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Soul Mates
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Author:

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Ken Orford

Modern Fiction

U







June 2012, Maidenhead, Berkshire


Paul swiped his finger across the tablet screen, and he found himself reading as it scrolled through the text. Although the television six o'clock news was on, the document in front of him had his full attention. He didn't hear Kay's key turn and open the front door, and so it was only when she called out that his concentration was broken. He almost felt a bit annoyed - this was weird stuff.

"In here!" he shouted as he put down his favourite new toy, and stood up to go and hug his wife.

As she kicked off her shoes, the smile on her face showed ecstasy and relief (for the millionth time Paul was glad he was a man and didn't have to torture his feet in four inch stilettos), and she shouted out:

"Okay, two questions - is the kettle on? And …" she walked into the living room and put her arms round Paul's neck:

"How was your second day?"

Paul smiled at her and brushed her lips softly with his own.

"Well, in reverse order, much more interesting than yesterday. Actually got started on some real work rather than just reading. And had a couple of good meetings too."

He paused, looked from her eyes to her lips, and the second kiss was much longer, but just as tender.

"And in answer to your first question - yes, tea's made. Unless you'd like me to knock up a G and T?"

She twisted her face and looked out of the corner of her eyes in mock thought:

"Are you trying to get me drunk and have your wicked way with me?"

Paul just shrugged, smiled and unhitched himself from her and went to the kitchen to pour the drinks. Kay glanced at the news on the TV (more trouble with the Greek economy), and idly picked up the tablet. She frowned as she read the text. WTF? Why on earth is he looking at this stuff?

"What's this stuff you're reading?"

Amidst the clinking of ice in glasses he called back:

"Yeah, it is a bit weird, isn't it?"

"Well, I'm more interested in why you've suddenly got an interest in reincarnation!"

Paul had been thinking about this for … what? … three hours? But in truth it had been longer than three hours. His mind flashed back to 9am the previous day when he'd been collected from the reception at his new job. The small, blonde woman - about his age - had apologised his new boss couldn't greet him, but he was in a meeting for the first couple of hours, and he'd asked her to get Paul settled in.

She introduced herself as Jenny. As she shook his hand Paul had to tear his eyes away from hers. They were blue, immaculately made up and sparkled with mischief. She didn't look away, just grinned and held onto his hand for a moment longer than was necessary.

"Come on, I'll give you the tour."

As they walked round the building she told him she was in the same team as he was, and would be sitting opposite him. Paul's immediate thought was that there could be a lot less attractive colleagues to sit opposite every day.

They stopped off at Security so he could be photographed for his pass, and she had great fun pulling faces at him while he tried to look serious for the photo. He didn't succeed. When they eventually got to their desks Jenny pulled her chair round and sat next to him while she showed him the systems they'd be using. Even though it was all pretty run of the mill he enjoyed having her close to him. As she showed him the various data sources they used her eyes would lock into his, and twinkle as she asked if it was okay. Pafgul thought for a minute: Yes, everything was okay. He couldn't quite believe that he'd known Jenny for just a couple of hours.

"Yes, all that's okay. No terrors at all. Thanks for helping me, you've been really brilliant."

She smiled again and said she'd enjoyed it and that he was good company.

Eventually she announced they were done and that she'd better get some "proper" work done while Paul needed to start reading some of the stuff the boss had left for him. She stood to go back to her desk, and he thanked her again for all her help. She turned, her eyes smiled:

"Okay, you can show your appreciation and buy me lunch then."

Before he could say anything, she went on:

"Just kidding!" A pause and a grin. "I'll buy for the new boy!"

Before he could answer, she'd set off past her desk heading for the Ladies' room.

Shortly afterwards Paul's boss came out of his meeting and the two them spent the rest of the morning talking about the projects Paul would be working on. As Paul got back Jenny looked up:

"About bloody time. I'm starving. Come on."

They got their lunches and Jenny sat opposite Paul, and her eyes smiled at him, eyes that it seemed he'd known all his life:

"Come on - tell me about Paul Mickleson."

They chatted about hobbies, music, favourite films, Paul's wife, his disabled mother and Jenny's boyfriend. An hour later they were laughing together like old friends and Paul was actually getting used to those incredible eyes smiling at him, when Jenny announced she had to dash because she had a meeting.

Paul settled down to an afternoon going through project definitions and project plans. Jenny came back a couple of hours later and they rounded off the afternoon with a few comments and a continued from where they left off at lunchtime. Home time came and they left together. Paul thanked her again for helping to make the day a very pleasant first one. Jenny nodded:

"I really enjoyed it. You are fun to spend time with."

The next day they were both in and out of meetings, and it was just after three when Jenny suggested a coffee. Paul said he could definitely use a caffeine injection, so they found themselves sitting side by side talking about previous jobs.

"You know it's weird," Paul said, "but I felt sure we'd find out our paths had crossed before. I feel like I've known you for years."

"You have."

Paul frowned and looked at her:

"Well unless you can remember me from kindergarten or something, we've been through school, university and jobs."

Jenny turned towards him:

"No, it was before kindergarten ..."

Paul gave her an "are you bonkers" look, and Jenny's mouth turned up at the corners and her eyes flashed.

"In fact it was 1529."

Paul laughed, and looked at her ... then he stopped:

"You're serious aren't you?"

Jenny didn't reply, she just nodded, still smiling.

"Come on, let's get back and I'll give you some stuff to look at."

As they walked back to their desks Paul asked her about whether she was a Buddhist or what. It was her turn to laugh as she said she wasn't religious but liked some of the thinking behind religions like Buddhism and Hinduism.

A few minutes after sitting down an email popped into Paul's inbox - from Jenny Peck. It's subject was "Soul mates". In the body was a list of links - with just six words from Jenny "That's what we are - Soul mates".

"Come on, spill - why the sudden interest in reincarnation?"

Kay's repetition of the question jogged him out of the memories of Jenny … and those eyes that he seemed to know so well.

"Oh, it's just something that woman at work said - you know, Jenny, the one I mentioned last night. Well it turns out she's a real believer in it and we had a bit of an argument. No, just a discussion. Anyway, she gave me some links to look up to back up her case."

Kay looked a bit aghast:

"You don't really think there's anything in it, do you?"

"No, not at all!" Paul heard the lack of conviction in his voice. A lack of conviction that certainly would not have been there three hours ago. He shrugged:

"But some of this stuff is pretty … interesting."

Kay took a sip of her G&T and exhaled:

"God, did I ever need that ..." She sat down next to him, and hugged his arm. "So what's so interesting about it?"

Paul thought about all he'd absorbed in the last few hours, wondering where to start.

"Well, the first thing that surprised me is that there is quite a debate among psychotherapists about Past Life Regression. Apparently there's a growing body of opinion that says serious phobias can be traced back to previous lives."

"You're kidding! What real bona fide guys, not cranks?"

"Yeah!" He grabbed the tablet and with a couple of swipes of the screen had brought up information on a couple of people:

"See, look at this guy! Columbia University and Yale - and some hot shot Psychotherapy job in Florida. And this woman … "

Against his better judgement, Paul felt himself starting to get animated as he talked about Brian Weiss and some of his cases, and how they'd been able to describe previous lives in phenomenal detail whilst under hypnosis.

"You're really getting into this, aren't you?"

"I must admit I have never really thought about it, but …" He let it trail off.

Kay just shook her head:

"Look, you are an incredibly logical guy - think about it. A few months ago they announced the birth of the seven billionth person alive. That's seven billion … (she shrugged) souls - or whatever these people call us. I remember reading somewhere that half the people that had ever lived are alive now - so that means there's not a lot of dead people to go round in terms of our being reincarnated."

Paul smiled:

"That was my thought - but that figure turns out to be a mythical factoid! There have actually been about one hundred and six or seven billion people - so that's plenty of dead folks!"


"Okay, but look, you did a physics degree. What's a soul made of? What particles? How does it jump around? No, it's all in the mind surely. We know human brains are unbelievably sophisticated, and I'm sure it can do all kinds of stuff we can't even imagine. They must be invented memories."

Paul shrugged:

"Hey, I don't know, but it seems to be a lot less left field and whacky than I had thought."

"So what were all these people's past lives. Were they Alexander the Great or some Egyptian princess or what?"

Kay's tone had changed from jolly and sceptical to being annoyed. Annoyed that her rational husband was turning into a crank. Paul decided it was time to change the subject:

"Actually, most of them seem to be just normal people, going abut their lives. Anyway, enough of this, what's for dinner?"

Reincarnation was dropped for the rest of the evening, and the hint of animosity was gone by the time they went to bed. Paul lay there, his arm around Kay, whose breathing was slow and steady. She always went into a deep sleep after they had made love.

Paul gently stroked her back and shoulder thinking how he loved her more than life itself. His heart ached when he thought of her. Is she a soul mate? His mind went back to his reading that afternoon. The first thing he'd done after reading Jenny's email was to look up what "soul mate" meant. He'd always thought of it as some sort of romantic term. Someone who you love, but also have a kind of close, super-friend kind of relationship with. Something really deep. But in the descriptions of soul mates he'd read about in the context of past lives, the relationships were all sorts of things: mother-daughter, husband-wife, brothers in arms in conflicts - all mJaner of relationships. But the key thing seemed to be they are important relationships, and two individuals multiplicity of lives are intertwined. So, are Jenny and I intertwined? What were we back in the 1520's?

***

May, 1527 - Kyme, Lincolnshire

The blunt practice swords glinted in the spring sunshine as the two eight year old boys put into practice what they had been learning. The tall blond man who was shouting out instructions to the pair didn't notice the stunningly beautiful, elegantly dressed woman come up behind him.

"So Edward, how is Henry FitzRoy doing?"

Edward turned, and as he bowed his head the blond locks fell forward over his eyes. He lifted his head, and smiled.

"You should tell the King his son will become a fine swordsman, my lady."

"He has a fine teacher."

Edward nodded in acknowledgement, his blond hair falling over his eyes. The two watched the boys for a few seconds more before Lady Elizabeth Talboys continued:

"Tell me, how is your twin sister? Will she be fit to return to her duties soon? I miss my favourite servant."

"Yes, my lady. She and the boy are doing fine. She is up and about and I am sure she will be returning soon."

Elizabeth nodded and said that there really was no hurry. Then she thanked him, turned and walked away. Edward watched her go. Well it's obvious what King Henry saw in her ... she is truly a beautiful woman. The lengthy affair that had resulted in his young protege had lasted several years until the Boleyn sisters came back on the scene. And the rumours are that the King is going to change the law to recognise sons born outside wedlock. So my student might well be the next King of England.

Edward looked at the sun and decided it was time the two boys had a break. He called them over and asked them how they thought they'd done, and what they had learned. Then he sent them off to get a drink and some food. Having been asked about his sister by Lady Elizabeth he decided to pay her a visit.

He went to the kitchen and took some bread and fruit - they were only too happy to hand over the food when he told them he was off to see his sister; Jane had always been popular among her servant colleagues.

She looked radiant, and little Gilbert was sleeping quietly. Edward was itching to pick up his nephew, but resisted when Jane said he'd only just gone to sleep. He prepared the food and the siblings sat and talked about life, and how their mother would have loved to have been alive to see her grandson. Neither of them had ever really known their father who had died in a skirmish during the siege of Boulogne, shortly after they were born.

"So where's that useless brother in law of mine?"

He's off with the Baron on a hunt."

Edward laughed and declared that he was surprised he hadn't taken his new son with him.

"He's determined he'll be the best hunter and tracker in the kingdom."

Jane nodded with a grin from ear to ear. She reached over and took her brother's hands in hers:

"You know I am the luckiest woman alive. I have three men to love, and who love me - though at five days old, one doesn't know it yet! And speaking of love, dear brother, when will you find a woman, get married and have some sons of your own? I know at least three women in the household that would be very happy to share your bed!"

Edward looked at his twin's eyes. Despite the tired lines, they simply shone with affection. He squeezed her hands and leaned over and kissed her cheek:

"The problem I have is that I grew up with you, and so my standards are far too high! But in truth I don't have time for a wife and family. I want something more. I want a house, land, an estate. I want to show that common folk like us can rise up the social ladder, and that in doing so we won't forget our roots - and treat common folk better!"

"That's my Edward, always the dreamer."

Then he stroked her cheek and declared he needed to go, and he should leave her to "get some rest".

She smiled at him, always considerate, always helpful - and those blue eyes of his would melt any woman's heart.


October, 1529 - Talboys Estate, Yorkshire

Despite the fact he had had many dealings with Baron Gilbert Talboys, Edward was still slightly nervous at being unexpectedly summoned. He hurried through the house - he was just about getting familiar with the layout; the Baron had only recently been granted the lands by the King. No doubt it was in appreciation of the fact he was looking after Henry. As he strode purposefully down the corridor to the Baron's offices, he thought to himself how unfair it seemed. More gets given to the people who have already. He thought again of his dream, but he knew it was just that … a dream.

Gilbert waved him in and asked him to sit down. That didn't happen often - and when he was offered some wine, he really began to wonder what was coming. What was coming was the realisation of his dream … but a dream whose consequences would take almost five hundred years to resolve.

"Edward, you know that Gerald has been looking after my estates in Kyme and Rokeby. I cannot do it from here - and this new estate is far larger."

Edward nodded.

"It saddens me to tell you that Gerald died of consumption but a few days ago."

Edward was shocked, he knew, and liked Gerald. He could recount many tales of too much time spent with Gerald and other friends in various taverns and hostelries. Gilbert continued:

"I need someone to take his place. Someone I can trust. I would like you to ride south and manage the estates in Gerald's place."

Edward was aware his mouth had opened. Am I really hearing this?

"I shall come down to visit whenever I can, but I am sure you will handle the estates well. And if you do, I am sure I can have a word in our friend Cardinal Wolsey's ear and get you some minor title or other. After all, you have taught the King's son as well as being my loyal servant."

Edward recovered his dignity enough to thank Gilbert and say he was honoured to serve however the Baron and the King saw fit. The two men then sat and discussed details and plans for the estates to the south.

That evening Edward celebrated with his sister and Will, her husband, and even little Gilbert stayed up late and ate with them. Though at two and a half years, he was no longer very little. Jane bristled with pride that her brother's dreams seemed to be coming to reality. Will was pleased that he'd no doubt have the best hospitality set aside for him when he visited the estates with the Baron. It was an evening that Edward would look back on with happy memories, and huge regret …

***

September, 2012 - Maidenhead, Berkshire

He was going to miss her. Miss her a lot. Jenny looked up from her laptop screen and caught Paul looking in her direction. She looked at him, didn't say anything, but the look was all it took. Paul knew she was saying "What?"

"I was just thinking how much I am going to miss you. I can't believe that it's been less than five months. You've come from nowhere to be my best friend."

For Paul, nothing and no-one could replace Kay. She's something special and I'm really glad she and Jenny get on so well. But Jenny had grown to be his closest friend and confidante.

"Come on, don't wind me up - you know it's been a lot longer the five months …"

"Yeah, yeah!" Paul still didn't know what he thought about past lives, but one thing he did know, Jenny was his soul mate. Whatever that meant! And tomorrow was her last day. Although he knew they'd keep in touch and see each other when she came home, and possibly he and Kay could visit her. But New Zealand is just about as far away as it gets.

"So, all packed and ready to go?"

"Yes, had to pack when I left my flat of course. And my old bedroom at mum's house is now full of my stuff."

"Has Dan still not been in touch?" Jenny's boyfriend had dumped her as soon as she told him about her job in Wellington.

"Yeah, he rang last night and wished me luck." She shrugged, "No big deal, it really wasn't going anywhere. He was certainly never going to change my mind … this is something I've dreamed of doing all my life."

***

October, 1529 - Talboys Estate, Yorkshire

Hard to believe that he'd be leaving all this behind; Edward looked around the cluster of buildings that had become home. The sun was getting lower and it would soon be dark.

"Ed! Ed!" His sister's voice sounded frantic. He turned and ran towards her:

"What ever's the matter?"

She gasped for breath, the words tumbled out between lungfulls of air:

"It's Will … they aren't back … he's taken Gilbert out hunting … they should have .. should have been back ages ago!" She started to sob. "Something terrible's happened - I just know it."

Edward slowly got some information out of her, when they'd gone - early morning. When they were supposed to be back - two hours ago. How were they travelling - on horseback. Where were they going - she didn't know, Will hadn't said.

He reassured her:

"Look, the horse has probably just gone lame, and they are walking back. I'll get some of the men and we'll go looking at all the likely spots. You go home and they'll be back soon, you'll see. For all we know they're there now waiting for you."

It was mid morning the next day when they were found. It was obvious what had happened. They were crossing the river, the horse had fallen and judging by the carcass had broken its leg. Will's head had been cracked on a rock … Edward knew he'd never forget the look in his wide open eyes. Gilbert had been washed down the river, his drowned body lay face down in the mud.

Telling Jane had been the worst thing he'd ever had to do. And now, just a day later, he was doing the second worst thing. He turned round on his horse to look behind him. Jane was there, she had two others who were virtually holding her up, at her side. She'd begged him to stay, he said he'd come back as often as he could, but he HAD to go. Do I? Do I really HAVE to go? He waved, and with tears from those fierce blue eyes rolling down through the stubble, kicked his horse to a slow gallop. He had to get away before his heart broke.

***

September, 2012 - Maidenhead, Berkshire

Paul thought he'd get bugger all work done today. He felt glad for Jenny that her dream was being realised. But sad that his friend, his soul mate, would be going out of his life.

It was mid morning when the boss came over and said he needed a word with Paul, and as an afterthought asked Jenny to come too. The conference room he ushered them into was dominated by two figures in day-glo jackets. The policeman and police woman introduced themselves but Paul heard nothing as growing fear filled his entire being. He only heard the dreaded words:

"Sorry …. wife ….. accident ….. instantly …… no pain"

The next thing he remembered was being alone in the room with Jenny. She was just holding him. All he could think of was that his life seemed to be over. In a few hours the two most important people in the world to him would be gone - one for ever and the other would be ten thousand miles and eleven time zones away.

Through the sobs he began to hear Jenny's voice as she knelt in front of him, holding his shoulders and talking softly:

"It's okay. We'll get through this … together. I left you five hundred years ago, but not this time. Not in this life."



---xXx---

Author's note:All the historical facts are exactly  that - facts. I just invented the  minor characters and their story. Or who knows, maybe it's an autobiography . Henry FitzRoy (meaning Son of the King) existed. He died before his father could change the law ... imagine if he'd lived. No Queen Elizabeth I!

For Julie.



© Ken Orford, 2012



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