Chapter 12. The Final Conversation.
It was not for another four months before Alice had Lorraine alone to herself again and in a position to discuss it with her.
Upon their return from San Monique she had begun an intensive management course designed to give her the basic knowledge she needed. She would never need to do any bookkeeping but it was vital that she could interpret the accounts. Alice had some experience in her previous job as a clerk that helped her understand the accounts sufficiently.
She was taught the different management styles and the necessary tax and employment laws. She was fearful of what she had let herself in for but yet she felt the blind faith that Lorraine had in her. “I cannot let her down,” she told herself over and over again.
Lorraine had joined her one Friday evening and was to stay with her for the weekend. Monday was the big day as Lorraine was to take her to the office and introduce her to the workf***e. Alice admitted to herself that she was very apprehensive. But now she had reached another target, to be on Lorraine’s payroll as a trusted employee.
Even though they had been in regular contact they had very much missed each others’ company and as soon as Lorraine had freshened herself up after the journey they were together on the bed, facing each other and kissing delicately. The love they shared between them was being re-affirmed.
“Lorraine?” Alice probed. She had a serious look upon her elfin face, “I think we need to talk…”
Alice was eager to understand some things, which needed to be made clear in her mind. There was only one way to go about it, to ask with all sincerity and honesty.
“Tell me the truth about George,” she asked. “Do you truly love her? I mean really love her?” The question took Lorraine by surprise. She never expected Alice to ask in such a way with such apprehension. It was as if she expected to hear something that she did not wish to know, yet needed to know.
Lorraine sat up and pulled her knees close to her chin and thought about her reply carefully. Alice brushed her fingers gently over her shoulders, feeling the smoothness of Lorraine’s pale skin. “There is something I must tell you and I suppose now is the right time.” Lorraine turned to look at Alice lying beside her. “George and I decided to end our relationship. It ended just as quickly as it began. She walked out of my office after telling me she had decided to quit her job. The reasons were very clear to me.”
“Reasons?” Alice sat up and looked at her lover straight in the eyes. “What reasons?”
“You my love. And my illness of course.”
The reply was totally unexpected to Alice and there was an answer to her following question, which she never wanted to ask at all. That illness, that most feared illness of all was once again a reason it seemed. Alice allowed her to continue.
“George could see that you and I had something special between us. Something that she felt she could never be part of. It meant more to me than those games we played. My mind started drifting away from the pleasure and excitement of domination to thoughts of you and I together. George could feel that. It became so obvious to her.”
“The illness? What of that?” Alice asked. Lorraine turned her face towards the ceiling and Alice could see that there was pain. “No, please, oh God please don’t say it.”
Lorraine closed her eyes tightly and a teardrop began to trickle down her face. Alice had to be told eventually because it would now involve her in the whole affair that was about to unfold. Although George did not love her like Alice did, it was now important for her to know the truth. George could not accept it and she hoped that Alice would.
“I wasn’t telling you the truth about it. I didn’t want it to get in the way of what we had. Soon I will begin a course of treatment. Chemotherapy is not as bad as it sounds my love.”
Alice threw her arms tightly around her lover and sobbed. “Oh I love you! I don’t want to leave you ever…”
Lorraine held Alice’s head against her shoulder and amidst hidden tears she summonsed the courage to ask; “My love?” enquired Lorraine.
“Do you remember our conversation in the café a long time ago?”
“I most certainly do! it was a day I will never forget,” Alice reminisced, “I think it was the day when we became true friends. Why do you ask?”
“You remember I told you all about Catherine and my son, Jason, and how I have never seen him since I…” Lorraine’s voice petered out into a nervous whisper, “well, I’ve started to make some enquiries. I doubt that anything will come of it, these things take time you know.”
Alice realised immediately what Lorraine was trying to tell her and held her tight, “We will find him my love, we will find him.”
Lorraine responded by holding her lover tightly in return and like a mother more than a lover, she rocked her. They comforted each other and it felt so precious as the two women exchanged both their love and friendship.
Chapter 13. The Mask
Alice began her career in management with more ease than she herself expected. The staff was more than helpful to her and courteous to her new ideas that seemed to flourish day by day. Soon there were improvements that even Lorraine did not think were possible.
She moved into her new apartment and often Lorraine would visit at the weekends, sometimes longer when her treatment did not beckon her. And Alice soon got used to seeing her lover, tortured by that tiring treatment that now had taken away most of her beautiful red hair. The physical changes in Lorraine’s appearance were not important. It was her love and life that mattered the most to her now. And those days they spent apart from each other were consoled by the thoughts that there was something worthwhile being created in the business and the expectancy of meeting each other again.
Lorraine felt that she had always known Alice, and in her illness and suffering she never once doubted her word of love. For she not only possessed the same spirit as Catherine, but her embodiment as well.
Together Catherine and Lorraine had established the company and through many hard times and much sacrifice they had built a viable business between them. A venture that had become so successful that it took them both on many business-trips at home and abroad.
And it was on one such trip that Catherine had met her death in a tragic road accident.
At the time Lorraine had other commitments and so she had pleaded with Catherine to go to Germany to stand in for her. But since that day Lorraine had wished that she herself had been the one killed and she blamed herself for her death.
Having lost both her son and her closest friend Lorraine immersed herself in her work, blanking out all feeling and not daring to love again. It was George that helped her through these difficult times and as their relationship grew Lorraine started to use her as a means of self-retribution, a form of punishment to her guilt. George understood her well and loved her deeply; she knew that she could provide the fulfilment that Lorraine badly needed to allow her to feel again.
This situation would have continued had it not been for Lorraine’s chance meeting with Alice on San Monique. Lorraine believed that Catherine had returned to her that day for they had much in common, both in appearance and character. Convincing herself that this was the case, Lorraine vowed to herself that she would never lose her again nor the pure love that had been re-kindled inside her.
From that day she had taken Alice under her wing and began to preen her for the future role she would play, guiding and teaching her along every step of the path. She watched with pleasure as Alice grew in strength and confidence and quickly learning to successfully manipulate her peers and would-be enemies. And as Lorraine’s illness began to take hold she was content to leave Alice in charge knowing that she would continue to run the company the way she wanted, with fairness and dedication.
In her final breathing moments, the point in time when the living cells relinquish their responsibilty to sustain the skeletal frame, Lorraine experienced an inexorable release. The pain she had suffered from years of cancer was no more. Blessed relief soothed the conscious spirit that had been suddenly freed from its chains.
There was not light, yet Lorraine could see; there was not sound, and yet she could hear.
A sensation of euphoria, of floating amongst the stars overcame her. The vision enticed and seduced her but deep reservations made her reluctant to join. She looked back and experienced an astral vision of her own body on the hospital bed, sitting beside her was Alice in silent vigil, a purity of love and dedication.
Lorraine was torn, the remaining piece of conscious human thought demanded she must turn back and re-inhabit what was left of her body. Desperately she wanted to re-enter the mortal prison in which she had been encased, for her life in this world was incomplete.
In the no-mans’ land between life and death she saw the whole of her past as a single condensed entity and focused on one conversation she had shared with Alice many years ago in a café…
“What is it my love?” Alice asked as she reached out and held Lorraine’s hand, “is there something you want to tell me?”
“Yes,” she replied. With initial hesitance she finally opened up and poured out the story that she had kept hidden inside for so long…
“It was while I was at university,” she began, “usual story; boy meets girl. We went on holiday together to Scotland. I’ve always been a level headed person, I rarely take risks.”
Alice immediately saw what Lorraine was about to say, “You got pregnant?”
Lorraine continued, “I had come off the pill because of medical reasons and as we were going on a mountain walk we had not even considered that sex would be on the agenda. But it was a perfect day in an idyllic spot. The side of an isolated loch surrounded by mountains with not a sound to be heard and not a soul in site. It was a very romantic.”
“Oh my God, I bet it was!” intercepted Alice in admiration of the conception, “but you said that you were still at university…” her words drifting away as she considered the implications.
“Yes, Jason was born in my final academic year.”
“Abortion?” Alice asked tentatively, “did you ever consider it?”
Lorraine concentrated on her own nervous hands that were playing with each other’s fingers before taking a deep breath and looking up at Alice. “Yes. We looked at every option my love, from abortion to giving up my final year. Everyone seemed to have advice and knew what was best for me, from parents to father, from his parents to f****y advice clinics. I was being driven insane by well-intentioned advice!”
Alice kept perfectly silent, not wanting to interrupt the thoughts that were now being laid bare, she cupped Lorraine’s hands in her own to offer comfort.
“It was my friend Catherine,” continued Lorraine oblivious to the tactile response that had been offered, “who allowed me to step back from it all and see a solution to the self-inflicted problem….
“Abortion I could never accept, especially after the way he was conceived; I wanted to finish my final year and have something that I could use for the future; above all I wanted to give him a life. I rejected all paternal and parental advice.
“I was a student with no money and even less with a c***d to feed. I did the only thing that allowed both my son and myself to survive.”
Alice saw the tears welling in Lorraine’s eyes and held her hands tightly, “What was that my love?” she asked.
“Catherine helped me in my hour of need,” Lorraine responded to the heartfelt squeeze of Alice’s fingers, “together we brought up Jason for his first six months. She was an angel, not only was she my friend but she also became my lover during that time … and for many years after. She helped me to finish my degree and also to get Jason adopted.”
There was a long pause while Lorraine reflected and Alice dared to ask her next question.
“Where is Jason now?” Alice eventually asked.
“I don’t know,” came the tearful reply. “I have never seen nor heard of him since that day.”
Suddenly Alice could see the pain and anguish that Lorraine was suffering, to have created life but never to have seen him grow, never to have known the ‘person’ she gave life to. She pulled Lorraine forwards across the table and nestled her head in her shoulders for comfort, sharing her tears both physically and emotionally.
Alice had been a silent sentinel watching over Lorraine’s bed in those final few days, keeping her comfort during the few hours of consciousness. But Lorraine had not woken for the last two days and she was becoming concerned. Suddenly she heard the alarm of the ECG monitor that kept a close watch on Lorraine’s pulsating heart, the regular ‘blips’ were now replaced by a high pitched squeal as the cardiographic peaks flattened to a monotonous horizon. She ran to the door and yelled at the top of her voice for a doctor or nurse.
The crash team had already been alerted, they raced into the room knowing that the next few moments would be vital if Lorraine’s brain was not to die of oxygen starvation. They immediately began the resuscitation process.
The determination of Lorraine’s spirit to locate and finally meet with her only c***d was more powerful than succumbing to her own death. The astral euphoria was forsaken as she saw her body being given another opportunity by the team of medics and she merged once more with her own flesh and bl**d. The ECG monitor regained its steady rhythm and she slowly opened her eyes.
“Lorraine!” she heard Alice’s voice, “Lorraine? You are alive!”
“You must let her rest,” came the voice of a medic.
“No!” demanded Lorraine in a low whisper, “I must speak to her, come close my love and hold my hand.”
Lorraine looked upwards as she felt Alice’s hand clasp gently yet firmly around her own. She was only too aware of the weakness in her own hand and knew that very soon she would be looking back from above for the very last time. The medics seemed to comprehend and stood well back so as to appear invisible.
“You have been far more than a lover to me,” Lorraine began amidst shared teared cheeks, “but also a dear friend, a confidante and a daughter.”
“I was only doing what I…”
Lorraine squeezed her hand to silence her. “In my Will I have passed on to you virtually all I possess.” Alice fell silent. “George is well catered for, but the whole of the business empire and my private estates will go to you, including the villa.”
Alice wanted to contest whether she was worthy of such a reward but remained silent, sensing that Lorraine had more to say.
“I ask only one thing of you in return Alice.”
”Anything, what do you want?”
“That you find my son, and if he is of sound character that you share with him my inheritance.”
Alice pondered, analysing what was being said. She knew Lorraine well and could easily see what was meant by ‘of sound character’ , someone who would not abuse and fritter away the financial empire she had built with her own bare hands. But locating her son would be a different matter.
“I don’t know where to start,” Alice pleaded.
“I will guide him to you.”
“I will find a way, if you promise to do as I ask.”
Alice squeezed Lorraine’s hand in reassurance, “I promise my love.”
Lorraine reached out and wrapped her arm around Alice and held her for the last time. When the ECG monitor squealed nobody moved. Alice remained locked in her arms until the medics moved out from their shadows and switched off all life support.
Lorraine sensed a million hands upon her recumbant back softly raising her from the flesh that she was now ready to relinquish. She felt no fear as they gently assisted her, she heard a voice without a voice saying that the time had come and she was now ready to join them.
“I cannot, I need to complete my fulfilment and find my son,” she replied in her own non-voice.
“Come, you have no choice, your shell is no more”
Lorraine looked back and felt Alice’s eternal love. She saw her own arms wrapped around her and understood. They would never meet again in this life.
The vision of the hospital ward soon became the building, the building became the sky. The planet that had been her home dimmed into the distance as the planets of the solar system sped by. The solar system was replaced by the blur of of the Milky Way and in turn by whole galaxies as she continued on her journey faster than the speed of light. Within a fraction of a second she had traversed the whole universe to the point of singularity, that of pure energy. The quantum soup of life.
Stripped of all human encumberments there was no need for sensory organs. The five senses, the only form of communication she had experienced within her world were no longer required. Without her body she was also freed from all the biochemicals of life that induced the fickle traits of love, hate, ambition and all the deadly sins associated within.
Unsheckled, Lorraine was finally at one with herself.
Alice had quickly returned to the sanctity of her apartment and broke down inconsolably; she would have gladly returned it all just to have Lorraine back with her. She recollected with fondness all the happy times they had shared and cursed the cruelty of a world that had robbed her of a love in its prime.
Over the years that followed the pain eased but the happy memories remained and would always be strengthened whenever she visited the villa. Alice would stay there whenever her commitments allowed and often invited friends along with her. But she would always ensure that she spent two specific weeks of the year there alone. The anniversary of their meeting was very personal to her and not to be shared with anyone else.
And it was during one of these visits that something inexplicable happened to Alice.
The day started with a shock when the front doorbell rang. “Who the hell?” she muttered to herself as she peered out of the window and saw what was obviously a locally hired car on the drive. She opened the door tentatively and took a sharp intake of breath when she saw the man standing before her.
Of equivalent age to her own, tall and handsome with blue eyes and natural curly brown hair. He had a friendly air of confidence about him and he spoke with determination. Every hair follicle on Alice’s body transformed into a goosepimple as she realised to whom she spoke.
“I hope you can help me,” he said, “I’m searching for someone called Lorraine, does she live here?”
“No she doesn’t,” Alice answered truthfully, “What is your name?”
“It’s Brian,” he replied.
“Then I’m sorry, you must have the wrong house.”
“Brian Jason is my full name, here, let me show you my passport so you can see.”
Alice looked at the document with nervous hands, the first name and surname were not to what she had expected, all she had to go on was the middle name, she desperately needed confirmation. “So what brings you to this isolated villa on this remote island in search of your quest?”
“Listen!” he said assertively, “I know she lives here, I have a document that proves it, please read it.”
Alice took the brown envelope that was thrust into her hands and started to read. It was an official document with a Royal Crown symbol at the top but she didn’t read the contents, she turned to the final page and there, unmistakeably, was Lorraine’s signature. “I think you had better come inside Jason, there is something I need to tell you…”
Three hours later she was sat on the veranda reflecting on the conversation with Jason, she had told him everything. He had taken the loss of the mother he had never met very hard, but he had every right to know and he had appreciated her candour.
He was staying at the same hotel that she herself had done many years ago and suggested that he check out and stay in the villa.
As she awaited his return she sipped her vermouth and noticed a young woman wearing a sun hat walking along the beach. She had seen her skipping along through waves the day before but had tried to ignore her, not wanting to be disturbed by a wandering tourist. This time however the young woman came closer and Alice found that she was somehow drawn to her presence. The girl suddenly stopped, raised her hand and waved and without knowing why, Alice instinctively waved back.
She momentarily regretted her action, as the girl appeared to have interpreted this as an invitation and began to approach. Alice decided that perhaps a small friendly conversation with a stranger would be a pleasant distraction and waited for her to get within talking distance.
“Hi,” said the girl as she approached, “this is a beautiful villa, is it yours?” Alice chuckled to herself at the direct question, “Yes it is she replied.”
As they continued to talk the young woman removed her sun hat, allowing her long red hair to fall to her shoulders. Alice took a sharp intake of breath and studied her freckly face closer. This girl reminded her of someone she had once known many years ago.
Alice immediately liked this girl and instinctively took to her and without realising what she was saying she found herself inviting her into the villa. “I was just about to pour myself a fresh orange juice, would you like some? You can have a look inside at the same time.”
“That would be lovely on a hot day like today, you’re very kind, Thank you,” she replied and immediately followed Alice into the villa.
“I’ll get that Orange juice,” said Alice as she disappeared into the kitchen.
“OK thanks, do you mind if I just look round the living room while I wait?” raising her voice to carry it through the kitchen door.
“Not at all, I’ll be right with you,” Alice replied.
“These masks are fascinating,” she shouted, “Are they yours as well?”
“They belonged to a very close friend of mine, someone I love very much, she gave them to me.” Alice walked back into the lounge, “We have not introduced ourselves, and my name is Alice by the way, what’s yours?”
Suddenly Alice stopped dead in her tracks, mystified. The girl had mysteriously disappeared. “Hello?” she asked quietly and repeating the question several times, increasing the volume with each attempt.
She put the glasses down onto the table and ran out onto the veranda to see if she was walking away down to the beach. There was no sign. She walked back into the lounge studying it closely, pondering on the whereabouts of her visitor.
Somehow the room felt different.
And as Alice looked around her eyes were drawn to the one mask. The one mask that had always intrigued her, appearing to be vacant and devoid of any character. Both her and Jason had been looking at it only one hour ago as she related the story about the collection. And she remembered Lorraine’s words vividly, “The Shaman who carved it for me said that it would only possess beauty when love is re-born.” But even though it was still the same mask, it somehow appeared to be different.
She approached it to study it in more detail, it now appeared to be personified and full of beauty. And as she looked at the mask she felt no fear, she felt a presence. She noticed some blemishes that were not there before; the mask had somehow developed freckles.
Suddenly she realised. And with tears of pure love in her eyes, she leaned forwards and kissed her.
Gaia & Sienna, ESF Group © 2004
Please pass this message on to Sienna also. I just finished reading the story. It is human, it is tragic, it is heartbreaking, it is full of emotion, strength, fraility, fragility, insight, and pure love. I am so privilaged to have been allowed to read it as it has unfolded; and am beyound privilaged to know you both. It is beautiful, as are the both of you.
For The Both Of You.
When I close my eyes, I imagine your presence,
The thought of you being near,
I can see the love on your face,
When I close my eyes, I can feel you sitting next to me.
Your smile consumes me; your voice echoes in my head,
I can hear the loving words you whisper,
When I close my eyes, I remember your touch.
The tenderness in your hand as you hold mine,
The warmth in your arms as you hold me tight,
The softness of your lips upon mine.
When I close my eyes, I am there with you,
So close...so tender...so passionate,
The love we make is forever etched in my mind.
Memories never die,
Whenever I am lonely...I just close my eyes.