Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” – T.S. Eliot
Jordan Douglas ran a snubber to the anchor rode and a trip line to the cleat, then he took a hand-bearing compass and shot a couple of vectors, scribbling the results down on a notepad; Tracy Mayfield stood beside him, asking questions, taking mental notes – vitally interested in everything he was doing…
“When did you start sailing,” she asked when he looked up from his notepad.
“Oh, I don’t know exactly. Before I could walk, I feel almost certain…”
She laughed. “All your life, in other words?”
“Yup. Dad was a judge in the city. Rain or shine, every Friday afternoon we’d load up, sail out here someplace and hang out on the anchor ‘til Sunday morning.”
“Good memories, huh?”
“What about your mom? She didn’t like sailing?”
He stood up, looked at Fisherman’s Wharf and the marina, then at Tracy. “She passed, when I was seven,” he said as he looked at her. “I think Dad got the boat for her, she really loved it out on the Bay.”
“I’m sorry, Jordan.”
He shrugged. “Yeah? Well, okay. Anyway, when Dad passed a few years ago, and I had to decide what to do with her. I have all these memories of him, of the two of us out here…all bound up in the boat.” He paused, looked down into the water and shook his head. “I just couldn’t sell her, I guess. And I never will.”
“She’s really gorgeous, the woodwork down below is insane.”
“DownEast workmanship is still the best. The glass is almost an inch thick up here at the rail, nearly three inches at the turn of the keel. I had the gelcoat peeled two years ago, then re-glassed and awl-gripped. She’ll last another 40 years, I guess.”
Tracy turned serious, looked away for a moment – then back – looking him in the eye now. “How’d Mom react to Claire…the whole abortion thing?”
“She’s upset with Claire, but I think she understands.”
“Claire seemed strange to me yesterday, when she picked me up, and I don’t think it has to do with her pregnancy.”
“I don’t either, and neither does your mother.”
“What do you think it is?”
He shrugged. “Complicated…everything’s just complicated, Tracy. Apparently, there’s quite a history of schizophrenia on your dad’s side…”
Tracy nodded, looked away. “I know. Claire used to worry about that a lot.”
“Well, your mom thinks that’s what’s going on; that’s where she’s going to start looking. I’ve still got my folk’s place in the city, and some contacts there too. After we get you on the plane back east we’re going to get her settled, medically – and otherwise. She won’t be going back to school until she’s able.”
“Are you and mom going to – get married?”
Jordan laughed. “You are direct, aren’t you?”
“I don’t got to see her enough, Jordan. Guess time’s short when I’m around, it’s always been that way, and now there’s so much happening that…well, I tend to worry about her. After dad and all…she’s been through…”
He nodded. “Fair enough. I love her, and she says she loves me, but she worries about the two of you, how you’d react if we got married. I think it’s fair for her to feel that way, too. She had you both late in life, and she’s grounded to the reality you two will always be there for her, and I think she’s afraid she’ll lose that.”
“How do you feel?”
“Me? Well, Tracy, I wouldn’t do a thing to hurt that woman. If getting married would hurt any of you, her – or you and Claire – I just wouldn’t do it. I feel lucky just to be with her.”
“I can see it in your eyes.”
“You should feel it in here,” he said, pointing to his heart.
“Claire? And going with her to a clinic? Will you do that?”
“If that’s what she wants, I will.”
“What are your feelings about abortion?”
“Me? I’m not a woman, so it’s none of my business.”
Tracy laughed again. “True blue democrat?”
He shook his head. “Independent. Not real fond of the whole party politics thing, especially these days. If I had to declare anything, I think I’d describe myself as a Druid.”
She smiled at that. “What’d you decide to do about tenure, at the college?”
“I turned it down.”
That made him laugh out loud. “Yeah, no shit. I did. I miss it here, and there are a few things I want to do that don’t involve teaching.”
“You’re going to be living here?”
“Well, in San Francisco, but yes. For a while, anyway.”
“What will you do?”
“Spend every moment I can, with your mother – if she’ll have me.”
Tracy Mayfield looked at Jordan when he said that, and felt a shiver run down her spine.
“See that silver shack on the end of the pier,” Jordan said, pointing to the pier just a few hundred feet away. “There are two seafood places there. Not restaurants…I mean fresh stuff. I’m going to put on some charcoal, so Tracy, why don’t you and Claire run over and find us something interesting for dinner?”
“Mom? Are you cooking?”
“Rice and broccoli, maybe a Hollandaise – if someone asks nicely…”
“I’m asking,” Jordan smiled.
“I don’t feel like going,” Claire said, so Jordan handed the lanyard and a handful of money to Tracy, then helped her down to the Zodiac. The little Honda started on the first pull, and she puttered across to the dock and tied off, then waved as she walked up the ramp to the wharf. And Claire walked away – disappearing into the forward stateroom.
“It’s funny,” he said as he looked at Tracy, “but I don’t worry about her out here.”
“It’s always been that way. Claire’s always been fragile, Tracy was always the adventurous one, tough as nails, always there to lend a hand.”
“And very self-sufficient.”
“Like me,” Edna Mayfield said, laughing gently.
“Oh? Tired of me already?”
She looked at him and grinned. “I liked sailing last night. More fun than I thought it would be.” She was looking at the wharf, following Tracy as she walked into the market. “Bet you a nickel she comes back with salmon.”
“I’ll take that bet,” Jordan smiled knowingly.
“So, you think you’re getting to know her?”
“Tracy? Hardly. I do know what that market has this time of year.”
“Cheater. Is that why you haven’t started a fire yet?”
He nodded, then: “Have you had a chance to talk with Claire?”
“Nope. Morning sickness again.”
He smiled, shook his head. “Has she always been so good at putting things off?”
“Started about five minutes after birth.”
He chuckled. “Why am I not surprised. She does know how to pout, doesn’t she?”
“She learned that from me, too.”
“I love you,” he said, out of the blue, and she looked at him, took his hand.
“Tracy asked if we’re going to get married. Has she asked you too?”
He nodded, whispered a little ‘yup’ as he looked at her.
“I said I’d love to, but I wanted to make sure the girls were okay with the idea.”
“Tracy will be fine. Claire won’t be.”
“I know. Then we’ll need to talk to her.”
“No,” Edna Mayfield said, “we won’t. If you love me enough to marry me, that’s all I need to know. I don’t need my daughters’ approval, I just need your love.”
“Okay.” He looked at the set of her jaw, the anger he saw in her eyes, and he wondered how much of the story he really knew nothing about. “Ah…here she comes,” he said as they watched Tracy walk back to the Zodiac – the sacks she carried were huge – and he smiled again. “We’ll probably need to put some water on to boil,” he said as he watched her get in the inflatable and start the motor. “Hope you like crab…”
When he helped Tracy back aboard and got the haul down to the galley he handed four pound of picked Dungeness crab to Edna, then four abalone steaks and a mound of cooked shrimp. Two quarts of crab chowder and cocktail sauce filled out on bag, and the second was full of fresh baked sourdough bread.
He took out a skillet and began browning butter, tossed in some garlic and a pinch of cayenne, let it simmer while he picked through the crab for stray bits of shell, then he buttered some of the sliced bread and ran it under the broiler. He skimmed fat from the butter, then added some bourbon to it and cut the flame to low before he chopped some pecan. He tossed the crab in the butter and stirred it, then added the chopped pecan and stirred some more.
By now all the girls had gathered round and were watching – and smelling – the action; he pulled the buttered toast out and sliced them into smaller squares, then took the crab and ladled nice clumps onto each piece of toast. He diced some shrimp, not all of it, then did the same thing to the next batch, adding more crab to the mix as well.
He stopped and looked at the crab and toast, tides of memory washing over him. “My dad and I used to cook this when we came down here. Just like this. We ran across a couple from the UK anchored near here, the woman showed us how to make this, only she used rum. I’ve tried it both ways…like the complexity of bourbon better…”
“If you have some rum, let’s try it that way,” Tracy said.
“Sounds to me like you’re ready to learn how to cook on a sailboat. Why don’t you go ahead…I need about a half hour to get these abalone ready to go.”
He toasted more bread, put the crab and shrimp mix on and turned the burners over to Tracy, then turned to make a wash and dredge for the abalone. It took ten minutes just to pound them out, and Edna groaned as she looked at the mess taking shape in the galley.
He loaded the wood-burning fireplace after dinner was cleared away, but Claire disappeared in a cloud of silence, shut the door to her stateroom as Tracy looked after her.
“Mom, I’ve never seen her this depressed, and some of the things she’s saying worry me.”
“I’ll fix some coffee,” Jordan said. “Why don’t you two go up. The cockpit’s closed now, and it’ll warm up fast.” He put another chunk of cedar on the fire, then brewed a fresh pot, fixed three Irish coffees and took them up.
“That was some supper, Jordan,” Edna said. “My cholesterol will be 450 tomorrow, but it was worth it…”
“Tomorrow we eat salad!” Tracy said.
“Tomorrow we spend with Claire,” he said. “We get her out and about…”
“And if she doesn’t want to?” Tracy asked – having been down this road before. “Then what?”
Edna sighed. “Then we take her up to the medical center.”
“Then I take her for a drive,” Jordan said softly as he looked down at his hands.
“Do you really think that’s the answer, Jordan?” Edna said bitterly. “Killing that baby isn’t going to magically cure her.”
“I think that may be true, but a psychiatric commitment isn’t going to do her a hell of a lot of good at this point.”
“What about the aquarium? It’s just right over there,” Tracy said quickly, pointing to the far side of the harbor. “Why don’t we all go, let her walk it out in the sunshine. Maybe she’ll talk to, oh, hell, to whoever.”
Edna’s arms were crossed now, and she was looking out into the darkness, tired of Claire and ‘all her interminable bullshit.’ She turned and looked at Jordan, and Tracy, suddenly filled with hate for them both. She took a long pull on her coffee then looked out into the night.
Tracy and Claire took the Zodiac over to the aquarium early the next morning, leaving Jordan alone with Edna down below. She didn’t feel sexy now, nor even desirable, yet Jordan seemed to think she was and she tried – for his sake – but she was bored with lovemaking now. After a few minutes he stopped, sat up and looked at her.
“Where are you this morning?” he asked after a minute of burning silence.
“Not here,” she said.
“Is it Claire?”
She turned and looked at the easy, earnest love in his eyes, and she didn’t know how to say what she needed to say, so she sighed, took a deep breath and jumped right in. “Jordan, what I looked forward to most, when the girls left for school, was time alone with Stanton. Then he fell ill, and soon he was gone. Then I found you – and yet here they are again, intertwining fingers, running their tentacles through my life again, commanding attention, coming between me and whatever life I have left. I’ve grown tired of Claire’s games, of poor Tracy always trying to fix everything, even of you and me.”
“They’re your children, Edna…”
“They’re children, Jordan, not a life sentence. You raise your children, then they move on. You don’t take care of them after a certain age. They have to learn to stand on their own two feet.”
“They do. That’s true, but Claire’s in trouble. What do you propose to do now? Walk away?”
“I was thinking of taking her home, to see Dr Wilburtson.”
“Her pediatrician? Edna, she’s 22 years old, and she needs to see a psychiatrist.”
“Why don’t you let me handle it, Edna? I don’t mind.”
“That’s sweet of you, Jordan, but it’s not your responsibility.”
“What if I was the girls’ step-father? Whose responsibility would it be then?”
“You’re not, Jordan. She’s my responsibility, and mine alone.”
“No, Jordan. I appreciate the offer, really, I do, but I don’t want you to be so involved now, not yet. Maybe the time will come, but not yet.”
“I see,” he said as he sat up. “So, you want to take her home? When?”
“I think today, this evening, perhaps.”
He stood, walked to the galley and got a glass of water, then walked up to the cockpit. He heard her below, heard the shower run, then listened as she got dressed, made reservations. She came up a few minutes later and sat beside him.
“I’ve made reservations for the three of us,” she said frostily. “Could you run us ashore? I’ve got a taxi coming.”
“I texted Tracy. They’re on the way now.”
“I see.” He watched her turn and go below, then helped the girls up when they motored alongside. When they had their bags ready, he ran them ashore.
And all the time Edna ignored him, did not look at him, or say goodbye.
Tracy looked hurt as he watched her get in the taxi, yet something he saw in her eyes told him she had expected something like this to happen. And maybe this wasn’t the first time…
Claire smiled. One more victory in a long line, she thought.
She sat in her garden, in the shade of a vast trellis, admiring her efforts.
Claire was in her eighth month now, the baby due in June, and Tracy was flying home tonight, home for the summer. And work on Stanton’s memoirs and correspondence was proceeding apace; at the rate she was going work would conclude by the end of summer, then she could send the work off to her publisher. She looked at the apartment over the garage from time to time, allowed herself to think about Jordan Douglas and all his impossible hopes and dreams, and she smiled at her little indiscretion. The impossibility of him…he was just a boy, after all! Still, he had been such a pleasant diversion…
Later that afternoon she drove out to the little airport and waited for Tracy’s plane; it was fifteen minutes late but there she was, walking down the concourse, trailing a little rolling carry-on. They hugged and walked to the baggage claim, then carried her two suitcases out to Edna Mayfield’s pale yellow Cadillac, and yet Edna wondered why Tracy was so quiet, so…almost somber?
“How was your term, Tracy? Grades alright?”
And Tracy looked at her mother and smiled. “I suppose so. Why?”
“Have you heard from Jordan?”
“Jordan? Why, no. Have you?”
“Not really. I texted him a few times, but never heard much from him.”
“What does ‘not really’ mean?”
And Tracy just looked at her mother and smiled. She looked out at the college, at all the familiar houses on the way to FoxWood Lane, then at the vast lawn in front of her mothers house – all the landmarks that had defined the perimeters of her existence since she came into this world.
It was remarkable, she thought, how much like a prison this town felt. And yet here she was, once again locked away in one of her mother’s air-conditioned cocoons. How much of her life had taken place, she observed, in places like this car? Elegant to a certain practiced eye, and comfortable – more than comfortable, really – this car, like her parent’s house had done nothing but set them apart. Held them above the neighbors’ kids, set them apart. The car was a statement, the house too, about the kind of life her mother wanted her to lead.
So, Harvard and Stanford, not Oregon State or even the college down the lane. Those choices had been made for them too. Again, to set them apart from the rest of the kids in town.
Her father’s gorgeous house, this symbol of their life…yet all it had ever been was a kind of living museum, a monument to her father’s wealth. And it was full of lies – all her life had been a lie.
The boarding schools since middle school, since they’d been 11 years old, and the nannies before that. She remembered one girl with affection, a twenty year old girl from Aberdeen, the one source of affection she’d been able to count on – all through childhood. Her mother, she knew, had outsourced their childhood, came around to play a parental role when it was convenient – then she shed the role like a winter coat on a summer day when she returned to the games she and her father played in Washington.
And now, to validate all the lies, her mother was grooming a successor.
‘Me,’ she said to herself.
She looked at the house – and Jordan’s room above the garage – as her mother pulled up the drive – and while she had no idea what she wanted in life she felt all this stuff here was the last thing she wanted to be around. The last way she wanted to spend her life.
She carried her bags up to the second floor, to her old room – yet it too was another little museum piece. All her things from childhood were gone, the furnishings now in keeping with the rest of the house. All neglect papered over, her mother’s museum was now a bastardized creation that wiped away the past. She put her bags on the bed, then walked down to Claire’s room…and everything felt like one big imploding lie…
When she knocked she heard a muffled ‘come-in’ over the television and opened the door. Claire had a tray pulled up to the bed, a half-eaten bag of potato chips and an empty bowl of ice cream by her side. Tracy gasped when she saw her sister – she had to weigh 250 pounds now – and she was completely unrecognizable – save the eyes – which seemed lost and full of misery.
“How’re you feeling, Claire?”
“Tired. Early flight.”
“Well, welcome back to Hotel Hell,” Claire said as she ran her puffy fingers into the bag of chips.
“Anything good on TV?”
“Yeah,” Claire said as she turned back to the TV. “The Love Boat.”
“Ah. Well, I’ll see you later…”
She walked back to her room, looked down at her mother in the backyard. Trimming roses, pulling weeds – doing anything and everything other than helping Claire. She’d raised dependent kids, children afraid to move away from her sphere of influence, all while telling everyone how she prized self-reliance, how she wanted her kids to follow in her footsteps.
Tracy could see it all in that moment. How her mother said one thing and meant another. And it had always been that way, hadn’t it? Lies and neglect?
And how Jordan had fallen into another one of her mother’s traps, how he’d come undone after she left him that day. And she’d seen her mother, hoping he’d fall apart. He was just getting it back together now, thinking of renting out his parent’s house, of moving onto the boat, his siren’s song, and how he planned on taking off in July. Hawaii, Polynesia, then New Zealand, he told her last week – when she called him.
And she called him again, now, and talked to him for a few minutes. When she rang off she called for a taxi, found her passport and some money and stuffed it in a little backpack, then went out front to wait for the cab.
She looked out the window as the little regional jet taxied to a stop outside the tiny terminal building, and when the door opened and the stairs folded down she walked out into the cold misty fog that typically gripped the Monterrey peninsula at night. She walked into the building and saw him standing there – just like she remembered him – in shorts and a pressed white dress shirt, the same old Rolex on his wrist, the same crusty boat shoes on his feet.
She walked up to him, took his hand.
And he didn’t know what to think of her, of what was happening.
Just seeing her brought it all back. The summary dismissal, Edna never once looking back or even calling him. She’d walked out of his life as quickly as she’d walked in, leaving all his questions unanswered. And now – Tracy?
What the hell was going on?
He looked at her backpack. “Any luggage?”
“You’ll have to excuse me, Jordan, but I just ran away from home.” He looked at her with those hard, squinting eyes of his, and she almost turned away from him.
“Do you need to call your mom?”
“I left my phone there, my clothes – everything, I guess you could say. Are you parked close?”
“I am. You want to tell me what this is all about?”
“Could we go down to the boat?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, Tracy.”
“I don’t know you, not really, and let’s just forget for a moment that I’m old enough to be your father…”
“Like my mother…was old enough to be your mother? Forget about that?”
“I guess I deserve that…”
“You didn’t deserve one thing she did to you, Jordan.”
“So, you’ve come to set things right?”
She shook her head. “No. I just came to the realization that I couldn’t stand to be around her one more minute. I realized I don’t have one real friend in the world, and then I thought that’s not true. I have you. You’re my friend.”
“Am I? I didn’t know that…but thanks for filling me in.” His phone chirped and he took it out of his pocket, looked at the screen. “It’s your mother,” he said as he handed the phone to her.
She declined the call and handed it back to him…then she looked at him and shook her head. “I want to go to the boat now.”
He turned and walked to his car, an ancient Land Rover, and he got in the car without opening her door – or unlocking it. He started the motor, began backing up – then he saw her there, standing open-mouthed, almost in shock, starting to cry.
He stopped, went around and opened her door, then drove into town and stopped at a local pub that happened to still be open.
“Are you even 21 yet?”
“Okay. How about a burger?”
She nodded her head. “Sounds good.”
He took her in and it was, thankfully, quiet inside. When they’d found a corner booth he handed her his phone and looked at her. “If you’re grown up enough to run away from home, you’re hopefully old enough to know your mother is frantic with worry. You need to call her, tell her what you’ve done, and why. If you can’t do that, I’ll take you to a hotel, then see that you get on a flight home first thing in the morning.”
She took the phone, dialed the number.
“Where are you?” The volume was so loud Jordan could hear every word.
“Monterrey. With Jordan.”
“I see. How long have you two been planning this?”
“We haven’t. When I got home and saw Claire, saw you in that stupid, goddamned garden, that was it. I had to get out of there, get away from you before you kill me, the way you’ve murdered Claire. I didn’t have anywhere to go, anyone to call, but I called Jordan, told him I was coming. He met me at the airport, and I think he was just as surprised as you are mad. But I don’t care, mom. I’m not coming back. I’m not going back to Boston. I’m done. Done with you, with your plans for me, with everything. I’ll be here with Jordan ‘til I’m not, but you’ll never hear from me again.”
She broke the connection and handed the phone back to him.
“Well said,” he sighed, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice – but failing. “Any five year old would have been proud of that speech. And rightly so.”
“So Tracy? What’s the plan? Move onboard with me, sail off to see the world? Maybe have a few babies along the way? Live happily ever after – somehow?”
She laughed. “Actually, that doesn’t sound half as bad as you think it does.”
“It does to me. But does that matter?”
“Why bad, I wonder?”
“Why?” he sighed. “Let’s see. I don’t know you, for openers. You’re probably here to get back at your mother. You’ve run into a dead end, and you think I’m the easy way out?”
“You forgotten a few, Jordan. Like my mother has programmed me to be her replacement after she’s gone. Like I was raised by nannies and dormitory house mothers my whole life. Like no where along this journey has anyone ever asked me what I wanted. What I might want to do with my life?”
“And did you ever bother to tell anyone? Besides your nannies and dorm mothers? Did you ever tell your father, for instance?”
“No. No, I didn’t.”
“Because he was never there.”
He looked at her then, saw between the bluff and the bravado, saw into the truth of the matter. “Okay. Well, I’m here, and I’m listening. Tell me, what does Tracy Mayfield want to do with her life?”
“I do not want to go into politics. I do not want to work for the CIA, or the NSA.” She hesitated then – and looked away, began picking at her fingers.
“Okay. That much I get. What about something you want to do.”
“You won’t laugh?”
“I want to paint.”
“Paint? Houses? Monet, or perhaps Gauguin?”
“Please don’t make fun of me.”
“Okay. You’re correct and I’m sorry, but you know something? I’ve always thought artists in general, whether writers or painters, need to experience life a little before they try to record their observations. Without that, I’m not sure what’s presented beyond mere talent.”
She pulled out her iPhone and opened a file, then handed it to him. “Push play. Tell me what you think.”
He did, and a series of paintings filled the screen. Immense talent and a pure, visceral emotion pierced each image. Surreal anger, heart pounding energy, soaring beauty – everything came through inside each image. When he’d seen the twenty or so images he paused the show, handed the phone back to her.
“Impressive. You’re taking classes at Harvard?”
“You like them? Really?”
“From what I can see on that tiny screen? Yes Tracy, it’s impressive work. You have a talent.”
She nodded, leaned back in satisfaction.
“So, why don’t you go to Paris. Someplace like that?”
“Because that’s not where I want to go.”
“Okay. Where do you want to go?”
“Wherever you are. That’s where I want to be.”
Now he leaned back in his seat while he looked at her, at the seriousness in her eyes. “You don’t even know the first thing about me. Where I’ve been, what I’ve done. It strikes me as the height of immaturity to say something like that.”
“Yet I’ve been drawn to you since the first day I met you. The time I spent with you on the boat, just those few hours, was all it took. I can’t fall asleep without thinking about you, I can hardly study, or paint – without thinking of you. I don’t want to be with anyone else. I know what I want, now all I need to do is convince you I’m not an addled, simple-minded idiot.”
There was a waitress standing by the table looking at Tracy as she spoke, then she looked at Douglas. “I think she means it, mister. Now, the kitchen closes in ten minutes. Are y’all going to order something?”
They looked up and laughed, ordered a couple of burgers and onion rings, and two beers, then the woman walked away.
He looked at his phone…Edna had called three times in the last ten minutes and it was buzzing away right now. He answered it this time.
“Jordan? Where’s my daughter?”
“She’s talking. I’m listening. Hope that’s not a problem.”
“She sure the hell is.”
“May I talk with her?”
“You’d better let me handle this one tonight, Edna. I’ll call you in the morning, let you know what’s happening.”
“Jordan? Are you sure you want to get involved?”
“I am involved. Goodnight.”
He put this phone on the table as their burgers arrived.
“Where are your paintings, Tracy?”
“Boston. At a friend’s house. Why?”
“I’d like to go there in the morning and pick them up. I’m going to have a friend of mine up in the city take a look at them.”
“Go where…you mean Boston?”
“Yes – Boston,” he said in deepest professorial tones. “I want to see for myself, see if I’m correct about something. If I am, well then, you and I have some real thinking to do.”
He turned onto 17 Mile Drive, on this last stretch to his parent’s summer house, with Tracy beside him now. Firmly, as it turned out. It had been a heady two days for the girl, and she was puffed-up with self-importance, even pride, and now they looked at one another quite differently.
Yesterday had been the real turning point. On the recommendation of a friend of his in Boston, they’d carried her best works down to a gallery on Newbury Street. The proprietress had seen years and years of work come and go, had handled major works of the French Impressionists more than once, and even she was startled by Tracy’s gift. The woman had called a local collector, who’d luckily been able to come to the gallery that afternoon. When the old woman found out the artist was Stanton Mayfield’s granddaughter she’d simply pulled out her checkbook and dashed off a check with so many zeroes on it that Tracy literally swooned.
He’d gone back to Tracy’s friend’s place and called a freight company to the scene. The rest of the paintings were crated and taken to Logan, and they were on hand in San Francisco when the paintings arrived early the next morning. The same thing happened in North Beach: his friend and gallery owner was staggered by what he saw. He called two collectors he knew and four more of her works were sold that morning – and Tracy now had enough money to do whatever she wanted, for several years, anyway.
Now he turned into the driveway of his father’s hideaway. A small jewel penned by Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s airy stone and copper form perched on a rocky outcropping overlooking the sea; this was Jordan’s favorite place in the world – and he could see Tracy’s appreciation of the setting in her eyes. He took her inside, carried her little suitcase and put her stuff in one of the bedrooms well away from his own, then went back up to the kitchen. He looked at the bare cupboards and the empty ‘fridge – and groaned.
Then he felt her walk up from behind – and he turned to face her.
And she was as naked as they day she was born.
She draped her arms around his neck, pulled him close – yet he kissed her lightly on the forehead and pulled away, walked out to the living room and stood – looked out over the sea and the breaking waves below…
“It’s too cold to just sit around,” Tracy said as she walked up behind him again – and he turned to her, looked her in the eye.
“You know, for almost ten years your father was my best, my closest friend. I’ve been intimate with your mother, and those few months were the happiest of my life. And now here you are, yet what I don’t understand is this. Am I to have no close relationships with anyone but a Mayfield?”
“Jordan, are you crying?”
“Me? Oh, hell no – not me!”
She walked into his arms, placed the side of her face against his shirt – and she smiled when she felt his arms encircle her…
And here it was, he thought, all his life coming down to this one moment in time, every hope and dream he’d ever had being pulled into the frenzied orbit of this young woman, this younger version of the woman he loved. When he saw her breasts, he saw Edna’s…Tracy’s legs and arms were Edna’s…only the eyes were different…and Tracy’s were magnificent. He saw a warmth and playfulness there he’d never seen in Edna’s…
“Jordan, I love you. You. Can you understand that?”
He shook his head. “And can you understand? When I look at you I see your father, I feel your mother…and a hundred different emotions piling on top of me – like those waves down there, and not one of which has the slightest thing to do with you. It’s so unfair, Tracy. Unfair to you. Confusing, to me. And I’m afraid in the end that’s all there’ll be left of us.”
“I’m willing to take that chance, Jordan. You asked a few days ago what I wanted, and yet not one thing’s changed since then. I want you, I want to get on that boat and get as far away as we can from all this confusion. I want your life and mine to grow into one, and I don’t ever want to be away from you, not even for a minute. Whatever you might have wanted from my mother was always an impossibility – because she had nothing to offer you but the past. Jordan…I can give you a future. A future with little of the weight of our past to burden us, a future we can make our own.”
He looked at her, into her eyes. Who was she? Who’s soul did he see in those smokey blue pools. Stanton’s? Edna? This new creature, one so straight and tall and pure?
He kissed her on the forehead once again, then looked at her lips for a moment – before he fell into her warm embrace.
Edna Mayfield waited for them outside the arrivals concourse, waited a little nervously, perhaps even impatiently as she rubbed a little spiking anxiety behind her eyes. And she was regal in her imperiousness, standing like an iceberg ready to loom out of the mist and claim another passing ship.
Dressed all in pale yellow, her suit, her stockings and pumps, she seemed a part of the morning sky – and passing men by stared at her, women paused with sidelong envy written all over their hearts. She turned, looked at the arrivals board and saw Tracy’s flight had arrived, and she turned away, walked over to window that looked out over the town to the mountains beyond. This was Stanton’s town, she told herself once again. He’d brought her here one summer day to meet his parents, to tell them of his plans to get married, to make a career in Washington with her by his side.
And she remembered how he had, with hard work and good fortune, succeeded. How he’d built his resumé over the years, built his political empire after he reached the senate.
And now she thought of the cost, in purely human terms, they had paid. How neither had seen Claire or Tracy come alive on terms of their own, how they’d outsourced parenthood – and their one last chance to build a lasting love between them all. Now she saw Claire as she really was: broken, a shattered vessel born of emotional want and neglect. Schizophrenia, her psychiatrist told her, and the disease would only get worse, Edna Mayfield knew. She would spend the rest of her life tending a barren garden, spending every waking moment of her life caring for a young woman lost within kaleidoscopes of despair and delusion. And a mother’s neglect.
She saw Tracy’s reflection in the glass and turned to see –
Tracy and Jordan. Holding hands.
Then Tracy coming to her side, coming to hug her mother.
Tracy, with a wedding ring on her left hand, and there, on Jordan’s hand too.
She felt herself falling, falling apart as uncontrollable trembling came for her.
Then the pain…behind her eye now, arcing through her head like a vast summer’s thunderstorm…
She felt dizzy, light-headed as she fell to the floor, aware in these last moments of her life that nothing was as it was supposed to be, and yet, suddenly – and smiling at this last thought – everything was now just as she’d hoped it might one day become.
©2005-2016 | Adrian Leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, all persons and places as well.
Hope you enjoyed this revision. Am working now on the last part of the Driftwood cycle.
I am fascinated by the author’s ability to describe the human condition! This uncomfortable story is SO real!
And many thanks. Glad you (?) enjoyed it!