My presence was unexpected. I glanced at my watch. It was too early for him to be home.

He stared as if confronting a ghost.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”

“I finished early.’

We stand frozen in position on concrete. Me, holding a textbook and purse. Him, a suitcase.

I ask, “Going somewhere?”

He nods.

“Where?”

“I’ll be in touch.” The car door slams.

The Chevy shifts into reverse and backs up the driveway. Wheels catch at the steep part of the grade. His foot pushes hard onto the accelerator. The Impala leaps the rise.

I chase him, run to the top of the hill, watch as the tail lights fade, the car a blur in the distance. Once I realize that I can not stop him, that he isn’t turning back, I return to the house. Opening the door to his cupboard, I notice one suit remains. I take this as a sign of hope.

The scent of tobacco lingers. I ease the jacket from the hanger and bury my face into the sleeve. I let tears wet the wool.

This isn’t the story I share with Margaret. Instead I tell her I have just this morning, broken up with a guy. It isn’t exactly truth however it allows me to feel less defeated. I can’t speak of Roy. It would be too chancy.

Margaret wields the teapot. She allows me to wallow in grief. When one cup empties, she pours another. This is the code of women, the luxury of holding space for one another. Or as my mother might say of the sisters, “the polite pause before they bury the body.”

There is no doubt. Margaret is in charge of our discussion. She raises her pinky and turns to her sister. “Good riddance, I say.” Both women nod in agreement.

“Chin up, dearie,” sister says. “March on.”

A certain shabbiness rumbles deceit and rheumy eyes are evidence. Sister’s eyes mirror too many surrenders, too much disappointment. Margaret’s are resolute. Yet, both women offer up saucers of hope as they perch and trill like skylarks on a branch.

For a moment, I wonder. When did he become someone else? Was it before his trip or after? My eyes narrow as I scan the past for clues. What was it he had said as the potatoes were set upon the table?

He had said, “Feels like we only go backwards, baby.”

He has cheapened himself. I notice the golden horn dangling about his neck. His fitted shirt is made of fortrel. The collar splays open. He’d look good in a rainstorm.

A rustle carries me home to the present. Sister stands and places her hand upon my shoulder. Fingers press as she speaks.

“All good things end, child.”

I had thought we were the exception…

~ Excerpt From the Scene: Roy Splits

TBC

Draft 4

Do you remember what you said to me, that day, beneath the towering oak? This was long ago, before we knew what would become of us.

You told me that you were staying by my side. There was steel truth to your words.

And now you glance off as if afraid to see your reflection in my eyes. Yet you keep coming back to the one thing that could disarm you.

~dialogue

Bing’s Palace~ 1963

The men nodded as Roy and Rummy approached, extended their hands, one by one, shook. Rummy leaned in to peck a kiss upon Birdie’s rouged cheek. Roy did likewise. He felt Birdie’s body still, sensed her linger.

“Who’s the little lady?” The boss met Rummy’s glance and demanded an answer.

Before Rummy could speak, Birdie hopped up and took Annie’s hand. “Slide over, Jimmy. Let this dear doll sit next to me.” Her eyes flashed a warning to the boss.

Roy watched as Annie slid onto the seat beside Birdie, fixated on her newfound friend. Birdie waved a manicured hand to signal a waiter. The young man snapped to attention at her side. “Shirley Temple for the little lady, pink umbrella, cherry on top.” She winked at Annie. “That okay, hon?”

Annie nodded and looked down at the tablecloth.

“Thought so. Auntie Birdie knows what the little ladies like.” She smoothed the top of Annie’s head. Turning to face the boss she murmured, “Now you boys get down to business, let us ladies be.”

~ a draft scene from the book I’ll always write

When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere, just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going, and that he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed, because we want so much more. We’re ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had. ~ Don Draper

The Dream

I had a dream.

We are in your car, a fixed up TR-6, taken from your brother. The radio retro blasts a Jim Morrison high. You steer south toward the I-5. A ribbon of trees line the hillside.  Blood red mingles with atomic tangerine.

I glance left, note how the sun casts light across your face. My finger traces the map of your jaw. You are delicious; I am enchanted.

Camped out beneath starry skies we share stories of who we will become. You are moving up; I am moving on. Wrapped within your arms I feel an unfamiliar touch of forever.

Hoar frost blanketed our tangled bones. Winter winds ripped us open.  Upon spring’s return, we awoke-  as if from a tale, frozen to a past.

I never told you: I loved our fleeting moments.

The Clean-Up Man

Roy fumbled with the coins in his pocket. A single incandescent bulb lit up each table- top. The heat in the room glowed and a smoky haze veiled the guests. He peered deeper into the shrouded depths of the room.

Paper serviettes stacked the bar. Shot glasses lined up, topped to the max, the amber liquid ready to swallow. Next to an ice bucket, a hard-boiled bouncer stood sentry. Suffocating evidence, all compliments of the club.

A stream of light demanded Roy’s attention. The beam shot from the bar, stopped just short of his foot. His gaze followed the beam; back-lit by the mirror that covered the wall behind the bar.

A blonde in a tight black dress curved against a man. He saw the light bounce off the rock that hung at the base of her neck. He heard her familiar laugh and listened as the high, trilling notes fell like glitter over the men in the room.

Her eye was on the man known as Kid. One elbow high, black glove, held his back. Birdie.

 

The Club

What a damn, good night of gentlemen, whiskey shooters, and women wrapped in mink, it was. The boys dressed to the nines and the ladies, bespoke in jewels, were there to shine. The flowery scent of Chanel No.5 still lingered on his shirt. His mother had once denounced it as the “perfume of show girls.” He knew exactly how she’d feel about the scene. “Cards, liquor, debauchery,” she’d chirp.