‘What am I doing here?’-she said to herself, walking up and down the station platform, tossing her short, cinnamon mane.
It was already past four p.m. Martha was starting to feel nervous and disappointed. If coincidences weren’t flukes, Pierre had appeared in her life for a reason…and had disappeared for a reason. Only that Martha could not fathom why, hard as she had tried all these years.
Today, forty two years after their last goodbye, they would see each other again.
He had asked her, at first with some reserve, then called to confirm that he would be in town for a week, that they should see each other.
Would they have something to say, or had that endless stream of words, thoughts and feelings that they’d shared run dry? Maybe the tall, red haired Canadian made no sense to her, or she to him. They’d written to each other at first to make the pain of separation more bearable. Afterwards, it became a habit that neither of them felt capable of breaking. They’d shared their joys and sorrows across two continents and four decades…
It was a little past 4.30 now.
A group of people drew near, some looking at their watches. ‘The train must be arriving.’ thought Martha. She craned her neck but couldn’t see beyond some publicity signs from the recent Christmas holidays. Soon, in a couple of minutes she saw the train slowly approaching.
She started wondering about why they were going to meet. What use would it be now?
When the train finally came to a stop and all the passengers started getting off, she was engulfed by all the people, those waiting and those who’d just come off the wagons. She couldn’t distinguish anyone who resembled Pierre: She was starting to fret. Multitudes made her nervous. The crowd thinned out, and when she looked around, the dozen people or so that remained were in no way familiar to her.
‘Good afternoon, Marti…’
She turned to face his blue eyes, which were just as piercing as they’d been so many years ago. He’d aged quite a bit, and his red hair was now snowy white. He still had an elegant air about him.. He drew closer and took her small, dainty hands in his big, bony ones.
‘You look beautiful. Your eyes are still dazzling green, catlike….’ He looked at her warmly, expressing so much with those sky blue eyes. Martha found she had many things to say now, face to face.
‘Hello, Pierre…you look good…’ Her voice cracked a little.
‘I have so much to tell… and ask…’, he said as he smiled and offered her his arm, and Martha smiled back as she took it.
A few minutes earlier she’d thought they’d have little to talk about. Now she wanted to know every detail of his life in all those years . They talked the afternoon away, and over dinner too, laughing like over forty years ago.
After dinner, Pierre got serious and asked Martha to go for a walk to the beach.
-But it’s late, Pierre…Why?
-Come, Marti…you’ll understand …please, chère…- there was such deep longing in his blue eyes…
-Ok, then..-She smiled and took his hand, as they strolled through places that they’d been in together, in another life.
When they arrived at the beach, Pierre stopped under a lamppost. He stood before her and spoke with the determination he’d rehearsed to be sure he wouldn’t falter.
‘Marti, I,… came because I had to see you and tell you that I never stopped loving you, nor did I stop thinking of ways to see you again…but I was a coward… I let myself be dragged by other people’s ideas, by circumstances…no, please…’. Martha opened her mouth to protest.
‘ Let me finish…it is not easy for me to express myself, you know…but now, I couldn’t delay this meeting any longer…’
He sighed and went on.
‘ I have stage 4 cancer that has extended from my lungs to my liver. I don’t think I’ll live til the summer. I want to try and repair the damage I may have caused … I know I’ve hurt you. I only want to live whatever time I have left peacefully…and if it were possible…. I’d like…’ His voice became softer and he looked at their intertwined hands.
Martha was overwhelmed. She’d seen him again so they could say goodbye forever? She looked at his somewhat pale face, squeezed his hand and lifted it to her cheek. Pierre lifted his head, gasping when he saw tears in her eyes.
‘I’m not going to let you leave again, you know. Not after spending so many years missing every minute I lived with you. ‘
Pierre said nothing and didn’t move, but tears started falling down his face. Martha hugged him and took him to a nearby bench to sit down.
‘I was so scared, Marti…of not seeing you again, or that you wouldn’t want to see me…’ He was like a little boy seeking reassurance.
‘If you stay here, you’ll come and live with me.’
‘But your sons…’
‘They’re grown men. They have their own homes and families…’
‘I’d rather…stay here with you…Marti…’ He collapsed onto her shoulder.
Martha felt panic. He was becoming heavier every second…
‘Pierre! What’s…?’ She saw a policeman nearby and shouted at the top of her lungs.
‘Over here! Please …an ambulance! ‘
The policeman ran to their side and called the ambulance. Meanwhile, Martha held Pierre to her, caressed his face, told him she loved him, pleaded with him not to leave her again.
When the ambulance finally arrived, there was little to do. He died on the way to hospital, holding Martha’s hand. She knew he’d gone for good when the hand she held between both of hers as she saw the hospital lights through the ambulance window, went limp. She stared at him, crying for her lost love.
He had come back to her, to heaven.