*The first of many such NaNoWriMo posts to come. Here are two bits – the whole prologue (I think) and a tidbit from part IV.
It’s a perfect day.
I enter the way I always do – by the front gate. The front is always best. Confidence is key; you walk with confidence, and no one stops you. Keep your face somber but slightly agitated – something on your mind – but resolute so no one will slow you down. Clint Eastwood, if you will – but going shopping, not standing someone down in the dust.
I like Clint Eastwood. Like his purposefulness, his clean lines. He’s rough enough – like a cropping of sandstone – but there’s pure steel underneath. Well, at least corundum. You know what I mean – a core that won’t quit, won’t melt at low temp.
Something worth harvesting.
She’s like that, I think. Yes – that might be what keeps me coming back. Her core. The steel in Mel – she’s got steel in her. Starsteel. Meteorite. Real raw stuff, but so hard. So tough.
The problem with hard stuff is that it’s brittle too. Mustn’t forget that. The oak tree topples in the wind – tumbles down – uproots, spilling dirt all around – crashed in a glory of death. So glorious! Ah! What a death! And the other trees must be so jealous!
Meanwhile, Mr. Reed over there is a-bendin’ and a-wavin’, hardly missing a beat. And there are so many reeds – ooh!, or bamboo! One shoot is never alone – it’s for the common good!
But I digress.
Hard and brittle. That’s Mel. She’s… like volcanic glass – obsidian. Pure ebony and oh so sharp. Sharp enough to cut through to the truth. I know it.
If she’s sharp enough to cut me, she can cut anything.
But I digress. I’m sorry – I mustn’t spend too much time rambling. She’s waiting, you see.
So I enter through the front, coat flapping in the breeze of the central air. Too hot. Cold is better. You can always put on more clothes. I hate to see Mel sweat so much.
Up the stairs, up the elevator, up the lobby, up the walls – it’s all up here. On the up and up, she is. Upside down. Upsides to every situation. Up ‘til now.
Her room is the same as ever
–(oh and the orderlies all look at me like I’m some rich white snob oh and if only they knew oh how rich and oh how snobbish and oh how very very white we all are on the inside – or is it red? – I always forget and oh if they knew and oh I will tell them and oh they won’t like it one bit)—
white and creamy and more dead than me.
But Mel… Mel is so…
Alive. Oh my goodness yes I can feel it coming off her skin like an oven. God! She’s an oven of life! Am I a sexist, too? My metaphors used to be so much better than this. Back in Sandyhome my metaphors were top of the line – top of my game – top of the marnin’ to ya, widda O’Brien – top, on top, on top, never on the bottom—
I’ve got to keep her on top.
No answer. No change. No pool, no pets.
“Mel, it’s me. Who did you think it was?
Well, bother you. Good morning anyway.
Yeah, yeah – bother good mornings. Bother it all. Nice state of mind to be in, Miss Sassypants.
Oh, I’m fine. You?
That’s splendid! Really, really it is. Do you think you’ll want something fresh? I brought some peaches – they’re not ripe, but they’re fuzzy and smell like heaven – and some sliced apples.
Of course granny smith! I know my lady’s apple preference, thank you very much.
No I didn’t capitalize her name when I said it.
Well, a gentleman must be consistent, if nothing else.
Well, that hurt Mel. I’m hurt.
We pause. She’s a firecracker, that Mel. So fiery – “my candle burns at both ends…” – so bright, she lights up everything. I wonder if the orderlies see that? Or the nurses? I wonder if they are drawn, too? Like me?
I wonder if I’m her friend or her foe. Both? That’s a sad thought.
It’s good today. So good. She’s so full of spice and everything nice and we’re bouncing off of each other like we always did—
Do. Do. Do. D. O.
“So I was thinking.
No, I didn’t hurt myself.
Any more? You sure? That’s what I—
No, no, go ahead. Get it out of your system.
Well, I was thinking… that maybe next Sunday we could go to Fenario’s. Tea? Biscuits? Your kind of thing, I think.
It’s a date then!
I know, I know. I kid. It’s an engagement.
I’ll make an honest woman of you yet, Melanie Anne Norton. Don’t think I won’t!
Well, yes. It is that time I suppose.
I’d like to stay longer—
You’re right. As always.
Well, take care. It was good to see you!
Yes – please do. I’ll be in the office all day.
Ha! Like I’ve nothing better to do?
You’re right. I don’t. Thank you – my self-esteem appreciated that.
Well, so long. Take care, dear.”
He paused at the door, turning back toward her. She sat upright, blankets covering her from the waist down, auburn hair covering her face in a fuzzy sunlit halo. A nimbus of fire captured in silk. He smiled without knowing it, but it didn’t reach his eyes – pale, grey eyes that seemed to focus on nothing. Just as unconsciously as he smiled, he sighed and, turning sharply on the frame, walked down the hallway.
It always hurt to see her like this. Still, one must do what one must do – and Gabriel was intimately familiar with starting over.
Gabriel walked out the same way he came in – black coat flapping, shoes clipping mutedly along the polished floors of Sandyhome. He thought it was a pity – a kind of sad irony. This is where he’d thought to start it all over again. And it was here that he found himself once more – position reversed, here we go all over again. And again. And again.
As he passed from out the stifling lobby – past the orderlies who paid him no mind this time; past the overweight clerk at the front desk (he was white – god, what a tub of lard; no, not lard, mayonnaise; no, margarine), past the neon hum of the vending machines (all out of Skittles), and through the mechanized revolving door. With the first step onto the sidewalk, Gabriel felt the bite of the January wind shear through the wool of the coat, cutting underneath the flaps and nipping at his flesh. Winter. Snow, half-melted, lay in dying clumps around the cars and bushes and ragged crumbling sidewalks. So different from the Sandyhome he remembered. So different.
He would have to try again. This time, perhaps they could begin without the running, without the hiding. Hiding hadn’t worked – it had only gummed things up. Running hadn’t worked; Mel took his movement as deception. Gabriel had hurt her, yes; sometimes necessarily, sometimes less so. He’d used her, he’d tricked her, he’d even forced her to—
Lying was the one thing he never did to Mel.
As Gabriel turned around, his eyes slid across the leaden sky and fastened on a window. On the white hand pressed against the glass. On the faint silhouette obscured by the distance and the aged, warped glass.
“Soon, Mel. Soon I’ll have you good as new.”
Gabriel walked down the sidewalk and onto the asphalt. His fifth step echoed quietly across the sparse, black lot – but his sixth and seventh footsteps seemed to ring like church bells.
Then, he was gone.