You don't experience fairy-tale romance very often. Once in a lifetime, perhaps, if you are lucky. For most people, it doesn't happen at all. Or sometimes, they think they found it only to later discover that it wasn't all that it appeared to be. I considered myself fortunate enough to be touched by true love at one point in my life, when I was very young. Sadly, it didn't last very long, and the man I shared it with was not the one I later came to marry, but I still have fond memories of it and will cherish it to the day I die, and beyond.
I was only 19 at the time, and a silly girl. Archibald was thin, ascetic-looking, old enough to be my father and a very intellectual man. We met at a public séance and immediately bonded over our mutual interest in spiritualism. I didn't know anything about him besides what he told me: that he was a widower, a professor of medicine, and a firm believer in ghosts. When I inquired whether his wife's passing was not the reason for his interest in communicating with the other side, he strongly denied it, saying that he was himself very sensitive to the presence of spirits, and had made his first contact with them already as a child.
He then went on to tell me fascinating stories of restless souls coming back from the grave, usually because of some wrong that needed to be put right, and how some people, who had "the gift", as he put it, could help them. From that moment, I wanted nothing more than to become one of those people. I asked him to tell me about all his experiences, and he willingly complied, over an expensive meal in a small restaurant where we were the only guests.
"Oh, Professor Bondo", I said as we parted that night, "I have had a wonderful evening! I would very much like to hear more about your ghosts some other time."
"Of course, Miss Olesen", he said (Olesen was my maiden name).
Then he smiled at me and looked at me with those soft, brown eyes of his, and I was lost.
Over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time with Professor Bondo. My parents would not have approved of my going out with a much older man, but they never had any idea, bless them. I was very much my own woman already then, or at least, I took a pride in being very independent, which is why I had moved from our home in the country to go and work as a waitress in a café in town. Professor Bondo would come and visit me while I worked, and when I finished for the day, he would take me out to dine with him, sometimes several days in a row.
One evening, over dinner, he asked me, almost shyly:
"My dear, I have been meaning to ask you something..."
"Yes, what is it, Archibald?" I said. We were by then calling each other by our first names.
"I have a small cottage by the sea", he said. "It is a beautiful place and I had planned to go there over the weekend. Would you like to join me?"
"I..." I said, confused and overjoyed. "I would love to. But don't you think people will talk if you bring a young woman to your house? The neighbors..."
"There are no neighbors", he said. "Besides, I wouldn't care. I am very fond of you and don't mind other people finding out."
"In that case", I said, "I would be delighted to go!"
Archibald picked me up in his car the next afternoon. I had arranged to have a few days off and was looking forward to the trip the way one does when one is head over heels in love. The drive lasted about two hours, and then we found ourselves in a secluded spot in the countryside. I was surprised to see that there was no house in sight, only an open field, and in the middle of that green field a small, one-engine airplane.
"I like to do some flying in my free time", Archibald explained with some pride. "What do you say, should we take her up for a ride?"
"I've never flown before", I said. "Isn't it dangerous?"
"Not when I'm flying", he said, taking me by the hand and helping me into the plane.
Whistling a cheerful tune, he started the engine. There were so many buttons and monitors that I wondered how he managed to tell them apart. The plane started moving across the field, first slowly, then faster and faster, until the wheels finally lost contact with the ground. It was a wonderful feeling! I looked out of the window and saw how the trees and bushes surrounding the field became smaller each second, and remember thinking that this is what it must be like to be a bird. The engine roared so loud that Archibald and I could hardly talk to each other.
"It is beautiful!" I screamed.
"Look down there!" he answered. "Do you see?"
It was his little cottage, and immediately beside it, the ocean. I had seen it many times before, of course, but never from above. The waves were like tiny stripes of white against the deep blue water. A feeling of complete freedom came over me, and I leaned over extatically to give Archibald a kiss on the lips.
He seemed surprised at first. I was surprised too, by my own audacity. But he soon drew me into his arms and gave me another kiss, whispering sweet words which were drowned out by the monotonous humming of the engine. Then the plane started tilting to one side, so he pushed me back into my own seat in order to reestablish the balance.
"We don't want to crash!" he yelled with a gleam in his eye. "Too early to die."
"If I died", I shouted back, "the first thing I would do was make myself known to the living, to show them that there is an afterlife."
"Good idea!" he said. "If I die before you, I'll make sure to do that."
Then Archibald brought the plane back down. I assume that, being a man, he couldn't contain himself any longer. Our feet had hardly touched solid ground again before he embraced me passionately and pulled me down into the grass, just a few feet away from the airplane. My son was conceived then.
Or it could have been later that day, when we finally had reached his cottage (which was, by the way, very pretty). Or the day after, or the following day. Of course, contraceptives were not widely spoken of or used in those days.
We spent a few lovely days in the cottage by the sea. The morning we were going to leave and go back to town, I went for a walk on my own on the beach. It was a very fine morning, and the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. The night before, Archibald had told me that he loved me, and I had never been so happy. As I walked in the sand, I pictured our future together - our marriage, our family. It was all like a dream. It was a dream.
When I came back from the walk, I was surprised to hear Archibald talking to someone. Waiting outside the door, I could catch parts of what was evidently a phone conversation:
"Now, darling, don't make a scene. I don't know what you've been hearing..."
"Well, maybe it's true that I'm not happy! Are you happy? Then why did you leave in the first place?"
"Don't drag our son into the middle of this! Just come back and let us talk about it."
I didn't have to hear more. It was all too clear to me. Without a word of goodbye, I turned around and walked away from the cottage, and kept walking, hoping to reach a village where I could take a bus back to town. However, a few miles down the road Archibald's car caught up on me.
"My dearest, listen to me!" he pleaded.
"I think I have heard enough!" I said with bitter tears in my eyes. "Or was that not your deceased wife on the phone?"
"I am sorry", Archibald said. "I didn't mean to lie to you. It's just that... my wife and I have been separated for several months and our marriage is virtually over. I have no intention of staying with her. I do love you, very much!"
"And your son?" I asked.
"He will always be provided for, and he is very dear to me. But I can't live with his mother. Please wait for me, and I promise we will be together after I have had a divorce."
What can I say? I loved him, so I waited. My son was born, and I waited still. Then, tired of waiting, I found his address and paid a visit at his home. A maid let me in.
"Professor Bondo, there is a Miss Olesen to see you", she announced.
A few minutes later he appeared and ushered me into his office. On the way, I caught a glimpse of a pale woman in her forties and a thin, dark-haired young boy with a stupid look on his face - his wife and son, presumably.
When we were alone, Archibald looked at me with shame written all over his face.
"I am sorry I haven't stayed in touch", he said.
"I thought you were having a divorce?" I asked. "You asked me to wait for you."
"It was my intention", Archibald confessed. "But my wife and I later decided to give it another try, for the boy's sake, and for the family."
"You mean you did not want to make a scandal", I stated, matter-of-factly.
Archibald didn't answer.
"And what about our child?" I asked.
He stared at me, completely shocked.
"A child?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I waited", I said. "I didn't want to intrude. I don't want to intrude now. I just want to let you know that he exists and that we will both be all right, with or without your help."
He smiled and reached out to touch my cheek.
"I have never doubted your ability to take care of yourself", he said, "but you won't have to. I have never forgotten you, and now that there is a child, I will not abandon you. You or our son will never want for anything, I promise you that. And I love you, I will always love you. I just hope that someday our time will come..."
That was the last time I met him. I do believe that he had the intention of ending his unhappy marriage, but he never seemed to be able to gather the courage to act on those intentions. He sent me a check once a month for about a year, to help provide for the child, and every time he attached a passionate love letter, promising me that soon we would be together again. I never answered those letters. The final letter from him ended:
"Now I have decided. I will speak to my wife about the divorce next week, when she comes back from her mother's. Then we can be together. Yours always, Archibald."
But just a few days later, his airplane crashed into the sea. He was found dead and I haven't heard from him since.