(common man continued…)
Stella steered through lunch with Gerald’s family very smoothly. They discussed her travel ideas and expeditions alongwith some of Gerald’s experiences. She managed to dodge Raphael around until she had to finally approach him to take her back to Berlin. “Shall we leave?“ Stella asked. Raphael nodded in agreement. “Why can’t you stay the night with us?“ Danielle questioned. “I’ve to get back because I’ve to continue with my tour here. Sorry. Maybe next time when I visit Germany, I will come visit you.“ Stella convincingly answered. “Sounds like a plan!“ everyone echoed. Stella changed into her jeans and left the dress on the bed of that room. Everyone insisted she keep it but Stella was not convinced. She hugged each one bidding farewell. Susan gave Stella handpicked flowers from their garden in hope of seeing her again. Raphael stood at the gate waiting.
“Let’s go” Stella spoke as she walked past Raphael. For the next 10 minutes neither of them uttered a word. “I’ll collect my car tomorrow. The snow may not have cleared as yet. We’ll take a taxi to Berlin.” Raphael broke the ice. Not knowing what else to say, he found these words most apt. “Alright” Stella agreed. They sat in the taxi both looking opposite ways. Stella wondered if Raphael would say anything at all about Viola. At the same time she didn’t know if she was getting nosy. Finally she spoke, “You have a wonderful family. I enjoyed their company.” “Thanks. They are the best I’ve got.” Raphael answered. He wondered if Stella was upset or what?! Because she didn’t show symptoms of dismay in her speech. “So what is tomorrow’s plan?” Raphael enquired. “I don’t know as yet. Depends on when I get back to the hotel. It may mostly be touring the city. What about you?” Stella asked. “Well I’m thinking of touring the city with you but after office hours. If you don’t mind?” Raphael fuddled. “Why would I mind?” Stella cross-fired back. “Because I addressed you as Viola” Raphael replied. ‘There you go, I said it; I touched a sensitive topic. What a relief! She’s been ignoring me all along because of this’ Raphael thought to himself. Stella didn’t know what to say at that moment, so after a few seconds pause, she spoke, “About that… Do you mind enlightening me on Viola? Or is it personal?” Raphael had a look on his face that Stella couldn’t explain but he made himself clear while he spoke, “It’s personal.” I guess that sums it all. Stella shrugged her shoulders and continued to look outside. “Tomorrow meet me at the café near my hotel after office” was all Stella said till she reached the hotel. They split the Taxi fare and Stella blatantly said goodbye and walked straight inside. Raphael reached his apartment but felt restless within. He felt his need to keep Viola to himself but at the same time felt it is unfair to not tell Stella about it. He lay in bed gazing at the radium stars stuck at his ceiling. Glimpses of Viola caught his sight. He earnestly wished she was with him there but his thoughts were clashed with Stella. Like friction happening in his mind and clashed in front of eyes. He was magnetic more towards Stella. Where he imagined Viola’s curly hair, it clashed with Stella’s mysterious eyes.
Stella had only question – Who is Viola? But unfortunately had no answer to it. She imagined Raphael next to her, the same way he was earlier in the day. She could sense him, his every move around her, his eyes staring firmly at hers and then she popped her bubble with the name Viola. When in confusion, Stella does two things – one is eat something in chocolate and the other is speaking to her best friend. So she immediately ordered a German chocolate pastry and began Skype with her best friend. Around midnight she closed her eyes to sleep.
Stella woke up the next morning and decided to continue touring without any thoughts from the previous day. After her power filled breakfast, she took the route downtown. Walking down long floral corridors and tiny balconies were mesmerising. She felt peaceful. And just as she entered a florist’s shop, she bumps into Raphael. “Oh you? Here?” she questioned. “Yes…just some work.” He answered to the point. Just then the florist came in with a bouquet of white and yellow marigolds “these are yours sir”. Raphael took them in his hand with a small smile nodding his head with a look at Stella and back at the florist. He had already made the payment and began walking out. Stella’s questioned face fizzled into a sigh. “You want to join me?” Raphael asked. “No I think you should carry on” was her immediate response. “I’d like it if you come…”Raphael tried convincing. She nodded a yes and they walked up the corridor. She didn’t want to ask him anything because she felt he wouldn’t tell. Adding to this, she had made up her mind to keep these thoughts at bay. Raphael walked in silence unending. He only lead Stella his way. He was prepared to tell her the truth. He thought to unveil it in the evening but since they’ve met already now, he’d tell her anyway.
They walked into a graveyard. It was beautiful. It’s a bit of a contradiction because that’s why a lot of people get scared to go to but it was beautiful. There were mighty stoned structures on a few graves. Some were angels and some were warriors, maybe symbolic but disciplined. Everything was so clean that even the souls around would be happy. Raphael stood in front of a grave that had an angel on it and it read ‘Viola Raphael James’. Stella was shocked. She had no words at all. Fluttering through her eye lashes was her gaze at the name. She read it over and over again. Raphael placed the flowers at the foot of the grave and smiled, “This is Viola, my wife and that is Stella, my friend”. He spoke like as if she was right there next to him. Stella stood speechless but Raphael broke her silence saying, “You can say hi…Viola doesn’t bite!” “Uhh yeah…Hi Viola. It’s a pleasure to meet you” Stella blurted out and then wondered if she spoke a little more that needed. “Yes it is a pleasure to meet her…because…she is wonderful”. Flabbergasted as could be, Stella was curious but kept the cat inside her. She sat beside Raphael at a bench near the grave. Raphael gazed endlessly at the grave like as if he could see her and admire her. Stella chose not to disturb him. She let him have his moment.
“So this is Viola, the love of my life. We met in high school. She belonged to the high class people and so did I but a little less than her. The first time I saw her was when she was running for student council. She seemed brave and fierce fully confident. I fell in love with her from the first glimpse. Yes, she noticed me too but never uttered a word until I confessed my feelings. I got lost in her eyes, and I hoped to never find myself because honestly being lost never felt so right. We got married after graduation and we were as happy as could be. She was partly an Indian origin so we did tour India as well. And on our flight back to Berlin, she fell sick, miserably sick. I panicked but as soon we touched down Berlin, she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors told me she had final stage leukaemia. Shattered, I needed to be her strength. She was aware of her condition because doctors didn’t find it necessary to not tell her. Viola was brave. She had a smile on her face when she saw me walk in to her room at the hospital. I still remember all those wires attached to her body and an oxygen mask for her to breathe; yet she had her smile on. She raised her hand out for mine and I clasped it. I couldn’t help by weep by her side. I felt it unfair. But Viola was my strength. She persuaded me to take it strongly. She told me it’s alright; and that she was God’s favourite angel hence he’s calling her to him. She had a wish list that she wanted to fulfil and canvassed my support. I held her hand firmly and promised her I’d do everything she asks for… So when she got discharged, the first thing she did was take me to the church where we were married. She believed that was her home. She stood at the altar reciting her vows, holding my hand, and making me promise that I’d keep smiling always.” Raphael spoke so much without looking around while Stella only looked at him as he spoke.
“After going back to Schwerin, my mother cooked her her favourite meals. She was fond of chicken, so all the chicken recipes my mother could collect and cook, she did. She decided to renovate her room and we got it done for her. She liked flowers so every day, Danielle would handpick flowers from the garden and place it beside Viola’s bed. Susan would take her for walk every evening in the lawn and make sure her tea was served at the garden area. My father would bring in her favourite Swiss chocolates from wherever he could find them. Viola had restriction on her diet but never followed it. From meat to chocolates, she’d eat everything she liked. One evening, she sat at the dinner table with a list in her hand – her bucket list. It had small wishes for everyone in it.” Raphael shrugged a little on his seat to pick up the bottle of water he usually carried. Sipping on it with strong gazes fixed on the grave, he continued…
“Wish number 1 was for Gerald. Gerald had to speak up his feelings towards everyone in the house. My dad was like iron man – strong and firm, adamant and disciplined. He never expressed gratitude or fortitude at all. He always held his inner soft self within even towards mom. He was a minor terror at home but Viola changed him. She demanded her wish be fulfilled and Gerald had to change. From that very moment, he had to push that Hitler side of him away and bring out the actual Gerald; and he did. Today he is a man of substance, and integrity, he laughs more often and enjoys life as it comes.
Wish number 2 was for Olivia. Olivia had to bring out her talent. She was creative. Mom could knit well. Often she’d make us sweaters, robes, shrugs, jackets and other things for home décor at home. So Viola asked her to bring talent to surface. She wanted mom to establish herself and see mom as an entrepreneur. From that day on, mom runs a small outlet of her hand carved stuff and she’d doing very well. Her outlet is named after viola. It’s called ‘Viola’s Love’ and its pretty famous around.
Wish number 3 was for Danielle and Benjamin. Viola needed them to have a daughter with the name Susan. Susan because she had the thought of giving her own daughter that name. Since that was impossible now, she granted her personal wish to Danielle. So we have Susan now. If it had been a boy, Viola asked them to keep a name they like. She also asked Danielle to bring out her poetry to the world. Danielle writes sometimes but had no courage to publish it. Viola demanded that Danielle publishes her writings and surfaces it. She believed in Danielle to be a writer someday. And today Danielle is on her way with it. She published her first poetry and dedicated it to Viola. She’s on her way to be known. As for Benjamin, viola asked him to do whatever made him happy. He was never justified with working in an office on a 9 to 5 duty. So he left that and now handles a ranch. He trains horses for races and owns a couple of them too. He’s named his ranch ‘V Ranch’ because ‘Viola’ was too main stream.” Raphael had a smile on his face as he spoke. Stella noticed it and didn’t want to interrupt it. She felt connected…
“The last wish was for me…” Raphael sighed and stopped. He didn’t say a word after that. “What was Viola’s wish for you?” Stella was curious. Raphael didn’t turn his gaze and didn’t even answer Stella. She asked him again, “What was Viola’s wish for you, Raphael?” “Viola wanted me to celebrate life starting from the day of her burial. She didn’t want anyone dressed in black clothes and hated the funeral music. She wanted me to play her favourite song ‘Bring me Sunshine’. Adding to this, she demanded that I get married again…someday to a girl I fall in love with. She left no room for me to deny. I had to promise her and I did. But I told her I could never fall in love with anyone else and she said, “I’ll help you fall in love, slowly and eventually…trust me” holding my palms in hers. Then he made a big noise to break everyone from the emotional front screeching. Everyone cleared the dinner table and sat to watch her all-time favourite – Laurel and Hardy followed by Tom and Jerry.”
Raphael had tears in his eyes that were sparkling in sun light. As soon as he blinked, it rolled down his cheek and Stella placed her hand below his chin catching those tear drops saying, “These are precious. Celebrate life”. Raphael was dumb found. He felt a rush in his head to hug Stella, and without further ado, he hugged her. Their silence spoke a lot for them and wherever Viola was, she’d be smiling.