(a short love story)
“Emma, will you check the mail,” her husband requested.
She didn’t answer, her mind was busy wondering the bitten nails on her small hands, “later” she thought and sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the couch, quite motionless.
“I’ll do it,” he anticipated after noticing his wife’s stillness. Holding his coffee mug in one hand he went to the mail box, took a bunch of envelopes and while returning inside he was checking them one by one.
“Bills, bills, never-ending bills.” Derek was whining silently when he noticed a blue unusual envelope, although it was addressed to his wife, the curiosity made him open it and started to read out laud.
“Dear Mrs. Miller,
We are happy to inform you that you have won a trip to Paris.”
“What?” Emma asked, “it must be a spam from those fake online companies.”
Derek looked very interested in the lines he was reading. “No darling, it is from a very prestigious traveling agency, there is a phone number and a name Marta you should call,” and he handed the cell phone to her.
“Call them.” he demanded.
“Seriously Derek?” she protested, “do you really believe in such craps?” but she obeyed his demand.
When the conversation was over Emma explained to her husband everything that that girl named Marta told her. It was true; she had won a seven days trip to Paris, flight tickets, hotel reservation and a thousand dollars check for other expenses.
“This is great opportunity my lilac; you have always wanted to go to Paris.”
“Who doesn’t?” she asked with a light voice “but, I am not going, it is just for one person, it wouldn’t be fair for you and the kids–anyway it must be a joke, why on hell someone would give away such a costly present, we aren’t even their customers, it is probably a mistake, maybe they meant another Emma Miller.”
“My lilac, disbelief is not a good thing,” Derek sat next to her and started fondling her honey colored hair, “you have deserved this trip, you have been through a lot, it will do you good, I think you should go and this is my final opinion.”
Emma Miller was the chosen one from the agency, after a long discussion with her family they all agreed that she had to take that chance.
During the flight she didn’t feel comfortable; it was her first time travelling alone, she was used to care about the comfort of her children, their whining, husband’s complaints and all of the sudden she was there alone, no one to take care of, no one to convince, no one to talk to, it felt so empty and she had no idea what she is going to do all by herself.
“This was a stupid thing I did,” she thought, “maybe I should have asked the agency to reimburse the price for something else.” Her eyes caught the view of the endless ocean through the airplane oval window and she got lost in the view’s tranquility.
Someone was holding a piece of a paper with her name on it at the exit of the airport, “it seems like a very serious agency, they thought of everything,” she whispered to herself.
The cab driver took her at the hotel Holiday Inn Paris – Gare de Lyon Bastille, the receptionist handed her the key and a small envelope, Emma thought maybe that’s how they do it here in Paris, a welcome note and didn’t care to open it. Although it was day time, she felt very tired from the flight and sleepy from the time differences with USA, so she didn’t bother making any plans, but instead connected her cell phone to internet and spoke with her family, telling them all about the flight and the hotel, and then she took a shower, got into her pajamas and lie down on the king’s size bed, all alone, for the first time. Emma slept around eighteen hours, when she woke up she couldn’t realize where she was, it was six in the morning, she opened up the curtains and it was still dark outside,
“Everything is closed now,” she thought, but she could notice a coffee machine in the corner of her room, it made her happy. She sat at the chair near the window, having her coffee and looking outside the sleeping streets of Paris, making a plan of how she would spend the rest of the day, places she always wanted to visit, she noticed a tourist map on the cupboard and stood up to take it, but she also noticed the little envelope receptionist gave her, when she opened it there was a little note saying,
“Montmartre at 9 AM.”
“Another joke,” she thought. “a lot of unusual things are happening to me, what the hell am I doing here.” She felt like she has been there for eternity, only ten minutes have been passed, and it felt more like a torture than amusement. “I should have stayed home, it is not fun without the voices of my children, without Derek, so she took her phone, they were still sleeping and she didn’t dare to call them, but instead she just wrote a text message: “It has been only one day and I already miss you, all of you. Paris would have been beautiful if you were here. It is all dark now.” When she finished texting she got dressed and went downstairs at the reception to return the note.
“Madame, I don’t think my colleague made a mistake, it is probably addressed to you,” he checked the envelope, her room number 213 was written in the back. “It is definitely for you, but I will check with my colleague later and let you know.”
“Never mind, I wanted to visit Montmartre however.”
Emma went out for a walk together with sun starting to shine, she had breakfast at a little café, analyzed the metro map, took all the numbers she needed to go to Montmartre and she was there before nine at the top of the never-ending stairs, other tourists were there as early as she was, Montmartre wasn’t as she had always imagined, she felt dizzy with all those people around her, taking pictures of every step they took, and young men asking her to buy souvenirs, feeling annoyed she decided to sit and rest at the stairs in front of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, where you can see Paris as it is in the palm of your hand.
“Maybe someone wanted to meet someone here, the receptionist definitely made a mistake,” Emma sounded concerned in her head, “but, it wasn’t my fault,” she consoled herself.
A lot of people were climbing up and down, stopping her view, but someone just sat in front of her and didn’t move, Emma waited with patience, but that shadow of a man wouldn’t move. When she was about to stand up and move she saw a very familiar face, although a little bit different, she recognized him.
“Henry!” she shouted.
“Emma.” he replied with kindness and a smile conquering his face.
“What the hell?” she asked confused, “you left the note?” her voice started to tremble. “you did this all, the trip, I can’t believe this, how dare you?”
“I am sorry Emma, there was no other way,” he replied as his eyes were glittering, “I missed you.”
Everyone could notice Emma’s anger, she was pulling her hair, and her hands were trembling, “how dare you, why you did this to me?
“Let’s go and sit at a café and I will explain everything,” Henry asked.
“Never! I am going back at my hotel,” Emma answered full of rage and started to walk as she was running from a very dangerous beast, crashing her body with other tourists.
“Wait.’ Henry shouted and started to run after her, he didn’t want to scare her, but he didn’t want to lose her in the crowd of people either. He hasted his steps and when approached her, he grabbed her hand in order to stop, and suddenly flashes of bright light hit all over, spiraling like a cyclone, the light was gone after few seconds and everything was so quite.
“What the hell was that?’ Emma asked with a frightened voice.
They both looked around, and there was no one there, all the tourists, all the people that were rushing few moments ago weren’t there anymore, they all vanished with a blink of an eye.
“Henry, what is going on, where is everyone gone, is this a dream, or I have gone insane?”
“Don’t worry Emma, there must be an explanation, but it really looks like a dream, my constant dream of you.”
Emma was in a shock, she couldn’t bear any more surprises this trip had brought her. She thought about it as it was her biggest mistake, trusting an agency, an unknown note, she felt so bad about herself; she started to run like a mad woman around the streets of Montmartre to find explanations, she entered shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, to find a single soul, but there was no one. Emma was so scared and tired, she wanted desperately to wake up from this dream, but nothing happened. She looked a bit further, she climbed down the hundreds stairs, went to the metro station, but there was no none either, the train was standing there empty with open doors.
“Is anybody here? she screamed but she could hear only her own echo.
Henry had followed her all the way, he seemed very calm and happy but he managed to hide his feelings and hearing Emma screaming, “why did you come here, you stupid woman?”
He carefully approached her, “calm down Emma, no one is harming you. Please, let’s get outside.”
“But, but–but” she was murmuring while following Henry to get outside the metro.
It was the same situation, there were no sounds and no people. No wind and no smells, the sun was sitting still in the same position, as well as the clouds, it looked like a theatre scene, imitation of life but lifeless.
“Maybe that light swallowed all of them, it feels like a twilight zone, but why it spared us, or we are in a lucid dream, like that movie Vanilla sky, have you seen it?” Emma had a lot of questions and assumption, but Henry was staying calm and just observing her reactions.
“Let’s get the hell out of here, let’s go down at the city, maybe there are people there.”
“Why do you need people?” Henry asked with irony.
“What kind of question is that? Don’t you see around, this silence is killing me, and you seem so conformable, tell me–do you know something about this, you always seemed like scientific guy, tell me, and explain it to me.”
“I am just glad I saw you,” he answered and couldn’t put his eyes off her.
“Are you kidding me?” Emma started to laugh “Don’t you ever say another word to me, let’s just get off here, I need to find a way to get back home.”
Henry approached a car, the door was open, he got in, turned on the engine, “Hop in” he said and smiled.
“Now we are going to steal cars, nice,” she said and got in the car.
They drove around Paris and checked almost everywhere, institutions, hotels, railway stations, malls, but it was the same situation.
“Would you like to stop here at the Eifel Tower?” Henry asked.
“Yes, I would use some rest and some food.”
They both took sandwiches from a fast food corner, on the way Henry grabbed a bouquet of Peonies at a florist and they went to the park near the Eiffel Tower which looked like a photoshopped greeting card, with no crowds of tourists.
“Now we are stealing food and flowers from French people,” Emma added and they both started to laugh.
“Do you remember how much you wanted to come to Paris?” Henry asked and handed the bouquet to her.
“Do I remember? she put her nose between the flowers to smell them, “are you crazy? We were supposed to get marry in here, and the Peonies.” Emma couldn’t finish her sentence.
“Would have been our wedding motive,” he added.
There was a huge silence between them, they both seemed they sailed into the past, and glancing the memories they had together, their first kiss accompanied with goose bumps, their first dance, first date, first future plans.
“Henry, did you notice that the sun isn’t moving at all. It is in the same position as it was up at Montmartre?”
“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops,” Henry replied with no hesitation.
“So, you are saying the time had stopped, that is not possible, we are not sure even if the time exists.”
“Time is something that we experience on a daily basis; characterized by notions such as the past, present and the future. Its progression is embodied in our continued experience of the future becoming the present, while the present becomes the past. ”
“You are insane Henry, you have always been—I want to go home, I want to be with my children—let’s go to the airport, maybe there the time is running in my favor,” Emma made quotation marks with her fingers in the air when saying the word time and stood up, “let’s go.”
They took the car and drove to Charles De Gaulle airport, baggage lined up at the check-in station with no accompanies, it looked like passengers are gone and left everything behind. Emma noticed the electronic clock displayed on the board; it was 09:06:03 and she took her phone from the purse, it was 09:06:03 as well.
“Time had stopped Emma,” Henry whispered to her.
She turned around and seemed convinced, and a feeling of relief arose on her chests, “it was you, you did this?” she asked.
Henry smiled; he looked so satisfied with all the occurrences, “let’s go somewhere beautiful, I need to tell you something.”
Emma didn’t say anything, she got locked in her own world, the feelings that she wasn’t ready for anything that Henry wanted to tell invaded her soul. During the drive she didn’t even want to know where he was sending her, the choices didn’t matter; everything was the same on that motionless new world. He stopped the car in front of a very luxurious hotel,
“I think we can afford staying here,” he said and smiled.
She followed him and they entered at the hotel’s restaurant where the breakfast was served, but no costumers,
“Come here,” said Henry and showing her a dining table, “here must have been sitting two persons, a couple I guess, the tea cup is stick with lipstick, the other one is not. Touch the cup, it is still warm, isn’t it? You see, this cup of tea will remain the same, warm, eternally– and the fruits, the bread, food, everything, will never rotten; we can eat as much as we want, we won’t starve.”
“Are we going to stay this way, eternally?” She asked with a tone of irony.
“Yes, we will.”
“So, this means, it is the beginning of a very boring eternity. Thank you for doing this to me,” she said and went outside, “can you see, there is no wind, there are no birds, flies, insects, so everything living is gone, they can’t live without the motion of time, and timeless is lifeless Henry.”
“We are alive.”
“Do you know how much I have imagined this moment–this moment of meeting you? Because I wanted to hit you, to hurt you, in most bizarre ways, and you come now, when all the anger has gone. You are to late Henry.”
“Fifteen years, seventy seven days, thirteen hours and twenty five seconds late.” replied Henry and sat at a lounge bar.
“Do you know what Henry?” Emma sat next to him, and put her hands around his face, looked at him with repugnance and removed her hands. “When you left, I had to bear the two most powerful feelings in the Universe, love and hate. I prayed everyday for those, both feelings to go away from my chest; it was very hard Henry, I never healed completely, but I moved on, until I met Derek, a great man, and then the children came and everything changed, they showed me what real love was. I had no feelings about you anymore, no love, no hate, just as I prayed for.”
“I know Emma, I do know.” Henry’s eyes looked sadder than the story she just told and continued. “I knew I lost you. But I had to choose between you and humanity.”
“So, you chose humanity, and now you make the time stop and make them disappear, what’s the point Henry, what did humanity gained from this invention of yours, tell me? Again she put her hands on his face, a”t least I deserved to hear the sound of goodbye, how it sounded—but you left like a coward,” Emma raised her voice and shook his head with her hands.
“It is complicated Emma, I am sorry, I have been so selfish putting you in this situation, but my heart couldn’t beat without you anymore.”
“Tell me; is there a way out of this lifeless world?”
‘Yes, there is, I got the key. We will get back at the same moment 09:06:03, at Montmartre, only me and you will know what had happened, and you can go on with your life and you wouldn’t lose even a nanosecond of your precious time.” A light anger was heard in his voice, “I am here to offer you eternity, a life without struggles, where we could do whatever we want, wherever we want—we can redo, I can redo my mistakes, and offer you the world, it can be all yours.”
“Life is standing still, this life is no life at all, I have everything; I have enough.” Her eyes felt with tear and asked,
“Why did you bring me up to Paris, you could have done it back home, why bothering about the trip prize?”
“Because when the time stops we can’t travel overseas, replied Henry, “I just wanted to be as we used to plan, I wanted to propose you, live in this Parallel Universe as much as we want, wherever we want—but you have changed Emma, you bit your nails, your mind wander somewhere where I am not, your eyes don’t shine, you look like a withered flower, beautiful but dead. I killed you and all the regret that is living in my soul won’t heal it.
“I told you, you are late. I am someone else’s Lilac now,” Emma stood up, rubbing her forehead and biting her nails, “let me be honest with you, you broke my heart, not that metaphorically saying, but literally, my heart couldn’t bear the pain, physiological pain creates physical pains–I had a heart attack, somehow I survived, but couldn’t lead a normal life, I couldn’t follow my carrier, or have a family, until a donor was found–do you get it, this is not the heart that used to love you or hate you, it’s someone else’s,” Emma was holding both of her hands in the chest and tears were rolling down her cheeks.
“I am sorry. But I stopped the time for you, literally.”
Henry didn’t say anything else he turned around and started to walk into the empty streets of Paris “I believed she would be as happy as I was seeing her, she even never asked, how I was — what have I been through?—years of experiments, years of danger, years of commitment–are wasted.” he was thinking when Emma stopped and interrupted him with a question.
“So, you can do this, this time thing–stop it and make it move– whenever you want?
“Yes.” he hardly uttered the word.
“I want to go back, now–show me. I will go home and you can get a Nobel Prize for this invention of yours, successor of Nicola Tesla–you can use this invention to get information for the government, but not for being with someone you think you love.”
He didn’t expect this kind of reaction, he believed she would praise and support him, he believed that once you fell in love it is going to last forever, no matter the circumstances, it will last, but he realized that love was something that grows and blooms after constant nourishing.
“It is not the heart that loves Emma, it the whole being, your cells, your mind, your soul.” he said and pressed the button of the tiny device he was holding in his hand.
Again, a blink and a bright light sent them back at the same spot, Henry holding Emma’s hand. Voices came back, the wind, and all the people, everything went back to normal except Henry, and his expectations that failed him, his hard work had no meaning anymore.
“She chose life instead of eternity.”
He released Emma’s hand, turned around and disappeared between the crowd of the ravish tourists.
Emma stood there frozen, couldn’t realize what just happened, where she was, and why she had the urge to run and try to catch him.