Monday, November 2, 2009

"Through the Open Window" by Anne Faye, Chapter 8 Part 2

Lady was looking up at me expectantly as I hung up the phone. “Yes, your friend is coming over.” She wagged her tail happily. I bent down to pet her. “You like him, huh? Yeah, I like him, too. But, we'll keep that our little secret, OK?” I got her a treat. “Here you go. Good girl.” She took her treat to her favorite spot to eat – right in the middle of the living room.

I tried to tidy things up a bit before Mike came over. Yes, I realized he had seen the house a total mess just a few hours before, but I was half-dead at the time and couldn't do anything about it. I was now only a quarter-dead and my domestic guilt had returned. In living with Alan and seeing the way Mike lived, I had come to the conclusion that most men don't suffer from that particular ailment. They are perfectly happy to live in a mess. Despite that fact, however, I still felt the need to clean up the dishes that had been piling up in the sink and wipe down the bathroom before his arrival. Mission accomplished, I once again retreated to my couch, Lady by my side, trying desperately to stay awake so that he wouldn't find me sound asleep once again. I drifted in and out of consciousness.

Alan was with me. We had just started dating. It was summer and he was holding my hand. We were walking down by the brook that ran through my parents' property. It was one of my favorite places. I went there often when I wanted to think or just relax. I could hear the water babbling over the rocks. I took off my shoes and socks and began to walk through it. Alan did the same. He came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, turning me toward him. He bent down to kiss me. His kisses were always so soft. I was so happy with him. When he pulled away, I looked up into Mike's face. How did he get there? “I can't,” I whispered. “I'm married.” But his blue eyes were so crystal clear. I leaned against him. I could hear his heartbeat. The church bells started to chime. It must be noon. I could hear a dog barking. Lady was running to the brook. No, it wasn't church bells. What was it? Oh, yes, that's right, I realized as I forced my eyes to open. It's the doorbell.
I tried to shake the cobwebs from my head as I got up and moved to the door. Lady was barking up a storm and I could smell the pizza before I even got there.

“Hi! Come on in.”

“Were you sleeping?” Mike asked. “I was ringing the doorbell for quite a while. I thought Lady was going to try to jump through it.”

“Yeah, I'm sorry. I had dozed off. I was having the strangest dream.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?” he asked as he put the pizza box down on the counter.

“No. I can't really remember what was going on. It didn't make much sense. The pizza smells good. I'll get us some plates. There is some soda in the fridge if you want some.

“You'll get my crusts, I promise,” I said to Lady whose tail was going a mile a minute.

“I like your dog,” Mike said as he bent down to pet her and give her a piece of pepperoni. “She is so good-natured.”

“Yes, she is. I never had a pet before.”

“You're kidding?”

“No, it's the truth. There were lots of animals on the farm that I helped take care of, but they were there for the food they provided. My parents always told me not to get too attached to them. I couldn't help it, though. I had my favorites. Still, Lady is my first in-the-house, let-me-share-your-lap, kind of pet. She's such a faithful companion. I don't know what I'd do without her. How about you? Did you ever have any pets?”

“Oh yeah, I always had animals when I was a kid. We had cats and dogs and a few fish. The fish never faired particularly well.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. What was your favorite?”

“I had a mutt named 'Buster' who I loved. He followed me home from school one day and my mom let me keep him. He only lived for a couple years after that, but while he was around, he was my best friend. I used to take him to the park and let him swim in the duck pond or go running. He loved it.”

“That sounds like fun. Lady doesn't like water much, which is odd considering she is part Lab. I tried to take her to the pond over at Heritage Park during the summer. She wanted nothing to do with it.”

“Well, dogs are like people. They each have their own personality.”

“Yeah, I guess you are right. So, how come you don't have any animals now?” I asked.
“I'm not sure. It just wasn't something that came up. Sara's kids have been asking for a dog. She is still considering the idea, but maybe I can talk her into it. I'd like to have an animal around again. In the meantime, I can borrow yours.”

“Are you done with your pizza? I can put your plate in the dishwasher.”

“Thanks. Do you feel up for a walk or do you want me to take Lady out myself?”

“Um, I don't know. I'm definitely feeling better and it would be good for me to get some air. Do you mind if we just go for a short one?”

“Sure. We can just go around the block. If you start feeling tired, we can come right back.”

“Great. I'll get my coat.” It felt good to step out into the fresh, cool air. Mike had Lady on the leash. She was happily pulling him along.

“I can't believe how quickly November is going by,” I remarked.

“I know. This always happens. Every year when November begins, I think I will have so much time to write my novel, and then the weeks just fly by. Right about now, I start to panic, thinking that I am never going to have time to get it done. I have to always take a few deep breaths and remind myself that it will get done. It always gets done, and even if it doesn't, it isn't the end of the world.”

“How is your story coming along?”

“It's doing alright. My stories always seem to be better in my head then they are on paper.”

“I thought you were supposed to shut off your inner critic,” I teased.

“Oh sure, throw my own words at me! I do try. It's just easier said than done. Every year, I hold out the hope that this year I'm going to write a great work of fiction and it just never happens.”

“I'm sure it can't be that bad. If you write anywhere near as well as you paint, I bet your words are wonderful.”

“Yeah, there is a reason I paint for a living, instead of write. How about you? How is your story coming?”

“About the same,” I admitted. “I've been enjoying the writing, though. It's been fun to get back to doing something I used to love so much.”

“And do you still love it?”

“When it is going well,” I laughed. “Sometimes the words just flow and it is as easy as breathing and the words come pouring out. Other times, it is so painful and it feels like the words are never going to come again.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.” We turned the corner at the end of my street. “Are you feeling OK?” he asked. “I don't want you to overdo it.”

“I feel a little tired. My legs still aren't too steady. How about we just go to the next corner and then turn around.”

“OK. If you need to, you can lean on me.”

“Thanks. I just may do that. It does feel good to get some air, though.”

“Oh, before I forget. Sara wanted me to invite you over for Thanksgiving. It's nothing formal. It will just be her and the kids, and me, of course. My parents won't be coming to visit until Christmas. We'd love to have you. I wouldn't want you to be alone for Thanksgiving. You can even bring Lady if you want to. I'm sure the boys would love to play with her.”

“That's so sweet! Be sure to thank Sara for me, but I won't be able to make it. I'm going home for Thanksgiving.”

“Are you really? That's great. When are you leaving?”

“Next Wednesday. I have to work until four that day, but then I'm going to head straight up. I should get there by eight.”

“Are you looking forward to it?” he asked as we turned around to begin heading back home.

“Yeah . . . well, sort of. It's the first time I will have been back since I moved here. I'm looking forward to seeing my parents, but I'm nervous, too. It will be weird to be back. I've been trying so hard to put everything that happened behind me and now I'm going back to where it all happened. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel. I'm not sure how people are going to treat me.”

“I can imagine that will be pretty hard. Are you going to tell your mom about what you found out before Alan died?”

“I'm still thinking about it. I don't know if I should or not. I haven't made up my mind yet.”

“I think you should.”

“How come?”

“Because she is your mom and you love her and I'm sure that she loves you. You should tell her the truth so that she can understand.”

“Yeah, maybe you're right. It's just a hard thing to bring up in conversation.”

“You told me.”
“Yeah, but you're a relative stranger. You didn't know Alan.”

“I know enough to know he was stupid for what he did to you. He may have died doing a good thing, but he never should have hurt you like that.”

“Everything happens for a reason. I mean, God can bring good out of something bad, right?”

“Now you sound like me,” he grinned.

“No, I sound like Father O'Malley. I actually broke down and went to confession last Saturday.”

“You did?! That's great.”

“Yeah, it had been a while. It did me good. I went back to church on Sunday, also.”
“It was you! I thought that I saw you in the parking lot when we were leaving, but you were all the other way on the other side and I wasn't sure. Why didn't you come sit with us?”

“I didn't want to impose. You were so kind to take me the week before. I didn't want you to think I was trying to put myself into your Sunday routine.”

“Don't be silly. We'd be happy to have you sit with us. You are always welcome. Next time you come, you come sit with us. OK?”


We walked along in silence for a few steps. We were almost back to my house, but my legs were feeling like lead. “Do you mind if I take you up on your offer to lean against you? I'm feeling so tired.”

“Sure, come here.” He wrapped his arm around me and helped to hold me up. He was so warm to lean against. I could get used to this. At the moment, though, all I wanted to do was lay back down on my couch. “Are you going to make it?” he asked. “Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.”

“No, I'm glad we walked. I just think I overdid it a bit. I just need to go back to sleep.”

“Alright, we'll get you back to bed. Just a few more steps.” I somehow managed to make it up the stairs and into the living room where I did not even bother to take off my coat before I fell on the couch.

“Do you want to take your coat off?”

I shook my head “No.”

“Well, at least let me take your shoes off.” He took off my shoes. “Did you make this?” he asked, as he pulled up one of my quilts to cover me. I nodded weakly.

“It's beautiful.”


“I'm going to get going now so you can get some rest.” I saw him start to walk toward the door.

“Mike,” I said.

“Yes?” he turned toward me.

“Thanks so much for today, for taking care of me.”

“No problem,” he smiled. “I'll call you tomorrow to see how you are doing.” He was such a kind man. I was lucky to have him around.

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