Transformation in Coral by Jillian Jones

"And, this is Sara Wright. She's joining us all the way from Australia," said my team leader.

"It's an honour to meet you, Sir," Offering my hand to greet Magne Furuholmen. He looked magnificent in his elegant attire, standing beside Heidi Rydjord, his beautiful wife of many years.
Transformation in Coral
Transformation in Coral by Jillian Jones
"Have we met?" he asked, shaking my hand. "No," I smiled. "I don't believe so." He paused, looking at me quizzically, before moving to meet the next member of the architectural team. Heidi and I greeted each other momentarily before she too moved along the line. Magne and I had indeed crossed paths before. Our interaction had spanned twenty-four hours and changed the course of my life. My mind floated back, three years to the day. Storming out of the cabin, anger pressing like a heavy rock in my chest, as I rushed down the stairs and along the path towards the beach, shaken and wobbly. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be married anymore. Sadness hit. Tears streamed down my cheeks, blurring my vision. I stopped mid stride. Resting my hand on a nearby tree, steadying myself. Taking a deep breath, wiping tears, a coffee at the restaurant and some time away from my family was my solution. I knew Damian had organised the holiday in an attempt to bring us together and resolve some conflict between us, but I wasn't interested in resolving anything in that moment. Leaning against the tree, light-headed, my legs like jelly. Convinced the ground was about to fall away under my feet, I closed my eyes, bracing myself. A wave of nausea washed over me. I opened my eyes only once the sensation had passed, and glanced around. Staring at the cabin I'd just left, confusion hit me harder than a pounding wave. There was nothing on the verandah, yet moments ago, wetsuits and flippers had been scattered the whole length of it. I turned and walked towards the cabin, stopping when I noticed a piece of paper in my hand. A flyer. Advertising a series of workshops. A-ha are here? In Australia? On Lady Elliot Island? A closer look at the flyer informed me of a four-day program of art workshops being held on the Island. A-ha would be offering music workshops. It had to be a dream? A fleeting awareness took my attention to my wrist. I was wearing a watch I didn't recognise as mine, but of greater significance was the realisation that the introductory session was about to start, at the reef education centre. I spun around and headed in the opposite direction, keen to go a-ha spotting. They were after all my favourite band of all time. Arriving at the education centre, I found a line-up of people leading to a registration table just outside the door. Surveying the scene, I noticed a printed copy of the program sitting at the end of the table. Picking it up, I glanced through the schedule while I waited my turn to enquire about a-ha. There were to be a number of visual and performing artists, and musicians presenting over the four day program. A-ha were down to appear on day two, as facilitators for a breakout workshop. It wasn't possible for me to attend their session. My family and I would be on our way home. However, the afternoon photography workshop looked interesting. After waiting for ten minutes, I was greeted by a middle-aged woman with bright orange dreadlocks, wearing a funky blue croqueted dress teamed with multi-coloured Black Milk leggings. "Hi, I'm Tammy, how can I help you?" she beamed. "Hi, I'm wanting to attend the photography workshop this afternoon." "Oh, honey, not if you haven't already registered. We're all booked out," she paused, staring at me. "Wait, you're Sara Blake aren't you? It's an honour to have you here, by the way." She bubbled with excitement as she tapped the keys of a laptop, on the table in front of her. "Umm, well..." I didn't get to finish. "You've already paid, Sara, so you get to do the session after all. Here's your name badge. We'll be kicking off in about five minutes, just head on through there." She smiled as she indicated towards the door to the education centre. Then, she turned to greet the next person in line. Walking into the room the first thing I noticed was a large group of people milling around a giant, clear, acrylic tube filled with water. It looked like a big fish tank. And, there was Magne Furuholmen standing beside it while a pretty girl, in her early teens, floated around inside. “Dad, are you nearly finished?” The girl in the makeshift fish tank popped her head up and out of the water, as Magne gestured for a spotlight to be moved, while motioning for her to re-submerge so he could continue his photography session. That’s odd. As far as I could recall from my knowledge of each of the members of a-ha, Mags had two sons and no daughter, and his sons would be in their twenties. As I pondered the scene I sensed Magne would achieve a better effect by adding a colour filter and rearranging a few of the lights. I pushed my way through the throng of people. “I suggest you move that to there, and that one over there, and add a blue filter to that one!” The rush of energy through my body was invigorating as I spoke, pointing to indicate the lights to which I was referring; my voice strong and confident. The head of the light moving team looked at me and then at Magne. Magne spun around, annoyance flickering in his eyes, while the girl in the tank screamed. “Dad, hurry up!” She's speaking English to him. I watched her for a moment, my curiosity piqued; the resemblance to her father was obvious. Glancing at Magne, he stared at me, open-mouthed without a word. All traces of annoyance, gone. “Okay, move them, please,” he directed the team. Once the lights were repositioned he looked through his camera lens. “Thanks, it looks great.” Moving slowly around the tank, shooting as quickly as he could, with his digital SLR. “Just a few more minutes, please honey,” he smiled pleadingly at his daughter. “This is a great shot. I don’t want to miss it.” When he finished he had a quick glance back at me with a smile and a thumbs up nod. At that point the crowd dissipated after a voice requested the participants take a seat for the start of the session. Mags moved to help the girl out of the tank and I took a seat in the back row. The presenter was the woman I'd spoken to at the registration table. She talked about the art college that was sponsoring the program and acknowledged the guest presenters and Lady Elliot Island managers and staff for allowing them to book out the island for the workshops. Suddenly, Magne and the girl from the tank were sliding into the seats beside me. “Hi,” he said, a star struck grin on his face. “I’m Magne, and you’re Sara Blake, right?” He offered me his hand. “Yes, I am,” I said, shaking his hand, my mind racing with questions. That was the second time this morning and I hadn't pinned the badge on yet, it was still hiding in my hand under the program and flyer I was holding. I wondered how he knew my name. It was actually my maiden name. I’d been married for sixteen years and was more familiar with being referred to as Sara Wright. I looked up at the presenter to indicate I was trying to listen. Magne continued. “It’s an honour to meet you at last. I’ve admired your work for some time.” He turned to listen to the speaker as I glanced at him. I couldn’t believe what was happening. He'd been my idol as a teenager and there he was, sitting next to me. I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with him, but didn’t. It was surreal - like I wasn’t myself. I had an indescribable sense of awareness and knowledge of the discussion being presented, coupled with crazy thoughts and creative photography ideas running through my mind. I decided I should return to my cabin, clear my head, and let my family know I'd be in a workshop for the rest of the day. Walking towards our cabin, I realised I was wearing a brightly coloured bodysuit and boots neither of which I owned. I was thinner as well, and it dawned on me that I'd tied my hair back in a ponytail that morning. And, while the front part of my hair was now tied back and off my face, at the back, it was loose, thicker and longer. I grabbed a bunch of my hair from behind me and flicked it in to view. Vibrant pink and purple! What the...? Panic hit. My stomach churned and my chest tightened as I rushed up the stairs and into the cabin. It was devoid of my family and our belongings. Two, small, brightly coloured suitcases sat near the door to the main bedroom. I knew, at some level, they were mine, but my rational mind was arguing that point. Then, I caught my reflection in the mirror. Oh. My. God. My hand clapped to my mouth as I stared at the woman looking back at me. My hair was purple and pink dye dip on platinum blonde, the sides pulled back and up in a sixties beehive style! It was a far cry from my usual dark brown, shoulder-length hair with the beautiful auburn highlights. And, my clothes were a designer label, retro fashion statement - a floral print bodysuit splashed with bright blue, red and pink dots. Something I would never have the courage to wear. I touched my body, my face and my hair, wondering if it was real or if I was dreaming. The panic intensified. My forehead beading with sweat, my heart rate increased and my breath shortened as I checked through the handbag, sitting on the bedside table, in search of answers. I found a passport. Australian, and the picture was the 'me' reflected in the mirror. The address label on my bag was an apartment in New York. I'd never been to New York. At that point a wave of awareness washed over me. I'd walked out of my cabin and stepped into some sort of parallel life. Amongst the papers and laptop computer in the computer bag was an art magazine featuring me. It clarified that I was an established photography artist. It seemed I was much more confident and creative than I was in my original life so it was no wonder I'd had no trouble telling Magne’s lighting technician what to do. I let it sink in for a bit, but I didn't quite know what it all meant and I wondered where my other life had gone. I knew I wasn't dreaming. It all felt so very real. My dreams weren’t like this. My dreams were foggy and vague and confusing; not linear like this. I was living this day - fully aware and sensing everything, although it was a bit bizarre. Reading the article, in the magazine, I was enlightened. It spoke little of my private life, but it did mention I was recently single. I also told the interviewer that I had no room in my life for children but, all of my creative projects were my babies. The article was mostly about my current art exhibition; the images of which filled the pages with splashes of psychedelic colour. My work looked interesting to say the least - beautiful in a surreal kind of way. To me, it looked like a lot of montaged images but otherwise hard to describe. The writer of the article, however, described my work as representing a new and sophisticated use of light, colour and composition to create dramatic and complex photographs. I wondered if I would be bored by the photography workshop if I were the famous, accomplished artist I thought I was. I decided to take my chances. Everyone was standing around discussing the morning session when I walked into the education centre. It was crowded, but Magne was at my side within seconds. “Hi,” I smiled, relieved that I had someone to talk to. “Hi,” he smiled back. “I was hoping I’d see you again.” He told me he was doing the afternoon session as well and asked if I would partner him. He explained it involved underwater photography off the lagoon followed by a creative post-production session. He had his Mac computer already set up and suggested we work together. He was thrilled about the idea of our resulting artwork being part of an exhibition at the end of the program. He explained that everyone was going to lunch before the afternoon session and apologised for not being able to join me. He had a lunch meeting with the program organisers but introduced me to a group of artists from Sydney, before he left. In my other life, I had included a couple of art history subjects in my architecture degree but I dropped out of university after first year and opted to work as a medical receptionist to support Damien through his double economics and commerce degree. Naturally, my art language was rusty, to say the least, so it was a total surprise when I started channelling 'art speak', along with copious creative ideas, over lunch. It just seemed to flow effortlessly from my head into articulate and inspired conversation, leaving my lunch companions in awe. In that moment I was elated and in love with my new life. I looked and felt fabulous as I joined Magne and the rest of the participants at the lagoon after lunch. I was on a high and my vibrant, designer wetsuit, snorkel and flippers reflected pure inner confidence. Up until that point I'd avoided the lagoon during my time there, but swimming through the water I couldn't believe what I'd been missing. An abundance of inspiration was found, gliding gracefully through the coral with turtles, brightly coloured fish and sea stars. It was a rarefied atmosphere. Magne and I, underwater SLRs in hand, competed to create the most stunning and creative photograph but, if things got too intense and serious between us, he'd suddenly do something to make me laugh. His antics reminded me of an article from a teen magazine I'd read when I was around thirteen years old. The other members of a-ha had said he was both a fool and a genius and that he lived life to the fullest. I understood in that moment why they would say that. It was an adventure swimming and photographing with him. In my life I'd forgotten what it felt like to be creative, spontaneous and inspired. We made the most of every minute and all too soon it was over. We had twenty minutes to be changed and back in the workshop for the creative post-production session. The heaviness in my body as we emerged from the water, underscored my disappointment, but it was soon quelled when Magne took my hand in his. It took my breath, sending my knees weak, warmth flooding my body. He was speaking to me but I'd zoned out, savouring the sensations his touch was creating, as we negotiated our way through the coral towards the beach. Light-headed, attempting to avoid a large bed of coral, I lost my footing and over balanced. Magne spun around and enveloped me in his arms, catching my fall, holding me for longer than was necessary. I glanced up and the longing desire reflected in his eyes, stirred and tingled my nerve endings. He moved closer, softly pressing his lips to mine. I didn't resist. The kiss intensified, every cell in my body opening to the euphoric bliss. Eventually, gently and slowly, moving away, a lascivious grin on his face. “I’ll change and see you at the workshop,” I said, walking away. Glancing back, he was watching me. He sent me a cute wave. I smiled inside and out as I contemplated what might unfold between us as the afternoon and evening progressed. But, as I neared my cabin, the confusion hit me like a tonne of bricks as the memory of my other life washed over me. I was married and so was he. My head spun with desire and unanswered questions. As I changed out of my wetsuit, I noticed a journal sitting in the wardrobe. Curious to access some idea of the inner most thoughts of artist Sara Blake, I opened it, and started reading. The contents were startling. Underneath the extroverted public personality was a lost soul. Apparently, I was on Lady Elliot Island for a much-needed private retreat, from a busy and highflying social life in New York, and the recent spectacular breakup, with my lover of three months. As I flicked through the pages, Sara Blake's dissatisfaction and inner unhappiness, over her lack of ability to maintain a healthy, loving relationship, indeed any form of relationship, was overwhelmingly apparent. The melancholy seeped into my being. I arrived for the Photoshop session feeling unsure of myself, as a result of reading the journal. Thankfully, once we started, all of my woes were forgotten. My muscles relaxed as a sense of calm and ease washed over me. Magne and I came up with the most amazing creations. I knew from his comments he was in awe of me. And, a number of the other participants sought advice and suggestions from us, which validated my talent even further. I did, however, find my Sara Blake personality had a strong tendency to not compliment or validate others. In fact, there was a very critical and judgemental line of thinking in my mind, which wasn’t something I was familiar with. She was obviously very competitive. I found myself thinking it was no wonder she talked about so many relationship issues. I didn't like that aspect of this 'me'. We continued to work through dinner and on until midnight at which point everyone decided to call it a day, shutdown their computers and head to bed. Magne invited me to join him for a wine on the beach. Of course I said yes. My energy was high and there was no way I would've slept. It was a clear and balmy evening, filled with tantalising possibilities. We chatted excitedly about the day as we walked along the beach, our way lit by a mesmerising full moon and stars that looked like small diamonds sprinkled on a black velvet sky. We stopped when we reached a couple of deck chairs in front of my cabin. Before I could take a seat Magne put the glasses and wine cooler he'd been carrying, down on the ground and quickly stood up in front of me. He looked into my eyes and I could see he was intoxicated by desire as he reached his hands to my face and kissed me. My whole body responded to the electricity between us. But, there was an internal tug of war happening within me. In my previous life, the teenage crush I had on the very famous Mags from a-ha didn't exist anymore. I didn't sleep around, I valued monogamy. But, my doppelganger in this world would sleep with anyone with a pulse, from what I could discern from her journal, and I was in turmoil, battling the personalities of two different lives. Thankfully, sound reasoning and my old self prevailed, momentarily. I pulled away and held his hands, looking deeply into his eyes. “Magne you’re married and so I am, we can’t do this,” I whispered. “I am?” he said, looking confused. “Yes, to Heidi,” I exclaimed. “Who’s Heidi?” he asked, his beautiful blue eyes penetrating mine. “You, know...” Making hand gestures as I spoke in the hope it would make more sense of things. “Your childhood sweetheart!” “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” a blank expression on his face. I’m sure he thought I was totally insane. I sat down and invited Magne to do the same, and told him my story. He listened wholeheartedly and was incredibly understanding of the fact that, in some parallel dimension, I should've been sitting under the stars with Damien, my husband, since it was our sixteenth wedding anniversary. We pondered the meaning of it all. He told me he and Heidi had broken up before he went to London with Paul and Morten but he often thought of her, and wondered what life would've been like if they’d stayed together. I told him they’d had two sons. He explained his daughter was the product of a brief fling with the organiser of this program and he was grateful for her. He said it was a relationship that never had a future but they were friends and helped each other out where they could, hence, the reason a-ha were part of the program. He asked if I knew how to go back or if I even wanted to. I told him I needed some time and space to think things through. At some level I still loved my husband and I wasn't ready to cheat on him. Over the past twelve months, Damien had been doing his best to keep our marriage together, and I realised, in that moment, just how unhappy and self-absorbed I'd been. I hadn't appreciated his efforts, unwilling to meet him halfway in his attempts. I told Magne I’d see him in the morning and let him know then, what I'd decided. Sleep eluded me. So, I ventured out to the deckchairs filled with restlessness and sadness. I hoped the stars and crashing waves would provide more inspiration than the white ceiling fan droning in my room. I pondered the option of the two possible lives before me, neither of which was perfect. Which would be easier to rectify and enjoy? Was it possible to bring in some stable, committed and considerate energy from my first life to my Sara Blake existence? And, if I could, would that sort out her relationship issues? Was it possible that Magne represented the relationship that could change all the hurt from the past for Sara Blake? Or, was it better to bring some of this ‘me’ back into my original life, so I could start living and creating consciously again? I recalled the passion and excitement I'd felt at meeting Damien for the first time at his 21st birthday party in August 1992. It had been love at first sight, for both of us. And, despite the perception that the passion and excitement had gone from our relationship, I was unwilling to give up on him, our two sons, and the life we had together. I knew I was the one with the issue. I'd buried my passion for living. I'd stopped making life an adventure when I unconsciously suppressed my creative expression years ago. Was it possible to rekindle the passion that had been left to smoulder and almost die? I fell asleep, my questions unanswered, and my confusion reflected in chaotic dreams where I was being chased by dark forces and falling from great heights. I managed to make it to the restaurant in time for breakfast and was greeted by Magne as I walked through the door. He invited me to join him and the other a-ha boys at their table. I accepted gratefully. Magne explained it had been during a visit to Paul and Lauren in New York that he'd first noticed my work. And, I shifted instantly into my Sara Blake life when Paul expressed a keen desire to discuss my work. Not needing to be asked twice, I channelled her effortlessly as I began to wax lyrical about my next exhibition. Morten was less interested and left within minutes of me arriving because he had a meeting with the event coordinators to discuss the possibility of a similar event in Norway. Paul took his leave once I'd finished my egotistical summation of my work. He was in the creative process of writing for the next a-ha album. I was excited to hear there was another one when I thought Foot of the Mountain would be the last they'd produce, given their farewell in 2010. When we were alone again, Magne took my hand and asked if I'd decided what I was going to do. My life as Sara Wright had been a bit unsatisfying at times, and I had to admit that life as Sara Blake seemed so much more exciting as I sat and looked, silently, into Magne's eyes, while he reiterated all the reasons why I should stay. “I’m going to return to my other life," I finally announced when he took a breath. "But, I won't forget what you've shown me in terms of living life fully. And, I intend to rekindle the creative energy that I've mastered in this life." I'd come to the conclusion that this would be easier then it would be to deal with the challenges I faced as the compulsively obnoxious Sara Blake. Well, that's what I felt. I'd read more of the journal before going to breakfast that morning and I was convinced Sara Blake couldn't be saved. I smiled, but tears welled in my eyes as somewhere inside I grieved momentarily for the lost possibilities of the life I was rejecting. Magne brushed my cheek. “I’m sure I can take some of the vibe of this life back to my original life. I know how it feels in my body to be confident, creative and fun now. So I can have the best of both worlds.” It was my new affirmation. Magne said he was sad to see me go and thought he might still attempt to connect with me the next time he was in New York, in the hope that Sara Blake was something like me. I suggested he might want to rethink that, and perhaps he'd benefit by calling on Heidi when he got back to Norway. I'd anticipated the way back into my original life would be through intention, but I wasn't entirely sure. Nevertheless, I stood in the same spot where I'd first noticed the flyer in my hand, the cleared verandah, and a watch on my wrist that wasn't mine. I glanced again at the wristwatch, closed my eyes and turned away from the cabin as I touched the tree that I'd leaned on just prior to the parallel life jump. The nausea and dizziness immediately arose. I kept my eyes shut until the sensations eased and I blinked hard to clear my vision once I was ready. There was no watch on my wrist. I turned and looked at the cabin. “It worked!” The verandah was laden with wetsuits and strewn flippers and reef shoes. Relief washed through me. I could still recall the vibration, the energy, of my other self, and feel how my body felt as that person. And, while it wasn't something I was fully familiar with yet, I knew it would become more comfortable in time, and as a result, I envisioned renewed creativity, passion, possibility and fun in my life with my husband and children. Up until that point, during the whole time we'd been on the island, I'd chosen to spend time on my own. I'd resisted every minute of the family time Damien and our children had anticipated and instigated. But, in that moment, I felt more aware and ready to be part of the family. Walking through the door I immediately recognised no time had passed while I'd been on my transformative adventure. My two sons and my husband were getting ready to go for a snorkel at the lighthouse, knowing I wouldn't be joining them because that's what we'd argued about - twenty-four hours ago, from my altered perspective - a few minutes ago. My lack of participation in anything proposed, so far on our holiday, had been a contentious issue. "I've changed my mind. I'm going to join you," I said smiling as I walked through the door. The smiles on their faces made my heart melt. I'm still not quite sure how it happened but that experience was what I needed to give my creativity a chance for expression. Damien was overjoyed when I told him I wanted to resume my architecture studies after twenty years. And, once I completed my degree he was offered an international work transfer to Norway, of all places. So, I applied for a graduate architect internship position in Oslo, and got it! And here we were, at a social event connected to my first project. I glanced at Damien. He was smiling proudly at me and within seconds was by my side offering me a glass of champagne and a passionate kiss. "Happy Anniversary," I whispered and took a sip from my glass, noticing Magne and Heidi on the other side of the room. They were having a quiet moment together, looking very much in love. All was right in the world.


Post a Comment

Read free eBooks, English Fiction, English Erotic Story

Delicious Digg Facebook Favorites More Stumbleupon Twitter