When you don't believe in love anymore, it's when you find it
|Juliana felt the caress of the breeze on her skin. By interval, she opened her eyes to contemplate the skyline which unveiled fields of minuscule crystals reflecting the sunbeams on the surface of the ocean.
The white sand danced within the turquoise waves. Ellis reached her hand, and delicately put it in his palm. They savoured the view from the terrace of the presidential villa, comfortably installed under the parasols next to the swimming pool. It was a splendid afternoon in Fregate Island, one of the pearls of the Seychelles.
Neither of them thought that one day they would spend holidays together as husband and wife. When Ellis kissed Juliana, the sweetness of her tongue was a leaf floating in the air.
They were in harmony with the elements.
While still relaxing, Juliana replayed in her mind the events that sealed the love they shared.
The images kept coming like a train running at full speed.
It was almost exactly two years ago, they were trapped inside the helicopter which was sinking in the lake next to Alexandra palace in London. The suffocating smell of the kerosene mixed with the burning plastics, the terrible smoke, the chaos, and finally the coma began to remove the last bits of hope.
She was lost in the haze of her torment. Suddenly, from the core of her being, a sequence of light opened a way in the shadow of the mystery.
In her descent, the first vision which arose was Ellis' face shouting to come back among us. When she thought she was about to die, it was strange what her soul chose to remember. A delicious cupcake with pink cream on the top was what came second after Ellis' voice.
She was with Susan her best friend in her favourite New York cafe near the metropolitan museum observing from time to time people walking on Fifth Avenue. ‘Maybe I don't need a man in my life; I'm good for nobody' said Juliana sighing.
'You are just a great romantic' replied Susan smiling.
The sound of the groups of people around them comforted her. They were drinking teas and coffees from all around the world in a ballet of scents.
Now, she was fighting to survive in a fuselage of a chopper.
A total darkness expanded along her horizon.
Suddenly, she heard Maya her grandmother saying to come to the table because the feijoda was ready. She was six years old with Nelson her father, Cathy her mother and Tom her brother visiting Maya in Rio de Janeiro for the summer holidays. The first time she arrived in Brazil, she felt at home, like if she knew the place in a previous existence. The different greens of the lush vegetation particularly impressed her.
The pictures of her Grandfather Roberto, we looked so kind and charming, and Uncle Ignacio, handsome and passionate, was a source of curiosity while she was enjoying her meal. She learned later that Ignacio died when he was student after being arrested for having protested against the military regime in power at that time in the country.
He wanted to be a physician like Nelson who also started to study medicine, but after the death of his brother immigrated to London, and finally became an investment banker. The family didn't totally recover from this tragedy. Until his last breath, Grandfather Roberto mourned the loss of his son.
Inside the helicopter, an infinite silence followed. Juliana saw a golden stairway. Million of birds flew around it like mirrors in rotation. Was it the paradise?
From this transitional state, the memory of Ellis' mother journey from Bulgaria to London emerged. She was from the city of Kardzhali. Belonging to the Turkish minority, life was not easy for her. She had a free spirit which was in contradiction with her family values, especially with her mother. The only person she got along was her aunt Sophia who lived in London; but it was during the communist era and the communications were difficult with the west. When she turned twenty years old, like a fury, taking all the risks, she fled to London to join her aunt who was utterly shocked when she arrived.
'What have you done?! What have you done!' said Sophia
'I couldn't take it anymore, like you did, I wanted something different' responded Hagia.
She lived with her aunt who tried to help her the most she could. Two years after her arrival in 1977, she met Johnny a street musician. She liked his independence and his desire to make something of himself. He had known the orphanage and had had several bad experiences with foster families. When they debuted to date, they thought that they had found their soul mates, but rapidly the bubble exploded.
They had a tumultuous relationship. They broke up and came back together many times. One day, she discovered she was pregnant. They were very happy. Unfortunately, Johnny had serious issues with heroine. He died from an overdose just before Ellis' birth. Like destiny was not cruel enough, after four months , Hagia succumbed to rare form of leukaemia. Her aunt Sophia tried to contact her family in Bulgaria to discuss what would be Ellis' future, but they declined her plea because they considered that her mother had disgraced the family. In the meantime, Jim and Martha, who employed Sophia as a housekeeper, enquired about Ellis' situation, and got very fond of him.
Sophia fell ill too, unexpectedly. She had liver cancer. She made Jim and Martha promised that if something happened to her they would take care of Ellis. Upon her death they kept their words. After a long and difficult process, they officially adopted Ellis who became their only child and the joy of their lives.
In the wreckage of the helicopter, Juliana had moment of consciousness. She could see Ellis with blood on his face trying to pull her, but the chaos plunged her again into the depth of the abyss.
It was more than one year ago in New York, Juliana was having a fight with Dimitri her boyfriend at this period.
'Really, I don't understand what you want to prove. I'm repeating myself, but you can get killed if you are going to Afghanistan. I love you, and I want the best for you' said angrily Dimitri.
' I love you too, but I was honest with you when we first met. I told you that my work as a photographer can require that I have to face some dangers to access what I'm looking for' said Juliana.
'And what are you looking for?' asked Dimitri.
'To report what's going on in this world' replied Juliana.
'You think you will influence something by doing this' said Dimitri rolling his eyes.
'Never mind, let’s change subject. Are you coming over at my parents' house for Independence Day?'Asked Dimitri.
'I don't know, I'll phone you to let you know. Right now, I need to walk to think things over.' said Juliana.
'Ok, I'm going. You are so stubborn my little mermaid' said Dimitri kissing her on the forehead.
Dimitri's family had made his fortune in the oil and gas industry in Russia, and moved to New York eight years ago. They were conservative ; when he introduced Juliana, it was almost a shock, but little by little they had learned to appreciate her qualities.
Juliana went to Battery Park to feel the fresh air on her face and to look at the Statue of Liberty. That day she decided that her story with Dimitri was over. Susan her best friend who was also a photographer invited her to stay at her apartment the time to sort things out.
The mission in Afghanistan had been cancelled, and she had no current project to work on when a surprising proposition came to her to make a cookbook with Ellis, the man she most hated on this planet, and who broke her heart so many times.
Since his humble beginnings, Ellis had become a renowned and respected chef with two-three stars restaurants in the Michelin guide, one in San Diego and the other in London.
Juliana was contemplating the idea curled up under a blanket in the sofa with Susan by her side.’ I know it sounds crazy but it's only a project. You are a professional. You must separate your feelings and your work. See it as challenge' said Susan
'I mean come on! With Ellis! Why on earth I can possibly take this job' said Juliana.
'He proposed you because you are one the best in the marketplace, I'm sure it wasn't easy for him either knowing what could be your reaction.' said Susan.
In fact, since he had broken up with Juliana, Ellis' sentimental life had been a succession of disappointments. Yes, he had many adventures because he was a great seducer, and enjoyed the joy of the conquest but secretly a part of him wanted something else.
He immersed himself totally in his craft. He was proud of his achievements.
At first, his parents were not convinced by his call for the culinary world, they would prefer to see him as a business lawyer like his mother, but when all his hard work started to pay off, they realised it was the right choice.
When a publishing house proposed him to elaborate a book around his latest creations, Ellis was delighted. It was an opportunity to reach more people. Leslie his editor met him at his London's restaurant to establish a team for the project.
'I had several photographers in my mind, but after a careful research and a having cogitated long about it; I think Juliana will be the best choice.
I know..., don’t shoot me before having finished. She's one of your ex girlfriend your mother told me, and probably you are still bitter towards each other; but don't you think it's time to make peace and move on? You both are fantastic talents. She knows you, your story, and could show the different aspects of your personality in your work' said Leslie.
'Yeah, I respect your opinion but it won't work. First of all, I don't think she will accept. Secondly, I like to work in a smooth atmosphere, Juliana is everything but smooth.' replied Ellis with a r ictus in his mouth.
'Of course you decide, it's your book. Think about it and let me know as soon as possible. My intuition tells me that your association in this particular project could do wonders.' said Leslie smiling.
After the discussion Ellis was troubled by the concept. In the beginning, he kept rejecting it, but slowly and to his surprise he thought that it could be a good way to make amends to Juliana; he owed that to her. Leslie was more than happy to try to reunite the two strong heads.
It took a certain amount of time, and after several hesitations, Juliana finally accepted the offer even though she thought she was a bit crazy. For her, it was steps closer to begin forgive someone who once was her best friend. Something in her feared this adventure. She would be on her guard.
The water kept entering into the fuselage. She could not move. She only felt a warm presence around her. She sank deeper in the nothingness. It was pitch black when the sounds and the smells brought her back when she was seven years old In London.
She lived with her family in the Mayfair area in Mount Street. Cathy her mother was friend with Ellis' one. Juliana and Ellis attended the same primary school. They used to play together in the park behind it. Especially during spring, the colours were so vivid that for her it was like living in the world of Oz.
Although they went in different secondary schools, their friendship grew in a special bond, everybody in their circle call them the little lovers. As far as she could remember, Ellis was the only boyfriend in her heart. The first time they kissed, they were ten years old, it was to make like in the movies, and to prove that their love was serious, not something to laugh at, like most adults did.Things changed gradually between them, Ellis became more distant. One day, he told her that she was like a sister and nothing more. Juliana heart was broken. She saw him with another girl. It was over, all her dreams had vanished. How could he do that to me she kept asking to herself. She couldn't understand why he had changed so radically.
She decided it was to time to move on. After her A levels, she succeeded to enter to the Royal College of Art to study photography. She had different flirts during this period but nothing serious, she preferred to focus on her art. At the end of the first year, she went to a party with one of her friend, and like a coincidence, Ellis was there with his girlfriend Emma. They exchanged looks. For the first time, Ellis saw her as a young woman, and he noticed how gorgeous she was. His heart started to beat more rapidly, he was almost embarrassed.
They met again, the week after for his mother birthday, this time he was alone because with Emma they had an argument and decided to break up for the two hundredth times, but usually they made up two-day after.
'My mother showed me some of your pictures in the magazine, I was really impressed' said Ellis
'Thank you, every year they selection the work of students they find the more interesting. I was glad they chose me this time' said Juliana
'Do you have plans for tonight? We'll have a drink with friends. Would you like to come?' asked Ellis
'Charlotte and I wanted to celebrate the occasion but I think we can join you' replied Juliana.
The followings days, they met regularly to go to museums or Camden market where the variety of shops conveyed an atmosphere reminding the seventies. It was like if they couldn't leave each other; the same fusion they had experienced when they were children. Emma didn't come back in the picture. They fell back in love . During an intense night, they acknowledged the power of their attraction. Even though it was not her first time for Juliana, it was the first time she felt fulfilled. She opened the door of her heart. For six months, it was a perfect bliss between them. They didn't have enough of each other; the days were too short to enjoy the presence of the beloved.
Out of the blue, Emma reappeared because Ellis wanted to help her after her mother's death. Juliana was very anxious about it. Ellis reassured her that it was just temporary and out of compassion. But what started off as innocent with the months passing turned out to be the confirmation her worst fears. Ellis had to admit that he had cheated on her with Emma. Juliana was devastated. She didn't want to see him anymore.
Ellis begged her to forgive him. He told her that the situation was complicated. The relationship with Emma had always been a rollercoaster. He would definitively leave her, but he just needed closure.
Juliana didn't answer any of his calls. But love was stronger, a rainy day, she went to see him. They had a long discussion. She couldn't stop her feelings, and they made love. She knew that it was masochistic but there is nothing she could do about it.
When she thought that she could trust Ellis again, Emma caught him again in her net. It was the fatal blow.
She promised to herself that never he would hurt her again. The years passed, and gradually she started to forget him. She allowed herself to love other people. She thought that the past was behind her when by chance she came across an article in the newspaper talking about this rising new star in the restaurant world: it was Ellis. In a small part of her heart, something reactivated but she denied it.
For Ellis, Juliana had been always in his thoughts, he couldn't forgive himself entirely, like if he had missed an opportunity to be authentically happy, but it was too late. Most of his friends were married and had children, even Emma seemed to have found a balance with her husband Rick.
Sometimes, he was slightly depressed, but he was still young, and he would find a nice girl to love.
Inside the helicopter, the situation was deteriorating, almost all the cabin was filled with water. Juliana was still unconscious and blocked under her seat. Ellis was trying to rescue her but he was himself injured. His right arm was broken, and he had serious contusions in a back of his head.
The circles of death were closer. Juliana saw her spirit moving above her body. The last two weeks she had spent with Ellis were projected on the screen of her mind.
After having agreed to take the pictures for the book with Leslie, Juliana flew to San Diego to meet Ellis in his restaurant. He was in the kitchen tasting lobster ravioli when Juliana arrived.
'I'm so glad you are here. I was afraid you wouldn't accept.' said Ellis
'I'm here; let's go down to the job.' said abruptly Juliana.
'Ok, I probably deserve it. The way I see the book, it's about to let people know who I am and what inspired my creations. I'll show you what we do here, and of course you will taste all our meals, after that we can start to shoot.' said Ellis.
Juliana observed how he managed his team. The dexterity he showed when he cut and cooked the different ingredients was a testimony of the passion he put to check every detail of the process. He was a different man. She saw him in a new light. He had matured , and he had transformed into a more thoughtful and compassionate man. She had also changed after all this years. She was less judgemental, and more at peace with the human complexities.
Ellis laughed a lot with his staff and customers. It was agreeable to be around. Juliana was pleasantly surprised.
His restaurant was in the middle of the gas lamp quarter. A festive atmosphere filled the city. It was during the summer; waves of tourists inundated the streets.
After having worked very hard to take meaningful pictures of Ellis' work, they went to point Loma to admire the panorama where you could see a large part of downtown San Diego.
'I understand why you love here so much, it's lovely' said Juliana.
'When I had the opportunity to open my second restaurant, I thought immediately that it would the best place to come.' said Ellis
'What about your life in New York?'
'I love New York but since I broke up with my boyfriend, I'm thinking to move somewhere else' replied Juliana
'I'm sorry to hear that' said Ellis
'Do you want to move back to London?'
'I don't know, maybe.' said Juliana
When she pronounced the last words, Ellis looked at her and noticed how the years had polished the beautiful person she was. He couldn't help himself to focus on the delicious part of her body. 'No,no,no, we must stay professional' he said to himself in the back of his mind.
For Juliana, the situation was tricky because she didn't want to succumb to Ellis' charm. She knew too well what it meant to fall for this angelic bastard, even though her carnal side was knocking at the door.
They worked very extensively the following days to obtain the best possible results.
Ellis threw a huge party in the restaurant to celebrate their accomplishments. Everybody drank large quantities of alcohol. One thing leading to another, when Ellis accompanied Juliana to her hotel room, the desire was too strong; they kissed before she opened the door.
He almost tore off her clothes. They relished each other like a very good wine. When Ellis was inside her, their galaxies merged to form a new portal.
In the morning, Ellis woke up, and Juliana was gone. Only a note was next to the bed. ‘See you in London to finish the job. It was just a one night stand, a mistake.'
Ellis was disconcerted. Even under influence, it was his heart which had spoken. He loved Juliana. Apparently it was not the same for her. Who was he to judge her? It was just too bad.
A couple of days after, they were in London to take the last pictures. The atmosphere between them was awkward. Juliana was mainly silent, and Ellis felt embarrassed.
'I would like to take some pictures of me flying a helicopter, it's my biggest passion after the restaurant.'
'I didn't know you had a pilot’s licence. ‘said Juliana
'I started four years ago after having been initiated by a friend, and since last year I fly alone. It's really destressing. Would you like to try it?' asked Ellis
' Why not? If you think it will be good for the book, let's go then' said Juliana
They went to the Battersea heliport.
The helicopter turbine released all its power to leave the ground.
They were only two on board. London viewed from the sky was an astonishing spectacle.
Everything seemed to go well when near Alexandra palace, a bizarre noise followed by a huge shaking destabilized the chopper which became uncontrollable. Ellis tried his best to remain calm and to solve the problem, but all his attempts failed to regain the commands of the machine.
'What's going on? 'asked Juliana in total panic while the helicopter was swirling.
'Apparently something is wrong with the engine' replied a concerned Ellis.
He contacted the authorities to inform them of the situation before they crashed into the lake.
Hope had left Juliana. It was the end of her young life. An amazing peace submerged her soul.
From very far, she heard Ellis' voice. Nothing came after. She dived more profoundly into oblivion when something in her decided to rebel. She had to pass this ordeal.
From the deepest zone of her subconscious, she decided to fight.
Despite his injuries, which were the result of the violence of the crash, Ellis managed to liberate Juliana from her position, and to bring her on the shore where the emergency teams were assembling.
Juliana stayed in the coma for three days. Ellis felt an immense guilt. At one point, the doctors thought she wouldn't pass the night. With the prayers of all the persons who loved her, and especially Ellis' ones ,she came back from the other side. It was an explosion of joy and relief when she awakened.
Brick after brick, they rebuilt the love and the respect they had for each other. They recovered from the accident. They understood they had learned tremendously from the mistakes and misunderstandings of the past. They were ready to accept who they were with their dark and bright sides, and most importantly they wanted to live the rest of their lives together.
In Fregate Island, a hummingbird collected the nectar of the hibiscus. The movements of the waves echoed the modulations of the sky.
Juliana and Ellis could start a new sequence of light.