Lost the Boat

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's possible to envy something so hard, that you realize not what you have.

Submitted: October 19, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 19, 2011




23 October 2010


Just when a stiff brownish red leaf drifted from the sky and onto her wool coat, I started to mentally write up a grocery list. I absently brushed off the thing and pulled the lapels of my coat tighter together as a heavy dry breeze come over me. I already remembered milk during the funeral service. And the eggs when I saw Aunt Cindy’s soupy looking potato salad back inside the house.  Now, I was having a little trouble remembering everything else the house needed. One reason was because I was sitting on the hard wood steps to grandma’s front porch and it had to be a solid forty-two degrees outside.  The white chipped swing porch looked like it would break at even the weight of a kitten. There wasn’t anywhere else for me to sit so I was forced to sit here.

Everyone was inside eating from the family’s contributions and discussing old memories of grandma. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk with family. I had greater things on my mind like wondering if I left the coffee maker on. I highly doubted Marshall, my husband, did since I had to tell him to do everything.  

Just like I always had to tell him to take the money in the cookie jar and use to pay a bill, not go to the local bar with his buddies and have a good ole time.

Just like I had to tell him to change the oil in her car. Eventually I just stopped asking him altogether and went to a mechanic.

Thinking about my husband made me look at the deserted house across the street. It was small and classic craftsman home, just as I remembered. On a raised terrain that even included stone stairs, the house sat in the middle like a cherry on top of cake. It was a one story, made of olive paneling and cherry wood for the porch. The grass was starting to grow a little taller than a toddler’s knee and weeds were starting to sprout out of the cracks in the hilled driveway. My mind was taken back to the time when I used to watch the people who lived in that house from this very stoop and dream about being like them. The Alice’s.  I had no clue what their first names were, but all I knew was that they were perfect.

Watching them was one of the highlights of visiting my grandma. Mr. Alice was a tall, wrinkly man who loved his vintage red Chevy truck. Every day he would come out and work on it in the driveway and you could tell by how cared for it was by the way the red paint shined like a cherry dipped in honey. Mrs. Alice, with her hair a shoulder length salt and pepper color, would always tend to the most exuberant garden in the neighborhood while he did that. There were red roses and even blue ones that Lily only saw in Mrs. Alice’s garden. The tall stems of pink heathers would mix in with the daises like a bouquet on its own. I remembered the roses, especially. I used to sneak over while they were out and take a few and pretend they were from my imaginary Mr. Alice. Sometimes whenever I found myself awake late at night for whatever reason, I’d sit in the little white stool by my window and watch their house.

One night, when I was seventeen, I snuck back into the house from a local party a little drunk, so I wasn’t ready to sleep. Instead, I just leaned by my window that gave the view to their house. It had been a while since I just sat and watched them. I was at that age of college decisions, fantasizing about boys and piecing together my future. I looked out on accident, but couldn’t turn away. I heard the faint sounds of saxophone playing on a radio. Jazz from the nineteen forties, maybe. And they were dancing on their porch. Their bodies were pressed so closed together they looked almost as if they were one person. They moved so totally in sync with each other that the romance nearly made my chest constrict. Every few seconds, he’d lean in and whisper something her ear that would make her shake with laughter or giggles. It was like I was seven all over again. That nostalgic emotion bubbled up inside me then I began to fantasize and yearn again. I wanted love and life like the Alice’s. I wanted a husband to dance with me under the moon and whisper things in my ear to make the moment that much more enjoyable, even in the slightest.

Bringing me back to the present, a loud round of laughter busted up from inside the house and I oddly began to wonder if it was really appropriate to laugh at a funeral dinner. The blinding headlights of a car turned into the driveway, silhouetting my form on the wooden panels of the porch. I looked back ahead and quickly closed my eyes until someone turned the damned lights off. They sure took their time when they did. When the door opened, a pair of legs wearing black stockings that made them appear shapelier stepped out and stood. I looked up at the woman and recognized her instantly.

I would recognize that redhead anywhere. The sun wasn’t out but it still shone like the feathers of a cardinal. Her eyes were still that shimmering blue that reminded me of Caribbean water in the summer time. I never knew her name either but I knew she was one of the many children the Alice’s had. The statuesque woman closed the car door and started towards me. I smoothed my hair back to make sure not a strand was out of place as her was done up neat as a pin.

“Hey, I’m Cassandra.” She introduced herself as she held her hand out for me and flashed a brilliant smile. I could only dream that I could get my teeth that white. “My mother and Mrs. Barletta were friends. I’m here to pay respects for her.”

Grandma and Mrs. Alice were friends? I wondered why Grandma didn’t tell me. Maybe they were close. I took Cassandra’s hand and shook it as I said, “I’m Lily Foster. She was my grandma.”

“Oh,” Cassandra said. “I’m sorry about your loss, but it’s really nice to meet you. She was really fond of you. We could tell by the way she used to talk about you.”

Hm. Grandma and I weren’t really all that close but I guess it was nice to hear that she cared so much. “Well that’s nice.” I knew it sounded awful but I didn’t really know what else to say. I visited grandma but she wasn’t exactly the first person I would go to with my troubles either. “I had no clue grandma and the Alice’s were friends.”

Cassandra looked at me with quizzical expression. “Who?”

“You know, your parents.” I clarified and pointed across the street. “Weren’t their last names ‘Alice’?”

“Uh, no,” Cassandra said this as if she didn’t want to make me feel bad about getting their names wrong. “Our last name is Smith.”

Smith! That was….such a disappointment. How bland. Wait a second, why did I think it was Alice? Had I been referring to them as that so much for so long that eventually I just convinced myself that that was their name? I couldn’t decide if it was crazy or just plain pathetic. I decided I didn’t want to decide and kept my attention to the conversation. “Ok, the Smiths.” I continued. “They never came over when I was here or anything, so I didn’t know. I remembered your mother used to have the most gorgeous garden.”

Cassandra gave me another one of her million dollar smiles at the mention of her mother. At this point, I just wished she was a heavy smoker in her fifties. “Yeah, mom was a bit of a garden snob.” She said. “That garden was almost like her fifth baby. Dad used to taunt the garden right in front of her just to get a rise out of her.”

I chuckled. One of the funny moments I remember with the Alice’s was how much he used to do things like that just to get her to fuss with him. This old man would bend over her garden and look at her daringly in a playful way while she was off somewhere near the driveway ready to run off at the mouth if he did dare. Without thinking, I said, “I remember.” as I replayed that memory. He was like a ten year old in an elderly body.

“You remember?” Cassandra asked. “I thought you didn’t know my mom and dad?”

Shit. “Um, yeah, I didn’t” I started but my stomach was leaping in embarrassment. “I kind of used to watch your parents.” I thought I might as well just admit it. It wasn’t like she would go to her parents and say ‘Hey, your friend’s granddaughter is a little off.’ I looked back at The Alice’s or Smith’s house again and smiled a little. “I thought your parents were perfect. I wanted to be just like them growing up.”

Cassandra giggled and lightly stomped her feet on the concrete like she was really getting a kick out of that. “You and probably two of my other childhood girlfriends.” She said. “Me and my siblings honestly didn’t see it. They were just like any other couple I knew. They respected each other and they loved each other.”

“Well my parents were never together so I guess it’s a little more to me.” I didn’t want to believe that was it because I truly wanted the Alice’s to be something much more special than other couples. And I wanted to be better.

I had that opportunity with Tucker. Tucker LaGrange was pretty much my ideal Mr. Alice. We met in Chemistry class at Louisiana State. He came from a family of old money and he wanted to be a doctor like his father and grandfather. Those Irish green eyes definitely sang to me and his black hair was so silky that even on a cloudy day it was a natural sheen. He also had a smile that would have made anyone bid money on. He was perfect and I wasted no time asking him out for coffee. I just knew he was my Mr. Alice. After three months of dating, he wanted me to be his wife. The moon wasn’t high enough; I was over freaking Saturn when he asked. My childhood aspirations were finally coming true.

“You might have a point.” Cassandra said breaking me out of my ‘blast from the past’. “I guess to the outsider looking in, it might seem that way.” She nodded at me and asked, “You married?”

“Yes, my husband, Marshall’s inside the house being anti-social or whatever.” I answered with a roll of my eyes. “What about you? Married?”

“Yep,” She smirked and rubbed her nonexistent belly. “And we got a little one on the way. Just found out last week. Do you have any kids?

“Oh, no kids,” I almost mumbled. “I can’t have them,” I looked off into the lively green grass leaning up against the wood pattern of the porch that looked like diagonal checker board. Just like every other time when the simple subject of kids came up, I thought back to that day when the doctor told me. It’s amazing that the rest of that day was a blur, but I remembered exactly the moment after when he first told me. The room seemed as white as the doctor’s hair, but didn’t look just as aged. Everything was modernized from the chrome sink on the counter to the leather chairs. You’d think if they wanted to update everything, they would at least give those walls some color. Doctor Winslow was sitting in the round mobile chair, staring down at the chart that held my results. He was rubbing his thick silver white mustache as he announced that I was barren. Tucker was right there across from me. His green eyes seemed to darken to an emerald shade. And his vacant face visibly fell into a frown of disappointment. It was no surprise when about a couple weeks later, the wedding was called off. He said we just weren’t as compatible he thought we were. Yeah, right.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Cassandra said. And I could tell she was by the way her face tightened in sympathy. I wanted to hate the woman so much. I didn’t need her compassion, but at the same time I was grateful for it.

“Yeah, well, what are ya gonna do?” I just shrugged off the subject and rolled my shoulders as I was becoming a little tense.

Footsteps sounded off the wood of the porch behind me, and I thanked God for it. I looked back and saw Marshall, all but taking his time out the door. His heavily bearded face was visibly a little flushed and his faintly boyish features were twisted in irritation.“Oh, God, what did you do?”I asked as I stood to face him.

He held his hands out and calmly said, “I do not want to talk about it,” and continued to walk towards the car. “I just want to go home.”

I wasn’t going to argue with that, because I did as well. I would remember what we needed from the store once I got home and checked inventory. I walked down the porch steps and exchanged goodbyes with Cassandra. Before I closed the door, Cassandra jogged to my side of the car and handed me a card. “Yeah, we didn’t get to talk long but that’s my house number and cell if you ever do over coffee or something like that.”

I was stunned at first. I wasn’t expecting our little chit chat to be anything more than just two people saying hello and that’s it. But I took her number anyway because she was kind enough to offer it to me, even though she didn’t know me. After I thanked her, Marshall backed out and drove us away. The ride home was as quiet as a doctor’s waiting room. Marshall was stewing over something that happened back at grandma’s house and I was studying every aspect of Cassandra’s card.

Her last name was Daily. There was her street, house and cell number, and city, all printed on the stiff paper material that usually seemed like it costs an extra six bucks and a framed design on the edges. Fancy. It certainly wasn’t a business card, but I’ve never known anyone to carry around cards that just held their basic information just to hand out to people. It seemed a little silly to me at a first but the more I thought about it, I considered that she might be a socialite or maybe she just thought it was easier than just finding a sheet of paper to jot it down on. In that sense it was clever.

When we got inside the house, I went straight for the kitchen to do inventory while Marshall went straight for the living room. Once that was done, I walked back into the living room. I just glared at him while he was lounged back on the couch watching TV. Not even ten minutes in the house and his belt buckle was already undone and his undershirt was already peeking through his un-buttoned down white dress shirt. Jesus. “Marshall, you could at least put all your house clothes or something.”

“What’s the problem?” he asked, genuinely not getting it. “You’ve seen me naked. I’ve seen you naked. Why not just my belly this time?” He patted his baby beer gut.

I had to purse my lips together to stifle a snicker for a second before I could speak again. “It’s just not proper.”

“Well, if I lose the pants would it be more proper?” his eyelids lowered and he wiggled his eyebrows in attempt for playful seduction. I chuckled and shook my head as I turned to head back into the kitchen.

I headed for the sink and turned on the faucet. While I let it run to warm up so I could to the dishes right quick, I looked my out my garden circling the maple tree in the middle of our yard. The slight smile from my face faded quicker than a few grains of sand in the wind when I looked at it with pity. If nothing else from the Alice’s garden, I at least wanted those blue roses. The reds would grow but for some reason the Heathers wouldn’t last long and the Daisies didn’t either.

How did the Alice’s do it? How was Mrs. Alice able to grow and maintain such a beautiful collection of natural art? The blasted woman made it look so damn easy, like anyone could have it but I’ve learned it was all just complete bullshit. You could be out there every day, weeding and watering, but it will still do just what it wants to.

“Going out to the bar with boys!” Marshall called out just before I heard the door shut. I didn’t say anything; I was still a little gone in thought.

I was starting to feel frustrated. My throat started to close and tighten up and I fought to hold back tears. Why couldn’t something just work for me? Why couldn’t something just go as planned? My boat is lost. I watched the perfect ship set sail and make it back without a scratch. Now, I was out there and I had no idea what to do. My ship was nowhere near as big and there was no one to guide me. They made it look so damn easy and like I could do it too, but that just wasn’t the case. Sometimes I wished I could just make it back to port and start over again.

“Baby?” Marshall said, gently from somewhere behind me. His voice jerked me out my thoughts. In good timing too because the water in the sink was about to over flow.

‘I thought you were gone,” I croaked as I quickly turned the faucet off. I cleared my throat and lifted the plug to the drain to let some water out. “Did you forget something?”

I heard his feet come closer. “No, Lils.”  Once he was right behind me, he stopped. “I found somethin’ for you.”

Perplexed, I frowned for a second. Just when I let the plug be sucked back into the drain and raised my hand out of the water, a vivid royal blue rose entered my view. I froze for moment in surprise and admiration as Marshall slowly twirled the fully bloomed flower. It was an absolutely regal contrast to the porcelain sink and chipped linoleum counter. The dull light the cloudy sky brought into the kitchen did nothing to make it lose its prideful brilliance. If anything it made the color stand brighter.

I felt a tear slide down my face and my cheeks heated. I timidly took the flower and turned around to look at Marshall. Once he got a look at my face, he turned beet red. Nothing made him more uncomfortable than crying women. “You like it?” He asked. “It was in the Johnson’s yard. I stole it.”

I laughed and playfully punched him in the arm. “That is very chivalrous of you, Marsh.” I murmured. “You remembered.”

“Well, I just thought I should at least give you something your garden’s too lazy to give you.” He held either side of my arms and placed a light kiss on my forehead that would have probably looked like nothing but to me was full of tenderness and care. “I’m late. I’ll be back before supper.” He turned on his heel and headed out the door.

Once the door shut, I let myself cry harder than I ever have before. 

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