He had once loved another.
He had not met Rachael for some time now, but retained an image of her in his mind, a symbol of his greatest hopes, and his deepest fears. She was beautiful, and in his once-naive mind her beauty was even greater. He saw her as an oasis of hope; compassionate and driven among the desert of dull, selfish, unmotivated souls around them. He had found, at last, one whom he had to respect – and was at the same time elated and terrified.
They spoke often, their intellect drawing each other together. But he knew, as a child knows since its birth how to draw breath, that he would not have her. Sarcasm was his armour to hide old wounds that had never fully healed, but it repelled her along with the others whom he feared opening up to, and they spoke less as time went by.
He knew he wasn’t good enough, but comforted himself in the thought that he would rather she reject him for not being good enough, than accept him out of pity. He wanted to earn her love – and so over the years he slowly exorcised his demons. He analyzed major decisions, judging them by what he felt she would do. He learned to take the barb of insult without flinching, to take defeat with grace rather than anger, to win battles within himself rather than with his fists, always hoping for one day when he would be worthy. When life became gruelling, she became his purpose, his raison d'existence.
He left for distant shores before that day came, clinging to the hope that he would see her again.
Meanwhile, his personal crusade continued. Within a year his demeanour had changed from angst-ridden to purposeful, from cynical to understanding. The old wounds that he once needed to hide had almost completely disappeared, and his cynicism resurfaced only rarely from the depths of his past. He had, in his attempts to remake himself, victoriously confronted each and every skeleton in his closet. But that did not change the fact that she was ‘the one who got away’, and those close to him thought that there was a hint of sadness in his voice when he spoke of her. He eventually shied away from relationships, not wanting to have to compare his current girlfriends with her, for the one in his mind's eye always won.
Life was good, confidence was returning to him, and it seemed the great battle was finally drawing to an end, when one day he tried to recall her face, and realised, with a start, that he could not....
To be continued.