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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Romance/Love · #2199503
Lost found in the center, the center holds.
An entry for the August 2019
 
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August 12, 2011

Samantha was curled into a comfortable chair peering out of her room under the eaves at the Hotel Particulier De Champrond watching the moon rise beyond the spires of the Chartres Cathedral.

"Grand! Did you see the moon?" Her granddaughter, Christina, burst into her room. "It looks huge! I tried getting a picture with my cell, but it just looks the normal size. I wanted to remember how special it looks."

"It's merely an illusion. You don't need your phone to remember how beautiful it is; just use your eyes and your mind and you can keep it forever."

Tina looked at her grandmother who seemed so sad. "You aren't sorry we came, are you?"

"No, darling. I do find myself wondering a bit though."

"Wondering what?"

"Was what I felt all those many years ago just an illusion of love? Was I deluding myself? Did it seem so very much bigger than what it actually was, not unlike that moon out there?"

"No, Grand. It couldn't have been. I know you two lost each other when he had to return home, but the love was real. Your eyes shine when you speak of your 'darling Christophe.' The story of you and him that I've heard my entire life is almost like a fairy tale, except that it really happened."

"No 'happily ever after' though," Sam said softly. "Every so often, I try yet again to find him. It is like he never existed. Nothing across social media. He must be the only one on the planet without some form of an online presence. You'd think it would be simple now, but it isn't."

"You never know. Your story isn't over yet."

"No, no it is not."

~*~


Christophe Marston strolled along Place Jean Moulin, head raised to the impossibly large full moon rising in the night sky. Moon when all things ripen, he mused. That's what Grandmother always called it. Over forty years later and I still miss you, Grams. I just wish I could remember so many of the other things I've lost.

He could remember pretty much everything until he'd graduated college. He didn't remember his grandmother passing away, he could no longer remember even being in the US Army (although that's where he was injured.) His memories started again pretty much when he went home after being released from his service due to his closed head injury from the chopper crash he was glad he didn't remember.

Arriving home, he found out that his grandmother and parents had died, and it was all new to him although it had happened five years prior. He'd been left a substantial amount of money, a warehouse full of 18th century antiques and a homely little man named Jimmy who insisted that Chris needed to get back into the antiquities business. He sighed. And so he had. But the missing years haunted him.

He didn't know why he was drawn here to Chartres, but after fighting the feelings for years, he'd decided to go see the cathedral. He knew all about its history, of course. He wanted to walk the labyrinth inside, the maze that was supposed to lead people forward.



August 13, 2011

Both Samantha and Christina overslept the next morning. Sam woke with a raging headache and a stiff neck. When Tina knocked on her door, she asked her to find her some aspirin. "I guess, maybe, I'm getting too old for all this traipsing around the globe," she said ruefully.

{size:4"}Not a chance, Grand. You are only sixty-eight. That's not old at all," Tina said, handing Sam a glass of water and two aspirin. "Jetlag can bring down even the mightiest of men," she joked. "Get some rest. We are here until tomorrow so we can just go to the cathedral this afternoon."

Sam cozied down in the soft bed, eyes closed, but not sleeping. More likely, I am just afraid to go back inside. Tracing the labyrinth with Christophe is still so clear in my head - like it happened yesterday, instead of forty-three years ago. That day, that entire day, was one of the most important days in my life. Everything changed - good and bad. Samantha rolled over, punched her pillow. Strange being here with Christina. Like I'm seeing her and yet seeing a younger me. Images from the past overlapped the now, resurfaced. Somewhere in the meshing of memories, Samantha fell asleep.

Shortly before closing time, Samantha and Tina stood outside the massive doors into the cathedral. "The left door. That's the one you and your Christophe used, right Grand?"

Sam reached out, her fingers barely toughing the ancient wood, before reaching for the handle and pulling it open.

Sam heard her granddaughter's inhaled breath of awe as Tina stood stock still looking up, oblivious of the people edging past her. Sam's writer-self clicked in; describing the scene as if she were writing it: The girl with the vibrant copper and gilt hair stood silent and wide-eyed in the void, in the belly of the 900 year-old stone edifice while humanity streamed past intent on seeing all there was to see, and yet, missing the most important scene of all.

"Ready to walk the labyrinth, Grand?"

"No," Samantha replied, "you walk it, sweetie. I'm going to sit over there," she pointed to a bench over by the east wall. She watched as Tina walked the eleven circles wending her way towards the middle of the maze, the place where she was to meet her future. She watched, but her mind was back all those many years, when she was here with her darling, Christophe.

~*~


Christophe stood looking up at the Rose Window on the west wall of the nave. It was, he knew, the largest of the cathedral's three rose windows, measuring over fifty feet in diameter. Dating back to roughly the year 1215, it depicted scenes from the Last Judgement, the judge of humanity being Jesus Christ. It being set in the west wall where it would catch the soft light of the setting sun symbolized the end of time. He watched as the sun, having sunk to just the right angle, beamed its light through the stained glass turning the area of the labyrinth into a kaleidoscope of multi-colored patterns, weaving and entwining as the pilgrims (of a sort) meandered their way.

Dead center, having reached her objective, a young woman spun in a circle, arms outstretched, her long hair spread wide in a halo of copper, silver and gold.

His eyes widened. Then the image morphed to another young woman who looked startlingly like the one in front of him, but he was seeing into the past. Samantha. He knew her. The rational part of him knew it wasn't Sam, but then those thoughts were scattered as myriad images suddenly flashed across his mind's eye. And he remembered everything. He slid helplessly down the stone wall, sitting on the floor, head in his hands as all those lost years came flooding back.

~*~


Christina was spinning in the sheer joy of her moment, reaching the center of the labyrinth and her mind-sung prayer floating heavenward. All the way across the nave, along the far wall, she saw a silver-haired man standing along the wall. He stood out, perhaps because everyone else seemed to be moving and he was absolute stillness. Something about him seemed terribly familiar, but she hadn't a clue what that was.

Running over to her grandmother, she pointed at the far wall. "Grand, do you see that man over there? By the wall? Oh," she paused, "he's gone now. I don't see him."

"What about him?" asked her grandmother.

"I don't know, exactly. I think I know him, but I don't know who he is. No matter, I guess, he's gone now. Did you see when the sunbeams came through the window? Oh, Grand, wasn't it absolutely glorious?"

"It was beautiful, sweetie. A special moment for sure. I'm glad there was a moment here, I think I really needed it."

A disembodied voice echoed over the crowd telling everyone that it was closing time as chairs needed to be set up for services in the morning. Samantha and Tina wended their way out with the crowd; Tina talking excitedly about the cathedral, the labyrinth and the riot of color when the sun beamed through the Rose Window. Samantha listened with half an ear as her mind wended its way through a labyrinth of memories from long ago.

~*~


Christophe was one of the last to leave the cathedral. His mind was spinning, his stomach had that queasy roller coaster feeling when you go over that highest part and then the world dropped away. He wandered down the street to a small pub, got a drink and sat in a booth in the shadowed back corner.

Samantha. His Samantha. He had so many questions. Why had she never called? How was he to find her? It might be scores of years too late, but he had to find her. He needed to more now than even in the past. He remembered telling her in the labyrinth that that day was one he would never forget. Never say never, he mused. It will bite you for sure.

Images kept flashing in his mind, like a series of drawings where each is a little different, but when flipped through quickly, simulates movement. More images, memories surfaced. His grandmother. The army. Vietnam. Oh, dear God! Vietnam, the chopper, the crash ....

He swallowed the rest of his drink, signaled for another. Downing it, he paid and left the pub. Once again the moon was rising, an enormous bloated moon. The cathedral had been built on an ancient druidic site. In fact the twin spires were in honor of the sun and the moon, each so important in the canon of the day. Now, it rose, that 'man in the moon' face almost laughing at him. That mocking grin from the moon gilding the streets silver, and yet once again sending his mind back to another moonrise over Paris.

Christophe decided he needed to get home. There hadn't been an internet when he'd lost her, but there was now. He would find her. There was so much he needed to know, so much to explain. The one thing he did know was that he was absolutely still in love with her.

Guess that's why I never found a someone else. Even if I didn't remember, a part of my heart must have. I need to find her.

~*~


Sam sat watching the moon dominate the sky once again. "It's strange, really. I know it is crazy, totally crazy, but I felt him there today. Memories will do odd things to you, I guess. That was the day, you know."

"What day, Grand?"

That afternoon, after we'd returned from Chartres back to Paris, was when we, ah..."

"Grand! I'm not a child. You mean you and your darling Christophe made love for the first time?"

"Yes." A bittersweet feeling came over Sam. "Several times, in fact. And that afternoon and evening were the only time we were together in that way. He got word his parents and grandmother were in an accident and he flew out the next day. I stupidly lost his address and phone number. He never called me. I don't know what happened, or if I'll ever know.

"But I do know this. Today, in the cathedral, I felt him. As odd as that may sound, I know he's okay. I know he's alive and out there somewhere--God, I sound like some fluffy-bunny romance writer."

"Grand, you are a romance writer, remember? And if anyone deserves her happy ending, it's you!"

1964 words


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