those deeply rooted ways
waking up was a daily cruelty, an affront,
and she avoided it by not sleeping
― Gregory Maguire, A Lion Among Men
She tiredly rubs her face, trying to make herself seem more alive and awake, the deeper than usual bags under the eyes, a clear sign of her washed-out state. She didn’t sleep much after the shift at the bar, and to be honest, she didn’t even try, too exhausted to take in additional night terrors that could have come her way. Nightmares weren’t for everyone. She whispers into the air and closes her eyes for a moment, giving the body some rest, as there wasn’t much that she could do for her mind and thoughts.
She breathes in deeper, inhaling the cool air. It’s an early afternoon, the sun moving through naked branches on some trees and through orange and brown leaves where they still resist the passage of time and the upcoming winter. She’s sitting peacefully on a bench in the park, sipping hot dark coffee with too much sugar for any normal human being. Weary eyes, absentmindedly gazing at the pond nearby. Then after a few minutes, her stare shifts to the side as someone sits beside her. It’s a familiar presence, and she smiles a little as she gazes at the woman sitting down. Eleonore’s tired but vivid grey eyes observing her quietly as she shifts an expensive, rectangular shape handbag to her left. Then straightens the long sandy woolen coat and moves a strand of almost black hair behind her ear, a few strands of silver reflecting in the sunlight, sitting there for a moment before speaking.
I presume you got my gift?
She nods slowly and then looks ahead, thinking about one of her patterns that somehow never changed over the years, a sort of a tiny glitch in her system. When she couldn’t sleep and would be too exhausted to listen to her own, nagging thoughts, she would make phone calls. Just like she did late last tonight. And it was rather obvious that the call surprised them both equally. Yet, they talked. And no one shouted or threw any traces of guilt and resentment around. The hours just before sunrise were always the strangest to navigate. You never knew what you would gain or lose with it.
Yes, I did. Thank you.
She says politely and thinks about how long it’s been since they last talked and how awkward it felt now. And that what she really wanted to say was that she loved the little blue origami bird and that it moved strings inside of her that she forgot were even still there. Dusted by time and hidden in a box, in the furthest part of her brain with all other things that she no longer wanted to touch. Because it was safer that way, easier, less painful, compartmentalizing the memories so she could stay afloat. That was her only form of control these days; everything else seemed to be gone and out of reach. So unstable. The denial that she had kept all these years, becoming her only protection from everything that went wrong. And so much went wrong. Hasn’t it? She exhales slowly and gazes at the woman from the side, then looks down at her coffee and the steam still faintly coming from the cup.
Mom... I really liked it.
Her voice is low but soft as she speaks the words. She hears her mother take a deep breath, and a small but familiar rustling noise fills her ears. Somehow knowing that it’s the sound of her leather gloves being taken off, and confirmed as she feels gentle fingers covering and squeezing her right hand a bit as she holds the cup.
I hoped you would, sweetheart.
She blinks away the sudden moisture that threatens to escape her eyes and clears the throat, sensing the awkwardness return, her body shifting uncomfortably. Momentarily her mother moves the hand away and slips both of hers, onto her lap, the back straightening slightly.
It’s a nice weather today, but cold. You should consider wearing thicker clothes.
Eleonore shakes her head as a small smile creeps to her face, something tiny but soft growing in her chest. The other woman must sense the change in energy as she finally shifts her face to the side and gazes at her daughter with lifted eyebrows.
Don’t look at me like that, you know I’m right. Especially now that you’re only skin and bones.
I get by, mom. I’m tougher than I look.
Yes, I am aware.
Her stare becomes thoughtful as she gazes at her little girl’s body, trying not to look too intensely but noticing how slight she got. How limited space she took on the wooden bench and how loose her clothes were. And automatically, the stare grows concerned, overflowing worry slipping through the eyes that matched her daughter’s almost perfectly.
She outstretches a hand towards her mother and lays it gently on her knee while her chest rises and falls.
Mom, it’s okay. I promise. And...
She put the coffee on the ground for a moment and shifts to the other side, producing a paper bag to the other woman’s quite noticeable surprise. She opens it and passes a long shape covered in tinfoil to her mother.
There you go, a body filler coming right up.
She grins and watches her mother unfold the little wrapping, unsure, looking as if the strange package might explode at any moment in her face.
It’s a sandwich, not a bomb. So, I think you’re safe for now. It’s your favorite; lettuce, tomato, and lots of bacon. The unhealthy version that you pretend that you would never even touch with a stick.
She smirks and takes her own sandwich, which is at least twice the size.
Real size thing. For the tough people.
I see some things never change.
Her mother lifts an eyebrow slightly and gives her a subtle smile, and then starts to nibble on the bread while her daughter bites into hers with loud eagerness, making satisfied sounds as she does so.
And I can also tell that eating etiquette has stayed a faraway concept to you, as well.
Mmm, what can I say? I enjoy my food and am not afraid to manifest it. Besides...
She puts away the sandwich and moves her hand around in a sweeping movement, shifting the focus towards their surroundings.
This isn’t exactly the Ritz or Plaza, is it now? Fit in more with the scenery, mom, and you will be a much happier person.
Her mother sends her a long look but then takes a bigger bite of her food.
There you go.
She smiles at her but then inhales with some heaviness, knowing the conversation might not go so smooth for much longer. She rolls the empty now tin foil into a ball and begins to play with it, wanting to busy her fingers, welcoming any possible distractions.
So, how is dad doing?
She can sense both of them tensing up, and immediately, she squeezes the ball tighter, making the sharp edges of the foil dig into her skin.
He’s doing fine, and the business is going well.
Silence falls on them after that as none of them is exactly sure what else to say.
How is his health?
He’s healthy as a horse as always. Just stressed with all the things that have to be taken care of. The company is regularly expanding, which means there is so much more to consider and worry about. But you know him. He never slows down, no matter how many times I remind him of that. Not threats or pleads work with that man. He’s impossible sometimes.
There is a harsh tone to her mother’s words, which instantly causes her to look up. It was not like her to speak badly of her husband or even make it audible in the way that she spoke. It was on a very few, rare occasions that the respectable and always the perfectionist, Katelynn Jane Walton would let her displeased tones drift out so visibly. Hardly ever in their house, and even more rarely in public, where someone could actually hear and report it all over the whole town.
Mrs. Walton waves her hand dismissively and finishes the sandwich with one quick mouthful. Then rolls the foil and starts to torture it just like her daughter. It’s funny how we are always so sure that we are so different from our parents as children and teenagers, only with years realizing that we have more in common with them than we originally thought.
He’s being a jackass again, isn’t he?
Her mother sounds appalled, but then without warning, the corners of her mouth lift slightly into a smile before she can stop it. Well, well, well. Things have sure changed on the other side of the mirror, haven’t they, Alice? She shakes her head and gazes back at her hands, something else taking over her mind.
How can you tell that you are taking too much of someone’s time and space?
Her mother sounds surprised again; even if she is not looking at her, she senses her eyebrows furrow in slight consternation.
It’s just a question. Nevermind. I don’t even know why I asked.
There is silence for a moment, and all they hear are the birds in the background, some kids shouting in the distance, and water splashing gently in the nearby pond as the wind picks up a bit.
Mmm, I think you know very well. So, who is the person you occupy too much?
I don’t know if it’s too much. Well, maybe I do.
You didn’t answer the question.
She plays with her fingers for a moment.
A friend. He’s a good person, and he’s helping me out with things I cannot handle on my own.
So, you can guess that it’s a lot to be helping with.
Yet he sticks around. Well, there must be a reason for that.
Probably the saver complex or the babysitter’s unfulfilled dreams. Who knows.
Always so dramatic.
I’m glad I don’t disappoint.
Her mother lets out a small sigh and shifts on the bench.
Let me guess. You’re leaving him be because that will be “better for both of you”.
Eleonore looks up slowly and shifts sharply in the seat.
Isn’t that a better option? To let him rest, so he won’t realize what a waste of time I am?
Her mother doesn’t answer as the silence between them becomes thicker, and instead, she asks a question of her own.
Is that why you’re here today with me? To run away from that man and fill your time with little distractions?
Did you even warn him that you’re going to disappear from the face of the earth? Some don’t like that.
Her fingers press into the bench suddenly. All the physical symptoms that she had been ignoring since this morning (thanks to a lot of painkillers and coffee) finally catching up with her. She closes her eyes as the playful shouts of kids in the background appear to change into shrieking razors, the chirping birds seeming to drill holes into her bones. She inhales and exhales slowly as waves of nausea start to hit her. Not again, not now, please. I don’t want her to see me like this. She has already seen enough.
No, I did not.
She clenches her jaw tighter.
I will tell him later. Sometimes everyone needs a rest.
And do you really want that for him? The rest, the freedom? A peace of solitude for you as well?
Unexpectedly, she blinks faster as the inquiry breaks through her defenses, the words sinking in with power as something in her shifts, causing the symptoms to subside gently. It’s then when she realizes something. Something that overtakes her, but she doesn’t let it settle in completely, too scared to accept the truth just yet. No, too much. So instead, she focuses on the question itself. On the surface layer of all the things that had just stirred awake inside of her. Running through her as if electricity and lightning, causing the clarity that she was not yet ready for.
I thought so.
I want him to rest, mom. But I don’t need rest FROM him. Everything feels better with him around, and honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I don’t... I don’t want to get attached again. Not after...
She feels her mother’s fingers on her jaw as she gently shifts her face towards her, making her look directly at her. Katelynn Walton gazes softly at her only child and tilts the head slightly as if wanting to see, even more, catching all the angles and reflections of light that could touch her eyes or face.
It will be alright, I promise.
But how do you know?
I just know, love. Let yourself let him in. I can sense that he’s worth the trust. You cannot stay closed up forever; particularly, when someone so special enters your life. Even if they slowly crush and crumble, all of your so well build barriers that you constructed, and that gave you the illusion of safety.
Her voice turns even softer.
Just don’t cross him out just yet before you feel like running again. Alright?
She swallows again and nods lightly as her mother’s fingers still hold her face. One more smile and she lets go.
I didn’t meet with you just to have a distraction; I wanted to see you and needed it. I’ve missed you.
I know. Underneath all of our disagreements and hard times, I feel it. It’s okay.
They grow quiet again, but this time in a more peaceful manner, their eyes drifting to the body of water in front of them. Something in Eleonore’s chest feels less heavy even as the slowly pulsating pain in her head increases, the faint sun above their heads growing somehow in power. She covers her eyes and massages her temples, buzzing sounds filling her skull turning into complaints and filthy sticky words. Don’t listen, just don’t listen, and maybe she won’t see what a mess you are right now. Her mother pats her knee and slowly gets up, fixing her handbag, soft elegance and grace radiating from her posture. The perfume that she uses gently embracing her as if the finest of cashmere shawls. Sometimes she envied the peace that her mom could manifest so well. Especially when all she could do was slowly crumble into her issues, some form of nervousness and damaged parts always lurking under the skin. She smiles at her gently just before she leaves, grateful for any moments that lessened the burden she was the cause of.
Slowly she lets words fill her mind with the confidence that amazes even her.
I promised myself to fix as many misplaced pieces as I could before things got worse. Charlie gave me an opportunity for some form of redemption, and I wasn’t going to waste it. The extra time that he gifted me with was very special. And I knew that I would never be able to repay him for it, but at least I could try.
She gets up and slowly sinks deeper into the city as the evening embraces and swallows her in its hectic bloodstream of rushing people. Into uncountable waves of sounds that seemed to pulsate like a restless heartbeat, always beating, always whispering so many tales of people she would never meet. Mmm, how much more precious each second felt when you knew your time was running out. She thought she should make it count. And not just the things that she had to take care of and what called her to make amends. No, she wanted to enjoy the small, subtle fragments of life that she had left behind. Each walk under the dark sky, each gentle breeze, and sounds she wanted to keep with her. Every tiny good moment, each earned smile and piece of comfort. Every little thing that she would miss, too busy with distractions, chaos, and sorrow. She would try to live now. Even if just in the mundane things that we all tend to miss sometimes. Too caught up in the future and the past to notice the now. The now in which we breathe and live. She shakes her head and smiles a bit as the cold air hits her flushed cheeks, the passer buyers not giving her much attention, maybe only a few sending her a distracted stare. Mmm, all the hardship and chaos left her a bit melodramatic, but that was fine. No one had to know, as she kept most of it to herself. She wraps her arms tightly around her as the cold moves under the clothes, penetrating every fiber of her being.
I hope to one day tell you all about me. The entire story that you deserve to hear.
She whispers and keeps moving forward, ignoring the wind and the cold, sinking into the night completely, without hesitation.
https://theprose.com/post/230936/with-all-my-senses ( the beginning )
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