Those Things Still Here

Submitted into Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a rainy day spent indoors.... view prompt



The front door was closed over the screen door. The windows were shut and someone had habitually locked them. The missing drape on the picture window was conspicuous since its twin had been drawn across the streaked pane. A shaft of dreary illumination struck a path across the old carpet which stretched from the front door halfway into the kitchen and had chunks of burgundy fluff missing in an irregular pattern, making it resemble an unhealthy feline. A feline of that description, the master of the crime, sat straight up on the top of the round-backed sofa chair, situated by the electric fireplace, and was fixing me with its mysterious yellow stare.

Its name was Vselennaya, a Russian word, the meaning of which is "the universe". Once it had been the universe to some stupid kid.

The ceiling was white. There were not many ceilings painted otherwise. This one affected distinction with upraised swirls created by a circular paintbrush twisted counterclockwise and clockwise while the paint was still wet and with pain to the neck. Someone small had pleaded for their container of glitter to be a part of the painting project. The glitter had been mixed with the paint. The tiny gleams shone at times in the dim light depending on where your head lolled.

The couch was spread with a sheet; if crumbs are spilled just gather up the sheet and shake it outside. Voilà! Having a kid is easy. Clever solution. Old problem.

That kid is grown up. That mom is dead.

I came to this long after all that. All I have to do is rid myself of the unpleasant smell of memories that cling to every object and piece of furniture. Those people went through the changing days, and that kid has to deal with the rest of their life. Not me.

I ignore the ghosts shifting from room to room, inhabiting their old domain, reliving their old habits, enchained to their consistent past life. I see the rain through the uncovered panes of glass, locked away. The rain cannot reach out and touch me with its cold fingers because I have barricaded myself in this house. The rain and I are separate; I will stay inside where I do not feel the cold and the wet.

People think they have to live out there. Well, that's fine if you like it, but I think I'll cozy up to the electric fireplace with a book.

When you can't take a step outside for fear of the rain, a book is the perfect solution. New problem. Younger woman.

Sometimes I open a book and instead of pages there are mirrors. I set those books gently aside. Despite the story of Alice Through the Looking Glass, you can't escape inside of a mirror.

When I begin a new book, I bring it to my nose and inhale the special scent of the pages. Whenever I smell that scent again I will be reminded of the adventure I took. I read the author's autobiography and chuckle at the praise he gives himself. I look at the color of the book without its jacket and imagine it on the shelf, thinking, "This is really how it is". I wonder at the dedication, feeling the love stretch out from each of the words, trying to reach someone. Will they read it? What if they never did? What if the person you loved most in the world never saw what you accomplished, what you became?

If there are chapter titles I skip them. I want to be surprised.

I set my sights on the first page, the first word, and I think, "Here I go". I take a deep breath and one last look at my feet on the ground, because I am human, and walk up the gangplank and onto the ship.

Ships are always going somewhere, always taking someone places. I want to be an eternal sailor, blowing with the wind from one fantastic place to the next, seeing as much as I can see, never finding home.

The children in Peter and Wendy escape from the responsibilities of their home in a place called Neverland. The name rings like a crystal bell in my head. There's so many things I need Never for. They don't have to come back. I never read the part where they do. What if no one's there when you return? What if the window is closed and the bed is empty and the stove is cold and the pill bottles stand staring at you on the bathroom sink?

If you say Mommy's name, no one answers. There's no one named Mommy living here.

In Neverland your mother is Wendy and she never grows up. Peter and Wendy, John and Michael, the Lost Boys and Tigerlily...never die no matter how many times I read it. They are there every time I want to see them.

I dive into a Nancy Drew mystery which keeps the gears in my head turning as she and I unravel the mystery. I am kept on my toes with the extensive universe of the Discworld and laugh out loud at its nutty jokes. I follow Betsy from lively party with a new crush to peaceful picnic with her oldest friends. I am amused at the social criticisms of Northanger Abbey and charmed by the romance. I brood over the gloomy and tense atmosphere of Rebecca, pitying and befriending poor Mrs. De Winter.

I don't think for a moment that my head is a cage. I haven't thought that for a long time.

In The Scapegoat, I feel like I'm falling into the pages, setting my actual feet into the world that John trespasses into, seeing the people as if they were there in front of me. In the depiction of extraordinary circumstances, there's an unexpected realism. I am awash with it and the depth of humanity made possible by the baffling talent of Daphne du Maurier.

I board a real ship with Davy Balfour and admire his endurance, bravery, and his increasing maturity through his exploits with Alan to his turbulent relationship with the young Catriona, especially his manly restraint and respect towards her.

I open the pages of A Room with a View, and a hunger I didn't know I had is sated, my head dizzy with the enriching poetry.

I close my eyes and speak softly Jane's words of unbending conviction to Mr. Rochester, over and over again so I'll never forget them.

The cat keeps its distance. The rain still patters on. What color is the carpet? How was the ceiling painted? Hours pass and the cover of another book is examined, the dedication touching me with the love expressed in such simplicity, the scent of the pages made into a memory. I begin The Last Bookaneer.

From the first words—a quote by Francis Bacon—I am led by a warm, friendly hand into a familiar place: the world of books and book lovers. It is a book within a book, like a dream within a dream.

This is where I'll stay. The world I knew is distant now, merely scraps and pieces.

The ghostly figure of that very, very young girl settles down at my feet, her pale cheek touching my foot. She whispers...whispers... Words drift on the slight breezes past my ear. I let her stay and I listen to her voice this time, for she is thinking the same things as I.

My mommy shared these books with me... She gave me her love of books... She was proud of me when I read... She was the best mommy ever...

...I'm going to stay right here where I can see her.

March 23, 2020 19:16

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