Alternate Story Part 4: Prologue, Chapter 1  


The desert and the Indian were far away now, but Mason''s normal life did not seem normal to him. He felt rather like a soldier who came back from his own war. Things that used to be important looked shallow now; the people who, Mason knew, he loved irritated him. What he really wanted was to be left alone.

No, being alone was not a panacea. In his sleep he groaned; sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night with his face wet. At such moments Mason was really grateful to see Julia who quietly came in and placed her cool hand on his forehead. He would kiss her hand, apologize and ask her to stay with him, and he would move making room for her. Julia had moved in with Mason when he was back, and normally they slept apart, for Julia was not comfortable with her big belly. However, on such nights she would agree, and she would lie with Mason, and more often than not she would fall asleep while he was holding her, thinking.

The wedding preparations would be over soon, and they would be wed. It made him feel somewhat uneasy. Mason knew it was he who insisted on it, but he could not help wondering if that was a mistake. He thought he knew that Julia was the right choice; but to be with her all his life? to have a wife and two kids; was there anything else to look forward to, or was his life as good as done and over at this point?

On the other hand, if Mason imagined his life without Matt and Julia, and the unborn new baby, he just shuddered and held Julia tighter. A senseless journey that could not come to an end too soon. The life of an cracked empty bottle. The existence of a dry leaf. The pregnant woman in his arms was real, warm, loving; and then Mason would thank God and pray Him to give him confidence and strength not to let Julia down.

Mason could not but see that Julia was worried. She tried to talk to him, and he assured her that it was not the prospect of their wedding he was questioning; that he was depressed after what he had endured, that was all. Mason himself did not know how much of this was true.

When he first came home and saw Sophia who hurried to him with little Matt in her arms, tears came to Masons eyes. He took the baby, kissed the small head and silently thanked God for letting him see his son again. However, when soon Matt got tired, or hungry, or something and started crying, Mason was relieved to let a nanny take care of the baby.

Probably hed be over it soon. He certainly hoped so.

He wanted quiet, and dim, and soft. But he did not want to be alone any more.

So Mason would kiss Julias fingers again and, avoiding her searching melancholy eyes, he would whisper, Please please stay with me; Ill try not to disturb you.


Chapter 1

Julia had never pictured it like this.

Unlike Mason, she had never been married, and so the little girl with plaited hair, that lives in every grown-up womans soul, in Julias distinctly demanded a beautiful white dress and a reception where she could see all her friends and family, all happy for her and her beloved one.

As far as Julia could see it, it was not destined to be so. Mason was sinking deeper and deeper into his depression, and she asked herself how long itd take him to dive into a bottle. She loved this man and could sacrifice anything for him, not only her dream wedding. However, she dared to order a white dress that would fit a pregnant bride. The bridegroom most probably would not even notice, but that much she owed to the little girl with plaited hair.

She came from a fitting rather vexed. Her waist seemed to be growing daily, and her dressmaker said she could not guarantee the dress would fit so well in a fortnight. To add to this, earlier, when the working day was over, Mason asked her if she was going home and she said she wasnt, Julia did not like his mien. Was he relieved? Anyway, he was not in the least curious as to where she was heading.

So, when Julia did come home, later that night, with her eternal fear that she might find Mason drunk, she was worked-up. Mason was sober; he was reading a newspaper. Matt was playing on the floor, wet from head to toe.

Hi Daddy, Julia said with sarcasm, tearing the baby off his toys. Matt gave a whine.

Mason winced and put off his newspaper. Hi.

Cant you see the babys wet?

Oh. He looked bored.

Julia controlled her impulse and never uttered another word till she changed Matt. Mason was watching them, and it annoyed Julia.

See, its easy, she said in a challenging tone when she was done.

Thank you.

Mason still was looking at her in the same unpleasant way, as if asking himself what she was doing there in his apartment and, more globally, in his life.

At this moment Julia seemed to herself fat, and awkward, and ugly. In her energetic manner, she walked past Matt and sat down onto the couch next to Mason.

He changed his position so as to look at her or so as to move further from her.

What are you seeing? she attacked him. Im not an exhibit you know. And its not too late to call the whole thing off, if youve started having second thoughts.

Call what off? Mason frowned. The wedding? Why the idea?

Because I think you already regret your insistent proposals.

Its not so, Julia.

I dont feel engaged! I dont feel cherished; I think I dont feel noticed. Ah, my mistake; I do feel very much noticed when you bore me with your eyes like this as if wondering what I was doing here and who I was.

I need some air, Mason said getting up.

Julia looked up, helpless. Im sorry, she said hastily.

He nodded. I am sorry. I know I am not good company, Julia. Im he hesitated, but said only, sorry.

He closed the door behind him softly. Julia bit her lip.


Olga Lissenkova

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