New Year’s Day 2000: Roar collapses on a beach in Norway. A century before, Grace Lightfoot is raped and nearly dies. Karma and reincarnation combine in these two lives to show how soul-full commitment rather than abuse and delusion are humanity’s true path.
As he stumbled and mumbled through the deep recently fallen powdery snow, Roar again attempted to recall the events from the previous evening at the much-hyped New Year’s Eve party marking the beginning of this promising new century. He felt that he knew exactly why he found it difficult to remember the details from last night’s festivities, any of the conversations he had taken part in or with whom and now, why he was here alone, his head throbbing, trudging through the thirty-centimetre deep snow on Skiphelle Beach at 6.30 am on the first day of the first month, of the much-vaunted new year, 2000.
What had happened at the grand centenary celebration? All he could feel was a sense of dread and that sinking feeling that came upon him every time he had, once again, overdone it with the booze. Where was his beautiful partner, Elisabeth? He knew deep down that she loved him and would never normally leave him to wander alone in his current state. That was the unspoken part of the arrangement within their pseudo-relationship – he would drink too much at social events and she would usher him away before he could do too much damage, often driving him home and cajoling him into bed before his antics went too far.
It was still several hours before the coming of the rising sun would end this long winter night. As the small crescent moon shone along with the star-filled sky reflecting on the blanket of pristine white snow. It was minus fourteen degrees, Roar Moerk was comparatively lightly dressed so he was now starting to feel the impact the cold and his own self-disregard was having on his body. He stopped in his tracks knowing it was time to do something about it, somewhere from within his befuddlement he decided he would call a taxi, go home and speak with Elisabeth.
It was quite dangerous to be outside in these low temperatures in a state of inebriation without the protection of proper multi-layered winter clothing. He felt quite numb but had no thoughts for his own safety. He looked quizzically down at his gloved hands and noticed again the hole in the thumb of his right-hand glove, a two-by-one-centimetre burn hole and his thumb within was reddened and felt quite tender to the touch. Pulling off the glove to take a closer look, Roar suddenly felt light-headed, the ground began to spin, there was no longer any pain as his body pitched lifelessly forward, headfirst into the soft deep powdery snow.
Roar Moerk was Norwegian born in Droebak, a small-picturesque town that many would consider only to be a village, situated approximately forty kilometres south of the capitol, Oslo, on the eastern coast of the Oslo fjord. At the age of thirty-nine, one hundred and eighty-eight centimetres tall, relatively attractive with sandy brown hair and deep blue eyes, he had never married and had no children, that he was aware of, and didn’t really want to have any. Roar had never been a driven career minded man, more a lackadaisical opportunist that fell into his undertakings but seemed to have a talent for choosing mostly successful ventures when he did so. Quirkily charming in his own way, he always had a twinkle in his eyes, his broad smile was never far away and almost always knowing how to take the edge off a situation with his perfectly timed disarming comments. Outwardly charming but inwardly deceptive, there wasn’t anything he did, even if it seemed to be helping someone out, that wasn’t for himself, for his own personal gain. As far as Roar was concerned, he was number one and deservedly so, if a task didn’t ultimately bring him more recognition, sexual favours or wealth then it was not a task he would consider doing.
He and Elisabeth owned a luxurious three-bedroom apartment in an expensive modern complex just north to the centre of town. Parked outside was a brand-new Audi A6 2.8 Quattro for him and a small Peugeot 205 that Elisabeth had bought back in 1995. Roar also owned a spacious ten-bed ski lodge in the mountains at Hemsedal, purchased from the proceeds attained from the sale of his shares of an investment in an Information Technology company just before the announcement of a profit warning occurred, dramatically crashing the share price.
Roar was the only child of Harald and Solveig Moerk. Solveig loved him dearly and had spent many years of her life providing for his every whim. She would literally do anything for him, give him anything he asked for, spoiling him completely.
A devoted housewife and mother, Solveig met Harald at college and it was the first real relationship for both of them, they both knew immediately that this was the partner they were looking for. Harald was tall, determined and strong willed, he knew exactly what he wanted, he was in control and he needed a relationship where he was the boss. Solveig had always been quite timid and unsure of herself, she had shied away from any attention, she found it hard to be decisive and allowed her parents to control her life. When Harald came along, dominant, so similar to her father, she just knew she needn’t look any further. She could escape the confines of her family home and set up her own nest with Harald who would always provide for her. He was so sure and dependable, that’s what she loved most about him.
Harald had spent his whole working career at the same local bank from the day he left college to the day he retired, early, as the manager of the branch. He was completely dedicated to the bank; it was his first and only true love. His other loves came in the following order, checking in with his broker regarding his share investments, steak and red wine for dinner, golf at least three times per week and now after retirement every day possible, cigars and cognac, gardening around the retirement villa in Spain, evening strolls along the beach with Solveig, oh, and a bi-monthly catch-up with Roar if he was available.
They would also spend six weeks at their summer cabin in Stavern, situated in southeastern Norway. It was, in reality a complete change from their villa in Spain having very few, basic facilities which included an external, primitive composting toilet where you throw a few handfuls of sawdust down the hole after completing your deposit. On the other hand, it was situated on a large plot of land in much sought-after, idyllic and secluded spot close to the water’s edge with its own private beach and small jetty. Being at the cabin meant indulging in the simple life for six weeks of the year in an area of Norway that often has beautiful summer weather, although it can be pretty dreary if the rain sets in for a few days or even weeks. Harald would spend hours fishing off their small wooden jetty or bobbing around in the little family dingy whilst Solveig busied herself with cleaning, washing and preparing the meals in-between hours of sunbathing with her stack of magazines and romantic books close by.
Harald and Solveig rarely spent much time together in conversation, it was just the way it always had been, they got on with their own interests and responsibilities, it was an unwritten agreement. Even when they were together at mealtimes and in the evenings, they rarely spoke to each other more than a few words about the weather or other practical issues, Solveig immersed herself in chores around the house whilst Harald read the newspapers, puffed on his cigar and watched the evening news on TV. Outwardly it seemed idyllic, very settled, a well-to-do couple with everything they needed – great pension, early retirement, beautiful villa in Spain, even now they had only just turned sixty-five, what more could anyone wish for?
They each had their own bedroom and rarely shared the same bed, making love had never been very exciting, more clumsy, uncomfortable and often embarrassing for both of them. Rather than discuss how they could make it better, both had kept their thoughts internalized and inwardly decided it best to retreat into their own worlds, their own private closed-off bubbles of safety and security. The idyllic life is not always what it seems to be.
As a child Roar was often left to his own devices, even when he was quite young, as his mother busied herself around the house making everything just perfect, spotless and dust free with not a single item out of place, except for Roar’s room where everything was chaotic, just the way he liked it. When it became too messy, he would feign a headache or a tummy upset and convince his mother to make it all better again, including putting every one of the strewn items back into place. This continued until the day he left for university in the city of Bergen on the west coast of Norway. Being a very bright, observant child, he soon learned that his devoted mother could be easily manipulated, Roar abused this knowledge, ruthlessly bamboozling her at any opportunity. He became accomplished and persuasive in the ways of deceit and manipulation. In the end, he could convince almost anyone that black was white and was able to sell a story or product almost at will.
Roar was pampered and soon became very entitled, expecting everything he wished for even before he asked to have it. Self-serving, self-indulgent, narcissistic, over-privileged and arrogant he expected to be the centre of attention. He soon learned from the way he treated his mother how to treat all women, they were for his convenience or pleasure, to be used and discarded at will, he conveyed an almost complete lack of respect. As the years went by, he learned how to disguise his disrespect behind his charm, but it would always shine through in the end. For two decades Roar had played the field to become a specialist in one-night-stands and short-lived romantic relationships. He left many sad and disappointed young ladies in the wake of his almost unfailing charisma. Eventually, the word of his deceitfulness spread and his infamy often entered the room before he did.
He didn’t see his father very much at all and never really developed any sort of close relationship with him. There was always a cool, almost emotionless distance between them. For Roar it never occurred to him to miss his absent father, he invariably had his mother diligently standing by, thus he and his father became completely ambivalent to each other.
Roar’s latest venture that started five years earlier along with his childhood friend Anders, was a rapidly expanding Information Technology company based in the centre of Oslo which was proving to be very profitable as the IT market seemed to be in exponential growth. It was a project that consumed much of his time. Due to the excellent market conditions the company had already grown rapidly, currently employing twenty-five people and expecting to double in size during the next two years. They were focussed on the field of Rapid Application Development Solutions at a time when many large companies and organisations were in the process of converting their legacy system to modern technological platforms.
Roar was a busy man, doing all the things he wanted to do, living the life he wanted to live. In between unavoidable breaks caused by his small physical niggles and injuries, he was addicted to working out at the gym, running in the forest during the warmer months and participating in winter sports when the snow was on the ground, alpine skiing and ice-skating being his preferred activities. The winter season in the Norwegian mountains could start in early November and last until the end of April, which meant many weekend trips, including early Friday finishes to beat the weekend traffic exodus, with often late Monday morning or even afternoon starts.
Working late, he and his colleagues often ordered take-away food and drink. On other occasions they would attend late afternoon and evening meetings in the bars and restaurants close to the office in and around the centre of Oslo. His office was also equipped with a very large and comfortable sofa that he sometimes used after a late night at the office and particularly when they had had a few drinks at one of the local bars.
Recently there had been more late nights, more drinks with colleagues, more overnight stays on the office sofa or at one of the local hotels as often happens during Christmas party season in the city, which stretches from November to January. It all started on Friday, December 8th 1999, after they closed the office early at 4pm, with all twenty-five members of staff, having drinks and finger food as a precursor to the evening’s traditional Christmas dinner at Det Gamle Raadhus (The Old Town Hall) restaurant just around the corner from the office.
As the drink flowed and the sound of conversation escalated, Roar popped back into his office to finish off the last few emails before closing down his computer. Anneli, one of his lead developers, knocked and entered without waiting for a reply. It was 6.30pm and they would be leaving for the restaurant in fifteen minutes. They had both felt the attraction to each other but so far had never acted on it as they knew from experience the amount of damage an affair could cause, the fact that they both were in committed long-term relationships and had been for several years, not that it would normally stop Roar from trying his hand at any opportune moment.
Anneli, now a little more uninhibited due to the four glasses of red wine and two shots of aquavit, advanced provocatively towards Roar and stood just a few centimetres from him, held both his cheeks and gently urged him up from his chair until they stood face to face. With her high stiletto heels on she was exactly the same height as Roar. “I’m going to have you tonight,’’ she whispered brushing her lips over his ear, turned and slowly swaggered out of his office again.
Roar sat back into his office chair for a while contemplating their interaction and feeling the disturbance and the excitement within himself. He had imagined many times what it would be like with Anneli, she was tall and athletic with olive skin, jet black hair and intense dark brown eyes. She had a feline, slinky, sexy way of moving and a stunning smile, she was also twelve years his younger. There had often been furtive glances between them during the past eighteen months that she had been part of the team, but he had always suppressed the urge to make advances or flirt with her, this time he knew there was nothing that would stop him availing himself of such a wicked opportunity.
In his mind he was already calculating and constructing his excuses for not returning home after the Christmas party – excuses that he knew Elisabeth would never believe but would accept as she always did. He could see her face in front of him now, those penetrating blue eyes that knew him better than he knew himself, that simply asked him for the truth. He knew somewhere deep inside himself that Elisabeth wanted only the best for him, that she actually knew his every move and through that brought an innate knowing to him, but he stubbornly refused to accept it. He thought to himself, ‘How can it be that I know so well the obvious sensible choice and yet at the same time want the exact opposite that may cause hurt and confusion both for myself and for my partner?’ He knew that this evening he would once again betray Elisabeth and by doing so betray himself, the excitement outweighed the honesty and the truth. He quickly replied to the last email of the week, switched off his computer and walked out of his office and into the party.
He texted Elisabeth to say that something urgent had come up, wrote something about a large contract in Trondheim. He would have to return to the office after the party was over as he needed to complete the work which would take him well into the night.
Elisabeth knew what was in the message even before she opened the text, she could feel the energy of it as she knew Roar’s selfish ways only too well. She had reached a point where she no longer had any real expectations, knowing that he would just continue his egocentric lifestyle with no true regard for her or anyone else. She needed to look after herself now and make the changes that would bring joy and harmony to her own life, with or without Roar.
She knew somewhere deep inside him there was a beautiful tender man screaming to be heard, but he was so consumed with self-interest, recognition and personal and material wealth that she doubted she would ever see the true Roar. She deleted the message without answering, switched off her phone, returned to her book and mug of hot chocolate and decided she would have a lovely hot bubble bath and turn in early for the night.
The party ended as it was always going to. Instead of returning to the office, Roar and Anneli booked into the Plaza Hotel for the night. After each making separate exits from the party, they met up in the hotel foyer. Roar didn’t look once at his phone to check if Elisabeth had replied to his message. Both intoxicated, they fumbled through a quite forgettable twenty minutes of attempted sexual activity before quickly falling into a zombie-like alcohol induced sleep. Awaking at 9.30 the next morning, both with pounding headaches, they ordered breakfast via room service with a side-order of paracetamol. After consuming the food and tablets they began to feel more alive again which led to a much more successful sexual encounter that started in the bedroom, by way of the shower and back into the bed. By the time they came up for air midday was already behind them and they knew it was time to leave, returning to their individual partners and whatever versions of guilt, if any, they chose to carry with them.
Since the day of the office Christmas party, they had tried to meet in stealth as often as possible which unsurprisingly, yet tantalizingly, had been a lot of fun and excitement for both. Lies seemed to come easily for both Anneli and Roar, they invented a project that they worked on together, needing to work extra-long hours to get it completed. This required staying in Oslo at least two nights per week, perhaps three, and sometimes even working on Saturdays. They were regulars at the Plaza, eating dinner at the restaurant and spending hours in sexual exploration in the hotel bedroom. Even when they didn’t stay the whole night, they would book the room for four hours then make their way home late in the evenings. Of course, they kidded themselves they were doing this undetected but in reality, they knew that their partners and indeed their co-workers would and consequently did ‘smell a rat’.
New Year’s Eve
Elisabeth had always been very observant. Knowing Roar as she did, she knew full well he was seeing someone else, it was impossible not to know, there were literally dozens of signs. His every movement gave him away, his every expression and every word that came out of his mouth spouted untruths. She continued to consider her options for a new single life, the whole relationship with him had prepared her for this process and she was astonished to feel how calm she was and how simple it would be.
She could even pinpoint when his most recent bout of indiscretion had all started – the text on the night of his company Christmas party; she felt it then and she could feel it now. But tonight was not the moment, they were after all about to attend the New Year’s Eve party. All their friends and everyone in the town had been waiting for this special evening – parties everywhere, along with the most colossal fireworks display that had ever been seen in Droebak.
Roar was very chirpy as they prepared themselves for the party, getting showered and ready for the event. Elisabeth had not had a drink for the last two months; she had never been very keen on either the taste or the effect of alcoholic beverages and no longer seeing any reason to continue had decided to stop drinking completely. She had spent many hours at the local yoga studio during the past two years and in December had practiced every day for at least two hours. Her body felt great, very trim and slender although she had always looked after herself, and now at thirty-four she looked better than ever, the few tiny wrinkles in the corners of her eyes only enhancing the beauty that shone from within. Lately she had been feeling that there must be more to this life than the way she was currently living, that although Roar had treated her well previously, she now felt that his level of disregard for her was beyond uncomfortable, even abusive and could no longer tolerate it, as to do so was to accept the abuse. She needed to love and respect herself which she could not do inside this out-of-balance disrespectful arrangement that their relationship had become.
Roar, on the other hand had already opened a bottle of his favourite full-bodied Amarone red wine and with over half the bottle already consumed he was well on his way to another forgettable evening. Or was he? As he sipped on his wine, he recalled his meeting and the heated, passionate sex with Anneli the previous night. She really was athletic and resourceful in so many ways, and he was intoxicated with excitement just at the thought of her. He wished he could be with her this evening, and he knew she felt the same way. The more time they spent together the more they seemed to melt together in their lovemaking. It felt perfect, open, physical, non-verbal, exciting and frantic, they couldn’t get enough of each other, just the thought of her ignited his desire and lust.
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