Let's Start Again
Luke Gandolfo took in the familiar surroundings as he rode the taxi from Heathrow Airport. Nothing much had changed since he was born, eighteen years ago, but he was overcome by the occasion, his dreamlike state understandable.
The taxi pulled up at the given address in Knightsbridge and Luke fought back the tears. He paid his fare and approached the mansion, his holdall hardly containing sufficient clothes for one week’s stay. He brushed the blonde hair from his forehead and once more contemplated his decision.
He frowned when he acknowledged the gates of the mansion had been painted a puke green colour. Also, he noticed the windows had been replaced; his beloved stain glass windows substituted with modern panels. He reluctantly pushed the bell and noticed the security camera focused on him.
“Yes, can I help you?” came the voice from the intercom.
It was a male voice that Luke did not recognise.
“My name is Luke Gandolfo and I’ve travelled from the States to see Christine.”
There was a pause, before the man from the mansion responded. “What business do you have with my wife?”
The words hit Luke, and it seemed like a dagger had been lunged into his heart. He felt sorrow and betrayal, but then realised eighteen years is such a long time. The tears streamed down his face, as he attempted to control his imperfect speech. “My business with your wife is personal. It’s difficult to explain, standing here… Please, I’ve come such a long way to see her.”
There was another prolonged silence before a female voice could be heard. “Who are you? Why do you wish to see me?”
Luke stared at the camera. Can’t you see me, Christine? Why don’t you recognise me? “C-Chris,” stuttered Luke. “Listen, my business concerns David.”
Luke yawned and heard the click of the gate. He entered the exclusive grounds of the mansion, his walk towards the Georgian structure inhibited by his jetlag and his nostalgia. He smiled, and admired the pristine, manicured lawns and the neatly pruned shrubs. Christine had inherited his meticulous manner.
He wandered along the gravel pathway until he reached the stone steps. He stroked one of the magnificent stone lions that guarded the huge red door of the mansion; the very same beasts he had purchased in another era.
The door opened and Christine stood before him, her now grey hair swept into a tidy bun. Her face had developed wrinkles since he had last set eyes on her, and he realised she was now fifty-two years of age. She still however retained her childlike figure, and the glint was still present in her eyes. She wore an emerald green gown, his favourite colour.
“So, who are you and what do you want?” groaned Christine’s husband. He addressed the American stranger suspiciously.
Luke could not avert his gaze from Christine, and he was certain she was familiar with him, even though his features were now different.
“My name is Luke Gandolfo and I was born eighteen years ago, the very day David Markham died in a hit and run accident.”
Christine gasped, and her hands trembled uncontrollably.
Her companion shrugged. “So what?”
Luke searched Christine’s tearful eyes. “I think your wife understands.”
The husband could see his wife was upset. “I think you’d better leave, young man. I don’t know what your game is, but I can guess. Now get your…”
“No, wait, Jonathan,” insisted Christine. “I think we need to sit down. If this is what I think it is, then you ought to hear him.”
Jonathan conceded and the trio retreated into the rear garden. They settled beside the sun-kissed swimming pool and Christine opened a bottle of claret.
“So what’s David’s death got to do with you, son?” asked Jonathan.
Luke hesitated, finding his words hard to come by. “What I’m about to tell you, you will find difficult to believe. In fact, you will no doubt believe me to be crazy. All I ask is that you let me explain without interruption, and then do as you wish.”
“Fire away, son,” grinned the nervous-looking husband, who cleaned his sunglasses.
“First of all, may I ask you if you believe in reincarnation?”
Jonathan rolled his eyes and drained his wine glass. “What? No, of course I don’t. I’m Church of England, son, and I leave such mumbo-jumbo to the weirdoes and the witch doctors.”
Luke scowled. “Then, what I’m about to tell you will be most difficult… Jonathan, I was once married to your wife.”
“What? How bloody absurd. You’re just a bloody kid, goddamnit… What are you after, Yank? Money? Is that your plan? Well, I can tell…”
“Shut up!” demanded Christine. “Jonathan, I know I never spoke to you much about David. It was out of respect for you… David believed in reincarnation. In fact, he always insisted that he had lived many lives before… Have you heard of Professor George Smitheringale?”
Jonathan shrugged. “No, should I have?”
Christine continued. “He’s a founder member of CSI, the Committee for Sceptical Inquiry. They’re a group of prominent citizens whose aim it is to debunk fake spiritualists and psychics. Professor Smitheringale investigated David, and after delving into his alleged past lives, he was unable to prove that David was lying. David even underwent hypnosis, and when in a trance he assumed the guise of five of the people he claimed he once was. The professor, in his summing up, claimed that of all the subjects he had investigated, David, he was unsure of.”
Jonathan smirked and poured himself another glass of claret. “So let’s suppose that this impostor here read about David, then he comes up with some corrupt scheme to attain money from you. Wouldn’t that make sense?”
Luke clenched his fists. “I’m not after your darned money.”
“Then why come here and upset my wife? I mean, Christine, does this spotty teenager even resemble David? Yes, he has blonde hair and blue eyes, but that hardly qualifies him as Lazarus, does it?”
“It was a promise,” interrupted Christine. “David promised me that if he ever died before me, he would contact me.”
“Bullshit!” moaned Jonathan. “I don’t believe I’m hearing this.”
Luke ignored the protest. “Christine, I slipped and fell, fully-clothed into the pool when drunk during our honeymoon in Barbados. When Rachel, our daughter was born, I wanted to call her Danielle… I bought you an eternity ring in Egypt, which you lost. You were so upset that you purchased an identical one and never told me about it until seven years later.”
Luke could not help but notice Jonathan smirking at him. The infuriating man drained the remainder of the claret.
“So why now?” asked Christine. “When exactly did you know you were David in a past life?”
“When? I guess it was around about when I was four, when my brain developed fully. My immaturity prevented me from making contact with you. My parents in the States believe I’m here to visit a pen pal. Of course, I haven’t told them.”
Jonathan left and returned shortly with another bottle of claret. Judging by his demeanour, he had been drinking earlier. He swallowed a liberal mouthful of claret and placed his arm around his wife. “Well, darling; are you going to tell him or do you wish me to do the honour?”
“No! Jonathan!” yelled Christine.
The intoxicated husband was defiant. “You see, Luke, David, or whatever you care to call yourself. It’s not only you who can spring a surprise… I was having an…”
“No! You bastard!” screamed Christine, who rose to her feet and slapped her husband incessantly.
Jonathan pushed his wife to the ground. “You see, son; twenty years ago I was screwing your wife… Yes, you pathetic shit. You were unable to satisfy lustful Christine here, so I naturally complied with her wishes… Anyway, we later…”
“No! No! No!” pleaded Christine, who was now knelt before her husband, her hands held together in prayer.
Luke trembled, disbelieving what her despicable husband claimed.
Jonathan was now on his feet, clutching his bottle of claret. “As I was saying, before I was rudely interrupted by my delicious, yet devious wife. Haven’t you ever wondered who the hit and run driver was? Well, my mysterious friend, let me enlighten you. If you are a charlatan, which I suspect you are, then you’ll be unperturbed by my admission. If however, you are, or were David, then I doubt you’ll be able to convince the police of my crime. You see, Luke, it was I who drove into you. Yes, your holier than holy wife, your majesty, Christine agreed to dispose of you. You see, lust is a dangerous trait, which furnishes us with such bravado. We eliminate you, and we live happily ever after. Your life insurance helped of course, but that enticement was not the reason I killed you… So there you have it… Do close the gate on the way out.”
Luke wandered towards the swimming pool and Christine tugged at his arm.
“I’m sorry, David. I’m so sorry.”
Luke turned towards her, his eyes red and his lips quivering. “So, I gather you doubted I would one day return. You never believed me, did you?… What a shitty life. Do you know what, Chris; let’s start again.”
Luke flung himself backwards, hitting the surface of the pool with a loud splash. He purposely swallowed mouthfuls of the chlorine-infested pool, and resisted the urge to tread water. He plummeted to the depths of the pool, a contented smile on his face.