Okay fans, this is the long awaited next segment of For Tomorrow. This isn’t a full chapter, just a short but necessary scene.
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
Fueled by adrenaline, Jake pushed his old Jeep to the limit for the first ten miles after the diner incident. When no motorcycle headlights appeared in his rear-view mirror he finally slowed down and breathed a sigh of relief. Old country songs on the scratchy AM radio kept him company as the miles rolled by. Driving all night, he arrived back home at 5 a.m. on a cold and clear snowless morning in early January, with a thick blanket of frost covering the ground and silence in the air. The city had only started yawning in an attempt to wake up to the new year, and only a few unfortunate working-class souls had yet risen to face the day. Dry cold winter air stung the inside of Jake’s nose, waking him from his highway trance. He stretched and yawned in the pre-dawn gloom.
Letting himself into his apartment, Jake stepped over a stack of mail that lay on the floor under the mail slot in the door. He threw his bag in the bedroom and flopped down on the sofa to thumb through the mail. Bills and junk mail, for the most part, but his heart almost stopped when he saw the familiar red and blue striped pattern of an international airmail envelope. The letter had originated in Kenya in July but had a postmark stamp that read “Missent to Bangkok.” He resisted the urge to rip it open immediately. He put on a pot of coffee, pulled a frozen pastry from the freezer and popped it in the toaster oven and sat down at the kitchen table. He hadn’t received mail from Kenya for a very long time. How had she gotten his address? As haunting as a ghost, the lovely face of Wakesho appeared in his memory. She was so beautiful. He had loved her smile, her perfectly white teeth with a slight overbite, her gleaming brown eyes and her impossibly smooth brown skin. He ripped open the tattered envelope after searching it front and back for a return address and finding none.
Greetings dearest, from Mombasa. I hope this letter finds you on those sides in good health and happiness. Today is the 5th anniversary of our parting. I know you will be surprised to hear from me after such a long silence. Jacob, how can I say how sorry I am for the way things ended with us? I was foolish and scared. My only excuse is that I was just a girl then and I have grown up now. I have not found happiness in my life since you left.
Jacob, the pain of my regret is too much to bear. I have not stopped loving you for even a single minute. I wrote to you severally but I did not have the courage to post even a single letter until now. Jacob, the only thing I ask of you is that you please forgive me. Only your forgiveness can free my heart of this pain. I cannot pressurize you to forgive me if it is not in your heart to do so. But I beg you to please have mercy upon my soul.
Jacob, my sweetheart, this is the most painful thing I have ever had to say, but I have to inform you that I am HIV positive. This is the reason why I could not marry you. Do you remember when I went for the medical exam that was required for my US visa? I was diagnosed then. I could not face the shame I felt. I could not bear to tell you the truth, so I ran away.
Jacob, I have made my peace with the Lord and now I am ready to die. I only want to die in peace knowing that you forgive me for hurting you and for being a bad person. I love you Jacob.
Fat tears rolled down Jake’s cheeks and splashed on the worn formica tabletop. Through tear-blurred eyes he read the letter three times before he remembered the pastry that was now burned and smoking in the toaster oven. The smoke detector in the kitchen began screeching in alarm at the same time. Cursing, he pulled the hot pastry from the oven and threw it into the sink, burning the tips of his fingers in the process. He ran cold water over his fingers and opened the windows to let the smoke clear. His appetite having vanished, he sat with a cup of coffee in his hands and stared at Wakesho’s letter for a very long time.
“You’re absolutely sure about this, Jacob?” asked Dr. Adams. “You realize that I can’t hold your assistantship for you? If you withdraw there may be no coming back. You can’t just put your research on hold and take it up again when it’s convenient. We have a contract with the Conservation Department, and they are funding your research.”
“I know, and I’m really sorry about that. But I have to do this. I have thought about the darter study. It’s not difficult, even a master’s student can do it. I have a couple of good undergrads in mind who would be willing to assist as part of their senior research projects. The minnow behavior study is inconclusive. We need to do hundreds of tests before we can detect any results. It could take years. I can’t wait that long. I realize that I may not be able to come back, and I’m okay with that. This is a personal matter that I have to attend to.”
“Jake, I really wish you would take some more time to think about this before you decide. I’d hate to see you lose two years of work. Worst case scenario we could work with the graduate committee to switch you over to a master’s program, you have plenty of course credits and research to qualify. You could write up your results as a master’s thesis next semester and you could graduate in the spring.”
“I appreciate that, I really do. Could I take some time to think about that option? See the thing is, I got this letter dated six months ago saying that my ex-fiancé in Kenya is really sick and probably dying. I have this sense of urgency that I need to get over there before something happens to her, if it hasn’t already. I am planning to leave next week.”
“Okay Jake, this is what I’m willing to do. I can grant you a semester of emergency leave. Go over there, take care of your business and make up your mind. Then you can either come back and resume your PhD or withdraw and graduate with a master’s. It’s up to you. But I have to tell you that I am very disappointed, Jake. I thought you would stick with this for the duration. I am truly sorry about your ex-fiancé, but you have to think about tomorrow.”
“I am thinking about tomorrow, Dr. Adams. I appreciate your concern and I am sorry to let you down, but this is the right thing to do. I have to do it. I couldn’t live with myself if something happens to her before I get a chance to set things right with her.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Jake.”
“So do I, Doc, so do I.”