Samar looked on as her sister packed away the last of Leen’a paisley scarves. All that clung to the room of her was a hint of the Vanilla that she so ritually dabbed on.
A lifetime! How else would you describe forty years with a woman? Two children, this neat cottage and a handsome pension were all he was left with. And oh yes, there was Cotton, their feline companion and silent witness, poised over the piano cover this moment. He peered into the blue eyes, “Can you tell where she has gone? Am I ever going to meet her again?”
He heaved over to the cat, moping on the piano cover. Lifting the limp animal off the dark wood, he raised the instrument cover, his breath catching at the sight of the keys. Lowering himself on Leena’s stool, he trailed the black and white gently, willing his skin to recall the feel of hers. With a sense of urgency, he pulled off his moccasin, placing the big toe on the pedal underneath, trying in vain to get more of her. He could have sworn ‘Lara’s theme’ swirled around their living room. Shoving his hand roughly into the air, he tried tracing her form from memory. “Does this space retain her?” he wondered.
“Sam, the Canter is here for her stuff. Give me a shout if you need anything. See you in the evening!” he waved off his sister-in-law with a weak nod, numb with the process of gathering up after a loved one has gone for good.
But it was Olivia! Thin fire suffused his lids. Sam pushed himself up with a stab of guilt, casting about for Leena’s cat. She was sunning outside, scratching her ears against Leena’s pot of petunias. He reclined back quickly, and let his eyes droop. There she was at the spectacular golf course, driving with that characteristic downswing. The green light bounced off her flaxen vividness; he never stood a chance. On deputation at the Canadian Forces Base, Edmonton, Sam had lost his heart on the fairway before the ball hit 220 that brittle morning, all those moons ago.
A young pilot on the cusp of a brilliant career, the deputation was to be his litmus test. Barred by the official policy from marrying a foreigner, Sam had come close to throwing away his hard earned flyer’s wings and the exorbitant cost of his training that seismic summer. It took all he had to leave Olivia behind and get on with his life in India. “But now I am retired and no longer bound by service rules” the thought popped into his regurgitating head.
Olivia! He whispered the name, dreading of what it might stir up. It hurt. The Siamese had come in to rub herself against his calf. He got up, pacing to shake off the melancholy. The front path had begun to echo with footsteps once again. Leena’s sister was back, “Sam, I found this bunch of papers at the bottom of her green trunk, you know the one she kept locked.”
“Must be letters from her teen years…she was a sucker for emotional memorabilia" Sam reached out distractedly. He shuffled to the window and released the yellowing ribbon. There were some twenty envelopes of grain textured paper. He turned them over to look at the sender’s name. There it was, in her unmistakably blocky style, written in green ink, “Olivia Tremblay, Clover Bar Road, Edmonton, Alberta”. His heart emitted a banshee as he spun to Cotton accusingly.
The cat’s gaze was angry and unrepentant; his tail puffed up and thumping.