out of the ashes

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Amy and John and John

It seemed there for a couple of days that I was writing backwards. I cut the opening paragraph, then two more the following night. Cut it all last night and started over. Rough first draft here--I'll get some feedback soon and do the revisions. But the introduction of two key players is at least underway. Gosh...all I have to do is get this one completed, go back to Marvin and Maribeth "meeting", and then I'm finished.
Except or the final revision of the whole ms. Yech.


Amy left the Highgate apartment complex and walked north along the sidewalk in the shadows of the towering elms on either side of the street. A familiar route through the old neighborhood of Capitol Hill, the once-mecca of society’s elite—Molly Brown and Mattie Silks tended flowers, presidents, and lascivious pursuits here, long before the word suburb was given birth in a corporate water closet, precipitating mass flight, and the plummet of property values.
Her route took her north, out of the forest of elegant old homes, to Colfax Avenue. Then west, past the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on her right, and a block farther, Governor Richard Harris’ office in the State Capitol Building on her left
Harris would soon arrive at the Capitol Building, before Maribeth hit the ignition and roared out of the mansion driveway to pick up Mags, but not before Amy entered the lion’s den of Sampson and Delilah, Attorneys at Law, with a shield in one hand and a rose in the other.
The office was on the third floor of the Court Building, a six story dwarf compared to the younger towers surrounding it, facing south overlooking Civic Center Park. There, a stone’s throw away, verdant expanses of grass, wide, meandering walkways, and, at the far end, the Greek amphitheater provided a pleasant atmosphere where Amy often sat in quiet to nibble on her lunches of vegetables and read a book, in preparation for the endless afternoons. The whitewater hours.
From either of the two attorneys’ offices, the view was spectacular. The park and surrounding public buildings were laid out in warm weather clothing, now. Summer would give way to riots of color and chill breezes and the crackle and swirl of falling leaves. Finally Winter would descend in a fairytale white, a cloak of ermine and crystal covering everything, with lovers pressed close as one as they walked. Contrast this to the fluorescent lit, Musack dull, stale d├ęcor, smell of airwicks-office. The Sampson presence overwhelming meek Delilah. Each day of the workweek was a half-purgatory, and the season never changed.
John was there when she arrived at seven forty-five. John Sampson, that is. Very early, even for the boss whose pungent greeting the first day of her employment had ended with the words that set the tenor for her future in his office. “You realize, Amy, time is money.” Pause and leer. “I like your dress.”
Today he stood with a saturnine look on his face at her desk in the reception area between his office and the hallway, holding the small, framed photo of her and Dann Berkshire. Mags had snapped the picture at Lake Mead a year ago when things with him were still…still, meaningful, she remembered. A feeling of resentment at John holding it caused her cheeks to flush.
John glanced across the desk, but made no comment about the photograph. He set it back atop the desk as though the subtle invasion of her effects was his unspoken right. He hadn’t been admiring the image of Dann standing tan and healthy and smiling in the sand, with herself perched on his back, arms draped across his shoulders and chest. Laughing at a joke she’d long since forgotten, just uttered by Mags. John Sampson seemed almost to be scowling. Of course he knew nothing of Dann, or how and why the first man she had really loved had gone away. He only knew that whoever this person in the photo was, Amy was close to him. It fired something inside him.
Amy stopped and met his eyes. There was a moment of coldness, as when inquisitor and accused size one another up. When the power of the one bears down on the helplessness of the other.
“You’re early,” he stated flatly.
“I’m behind in the billings. I thought I’d get a jump on the morning…finish them up first thing.”
He raised his eyebrows, and then changed course, and smiled. “Yes, cash flow.” He turned after an interminably long pause and walked across the room toward his office. At the door he stopped and glanced back at her, letting his eyes travel the length of her.
“Get me the Bauer deposition.” Then he added, “Who’s the guy in the picture?”
She felt naked in that blink of time it took to compose an answer. What kind of question was that, thrown at her in the steel tone of voice he was a master at? She had known Sampson for three years, and knew that he was really asking two quite different questions. Who’s the flake? Are you sleeping with him?
“Just a friend.” Amy set her purse on top of the desk and shot a look at the back of the photo frame, sitting six inches away from where it had been before; the neat piles of paperwork left last evening pushed this way and that. Her desk and her work, not personal property, and yet rifled through outside her presence. “I’ll bring you the deposition.” She left him staring over at her back and crossed around the desk to pull it from the stack of folders.
Good morning.
His light blue eyes, narrow by practice and possessing no warmth, piercing her, she knew without looking at him. She smelled the residue of his aftershave lingering as she flipped through the folders searching for “Bauer” on the tabs. The musky…was it a musky odor? No, too sharp. Too penetrating. Something else, unpleasant. She heard his door latch shut.
I’ve got to get out of here…
“Good morning, Amy!”
The river plunged beyond the cataracts, suddenly calm, wider and peaceful. John Delilah flew through the opened door, briefcase in one hand, a shock of daisies and carnations choked in the other. The knot of his tie was terribly wrong; his suit coat hung wrinkled at the sleeves . He jabbed the flowers at Amy with that crooked, friendly smile that always brought her back to the calm, gentler current.
“For you! I…umm, I got them from a vendor down the block. You know, by the parking lot. Down there. Where I park. He had buckets full of them. Here. They’re for you.”
In her presence, first thing in the mornings, he fumbled for words. Always. He was an inch or two taller than his impeccably groomed partner, an Ichabod Crane set against Brad Pitt. Lanky, nearly emaciated looking, and the left eye stuck too closely to the beginning of the narrow bridge of his nose. But all of this when coupled with his smile formed a childlike portrait—a scribble of innocence and decency that Amy found disarming at times.
He'd brought her flowers. Not two dozen roses wrapped in a florist’s perfect box with a note in flowing script on an embossed card. “Dinner and drinks tonight?” Embarrassingly humble white daisies and pink carnations gasping for breath, with a simple exclamation. “For you!”
For her, with no strings. The difference in the river's temperament in a matter of yards.
She let the Bauer file slip down onto the desk again and reached for them. Two or three stems of daisies had already begun to droop their heads. Delilah’s spindly fingers were twitching, nervously she thought, taking them from him. She looked up into his face. His cheeks were rouge-red. She could almost feel the heat emanating from them. His lips had curled just slightly, and his eyes had a schoolboy beseeching quality suddenly, as though he wasn’t at all sure she wouldn’t scorn him and return them.
“You are a darling, John. Thank you so much. They’re beautiful.” Even though they were not. “I’ll find a vase...that was so thoughtful of you.”
Roget was near. He peered between them at the flowers, then turned his gaze to John, to Amy, and then back again to the urchin bouquet. A quick breath, a passing of his fingertips across the blooms was all that it would take. The flowers would enjoy a resurrection; a re-erection, he mused with a smile. But he thought, no. Amy was about to raise the indigent Marvin from the dead. Her touch would be enough with simple, wilting flowers. He brought his fingertips near her already shining hair instead.

(c) Patrick Lee 2010

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