Relationships are complex. Love, trust and compromise are all that make them work. But sometimes, a sacrifice also fuels up a relationship. This story about such a case.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked again, blinked twice and stared hard for a few seconds. No it was not a dream. It was an extremely handsome face, a face that couldn’t be forgotten easily.
The sun was starting to set and it was time to go. I took hold of my six-year old daughter’s hand and we started walking towards the exit of the park. It had been a lovely day. As we crossed the alley that led to our hotel, I glanced at Bess, my sweet little angel. She was happily enjoying a chocolate in her mouth. Watching her, I was taken back into my childhood. I had been very fond of chocolates too. At school, along with a lot of friends I always made trips to eateries, restaurants and such places. And usually some or the other guy used to treat me to my favourite chocolate. Hershey’s it was, just like Bess. Ah, those were good times. But then suddenly those happy memories took my mind a bit forward to a time which I didn’t want to remember.
We reached the hotel. Julian, my husband was in the lobby, reading a magazine. Three of us went in to our room together. After dinner, when I flopped on to my bed, I couldn’t enjoy its comfort like other days. That face occupied my mind. His thoughts refused to leave me alone in peace. I kept telling myself that I was married; but that wouldn’t help. And so, of course I couldn’t sleep well that night.
Here we were spending a short family holiday amidst the beauty of Aspen. After Bess had celebrated her 1st birthday, we had hardly had any family time for five years. So now, when work had started to slacken a bit with our law firm in the heart of Colorado, Julian had planned this outing so that we could get away from the courts, documents and all the rest of it, in serenity for sometime. Aspen had been his first choice and tonight marked the end of the fourth day of our planned ten day vacation.
Until now I had been immensely enjoying this holiday. But today when Julian went out with some old pal he had found staying in the resort, just for the sake of a bit of exploring our resort, I took Bess to the ski grounds, brought her chocolates and while she went a bit farther to build a snowman, I sat on a bench to read a detective novel that I had just bought.
After a few moments when I looked up from the pages to check on Bess, I saw that face. The face of the very dashing ski-instructor and after that… My world turned upside down, literally. I didn’t know exactly when it happened. I didn’t know what to do. But now that I had seen him, I couldn’t let go. I simply couldn’t. Certain things won’t just let me. That face – no way I could let it go. I had to talk to that man. I had to! But I had a family! And a very sweet family at that! I should think of Bess at least… I couldn’t understand what the hell was wrong was with me. Why couldn’t I just stop thinking about him and continue to enjoy the vacation? But, no, I couldn’t. His thoughts, his face – they won against all odds, logic and reason.
And next morning I did what I should never have done. I feigned a headache to stay in the room while father and daughter went out to explore.
But let me tell you, I was feeling damn guilty about it! All the same, I couldn’t help it. The urge was too strong…
So, after they had gone, I got dressed and moved towards the ski ground. Yes, there he was, looking handsome as yesterday, smiling at the guests and guiding them. A guiding angel… No! Good heavens, what the deuce was happening to me?!
Gathering a good amount of courage, taking a few deep breaths, I finally decided to approach him. My legs felt weak and I felt mysteriously sick in the stomach, even though the breakfast had been an excellent one. Anyhow, I strode towards him; but stopped dead, just some two feet behind him. I couldn’t go on. I stretched out my arm to tap him on the shoulder. I couldn’t do that either. Next I tried calling aloud. So I opened my mouth, but shut it as quick. No, couldn’t do that either. Why, shame on me! And just I was going to turn back, he turned around and looked at me. Those soft grey eyes…
I fainted. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But that was it. When I opened my eyes, I found a couple of people staring down at me and a woman crouched beside me with a water bottle, splashing some of the hot water on me. But he wasn’t among them. Getting up, I mumbled a couple of ‘thank-yous’ and ‘I’m fines’ to the spectators and then simply came back. Gosh, that had been embarrassing.
I walked as fast I could with the snow and my weak legs to our room, flopped on the bed and, again I don’t know why but started sobbing into the pillow. Now my head was really aching. After an hour or so of sleep, I washed and started dressing for lunch. Bess and Julian arrived in due time and we spent the rest of the day together. But when it was time for bed, those thoughts which had somewhat been overshadowed in my family’s presence, grasped my mind with their evil snares again. Tomorrow I would talk to him and if the thing got settled, I shall talk to Julian later. Tomorrow I couldn’t fail at any cost. Our holiday, after all was coming to an end. And if I couldn’t forget, better settle things. There was no use delaying. Darn those nerves today!
But would it be worth it? I had a lovely family so why disturb that? But, I simply couldn’t let go. No, that would be unwise.
Sleep overtook me with a mixture of guilt and excitement. I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to hear his answer; nonetheless I would go on with it.
So, next morning I again feigned a headache and stayed in the room. But this time it worried Julian and he insisted on staying with me. I firmly refused, of course. And reluctantly he took Bess out. As soon as they had gone, I dressed and went out. This time I went to the reception first and checked out his name on the staff register. Yes!
The ski grounds had the same cheerful atmosphere. He was looking cheerful too. And strangely I wasn’t feeling any sort of weakness today. I was as strong and confident as a performing horse. Oh yeah, I was sure it would turn out to be a fine show. Perhaps it was the good night’s sleep. But, whatever, I strode straight across to him.
“Joseph?” I tried to sound as cool as possible.
He turned to look.
“Can I excuse you for a minute?”
And before he could say anything, I took his arm and almost dragged him right to a bench.
He sat obediently. That was peculiar. I had expected some sort of reserve. But now that there was none, well, so far so great.
Angrily, I shook the collar of his jacket with both arms with all the strength I could muster and near to being hysterical, I shouted, “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?!”
How would you feel if you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night in an unknown hotel room in an unknown place and find that the person who should have been next to you on bed is missing? And not only that, but all his things are missing too! Thats enough to piss you off, isn’t it?
And I was extremely pissed off and off my head when Joseph had left me that night. It was in June the twenty third, five years ago. I was frantic, roused the hotel staff and created a fool of myself when the receptionist had very coldly said that he had left the room two hours ago. And what next? I couldn’t decide. I came back into the room and naturally tried his number. A sweet voice said “switched off”. I sent several texts and waited till dawn. Not a single reply disturbed my phone. The sun was starting to rise. I checked up on his social media platforms. As if he intended to kill me with shock, he had blocked me on every single site!
Joseph had been my fiancé. It was a beautiful time. I had been twenty and he twenty one. We had met in a law firm, both co-interns. It had been spontaneous. A month later we had had our engagement and another month later we were supposed to marry. So we had taken a weekend off and stayed at a hotel in California. A perfect pre-wedding get-away. Lovely…! But he had to do something like this right in the middle.
That morning when I was huddled up in bed, puzzled and grief stricken, a text at last flashed on my phone. Eagerly I seized it up. Yes! It was from him! But what had it been?
“Sorry, I can’t go on with this. No specific reasons. I hope you understand.”
Understand? Understand? No seriously, if it was a joke it was a very poor one. And if it was not, then he was the worst guy ever. I tried calling him immediately. The same sweet voice enlightened me that the jerk had switched off again. He had paid out so I packed my things, checked out, took the earliest flight possible back to Colorado to my apartments. Before that I had checked on Joseph’s. No, he had cleared out.
The landlady told me it was a few hours ago. Next day was Monday. When I reached office, I found that he had applied to leave the internship. Good, at least after all those tears I didn’t deserve to see his face. All the same, I couldn’t forget. Nor could I move on. But as years passed and nobody heard anything of Joseph anymore, my mom urged me to find a suitable guy and marry. Joseph had probably left for ever.
Ultimately I had moved on. I saw sense at last. I couldn’t waste my life for somebody who didn’t care for me. So when I had become a full time lawyer myself, I was thirty, beautiful and able to make Julian (another amateur lawyer) fall in love with me and I with him in return. Though I couldn’t love him as much as I loved Joseph, but still I depended on time to adjust everything. And everything had turned out fine. We had married, started our firm and were happy. When Bess was born it was bliss. I never told Julian anything about Joseph. I didn’t want to. In fact, I didn’t want to remember Joseph.
But now when I had seen him again, it all came back. Now all these years, I had pretended to forget, Really, I had not. Not a bit of it. His handsome face, his arms around me, we in bed… Everything was fresh in my mind. But I got confused as to what my next step should be now that he was right at my side.
All along I wanted the answer to why he had done what he had. Where had I wronged? What had been amiss? Why did he have had to be so drastically insensitive? Should I ask him directly? I of course should! But I had a family now and was it really worth it – the answer? But just like I said, I couldn’t let go, couldn’t let this opportunity slip. I had to ask him! The next day I had tried to, but because of those nerves had pitifully failed. Today I had won! After the answer (I was trying not to expect anything) my life would finally be sorted. I could live in peace henceforth.
I sat on the bench beside him. The sick feeling had returned and the confidence was ebbing off.
He sighed, told me to wait and got up to go into the resort. He had taken the day off and told me to walk into a nearby coffee house. We sat down, he ordered two coffees. I sat silent. So did he. When finally the smoking mugs arrived, he said only one thing:
I raised my eyes. Anger was starting to contort my face. I raised my eyes at him, questioningly.
“Well, we shouldn’t have met like this. But its high time I told you. Do you remember that I had gone for a regular medical test that week?” He asked.
I was puzzled. All anger left me and confusion took its place. “Yes”, I replied, “You had been feeling a bit unwell lately.”
“Hmm. And that evening, I had a copy of my reports mailed to me.”
“Well, Samantha, I was diagnosed with leukemia, blood cancer in simple terms.”
I was shocked. He continued, “So, you see I didn’t want to go on with the marriage and spoil your life. If I’d told you, you’d never have agreed to move on. I loved you, you know and I couldn’t see you suffering with me. So having no other way I – had to do that.”
I opened my mouth. I wanted to argue, but couldn’t find the words. Moreover, he raised his hand. I shut up.
“You’d suggest a treatment, won’t you? Well let me tell you, they are no use. Just wastage of time and money and inflict a lot of pains. I couldn’t go through that. One day the disease would do me in, no doubts. So why all the fuss? Everyone has to die one day. My time had come a bit earlier. And why not? I came straight here after leaving my job. You know how fond of skiing I am. That’s it. All I can say is I’m lucky to have been alive all these years.”
“And you-you never-married?” I stammered. The truth had hit me hard. Whatever I had expected, it certainly hadn’t been this.
“Of course not. I fell in love once. And that was it.”
I sobbed passionately into my arms on the table. He did not come to comfort me and I was glad of it. I couldn’t have been able to cope up with that.
After a few minutes when I finally wiped my eyes and looked up, he was still in the same posture. Gently, very gently he said, “No, don’t cry anymore. I did this for you to have a happy ending. Don’t spoil it.”
“N-No, I won’t.” I stammered meekly and gulped twice. I won’t spoil this huge sacrifice of this. His plan had succeeded. I was happy with my husband and daughter. Well, I had got my answer. My life would be smooth again. I would be forever grateful to Joseph and can never repay his debt. But perhaps it was meant to remain that way. I mean, one can’t always help things happening. So, I couldn’t linger in the past anymore. Now, that it was settled, it was time to tell Julian everything and start a new life.
My coffee was finished. I insisted on paying, did so, wished him good luck and good bye and returned to our room. Julian and Bess were waiting for me to go for lunch.
“Had been strolling out, I see.” Julian asked cheerfully.
“No, not really. Listen, come lets go to lunch. There is something I want to talk to you about.” I said.
This was surely a happy ending. Thank you Joseph.