Being Inspired, maybe - 124

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

It was a secret I had promised to take to the grave, and now, that time looked as though it was upon me.
Old age and a failing heart had left me in a situation where my final days were playing out in a convalescent home.

At least it was surrounded by parkland and sunshine, far more, it seemed, that one could expect in this part of England.

Except for today, it was overcast with a hint of rain, foreboding perhaps?

I was out in the gardens, on my favorite seat, neat the roses.  On a sunny day when the flowers were out, it was quite picturesque.

Today, in the gloomy outlook, the last of the flower petals had withered and fallen to the ground, it felt like they too were on their last legs 

It was, I mused, the cycle of life.

My replacement, I knew, was Amelia, one of three granddaughters and two grandsons.  She, of all of them, at 18, had more of a sense of adventure in her that the others put together.

Perhaps in some small measure, that was my fault.  From a young age, I used to pretend to read stories from books at night before tucking her in.

And it wasn't until she was nearly ten before she realized that those stories were not in the books.
From that point, she became intrigued with my life, not one I would say was filled with high adventure, but more like, I just happened to be there at the time 

Then as a school project, she had been asked to write a small essay as a biography of one of her relatives, namely me, and having done that, several years later decided to expand upon it.

Thus, every week, without fail, she came to visit on a Wednesday afternoon, and we would talk, she would take notes, and record the sessions 

Now, she had begun to realize what I already knew, that our time together was running out 

When Amelia had settled comfortably, we resumed.

"Now," she said, "I've been going over all the notes and filling out a rough timeline of events.  Oddly, or perhaps deliberately on your part, there is a gap of about six months."

Yes, I knew there was a gap, and yes, it was deliberate, and I had hoped she might miss it, or just overlook it. She was sharp, and clever, not the sort to miss a detail like that.

"What happened?"

I had been debating whether I should tell her.  It had been the most interesting thing that has ever happened to me, but it was a story I'd told none about, quite simply because I didn't think anyone would believe me.

I hadn't quite believed it myself, and had, in recent times, struggled to come to terms with what had happened.  The question was, did she really have to know?

I thought I'd skirt the issue if she would let it drop.

"Nothing really.  It's where I met your grandmother, and like a tricky trout, she wasn't easily caught.  Of course, I don't blame her for having reservations because back then I was a lot more of a reprobate as you can imagine."

"I'd have thought that would make you more interesting, especially in a woman's eyes.  The boys I know are so boring, stuck on their phones and computers, or coming up with lame ways to act out their stupidity."

"Then boys haven't changed much over time.  Back in my time, it was cars and chasing girls, neither of which I was successful by the way."

She rolled her eyes at me, simply because that was not necessarily true, as some of what I'd told her leading up to that point bore witness.

"So, aside from trying to deflect the conversation, what really happened then.  Where did you go, because I know grandma was not English, in fact, none of us could guess where she came from "

"Hong Kong, actually.  In my earlier years when I finally realized life wasn't going to be all parties, my father got me a post in the Foreign Office as it was known then, and they saw fit because I'd learned to speak Mandarin, to send me to Hong Kong.  I was supposed to go somewhere else in China, but I only got as far as Hong Kong.  Got lost, which wasn't all that hard back then."

"But I don't think she was Chinese either."

Good observation.  She wasn't Chinese, not completely.  For all intents and purposes, she held a Hong Kong passport, as well as an English passport, but that had been for convenience so that she could come back to England with me when my 'tour' of the far east was over.  The ambassador at the time was an acquaintance of my fathers who, for some inexplicable reason, owed him a favor. 

I took a deep breath.  There was a story behind where my wife had come from, one that was as fantastic as the fact that she wanted to remain with me, forsaking her other life until she had been forced to return, another story in itself.  The thing is, would she believe me, or should I just spin another tale, one more plausible?

"I know that look," she said, with a slight degree of exasperation in her tone.  "When you used to read us stories or pretend to, you had that exact same look.  Like you're about to make it up.  Those stories were just stories, weren't they?"

I let a moment pass before answering.  Then, "Actually, they were quite real.  I could say to you, I used to have quite vivid dreams of what could be called another life. There are those who believe we are reincarnated, and somewhere in our brains, the memories of those times are locked away.  I certainly remember those times quite vividly, but they were not from a past life."

I could see the look on her face, and it was a cross between disbelief and incredulous.

She also shook her head before saying, "Seriously, I think you are losing your marbles."

I smiled.  "Just before, when you said I looked like I was thinking about what story to tell you, it was really about whether I should tell you the truth.  The thing is, truth is stranger than fiction.  But it will be possible for you to prove it is real.  But remember, if you choose for me to tell you, you will be forced to swear you will never, ever, tell anyone this truth."

I could see, almost in an instant the bright look in her eyes, the same her grandmother used to get when she first married me and we moved into an apartment.  Everything had been new and exciting.  Now, I could see that in Amelia.

She rummaged in her bag, the one I often said held everything but the kitchen sink, and pulled out a battered copy of a bible, one that her Grandmother had given her, just before she passed away.  She put her right hand on it and said, quite solemnly, "I swear."

© Charles Heath 2020


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