Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Is She On To Me? ... Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen





“Okay, I'm awake!” I scolded the buzzing alarm slamming the stop button.  I know its five a.m; I saw it arrive! no thanks to the nightmare.  Plus a suicidal headache pitch-n-rolled me the whole night like seaweed in high tide.  Entangled, yet hiding in sheets and covers, I tried to ignore the masochist behind my eyes.  I scanned the room hoping reality would quash the lingering night fright.  But gothic candle-holders flanking the iron bed frame resembled emaciated arms.  And a headless mannequin near the window wore something long and dark, casting eerie distortions against the opposite wall.  The dress-form became a macabre-being in the dim slither of disappearing moonlight—light flitting through a narrow slit between the heavy silk drapes.  Even my old brown teddy bear looked threatening, seated on a slipcovered chair outside my closet.  One glass eye glared at me, while the other was concealed in shadow.

“Okay!”  Goaded, I stretched to click on the brightest light from the tiffany lamp near me on the side table, ending with a squeal and my head in my hands.  Moaning; my fingers dug into, then massaged the mast of tangles at my temples.  Though, damp sheets and cold penetrated my cotton nightshirt I fixated on the lamp and its exquisite light, its kaleidoscope of colors emanating from the multi-color hood.  Slightly soothed since the lamp dispersed the air of terror with exposure of my skirt and blouse folded neatly with Teddy on top, I clicked on the gas fireplace.  Then I noticed: My trench is on the mannequin. . . . When did that happen? And who tidied up? stayed a mute issue as I was suddenly lobbed forward after attempting to climb out of bed.  My toe caught a rip in the quilt.

Quickly kicking off the blanket with arms swinging, I caught my balance.  Though stepping forward I began to roll on an empty bottle.  Good grief! I thought as my head barely missed the edge of the wrought iron headboard as I seized the railing.  That’s all I need—to be knocked out sprawled across the floor.  And while clutching the frame, an image.  Honestly!  Of all people, I imaged seeing nice nosy Prudence Nobles.  The vision appeared like déjà vu.  The apparition scared and embarrassed me.  I actually looked around expecting to see displeasure shown by her shaking head.  Her eyes an accusing “Had a relapse?”

It hasn't happened again, has it? I wondered.  Forget about it, Diamond.  Never mind.  Mend the quilt.  It was a good enough diversion.  And who knew.  I thought, maybe the project along with a strong cup of coffee will get rid of this annoying bubble in my stomach.  Exactly what I was afraid of escaped me.  But this hovering ever-present phantom existed. . . Yes, coffee will help.

I swooped up the quilt from the bed; flung it forward, close to the rocker placed in front of the brick fireplace.  I found myself smiling at the misshapen bundle.  Yes, my big bozo stitches were an eyesore.  But what would anyone expect from a child of six?  Back then, even now, Martha I’m not.  Its age, wear, and pattern is why it stayed beneath the down comforter.  Though matching no bed clothing I possessed, I loved the comforter more than anything else I owned—non-apparel included.
My family: Seneca, Mom, and Madame donated old shirts and dresses of chambray and cotton for the squares.  Also, my worn floral and denim outfits I’d outgrown, along with trims of lace from old doll clothes we cut up, piecing everything together to make squares.  Madame and I worked together connecting the swatches on the old heavy sewing machine with the metal knee control.

Umm.  I remember the aroma of French-roasted coffee traveling from the kitchen permeated the apartment.  Signaled the completion of the pot of java, courtesy of my trusty coffeemaker with automatic timer.  Comfortable.  Ordinary.  I adored the smell.  I recalled a more pleasant present.  All my wistful pining took a pause.  A little bit of joy attempted a comeback.

Grabbing my plaid terry robe from the coat tree on the way out of the door, I headed to the kitchen.  After pouring my coffee, I set the cup on the kitchen table before poking around in the antique armoire.  Passing bottles of solace, I reached for the hand-carved mending-box of threads.  I found the colors necessary to match the shabby sections, then with my left hand balanced the box on my head.  My right hand cradled the cup of liquid gold, as I carefully transported all goods to the bedroom where I settled in the gliding rocker.
 
Staring into the fireplace, before long, I saw tall strong Madame.  Then my mother, Crystal—Madame’s dainty soft-spoken daughter.  Two complete opposites.  I remembered us sitting around the patched comforter-top spread between us on the living room floor giggling and talking.  Placing layers of high-loft polyester batting resembling puffy clouds on the covering, while Madame taught me the essentials of quilt making.
 
Lovely moments like those were rare.  But when wallowing in self-pity this particular memory provides nostalgic release.  Everyone together.  Even Seneca somewhere in the same house.  Then, we enjoyed each other’s company.

Funny, thoughcouldn'tcan't really picture Seneca.  But surprisingly I heard his voice.  Can still hear his voice.  Not exactly what he said, only that his voice comforted me like warm chocolate milk that I loved as a child.  Every other blue moon, I’ll still make a cup.

However, that day the quilt failed to bring a lasting calm.  Actually, it produced the opposite.  It brought up the unresolved questions about Mom and Madame’s relationship.  Those questions rose and exploded in my head more than the nightmare.

Maybe they were the nightmare.

I remembered gliding rapidly back and forth.  I guess: Chasing words.  Words of wisdom.  Words—which would convert those questions into answers.  Answers which would promote family unity. 
And I remembered the subway episode.  It also shook me up.  Turned everything topsy-turvy again.  One day flying made grounding out so fast hard to accept.

Standing, I dropped the quilt in the rocker.  Out of the bedroom, down the hall, through the apartment’s living room French doors, and onto the patio I went in search of insight.  I stood still wishing the sunrise could erase the day before.  Would also lift the dense murkiness I felt clogged my mind.

Pulling my robe tighter and holding the half-empty coffee mug I paced among the plants and potted trees.  Stroking their shriveled leaves I promised them, “Don’t worry.  Pretty soon I will bring you in.  I’m sorry I'm such a procrastinator.  But look at me.  Sorry.  You can't choose your parents,” I apologized.  Because the sad truth was and is: I began to battle my ability to care for me.

That admission slumped me back against the short brick wall.  I stared blindly inside my apartment defeated.  Weary.  In need of a rebirth.  Though, if I go, I thought, how do I make Madame understand? again my main concern.
 
After a few chilly minutes, the morning breeze trailed the sheers behind me into the living-room.  Nature quickly aired out the apartment, but neglected my brain.  Returning to the bedroom, I made the bed to occupy my hands, when my eye caught sight of Mom’s stationary lying on the end table. 
Remembering how the letter, especially Mom’s invite, uplifted me before, I thought:  Hey!  Maybe it’ll work again.

Picking up the page, I reread it slowly, my lips only mouthing the words, meaning to skip over the news about Steve.  But I couldn't, since Mom’s sadness, her loneliness rose from the page.  Yes, Mom needs me now, I reasoned.  If I build a strong bond with her, that could satisfy Madame’s desire for me to have family, I thought—knowing it won’t.

Madame won't be happyShe wanted me mature and independent there in New York, in Seneca’s world—a desire obviously now dead to me, especially since I felt a need for a Mom.
So why hesitate? I wondered; knowing for sure the answer.

Madame.  Being my guardian when no one else wanted me makes me want, . . .No.  I need her approval not her displeasure.  Remembering Madame’s words; “Diamond, Crystal can never be a good mother to you.  She does not have the motherly emotional attachment that a daughter needs;” I'm torn.  I feel that Mom deserves the opportunity to plead her defense.  Her letter said as much.
Sprawled like flaccid spent spaghetti across the bed, I stared at the high ceiling.  I agonized and vacillated.  Yet from somewhere came the ability to make a decision.  I thought:

The bad feelings between Mom and Madame can’t matter to me.  I need them both.  Madame will just have to understand. . . .At least, I hope she will.  Maybe she won't boot me completely out of her life, like she did Mom.

Rolling over to the edge of the bed, I say, “No she won't,” hoping the words spoken aloud will give it power.  Though, the question, Madame still loves me, right? betrays me.  Shows my lack of conviction.

I try again.  “She'll forgive me.  She'll understand,” I voice sitting up, planting my feet firmly.  I enumerate the reasons why, stalled at number one until optimism rears its hopeful head.

Maybe she’ll see the success of Mom’s and my relationship and it’ll inspire her to bridge their gapYes.  That’s what’s going to happen. . . .Right? I asked then hanging over the bed’s edge.  Doubled over and sickened by the debating, I say, “Believe, Diamond!  Just believe!” because the answer lies in success.

“First succeed in mending the rift.”  It’ll speak louder than words.

With that statement spoken, I shout to Teddy, “I'm going to Chicago!” tossing him in the air.  Intimidation now dead in the brightly lit room.

Then suddenly, I jumped.  A double “peal!” had Teddy head first on the floor at my feet.

The phone this early?

Madame!?

Lifting Teddy, I retrieve the receiver next to me on the end table.  “Hello?” my voice small.

“Diamond?  This is Crystal. . . your . . .your Mother. . . .How are you?” she asks.  She still sounded faint as I remembered.

“Mom? . . . .Oh, Mom!  Mom. . . . .I’m fine.  Fine. . . .Wow!  This is a surprise.  It’s good to hear your voice,” I said straining to hear.

The clock on the end table read six a.m.  I thought, that’s five a.m. Chicago time.  Now sitting rigid on the bed, Teddy now on my lap, I stroke his wounded head with one hand, while steeling myself not to sound like a bumbling idiot.
 
What’s the matter with me?. . . Why am I so nervous?. . . It’s okay; it’s Mom.

“I was just thinking about you.  I got your letter,” I continued, swallowing hard.  Me—who sometimes can't shut up—speechless?
“I'm glad… that’s why I called.  I'm sorry it took so long.”
 
After a slight pause she continues, “Diamond, I’m worried.  I hadn't heard from you.  You are coming aren't you?  I saw your friend Octavia.  I didn't even recognize her.  Anyway, I told her you were coming.  You will won't you?  Promise me. . . . I'll pay for the ticket.”

How could I not come?
 
“Oh yes, Mom.  I'm definitely coming.  And Mom,” my eyes leaked and my voice squeaked, “I'm so sorry about Steve.”

“Yes.  Yes, Diamond.  It’s sad, but. . . .but I've got you now, haven't I?” she asks, quickly, her voice low.

This question with her personal invite reconfirms my decision.  It snickered at today’s indecisiveness.  I exclaim, “Yes, Mom.  You still have me. . . .And thank-you.”

No reply.

Thinking, this is probably a bit overwhelming for her too, I continue with, “Mom, when do you want me to come?”

“Soon,” she says without a moment mores hesitation.  “As soon as you can, . . . .dear.” 
Dear?

“Okay, Mom.  I've got a couple of things to wrap up here first—.”

“Can you book the ticket for Friday?  Is that too soon?  That would be perfect for me.  Is that okay?” she rushes on.

This Friday?  My mind balked, but my lips committed, “Sure, Mom.  That’ll be okay.”

“Good.  I’m so excited, Diamond.  Call me with the flight information, okay.  Here’s my number—.”
After writing down her number on a piece of paper I hung up, wondering about the Friday booking—that day being Tuesday.  But I assured myself; it’ll be okay.  Two weeks.  I’d visit for two weeks.

“Maybe, that won’t be overstaying my welcome,” I thought aloud.

Happy, with resolve now strengthened, I started preparations for my return to Chicago. First, I headed to the living room; bouncing down on the sofa, ready to make a list of everyone I needed to inform of my vacation.

On second hand, I reconsidered; I’ll just let them think this is a business outing.  “It is.  It’s my personal business,” I shouted, jumping up to get busy.

Gathering cleaning equipment from underneath the kitchen sink, I strategized my assault on the apartment.  Since I hadn't cleaned in weeks, dust, layers of it covered the furniture.  But, it didn't matter.  That day was restoration day.  I turned on my stereo.  Flung open the kitchen window, and sent jazz into the world and motivation to my cleaning.

Hours passed.

Pleasantly tired, relaxing on the sofa with a cold glass of apple juice, I noticed the blinking red light on my answering machine.  I thought: Oh, it’ll wait.