A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Every time he saw her, his heart would swell… with joy and his face would rearrange itself in a bright smile. Even his eyes sparkled! While she remained absolutely clueless about such dynamic effects, that she had on nearly everyone she met. OK, not everybody… nearly everybody!

The little laid back, one-horse town Jefferson Park didn’t have much to boast, but the high school students never thought they were less than anyone else. With surging hormones and music blaring, they too enjoyed all that adolescents everywhere did. 

The moment Keith glimpsed Karen; his heart would sing out loud – 

‘I wanna hold your hand…’ (Beatles)

But it was a community not very well off. Things were difficult for most of the parish. Only Mr. White had a gleaming four-wheeler. There were helps at the house, more like a mansion out of the movies. Some of the folk worked on the fields and some in the barns. And some were lucky enough to wear the starched caps and aprons and wait on Mr. and Mrs. White. And their brood. (Nice folks by and large, but their children were another story.) Karen’s father too was one who waited on Mr. White. She always hoped to earn enough so her father could be his own boss. It was terrible to see the little brats’ obnoxious behaviour. One would think Lincoln and the civil war had never happened!

The school prom was coming up and the lonely boutique on High Street was buzzing with activity. The girls wanted gowns cut like this or that, with ruffles at the neck, bosom, or hem. Matching hats, gloves, and clutches. The shoe store was on a business overdrive, boxes upon boxes of shoes in every imaginable colour were stacked high. Oh, the fuss!

The boys wiped out  the tuxedo rental! That’s all the preparation they were required to do!

The evening dawned! A beautiful moonlit night. It seemed like the Heavens too wanted to steal a look at the motley crew transformed for the evening into Cinderella. As the night progressed, the laughter of the young ones, punctuated the stillness of the silvery night, penetrating deep into the woods and forests abounding all around town.

Keith had finally mustered enough courage to hold Karen’s soft, smooth hands. She looked like a Greek Goddess straight from the Acropolis! Her thick dark hair had been caught at the nape and stylishly swept up, leaving her ivory, sleek neck open to view, gently drawing one’s eyes to the oval face with cornflower eyes, a dignified sharp nose, and the sweetest pink lips, smiling and compassionate. All in the room had been left gaping. Her powder blue, lace dress, was off shoulders adding length to her neck and drew appreciative glances. Keith was not her date for the evening, but he could not take his eyes off her. His ardent yearning crystallised without doubt as he slowly but surely plunged into the bottomless ocean called ‘Love’.

Finally his friends and  the Moon gave him the courage. He pulled her out into the garden to see the ‘Sparkling beauty’ in the inky sky. He could die and go to Heaven just then. Her blue eyes widened in bewilderment as she stood motionless, gazing at the beautiful night sky. The perfect moment … as he dropped a gentle kiss on her shoulder, not trusting himself to say anything. The magic was rudely broken as she pushed him aside, “Hey what’s up dude? Watch it!” she said, a bit too roughly.

“Sorry! Please don’t mind it. You are looking extremely beautiful, and I got carried away. Forgive me Karen.”

“Ok! Make sure it doesn’t happen again!” she replied sternly, turning on her heels. Doubling with laughter, she made it back to the hall . 

The loud music had everyone in its throes. Yet  it was time to leave, soon. Treasuring the memories of the past few years and particularly that evening the youngsters parted ways. 

A few weeks later, Karen picked up a job at the local florist. The earnings were paltry but the confidence, the independence she felt, was enormous. Like all other girls in the town, she too thought of getting married as the next goal. Yet her soul wanted more. She often pretended to be a rock star; singing her favourite songs, as she worked when no one was in the store. Practice makes one better, so it was with her. The sweetness of her nature seemed to dissolve in her voice as she effortlessly hit the high soprano notes or sang low tenor.

 The Owner, Mrs. Bolt was thrilled to have a cheerful sunny personality with pleasant singing lifting the pinks, lilacs, tangerines and scarlet hues of the blooms, and greens, at the same time filling the cosy shop with joy! The footfalls had definitely increased. Suddenly more young men and boys found it in them to regularly buy flowers and bouquets… for moms, aunts, grandmas, and sometimes even the neighbours!

Keith was one such. His love for his mom increased tremendously. Every day he would drop by the florist. His attempts at impressing Karen were pathetic. Once he overheard Mrs.  Bolt sagaciously advising Karen to see the world before settling down. Probably she would meet someone better  than the ones in town. Someone who earned well and would treat her like a lady all her life.

 Karen was only too happy. She also got a handsome raise soon. 

A national construction company soon found its way to the sleepy town, totally enamoured with the resplendent woods and forests abounding all around. They started promoting dream homes amidst verdant, forest trails. Jobs were created overnight, and the young men vied with each other. Keith of course was a front runner. Luckily, he got picked up as a manager. Mrs. Bolt’s words kept ringing in his ears. He was serious about asking Karen to marry him, so he threw himself into his work.

Singing merrily, Karen was walking back home one evening when suddenly a speeding car came round the bend. She heard the loud offending ‘vrrrooommm’  long before it turned into her street and screeched to a halt right next to her. Her face turned ashen, she seemed to have lost her nerve, thinking of the near miss, muttering curses at the obnoxious White kid, who must be behind the wheel. A visibly shaken young man stepped out, apologizing profusely. No, not one of those Whites. He seemed to be a stranger.

“Are you all right Miss? 

Thank God you are not hurt! 

Allow me to escort you wherever you are going Miss. I  am absolutely sorry for my rash driving and hope you will pardon me.”

“ Whoever issued you a license I wonder? Is it your usual practice to go zipping around the country or merely a lack of senses today?” she admonished.

“I am profoundly miserable Ma’am and if you continue to reprimand me with your blue eyes  spearing my heart, I am afraid I will find myself buried in this very patch!” said he soulfully.

“What? You have some nerve…

Definitely precocious, young man.” She turned and continued on her way. The confused young man was more baffled now. He had never seen a beauty like her… Was she human or a nymph of the woods? Well, he would just find out, he thought, running after her.

“Ma’am do allow me to drop you wherever you are going . Let me atone for my mistake!”

The kind soul gave in, as she directed him homewards. 

He racked his brains for something to say. Something smart and impressive… but drew a blank! It had never happened ever before. He who was ‘the Marketing executive of the year’, for the past few years running. The clock was ticking as was his mind and he ended up humming….

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down…”

He could have shoved his sock into his mouth, till he found something better, but his heart wouldn’t listen. 

… And she joined in! 

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around…”

 

Hallelujah! His eyes were round like buttons… in disbelief he carried on, rather they carried on, mesmerising the empty tree lined road to a perfect concert!

 The voice! Her voice – was as startling as a new constellation in the Heavens. Well, he was single handedly going to be the reason for the rocketing sales of ‘The Hot Records’, his records company.

The next day he arrived at her doorstep with, The head of the talent hunt department and all the papers of the  contract required to be signed. Astounded at first, she humoured them with a simple rendition of the Carpenter’s popular song ‘Top of the world’.

Such a feelin’s comin’ over me
There is wonder in most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream!”

The young man – Peter Cook felt his heart strings strumming and was ecstatic that Karen was probably feeling the same as him. 

It seemed a dream world after that. The contract signed, the new ‘sensation’ was launched with much fanfare and her dream became a reality. A rock star, who also became the heart throb of the nation. The little town got its fair share of publicity, many cashed in on the momentary fame, but others were left with broken hearts as their love had gone far away… all the way to Hollywood. 

It made bold  headlines when The Rockstar Karen tied the knot with Director of ‘The Hot Records’ the richest company in the country. 

Poor Keith! He clutched on to his memories of Karen, memories of holding her soft, precious hands, stealing a kiss. Enough to last him a lifetime he thought. For he was a rock. He didn’t trust himself to fall in love again. His heart he had given unknowingly for keeps.

Within a couple of years, the gossip mongers of Page 3 were gloating on the extra marital affairs of the pompous Peter Cook. 

Keith couldn’t believe it. He would feel anger bubble up every time such a sordid affair was splashed across the dailies. He could feel the heartbreak of lovely Karen. He knew the anguish of a broken heart. He was certain he would kill that scoundrel if he ever met him. On an impulse he decided to do something.

The maid at the palatial house in her starched uniform … opened the door to let in a stranger definitely stamped rustic and country. He sought to meet Madam. Her training prevented her from laughing out loud.

“Who should I say is here , Sir?” the mocking tone was unmistakable.

“ Keith from Jefferson Park. We went to school together.”

“ But of course! Please wait, while Ma’am is informed.”

The sound of running steps, lured him to turn around, to find Karen nimbly coming down the imposing staircase. His long-lost laughter came rumbling to the surface, his weathered face wreathed in smiles, long forgotten, as he gathered her hurtling self in his huge, strong arms. The laughter echoed through the silent house, soon mingled with sobs, and then there was confusion… joy or sorrow? Laughter or tears? It became so confused because the emotions just melted and flowed. 

She warmly held his hands, feeling the strength and power in them, leading him to the poolside as she instructed the maid, what was to be served, which guest room to be prepared etc.

Lost in each other while sharing all that happened in the interim, they ended up watching the stars, cuddling together in the warmth of their past and the lack of it in their present. 

“Enough! Let’s celebrate the meeting of two dear friends”, she said as she uncorked a bottle of Dom Perignon. 

“Ah! There you are!” drawled a sardonic voice in the darkness of the patio.

“ Nobody watches you with your lover, nor splash your pictures in the media. That’s so bloody unfair!” he drawled on.

“ Hello Peter! Come and meet Keith. We went to school together, back home.” She maintained her calm, sweetness.

“ Ah! From Jefferson Park… so how many years were you in love with my wife? But she ditched you all in her greed for name and fame. Isn’t it Darling?”

“Peter, you are drunk again. Mind what you are saying. You know very well that I have only loved you.” She started tearing up. His affairs were shocking to her, but being old fashioned, from a small town, she truly believed in her oath of being together till the dying day. 

He went on provoking her, his jealousy roused on seeing the rustic handsome man. He looked so dependable, like a rock and in whose company his wife had bloomed again… like when he had first met her. Jealousy- the monster reared its ugly  head as the inebriated state, cut all bindings of cordiality, social acceptance, and good behaviour, setting loose the savage. 

He kept on accusing them, mocking her, and riling her! For years he had been relegated to second place as all attention, all respect and all appreciation had been showered on her from all corners. But it was he who had found the sparkle in this diamond! It was he who had got her the contract of a lifetime!  He had transformed her style, her appearance and very persona. She walked like a Diva now! She was a Diva! And it was he who had married her …. A simple girl from a one-horse town. 

Keith was shocked! Anyway he hated the guy. He coolly walked upto him and grabbed him by his collars. Pulling him up close, he muttered threateningly, “Enough! You upset the lady anymore in front of me Buster, you will have me to answer to!” The coldness in the voice was sharp as a stiletto. 

“Oh and now you dare to attack me in my house? Are you the new Bodyguard? Ha ha ha,” he launched maniacally.

“Wham!” A strong punch to his jaw, sent him sprawling. 

“No! No Keith! Let him be!” screamed she. As she ran to pick him up, her emotions bubbled up, slowly trickling down. They had been bottled too long.

Karen could feel the vein in her temple throbbing. She saw the vile man he had become. Someone who didn’t respect her or their relationship. True, he was instrumental in getting her to where she was, living like a queen, earning respect and love besides wealth unbelievable. But she was human and at heart a simple girl who loved family.

“Leave me you witch!” he taunted her. “Am I not enough to satisfy you, that you have to call other men into my house? You shameless bitch!” and he lunged towards her letting his hand fly. 

Something burst. She picked up the first thing that she could lay her hands on and flung it at the serpent! Swish it went through the cold night air in the semi dark!

Silence! 

“Aah! Aah!” choking guttural sound and silence again.

She began to cry, trembling. Her hands moved of their own accord and poor Keith tried to calm her down. His head was reeling with all that he had witnessed. Trying to make sense of what just happened.

The siren of a passing police vehicle wailed nearby. The maid came to ask for further instructions, switching on the patio light and shrieked at the sight. Before she could cover her mouth and swallow the unwanted scream. Keith asked her for a shawl, as he gently led Karen indoors. Seating her on the plush, soft leather couch, a designer statement, he hugged her gently, comforting her. She kept murmuring “I am sorry!” over and over.

The police soon arrived with the paparazzi in tow. Who informed them? They had a nose for all such.

As the detectives got to work, he was called for questioning. 

He had arrived that day and Peter Cook lay dead!

All clues indicated it was him… old childhood girlfriend, being traumatized by husband, took revenge. Probably wanted to scare him but things went out of hand… homicide!

He was handcuffed and led straight to the police station.

While waiting for all proceedings he could hear a radio somewhere playing ….

‘When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.’
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Author’s note: A number of old songs have been referred to here.
I wanna hold your hand – Beatles
Like a bridge over troubled waters – Simon and Garfunkel
Such a feeling’s coming over me – Carpenters (Top of the world)
Some lyrics seem so apt for real life situations, that we are forced to believe their truth. What is amazing is that millions world over, identify with it. Life is indeed stranger than fiction!
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