ANOTHER ATTEMPT

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1

The place was filled with light. A light that was so bright it was impossible to understand where it came from. As if everything around shone in itself. The light seemed to be warm.

 There were children sitting on the white floor. Wise souls appeared in the innocent faces of the children, waiting for their chance. They were busy doing their own thing. The bright light didn’t cause them any discomfort even though it never softened. It seemed quite usual for them, and they didn’t find anything special about it. Light was all around with no dark side, with no end. The end of the place could not be seen at all. Maybe there was no end and boundaries did not exist. What kind of place was this if there was no end and no boundary?

Every place and every space has its boundaries, a line that separates the internal from the external, the light from the darkness, joy from sadness, the beginning from the end and the, living from the dead.

 All the children were dressed the same way: white pants and white shirts with short sleeves. Their bare feet silently glided across the floor, not leaving a single trace. The whole space was flush with pure cold air, but no one was freezing.

All the kids were separated into pairs. Each pair was busy with something and not paying any attention to the others. Some of them were talking quite enthusiastically, some of them were making something and some were just sitting silently, side-by-side, holding hands. With exception to each other, they did not see anyone else. As if each pair was inside a personal bubble that moved along with them wherever they went and kept their little world inviolable and inaccessible to the others.

            Brie, a little blue-eyed boy with black curly hair, sat straight and wrote something on the floor. Rita, a blond, green-eyed girl with dimples in her cheeks, sat next to him. She carefully watched every movement of Brie’s, paying close attention to the changeability of his moods evident in his lively facial expressions: knitting his eyebrows together, feigning thoughtfulness, then shutting his lips, dissatisfied, shaking his head. He held a hand over the written thing, erased it unseen. Rita followed his emotions and shook her head in the same manner. She pointedly sighed and shrugged and said, “Wrong again?”

            “Yep,” Brie answered.

            “And what was it supposed to be? What are you trying to find?”

            “I don’t know exactly. But that wasn’t the right thing for sure.”

            “Oh, I see.” – Rita sighed and looked at Brie with an understanding gaze.

Brie went back to writing his doodles that were visible only to the two of them.

In this manner, they spent minutes, hours, days, and years, Rita and Brie sitting together on the floor, in that room. He writing something, she faithfully guarding his peace and passion. And on this day they were both doing the same when Ivan approached them. Ivan, a young man with a kind face, clear eyes and a pure smile.

           “Brie,” Ivan turned to the boy. “It’s time to go.”

           “Already?” Brie raised his head and looked at the stranger. “Hey, I don’t know you.”

           “Yeah, I’m new here. I was transferred from the third level of the office. They said I’m ready.”

           “Hmm, congratulations! Although, on the other hand, there is nothing to congratulate with…”

           “I can’t agree or disagree with you. I like it here. At least for now, it looks fine. You are

my first one, by the way.”

           “Hmm, then you’re out of luck.”

           “No, I think it’s my great luck. After all, you already know everything.”

           “I don’t remember at this point. We never remember anything.”

           “I know, but your unconscious memory will still be around.”

           “Yes… anyway, every time it hurts like the first time.”

           “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to remind you.”

           “It’s ok. I’m getting used to it.” Brie got up and held out his hand to Ivan.

           “Brie, where are you going?” Rita sat in the same spot and looked at both of them, puzzled.

           “My time has come. Keep your fingers crossed, maybe this time I’ll have better luck.”

           “And what about me?”

           “You must wait a little longer.”

           “Are you leaving me?” Rita was ready to burst into tears.

           “No, of course I’m not. We’ll meet, but over there. Of course, if I’m lucky this time,” Brie spoke calmly.

            “Promise me that you’ll find me no matter what it cost” Rita tried to stay strong.

           “I’d like to promise, but I can’t. I don’t want to deceive you.”

           “Aren’t you supposed to be with me and I’m supposed to be with you? It’s been ordained already, hasn’t it?

           “It has, but not all that is ordained is sealed. The last word and will doesn’t belong to him…  And doesn’t belong to us.”

           “Unfortunately.” Rita looked at Brie with sadness in her eyes. “I’ll wait for you.”

           “I’ll try to be.” Brie looked at Rita with hope.

Rita got up and hugged Brie. She wanted to cry, but hoped for the best. Brie

squeezed Ivan’s hand and they went through the brightly lit room passing by peacefully playing children. No one noticed them. Their steps couldn’t be heard. Their footprints disappeared

as soon as they were taken.

           “You know her name already?” Brie asked.

           “Yes, her name is Henrietta.” Ivan answered him softly.

           “Beautiful name.” Brie smiled slightly.

           “Yes, and she’s beautiful. She has porcelain skin, black shiny hair and light blue eyes.

She’s tall and slim. And she smells with like violets. You know that’s a special kind of

scent.”

           “I’d like to see her. I’d like to hug her and tell her how much I love her.”

           “All in good time, my dear.”

           “I understand… All in good time… If it comes at all” Brie felt sad, again.

They reached the boundary of the light and stopped. Ivan freed his arm from Brie’s hand

for a moment, then raised both hands up and whispered something. The light around vanished,

and they appeared in an empty darkened room.

           “Don’t be afraid.”

           “I’m not afraid, I still remember.”

           “Ah… Yes, we haven’t crossed the border of memory yet.”

           “Why do I forget every time?”

           “Otherwise, you won’t take it for granted. You’ll compare with previous ones, probably it would hurt and distract you from your main mission, your main purpose.”

           “I guess you’re right.”

           “Are you ready and willing to forget and start all over again?”

           “I’m always willing and I am always ready. The question is if she’s ready?”

Ivan shrugged and smiled. Brie held out his hand and they stepped over the border of memory together.

2

The rain continued for three days in a row. The sky heavily covered with a gloomy veil of gray clouds that didn’t promise a better forecast in the near future. Autumn is the season of revelation and nature forces the “wet souls” to seek extra warmth and new shelters.

Henrietta has planned every minute of her weekend. Early Saturday morning she had to stop by the dry cleaners and pick up her favorite wool dress, that had a spot of red wine on it since last Christmas. She completely forgot about it and remembered only when she was thinking about the outfit for an upcoming office party arranged to greet their new manager.

It was hard year for her. January started with the death of her beloved dog that was her only friend the past 12 years. The dog died peacefully with no pain, but that fact did not make it easier for Henrietta. She got her dog from the shelter when she first came to town right after college. Henrietta received a great offer from a local fast-growing trading company and in short order, packed her things and moved to the state located at the other end of the country, dreaming of the opportunity to find her ultimate happiness.

The new town wasn’t very welcoming. Henrietta caught a cold and a couple of days later found out that she had pneumonia, not the best start for her new position. Fortunately, it didn’t take her long to recover and over the next few years, she concentrated solely on work. No one appreciated her excessive zeal, and it was all for nothing. However, Henrietta firmly believed that patience and hard work are never left without a proper reward and continued to devote her life to the work.

She didn’t have friends because she was always busy at work and wouldn’t attend parties.  As well, she didn’t have time to go out, and people who at first, tried to connect with Henrietta, finally gave up and stopped inviting her to any events.

She didn’t worry about it a lot being too busy during the workweek, but during the weekends, she found herself lonely with no friends and no chance for fun. The dog was her only friend, who patiently waited for Henrietta, and never refused her love and attention. When her dog died, Henrietta finally felt the endless sea of loneliness and drowned herself in useless piles of papers at work.

No one was waiting for her at home any more, and she started to get use to it, but every night falling asleep in her cold bed she dreamed about a different life.

She dreamed about coming home where her beloved one waited for her. She wanted to wake up at night and feed her little baby, sing lullabies putting the child back to sleep and fall down to her bed a tired but happy mommy.

Henrietta tired of being alone. She was sick of being strong and independent: she wanted to become weak and trusted. She dreamed of being loved by someone and was ready to fall in love.  She still cherished the hope, the understanding that time was playing against her and her way of life, at the moment, left no chance for a personal life. Henrietta hoped that the new manager would change this situation, and she also heard that the company was looking to open a new position in her department that would mean less work for her to do. Henrietta knew, that no one cared that she stayed late at work, doing more than anyone else, but she wanted to hope for the best and prayed for the step up.

 I need to get myself together, I have only one chance for a good first impression and it must be a   good one! Henrietta thought while waiting for the dry cleaners to open the store.

            “Good morning, Lady,” the owner of the dry cleaners, a middle-aged Asian gentleman rushed to unlock the door and pull up the railings. “You are early.” 

           “It’s written here that you start at 7 am and it’s 8 am already.”

            “Oh, Lord! Have you waited for an hour?”

           “No, only 20 minutes.”

           “I am sorry ma’am, but today is Saturday and we start at 8 am.”

           “Oh, you’re right. I didn’t notice, it was Saturday. My bad.” Henrietta smiled.

           “Oh, no, ma’am, my apologies. Can I have your receipt please?” 

           “Sure. Here it is.” Henrietta handed him the rumpled piece of paper.

The owner smoothed the top of the paper, looked at the numbers written there and disappeared into the opposite corner of the store.

            “Here we go!” he came back quickly and showed Henrietta her dress “No wine spot, as if it had never been there!” He smiled.  

            “Thank you!” Henrietta was glad to see her favorite dress stain free.

            “Beautiful dress.” He smiled and added while packing the dress, “and color is right for you!” 

            “Thank you, sir.” Henrietta took her dress and left the store quickly, not willing to spend more time talking to the cleaner’s owner.

The next things on her to-do-list were the nail salon and the hairdresser. Henrietta walked to the bus stop hiding from the rain and wind under her umbrella, but the wind was strong and blew the rain in her direction, pelting Henrietta’s face with sharp rain drops. She was about 400 feet away from the bus stop roofed with glass walls on all sides. Her hair was completely messed; her hairclip broke under the pressure of her thick hair. Her darks curls stuck to her face and she could see almost nothing, but she knew the route and moved forward confidently. A sudden gust of wind wrested the umbrella out of her hands and threw it far away from her. Henrietta refused to try to run and catch the umbrella, realizing the hopelessness of this action. She proceeded to the bus stop without cover from the pouring rain and cold wind. She tried to move as fast as she could, but the wind resistance was pretty strong.

Suddenly, somebody put an umbrella above her head hiding her from the endless waterfall. She didn’t realize it immediately and continued to walk as if nothing happened. But in a minute, Henrietta realized that she didn’t feel the water hitting her face, flowing through her hair and sliding down under her coat and she stopped in wonder.  The umbrella over her head also stopped. She raised her head. A man’s handsome smiling face met her wondered gaze. His cheeks and chin were covered with a few days bristle, and it made him even more attractive.

            “I thought the umbrella could be useful. Sorry if I scared you.” his voice sounded familiar to her.

            “Oh, no, thank you! I mean, yes it is useful and no, you didn’t scare me!” Henrietta smiled; her cheeks became slightly red.

            “Are you going to the bus stop?” the man asked.

            “Yes” her eyes glanced toward the bus stop.

            “Me too! Well, we are on the same route, if you don’t mind?”  He offered his hand.

            “Sure! Thank you!” Henrietta took his hand and moved closer so they both could hide under his umbrella.

            “The weather is not pleasant at all,” he said and they walked to the bus stop, but slower than before. 

            “Indeed. But it’s common for autumn. Every October it rains for a few weeks in a row and then the sky becomes clear and air turns cold. Pretty predictable,” Henrietta answered.

            “Well, I have no idea about the local weather, I just moved here a couple of weeks ago.”

            “Oh, trust me, I have lived here about 13 years and October has never surprised me.”

            “And how does the winter usually go?”

            “It’s fresh and snowy.”

            “Great! I was hoping to see a lot of snow.”

            “Where are you from?”

            “Florida, the sunshine state! I lived there the last few years,” he said and looked at her.

            “Oh, it’s a sudden climate change.” Henrietta considered his eyes, beautiful.

            “Yeah, that’s right! But I love the changes. And the more unpredictable, the more interesting a place to live. Don’t you think so?’

            “I guess you’re right. As for my life, it’s routine and boring with no changing during the year,” Henrietta sighed.

            “No way!” he cried.

            “Oh, yeah,” she sighed again.

            “You mean to say that each new day is exactly the same as the previous one? No way! Everyday must bring something new, something fresh and interesting. You just have to catch it.” He spoke with confidence and no hint of joking.

            “Yeah, you must be right.” Henrietta felt like a loser, but tried to hide it.

They reached the bus stop. Henrietta looked at him thinking that he must be a nice person and with such a pleasant appearance. He seemed perfect. Henrietta even found the wrinkles that surrounded his eyes when he smiled, beautiful. She liked his unshaved cheeks thinking that it must be stubbly if you touch them with your own cheek. This thought wouldn’t leave her head. She wanted to know that feeling herself.

            “Thank you so much. You rescued me from the clutches of nature’s fury. Just like the Prince rescues the Princess from the dragon.” Henrietta couldn’t understand where did this weird idea about the dragon come from. She was embarrassed for saying that, hoping that he didn’t pay attention to her words.

            “My pleasure. It was very nice to meet you. By the way, I am Karl, Karl Weimer.” He offered his hand.

            “Henrietta Sheian. Weird name, I know.” She was shy, and shook his hand slightly. 

            “As for me, I think that it’s beautiful and unusual. I like unusual things.” His voice sounded soft and confident.

            “Oh, you’re so kind.” Henrietta couldn’t remember the last time she heard a complement addressed to her. 

            “What would you say, Henrietta Sheian, if I’d ask you to give me your phone number?” He looked directly into her eyes and gave her a warm smile. “Maybe we could meet for dinner sometime one evening. Let’s say tomorrow, or the day after.”

            “I would say yes, why not, with great pleasure. It doesn’t happen every day that I am rescued from a dragon,” she smiled and hated herself for talking about dragons. 

            “Great! I’ll give you a call.”

            “I’ll be waiting”

Karl added her phone number to his cell phone contacts and caught the bus that arrived right on time. Henrietta stayed at the bus stop, totally wet, but happy. She missed her bus because she didn’t dare ride with her new friend. “Too much for the first time,” she thought. She decided that she needed time to calm down and return back to her to-do-list. She would do her best not to wait for his phone call. It didn’t take long for her usual sour thoughts to come back and push the excitement from her mood. 

3

Ivan and Brie stepped to the other side of memory. The invisible wall divided the room in two parts. To go through that wall was as if you were going through a thin film of water, one that didn’t break, but felt like a film that gently covers you from the top to bottom. As soon as the child crossed the wall his “long memory” disappeared and he became an absolutely plain “new human being.” But that works only for the one who’s waiting for their time to be born. The wall didn’t work with the sky office team, however every person has something to forget, to hide deep inside, or to set fire to. But the memory is pretty picky and it’s not possible to control it. Even the sky office memory wall cannot force the memory to obey in full. And every time one returns back to the “waiting room” after another failure to be born, crossing the border of the memory backwards, the whole loaded memory comes back to him at the same time along with all the pain of the happiness that was supposed to be, but never happened. And the one who failed to be born comes back to the waiting room to spend his hours, days or years waiting for another chance with a new partner, doing the same things and keeping the same thoughts in his head according to his own destiny.

Brie opened his eyes. The memory had gone and his mind was clear and bright with no hint of his previous painful experience. He turned his beautiful light blue eyes to Ivan and said calmly, “It’s so quite here.”

            “Of course, it is, as there should be nothing to disturb us.” Ivan answered.

            “Let’s go!” Brie was excited.

            “No rush, everything comes in its own time.” Ivan took Brie’s hand and they went through a wide corridor.

They reached the door at the end and Ivan opened it, allowing Brie to step out first to the open deck with transparent borders and floors. The deck looked like it was made from thin glass.

            “The air is so fresh. I can’t smell a single thing.” Brie was surprised.

            “That’s right.” Ivan smiled “the ability to smell will come along with emotions and feelings. The wind will change its structure and very soon you will be filled up with scents and emotions.”

Brie smiled. He couldn’t understand anything yet, but his eyes were ready to see, his ears were ready to listen and he was ready to feel and to take everything in.

Ivan and Brie sat down on the floor next to the transparent border, so they could see everything around them clearly.

            “What do you wish to see first of all?” Ivan asked.

            “I want to see her, for sure! Can I? I know, that she is the most beautiful, gentle and careful woman in the world, and I want to see her so much, so my hopes and expectations will get a certain form.” Brie’s eyes were open wide, looking at Ivan with hope.

            “Of course, I understand.” Ivan stood up and raised his hands for a second.

A picture of a big city opened to their view. People bustled, rushed to live their lives, hurried to get happy and disappointed in the same things. It looked like a regular picture of a metropolis with blank faced pedestrians performing daily routine rituals. Dark windows of high houses didn’t show any difference in mood compared to those with light.

Ivan pointed to the women that waited at a bus stop. She was drenched from top to bottom, but she was smiling. Brie stared at her face attentively, trying to see every detail, hoping to catch her thoughts and maybe even to sense her special smell. He had so many questions to ask.

            “Does she know about me already? Isn’t she happy?”

            “You are moving too fast, my dear.” Ivan took Brie’s hand “You are not there yet, but that is subject to time.”

            “Why not? Why are we here then?”

            “It’s always happens the same way. Don’t you know?” Ivan closed his eyes in light confusion “Oh, sure, I am sorry, you can’t know, you don’t remember. Trust me, it always happens this way, we are one step ahead.”

            “She is so beautiful. And she is kind, yes, she is kind.” Brie was talking under his breath. “She has a special smile. I want to see her by my side. I want to feel her soft lips kissing my head and see her eyes looking at me with love.”

Ivan was silent. He smiled, but there was a deep sadness hidden in his eyes. Ivan stroked Brie’s hair while he proceeded to talk his dreams out.

            “I will smile at her as soon as I open my eyes. I’ll tell her that she is the best in the world, the most beautiful person. I’ll promise her that she won’t be lonely ever again because I will always be by her side.  I will take care of her and I’ll do my best to please her. I’ll do my best to light up every day of her being, every minute of her life. I’ll do my best! Do you know the name she’ll give me?” Brie turned to Ivan.

            “No, I don’t. That will be her choice only. We cannot predict these things, as well as many other details. We don’t have the ultimate authority. We can only grant a chance, and this is up to each person how to take it. It’s up to them to make a choice.” 

            “So, nothing is 100% confirmed yet?”

            “Confirmed from our side. That’s why you are here.”

            “And what about her? Doesn’t she…” Brie stopped speaking. He got it. She can’t make a decision she doesn’t know about him yet. He could only wait and dream about the future. “Do you know what her favorite flower is?”

            “Hmm, I don’t, let’s check it out.”

They stepped closer to the end of the deck and looked down through the transparent floor and border.

They saw a different picture than last time.

Henrietta sat at a table in a nice restaurant, waiting for someone. Finally, the man she was dating appeared. He was barely catching his breath after being in a rush. She was happy to see him. Her eyes were glowing happily. Brie looked at her attentively. The man brought her a beautiful bunch of red roses. Henrietta smiled widely. They were talking about something. She said that she loved violets more than any other flower, but every time she tried to grow them, she had to give up on the idea because the flowers faded within a week, so she got a nice picture with violets instead.

            “Violets. She loves violets,” Brie whispered. “I’ll try to remember this. Our home will always smell of violets. I’d love to bring them to her every day.” Brie was exited, dreaming of his eventual life. “Every year on Easter, we will go to the Botanic Gardens, I know it for sure. She will tell me a lot of different stories and I will listen to her with interest and will ask her a bunch of silly questions, but she will always answer each one with patience. I’ll do my best not to let her down.”

Ivan listened to Brie in silence. He gently pushed him to take a couple of steps back. He tried not to think about the future. Everything was ready from their side. It’s her turn. She didn’t even think about it yet. But everything comes in it’s own time.

            “I still don’t understand. Why are we crossing the border of the memory ahead of time?” Brie came back to reality from his dreams. 

            “Those are the rules of universe planning.”

            “So the universe has me in her plans, right?” Brie couldn’t stop asking. “And what is her plan for me?”

            “We’re all, each of us, and each of them are in her plans.” Ivan pointed to the town under the deck. “Every person has a role to play. And every role is unique.”

            “So we’re all unique?”

            “Exactly.” Ivan smiled “None of us repeat another.”

            “The universe seems to have an endless imagination though. If we are all different, I can’t believe it’s possible, is it?”

            “It is.”

            “Even in external appearance?”

            “Appearances can be similar, some times, but it’s only external appearance. Don’t get confused with the external things. We are all different. That’s the idea of the world, that’s why it’s so interesting down there. Every person brings his own unique energy into this world. Even if one doesn’t notice it, or thinks that his live doesn’t make sense.  Each life makes sense!  Each life is a unique energy that’s important for the universe and each one is essential.” Ivan patiently answered Brie’s questions. 

            “So, that means that everyone lives for some purpose?”      

            “Of course, everyone has his own destiny. Knowing this fact comes from the very beginning of the world. And people know about it, but prefer not to remember. Only at the very end of their life, this understanding comes back to them, along with fear.”

            “Is it scary to understand something?” Brie wondered. 

            “For some people, it is the worst nightmare. Understanding means accepting. People prefer rejection as a way of self-protection.”

            “Protection from what?”

            “From themselves first of all”

            “I don’t understand.” Brie was confused.

            “Hmm, frankly speaking, we don’t fully understand some things either. Why people are trying to become someone who they are not supposed to be at all. It’s just not given to them initially. You can’t be an artist if you have been made to become a teacher or a plumber. We don’t understand, but we do accept. After a time, we learned to accept it and not to resist much.  They should come to an understanding by themselves. We are doing all we can from our side, but it’s always up to them to choose.”

            “But you must help people! There should be a way to help!”

            “We help them. We give them signs. The ones who prefer to see, notice them, the ones who prefer to stay blind, don’t even try to look.”

            “Ridiculous. How could you stay blind to the signs?”

            “Look.” Ivan took Brie’s hand and they stepped closer to the deck border.

A different city appeared under the deck again. The streets were wide and clean. On both sides of the sidewalks there were a lot of boutiques and fancy restaurants for all kinds of taste. People walked slowly, visiting one store after another. Everybody dressed up per current fashion. Women were pretty and well cared for, and men were proud of themselves. Among this montage of images, one person walking around looked quite different. He sat on the border of the sidewalk and carelessly stared at the crowds. The man had a backpack beside him and a cup of coffee in his hands, still warm. He looked like an alien lost inside a stony jungle.

            “Who is he?”

            “He supposed to be a painter, he is a talented person. And he still may become a successful and famous painter. He has the talent for it, and so many people are ready to help him. He has had so many opportunities and may still be able to achieve everything he has ever dreamed of. But he prefers to stay blind. He no longer sees the beauty in the small details. He is interested more in wasting his time, complaining about being unlucky, and looking for someone to feel sorry for him and bring another bottle of beer to make him feel better. He prefers to live in isolation; that no one understands him, and no one cares about him. He asks to show him the way every time he gets drunk, and we do our best to help him. We are still hoping for the best.” Ivan paused.

            “Maybe your signs are not clear enough.”

            “My dear “soul,” Ivan sighed. “We cannot come down and say ‘go here, go there, do this and this, and you’ll succeed, we guarantee.’ We can only give signs. Of course, every sign can be interpreted differently, but the one who is looking for an answer will finally get the right one. For example, we’ve sent him the people who made him great job offers with positions that could help him to learn more and start creating his own masterpieces. He won’t wait long enough for the next step sign if he at least accepted the first one. But he wants everything at once; he is seeking the easy way. Unfortunately, that’s not how things are done. The ever-being things always take a long time. The fast-paced things come immediately.”

            “I got it.” Brie lowered his head.

            “Don’t take it close heart. To each his own” Ivan slightly pushed Brie to take a few steps back from the border side.

            “To each his own,” Brie repeated under his breath.

4

Henrietta felt nervous. Their new manager was about to come. She heard from coworkers that his flight was delayed for two hours and he would be late. Her dress was carefully ironed; her nails and hair were perfect; she looked great that evening.

Karl never gave her a call, but she was still hoping. Only a few days passed, Henrietta thought he might be busy at work; she was trying to lift herself up. The glass of sparkling wine she had in her hand was already out of bubbles, but she didn’t want to drink it, thinking that having alcohol on your breath while talking to your new boss was something unacceptable. Her coworkers didn’t care about that very much and were happy with the free food and drinks. Henrietta was by herself, as usual, slightly smiling and keeping silent most of the time, giving short answers for routine questions about the weather.

Finally, the unknown figure appeared behind the half transparent glassy door. Everybody in the room turned their attention to the door and stopped talking. Henrietta took a few steps back, then came around and went back to her previous place. She chose the place right in front of the manager’s office entrance on purpose. She found it to be the best spot to meet the new manager and introduce herself. If her new boss would like to talk to her, he definitely would ask her to follow him.

            The figure went through the corridor and opened the door. A woman appeared on the threshold of the main office. Despite all expectations, management hired a woman for this position. Henrietta wasn’t ready for this turn of events. She opened her mouth in wonder, but immediately pulled herself together.  She was happy that she chose an unpretentious dress.

The woman confidently walked into the center of the room, stretched her thin lips into a formal smile and introduced herself.

            “ Good evening,” said the woman. “My apologizes for making you wait. However, I can see that you are not too concerned about that. That’s right, we don’t want to waste our time, too many things are waiting to be done. My name is Emilia Dilance. I was happy to accept this position as your manager. I heard a lot of good things about this company and this department. I’ll try not to make too many changes at once, but you should agree, that changes are for the best, most of the time. I will take my time and meet everybody in person, one by one, but a little later. You are welcome to proceed with the party. I will be joining you a little later. Thank you for your attention.”

The employees were pretty tight with their applause. They all were surprised to meet an older woman dressed in a formal suit with a stern gaze and silver hair tightly fixed at the back of her head.  They expected to see someone younger and more cheerful. 

Emilia went to her new office and closed the door right in front of Henrietta’s face, so quickly, that Henrietta didn’t have a chance to say a single word.

 

All of the employees got back to celebrating, making plans for later, and no one wanted to leave free food and drinks on a Friday night. Henrietta stood in the same place, confused, holding her glass of untouched sparkling wine.

She didn’t dare to knock and introduce herself as this would look as if she was buttering up to the new boss.

Suddenly, the manager’s office door opened and silver haired woman looked up and met the timid gaze of Henrietta’s eyes. Henrietta almost dropped her glass of wine due to the suddenness of her appearance.

The silver head said, “Excuse me, and you are?”

            “I am Henrietta,” she answered without delay.

            “Hmm, Henrietta, nice to meet you. Could you be so kind and bring me a glass of water? Pure water, please.”

            “Oh, sure. Give me a moment.” Henrietta got her courage back.

It took her a minute to find a sealed bottle of pure water and a clean glass, and she knocked on the manager’s door. Emilia asked her to come in; she sat at her desk digging into a bunch of papers.

            “Why did they leave all this trash here? Do you have any idea?” Emilia asked, keeping her head down.

            “My apologies, ma’am. I guess they didn’t have time to archive them. Would you like me to help you?” Henrietta stood next to the manager’s desk waiting for her response.

 

Emilia raised her head and stared at Henrietta for a few seconds, than said, “Yes, please. I would appreciate that, and thank you for the water.” She showed a hint of a smile.

            “My pleasure.” Henrietta smiled wide in response.

Henrietta moved closer to Emilia’s desk and looked at the papers she was working with, trying to find out their dates and level of importance.

            “Let me take all these and I’ll sort it out at my desk really quick.”

            “Why are you not hanging out with the others?”

Henrietta didn’t expect this question. Everybody in the office got used to her habit of working overtime. She said quietly as if asking to excuse her, “I am just, it’s not for me, I am…”

           “I see. I am not a fan of parties either, because we are coming here to work and not to party on the company’s expense or talk about one’s private life.”

            “That’s right.”

            “I like the way you think.” Emilia raised her eyes and looked at Henrietta. “You remind me of myself at your age. I think we’ll be able to work as a team. What was your name again?”

           “Henrietta Sheian, ma’am”

           “Nice to meet you, Henrietta. Would you mind coming in tomorrow morning and helping me a little, so I could figure out what’s going on at this end faster? And also, we could discuss some other details.”

           “Sure! With great pleasure!”

           “Tomorrow is Saturday, you remember that, right?”

           “Yes, I know, Saturday is fine. I wasn’t planning anything.”

           “Good. See you tomorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning. Hope it’s not too early for you?”

           “No, I like to work in the morning, with a fresh head.”

           “See you tomorrow then.”

           “Have a great evening.” Henrietta left Emilia’s office, slipped to her own desk and put all the papers she just grabbed from her new boss’s desk on it.

She couldn’t hide her excitement. No one noticed that anyway.

Henrietta left the office and decided to walk instead of taking the bus as usual. The rain stopped and she enjoyed the fresh cold air. Suddenly, her cell phone rang displaying an unknown number. Advertising, she thought but answered the call anyway.

‘Hi, Henrietta.” His voice sounded just as pleasant by phone as in person. “How are you? Sorry, I was busy and didn’t call you right away, but I’ll get better, I promise. By the way, are you busy tonight?”

            “Hey.” Henrietta didn’t expect his call. She had made up her mind that he wouldn’t call; usually no one called.  “I am on my way home,” she answered.

            “Do you mind changing your plans? How about having dinner together?” He spoke so confidently, as if he knew that she would take him up on his offer, as if it was written on her face that she was a lonely loser and always free on a Friday night.

           “Yes, why not,” she said without even thinking. Unconsciously, she was afraid to play any dating games when she didn’t even know what the rules were.

           “Great!” Karl sounded happy “Let’s meet in half an hour at Henry’s. Do you know the place?”

            “Sure, I am not that far from it.”

           “Alright, see you there.” Karl hung up.

           “See you,” Henrietta answered, but he had already disconnected.

Maybe luck finally decided to turn its smiling face on her, was the way she thought that night. But I have to work tomorrow morning, she remembered suddenly. It’s ok, we will just have a quick dinner, go to bed early, and have a clear mind for tomorrow morning, she thought.

It was bright and noisy in Henry’s. She followed the hostess and took a sit at a corner table. Her cheeks returned to their normal pale color. She sat and looked at the white figurine made from the cotton napkin. It’s beautiful, it would be sad to destroy this beauty, she caught herself having these weird thoughts. Karl was late, but the red roses were the best excuse he could have.

Henrietta couldn’t remember the last time she got flowers. She didn’t know how to react to the attention and sweet words from an almost, unknown man.

The dinner was perfect. They talked about minor things. Karl showed interest and patiently listened to everything she was saying. She was talking about the flowers and about her dog, describing how much she missed her, but didn’t have a chance to get another one because she was too busy at work. Maybe she’ll get another pet later, but definitely not now.

Karl was a gentleman. He took care of the check and asked to be permitted to take her home. Henrietta was doubtful for a second, but than decided that if she didn’t give her luck a chance, it would leave her forever. She finally grew bold and talked nonstop. She forgot the last time she spoke about her personal life. She didn’t trust anyone with her fears and her dreams.

They reached her apartment building and it happened somehow that Henrietta asked Karl to come in. The night air finally got her to lose her mind.  She was charmed by Karl and gave herself into his hands and experience.

He promised to call her soon, when he left her home a few hours later. She closed the door, filled with promise and hope. She slept like a baby that night. It was hard to understand that she had to get up the next morning, when the alarm woke her up.  Her soul was seeking a day off, but her brain got the soul back to its place pretty fast and forced her body to get herself together. 

She almost missed her ride, but was lucky to catch the bus and wasn’t late. Henrietta sat at her desk working on the papers that she took from Emilia’s office last night, when her new boss came in.

Emilia was looking at Henrietta with more interest this time. She was satisfied with the way Henrietta was dressed up and the way she was acting and talking. They spent a few hours talking about work issues and Emilia made a note that she liked Henrietta, a rare personality, who preferred to dedicate one’s life to work.

Emilia could be easily recognized as one of those people who spends her time alone, works 18 hours a day, hides loneliness in a bunch of useless papers. She dedicated her life to work. Slowly, step-by-step, she built her career, time after time covering for her coworkers who were always busy with family stuff. She had always been around when someone needed another vacation or time off for their children’s issues. Emilia was always ready for a challenge and took her time to get to the position she was in at this moment. She preferred not to think about the time that she spent on her way up, time that she would never get back, or another chance for happiness. She did her best to assure herself that career and independence were the main things for a woman in this day and age. She had been telling herself that it was much better to catch every opportunity, manage your time as you liked, and not bother with housework and children.  She tried to force employees to follow her, but haven’t met anyone who agreed to leave behind their private life for the sake of work.

Henrietta reminded Emilia of herself, but 20 years younger.  The same lack of confidence in front of bosses, the same attempts to show her devotion to the company, and the same victim of career misconceptions. Emilia looked at Henrietta with pity, but in fact she pitied herself, though, she knew that it was stupid. She would like to admit that she was wrong, that her career was not worth an empty bed and lonely weekends, smothered under another bunch of useless papers, but that maybe her life was in vain, and this thought drove Emilia down. She preferred to keep those thoughts as far away as possible, pretending she was a happy, independent person.

Henrietta thought that Emilia liked her, and she was right. Emilia made her an offer to be her assistant that day.

            “Maybe it is an unexpected offer and a decision made too fast, but I feel a potential in you and I think that you’ll become irreplaceable in this position.”

Henrietta couldn’t find the words to thank her new boss for the opportunity or to assure her that she made the right choice. Henrietta would do her best in order not to disappoint her.

That day it seemed to Henrietta that she was floating home on cotton pillows made of her dreams and hopes. She thought that this was the chance she had been waiting for and this was the reward for her hard work all these years. She expected a new life to start soon. She thought that the God had sent her all these blessings at once. She met Karl right on time, she thought, and her head was spinning remembering last night. She thought that with just a little more time and effort that she would be able to have the life she had always dreamed about. She must be patient, work harder and wait a little more.

5

Brie was daydreaming, lying on the transparent floor of the deck. Ivan sat next to him and wrote something in a thin notepad.

Brie saw the happiness in his dreams. He saw the eyes of his mother full of joy because he gave her a smile. She gently touched his back, singing a beautiful melody under her breath. He saw himself lying in the crib completely naked and the rays of the midday sun caressing his tender infant skin, warming it up. He felt her soft hands gently touch his body. The air around him smelled like baby cream and he liked that smell. He would remember it as the smell of mommy’s warm, caring hands.

Brie turned to the other side, opened his eyes for a second and went back to sleep. Now, he saw himself running back home from school along a narrow sidewalk with a backpack and holding a small bouquet of violets. He’s nine years old. He smelled the delicate aroma of the violets and he was excited about seeing his mother’s joy when he presented the flowers to her. He had great news to share. His test results were the best at school and he was assigned to a special program that offered huge opportunities for the education of talented children. Because of his outstanding talent in science, despite his young age, he’d been invited to take part in a trip to the university’s laboratory, where the most talented high school students went. The school would cover all expenses; there was a special sponsor’s grant for that. He was hurrying to share the news with mom and didn’t notice a small hole, stumbled and fell. Violets scattered in different directions. He noticed the wound on his knee, the blood on it, but it didn’t worry him at all. He was much more worried about the violets and picked them up. This was a small gift for her, for the one he loved more than anyone else in the world, for his mom. He finally picked up all the violets and went home, carefully watching his steps.

            A fresh wind blew; Ivan covered Brie with a warm blanket and proceeds to write something in his notepad.

Now, Brie saw himself a 17-year-old teenager. He had a funny hat on his head. He had just graduated from high school. He was the most talented student and he had offers from the best universities, his choice to make. His mom was so proud of him. And he knew his choice of profession, too. He would go into medicine, to find a cure for cancer; he had to save his mom’s life. He would become a professor of pharmacology. The surgeries and chemotherapy already applied could only postponed the end, the disease could come back at any moment. He was short of time, but he was so close to the solution. He knew he’d find it; he’d been working on it for the past few years and he was almost there. Another few months and they would start drug trials on rats, than on pigs and if all went well, they would proceed to humans. He was confident in the formula; he had a sixth sense that he was on the right path. He knew that this was his destiny – his mission in this world – to create the medicine against cancer and save the life of his beloved mother, along with the others thousands of lives.    

The wind had changed. The air became wet and thick. The moisture covered the transparent deck’s floor and borders. Ivan knew that kind of smell very well, the smell of hard decisions. He could imagine what was going on down on the earth at that moment, but he didn’t want to think about it, hoping for the best. It was still not decided and it could be changed at any minute. There was always that one crucial minute involved, there was always the fight taking place, the fight between “yes” and “no,” between coldness and warmth, between brain and soul, the ultimate fight between life and death. Ivan looked at Brie, he was dreaming with a smile on his face.

Brie saw himself at 22. Now his mother was getting better, she slowly recovered from the illness. The last five years he had worked hard, spending days and nights in the university laboratories. He had no time to sleep, no time for pleasure while studying and working on the medicine for his mom. He succeeded! He found the solution and created the ultimate medicine against the cancer. The first tests went well. Then his mom volunteered for testing. They both had nothing to lose, because her disease had progressed so much in the last few years. She stood with one foot in the grave when he started the tests. He turned the disease back in time. She completely recovered.  He saved her life; he was her hero. She was so proud of him. He gave her a second chance to live, a reward for the life given to him 22 years ago.

Ivan smelled something burning. The sky above their head became dark and cloudy. A sudden wind took the blanket away from Brie. Ivan hugged Brie, hiding him from the wind. Brie was sleeping and his dreams were full of happiness. 

 

6

Three weeks later, Henrietta was working in her new position and doing her best to prove to her manager that she had made the right decision. Since she started as assistant to Emilia, Henrietta hadn’t spent a single day at home, working weekends and days with overtime. She proceeded to repeat the same mantra, assuring herself that she must be patient a little longer, and that her situation would change soon and that happiness would come.

Karl never called her again. Henrietta was upset at first, but then she forgot about it, completely drowning in work related issues. The only thing that reminded her about the happiest night of her life, was one dried up rose left in a vase. A reminder that happiness was real and it wasn’t just a dream when she had felt the silk hugs and warm breath of happiness.

But now she had to concentrate on work. She had waited for this chance for too long, no errors allowed. Not now!

This morning, she felt ill, it was hard to get out of bed. She felt dizzy and nauseated.  Henrietta tried to remember what she ate for dinner last night. Maybe the tuna wasn’t that fresh she thought, or maybe this was about the juice she forgot to put into the fridge the night before yesterday. Despite feeling sick, Henrietta got out of bed, and after her regular morning routine, went to the office.

            Emilia came late, as usual, since Henrietta started to assist her. Henrietta had already looked through all the reports and created the needed charts. She decided to skip breakfast and maybe lunch, as well. She felt sick all day long. The aroma of Emilia’s perfume seemed horrible to Henrietta that day; it smelled like acetic acid, but with hints of overwhelming sweetness. Later, someone in the office heated up his lunch, it was something with pan seared cabbage and onion, and Henrietta ran to the bathroom and threw up. She left the office earlier, or better to say, she didn’t work overtime that day.

The next morning everything repeated, again. She couldn’t explain her sickness away with food poisoning anymore because she hadn’t eaten anything the day before. She drank water all day long, not able to eat. It was hard to work; her brain refused to concentrate, distracted by the smells around the office. Emilia’s perfume seemed spicy today, the hair of one her coworkers had too much spray on it and Henrietta smelled as if her own hair were sprayed with the whole bottle. The colors appeared much brighter than usual. She never noticed that her keyboard had a thin yellow film all around the edges. What a beautiful color she thought, and this thought wouldn’t leave her alone the entire day.

A few days passed this way. Emilia noticed changes in Henrietta’s attitude and let her go to the doctor an hour earlier. Henrietta worried; she thought that something would go wrong if she was out of the office and no one would be able to handle it better than she could.

The Urgent Care clinic was empty. Henrietta had all the necessary papers filled out and sat on the soft couch waiting for the nurse to call her name. A few minutes later she followed the nurse in for blood test. Henrietta didn’t remember the last time she visited a doctor. She never had time for annual checkups, and thought that a blood test was a regular procedure for all patients; and there was no reason to delay and argue with the nurse about the necessity of this test. After all was done, nurse left her in the room to wait for the doctor and for the results.

Someone knocked at the door.

            “Yes, yes, come in.” Henrietta was nervous.

The doctor – a tall older – man entered the room and smiled at Henrietta.

            “Good afternoon Miss Sheian. My name is Dr. Spens. How are you feeling today?”

            “Hello Dr. Spens. Not very well, frankly.” Henrietta felt shy. “I feel sick all day long, my head is spinning and I feel tired every morning. All of this is abnormal for me.”

           “I see. But all these symptoms are absolutely normal in your current condition. You know?” doctor smiled and looked at Henrietta with warmth.

             “Condition?”

            “You’re pregnant. Congratulations my dear. You are in the first trimester around three to four weeks pregnant. We will have a more accurate count a little later, in 5 or 6 weeks you’ll have your first ultrasound. Before that, I highly recommend you rest more, avoid stressful situations, and start prenatal vitamins that I will prescribe to you.”

            “Pregnant? No, it’s not possible, I couldn’t, no, no way,” Henrietta spoke under her breath and didn’t listen to what the doctor was telling her. “Pregnant.”

            “Here are your test results” Doctor handed her the paper work. “I wish you all the best. The nurse will give you contacts of the nearest OBGYN assigned to our area. Again, congratulations!”

            Henrietta couldn’t understand what was going on. The word “pregnant” rang in her head like a fire alarm. This word meant the end of her hopes for a better life, a life that was supposed to happen soon; that was the way she took the news that day.  The nurse interrupted her panicked thoughts by giving her the prescription and wishing her all the best while helping her to leave the room.

Henrietta stepped out of the Urgent Care and cold air brought her back to reality. She headed to the bus stop, thinking about the situation, and trying to find the best way to proceed.

            “Karl. I have to tell him. He’s the father. There is no other way, but to tell him immediately.” She spoke under her breath all the way back home, trying to imagine different scenarios of her conversations with Karl and Emilia. “How would it be best to tell him; and how would I tell her? Oh God, I won’t be able to work as usual. Whom am I kidding? It’s not possible. Oh Lord! What should I do?” 

Henrietta was complete lost in thought. She finally decided to tell the news to Karl first and see how he would react to her news. She was scared of his reaction, but saw no other way to go.

She dialed his number, but no one answered.

Why he is not answering the phone? What if he is in trouble or sick? She worried about him with all her heart.

            “Hello, who is it?” Finally, he picked up the phone

            “This is me, Henrietta, how are you?”

            “Who?”

            “Henrietta, Karl. Hi”

            “Oh, Henrietta, sure, how are you?”

            “I’m fine,” she lied. “Look, umm, I need to talk to you ASAP.”

            “Hey, I’m busy, let’s talk next time.”

            “This is very important.” Her voice was breaking. She was about to cry.

            “Ok,” Karl said in an annoyed voice “But I am busy, don’t you get it?”

            “Please.” Henrietta tried to keep herself together. “Stop by my place, this is very important to me… and to you.”

            “F…” he said it under his breath. “Ok, I’ll stop by later today. Text me your exact address. Bye.” Karl hung up.

She texted him the exact address and sat on the couch unable to do anything else.

Karl came by a few hours later. She opened the door to let him in, but he refused to come in.

            “I am in a rush. Go ahead, what did you want to talk about?” He spoke in a rude manner demonstrating by his attitude that he didn’t really care and didn’t mean to see her ever again.

            “Do you want to something to drink?” she asked, which made him even angrier than he was before.

            “I told you. I am in a hurry.” He raised his voice at her

            “Oh, sorry. Umm, I wanted to tell you that… that…” She couldn’t get the words out of her mouth.

            “Hurry up!”

            “I’m pregnant.” She finally said and stared at him with a hopeful gaze.

            “And so?” He stared at her in response, but his gaze was empty.

            “I mean, that night, when you and me, you know. I am… I am expecting a baby now.” She thought he didn’t understand what she had just told him.

            “And so what? I have no clue whose baby it is.”

She didn’t expect him to say it and couldn’t understand how to react.

            “I need your help. Please,” she said.

            “What help? I am not looking for a family. This shit is not for me. I love my freedom too much.”

            “You said you like changes. This is just another change, the main change in your life. We could be happy together, we could spend our life together and find joy in every day. The baby would grow and bring us something new every single day. Isn’t that real happiness?” Her eyes became wet. She couldn’t keep tears away any longer

            “What the hell are you talking about? Changes! I don’t need this kind of change!” He yelled at her. “Look at you, even if I’d love you, but I don’t, you’ll become old and ugly soon. I can imagine how fat you’ll become in a couple of months, oh, shit. That shit doesn’t mean change, that fucking means the end of my life!” He spit in her face showing his contempt for her.

She couldn’t say a word; she was shocked and didn’t move. She stood and looked at him, calmly, but inside she suffered.

            “Happy for you two, don’t dare call me ever again,” he said, and rushed to the elevator, and out of her life forever.

She stood at the threshold of her apartment, motionless for another few minutes, and then she closed the door and sat on the cold floor. She couldn’t cry out loud, she was struck with a quiet numbness.

The next morning, she had to get all her courage to go to work as if nothing happened. Emilia was waiting for her and invited her into the office to have a talk. This was the moment that Henrietta waited for with fear. She forced herself to put a smile on her face and entered Emilia’s office.

            “Have a sit, please,” Emilia offered. Usually she didn’t give her a chance for a single breath, and now she was offering her a seat. Emilia stared at Henrietta with a straightforward gaze and asked, “What’s your decision? Have you made it already?”

            Henrietta clearly understood what Emilia was asking about, but she didn’t have an answer yet. She had no chance to think about everything and to accept the situation in her mind. She needed a little more time to understand her own position and to make a final decision.

            “I don’t know yet. I…” Henrietta spoke quietly.

Emilia could barely hear her and that pissed her off a bit. She suddenly got up. “How are you planning to handle it with regards to your job?” she asked, with a hint of disdain. Most people would offer “congratulations” with such an event, even if it wasn’t planned. But Emilia could only ask about the decision in her special distasteful tone.

            “I need to think about it.” Henrietta stared at floor. She didn’t dare to raise her head and meet Emilia’s stern gaze.

            “Take a short vacation. Three days. That should be enough. Actually, you’ll have five full days with the weekend. A real vacation.” Emilia grimly smiled.

            “Should be enough,” Henrietta said under her breath. “Thank you.”

            “Make the right choice.” Emilia stated in a quite different manner.

She spoke them quietly, in a soft tone with hints of regret. It seemed that she said it not to Henrietta, but more to herself. But Henrietta took these words close to heart and left the room without saying anything else. She gathered her belongings and left the office.

Emilia locked the door of her office from inside and pulled out a half empty bottle of scotch. The rest of that day she sat at her desk drinking, one after another, crying and repeating the same words, “Please, make the right decision, please make the right choice.”

Henrietta reached home and fell into bed totally broken. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. She felt like a little girl – lost, alone and scared.

 She’d spent two days in bed thinking; trying to make the right decision.

To make the right choice.

7

Brie opened his eyes and smiled at Ivan. He got up and stretched his body after the sweet dream.

            “Have I slept?”

            “Yes”

            “It was interesting. I’ve never slept before.”

            “Everything happens at least once for the first time.”

            “Right! I saw many different things. What was that?”

            “You saw your possible life.”

            “That means that mommy is sick, right?”

            “Unfortunately.”

            “That means that she needs me.”

            “She needs you a lot, and it is not only she who needs you very much.”

            “Mommy, wait a little, I’ll save you my dear mommy” Brie went to the border of the deck, only now he noticed that the sky had changed its color and the air didn’t smell like violets any more.

            “We have to go.” Ivan said quietly. He didn’t look into Brie’s eyes.

            “To meet mommy? Is it time? But…” Brie understood everything, he didn’t know how, but he understood what had happened. “But, Why? “Mommy, did she kill me?”

            “I am sorry”

            “But why?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “She didn’t even see me, how could she do that? Why?  I love her so much, I saw us together, I saw myself, I saw her, I saw us.” Hot tears burned Brie’s cheeks. He looked at Ivan, waiting for the answers that he was unable to give.

            “Let’s go, it’s time,” Ivan said in whisper and gave his hand to Brie.

            “But mommy, what about mommy? She’ll die soon! No! Why?”

            “That was her choice. I am sorry.”

            “But I don’t understand!” Brie couldn’t stop crying.

Ivan took him into his arms and went back to the border of memory and crossed it keeping Brie in his arms.

It was light in the room. Brie dried up his eyes and looked at Ivan with a quiet steady gaze.

            “Again?”

            “I am sorry.”

            “Sixth time.”

            “I am really sorry.”

            “I don’t understand.”

            “Nor do I.”

Brie went back to the light room with many children playing on the floor. He sat on the side alone. After a few years, the girl will join him. Her name will be Alina. She will sit next to him and faithfully guard his peace and passion. Brie remembers Rita, as well as the other five girls, who were destined to him earlier. They all were born when their time came, and they all would have to spend their lives lonely in a freezing world. Maybe they’d get lucky; meet the same lonely soul, the one who was destined to someone else, who had never been born.

            Ivan went back to the sky office and sat at his desk. Everybody in the office kept silent. They couldn’t understand why Brie kept getting rejected by people and kept coming back to the waiting room, for the sixth time, for the last 300 years. They needed him so much. Thousands of them are praying for him to come and save their lives every day. But, again, he returned to the waiting room.

Another attempt will take place in 50 years…

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