John Blackmore walked along the uneven path, strewn with dry leaves, dappled in the sunlight, as it stretched endlessly, flanked by tall, willowy trees. The path led to the mansion where he lived. A widower in his mid-forties, with no children and a house filled with servants, his life was a comfortable one. Ten years had passed since Marianne died. He thought about her especially today. It would have been her thirtieth birthday.
He never went near the falls where it happened. Although he had warned her never to go there by herself, she did one afternoon when he was away on business in New York. She must have gone too close to the edge and lost her balance. They found her body wedged between some rocks. When he heard the news, he was beside himself. It was his brother who went to identify the body.
For what seemed like ages, he was overcome with grief and kept to himself. He didn’t venture out anywhere except on urgent business. His brother, James was his crutch during those dark times and he would be eternally grateful to him. So true was the saying, “…a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). If it weren’t for James, he would have been a total wreck.
He walked into the foyer and was heading for the drawing-room when Awiti, the housekeeper bustled over to him. “There’s a young woman here to see you,” she informed him.
John frowned. “What young woman?” he demanded. He really wasn’t in the mood for visitors. Relaxing in front of the fireplace with a good book was what he was inclined to do at the moment.
“She said her name was Tanisha Jones. I think she’s American,” she added disapprovingly.
John stiffened at once. What on earth was she doing here? “Where is she?”
“In the drawing-room.”
“All right, thank you, Awiti.”
“Would you like me to bring some tea or refreshments?”
He shook his head. “No, thank you.“
She was standing in front of the large French windows looking out at the immaculate grounds and but turned around when she heard him enter the room. “Hello, John,” she said, walking over to him. She stopped a few feet away from him.
“What are you doing here, Tanisha?” he asked.
“I had to see you. It’s been a long time since we’ve been together, John. I miss you.”
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“What other choice did I have? You haven’t been to see me since…”
“Since Marianne died.”
“She never found out about us, did she?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“She never knew that you were going to leave her for me.”
“If I had been here instead of in New York, she would still be alive.”
“Is that why you haven’t been to see me? You feel guilty because we were together on the day she died?”
“Yes! I think you should leave now.”
She stared at him. “Do you really want me to go?”
He closed his eyes. “Yes.”
Swallowing hard and blinking back the tears, she walked past him and out of the room. Minutes later, he heard the front door close.
He opened his eyes and stood there for a long time before he left the drawing-room and went into the study where he spent the rest of the afternoon. Even as he sat there, staring out of the window where the falls were, he knew that it wasn’t over between Tanisha and him. Guilt over Marianne’s death wasn’t enough to douse his love and passion. When he was ready, he would go to New York. He only hoped that she wouldn’t send him away. And if she did, he would have only himself to blame.
Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death – Brainy Quote