Jonathan Williams, in response to his mother telling him Kristina was calling, got up from his bed and walked into the kitchen where the only telephone was other than the one in his mother’s bedroom.
As he took the first step towards the telephone, Jonathan knew exactly what he wanted to tell Kristina Edwards Collins. He would tell her that it is over between them and not to call him anymore. Then he would hang up the receiver before she could work her magic on him. However, the next step brought him doubt and confusion. His mind said give her up but his heart pleaded to keep her.
By the time Jonathan reached the telephone, a hot sweat had begun to rush out of the pores of his forehead. He looked at the telephone several minutes before picking up the receiver and speaking.
“I’m, uh, uh, uh, sorry, Kristina. But, but, ah, ah, it’s over between us,” Jonathan tried to speak forcefully. His voice failed him as did his resolve -- he held on to the receiver instead of hanging it up as he had planned.
“Love is forever,” responded Kristina. She ignored Jonathan’s remark. “Do you remember telling me that?”
The tone of Kristina’s voice, the subtlety of her breathing, and her cool logic unnerved Jonathan. If he was an iceberg before coming to the telephone, he was now a puddle of water. He sat down at the kitchen table and spoke quietly into the receiver.
“Yes, I remember. But that was a long time ago.”
“Two years is not a long time when you are in love. Do you still love me?”
“Yes, Kristina, I still love you. That is why I ran over to your mother’s house when you called me two weeks ago. I was so relieved when you told me you were getting a divorce. But then your mother let it slip that your husband is stationed at Fort Hood right here in Texas and comes home on the weekends. I felt like a damn fool.”
“Jonathan, I love you and I know that you love me. Love doesn’t let go – it finds a way. Love always finds a way to love.”
Jonathan became even more confused. The rate of sweat pouring from his forehead increased. He felt nauseated. He rubbed his hand across his forehead and wiped the sweat on his pants leg then bowed his head and held the receiver up to his ear with one hand and with the other covered his forehead as if trying to stop the flood.
“Kristina,” Jonathan whispered into the telephone, “when I was in ‘Nam I thought about you all the time and wished I could have afforded to go to college to avoid being drafted as you suggested. I thought you would wait for me. I explained to you how much I needed the GI Bill to be able to go to college and be somebody. When I got my sister’s letter telling me you got married, I was devastated. I had to go to China Beach for three days to get myself together.”
“Jonathan, don’t worry, everything will be all right.”
“Dammit, Kristina, have you heard anything I’ve said?” Jonathan sat straight up. His voice was loud and angry.
“Son are you okay?” Jonathan’s mother rushed into the kitchen.
“Yes Mom, sorry to disturb you.”
“I’ve told you to leave that girl alone,” his mother counseled as she returned to her bedroom.
For a few minutes which seemed much longer, there was silence. Jonathan remembered from his days as a salesman being taught that when silence appears between a salesman and potential buyer, the first one to speak loses. He remained silent.
“I tell you what,” said Kristina breaking the silence. “I’ll let you go if you will let me cook your favorite meal. It will be our farewell dinner. That way, we can part as friends and I can be assured you do not hate me.”
“I don’t hate you. I could never hate you,” said Jonathan. His burdens began to lift as he felt that finally Kristina was listening to him.
“Good, does that mean you will come over for dinner?”
“I guess so. But not at your parents.”
“Sure, I understand. My sister is going to the Dunbar High School basketball playoffs in Austin this weekend and I promised to house sit for her. You can come over Friday at five in the evening.”
“Five o’ clock? Why so early?
“I don’t want to impose on your weekend. Plus, I promised my mom I’d go to the movie with her because dad is also going to Austin.”
“Very well, but tell me one thing, why could you not wait for me? I thought we had something special,” Jonathan said as his discomfort continued to abate.
“I promise to explain everything Friday. Do you have a pen and paper handy?”
“Hold on a minute.”
Jonathan found a pen and paper on top of the refrigerator. He returned to the telephone, wrote down the address, and said goodbye to Kristina then returned to his bedroom where he donned his headphones and listened to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” which was playing on his eight-track player.
Time moved swiftly to the appointed hour. Jonathan turned his 1973 Chevrolet Vega into the driveway of the address Kristina gave him. He gave his appearance a final going over before exiting the vehicle, locking it, and heading for the door. Along the way, he promised himself that he would have dinner and leave, closing the chapter on this part of his life.
“Hi, c’mon in,” greeted Kristina, opening the door before Jonathan had a chance to knock.
Jonathan stood motionless as he beheld the beauty that stood before him. This was not the wife child who had greeted him two weeks ago at her parents’ home. Instead of looking older and beaten about as she had looked then, she looked much younger than her twenty-one years.
Her hair was back to auburn and was teased into beautiful curls that dangled across her forehead whenever she moved. Her eyes were clear and bright and gleamed with all the radiance of youth at the shore of a maiden voyage. Kristina wore a white evening gown which looked like a wedding dress. She was absolutely beautiful.
“Well, are you coming in?” asked Kristina smiling.
“You look like heaven,” complimented Jonathan as he stepped inside the door. He wore a light blue Nehru walking suit he had made while in Vietnam, a black silk shirt, and black patent leather shoes.
Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love” came from a nearby stereo eight-track player. Moved by the song and Kristina’s beauty, Jonathan fought to steady his course and maintain his resolve.
Kristina, perceiving the tension building up within Jonathan, moved towards him and took hold of his right hand. Unlike two weeks ago when he jerked at the rough touch, Jonathan was invigorated with a surge of power he could not understand. Blood rushed from his heart throughout his body. He sweated; his heart pounded. Instinctively, he pulled Kristina to his body and locked her in his arms, placing his mouth on hers as he fumbled with the buttons of her dress.
“Wait, wait, wait,” pleaded Kristina. “Please, let’s eat first.” She pulled away from Jonathan, closed the door, locked it, then straightened her hair and dress.
Jonathan felt embarrassed that he had lost control so easily – that his shield had been pierced so effortlessly. Still, he was mesmerized by the young woman standing before him.
“Kristina, I know you have spent a lot of time and money preparing dinner. But there is no way I can sit down and eat with you looking so good and me feeling the way I do. It has been over two years and I’m afraid my love Jones has crashed in on me. I want, no I need you now.”
Kristina looked at Jonathan and smiled. She wished she could preserve this moment for all time. How she desired to capture this moment like a photograph which she could mount in the scrapbook of her heart where it would remain forever. Sadly, she knew she could do neither.
“Can we at least have some champagne first?” Kristina asked. The smell of the baked lamb chops excited her nostrils. She regretted her plans had gone awry. However, she did not want Jonathan to retreat to where he had been the past two weeks so she decided to accommodate him.
She led Jonathan into the kitchen and motioned for him to sit down at the table which he did. Kristina turned off the oven, extracted a bottle of Champaign from the refrigerator, returned to the table and poured Jonathan a full glass.
The euphoria of the moment blinded Jonathan to the fact that the bottle was already opened. He forgot the lesson he learned in Germany about always having your drink opened in your presence.
“What about you?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, but not right now,” Kristina answered. She returned the bottle to the refrigerator.
“Here’s to love lost and found again. To fires that have died out and been rekindled. Here’s to us and the days and nights to come,” toasted Jonathan. He raised the glass to eye level then downed the drink in one long gulp. The glass had barely touched the table when Kristina took hold of his hand and led him to the bedroom.
Jonathan’s eyes felt heavy. He had expected sleep to come after such a joyous and energy draining experience but this sleep felt unnatural. Only a faint whisper escaped his lips when he tried to speak. His eyes opened slightly and he could see Kristina entering the electronics class at high school. Unlike the other girls who enrolled in home economics or cosmetology classes, Kristina was the only girl in the electronics class. Jonathan intervened when the other boys taunted her and they became friends and then lovers.
Then he saw Kristina at the bus station when he went off to basic training. He got the impression that she was trying to tell him something but he never could figure out just what it was.
“Sleep my love,” said Kristina. She pulled Jonathan towards her and kissed him which replaced his vision with a mist. “And when you awake, we will be in that other world where love is eternal. Sleep my love. I will join you soon.”
A bright, encompassing light exploded the mist. Jonathan fell limp in Kristina’s arms. She placed him gently against the pillow and kissed him again.
Kristina got up from the bed and gathered their clothes. With care, she folded Jonathan’s pants and placed them on a wooden hanger over which she draped his jacket then hung them in her closet. She did the same with his shirt. The remaining clothes she folded neatly, placing them on the closet shelf.
As for her clothes, she took them with her into the bathroom where she showered quickly and dressed. Kristina turned out the light in the bathroom, closed the door, gave Jonathan a quick smile, then went into the kitchen where she washed the glass Jonathan drank from and placed it in the cabinet, following which she made sure all the stove top burners were off. She removed the food and placed it in the refrigerator.
Satisfied that all was in order, Kristina took the bottle of Champagne from the refrigerator and poured some into a glass. She replaced the cork in the bottle which she then returned to the refrigerator. It was her husband’s favorite brand. The thought of her husband made her smile as she envisioned him drinking from the bottle before he entered the bedroom as he always did when he came home on the weekend from Fort Hood. Men are such creatures of habit, she thought.
“Here’s to us my love. We will soon be together forever. Today shall we meet in paradise.”
Kristina raised the glass toward the bedroom door then downed the bubbly liquid, placed the glass on the table, made sure her lips had imprinted on the rim of the glass, then returned to the bedroom. She took a picture of her daughter Joletta, who died at age one from Sickle Cell Anemia, from her night stand, eased into the bed next to Jonathan, placed his arms around her and hers around him in such a fashion that they both held the picture of Joletta.
Kristina’s lips curved into a smile as her mind dimmed with the thought that her husband, who threatened to commit suicide when she told him she was going to divorce him, would not have to live without her as he had feared. She saw Jonathan and her and Joletta in a field of grass under a sky of pastel colors. A bright and encompassing light exploded the vision as she exhaled her last breath.