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
The moon was slowly rising over the poster board horizon—its waxing gibbous a face turned away from their party. Amy wiggled her toes in the cool sand. Justine leaned in close.
“This has all been so…re-enchanting.”
She dimpled and Amy realized just how strongly Alice resembled her grandmother. She returned Justine’s smile. She knew the poem her friend referred to. It was Maureen Doallas’s To Be Re-enchanted is Uneasy. She gave her the favorite verse.
“I would as soon die as miss
morning coming up, the swelling round
of cloud before lightbursts, the press
of stars to complete a night’s worth of sky
for clearing dreams…”
Justine leaned back in her chair and looked up at the midnight blue.
“The press of stars to complete a night’s worth of sky…Oh, that’s nice.”
She sighed deep.
“Oh but I fear I will have to miss morning coming up. I will settle for these stars pressing in and ready for the dreamland. Oliver, will you help me to bed? This has been such a wonderful evening. I don’t want to spoil it by staying up too late. I am tired. Such a good tired, though.”
They had pulled the chairs up to the firepit and Oliver and Alice were cuddled in the glider–Oliver’s arms making a warm nest for his girl. Though spring had announced her arrival by way of bloom on nearby hills, the evenings were still cool and the clear sky lent a nip to the air. Amy was thankful for her sweater and drew a bit closer to the fire as the others began to stir.
“Alice, you should be getting ready for bed too, sweetheart.”
Oliver disentangled himself from the gangly arms of a ten year old.
“But, dad! I’m not tired! Let me stay up a little bit longer, please?”
Oliver looked at a loss, so Amy attempted a rescue.
“I should be going too. Alice, it is getting late. Maybe you should listen to your dad.”
Alice’s lip curled.
“May I stay up just long enough for you to get Gram settled, Dad? Amy can keep me company, can’t you?”
She turned those blue eyes on Amy and resistance was futile.
“Sure, I can. But as soon as your dad gets back…I have to go, ok?”
“Oh, all right.”
Amy bent to give Justine a goodnight hug. She was surprised to have a papery kiss planted on her cheek.
“Thank you, Amelia.” There were tears in the old woman’s eyes. “I couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening.”
As Oliver wheeled her away, Amy nestled into the glider beside Alice. The girl leaned into Amy and she wrapped arms around the skinny frame. They rocked back and forth, quiet—watching the fire die down and listening to its soft burn. Amy could feel Alice giving in to sleep, felt the small body relax in her arms. She buried her face in the girl’s hair and felt her heart leap. Alice smelled like sunscreen and grape popsicle and the scent of her was causing Amy’s heart to break.
“This has been the best night,” Alice murmured.
“Yes,” Amy said, staring into the fire. “It has.”
“Like having a real family.”
Amy hugged her tighter—felt the pain of those few words and they rocked steady. They were one and she knew the precise moment that sleep came because Alice’s breathing slowed and the girl’s body rested heavy against her own.
“Is she asleep?”
Oliver sat in the lawn chair beside the glider and held his hands to the fire.
“I think so. Only just.”
“Maybe you should sit a little bit. Just to make sure she is in a good deep sleep before I carry her up.”
Something about his smile made Amy blush. She was thankful for the settling dark.
“Thank you for inviting me tonight. It was…really nice.”
“I couldn’t not invite you. It was your idea, after all.”
“This?” She gestured around the garden. “This wasn’t my idea! How in the world did you do it all?”
He grinned wider, poked the fire with one of the sticks they had used to roast the marshmallows earlier.
“Justine still has a lot of friends in the construction business, you know. That was what George did. Owned a huge construction company. The guys who bought it from her after he died were with him forever. They are crazy about Justine. Would do anything for her. So, I just…made a few phone calls.”
“Well, it’s amazing. I’m re-enchanted too.”
He looked away.
“Thank you for everything you do, Amy. Alice is just crazy about you and Justine…I’ve seen new hope in her these past weeks.”
“All I do is give her poetry.”
“And that means everything. All the poetry has been gone from her life for a long time.”
He looked up and into Amy’s eyes.
“And from mine too.”
Something inside of her felt like it would break if he kept looking at her like that and fear came calling. The Watchers can never resist the call of fear.
But Oliver’s next words put the stopper on the voices of her old enemies and sent Amy’s heart spinning.
To be continued…
Story by Laura Boggess. Reprinted with permission.
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