One Wintery Night In New York
He kept looking out of the window, his eyes piercing through the raging snow storm, focusing solely, intensely on the red coat that kept getting smaller in the distance. He touched with his fingers the cold window glass, as if trying to reach outside, to reach her, to grab her, to stop her, keeping her next to him forever. He felt the coldness sipping through his finger tips, slowly moving through his veins, getting into his heart, slowing her down, numbing her. He thought he was sinking deep into quick sand, the air escaping from his lungs as the red thread of his life was disappearing fast. It was surreal. He was living the most tragic moment of his life and still he felt like an observer from above.
“This can’t be happening...this is not real...”, he thought and he felt the air in the room saturated with panic and despair. He heard a sob. Reluctantly he took his eyes away from Candy’s red coat that now looked so small; it was like a red snowflake mingling with the white snowflakes that danced furiously their own dance macabre. He stared emptily at Susanna that was sitting up on her bed. Her eyes swollen and red, her cheeks flustered, she looked like a small selfish child that had burst into wails when she sensed the danger of having her favourite toy taken away from her. He felt his heart empty, not a shred of loving emotion getting born out of compassion at least. He felt sad for her, for her weakness, for her delusion that she could make him love her.
“What am I doing here?” he thought while his heart was beating fast. “If I can’t feel something least close to resembling love for that poor creature that sits on the bed waiting from me to hold her and cherish her for the rest of our lives, at her ultimate time of need, then I don’t think I’ll ever feel anything for her. Ultimately I’ll destroy her life by staying with her”, he thought while he felt her eyes staring at him, trying to enter his brain, to find out what he was thinking.
Susanna had stopped sobbing and looked at him with wide eyes, full of worry. The atmosphere in the hospital room had become pregnant with expectation, with hesitation.
Terry pressed his lips, and a determination coloured his blue stare as his words shattered the deafening silence.
“I’m sorry Susanna but I can’t do it,” he said with a steady grave voice. He kept his stare on Susanna’s face. Her chin had started trembling, her eyes welling up with hot tears.
“Terry...” she started saying with a shaky voice only to be interrupted by Terry’s words.
“Listen to me Susanna. Ask anything of me in return for your unfortunate accident...you could ask me even to give up the theatre and I honestly would. But don’t ask me to love you because I can’t... and I won’t,” he said slowly, getting his voice a little softer as he didn’t want to trigger more desperate wailing from Susanna’s part.
Tears were running now freely down Susanna’s cheeks, down her chin, a small wet patch had started forming on the bed sheets that covered her to her waist.
“Please Susanna, listen to me for once in your life. You always closed your ears when I told you that I loved Candy. You can order many things to happen in your life, but how can you order the heart? Hmm?” he said and his eyes sank deep down into hers, wanting to reach her heart, to make her see the truth. “Did you order your heart to love me?” he asked her firmly, commanding an answer.
After a long minute, she replied.
“No Terry, I didn’t.”
“Did you order your heart to stop loving me when you found about Candy and me?” he asked her again.
She looked at him and already her eyes had been tainted with feelings of loss.
“Well, yes...at the beginning...” she said hesitantly.
“Did it work?” he said and pressed his lips, trying to keep calm.
“No,” she said at once, feeling her faint hopes of love with Terry, dying a slow but certain death.
“So do you see of what you are asking of me then?” he started again. “You couldn’t order your own heart to stop loving me...however you’re ordering my heart to stop loving Candy and to love you in her place. Do you think that is possible?”
Susanna had lowered her stare, looking blankly at her bed sheets.
“Maybe in the future... Terry, please I need you! I can’t live without you!!” she said, her voice almost a whisper.
“But you were living without me just fine Susanna, whereas I was lost before I met Candy,” he raised his voice slightly. “Look at me Susanna...please,” he commanded her softly.
Her eyes blurred with tears met his. She felt his insistent stare.
“I’ll tell you what will happen in the future Susanna, I saw it as clear as the presence in front of me just as Candy was getting away,” he started, “You’ll hate me one day Susanna...not now, not in a month, and maybe not in a year, but believe you me, you will hate me,” he said as he felt his stomach twisting with urgency.
He felt that he didn’t have much time to get back to Candy. She had told him that she’d return to Chicago at once, that very night. Susanna was looking at him with eyes wide, not believing of what he was telling her.
“That’s not possible Terry, I love you so much, I feel bursting with joy even when you only look at me,” she said with a quick breath, her cheeks painted red.
“That is your expectation from love Susanna? Your idea of happiness?? Only to look at you...whenever???? Do you realise how pathetic that sounds?? Is that how much you love yourself, that you only expect from the man that you want on your side forever to just look at you???” he asked not being able to hide his amazement for her crazy infatuation with him. She didn’t answer.
“Do you know what happens when you don’t water plants Susanna?” he asked rhetorically,“They die Susanna. For us humans, that water is love and that’s how we survive in this world. By forcing me to live a life with you with no hope of love on sight, we’ll die, you and I both. Effectively your hands are stealing right now of all your future happiness and mine too. Imagine a life with no loving caresses, with no tender kisses that say “I love you”, without your body ever to be touched passionately by the hands of your lover, not feeling a heart beating fast next to yours in return of a loving stare. Never to dream together of the life that spreads in front of you. Is that the life you wish...for yourself more than anything else??” he said and felt his heart bleeding to that prospect.
Susanna was crying freely now, Terry’s words sounding harsh but terribly real at the same time. She thought that she was a total fool.
“I will not leave you Susanna,” Terry finally said. It was about time he should be going elsewhere. “I’ll be next to you like a father, like a brother, like your best friend in life, but not as your lover or your husband. I’ll take care of you like you never have experienced before. I can move you and your mother to Edinburgh in Scotland. We have our estate there. Edinburgh is one of the best medical centres in the world. You’ll be treated by the best doctors, start your life anew, being involved with the rich theatre culture there, you’ll have the best that life can give you, and that is a promise to you that I can take and keep wholeheartedly...but asking me to forget about Candy and love you instead as if I am an automaton, that is something no man in love can promise you,” he said and got nearer her.
She was still silently crying. He lowered his head and kissed her hot forehead gently.
“I’ll be back tomorrow Susanna. Right now I have to get my love back into my life,” he said while straightening his body. “You’ll do fine, I truly believe in you...my friend,” he said emphasising his last couple of words in purpose.
He quickly grabbed his coat, said goodbye and exited the room leaving Susanna alone to digest his true and honest words.
Terry was running fast in the empty streets while waves of drifting snow were swirling wildly in front of him. His hands were freezing, his face was feeling numb, his feet wet and cold felt uncomfortable in his shoes, but his heart was on fire. He was desperately looking for a coach to take him to the train station. He prayed desperately in silence to get to her on time. He gritted his teeth and groaned as a burst of cold wind whipped his face with force. His hair was sticking on his sweaty forehead. Even the whites of his eyes felt cold as he was blinking, trying to see in the distance through the snow storm.
He reached the corner of the street and glanced on his right. A couple of people were walking hurriedly, holding tight to their coats. He saw a coach in the distance, appearing from the next corner to the one he was standing. The coach had turned and now was moving slowly towards him. He paced quickly in the middle of the street, putting his arms up, waving them frantically.
“Stoooop!!!!” he shouted desperately. “Please stoooop!!!” he continued shouting.
The man on top of the coach pulled his hat up and lowered his scarf that hid his face. He had seen him. The coach stopped next to Terry. With a grave and urgent voice he asked for the driver to take him quickly to New York’s main train station.
Terry was inside the coach, watching the buildings outside passing them by, while he was rubbing fervously his freezing hands together, trying to feel a bit warmer.
“I hope to God Candy that I’ll see you again,” he thought. He was relieving their last moments together, the minute his hands closed around her small waist, feeling the warmth of her body, not wanting to let go of her. He thought of their promise to be happy. “How stupid, how fool can I be?” he thought bitterly and felt furious with himself. If only he didn’t panic at the sight of her leaving in a hurry, running down the stairs in grief of their dying love...he could have been calm and collected...he could have said the things he said to Susanna much earlier...before any of these had happened.
Susanna’s suicidal attempt had shocked them both, making their actions as if they were ruled by auto pilot. What they figured out in their hour of despair wasn’t right, it only made them to utter empty and fake promises to one another, burying by force their love.
He was pulled out of the well of his thoughts by the stopping shake of the coach. He looked quickly out, he was there. He paid the driver in a hurry and went up the station’s stairs, two at a time, with long running strides. He wished he could fly to the platform while his eyes were looking, searching urgently around him. He was running, feeling his heart beating against his chest, bumping onto people, shouting “sorry” several times. He was going through a blurry sea of a faces, his eyes lighting up to anything red he was seeing around him, any blond curly hair.
“Where are you Candy?” he thought and pressed his lips, holding his tears with difficulty.
And suddenly as he was running, he stopped dead on his tracks. He saw her at the very end of the platform for the train to Chicago. That part of the platform was unprotected from the weather, she was standing still, as if nothing bothered her around her, a solemn red figure in the middle of a dark cold winter night. A protective feeling mixed with utter love washed over him, she looked so completely alone. He was ready to give his life for her. His eyes welled up with tears as he whispered her name and moved towards her. She turned and looked at him, while he was approaching her, as if by instinct. He stopped and stared at her, her wide green eyes enveloped him completely. He could make out the resignation in her stare, his heart cried. He walked and stopped a couple of steps away from her. She stayed silent but her eyes were searching his, to find the reason he was there.
“Candy...” he managed to say. She was always stealing the words from his mouth. He tried to compose himself, he had managed to come up to this point.
“Terry...why are you here? You should be with Susanna,” Candy said with a voice that lacked energy.
Her separation from Terry had emptied her insides completely, since she had left him she was feeling like a lifeless shell. All of her passion to fight against the grain, against the odds had evaporated from her heart.
“Candy...I spoke with Susanna. I can’t go through with what was expected of me. You can accuse me that I’m weak, that I’m a coward, that I’m selfish and I’ll tell you that I love you. I loved you from the moment I saw your freckles cringe in contempt when I teased you from up close on board of the Mauritania. Your clear green eyes infected me on that night, and your voice got hold of my heart. You never left since then...”, he said while trying to keep his voice steady.
“Terry...how can we be together when Susanna sacrificed so much for you?” Candy said, her words dipped in the sadness of the inevitable.
“My beloved Freckles...as I saw you disappearing from my life, I realised that I’d never ever in my life would love another woman, other than you. You asked me to promise to be happy and to take care of Susanna...do you think that would have been realistic? Do you think I’d be happy at any point in my future life having known what was to love with every cell of your body, for every second that passed? Having known that I lost you? Washing over my love for you? How? With what? Susanna? I never felt anything at all for her apart from sadness for her abnormal fixation on me,” he said.
Candy lowered her eyes, staring at the snow that had gathered around her boots. She really hadn’t thought that Terry would never be able to forget her. She thought that with the passage of the time...all wounds would heal. Was her thinking so naive? She thought. It was true that she’d never forget him, she would lull her love for him to an everlasting sleep in the deepest folds of her heart. How could she think otherwise for him? It was clear and true that he loved her deeply.
“But Terry, Susanna will need care...her life is over as she knew it...” she whispered, trying to chase away fruitless hopes.
“And I give you my word of honour, just I gave the same sincere promise to her, that I’ll take care of her forever, but not as her future husband. I’ll stand by her as her best friend and that is the most that I can possibly do Candy. If I stay by force next to her, her life will eventually be ruined by taking away the possibility to feel loved for real as a young woman in the future. Would you condemn someone to stay next to you knowing that he’ll never love you? Would you condemn your own life for that matter?”, he asked her and felt a little more confidence sipping into his words, as he could see Candy’s worrying resistance starting to crumble. He knew he was talking sense for a change.
She lifted her head and her emerald eyes sparkled with tears of suppressed love, the love she thought she had lost forever. Terry moved closer and got hold of Candy’s shoulders.
“We can do it my Freckles. You and I, we can find happiness together. We don’t have to live empty lives like my father. He sacrificed his love in name of duty, of what was expected of him. This is not a way to pass through this life. We can care for people, help people, but we can do it together...” he paused for a second as the thought that he had all those months started flying again inside his mind, “as husband and wife...” he finished his sentence and his deep blue stare melted and mingled with the green of hers. He held his breath, while his heart fluttered to the thought of Candy as his wife.
“I love you Terry...I always was and I always will,” she said and a sob escaped her lips, her cheeks painted bright red from the cold and her confession.
Terry had heard enough. He opened his arms and closed his beloved in, holding her tight, never wanting to leave her out ever again. He felt her chest moving as she was softly crying tears of release. He held her chin softly and moved her face gently to meet with his eyes. He read her complete longing for him, he adored her. He wiped lovingly the tears off her cheeks.
He felt courageous, he desperately wanted to kiss her. His lips touched softly the velvet skin of hers, he could feel her love and nervousness. He caressed them a bit more and sensed them parting slightly. Her hands grabbed his coat stronger, as she stood on the tips of her toes. He sank his tongue into her mouth slowly, hesitantly, feeling her tongue mingling with his, tasting her mouth for the first time and felt like he was flying towards heaven. Waves of love and desire were washing over them. It felt right, that is how it should have been in the first place. The snow storm had stopped and they felt the stillness of their surroundings. He lifted his head and looked deep into her eyes.
“Shall we go my sweet Freckles? I can make us some nice hot soup in my flat,” he said and left a sincere smile of relief.
“That sounds fine Terence,” she said softly. He picked up her small suitcase, his arm around her shoulders, her arm around his waist, keeping close to each other, quietly leaving the station, into the night to a life of love together.