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(C)Copyright 1999 by Ronald Rand
All Rights Reserved.


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2

 

I loaded everything into my father's truck and left the crying Eliza and her apartment. Yvonne's house was only an hour away and I made it there before nightfall. The grass was very long in the yard in front of the house and had not been kept up at all. I thought that might rule out another man in her life, something I had been fearing for years. Yvonne's overgrown Victorian dwelling was white, two stories tall, and now with barred windows and doors. The two years I lived with Yvonne I had never seen a barred door or window. Perhaps after Yvonne died, looters had tried to break in. She came from money, you know. All the neighbors knew it. Even so, I wondered who ordered them installed. The flowers in her garden were dead or dying. The bushes in her yard that used to be trimmed down to manicured cubes had become monstrous absurdities, growing so large they were now intertwined. Their branches and limbs twisted in and out of each other in a botanical puzzle I probably never would be able to solve had I even desired to.
My heart sagged as I looked upon the house and thought of my dear Yvonne who had spent her last days there alone in that filthy abode. It badly needed a good cleaning. She hadn't the strength to take care of the whole place by herself. It seemed sad for her to leave it in that condition, almost like leaving a grave unattended to. Dead people deserve respect, I think. No matter how hard it was to admit to myself, Yvonne was dead. I stopped along the lawn on the way to the front door picking up bits of trash as I did so. This was when I shed my first tear.
From my pocket I brought out the key that Octavian had given to me, and I placed it into the rusty lock of the heavy metal door. Several times it fell out of my hands, but I managed, finally, to get it in. The lock was being stubborn. I heard the heavy rusted tumblers grind when, at last, I managed to turn the key. I turned the knob, but now, the door was stuck. I had to put my shoulder into it. It opened.
The furniture was covered with sheets. Dust and soot covered the walls and floor. The inside looked no more tended to than the outside. I thought about the days and nights it would take for me to have everything looking lived-in again. Outside, it was growing dark. Through the window beyond the great room, twilight was beginning to shine down upon a carved oak table that was in dire need of dusting. The air was dank and thick, and a strong, pungent aroma hit me that made my throat sore instantly. I opened a window to air out the room and gazed outside through the metal bars. There was nothing for as far as the eye could see except for the winding road I had just come down and pieces of aluminum siding that had blown off Yvonne's house that now lay on the lawn.
I turned and set my knapsack on the floor and was setting out to make myself more comfortable. It was dark, so I tried the light switch. There was no power. No worry, I had anticipated that. Nothing on this excursion had been overlooked. I planned everything out meticulously. I pulled a candle from my knapsack, lit it with matches, and placed it into a candle holder next to the door, smiling smugly at my foresight. Eliza wouldn't miss these, I thought.
After I brought in the last box from my truck, the door creaked and slowly swung shut behind me. I should have propped it open; had thought about propping it open. I went to the door and gave it a tug. The tumblers had locked again — understandable with that type of lock. I'd installed it myself only a few years before. When the door closed, a spring mechanism locked the door as it always did when I lived here with Yvonne. The lock had rusted, and now was harder to open from the inside than the outside. After a while, I gave up. I had no plans of leaving for the night anyway. In the morning if I desired to go out to get myself some breakfast, I thought that then I could wrestle with the lock. For the moment, I was beat, and decided to go find the room where I would bed for the night.
I found our bedroom on the second floor where Yvonne and I used to sleep together. A cold shiver ran down my spine as I climbed into bed, and a flashback overcame me: a collage of passionate nights in that very room. Before I extinguished the candle, I stopped to notice the subtle changes around me. A vase of plastic flowers that was once on a coffee table on the right side of the bed now sat on the left. Once Yvonne made up her mind about something, it was not like her to change it. I found the new arrangement odd. A painting of a garden that hung on the East wall was now cocked ever so slightly. Somehow that bothered me enough to get up from the bed and level it. While I was up I moved the vase to the right side of the bed where it belonged. That was when I noticed my note to Yvonne on the end table exactly where I left it. Still here after all this time, I thought. Why? I picked it up and read it.



"Yvonne,

I am very sorry you wish to keep me around no longer. I have never met anyone like you. I can honestly say there has been no other time in my life when I felt so happy to be alive. Perhaps you are feeling an itch. I've heard of such things before. Up until now everything's been so perfect. I don't know what I might have done to make you change your mind about me, or if there is another in your life who you feel will make you happier than I ever could. I know how you have always been in search of fulfillment of some kind, and I apologize if I am not up to par for you. I have packed up my things and am preparing to leave. Perhaps when you get this letter, you might change your mind. I will still care for Scarlet, as requested, because I know how much you love her. If you ever wish to find me again, you can talk to the boarders, for I will visit often.

If there is another man in your life, I wish you the best of happiness my heart can conjure under the present circumstances.

I shall love you and miss you eternally,

Carlton Sanders."



I dropped the note back onto the end table. Perhaps there never was another man for Yvonne. After all, no man in his right mind would allow a note from another man to remain on the table next to the bed where he made love.
I laid back down, my heart sinking deeply into the empty cavity of my chest. I blew out the candle. I lay on the right side of the bed and turned onto my left side. I stared into the darkness. I felt that I could reach over and touch her. Everything felt the same as it did years ago. I held my breath and imagined that I could hear Yvonne's gentle breathing that used to soothe me deeply to sleep. I laid awake for a long time flooded with memories, and unable to sleep.
I began to question the very idea of ever coming back. Was I mad? Some memories are better left alone, I thought, untouched by the hands of time. When I left the house the first time, Yvonne was alive. That was the last time I saw her. In my mind I managed to convince myself that by returning, everything might go back to the way it used to be. Somehow the confusion of my love and grief conspired against me and wove a sinister plan that might ultimately end in my own destruction. While I lay in that empty bed, I thought that Love must be an evil being, forlorn by some disembodied soul that has set out to see it that no man or woman should ever be happy again. That is how I saw it alone and saddened by the loss of Yvonne. That is how I see it now while I pen what might be my last days to you.
When I woke the next morning, I decided not to eat breakfast. Like a child on Christmas, I wanted to explore my new surroundings. I felt compelled to seek out every nook and cranny that might hold some treasure to remind me of Yvonne. I started with the cupboards, and then I worked my way to her private quarters. When Yvonne was alive, there were certain areas that I was never allowed. I left her alone in these rooms to do her studying. She demanded absolute privacy.
Yvonne was an inquisitive sort with bizarre tastes. Her library boasted books ranging from astrology to voodoo to demonology. I remember the first time I entered her study unannounced. I found her meditating and asked her to come eat dinner with me. She didn't answer me at first. I did not understand meditation at the time. After I woke her, I received quite a scolding, after which I began to tease her and refer to her as a day-dreamer. You should have seen her scowl at that. If you only knew Yvonne. I found her exasperated glares arousing.
I started my search in one of Yvonne's old closets. Amidst a pile of old shoeboxes was a white gift-wrapped box tied with a yellow ribbon. I carefully lifted the box out and set it on the floor and speculated what was inside. I vaguely remembered seeing it before. I pulled one end of the ribbon and lifted off the lid. My scents were flooded by the strong aroma of Yvonne's perfume, a scent I'd been reminiscing about for years. Inside was a red silk dress Yvonne had worn to a party with me. Slowly I unfolded it and pressed it to my face. I breathed in deeply, remembering that Summer night so vividly. I could still see her twirling in it, could still hear her laughing as I pushed that old dress to my face.
Oh, Yvonne, I thought. To be here now, to dance with me again, darling! I held the dress out in front of me, coming to a standing position. I turned, rocking Yvonne's dress back and forth in my arms, and then I found myself crying for the very first time. I looked up to the ceiling, and asked, "What could have separated us, Yvonne? How could we let anything come between us?" I wanted badly for her to answer me. I clapped the dust out of her dress and put it back into its box. I decided to take it to bed with me that night for old-time's sake.
I put the box next to my knapsack and stood outside the closed door of Yvonne's study. My heart was beating rapidly. I hadn't been in there in years. As I turned the handle and pushed the door open, I half expected Yvonne to be sitting cross-legged in the floor. I had no such luck. The study was small and clean. Yvonne's chair was pulled away from her desk and faced the door I had just come through. I imagined Yvonne rising from it for the last time and forgetting to push it in. But that would have been unlike her. She was always so meticulous about such things. She must have planned to return. As I stepped closer my suspicions were validated when I saw her pen carelessly left on her blotter and the ink that seeped onto the ream of paper spread haphazardly across her desktop. Slowly I sat down in her chair, savoring the moment. I felt sly and devious. Then I knew what it felt like when a child snooped through his parents' closet, carefully unwrapping and re-wrapping all of his presents the night before Christmas.
A typewriter sat atop Yvonne's desk. There was no paper in it, so I loaded a sheet that was the least marred by ink. I have always been fond of writing. I kept a Journal in my father's truck. When I was living in it, I would park beneath the street lamps and scratch with broken pencils into my journal all my thoughts and ideas. Sitting in Yvonne's chair, brimming with emotions, I once again had the urge to write and I sat for a quarter of an hour writing about my latest adventures in Yvonne's home.
The typewriter keys felt very comfortable beneath my fingers. I had never typed until I met Eliza. She had a typewriter very similar to this one in her apartment and I adopted it for my office. While I was driving to Yvonne's I wanted to kick myself for not having stolen it and bringing it along. The typewriter on Yvonne's desk was very similar and in fact more comfortable than Eliza's. I got a sense of ease and serenity as my fingers clicked upon the shiny surface of each key, and I hypnotized myself with the rhythm of the clacking.
I can't remember exactly what I was typing at the time, but there came a point when I stopped to think of a synonym for a word that didn't feel quite right in the sentence I had just written. I paused to think. That's when I heard from behind me a clacking like my own. I wish you could have seen the look on my face as I spun around and stared in the direction of that tapping. I jumped to a standing position and called out to the darkness. If I was expecting a reply, there was none. The tapping stopped the moment my mind was able to perceive the sound as being one other than that which my own fingers created. After a few moments and some rummaging through some cupboards and a closet looking for the source, I sat back down and started to type again. The word I was waiting for came to mind instantaneously. Sometimes you just have to go away and think of something else and the word you were looking for will find itself on your tongue.
No sooner had I started typing again, not even having finished the same sentence, then the clacking came once again from behind me. I did not expect it to happen a second time as I'd immediately put it off as some figment of my admittedly over-reactive imagination. But surely as my name was Carlton Sanders, it came again. I spun in my chair and listened. My eyes darted around the room following the noise. I noticed now that it was not as exact as the clacking of the typewriter, but deeper and more of a clattering, like a kibble of dry dog food rolling down a drain spout.

 

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