All potential unfurls from the bud.
“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.
Nate trembled. He fingered the rough edge of the faded construction paper and the sensation lifted him into memories filled with the scent of glue and the sounds of children.
It’s been how many years since? Thirty. At least.
He inspected the note again, as if expecting more words to appear among the scrawled letters on the hand-torn bit of yellowed-green. None did.
It was not signed, but even after all this time there would be no mistaking it. Not by him.
Kindergarten sweetheart and schoolyard tormentor, both.
What did she want? Where had she been? Why write him now? Why him? Why this way?
Tears pressed behind his eyes and he was surprised by their intensity. The last time he’d felt that way (well, the last time he consciously admitted to it being so), was when he’d seen that ad, twelve years ago. The image of it unfurled behind his mind’s eye, never really forgotten: “Missing. Elinor Bricks. Age 23. Long dark curly hair. Blue eyes. Medium height and built. Last seen walking into the woods south of Sparrow Street, wearing blue pants, gray jacket, sneakers, and a brown messenger bag.”
Two weeks of searching before the police had folded their tents and left the flyers for the wind and squirrels.
Three months before he could sleep.
Four years before he let himself date anyone. Two more before he married. Five before he lost Marianne and little Morris as the baby tried and could not be born.
Could that have been only last year?
His heart had been hollow. Since.
“Meet me by The Intertwined tonight,” the note said.
Their ancestors had planted those trees over a century ago. Hers and his. Far apart enough to stand alone. Close enough to weave together roots and canopy. They were a symbol of connection. The place where marriage took place and funerals left from. Where roots spread fingers to hold on even as they reached to grip new spaces. It was the very place where past and present, love and life and loss and longing intertwined.
His fingers spread over the bit of paper, reaching to embrace it, and interlacing words with the unknown.
His heart thundered.
“I’m sorry, Marianne.”
“Lush, ain’t it?” The sixteen-year-old shivered in her short jacket.
Frosty patches dotted the monochrome shrubbery. She nudged one with her sneaker. “So, why exactly did you choose this godforsaken nothingness for your midlife crisis? Couldn’t have been the view, or the amenities.”
It’s fixable, Branden thought but said nothing. He’d worry more if Lizzie didn’t quip. And anyway, he knew she knew why they’d had to move.
Lizzie sniffed. He offered a tissue but she leaned into him, seeking a rare hug.
“Mama would’ve loved it here,” she whispered. “Even if we hadn’t lost everything to the medical bills.”
One more step and she’d have gone more than half-way across, but she found herself unable to move further. She sat on the asphalt, frozen by cemented legs.
So she waited. It was early, but sooner or later something will come by and she’d find out the price of her betrayal.
All her life she’s been bordered by this bridge, the yellow metal rising like a sun in her horizon: untouchable, unapproachable, dangerous.
They were raised to never cross it.
“Evil lives beyond this bridge,” her father had preached in daily sermons in their basement, the family huddled on aching knees and wreathed by incense, fear, and smoking wicks. “Leave here and your soul will be eternally forsaken. Abandon my teachings and you will not be saved.”
Well, she’d had enough. She could tolerate no more of his invasive ‘instruction.’
And she was ready.
To not be saved.
She had come to make a new life.
She found illness. She found death.
And life, perhaps, hiding in the shadows
Of her convalescing sorrow,
To take hold.
She had come in search of meaning.
She found a babble of confusion.
Rising skyward. Buried underground.
She found hope, too. For things she didn’t know
Even had names
But sprouted meaning
In the corners of what she believed
But had in fact been opened
To allow in the winds of change.
She came seeking answers,
And found the cost
Paid for little more than added questions,
And that she had to look
At what wasn’t there,
What she did not even know
She had been searching for.
Photo: The old Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (a narrow island set in the East River between Queens and Manhattan).
May this year be as calm as you need it to be
As adventurous as your spirit requires
As hopeful as your heart can hold
As happy as pure joy
As healthy as is doable
As satisfying as your widest dreams
As filled with laughter as your belly can tolerate
As nourishing as warm hugs
As loving as your heart desires
(And then some
Because we can all use
Extra of love).
And … while we’re at it:
May this year bring an end to what no longer sustains you
May what drains you move on, or change
May hurts heal
May grief ease
May frustration untangle till truth’s in the clear.
May worry turn action
May stagnation find pace
May you be all you wanted to be
And a bit more still, just in case …
Blessings be to you,
May your day be lit
And new grown things
On path to home
And love within.
May the closing year
And blushing joy
And flowered hope
For what begins.
She clung to the flower and whispered, awe shuddering through with each beat:
“I didn’t even know to imagine how it would feel to stretch wings,
to sense the blood pumping through to the tips, edges fluttering free with the wind.”
Photo credit: April Pearson
She’s always loved rainbows. Even if they’d signaled more endings than beginnings and more lost pots of golden dreams than she could count. Perhaps that’s why rainbows were so colorful: They distracted you from the fact that they weren’t much more than a trick of light, air distorted through the sheen of still held tears. Would double rainbows herald double sorrow or a chance at joy?
“I wanna hold it, Mama!”
She glanced down at the curly head and her eyes followed the small hand that pointed at the docks across the narrow inlet. “I wanna hold it!”
“You can’t hold a rainbow, Marly.”
The finger remained trained on the colorful arch, and Laurie didn’t needs to see the toddler’s face to know the little girl was scowling. She recognized the full-body-speak from memories in her own bones.
“Come.” She bent and scooped the child into her arms. She was going to make sure life was different for this one. “Such a pretty rainbow, isn’t it? We can’t hold it, but I can hold you, and,” she reached into the go-bag that held everything they still possessed since they escaped, “you can hold your unicorn.”
For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge
original fiction, rhyme and photography
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