Un-break my heart
Say you’ll love me again
Don’t leave me in all this pain
Don’t leave me out in the rain
Bring back the nights
when I held you beside me
“Is this too mature for a six-year old?”
Angie rolls her eyes. “Bubble bath? Really, Paul.”
“What do I know? —Hell, I’m a forty-year old bachelor.”
“Don’t worry. I know Hope will love her birthday gifts—Lambie socks, a soft purple blanket, bubble bath and Ferrero Rocher chocolates—gold foil only. What six year old wouldn’t feel all grown-up getting that?”
“I appreciate this, Ange—you spending your Saturday with me at the mall.”
“Don’t worry—you’ll owe me for it,” she smiles mischievously.
We walk back to her car. Angelina and I are co-owners of Adolph’s, an upscale eatery in the historic Stickley mansion, but Adolph Moulton, is the real genius behind the scenes.
Adolph’s a restaurateur par excellence, a modern Ragueneau whose love of poetry and big heart leads him to support struggling artists by bartering meals in exchange for help in running the restaurant.
On any given day I can enter the doors and be greeted by several unfamiliar faces. Still, it makes for one big happy family and Adolph’s is fast becoming a beloved Toronto eatery.
We drive back to the historic Stickley manse where our restaurant is housed. It’s now lit with twinkling clear Christmas lights and Yule trees spaced round the huge wooden verandah. It looks warm and inviting in the November twilight.
“You can come to the party, you know.”
Ange winces, “Uh, no. Sorry Paul—I’ll pass—a half-dozen six year olds getting their faces painted? I don’t think so.”
Ange and I never really hit it off—not to say we’re not compatible, but whatever chemistry it takes to push friends to that next level, well, it just isn’t there for us.
Mind you, I can’t say the same for Eileen.
Eileen Dunn is the mysterious dark-haired beauty who appears at odd times, just when we need her—usually a rainy day, or a hectic Friday night. She’ll pop in, help out and disappear—God knows what arrangement Adolph has made with her.
I’m enthralled with Eileen and my friendship with Ange has now finally gotten to the point where I can confide in her.
“So when am I going to meet this dark lady, Paul?”
“No idea, Ange—you know how chaotic things get around here—it’s day to day. The place is crazy—like the old Laurel and Hardy skit—Who’s on First?”
She smiles knowingly. “I love Adolph, but it is sheer madness some days—okay, most days, ha ha.”
“So, are you coming in?”
“No, heading home. Gonna have a spa, put my feet up and order in—probably Chinese.”
“Lucky you,” I smile wryly, thinking a movie night would be nice—but the lines between us are firmly drawn.
But then there’s Eileen, too—an Audrey Hepburn look-alike, with the same fashion flair and a penchant for wearing retro 60’s fashions.
Eye-catching, to say the least.
I push through the doors and run straight into Adolph, his huge face perpetually beaming like the Mediterranean sun he loves.
“Ah Paul, I was just looking for you. It’s going to be really hectic tonight—I was thinking of calling in Angelina—what do you think?”
I spot Eileen entering the far door dressed in a long, black wool jacket—she looks stunning.
“I don’t think we need to trouble Ange tonight—I’ve got the situation in hand.”
Adolph’s head is bobbing, his smile beatific—it’ll be an enchanting evening, Paul.”
It will, I muse—certainly enchanting.
I approach Eileen in time to help her off with her coat. “Paul, I’m so glad you’re on tonight!”
I lean in close and inhale her perfume. She’s dressed in a simple red shift, her black hair up and no accessory other than a necklace of over-sized white pearls. She takes my breath away.
“You’re staring,” she whispers, “Am I showing?”
You certainly are, I tell myself, but that’s not what I tell her.
“You look lovely, tonight.”
Her smile is dazzling. Strange, how I never before noticed her red ruby lipstick, or how her lips pout—but I do now.
I somehow manage to focus, and force myself back to the task at hand. Together, Eileen and I work as an efficient team and before long, the room is running smoothly and the night filled with magic.
I’m so caught up in the details, it’s after midnight before I notice my lovely diva has fled—another missed opportunity to ask her out.
I resolve to remedy that next time.
Hope’s birthday party is held on the Sunday afternoon and comes off without a hitch. Adolph closes the restaurant for the afternoon and allows me to play the doting uncle.
There are clowns and face painting, pink and purple balloons, and all the cake and ice cream six year-old girls can eat.
Of course, Adolph is in his glory.
The sparkler-lit Birthday cake is presented with the ambience of subdued lighting and Adolph’s flair for drama. The little girls are delighted—and Adolph? Well, he just beams, basking in the oohs and ahhs.
“It was a beautiful party, Paul—thank you.” Carrie hugs me, but really it was all Adolph’s doing.
“We’re going to have to find a woman for you, Paul,’ she chides, “it would be tragic for you to become a settled old bachelor.”
“Oh, you never know,” I tease, “there just might be someone waiting in the wings.”
“Really, Paul?” she enthuses, “I’d be so happy for you.”
I can see myself here next year with Eileen—actually, I can see forever with Eileen, if I let my imagination take control.
But first, I have to ask her out.
The next week is hectic and I don’t see Eileen until the Thursday when she breezes in on a moody, wet afternoon with her country retro look. She’s wearing a brown Cahoots felt hat with floppy brim, belted trousers and a tucked-in button up.
My heart melts when I see her.
I make a bee-line, but am intercepted by a flustered Adolph, “Sorry, Paul, but could I impose on you to fetch me a bottle of Louis Roederer from the wine cellar—you know, the Cristal Brut 2005?”
“Sure,” I tell him. Eileen flashes me a lovely hello smile.
I head back to the stairs, navigating between boxes of fresh produce that have just arrived. I hate the gloomy cellars, but Adolph has amassed a formidable collection of fine wines that’s added to our reputation. I berate myself for taking him for granted.
I start down the stairs, but halfway my foot slides on what feels like a wet lettuce leaf and though I grab frantically for the railing I miss and pitch forward.
I literally see my life pass before my eyes.
Suddenly, a hand reaches out of the darkness and pushes my shoulder. I fall sideways twisting my ankle, but avoid dashing my head on the concrete floor.
The next thing I know, Adolph and several concerned waiters are hovering over me.
I spend the next several hours in the emergency ward, until Ange comes and recues me and brings me home.
“Do you think you’ll be able to stay off the ankle?” She asks, as she sets me up on the couch with a pillow elevating my foot.
‘Well, you know me,” I wince, “but don’t worry—this hurts so bad there’s no way I could stand on it.”
Ange stares at me, flustered. “You would pick the one week Matt, Carrie and the kids are out of town. I’ll be able to drop by though, as long as you promise not to undo my help by trying to hop around.”
“Yeah—well, fat chance of that,” I groan.
“I’ll be back after my shift to check in on you—sure you’ll be okay?”
I wave her off. “Yeah, I’ll be fine—just leave the door unlocked so you can get in.”
She nods, biting her lips and looking worried.
“Hey, Ange,” I brighten to cheer her, “it’s just a sprained ankle—I appreciate the concern, but I’ll be fine. Now go to work—we all have to eat.”
“I will,’’ she laughs, “But I’ll be back.”
“I’m sure you will,” I groan.
I put on a brave face, but as soon as she’s gone I begin to think—maybe I should consider hiring a private duty nurse—at least for a few days until I can get back on my feet.
There’s a light rap at the door—Ange back already? I wonder.
“Come in,” I shout.
Eileen pokes her head in the door.
“Are you decent?” She giggles. I almost wish I weren’t.
“Eileen! How did you know where I lived?”
“I made a few discreet enquiries—do you mind?”
“Not at all. Happy to see you.”
“I’ve come bearing gifts,” she smiles.
She’s brought food and a dozen red roses.
“I hope you’re not one of those men who don’t like getting flowers.”
“No, I love flowers” I laugh, “but I am really touched that you came.”
“Well, of course, I would—I mean, you’re quite special to me.”
She says it simply, matter of factly, but stares at me as if baring her soul.
My stomach flips. I can hardly breathe.
“Well,” she says, “ are we going to eat or just stare at each other?”
I’d be content with the latter option, but I let her bring on the food.
We spend a beautiful afternoon, listening to rain, and enjoying the fire, Eileen curled up on the floor beside me, head in my lap, and I stroking her hair.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she says as she leaves.
And so it goes, one glorious day after another—Eileen dropping by to spend romantic afternoons and I falling deeper and deeper in love with her.
“Why can I never meet your mystery woman, Paul?”
I shrug, offering empty palms. “It’s the damndest thing, Ange. Sometimes, you just miss her by moments. Tell you what—let know me the next time you’re coming and I’ll make sure she stays.”
But it continues that way the rest of the week, with Eileen spending the days with me and just missing Ange when she arrives.
“Damn rotten luck,” I explain.
Ange, however, seems to take it personally, her mood darkening each time.
Finally, on Friday afternoon she confronts me.
“Look, Paul—I’ve been worried about you for some time.”
“Why on earth would you be worried about me Ange? I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. Adolph is worried too.”
‘What’s going on, Ange? You’re treating me as if I’m sick or something.”
“I’m beginning to think you are, Paul.”
I feel my body go cold and limbs tingle. The room suddenly seems brighter. I fight the panicky feeling rising inside me.
“What are you talking about, Ange? You’re not making any sense.”
She looks me dead in the eye. “There’s no Eileen, Paul—nobody of that name or description works at the restaurant.”
“Don’t be silly, I protest. “We work together all the time. She helps out periodically—everybody’s seen her.”
“No, Paul,” she whispers, “that’s the problem—only you have seen her. I think you’ve made her up in your mind.”
“That’s insane—why on earth would I do that? Do you think I’m crazy, or something?”
“We think—I mean, Adolph and I think, you need to take some time off, and see someone.”
I’m in shock—totally flabbergasted. I don’t know how to reply.
Ange is being gentle and kind—a bit too kind. I feel patronized. She’s treating me the way people treat delusional people.
I feel myself getting angry, but don’t care. This is insane—an insult to me.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Ange. I may not be able to get around very well just now, but when I do—I’ll prove to you—both you and Adolph that Eileen’s real. Hell, she’s not some figment of my imagination, Ange. She’s real.”
After Ange leaves and I calm down, I begin to experience the first niggling of doubt.
I have to admit the coincidences are piling up and straining credulity. Then, there’s the accident—the arm appearing out of nowhere, pushing me back.
A sense of horror rises up inside of me.
What if there was no arm? What if I did strike my head and this is all some grand illusion?
I feel sick and can’t stop trembling.
The following week I return to work—to Adolph’s nervous smile, and the uncertain stares of the wait staff. Everyone overly solicitous, treating me as if I were fragile—which I am.
It’s weird though—I haven’t seen or heard from Eileen in a week, and adding to my confusion is a deep aching inside me. I feel my insides are bruised.
I miss her. A vacuum is left inside me and there’s nothing that can fill the emptiness.
It goes on like that a week and then, one bleak Saturday afternoon, everything changes. Adolph comes up from the wine cellar with a strange look on his face.
“What is it?” I ask. He looks as if he’s seen a ghost.
He has in hand a yellowed newspaper he’s found shoved in back of a wine shelf—an edition of the local paper from the sixties—November 28, 1963, to be exact.
“I want you to look at this,” he says, hands trembling, as he hands the paper to me.
Young Local Woman Dies in Tragic Fall, the headline reads.
The article goes on to state that Eileen Dunn, a popular tour guide at the historic Stickley House died when she tripped and fell down a set of basement stairs. The article includes a picture of the woman.
“Is—is this your Eileen?” Adolph stammers.
I nod mutely. She’s pictured wearing the same stylish black coat she often wore. My knees weaken and then, slowly give out.
I can’t explain why Eileen chose to haunt me. I can conjecture, but what’s the point? Nothing makes sense. I doubt it ever will.
I wasn’t looking for her, but she sought me. Why? —To find and then abandon me, leaving me alone in a dark swamp of regret?
It seems absurd.
There’s nothing to do but try to carry on and put all this behind me—I try, but can’t.
I spend nights alone now, by the fire, or I end up staring hopelessly at the Moon.
I keep looking at that moon face as if I’m seeking hers. It’s ironic—that desolate world suits her—lakes of darkness, mares of basalt seas—rills and umbras of mystery.
As with all ancient things, if you stare long enough, they start to tell time—stare longer, and their time starts to tell you. The Moon tells me the lines drawn between Eileen and I aren’t firm—but ragged as the lines of waves washing up on the shore.
It’s not over this transaction between the two of us. Perhaps, momentarily, the tide has gone out, but it will come back again, and when it does, she’ll return too.
But I don’t want this waiting game—this desolate existence. I need to move on.
I need Eileen to give me back my life. Give me back the bruised and broken man who once could dream.
I don’t want moods or phases—I want the transit of days.
I’m talking to her now—nights when the Moon is full.
I’m talking and hoping she’ll see.
Tell me, Beloved, how I can go on, how I can find a way?
You can’t un-break a heart—you can’t un-cry a tear.
You can’t re-start a love that’s been dead for fifty years.
© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.