An Autumn Moment

I knew the truth. Love changes like the seasons: cold rains fall, leaves rot, people leave.

I watched as her finger traced the veins on the backside of the leaf. Her touch, like Braille, feeling each line as if a road on a map. I saw the future, like the beauty surrounding us, disappearing into mist. Yet, I had convinced myself: This is now. It is fine to love someone a little too much.

“What will you do with a leaf?”

“Press it between the pages of a book,” she said.

“Look up.”

The sky was a canopy of stars. The moon hung, ripe, against a backdrop of black and light.

She asked, “Is this not a beautiful night?”

I nodded.

Her eyes glittered gold, “Like a Van Gogh canvas and we’ve stumbled into the scene.”

I slipped her small hand in mine. “Promise.”

“Anything,” she had said.

“When the world turns ugly, you’ll stay beautiful.”

~ excerpt from a scene

Draft One

“when the world turns ugly,…”- source unknown

cliches, quotes, venations, parallel lives

Fiction

   “Could she get a job?” 

     Roy appeared perplexed. “Why would she?”

     Who does he think he is? Stella reached behind and slammed the door shut. It was better this than her raised voice echoing through the reception area. Turning, she walked toward the chair behind his desk. She eased into the leather and crossed her long legs.

     “You need to suggest she get one.”

     Seated in his chair, she felt dangerous, dark, and beautiful. Stella knew this was everything he coveted. For a brief moment, she reigned in all of her defiance and finery. Her manicured fingertips toyed with the tail of silk  draped around her neck. She bit her lip.

A paragraph from a scene titled, Do Right. The setting is a  fictional locale – Ardua Pier- where things happen

Truth lies in a dream.

 

The dull blast of a horn signaled a ship entering port. He listened as waves lapped against the pylons. The high-pitched sound of a woman’s laughter rang from the neighbouring sugar factory.  From a warehouse loft, somewhere high above the hillside, a violin’s music serenaded the stars.

Life is ever-changing, he thought, like the sea: calm and smooth, violent and rough. He yearned for a moment between struggle and triumph, a respite.

The hum of a car’s finely tuned engine interrupted his thoughts. He shivered and turned. Shielding his eyes from the glare of headlights, he watched as Rummy’s Cadillac inched closer to the bridge on the pier.

A View From A Window

dropping into another scene~

 

Roy’s arms reached for her and he whispered to no one. They existed in two worlds. A pane of glass separated him from his reality and Ella. A Sarah Vaughn song lulled his thoughts: ‘Lover Man.’

Meanwhile life went on. He knew this truth. The kids needed new shoes, Jacqueline nagged about a leaking tap, and the garage waited for paint.  

 

In a garden, thirteen blocks across town, Ella paused beside a rose-bush and turned. A gentle wind wrapped itself around her. She imagined a presence, felt a hand warm her waist. A low voice whispered into her ear, “Wish that you were here.” 

Ella turned, no one was there. She went back to her rose.

Across town, Roy rested his forehead against the glass. From outside he heard his daughters’ laughter.  He’d paint the garage for his father in law.

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.”

Miss Birdie

~an excerpt

Bing’s Palace

1963

Birdie unsnapped the clasp of her sequined clutch, reached within the satin folds and pulled out an ebony compact and a tube of lipstick. She appeared oblivious to his insults and her surroundings. Her mister had forgotten her, therefore, she’d remind him.

Snapping open the compact case, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. With stealth precision she traced the outline of her lips, plump with colour. Slowly her steady grasp creamed the center of her lips. As a final touch, she removed a tissue from her clutch and softly kissed it.

Taking one last glance into the mirror, she paused. Satisfied, she clicked the compact shut and returned the items to her clutch. The clasp snapped. She turned and pecked a faint scarlet kiss on Annie’s tender cheek. Birdie might as well have fired a bullet through the floor. The silence at the table was deafening.

The boss growled, “Shouldn’t you go for a walk or something?”

Birdie shook her head and motioned toward the bottle. “Pour me another, Roy,” she murmured.

Roy met her gaze; she winked back. He didn’t understand the boss. Birdie was a class act, easy on the eyes, even owned her own business: a sausage factory. No one knew how she’d ended up in that line of work. It seemed profitable. She was clear title on a home nestled within the west side of the city and a good looker. The boss is a fool, he thought and took a drink. As the bourbon went down and warmed his soul, he knew this: Miss Birdie lit up his dark.

 

 

The corners of the Diamond Club were lit up by the glow of cigar embers. He saw the familiar high rollers mingling in the shadows, highballs sloshing in cut glass. Sexy women wearing rich silks and party attire slipped through the hazy layers of smoke or clung to the arm of a wealthy, married man. Everyone was high on vice.

 

For You

Overhead, dark clouds rip open. Raindrops slip from the car’s windowpane; I watch them disappear. The clouds cover the sky like gauze, softening a wound. Loss festers. Heaven’s tears spill forth as Angels witness an aching sadness that can only be found on earth.

Today I uncrate grief. Yes, I miss you; wish you here, returned to earth. It is true. Sadness shadows me in odd moments. Today the veil of cover hid her from the light. As she snuck up behind me, I sensed your presence. She’s aging. Pulling away. You heard my unspoken words.

We sit to rest. Her words spoken, tossed like rocks, hard hits to the heart,

“This was your father’s favourite place to dine. You enjoyed coming here, too.”

Not today. In that moment, shame surfaces. I rush my mother too much. It stems from a fear of regret, this desire to hurry her, pack up the never- ending stack of fries that she barely touches, drink the brimming coffee placed before her. I steal our time, afraid of growing old too fast, waiting.

As ifsensing my inner thoughts, she fumbles, wraps her lunch and requests a cup to go. It’s enough for today.

We drive along in silence. Rain thrums a pounding rhythm upon the roof of the car. She slowly walks to the front door of her building, turns and waves. I wonder if she cries too. I want to rush to her, hold her frailty, stop time.

You interfered again, set yourself down like stone between us. There are beautiful moments I recall, snapshots in time I cherish. Yet, just to sit with you under the stars one more time would be enough. We could talk.

Today you haunt. Images flash. One repeats for no apparent reason. The stray pointer you snuck into the kitchen; its big eyes shone light from beneath deep, muddy pools. The old blanket you wrapped around the creature’s shivering bones, your concern for  another’s well being. In that moment you taught me compassion. You were kind.

You stood strong in the world. You believed in right and fought for it, demanded it. Your words became my truth, protected me with steadfast might. You taught me to be brave.

You believed in me; said I could be anything I wanted to be. The world I lived in offered opportunity. When I faltered, your words echoed,

“Work hard.”

That was the mantra you spoke. It was called responsibility. Do you recall how, each morning, you left a never- ending list of chores for me to complete? Each evening, I’d hand you the crumpled list, proud to have crossed off each and every item. The following mornings found longer lists waiting on the kitchen table. You taught me to persevere.

If I could bring you home we could talk. My tears, the proof of enduring love.

You sit upon the usual chair. Hyper vigilant, I notice a repetitive twitch of your left thumb as it strokes a finger, sense your anxiety. You avert your gaze, turn your head and look away. This time I call you out.

stone angel
stone angel

Prepare yourself. Pent up words unleash a spoken fury, slice through the thorns and twisted vines that wrap your soul. Unafraid of the tangled silence you grew, I press on to satisfy the wondering that buries me alive with a never- ending grief. That is the legacy you left.

Once satisfied of atonement, I polish you, ask how you came to be so aware of vulnerability; I ask after your youth, your dreams and wishes. There is still a moment of time. Share your regrets.

Please banish your shame. My hand reaches forth and gently takes your palm. I press your knotted fingers to mine as we sit, now in silence. You can leave, rest in peace. Know that you taught me well. I can finish our story, put back the piece you fumbled. It’s called loyalty.

Always loved.

Alice Reflects

This is a “flashback” written in “Alice’s” POV. She is in the kitchen, recalls her son. Hope you enjoy reading this passage.

Alice stood in the kitchen and gazed through the window. It was oddly quiet for five o’clock, suppertime. The children from the neighbouring yard were silent. Thank God, she mused. Most afternoons, the neighbour’s offspring tussled and tumbled about the fence line. Their play stretched on for hours. Out of control crossed her mind. This thought from a woman who believed children should be seen and not heard. Alice lit the stove’s burner, felt the heat leap forth to warm her cold hand. She dropped the matchstick. All day she’d felt chilled, out of sorts.

She thought about when she’d gazed into the mirror earlier that morning, when she’d seen the face of an unrecognizable woman reflected back. Lines formed around the corners of her once bright eyes. Were the lines deeper? Silver threads edged along her hairline. Who was this time-worn woman who reflected back?

Focus on the task at hand, she reminded herself as she reached beneath the oven door and pulled out the warming drawer. Fingers searched through metal baking sheets until they felt the familiar handle of the blackened frying pan. This action caused her to smile. She recalled a memory from two years ago. Had it been two years? It was the day Roy unexpectedly returned home, catching the two sisters by surprise. The now faded mental image of her sister, Molly, as she held the heavy cast iron pan like a shield for protection, was comical.

Always, Roy haunted her thoughts. That was the reason Alice so often felt out of sorts and irritable. When he snuck into her head, she got busy. Placing the frying pan onto the stove element, she carefully poured out the correct amount of oil, just enough to brown the waiting onions. Soon the heady scent of caramelized onions filled the tiny room. Alice trimmed a small cut of beef and added it to the pan. As she stirred the mixture, the meat sizzled and browned. Cooking comforted her, gave purpose and routine to each day. It was just the two of them now. Did she mean anything, anymore to her husband?

She recalled Roy’s last visit home, checked the tallies on the new calendar that hung beside the telephone. When last year’s addition ran out, she added the number 365 to the present copy. It was exactly two years and fifteen days ago. The calendar protected the evidence, an ink mark scrawled through each day that passed, signs of her son’s absence. Proof that he was remembered.

Alice didn’t know how to fix her broken family, didn’t realize that it was simple. Shame and pride beat her down. Was she a good enough mother? Pride demanded she hold her head high and whispered back, you were.

Unconvinced, Alice thought about the last time she sat with Roy, remembered the bottled up anger that simmered in silence as they sipped tea. When Roy had left, he slammed the back door. She had noticed, even winced as the door hit the frame. After such a loud exit, Molly startled, hurried to the front door to wave goodbye to her nephew. As he roared off on his flashy motorcycle, Molly had quietly shut the door and marched back into the kitchen. She saw her sister, the cup poised mid-air.

“Alice.”

Stone faced, Alice set her cup onto the saucer and turned toward her older sister.

“Did you have to be so aloof?”

Alice tightened. Molly noticed her sister’s purposeful silence. At last, Alice commented,

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do, Alice. You didn’t say a meaningful word to the lad.”

Molly moved closer to the table, positioned herself directly in front of her younger sister.

“Roy comes home, after two years gone and all you can do is sit silent, sipping tea?”

Alice set her jaw, looked away.

“It was Roy’s choice to leave in the first place, “Alice said.

Enraged, Molly grabbed her sister’s wrist, a bit too hard. It hurt. Her words bit Alice.

“For the love of Mike, Alice. Everyone makes mistakes. Including you.”

Alice felt her cheeks warm at Molly’s comment, a reminder of a past she would rather forget. A secret they shared. She shook free of Molly’s grip.

Molly continued, “No one sent you away.”

Alice bristled, “I didn’t send Roy away.”

Molly’s words flew back, “You never gave him a reason to stay.”