Fresh Pages

Fresh Pages

A Chapter by Maeve Andrea

April faces the ghosts of the past, and David faces the monsters that Jesus cannot stave away


I wake alone on the couch to the sound of the kettle whistling. Sunlight weaves through the window straight to my eyes. I smell a slightly burned breakfast that has at least three forms of meat in it. For the first time, I notice a fire in the fireplace, having fallen asleep before it was lit and waking up after it burnt out. The heat kisses my skin, calming my heart. I stretch, taking a deep breath and nearly losing it. The sound of silence has so much going on, as if I’m here with hundreds of spirits.

I realize the Dramamine is still on the table, and I go to put it away. In my bag, I hit my notebook, still unused. The written word has always been my favorite form of communication, even before it was my chief form, yet this notebook has remained empty for years. I intended to fill it page to page, honor every line with words that lived up to the person who gave it to me. Instead, it lies in the bottom of my bag, traveling everywhere with me as an empty memento, reminding me that even as I recover, grow, and change, I cannot let go of everything, something I’ve resigned myself to accepting.

Still, I open it, trying to be brave, bigger than the mute little mouse that I’ve become.

I forgot how her handwriting looked, just as I’ve forgotten the sound of my own voice, but it hits me all at once. Every curlicue, every typed out onomatopoeia, every sentence ending in an exclamation mark, every word bursting with perfect joy from someone who to this day seems to have been assigned the fate I was meant for.

“Here’s a new journal! I know you like mellow colors and minimalism, so it was hard to find one that was perfect, but I think I nailed it! I better have, because this is the only one you’re getting! Eep! Whatever, it doesn’t matter what the outside looks like, because nothing will be as beautiful as the words on the inside! Keep writing, never stop, and drown the world in your beauty! It’s yours to conquer! I’d say more but I don’t want to waste journal space! You’ve always done better with words than me!

~Oodles of Love, Amie!”

I notice that I don’t cry, but I’m holding the notebook to my chest, pretending that it’s her. I try and imagine Amie in a decor store, covered head to toe in sloppy, colorful clothes with some unknown object jangling in her purse, trying to find something subtle enough for my tastes far way from the technicolor Lisa-Frankesque styles she preferred, frustratedly looking for something she knew I’d like and then trusting me to do whatever I wanted with it.

What I did with it was write nothing, say nothing, withhold my writing from it because the empty pages would be too tear-stained for me to write legibly on. Now here I am, holding it to my chest, strong enough to acknowledge it, tears withheld, but at a loss for words. Poetry fails me, and the beauty of the moment falls apart faster than I can put it together. Nothing I could write would honor her last gift to me.

But I have to write. I need to, or I might never put the ink to one of these pages.

So I start writing to you, because I don’t know what else I can say to Amie. It isn’t poetic, it isn’t beautiful, it barely sounds like it’s from me. It’s straightforward, blunt, precise, desperate, but says everything I need it to. I scribble it down in graceless writing and fold it up. It doesn’t even fill a page, but it’s nice not to mince words. I fold it, write “to Vi” on the top, and hold it.

I stare at it for a full minute, wondering if I should give it to you, hand on Amie's notebook, her final gift. I look at it for faith, for reassurance, for something to make sense, when I realize that I hid from it for years, afraid to face her memory, so caught up thinking you had underestimated me and seen me as too weak to face the challenges of life when I never gave myself the chance to face those fears.

I take the paper that has “to Vi” written on it, and throw it into the fire. The fire molds to it, turning it into ashes, commanding me to say what I need to say directly. I think of Amie, my best friend, my first love, the energy to my peace, the happiness to my misery, a temporary solution to permanent problems, the loss that prompted me to face many fears, only now the last of which is grief.

Compared to that, this is easy.

Now to wait.

More abandoned breakfast simmering. More fire crackling. More sunlight peeking in. More silence. The longer it lasts, the less it affects me, and the lower my blood pressure drops. The silence still sends a crawl up my spine but I manage, turning it into an endurance challenge, wondering where you and your father are, if you’re still out in the hammock waiting for me.

That’s when the voices grow louder, entirely muffled by the wall, but both with evident tone. His tone is pleading, desperate, clearly the louder of the two, and yours is angry, spiteful. I can’t decipher a single word yet I feel I know the entire conversation. I close my eyes, trying to block it out, trying to keep a distance, but all too involved. The voices end with a brief, quieter conversation, then I hear a door open. You walk out, paying no one any mind, and two seconds later another set of doors opens and closes as you exit into the garden. I hear your father beg “at least take a cup of coffee with you!” It's too late. Just like that, you’re gone off to parts unknown, leaving me with David.

He walks in, trying to hide his being distraught by serving up breakfast. I notice my coffee cup still has liquid in it, and the mug is warm to the touch, so I drink. It’s tar black and tar flavored, but at least it’s something to wake me up, so I stomach it, waiting for David to plop whatever he made onto the plate. He does- sausage, eggs, and bacon. No potatoes, no greens, just straight up meat.

“I go in late today,” he says, assuming I know his career. “So I thought I’d make some breakfast. I’d hoped it’d be a complete family affair, but…” He sighs, thinking his words over, giving me time to eat some food. Like before, it tastes pretty good, especially considering the school standards I judge it by. He looks at me, and I force a smile. His face drops, wiser than I gave him credit for.

“I sincerely apologize if we woke you up,” he says. “I’d hoped any strife we had wouldn’t spill over, but nothing can be perfect. Regardless, I hope this breakfast is a decent mea culpa.”

I nod, taking a bite, trying to avoid imagining what the conversation between you and your father consisted of to make you so angry, and if it compounded the anger between us already.

A few awkward seconds pass before he speaks again. “I’m not sure how much she…” He swallows, measuring every word in a way even my tenure as a poet never amounted to. “How much she shared with you.” I close my eyes, because I’m not sure either. He continues. “I’d imagine you have a long enough history together for stories like this to grow organically.”

I shake my head in response, eyes still sewn shut. I hear him set his fork down, and after a second of presumed swallowing, he says “It’s not my place. And I’m not sure what to tell you. I still have yet to decipher..." he gulps, as if he knows he's on the wrong side of history and is clawing against everything to find the way out. "How I feel about everything. But I do want to say…”

Silent again, but even if I could speak, I don’t know what I’d say. I open my eyes, but now he’s closed his, not looking at me, head near folded hands, as if in prayer. My scarf chafes against my neck as he lets seconds go by before he finally breaks the silence.

“I don’t know if I understand,” he begins. “And I am trying, I swear. I wasn’t born into the faith… I found it after I lost...her.” The way he says her, just that word, as if saying the name to this day will still make him cry, shakes me to the core even though I dig my nails into my legs to appear unaffected. “For the longest time, I fell into it out of necessity. To stay on my two feet. Now, here I am, two and a half decades later, seeing the same powerful wounds on my daughter, not sure how I can reconcile what healed me with the need to heal her.”

I say nothing, silently daring him to continue, to break my heart, to lower my expectations.

“I only now realize,” he begins, stopping me before I can take another bite of egg. “I realize that you are to Violet the same comfort that Christ was to me.” He interrupts himself, embarrassed, likely because of my saucer-dish eyes questioning his sanity. “I don’t mean to scare you and claim you’re her God, I just mean… she cares. She does. And you’re helping her get over something that I will never forgive myself for letting happen, something I wish I could understand the pain of, to take from her. I never can, and I… didn’t know how to handle it. Not even God could answer me. Now, I think I know.”

The food can go cold, for all I care, because everything depends on what he says here. It’s make or break, and all I can do is hope for the best.

He doesn’t waste any time. “All I know I can say is that the fact that she feels safe around you, that she can trust you, despite it all. That, to me, is something sacred.”  He finishes his coffee, ending his statement very near tears. “And I don't know if I have anything else to say.”

I don't think he needed to say anything else. I try and wipe my tears before he sees them, my defenses stripped layer by layer like an onion, leaving me tearful, confused, yet strangely okay. I just nod, and he smiles. I take the last bite that I desire out of my breakfast and prepare to leave. I look back, and see him there, looking both relieved and terrified. I wonder if I'm the first human being he's trusted in decades, just as I've been the first you've trusted after your own defenses were torn down.

I don't know if Jesus is more than a literary hero, but when they say he helped the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the mute to speak, I believe it with all of my heart. I just don't believe he can bring the dead back to life. Nothing is more permanent than death, and we can only hope our actions can adapt to its permanence.

I'm unsure of what to do, so I walk to him and reach for his hand. He extends it to me, curious, the lines on his face telling a million stories. I take his with both of mine and smile, if only to somehow communicate that this was never a role I wouldn't take seriously. Tears race down his face, getting lost in the wrinkles only five decades of hardships could produce. I let go and walk out of the room, leaving him to his own fate.

I walk into the bathroom, assessing myself again. I don't look any different. In fact, I still look a mess from sleeping in my clothes straight through the night for twelve hours or so. My hair is a static-ravaged mess, and my eyes glisten with undropped tears. My scarf has become a part of my skin, and my clothes beg for change. I am small in build, and my metabolism has left me as thin as stained glass. I don't know if I could ever experience points lower than I have even if I were to surrender to every dusty crow in this town. I am startling, I am flawed, but I am beautiful, because I know.

I know now that even if I have been selfish or short-sighted, I am necessary. I know that even if I look tired, haggard, or fragile, I am strong. I know that even if in my past I didn't know what I had until it was gone, I have what I need now. I know that even as I have rendered myself mute, I have never been able to communicate better. I know that even though I've hurt myself before, ready to throw myself off of a bridge to succumb to the mysterious murder that followed me wherever I went, that I am loved, not just by others, but by myself, because I am still alive. For that, I am beautiful, a restored masterpiece. I have nothing to prove, and everything to give.

I slowly take off my scarf, and it sticks to my skin for the briefest of moments. I brace myself to see it, to face it, even as it is a part of me. I remove it and set it on the counter, wound into itself. The scar on my neck looks back at me, from a time where my final poem was jagged, heavy handed, ugly, and unrefined. I hated the fact that I failed, never realizing until later that this second chance saved me. My final poem, whenever it may be written, will be beautiful, learned every day and formed from the words I never said.

I face myself, eye to eye, and nod, happy with myself.

© 2018 Maeve Andrea

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Added on June 5, 2018
Last Updated on June 5, 2018
Tags: Christian, awake, depression, death, religion, romance, pain, devastation, journal, scarf, scar, silence, breakfast


Maeve Andrea
Maeve Andrea

Delhi, Delhi, India

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