She stared at the empty hourglass, asking herself when the bits of sand had joined the others at the bottom. Her eyes ceased to focus on the device and she lost herself in reflection.
One hour – wasted.
One hour was the least of things she had allowed to slip through her malcontented fingers. She had been given a chance for an excellent education in any field of expertise she chose. She had declined it, much less than gracefully.
A mind – wasted.
Finding herself destitute after nigh a year, she had thrown herself at the richest man she could find. For a year, she was his mistress, paid a king’s ransom for her charms. But despite the riches and ‘quirks’ that came with her position, she felt perpetually filthy, eternally tainted.
A soul – wasted.
After her initial rise to the status of near celebrity, the inevitable happened, as she knew it would: she was cast out . . . and replaced. Marred and jaded, she was passed from man to man, her wealth and health deteriorating and fragmenting along the way.
A lifetime – wasted.
But then, she saw him.
William had won her body through gambling – the only time he’d ever gambled – but he never really won her heart. She knew he’d loved her selflessly: he’d even married her to extend legal and social protection to her, besmirching his own good name in the process. He’d known her past and the kind of attention she was used to from men, but he never expected it, not even after the marriage. He had loved her unconditionally for seven years . . . and never asked for anything in return.
Every night, she’d ask him why he had bought her – for essentially he had: she was his legally – and every night she’d receive the same response.
“Everyone deserves to be loved,” he’d tell her just before kissing her gently.
He had died a slow and agonizing death, his life’s blood slowly escaping its proper place in his veins from a tragically misplaced bullet lodged near his heart. As he lay dying, she felt her own heart shatter as he uttered his last words.
“Never forget that I love you.”
In the exposed moment of her life, she had even told him a truth she’d hidden away, a truth she didn’t want to admit even to herself: she loved him. Not the fickle, conditional lust and desire she had felt for every other man in her wretched life, but a pure, unadulterated love. He had laughed with his eyes; his breath had long ago become filled with blood.
He had died without the fanfare she knew his spirit deserved, his gentle loving-kindness unknown to the masses.
A love – wasted.
Now, in her own last moments fifty-six years later, she sat in the garden he had built for her, staring at his hourglass. Slowly, she stood and turned it over, a new hour flowing through the narrow crevice in the middle. Golden rays from the rising sun filled the garden, and she could see William standing before her, his hand held out in welcome. As darkness overtook her senses, she felt herself melt into his warm, tender embrace.
A life – redeemed.