Says Laura Boggess:
I started this little story as I waited for Maureen Doallas’s Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems. I had been so looking forward to the release of the book, had ordered it the second I heard it was available–and then was frustrated by what seemed like a terribly long delivery (it was only a few days, but felt much longer). It was very windy that week–I watched religiously for the mailman each day amidst flying little bits of this world–leaves, papers, my neighbor’s flag. As I waited, I entertained myself with the story of Amy Pinkleberry–a young divorcee who struggles with depression. Amy’s depression is characterized by auditory hallucinations–destructive voices that prevent her from finding the happiness she so longs for. Only one thing stops the voices and that is…well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs
She hadn’t meant to stay so long.
Every day this week it was the same: two poems a day and Justine asleep in half an hour. Amy obediently sat beside the sleeping woman for two and a half more hours…just in case. Alice was “in the library” having her lessons. Amy never saw the girl—until today.
Justine had only wanted one poem today. Amy read A Mother-To-Be in Waiting.
In the space between
and the coming
there is moonlight
given to morning
to give light
to give life
to give love
After the reading both women were affected. Amy was left wondering if this is what it is like to hold a child of one’s own—is it holding moonlight in your arms? The ache in her womb and her empty arms throbbed. Justine turned her face away and grew silent.
The old woman turned doleful eyes back to Amy.
“I’m sorry, Amelia. Those last lines…to give light/to give life/to give love…they make me miss my daughter.”
“You have a daughter? “
“Yes, dear. Alice’s mother is my daughter.”
“I have not seen Marylynne for eight years.”
“Eight years is a long time. That must be…just terrible. I’m sorry.”
“Yes. It is. It’s not knowing where she is…is she still alive even? I’ve tried to find her—hired detectives. She does not want to be found. Or she is dead. This would not surprise me, given her lifestyle. Either way, she’s been dead to me for eight years now.”
Amy didn’t know what to say. The two women looked at each other in silence. Justine seemed so small. Amy could see the sorrow in the corners of the old woman’s eyes—threatening to spill over. Without thinking she reached out and covered a withered hand with her own. Justine squeezed her fingers and the tears did spill then.
“You give me such a gift, Amelia. Thank you.”
Just then, Alice peeked through one of the doorways hugging the circular room.
She skipped into the room.
Two sets of eyes followed her.
They asked it simultaneously.
“Mrs. Lemasters has an appointment. So my studies have been cut short today. She’s already given me my assignments! That means I can join the two of you for lunch!”
Oh, this child was beautiful and Amy was bewitched by those dimples.
Justine looked horrified.
“I forgot that I promised you lunch, Amelia. The poetry has given me such sweet sleep…it slipped my mind completely.”
“Please don’t worry about it. I usually don’t eat lunch anyway.”
Justine eyed her critically.
“No wonder you are so thin. Alice, your father made some of his creamy tomato soup a couple days ago. There are some cold cuts in the fridge. Will you be a dear and put us together a tray?”
The girl was thrilled. She disappeared into the galley. Amy watched the door swing behind her.
“Just…let me help.”
She followed Alice into the kitchen. She found her carefully ladling soup from a tureen into three bowls. She dimpled again at Amy’s presence.
“Dad won’t let me use the stove when he’s not home, but I’m a pro with the microwave!”
Amy opened the refrigerator door, found some ham and turkey in the bottom drawer and placed them on the tray sitting on the counter.
“The bread is over there.”
Together, they created a lovely little lunch, complete with iced tea topped with mint. Amy was impressed with Alice’s skill in the kitchen. Certainly not hazardous duty, she smiled at the thought. Maureen Doallas’s poetry made for a good aperitif.
When the two returned to Justine, however, they found her sleeping.
“Let’s eat in the garden, then. Shall we?”
Amy followed Alice’s bobbing form through yet another door, into a solarium of sorts. There was lush greenery in the center—miniature palms and Elephant’s Ear, and tropical-looking plants that lent a feel of holiday to the room. She followed Alice through sliding glass doors and into beauty.
It was a mild day for early March—the blustery wind and snow flurries of the previous week blown on to far places. The sun lit the cloudless sky like stained glass and the promise of spring was in the air. The garden was rather bare, only the crocuses brave enough to show themselves this early in the season. But Amy was taken with the hedging—the neat rows of boxwood framed them competently, lending a feel of order that Amy sorely lacked these days.
“Alice, this is beautiful!”
The girl grinned.
“Dad is teaching me about gardening. My mother used to take care of the flowers. And then Gram. But now, she’s too sick, so it’s up to me. I’m in charge this year.”
Amy searched the child’s face for any sadness at the mention of her mother. But Alice seemed quite content. She sat the tray down on a table that was strategically positioned in the shade of a small tree. The perfect hostess, she set the plates out with silverware and gestured for Amy to sit.
“Would you like to say the blessing?”
“Why don’t you, Alice? You are the host, after all.”
The child folder her hands in her lap and bowed her head.
“Thank you for this food, Lord. And thank you for sending Amy. Amen.”
Alice attacked her plate with gusto. Amy was surprised at how eager she was for a bite too—something in the crisp air piqued her hunger. The soup was delicious—the perfect blend of cream, tomato, and basil. And she wondered about this Oliver—this gourmet/gardener/banker/single father who cared for the mother of his disappeared wife. She surveyed Alice under her lashes.
“How old are you, Alice?”
“I will be eleven in four months time.”
Ten years old. Alice was only two when her mother left her. Amy studied the little girl in front of her.
“Daddy says he has a big surprise for me for my birthday. I was hoping he would get me a new bike. But he won’t tell. Usually, he gives it away before hand. Dad is terrible about keeping secrets! I think he almost likes to give it away…”
Amy let Alice prattle, enjoying the easy sound of her talk. They split the extra bowl of soup—the one warmed for Justine. Afterwards, Justine was still sleeping so they cleaned up together.
All the way home, Amy smiled. As she checked her mailbox before heading back inside, a realization popped.
She hadn’t heard a thing from the Watchers all week.
To be continued…
Story by Laura Boggess. Reprinted with permission.
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