|The thing was simple enoughjust a slim, but large hardbound book, lying on the Welcome mat outside her apartment door. A book. The spine was deep forest greenno paper coverwith faded gold lettering. Perhaps the last months of bliss made Amelia Johnson think nothing of it. Perhaps love made her forget that nothing was simple, had never been simple, least of all a book, least of all this specific book.
She was on her way to her second job, her hair still wet from her quick shower. Her money making jobthe one love was about to make obsolete, unnecessary. She was about to be freed to pursue her dreams. Loaded down with a huge purse crammed with make-up, cell phone, brush, hair mousse and a finishing spray to control frizz in one hand and a traveling mug with steaming coffee in the other, she barely saw the book. But when she did, her general outlook was the sky right before sunrise, rosie with promises of sunshine. So, she juggled the purse down to the crook of her elbow and picked up the innocent book, felt the weight of the words in her hands, appreciated the faded gold-tipped pages, and read the gilded letters along the deep green spine.
On the title page a stark black and white sketch of a wind swept graveyard and a man, groveling before a gravestone. Wuthering Heights. An illustrated copy. Her favorite novelthe one she had read at twelve, when love was just beginning to matter, when bitterness and loss already mattered. She had devoured the book, like a hungry puppy, read the last line, closed the book, then turned it over and started reading again. She had believed in soulmates, even then. The fear that you could end up with the wrong manwhen he seemed so right and did love you with all his heartmade her reread the novel again and again, trying to remember all the turning points, all the decisions that led to misery. It was a map, directing her in what not to do, because at twelve, Amelia had known the cruelty of humanity, the neglectable, irreversible suffering of childhood, and more than anything she was determined to have an adult life much more rewarding.
But Life had recently been too sweet to recall old anxieties and Amelia had forgotten what the book meant to her. She was on the brink of committing her life to a man that was most definitely the right man. The off-white slip of paper in the book marked a page somewhere near the beginning. It was a note. Typed, no less. And the words sent Amelia Johnson into a head spin.
Amelia’s hand shook as she read the note. She skimmed the page that the note had marked. She dropped her steaming travel mug. But she couldn’t stop reading the old familiar scene laid out in black and white before her. She could have recited itfor it was the turning point of the novel. When Catherine Earnshaw makes her fateful decisionchooses her husband. Amelia slammed the book shut, as though the page and the note could curse her. They already had.
Nothing had ever been simple for Amelia Johnson. And despite all the good feelings she had felt, love was not the exception. She was on the brink of committing her life to a wonderful man, but he wasn’t the only man in her life.
Right there at her front door, coffee gushing out in choking spurts, staining her flowered Welcome mat, Amelia, with her hair not yet brushed, her make-up crammed into her purse, on her way to her second jobAmelia could not deny that she had no idea which of the two men had sent her the gift.
She opened the book again to the page. Perhaps the answer was on those pages, those beautiful, harsh words. Which of them knew her heart and her mind this well? Who was her soulmate?
When we meet our soulmate, we expect something to happen, something to alert us that we are in the presence of someone who will change us, love us, not just now, but forever. Love songs, movies, novels and my grandmother’s description of how she met grandpaall of it led me to believe my whole life that I would knowknow somehow that person crossed my path.
But I didn’t. I have no idea how I met Amelia.
Realitysharp like sunlight on a hangoverthe reality is that we walk right past our soul-mates and God doesn’t deem to shower down on us symphonic chords, or to set the world in slow motion. He doesn’t create a sense of completeness inside us. Our breath doesn’t catch, our heart doesn’t pound in any unordinary way, our eyes don’t meet. A sick trick to be right there and not have the slightest inkling.
And yet, I should have known better. Known that soul-mates aren’t made in the moment, but over a lifetime. What brings them together is not some strange thing that flashes before them in a moment of clarity, but a path created since the day they were born. Perhaps what misled me was the idea that there was a goal, an end, some kind of destination. Or the idea that paths crossand they doand that crossing paths with their drama of traffic lights, of right of ways, often make themselves out to be so important. That’s when our pulses raceat intersections, accidents, traffic jams and pedestrians. But the paths of soul-mates don’t cross or end with each other. No. They most certainly cannot. They quietly, smoothly merge.
What season was it when I first saw her? Was it an early summer morning, or a dark autumn evening? I can’t recall what she was wearing or how her hair was styled. I can’t remember how we were introduced or what she said as a way of a greeting. I suppose I saw her first at the café. I suppose I did what any man does when they see a half way decent looking woman. I measured her up, took her apartnice legs, big buttand put her back together again, while wondering what I was going to eat for lunch.
I can imagine that in our subsequent encounters I was aware of when she hadn’t brush her hair, or didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I can’t imagine not noticing her flashy choice of clothes, revealing much more than most bankers I had ever known. She wasn’t the kind of person you could ignore. A loud laugh, a wide smile, a shock of red hair, too tall to be wearing four inch heels. No one could miss Amelia, no matter how determined.
I know at some point I was determined. I also know at some point I succumbed.
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