Lives, Lived and Unlived (Part 3 of 4)
“Well, maybe you do,” his mother said, on the day a new lord marched into Hurrendel ahead of a small honour guard, and surrounded by servants and family, with a proud, alien banner flying ahead of him.
“Or maybe this was just the obvious outcome.”
“The West isn’t weak, son.”
“No? Well, we’re defeated, aren’t we?”
“There’s still fighting.”
“So they say, but it’s pointless.”
He’d already told her about his visions, about the life with Krislyn that seemed to play out the edges of his world. The visions hadn’t stopped coming, if anything he’d seen them more. He’d seen Krislyn age as he had, as she had in real life – only not quite, there were subtle differences, she seemed softer, calmer in the visions. Perhaps because she wasn’t alone in that other life. She had a family all around her. Six children all in all, and they brought light into her eyes.
Or they would have.
If it was real.
“Do you think,” he asked his mother, “that it’s actually the life I might have lived?”
“Or why I would see it?”
“Because she went to the witch. The witch told her something that changed a choice she might have made. That choice lives on in… something. Memories that were never formed. You ask the wrong person. But if you’re a Seer, why shouldn’t you see what might have been?”
“Should I tell her?”
“No. Never. Trust your mother on this much. She’d never welcome it. And her tongue these days…”
Because Veldon was growing to be a handful. Growing up without a father, some said. Or: that family always had some wildness in them now, didn’t they? Krislyn’s temper grew short, she seemed tired; her love for her son was intense, protective, but it seemed to haunt her more than comfort or uplift her.
One day Jeddos encountered her alone up by the well, sitting against the stones and crying into her hands.
Jeddos approached her slowly, he sat down beside her and waited for her to notice him.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, and, “I’m all right.”
“I know you miss him.”
“I do. And- But-”
“He could still come back.”
Krislyn shook her head, “Maybe. Oh, I don’t know what to think. Perhaps he never loved me.”
“Don’t say that.”
“How should I know? How can I?”
“He loved you.” He thought: it takes one to know one, and I still love you.
“Do you ever fear…? it sounds silly…”
“That you lived your whole life wrong?”
No answer was safe. Everything in this moment was too charged, too dangerous.
She looked him full in the face.
“We… we all do sometimes.”
“More than that…”
“Like you see another life, a missed opportunity?”
“Like I saw it once.”
“You can’t turn back time.”
Her face was wet with tears. “Those babies, Jeddos. Those beautiful babies.”
He took her face in his hands. He kissed her. And after that there was no stopping them. He knew in the fringes of his awareness that this was wrong, that this was bad and dangerous. He tried to tell himself that she was almost certainly a widow, and so he took nothing that belonged to another man, and hadn’t some witch cheated him out of this anyway, hadn’t Krislyn just said as much? All the while, his arms and hers wrapping around one another like vines, his hands sliding over her hot skin, reaching down into her dress. They came together, took one another on the stony ground next to the well, where anyone might walk up and see them.
But nobody did. And nothing was said. She stood up, gathered her dress around her, walked away leaving her water behind. The sun had fallen and the moon had risen while they’d shared each other. Jeddos sat against the well, staring up at the night sky, wondering what was going to come of all this.
Little. As it turned out.
A part of him had expected the sky to fall down. A part of him had expected the two lifelines to come crashing together, to see the earth break open and fire stream across the sky. He almost expected to find Krislyn his wife of nearly ten years, to see their pack of six children milling around them, laughing and talking, eating, pinching and kicking each other, playing, making trouble. But his hut was unchanged, still painted with all the evidence of an unmarried man, still sparse and breathing loneliness.
While Krislyn avoided him.
And he, her.
It was weeks before she said a word to him, and that was only: “I’m sorry we did that.”
“I’m sorry… I was taking advantage…”
“No. But we can’t. Never again. I’m a wife, Jeddos.”
“We made a mistake.”
We had a slice, we had a moment of that other life. He couldn’t make himself regret or unwish it. He couldn’t. But he just said, “I understand.”
And she said, “Thank you,” as if they were parting ways forever, not just as lovers but as friends. As if they might actually never see each other again; and if they were careful enough to avoid each other that could almost become true.
Jeddos grieved again for the loss of her.
He went home to his quiet little hut, and as he lay there watching the walls he saw the flicker of his other life, the contented busy life of his sons and daughters. Of his wife.
Picture credit: author's own work