He sat on a stool in the center of the smoky stage, soft lights focused on his face, his hands, his guitar. The sleeves of his worn plaid shirt were rolled up, revealing his tanned forearms, strong hands with calloused fingers gently strumming a beautiful melody. His chestnut hair was longer now, falling in soft layers that framed his face, then curling into waves at the nape. His eyes were closed, fringed with long, dark lashes. Rough stubble darkened his face, giving him a disheveled, sexy appeal. As he sang, his lips formed that familiar heart shape when they pursed together, and unleashed a deep croon when they came apart. The effect was altogether sensual.
I sat motionless on my bar stool, not daring to move – not wanting to leave this moment. He sang for me. In his deep whiskey siren song, I heard the pleas of his heart and the promises from his soul. I succumbed to the overwhelming emotions coursing through me and tasted the salty relief that slid down my cheeks. As he asked, my heart had listened and his song had moved me to tears. For so long I had questioned his intentions and his motivations. Life had beaten him down, broken his spirit. I wondered if the past would always haunt him. While he wandered and chased his dream, I hoped that he would realize his dream was waiting for him to come home.
That night my cowboy sang his song for me. His words touched my soul. And I finally saw forever in his eyes.
I walked into the smoky room and scanned the crowd, settling my sight on a figure standing at the bar. His snug denim jeans and worn plaid shirt only highlighted his muscular, athletic frame underneath. If I didn’t know him I might have mistaken him for a player on the local minor league baseball team. But this man’s talents were in the deep whiskey croon of his voice and the sweet melodies that sprang from his guitar. Walking up behind him, I snaked my arm around his thick waist and pressed my head against his back.
He turned and pulled me into his arms, tipping my head up and stealing a kiss. “Hello darlin’. You’re just in time.” A bright spotlight lit the stage and the host walked out to warm the crowd up. He bent his head down, kissing me again. “Sit here, it’s the best view in the house.” He nodded to the bartender. “Brian, take care of my girl.” I watched him walk backstage and sighed. He had a new song tonight – I’d not yet heard it – and my stomach fluttered in anticipation. He would only say it was a love song and I should listen with my heart. Soon I heard his name being called out and, as he walked on stage, a smile crossed my lips. My heart was listening.
Ella’s deflated voice was another bitter reminder of our disastrous vacation. My precocious daughter had been so excited to see a real castle. I should have known better. How could a six-year old see past her Disney-colored glasses at the beauty of this twelfth century wonder? I looked up in awe and imagined an idyllic Camelot, my own unachievable idea of happily ever after.
Time for a change.
I knelt next to her and pressed my hand to her heart. “Sweetie, happily ever after isn’t in a castle. It’s in here.”
His suitcase lay on the bed, clothes thrown in haphazardly. I sat perched on the edge of the mattress, fidgeting with the pillows. Hugging his to my chest, I softly inhaled and savored his soapy smell. I peered up at him and memorized his face so I could pull it from my mind later, when I was alone and sad and looking for comfort.
Bright cornflower blue eyes with soft lines at the corners that crinkled when he smiled. Plump, pink lips that easily curved into the shape of a heart. Chestnut brown hair, short and spiky on top and curling into longer waves at the nape. I closed my eyes and imagined that face hovering near mine, hearing his deep, whiskey voice whisper my name just before his lips claimed mine. A single tear slid down my cheek and I quickly brushed it away before he noticed.
Finally, bags packed, it was time to say good-bye. “I’ll always love you.” I said. He only nodded and my heart broke into a million pieces all over again.
I climbed onto the ferry boat in the early morning hours, before the sun had a chance to peek through the clouds hanging low on the eastern horizon. I felt the ship lurch beneath my feet. The boat felt as unsteady as my nerves. I was leaving him for good this time. I’d been here before, heart shattered and faith destroyed. It was the last time I would let him make me feel this way. I let the cool ocean breeze wash over me as I left my broken life behind me. Beams of sunlight finally broke through the clouds and warmed my face, signaling a bright new beginning.
His toothbrush is still sitting in the cup next to mine. It’s the last thing, the only thing I have left of him. It’s a silly thing to hold onto, a piece of plastic. Still I can’t bear to throw it away. It gives me a strange sort of comfort seeing it sitting next to mine in the cup on the vanity in the bathroom we used to share.
The latch on the garden gate is rusted shut. Years of neglect seen in the overgrown plants and tangled vines. A fountain in the center of the garden, once bubbling with life, is now eerily still in the stale autumn air.
“I’m home.” I hear his voice and excitedly drop the pot I was washing back into the sudsy water. I turn the corner from the kitchen into the living room and my heart skips a beat. He’s been gone for six months and seeing him now – cornflower blue eyes, spiky hair, heart-shaped lips – I realize how much I’ve missed him. He drops his guitar and duffel bag on the floor and shrugs off his jacket. I run to him and bury my face in his neck, savoring the smell of soap and sweat. Our bodies fuse together as if they’re tailor made for each other. For months I’ve been bumbling along, stringing hours into days and days into weeks.
He kisses the top of my head and I sigh into his chest. I’m whole again.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and take flight. My mind a willing partner with my heart as I sail through the air, escaping the stifling loneliness of my invisible prison walls. Up here freedom flows through me, lifting me ever higher. My heart dances and my mind finds peace. I am at once unchained.
A noise outside the window jars me from my reverie. A hitch in my breath and I fall back to earth, settling again into my dreary routine. Forlorn eyes reflect the hollow soul within me. I await my next flight.
I haven’t been writing lately. I think about it every day. I get my daily word prompt and stare at it hoping for something. I tell myself that writers push through. But I don’t want to write if it doesn’t mean anything. I like my words to have feelings and connections. So I sit on the fence between beating myself up and letting myself be. And every so often I dash off a few words to stay in practice. Hello world, I’m still here.
She could count her friends on . . . well, she didn’t even need fingers. She was certain the people she knew LIKED her, but the late-night phone call on a Saturday night friend? That she didn’t have.
Do you really wonder why people leap to their deaths? It’s because in a world of 8 billion people, they can’t make a real connection to a single soul. And it’s not their fault. And it’s not your fault either. Not really. On this supercharged, high-pressure, success-driven, always plugged-in highway, some people never quite master the rules of the road – mere passengers in life. And, in their quest for the best, the ones in the fast lane drive right on by without a glance in their rear-view mirror. Each passenger on his own path, each driver worried about her own destination. Neither giving a thought to the basic and indispensable humanity underneath it all.
So, she sits alone every Saturday night. She stopped listening for the phone to ring a long time ago. And she always knows the location of the nearest bridge. It gives her a strange sort of comfort.
Just ahead, she saw the alley in the sunlight. If she could make it she would be safe. Her heart pounded and she felt the package tucked inside her sweater. Father Daniel had trusted her and she couldn’t let him down. She heard footsteps behind her but didn’t turn to look. Father Daniel said if she could make it to the Cathedral, a Friar would be waiting to take possession of the package. Suddenly she felt like she was in a bad novel. She stepped into the sunlight and turned right. Hopefully her story had a happy ending.
I’ve just spent the weekend in bed and let me say there’s nothing worse than laying in bed watching TV all day when you’re forced to rather than when you’re just lazy and it’s your choice. (Ok, that was a bit dramatic. I’ve been known to embellish for effect. And for sympathy. I got out of laundry duty today. Go me!)
I’ve got an injured foot. A rather vague description I know but I’m not convinced the Urgent Care doctor got it right when he diagnosed an arthritic toe joint. (I’m waaay too young for THAT word.) And the pain is in my arch not just my toe. Besides, according to WebMD my condition is near fatal. So I’m reserving judgment until I get into my family practice (which was booked last week) for a second opinion. And probably a referral to a podiatrist if this pain doesn’t let up soon. And with luck something stronger than ibuprofen.
In the meantime I iced, elevated and hobbled my way through the weekend, cringing every time I stepped the wrong way. And laid in bed flipping through 7000 channels of nothing to watch. And cried over my shoe closet. At least for the foreseeable future my feet will be flat on the ground. I had to reassure my beautiful heels that I wasn’t abandoning them. Even if they did almost kill me. Well, at least according to WebMD. Now where did I put my Will?
She lived a charmed life. That’s what everyone thought. She was a shy girl from a small town who always wanted to get out, and she did. She told glorious stories about the places she had lived, sixteen cities and counting. She dressed impeccably, wore designer clothes, and considered mascara and jewelry to be both necessary and logical. She traveled to Paris, Rome, London, Spain, Athens, Vienna, her passport was filled with stamps and her mind was filled with memories. Her favorite color was Tiffany Blue. She lived a charmed life. That was the illusion. What they didn’t see was the nights she sat alone, staring at the dark sky, waiting for a star to wish upon.
Thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting Friday Fictioneers. If you’d like to participate click here for more information.
“There’s a hurricane coming. You should stay home.” He stared at the darkened sky, inky black in the distance.
“This interview is huge. I can’t miss it. And I have my lucky charm.” She jangled the bracelet he’d given her for their anniversary. “Besides, they won’t run the ferry if it’s not safe.” She kissed him softly, sweetly. “I’ll be fine. Call you tomorrow.”
~ ~ ~ ~
Turning on the morning news, his coffee mug fell and shattered, hot liquid rivulets snaking across the tile floor when he saw the lead story.
I’m not a particularly religious person. But I do have faith. And I believe in the basics of humanity, that everyone – despite our religious differences, despite our ethnic differences, despite the many other differences that drive us apart – has the capacity for grace. Father Robert Barron describes The Loop of Grace: “The more we give back to God, the more we get, and then we must give that back again, so as to get even more in return. This is the loop of grace.” I believe this has a more practical application in these troubled times. Substitute “others” for “God”. See how much your life changes. See how much you change the world.