Maggie liked Foyles at Charing Cross Road and shopped there often. She had been raised with all that is unlikely, unconventional, and supernatural (perhaps even magical). When she was a child, her world was that of fairies, ghosts, wishes, and the power of crystals and planets. She was taught that answers were to be found in round circles called astrology charts and that there were many people in the world who were psychic and could foretell the future. Although that world was an appealing world, it was inevitable that Maggie, as so many teenagers do, would rebel against the beliefs she was raised with and seek other philosophies.
She experimented with various traditional religions and belief systems that existed to fill in the voids felt by those lacking any sort of faith. She found that although she liked many traditional religions and appreciated what they stood for, it was indeed Buddhism that made her feel the most complete. Maggie was for all intents and purposes an illogical, whimsical, adventuresome, and happy young woman. She slept soundly and lived a very complete life.
The philosophies of acceptance by which she lived her life made her compatible with most people. She had a nice relationship with her mother, a Danish astrologer, and her father, a successful English businessman who was happy to receive a little guidance from the planets. (If anyone objected to this, he happily pointed out that it had worked for Ronald Reagan.) Maggie often read the books her mother spoke about, and every once in a while, she even joined her mother in some new age ritual or other.
It was the excuse of searching for the perfect birthday gift for her mother that placed her at the same book section and store. From the moment she saw the tall, slender man walking down the street, she felt that she needed to follow him. This is not something she remembered ever having done before. She was pretty, and more often than not, men approached her. Experience had taught her that many men worth talking to could be shy and sometimes needed to be approached. With the confidence that is often exhibited by very pretty women, she was not deterred in the least by his surprised reaction to her smile, and so she spoke.
“So, which of the women in your life recommended that book to you? Was it your mum or your girlfriend?”
She was indeed pretty, and inasmuch as he was instantly attracted to her, it was not in a purely physical way. Someday, as their love story flourished, she would explain to him that when two souls from the past meet, they recognize each other. This happens in love stories, to parents when they first encounter the eyes of their newborn, and to friends as well as enemies.
As so many lovers do, when they first met, neither one of them spoke the absolute truth. Like so many lovers starting out a new love story, if they had known where this would lead, both of them might have run out of the bookstore. But they both chose to stay, and so on a cold winter day in January of 2010, when the world was mourning the passing of so many souls in Haiti, their love story began. He smiled back and answered her question.
“Why would it have to be a woman? Why couldn’t a man recommend it?”
“Oh I see. You are an American.”
“No, Canadian actually.”
“Same difference. Perhaps in America or Canada, a man other than the author would recommend Many Lives, Many Masters. But here in England, well, it would have to be a girlfriend probably on her grand quest as to how you are soul mates eternally destined to be together, or maybe it would be a middle-aged mum who just discovered Brian Weiss, the author. So, it is that, or you have some sort of existential crisis that led you to find the book on your own. So, mum or girlfriend?”
“Hmmm, let me see. My mother prefers to pray and attend church. I don’t have a girlfriend, and it was the medical background of the guy who wrote the book, Dr. Weiss, that impressed me. So, maybe I do fall into the existential crisis category”
Her beautiful eyes widened.
“Existential crisis it is then, but if you seek impressive credentials in past-life therapy, you might want to read this book, Other Lives, Other Selves. Tell me, what triggered your belief in past lives?”
“Belief! I would not call it belief … possibility. I’ve come to realize that strange things happen.”
“You know, once you read that book, you will believe. In life there are certain doorways that once you cross them, they will forever change you. And you might also resolve your existential crisis. What you will definitely find is that women love to sleep with men who search for depth through such beliefs.”
So in that cold European winter when some in the world denied global warming, he lay in bed, holding her. He could not imagine a less likely place to have encountered the perfect girl, the self-help section at a bookstore. She was, by all accounts, very beautiful. Her laughter and smiley eyes were completely contagious. He was ready to settle down, and she might be the one, even if that involved accepting some very unlikely ideas that she held. There was the most extraordinary feeling of comfort in simply being with her.
Maggie had to laugh; she thought he’d be a quick and fun adventure, one that she would soon get out of her system. But this yuppie geek, as it turned out, was surprisingly special from the very first moment. This could be far more than a casual adventure.
Bill had not spoken to anyone about his problems. Not anyone other than doctors or therapists. Maggie worked counseling young kids. She was trained to ask just the right questions to make people talk. Bill was used to carefully giving only the information he wanted to give in business and in his private life. He sometimes caught himself telling Maggie much more than what he expected was safe. She thought that she knew just how to pry and could tell he was holding back; this, of course, made him all the more interesting.
Their love story grew and developed as some do. Maggie usually led and Bill followed. They enjoyed the typical things new couples enjoy, such as going to restaurants, the cinema, shops, and museums. Sometimes, if the winter weather allowed, they went for nice long walks. Before Bill met Maggie, he had spent all his time in London buried in his work, with his colleagues at the gym, or finding ways to run away from the dreams and thoughts that haunted him. He did this by playing any distracting “brain game” that helped him to forget the letters, the same five letters, on the wings and on the side of the aircraft in his nightmares.
He liked to remember how it had been the day they met there in the bookstore by the self-help and philosophy section while he had been holding the book Many Lives, Many Masters, a book that seemed sensible enough to explain past lives. (He had also noticed one discussing future lives. That seemed ridiculous, and he was wondering if in spite of Dr. Weiss’s credentials, this was the right way to learn more about past-life regression therapy.) It was right at that moment that she had smiled and spoken. He liked the thought of how later that day, before they left the bookstore together, they each had purchased a book; he bought Many Lives, Many Masters, and Maggie chose the one about future lives, Same Soul, Many Bodies, the ridiculous one. They often visited Foyles on rainy days.
Maggie loved that bookstore, so it could not exactly be said that she had followed him inside. That would have been completely out of character for her. She had not only felt attracted to his physique, but also the way he moved as he walked seemed so familiar; there was a very strong force there, and there had been something she recognized.
Then he absolutely surprised her; he went to the section she had least expected “his type”—the cute, yuppie geek type—to choose: he went to her mother’s favorite section, the self-help and new age philosophies section, and in his hand was one of the new age beliefs’ basic books, Many Lives, Many Masters.
This was good; it could only mean that he was new to such ideas. That was an old book. It was from the 1980s. Maybe even older. It had to be that old; she remembered a copy or two in her parents’ house for as long as she could remember. This guy, this conquest—Maggie, as many pretty young women do, conquered the hearts of men for sport—this conquest would be a breeze. It was then that he felt different, when he spoke and she heard his accent, an accent so familiar to her from the cinema and the telly, the accent of all the handsome men of her fantasies, an accent that made him even more appealing. Unlike the man she had just met, Maggie was very aware that she was a hopeless romantic.