A short novel
– 1 –
She looked at her watch.
“I’ll order a taxi today”, she thought. “It’s a special day today and we deserve a little luxury, don’t we?” She smiled at the thought of what was going to happen later that day.
She ordered a taxi right away, even though it meant that she would be there much earlier than if she would have taken a bus instead, which would still be on time. She wanted to be sure to be there early.
“Are you sure you want to go there by taxi?” asked the taxi-service operator when hearing her where she was heading to. “It will be quite expensive”.
“I know”, she said smiling. “But today it feels right.”
“Ok, if you are sure”, said the operator with an unsure tone in her voice. “The taxi will pick you up in five to ten minutes”.
– 2 –
“Hi”, she said to the taxi driver. “I would like to go to the hospital in D.”
He looked at her strangely and nodded without saying a word. It looked like he already knew the destination.
She asked if she could pay with her debit card. The answer was a grim “yes”. She gave him her card for scanning and decided not to start a small talk today. Sometimes the taxi drivers were curious in a little conversation with her, but sometimes they weren’t and she decided this time to follow an advice from a good old friend: “There are times when it is better to keep your joys to yourself and enjoy them alone. Because by sharing it with others you might put salt on a deep wound unknown to you”.
Something told her that this taxi driver had a bad day, or a month, or a year. Not life though, because she believed that the whole life cannot be filled with only bad moments. There is always a glimpse of light or smile or happiness at some and mostly unexpected moments.
So she took a book out of her handbag and started to read.
– 3 –
When the car stopped, she released her seat belt, put her book into her bag and raised her head to look at the driver from whom she expected to get the bill for signing.
Only then she noticed that something was wrong.
“But this is not the hospital”, she said unsure what she felt.
“No”, said the taxi driver looking at her with mad eyes in the rearview mirror.
He opened his door and suddenly jumped to her side of the car. Then he opened the car door, grabbed her by her legs and pulled strongly and without mercy, so that she slid with her back on the sit and banged her head on its leather cover.
The sun was shining brightly, as though someone intentionally lit light to film this terrible scene. Nothing could be heard except heavy breathing of the man in this empty piece of landscape.
“First, you will pay for what you’ve done, and after that they can heal you at your hospital”, he growled.
“But what have I done?” she gasped while trying to get her legs free and to find a grip on the smooth leather seats of the taxi.
“You took my boy and yourself away from me!” he shouted and got a better hold of her by putting his hands on her thighs dressed in black jeans.
“No!” she cried out loud without quite understanding what he said. “I was going to get my babies into my belly!”
His incredulous look gave her a second to take a small gulp of air and continue. “I was going to the fertility clinic to get two embryos implanted into me today.” She felt his grip loosen a bit, so that she could rise a bit and hold up on her elbows to face him. “My husband and I are trying to get a child since more than five years”, she pleaded, “and since I am over thirty-six, I can get two embryos implanted at once. Three of the five eggs got fertilized, and I can get two of the embryos implanted today. The other one will be frozen and implanted later if it won’t work this time.” She was talking fast and wasn’t sure if what she was saying could help her or not.
He let her go and said: “Get back into the car. I’ll bring you to the hospital.”
She got herself clumsily and trembling back onto her seat, and put on her seat belt while the driver got back to his seat behind the wheel. They drove without a word for a few minutes.
“I’ll bring you there”, he said, “but if you’ll tell anyone of what happened, I’ll kill you.”
“I know”, she said with anger growing inside her. “And if you don’t bring me there, I’ll kill you!”
Their eyes met in the rearview mirror and for a brief moment it seemed that they would burst into laughter. But then awkward silence between them returned.
– 4 –
They arrived at the hospital. “Still in time”, she thought looking at the taxi’s clock. “What a strange thought to come in such a moment.”
“Go,” he said, interrupting her from her displaced thoughts. “You don’t have to pay,” and after a pause he added “after what happened.”
“I want to”, she said looking openly in his sad eyes in the mirror. It was strange, but what she felt, was gratitude. Not fear. She was appalled by that, but did not want to fight this feeling after all. “Thank you for bringing me here“, she said after paying and opening the door.
“Good luck”, he said and turned away from her, but she didn’t fail to notice tears in his eyes ready to start running down his face.
– 5 –
A week has passed. There was a knock on the door. “The postman didn’t find the doorbell again”, she thought expecting to find a postman behind the door standing and waiting impatiently with one of the many packages with Christmas presents she recently ordered.
But it wasn’t a postman. I was the taxi driver from the last week. Again this strange unsure feeling overran her. What was that: shock, fear, anger? She was not sure. And still this time everything was different. She was at home and as they say where she grew up: “Even walls can help you at home!”
Also the taxi driver was different today. He was blushing and looked at his shoes like a boy who brought a bad grade from school.
“Did it work?” he asked with a shaky voice without saying hello.
“It went well”, she answered understanding immediately what he meant. “But it’s too early for the results. First in a week or two.”
He nodded blushing even more, realizing how stupid it was to come. He turned to go, but then he turned back and blurted suddenly: “I am not a rapist, you know. I’ve never done or thought of doing something like this, ever in my life. But when I saw you last week, I was shocked. You resemble my wife so much. … My late wife, that is”, he corrected himself. “Even gestures are the same. The way you said so little at the beginning, and the way you read your book without noticing the bumpy road. You even dress the same sporty style. The hair is a bit different. But it looked like she escaped and moved further leaving me with nothing.”
He sighed and continued: “She killed my son and then herself. They said she was mentally ill. But she never behaved like that before this happened.” He drew a deep breath, “When I saw and watched you in the mirror while driving, I started seeing her, not you. I got totally mad, absolutely insane.” His face changed expression from bitter to sad and warm. “But then you told me your story … and it was so totally unlike her. You were trying to get a baby, while she killed our child… He was only nine.”
“What was his name?” she now asked shaken but somehow not surprised by the story after all that happened.
“David”, he answered. “He was supposed to grow strong and happy and help and protect others. But his life was stolen from him by the very person who gave him birth.”
“This was so unfair”, he added.
She nodded, thinking he meant the destiny of his child.
“No”, he said, “this was so unfair to you. To take revenge on you for what she has done. Or to try to take revenge. You’re so different … in the end”, he finished smiling awkwardly.
“Your wife had also had other, different sides of her person of which she didn’t know herself” she said and added hastily “probably”, fearing that she again made a conclusion on something or someone without being asked.
“Probably”, he nodded feeling grateful for the warmth that was coming from this stranger who appeared being at the same time so familiar and who seemed not to hate him for what he’s done.
“Forget of what I said, that you shouldn’t tell anyone of last week. You can go to the police and tell them of all. I’ll confirm. Or maybe I should go myself”, he concluded.
“Please, don’t”, she started to reach for his arm but then withdrew. “Don’t”, she repeated, “nothing really happened. Except maybe that you reminded me how fragile and precious the life is, how fragile and precious we are, how fragile and precious humanity is and that what really matters is infinite and unconditional love.”
He looked at her with big eyes full of wonder and full of tears, but this time, happy tears.
“Would you like to come in?” she smiled at him warmly.
“No, thank you. I’d better be going. Thank you for all you said.”
“Wait”, this time she put her hand on his arm. “Please, give me your mobile number. I will let you know, if it worked.”
He nodded, waited until she returned with a pen and a piece of paper, and scribbled his number without writing his name.
“Good luck”, he said as he did a week ago. But this time he could feel a small glimpse of joy in his chest that was full of heavy clouds with sorrow up to this very day.
“Thank you!” she said and smiled again and watched him descending the stairs of the house she lived in.
– 6 –
“Beep!” a text message from a number he never saw before: “It worked. Thank you, for bringing me there safely.”
– 7 –
Almost a year later, he was driving a young woman to the same hospital as the one where he brought her one year ago. This woman was different, but he couldn’t help thinking of this unusual but familiar stranger. It was all so long time ago, but yet so close.
A sudden “beep” of a text message drew his gaze to display of his mobile. He only had one message from her up till now and never saved her number, but he immediately knew it was her.
He looked in the mirror at his passenger. “Excuse me, are you in hurry? Do you mind if I stop for a moment?” He paused awkwardly and then added: “I mean… I got a message from a close friend, from whom I haven’t heard for a while.” He lingered after hearing himself saying that. Yes, she was his closest friend, although still a stranger of whom he knew only her and her husband’s initials and last name engraved on a small shield on her door. She saw, understood and forgiven him something that he himself couldn’t understand or forgive.
“Sure, no problem”, the young woman in the passenger seat behind him interrupted his thoughts. “I have a lot of time. I’ve ordered the taxi quite early to have enough time in case of traffic jams”.
While he was parking in the nearest parking lot he found on their way, a second text message from her arrived. A long message. With trembling hands and full of anticipation he read: “David came first. Amie, his twin sister, came less than half an hour later. Both are doing well. David was 3.5 kg strong when he was born. Amie won’t sleep without David at her side, and he is always happy when we put her in their bed near him. Thank you for bringing me there!”
He reread the message several times and answered simply: “Thank you!”
“Good news?”, again an interruption from his current passenger. But he didn’t mind. “Yes, the best!” he answered smiling brightly and putting his mobile in its holder.
– 8 –
“She refuses to raise a claim on you”, the young inspector looked at him curiously. “She says nothing happened, except that you brought her safely to the clinic. And why do you come now, one year after this has supposedly happened?”
“I don’t know, maybe because I was waiting for good news”, he said not knowing what to think. He came to police to confess, but they refused to blame him without a victim, as they have put it.
“I heard what happened to your family. Many would break in your place. You stopped before the worst could happen”, inspector said calmly looking openly into his eyes.
“But only because she told me her story. Otherwise, I don’t know what could have happened”, he tried to insist.
“You’ve been given the second chance, so take it!” said the inspector with some persistence.
He had to leave. There was not much further to say.
“We’ll keep an eye on you. So, be careful not to do anything stupid!” said the inspector cheerfully.
“Thank you!” he said with endless gratitude for so much human generosity. The inspector shook his head in disbelief, smiling.
– 9 –
The first person, to whom he told about his sin, was, besides the police inspector, a barman. There was no catholic church around within the next several hundred kilometers. And he wasn’t a great churchgoer anyway. He did happen to talk to God, Supreme Being, Angel, the Mother Nature, Universe or whatever he or she or it was behind all the beauty and craziness of life. But what he needed was an unbiased person. And this young and pleasant man had something very comforting about him, in addition to the fact that the two of them were alone in this bar at such an early hour. He recalled reading somewhere that good barristers could make good priests because you can always tell them your story and trust that they’ll keep it to themselves.
He asked for a cup of tea. He decided he’ll get himself a drink after the story is told. “Do you mind me telling you my story?” he wanted a double check.
“Not at all”, said the young man getting a coffee for himself and taking a bar stool to face him. This bartender was indeed going to pay him his full attention.
He cleared his throat and started with a quiet voice and his face lit with a happy smile as he got to the end of his first sentence: “One year ago, I almost raped a woman, but what followed turned to be the biggest blessing and gave me inner peace for the first time after my son died.”
Afterword by the author:
This is my very first piece of fiction, if my school essays are not taken into account. I have written it almost four years ago on a bus trip to the fertility clinic. Before taking the bus I had an idea to take a taxi to the clinic and this story has started taking shape in my head. So I was looking forward to the bus trip in order to have enough time to put it into words. I finished it in the bus on my way back home on that day. Differently from the heroine, the fertilization procedure didn’t work for my husband and me. But what followed shortly after was even better. About three months later I became pregnant and have a sweet two and a half years old son now. But this is another story which will be posted soon.