First class on the plane. Now that’s the way to travel, I thought as I peered through the flimsy curtain partition. I was sitting in the economy section of the plane feeling cramped up. My seat could only recline so far and to add insult to injury, they had sat me right behind the first class cabin. The flight attendant offered me some pretzels and a soda with a bright smile and I thanked her. She strutted away like a model on a runway and I turned my eyes back through the curtain where I saw another flight attendant elegantly serve a plate of fried chicken to a nicely dressed man. My mouth watered at the sight and my eyes almost popped when I saw the same man casually glide a glass of red wine through an arc and onto his lips. The ensemble was that of blue suede seats and blue uniforms. Whooaa, I thought. Now that’s how you travel. If this plane was to go down then at least those folks will have had a descent last supper. I on the other hand would die shamefully with pretzels in my stomach.
The cabin pressurized air made me drowsy and I fell asleep. I woke up when the plane’s tires hit the runway and cringed as rubber grinded tar. We reduced speed abruptly and my knuckles turned red as I grabbed the armrest. Landing was always a relief because it meant not dying in the air. I unbuckled my seat belt and without realizing it, threw a surreptitious glimpse into the first class cabin. The nicely dressed man was just getting up and something about his body movements and the way his shoulders sat made me want to see his face. He turned and I stared in disbelief. Pierre. Pierre? It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be my ex boyfriend. The plane stopped and Pierre saw me. I watched as his eyes twitched with recognition, and then he broke into a beautiful smile and waved. I half waved back with uncertainty.
I quickly alighted from the plane and Pierre caught up with me in the terminal hallway.
“Abella!” he called between gasps. I stopped and waited for him to catch up. “Its really you. I can’t believe this!” he said as he came to a halt, almost skidding.
He wanted to hug me I could tell and so I quickly thrust out my hand. “Hi Pierre. I haven’t seen you in five years.” I said as I tried to remain calm. He was looking very handsome and his smile stirred my insides and lit a fire: a feeling that I had long buried in the abyss of my past.
His smile faltered at my words. “I know Abella. A few times I’ve wanted to call you but something always came up.” His voice shook a little and he was about to say something else when a pretty woman tapped his shoulder. Pierre span around and looked at the woman in a strange way. And then he recovered.
“Oh, Abella, this is my fiancé’ Chloe.” The woman stretched out her hand and I shook it. Her smile was beautiful, her demeanor likable.
“Nice to meet you Chloe,” I said as I tried my best to hide my shock. Pierre was engaged?
“Abelle and I went to college together,” Pierre explained.
Chloe smiled at me and leaned possessively against Pierre. To my chagrin, she was pretty and I on the other hand… I felt jealous. That smile was supposed to be mine. That head on Pierre’s chest was supposed to be me, I thought ruefully. It was time to make a clean getaway without embarrassing myself.
“It was nice seeing you again Pierre and congratulations on the engagement.” I turned and stumbled down the terminal before they could respond, my emotions jerking in every direction. I needed to get to the airport bar. I did, but the double shot vodka down my throat did nothing to soothe me. I hailed a taxi and dove inside.
Neon lights and buildings flew by in a blur as the taxi sped down the road. Paris, the capital city of France, the most romantic city in the whole world or so they say: visit the Sacre-Coeur Basilica for a jaw-dropping view of the city: hearts soaring at the sight of the Eiffel Tower. Romantic strolls along the Seine River, kissing under the rain… Jazz clubs at night. If Paris was the most romantic city in the world, then how come I spend all my evenings alone with a box of cold pizza and a book in my arms?
That night in my apartment, I pulled the old suitcase from under my bed and dusted it off. Pandora box: the remnants of my past. The latch clicked open and I tensed in anticipation. Inside were love letters and photographs of Pierre and I. We looked so young and happy, and beautiful. Young enough to believe in a perfect world: our dreams had been big then. I mean until that moment when Pierre made me realize that his dreams were bigger than mine. He wanted to be a doctor and I wanted to be a writer.
“You are too smart to waste your life like that!” Pierre had told me. “Do you know how many writers make it in life?” His condescending tone deeply hurt my feelings. “Abella, you can be anything you want to be. Come with me to America, please. We will be happy together there. I will be a doctor and you… you can go to Grad school and do Accounting or Law.”
“I can’t go Pierre,” I told him. “I want to be a writer and Paris is the place for an artist like me.”
Pierre had left me five years ago but really, he hadn’t left. I had kept him alive in my heart and literally in my box. Many nights I had yearned for him… hoped for us. The phone rang and I grabbed it.
“Hi mum,” I said with a sigh. She was checking on me and we made small talk about the weather and the politics in Paris. And then it came: the reason for her calling so late.
“I want you to come to lunch tomorrow Abella,” mum said.
“Muum,” I said accusingly. “Who did you invite this time?”
She laughed nervously and tried to brush me off. “It’s Mr. Harris’ son. A fine lad indeed, and a lawyer in one of the best firms in the city.”
“Mum, are we ever going to have lunch just the two of us?” She had been trying to hook me up for years.
“I’m not growing younger Abella. I need some grandchildren around me.” My mum could be persistent at times. We hanged up and I put the box back under the bed.
That night I dreamt about Pierre. He was standing in my room by the window, the white curtains blowing with the wind behind him. His gown was open and I placed my hand on his chest and rubbed him gently. He moaned my name and I moved closer: his breathe on my face, our eyes full of love. I moaned his name as he dropped the robe. I kissed him hard and bit his lower lip and suddenly our hands were all over each other’s sweaty bodies. And then he was on top of me and I could feel him….
The phone rang and I woke up with a jerk. Oh, no, was the first thought that crossed my mind. I tried to shut my eyes and go back to my dream but the phone rang louder and I grabbed it.
“Halo,” I said into the receiver.
“Abella?” The voice was familiar in an eccentric way and I furrowed my brow.
“Pierre?” What were the odds? I quickly glanced at the time. One in the morning! “Pierre, I didn’t know that you still have my number?”
“Sorry to wake you up Abella but I have been thinking about you all day.” His voice was soft and low.
“It’s kind of late Pierre, what is it?”
“Well, that’s the thing Abella. I’m leaving for America tomorrow and I want to see you one more time before I go.” He was whispering and I knew why. His woman was somewhere close and the thought angered me. The audacity!
“I can’t see you Pierre, you are engaged now. The past is gone.”
“It’s not gone for me Abella,” Pierre said vehemently. “It was never gone. All those years in America and not once did I ever stop thinking about you. I thought I would but it never happened.” He sighed.
“Pierre,” I said firmly. “You left me five years ago because I wasn’t ambitious enough. What has changed since then?”
“I love you Abella. Don’t you see? It has always been you. It will always be you.” He sounded desperate. His words stunned me speechless. “Abella? You still there?”
“Yes,” I whispered. Was this an extension of my dream? I wondered.
His voice was more composed, more in control. “Please meet me tomorrow at 2pm at our usual coffee shop. My flight to America is at four.”
“I can’t Pierre!” I have a writers workshop at two!” I wanted to scream yes, but a part of me couldn’t. He had wounded me deeply.
He was quiet and I could hear the wheels in his brain clanking. “I will wait for you for an hour,” he said. “I love you Abella. I love you with all my heart.” And then he hanged up.
I turned on the bedroom lights, walked over to the wardrobe and took out my white lingerie from one of the drawers. It had been a while. I lay the silk garment neatly on the bed then walked over to the window and looked outside: into the skies, into the horizon. There was only one word on my mind… America! My mind began to drift… the ornate skyscrapers in New York City, fancy Miami beaches, Hollywood in California, Casinos in Las Vegas… I felt my dreams shift. My vision became clearer. My thoughts for Pierre warmed up.
A sigh. I forced myself to put the lingerie back into the drawer and then climbed back into bed. It was going to be a long night of tossing and hugging the pillow.
The following day I woke up feeling invigorated and ready to face my demons. I put on my favorite pair of jeans and a yellow blouse … and then walked outside. Sunlight bathed the streets: the time was 1.45pm. I was supposed to meet Pierre at 2pm. I walked down the streets and glanced casually through the windows, at the displays, at the people inside, at my own reflection: long silky hair, pink lipstick, designer shades, feverish cheeks. I looked beautiful, the folks around me looked beautiful. It was why I loved Paris: open air cafes, art and cultural displays on the streets. Life … life was all around me and I enjoyed it daily by not confining myself inside a car or a train. Paris always took my breath away.
1.59pm. I opened the door and walked into the brightly lit room. A few folks turned briefly to look at me then turned back to their previous occupations. Sunlight beamed into the small room as I pulled a chair and sat in the middle. I looked around at the familiarity of the setting and felt the energy ebb through my veins. This was exactly where I wanted to be. The time was 2p.m
“Welcome Abella.” A lady at the front said. “We now invite our guest speaker, an acclaimed Author, New York best seller, Francais Jemone.” The small group of writers clapped politely.
Sitting still and focusing turned out to be harder than I had expected. 2.15pm. Pierre had said that he would wait for an hour. My legs shook with anxiety. It was now or never if I was to make my move.
“Abella?” someone was calling my name.
“Sorry,” I said. “What was that?”
The guest Author repeated the question. “What are your thoughts on the internal conflict of being a Prince?”
I thought hard and Pierre’s image crossed my mind. “A prince is seen as royal and noble by the world,” I said. “But at the end of the day when he looks in the mirror, all he sees is a man, just like any other man.”
The Author smiled and I stood up. “Please excuse me,” I said as I turned to leave. A bulb in my head lit up: an epiphany: I knew exactly what I had to do. I burst through the door and ran down the streets as fast as I could. All those years I had spent with Pierre, all the love we had shared. The images flashed through my brain like yesterday. For years I had looked at the photographs for so long that I had come to memorize them by heart. 2.55pm. Five more minutes and Pierre would be gone from my life! Gone to America to become someone else’s husband. My heartbeat was irregular and I began to breath heavily.
I burst through the door to my apartment at exactly 3pm, ran upstairs and grabbed the suitcase from under the bed. I ran back downstairs dragging the suitcase through the kitchen and into the backyard. I threw the suitcase on the ground and lit it on fire. The flames came up quicker than I had expected and a part of me wanted to extinguish the fire. I stayed strong though and watched in horror as my photographs with Pierre burned. I couldn’t breath. And then it was gone and I stood there and watched the wind carry the ashes away. The last of Pierre was gone from my life. It started pouring and still I didn’t move. I stood rooted on the ground and soaked under the rain, waiting… waiting… waiting for a miracle…
It finally came but very slowly. My scathed heart steadied and the emptiness inside me was replaced with a sense of achievement like never before. I was finally my own master. It was time to rebuild. I was standing on ground zero.
I strutted into the house and grabbed the phone. “Mum,” I said. “Tell Mr. Harris’ son that I will have dinner with him.”
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...