Chapter Twenty Five
Lara marched up to the reception desk of the Plaza Hotel confidently.
‘I believe you have someone staying here by the name of Larissa May,’ she enquired with confidence. ‘Please would you tell her that a very, very old acquaintance of hers is waiting in the lobby!’
Five minutes later, Valda burst through the elevator doors with an ecstatic whoop and the two embraced, overjoyed – their delight was plain for everybody to see. Tears were in their eyes and words failed them both. It was Valda who managed to speak first.
‘God, am I pleased to see you. I’ve been so worried! I can’t believe I just left you out there to deal with all that.’
‘Well, I told you to go!’
‘I know, and I always listen to you for some reason. Let’s not talk here, come up to my room.’
Valda helped Lara carry her luggage towards the elevator and soon, they were on the way to her room. Valda shut the door and immediately fired the questions.
‘I want to hear everything! By the way, you made the news, or was it me that made the news? Anyway, the story about the Sheikh’s death was on CNN. Did I have a job explaining that to my dad, I’ll tell you about that later though. You go first.’
Lara explained every second of her ordeal from the time Valda had left the flat to the minute Lara boarded the plane and Valda listened in awe, without a single interruption.
‘So it was Ahmed who was sending me those clippings,’ mused Valda as Lara finished her story.
‘I think he felt protective towards you, perhaps he wanted to save you, where he had failed to save his brother.’
‘Shame, poor guy, and now he has to take the rap,’ said Valda with regret.
‘Should we be that sorry for him? He may have killed all those other people, after all,’ countered Lara.
‘That may be so, but speaking as someone who was also caught in the Sheikh’s clutches, what chance did Ahmed have of escaping: it was a case of do or die! I think it’s strange that they never found any articles about Claire or made the connection. It was Ahmed that sent me the clipping about Claire, so he must have had copies.’
‘Perhaps he realised that he may be arrested and so he destroyed the information on Claire. He might have wanted to protect other people. On the other hand, whoever is in charge of the investigation may not have wanted to open any more cans of worms, especially if other officials or members of the government were involved. Bearing in mind Claire was from the UK, it may have become internationally embarrassing,’ Lara shrugged. Frowning for a second see added, “Or Jo?”
‘Jo?’ Valda was curious, ‘Really. You think!’
“It really is just an idea, Jo must have had an inkling...’ Lara tailed off.
‘Well, I guess mine and Claire’s involvement in this whole thing will remain a mystery.’ Valda got up and opened the minibar to retrieve a canister of crisps, peanuts and some Coke for them to share. She then sat down on the bed facing Lara and looked directly into her eyes. ‘It’s amazing that you did this for me. I have to tell you that if I had heard you had been charged with murder, I would have flown back to tell everyone the truth.’
Lara shook her head, ‘I never thought it would come to that.’
‘You really are incredibly brave!’ sighed Valda.
‘It was all a calculated risk,’ said Lara sincerely.
‘How so?’ Valda was curious.
‘The danger was in your chart, not mine. In fact, my chart showed good fortune and divine protection. But I didn’t only take the chart’s word for it, I combined some common-sense and logic and I concluded I’d get away with it.’
‘Talking about charts, Brett is coming out to see me for New Year.’
‘I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome of this romance,’ winked Lara.
‘Lara, I have some more fabulous news!’ exclaimed Valda. ‘I went to see that record producer you gave me the name of; I did an audition and a screen-test and he signed me up. I am booked to do a show in Vegas next year and I am going to be collaborating on an album with some high-profile up-and-coming song writers. Everything is so amazing.’
‘What can I say? I love it when my readings are so accurate!’ laughed Lara, mocking herself.
Valda held up her hand. ‘I haven’t forgotten what you told me about success not being just about career and money. I am still proud of my other success; that is, pulling myself together and coming to terms with myself and my past. But it’s all down to you, how can I ever repay you, Lara?’
‘Remember what I said before you left Dubai: we’re all square!’ Valda looked confused and so Lara continued, ‘I had a lot of time to think when I was locked up; I mean, it’s not like there’s a helluva lot to do in there!’ She raised her eyebrows sarcastically, before continuing seriously, ‘I thought about the synastry between our charts: your sun is on my IC, squaring Pluto on my ascendant, and opposite my Saturn, my sun is conjunct with your Saturn, also square of your Pluto. What I am trying to say is that there is a very strong past life or karmic link between us. I have told you before – how I was always searching for a reason. Up until now, I have always felt my life was in limbo, but suddenly, I feel that that has all changed; it’s as if things are going to fall into place for me now. I am sure that I have settled my karmic debt to you.’
‘Maybe, maybe, but it still does not diminish how grateful I am to you right now, in this room, in this lifetime. You have given me life, even more so than the mother I never knew.’
‘OK, enough of the philosophical stuff, it’s getting too heavy! I have some things for you.’ With that, Lara bounced off the bed, unzipped her case and pulled out the brown paper envelope. She handed Valda the letters and the dagger, which was still in its plastic bag.
‘I’m not sure I want to see that thing again,’ groaned Valda disdainfully.
‘I think that one of us should keep it. Just in case one day we look back and wonder if all this really happened,’ chuckled Lara. ‘It kinda symbolises the life–death cycle.’
‘Whatever,’ Valda waved her hand dismissively. ‘You can keep it then. Now, there is the most delish restaurant ten minutes from here, I can’t wait to take you there. Get something warm on though, we’re not in Dubai any more. This is New York and boy do they have a cold winter here!’
After living in Dubai for so long, Lara had no warm clothes with her and so Valda lent her a warm, stylish duffel coat with a fury hood, which she had purchased from Bloomingdale’s.
The freezing and foggy December evening was brightened by the Christmas lights and the buzz of the five o’clock traffic. It was Lara’s first trip to New York and she dallied in front of the beautifully decorated shop windows. Valda was eager to eat and literally had to drag Lara along behind her. The bustling shoppers, wrapped up in their colourful scarves and laden with arrays of smartly packaged parcels and designer bags, intermingling with the carol singers and sidewalk bands; the Christmas trees on every building; the festive music drifting out from inside the stores; the party-goers assembling excitedly inside restaurants and pubs, all reminded Lara of London and she realised how much she missed home. She had been away for too long.
Lara was not even looking at the traffic, she was standing on the pavement, staring all around her, caught up in the wonderful atmosphere and waiting for the stream of traffic to come to a halt. The lights eventually changed and the cars were coming to a stop. Lara was still gazing up at the Christmas decorations and she did not immediately notice that an impatient Valda had stepped out into the street and was now crossing the road. She also did not notice the speeding cab, which was careering around the bend, until she heard the screech of brakes. She cried out desperately, but all she could do was to look on with horror, frozen to the spot.
In times of sheer terror, the intensity of our emotional state elevates us into another vibrational frequency, a dimension, where time does not exist and where time can, indeed, stand still. Time appeared to stand still: all the shoppers and cars, like Lara, were silent, frozen in time; the only thing moving was the screeching car, which crashed into Valda, sending her body hurtling across the street. The bone-shattering crunch was so loud that it reverberated in Lara ears, penetrating her mind and her soul – it would haunt and horrify her for rest of her life. Lara wanted to rush over to Valda, but she, like everything else in that moment, was silently stationary; all she could do was to helplessly watch her friend rolling over and over in the middle of the street.
Then, almost as if a switch had been flicked, the noise began again: there was screaming, hooting, shouting and frenzied movement all around her. Lara was instantly at Valda’s side, kneeling next to her in the middle of the street. Lara knew. Valda looked very beautiful; her face framed by her dark wavy hair was perfect and unscarred and she looked peaceful and contented.
Lara looked up into the dark sky, knowing that destiny could not be escaped.
When something terrible happens, we always look back and wonder if there was anything we could have done differently to have prevented the final outcome.
Lara wondered at what stage it wast that this all became inevitable: was it when Valda came for her first reading; was it when she first accepted the Sheikh’s offer or when she first met the Sheikh; was it when Bella gave her the advert for the job at Flanagan’s? Lara pondered over what would have happened if Valda had never come to Dubai: would she have ended up succeeding in taking her own life in Cape Town? Would she still be alive, but maybe living alone in Camps Bay, bitter and depressed? Maybe that was the crux, thought Lara: is the point of life really to be alive as long as possible, to cling desperately to our earthly bodies; is our body not the least of what we are?
Through her deep sorrow, suddenly, a realisation dawned. It was one of those rare moments, when the veneer of conditioned reality slips for just a second and we see the truth. Valda had learned the lessons of this incarnation; she had resolved her issues with her past and made peace with herself; in killing the Sheikh, she had possibly settled a karmic score for Yousef, Claire and all the others and she had put an end to the Sheikh’s evil activities. Most importantly, Valda had given Lara the opportunity to repay her age-old karmic debt. Lara was free.
At that moment, Lara was not sure what exactly the future would hold: but she trusted that her path would be revealed. She was now sure that there was a reason; there is always a reason, for everything.
The End, and The Beginning!