He stood by the shore, watching the distant, shrunken sphere of a sun slowly rise from its horizon to the depth. The rays, accompanied by its welcoming warmth, cascaded down his vapid eyes.
Daylight was supposed to bring with it the feeling of being alive; the feeling of once again having a fresh start, but that was quite the opposite for Travis.
“I am not going to lie.”
He was unwilling to break contact with the rising sun, lest he should meet the silent yet guilty-filled gaze of Tori, a woman of about twenty-six, clad in black house pajamas, who stood by his side -though a few meters away, watching the rising sun, too.
“I once did,”
The cool water lapped at his feet, fizzing. Waves ahead roar and roll down, crashing onto the shore with soft hiss and dragging along with it golden sand back into the lake.
“When we were still in Collage.”
The breeze, though a small gust of wind, blew past him, causing his body to shudder, not from its chills, but the overwhelming guilt which suddenly washed over him.
“But now, Victoria, I’m not so sure anymore.”
Victoria? The name inspired in her great horror and utter dislike. He’d never called her by that name, not since their wedding two years ago.
She never could have imagined hearing her name -her real name -from a man whom she loved all her adult life would hurt her so. But it did. If he’d called her by her first name, he should as well call her by her last seeing how ugly the situation is slowly turning.
And in those moments, she gave a second thought to what he just said. Just then, his words pierced her heart like a two-edged sword when they formed meaning in her aching head, and from the punctured holes of her wounded heart poured into her entire being, deep hatred and fury. She fought down the screams and sobs she could feel rising in her throat.
Tori knew what he wanted and wasn’t about to give it. She had to choke back her rage, and immediately a smile surfaced her feature. “Thought you might say that.” There was silent laughter in her voice.
Travis almost wept with bitterness, dark eyes smoldering. He looked at her through wide red-rimmed eyes, not believing what he just heard.
“Thought you might say that?”
A reaction totally unexpected.
He expected more. A breakdown. An outburst. Anything, but a smile.
The sunlight rouses more colours from their sleepy monochrome, bathing her face. Then she shifted her gaze, which was now almost blinded from staring too long at the sun, to look at the bespectacled man in the tweedy suit. A swelling of vein waiting to explode but kept under great control.
“You expected something more?” She inquired with an arched eyebrow, and her smile got just a bit more inscrutable.
He bristled at this and wasn’t yet sure what to make of that smile. Her emotion was controlled and her every word carefully picked, as if rehearsed for years just waiting for this very moment.
Her eyelid fluttering closed as she breathes in the briny aroma, then returned her faintly amused gaze to him. “I don’t hate you, Travis. I’m not sure I ever will.”
He looked guilty, perhaps spited even, but either ways Tori had never seen him with such sour expression.
She doesn’t hate me? Even for his wife, it seemed to him like a cynical thing to say. Why? Does she mean that? Or is she simply trying to get to him. His mind was set on going to meet his therapist, and at the same time he wanted so badly to hurt her, but couldn’t. She hadn’t given any real reason, yet.
* * * *
Half an hour later, Travis plopped himself down on the couch turning to face Mark Wolfe, a licensed professional counsellor who sat opposite gazing at him with a rather concerned look. The therapist had said nothing since his arrival. He didn’t utter a greeting upon Travis entry into his office. He simply sat in his office chair and stared in complete silence.
It has always been a tradition, and that is everything Travis hoped for in a therapy session; peace, silent moment to think and a professional to guide him through this with just his gaze.
Sometimes they would sit for hours and just stare at each other. Neither of the two would utter a word to the other. And when the session is over, he’d stand up and leave, also without a word, feeling like that was the best therapy he ever had. It gets better with every visit.
How is it going with Tori? Mark finally questioned with a silent gaze.
I’m glad you asked. It’s a total disaster. We had a little spat this morning even.
After yesterday’s counselling, he went home, hoping to work out his relationship which was almost on the brink of a divorce, but the confrontation didn’t turn out the way he’d expected. Their conversation this morning was no good either and had yielded no positive result, only brought serious tension to an already failing marriage.
He brought Tori to the beach -where they had first met each other; where they’d once fallen in love -hoping to rekindle the love they’d once shared, but it ended in a total disaster. Their conversation at the shores, which had fallen an hour behind, was no good as well.
Again, Mick held his gaze with a ferret-like eyes of an optimist. Have you thought about what started the fight in the first place? Maybe there the answers you seek lies.
His mind boggled. Maybe that’s the problem. He exhaled heavily, leaning back in the couch.
He struggled to repress the memories of how their fight started. It leaves him in utter discomfort each time he remembers it. Or perhaps he didn’t want to be reminded of his trivial faults which began the quarrel.
just then, he remembered his fight with Tori earlier today. No, it wasn’t a fight really -or a spat, even. Though he wanted it to be.
That smile, how does she do it? Nothing he’d said to her seemed to affect her no matter how hard he tried. The truth is, he wanted to see her rage, her breakdown -something he could call his own -but she deprived him of all that. Instead she stung him with those words so condescending yet sincere and so full of emotion.
I don’t hate you, Travis. I’m not sure I ever will.
Those words only showed he hadn’t done enough; he hadn’t hit her enough; he hadn’t cursed her enough. She was rapidly spinning out of his control. Travis hated this; he hated so much that he couldn’t control his wife, not even her emotions.
He became cross. How could she utter a statement so improbable? Does she think me a fool?
Mick studied him with dark solemn eyes. Maybe she meant it.
Travis became bruised, and his eyes held mixtures of shock and barely contained anger. She can’t!
You’re scared. You no longer have control over her, so now you fight to control her emotion. That’s what has been keeping your marriage; the thought of being able to own her emotions gave you a sense of dominance over her. You’re scared that Tori is taking that, too, away. You no longer can control her, or her emotions even.
He shivered. No! You’ve got it all wrong. He felt vaguely dishonest.
Yes, Travis thought ruefully and his subconscious, taking the form of Mark Wolfe, finally agreed, too, with him.
A pang of quilt sweep over him.
I have lost complete control over her.
His heart battered against his ribcage, causing him to feel physical pain. He wondered where she might be at the moment. Had she gone home? Or perhaps she was simply unaffected by what he’d said earlier today and had gone to work. Maybe she’s with the family lawyer getting a divorce paper.
How wrong he had been trying to hurt her feelings, he finally realised.
Just then, he was hit by a realisation and he knew exactly what he had to do.
Mark stifled a chuckle. This is, quite possibly, the best and most edifying session we’ve ever had. Don’t you agree?
His lips pursed slightly. Oh, you cannot imagine how psyched I am about what we’ve achieved today.
Mark had been a great help to him over the years, helping his through his experience with PTSD when he lost his dad. And now he’s helping him get back with Tori.
Now go find her before you lose such a sweat personality. Don’t let this moment go by without apologising. You wouldn’t want to spend the rest of your life in regrets.
He jerked from the couch and quickly unlatched the door, leaving the office without uttering a word to Mark.
The late morning sun found his face and the fresh nitrous air rushed down his throat. Only few hours ago, the once warm and orange sun still ascending to the depth of the sky has now become a yon lurid yellow inferno, blistering, traitorous.
He picked up his phone to ring Tori, and after his call went unanswered, he was redirected to her voicemail. “Hey Tori. I’m really sorry about this morning. I don’t know what came over me. Please call me as soon as you get this.”
The drive down to his seedy apartment had fallen half an hour behind. The apartment is a typical family house with small upper windows, narrow porch and a small bay.
And reaching the door, he turned the knob back down and shifted his weight against the door, walking into his warm, white-walled living room. The gloom inside the house was less a function of the overcast skies than the mean proportions of windows.
Almost immediately, Travis realized she wasn’t home. He could tell; her black high-heeled pumps on the foot-mat at the façade is always the first to announce her presence. He then took out his phone and saw no missed call or text message. Who was he kidding? She’s never going to call, not after what happened this morning.
He dialled Carr -Tori’s colleague at work, listening to the echo of a distant ringing, and then there was a soft hello.
“Thank God you called. I’ve been meaning to call but never found the time. I heard a rumour floating around that you’re about to have a divorce. Please tell me those are just rumours."
“We’ll have time to talk about that, but for now I need to ask you something. Have you seen Tori around the office today?
“You know that sucks because I was hoping you’d…”
Travis, riled by his persistence, barked at him before he could finish. “Have you seen Tori or not?”
“Haven’t seen her since yesterday. Why?”
He quickly hung up and put his phone back in his pocket.
She’d gone for the devoice paper after all.
His sigh was softly deflating him; it felt as though he’d expelled half his energy along with the air.
Six hours had gone by since he came home and still no sign of her. And when he could wait no longer, he decided to pay the old lawyer a visit. On arrival, he was struck by surprise when he was told his wife hadn’t visited. It struck him as odd. Had she contacted a different lawyer? It was unlikely that she’d do that.
If she hadn’t been with the family lawyer, where has she been all this time?
Just then, it struck Travis that perhaps she could still be where he’d left her in the morning. Unlikely, but quite possible.
It was already dark when he arrived at the lake. The gentle night breeze caressed his cheek. The moonlight shone like a search light for Travis as he walked around the shore - ears pricked, eyes peeled.
His breath caught in his throat as his brain went over his conversation with Tori earlier.
“Did you ever love me?” She had asked.
“I am not going to lie.” He had answered, “I once did, when we were still in college. But now, Victoria, I’m not so sure anymore.”
Tori still seemed oddly expressionless in his head. But behind that straight face, he knew, was a broken soul pretending to unaffected by what he’d told her.
He was almost thrown off balance by the softness of the sand still damp from the returning tides. The corners of his eyes were caught by some markings on the sand. And when he neared, he saw it was his footprints which he’d left behind that morning. it appeared vague under the white-silver glow of the moon.
He looked over the dunes searchingly, glancing around the shores. Something seemed off. It was only his footprint he found. Just then he remembered Tori didn’t leave with him that morning, she’d decide to stay back and watch the rising sun.
His expression was grief-stricken as he squinted at the lake, cradling his head.
The steely surface of the water which appeared to be perfectly still, bathed by pale band of silver moonlight, reflected off its lovely gleam.