Web Site: Jill Terry, Author - Poet - Wordsmith Extraordinaire
Short story, flash fiction
Fate Comes Calling
By Jill Terry
I’d been looking forward to the trip, simply because I wanted to get away and also because Augustine Abbey was a place I’d never been. I wasn’t, however, looking forward to traveling on the church bus with so many elder members of the congregation, because of their incessant chatter, as if talking was the very thing keeping them alive. I’d seen pictures of the old monastery turned vineyard and was anxious to explore the grounds. The brochure said there were guided tours, but that visitors were welcome to browse at their leisure and that was my plan; ditch the old folks and set out on my own.
We drove through the gates and it was like being transported into another world, where everything came to life and was more vivid and serene than on the other side. I knew right then that I’d made the right decision and crazy as it sounds I couldn’t help but feel that somehow, this trip was going to change my life.
We parked the bus and started walking and when we came upon the footbridge that led to the entrance, I looked down and there were actually swans in the waters below. It was breathtaking. I stopped to take a few pictures as the rest of the group proceeded inside. “Better not dally honey, you don’t want to get separated from the group,” Mrs. McAllister said sweetly. “It’s ok, you go on and I’ll catch up in a bit. I just want to make sure I get everything on film to share with the others that didn’t make the trip.” She shook her head and smiled, agreeing that it was a good idea, just as I knew she would.
I slung my camera over my shoulder and was leaning against the rail gazing at the swans, when I saw his reflection on the water. I looked up and smiled, he smiled back and when he did, something twisted inside my belly. He was large in stature, at least a foot taller than me, with a boyish haircut that parted on one side. He wore kaki pants with a white dress shirt and v-neck sleeveless sweater with a diamond pattern and black framed glasses; very boyish, but most certainly all man.
“Would you like to help me feed them,” he asked softly. I nodded my head then made my way off the bridge and down into the grass. “Is this your first time to Augustine Abbey,” he said as he handed me a bag full of pellets. “Yes, I’m here with a group from my church.” He towered over me and never once took his eyes from mine. “Oh, then you won’t be staying the weekend?”
“No, just the day,” I answered. “What a shame. It’s hard to take in all we have to offer in so short a time.” My expression must have shown my disappointment, because he quickly offered, “But I’d be happy to show you the highlights. That is, if you’re interested in seeing the Abbey from behind the scenes.” Assuming he was an employee of the Abbey and therefore knew his way around, I told him I’d like that very much.
We stood in silence and fed the swans until the last pellet was gone. He took my empty bag, folded it along with his and put them in his pocket. “Did you know that swans mate for life?” he asked out of the blue. I looked up into his big brown eyes and told him that I didn’t know that, but what a wonderfully romantic thing I thought it was. He held out his hand and said, “I’m Jacob by the way.” I put my hand in his and was surprised at the softness of his skin. “Very nice to meet you Jacob, I’m Elizabeth, but my friends call me Lizzy.” He smiled at this and closed his hand over mine.
He was very knowledgeable about the history of the Abbey, as well as the day to day operations and although I didn’t ask, I couldn’t help but wonder just what his position was. He took me to the old monastery that acted as café, museum, as well as hotel, and after we snacked on cheese and sampled a bottle of the house wine in the courtyard that overlooked the vineyard, he took me to the private section of the abbey where the owners lived.
The stone house was stunning and reminded me of a miniature castle. The interior was warm and inviting, with rich, colorful fabrics and earth-tone accents that made up the fanciful décor. He lit a fire in the great room and after we shared another bottle of wine, he took me upstairs to one of the bedrooms and made love to me for what seemed like hours. I’d never done anything so uninhibited or irresponsible before, but I felt not one shred of guilt or regret, as being with Jacob seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
“Oh, Lizzy, I know this is crazy, but the moment I saw you standing on the bridge, I heard a little voice inside my head that said, “She’s come home.” I looked up into his sweet face and gently kissed his lips, then cuddled back down into the nook of his arm and reveled in the comfort I found in his embrace. In a matter of mere hours it seemed as though we had shared every moment of our lives with each other up to that point, as our conversation flowed as naturally as our lovemaking. Never in my life had a man made me feel so beautiful and wanted before. I didn’t care if I never left that bed.
We showered together and as I stood in front of him as he sat on a chair and dried me, the door to the bedroom opened and woman walked in. Horrified, I grabbed the towel from him and covered myself, then watched the look that passed between them. I knew immediately who she was, by her conservative dress, make-up-free face and the long gray braid that fell over her shoulder. “Jacob, I need to see you downstairs just as soon as you’re decent.” Jacob nodded his head but said nothing. She met my gaze, held it for a moment then shook her head and left the room. I looked down at Jacob and asked who she was. He reached for his glasses, put them on and said, “That was my wife.”
I know it was a stupid reaction, albeit a natural one, but I fell to my knees, buried my face in my hands and started to cry. I don’t know why I was crying; possibly from the humiliation of finding out while stark naked that the man I’d just bared my body and soul to was married, being caught by his wife, or maybe because somewhere, in the back of my mind, I wanted to believe that I’d actually made a connection with this man and that something more meaningful than an afternoon tryst had passed between us.
“Oh, Lizzy, don’t cry,” he said as he pulled me to him, wrapped me in his arms and stroked my head softly. “I…just…thought…” I said between sobs. “I know, I know. It’s so unfair. Life can be so unfair,” he whispered into my hair and rocked me gently in his arms, as if comforting a child.
After a few minutes I pulled away and slapped him hard across the face, then immediately regretted it, when I saw the wounded look in his eyes. “How could you, Jacob? How could you lie to me like that, just to get me into your bed?” He grabbed my shoulders and held me tight and for a moment I feared him. “I didn’t lie to you, Lizzy. Every word I said to you was the truth. I just didn’t tell you I was married, because quite frankly, my marriage has been over for years.” I shook my head and averted my eyes, “It doesn’t matter. This was a mistake and I have to go,” I said as I pulled away from him and ran out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind me.
I sat on the edge of the bed, fully dressed, looking out the window, as I wrestled with feelings of heartbreak and rage, when I heard the bathroom door open and Jacob entered the room. “If you’ll wait here for me, I’ll be back very shortly and then I’ll take you to meet your group.” I sniffed, wiped the tears from my eyes and shook my head without looking at him. The thought of spending another moment alone with him thrilled and repulsed me.
Regardless of my mixed emotions, I wasn’t about to make my way through his house by myself when I knew his wife was somewhere on the other side of that door waiting. Before he left he walked over and kissed me on the forehead and told me this had been the best day of his life and that he had no intention of letting it end like this. For some reason I believed him.
“I don’t care what you demand. I love her and I intend on keeping her!” I heard him yell, as I sat at the top of the stairs and listened. “Oh for Christ’s sake Jacob, don’t be ridiculous. We’re not talking about a stray animal that’s wandered onto the property.”
“I’m serious Giselle. I want to be with her. That is, if she’ll have me after this unfortunate misunderstanding.”
“Yes, it’s unfortunate Jacob; unfortunate that you think for a minute that a woman her age would be happy with a middle-aged recluse like yourself.”
“Age has absolutely nothing to do with this. We’re kindred spirits, Giselle, which is something your tight-ass couldn’t possibly understand.”
“Alright Jacob, lets settle this right now and be done with it. I’ll be damned if I’m going to listen to you pine away for the next six months over nothing.”
A moment of silence passed and by the time I realized they were on their way to get me, it was too late. I sat there at the top of the steps, like a child caught eavesdropping on her parents, waiting to learn my punishment, as they stood side-by-side at the bottom of the stairs looking up at me. “Lizzy, would you please join us for a moment,” Jacob said as he extended an arm in invitation. I hesitated briefly, then stood and slowly made my way down the stairs.
Giselle turned and led the way into the great room, and I mused at the way her braid hung perfectly still and straight in the center of her back as she walked. Jacob rested his hand on the small of my back the entire time, as if offering support for what was to come.
Giselle took a seat in an oversized wingback chair and Jacob and I sat on the sofa next to each other. “I apologize for walking in on you earlier. I should have waited, but…” She rubbed her forehead, as if trying to rub away a headache and then looked at me and said, “What are your intentions with my husband?” Startled by her frankness, like a fool I said, “My intentions?”
“Yes, dear, your intentions,” she said somewhat irritated. “Jacob seems to believe that he’s in love with you and wants to keep you. I’m simply trying to clarify your position.” I looked at Jacob and he reached for my hand and smiled.
This was by far the craziest scenario I’d ever found myself in, but instead of simply getting up and excusing myself, something kept me planted on that sofa. Perhaps it was the look of sincerity I found in Jacob’s eyes, or the way my hand fit perfectly inside his, made me feel safe and gave me courage. Maybe it was the wine making me a little bit drunk, I’m not sure. What I did know for sure, was that the thought of leaving the Abbey and never seeing Jacob again was too painful to even imagine.
“I’m keeping him too!” I heard myself say. “Lizzy,” he said in a half whisper, half sigh, as he pulled me up into his arms and crushed me against him in a loving embrace. “You don’t know what this means to me.” Somewhere in the distance I thought I heard Giselle say, “Very well,” as her heels clicked across the tiled floor then faded somewhere in the distance.
By the time we pulled ourselves out of each others arms and left the great room she was gone. There was a note on the table in the foyer saying that she’d send for her things once she was settled. It was as simple as that. They’d agreed long ago, that if either of them ever found someone else and fell in love, they would legally end their marriage that had been over for a very long time.
The only reason they stayed together was because it took the two of them to keep the Abbey and vineyard up and running and neither one of them were willing to give it up. Giselle never thought it would come to this, for the simple fact that she wasn’t looking and Jacob hadn’t left the grounds of Augustine Abbey since they purchased it almost thirteen years ago. He said there was no need. He had everything he could possibly need or want right there, and he knew in his heart that one day his true love would come calling…and I did!
That was five years ago and I have yet to leave this paradise that I now call my home, or the arms of the man I now call my husband.
© Copyright 2007 by Jill Terry. All rights reserved.
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