“Attribution isn’t my favourite word right now, Dad.” Sandy said, taking her essay back from me. She smoothed her ginger hair and her snub-nosed, freckled face looked down at her feet.
“Look sweetheart, if you’re going to use someone else’s work in your essay, you have to give credit to the author. If you don’t want to do that, well, you’ll just have to come up with something original of your own, won’t you?”
Sandy sighed and went back upstairs to her room.
Louise smiled at me. “As if the lecturers would think Sandy came up with all that fulfilment and destiny stuff herself.”
“She’s a bright girl, but they’re not stupid. I’m sure they must plug random sentences of students’ work into Google. If it’s someone else’s thoughts, then ‘nul points.’ If you are going to copy something off the internet, the very least you have to do is completely rewrite it.
Louise smiled. “Sounds like you’re speaking from experience.”
I laughed. “They didn’t have the internet when I was at uni. We could copy in freedom!”
Louise became serious. She poured tea the colour of dark caramel into two mugs. “Look, Ted, I’d like to tell you something. Come and sit down for a moment.”
We went into the lounge. “Fire away,” I said.
“Look, Sandy’s working on this destiny thing, our goal to fulfil, something we all have as humans.”
“Not everyone,” I said, “Look at old Lester Fairclough, he –”
“No,” Louise interrupted, “listen, there’s something called the Telos Project. They’re based near the city library, just a couple of offices on the first floor over an antique shop. There’s a plaque on the wall outside, just a small silver one. Before I met you, I used to go there.”
That made me sit up. Louise’s past was a bit of tabula rasa to me.
“I told you I’d had some hypnotherapy. There was more to it than that.”
“How d’you mean?”
“Well, these Telos people take you deep. I mean deep deep. It takes thirty to forty minutes. Then they speak to your deepest mind, the mind that’s been here before.”
“The mind of your soul.”
“Look, Louise, you know I don’t believe in any of that nonsense.”
“Look, Ted, hear me out, will you?”
Five years earlier there’d been me, Barbara and our daughter, Sandy. Babs had the same ginger hair, freckles and snub nose, and a laugh that sounded like a brook bubbling its way over a small waterfall. Babs and Sandy were my world; everything revolved around them. Then had come a day that I’d completely blanked out of my memory. A day when a freak accident ruined my life, or so I thought at the time. Some scaffolding blew off a block of flats in a high wind and hit Babs on the head. She was killed instantly.
I’d gone to counselling, taken anti-depressants, drugs that had blurred the edges of life, often been three sheets to the wind, to use that nautical expression. They told me that faith can move mountains but I just couldn’t see it and the months of despair turned into years. Until I saw a poster in the library advertising classes in ceramics, and for no reason decided to give it a go. That’s where I’d met Louise, with her clay-covered hands and eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. Then I came to understand that Louise was divorced and lonely and seemed to have taken a shine to me. Those classes – and Louise, herself – became an addiction.
“According to Aristotle, we have a telos as humans, which it is our goal to fulfil,” Louise was saying. “This telos is based on ‘our uniquely human capacity for rational thought.’ But he was wrong. It’s our soul’s destiny that’s our goal to fulfil. That’s what these Telos Project people showed me.”
I sipped my tea. You could have stood a spoon in it. She always did make it strong.
“They regressed me back before I was born and to previous lives. Then they brought me forward again. Seems it’s not that easy to get information so I had to go back to them several times.”
“Or they get more money that way,” I suggested.
“No, listen, what they said was that I’d made a plan, before coming to this body. A plan to be a craftswoman, working with stone or clay. And that the reason I’d been ill with Chron’s disease for so long, and depressed, the reason Tony left me, he couldn’t stand it anymore, was because I was stuck in a job I hated, working in advertising and not fulfilling what I’d set out to do.”
I took another sip and listened intently.
“So, that’s when I took up pottery classes. I found I’d got a natural talent for it and as it developed, so the Chron’s went away, and I started to feel a lot happier. Then I started teaching and that’s when I met you.”
The door opened and Sandy came in. She handed me a sheaf of paper. “You were right, dad. I just started to think for myself. About destiny and fulfilment, all that stuff, and how it’s a figment of the human imagination.”
Louise and I exchanged glances. I sighed and handed Sandy’s work back to her. “Look, Louise would like a little chat with you. You might have to think again.” I left them to it. Then a thought occurred to me. I wasn’t over-enamoured with my own job, working in the council’s planning department. Now I thought about it, I didn’t like it one bit. Maybe I might just pay this Telos Project place a visit myself?