Torches belch out black smoke trails that mingle with KFC chicken smells wafting skyward on the other side of the fence. Exhaust is a heavy commodity as well, if you concentrate too much.
The midnight sky is only slightly deeper than the purple hue that has stained her lips from glass after glass of red wine. Pinot Noir, or perhaps Zinfandel. Whatever the varietal, bottle two is clearly almost empty.
Car sounds are muffled by the stereo sending out smooth Grover Washington Jr. saxophone riffs… Just the two us, we can make it if we try – Just the two us, building castles in the sky…Just the two us, you and I.
Her voice mingles with his. The volume is low, but an occasional laugh rises into the night sky on a soft breeze. If any of the neighbors are still awake and listening they might catch snippets here and there…
Little phrases, shared ideas, big plans, lives seeking a future together. Hopes and dreams that she will never imagine could fade, or fail. This man, munching cheese and apples and sitting next to her at 2 AM refilling her glass is everything. She looks over at him, the buzz from so much wine does nothing to cloud her belief that he -and she- would live the happily ever after storybook tale.
A lavender scented candle flickers as dusk settles over the room.
She hasn’t had a glass of red wine in a long time. Red disappears much too fast now, and it’s usually only one person drinking…glass after glass on any given night. She buys white wine now because he won’t drink that. Pours are closer to just a few ounces when she drinks at all. She’s learned to appreciate and savor even a small amount. She doesn’t need more.
From her quite spot upstairs she can hear bird songs, and often the baby next door. The neighbors waterfall splashes in the distance although invisible from her new sanctuary. When the stereo is turned on now, Mr. Washington’s predictions of castles and forever love don’t play their promises anymore. In fact, the last saxophone she heard was likely played by her own son years ago in college.
Mingled voices don’t exist in this place. Words are rarely shared unless they must be. Plans made back then, at least some of them, did come to fruition. She has her children, and damn if that fortune teller on her Hawaii honeymoon wasn’t correct. They did have three after all.
The only laughter any neighbors might hear now comes from the TV reruns, turned up loud. She often wonders if he is more comfortable, has always been more comfortable – with his TV, than with her.
On the rare occasions that they are in the same room together she will sneak a glance in his direction. She witnesses small bits of the man she knew, a strangely familiar resemblance but at the same time – not. She would tell you that wishing for storybook endings is risky at best.
Herb pots and a few small sweet smelling flowers send their scent her way as she waters and plucks out dead blooms. The scent of her favorite lavender candle still lingers even though it hasn’t burned for hours.
A nice glass of Malbec sits on the outdoor table. She sips on occasion, but reserves most of the small glass to have with her dinner.
She likes listening to the slow swish of traffic sounds rolling across the fenced yard. The shouts of children playing in the park nearby remind her of her granddaughters lively antics as they played in the pool yesterday.
She nods and waves quickly to the neighbor. They often chat over the hedge – He will call out hello and ask about her day while puttering in his yard if he sees her reading in the sun. She reminds herself to mention to him that she will soon be away for a few weeks. He and his wife keep and eye on her small home when she travels. She has a family vacation planned with her children and grandchildren.
She sits down with her dinner and thinks back to just a few days ago. Driving home, flipping through channels on the radio, she caught the end of an old, still familiar song. How many years have come and gone since she last heard, or even thought about, that music? Now, looking down at her glass, for a few moments she allows herself to think and remember…
…the way her head would hurt with the efforts to piece together the puzzle and answer all the questions of when, and why, and how.
…how impossible it is to know when she allowed herself to stop believing in the castles, and the idea that the world was open to just the two of them.
…that she was a different person then. That she lost herself somehow, and that he probably wasn’t the man she believed him to be, but a man she created by closing her eyes to what was real and creating perfection from an image and a name.
The familiar saxophone came to a crescendo just as she pulled up to her new home.
Still such a great song.
She would always be thankful that he had introduced her to jazz, and red wine…and yes, even dreams.