She is drowning in a tsunami of emotion.

His presence reminds her of something quiet and treacherous: the first snow fall. A system enters unannounced. The world softens. For a moment, everything seems extraordinary.

Hidden undercover is plain truth. Perhaps he isn’t what she imagines him to be. Behind his faraway eyes, she hears the whispers of hard scrabble stories not meant for her ears. The voices go low, suggest regret.  His pull is magnetic; his push, cold.

Together, they are on a collision course.

 

She had shared a mention of his troubles with her mother. He’d assured her that change was in the works. The upkeep of two homes was a nightmare.

“Of course, he’d say that,” her mother said, “To you.”

The words bit.

 

  • opening a chapter- draft (Pronouns used in place of ‘names’ for post.)
  • Narrator’s POV, character’s POV

 

~ draft scene

Early morning sunlight crept in through the open window and kissed her on the shoulder.

He watched her sleep. Studied each soft inhale and exhale of  breath, traced a lock  of hair across the pillowcase.  The hair she refused to cut. Her signature, a self-styled rebellion against time and fashion mores.

Light crept across the bed, unveiling her face in real- time. She was his June with December’s eyes. He touched the scar beneath her chin and counted each freckle, long faded.

Time had caught him by surprise; he’d not seen himself growing older. Certainly, he had not seen her coming. It wasn’t supposed to play out this way. Now all he wanted  was to absorb her into oblivion.

Life could be a lonely act. How fast it goes. As seasons changed, he’d buried his father, then his mother, and cheated on his wives. Like the tease of spring, she  had tip- toed into his life, the odds stacked against her.

He’d warned. ” I carry a full bag.”

“Unpack,” she said.

Their future was uncertain. He knew this truth: she was hard to crush.

 

 

 

 

I opened the door

You slipped in

The cleanse of a flash summer storm

In an over sized sweater

Fresh laundry off the line

The cut grass smell in air

A memory of a street name I barely remember

And You: the boy I loved.

 

 

Thoughts rammed Roy’s mind. He leaned to rest his forehead  against the kitchen window. The glass cooled the fire that raged through his head.  Reality is here and now.

Reality was the girls’ laughter heard from beyond a sheer pane of glass. What about the children? Roy stood at the window and watched his daughters skip about the yard. Annie darted in and out from behind the weathered garage, her fist balled tight. Hidden within  was found treasure- a smooth stone, a feather, or some lost  bits of nature. Waving her fist, she teased Madeline, tempted her to join in a game of tag- winner take all. Of course, Madeline ignored the bait, choosing instead to pause and wonder at the creature she had discovered crawling along the bark of the cherry tree.

Earlier that morning, Jacqueline had asked, ” The old man wants to know. When are you painting the garage?”

“I’ll paint it on the first sunny day,” he had said.  And why does she always refer to her father as The Old Man?

Here it was. Full sun. The old man had already scraped the cedar boards and replaced the rot. 

There was work to do. Instead, he paused and watched Madeline pick a wriggling caterpillar from the cherry tree and dangle it in front of her nose. Gently, she placed the creature back onto the trunk. Madeline’s cat like eyes followed the caterpillar’s journey until it had roamed beyond reach. Annoyed, she crossed her arms tightly about her chest and lowered her head.

Birds flit everywhere. Robins, chickadees, and swallows glided to rest upon the tree’s branches. Lifting their wings just a bit, each bird let the sun’s warmth kiss their feathers. It was the season of transformation and just as spring announces change, he too, was in flux.

Annie skipped across the lawn like an inbound storm. Her arms reached for the branches of the tree, her fingers batting blossoms. Pure joy shone from her face. “Pink snow, pink snow!” He watched her pick the fallen blossoms from Madeline’s hair.

It was enough to witness Annie’s bewitching charm. She blew kisses to the clouds, danced with ghosts, her arms outstretched as she spun. He worried that her imagination was getting out of hand; she lived in her head.

“You need to reign her in,” he had told Jacqueline. “All this talk of fairies and-“ 

“Leave her be.” “Imagination is a gift.” 

He had watched as Jacqueline resumed her painting. Roses, their petals drooped cloud white, spilled overtop a round, golden vase. This morning, she had added leaves, tucked them in between the buds. He marvelled at her talent. 

“She needs to play with other children-,“ he had said.

Jacqueline froze mid brush stroke. “Enough. There are kids from one end of the block to the other.”  The brush, loaded with bluish paint, dropped to the pallet. Her fingers reached for  a cigarette.

“There’s a private nursery school up the street, ” he said.  “I think- ”

Jacqueline lit her smoke and paused to exhale. “It costs money, Roy. You paying?”

The loaded question she  left hanging in air, suggested that her father was the all time giver, the reason they weren’t renting some basement suite on the east side. Her tone certain; Jacqueline had a limited interest in the opinion of someone who had just married into the family.  

 

It was two years from the date that his second daughter was born. Christened, Madeline Jane, she’d shuddered, chest heaving through her gown, as the priest muttered blessings and sprinkled holy water upon the crown of her smooth, pinkish head.

Earlier this morning, the small family had celebrated her second birthday with a simple cake. They’d laughed as the child smeared vanilla frosting across her lips, watched as her window on the world opened a teensy bit wider.

There were no guests or relatives in attendance. Their families weren’t the close-knit types and the road between his mother and Jacquie had grown longer. It began in  a hospital  nursery, three years earlier, with the birth of Annie. It was once more repeated as his mother inadvertently cast a spell upon the forehead of Madeline Jane.

“That woman. Once again, she has the nerve to tell me, ‘had you a boy, I wouldn’t have come to the hospital for a look-see,’ ” Jacquie fumed. “Bolt the door. I hope she never comes back.”

Birdie

excerpt from a draft scene~ a word or two on The Detectives and Birdie

The setting: Bing’s Palace

1960

 

At the mention of Birdie, Gladys waved her fingers on both hands to signify wings. She turned, eased past the two sailors to speak with the host. “That one, toward the back wall-” and  pointed to a section of round tables placed beneath a silk wall screen adorned with merchant tea schooners. “Once it’s cleared, we’ll take it,” she said.

Marsha glanced toward the back of the restaurant. It was obvious this group thought they were something special. Dark suits, glints of gold. One look told her these players were high rollers and not afraid to be seen in public. Booze was in plain view. They’d brought their own bottles and she watched as Jimmy the accountant, topped up the half filled glasses.  Notes swayed above the other diners, rang out, and lingered within the room. It was a deliberate distortion of pitch and timbre, a down tempo layer over a backdrop of clatter. Birdie.

The wink from Gladys, told Marsha, that her partner had similar thoughts. ”Sit beside me,” she whispered. “Better view of our targets.”

“Ladies.” The host bowed and motioned for the women to follow. As he pulled out their chairs, he asked, ”Water?”

Gladys agreed. “Two. Tea, as well.”

The young man smiled and lowered his gaze. “I’ll get your waiter, ma’am.” With a half bow, he turned and headed toward the kitchen.

Gladys leaned over. “Watch,” she said.

Marsha looked at the group and saw two fingers rise above the men’s heads. Even from a distance, she could see that the woman’s finger- tips resembled rubies. The fingers snapped for service. Suddenly, a doe eyed face with raven hair piled atop a perfectly formed head, peeked from behind the child seated next to her: Birdie, beautiful songstress, club noir.

Marsha watched as the host paused mid step. Everyone knew that pretty face. Birdie Song was a soul seductress and local celebrity, known to ‘bring the house down’. A tempest, she held sway at the Five Note, an after hours jazz club, modeled after its sister joint in New York City. Word on the street was that Birdie had made it big and everyone agreed, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”

Birdie’s finger- tips fluttered like butterflies over the blonde head of a tiny girl. She pointed toward a glass, cocked her head to the side, spoke to the child, and smiled at the waiter.

Marsha had to agree with the ad man who wrote the singer’s stage headline, ‘even a hurricane can’t extinguish this gal’s flame.’ Birdie’s lipstick was the shade of pale pink carnation. Here she sat a bloom, as if in a garden, tempting snakes and fate. Birdie Song was the Queen Bee of the honey pot.

One of the men seated at the table looked back toward the front door. He appeared uneasy as if checking to see if anyone familiar was seated in the restaurant. Satisfied, he turned and spoke to the child seated to his right. His hand warmed her shoulder.

 

 

 

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