I remember the day I met Richard Murdock as if it were yesterday. It was a cold day, a strong autumn wind blowing through the valley our small town was nestled in. The parking of our high school was laid out with a thick carpet of all colorful leaves, a few twirling in the air, as if suspended by magic.
I was heading to the pickup of my childhood friend and boyfriend of two years, Robert. Robert was a handsome guy, just under 6 feet, he was an athlete and his body toned accordingly. He had a mop of fiery red hair and sparkling blue eyes that always seemed to laugh at you. He now grinned at me, that grin I adored, and opened his arms in our customary welcome. My only mistake was to quicken my pace.
The leaves, that made the surrounding so beautiful, were also deceivingly slippery. One moment I was walking towards Robert and the next I was pitching backwards, the sky flashing before my eyes. Too surprised to do anything I just waited for the fall. Suspiciously enough it did not come.
Instead I felt strong arms encircle my waist and I was suddenly tugged up and against a firm chest. The adrenalin running high, I trembled against my savior. Picking myself together I pushed firmly at his chest and looked up at his face to thank him. And was caught in the depth of the most amazing green eyes I had ever seen. They were solemn, none of that customary spark I was used to, the shade of the deepest forests. Small flickers of gold were splattered around the iris, a deeper shade of green invading from the borders of the pupil. They had a depth to them that you could drown in.
And that's exactly what I did. I was shaken out of my stupor only by the feeling of Roberts arms around me.
"Hey, Jena, are you okay?" He was worried I could tell by his voice and the way he held me. "Thanks man. I owe you big." Robert addressed my savior with gratitude.
The stranger glanced at him and his eyes flickered back to me, before he nodded and turned without a word, slinging his rucksack on his shoulder and, hiding his hands in his pockets, walked towards the road. His long legs took him fast to the bend and soon his tall figure disappeared from sight.
"C'mon Jen. Let's get you home." Robert nudged me gently and, with his arms still around me, led me to the old pickup. I glanced over my shoulder at where the mysterious man disappeared, my eyes lingering on the bend, an irrational hope flaring up in me, that he'd be there. That's how I first met Richard Murdock.
I later learned he went to our school. Apparently he was a loner. Perhaps that was why I hadn't noticed him earlier. He'd sit by a lonely table, never a friend in sight. I learned he wasn't a talkative guy and that the people who tried to befriend him were just given the cold shoulder. I was irrationally blocking that possibility out of my consciousness. I seemed to have this sudden belief that he was a good guy. How silly of me.
I still didn't stop me from watching him, observing. Had I thought about it, I would have felt foolish about it. Every time he'd walk into a room my eyes would be naturally drawn to him. Sometimes he'd catch me and instead of bashfully looking away, I'd stare back and we'd enter what became a natural gaze duel.
One day when Robert was sick and my friends away I gathered my resolve and sat down next to him on the lunch break. He just glanced up from his book, our gazes locking, a silent agreement passing between us, before he went back to his reading. I went about my own business.
"I'm Richard Murdock." His deep, rumbling voice sent shivers down my spine.
"I'm Jena. Jena Fiztwick" And those were the only words that passed between us. But from that moment on something changed and something shifted and suddenly I could tell if he was in a room full of people without looking and felt his moves as though they were my own. From that day on I begun looking forward to our every meeting.
It first happened on a party. I managed to convince Richard to come but the only thing he was doing was presenting how to be a first grade wallflower. With Robert too busy arguing with his friends over the newest Yankee – Boston game, I headed for my unusual friend.
"Having a good time?" I asked with a touch of sarcasm to my voice. He just looked down at me with those serious eyes of his, but I noticed the barest ghost of a smile tugging on the corners of his lips. I smiled back and leaned against the wall beside him, taking in his stillness and the warmth his body radiated. We stood like that for a few moments. I spared a glance at Robert who was now frantically waving his arms as if to prove a point. I smiled before moving from the wall.
"You wana' get a breath of fresh air?"
Richard nodded his face passive as always but his eyes glinted with the barest of gratitude.
We slipped out of the stuffy, warm room into the cool summer evening. Moving into the garden I sat down on the soft grass and gazed up at sky, a thousand stars glittering back at me. I felt Richard sit beside me. He stilled as he usually did, his face upturned, basked in the soft light of the moon. I marveled at the perfection of his features, the strong jaw, the slightly aquiline nose, the high brow, that was slightly drawn in an almost everlasting frown, and a short cut mop of jet black hair. I was mesmerized, drugged by the warmth of his body. Perhaps that, along with the small amount of alcohol I consumed earlier, made me more bold, my restraints weaker. I reached up, tracing his features with the pads of my fingers. He turned to stone under my touch, barely breathing.
After what seemed like an eternity, he turned to look at me and that was the first time I saw him slip in that all mighty control of his. His eyes sparkled slightly as he reached up, gently grasping my hand in his bigger one. As if it were the most natural thing our fingers entwined, his thumb ghosting over my knuckles. A sigh left my lips and I leaned into his shoulder, fighting to regain my composure. He sat silently. Nothing was the same after that.
I was still seeing Robert but I was painfully half hearted about our relationship. But he didn't seem to notice and our relationship was the rock of my life. I was far too afraid of losing it.
Still I felt like a planet orbiting around a star and that star was Richard. He seemed to be everywhere those days. It was a time when we didn't know what we were, or at least I didn't. We'd brush up against each other, our hands ghosting touches, our gazes speaking more than our words could ever convey. When we were around each other it seemed impossible not to touch. But I was still in a relationship and Richard was the perfect gentleman and, even if his façade slipped sometimes, I saw in his gaze that he would not make a move.
And so we went on and on, the tension between us growing into a storm and both of us knew that it would break out over us sooner or later and there was no stopping it.
I was consumed by guilt. I couldn't look Robert straight in the eye anymore and every time he kissed me or showed any kind of affection towards me I felt like crying. Still I braved it and tried to restrain myself from Richard. But he was like a drug and I was addicted. We both agreed that we had to stop whatever we were doing. And we managed. For a week.
I hoped that it would be easier to concentrate on Robert without Richard around but my hopes were futile. Without him I felt as though my soul was gnawed at and the feeling intensified with every day. I started to slip and even Robert noticed. His concern hurt all the more.
It was on the seventh day and I was late for class. After a week of sleepless nights I finally felt into an exhausted sleep last night and awoke an hour into my lessons. I hurried to school but missed the bell for the third lesson.
Just as I was hurrying to my classes he rounded the corner and the world stopped. All our agreements and resolutions crumbled to dust as our gazes locked. Suddenly me world was narrowed to his person only and any sane thought disappeared from my mind. My rucksack tumbled to the floor as I moved towards my star, his gravitation pulling at me and this time there were no restraints.
We met in the middle and suddenly there was no distance to small between our bodies. I pressed myself blindly against him, breathing him in deeply, my hands threading his hair and roaming his shoulders. He stood still, only his vice grip on me and the gentle tremble of his body against mine being any indicators of the turmoil of emotions inside him. He took a deep breath and let it out, a deep shudder wrecking his body. I gripped his face, stroking it lovingly, dropping feather light kisses on his forehead, cheeks, nose and eyes. His hands fumbled for mine and he pulled away a bit. I watched the battle raging in his eyes, how hard he was trying to gain back control. But he lost and I lost and he took my hand leading me away from the corridor and into a small alcove. My back hit the wall and his lips descended onto mine and the world faded away.
I later claimed I was sick on that day. Robert expressed his worry but I smiled a tight smile at him and assured him I was fine. In secret I suffered. Without Richard the longing for him ate me away but at the same time the guilt didn't fade. But when he was by my side he invaded all my senses and there was no guilt or pain or fear. He became the single thing I looked towards most, every day. The stolen moments, the sweet taste of his lips were like a fuel to me, giving me the strength to go on, living this lie of a life.
But finally we got to the point where it was just too much and we both agreed that something had to be done. Richard said it was my choice what to do but we both knew that I had already chosen.
So I finally gathered my courage and walked up to talk to Robert. But when I looked into his sparkling, loving eyes, I broke and told him it was nothing important and fled like a common criminal.
That night I met Richard and told him what happened. He just nodded and gathered me close and said nothing.
When Robert finally did find out, it was one of the worst days of my life. He stormed into the house, fuming. I silently thanked the spirits my parents were away. He shouted I betrayed him, that I went behind his man with another man. And all the time I could see in his eyes that he waited for me to deny it. When all I did was stare at him silently, tears streaming down my face, he broke. He looked like a man deprived of his soul. I expected him to howl at me, call me names. But he only slumped, his face wet with his own tears and walked out without a word.
Robert didn't speak to me for two months after that and it was like a dagger twisting in my heart. Richard was my star, my reason, he held my heart, but it was Robert who was by my side from when we were crawling on our bellies. And that loss lay foul between me and Richard. He never said anything but I've learned to read him like a book. I could see his own suffering and disapproval in the slight tightening of his mouth or the way small wrinkles appeared around his eyes. But he said nothing and sometimes it spoke more than enough.
And then one day he was gone. A brain aneurism the surgeons said, very rare in a person of his age and fitness. That day when his mother called me my world crumbled and darkness fell over me. I remember crying till my head hurt and my throat was raw from screaming. For the next few days I cried myself to sleep and then awoke to crying. I didn't eat, I didn't speak to anyone. I almost missed the funeral but my mother stormed into my room and didn't give me much of a choice.
I stood like a rock, like he stood often, as his mother opened the urn with his ashes and slowly, gently scattered them to the strong north bound wind that blew that day. It was exactly like the wind that blew on that very first day we met and I closed my eyes as it whipped around me, tugging at my hair and clothes. And somewhere over the sniffs of the mourners and the howls of the wind I thought I heard his voice. And it was soothing and deep and then it was gone.
Thirteen years passed from that day. I barely spoke to anyone for the next half a year and the later only to my close friends and only sporadically. I saw no purpose or reason in what I was doing. I walked, without a soul, without a heart. I knew people worried, that my parents worried but I didn't care much for it.
It was Robert who snapped me out of it. One day he just appeared at my side and drove me to ridge where we'd gone often as kids. He sat me down without a word and slumped beside me and we hadn't spoken a word for the whole four hours we sat there. And as the rays of the setting sun basked us in their glow, I felt something slipping my grasp. And then I let go and cried again like I hadn't cried since the funeral and Robert held me without a word.
After that he was there for me on every step of the way as I went back to my normal life. He coaxed me into learning for the final exams. Thanks to him I passed and got into Yale. We married two years later and our first son was born a year after that.
I stand on the balcony of our small house, the moon basking me in its glow. It's a beautiful night, the stars bright. I hear soft padding behind me. I turn around to see a boy of nine standing at the doors to the balcony. He's rubbing his eyes sleepily, the teddy he claims he doesn't sleep with anymore, tucked firmly under his arm.
"Mom? What are you doing out here so late?" He asks tiredly. I smile softly and beacon him to me. Hugging him softly I turn back to the sea opening before us.
"Nothing, my love, nothing." We stand like that for a few more silent minutes, until the boy almost doses off. I smile lovingly at him and gently lead him back to the bedroom.
"C'mon Richard, it's time for bed."
And as I walk him through the doors I feel a soft breeze on my back and it carries a deep, soft voice. And then it's gone.