Of Love and Death – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 21

book 1

Obviously it was a severe blow to M and I. She had come to define herself as the head of a global organisation where death stared at her from every corner, but suddenly it was sat beside her with its hand on her thigh. I could see it in her. She wasn’t the type to complain or pity herself but in between the blinks of her eyes it was clear, she didn’t want to let go of her old self. And so we stayed in Victoria for another few weeks while she plotted her course. And in that time we grew even closer. She didn’t tremble any more at night, but she clung to me so sweetly that I was contented more than I had ever been in either life. Many times she would wake at night and look up at me with tears in her eyes. This dangerous creature who was feared around the globe by hundreds of hardened killers was a soft pet in my arms. I loved her more and more deeply in those few days and when she finally asked if I would live a normal boring life with her I didn’t hesitate.

Her first in command was Torgeir; the keeper of all secrets. He organised shipments and murders, new hires and coups, purchasing and manufacturing, distribution and bombings. Everything went through him up there in the middle of nowhere. That mountainous being was the crux of all operations and had been since M’s parents started their business decades before. We returned to Gambell and M handed over the reins with a bitter reluctance which her successor acknowledged with a father’s decency. I never saw her so hurt in that life. That moment was a death for her. A silent voluntary robbery. And while I was for her stepping down from her throne I was as wounded for her too while I watched as she handed over her identity to the closest thing her family had to a friend.

We flew back to the mainland within hours and then on to Warsaw and took a train to a town called Andrychów. It was a solemn journey. No laughter or playing. Only the silent pain of a woman who had had to relinquish herself. I knew that pain. All too well I knew it. And so I never pushed her. Instead I sat with her and brought her food and drinks and blankets when she tired. She didn’t speak that whole time either, but she planted the softest kisses on my cheek whenever I comforted her.

All the while I led her to a house in the mountains outside Andrychów, one of the many houses that her family had legally acquired over the years. It was rustic and aged but it was fitted with all the modern comforts. When we arrived I arranged M on the sofa in the lounge and lit a fire in the large stone fireplace to keep her warm. The house hadn’t been occupied in years but it was stocked and restocked every few months by a local housekeeper hired to maintain it.

The house sat on a few fenced acres on the side of a large hill that back in Ireland I would have called a mountain. To get to it we had to take an old road that wound around the hill as it stopped at other properties, each about a mile or so apart. So aside from the occasional passing herd of goats, or a neighbour running errands, the whole world seemed to have forgotten us up there. It was perfect.

It wasn’t long before M was up and moving. As we walked the hills and talked for hours about nothing even I could see that she was deconstructing her past to rebuild herself anew. She told me of the loneliness that even I was unaware of. I never knew that growing up she secretly hated her parents for never being at home. I also never knew that the maids used to underfeed her. Nor did I know about the bullying in school. And there were the reams of other worries that had slipped by me in both lives. I felt tiny when she told me. I had let those things happen to her by not noticing them and then doing something about them myself. Dog or no I had the means and will to protect her, but I had failed her in those dark moments. I told her as much too and she reassured me, which made me feel even smaller, however, that was only until I realised that what I was feeling then was nothing compared to what she was going through. After all, she had given up the whole world, literally.

That’s how it went for us that first winter. It was a beautiful place to watch the seasons change. The snow was deep and the woods spread wide across the surrounding mountains. We watched nearly every sunset together and we ate well. In a way it was like stepping back in time to my old life. Everything was simple. There were no armour trucks or mercenaries or gods from other worlds. There was only M and I and she grew in strength right through the winter. By the time that spring found us she a new woman. We walked miles each day then, growing fitter and fitter until we were both strong and trim. It felt great not only to be so healthy but to have become so healthier together. But the day came of course when we’d outgrown that place. And while we loved it there we both knew it was time to move on. Then one morning I turned to my love over breakfast, “So where to?”

“Somewhere warm? All this snow is beautiful but I wouldn’t mind some sun.”

“I always wanted to see the jungle. The real jungle.”

“Too humid.”

“Saudi Arabia?”

“Too dry.”

“Venice?”

“Too smelly.”

“Ehhh… Moscow?”

“Too Russian.”

“… Clondalkin.”

“Gesundheit.”

“What?”

“Where?”

“Clondalkin.”

“Where’s that?”

“I’m surprised you didn’t do any business there. Maybe your parents did before your time… it’s a village in Dublin. Just outside the city centre. Not very nice but not too nice either. Plenty of places to hide in plain sight.”

“… interesting. What are the property prices like?”

“Cheap. Piss cheap!”

“Good. Find a place. How do you know about this place anyway?”

“I grew up there. Well, I did before… you know… ”

“Baby, we can’t. You’ll be recognised.”

“I’m not me anymore remember? I never grew up there in this life. I grew up in your house.”

“But don’t you still look like you?! Wait… ”

“What?”

“If you’re you from this life, is the other you from our previous life, when I was Winnie, now out there somewhere too? I mean, if he didn’t meet Ola and Winnie and die the way you did before then surely he’s out there, still living his life.”

“Shit. I never even thought about it. We could find him.”

“Is that really a good idea, Baby? Is there not some paradoxical thing that says you shouldn’t meet him?”

“That’s if he exists. Jesus, I have to know… now that I’ve thought of it.”

Maybe it would have been best to not have gone looking. Maybe we should have stayed in Poland. But we didn’t, we went to Clondalkin and we sought out the other James Fay. The “Real” James Fay.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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