Starting The Fire by D.I. Jolly
It only takes a moment, a single moment, to totally change your life. Everything you’ve done and plotted and planned and been proud of, can all change in that single moment. Jack had loved his life, he loved his wife, his children, his career, all of it. It wasn’t picture-perfect but it was his. He and his wife were a team, they’d met in high school and been together ever since. So even when they hated each other they found a way, and it worked. Until the moment it didn’t, until the moment he met Juliet. It was as though his blood had burst into flame, instantly scorching the life he had and turning everything he thought he loved to ash. The moment their eyes met the world stopped turning, everything else vanished and they were the only people alive. And to make it worse, she felt exactly the same.
What started as a spontaneous sense of dissatisfaction quickly evolved into the unconscious self-destruction of his everyday life. He and Juliet had decided that they couldn’t be near each other, shouldn’t interact with each other and that seemed to be the last sensible decision he made. Every part of him desperately tried to create a world where he could unmake that decision. Slowly at first but quickly gaining speed. One beer with friends was now five, home at ten was now home at one and any opportunity or excuse to sleep in the spare room became the norm.
But all of that could just be a midlife crisis, something they could get through, and his wife was not ready to give up hope. She didn’t know what had happened that in the morning he loved her and in the evening he didn’t. He hadn’t become cruel, in many ways he was behaving exactly the same, but their deepest love had always existed in the small things and that’s what had disappeared. His mind wasn’t even focused on Juliet directly. She was at the heart of it, but to avoid thinking about her, Jack locked up his feelings, for everything. Trying to put himself back in that moment just before. To go back in time a split second and blink or look away, to not notice what had appeared before him.
When he was asked, he was fine. When he was pushed, he was fine! And when confronted by a desperate screaming shadow that resembled a memory, he thought he had once loved, he didn’t even care that he didn’t care. It was as if the fire that had erupted in that moment had burnt his nerves and killed his feelings. He said what he thought you were supposed to say in the situation, held his crying wife, agreed that something was wrong, agreed to go back to Dr Franklin and find the cause, to get back to where they had been. But he felt none of it, it was just what he thought he was supposed to say.
Juliet, on the other hand, had been single and her mind overflowed with Jack and that moment. It wasn’t a spark of hope it was an explosion that rattled her core, restarting feelings thought long dead. But he was married, with kids and a life. She didn’t want to ruin that, take that away. The idea of someone doing that to her made her almost physically sick and she could not, and would not do that to someone else. So she ran from her feelings, spontaneously resigned her position, made quick plans to move cities and ran. If she couldn’t be with him, she needed to be as far away from as possible. Now that she knew he was there she couldn’t help but look for him when out, but at the same time never wanted to see him. Couldn’t stand the idea of spotting him unhappily with his family. Knowing she both wanted that to be true and was revolted by the idea.
She told herself that ‘true love would be true; it was good, it was honest, it was love. By definition it couldn’t be bad, it couldn’t cause the kind of pain that this was causing and so what was happening couldn’t be love, it was something else.’ She didn’t believe her own words but she repeated them over and over and over, hoping that if she said them enough it would become true.
The moment that sparked the explosion that burned down their lives was forever burnt into the backs of their eyes, and blinded them from everything else. A feeling so hot and so raw that it only needed a single moment to change everything. A single moment, a beautiful happy moment where two people recognised something in someone else that was so perfect that nothing else could ever compare and everything else would forever be in the shadow of that moment.