When I See Your Face, Part 30
Four months had gone by and she had partly succeeded in leaving her past behind. Her divorce case was running smoothly despite Mark doing his best to disentangle himself from any responsibility. Frankly, after the confrontation at Michael’s doorstep, her husband hadn’t much entered her thoughts at all. It was a chapter almost closed that had no hold on her present and future. What did have a hold on her, was embedded in her heart like a thorn from the many roses she had planted alongside Michael, was the love she still felt for him. Yes, love.
For, as much as she might try to convince herself of the opposite, she clearly still had feelings for him and she missed him. At night and on evenings huddled in a blanket in front of the TV, it didn’t matter that he had lied to her, that he had probably planned on using her, that she shouldn’t forgive him and that they didn’t have a chance. It simply didn’t matter in her heart of hearts, although her mind came up with page-long lists of pros and cons. She missed him, illogically and achingly, as though he were an integral part of her. She dreamt of him, sometimes happy dreams full of romance, sometimes nightmares full of remembered hurt.
Only recently had it felt easier to shake those feelings off and immerse herself in her cake future and in her new single life. She concentrated on how good it felt that with her own ideas and personal marketing campaigns, she was on her best way to acquire a steady clientele. She concentrated on how good it felt to not depend on anybody, to live in a city full of amenities and possibilities without being caged in an empty, richly decorated mansion like a bird by a husband who didn’t make her feel like a wife.
Why? Why did this letter have to reach her now?
She unlocked the door to the flat, called out and was luckily rewarded with silence. She peeled herself out of the gloves, winter coat, scarf and knee-high boots and went into the kitchen. After putting down the empty crate and switching on the kettle to make herself a cup of coffee, she threw both envelopes into the dustbin and walked away. After a few steps, she raced back, took the letter addressed to her out and placed it on the kitchen counter. While waiting for the water to boil and preparing her cup of coffee, her eyes kept returning to the envelope, inconspicuous though it looked, a white rectangle against a reddish wooden counter top. Like a magnet, the letter drew her attention to it with its many possibilities and fears it created inside her.
She drank a scalding hot sip of coffee and went into her room with the cup and the letter. Locking the door behind her, which she had never done before, she sat down on the bed, eyed the letter wearily for what must have been several minutes and tore it open full of trepidation.
You must be wondering how I got your new address. It so happened that Bertha’s son had gone into the city for a delivery and seen your leaflets in the supermarket. Knowing how much I was hoping from a word from you, he brought one back. It makes me glad to see that you are apparently keeping fine and on your way to making your business dream come true. I wish you wouldn’t have left like that.
Don’t let me waste time on these matters. As I so like to say, what happened in the past had better stay in the past.
And now let me break my own rule by dragging up a matter from the past that has sadly bullied its way into the present and that I feel might keep you from a happier future. I can only hope and pray that you will give yourself and others a chance by reading on and being open for the truth.
On the day that you left, Michael visited me and told me what had happened. Believe me, I can understand what a shock it must have been for you. I had no idea that he has a twin brother who is or was married to you. Do you remember how surprised I was when you showed me that photograph? Anyway, he explained why he had been hiding his past from you. I will give you a summary here because I think you deserve to know the truth although you might not want to know it. And I swear to you upon my honor: I have not been asked by Michael to tell you all this or contact you. He has no idea whatsoever that I am writing to you.
Apparently, Michael and Mark grew up together and were inseparable until about the age when they entered school. Soon, though they were both brilliant and liked the same subjects, their characters developed in different ways. During their teenage years, Mark was the leader, the charmer and the connection to the world and Michael would follow his lead and remain quiet on the inside. Grandfather Nolan, who had founded the house and property business and recruited his own son from the earliest time possible, soon decided to integrate the two promising twins in the family enterprise.
Both graduated from high school with flying colors and went to university, at the same time entering the company as trainees under their father’s watchful eyes. Before he had finished his Master’s Degree, Mark replaced his father as the Manager of the company when the doctors recommended to take things slow because of his heart problem. Michael worked alongside his brother all the time, but showed less and less enthusiasm for the business as time went on. After some years, Mark had succeeded in changing several things, modernizing the business and making it more known nationally as well as internationally.
There came a time—I don’t know whether you remember it because you lived much closer to where things happened and were later to become Mark’s wife—when the company lost one of their biggest customers. The media smelled a scandal and investigated, finding out that Nolan House & Property had apparently cheated on a huge scale. Before things could get ugly, Grandfather Nolan stepped in, threw his weight around and managed to silence the media more or less. Said customer filed a court case. Both brothers were accused of fraud. I don’t know the details because I told Michael that I wouldn’t understand them anyway and he looked about ready to die with shame and guilt.
To cut the long story short, the company’s lawyers and the powerful Nolans managed to keep the damage as low as possible and wipe the company’s name clean by blaming some minor employee and handing out wrong information to the media. Both brothers were sentenced to 12 months of prison and a high compensation payment. Mark wiggled out of this too, but Michael renounced himself from more cheating, broke all ties with his family and actually went to prison. He was released several months earlier due to perfect conduct and came out a changed person. Nobody of his family had ever contacted him apart from Grandfather Nolan, and even that in secret. Notifying the family’s main lawyer of his plans and never looking back, Michael came to our village and started a new life on a different name.
He has made it very clear that he admits that he is to some extent guilty, but that he used to hate what he had to do and that he vowed at that time never to cheat anyone again. When he met you, he fell in love with you despite finding out that you were, of all people, his brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife. His plan was to give you a chance to get to know the real him without being influenced by the past he has left behind and by his likeness to a brother he hates as much as you.
He had wanted to give you some weeks before he revealed everything to you, thinking of enlisting Grandfather Nolan’s help if that meant he could earn your trust and affection, though he hadn’t contacted any family member for years. Now, with Mark having presented the story in a slightly different, though essentially true, light and their grandfather not among the living, Michael’s hopes have been shattered. He scolds himself for not coming clean right from the start and doesn’t want to search for you, though he is still head over heels in love with you. I’m quite good at recognizing those things, although or maybe because I am an old village lady.
I am much less sure about your feelings. However, I have seen you two together and couldn’t imagine a better pair. However, it is not my intention to bring you two back together. It is up to you both to sort out your lives. I have done what my heart tells me is my duty. Let me sign off with wishing you all the best, telling you that I would love to keep in touch and attaching something that might interest you.
With warm regards and high hopes,
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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