Good day, Veillee Readers! We are pleased to present the first part of another wonderful story from our very own Jessica Pherson. This time, she takes us into the heavy world of a chronically depressed writer, and offers a glimpse of the constant tug of war between light and dark that can exist within the poetic mind.
|Courtesy this website|
It was finished, and it was magnificent. My magnum opus, she thought proudly. She lay her pen down and leaned back in her chair. There was no better feeling than the feeling of satisfaction she felt after completing a poem. This was her best yet; it had to be.
This worried her though. The darkness would soon set in. How close to the edge would it take her this time? She let the thought bounce around inside the walls of her skull, then quickly rose from her chair and stood at the window, searching for the view that would help her escape her thoughts. She stood there, staring into the landscape of her backyard; it was a colorful picture of willow and sassafras trees with a lovely pond in the foreground. Rows of flowerbeds that would bloom again once spring returned, bringing the perfume of peonies, poppies, hyacinths, and lilies back to her senses. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on that, on the first fresh scent of spring lilies- her favorite flower. They lined her home’s entire foundations. She meditated until the exasperating sensation of worry passed, then went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of lemonade. She had freshly squeezed it that morning, then set it aside, deciding it would be her reward once she’d completed the poem. The poem that had been sifting through her brain for months, looking for its place in the cluttered room of her mind. She opened her refrigerator then took out the crystal pitcher and poured some of the pale yellow liquid into a deep blue glass she found in the cupboard. No ice, just a few sprigs of fresh mint from the herb garden on her windowsill. She drank and found satisfaction again, delighted that she had chosen this as her reward.
Suddenly the phone rang, interrupting her peaceful calm and she thought for a moment that she would not answer it. But, curiosity got the best of her and she checked the caller ID, seeing that it was her close friend and publicist, Carmen. She answered it.
“Hello, Carmen,” she said coolly.
“Hello, Francine,” Carmen replied in her usual chipper tone. “How are things?”
“I’ve done it, Carmen,” she replied proudly. “I’ve finally finished it.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line, but then Carmen suddenly knew what her friend meant. “Oh- no! The poem? You finished it? That’s great!”
“Yes,” Francine said, proudly again. “It is done and I am enjoying a cool glass of lemonade, and now that you’re on the phone with me, I feel compelled to invite you over to join me.”
“Oh, how wonderful!” Carmen went on. “You know, I will come by. I have a few errands to run today, but I’ll stop by your house first for a bit because I am dying to read it!” Then she was silent, they both were, having each acknowledged Carmen’s faux pas. She had said that word, why did it have to be that word? Carmen was now searching for the words to say and Francine was trying not to crumble to the floor.
“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry, Francine,” Carmen cried nervously. “I am so stupid sometimes! I just say things and…and I don’t even think!”
“It’s alright,” Francine replied regaining her composure. She had to, after all.
“Poor word choice,” she said. “But, I do really want to read it. I’m leaving right now. See you soon, hun.”
Francine said goodbye then hung up the phone, pressing the END button then letting the phone carelessly drop on the counter, allowing a low clunk to ring out in the silent room. She stood motionless, staring. Not at anything in particular, just staring. She took a deep breath, having realized she’d stopped breathing, then picked up her glass and went outside.
The air was still and the temperature warm with a slight chill in the thick air, like an ice cube dropped into a glass of warm milk. Francine pulled her cream-colored duster closed around her waist then sipped from her glass, although the sweet beverage did not give her the same pleasure it had just moments ago. She looked up at the cloudy, graying sky and watched the leaves of the sassafras dance like a wildfire in the slowly escalating breeze. Flashes of yellow and orange and red…
She sat down in a wire-framed chair on the open patio and leaned back, trying to relax, trying to calm her mind again and not think so damn much. Her mind was often her greatest gift and also her greatest enemy. She sighed, trying to hold back tears. No, no, she thought. Not now. You have so much to be happy for, why are you so sad? She tapped the nail of her index finger on her glass, a pathetic attempt at distracting her mind. It was not so easily fooled. She opened her eyes again and stared off into the distance, soon focusing on the lake. The water was so calm, it almost looked inviting. She imagined it feeling like a cool embrace were she to step into it, a watery tomb of solitude. She sighed again. Carmen would be there soon, she didn’t live too far away.
Francine did hear her friend pull up the driveway of her home quickly enough; she lived about thirty minutes away, but she was there in less than twenty. She had the slight look of alarm with a strong hint of relief on her face when she walked through the door. The dark, thick frames on her equally thick-lensed glasses accentuated her expression all the more. It was as if her eyes were saying, Thank God.
Francine decided not to comment on her friend’s worried look, and instead stuck a glass of lemonade into her hand as soon as she had set her coat and purse down. “Freshly squeezed this morning,” she said pertly.
“Oh, thank you, dear,” Carmen said, taking a sip. “Mmm, it’s delicious! Your talent is relentless!”
Francine merely smiled at the forced gesture. The cloud had set in further during her wait for Carmen’s arrival. It was always a downhill affair as soon as she had completed a piece of writing; first there was the satisfaction, then the pride, then the sadness, then the disappointment, then the battle, then…well, after that she just went back and forth, and then it would quickly become her trying to hold onto her sanity and her survival. It was always so fleeting when she was doing what she truly enjoyed most; it was her unsympathetic curse.
Carmen just stood there in the hallway, searching her friend’s stoic face for a hint at what may come of this meeting today. Francine just stared at the floor, a small and very forced smile on her thin lips. Her long, thin white hair hung over face like wisps of a willow tree. Her frame was thin, narrow, mostly hard edges. Dressed all in cream, she looked like a Nordic spirit stepping into the material world bringing forth some type of message. A message of what, though? Carmen smiled back nervously, then sighed.
“So, let’s see it,” she finally said.
Francine’s head snapped up and she looked directly into Carmen’s eyes, as if coming out of a daze. The light returned to her face and she smiled genuinely, and then beckoned her friend to her study. “Come,” she said, and headed to the other room.
The study was just around the corner from the kitchen, slightly hidden in a little nook-like area of the house. Its walls were a soft lavender and the curtains were an antique white. All that was in the room was Francine’s desk which held the computer, a lamp, a file box, and some loose paper and pens for jotting down quick notes; a shelf full of books and references; an original piece of artwork she’d found at a flea market years ago of a garden basked in sunlight; and another shelf that held a few scented candles and a vase of wilted flowers she’d forgotten about. They were dried enough to turn to dust at any moment.
Francine clicked the mouse and pulled up the document for Carmen to view. She then ushered her publicist to take a seat and Carmen obliged, then got right down to it.
“Would you like some more lemonade?” Francine asked her, noticing that her glass was now empty. Apparently the lemonade was even better than she had thought.
“Why, yes I would, thank you,” Carmen replied handing her the glass then quickly returning back to the glowing screen before her.
As soon as she left the room, Francine let out a deep sigh as she trudged to the kitchen. Once she got there, she pressed her hands flat, palms down on the granite countertop and bowed her head. She started to lightly shake her head from side to side, a poor effort at knocking the demons away. Her hands turned into fists and pounded the countertop, gently enough for Carmen not to hear. “Get it together,” she whispered to herself. She slowly let out another deep sigh, then withdrew the pitcher from the fridge and refilled Carmen’s glass.
She waited a few minutes before returning to the study; Carmen was a fast reader, but she still wanted to give her enough time to fully analyze the work. When she did enter the room, Carmen was leaning back in the chair with her legs crossed and shoulders slouched forward, her hands folded under her chin with her index fingers touching her lips. She was looking down, deep in thought.
When she noticed Francine standing over her with the glass, she looked a bit startled, but took the glass gently, nodding a thank you. As she took a sip, Francine stood waiting anxiously for her response.
She took a long drink of the lemonade, and then said, “Francine, it’s amazing.”
“You think so?” Francine replied, unable to fight back the joy welling up in her heart. For now, the demons were kept at bay.
Carmen looked her right in the eyes. “Yes, Frankie, I do. This will be the perfect opening to your collection- or the perfect finale. This so comes from the depths of your heart, I can tell. This is what defines you, as a poet- as an artist! Simply magnificent, my friend.”
Francine felt a tear forming in the corner of her eye. She let it fall once it was ready and did not wipe it away. “Thank you, Carmen. That means a lot to me. I’m glad.”
“Oh,” Carmen said with a pinched whine, cocking her head to the side and removing her glasses, allowing them to dangle carelessly from her fingertips. “I’m glad you’re glad. You deserve it. You really have me worried sometimes, you know. I only want what’s best for you, not only as your publicist but as your friend.” She leaned back with a look of reminiscence on her face. “We’ve known each other for a long time, haven’t we?”
“Yes, we have,” Francine said, even though she knew she did not have to answer since Carmen was merely commenting. “Almost ten years now.”
Carmen nodded dreamily. “Yes, that long, you’re right…you have accomplished so much.”
“We have,” Francine corrected, a look of sincerity in her icy blue eyes.
Carmen just smiled. She had such a handsome face. Not beautiful in the conventional way, but truly handsome. She had strong features and tanned skin like Italian leather, yet smooth with few wrinkles. Her lips were full, but not overly pouty, just very broad. A prominent nose centered her heart-shaped face, and her eyes were a very deep brown with heavy brows laying over them. She was somewhat petite, but still managed to take over a room with her presence when she wanted to. Francine truly admired her.
Carmen suddenly clasped her hands together. “Now, what shall we do to celebrate?”
* * *
(Tune in next week for the conclusion of Francine's story.)
Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily.
Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog!