passage

 

Whenever I see Elias it rains.

The first few times we joked about it, but after a year of watery visits it’s gone beyond coincidence—but he has no explanation and neither do I so we leave it there, hanging like the Turner painting on his wall of a shipwreck in a storm.

Now, why would a psychiatrist hang a dismal picture on his wall? The Good Doctor thinks it’s serendipity and I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any—‘the previous tenant had it on his wall and who am I to disturb the universe?’ The Prufrockian and Freudian implications all lead to an overwhelming question, and, of course, we don’t ask what it is.

Obviously, I find it hard to take Elias seriously, which is a liability since he is my shrink, but we have delightful conversations and he is a good listener and besides, it’s a necessary requirement of my parole.

I was very nearly killed in an auto accident—drinking far too much and popping pills—and since that got quite out of hand, here I am.

 

“So where are we?” Elias asks amiably, smiling over his half-moon reading glasses. He has the dossier before him and knows exactly where we are, but likes to invite me in.

“Maya and I broke up.”

“Again?”  His eyebrows arch and fingers tap out Braille messages to the thunder gods, the overlords of our rainy season.

“We have a tempestuous relationship,” I concede.

He sighs and scribbles a quick note.

I’m back to staring at the painting. I’m the hapless seaman, Maya’s the storm and Elias is the lighthouse—of course, he’s not in the picture—he’s watching from a safe distance, on shore.

“What have you been up to this week?” he asks with a faint smile, knowing very well I’m prone to be impetuous. But then, aren’t most writers?

“I bought a house.”

“Really? That was rather sudden—how did that come about?”

“Ari, a realtor friend of mine, heard it was going to be placed on the market. It was owned by the actress, Jessica Skye.”

A look of recognition crosses his face. “Wasn’t she that Thirties actress?”

I nod.

“Surely, she didn’t just die—she’d be over a hundred by now.”

“She died in 1980, and her daughter inherited it. And she just passed away.”

He seems outwardly unmoved, but I see his eyes—he’s intrigued. “What made you want to buy it?”

“An Art Deco mansion seemingly perfectly preserved in time? Who wouldn’t be interested—and besides, it came with two keys that don’t seem to fit any lock in the house.”

“Oh well, that explains everything.”

Elias doesn’t do sarcasm well.

The conversation moves on to other topics and the matter of the house is dropped until just before the session ends.

“You know the two keys that don’t fit are you and Maya.”

He says it flatly, in a matter of fact voice, half-expecting me to object—but I don’t.

I stretch and yawn. “I hear you, Elias—I’ve been thinking that myself.”

“You need someone less tempestuous, Leon. You need some calm in your life.”

“Well, who knows what tomorrow may bring?” I say facetiously, but know he’s right. I really need to find that eye in the center of the hurricane—that still-point in my crazily spinning life.

 

Three weeks later I’m moved in and paying contractors to reno the basement. I leave the main floor and grounds untouched, but the dark paneled basement has to go—it depresses me to look at it.

It’s near the end of the day, and most of the panels have been removed, when Sam Eastman, the contractor, calls me aside. Alarm bells are going off in my head—this type of colloquy from laborers almost always means money.

“We found an alcove concealed behind one of the walls,” he says.

He shows me a steel door behind the studding. “It must be an unused cold cellar, but it’s gonna be a helluva job breaking it open.”

We both stare at the door—Sam’s mentally calculating how much he can charge in terms of labor—and as for me, I’m smiling cynically that my instincts about laborers are proven right once again.

“I just don’t get why someone would put in such a heavy-duty door in the first place.” He’s taken off his Yankee’s ball cap and is scratching his head in wonderment. “You don’t happen to have a key, do ya?”

Of course, he’s pretty sure I don’t, and is also probably figuring, bonus for him.

So he’s understandably disappointed when I reach into my pocket and fish out a set of keys. I try the first one and it doesn’t work, but the second is a perfect fit and the door swings open.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he says, shining his flashlight, and peering in, “You’ve got yourself a Thirties speak-easy in there.”

He’s right—immediately before me, the walls are lined with shelves filled with liquor bottles and then, there’s a long stone-walled corridor resembling the catacombs, lined with tall, pigeon-holed wooden shelves with dark wine bottles nestled inside them.

“We should scope this out, Mr. Perkins.” Sam’s already being nosy, snooping around the liquor racks.

I suddenly feel defensive, as if my privacy’s being invaded. “No, I think that’s all for today, Sam.”

I gently usher him out. “I want to close this up and give some thought to what I’m going to do with the cellar—maybe call in an expert and get an informed opinion.”

Sam’s miffed, but complies. “You’re the boss—it’s your call.”

I shut and lock the door and wait until the crew gather up their tools and leave before turning out the light.

I sit by the fire with a glass of Shiraz and figure out a plan.

I’ll text Sam and tell him to take a few days off and then I’ll thoroughly explore the room the following day.

 

I start the next morning by hanging extension lights in the anteroom, and then begin cataloguing the brands of liquor and the dates.

I break for lunch and return just after one o’clock and start examining the dark corked bottles laid in the wine cellar. I have no idea about the status of the contents—I’m just intrigued by the ambience of the stonewalled cave.

As I’m examining the wine rack at the back of the cellar, I see it has hinges and can be swung out like a secret compartment. When I open it, I see another steel door, identical to the first.

I fish in my pocket for my set of keys and insert the second orphaned key into the lock and find it turns smoothly and opens the door. Mystery solved regarding the keys—now, what lies behind door number two?

I’m surprised to find a set of curving stone stairs which I climb only to encounter a third oak door, but this one is unlocked and opens into a book-lined study. The door is again cleverly disguised as a section of bookshelves.

I enter the room and see it’s a lovely den with mullioned windows, a fireplace and a huge writing desk—but can’t recall any evidence of this room from my walks around the perimeter of the house. Very strange.

At that moment, I become aware of the sounds of laughter and faint music coming from outside. I go to the window and look out. My breath stops.

A totally different world emerges before my eyes. There’s a garden party outside on the back lawn—people sipping champagne and dressed in the style of the late 1920’s or early Thirties. There are gleaming vintage cars parked in the circular driveway, and beyond, the tennis courts are in full use.

I can’t reconcile what my eyes are seeing with the world I know. I part the drapes to get a better look and as I do, a beautiful blonde woman glances up at the window and notices me.

She’s holding a champagne flute in one hand and is dressed in a sleek, pale blue gown that emphasizes her sylph-like figure. She stares intently, seeming to draw the soul right out of me.

Suddenly, the room starts spinning and I experience a strong wave of vertigo—everything about me darkens, as if a giant vortex were pulling me in. I panic, and stumble backwards toward the bookshelves.

The dizziness eases but I’m terrified and shaking. I run back through the doorway, down the stairs and out of the wine cellar. I’m so horrified, I shut and lock the door and stumble up the basement stairs to the main floor.

Once, I’m safely in my front room, my heart stops racing and my breathing slows. I’m still a bit shaky, so I pour myself a shot of scotch, knock it back and pour a second. I have no idea what just happened.

For the first few minutes I sit on my couch too dazed to think—my eyes are closed and all I can see are those huge dark eyes staring back at me. I know for certain the woman was Jessica Skye.

Elias, my shrink and sobriety coach, would be quite displeased to see me now—fingers trembling like delirium tremens, but my right hand firmly grasping a tumbler of scotch.

I must be losing my mind.

If you’ve ever doubted your perceptions, memory or ability to process simple tasks, you know the possibility one’s mind being diseased can be quite terrifying—I feel helpless, and completely out of control.

I’m losing my mind, I remind myself again, and then begin repeating the phrase as if that in itself might somehow stabilize me. Something’s telling me I’ll be all right if I can only admit that what I just experienced was crazy—impossible—unreal.

Hours pass and it’s grown dark—I’m still sitting frozen in the front room, completely unable to deal with the curve life has thrown me.

It’s my fault, I muse. I’ve lived a debauched life of disordering my senses and now have to reap what I’ve sown.

But even as I’m telling myself this, and sipping my scotch and feeling the heat of it soothing my nerves, I can still see her face, her huge dark eyes, and want to go back and be with her.

If insanity is rehearsing the same misperceptions over and over, then I’m definitely deranged.

My sane, rational brain is telling me I’m unhinged, but the other part of me, my shadow self, is obsessing about a dead woman.

And as I’m sitting here, it all seems so clear—outside, somewhere in time, there is a sunlit garden where beautiful people are whiling away a June afternoon—and inside, a crazed and obsessed man is contemplating embarking on an insane adventure losing himself down a rabbit hole of madness worse than an opioid dream.

And Elias thought Maya was the tempest in my life…

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.


Ernest Dowson

 

 

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

Posted in short stories | Comments Off on passage

the rose garden

 

Footfalls echo in the memory,
Down the passage which we did not take,
Towards the door we never opened,
Into the rose garden
—TS Eliot

 

I watch other people and envy them. Their lives seem safe and predictable. Not mine. I’m always at the center of a storm. Mind you, it’s a storm of my own choosing.

It’s my fault I was very nearly killed in an auto accident—drinking far too much and popping pills—so, I suppose there’s a reason why I long for an ordinary life, just as there’s a reason why I obsess about dead people.

I look at Elias and he’s smirking—of course, he’s a shrink and doesn’t buy half of what I say, especially statements that begin with ‘because’ and end with a contrite look on my face.

“You tend to see yourself as a victim, Leon, but everything that’s happened to you is the result of choices—your choices—Maya included.”

I don’t know why he always keys on Maya. Yes, she’s the storm in my life, and yes, my lifeboat is swamped in a maelstrom, so I guess he figures he’s a lighthouse. But he’s not—he’s not a light to me—more a foghorn continually emitting warning blasts.

And maybe that’s why whenever I see Elias, it rains.

 

It’s past five when I exit his office and head back to my Rosedale manse—an Art Deco home formerly owned by Jessica Skye.

Jessica was a Thirties’ actress with Harlow looks who haunts me continually—partly because of her huge dark eyes staring at me from her portrait above the mantel—and partly because she inhabits a virtual wing of my house.

I know it sounds crazy but the closest I can get to explain it is to compare her ethereal abode to Wonder Woman’s airship—partly invisible, but real. I access her hideaway through a portal in my basement that outwardly appears to be a wine cellar, but actually is a Thirties’ speak-easy. Behind some swing-out shelves lies a second door that leads to a part of the house that is not of this world.

I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the whole experience but when you live in a Cubist house once owned by a Thirties screen star, I suppose anything is possible. Really. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

Besides, Einstein said the Past still exists, around a bend in the river of Time—so, I’m not crazy if I believe it’s true, and I’m not just taking the word of a genius, because I know–I’ve been inside Jessica’s shadowy apartments.

That’s right, I’ve seen the Mobled Queen and she’s haunted me ever since.

In my mind I picture her extant wing of the mansion as a Cunard liner from the Thirties ran aground on a desert island. The ship’s crew and waiters, all in white, wait upon her while she throws elaborate island parties replete with exotic fruit and drinks the color of water. She and Amelia Earhart live on in a perpetual sunny afternoon beyond the ken of the world at large.

I know—I sound insane, but as I sit here in the rain outside my manse, it all seems so clear. Somewhere in time, there is a sunlit garden where beautiful people are whiling away a June afternoon—it’s not something I hallucinated—I’m inner-directed and know what I know. That sunlit garden party is real. I stumbled upon it once, and fully intend to go back and prove it exists.

But just how I’m going to do that, I have no idea.

 

I eat a light supper sitting in the front room by the light of the fire. It’s basic, if not a Spartan repast—Swiss cheese on rye and a glass of Shiraz.

I know—with my history of alcohol abuse I shouldn’t, but ever since I explored the basement speak-easy and stumbled upon that portal to the past, I’ve needed the occasional drink to calm my tremors.

No, they’re not DT’s—they’re more a distant thunder—a reverberation that pulses inside me every time I remember the dark surprise in Jessica’s eyes.

I can see her still.

Sometimes, I tremble so much, I have to squeeze my fingers tight into a ball and scrunch my eyes closed and try not to see that white petal in a dark sea—Jessica in the garden below, staring up at me.

I admit–it challenges belief. A second-floor room in a turret that doesn’t exist in this time or space—I mean, how can that be? But I was there! I know it’s real—as real and palpable as this longing for a woman that’s been dead half a century but nevertheless has managed to ignite a conflagration within me.

The rain has stopped and I wander outside and stand on my front lawn. It’s cool and there’s a slight breeze. I look up at the manse Jessica built—a monolith towering above me—a Cubist house with curving lines, now illumined with the aura of a full moon about to crest the roof line.

It’s romantic standing here beneath the dark oaks, listening to the rustling leaves, and watching the Moon break free of shadows and beckon to me.

A wild delight surges through me. I can sense Jessica near. She’s on the grounds with me and the darkness provides just enough obscurity to soften the stark actuality of everyday and liberate her spirit.

I begin to shiver and have to go in. I force myself to shut the door on my fantasies, but it’s futile—I know I can’t shut her out completely, because nightly, she haunts my dreams.

 

The following morning the sunlight through the kitchen windows comforts me–it’s a consolation of sorts,  the daily routine of coffee spoons, things to do and places to be. I add one item to the list—see Stella about original house plans.

I know I’m obsessing, but I have to satisfy a hunch.

Stella’s the agent who sold me the house—she’s tenacious—and that’s good because if there are original blueprints, she can get her hands on them.

But the thought of Stella make me uneasy in other ways—her seductive charm for one—and the fact that everything with Stella comes at a price. I wince at having to venture back across boundaries, the blurry lines of desire and unspoken wishes.

Don’t get me wrong—Stella’s beautiful, but she’s not the one I’m looking for—not the one I need.

When I see her, I’m enthralled anew with her beauty. Stella is bright and vivacious even at this early hour and as usual overwhelms with her energy.

“Of course there are plans, Leon—but it’ll cost you.”

Her long blonde hair is swept into a fashionable side pony and with her Eau de Hadrien fragrance, she’s intoxicating at such close range.

“What do you have in mind?” I croak nervously.

“Cocktails on the Roof Terrace of the Park Hotel would be nice—for starters.”

Her eyes gleam. She’s almost irresistible and I’m wondering why I don’t give in—maybe Elias is right—maybe I should check to see if I still have a pulse.

I push the thought away.

“Friday night at eight—if you get the plans to me today.”

“Hmm, I’ll have to check my schedule, but I think that’ll work for me. I’ll Fed Ex them to your house this afternoon, unless you prefer I drop them off.”

I give her a mischievous grin. “I’ll be out all day, Stella—the courier can leave them in the mail box.”

Her eyes are dancing. “Be careful, Leon—all work and no play.”

“Ha ha, don’t worry Stella—I’ve got enough excitement in my life.”

“We’ll have to see about that,” she purrs, leaning in and giving me a chaste peck on my cheek.

I emerge from her office relieved I’ve once again deftly sidestepped her rush, but can’t help feeling mildly unsexed.

A thought crosses my mind I might prefer spooky things at a distance rather than a real relationship—even endure a stormy relationship with Maya rather than being with her.

But the truth is, it’s not about Maya or Stella.  I’ve fallen in love with a screen goddess who might not even be there.

 

Precisely at three, the doorbell rings and by the time I get to the door to answer, a white courier truck pulls away.

A huge manila envelope leans out of the mailbox. I retrieve it, and excitedly tear it open. It’s the original house plans. Sure enough, in the original drawings there was a tower with a turret room and to that part of the blueprint Stella has attached a sticky note:

Hmm, after a failed romance in 1938, seems Jessica erased parts of her house that reminded her of bad parts of her life—a tennis court and a wing of her manse. Weird, huh?

The confirmation of what I experienced roars through my brain—I was there!

As the realization sinks in, I feel overwhelmed. I begin shaking and become suddenly weak. I need to sit down. I retreat to the love seat facing the fireplace.

Jessica’s huge eyes stare down at me from the portrait. They harbor the same dark surprise as when she looked up at me from the garden.

There’s a wine decanter on the coffee table. I fill a huge wine glass with Shiraz—down it and pour another. I continue trying to anesthetize my fears, filling and refilling my glass until the room begins to dim.

I stare at portrait before me. Two huge, black suns fill my sight, and just before they swallow me up, I realize they are Jessica’s eyes.

I awaken the following morning fully clothed and curled up on the love seat. My cell on the coffee table is vibrating and buzzing. I pick up to Stella’s bright voice.

“Good morning, Leon—hope you made coffee.”

“Stella… Where are you?”

“Outside your front door, Silly. Open up and let me in.”

I groan inwardly and force myself to roll off the love seat. I stumble out to the foyer.

A manicured red talon is hovering over the doorbell button as I swing open the door.

“Don’t ring that!” I plead.

“You look wasted,” she chides, an amused smirk on her face. “Really Leon, I thought you only allowed yourself an occasional glass of wine. I hope you haven’t reached your quota for the week. Friday’s coming, you know.”

I wince at the thought. The early morning sun is dazzling. I stand swaying in the entranceway waiting for the dizziness to subside.

She tsks tsks at the circles under my eyes.

“I can see I better make coffee,” she sighs, and starts toward the kitchen. She calls back over her shoulder, “By the way, where do you keep your aspirin?”

“There’s Tylenol in the cupboard above the coffee maker—Extra-strength.”

She comes back into the front room with the pill bottle and a glass of water.

“Here—let’s make it a double.”

I groan at the boozy allusion, but swallow the caplets dutifully while she surveys the empty wine bottles.

“Looks like you had a party. Was Maya over?”

I shake my head.

“You shouldn’t drink alone, Leon.”

“I wasn’t alone, I counter, managing a lop-sided grin.

She arches an eyebrow and I tilt the water tumbler in mock toast to Jessica’s portrait on the wall.

“Beautiful company,” she deadpans, “Too bad she’s dead.”

The words strike me and I actually reel under their force. Stella ‘s arm darts out and steadies me.

“Whoa! You better sit down, Lothario—you’re still hung over. I’ll get those coffees—and make sure yours is black.”

“Suits my mood,” I chirp after her.

In a few minutes she’s back and hands me a steaming mug while she sits down in the sofa chair opposite me.

I’m relieved. For a moment I pictured us together on the couch, she leaning in provocatively going over house plans—but then, on second thought, I realize she has an other plan. She’s sitting opposite me in a navy, pinstriped Edith Pena business suit, long legs seductively tilted to one side.

Of course, I stare.

“Did you get the sticky note I attached to the plans?” she asks demurely.

I nod. “Yeah, thanks—it’s certainly an intriguing footnote to the house’s history.”

“Thought you’d like it. You know me—always going the extra mile.”

I give her a brittle smile.

“Anyway, I was driving out this way to a closing and thought I’d drop by and let you know another fact I uncovered about your mystery lady.”

My eyes light up. “Go ahead—I’m dying to know.”

“Yeah, well that’s the operative word—Jessica died in this house. Her relator didn’t disclose that little fact. Do you want to pursue it?”

“Pursue it—what do you mean—sue?

“Of course, sue—he was supposed to disclose anything untoward—you’re entitled to seek compensation at least.”

I shake my head. “No—definitely not. No lawsuit. Her passing here only gives the house character.”

“Or provides a resident ghost,” she chuckles.

I sidestep her sarcasm.

“How did she die here—was it sudden?”

A sad smile crosses her face. “It was tragic. Jessica became a recluse—broke off contact with people and lived alone. She was dead a week before they found her.”

“Where did they find her?”

“In the garden apparently. She presumably suffered a heart attack or stroke. No foul play—she died of natural causes. A broken heart probably.”

Silence falls between us.

Stella, takes a cue from my sullen face. “Well, I should go.” she says in a voice barely audible.

She gets to her feet and heads to the door. I follow her out.

She pauses on the front stoop and says softly, “I hope I didn’t depress you, Leon—I just thought you should know.”

“No problem—it’s all good,” I smile reassuringly.

Stella can be compassionate.

On impulse, I lean in and give her a quick peck on the cheek. “And thanks for playing Nurse.”

“Just one of my many roles,” she smiles coyly. She walks slowly out to her car, hips swaying, aware my eyes are following her.

Admirable, I smile. She can still grab my attention even through the fog of a painful hangover.

I like Stella. I really do, but I’m interested in another woman.

 

By mid-afternoon my headache’s gone and I’m feeling much better. I resist the urge to have a glass of wine.

It’s weird this situation I’m in. I haven’t discussed my strange experience with anybody. Somehow it’s more romantic and magical when I keep it a secret—besides, who would I tell? Not Maya, and definitely not Elias—and as for Stella, well, she’s already made her position clear—the woman is dead.

The fact is, maybe this is not an experience to be shared—other than with Jessica herself. It has the privacy and intimacy of a dream—and you can’t invite spectators into your dreams.

Anyway, now that I know for sure the hidden wing of the house did exist, I’m also encouraged to believe my experience with Jessica was not a hallucination.

Since I seem to have found a portal that will let me go back and be with Jessica, I see no reason to wait. I’ll go back and see her today.

I hurriedly shower, shave and put on my navy suit and blue pin-striped shirt— I leave the collar unbuttoned so as not to look too formal—after all, it is a garden party.

Once I’m changed and ready to go, the tremors begin again, so I hastily drink a glass of Shiraz to steady my nerves and then head to the basement and the doorway to my dreams.

As before, I find the set of curving stone stairs and climb them to the unlocked door that opens into a book-lined study.

I enter the turret room—that lovely den with mullioned windows, a fireplace and a huge writing desk.

I hear the sounds of laughter and faint music from outside. Despite my apprehensions, I go and look out. My breath stops.

Once again, the world of the Thirties emerges before my eyes.

There’s a garden party on the back lawn—people sipping champagne and dressed in glamorous style. There are gleaming vintage cars parked in the circular driveway, and beyond, tennis courts in full use.

I can’t reconcile what I see with the world I know. I part the drapes to get a better view and as I do, a beautiful blonde woman glances up at the window and notices me.

It’s Jessica, holding a champagne flute in one hand and dressed in a sleek, pale blue gown that emphasizes her sylph-like figure. She stares up intently, seeming to draw the soul right out of me.

We stare, transfixed for several moments, and then she gestures for me to join her. It’s then I notice a door that leads to a small balcony and a set of concrete stairs that spiral down to the garden.

I descend the stairs as in a dream—floating down, feet not touching the stairs.

She’s waiting below and hands me a champagne flute. I admire her flawless skin and lustrous dark eyes.

“I don’t believe I know you,” she whispers. “Are you crashing my party?”

Her eyes are dancing with merriment and it’s infectious.

“I’m a jewel thief, I’m afraid. It’s dreadfully embarrassing to be caught this way.”

“Then you’re a second story man,” she giggles. “I think it’s romantic. You remind me of Valentino.”

I’m so close to her I’m drawn in by her gravity, the soft powdery scent of her perfume and her red glossy lips.

“Do you want to kiss me?”

My throat goes dry. I can only nod.

The next moment she’s in my arms, and so light, she’s almost weightless. I feel I’m not hugging a physical body so much as embracing a form. I look into her eyes as if gazing into an endless starry sky.

I’ve never been in the presence of anyone so beautiful.

“You have me at a disadvantage Mr. Valentino—I don’t know your name, but I’m sure you know mine.”

“It’s Leon—Leon Perkins.”

She frowns, and scrutinizes my face. “Hmm, you’re not an actor—or at least, anyone famous.” A look of concern crosses her features, “You’re not a realtor, are you?”

I burst out laughing. “Oh no, not a realtor. I’m a writer.”

“Oh well, that explains everything—your sensitive soul and your penetrating gaze.”

“Actually, I think that describes you more than me.”

“Then we must be soul mates,” she smiles.

“There is an undeniable affinity.”

“But I don’t understand Mr. Perkins—how did you elude my security?”

“Oh please, not Mr. Perkins—way too formal. Call me Leon—and the truth is, I didn’t elude your security guards—I live in this house.”

“Really?” she smirks, “and all this time I thought the name on the deed to this property was mine.”

“It is,” I explain, “but what I mean is… Look, the truth is, I’m from another time—the twenty first century actually. I bought the house and in the future it’s mine.”

“And just how far from the future did you come?” she asks teasingly.

“Seventy-eight years—I live in 2016 to be precise.”

Her face darkens. “I see. You’re serious aren’t you? How do I know you’re not a crackpot with a made-up story intending to stalk me? There was a dreadful bohemian man last month that did just that—insisted he had a Pooka guiding him. Why should I believe you?”

On impulse, I reach into my pocket and bring out my cell phone. Her eyes grow wide when she sees it.

I push the sleep/wake button and the screen lights up. With my index finger, I slide it to the right and the date and time appear.

Her eyes grow huge with horror and I watch in stupefied fascination as her face pixelates into tiny black tiles and slowly disappears.

 

Stella finds me the following morning in the garden—in precisely the same spot where Jessica died.

I’m dehydrated and incoherent—raving about a garden party and needing to go back.

I’m admitted to hospital and end up in the critical care section on intravenous while they run tests,

Everything seems out of whack—my blood sugar, heart rate, and my mental state.

It takes three days to stabilize me and return me to some state of coherence. The doctors are convinced my binge drinking triggered some heavy negative physical symptoms.

Elias drops by and sees me—that’s surprising. GP’s don’t even make hospital visits—and, on top of that, he’s amazingly supportive and understanding—compassionate even, which I didn’t expect and find hard to accept. But he is a shrink and can’t resist adding in his own two cents:

“You need someone less tempestuous, than Maya, Leon. You need some calm in your life.”

I smile politely. He means well.

But the truth is, my situation has already resolved. Maya disowned me—told me to only consider looking her up when I finally got my act together.

As for Stella—well, she’s willing to play Nurse, but I politely declined.

I have to admit the girl has heart.

This may all be subject to change. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? Right now I’m too damaged to be of use to anyone—myself included.

I really do need to find that eye in the center of the hurricane—that still-point in my crazily spinning life.

But it won’t be Maya, and as for Stella, I’m not interested in a career woman.

I guess you could say I’m still looking for enchantment.

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

Posted in short stories | Comments Off on the rose garden