Wisdom of MY Words

Random Musings & Book Reviews

01 August
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Losing the Beginning

“It’s drugs or me,” she screamed, tires skidding, the dust behind her car oozing in the breeze, the sun burning on Barry’s skin, his tears hot, his throat aching from growled screams, the birds the only witnesses to his anguish.

Barry ran after his wife’s car, missed it, skidded, ended up on the dusty road.

Eventually, he ended up on his wide porch, overlooking Mount Mitchell, bloody, crying and screaming. Life beyond success, his nose half into the mirror littered with Columbian magic powder, Barry sat up in his expensive Chippendale chair and stared into the wilderness. He probably sat there for over an hour before calling rehab, the number Rowena had found for him a year earlier. It was late summer before he was back, the house sold, the furniture moved to Florida to a new house, his mother still not notified.

Catharsis lead Barry Winslow to truth. Still, so much unmitigated pain lingered in his soul. Why it happened, he didn’t know. Maybe just because the drug simply had become obsolete to him. Whatever it was, one day Barry Winslow woke up, his nose half buried in cocaine and the left hand plucking on the personal computer, writing one of the violent crime novels that had made him famous.

Violence raging on the white screen, violence raging in his life, violence raging in his soul, Rowena’s slamming doors echoing in his mind, Barry’s nose oozing milky sweat, a proverbial lightbulb appeared inside his head.

Barry Winslow had one clear thought that couldn’t even be described.

All this pain, a ghost in his brain? Maybe.

Rowena slamming the doors behind her, packing her bags into the car and heading for the highway. A ghost inside his brain?

As he sat by the lake on that summer’s day, it all seemed like one of his earlier paintings or one of his crime novels with a clearer ending, the whole crisis presenting itself as a picture in its dark and rich colors and airy textures. It seemed evident.

The question, of course, remained: how would he explain this to his mother … and his father? Giving up the house by Mount Mitchell had never been a choice that he conciously made or wanted to make. It just remained something that had to be done, especially since Rowena left. Nothing left for him to do, he sat there by the lake on that exact spot where Rowena and he kissed for the first time, sort of saying good bye to the place.

Saying goodbye to cocaine.

Goodbye to a future ex-wife that had started as his interior decorator.

“Good bye,” Barry whispered. “Goodbye, house.”

His own voice seemed strange, foreign, weird, somehow funny. Almost as if he didn’t recognize it at all. The rays of the oncoming sunset glittered on the lake, making little twists and turns on the waves of the water. The gleaming of the evening sun disappearing behind the mountain mirrored his own life at the moment: a farewell … to what? Farewell to welcoming strangers of solitude, a hello to old friends? Which friends? Which lovers? Which relatives?

Barry looked down at the book. This oldest book in his possession rested calmly in his hand. He felt the soft texture of that cover, the one that he had caressed as a child, written secrets about how his school friends had locked him into the bathroom and forced him to take that … stuff.

Barry looked up, seeing how that sun had set one more inch, disappearing a little more behind the Appalachian Mountains. Strange, how you at 44 years of age have to start anew. He had never thought it possible, although he knew he had to trust this. He knew that that one event had been the beginning of a series of events that had domino-stoned into pain. Now, Barry sat here by his own house, knowing he had to go home.

The smell of lilacs in the springtime, of mom’s baked apple pie, of a freshly mowed lawn and the sight of dad’s coin collection. Certainly, there was work for an author there. It didn’t matter to his agents and publishers where he lived. By golly, the readers wouldn’t care if Barry Winslow lived by Mount Mitchell or back in Florida.

Florida. Had he really talked his agent into letting him move back, knowing that he would have to tell his mom that he moved back because of his career?

Barry sighed, looking at the clouds slowly drifting past the setting sun into what seemed to be an eternal moonrise. The moon’s round shape now appeared on the one side of the mountain, the sun on the other. The queen of the day saying good bye, the other queen offering the world a darker coup-de-tat of dreamy bliss. Barry knew his own sun was rising, rising toward truth and love and family. That famous author, infamous for his outbursts and drug scandals, now had found truth in the fact that he had followed a ghost.

The ghost of fame.

The ghost of cocaine.

His entire career had taken off before he realized that the ghosts of the past, those ghosts he had followed, actually were simple neurons bouncing in his brain.

If he had only known …

He could have said no, broken out, saved his life.

Would he be famous today?

Did it matter?

A 16-year-old kid is locked into a bathroom, Barry told himself, and is forced to take cocaine, expelled from school, leaves home and works himself through countless oddjobs, living in countless cities, always on the road, finally reaching success, never aquiring peace. That one page with some information about three guys who had bought some dope from a strange fellow in a crimson red suit, asking Barry to try sniffing that bag.

It had been Rowena, hadn’t it?

She had been the catalyst.

Good old Rowena, who had forced him to send in his manuscripts, to try new creative paths, to stay true to his creativity no matter what the agent said. Good old Rowena, to whom he had promised to stay clean. Good old Rowena, who now was gone.

And now nothing left but a runny nose and a few dozen bestsellers, a diary and an empty soul.

The sun now almost gone, Barry tried to find the truth in that sun setting beyond Mount Mitchell. The truth in those green trees. The truth in that water. The truth in those leaves. The truth in his own house, sold for over a million dollars to some big executive and his family.

No, Barry didn’t burn bridges. He built new ones.

My, oh, my. Who was he kidding? Thinking of the fact that he had actually flown over there to inspect that new house and not telling his mom about it, driving past her home and not walking in. It’s been twenty years. Too long a time to pay her and dad a visit.

Mom.

Mom, who lived there in his old childhood home.

Mom, seventy-five. God help her, would she forgive him, ever?

Dad? Dad.

Barry stood up, walking that path up the familiar house, a house that he and Rowena had bought fifteen years ago. He had spent years as an author, chasing his luck, refusing to have anything to do with his family. Why? Because they were … what? Twee? Bourgeois? Provincial? Small Town, America? Now that he needed them, would they want him back?

He needed to go back.

Now, “Small Town, America” was all he needed, all he craved for, all he loved.

Truth.

As Barry Winslow walked up on the porch of his old house, the view of Mount Mitchell seemed new, as if he had never ever seen it before, as if he never needed to leave. The endless pain screamed in his heart that staying here without Rowena had no future.

The real beauty could now be found elsewhere.

Calm?

Not really. Not without Rowena.

Now, his heart needed someone to love.

His duty and his conscience awoke, the lightbulb again.

Family.

Truth.

Sincerity.

So, Barry Winslow took one last look at his porch, the path down to the lake, the swing, the garden, the old road toward the mountain-side, the sounds of the birds chirping feeling like love, but lacking substance.

Maybe love could be found back in Florida.

No love like hers.

Running away from responsibility again, Barry pretended he did not have to call her.

So, Barry picked up his cellular phone, desperate, pushing Rowena’s number, hanging up, stopping, waiting, crying, but knowing suddenly, beyond all the pain of lost love, that he had to call … her. Her. The woman he had avoided for decades.

Mom.

Silently,Barry leafed through all those contacts, leafed through all the pain, the screaming pain of the rising or falling of fame and found one moment of peace inside what really seemed to be the only solid truth in all that loud noise: mom.

Dad.

He lift the receiver to his ear and waited for the long tone, the long tone of solid pain.

Standing on the porch of his old house, a house purchased with his millions, the sun set not only behind Mount Mitchell, but on his life and what it had been. How did that sound? What it had been? Had he actually left himself?

At what point had he actually abandoned his real self? His innocent self? The kid that played in the yard, dressed up as a cowboy, eating strawberry flavored ice cream sundaes in the park with his friends. Was that boy back in his heart?

That dial tone sounded like an ominous echo of the past, the smell of the Appalachian summer sending its heat into his own broken life. As good old Barry found his real self waking up again, his body standing on an expensive porch, he waited four beeps for mom to answer the phone, always taking a long time to answer the phone, the sunrays spreading its light across local water. Spreading like sunshine.

Holy Christ, Barry wondered again, how am I gonna be able to talk to her …

“Winslow,” a familiar voice, older and more fragile, spoke. A long silence followed the introduction, a silence just clicking away across the distance. “Hello? Is anyone there?”

Barry closed his eyes, trying to feel how he had felt before walking into that damn bathroom and taking that cocaine. 16 years old and so damn stupid.

Mom almost hung up on him, when he suddenly spoke up. His voice sounded hoarse, a left over growl a month after the quarrel with Rowena, a voice almost unused to speaking after years and years of fear and running away from reality, pain taking its toll, drug-beaten nostrils withered away. Fame can do that to you, he told himself, and Barry meandered through his own life of pain. Catharsis. What a joke.

“Mom? It’s me.”

Not a word was spoken this time, the speaker simply waiting for a reply. A breath issued as a response. One small intake of air. Mom wondered what to say, but didn’t say anything. The haunting voice from his past, one voice that had been a theory for all these years. It spoke to him, the voice, called him by his name. All those bestsellers on mom’s shelf, all those friends and relatives asking questions, her son just a picture on a wall. Home.

“B-Barry?”

One tear rolled down Barry’s cheek, made its way down toward his chin and hung there like a blister of dirty air.Barry slumped down on a semi-broken chair on his old white porch, one that he had decided to leave here after leaving Mount Mitchell tomorrow.

“It’s me, mom,” he said, his voice cracking and fluttering. “How … how are you?”

One guffaw of sobbing hit the receiver, the old clock in her Florida hallway announcing the full hour in the background from the other end.

“I never thought you would call. Barry, is that really you?”

The question hung there, like a strange bird floating on an airpocket.

“It’s me, mom. I’m still in North Carolina.”

“Barry? Why are you calling me? Why are you friendly to me?”

The pain seemed endless, all those years of mistakes drilling their holes into his heart as the sun set on Mount Mitchell and on his heart.

“Because … I … love … you,” he mumbled.

Barry wondered what to say. In fact, the words all stood in the way.

“You do?”

“I miss you,” he said.

“Oh, son. Come home.”

“Rowena left me, mom,” Barry said. “She …”

Mom gasped a couple of times, by the sound of it fidgeting with her hands.

Memories of a younger woman making tea and inviting lady-friends for brunch returned. Memories of a better life came back, guilt knocking on his inner door.

Mom waited, listened, wondered, hoped, sighed.

“Uhm, mom,” Barry started. “I’m off the … white stuff.”

The one thing that he had been longing to say ever since he left his hometown simply slipped out. Barry laughed, standing up out of that broken chair, opening up the door to his old and now empty house. He walked in, the screen door banging shut behind him.

“My agent wants me to write a novel with Florida as the place of action,” he lied. “My last novel had this one scene in Miami and people have been asking him if there will be more scenes like that. So, he’s …”

Barry cleared his throat, trying to articulate himself in a fearless way, trying to play the role of the macho star, the role he played when he visited Hollywood, the role of the fake Barry. That guy had nothing to do with him. Why did he say those things to mom?

“Well, mom, to put it this way: my agent has assured me that if a create a story set in Florida, we can interest a whole lot of producers into making it into a movie,” Barry continued, waving it off. “They have this idea of me including Orlando and the beaches and I don’t know what. The publisher is a big Florida fan. It’s a long story. I don’t want to bore you with all that. Main thing is that I am clean, free and … I am coming home.”

Mom started laughing, desperately. It was hard for Barry to say from where that laugh came. Just that it came. When it did, the river of that happy laugh suddenly grew melancholy, sad and turned into a cry very quickly.

“Who am I kidding? I am coming home, because I miss you guys,” he corrected. “I have stayed away for too long.”

That sad laugh fit really well with the empty house that Barry walked around in. Reality had been conceived for him at this moment, Barry in his house overlooking Mount Mitchell and his mother miles away, making up for lost time.

Time is of the essence. Wasn’t that the phrase of choice right now?

“Barry,” she said, the otherwise complete silence speaking volumes. “My dear Barry, why did you stay away from us?”

“I don’t know,” Barry answered, truthfully. “I resented the provincial attitude, thought I was better than you, irritated … I don’t know. Mostly, it was my own problem. I will back come to Florida and I won’t leave again. How’s dad?”

“Oh, Barry.”

“What? How’s dad, mom? Tell me.”

The sadness of the silence in her tone felt like a withered rose, an oppurtunity missed, a train that already left the station too early with the passenger coming in way too late to catch it. As if he had known, Barry wandered around his empty house, one foldable bunkbed in the entire house reserved for his nightly rest, Barry stopping in the corner overlooking his station wagon. As he stood there looking through the living room window at his car and the road that eventually would take him back to Florida, one thought arose. The setting sun shone its last ray on the front wheel of the Dodge, leaving only a the sign of the Uniroyal tire logo on the tire. United and royal. Barry laughed at the wordplay. Even commercial merchandise has a worthy cause. We will be unified, Barry thought to himself.

“Barry,” she said. “Dad lost the battle against cancer this morning. He is dead.”

The sun had now set completely and Barry stood in complete darkness now, watching the moon rise, all those lost years never to come back. Fame, what could fame bring him now? The Pulitzer Prize on the shelf dusty, the Oscar silent and neutral, something reached into his chest and pulled out his heart, a carpet yanked away from under his feet. The smell of the Appalachian summer now felt sordid, wrong, out of place, making him feel defeated.

“No,” Barry wept, his eyes flowing over, killing his peace, wounding his spirit. “Mom, no, no, no, no, no …”

“You snapped at us, so badly, in fact, that we just figured you didn’t want to have anything to do with us. So, we left you alone. I have wanted to call you all day.”

In this darkness that Barry knew to be his soon-to-be ex-house, he fell down onto his knees. He felt the parquet floor hurt his already wounded, rehabilitated bones, laying his head on the floor, falling over, crouching together like a baby, rocking back and forth, closing his eyes.

As he lay there, the moon shone a ray onto the floor, on his face, leaving the day behind, and Barry wanted to disappear. No matter if his fame brought him bestsellers. In his heart, he felt like a little boy who just missed his daddy, the bicycle rides, the meetings behind the Christmas-Tree, the trips to the west coast, the traditional family dinners, the Saturday Monopoly-games.

The moon came searching for him, letting its beam slowly crawl up onto his eyes.

“His last words this morning were that he will be keeping close watch over you from heaven. He never forgot you.”

Barry opened his eyes, looking at how the moon shone on the parquet floor. The one ray that shone on the floor looked like a pillar.

The long pause filled up with an atmosphere, strangely new and unsusual.

Interesting, because he had never felt this way, at least not since … back before the incident in the school bathroom.

It felt like waking up.

“Where is he now?”

“The undertakers took him to enbalm this afternoon.”

His lower lip started trembling, ever so slightly. Like a leaf in the wind.

“Barry?”

“Yes?”

 

“Why didn’t you come here to visit us when you bought the house?”

The quiet question made him feel like an assaulted gangster, like a fish out of water. Something in him jumping out, only to be pushed back into his belly, lashed out. Not at his mother – at himself.

“You know about the house?”

Mom laughed, sadly.

“Everybody is talking about it.” Her voice became pleading, sad, forgiving. “There are no hard feelings, only …”

His mother’s sad and very feeble cry reached the other end of the line, danced around Barry’s ear for a minute and came dancing back with a horrible, hungry and very sad sob.

Old emotions returned, old anger at parental demands danced in his heart only to disintergrate, wrath disappearing with the rising of the moon.

“Just come home, okay?”

“I am leaving Mount Mitchell tomorrow.”

The click on the other end of the line left a black hole in Barry’s soul.

That night, Barry didn’t didn’t go up to the bunkbed, bought for kids that never were born. Barry Winslow, that famous author and ex-cocaine-addict with destroyed nostrils, didn’t even look at the moon as it shone through the window upon his face. In fact, Barry left the phone lying on his ear just like he had when he had spoken to mom.

He fell asleep on the floor.

Barry didn’t notice that he had left his old diary laying by the empty living room window. It lay there, hoping he would notice it.

Barry didn’t even notice how that light searched Barry’s pain, trying to make amends. A spiritually awake person might even say that a spirit was in that light. The spirit that danced inside that light had just left its body that morning. Now, when Barry slept, that spirit visited him in his dreams, caressed his hair and whispered:

“Good night, son, and sweet dreams!”

Barry dreamt about home.

The sunlight pushed Barry’s eyelids that next morning, letting in little rays of light onto his iris. Barry blinked a few times, his eyes first seeing a parquet floor for the first time for what it was. Just a floor. Expensive, okay. Worth a million dollars, okay. But just a floor.

Barry tried to sit up, but quickly noticed how stiff his neck felt. He rubbed it a few times before he actually could manage to hold his neck still, hearing all his bones crack from sleeping on the floor. When he did sit up, however, he sat there for a bit, he felt numb, taking in the pain, feeling the emptiness, getting used to having missed the greatest chance of a lifetime: getting to know his own dad. Trying to smell his soon-to-be old house, one he had loved smelling and feeling and living in, Barry shocked himself with the fact that he hated it.

It stood for the denial of his origins.

Now, the next pain that arrived had nothing to do with the body.

It spoke to him of lost chances, of actually having missed an entire life with his father. The pain spoke to him about having wasted all those bloody years on fame and cocaine. And Barry let his heart out and cried. The tears that fell down his cheeks felt so hot, they literally burned his cheeks. A pain that wanted his father back.

He had only thought of mom.

Barry looked down.

Soon, he stood up, picking up his phone, but leaving the diary behind, walked around the house for one last time. He decided to leave the bunkbed where it was, a kind of reminder that someone else once had lived here.

When Barry Winslow handed over the keys, seeing the new owners wave good bye against the elegant backdrop of that marvellous mountain, Barry Winslow hit the gas. His tears hot as burning charcoal, he sobbed in silence, trying his best to ask his parents of forgiveness for the ill that he had committed. It all seemed so sordid, the interior decorators of his new house chasing about the grounds trying their best to recreate how the layout had been in the old house. And after he chased them all away, asking them to stay away, he drove to his mom, falling down on his hands and knees and asking of her forgiveness.

He felt her old hands stroking his hair to the sound of the old clock on the mantlepiece striking five times, the reverberations making him feel thirty years younger.

Barry listened to his mother speak of old girlfriends gone and relatives moved away to distant place. All the time, though, dad was there in spirit, his ghost lingering in their hearts. Phone calls were made, the undertakers were called, invitations sent out, tears were shed.

Barry still cried three hours later, holding his mom, eating with her, drinking coffee with her, taking walks with her, singing songs with her, crying with her.

It had seemed right to leave Mount Mitchell, had it not?

Father was going to die and it was Barry’s job to go home to comfort his mom.

Fate.

The week passed in an unspectacular manner, the scent of the old house reminding him of old wounds. He remembered being younger, actually never ever recalling until now that he had been happy back then.

Barry didn’t even remember forgetting the diary.

Spending the funeral in silence amongst a few chosen friends, Barry and his mom chose to go home afterwards and looking at old scrapbooks. They cried in each other’s arms, getting drunk on cheap Burgundy wine and eating tons of Hershey bars.

 

Barry and his mother sat in the dining room, a Sunday morning it was, when the familiarly unfamiliar doorbell rang. Mother Bertha Winslow stood up, leaving her pasta steaming on the rose colored plate. Barry put his hand on her lap, asking her to remain seated.

As Barry opened the front door, the woman that stood there had the sun shining on her sweet sandré hair from way across the bay. She held a book in her hand. The diary with the soft cover seemed familiar. Barry stood there in the doorway of his mother’s house, smelling the roses from his mother’s garden, hearing the chirping of the birds, realizing that he had forgotten about Rowena and how she slammed all the doors of the house and told him she would never return unless he stopped “taking that shit”.

Rowena stood there for an endless time, before Barry’s mom carefully asked him if he didn’t want to let that poor woman in.

“How did you know I was here?” Barry whispered.

Rowena walked into the house, giving Barry the diary ever so slowly, ever so carefully, her Nina Ricci perfume spreading across the room like a cloud of misty memories.

“I called the rehab centre, Barry,” she said, apologetically. “Just out of morbid curiosity, I guess, I called them to see if my outburst had caused you to react.”

Mother Bertha Winslow sat down on the brown couch, folding her hands and putting them in her lap, looking at a coffee table book about North Carolina, pretending not to listen, knowing that her movements revealed otherwise.

“When they told me your rehabilitation had been a success,” Rowena mused, “I called the house in North Carolina. You must’ve been in Florida the first time round. I understood quickly that you were selling your house.”

Rowena walked over and sat down next to Bertha Winslow, who looked up at the beautiful woman that still could be seen as her daughter-in-law. Friendly, thankful gazes were exchanged before Rowena looked up at Barry again, pleading for him to understand.

“I must’ve just missed you,” Rowena said, ever so quietly. “The new owners had lots of trucks there, people, furniture, cartons.”

Rowena pointed at the diary, dreamily.

“When they heard who I was, they gave me this,” she said and reached for Bertha’s hand, holding it, caressing it, shrugging, unable to explain why she was here. “I drove all the way, not knowing why.”

Rowena saw her mother-in-law’s eyes fixed on hers.

“Now, I know why we hadn’t gone through with the divorce yet.”

Barry’s feet involuntarily shuffled across the carpet, his tush slowly descending down upon the cushions of the old couch.

She up nodded Barry, slowly, coldly, painfully.

“You still want to be married to me?”

Rowena looked at Barry, blinking a few times, trying to find the truth in his gaze.

“If you promise to stay clean,” she answered.

Barry nodded, his hand automatically reached across his mother’s lap and finding his wife’s arm. Bertha Winslow lay her hand on both of theirs, smiling.

“Main thing is that you are both here,” she said.

 

That night, in the new house, Rowena came to bed a little later than her husband and found him crying, his pillow flooded over in tears.

He turned over toward her, her hair hanging down across her face down into his eyes, his eyes red and bloodshot.

“I miss my father.”

Biting her lip, Rowena Winslow leaned over Barry and kissed him, gently.

Her lips tasted like the strawberry-flavored ice cream sundaes of his childhood.

That thousand dollar waterbed positioned under the original Rubens shone in all its wealth. Still, the only thing Barry really cared for in the bedroom was the picture of his family on the nighttime table.

“Barry?”

Barry looked up, his eyes a little less red now.

“Huh?” he said, his voice trembling.

“What has all this fame really brought you?”

He looked at his wife, so sweet and so present in all her surprise, obviously wondering what to answer. “A legacy. My life’s work.”

That same moon shone into the bedroom that night. A moon that had shone on Barry’s ex-parquet floor near Mount Mitchell. Now, Barry noticed the spirit in that moonlight. It was dad. Dad, who wanted to tell him that he loved him.

“That’s your creativity, Barry,” Rowena said, looking into the moonlight. She looked back at Barry, caressing his cheek. “I’m talking about your vanity, how many likes you get in facebook. Not your creativity.”

Barry looked into the moonlight.

“I’ve been chasing a ghost, haven’t I? How many tweets I get or what the press says when I network a Beverly Hills party.”

Barry lift his left hand and caressed his wife’s right cheek as it shone in the moonlight, looking smooth in the light of the Florida night.

“And to think that my fans think I lead a golden life.”

“Now, you will.”

As Rowena sunk onto the pillow of her side of the bed that night, Barry embraced his wife and fell asleep in her arms. And Barry dreamt about father standing in the moonlight.

 

That next morning, one ray of light drifted across Barry’s eyes. It fought itself through the window and forced his left eyelid open. His eye slowly met the sun, shining through a crack in the blinds and letting the sensitive blinking of his eyelid open. Orange colored see-through-draperies graced a cream painted window. A heart hung on a string from the curtain. It bobbed slowly back and forth from a breeze that came from somewhere.

His eyes drifted over to the pillow next to where he was laying.  Crumpled orange sheets with pictures of Tut-Anch-Amun on them met his gaze.

The satin sheets felt soft. The strange house smelled of newly washed bodies reeking of coconut cream. He paused and looked up toward the ceiling. Cream colored. Cream and orange. Barry breathed in slowly. The salty, welcoming smell of frying bacon met his nose. The girl he had made love to, was that her making breakfast, was she his wife?

That comforted Barry.

A new beginning.

The girl in whose arms he chose to fall asleep in, she was his wife, the mutual choice to feel each other out really didn’t concern anyone but them.

God, I believe in you.

Those were the words ringing in his ear that morning.

Soft music played in that kitchen, the noises of plates being taken out of cupboards.

When he stood up, he stumbled over his own jeans. The lay in a crumpled bunch on the floor next to his T-shirt. Faked old-style floor, made to look like log-cabin-boards, graced the floor. Picking up the pants and putting them on, Barry smiled to himself. Walking out, he saw a reproduction of an old Monet painting on the outer wall. He knew it was Monet. He had seen the original at the Museum of Modern Art. Its estimated worth of £ 41 million exceeded her financial gain. He had made a good choice.

Walking out of the bedroom, the smell of bacon with an extra whiff of eggs gave Barry a feeling of truth. Now coffee and toast also came floating over. The sandré-haired woman had thrown on a dress with flowers on it. The balcony table overlooked what from his position seemed to be the inner yard. Was this woman desperate? No. Barry’s heart told him that this woman was a goldmine. This woman was an angel. He must stay. This woman was fate. After all, this woman arrived just when he needed her.

Was all this for him? If it wasn’t, Barry would leave and never come back. Realizing that he was still barefoot, Barry strode up anyway, feeling the chill of the grey marble floor in the kitchen. At first, she didn’t see him, carrying out the bacon and eggs onto the balcony.

He stood there, wondering why this woman had made this fabulous meal for him. Happy about it, sure. Another man with the same night him behind would probably have left by now. Still not turning around to look if Barry was there, the woman reached with her hand behind her and picked up her coffee. She drank it in slow sips.

Barry felt the soft fabric of the Persian carpet under his feet. The fluffy sound of his bare feet walking across it sound like home. More home than what he had over in Mount Mitchell in his loneliness. Standing at the edge of the balcony, he looked at her features, her hair swaying in the wind.

The woman slowly turned around.

The two of them hesitated, like children before a first kiss. The breeze refreshing, their souls still shy even after a complete take-over of nightly lust, they realized that they looked at each other for the very first time and liked what they saw.

The woman took some elegant, striding steps up to her man. Standing there close to him, she lift her arms and put them around his waist. She bit her lip, trembled a bit, exuded some gorgeous perfume, sweated, sighed.

He felt her breath on his, this fingernails tickling his back, her scent seducing his nose, her voice soothing his lonely heart. She looked down on his mouth, lifting one hand and running it along his lips.

She looked up at him, into his eyes. And if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then a signal came from that deep soul right into his. She laughed, threw her eyes open, raised her eyebrows and crouched with a giggle that could’ve belonged to one of his female ex-high-school-students.

She opened them again.

Barry gave the woman a long intense kiss, tongues probing hungrily inside her mouth.

“You’ve run out of milk, so the eggs are just sunny side up.”

“I’ll have your milk instead. That probably tastes better than Walmart’s.”

Barry kissed her again. And by the time they did sit down to eat, the food was cold. But that didn’t matter. The juice was fresh, the bacon was crisp and the jam was home made. As they ate, they spoke about who they were and what they wanted out of life.

Rowena gave her love-interest a half-grin, shaking her head. She spread some butter and jam on her toast and took a bite.

Rowena smiled, bitterly.

Barry laughed nervously, fidgeting with his hands.

He looked down.

“You seem to me like an angel, Rowena.”

And so, she sat there, in her garden chair, holding her juice. Barry feared she would burst out laughing. Instead, she cried.

Barry stood up and walked over to her. He kneeled down beside her, caressing her lap.

“Don’t cry. That’s my job.”

Rowena let her hand drop to her pretty lap. “No kidding.”

Barry ran his hands up and down her lap. The fabric was thin and soft.

She waited.Barry knew that, but he didn’t seem to have the strength to continue.

Rowena rubbed her fingers gently together. The fingers made a small sound. He waited for her to say something. She gave him an open gaze.

Rowena seemed distant, out of reach, rubbing a wound that didn’t want to heal.

“I need you in my life.”

“Ditto.”

“Ditto. That’s nice. Ditto.”

The two of them laughed again and kissed.

“Just promise me to stay clean.”

The pleading gaze in Rowena’s face made him feel like a little boy again. A boy that had been innocent, one boy that passed that bathroom and never walked in to take that first shot of cocaine. That boy would never have run away from home, he would never have become the party boy of New York. Then again, he would never have become a famous author.

Now, however, Barry Winslow sat with his wife in a new house, a new beginning, not afraid to start anew, not afraid to let go of the past. Trusting God was right, wasn’t it?

So, after breakfast he made love to his wife, went to see his mother, went to pray by his father’s grave.

After that, Barry Winslow went home to write a new story.

He took the diary and positioned it beside the computer.

The plot about a boy, challenged by three friends to take drugs and refusing, felt real. What felt amazing soared like a beautiful eagle inside his heart: the boy turned into happy father, an adored husband, a consummate professional and a good friends.

Famous? Yes. That, too.

And Barry decided once and for all to let go of the pain of his own lost beginnings.

 

 

 

 
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