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1.

The last day of May was sultry. The air was hot and dry, and there was almost no wind to move the crowns of the trees. She woke up late. As quickly as possible, she packed her belongings and hurried to catch a bus. The bus station near the bridge was crowded with people waiting their transportation. Most of them were students, going home after months spent in the city of the university.

She was worried that she would not manage to find a seat in the bus that was just approaching. And her worries were justified. The flood of people appeared at the bus door as soon as it stopped at the station, and although she somehow went aboard, there was no seat available. She went to the back of the bus, at hopes that she would at least find a place to stand comfortably. Her town was just half an hour away from the city, so she would not have to stand for that long. But, the people kept getting in, one after another, and it seemed that it would never stop. Soon enough, the bus was filled with people standing on each other’s feet, pushing and pressing against each other in insufferable heat. She was surprised that the driver and the ticket inspector allowed it. Especially, on such a day. She was standing next to a young man, and if by the look on his face, he felt the same way as she did. He wiped the sweat off of his face with his sleeve and smiled at the elderly woman who occupied the seat under him. The woman just turned her head away, pretending that all these students around her did not exist.

Suddenly, Jane felt nausea crawling up her skin, making her confused and disoriented. She realized that she would not be able to put up with the entire journey. When the ticket inspector came to her, she slowly murmured the name of the hilltop that also served as a common place where buses would make a stop. It was called the Range, and it was the closest place where she could leave the bus. Also, there was a restaurant not too far away from the bus stop, so she could go there, and call someone to pick her up and take her home.

Her plan was great, as long as she held her lunch inside. She saw that Nick was telling her something, but her only response was nodding. The Range was all she could think of. Every turn that the bus took made her sicker. She kept her lips tightly pressed together and breathed shallowly, so that she would not throw up on other passengers. Moments seemed like hours, until the bus finally went up the hill, and reached the Range. As fast as she could, Jane picked up her bag and basically ran out of the bus. The fresh air hidden between pine trees above the road instantly made her feel better. The sun was breaking through the green woods, and Jane had already felt better. She went towards the restaurant, which was just a several metres away.

2.

Jane came to the parking lot of the restaurant, but then she thought that she could walk all the way home. Her bag was not so heavy, and she had experience with long walks. It would take time, however, she would eventually reach her destination. Besides, she felt much better now. The nausea was gone, and Jane had this instant surge of strength. Bravely, she went off the main road, and took the way which passed by mountain houses and cottages. She enjoyed looking at the various styles in they were built. Each one of those had its own vibe, its own personality set in bricks, stone and wood. Some had balconies, others were shielded with rows of bushes and trees, planted around. Every single one was special in its way, and Jane imagined how would it might have been if she owned one. Surely, it would have been nice.

When she left the cottage area, she was on the main road again. Cars, trucks, buses were passing by, but Jane persisted in her walk. Yet, her shoulders were now a bit sore from the belts of her bag, so she stopped to take it off and rest for a while. She took the bottle of water from the bag and slowly drank the refreshing liquid. Cool water gently slipped down her throat, and she was ready to continue. There was a village in front, so Jane planned to get something to eat. She released a melancholic sigh watching green and yellow hills in the distance. The landscape around her was drawn with pastels. The line between the meadows and the sky melted in the heat, there was no horizon. The clouds sailed in the upper sea. The sound of the engines did not trouble Jane. The sight before her was unmatched, and too majestic to be spoiled by anything in the background. It was a wonderful day, and she was glad that she was on the road, outside, soaking it all in. If she had stayed in the bus, she would have missed all of that glory.

Arriving to the village, Jane was relieved. Half of her journey had been done. She went down the main street, to the village centre, and saw numerous bakeries and fast food places where she could get some food. She was not starving, but she knew that she would get hungry soon. Better safe than sorry. But, before she got to the other side of the street, a car stopped in front of her, and familiar face appeared when the window came down. It was a friend of hers, and they dated for a short while the year before.

“Who would know that I will find you here,” he said and grinned at her.

“Hi, George. How are you?” she replied, still surprised.

“I’m fine, thanks for asking. Now, where are you going with that bag? You look exhausted,” George asked.

“I’m going home,” she gave him a short reply.

“Then this is your lucky day, I’m going in the same direction. I can give you a lift, if you want to, of course,” he said. His smile was comforting, and Jane was indeed tired of walking. She would probably make it if he did not appear, but why miss a chance to get home quickly? Jane did not hesitate much.

“Sure,” Jane said. She opened the door and sat on the seat next to the driver. Her bag was resting n her lap, blocking her face from George’s sight.

“Let me put it on the back seat,” George said, and with one move took her bag and threw it behind their seats.

“And if you’re asking, no, there is nothing fragile or breakable in it,” she said.

“Sorry for that. So, how is life these days?” he replied.

“It’s going well. I’m soon to graduate. Did you know that?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t. We haven’t heard much from each other since we stopped dating. Are you seeing anyone now?” he said.

“I’m not. Are you?” she said. He looked at her in a short silent moment.

“You know me. I always have a few numbers to call. But, it’s nothing serious,” he said with a trickster’s smile in the corner of his lips.

“That’s nice to hear, that you are having fun,” she said.

“It’s been hard, though. You know, having fun without you,” George said. They left the village, and fields of corn and wheat exploded all around them.

“Don’t start with that. There was nothing between us. Emotionally, I mean,” Jane said. George shook his head.

“Perhaps there was nothing emotional for you. For me, we shared a special connection, we could have been happy,” he said with certainty in his voice. He truly believed what he was saying.

“It wouldn’t have been happiness if it came from your side only. And don’t tell me that I would eventually learn how to appreciate you. It doesn’t work that way,” Jane was serious. She started to think that it might have been a bad idea to get into his car. She just hoped that she would get home fast, and not have to deal with George anymore.

“Whatever you say, Jane. Although, I thought we could hang out, just like friends. No attachments, you know,” George suggested.

“We both know how that ends,” she replied. She knew she must have sounded harsh, but there was no other way to explain to him that she was not interested. Jane noticed how his jaw tightened and bone structure began to show through the skin on his cheek.

“I remember you being much more cheerful and pleasant to talk to. What happened?” he asked.

“I’m just tired I guess. And, honestly, I’ve changed. I feel it, I’ve grown up,” Jane replied.

“That is good to hear. Do you work anywhere? Or you’re just studying at the moment?” George said. His questions seemed fake, dishonest. As if he was building up to something. But Jane could not really figure out what it was.

“I’m an intern at the University. So, I’m working, but I’m being paid as if I’m not,” she said and laughed. She did not really know what she was laughing at. However, he picked it up and started laughing as well.

“Life of a student must be very interesting and exciting, then. It almost make me wish I enrolled the University,” George said.

“Key word almost,” Jane said.

“Exactly,” he confirmed. That was one of those little moments they rarely shared when they were dating. It seemed that now, after they’ve been separated, they could understand each other better. And they both felt that a bit more contact would ruin everything. So, they kept their distance. He turned his head away, to look at the plains on his left. She looked at the truck in front of them, wondering if the driver had an interesting story to tell. He must have had at least one, he had been places.

“Are you working anywhere?” Jane asked because the silence between them started to annoy her.

“I had some work last week, repairing house facades. It took me four days, it was the whole exterior,” George said.

“It must have been exhausting,” Jane commented.

“It was, but at least I was paid well,” he replied.

“Lucky you, you can do anything. There will always be something to repair, to paint over… And I’m quite narrowed my options,” she said.

“But, when you get a job, your salary will be much higher than mine,” George replied.

“If I find a decent job. Who knows, maybe at first, I’ll have to do something that has nothing to do with what I was studying,” Jane said.

“Whatever you do, don’t shy away from work,” George said. He looked at her. Jane was just as he remembered her. She did appear a bit tired, but he did not mind. There was still a sparkle in her eyes, one that was so specific of her. No sleepless night spent over a student textbook could extinguish that. She was one of a kind, at least for him. All if his past girlfriends were much more similar to him. Hardworking, but limited by their social class that obstructed their desires to become something more. They were stuck in the cultural mud, and had no intention to move or get away from there. And they were not much interested in school, and learning. Neither was he. George was a man of simplistic tastes and pleasures. When he was hungry, he would eat. He would not contemplate on where the hunger comes from, or what it means to be hungry. Thinking about it, instead of acting on it would only worsen his state.

Perhaps it is why the two of them could never work. Compare to him, Jane was overly analytical. She would think about everything before actually doing something. He knew she had a special sort of affection for him. She held him very dear. And, from his part, it was not love either, but a very strong fling. The one that never goes out, though, but only intensifies upon new meetings. His gasoline heavy spirit would react well to that spark that she possessed. It was such a pity that she would not give him a chance. A sinister thought thickened in his mind. Why wasn’t he good enough for her? What did others have that he didn’t? She always seemed so distant, unreachable for someone like him. George flew into rage internally. He was calm on the outside, so Jane did not notice anything. But, in fact, he was furious. He kept telling himself that they were not in a relationship, and that his anger had no ground in reality. Yet, the poison of unreasonable jealousy spread through his blood. George could do nothing. It was stronger than him.

The fields were now replaced with lanes and houses. The car turned into a side street. George then went off the road and stopped the car. He leaned towards her. He wanted to kiss her. Jane knew that it was probably a bad idea to let him. Yet, she was curious to see where the kiss would take them. And it threw them right in each other’s arms, on the back seat. The passion they had for each other was still there, stripped of all deeper emotions and attachments. Their hearts were shut, and their minds could not comprehend what was happening quickly enough. It was all a string of brief whispers, sighs, moments too fast to be regretted in time. In frenzy, in frantic friction the fragrances of their bodies mixed, as his skin pressed against hers. The air around them was thick. The air around them was heavy. Their breathing was fast, and broken at times. For Jane, it was a sort of a half-conscious state. The world around her was blurry. But, George saw everything clearly. He knew how it would all end. And he wished he could prevent it somehow. She seemed so free in his arms, and he would not dare to stop her. Yet, they were both aware that the lust was pushing their strength to its limits. The brief moment of exhaustion took them over the edge where they both found peace and happiness. What happened next? What was that happens after such an encounter? His head was resting on her collarbone for a while. Neither of them was willing to speak of their actions. It was a bit awkward and tense. She slowly moved away from him.

For the time being, the storm inside him was gone. George sighed. A few tears managed to escape his control. Jane pretended she did not notice it. What else could she have done? She did not know why he was crying, and she thought she would embarrass him if she asked. Anyway, he wiped off the tears quickly. She got up from his lap and stepped out of the car to pull her jeans back on and button her shirt. He stood next to her. They looked at each other like thieves, feeling guilty, but thrilled. Then, they started giggling. George wanted to be with her again, to spend days and months in the shadow of her body. But, he knew she would not reciprocate. For her, it was just another weakness that happened without the full supervision of her mind. She liked it, he knew. However, she would never admit it. She was unobtainable. Too many differences between them, that would probably be her explanation. Jane wanted to give him a chance. After all, she had great time with him. She was watching his face, carefully examining every muscle that moved. For a few minutes, they just stood like that, leaned against the car, looking at each other and at the street they were in. They had lost the track of time. The sun was turning orange, and travelled further to the west. Jane noticed how George became quiet and worried. Something was obviously bothering him. It probably had something to do with whatever he was crying over a minute ago. The realization that he could control his obsession was painful.

“What is wrong?” Jane asked and left the car to stand next to him. Jane gently put her hand on his back.

“I don’t know, this feeling… Is so overwhelming…” he said.

“What feeling? You’re acting very strange, George, all of a sudden,” she said. She was right. Not even he could tell what came over him. It was so suddenly, so unexpected.

“Jane, I wish I were good enough for you,” he whispered.

“What are you talking about?” she asked, confusedly.

“But I’m not, am I? Is there anyone who is suitable for you, anyways?” he replied. She gazed at him attentively. Could he still be hurt that she left him? But, they never had an actual relationship, and she thought he understood that.

“It wasn’t your fault, George. I was not ready to commit then, and I’m not ready to commit now,” Jane said.

“Why bother then?” he said.

“What?” she asked. He turned, and now his forehead was touching his. She was toying with him now just as she was toying with him before. It was time to stop.

“Why bother with a life like that?” he murmured. Jane was already on the ground when she realized that he punched her in the face with his fist. She tried to get up, but he was faster again. Putting his hand in the pocket, he found a knife he used for work. All lives are spent in vain. Her eyes widened when the blade struck her stomach. He held it firmly in his hand as she was slowly dying. Her head fell back, on the concrete. The last sight she had in front of her was the blue of the sky, white of the clouds and green of the leaves. It all mixed together, twirling until darkness devoured it all. If only she had not left the bus at the Range.

3.

She had the strangest dream. She could not remember exactly what it was about, she only knew that it was incredibly vivid. She remembered the feelings. They were intense as much as they were intimidating. Then, she realized that she would miss the bus, so she quickly jumped out of the bed and started packing.

The day was hot. Jane never liked the rain, but she would not mind if few drops graced the ground. The bus stopped at the station and she boarded. Soon, she saw that there were no available seats. But people kept coming in. Jane stood in the back of the bus, watching as students rushed inside, pilling up like books stacked on the shelf. A young man stood next to her and smiled. She smiled back at him. The heat was not so insufferable anymore.

Jane leaned against the bus window behind the seats, hoping that it would not take long before she got home. The unpleasant feeling of nausea started taking over her. In order to reduce it, she turned to the front and closed her eyes. She felt the motion of the bus and every slight change in speed. Jane breathed shallowly, lightly, without tension. She was considering the option to get off at the Range, a hilltop on the way to the town. But, she started feeling better.

“Are you alright?” the young man who smiled at her asked.

“I felt a bit sick, but I’m fine now,” Jane replied.

“I understand you completely. This driver is really something, isn’t he?” the boy said.

“His driving make my internal organs twist. I can’t believe that all these people were let in. That’s not responsible from his part and the part of the ticket inspector. What if something happens? And the way he’s driving that’s not unlikely,” Jane complained.

“Tell me about it. This is the last time I’m taking this bus. By the way, I’m Jake,” the young man said.

“My name is Jane,” she replied. He seemed kind and sweet, and made her forget about her nausea completely.

“Are you a student?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m studying biology, senior year. Hopefully, I’ll graduate this summer,” Jane said.

“Biology, really? I’m a student of geography, and this is my senior year as well. But, I don’t expect to graduate now, there are too many exams I have left,” Jake said.

“Don’t worry, all will come into place. I had some trouble during my third year. I just couldn’t study, everything else was more interesting than my textbooks,” Jane said and chuckled.

“It’s hard to explain that to other people. People outside of the University. Sometimes, it’s just not day, or even a year,” Jake said.

“Everyone knows our lives better than ourselves,” Jane whispered. In a way she felt that he could understand her being misunderstood all the time. He lightly pressed his body against hers when the bus suddenly turned to the left. Although it was hot like in a furnace, and although they were both sweating and their skin was unpleasantly sticky, Jane liked how close they were. And the look in his eyes made it quite clear that he enjoyed that, too.

“Maybe I’ll start to appreciate this driver,” Jake said. She laughed. It was one of those laughs that come right from the heart, but she was too shy to let it last longer.

“Do you plan to stay at the University when you graduate?” she asked. It was the only question that came to her mind at that moment. It was the only polite question that she could ask him.

“I probably won’t be an assistant. My grades are not good enough. But I definitely don’t plan to stay in my hometown, either,” he replied. She turned her head away from him, and looked at the green mountain side, as the bus progressed towards the Range. She quickly had to make up her mind, whether she would stay in the bus, or leave.

“It’s a wonderful day today,” she said. Jake smiled.

“It is, indeed. I like this weather, when spring slowly morphs into summer. And before we notice, the days become longer, and I can finally enjoy a nice, warm evening,” Jake said.

“Summer evenings are my favourite. There is something soothing that I find in them, something that makes me think that the whole world is at peace at that moment,” Jane replied.

“If only those could last forever,” Jake sighed. The honest interest in which she looked at him, made him feel as if he could fly. This was different than when he would meet a girl on Saturday night at the club. First of all, he was not drunk, and neither was Jane. Second, he felt as if he did not need to fake anything about himself to gain her attention. And that was a relief.

The bus reached the Range, but Jane did not leave there. She stayed with Jake. That is where she wanted to be. However, she was discouraged by the fact that they did not live in the same town. Would she ever see him again? All she had was his name, and his face to remember him by.

“Are you going back to the University soon?” she asked.

“I am going next week. I have classes that I don’t want to miss,” he replied.

“That’s great,” Jane said unexpectedly.

“What do you mean?” he was confused.

“Maybe we’ll see each other,” she whispered shyly. Jake smiled.

“Do you want to go to for a cup of coffee, then?” he asked. She surely wanted him to ask her that, but the question still confused her. Watching her blush and the way she avoided his look frightened him. Was he too direct? What if she rejects him?

“Sure, that would be nice,” she finally said. Then she heard his sigh of relief. He cared, and that was enough for her.

Soon, they were out of the forest. They were entering the village. The sun was still scorching the land. Jane was glad that she would come home quickly, but she knew she would miss Jake. She hoped that they would really go for that coffee. Technically, that would be their first date. In the past few years, Jane dated several boys, but it was nothing serious. In the case of Jake, she could really see herself in a relationship with him. The bus stopped at the village station, and some people went out. Looking at the road, Jane saw a familiar face in the car passing by. At first she thought that she was wrong, but she would recognize him anytime. It was George, one of her previous flings. He was older than her, but they still had a good time back in the day. But, they were never actually couple material. They had fun, but they were no ready to commit to each other. She would wonder what would have happened if they met and really started dating. They were two different worlds, it would never work. She did not feel quite connected to him the way she felt that way with Jake.

George belonged to the past, and Jake was the future. She felt immense tenderness for the boy she had just met. But, even that was enough for her to become sure. She usually despised those girls who would start dating someone and they would immediately start to make plans for them as a couple. Having that in mind, she tried to restrain herself from thinking in that direction. But it was so tempting to imagine her and him together after many years, happy and satisfied.

What comes with each new day? Sometimes, the future seems quite clear, as one walks the path that had already been set in advance. And yet, sometimes there are twists and turns that shake the so comfortable worlds that people worked hard to build. The fears have been the same since the dawn of time. Fear of death. Fear of pain. Fear of the unknown and unexpected. The first two could be classified as primeval, ones that have to do with instinct of every being on this planet. From these fears comes the urge for survival. And from that urge comes the passion. However, the third fear is civilization bound. It is a very human fear. It dwells in the deepest parts of human mind, those parts which cherish comfort and security more than anything. There is nothing more threatening for people than the realization that someday, something might happen and break the routine. Jane wanted to challenge her routine. She wanted to exit her comfort zone. Why wouldn’t she imagine her life with Jake? Her future depended on her choices. Before, she would never show that much interest for anyone. She decided to be different. She already made the choice not to get off the bus. Now it was the time for another one.

The road was full of cars and trucks, in both directions. The village was behind, and home was ahead. The bus slowly approached the peaceful, quiet town. Streets were empty, just like during any other hot afternoon. Silent wind was gently rocking the green tree crowns. Jane tried to move closer to the door, but her path was blocked by a few people in front of her.

“Is this where you get off?” a girl next to her asked Jane.

“Yes,” she replied. The girl moved as much as she could, enough for Jane to get to the back door.

“Wait,” Jake said and went after her. She made some space for him to stand by her side.

“This is my hometown,” she said.

“I know. But, I was thinking that we don’t have to wait to meet again at the University,” he replied.

“What do you mean?” she asked nervously.

“I would like to see your hometown. Maybe you can be my guide,” Jake replied.

“Now?” she was confused.

“Why not? I mean, only if you want me to go with you,” he said.

“Alright, get ready then, the bus is about to stop at the station,” Jane replied. The bus passed by the town’s main square, towards the station. Young people were walking around the main square, or standing near the fountain in the middle. The station was a street away from the square, so when Jane and Jake left the bus, they had to back to the fountain and sit on a little wall built around it.

“It’s nice here,” Jake said.

“It is. That’s the cinema and the theatre. And the coffee shops, and some stores,” Jane said and pointed at a few buildings that were surrounding the square.

“Do you go to the cinema often?” he asked.

“Yes, I like movies. Do you want some ice-cream? Our ice-cream is really good,” she replied with joy.

“Sure,” he said. Then suddenly, Jane felt a piercing pain in her stomach. It was as if a knife was being pushed inside of her.

“It hurts,” she whispered.

“Are you alright? Do you need something?” Jake was worried. He was in an unfamiliar town, and he did not know how he could have helped her. She pressed her stomach with her fists, trying to make the pain disappear, but it persisted. Jane did not know where it came from or why. And after a couple of minutes of excruciating agony, the pain was gone.

“I’m fine, now,” Jane said, and stretch her arms. Just as the pain came, so it went away.

“You looked really hurt,” Jake said, still concerned.

“Yes, I know, but now the pain is gone,” she said, surprised by everything that happened. She thought of the pain as of a warning, a signal for an unknown, upcoming trouble.

Thirteen years have passed since that day when they stepped out of the bus together. Jane was drinking her second cup of coffee that morning, staring at the city landscape from her office window. The streets were filled with cars and people, and they all looked like frightened insects, pointlessly running in various directions. She checked her phone. There was a text message from a number that was not in her phonebook. But, she knew very well whose it was. Jane smiled when she read it. Sebastian was always capable to make her happy. Her reply was short and contained only the time of their date. Then, she received another text. It was from her husband Jake. He had taken the children to school. This time, there was no movement on her face. She used to smile at his text messages, too. But, not anymore. Much had changed between the two of them. Much had disappeared. They were not the same two people. They had two children, they had a signed paper that said they were married, but they did not have a family. At least not in a long time.

Jane met Sebastian at one of the office parties that the company she worked for made every year. He was four years younger than her, almost a nonexistent age difference. They did not start seeing each other right away. Firstly, like every good woman and wife, she had doubts. Secondly, she had to do something to save herself from the misery that consumed her for years. Jane carefully measured and considered her options and decided. And so, Sebastian became her lover. In the beginning, the traces of her guilt held her back, taking away from the absolute pleasure. Later on, she relaxed and enjoyed every moment she spent with Sebastian. Sometimes, Jane was amazed how well she balanced her work, Jake and the children, and her lover. Still, when she was in bed with Jake, Jane could tell that he knew with whom she spent her afternoon breaks at work. He had never said anything, though. Once, she found women’s underwear, showing from the gift wrapping on the seat of his car. She waited, but he never gave it to her. So, they both had lovers. In a way, Jane was happy for Jake. They both found joy with other people. It was a sad fact, but at least the time they spent with their lovers took them away from fighting constantly.

Jane had lunch with her colleagues, and then went to see Sebastian. They would usually meet at his apartment, just two streets away from the building where Jane’s office was. As she always did, she quietly unlocked the door, and took off her shoes, so that he wouldn’t hear her coming in. Jane found him setting the pillows on the couch, humming a sweet tune. Suddenly, she dropped her shoes on the floor, to reveal her presence. He turned around, and smiled when he saw her.

“Was it a hard morning?” Sebastian said.

“Not hard, just boring,” Jane replied and hugged him. He put his arms around her and they started kissing. Together, they were on fire. When they had sex, Jane felt liberated. Every time was better than the previous one. It was effortless. They had no doubts how to touch and please one another. Half an hour later, they were on the pillows they threw on the floor, holding each other, and kissing. Their skin was pressed together and warm. The sensations that were burning in their bodies made the experience appear as a dream. For what she thought was unobtainable, was now in front of her.

“Do you ever think about how long this will last?” he suddenly asked. She knew that question would come at one point. And she was not intimidated by it, she was not upset, but she was a bit annoyed. They liked each other, then, there. Why involve future into the satisfaction of the present?

“No, I don’t,” she replied and turned to the side, leaving him to look at her back. Sebastian slowly moved his fingers around her shoulders, all the way to her lower back.

“How is that possible? I think about it often. I think about the day you’ll leave me,” Sebastian whispered.

“My life so far has taught me that I shouldn’t try to guess what is coming and shouldn’t worry about it. You will learn that, too, in time. Don’t you enjoy our time together?” Jane said.

“I do, of course I do. But it won’t last forever, will it? You still have your husband, and your children. You won’t leave them. And I only have you,” he said.

“My husband and my children are a different part of my world, Sebastian. The part that has nothing to do with you. Don’t be offended. With you I have all the freedom I ever wanted. I don’t want that ruined. I want you all for myself. And, honestly, I don’t think about the ending of our relationship. Who knows when it will end? Perhaps it won’t end.”

“It will end, Jane. Not tomorrow, but one day, I will become boring to you. We have sex, Jane, and it is great, but that is all we have. Sometimes, I need more.”

“More of what?”

“More of you.”

“You have me, everyday. You have all of me, the true me. When I go home, after meeting with you, I am empty. This might seem like it is just physical, basic and without any depth. But it is not so. We are connected,” she said, and turned to face him again. She kissed him.

“I understand what you are trying to say. Of course our relationship is not superficial. Still, I cannot keep my mind from going in that direction sometimes. I need some sort of security. Some kind of confirmation that you won’t simply stop answering my calls one day,” Sebastian said.

“Was there a moment when I wasn’t honest with you? From the beginning, we’ve told each other everything. If I ever sense that this immense passion for you is fading away, I will let you know. And, why are you so certain that I will leave you? Maybe you’ll be the one who leaves me,” she said with an assuring, supporting voice.

“Leaving you would be my greatest and unforgivable mistake. We are having fun now. What will happen in a year? What will happen in a month? This, all of this that is now, won’t be anymore. It’s as if this relationship of ours is life, but with every life death must come. And we are getting closer to our death,” he replied.

“You said it yourself, we are having fun. Don’t ruin it,” she warned him. He never acted like that before. And though it was unusual, Jane could see why it was so. Her little escapist adventure was becoming more demanding than it was previously intended. It seemed that the reality and responsibility were crawling into another part of her life. Even the part she thought was hidden from the outside world was not safe. It was such a pity. She did not want to leave his side. However, Jane felt as if he was pushing her to that point where she would not be able to enjoy spending time with him anymore. He was becoming more demanding. There was only passion that she could have given him. Of course she never had the intention to file for divorce because of Sebastian. And she thought that it was understood and acknowledged on his behalf. It was, at least at the beginning.

They fell asleep. After about two hours, Jane woke up. She was feeling cold, so she put her clothes on. Sebastian was still sleeping. Jane looked at her watch, it was four in the afternoon. The guilt was climbing into her mind, as she thought of her children. She checked her phone, there were no missed calls or unread text messages. Jake probably brought them back home from school. She had to go home. Having been ready to leave the apartment, she stood by the door and gazed at Sebastian for a couple of minutes. Did Jake ever look at his lover the same way? Did he stand farther from his lover and wonder what he was doing with his life?

Jane went up the traffic platform to wait for the next electric train to come and take her to her home. She found a seat in the back of the train, and listened to the humming of its electric engine. It did not take long, and she had already arrived at the station in her street. Her feet were heavy as she was approaching her house. Jane opened the door, and the light of the hall poured all over her. She heard Jake’s voice coming from the kitchen. Carefully, she walked in, and saw him talking on the phone. When he noticed her, he smiled and then ended the call.

“How was your day?” Jake asked.

“As usual. Yours?” she replied.

“Nothing special, nothing much. I finished earlier today, for a change. So, I brought the kids from school. They’re at the playground now,” he said.

“I feel like that playground is turning into their second home. Soon, they will forget about us, and it will all running around the whole time,” Jane chuckled. She opened the cupboard and took out some green salad and washed it with hot water. Gently cutting the leaves, Jane started preparing the dinner for the family. She had taken few steaks out of the fridge and put them on the ceramic frying panel.

Sebastian was sitting on the floor, looking around, until he realized that Jane left. She was gone. There was a feeling of emptiness that overwhelmed him. She went back to her family, and he was alone, once again. Jane was always honest with him. He knew never to expect anything more than sex and spending time together for several hours. They had a silent agreement that it would not turn into something more. Sebastian started breaking that agreement a while ago. He could not help it, he could not stop it. Sometimes he would think about the two of them as of a couple, and that thought would warm him during the nights. Why wouldn’t he try to win her over? Perhaps, she would come with him if she saw how determined he was. He put his clothes on, and went out. He left her in front of her doorstep many times, he knew where she lived. So, he drove there. It was an impulse he would not stop.

The doorbell rang, and Jake answered the door. A man younger, but taller than him was standing there. He was nervous.

“Can I help you?” Jake asked.

“Are you Jake?” Sebastian replied.

“Yes, I am. Do I know you?” Jake said.

“No, but I know your wife. And I’ve heard about you,” Sebastian said. He was not sure what his next move should have been.

“Are you here to see Jane? She’s home, come in,” Jake invited him inside. Sebastian went in, and quietly closed the door behind him. Jake took him to the living room, where Jane was reading a book, as she would always do after dinner. He heard their kids’ voices from upstairs.

“Who was it?” Jane asked and nonchalantly raised her head. Her heart instantly froze when she saw Sebastian and Jake standing in front of her. She could not move.

“This man asked about you,” Jake said. Those were the last words he spoke before Sebastian told him that he was her lover. His last words before he collapsed as sharp pain struck his chest.

That moment was agonizing for the three of them. Jane and Sebastian called the ambulance, and Jake was taken to a hospital. She never saw Sebastian again, after he stormed out of the house into the darkness of the night.

As she was sitting next to Jake’s hospital bed, Jane thought about the absurdity her life became. It turned that Jake never had a lover. It was just her. Her lack of good choices, her misery spreading beyond the borders of her own self and affecting the others in the most terrible ways. Her path consisted of so many possible futures, and yet it seemed as if she would always take the wrong one. If it had only been a dream. A long nightmare that went on for more than a decade. Was there another chance for her? Was it possible for her to change the direction in which she was going or the situation in which she was at the moment? She could tell how and when it started. She realized that her current life was a result of the choice she made in the past. Usually, the future is a compilation of many decisions made over time. But, in Jane’s case, it was a single, sole choice that she had made that brought her to the state in which she was in. That choice could have been different, could have happened at various times, but it would always be the one which would determine her life from that point on. If only she could have went back and change what she had done. If only she did not meet Jake. If only she did not get on that bus at the station by the bridge when she was a student.

4.

The sun was breaking into her room. Jane woke up with the knowledge that she did not have the day before. She got up, and went out on her balcony. She overslept, and it was already two o’clock in the afternoon. Jane felt exhausted and worn out by her dreams. And she missed the bus that was supposed to take her home. Jane did not mind, though. She sensed it was for the better. People were walking down the wide path under her balcony covered with dirt and tiny rocks. Jane suddenly decided to join them.

It was a pleasant day, as the summer was taking over the spring. At one point, the path lead up to the low trees, and further to the sandy river bank. Jane followed through, and soon, her feet touched the mirky, restless water. The view she had in the distance was the bridge, filled with vehicles, both the slow and the fast ones. On the other side, on the opposite river bank were the fields and thhe lands that surrounded her town. The hills were green under the blue sky and white clouds. There it was, the place where she belonged. And at the moment, she was far from it.

Jane wondered what was expecting her. What side divided by the river was to become her future? She did not get on the intended bus, and she decided that she would not go home yet, but wait for the next day. There was no specific reason for that expcept her inner urges. She could not remember the dream she had, but she had an impression that she subconciosly learned something from it. So, the choice had been made.

At the same time, she connected to her past and her future. Jane experienced each of her possible futures, detected by her mind. And if they were a part of her experience, they belonged to her past, even though she was unaware of it on the surface. For her, those were only vivid dreams. But, her mind was creating bridges between her decisions and the outcomes, transcending the rivers of possibilities.

Jane had a new chance to spend her life in a different way. Different than the previous two times. She had died, and she had lived through but ended up unhappy. This time, her decision was to stay away from the bus that would set her on the road that was not good for her in any way. Jane’s prediction on how her new reality would turn out to be was not clear. In her present which slowly slipped away into the past as each moment was gone, the tomorrow in the distance could only be speculated. Yet, Jane felt comfort in the knowledge that if something went wrong, she would just wake up in her room, in her bed, again.

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