Christopher Miles sat thoughtfully gazing out the window at the palatial grounds spread out before him. Not bad for a thirty-year-old guy he thought to himself but there was no pleasure in the thought of his prosperity at such an early age. The most treasured asset he valued had departed a month earlier taking his two children with her leaving him to celebrate Christmas alone. What celebration he thought bitterly. Christmas was about watching children open their gifts under the tree and enjoying their excitement. He had to admit to himself she’d good reason to depart. He’d sent gifts to his mother in law’s home for Jalena and the kids and had received a short formal thanks.
This cursed pandemic with lockdowns and disruption of employment and household supplies was having its effect on too many families and even his mother had succumbed to the scourge. They’d nearly lost her, and his father had gone ballistic over not being permitted to visit her as she fought for her life in hospital. In a way this experience had bought Chris and his father together again after years of separation over his Dad’s wrath when he dropped out of graduate program. Chris had encouraged the old man through this anxious health event and the schism was healed.
Jalena, how he missed her and the two children. They were his life. His mind went back to the day they met. The electronic marvel he’d invented as he waited to commence his graduate program impressed his undergraduate teacher so much he’d helped Chris patent the idea then introduced him to some of the movers and shakers in industry always looking for something new to press onto a market eager for new things to add to their gimmick collection. Chris had spent so much time with the successful bidder research team to prepare for production and marketing that he eventually dropped out of the graduate program causing the rift with his Dad. But the rewards flowing from royalties made Chris instantly wealthy at an early age.
Under invitation from a former undergraduate teacher Chris was on his way to deliver a case study to a student group. He was listed as a visiting lecturer by his former teacher hoping this exaggeration may reawaken a yearning for an academic career in Chris again. He stopped briefly to ask a young woman sitting under the shade of a tree for direction when the young woman paused to study him as he turned to go.
“Aren’t you Christopher Miles? I haven’t seen you since High School.”
Chris turned to face her again. Her face was familiar. She was that Slavic beauty all the boys in High School had been trying to impress but she made it plain she wasn’t ready for any relationship with a boy. “You’re the violinist the guys were all nuts over.” He laughed pleasantly.
Jalena burst out laughing. “The violinist had a name, and her name was Jalena Chris. You were not one of the guys who were nuts over her though. You always had your head in a science book. What are you doing here?”
“One of the teachers here has asked me to prepare a case study for his class today and I’m doing it as a favour to one of my favourite teachers who was a big influence on my career choice.”
“I remember you were the kid who used to have your hand up with all the answers making the rest of us in that class look silly” Jalena laughed until she saw Chris blush in embarrassment.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to embarrass you. We were just kids.”
“What career did you eventually choose Jalena?”
I’m a lecturer here in music and teach a course in history. Do you mind if I sit in and listen to your case study lesson as I’m just filling in time until my next scheduled lecture and am curious about your visit?”
Chris shrugged and looked at his watch. “Can you come now, and I’ll tell the teacher you are my guest. We better hurry as I think I’m late and you can help me find the classroom scheduled.”
Chris had a confidence about him far beyond his years as he presented in class. At the end of the class students gathered around and Chris saw Jalena getting up to leave so excused himself and caught her by the arm before returning to talk with the students. “Can we meet after you finish your classes for the day. I want to catch up on students from our High School days where they are and what they’re doing now?”
“OK, sounds like fun, meet me at the university cafeteria at 5pm if you can make it. I’ll wait there for a while but will catch my bus at 5.30 so don’t be late. Incidentally, that was a super performance you gave this afternoon. I’m impressed!”
“I’ll be there and don’t worry about your bus as I’ll drive you home.”
Chris remembered that evening well. Jalena was easy to talk to and the more they talked the happier Chris was at this rediscovery of an old classmate who was not the unapproachable girl he remembered but a warm personality with a keen sense of humour. Jalena’s eyes had widened at the luxurious car she’d been driven home in on that first evening and later after several dates she’d been amazed at the costly apartment he lived in an upmarket suburb. She shook her head in disbelief when he told her about his invention and the kind of money that flowed into his bank account each month through royalties from his innovative product. He was working from home with the most state of the art equipment looking at other ideas for potential marketing.
When Chris had proposed after a year of dating Jalena he was disappointed when she hesitated to give her acceptance. He kept urging and eventually Jalena indicated she was unsure of what kind of lifestyle Chris visualized for his life. Her tastes were simple. She valued her work as a teacher and the simple pleasures of life. She had no interest in the lifestyle of the rich with all its pretence and posturing. She’d not be happy in the company of these kind of people and while she genuinely loved Chris by this time thought she’d hold him back with her simple chosen lifestyle.
Chris was relieved. He needed Jalena by his side and knew her chosen lifestyle appealed to him too despite his riches. So the couple married and moved to the edge of the suburb with a house big enough for Chris to have a separate laboratory and all his cutting edge equipment to make it possible for his continuing experiments and adequate space for Jalena’s musical and academic interests. In that they could afford it Jalena embraced motherhood and their children entered their happy home eventually. Family was everything to Jalena and she ensured both her in laws, and her own parents were frequent visitors to their home after Chris had reconciled with his family. Along with the children an assortment of animal pets also graced the home.
That was until the pandemic struck. Lockdowns interrupted routines, restricted visits from family and friends and curtailed family outings for beach and hiking therapy. Jalena took it in her stride from the beginning and found innovative ways to keep up family and friend contacts through video calls. She quickly grasped the value of the internet in purchasing online and arranging deliveries. She was adept at multitasking her family responsibilities and researching for her new career in writing. In the initial part of their marriage before children graced their home and after leaving teaching she’d had one book accepted for publishing and it had been well received by the public. Now she knew that would be her fulfillment in life along with raising a family.
But Chris had bridled at the restrictions placed on him by the pandemic. He was used to traversing the country updating his inventions being marketed under royalties and occasionally giving lectures. This confined him and his irritation grew over the months and eventually spilled over into his marriage relationship. Then just before Christmas it spilled over into words that should never been said.
Jalena was shocked. That was not the man she’d married and fallen deeply in love with. It was not part of the atmosphere she’d enjoyed with loving parents and she felt the insults deeply. Her Slavic temperament was aroused for the first time in their marriage and in silence she packed bags for herself and children and fled to her parent’s home. He could have his house and his money!
Chris who’d retreated to his laboratory to cool his temper paused as he heard the car start up and head down their driveway. He quickly ran to the house and saw things that would not fit into suitcases strewn around the rooms. Guilt seized him as he recalled his words and he desperately wanted to recall them. He picked up his phone and punched in her cell number, but silence greeted him. He kept phoning and left countless messages of contrition begging her to return but Christmas passed with only a curt note of thanks for the presents forwarded.
Christopher Miles sat thoughtfully gazing out the window at the palatial grounds spread out before him. Not bad for a thirty-year-old guy he thought to himself but there was no pleasure in the thought of his prosperity at such an early age. The most treasured asset he valued had departed a month earlier taking his two children with her leaving him to celebrate Christmas alone. What celebration he thought bitterly.
And now it was New Year’s Eve coming up. The plans he’d made for this coming year were meaningless now. Without Jalena he’d no interest in his experiments and they’d sat idly while he stared out windows of his empty house and sought comfort in their pet animals. He opened the refrigerator and freezer in turn and noted they were seriously depleted. If he was going to eat he’d have to head to town and the thought of his hunger fought with his inertia.
There was the sound of a vehicle approaching on the lonely road running past his property. He turned to look and strained as the car slowed and turned into the long driveway heading for his home. “Jalena’s car!” He murmured softly as we went to the door. Probably coming to collect the remainder of her things he thought.
The car pulled into her garage as her electronic device activated it to open and Chris waited for the storm to accompany her as she entered.
Jalena entered the kitchen area and calmly began to load the refrigerator and freezer again then stack groceries in their walk-in groceries storage area while the children rushed to greet their Daddy. Chris shed tears as he scooped both up in his arms. Then she returned to the car and dragged suitcases to the bedrooms while she got her emotions under control. Next she came to face him with hands on her hips studying him as he cried.
“You stupid man! Why didn’t you come and ask us to return home? We’d have been home long ago if you’d done that. You stupid selfish man. I don’t know why I love you still, but I do, and I’ve missed you. What do you have to say for yourself Chris?” She burst into uncontrollable sobs.
“I was in the wrong and I told you that in all the letters and messages I sent. I thought you hated me and wouldn’t return. I’m only a shell of a person without you Jal. I’m so desperately sorry I caused you pain and if you give me a chance again I’ll be the happiest man on earth even though I don’t deserve your forgiveness.”
Jalena stopped crying to consider this rocking back and forth on her feet. “I guess you don’t understand Slavic culture. It was your duty to come and bring us home if you really love me. Anyway, you are going to be a father for the third time and a child should have the privilege of a father to help nurture them through life. Are you prepared to be a father to this child Chris as you should be?”
Chris ran to Jalena and embraced her, and she snuggled into his familiar embrace. “Stupid man after all this time you know nothing about women!”
“Jal I’m so happy to see you back home. I promise I’ll never make you unhappy again.”
Jalena smiled for the first time since her entrance. “The children are hungry I’m going to make us all some food now and you can make it up to me later when they are asleep, OK?”
Christ nodded enthusiastically. “Yes Jal, I’m so happy to have you back home. Now life will have meaning again.”
“It’s a bit late but I’ll get you the extra Christmas presents I bought from the bedroom, and you can open them with the kids while I prepare supper and pretend the presents are for New Year. Happy New Year Chris”
Chris gave her a lingering kiss. “Happy New Year Jal!”
“Happy New Year!” Chorused the children clapping their hands.
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