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Gerrards Cross in May by wyteknight

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The flight to London was quick for Marie. How anticipation counters time and brings the future to our door!

This flight was different from the rest, truly, but it was still a flight with 2 connections to make, and therefore shouldn?t the stress level be high? To get to the airport, giving the right amount of advance time in case of a flat tire, or long lines at the ticket counter, security? after making the first flight, to time well the second so as not to pass too much or too little time between to feel successful at this game. The stress level can seek to temper the enthusiasm of even the most lighthearted, experienced traveler.

But for some reason there was no stress this trip.

Quite to the contrary, there was a general feeling of giddiness at the whole thing, to have gone outside the box to make this trip happen. As it had come together at the last minute and as such, had great risk of at least some failure. But the case here was quite the opposite. Maybe, as a case in point, this is how such trips should always be done, should always have been done, to make such a venture bring to light the feelings meant to come to the surface during a vacation jaunt to romance. Would there be romance?

This trip she felt would hold many lessons. A life full of learning is for all of us, it can accelerate our mission if we are open and throw caution to the wind. She wanted to take life to a new level, and this trip made sense to her. It was against her nature to be so spontaneous, and she knew that. It kindled her desire further to break the bonds of sameness.

The ticket had come in the mail. The address on the envelope had obviously been typed with a regular, old fashioned typewriter. A novelty in this age of computers. Her mother had always typewritten her letters over the years, and this envelope gave her a sense of comfort and security. It had to be from someone she knew, for that one important feature. It had no return address. She opened it.

Around the ticket was a single, folded piece of blue, lavender scented paper. As she unfolded the paper, various dried flower petals fell out. There were different colors of certain large petals, she recognized those as rose, but there were also varieties she didn?t recognize. She was no expert in these things, but they most probably were wildflowers or some sort, she guessed.

The paper had a simple message??Meet ME in Gerrard Cross in May, at 12:00.?

It was handwritten in a strong script that she did not recognize. It had purpose, meaning?with emphasis on the ?me?. She felt it was masculine, but all she could really say is that it was not feminine. Nothing more.

That was it. AM or PM? What day? This just didn?t make sense. How could someone invest in a ticket for her, and then give such vague instruction? She looked inside the envelope, just to see if there was something she missed. There was nothing else in the envelope.

One issue was quickly solved. Her flight was scheduled for May 28th. So that brought the month of May down to just several days once she arrived. Time zone changes meant she would get there on the 29th, and have the 30th and 31st as possibilities. Her mind tried to narrow it down further, but it wouldn?t resolve any more than that. It was now mid-April, just giving her time to get her passport renewed. This could work.

A day later another envelope arrived with a similar, folded piece of blue scented paper surrounding $1000 in crisp 100 dollar bills. The message on this one read, ?All arrangements have been made.? The money relieved her greatly, as to take such a trip would still cost a lot with hotels, food, and local travel, despite the actual ticket having been paid for, and she was not budgeted for this. This was a turnkey package. Someone really wanted her to go to London, and was not going to give her any excuses to get out of it!

But who was it? Who was HE, she hoped. She had no current boyfriend, was not dating anyone even casually at this time. There were some possibilities. She was active in several organizations, and did have many contacts. They were people she knew, but didn?t really know. People with whom she had held long, enlightened conversations over every topic, but without any personal, afterhours connection she would hesitate to call them friends. Still, there were a LOT of cute guys that could fit the bill here, and she was hoping, in fact, counting on that to be the case! She was in her mid-thirties, and at the height of her charms and femininity, and somehow felt this a logical progression, a rite of passage perhaps, that all woman must be challenged to and grasp. This was her due.

Marie waited on more envelopes to come to explain the ?arrangements? that had been made, but there were no more. No more contact, in fact. As the time grew closer, rather than grow stressed at the lack of definite purpose in her trip, she grew more relaxed, and confident that everything would go perfectly. Even if she did not meet this person, she had the ticket and the money, and she would just find a hotel once there is she had to. It was win-win.

She arrived rather early in London, at 6:25 am. She had slept during the movie, and for a good deal of the flight. A wise decision, and she was also so upbeat now with adrenalin that she didn?t feel the jetlag people talk about, even if it was to be present. This was her first flight to Europe, having only been down to Mexico and the Caribbean, and didn?t know for sure what jetlag was. But she was told if she slept on the flight over, that would help correct for it. She did and was the better for it.

Enthusiastic, she led the pack through passport control and customs, and strained at her leash to get through to the Gatwick Express, aboard a non-stop train to Victoria Station in London.

It was 9:30 by the time she got to Victoria Station, having made the best time anyone could possibly make to get there to that destination. Time slowed down only slightly for her, and she made the decision to go immediately to Marleybone Station and board a Chiltern Rail coach straight to Gerrards Cross!

Marie had done her research ahead, and knew the connections to make, and was unafraid now to ask for help at the kiosks. She found out quickly that the British were so polite, that she almost felt a grand conspiracy, that everyone was involved in her trip, to personally guarantee her fulfillment of that which she was seeking. Whatever that might be, even she was not aware.

Could the 12:00 mentioned in the note be today at noon? It struck her. Hard. It just had to be that way. There were 2 more noons left in May other than today, and 3 midnights, but it just made sense. If arrangements had been made, then that must have meant hotel arrangements, and after 12:00 noon today, if she didn?t make contact, she would have to make her OWN arrangements, and that would void the letter. Logic finally got to her, and she felt rather silly for a moment in not having thought that through before, as she realized that of course, it had to be today at noon. There was no other possibility.

She went underground and took the subway, called the ?tube?, from Victoria Station to Marleybone. She bought a one way ticket to Gerrards Cross and also paused to buy a sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a Fanta orange soft drink from a vendor. She found the chips had a strong taste and was surprised when she found they had vinegar on them! How odd! She ate a few but tossed them, washing down the taste with her orange drink. The sandwich was more normal, but very basic, with several slices of cheese and ham with lettuce between french bread, with no dressing. Still, it satisfied her, and, eating half of it, gave her the energy she needed to continue. She wrapped up the other half carefully not knowing when she would need more and put it in her tote bag.

All of her belongings were in a pull-behind piece of luggage, but even at this stage she didn?t feel its burden as it simply had become a part of her. However, she found locker storage at Marleybone anyway, and stuffed only essentials into her tote bag for the next stage of her journey. This mentally helped, as she didn?t like to stand out as a tourist. She began to blend in more with her surroundings.

Why Gerrards Cross, she wondered? Perhaps it held significance for the person she was meeting. She could only wonder. Her research on the internet showed nothing distinctive about it. Especially for it to be a tourist destination of any kind. Just a village with soccer clubs, and churches and a High Street, their version of a Main Street, perhaps.

She stumbled upon real estate sites on a search and found the properties were very expensive. Beyond that, there was nothing that would surpass the Tower of London or St Pauls Cathedral as a must see. But she had her instructions, and she was intrigued and of course indebted, and so continued on her way to Gerrards Cross.

As the train began its journey, Marie watched the countryside as it passed by her. She felt as though in a dream. The brickwork everywhere was a similar color of dark tan, with lots of black soot looking material on it. Could it be that this old brickwork was still stained from the coal burning times of Queen Victoria? If so, then nothing has changed in this place because it was everywhere! The timeless quality appealed to her as an appropriate and even necessary backdrop for her quest for romance.

The carriage picked up it?s pace through the country, and she found the land surprisingly lush and wet. It was partly cloudy, with evidence of rainstorms at times. The lands were manicured in their own way? mother nature being shaped by the hand of man to bring out its best.

Her mind wandered, but only slightly? she kept her main focus. Even if one had not just flown the Atlantic, one would find the calming effect of this journey through the English countryside almost too much. The light rays created an undulating rhythm as they swept through the trees and clouds. The sun just wouldn?t come out fully, but its intensity was a presence just the same and part of the landscape to be felt.

She passed different stations, stopping at some, and whooshing by others at an incredible speed.

On to Gerrards Cross!

And then she was there.

The train pulled into the station. And she got out. It was an odd station, old ironwork, and set into a gulley, almost a ravine, she felt. Ancient. For a moment she felt all alone. She realized only several other people had gotten out of the train and disappeared while she was getting her bearings.

Her instruction ended here, and for one odd minute, she felt her life had just ended here as well. That to regain her life, she had to immediately get back in the coach and go back to the main station, get back on a plane, and go back home to what she knew. To do anything else would be to die. She felt a wave of nausea. She felt overcome and sat down on a bench to regain herself.

She stifled a cry that welled up within her as she pondered her life and the events that led her here. It all rushed up before her?the failed relationships, the hopeful holiday seasons spent alone wanting a boyfriend when she was without, and she felt cheated. Even this trip now felt cheating to an extent as she had built her hopes up so high, possibly over nothing at all. There was no Prince Charming here, there was no parade, no procession of royalty to greet her with red carpet.

She had always been afraid of the unknown, and here she was now forced to embrace it. She had done so well up to this point, what had happened? Perhaps the jetlag was having an effect upon her, and she paused to consider this. Yes, the jetlag, that had to be it. The train ride also had disoriented her like a drug. She smelled diesel fumes from somewhere? from the train? And she needed to rest. Just for a minute, to close her eyes, and feel the soothing breeze, warm and mild upon her skin, bring her into its embrace?

Marie felt a tug upon her sleeve, and upon looking up, saw a small boy of about 10 looking at her. She was taken aback, at this sudden reality check. This was the first time in this strange land that someone had actually come up to her. She had taken the initiative for everything so far, had been in control. For someone to come up to her was almost an intrusion into her reality, her dream, her fantasy.

She adjusted herself on the bench and asked him what his name was. He said, ?Colin.? He held out a slip of blue, folded paper and offered it to her. Inside, it read, ?come to ME.? When she looked up, Colin had already started to ascend a large walkway to what must be the town.

How he got to that point so quickly was beyond her. But then she realized she had stared at the piece of paper for awhile, taking it in, this grounding event to her emotion. That one piece of paper linked her past at home to her present at this strange, wonderous place, and defined a point in time for her. It was extremely important to her, and she clutched it tightly to make it even more real.

The train had gone, and she had refused to go back to what she knew? to her past, to that which she had come from. She knew now that it was ok to go forward, that she was intact and very much alive, had not died, and had a future to look forward to. The sun came out from behind a cloud and hit her square on her forehead, bringing her fully back.

She looked up as Colin reached the top. He made a grand sweeping motion with his arm that was the universal symbol for ?Follow me!? She got up without hesitation and went out of the station and up the walkway to the street beyond.

Colin was mindlessly skipping along the sidewalk as they passed along the street. She didn?t feel like running, he didn?t want to stop skipping and so they maintained a small distance between them. There was no pressure here, and they adjusted to the pace together. She looked behind her, and noticed shops, and what must be either the town or the way to it. They were going away from the High Street, she thought. She wanted to see a High Street, to see what it was all about.

But now she knew she had to follow Colin.

As they walked, once in a while he would point towards a house or two along this residential street, and she would look but not see anything. At first. Then as she just took it all in without expectation, she would see?gabled windows with crosshatching on them contrasted against white plaster walls? a garden beyond the fenceline here, manicured lawns and gigantic sunflowers and unusual plant specimens there. What started as mundane now became larger than life. The plants were bigger than they should be, they were arranged better than they should be?the entire street was beset with trees that had been topped at some point, with canopies growing back in a beautiful way. The trees topped canopies completely covered the street, forming a perfect shroud. The shades of green were beyond words. And it seemed that this entire neighborhood had been crafted at one time by some master gardener from times past, something she knew was probably not true, but was the only thing that would explain such majesty, with no true, real understanding of how such things are done.

The train ride had been a transformation. She now became aware that London itself was encased in the tan, coal soot covered brickworks, the train tunnels and bridges, most of the houses she witnessed on her passage out of the city, and even the Gerrards Cross station itself.

Before her, on this street, there was none of that? the land was now alive with color and life and sought to prove to her its worth as more than merely priceless.

The sun was out from behind the clouds now, but it rained as they walked. None of the rain hit them, but it could be seen through the gaps in the foliage as the sun hit it above the treed canopy and off to the side. The raindrops shone intensely as the sunlight glared off of them, having a peculiar quality reminding her more of mist, but indeed more than that. This was a contradiction, for the sun to be out and for it to rain, and also for them not to get wet. It didn?t make any sense.

Eventually they passed along a path through a wooded area, and he led her out to a field, that was set along the side of a small hill. The field was covered by foot tall grass, maybe rye or wheat, she wasn?t sure. It was definitely cultivated.

Colin ran up to her here at the edge of the field and gave her a big hug and said, ?You?re pretty!? He said he had to go now, but pointed to the top of the hill and told her, ?That?s where you need to go!? and then ran off towards town.

Marie looked up to the top of the hill, but didn?t see anyone. She started to walk through the grass, and did her best to pick up her feet, as the grass was slightly wet from the rain that had just passed moments before. The sun was out, doing its best to dry it, while butterflies and white moths fluttered about, settled on, and drank from the wet grass.

She found a pathway along the side and took it the rest of the way up. At the top, was a large wicker picnic basket sitting atop one, only slightly damp, red and white checkerboard blanket. It had a folded blue piece of paper under the handle, and she picked it up.

It read, ?I?ve always loved you.?

She looked inside the basket. Immediately inside was a glass of red wine, carefully laid so as not to spill it, several chocolates on a napkin, and an assortment of tea biscuits and cookies. There was a box on the bottom, with a note that said, ?Enjoy these treats, then open the box.?

Marie unfolded the blanket and made a space on the edge of the path and took in the marvelous view.

The clouds passed overhead, threatening to hide the sun, but it dodged them quite well. The field was lit up with sheens of iridescent greens that were consuming to watch. The sky was a palette of deep blue cut sharply by white and chocolate clouds that passed overhead at their own definite rate of speed. This made the lighting to change constantly, causing the colors to change, a blending of elements that creatively constructed the landscape newly in each moment?a living work of art.

This was emotion on a world scale that she was witnessing, and very private for her and her alone. Artists seek to trap and capture this vitality, and she had dreamy thoughts of easels and oils and Van Gogh and French cafes as she sipped her wine on the blanket and tucked at her treats.

All together it was a product of the moment, and couldn?t be taken out of the field, this magic produced by the interplay of nature here. It was simple, and had been witnessed surely many times before. Had she seen such events happened before and just not been aware of them?

She finished the treats and wondered about the box. In a short time? she opened it.

Inside were photographs. Hundreds of them. There were also event tickets, one used, and one unused, always in pairs, here in this box. Many movies? plays such as Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar? entrance tickets to Tower of London, the monument at Stonehenge, the Roman Spas at Bath? the music festivals of Reading and Knebworth... and more.

The pictures caught her interest the most as she scanned them for clues, for someone she recognized. They were pictures of just about everything you could expect to find in England. There were the obvious tourist destinations?she recognized Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and more from her internet searches, and then there were people. They were young people, high school age most likely, but she didn?t recognize any of them. The pictures were old, you could tell by the clothing styles. They obviously meant a lot to someone, they were personal pictures containing the people and the events they went through. Over here. She didn?t understand. She didn?t know anyone from over here.

There was a letter inside. And she opened it.

It read, ?I looked for you for 10 years but never gave up. We were separated by thousands of miles, then time itself, and then life spun us in different directions. As time passed, I only became more in love with you, not less. Every picture in this box, I took each one of them for you. To share each moment with you. Because you were there with me for each and every one of them, and you were also with me for each and every day of my life afterwards. I could never let you go. I?ve always wondered if you felt the same way about me. I never knew if you loved me, thought of me often, or had let me go completely.?

The truth struck her and she sank back heavily upon the blanket. She knew who this was, this was her high school sweetheart John. And it made sense. It all made sense now. John had moved away in the middle of 11th grade when his father took a job in London. They lost touch almost immediately as they were young, they were children, and they were not allowed to have feelings, or lives, or directions other than what was mandated by the adults around them. Her own parents had taken a job transfer to another state at the end of her 12th grade, and she went to college in another state. There had been a precious 1-1/2 year gap in their lives without contact, and that?s all it took to separate them forever.

They had shared everything between them?their first date, their first movie together, their first kiss?their first everything, almost. They were deeply in love, as deep as young lovers can be without total physical intimacy.

Marie had never forgot him. She had loved him also and had never let him go. Every boyfriend, every relationship she had ever had over the years afterwards was held up against the light of this first love and they failed miserably. Nothing could stand up to the pure light of such true passion that they shared and she wept in the knowledge of it.

It came clear to her now. All that she had looked at to be a failure in her relationships, were not to be described as failures, but as shortcomings?they just couldn?t measure up to true, innocent, eternal love. How could they? She felt ashamed at having faulted the men when they didn?t stand a chance against John.

The emotions she had stifled for so many years came to the surface. She fought against the feelings and sought to read more of the letter.

It continued, ?When I lived over here during high school, I would come out to Gerrards Cross to visit my best friend Andrew, where he lived with his parents. A bunch of us would often come out to the woods and run around, and chase through the fern forest behind you. Those ferns would grow over our heads and we would chase and have fun running in them.?

She looked behind her, and immediately behind the pathway to her back, was a wooded area, with large ferns. Before, she had not noticed that this forested area it was fenced off with a heavy iron fence that showed great intent in keeping it off limits for some reason.

?Gerrards Cross was a special place for me. I came out here on my own at times, to sit here at the top of the hill and eat a picnic. I would pour a glass of wine, and sit, pretending I was here with you. You see? this was our spot. I can?t explain it other than that. Whenever I missed you the most, I would come here and pretend you were here with me. I cried here so many times you just don?t know.?

?I would get myself all worked up about you while sitting here, and then go down to the station, and jump the next train to Warwick Castle, a stop further up the line. I would walk through the city center up to the castle and walk the grounds, eventually finding a spot in front of the Victorian arboretum and lie beneath the trees, watching peacocks strut on the grounds.?

?I moved back to the states, and as the years passed, I often fantasized about meeting you here at ?our spot?, sharing a picnic and chasing through the old fern forest. Then we would jump a train to Warwick Castle.?

?Gerrards Cross in May is my favorite time, right at the end of May when the rains come and the plant life is coming into its best. The rain only lasts for a few minutes, just enough to get your feet wet when your walking through the field, which is about a foot high at that time of year. Going to Warwick Castle, I would hang my socks out the carriage window to dry, unfuriating the British, who saw that as most uncouth. It was an act of rebellion, at my life, and my inability to get to you. I did it on purpose, I must admit. I felt I did everything for you.?

Marie felt great pride now in never having forgotten John. In her great love for him, she of course had never let him go either. She held a passion for him equal to that he held for her.

?I?m writing this letter now because I realize I?ll never see you, my cancer has progressed and the doctors only give me 6 months. I?ve given instructions to Andrew to follow an important request, to continue the search for you, and if he is to ever find you??

Marie swooned. It couldn?t be. It just couldn?t. It couldn?t. She felt her legs like lead weights, pinning her down to the ground. She was slumped sideways unable to move, and everything was spinning. She wanted to die?

She stared at the letter, fixated through teary lenses to it, and eventually more words came through to her?impassively she read?

?he is get you to this spot, our spot, to have a glass of wine and treats ready for you to share picnic with me at least once. I?m here, you see?I?m here with you. My instructions were to have my ashes scattered at this spot, so I will always be here waiting on you to come to me. Since I couldn?t come to you even though I tried, tried so hard to find you. Maybe you can come to me.?

?My biggest hope would be for you to come to Gerrards Cross in May, at the end of May is best, have you picnic, and then jump a train to Warwick Castle and lie near my spot and watch the peacocks strut. It is such a peaceful place, timeless, outside the pettiness of our lives, this 1000 year old castle at Warwick. It always diminished me, and made my problems feel small in the big scheme of things, and to help me to cope with being without you. My hope is that it would do that for you, to help put life in perspective for you. This is a gift I would hope to give you.?

The letter was dated 7 years prior. He had been gone for some time?

Almost frozen, in slow motion, Marie fell forward and placed her face down half into the box of pictures. There was silence for some time.

Then a sound arose which became a continuous, unbroken, mournful wail that came from deep inside her and carried across the field. It was composed of all the pain she had stored within her over the years?all the pain of loss, all the pain of rejection, the pain she had caused others?beyond John, this had catalyst and now went farther than any one relationship could presuppose.

When we are born we cry instinctively as fear of a world beyond our control, cold and hostile, full of people. People we believe bring us happiness, but certainly with this comes the inherent knowledge of the surety that people will always bring us more pain than pleasure, because pain is heavier than pleasure, as water is heavier than oil, which is just how it is? and we still go on. People go on. Marie felt lost in the moment and could not go on.

She focused it all onto John, all the pain. She blamed him for moving away. For not writing. For not finding her after coming back to the states. For not being with her now, at her most vulnerable moment. She took no responsibility for this, it was all his fault. She was selfish in these thoughts, knew it, and didn?t care. This was her emotion, and belonged to noone else. She felt justified at least in that, and poured out more cries and tears upon the pictures, staining them with those tears, touching them with her fingers, but never letting them go.

The emotional upheaval she was experiencing passed through its phases. Marie went through the full seven stages of grief at this time?Shock, Denial, Bargaining, Fear, Anger, Despair, ?and finally Acceptance.

A man had passed behind her on the path, or must have, because she became aware of a figure descending the hill in front of her, about to pass out of the field. She was not alone here. This shocked her. This was her field. John had given it to her and it belonged to noone else. The oddness of that thought contracted her sadness, oddly, and helped her to come down from her extreme emotional level.

This cultivated field belonged to someone, the fenced fern forest belonged to someone, and she was trespassing. One hour had passed from the time she began to read the letter to now. It was an eternity to her.

She sat for another eternity, a briefer interlude of perhaps a half hour or so, and then slowly began to pull herself together. A brief burst of rain, very light and misty, passed through the field. This sobered her even further and she gathered the contents of the box together, wrapping the blanket carefully around it, and then placing the box inside the basket.

Marie felt she had no past to reflect upon, and no future to look forward to. It had all been taken away from her in the field. She was exempt now from pain, truly, those tears had been shed, but numb from the experience of it and facing bleak immediate prospects in this strange land. She was not just lost, she was non-existent to this world. She was invisible. Still, there was a comfort to that, and she dwelled on that one thought which now became necessary for her in her fragile state.

She knew she had to go back to the station, and that was all. That was enough. And so she picked up the basket and descended the field, passing directly through it as the shortest route, rather than taking the path. The magic had gone from this place, and as she looked back, she said she would never come here again.

The walk to the station was flat and uneventful. The emotions had left her drained, but she was doing better now. It was more the shock, the setup of the whole event that made her wonder, ?Why had John?s friend Andrew done it this way?? Why hadn?t he just told me the situation, then I might have come over here anyway as it was Johns last request for me to do so, and I truly had loved him.?

She went to the ticket counter to purchase a train ticket down to London, from where she would be able to find a hotel and plan her next step. She was in line behind a mother and her daughter, who were quite excited about their trip. They were locals, from this neighborhood she believed, and watched them intently as they purchased their tickets. They were going to Warwick, to the castle, and were honest in their emotions of excitement for a day trip.

Emboldened, Marie asked them if they had been there before.

The mother laughed, and said, ? Warwick Castle is a wonderful place! Yes, we have been there many times, and to go there together is very special for us. We have always shared it.?

The mother asked Marie, ?Have you been there??

Marie replied, ?It was a very special place for a dear friend of mine, who told me I should go there to find perspective for my life, why should he say that??

The mother said, ? Your friend is right, to be next to something so old is humbling. We all pass from this earth, but Warwick Castle will probably always be there. To visit Warwick is to take you out of time. When I am gone, I?m hoping my daughter will still go there, to think about her life, and the times she spent with me there, to find the peace of mind that I think we all need from time to time.?

That was all Marie needed to hear. She had her new mission, and that new mission was Warwick. For all that she had been through, the time was only 2:00. She still had time to go to Warwick Castle and then head back to London before dark. She could do that, if she did nothing else here. She was compelled to that.

After buying her ticket, she sat down on the bench down from the mother and daughter, and pulled out the other half of her sandwich and cherished the bites. It was so refreshing to her now, and she bought another soda to wash it down with, and this filled her.

Once at Warwick, she would eat properly, and if she was too tired, surely there would be a hotel to consider. If not, well, she didn?t really care at this point. She felt an inner strength within her grow, and a knowledge that this was the right thing to do. It had to be done. And now was the time to do it.

Following the lead of the family made it easy for her, took some of the stress away from this part of her trip, knowing that all she had to do was stay with them and get off when they did, and she would be ok. Being locals, they knew what they were doing, and would not a mistake such as getting on the wrong train, or getting off at the wrong destination.

The train came and they headed to the train stop for the town of Warwick. The day came back in its brilliance, and the sun danced in and out of the clouds. There was familiarity to this, and she relaxed. Her shoes and socks had gotten damp, mostly from the last passage out of the field, and she shyly slipped them off of her feet. There were a few people in the carriage she was in, other than the family which was facing away from her at the opposite end.

Marie reached down, picked up the socks, and started to wave her hands to try to get them to dry out. On such a trip, even a small amount of help here would benefit, damp feet being a bother, and having nothing else to do, began to take an interest in this procedure. Having her bare feet exposed felt exhilarating to her. The feeling was as if she was naked to the people here in the carriage with her. She knew this was absurd, but there was a feeling to it she could not deny. She realized she stood out because she was a tourist, so of course it made sense that she might be under scrutiny for just about anything she might choose to do.

She began not to care.

A thought passed in her, and she opened up the small window above the main, large pane of glass. She took the socks, and taking great risk, thrust the socks to the window opening, and held them both there to dry. An older, stately Englishman facing towards her but several rows up noticed this, and was quite amused. In fact, 2 people several rows back further behind him took notice as well, and stared. It was obvious they had never seen anything like this before, and found it funny at first. They socks took some time to dry to her satisfaction, and she had to make repeated attempts to get them dry. Whenever she would raise them again to the window opening, she would feel the stares.

She cared even less now, ignored them completely, and when done with the socks, held her walking shoes up to the window to air out and dry. She refused to look at the other passengers, and felt her cause worthy and necessary for her, which it was. Wet feet on travel holiday make for discomfort. So she had made the capital decision to dry it all out, despite any consequences, of which, it turned out, there were none.

At Warwick, she alighted from the train quite happy with herself for having made the trip to the castle, and then reflected on John. This was the first thought of him she had had since leaving the Gerrards Cross train station, and the act of hanging her socks and shoes out of the carriage window to dry had been an independent act: she had not done this because John had suggested this to her. It was simply necessary in order for her to have dry feet. And she mused that John had probably felt similar emotions years before, first feeling the necessity of his actions, and then their metamorphosis into a rationalization of rebellion.

She saw the family pass into the town and she followed ahead after them, without any real thoughts of where she was actually going.

Warwick Castle loomed up at the top of the hill. She was on what must have been the main street in town, the ?High Street?, she thought, and it led in one direction, to the castle.

The castle was not what she expected, but then, she didn?t know what to expect. At first glance it was a ruin, mostly, with some sights to see, but not spectacular as she had built up in the short time she had had to do so. But, it began to grow on her, and she developed some interest for it, and explored.

It was a thousand years old, and was doing well, she thought, for such a long history. She had never seen anything older than several hundred before. She really appreciated the view down into the stream below, and imagined fair maidens watching down from these heights upon the commoners passing below. She felt that this place had touched many lives over its history, and though a relic, was still touching some today.

Marie passed out of the castle onto the grounds, and then saw the Victorian arboretum. It was a large structure with many glass panes to let the sun in and trap heat, with large plants inside. Before it, were a series of short steps that led out onto a large glade with trees way off to either side. It had not rained here, and the grass being trimmed short, was pleasant to walk upon.

She had seen the castle, and felt satisfied with herself for having done so much in such a short time. She found a spot in the glade giving her sufficient shade from the sun, but still enough in the open to allow her to feel the grandness of the place, and laid down to rest.

Closing her eyes, Marie found her mind wandering, and was almost in a state of hallucination in a short time. Half thoughts merged with shades of emotions from her days events, indistinct? passing before her and then away from her before she could grasp any one of them. They were fleeting? and seeking to purge from her any remnants of stress she might have, as dreams do.

The changing hues generated by the light through the leaves gave them depth, and had endless variety. She felt tuned into an infinite bandwidth of radio frequencies. She heard voices, saw fragments of landscapes and cities, and people from different times and places. She opened up and felt the life energy of 1000 years of humanity pass through her, illuminating her mind. She was merely the conduit, and observed them as they passed within and without her, straying on to their own destinations.

Great peace and calm came over her, as she began to feel her own place in the world. She was just one part, one cog only?but with a role, a role that belonged to noone else and could be defined by noone else. Her role was important. Just as everyones roles are important. It?s just that since this life was hers, it was for no others to criticize. She defined it as she went, based on all her experiences before that guided her to new direction. As we all do. It was living, breathing life, not static, and one that would continue to change as she grew older.

The one thing that would not change much was Warwick Castle. It had always been there and would always be there, shepherded through the passing of time by its caretakers. It would take on new forms, just as the Victorian arboretum on its premises was one form, but it was really just an addendum. It?s main story had unfolded many hundreds of years before, and this was now a shadow of its former self being sustained and worshipped by those who felt their own reasons to do so.

Grand Warwick Castle took on new meaning for Marie. An overpowering symbol of time standing still, she knew the castle in its greatness was not something to overpower us and make us feel weak in our inability to beat it in the race against time. That would be foolish. That would be impossible to achieve.

Yes, a part within us that refuses to face our own mortality will touch on that. Perhaps being next to such a great, old object will allow some of its talents to rub off on us, and allow us to extend our lifes passage as well. Subliminal undercurrents? Yes? the possessing of antiques shows the truth of it within many of us. There was more than just beauty to the castle.

But in its timeless existence that castle had an important flaw. It was not alive and dynamic, but instead dead and static. Its corpse carried dressings that belied this status, but its most important asset is in what it was, not in what it could ever be. It?s chapters were written.

But Marie was alive, and capable of change within her own structure. She was vital, and was changing here, now on the castle grounds, into a different person. A person that knew she would continue this change, and that nothing could stop that. She felt an expansion of herself in the realization of this. That the castle was just a part of her life? that John had only been a part of her life? that everything that had ever gone before had only been a part of her life, never the whole.

To form an opinion of herself, or of her life from those interactions of people and experiences was not fair. And not complete. She had a lot of living to do, and more people to meet, and more experiences. They were all just chapters in her book, emphasis, her book. And her chapters were not all written.

Going even deeper into her relaxation, lying peacefully in the glade, she had a vision of a house. Within that house were many rooms. Within each of those rooms were people that represented each chapter of her life. The people, decorations and emotion within each of those rooms each formed unique character, that perhaps the other rooms could not understand.

They existed independently of each other, yet were under the same roof. She could pass from room to room, and get something important from each room. Something that had meaning to her, and to noone else.

The house was a totality, and that was what was really important. The house was her. And as such, it was her house, and belonged to no others. In the back were empty rooms, waiting to be filled. At the end of her lifes journey the rooms would be filled, and she would be completed. It was a big house, magnificent in size. She felt it had limitless capacity to expand to her challenges.

As she came to, opening her eyes slowly to look up towards the rustling leaves overhead, she felt first a contraction as reflection of her immediate circumstances, that reversed and then turned into an expansion, an empowerment, as she grew beyond those circumstances and sought to embody and embrace the lessons she had just been learning. She strained to contain them, they were important, and she did not want to let them go.

All dreams fade, and she was left with an aura?more as impressions of those mental events, rather than as them existing as literal objects. She smiled as she knew they were of course a part of her, had come from her, and so she could never really lose them. She reflected upon the house, she had kept that. And she knew she would never lose that. Indeed, that analogy had impacted her so greatly she knew it would provide reference for many years to come. And she smiled even more.

Her calm was broken by the sound of a child. ?There she is dad!?, she heard.

Looking up and then over her left shoulder behind her, she saw a man walking, holding hands with Colin! This was the young boy who had escorted her through Gerrards Cross to the field and then disappeared towards town.

The man standing next to Colin she recognized from the pictures.

He introduced himself as Andrew, Johns old friend from high school, and that this was his son Colin. He said that he knew he would find Marie there, in the glade. Due to the personal emotions he knew she would be having after Gerrards Cross, he told her he thought it wise to meet her there after she had had some time to reflect on everything.

But now seemed like a good time to talk to her, and explain all that he knew.

Andrew said, ?I can?t tell you how close John and I were in high school in London. We were best friends, and did everything together. All he ever did was talk about you, about how much you would love everything over here. He took a lot of pictures, and would talk about how you were there for each one of them.?

Andrew continued, ?Even though you weren?t her with us, you really were a part of everything we did, everywhere we went. He would take pictures to capture everything we did, with the rest of us rarely carrying cameras being so young and living in the moment, and therefore we thought him a bit odd. He would buy tickets to all there was to see and do, always buying an extra ticket for you, as if you were there with us. In the beginning, we think it was almost as a lark? as he laughed when we asked him about what he was doing. But over time, he became quite serious about it, and determinedly took pictures and bought tickets and brought your presence to all of us in the group.?

Marie wanted to ask Andrew why John had never written, and then? thought better of it. She knew that she could herself have written him even if calling on the phone was difficult.

When we are young, we feel at the mercy of lifes circumstances and may not question authority. If we refuse to seize the moment, our best opportunities for happiness might disappear forever, leaving a lifetime of unresolved emotions. She was just as guilty as him. So to implicate him was to implicate herself.

They shared the bliss of the their times spent together and now also they shared the responsibility for the mutual failure of their unfulfilled love. There was no guilt to be applied here, no guilt. Serendipity had placed them together, serendipity had also cast them apart?There would always be unresolved emotion there, but that was ok.

In the big picture, there was something more important? there was a life that must go on. Her life. Johns life was over. Johns chapters were written. Warwick Castles chapters were written. But Maries chapters were not? Maries life was still an open book.

Marie stood up, and saw a kaleidoscope of colors fanning about a peacocks tail before her in the middle of the glade as the sun reached its full force. She reached out and took Colins hand and skipped out of the shade into the sunlight. Laughing, Andrew chased after them.

To their side, a mother and daughter spread a blanket, shared a picnic and a promise that they would never stray apart from each other, ever, through the course of their lives. The sun would set on the castle today, but the lives sparking within its grounds were hallowed, sacred, and of a greater nature than the castle?and would continue to unfold beyond its grounds to hopeful, new horizons.

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