Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Grin

He was madly in love. No, not madly, desperately. He could see nothing but her; listen to anyone but her. She turned him blind. That woman who suddenly invaded his life like a storm, made him lose his mind. No, it wasn’t love at first sight; it was love at first talk. From the very moment that he found himself alone with her and they started chitchatting, he knew that the two of them would have a lot to talk about, and even more to live with.
Till then, he was the lonely kind of guy, but always on the look out for an adventure. She was an open-minded lady but somewhat oppressed by her family’s must dos. She needed the spark that could put her life and soul on fire. He had lived a lot. She, only a brief love affair, a way out of her life’s dead ends. When they met, she was still going out with the other guy, he was alone. Both of them felt an invisible thread binding them together, the thread of the divine madness, the thread of real life.
“I want to live; I want to live,” Stella would repeat monotonously time and again. And he asked himself: “But why? Why, can she not live her life the way she wants to?” Soon enough she would though, as she’d leave the other guy and come and rest in his arms.
As the hours and the days passed rushing by, they felt all the more closer to each other. That wasn’t so hard to happen, since they had much in common. They liked the same music, they enjoyed going out to the same places, and together they felt ecstatically happy. There was so much joy in their relationship that Chris, that was his name, has actually started worrying. “This is so perfect that it’s hard to believe! No, no one can really feel as happy as I do in his life!”
Well, things weren’t really perfect, since they couldn’t be as much as they wanted to be together. Her parents, with a sleepless eye, would watch their every move and even though, she was old enough to be in college, they wouldn’t let her stay late out at night very often. So, the moments of her happiness, of their happiness, were few and brief, almost stolen. They’d enjoy their love; the passion, the lovemaking, the lust, the pain of it, but they wouldn’t really feel alive.
“Abandon your home; we can live together,” Chris proposed more than once, but she refused. She was afraid! She was afraid to leave her prison cell. “No, it must not be done this way,” she kept saying. How was it to be done then? If you don’t grab life, it just slips away from you.
More lonely and lovely days and nights passed across memory lane and as days turned into weeks, their passion and lust for each other were still growing stronger; they just couldn’t live apart anymore, not share the same bed, not be in the arms of the beloved one, any time they wanted to. It was then that Stella proposed that they should make their relationship official; meaning they should get engaged. It was the only way for them to be together. And he, who has once declared that he’d be a bachelor forever, who was fanatically “free and independent”, simply said “ok!” Love had turned him blind. He wouldn’t even listen to his best friend, a woman he always trusted, and who said to him that Stella didn’t meet love in his face but a life-jacket; the key that would break open the doors of her rusty cell. Even his best friend, his brother in drunken arms, with who they’ve been through a lot together, and who always insisted that one day he should get married, really felt that she was not the one for him. “She is draining you!” he said to Chris.
Soon enough they got to be engaged and not long after that more things started changing. The freedom that they longed for didn’t really come, since it now depended more on her parents than ever before, as they came to live in their house. Chris was willing and determined to do anything for her; to endure everything, to work hard to help her; to help her make every single one of her dreams come true.
Some day they got married and moved into their own home; and from that day on, Stella started to transform herself into another woman. She no longer wanted to be the girl that Chris had fallen in love with, but somebody else; a woman that would do and act and dream, just like everyone else did. A woman with her “must dos” and “must haves” and “must things”. At the beginning he thought that she was passing through a crisis, but that wasn’t the case. He saw her, with unbelieving eyes, throwing away all her clothes and replacing them with “decent” ones; to stop listening to her once worshipped rock music and start enjoying silly pop songs; and to forget all her dreams about distant travels into open and faraway skies and deep blue seas.
Chris, could not believe, didn’t want to believe, that those things were actually happening. He loved her. She was his soul, his heart’s better half; she wouldn’t disappoint him. Things would change again; he was sure about that. And they did, for the worst.
Their life had turned into a bore; a continuous repetition; a day no different than the one before or that that followed. Only on some weekends when they drove to the mountains or to the sea, he could feel something of her old self waking up in her, but it just lasted for that long. She would say that she loved travelling by car; that she liked the speed and the sense of danger, as she drove like there’s no tomorrow. “Well, at least, she still likes something,” thought the once ever smiling but now sad-faced Chris. “This is not what I wanted. This is not what I’ve dreamed of!” he’d keep saying to himself as time went slowly by.
They were moving away from each other day by day. Their love, their marriage, ended up to be a simple living together; brief meetings at the dinner table, a few drives to the sea and even fewer nights out. The smile was gone for good from his face. Only when he’d drink alcohol he would smile; and he did drink a lot. But his drunken smiles were bitter; bitter about a life going by unlived; for dreams lost at the expense of time.
One day Stella announced to him that she were pregnant. Chris felt sure that even that pregnancy was somehow programmed to happen. She realized, he thought, that he was going to go away, and so came up with an idea to keep him there, to keep her safe. Security was all that mattered for her. She needed someone to look over her. And so came Sonia. And he started smiling again, but not for long.
Stella, having born the baby, thought that her duty was over, so she hired a woman to look after it. She didn’t want to waste any time in her struggle to climb up the stairs of social status. At that time she was working in a big advertising company where, as the story always goes, one is permanently trying hard to undermine the other’s position. And of course, she wouldn’t allow that to happen, just to spend time with the baby. So Sonia passed straight from her mother’s body into a stranger woman’s hands. Unlike Stella, Chris loved their daughter dearly, more than his own life. She had awoken hope in his life again. Holding her in his embrace he thought, that better days were yet to come. However, just as his love for Sonia grew stronger, so did his hatred for Stella. “She’s a woman without a heart,” he said to his best friend, Costas, one day, and insisted “and I’m going to kill her. I will!” The latter remained silent. Besides, what could he say? He did warn him about her a long time ago.
For the next couple of years his life was like a black and white film; black for his living with Stella, and white for the joy that Sonia gave him. It was a hot and humid summer when his wife announced to him that they were going to spend the holidays at a mountain resort that her colleagues highly praised. He had no objection; just as long as he had his daughter with him, he didn’t care even a little bit about where they were going to spend they holiday.
And so they went. Every day, in the early morning, while Stella was still asleep, he would take the baby for a walk in the woods or a visit to some of the many neighboring fairy tale like villages. Of course the girl was barely able to walk, but he didn’t mind carrying her for long hours in his arms. From the very fist days, the two of them made a lot of friends in the surrounding area. They all loved the beautiful doll-like girl, and the openhearted and unpretentious ways of the father. As for Stella, well, she didn’t seem to care at all about them. She’d sleep until early noon, then have breakfast all by herself and then go for lunch at a good restaurant with her so-called family. She’d spent the afternoons watching television, and at nights she would go out, so that her colleagues could see that: “Yes, she does go out!” Even though he didn’t have to, since the housemaid followed them there, Chris was spending his nights talking with the baby and reading her stories. He did go out a couple of times, just to find his new friends, and share with them at some quiet little place a few bottles of house wine; away from all the noise and the fuss of the tourists.
One night Stella announced to him, as she always did, that the next day they would climb a nature trail that led to the top of some magnificent waterfalls, as her friends have told her. Chris didn’t say no. Why, would he? But in the morning, she made him so furious that he almost hit her, for the first time in his life; and that, when he saw her wearing high-heeled shoes to climb up the mountains. “Just because we are going to be in the wilderness, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look decent,” she said, after hearing his furious comments. “You are right, as always, dear!” he answered back, sarcastic as ever. And so, they started of.
The trail took them three hours to climb, since the lady with the high-heels couldn’t move any faster than a turtle. However, Chris kept calm. He just left his mind free, to flow in complete serenity and take in the images of nature’s magic, as with his mind eyes he travelled far and away, to the worlds he had always dreamed of. At the end of the long and tiring journey, a fantastic sight came to take their breath away, as they found themselves standing over a twin waterfall that really looked and felt awesome. Its waters were falling from a hundred feet high into a small pond, which poured into a wide river. The height was a bit breath taking, and the sound was deafening; but they both added a touch of magic to the whole experience. As they stood there, watching the magnificent site, Stella who was leaning over the edge to have a better look, suddenly slipped, lost her footing and fell head down into the lake.
Panic-stricken Chris found a path that led to the lake and rushed his way down, running the danger to harm him self too. As he arrived there, safe and sound, he reached for Stella and grabbing her from the right hand, he pulled her out, only to discover that she were dead. He tried to call for help from his mobile phone but there was no signal. So, leaving her there, lying on a rock, he started climbing towards the top of the falls. There, his phone picked some signal, and so he called one of his new friends and told him what had happened.
Help arrived two hours later. They found him broken-down, shivering, crying desperately over the body of his wife; the woman that more than anyone else in the world he ever loved. They wrapped her breathless body in a blanket and carried it back to the village, but not at the place where they were staying. Chris didn’t want his Sonia to meet the face of death so early in life.
He spent the rest of the day talking with the police and then sitting quiet and drinking his pain away with some of his friends. They didn’t bother him. They just sat around him and let him be. Late at night, they walked him home. He was drunk, but he still had his senses. As he entered the house, he found his way to Sonia’s room. He sat at a chair next to the bed for long, staring with love at her gentle face. In the end he caressed her cheeks and kissed her hair, and went to bed. Before falling asleep a small scene, like a vision, was being recreated in his mind’s eyes, a resent scene. Stella is standing at the top of the waterfalls for a moment, before he pushes her down to her death, to his salvation!
If anyone could watch him sleep that night, he’d be in for the surprise of his life, as he’d see a big and wide grin taking shape on his otherwise sad face.

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