Anita by Victoria Popescu - Read Online
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As she embarks on a healing journey, 32-year-old Anita becomes aware of a deep connection between her body and her emotions. She also comes to realize that some things will never happen and she needs to accept that. She finds greater meaning in life and learns to love unconditionally. She's convinced that there can't be more, until she discovers that certain lives are linked across time.
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ISBN: 9781626757110
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Anita - Victoria Popescu

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Chapter I: Toulouse

At work, she still managed to keep the positive, cheerful attitude she always had, lighting up the place with her smile the moment she walked through the door. Yet, in the quietness of her home, Anita wasn’t able to do the same because with each passing day, the feeling of inner emptiness she’d been dealing with lately seemed to grow stronger.

The zest for life she used to feel was no longer there or at least, she couldn’t get in touch with it anymore. Moreover, after almost seven years of a business career, she started to wonder whether she had made the right choice.

This is ridiculous, she said aloud, as she turned off the light to go to sleep. Of course, I made the right choice with my career, what’s wrong with me? The only confusing issue here is my impossible love for Fred. However, this logical reasoning did little to change the way she felt. I don’t know though; I had this feeling of emptiness even before I met him, she mused.

Before I met him…life seemed a whole lot easier before I met him, she whispered, as if afraid someone might hear her. She pressed her face against the pillow and took a deep breath, welcoming the scent of roses on her bedding. The way you look at a situation sometimes, Anita, makes it seem more dramatic than it actually is. Could you just stop and get some sleep? she told herself silently, hoping for a better morning.

When she woke up the next day, she felt tired and sat for a moment on the edge of the bed. She rubbed her eyes with her hands and looked around her, as if trying to remember where she was.

She got up and stretched her neck slowly for a moment, hoping to loosen the tension in her left shoulder, and then walked toward the bathroom. Brrr… it is cold, she moaned, reluctantly taking off her pajamas, pulling her hair up into a high bun.

After a long hot shower, she stepped out and wrapped herself in a red towel. In an attempt to cheer herself up, she drew a happy face on the mirror, still foggy from the steam. A short smile appeared on her lips; then suddenly, her face became serious again. She drew a sad face next to the happy one, thinking, This is more how you feel these days. She looked at her drawing for a minute, then wiped the mirror clean with the back of her hand.

After she got dressed, she came into the kitchen and served herself a bowl of granola cereal with a splash of milk. Anything exciting going on? she questioned aloud, turning on the radio, and listened to the seven o’clock morning news while eating her cereal.

* * *

She parked the car in the parking lot of LIB et Associés, the marketing company where she worked. Before getting to her office, she stopped by the cafeteria to get a coffee and spent a few minutes greeting some of her colleagues already there.

I need Fred to sign this, she thought, seeing the contract she’d left on the desk the night before. Sipping the last drops of coffee from her cup, she looked over the contract again, then picked up the phone. When Fred answered the call, she greeted him briefly and then went straight to the point.

Good morning Fred, it’s Anita; I need your signature on a new contract. Is this a good time to see you for that?

Actually, it is. I just need a couple of minutes to put some papers together. After that, I’ll be yours.

Thanks. I will come over shortly. She hung up the phone and shook her head a couple of times, a big smile on her face. I’ll be yours, she repeated, if he only knew what these words meant to me.

She was just about to knock at the open door of his office when Fred, sensing her presence, raised his head and smiled at her. Please come in, he said, standing up to shake her hand. After he closed the door, the two took seats on opposite sides of his desk.

You’ve been working a lot of overtime lately, Anita, he said looking her in the eye, as she handed him the folder. I don’t recall you taking a day off in the last six months or so; you need more time away from the office.

I am all right, Fred, she responded, although she had the impression that her words were not convincing enough. His face showed doubt and a certain concern, and that made her wonder if he, too, had noticed the changes in her.

Fred was a great boss. At 37, he was one of those gifted people who could easily combine the authority of his managerial position with his remarkable personal qualities. This always gave him the ability to enjoy harmonious relationships with those around him.

You know, Anita, Fred continued, I really love my job and I do feel good coming to this place in the morning. But I learned through my own experience that no matter how much I love my job, it is important to take time away from it in order to balance my life. I believe that we all need to get a break from work now and then. This is my way of asking you to please consider taking a few days off.

I see that you’re insisting on having me out of here, she smiled. I’ll think about it, I promise. I don’t really feel that great after all; a few days away from here won’t be bad, she acknowledged silently, waiting for Fred to sign the new contract. It may even be a great idea, as I haven’t gone anywhere for a while, she thought.

Here you go, Fred announced after a short silence, handing the folder back to her. Good job, by the way, he added with a smile.

Thanks, she replied as she stood up from the chair.

She opened the door to leave his office but changed her mind suddenly and turned around to look at him instead. With the physique of an athlete, dark brown hair and skin slightly tanned owing to the sunny days spent on the Pacific Coast where he grew up, not only was he fairly attractive, but his brown eyes with a touch of green were the most beautiful she’d ever seen. They were so clear and filled with kindness that each time she looked him in the eye, not only was she troubled to the depth of her being, but she also had the strange impression that she could see herself in them.

She dreamt of Fred loving her back, waking up by his side, enjoying his warm eyes upon her face and sharing that powerful, inexplicable love she felt for him.

Fred, thanks again for the other night, she told him, shaking herself from her daydream. I had a wonderful time. She wished that she had the courage to tell him how good it felt dancing with him that night and how she felt about him, but she was afraid to say something that she might regret.

Oh, you’re very welcome! I am glad that you could come. It was a nice party, wasn’t it? he responded causally.

It was. I really enjoyed it, she agreed, offering him a pleasant smile. She sensed her heart thumping joyfully in her chest and felt very nervous leaving his office.

What’s wrong with me, behaving this way? she questioned silently, as if she didn’t have the answer already. But deep inside Anita knew what made her act this way. She knew that it was the way she felt about Fred that made him so unique to her—so unlike any other man she had ever known. And no matter what her mind would tell her, there was nothing she could do to stop loving him.

She recalled that spring day almost ten months ago when Fred was introduced to her as the new manager. The moment their eyes had met, she had had an extraordinary sensation that, just by looking at her, he had touched a very special place deep within her being.

She had felt so close to him and so good in his presence that even a simple handshake shook her to the core. She knew even then that she could not help but fall in love with him.

Before he came into her life, she’d never thought that love could come so suddenly and that she could be so affected by merely looking someone in the eye or feeling a simple touch of one’s hand. Within only a few weeks her love for him grew so strong and felt so amazingly different from the love she knew, she just couldn’t imagine living her life without him.

However, one day, as she was about to leave his office, a woman walked in and was introduced as his girlfriend. Anita realized that she not only had to imagine her life without Fred, but she also needed to fight against anything that would encourage her to dream of the two of them together one day.

For the most part, she’d done a pretty good job on that. She avoided looking him in the eye as much as she could and pretended she was on the run each time she saw him alone in the hallway or by the coffee machine. During meetings, or when she needed to see him in regard to her work, she tried to keep a wider distance between them so that she could not feel that closeness. She knew that it would soon bring back strong feelings toward him.

All that changed a few days ago, at the party to celebrate the opening of a new company branch, when Fred had asked her for the first dance and for two others a few minutes later. He kept her company until his girlfriend had shown up and he had excused himself with the most charming smile.

Why did I let myself fall into that love-trap again? she thought on the way back to her office. But how could I not? she challenged her own reasoning. How could I resist falling for him again, when I felt so close to him and so good in his arms when we danced together that night? I was almost certain that we were meant for each other. How could I not feel what I felt when he brought me close to him? The magic of that moment when I had the incredible impression that our souls had become one, and when I sensed that he loved me too…

Still, obviously, that is not the case, as otherwise he would have said something about it. She’s the one he loves, and no matter how hard it is, Anita, you have to respect that bond, she reasoned, as she lowered herself into the chair by her desk.

My life feels a mess these days, she sighed. And how ironic to be deeply in love with a man who can’t return my love when, all my life thus far, I was always the one who took the first step in ending a romantic relationship.

Her mind flew back in time for a moment to the day her boyfriend Sam had asked her to marry him, almost two years ago. He was so kind, she thought, and so caring, maybe too much sometimes. I don’t think I’m ready for this, Sam, she had said when he had proposed to her. She had wanted to tell him that she needed more time. She had hoped that her heart would tell her that one day she’d go back to the feelings she’d had for him in the beginning of their relationship. I don’t think that I still love you, her heart had told her to say instead, so I can’t marry you. She had cried for hours afterwards, not because she had regretted her choice, but because she knew how much she’d hurt him. Maybe this is the way I’m paying for that. Now it’s my turn to love someone who doesn’t love me, she concluded, her thoughts returning back to present.

I just can’t believe that, at thirty-two years old, when I am supposed to get the most out of life, I feel rather lost and confused, she said with a self-reproaching attitude. She decided to take Fred’s advice and filed a request for a week off, which he signed later that day.

* * *

Anita had many good friends in Toulouse, and they enjoyed getting together on weekends and during holidays. She felt lucky to have all these wonderful people in her life, knowing that they were always there when she needed them. Shana and her husband Anthony were a couple that she socialized with the most.

She and Shana had been very close since the second year of high school, when they enjoyed wonderful moments together, going hiking and playing badminton. They used to sleep over at each other’s houses sometimes and would spend hours making plans for the future, reading their intimate journals to each other and talking about some of the cute boys at school.

After high school, their choices of study took them to different cities, but they had always remained close, despite the geographical distance between them. Then, rather unexpectedly, they both ended up settling down in Toulouse. Shana became an architect and married Anthony, a charming Italian who had lived in Toulouse for many years.

The couple had been happily married for a while, but had no children. After trying to conceive for some time with no results, they had recently started a fertility treatment program.

It was about twenty past four on Saturday afternoon and Anita waited for them in a café, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. They were planning to go to see a puppet show together. She didn’t mind the wait, as she rarely had time to herself. Moreover, she always carried a book in her bag. She was just about to take out her latest read when Shana’s blond head appeared from behind her. Surprise! she exclaimed happily, placing her hands on Anita’s cheeks.

Your hands are so cold, Anita shouted, jumping from her chair.

Shana laughed and held her for a minute. Can you warm me up a little? she teased.

I’m sure Anthony will be delighted to do that, Anita replied in the same mocking tone.

Anthony smiled, kissing Anita on both cheeks. How are you? he inquired.

I’m OK, thanks.

What are you having? Shana interrupted, eying Anita’s warm drink with curiosity

Hot chocolate.

Shana ordered a cup of hot chocolate while Anthony opted for a large cappuccino with whipped cream on it.

So what’s new, Anita? Anthony asked after the waiter that took their orders departed.

Not much, Anita responded, trying to sound casual. My boss thinks that I work too hard, she laughed. He encouraged me to take a few days off, so I’m thinking about going to Paris for a short break.

I wish I had a boss like that, Anthony commented. Mine is always inclined to give more work.

Oh stop complaining! He’s not that bad, Shana interjected. He approved you two weeks off even when many other people are already away.

That’s because this is a slow time for the business; he knows it’s good for him too, Anthony tried to explain.

So what are you guys going to do during the two weeks off? Sensing a slight tension, Anita tried to change the subject.

Well, we feel optimistic about this fertility treatment, Shana said, so we decided to remodel one of the bedrooms that might serve as the baby room later on; that will take a few days. Then, we will just get some rest and do some of the things that we haven’t had the chance to do lately—catching up on writing to friends, that kind of stuff.

How about coming to Paris for a few days? Anita questioned. That’s not something you want to do on the spur of the moment when the baby comes, so why not do it now?

Shana and Anthony looked at each other. What are you trying to get us to do here? Shana asked with an intrigued smile.

Nothing. I just thought that it could be nice to write in your journal that your child was conceived during a week vacation in Paris, one of the most extraordinary cities in the world, Anita said with a big smile, raising her arms as to accentuate the grandiosity of Paris, which made them all laugh.

I’m kidding guys! You should stick with your plans, she added in a more serious tone. I’ll make sure to send you a postcard from there.

Hmmm…Yummy! Anita exclaimed, as the waiter brought Anthony’s cup of cappuccino, generously topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder. Seeing her look, Anthony jokingly picked up the cup and drew it close to his body, warning her, It’s all mine!

For a while, they enjoyed their drinks in silence.

Oh! I think it’s time to go, Anthony announced, taking a look at his watch.

* * *

What a lovely performance! Anita commented as the stage curtains fell. It really makes you feel like going back in time and being a child again, she smiled.

Coming out into the street, they were still discussing the show, when Anthony suddenly changed the subject to Paris. I’ve been thinking about this idea of going to Paris, he said. I don’t see why we couldn’t join you. You are right, Anita—once we have a baby, we have to put off traveling for a while. I mean, even if we’d still be traveling, we’re not going to do the same things with the baby that we’re doing now.

Honey, are you serious? Shana asked, clearly surprised by such spontaneity.

I’m going to call Paul and see if he’s around that week, Anthony continued his train of thought. Paul was his good friend who lived in Paris. We haven’t seen each other for a while, and this could be a great opportunity to visit him.

I just love Paris, Shana was now starting to feel her husband’s enthusiasm. I do like the idea of spending a few days there.

It would be fantastic if you guys could come. Anita was delighted at the prospect. Still, they decided to think about it before starting making any definitive plans.

I don’t feel like going home yet. How about going out for dinner? Shana suggested.

I’m sorry, I have to say ‘no’ this time, Anita replied apologetically. I feel kind of tired today. I think I’ll go to bed early. I hope that you don’t mind.

Not at all, Shana reassured her. I have noticed lately that you do look like someone who could use some more sleep.

Your boss is right, signorina; you need to work less, otherwise you’ll miss out on the good stuff! Anthony teased her in his charming Italian accent. Sweet dreams, he added as they said goodbye to each other.

Thanks. Hey, make sure to enjoy your romantic evening together! That’s also something you may have to give up for a while when the baby comes! Anita laughed.

We will, we will… Anthony replied with a smile.

* * *

Shana, that’s so wonderful! Anita exclaimed when Shana called the next day to let her know that they made the decision to go to Paris. I’m so glad that I brought that up yesterday. I had no intention at all to try to convince you guys to come, but I’m thrilled that it turned out this way.

You’re not the only one; you should’ve heard Paul last night, Shana told her. He was really happy to hear that we would be coming. He and Anthony spent at least half an hour on the phone, making plans for our visit. By the way, he invited us all to stay at his house.

That’s very nice of him, Anita replied. Are you sure that he won’t mind me staying at his place? After all, we have never met.

"Absolutely. He said that he would be delighted to meet our friend and even asked us to thank you for suggesting such