Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Holiday to Remember Chapter Twenty-Six

(jump to the first chapter)

Chapter Twenty-Six – Memory of an Angel

by Vonnie Davis

Candy tossed her keys on the table in her foyer and struggled out of her boots. The snow in Manhattan, blackened by soot and car exhaust, was no longer pretty. No doubt what snow remained back in Georgia was still pristine with less traffic and pollution to soil it. She hung her coat and scarf and stepped into her professionally decorated living room.

She gazed around the room, off-white carpet, ivory walls, white leather furniture and chrome and glass tables. Colorless. Flopping onto a club chair, depression pressed on her chest. One word described her life sans Mitch and Major. Colorless. She swiped at a falling tear. A major crying jag was brewing; she could feel the burning behind her eyes and the constriction in her chest. Deal with it. You’re the one who walked out.

Five minutes later she stepped out of her bedroom in an old pair of flannel pajamas and padded into the kitchen to open a can of tomato soup for dinner. Cheddar slices and rye bread to make grilled cheese joined the accumulation on the counter. Given the mood she was in, the quart of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream in her freezer would be dessert. Comfort food, and boy did she need comfort.

Standing at the stove stirring the soup, she wondered what Mitch was having for dinner. In Georgia, the roads were cleared by now. Businesses were open. Maybe he would go out. Her hand tightened around the wooden spoon. Would he go on a date? Her forehead furrowed. Would his eyes soften when he looked at another woman? Would his kisses be as passionate?

Stop acting like one of those besotted females in a romance novel. Who cares what he does. He lied.

She carried her bowl of soup and sandwich to the table and sat. Did she want to eat? Her appetite was nonexistent since her return. If she was still in Georgia, she could share her sandwich with Major. She sipped a spoonful of soup. That mutt had wormed his way into her heart. She missed his affectionate personality, even his wet canine kisses.

As for his master, she ached for him. Ached in a way she never imagined possible.

Had she allowed pride and fear of loving someone to ruin what might have been an incredible relationship? Mitch had offered to explain, but feelings of betrayal had clouded her judgment. Why the secrecy? Why the lies? Why had he changed his name? So many questions. Too many.

She gathered her dirty dishes and loaded the dishwasher. In an attempt to work off some stress, she wiped down her kitchen cabinets and mopped the floor. On a cleaning tirade, she dusted and vacuumed the rest of her apartment, singing Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair.

It didn’t work.

Mitch was still in her mind—and her heart.

Okay, so maybe what she needed was time. After all, she’d only been back in Manhattan for a couple of days. While gone, she’d experienced the most amazing time of her life in close quarters with an attractive, charming male. In their isolation, it only made sense they’d be drawn to one another. After a few days ensconced in her established, busy routine, the memories and feelings would fade.

Truth be told, had Mitch been five-foot-five with a receding hairline and a beer belly, she’d no doubt have fallen for Mr. Chubby, under those circumstances. She slapped the heel of her palm to her forehead. Oh, God, I’m delusional.

She’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t exist—Mitch, the tow truck driver. She opened the door to her freezer and peered in at the quart of ice cream.

“If Mom were here, she’d tell me chocolate was the cure-all for a case of the blues.”

Thinking about the hours she’d have to work out to reduce the effects of the ice cream, she closed the door. She’d nuke a bag of popcorn and watch a movie, something lighthearted to counteract the heaviness inside her. Candy rolled her eyes.

“I’ve turned maudlin. Thanks, Mitch…er Michael…for doing this to me.”

She pressed the buttons on the microwave, waiting for the popcorn to do its thing. The man had secrets. Why? Why had he kept his identity hidden?

Minutes later, she carried a bowl of popcorn into the living room and stood in front of the only thing she’d kept of her mother’s. A large curio cabinet filled with her mother’s cherished angel collection. She ate a handful of popcorn while her gaze swept over the many angels. Some were wooden, a few made of glass, many were porcelain, and a couple she’d made, herself, as a little girl. One was made from Popsicle sticks, another from strips of crafting foam.

Her mother had been a thrifty woman of necessity, given her meager earning potential, but these angels had been her one indulgence. Beneath each was a slip of paper written in her mother’s precise handwriting with the date she’d acquired the angel and where.

After her mother’s death, when she’d numbly gone about settling the estate, she’d decided to keep the angels and cabinet. At the time, she thought it odd that her mother had splurged on the cabinet, given her penny-pinching nature. When she’d wrapped each angel in tissue paper, she also tucked in its slip of paper, too raw with grief to read the angel’s history. She’d placed the notations beneath each angel. Tonight, when she needed the comfort of her mom, she’d read them.

She reached for the one made from Popsicle sticks. Made by my darling Candy at day camp. The year and her age were noted in the corner. She trailed a fingertip over her mother’s handwriting, drawing a sense of peace.

She lifted the foam angel and its paper. Made by Michael. Candy made an angel at the same time and gave it to him. So sweet to see how they care for each other. Her hand trembled when she set the foam angel back on its paper.

A long ago memory surfaced; sitting at the table in the kitchen while her mother bustled back and forth, making hors d’oeuvres for the party the Crawfords were hosting that night. Michael, looking very gown up in his suit, walked into the kitchen. When he saw her at the table gluing together pieces of colorful foam, he pulled out a chair and joined her.

“What are you making?”

“Angels,” she whispered.

She’d been too shy to talk. Slowly he brought her out of her shell as he asked her questions about what to do next. After he made this angel, he’d given it to her mother. Enamored with Michael—her first childhood crush—she’d hesitantly offered her angel to him. For weeks, she’d dreamed of his smile as he accepted her impromptu, awkward gift.

Even then we had a connection. If only he’d told me who he was as soon as he figured out our shared past.

She shook her head. So many secrets—and for what reason? Nothing added up, and in her orderly world, things had to make sense.

The next angel she reached for brought a smile to her face. She knew the history of the jade figurine. Her mother’s face always lit up when she talked about it. Her Uncle Tim had bought it while on liberty in Viet Nam back in the ‘sixties and sent it to her mother for her sixteenth birthday. Beneath the angel were the words, Tim’s Vietnamese Angel.

Her hand wrapped around an exquisite, gold trimmed porcelain angel. On its paper was written, Given to me by Michael. He claimed the angel caught his eye because it reminded him of Candy. Tears burned. When she read the note written below it in a different color of ink, she lost it. Michael bought me this curio cabinet with his first paycheck from Crawford Industries. He asked me to keep his present a secret.

Michael had cared for her mother—and for her, too. Why all the secrecy? Didn’t she owe it to her mother to hear his explanation? Didn’t she owe it to herself? She set the angel back on its paper and closed the door to the cabinet.

Wiping tears from her eyes, she reached for the telephone and dialed. Mitch’s phone rang. Was she too late? Would he want to explain after she’d so rudely walked out of his house—out of his life? Her heart pounded in her ears as the phone rang and rang—and rang.


Barbara Edwards said...

What a lovely segment. Made me tear-up and blow my nose. Thanks, vonnie.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Now we're getting somewhere!

Thank you, Vonnie. Very nice!