what will I do?

 

Morgan Salech’s my best friend, although we didn’t start off that way. We began seeing each other in university and everything was going great until one night that ended our romance.

That date marked the clear dividing line in our relationship.

What happened was simple, but unexplained. Morgan confessed she loved me and I froze. I don’t know why I did, or why I couldn’t recover, but after that night, I stopped asking her out.

Strangely enough, we continued talking to each other in classes and eventually just ended up as ‘best buds’.

But that night and our disastrous date were never mentioned again.

 

Fast forward five years and Em and I are still together, yet living apart. Neither of us dates anyone else, although occasionally Em will bug me about asking someone out.

“You need to fall in love, Evan.”

I immediately go on the defensive.

“Yeah, well isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black—what about you? You’re not seeing anyone either.”

Em puts on that haughty look she uses to dismiss my best arguments.

“Really Evan, I’m a woman and able to handle my needs—I don’t need someone to fulfill me.”

“Oh, and I suppose I do?” I retort hotly.

She arches an eyebrow as if to say, do you doubt me?

“I know you Evan Logan—and you are definitely not fulfilled.”

“So what do you suggest? Oh wait—I’ve got it. Let’s go on eBay and see what’s available.”

“Yeah, well that’s one thing you won’t find by on-line shopping—kind of like this loft I got you, when you were wasting your money on a dismal flat and renting commercial space for your artist’s studio.”

She was right. Em has great taste in architecture—just poor taste in men.

I try a different tack.

“Well, if you’re so good at knowing my tastes and anticipating my needs, maybe you should pick out a chick for me.”

“A chick?” Her voice goes up. “What decade are you living in Evan? Are you still reading Mickey Spillane?”

“Hey, Mike Hammer wasn’t all bad,” I grin.

She throws up her hands in despair. “Oh, you’re impossible.”

I get up from the couch and make us tea. Fussing with the rituals of tea brewing calms us both down and distracts me from feeling I’m under a microscope.

By now, Em’s cooled down a bit and has curled up with a pillow on her lap, her legs tucked under her on the couch. In her tight jeans and red sweater she looks sensational, but I try not to focus on that.

“Look,” she says reasonably, “you like my taste in art and architecture, so why don’t you let me pick a girl for you?”

“What—just like that? How do you intend to go about doing this—are you planning on interviewing candidates?”

She smiles. “Not exactly—as a matter of fact, I’ve already spotted a girl who’d be perfect for you.”

“You have—where did you meet her?”

“At The Wunderbar Café.”

“What! Where is this place?”

“It’s beside the college where I take cooking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.”

My jaw drops. She’s been guarding her secret for months now, and had me figuring she was dating somebody else. It adds up though—she’s a vegan and health food nut, so taking a course in cooking is something she’d do.

“Okay, so why do you think this girl would be perfect for me. What’s she like?”

Her face brightens.

“You’d love her, Evan. She’s dark and mysterious and has a penchant for dressing in vintage clothing from the Thirties – You’d also like her accent—it’s not British, but formal and different from the way most girls speak.”

Funny, but this chick sounds exactly like Em—but I don’t dare say that.

I am intrigued though. I serve Em her tea and hand her a hermit cookie. “What’s her name?”

She bites on the cookie and grows pensive. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know her name?” I ask incredulously. “Okay, well where does she work?”

“I don’t know that either,” she says nonchalantly.

“Well, what exactly do you know about her?”

She stares out the window, a far away look in her eyes.

“Mmm, let me see. She has impeccable taste in clothes and speaks very nicely—Oh, and she’s beautiful.”

I try not to get irritated.

“Where can I meet her?”

“I already told you. She’s there on Tuesday and Thursday nights at The Wonderbar Café. She’s got this kind of Sylvia Plath vibe going.”

I roll my eyes. “Have you seen photos of Sylvia Plath?”

She’s nonplussed.

“I’m talking about her soul – she’s got this confessional look in her eyes and seems very dream-like and abstracted. I think she’s ethereal.”

I shake my head, exasperated. “And why would I like that?”

She lowers her eyes. “It’s what you used to see in me, Evan, before our ‘disastrous date’ ruined you for all women.”

I put my hand affectionately over hers and whisper, “Aw, c’mon Em—let’s not go over past hurts.”

She withdraws her hand, using it to push back a stray strand of hair. Her chin is thrust out, but trembling. She turns her face away from me, but I swear I saw tears. When she turns back to face me, her tone is brusque and businesslike.

“Look, we agreed I’d scope out some ‘chicks’ for you and I did—so you need to hold up your end of the bargain.”

“So, you always see this chick—er, girl there?”

“Tuesday and Thursday nights—after cooking classes.”

I’m still trying to process this. “You take cooking classes?”

“Yeah, I do. You got a problem with that?”

I soften, “Naw—what you do is up to you—just seems out of character or something.”

“Right—and you really know me.”

“Okay, okay—sheesh. Don’t go all weird. I didn’t mean to come off like a wise ass. I’ll go and check out the place and let you know.”

“Yeah, do that,” she says, getting up and putting on her coat.

“I’ll drop by there tomorrow night and tell you how it goes.”

“Sure.” She’s poker faced and inscrutable.

I watch her head down the stairs on her way out into the night.

Women are so damned unpredictable. You never know what they’re thinking.

The Wonderbar Café—sounds like a dive.

 

The Wonderbar Cafe is a bit of flotsam and jetsam Time washed up and forgot on a downtown Toronto street.

I walk in the doors and step back into the past eighty years or more.

The owner is an older woman named Madge that everyone seems to know.

She puts a vinyl Decca record on the turntable and the hiss of the static and the lilt of the music transports me back before the War, to a time before life became so complicated it lost its joy.

The ambience is Thirties or Forties—Gatsby and Hemingway, and Zelda with a cigarette holder sitting in one of the window booths—except, its not them sitting there tonight, but the girl Em mentioned—and she’s breathtaking.

It’s uncanny though how this girl resembles Em and yet has this air of mystery about her. Em was right—it’s as if Sylvia Plath walked in and took over her body, and all I can think of is that I want to sit down and talk with her.

Amazingly, that’s exactly what I do. I simply walk over to her booth and say, “Do you mind if I join you?”

She looks around the diner at all the empty seats and I’m expecting her to say no, but she surprises me by saying softly, “Sure—why not?”

I sit opposite and can’t take my eyes off her. Everything about her is wild and untamed as a pale moon racing through a windy night.

I’m Evan Logan,” I manage to say.

“Althea Vickers,” she smiles.

“Do you live around here?” It’s a dumb question—sort of on the level of, do you come here often? But she accepts it at face value, and without even a hint of smirk, replies, “I live in a brownstone building on Bond Street.”

I’m staring deep into her eyes and for a moment get lost in the maze of her. I see her in the lobby of a brownstone building with an oak-paneled elevator and lobby, and art-deco chandeliers and sconces.

It suits her and she doesn’t look at all out of place in that place or time—or here, for that matter, in Madge’s Wunderbar Café and Diner.

“You’re a dreamer, aren’t you?”

Her question brings me out of my reverie. I feel flustered and embarrassed.

At that moment, the phonograph plays a scratchy vinyl record. A male singer is crooning the lyrics to a wistful song:

Gone is the romance that was so divine.
’tis broken and cannot be mended.
You must go your way,
And I must go mine.
But now that our love dreams have ended…
What’ll I do
When you are far away
And I am blue
What’ll I do?
What’ll I do?

“Its sad, isn’t it, Evan? Such a sad song. And why would people want to hear it?”

“It helps, I suppose, to put into words those difficult elusive feelings.”

She looks at me with compassion. “You have trouble with that, don’t you—putting elusive feelings into words?”

I nod.

The song lyrics interpose again, like an iron alphabet clouding my mind, obscuring her face. I shut my eyes trying to wall them out.

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

When I open my eyes, Em is there—sitting in Althea’s place.

“Em?” I’m dazed and feel drugged.

“I hope you don’t mind, Evan. I came by after my class to check in on you—I was just going to pass by and go home, but saw you sitting here all alone. Did you get stood up?

I smile ruefully. “Not exactly. I met her, but she wasn’t what I was looking for.”

“Really? When I first saw her, I thought she was perfect for you.”

I get up, slide into the booth beside her, take her in my arms and kiss her.

“How could she be perfect for me, Em? She’s not you. All I ever wanted was you.”

She smiles at me, eyes moist and shining.

“All I ever wanted was to hear you say that—and to tell the truth, if you didn’t, I don’t know what I’d do.”

 

 

© 2014, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

Posted in short stories | Comments Off

skye

 

I went straight in order to get my life in order—stopped drinking so I could write, but something was missing. There was an abyss inside of me alcohol used to fill—but now there was nothing.

I was sitting with my laptop at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop trying to write and at the same time ignore this beautiful girl sitting diagonally across from me nibbling at a cake donut and obviously bemused by me.

I tried to shut her out, but it’s like writing under a ceiling fan and seeing shadows out of the corner of your eye—it works on your subconscious and drives you nuts.

I stop typing and stare at her. “What?”

She bursts out laughing. “Sorry,” she giggles, “but you look so serious.”

“I am serious,” I tell her, “I’m a writer—I do this for a living.”

“You remind me of Schroeder in the Peanuts cartoons—so intense, bent over a toy piano.”

“A Mac Air is not a toy piano,” I say haughtily.

“I suppose not, “ she smiles, “but you still looked adorable.”

That stops me dead in my tracks. It’s not every day a beautiful woman tells me I’m adorable—even if she’s insulting me at the same time.

I flip the MacBook closed. “Why don’t you join me? I’m probably just as adorable up close.”

“Oh sure, Casanova—that sounds like a pick up line.”

I expect her to go back to nibbling on her cake donut, but she surprises me by getting up and sitting down beside me at my table.

“Can I buy you a coffee?” I ask.

“Sure,” she smiles, “as long as you’re not a starving artist.”

“I’m published and have a literary agent,” I smugly inform her.

“Oh well, then you must be good,” she says smiling, but I detect a hint of sarcasm in her tone.

“I’ll have a medium double—double,” she advises me.

Hmm, I muse, that’s a lot of cream and sugar.

Me? I’m a medium double milk—preferably skim, but to each his own.

I bring back two coffees and she’s got my laptop open reading what I just wrote.

“Hey, this isn’t half bad, Maine.”

She knows my name. What the hell!

“Did you look up my social security number too, and all my passwords?” I say hotly.

“Nope, but Maine Leatherby-Clayworth? What kind of a handle is that?”

“I don’t go by that hyphenated form—I prefer to be called Maine Clayworth.”

Her eyes sparkle, “And I prefer to be called Skye.”

I’m disarmed. What can I say?

“Do you have a last name?”

“Yup—had a double barreled one like yours—but lost it—so uppity, pretentious and awkward.”

“Really? It was that bad?”

“Fortunately, mine wasn’t as bad as this guy I dated—imagine going through life saddled with the moniker, Long-Wiwi. It’d just be impossible!”

I stare at her for a moment, and then it hits me—Long-Wiwi. It’d be great, but sounds ridiculous. Who would go through life like that?

I laugh like hell and she joins me. And then we both sit there in the coffee shop rocking back and forth on our stools—laughing so hard we’re crying. And when we finish, I lean over and kiss her.

She pulls back immediately. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Why not?”

“You crossed a line,” she says all proper, but when she said it, I slid down her accent into her family’s drawing room where we were all holding champagne flutes while chamber music played in the background.

Well, that made me laugh again, and of course, it made her join in.

And so, we went on like that for some time, until finally she daubed her eyes with the back of her hand and said softly, “You still crossed a line—don’t do it again.” And I knew she meant it.

I fell in love with her then.

 

“You don’t know anything about this girl, Maine. Hell, you don’t even know her last name.”

Kristen was concerned—I got that. I mean she is my literary agent and she does have a stake in my continued recovery.

“Don’t worry Kristen—she’s no threat. She was educated at Havergal and got an M.A. in Literature from U of T. From everything she tells me, she was to the manor born—as was I.”

She’s unimpressed. “Yeah, but you were fed with a silver spoon, and look how you turned out.”

Ouch! That one hurt.

“Look, I’m sorry, Maine—that was a low blow. I’m just concerned about you.”

“I know, Kristen—but I’m thirty years old. Surely I can look out for myself.”

“Of course you can, Maine, but you’re in recovery and vulnerable. I made some inquiries about your friend and frankly she sounds sketchy.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, for starters, she doesn’t appear to have a fixed address. From what I can discern, she’s homeless. There’s this one scary dude, Darko Vanic, who knows her and is spooked by her—imagine that—a guy tough as nails who looks like a hit man for the Russian mafia, and he keeps away from her.”

“I don’t buy it,” I say flatly.

“Do you want to hear what Tim Grand thinks?”

Tim is my sobriety coach and a psychologist—I wince at the mere thought of what he might say.

She tells me anyway.

“He thinks she has a mood disorder and this Darko character told me she’s got cuts on her arms and lives under a bridge. Tim says those are indicators she’s probably borderline.”

“Enough!” I say, throwing up my arms. “I’ll find this Darko guy and talk to him myself. I know people and that’s not the vibe I get from this girl. In the meantime, you have to back off, Kristen—give me space to at least make my own mistakes, or I’ll never be able to stand on my own.”

Chastened, she backs down. “Okay, Maine—you set the boundaries. But just promise me you’ll be careful.”

I hug her. “I will, Kris—and don’t worry so much about me.”

 

I find Darko where Kristen said he’d be, knocking back beers at The Drake Bar. He’s well on his way to being polluted, but I wave a twenty under his nose as incentive.

It doesn’t take much to get Darko to talk.

“She’s crazy, Man—she’s a shadow maker.”

“Why do you call her a shadow maker?”

“She’s really weird in a spooky kind of way.”

He’s rambling like that—disconnected, speech slurred, hair disheveled and falling in his eyes. I’m getting frustrated.

“How is she weird? Give me some details.”

“The girl’s a witch—she can fly. I saw her leap off the viaduct one night –that bridge is maybe two hundred feet high. I figured she was dead, but next day, she’s back on the street without a scratch. She’s The Power of the Air, Man– that’s why she’s called Skye.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah. One time she disappeared.”

“How did that happen?”

He gets cagey and looks around to see if anyone’s listening. “Aw, you know how it is, Guy—she’s one good-looking chick. We were drinking one night and I come out of the bar and spot her. So, I grab her under the bridge—and she turns to black mist in my arms. Scared me sober for a week and I ain’t one to get shook.”

As he tells it, he’s shaking. It could be the drink, but somehow I doubt it. I give him the twenty and head back out into the rain.

She’s out there now, somewhere, and I’m worried about her. I head over to the coffee shop to sort out my thoughts.

I sit sipping steaming coffee staring out at the rain when I hear a familiar voice behind me.

“Hey Schroeder—where’s your piano?”

I turn and spot her at the counter buying a coffee. I smile and she comes over and sits down on the red stool beside me. There’s rain jewels sparkling in her dark hair and I want to put my arm around her, but stifle the urge.

“Do I still look adorable?” I grin.

She musses my hair. “Yeah, now you do. You look like a little kid.”

“Great—just great! What every man wants to hear.”

“Little boy innocence with grown-man looks? That’s a combination that’s hard to resist.”

I still want to hug her, but just reach out and pat her hand. She gives me the brightest smile and it warms me more than wine.

She unzips her jacket. “So, what brings you out on a night like this?”

“I was worried about you, Skye.”

“Yeah, why’s that?” She’s got this defensive tone in her voice.

“I hear you don’t have any place to stay—that you sleep out under a bridge. Is that true?”

“Have you been talking to Darko? That sounds like the kind of stuff he says.”

I nod. “I did talk to him, but I’m asking you. Is it true?”

She looks away, stares out the window at the rain—at golden lines threading through the streetlights.

“Rain knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,” she whispers.

“Macbeth?” I ask, surprised.

She sips at her coffee. “Yeah—he’s talking about sleep, but rain always makes me think of that.”

“It must be hard to sleep out in the rain.”

“Not really,” she sighs, “I’ve always been an outsider. I told you I went to private school and got my Masters in Literature, but didn’t tell you why.”

“Okay, I’ll bite—why?”

“Did it to please my parents. You see, I was a replacement child. Born nine months after my sister died and always trying to measure up and take her place—which, of course, I could never do.”

“I’m sorry, Skye.”

“Stayed on the periphery, and then one day it occurs to me—why not stay out there permanently? And so I did, and here I am.”

“That’s a hard a burden for anyone to bear.”

She nods and gazes out at the night. “I’m just so tired, Maine. Just want to go to sleep.”

She leans against me. By instinct, my arm naturally curls about her waist. She lays her head on my shoulder and closes her eyes.

“I’m glad I met you,” she murmurs, “I feel so peaceful by your side.”

And then, she’s gone—dissolved into a dark mist.

I try to process what I’ve just experienced, but have no explanation.

Somehow she simply rarefied and vanished before my eyes.

 

It’s been weeks now, but I keep revisiting her—in my thoughts and in that place, but she’s not there—at least, physically—if she ever was.

I search for Darko, but he’s also disappeared—vanished without a trace.

I spend hours walking the streets asking around the neighborhood, but only one old woman seems to recall anything—says the girl’s story reminds her of an incident back in the forties that made The Toronto Star’s front page.

I check it out in the archives and sure enough, Skye is there. Well, her name wasn’t Skye back then—it was Cecily Hampton Hay. She leapt from the Bloor Street viaduct after a sordid life of booze and wasting her inheritance.

She squandered her wealth the article said, and fell in with gangsters including one shadowy figure named Drake Vane who owned a bar where Cecily drank her life away.

I’m still trying to make sense of why this happened and why Skye chose me, but I suppose I’ll never really know for sure.

Maybe she felt a kinship with someone like her, someone dispossessed, and suffering in the shadows.

Or then again, maybe she needed someone to help her bear her pain—someone who wouldn’t reject her.

I was her Schroeder trying to play blues for her on a toy piano—and she could lean on me for a while, but there weren’t enough keys, and the black ones weren’t real—only painted on.

 

Love’s anguish tightens your throat

As if you were never to be loved again

If you lived in the old days you would enter a monastery

You are ashamed when you discover yourself reciting a prayer

You make fun of yourself and like the fire of Hell your laughter crackles

The sparks of your laugh gild the depths of your life

It’s a painting hanging in a dark museum

And sometimes you go and look at it close up

–Guillaume Apollinaire

 

 

© 2014, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

Posted in short stories | Comments Off