One Week Later
Ben and Lauren spent all of their free time together, whether they were visiting Ben’s grandma, exploring the city, or texting each other multiple times throughout the day, both of them felt like kids again. When Lauren knew Ben had conference calls or boring lunch meetings with his boss and colleagues, she would send him scantily-clad photos to tease him, knowing full well he would pay her back, but the truth was she loved this game, and it’s not like he was exactly innocent. Just yesterday he walked up behind her at a BBQ and whispered all of the things he loved about her in her ear before running off to go chat or play pool with his buddies, leaving her to chat with the other girls, not that there was anything wrong with that, she enjoyed their company, but she would have rather been alone with Ben.
It was finally Friday and just like always, she ran to greet him every time he stepped through her door. He would laugh and welcome her with open arms,, he told her it boosted his ego that she was always so happy to see him.
“I have a cabin with views that overlook the Pine Creek Gorge. Would you want to go with me this weekend?”
“It’s like you read my mind. I need a break from the hustle and bustle. Last weekend was nice, but I need it longer than a few hours.”
“Me too.” Well, if you don’t mind, we can leave tonight. We’ll arrive there late, but we’ll get a full two days there, that is if you don’t mind taking Monday off.
“Works for me.”
Despite leaving the city on a Friday evening they still made decent time, arriving at the cabin around 9:30 that night. Before they unloaded the car, Ben ran around to her side, picked her up and started carrying her around to the back deck of the house.
“What are you doing?” She chuckled,
“I know my way in the dark, you don’t.”
“Where are you taking me?”
He stopped, still holding her, he kissed her chastely. “Look up.”
“She gasped as she looked up to a sky glittered with thousands upon thousands of stars. It was so clear she could see the milk way. “It’s so beautiful.”
“It really is, this is where I come to escape, I’m glad I get to escape with you., but while we are here I have one rule.”
“And that is?”
“No cell phones, tablets, maybe an e-reader, but not games.”
“What about my morning crossword puzzle?”
“Only if I can do it with you.”
They had just finished bringing in the luggage and unpacking the cooler when she noticed Ben rubbing his neck and shoulders and yawning.
She ran her hands up his chest and shoulders, wrapping her hands around his neck, standing on her tip-toes so she could be eye level with him. “You look tired and handsome instead of just handsome.”
He smiled at her, “It’s been a long day, but I want to enjoy the night with you.”
They relaxed in the hot tub, looking up at the sky and counting shooting stars.
“I have a very serious question to ask you.” He said.
“If Jimmy Cracked Corn and nobody cares, why is there a song about it?”
She chuckled, rolling her eyes, “You’re such a goofball.”
“Yes, but you love goofballs.”
“They are my weakness.”
“You’re my weakness,” he whispered before kissing her, slowly and softly. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling herself as close to his body as she could The kiss quickly turned heated, he started kissing her neck and her hands were roaming down his arms and back. They couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, they struggled to get out of the hot tub, grabbing at one another while making their way back inside. All of that pent up sexual frustration, stress from work, and fear of rejection were finally being released and there was nothing soft or slow about their movements in that moment, or the hours following before sleep finally overtook their bodies.
She woke up before him, another nightmare stirring her out of slumber. She hadn’t stumbled upon any more strange deaths, but the nightmares were still happening. She threw on his black and red, plaid shirt, hoping he wouldn’t mind. It has his masculine scent and she was tempted to wake him up for round three, or was it four?
Ben walked out into the kitchen, finding her wearing nothing but his shirt and cooking sausage and eggs. “I could get used to this,” he said as he approached her.
She smiled, “Well I figured we’ll be sexercising a lot this weekend, we’ll need our energy.”
“Like I said, I could get used to this.”
Later that same day Lauren was perusing through his expansive collection of books. “Dickens, Wilde, Poe, Doyle, you have so many of the classics.”
“I love the classics.”
“I do too.”
She came across a strange-looking binder, she pulled it down realizing it was actually a photo album. “Oh look what I’ve found!” She exclaimed.
His eyes windered in horror, “Please don’t open that.”
“Why?” She gasped in excitement, “What’s in here that you don’t want me to see? Naked baby pictures, or maybe your prom date?” She opened the album, dropping it on the floor as soon as she saw the first picture.
“What is that?” she pointed to the picture, looking at him, horrified.
“I can explain, please.”
“How did you get those?” She kneeled down, flipping through the pages, “They’re all here, Kelly and John, Dean and Lorraine, Heath and Catherine, all three couples. Plus more pictures, especially of the women, they all look the same.” She paused, scanning the pictures in confusion. “They all look like me.” She looked up at him, expecting an answer.
“They are you. I mean, versions of you, and me, they’re us.”
“Okay, remember the whole I’m more open-minded than you know statement?”
“I wasn’t lying. Please, sit down and I need you to have an extremely open mind about this.”
“And please don’t interrupt me, this is extremely hard for me, okay?”
She could read the sincerity in his eyes, he was pleading with her not to judge him.
“I’m listening without judgment.”
“Okay. I don’t know how or why, but you and I have lived in multiple decades, in multiple universes, and we die tragically in every single one of them.”
She put her hands on her temples, trying her best to wrap her head around this. She didn’t say anything, she just waited patiently for him to continue.
“We started as John and Kelly, back in the ’60s, or at least, that’s as far back as I can remember. But I remember the day I met you, I remember our first kiss, the first time we made love, the last time we made love….” he trailed off.
She grew angry, “I’m sorry, you knew about this the whole time?”
“AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME?”
He put his hands up in surrender, “This was not the reaction I was expecting.”
“Ben! I told you about these nightmares, you’ve been watching me suffer with them for an entire week! You didn’t think to mention that maybe they were actually passed memories?”
“You watched me drive myself crazy trying to figure out how these deaths are connected, and you knew and you said nothing!”
“I didn’t think you’d understand.”
“You didn’t give me that chance to!”
She started to walk away, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back to him. “Let me go!” She cried.
“No! I’m sorry, but no, I can’t lose you this way, I won’t. I need you to listen, baby, please, I need you to just listen. You promised.”
“Fair enough, but if you love me at all, please, just listen.”
“Okay.” She sat back down.
“Do you not realize how absurd this sounds? I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t remember everything.” He started crying.
As mad as she was it broke her heart to see him so sad.
“Lauren, I remember our wedding, I remember our 2nd anniversary. I remember being born again and meeting you in the ’80s. Sometimes we were born a few years apart, but I always waited, I could always feel when you entered the world.”
“So there’s different universes as well as lifetimes ?”
“Yes, and we meet in every one of them, time moves differently in each of them, and sometimes the timelines overlap, so we exist simultaneously in different universes.”
“This is hard to understand.”
“I know, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but that’s why I was so mean, I thought the only way I could keep you from dying horribly was to not be with you, but like I said, fate intervened and I realized, it doesn’t matter how much time I have with you, as long as I make the most of it, in every single lifetime.”
“Well, wait, you remember these, but I don’t, ever?”
“No, maybe that’s the key.”
“Do you really remember everything? You remember dying and being born again?”
“Yes. I was born with the memories of the past lives, including the horrible memories. I have nightmares too sometimes.”
She hugged him, and he grabbed her tightly, crying into her shoulder. “Baby, I remember watching you die, twice.”
“The first time, we fell down the stairs, you hit your head on every stair, I knew there was no way, you were dead before we hit the floor.”
“Dean and Lorraine died at the same time.”
“Yes, that one doesn’t count.”
“You died in the fire.”
“Yes, I remember distinctly.”
“Baby, the ambulance, you didn’t turn around and look at the ambulance.”
She gasped in horror. “Oh no.”
“Yes.” He was sobbing uncontrollably, we lost our son, I’m so sorry, I tried to save him, but I was too late, and I was in the ambulance thinking of how I was going to tell you, and then you…” he trailed off for the second time that night.
Lauren wrapped her arms around him, rubbing his back, trying to console him. “I didn’t know.”
“I know.” He kissed her. “I know.”
But let’s look through the album, maybe we can trigger some memories.
Ben told her of how they first met, he mentioned some of her favorite things that have remained consistent through the years and the things that have changed. He recalled some of their favorite memories including their weddings, honeymoons, and passionate love-making, which is always magically consistent throughout every lifetime. After two hours of stories and still no memory recall she was beginning to think nothing would trigger her memory.
“I think I need to go for a run. You know clear my head and all of that.”
“Okay, would you mind the company?”
“Actually, I prefer to run alone, I like to just think and try and connect things, and I do that better solo, I hope you understand.”
“I do. To be honest, I could use some time to myself too.”
“I’m sorry that you have had to carry this weight by yourself for so long, I do empathize with you, but I’m still a little angry at you for lying to me.”
“I know, and I expect that. The last thing I ever wanted was to betray your trust.”
“That’s why I want to think. I am not sure what I would have done in your shoes, and I promised I would pass no judgment, and I want to keep that promise to you.”
“I appreciate that, Lauren.”
She had been gone for a couple of hours. She knew Ben would probably come looking for her shortly, but she had stopped to take pictures of pretty scenery, flowers, and wildlife. She had missed being in nature. It started to rain, and she remembered this spot, she remembered looking out at the mountain views she was currently seeing, and the rain was pouring and she remembered something. “The date was April 28th, 2018.” She thought. She ran as fast as she could back to the house, she ran up to Ben, gently grabbing his jaw. “April 28th, 2018.”
He smiled widely, she remembered that one all on her own.
She ran over to the photo album, picking it up. “We had a son, his name was Michael, it was my fault. I left the curlers plugged in.”
“You can’t blame yourself. How many times did you tell me to change the batteries in our fire alarms?”
She collapsed into him, feeling all kinds of different emotions. “I need you, now more than ever, help me make sense of all of these emotions.”
He took her to bed and they worked through their confusion and emotions the same way they always have, tangled up in sheets.
Stay tuned for part Ten
Love & life lessons,