THE NEXT STEP (37)

‘Why don’t we go out and have a cup of tea before I go and do my readings?’ Sheila suggested. ‘There is something I would like to share with you. I promised myself that if I ever met you again, I would tell you something that happened right after I met you for the first time.’

‘Sounds like a great idea’, Ted nodded. ‘Let me go and get us some jasmine tea. You can go and find us a nice spot out in the garden. We can stay near the front door so I can pop in in case anyone needs me.’

Ted disappeared into the kitchen and appeared a few minutes later with two steaming cups of jasmine tea.

‘Thanks’, Sheila said. She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. ‘The thing is, when I last saw you, I somehow felt that we had some sort of a connection. Call me crazy, but it sort of felt like I knew you from before. ‘ She looked up at Ted hesitantly and unfolded the paper.

‘Yes, I also felt the same way’, Ted agreed. He still remembered how he had felt when he had met Sheila. It had felt like they shared a past encounter, but he couldn’t remember ever having met her before.

‘I’m glad you also felt it and so I can give you this’, Sheila handed over the piece of paper. ‘When I boarded my plane, I wrote this little poem. It just sort of came out of me and it describes how I felt when I met you. I thought that it might be nice for you to read it.’

Ted looked at the paper and read the lines slowly.

When I first looked at you

I felt the sun shine through me,

I felt the earth shatter,

but instead of falling down,

it felt like

I had arravied home.’

‘Wow, that’s beautiful’, Ted whispered to Sheila. He truly felt touched. ‘I don’t think that anyone has ever written a poem for me before.’

They sat in silence, just looking at each other and holding hands. It felt comforting for both of them to have found a strong connection with another person, whatever that might entail.

Little did they know that their encounter was being watched by Laura from her bedroom window where she felt that her heart was sinking and Ted was slipping away from her.

THE NEXT STEP (46)

‘Oh, you work here now!’ Sheila was delighted to see Ted at the reception desk of the retreat centre when she pop by to do some tarot card reading for some of the retreatees.

‘Yes, I have been working here for a few weeks now’, Ted smiled at her. He liked being with Sheila. Something about her made him feel completely at ease. ‘I like this peaceful atmosphere here. What about you? How come you are here today?’

Sheila lent on the desk and spread out her tarot cards on top of it. ‘I’ve come to do some readings for the residents. Since I last saw you, I have been doing readings in different places.’

‘That’s great’, Ted relaxed against the desk and looked at the cards. ‘When I last saw you, you were not sure where to go and what to do, apart from volunteering in places. It’s good to see that you found a way to help others through your readings.’

‘Why don’t I do a reading for you now?’ Sheila winked at her. ‘Is there anything that you would like to know more about?’

‘Oh plenty of things’, Ted laughed. ‘But how about you start with where I should be heading next after this retreat place?’

‘Okay, let’s do it’, Sheila said and started shuffling the cards. They were both so absorbed in the task of looking at the cards that Ted picked from the pack that they didn’t notice Laura walking into the reception hall. Sheila had leant over the counter and was explaining the meaning of the cards to Ted, their heads nearly touching, when Laura spotted them on the desk and stopped on her tracks. She stepped into the shadow of a big plant and observed them from there.

How come Ted looked so happy and relaxed with Sheila? They seemed very close. Were they closed than what Laura was aware of? And why did she feel jealous all of a sudden? It wasn’t like Ted owed her anything.

Laura turned on her heels and tiptoed back out through the back door, without Ted nor Sheila having noticed her.

THE NEXT STEP (45)

Despite taking part in all the retreat activities and spending a lot of time with Ted, Laura felt it important to have some time just for herself every day. After all, that was the whole point of this trip – to recharge her batteries and to gain perspective in her own life.

Laura had fallen into a habit of going for a walk on the nearby mountain before lunchtime. She felt that the greenery and the gentle singing of the birds helped her to let go off any worries and unsettling thoughts. This late morning when Laura was walking up the mountain, her thoughts drifted back to Darky. How assuming they had been, Laura thought as she stopped at a landing to admire the view over Taipei. She wanted to imprint these memories in her brain so that she would always be able to see Taipei when she closed her eyes in London.

Laura couldn’t help but think that they had been pre-judgmental about Darky. If anything, the lessons learnt from all this was not to judge others based on partial knowledge. If we don’t know the whole story, we shouldn’t draw conclusions. Laura smiled to herself as she started walking down the mountain. She only hoped that Darky wouldn’t prove her wrong on this one.