Whispers From England — A Short Story

Pre-dawn and cold, I come before her — Kanzeon, Goddess of Compassion, sculpted with the oils and energy of my hands — light a candle, settle into my posture and sit in meditation, the sane part of my day. As I rise and bow, I feel the balance which eluded me for so long. I pull on layers of clothes, my coffee steaming in a friendly way. My boots sit alone in the mud room. The rain of Saturday has frozen on top of the snow. Even the sea grasses are imprisoned in hard stretches of ice. As the sun rises, I try to chip a narrow path to the truck with an old hoe but give up any hope of reaching town today. The sassafras branches strain and then snap, the pieces scattering like cat’s eyes in a marble game. The old pines in back are stronger and more naturally sloped to bear the weight of storms, reminding me of shoulders used to toil and harshness.

 Kira pads softly after me and rests her head on the edge of the bathtub as I sink into the hot water and watch the submerged part of my body slowly turn pink. I gaze at the silvery stretch marks low on my belly that were to bring only joy. His cry, urgent and strangled, comes through the walls and I see the three of us crouched over his tiny coffin. Sara wore grape lipstick that day, her slender face so pale. She was nearly fifteen then, her eyes constantly searching my face for answers. I tried to be those shoulders for her. I used to wake from dreams of him at my breast, pulling at something deep inside of me where, for that instant before my sleep crumbled around me, I lived in a sand castle. The sea of reality has dissolved all of that. There are no instants left.

The stone fireplace never did draw well. At my feet, Kira intently watches me shell peanuts. One for her, two for me, two for her, one for me. It seems important to share equally with her. My hair dries slowly in the spaces of silence, some broken by the splitting and crackling of the fire, others expanding in the coolness at my back. I light a cigarette — the first of the day. Yesterday, only two. Henry would find it ironic. Did I continue to smoke while we were together only to defy him. Passive-aggression was the only way to be heard. The screaming inside me always covered with a smile or a blank stare.

We looked the perfect couple. I remember a businessman stopping us after a flight to St. Croix to comment on what a beautiful family we were. Pristine beaches which we wouldn’t walk on. Henry didn’t like the feel of sand on his skin. We ate local seafood and drank mai-tais, Sara swam in the pool while we watched her, in a tropical-flowered bikini, her slight body beginning to mature. She was proud and embarrassed at the same time. I was overjoyed and then saddened when I realized I had become pregnant on that trip. A new life — a sibling for Sara — a deeper bond with Henry, more to extricate myself from.

We met on a dating website for the disabled, a lifeline for those who found it physically hard to socialize. He was afflicted with MS, I with ME/CFS. A perfect match. Our initial bond was bone-deep, ever-present fatigue and the isolation that is inherent. We emailed each other from August until December, my days began and ended with his messages. They were skillfully composed and ranged from outrageous humor to the soft suggestions that he was beginning to care for me. He collected fancy bonnet or hood ornaments and one was named Alana by the manufacturer, also my name. She was a bronzed and naked woman reaching lithely into the sky, also called by the manufacturer the Lady of Ecstasy. That became my name, Alana, Lady of Ecstasy. Many emails began with Oh, L of E.

[To be Continued]