Dear readers, followers, subscribers, random visitors, commenters, and friends,
The Sunflower’s Scribbles is 4 years old today. Aren’t you excited? When I began the blog, I didn’t think that I’d still be writing it four years later. And yes, sometimes it feels like I’ve run out of topics to post about–
But somehow, it’s kept going.
I am, still, working on my novel. That is, the novel. I am, as ever, trying to improve as a writer. But writing is learning–especially if you’re trying to be a historical fiction writer.
I wanted to do something special for this 4th Blog Birthday.
I thought of engaging a guest blogger. (in fact, one of my friends STILL owes me an essay on romance in Downton Abbey–let’s see what she thinks after she finishes season 3…)
I thought of writing a new short story for the occasion.
I thought of talking about my cousin’s fanfiction (I may still do that. Or badger her into guest posting about it. Ahem.)
Instead, I’m giving you a short story that I wrote in college. Specifically, in WP211C–Short Story #2. And by short, I mean 7 pages.
This short story was one of those “aha” moments for me. I remember writing it and actually, unusually thinking, “this one’s special.” I was convinced that I had hit the high point of my writing and I would Never Ever Write Anything This Good Again. Thankfully, my roommate Katie and my friend Jessica talked me off that ledge, as they so often do.
A year or so later, a girl who was in this class with me–we were taking another class together–mentioned this particular story. The fact that anybody remembered something I’d wrote was, like, the biggest deal in the world.
So, without further ado:
Eva hadn’t left the house in three months. She spent her days in the lavender room at the corner of the house, where the sunlight came in the best and she could be comfortably alone. It was the most inviting room in the house and Dominic used to spend a lot of time there, lying on the daybed while Eva sat at her desk and wrote. When they’d moved into the house three years ago, they’d agreed that Eva needed a room to work in. She’d fallen in love with the corner room and its views of green, suburban Lancashire and promptly made Dom help paint it her favorite color. They ended up covered in bright lavender at the end of the day.
As Dominic padded down the carpeted hallway, he saw the door ajar and peeked. Her desk was piled high with papers, notebooks and her laptop; books, magazines and CDs spilled onto nearby portions of the floor. Glancing around, Dom’s eyes went over to the four intimidating bookshelves on the far wall, the overstuffed armchair in the corner, and the many pictures, posters and index cards Eva had gradually taped to the obnoxiously bright walls. He found her curled up in a ball on the daybed, the sunlight coming in from the window, lightening her hair until it was a fiery reddish brown.
“How do you feel today, love?” he asked.
“Okay,” she said in a quiet voice.
“I might go to the store later. Do you want to come with me?”
“Why?” she replied. “I don’t want anything.”
Dom kept a small smile on his face, though he swallowed hard and pivoted away. He read the index cards taped above her desk. Anytime she found a phrase she liked, Eva copied down on colorful cards and taped them on different spots around the room. He smiled sadly at one of them: “Manic Expressive.” Eva used to say that a lot to describe herself. He turned around and watched as she restlessly fell asleep in her oversized sweats, face blank and body curled up in a defensive ball.
Three and a half months ago, Eva had written out a quote on a yellow index card. Dom was lying on the daybed that day, a fat script sitting on his belly He’d read the first ten pages and stopped, preferring to bask in the warm sunlight and doze off as he listened to the erratic beat of Eva typing. Dom opened his blue eyes when she stopped and watched Eva stand up and decisively tape the yellow card. She was what his mum called “a little bit of a thing,” barely over five feet in height, and skinny. Her size made her now-round belly stand out that much more.
“Are those my sweats?” He asked.
She twisted around to face him with a smile. “I can’t fit into mine anymore.” She tugged on the drawstrings of the navy blue pants. She’d paired it with a maternity-sized black T-shirt that declared “I Love New York.” The words were starting to fade. “How’s the script?”
“It’s bad when I fall asleep while reading it, right?”
Eva laughed as she slowly sat back in her chair, hands poised to resume typing. She paused slightly in her movements and her hands automatically went to cradle the bulge. Dom rolled over to face her and dropped the script onto the floor.
She nodded, hands heading back to the keyboard. “Yeah. Caleb’s playing soccer again.”
“It’s called football and how do you know it’s going to be a Caleb? We could be having a nice, sweet, manic expressive little girl like you. In which case, she’d be a Katie.”
Eva laughed again. “Considering the size of this belly, we could be having your Katie and a Caleb.”
“I was a nightmare as a kid. I don’t know how Mum resisted the urge to wring my neck sometimes,” he said. She began typing again, quickly, and he distantly wondered when she’d be finished with that chapter. It seemed like she’d been working on it forever. “What’s it say? The yellow card?”
“Why don’t you get up and come see.”
He stayed on the daybed a while longer, ignoring the offending script on the floor, his eyes sometimes closing and sometimes resting on his wife’s back as she wrote. Eventually, he got up and stood behind her, hands on her shoulders as he read the quote.
Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.
He squeezed Eva’s shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
Dom thought about quote a lot these days. It was hard to see how anything could ever be okay again and yet he needed to believe that it could be. He had to be the optimist in the house because Eva didn’t have the strength to be.
For the last couple of months, Dom tried every morning to coax his wife out of the fetal position and bring her out of her seclusion. Eventually, he’d fallen into the routine he had now. Wake up at dawn to find Eva not sleeping well beside him. Wake up a few hours later to find her side of the bed empty. Get up, brush his teeth, take a shower, and go to the lavender room to find Eva curled up on the daybed. Then he’d talk to her, ask her how she was, and suggest she call up one of her friends or ask if she wanted to run an errand with him. She always refused, in a listless tone or in pure irritation; sometimes both. But he kept asking.
He ran a hand down his face as he walked downstairs toward the kitchen, appetite gone. He caught a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror and thought at least he looked relatively sane and healthy, even if he didn’t feel that way.
When he reached the kitchen, he crossed off the date on the calendar with a pencil. He’d been doing that ever since Eva had holed up in the lavender room. Everyone said that time would heal her wounds, that in a few months Eva should be back to normal. Today was May 29th. Katie would’ve been due this week.
Dom picked up the phone and dialed a number he’d come to memorize, closing his eyes as the phone rang.
“Chantal Givens,” the woman on the other end said.
“Oh, Dom. I wondered if you’d…Is she still–?” He could see her on the other side, an ocean away, her face probably troubled and her eyebrows knit in worry.
“Still. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried everything you told me, but you don’t know how bad this is. Can’t you do something for her?”
“Dom,” Chantal said. “I don’t know any psychiatrists in England and I can’t counsel her.”
“It’s almost three months to the day.”
“You can’t expect Eva to shake this easily. She’s been traumatized. This isn’t the first time she’s done something like this, you know.”
“She won’t see anyone,” Dom said, blinking away tired tears. “She barely tolerates me sometimes.”
Chantal sighed, this time sharper. “Put her on the phone, Dominic.”
Dom took the cordless extension upstairs and walked into the room, knocking on the door as he stepped in. Eva hadn’t moved at all. Of course she hadn’t.
“It’s Chantal,” he said, crouching down to her eye level. “She wants to talk to you.”
Eva began to shake her head in protest but Dom insistently put the phone in her hand. Eva hesitantly raised it to her ear. Dom held onto her other hand and noted how thin and frail it was.
“Chantie,” Eva said, voice shaky. “How’s New York?”
“Dom is really worried about you. I know you’re sad about the–baby–but you need to get out of your room.”
“Try, Eva. It’s been three months. It’s not about the baby anymore.”
“I don’t want to.”
“I told Dom,” Chantal said. “He wants to help you. We all do. But he can’t if he doesn’t know. And you cannot shut him out.”
Eva’s lips began to quiver.
“When was the last time you wrote? It always helps you. Go write and we’ll find you a doctor. Everything will work out.”
Dom saw the moment Eva’s brown eyes became shiny, then overflowed. Her eyes were soon red and the tears chased each other down her cheeks. Eva hung up with Chantal soon after, her lips pressing together until they were white. Her face contorted, everything going toward the center of her face. Dom held her as she cried.
The next morning, Dom woke up later than usual and looked pensively at the empty spot on the bed next to him. It was cool to the touch.
He found her in the lavender room. He gingerly walked in, his chest tight. Eva was sitting up on the daybed, a small journal open in her lap. A pen was moving fluidly through her fingers.
“How are you today, love?”
“Still pretty terrible.” He nodded, but let out a breath. She’d given him an honest answer.
“You hungry at all?”
“Pancakes and tea?”
“Of course. Think you…think you might be ready to step out of the house?”
She inhaled shakily, biting her lip. “Maybe.” She looked out at the view as if she had never seen sun and sky before. “It looks beautiful out there.” She turned back to him. “I’m sorry, Dom.” Then she picked up another journal, one with pages pouring out of it. “It’s all in here if you want to read it.”
“I’ll read it.” He caught a glimpse of the yellow card out of the corner of his eye and read it. She followed his gaze and they exchanged small, wistful smiles. “I’ll get your breakfast.”
She sighed, leaning forward. “No. I think I’ll come down to the kitchen.”