Our writing group meets occasionally. It’s not nearly enough. Today we met to eat and catch up and laugh and revel in one another’s company surrounded by Christmas cheer. And we wrote. It was a joy. Thank you, Diane, Sandy, Dorothea, and Crystal. And always in our hearts, if not present – Niki, Sheila, and Annette.
Today we grabbed some chapter titles out of several books on the shelves surrounding us for our story starters. Five words trickled off the pages to be used as we wrote. You can see them following my story.
“Never keep the fork in the left hand while drinking water.”
Looking down through her wing-tipped glasses, past her long pointed nose, and across the table, she bullseyed onto my left hand and repeated, “Never keep the fork in the left hand while drinking water.”
Then she returned to pick up her fork with a dainty bit of Christmas pudding placed every so politely at the tip and raised it up to her pursed lips, only to pause as they unlocked to allow the sweet to disappear.
I felt a sharp jab at my knee under the table as Connery whispered into my ear, “Stop staring.” The jab hit just right to cause enough pain to startle me. I dropped my fork and water glass onto the white dessert plate rimmed in gold and trimmed with playful green holly leaves and three teeny tiny pricks of red.
The quiet was deafening as everyone froze to stare at me. Again. Shards flew everywhere. There was a gasp out of the old lady’s locked lips, a sigh, a roll of the eyes ending with an excruciating “Humph!” while her boney long fingers settled not so delicately into her lap.
I stood. Short curtsied. And excused myself before the tears in my eyes sealed off my exit.
Instead of running upstairs and barricading myself into my room for the rest of Christmas Day, like I always do, because “God only knows what she will do next!” had become the expectation, I turned right instead of left. My quick step turned into a full out run as I made my way down the long hallway past the ornate mirrors and around the center table with lion’s claw feet balancing a Christmas tree that reached higher than my apartment ceiling. I continued across the Persian runners to the door hung heavy with evergreen boughs and chartreuse bows and gold and silver balls larger than my head. It was her kingdom. She ran it well.
Charles was not there to open the doors for me. It didn’t matter. With all my might I pulled the double doors open and ran down the icy steps across the newly snow covered drive and into the woods that lined the road into my grandmother’s estate.
I wouldn’t be missed. Everyone could now relax without me there to cause more damage. Peace would quickly descend with my exit leaving only the whistling breathing of the grand dame rising above the stilted tea sipping and gazing out the window into the crystal white jungle where freedom called everyone, most too afraid to answer. Inheritances have power, even more than howl of the wolf or the glow of the full moon or the sea blown wind as they beckoned to the souls encased behind glass and bricks and wrapped in velvet. Some ignored it completely. Others wished. I answered.
Once hidden within the trees, I stopped to look back. I touched the necklace that hung around my neck to be sure it was safe. It was a habit I formed when I first received this lucky charm. Ignoring the cold and wet snow seeping into my required lace covered slippers, my first thought was to wonder how much it cost the old woman to pay the window washers to keep all those windows clean.
They were always spotless, clear and crystalline. One of my earliest memories of summer visits at the estate were of window washers arriving early morning as the sun rose after an evening storm. It didn’t matter that an afternoon squall would again throw its tears against those rectangular eyes hoping someone would notice. No, the window washers would just stop where they were to return the next day. Not to pick up from where they left off, but at the beginning, the windows the old woman used.
I enjoyed watching them. They would laugh and joke and sing. Something seldom heard in this house. I looked forward to the thunderstorms, not only because I liked to stand on the veranda and let the rain pour over me. But I knew I would soon be in the presence of joy.
Once a window broke accidentally as they were going about their regular post-rain duty and glass shattered into the library where the old lady and I were reading.
The window washers were immediately dismissed and told to never return. She had some cruel words for them. They had put up with so much from her for so long I wondered why they ever returned at all.
I stood back holding my breath as the old lady scolded them. One of them noticed and winked as if it was all in a days work. I think he was glad to be released from the prison.
I slipped away as they were packing up their tools. She would never miss me. I was never missed, only tolerated when I was noticed. So I needn’t worry about being caught talking to the freed criminals.
“I am sorry I won’t see you again.”
The one who winked at me smiled, and held out his hand. “Open your hand and promise me to always be yourself?”
His words confused me, but I obliged.
I extended my hand, palm open, “I promise.”
He dropped a small crystal into my hand.
“It’s a glass goose. I wash windows for my father. But at night I spin glass for me.”
“Hurry up!!!” called his partner now in the drivers seat gunning the engine. “Let’s get out of here. Good-by and good riddance.”
“Promise?” He winked again and I noticed that he had one green eye and one blue eye.
“Promise.” I smiled and closed my fingers around the goose and brought it to my heart. My other grandma always told me that when I got something I loved to place it next to my heart and breath in deeply so our heartbeats would become one.
As I looked through the boughs draped with snow into the lighted windows, I reached to my heart where the crystal goose hung on a silver chair around my neck.