love we hold for one another. It could never be a mistake to have loved you. With each new life, I have a chance with you once more. Not in every one do I take the chance, nor will I as I have seen.
One of our daughters will bare a line of descendants for us, in which you will be reborn again. The concept does not frighten me as it did initially because it’ll start again. I will wait for you in the starlight until you no longer cling to this life. Some years will pass before you’re ready for the next one, which will be quite grand. Do not worry for I will not reveal the details. Just know I cannot bring myself to regret a single minute spent with you, only the ones where we were not together in spirit but only heart. My heart belongs to you for eternity. Love’s not Time’s fool.
For we will surely meet again and again, perhaps you will not be a stranger. I cannot know for sure, for there are too many lives in our future and too many roads still as yet undecided.
Clara, my love, do not despair over the shortness of our love. Let it embrace you and do not fear loving another for I know in your heart, I hold a place no other can take. While I do admit to possessing a strong sense of envy for and curse the man who will take the role of your husband and father our children, I thank him in the same breath.
You’ve been my angel and guiding light through the disaster of this god forsaken war, alas I foresaw from the beginning there was no surviving for me. Think of me only in your dreams for I do not want sadness clouding your life. You deserve nothing but happiness for the rest of your days, my heart.
Trust me when I say, we will meet again. Until then, I love you then, now, and forever. With all my heart,
Your loving husband James
Tears splashed onto the parchment of the last letter he ever wrote. She never had the chance to tell him of her shared vision as well, in which she saw all of their lives with clarity, and understood why they were continuously born again. Each life was a chance for an undying, never ending love meant to last an eternity.
1945- Six Feet Under
My body shivered as I was forced again into the hole for punishment for insubordination. I was a POW captured by the Japanese with thousands of others. We were treated no better than animals, sometimes even worse than that.
One of their favorite punishments was to withhold food from us. We were delirious from starvation and pliable enough still to work. The Geneva Convention might as well have not existed for them.
Every few weeks, we heard rumors about our possible liberation, but as time went by, we lost hope. In the beginning, we were all so hopeful. The war couldn’t go on much longer. The Japanese however weren’t surrendering. I had seen a few people in my time here executed for their attempts to escape and cried myself to sleep, knowing I couldn’t help them. The Japanese executed others for the attempts of one.
Tenko was the worst time of day for any of us. We were forced to line up for roll call like chattel as we were forced to bow deeply for the Japanese officers. Those who failed to do so were brutally beaten, a few teeth knocked out, or a broken nose.
I was a nurse for the American Army as my parents sent me away at the start of the war. I was sixteen almost seventeen in 1937 when they sent me off to New York to live with my uncle. There was growing unrest on the continent, and my parents were worried about the future. They never imagined Germany invading Poland, or the declaration of war by the allies as a result.
My parents wanted me to finish school in America and attend a university over there instead of in Paris, where I originally wanted. I enrolled in a nursing program, and when the American Army was looking for nurses, I joined immediately. I wanted to do my duty.
The U.S. was slowly preparing to enter the war as more and more news reports indicated the struggle of the Allies in all the battle theaters. People were restless and doing what they could, but everyone wanted to do more. The Japanese were pushing their boundaries in the Pacific, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, and several other U.S. naval bases scattered around the Pacific.
I was stationed in the Philippines with my unit and we served during battle. When Bataan and Corregidor fell, 78 of us were captured and imprisoned around Manila. We had tried to evacuate, but we were left stranded and the Japanese found us.
We continued to serve in the camp despite our status as POWs. We had to do something and there were so many wounded.
I had been here so long; I was tired. I didn’t care what form my salvation came in anymore either. The rumors no longer held any sort of credence for me. We were going to die here and that was all.
While we had medical training, we weren’t all too useful to them in the grand scheme. We were still more mouths to feed, which was why our servings were getting smaller. I could see my ribs and my cheeks were sunken in. It was a frightful sight against my purple and blue mottled skin. There was a lot of talk about them possibly eliminating us to hide evidence of their treatment. We would be forgotten to time, our names just added to the hundreds, thousands of names of soldiers MIA or KIA.
I’d briefly heard rumors from some of the officers who spoke bits and pieces of broken English (and with the assistance of the little Japanese I knew) that the Japanese were struggling immensely to fight off the Americans. After the devastating blows in which they retreated, they’d come back stronger and far more prepared for round two with the Japs.
They were supposedly mounting an extensive attack. I didn’t believe in that hogwash. I was firmly entrenched in reality and knew our chances of making it out alive were slim.
My eyes slithered close as I shivered. In my malnourished state, I wasn’t able to properly regulate my own body temperature. I was always cold. I was so exhausted and all I wanted was to sleep. Sleep
was the reprieve from all of this. I didn’t regret my choices. I would do it all again even if it meant dying here in a foreign land. I was doing something useful with my skills and life, and I had helped so many soldiers.
Someone shook me rapidly, startling me. My eyes flashed open to find the most spectacular set of blue eyes on the planet looking back. There was such expression in them as he carefully regarded me. I saw the empathy not sympathy in them as he helped me to my feet, never once behaving as if I were unable to do it myself. “Are ye okay?” I heard a hint of Scottish in his accent, but more than anything he sounded distinctly American.
I nodded my head dumbly as I followed this man. He held my arm so tight, and I thought if I never met another man in my life, I would be fine. Then a shot rang out and all I saw was red as the blue faded from his eyes.
2103- i know we're cool
In the beginning, he misses her. He thinks of her constantly, his head filled with constant thoughts of the girl he had known since childhood. He wishes for more time— but she is a cruel mistress. And he has run out.
When he passes her in the halls, he lowers his eyes, keeping them downcast until he turns the corner. It pains him to see her with eyes sparkling like silver, smiles not for him, and moving on from the time they shared. She does not hurt the way he does. The monotony of his days kept him going in the beginning, the familiarity of the school cycle. But there are pockets in those days, moments where he remembers the space she filled in his life. Without her, there’s an overwhelming silence where once sound existed.
He no longer ventures out into the world, trying new restaurants or sitting around a cafe table to discuss the merits of whatever book they’re reading. She no longer regales him with adventures and the daily happenings in her life. He misses none of it. He no longer misses her.
Though his phone lights up with the occasional text, his heart knows it is not her. Without her, he’s increased his own productivity, grades climbing and extra hours dedicated to his studies. She was a distraction, at least that’s what he tells himself.
But sometimes he is weak. Sometimes he aches for the days when she was there. Mostly, he has banished her to the shadows of his mind, watching the darkness swallow her into nothingness, tossing out over a decade of memories for he can longer bear their existence. He almost convinces himself he hates her.
He catches a flash of blonde hair, ducking his head into his locker to avoid meeting her gaze. His mind whispers of possibilities, silently pleading with him to talk to her, listen to what she has to say— disappointment crawls through his veins every time she walks away. He searches for her in the face of every blonde who crosses his path. His heart stutters to life when he thinks it’s her, blood thundering in his ears, the pang of loneliness echoing off his hollowed insides.
He has taken to people watching, eyes sharp and attentive as his gaze rakes over strangers, observing them and overcome with the desire to be like them— to move on with his life, to have a life.
His life has deviated off course, from all the plans he made and dreamt, and now he’s left to flounder. Making friends wasn’t his specialty until she came into his life. She shone brighter than any star he ever saw, burning bright and hot, and she brought him to life.
Isolation has made him realize his own loneliness. He thought he could handle it. After all, hadn’t he spent his first years alone? He was good at it until he wasn’t until his eyes land on the empty space on his nightstand where once a frame sat proudly. Now he’s buried it somewhere in his failed efforts to remove all traces of her from his life. It is all gone now, over. Yet pieces of her linger in the fabric of his life.
He adjusts the way he measures time, no longer by the flurry of messages and calls with her, or the hours spent in each other’s company.
And one day, he fully separates his life into two separate spheres. There’s BC and AC. Now there’s only after Clara. Her infiltration into his life disrupted the path he was set on and now he no longer knows where he is. He wants to go back to before there a them. To a period where he didn’t know what it was like to have her in his life. She’s spoiled everything.
This is the new reality. There are no more scheduled date nights, late evenings spent laughing bent over textbooks, pouring over notes. She’s gone from his life, vanished like a spectre.
He rubs his chest, angry the pain still resides in the crevices of his heart. If he knew it would end up like this, he would’ve ignored her the day she offered her hand, folding him into her light. He knows his mind is full of lies. He would fall all over again and keep falling.
It’s another day, same hallway when he spies her. Hair spun like good trails down her back, a tint of red peeking out, coming from her father’s side. Her eyes are pale, set in a slant, and he recalls the last time he was close enough to see them. They were wet with acceptance, disdain written into the lines of her face.
She refused to let go, hadn’t wanted to, but it was the right choice for them. He saw how she sometimes stared at Peter, the hunger appearing on her face, and he knew the feeling. Maybe they were’t forever, but neither were he and her.
“I love you,” he started. And he does. He did. He loves her so much, more than he thought himself capable. It’s a part of him, a hunger resting deep inside. “I do, but I’ve seen how you looked at Peter.” She opened her mouth to protest. His hand covered her mouth, face softening and fight exiting his body. “I know you say you don’t have feelings for him. I believe you believe that. However, this is the time where we should explore all of our options. It wouldn’t be fair of me to continue to hold onto you.”
And there was the acceptance. She was drained, exhausted and he hated to see the pain he inflicted upon, the filtered lies spilling out of his mind, anything to soothe her.
This close, he sees the freckles dusting her cheeks, tiny constellations he’s mapped a thousand times. Lips hovering over them, fingers drawing invisible lines as he remembered everything about her.
She sniffled, turning away from her as her lips trembled, mouth quaking with the repression of an explosion of words. She knew him too. He was determined and had cemented his decision. “I see,” she finally said, voice tapering off, wounded. Then she lifted her eyes to meet his. He knew the questioned before we asked. “Can we still be friends?”
The words rattle in his brain even now a year later. He told her no, firm and resolute. He refused to waver. If he was going to get over her, he needed the space to do it. He needed a clean break.
He hadn’t spoken to her since that day. With a month until their graduation, he’s heard through the rumor mill that she’s off to London in the fall, poised to become a doctor. She was leaving. His opportunities were sparse, thinning by the day, and if he was going to finally talk to her, he had to do it soon. She was leaving as she had always wanted—with more than just time separating them.
He stands in front of his locker, sighing as he searches for his notes. A soft “hey” reaches his ears and he freezes. He closes his eyes, shoulders steadily rising and falling as he takes a deep breath before turning to face her- - the girl he gave away. She’s different and the same. “So I wanted to tell you this myself because well… it’s the thing to do in these kinds of situations.” Just as he knew her question over a year ago, he knows the words that will fall from her lips. “I didn’t want you hearing it from anyone but me, but Peter and I are dating.”
Over the last year, he called his pain the beast. It was hunger that grew and grew, burning him from the inside out, always wanting more. He allowed it to ravage his body, feeding off of him, and he did nothing to appease it. He enjoyed it. It made him feel alive, tethered to his own existence.
With the confirmation of her new relationship, he expects to feel the beast rising up inside of him. Instead, it’s not exactly nothing he feels, but it isn’t anger, hurt, or torment. He doesn’t feel betrayed by her. Part of him is happy that she’s been able to move on, that she’s happy.
There are things he does miss— strolls through the park, laughing boisterously as their hands brushed before one of them reached across the Rubicon, boldly tangling their fingers. They would turn away with a blush dusting their cheeks, pretending it was the heat responsible for their flushed appearances. The current of electricity flowing between was nice, the soft feel of Clara’s hand in his, and he almost always said something stupid, revealing his feelings.
A grin stretches across his face, genuine and thankful. It feels surprisingly good to smile. “Oh… well that’s great.” He ruffles his hair. “If you still want well I think we could try this friend thing. There’s a few months left before college and I mean only if you want.”
He kept his distance all year, choosing desks as far from hers as physically possible to avoid having to look in her direction and the possibility of being partnered. It was far from the mature wya of handling a break-up, but he needed to do it to move on from her. Everything was still fresh at the start of their senior year, his heart clenching every time he saw, air snatched from his lingers, and he needed a minute to settle himself.
The empty desk beside him mocked him in the beginning, taking great delight in manifesting as the representation of his pain. He refuses to budge on his position. He didn’t go for the gentle snip, electing for the deepest cut.
“Yeah, I’ve realized that maybe we weren’t meant for each other in this life.”
"I'm sorry I hurt you."
"I know you would never intentionally cause anyone pain. You don't have it in you. Some things just aren't meant to be."
“Thanks for still being my friend. I know it’s not easy.” Months ago those words would've killed him, teased him until the edge of sanity, but now they're words..
He swallows with some difficulty. It was the hardest thing he had done up until that point in his life. Later, years later, he'll have made harder decisions, having forgotten all about how he struggled in the aftermath of his first breakup. Snipping those threads will mean nothing, but at that moment, plucking at random threads, he realized how embedded into his life she was.
“I’ll always be that Clara.” Except he wasn’t. After she went off to school in London and he went to Washington, it was a long time before h4 heard anything about Clara Anderson. And even longer before he saw her.
There was finality to their last meeting that summer. Something in their eyes said this was it. So he hugged her and then he walked away, tucking Clara into a box to be stored.
When he saw her ten years later, she was married not to Peter, but someone she met in medical school. He was tall with dark hair and eyes, but a kind look about him. He wasn’t anyone he would’ve imagined for her ten years ago. Still somehow he fit perfectly into the tapestry of her life.
He knew she had a daughter of her own whom she named Libby, well really Elizabeth. Through the same grapevine, he knew she adopted the little girl as she and her husband had difficulty conceiving until they didn’t. She was currently pregnant, the evidence a tiny bump at her midsection. She was no longer a young woman on the precipice of her life. She had grown and moved on and so had he.
From afar at their reunion, he saw as she fixed her husband’s tie. She stared up at him in complete adoration and his eyes sparkled as he looked down at her. She was happy. He found he was happy for her--that she found something for herself.
At the squeeze of a hand, he glances over at his wife, Laura. It was once considered the most painful moment in his life when he called his relationship off with Clare, but Clara was his past. Just as she had moved on in their time apart, he had too. He had two children with his wife, a house full of dreams, and nothing but hope for his future.
Clara was a high school boy’s dream and he was a man beyond the whimsies of a child. A part of him would always love her, but he learned to let someone else in after he grew up. She was his first love, but he had to let her go. They weren’t meant for each other in this life and that was okay.
2364- She Will Be Loved
“You know you’re awful sure of yourself,” her posh voice caught me off guard, but I heard the interest she tried to hide. Her eyes were teasing and full of mischief as she regarded me with twitching lips.
Something tingled inside as soon as I saw her on the city transport. I had to talk to her, if for no other reason than to hear her talk. “You’re beautiful,” I felt the hot flush of my face as the unexpected admittance slipped past my defenses. If anything though, my candor pleased her immensely and she threw her curly head back and freely laughed. I knew she wasn’t laughing at me. It was a rich sound, boisterous and exuberant. She didn’t care who heard her.
She offered her hand for me to shake as we made our introductions. “Clare,” she said.
My tongue caressed the sound of her name as it escaped my lips. “Jaymes,” I told her as my hand held onto hers a little longer than was polite. It was odd, but I felt as if I’d been here before, yet I knew this was the first time we’d ever met. “There’s something very familiar about you.” I hope she felt the same about me. It was a connection.
She was pleased as she straightened her posture and put away her pad. “Oh I was thinking the same thing about you. I could’ve sworn we’ve met, but I think I would remember someone with your distinguished profile.”
I grinned goofily at her as I raked a hand through my ginger curls. Being a carrot top, especially as a male wasn’t the easiest thing to bear. In a city of so many people like London, I sometimes still found myself sticking out. “Yes, and I think I would know if I saw a girl as breathtaking as you.”
These weren’t lines either to get her to agree to a date. She was captivating and riveted my interest from the moment I first saw her sitting on the bench waiting for our transport. Her cheeks turned the most delectable shade of pink, which I found endearing and quite refreshing. Some girls were perhaps too forward and lacked a sense of modesty when attempting their pursuit of me. It was off putting.
“You’re very good with your words, maybe there’s a chance for something after all.”
I beamed at her and made myself comfortable as we sped across the English countryside. “That’s all I’m asking for.”
It seemed as if our meeting was pre-destined and a part of me believed it was.
We’ve met in many lifetimes. She’s been many things from a widowed nurse in the Civil War, a nurse in WWII where she discovered love too late, a suffragette arrested multiple times and beaten, and so many other versions of herself varied based on the time. Many of her characteristics carried over from one life to the next, and in almost every life it was her personality that captured my interest from the beginning. I, myself have been a warrior for my clan, a soldier fighting for the reunification of the country I came to call my home, a soldier meeting a nurse moments before I was no more, or a member of parliament refusing to accept my wife’s sudden interest in enfranchisement. Over and over again our souls meet and we are given the chance to start anew. Some lives we are destined and it’s inevitable. It’s always different, but we always recognize there’s a missing piece and sometimes that’s enough. We endlessly search for the lost half separated from us at the beginning of man when the gods were jealous and angry at us for being whole.
I don’t always get it right, but I search for her nonetheless. Maybe one day we will finally rest, but until then I enjoy the moment where I die and see it all flash before me. It aches occasionally as I review lives where we didn’t meet or we did but failed to start. Then I replay the ones where we are happy and have a family. I recognize the souls of my children and bless them at each passing, hoping to help her bare them in the next life as well. Sometimes we aren’t always lucky, but we keep trying. Each life is a set of new opportunities and chances that bring with it new and old struggles.
We get moments in the in-between before our souls are called back to the mortal realm. We exist in the light in the night sky as our souls prepare to travel again. It’s not nearly enough time to discuss it all, but we mention our favorite ones. So far, we both agree our time as Jamie and Claire in the 21stcentury has been one of the most interesting, certainly not the easiest, but provided the most happiness and helped usher in our next lives.
We’ve touched on the sadder stories of our lives. London wasn’t the first time she burned as a witch. She burned in the Salem Witch Trials and again in the next century when she was accused by a jealous girl of performing nefarious deeds in a Scottish village. Three lives in a row were interrupted and she never lived past twenty years of age. In only one of those lives did I die young. She had no chance to live her life and spent a long time waiting for me.
In one life, she died in a pogrom against the Jews during one of the crusades. We never met. I was a crusader completing my duty in reclaiming the Holy Land, and perhaps I would’ve never looked twice at her, or maybe I would’ve when I felt the connection flow between us. It’s always sad because in some lives we can’t know what would’ve happened had our circumstances been different.
What we’ve learned isn’t that we need each other to be a whole person. While we do fill in the missing pieces, we don’t need the other to lead a happy life. Certainly some of the happiest ones were together, but I’ve learned to love her not because she’s my soulmate. I love her for being her. In the time without her if I die first, I have time to contemplate and examine details about why our lives don’t always inter-twine or why we aren’t always happy together.
Jamie and Claire Fraser are perhaps the best example. For one, we learned to accept the other’s faults. It is difficult to love someone simply for being themselves, especially in the wake of loss. More so than any other life, the words of Thornton Wilder come to me. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” The answer is of course not, we choose to live in the moment and it truly is the poets/saints who have the understanding of life.
Jamie and Claire realized life the moment their son was stolen and all their broken dreams came to fruition. It was an awakening moment for them as they began to understand the realities that came with life. Living became a conscious decision. Not for the first time, I thought about how I merely existed for so long without her. My soul lingered in my body, unsure of my next move, and I pondered my choices.
Our time was extraordinarily longer than usual in that life, extended by the advancements in medical care and our devotion to keeping our health. Claire went left the hospital eventually, electing to free herself from the confines of a hospital and joined a private practice to have more time for her family.
When the children were mostly gone, only our little one left hovering at home, lingering around her parents, Claire founded a hospital. It was a research hospital for cancer. She had watched it take her father, slow and painful— her young mind unable to cope with his suffering. She found investors, pouring much of her own fortune into it, and she helped usher in a new era of medicine.
She hasn’t always been Claire. Prior to the first incarnation of her name, she bore the name Elizabeth in all of its’ many forms until the Middle Ages. Then it became her middle name in almost every lifetime after. Although sometimes it cropped up as her first name from time to time. I had been called just about every single variation of my name from the beginning.
“So think we will be together in this next one?” She asked, her tone casual, but I sensed the seriousness behind the question.
It was different when we didn’t have corporal forms tethering us. We sensed emotions rather than expressions. My half reunited with hers as we became whole like we were meant to be. “I hope so because the last one sucked. I can’t believe you were with him. You could’ve had me.” I knew if she had eyes, they’d be rolling at that moment in annoyance. We’ve had this discussion previously after some of our other lives in which we shared a lifetime with another. Our jealousy wasn’t always easy to curb, nor did we always try to hide it. It was hard knowing someone else got to have what was ours.
But the most important aspect was each other’s happiness. And we didn’t need one another to live fruitful lives.
“You were insufferable that time around. Besides, we met too late in that life. I was married with kids.” I felt her sigh sadly. “Our children’s souls never come to us when we aren’t together.”
Claire missed them when they weren’t born to us. Usually they appeared in our lives as other people- -the children of relatives or close friends. There’s always a connection, a string tying us together, letting us know there’s more than meets the eye. “I miss them too.” Isla, Bree, Ava, and Brodie remained our constants since the beginning of our cycle. Sometimes there were others along with them if we were lucky.
Isla and Bree had multiple name changes over the centuries, but their true essence stayed the same. I’ve enjoyed watching them. The two of them were the ones almost always born to us, while the other two were somewhat tricky. It depended on how long our lives together lasted or when we came together. “They’re always ahead of their time in every lifetime. They’re still living now, but in twenty- thirty years, we will be ready for them. Ready?” Her voice was steady and prepared for our next life. It was another chance to make happiness for ourselves. We weren’t always successful, but we worked with what we had and hoped for the best. Any life where she fell in love with me was a success.
“Yes, I love you.”
“I love you forever. See you on the other side.” Then she was gone.
I sighed at the loss of her. Mentally crossed my fingers in my head and hoped for fate and destiny to be on our side.
Brightness overwhelmed my senses. I was familiar with this sensation.
“It’s a boy, Mrs. Patterson.” A red-haired woman smiled down at the squalling infant placed in her arms.
Fuzz covered his downy head, although blood and afterbirth covered him, he was beautiful. “Oh James,” she cried happily, tears falling because she was a mother to a little boy. “Janie will absolutely love you.”
Three rooms down, a mother nursed her baby girl born three hours previous. She had downy dark hair already beginning to curl and peek through her little yellow cap. Her skin was pink and flushed, her dark eyes wide. “Claire, you’re going to grow up so happy.” The infant stopped suckling and stared with unfocused eyes at her mother before continuing with her eating. She only just managed to start opening them and blinking at her surroundings. Everything was far too bright.
She sensed honesty in this woman’s words, not that she knew what they meant. She wished the baby down the hall would quiet down because some people were trying to enjoy a meal. It must be a new kid. There had been four of them since she arrived, each one louder and more annoying than the last.
She believed she had more dignity than all of them. It was rude of them to try and ruin her sleep when she was in the nursery. There was silence as she continued to feast from her mother’s breast, and thought perhaps she ought to befriend the new kid because he seemed to learn faster than the others.
Unknown Time: Time After Time
Lillia shook out her sun streaked curls. They were becoming quite unruly, but she didn’t mind at all. It made her feel wild and free; and free was something she didn’t feel a lot.
Her father and mother were constantly on her case about choosing a subject for her major; nothing particularly appealed to her as she flicked through the various college catalogues. It all bored her. She wanted adventure and to broaden her horizons beyond her parents’ scope.
The walls constantly felt as if they were closing in on her as she neared the dates for applying to university. She wasn’t entirely opposed to attending college, but nothing called to her.
She thought about going in without a specific major, but her parents immediately frowned and refused to pay for school if she wasn’t going to have direction.
Sometimes Lillia had impressions like she’d done things. It was comparable to déjà vu, but it felt different than that. She felt connected to places that held no meaning for her in her life. She toured Harvard University with her parents the previous year and found peace and happiness in the depths of her soul. A warmth of familiarity washed over her as she explored the historic grounds of the first university in America.
Once when her family travelled to France, she found herself nodding along to conversations even though she had never studied the language. Words stood out to her. She spent time in a small French town, and felt a deep connection to it. She knew her family didn’t have any ties to France, so it was an odd sensation for her to experience.
In New York City, as she walked the streets, she found herself knowing them without using any technology to guide her. It came to her as easy as navigating the streets back home. Strange things like that regularly happened to her where she had glimpses of other times and was envious. It was as if she briefly flashed into someone else’s life; someone whose life was far more grand than her own. They had adventure and love, and she had nothing. There was nothing in her life to fill her with purpose or passion.
The warmth of the sun bathed her skin with its’ glorious, benevolent rays. As she leaned back, her eyes fluttered, and she felt the tips of her lashes on her skin.
The grass tickled her skin as a breeze washed over her, keeping her cool in the midst of an Indian summer. Her mind cleared and she found herself dreaming. Dreams were better than her life and hers were so vivid.
In her dreams, she was a colonial girl whose father was a loyalist and fervently supported the king. At sixteen, she ran away from her family into the arms of a man she had known since she was a girl. He was a patriot, and she knew her father would’ve never accepted a marriage between them with the war going on.
A noise disrupted her from enjoying a light doze. She heard a sniffle, followed by a pathetic sob. Lily groaned because she hated criers. She couldn’t understand how people could do it so publicly. The embarrassment of such a public act made her cringe.
She strained her ears to determine the direction the sound came from when she heard another sniffle. Within seconds, she was up on her feet and making her way towards whatever person was crying in a park during daylight hours.
Her footsteps halted as soon as she caught sight of him. His eyes were downcast and she was too far away to see the color anyways. His hair was red with a few streaks of golden blonde. His face was mottled red, more from crying than the sun she thought. He made crying actually look beautiful, and the stirrings of envy started again in her stomach for she never looked that good. Her face usually got all splotchy and her nose was all runny.
“What’s her name?” She asked as she neared the perfect stranger. He appeared around her age, although appearances were deceiving.
Her parents worried about her ability to converse with virtual strangers as she constantly walked off as a child and made new friends with whoever was around. Her parents caught her many times on a trip back from the bathroom, conversing with a couple at another table. She enjoyed talking and anyone who listened was a friend to her.
He stopped his crying and glanced up at her. Her voice caught in her throat at the sight of his eyes. They were such a wonderful shade of blue and so animated. She saw his heartbreak and loneliness, and the devastation some girl wrought him.
She lowered her own eyes slightly embarrassed at her gasp of surprise. “Huh?” he asked her, confused by the strange girl with amber eyes.
“Well...” she toed the grass as she tried to find her words. It was unusual to find her at a loss for them. “I.. uh well shit.. I mean I’m mucking this up.” She covered her face with her hands as she tried to compose herself. She wasn’t sure why meeting this boy was having such an impact on her. “If I were crying that hard, it would probably be about some stupid, worthless boy who broke up with
me. So was she? I can beat her up.” She offered immediately.
A smile teased his lips and his eyes sparkled with mirth. “You don’t even know me.”
She shrugged with a smirk. “I mean if some girl broke up with you and hurt you this bad then clearly she needs her ass kicked.”
He couldn’t help but laugh at her candidness. “I could be a douche for all you know,” he pointed out to her.
Lillia waved her hand dismissing him. “Nah, any guy crying in the park where everyone can see is clearly not an asshole. I’ve dated enough to know the difference.”
He frowned at her before wiping it off his face. She couldn’t really read his eyes, but there was something in them, recognition? “Her name is Clarissa. We’ve been dating for two years or dated, I guess.”
Her heart went out to him as this girl had obviously messed with his emotions. “I’ve known her since we were twelve, and it just seemed inevitable we’d date. However, now she’s talking about the medical profession and going to school on the lunar colony. She wants to do all of these amazing things and doesn’t want our relationship to hold her back as she knows I’m not much for travel. She says her ambitions outweigh her love for me.”
“What a bitch!” Lily exclaimed, quickly covering her mouth. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called her that. I don’t know her.” She knew she had a tendency to speak before thinking. She called it like she saw it. Some people found her off putting, but she was born that way.
“Nah, you’re right. She is one. I always sensed she wasn’t as into the relationship as I was. I pursued her and she got a thrill from the chase. I didn’t think she would break up with me so publicly. The kiss cam landed on us just as she told me she was done with our relationship.”
She winced at this information and vowed if she met this Carissa, she’d kick her ass for being a bitch and hurting him. “She loves the Red Sox, and I thought it would be a nice gesture. I’m more of a Yankees fan myself, but I wanted it to be a nice day for her.”
Lillia shook her head. “She’s not worth it.” She informed him with a straight face.
She was him a few years ago when she dated a guy she had known since elementary school. By all means, he was perfect for her until he started asking her to do things she wasn’t comfortable with and getting frustrated with her. He would perform all these romantic gestures and make her feel special. It was later on she realized she deserved better than him.
She changed so much in the six months she dated him. Her grades slipped because she was skipping class to smoke with him or going to parties on school nights. She got into a physical altercation with another girl after she implied she was more than a bit familiar with her boyfriend’s physique. She missed her curfew, snuck out, and then got arrested. That was where she drew the line.
“I don’t think I’ll love anyone. I gave her my heart and she ripped it out.”
It was a terrible feeling. It wasn’t easy to get over someone, especially when you thought you were in love. First loves were tricky like that. Countless sessions of therapy, at the behest of her parents, she realized she was in lust. It was devotion she felt towards him because he was the first guy to notice her. She was thankful in the end, he wasn’t her first love. It was a spot reserved for someone deserving of her love and affection.
“How long have you been broken up?” There was something about his behavior that indicated more than some time passed between when things ended and the present.
His eyes shifted warily as he fingered the wood of the bench. “Five months,” he finally answered after it appeared he wasn’t.
“What brought you here today? Don’t give me any bullshit either as there’s always something that sets off a trigger.”
His shoulders slumped as his eyes swirled with gray. She felt as if she were in the midst of a storm as something raged behind those eyes. “If you must know, she started dating someone else. I heard from a friend she broke up with me because I was boring and ‘clingy’ and she wanted someone who wasn’t so sensitive. Apparently, I wasn’t as adventurous or ‘edgy’ as she wanted.”
If her impressions of this girl were negative before, it was nothing compared to what they were now. “You’re way better off without her. I’m going to give you some advice. After I ended things with my boyfriend, I was where you are currently. I thought I would be alone for the rest of my days. I didn’t date for over a year. My therapist told me loneliness is a choice. There’s always someone out there for you, and who will be far more accepting of your idiosyncrasies and who will love them. They won’t care if you don’t like traveling, or maybe you’ll discover you like traveling with them. Clarissa sounds like she hasn’t experienced a real emotion in her life, and is perhaps on the shallow side of things. You deserve to have a girl will love you and accept all you’re willing to offer her.”
She watched as he wrapped his mind around what she said. Lily absolutely believed at the time she and her boyfriend split she would spend the rest of her days alone. Then she realized the ache in her heart lessened as time went on until she discovered one day it wasn’t there anymore. “It hurts and sucks, but this girl doesn’t deserve a tenth of the tears you’ve shed over her.” She observed him and realized he would probably like to be alone as she should’ve left him the first place. “I’m sorry if I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth. My mom says I have a problem with getting involved in the affairs of others.”
She turned to leave when she felt a shock to her system. Her eyes traveled to the hand attached to her wrist. He had nice hands with long fingers and slightly calloused palms. It meant he wasn’t unaccustomed to manual labor. However, it was the tingles shooting up her arm that brought a new awareness to her system. “Wait, I didn’t get your name.”
She grinned nearly splitting her face in half. “Lillia, but most people call me Lily. And yourself?”
“McKenzie, however some people have called me Mac. It’s strange because I rarely if ever come to this park, but for some reason I did today. I woke up with a peculiar feeling as if my entire life were about to change and it did. I met you.”
Her cheeks burned crimson, but she didn’t mind a little embarrassment. She searched for all this time for a future, but she understood she was looking in all the wrong places. She was trying to make happiness fit a mold; she realized she could do with a bit of mess in her life. “Then I guess it’s your lucky day because I’ve suddenly found myself wanting to go on a walk.”
“Where have you been all my life?” It was rhetorical, but she felt compelled to answer. “Waiting on the other side of the river for you.”
He looked at her strangely for a second. “I was waiting to cross is all.”
Shakespeare, Sonnet 116