The Lamb and the Phoenix Ch 1-5

The Lamb and the Phoenix

Part I

  1. Andrew Fischer

I wake up at around half past seven so I can get a brisk walk in and perhaps even stop by Smithson Hall before lecture begins at ten sharp, how I loved the delectable Denver Omelettes and the sound of crisp bacon crunching, oozing a flood of savory juices not on my tongue and creating a diner’s heaven when I went there three days ago. I shower and then grab my comb and part my hair to the left and then the right, then the center and then right again, in this angle. + and that angle, and draw the comb’s sharp teeth through my hair one, two, three, four, five, six times before I become fed up and throw it across the room before I retrieve it moments later since I don’t like my things scattered about. I rummage through my clothes and try to find something not too dark yet not too light, not too formal yet not too casual, and at long last I find a cerulean blue hood that seems just perfect for the day. I head downstairs and open the hall doors that reveal the road, and then immediately adjacent to the road the path for walkers and joggers that encircles the entire archaic campus. I cross over and begin the first leg of my sojourn- the dreaded uphill- and luckily for me it’s still morning with a calm cool breeze and then midday Los Angeles heat hasn’t set in here at Williamsworth University. To my right lies an interminable column of pine trees the needles of which never fail to tickle my nose at least once during a walk.

I reach the top of the hill and look to my left. An emerging bed of violets lies on the other side, our gardener Frankie must have just decided to plant them and I smile and continue my walk, inhaling fervently to try and get a whiff of them. After a bit I notice a gap in the trees that I had never seen before that open to a flight of stairs leading down to the main road where the Los Angeles traffic already is in full force, its cacophony growing greater as I make my way down. I notice another student I assume sitting down at the very bottom stair, inhaling a Turkish Royal cigarette. I don’t smoke but I know their distinctive repugnant odor since my father smokes them as well. He notices me as well once the leaves rustle under my feet and turns around and nods at me and then hurls his cigarette onto the traffic with startling ferocity before taking another out of his pack and lighting it again. I make my way towards him and he nods at me again.

“You smoke”, he asks.

I shake my head. “No, I just noticed these stairs while I was walking this morning and wanted to explore.”

“That’s nice”, he says. “I just arrived on campus this morning and found it while I was walking as well.”

I nod at him. After a moment he says, “I’m Andrew Fleming”, and extends his hand.

I shake it and notice his iron handshake and I make a note to incorporate this in my future interactions.

“I’m Andrew Fischer. Where you from”, I ask.

“St. Louis, Missouri”, he says, taking a drag. “And you?”

“San Diego”, I say, turning my head in the opposite direction since the smoke was coming towards me.  “You up for breakfast?”

“Just had it”, he says. “Them biscuits and gravy and Denver Omelettes are damn fine.”

“Yes, I had them three days ago”, I say.  I pause and then decide to nervously ask, “You up for dinner?”

He laughs and I wonder if I’ve said something wrong or inappropriate.

“Depends on what they’re having”, he says.

“I think its steak and smoked salmon tonight”, I say.

His eyes blaze fire and he puts his cigarette by his side while it’s still smoking.  “Sure, I’ll be there”, he says. “Seven o’clock sound alright for you?”

Relieved I have someone to go to dinner with I say, “Yes, sounds great.”

“Well”, says Andrew Fleming looking at me with his piercing cold dark brown cavernous corneas in which I am unable to distinguish the pupils, “I’ll see you then”, he says.

“See you at seven”, I say before heading up the stairs and making my way down to Smithson Hall.

  1. Andrew Fleming

I’ve been sitting here for the last couple hours before the sun even is near waking up smoking cigarette after cigarette, Turkish Royals in particular, because ever since I went on a family trip  Istanbul a couple of years ago I’ve had a huge fascination for anything Turkish or anything from the Mediterranean for that matter, Turkish tobacco, Turkish tea, Turkish delights, Moroccan incense and the like, I tend to smoke lots of cigarettes one after the other when my thoughts assault my mind like a barrage of missiles laying siege to an enemy’s camp during a war, merciless and relentless, leaving no crevice of my brain untouched or spared, as if the unbiased universe cares what a simple fellow like me goes through on a daily basis, so here I am now trying to make heads and tails of my thoughts, whether there’s a beginning, middle, or end, or if they’re a collection of accumulated debris laying waste in a river of consciousness, now floating at the surface.

And now I’m here peacefully sitting down on a concrete stair making sense of myself and I’d guess it’s around half past six since through a tiny aperture in the trees above I can make out that the sun is just a collection of reds and oranges, it looks like a small nectarine from so far aw3ay. And I gaze at it for a while until it is nearly above me and perpendicularly bisects the ground, dividing it into two sections of shade and solar divinity.

I’m puffing on my fifth cigarette when I hear the rustle and crunching of leaves behind me and I turn around and see another student and I assume he must be a smoker as well since everyone I had encountered here until now has been. I nod at him and he nods back at me.

“You smoke”, I ask and he shakes his head no so I wonder what exactly he’s doing here. He just stares at me and I don’t want to be rude but as I’m also not interested in idle conversation I quickly introduce myself. “I’m Andrew Fleming”, I say.

He seems delighted by this overture and introduces himself as Andrew Fischer after pausing for an extra half moment than I deem necessary, what is a half moment I don’t know but I surmise it’s halfway between immediacy and a moment. This is when I notice his lack of spontaneity. Spontaneity is the key component to ensure a successful fluid conversation between multiple parties, since most parties fail to think before they speak and one party taking an extra half second to reply results in partial to full disengagement in the conversation by the other party unless the other party is fully engaged, which is rare indeed.

Noting this, I respond to his question of where I’m from immediately and ask the natural question of where he’s from and he says he’s from San Diego which I say is nice since I have been there and it actually is quite a nice city, and then he asks me to join him for breakfast and I decline not because I’m not hungry but because I’m not interested in being social so early in the morning but I tell him I had already eaten as not to appear rude. He then asks me to go to dinner and what time I have class today and I accept his invitation and he smiles but I can sense his faint disapproval when I say I’m not going to lecture since all the professor will do today is explain the syllabus.

He nods in mock agreement but his eyes don’t lie, eyes never do lie. We bid each other goodbye and he heads to Smithson. I wait about ten minutes and puff on a cigarette then head up the flight of stairs and look down the path to make sure he’s actually gone. Then I head back to my room and reunite with my bottle of Jack that’s patiently waiting for me on the table and I breathe a sigh of relief when I swig it and I feel the familiar light-headedness and the blood surging from my legs to my brain.

  1. George Brooks

I couldn’t get a winks worth of sleep last night since some damn juvenile drunk hooligans thought it’d be amusing to make noises under my window, of course it’s my window at half past midnight and even after yelling at them in an attempt for them to cease their buffoonish behaviour, and taking shots of gin, one, two, three, four, five in rapid succession and then burying my head in the pillow then throwing the covers over me did nothing to muffle the noise brewing out my window.

So today I’m in an irritable and foul mood and unable to sleep even now, even if I did it would ruin my sleep schedule so there’d be no use at all. In the morning I take another shot to keep me alive for the day and I head downstairs to the common lounge and plop myself on the sofa and a multitude of people come in and out and say things like “Hello, George”, “How are you, George”, or my  least favorite, “Why aren’t you going to class, George” and though all three questions can be answered with the simple reply of “I’m feeling atrocious, I didn’t get any sleep last night” I choose to ignore them since there’s no need for me to justify myself to them and though this definitely creates a bad impression of me to the other folks in our building I give not a damnsworth since back home I tended to create many bad first impressions and later change them to good ones.

I leave the couch at around twoish to go and get a ham and cheese sandwich from Smithson and I gobble it greedily and find that it somewhat restores my mood and for now I can at least force a smile. I eat alone and head back to Redwood Hall and re-plop myself onto the couch and stare at the apathetic blank white ceiling and wonder what my purpose is at Williamsworth University, even living in general since I see no point in living except to achieve but what is the point of achievement if we’re going to die afterwards and only a small fraction of men have their achievements remembered throughout time, I suppose the goal is to be among those small fraction of men.

I ruminate over this when the acrid stench of cigarette smoke fills the air and I look and see that someone else has walked into the room and sat on the couch across mine and I catch his eye and he catches mine then I stand up to go greet him to avoid the societal concept of social awkwardness and then he stands up and I have to say that this fellow has some remarkable foresight to be able to determine what I was going to do and I’m glad, I do think we’ll get along since I haven’t yet met anyone who is intelligent in a non-bookish way.

“George Brooks”, I say and extend my hand. His return grip is of steel and I say I’m impressed with him as a man.

“Andrew Fleming”, he says. “ Nice to meet you George.”

“Nice to meet you as well, Andrew”, I say. “You go to class today?”

“Nah”, he replies. “Professor just covered the syllabus I’m sure.”

“That’s what I figured”, I say, appreciating how we think alike.

“So where you from?, he asks.

“Chicago”, I say.

“I’m from St. Louis. Not too far from you.”

Neither he nor I give a damnsworth about where either of us is from but these mundane particulars must be attended to before we are to have any fruitful or insightful conversations such as politics or the existence of a God or a higher power or whatever you may want to call it. We continue talking for about an hour over a multitude of topics, mundane to magnificent and as always with men the conversation turns to women just as with women the conversation always turns to men, since I’m studying physics at Williamsworth I like to call that statement Brooks’ First Law of Conservation.

“I can’t get over this girl back home, Fleming”, I say. “She keeps popping up in my damn head.”

“I know it’s hard, Brooks”, he says, “But in order to let go of a woman like that you have to be just as vicious as she was with you. Eradicate all memories you had with her. Eliminate any future possibility of being with her. Obliterate any positive emotion you may have or feel again the moment it creeps into your mind. Your mind is like a garden. If you allow weed like thoughts to grow they’ll take over the whole garden.”

I had just found my hero. “Where’d you learn that from, Fleming”, I ask, shocked that someone my age could have such sage like wisdom.

“Time and experience, Brooks”, he says. “Time and experience.” A minute passes. “You want to head down to dinner?”, Fleming asks me.

I look at my watch and realize it’s five till seven. “Let’s go”, I say.

  1. Andrew Fischer

I arrive by the entrance to Smithson at five till seven and wait patiently for Andrew and admire the intricate and ornate façade of the edifice with its plain but historical Doric columns in contrast to the iconic columns with support and surround the two towers on the side of the main hall. The sky darkens and I check my watch. It’s four minutes to seven, then three, two, on, then seven hits  on the dot and I look ahead and behind, to my right and left and still see no sign of Andrew Fleming. A +minute passes, then two, then three and I start to get nervous and wonder if I should leave and that’s when I see someone waving and pacing towards to me in the distance. It’s Andrew and by his side is another stocky boy with tree trunk like legs.

Andrew approaches me and slaps me on the back and I relish this form of human contact and pat him on the back and my fingers press against Andrew’s shoulder blade a half moment or a moment too long but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“How’re you doing, Fischer”, he says and I’m glad we’re on last name terms since it indicates familiarity and closeness.

“I’m just fine, Fleming”, I say. “How ‘bout yourself?”

“I’m doing alright. I hope you don’t mind, I brought a friend”, he says, motioning to his side. “This is George. George Brooks.”

George smiles and extends his hand and we shake. “Pleasure”, he says and I nod at him.

“Almost thought you weren’t coming”, I say.

“Why’s that”, Fleming says, looking confused.

“It’s four minutes past seven”, I say.

Fleming looks at George and they both howl with laughter and I’m unable to determine what’s so funny.

“Fischer”, Fleming says. “You didn’t actually think we weren’t coming just because we were a few minutes late, did you?”

“No”, I say. “I didn’t. It was just a weak attempt at a joke.”

“Well, I thought it was pretty  funny”, says George Brooks although there exists something nasty, even pugnacious in the way he grins at me.

“Shall we go in”, I ask, trying to divert attention away from myself for a while.”

“Let’s”, says Fleming and we head inside.

  1. Andrew Fleming

I’m annoyed with George since he sets the pace and slithers slowly like a snail and his solemn eyes seem to always be suspect like a snake. But I’m not too annoyed with him since we all have our flaws and misgivings. We trudge the downhill to Smithson Hall to meet Fischer and I can’t wait for night time since there are too many people out and about. Eventually we reach and I see Andrew Fischer pacing back and forth like a lunatic, his eyes wide, tapping his fingers to his side over and over again. I ask him what’s wrong and how his day was and he tells me nothing is wrong and his day went swimmingly, but I can clearly see that isn’t true or perhaps he’s tired since he did go to class. He then asks me if I even intended to come since we were just a few minutes past seven and I’m shocked since I don’t know if he’s serious or not but I take it as a joke and explain to him that we fully intended to come.

In my limited time with him thus far Fischer is very easy to read like a book and though the book might have a deep profound meaning on the inside, the surface is simple, the sheer anxiety of God knows what is written all over his face, his blue eyes nearly tear up whenever I speak to him, it’s almost as if he has something to fear at all times and I resolve to find out what it is and assuage it as any decent human being would do. There’s something I like about the guy and I resolve to take him under my wing, I know I can help him.

We enter Smithson and head our separate ways, I head to the smoked salmon line first since I’m partial to seafood and George and Fischer head to the steak line. The line is long that’s one of the first things I learned and loathed about this school. There are far too many students, I doubt that there can be this many intelligent people in our world that could get into Williamsworth but I shrug it off and wait impatiently in line for my turn and at last I reach the front to face the grumbling cook.

“A double portion, please”, I ask.

“No double portions. Take this and come back around”, the cook says, placing a piece of salmon in my plate and eyeing me with distaste.

“I know the day must have been hard and you feel unappreciated, sir”, I say. “I feel the same way as a student and I’ve been here only a few days.”

The cook’s expression changes into a smile. “Someone gets it”, he says under his breath and places another piece of salmon on my plate much to the people’s disgust behind me. “Have a good night now”, he says to me pleasantly.

“You as well”, I say and head off to the steak line.

I get my steak and try to find Fischer and Brooks and I see them at a table just by the line and make my way over to them and sit down and they’re already busy eating.

I cut up a piece of salmon and admire the intricate process of cooking once I take a bite of it, it’s divine. I look up at the boys.

“So, what’s the plan for tonight”, I ask.

“Going to bed early I think”, Fischer says.

Brooks shrugs his shoulders.

“I was thinking we have a round of drinks”, I say.

“I’m up for it”, says George Brooks immediately.

“I don’t drink”, says Fischer and I look at him in disbelief.

“You don’t drink? You’re drinking with us tonight then.”

“Absolutely”, adds George.

Fischer looks uneasy but I want to take a load off his mind and there’s nothing a few well-placed shots of whiskey can’t do.

“Alright, I suppose”, Fischer says.

“That’s the spirit”, I say.

We finish eating and head off to get dessert. I pull Fischer to the side.

“Are you alright?”, I ask.

“Yes, why wouldn’t I be”, he says.

“You just don’t look to be”, I say.

“I am, don’t worry. I’m just a bit nervous.”

“Nervous about what, Andrew?”

“Being in this new place. It’s a gigantic zoo and I don’t know where I am.”

“We’re in this together”, I say. “Don’t you worry about it. Everything will be alright.”

“I appreciate it, Fleming”, he says and I clap him on the back and we go get dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

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Prisoner’s Sanctum Ch.1 (Polished)

Prisoner’s Sanctum

 

Chapter I

 

They brought me here at around half past five this morning while the sun was still just about to rise, more than likely just as vexed as I was upon being woken up except that it was Lisa Jean and Eddie who woke me up, not the clamor of half the Earth. Lisa Jean and Eddie had told me we were taking a trip to New York where there would be a surprise for me but I was to stay here until they purchased provisions from Clark’s just a few miles down the road. I asked why and they said it was on account of my back which I found perfectly normal and that they weren’t trying to bamboozle me since people in my life had cheated me enough. I have been having horrendous pain for the last few months which has reduced me to a shriveled bag of bones with a little hanging flesh in unmerciful agony. He is by my side but he isn’t much use either, just coming along to remind me of everything I don’t need to be reminded of, how horrible he is but how kind he can be. So here I am now in a steel cage, eight by twelve by ten with a suitcase, placed right on the bed that resembles one of an inmate’s, a small board covered with a white blanket that was so aged I could see the mildew developing in its corners.

 

Above the bed is a small unbarred window. When I stand on top of the bed I see the gorgeous garden outside. I’d go even as far as to call it an exquisite one, since in all my sixty-nine or is it seventy or seventy-one years I had never seen a garden taken care of so perfectly, with all the flowers separated by type, the roses in one corner, the red ones surrounding a white one as if the white one was sent from heaven and the red roses are just mere human beings, the azaleas directly adjacent to the roses, the chrysanthemums adjacent to the azaleas… and even though there are a few dandelions here and there or a growing weed among every few plants it does absolutely nothing to detract from the magnificence of the garden as a whole since there lies perfection in imperfection, just as their lies excitement in banality and evil in goodness and goodness in evil.

 

The hummingbirds and the meadowlarks and a single dove all sit on their flowers of choice and perform an impressive piece in a synchronized ensemble, the dove providing the main harmonious melody while the meadowlarks accompany in a magnificent alto and the hummingbirds amplify with their steady uniform bass rhythm in their floral orchestra hall, and I think that they are speaking to me so I hum and speak back at them and they hum back to me and so on while some lady clad in black outside looks at me in utmost bewilderment, but she can go to hell since she can’t appreciate these wonders of nature like I can. They continue singing for an hour or two and by this time the sun is in a raging temper and I begin to sweat and I am forced to sit back on the couch and listen to the sounds from outside.

 

Unsolicited music and poetry is the champion of all art. It is when the artist gets to express his feelings uninterruptedly, the moments where he is free from the pressures of world strife and struggle and is able to put his own thoughts for all to hear, whether they be joyous or melancholy, nonchalant or passionate, benevolent or malevolent, whatever is the making or bane of his existence, whether his mind is his friend or foe- all is exposed when the artist chooses to pour it out into the bucket we call the world, and the birds this morning were exposing there unbiased friendship to the entire universe.  How I wish I could find my inner artist again in order to expose to the world all the suppressed feelings I have inside, but I can only talk to myself at this point, and I only want to talk to myself at this point, or Lisa Jean and Eddie when they come by, or Charles if he hadn’t left all those years ago.

 

It is around midday and I still haven’t heard from Lisa Jean and Eddie and I begin to get worried, but perhaps they may still be at Clark’s since after all the lines there can take ages at times. I wonder why there’s a faucet and mirror across the room, since I’m only going to be staying here until they get back, it’s as if I’m supposed to be living here when I only arrived here just this morning. I open up the suitcase and strew all the items on the bed- some clothes I’d need, another bag filled with God knows what I put in there. I change into a comfortable loose white gown since the heat burns through and I’m thinking of complaining to the management for the lack of adequate ventilation when I see another window just across from the bed by the sink but it is shut. I take the stool next to me and take it there and stand on top of it and carefully pry the shutters apart and what I see on the other side makes me feel as if I am in heaven, or near it.

 

There, on the other side of this building, lies a pond approximately twenty feet away, tucked away by two tall oak trees that provide an aperture so that one could see all the wonderful signs of life present there. The pond is filled with clear sparkling water, reflecting the sun’s rays creating a dazzling and at the same time blinding sight that were it not for my exceptional vision I would be unable to see what is going on. I observe the myriad reeds and cattails growing at the pond’s edge, bent over slightly to perhaps protect the water from anymore of the sun or any insatiable animal wishing to quench its thirst. The two oak trees teem with a colony of ants single-filedly moving up and down the trees, the ones moving down with leaves and the ones moving up to collect more I assume. The pond’s circumference is fraught with pebbles that lie in a fertile mixture of silt and sediment, and bees meander around searching for flowers to pollinate. All of a sudden I see two boys picking up rocks and dirt and throwing them into the pond and my senses alight and I become enraged and I holler at the boys to stop doing what they’re doing and they look at me in fright and scamper off like little bunnies. Who are they to disturb such an amazing work of natural beauty? After all nature is the only thing which contains any beauty at all.

 

I hear some walking coming towards my door and I hear them walk away and I’m thankful. I’m not asking for disturbances, at least not ones this petty while I wait for my children and am witnessing such treachery across from me. I look at the clock above. It’s nearly three o’clock, what is taking them so long? Their car must have broken down or something and I sit back  and relax in the hard bed that I’ve now gotten used to,

 

I assume this place is a hotel of some sort and that Lisa Jean and Eddie have left me here in case they’d take long, what marvelous children I raised to be respectful to their mother. But it’s near evening now, maybe they said they’d be here tomorrow? After all my children, whom I raised in a good Christian way, taking them to Church every Sunday, would never lie to anyone, especially not their mother. I suppose they did say they’d be here tomorrow after all. I’d just have to wait it seems like, while the afternoon gradually becomes twilight and the blue sky with the puffy white clouds and brilliant yellow sphere changes to a cloudless mixture of a lavender and orange sky with the sun now far in the distance, a magnificent yellow dot. It’s around half past six when I rummage through my suitcase and I see it, wrapped so cleanly in saran wrap, was my father’s old shattered pocket watch.

 

“Mrs. Lundgren, would you like your dinner?”

 

Prisoner’s Sanctum Ch. 6

The rest of the cruise passes on in delightful leisure and eventually it’s time for Nina and I to part, and I return with Charles to a home of impassion and faithlessness, faithlessness not in the sense that I had an affair, I’d never dream of that in my life for a relationship or marriage is a  bond of sanctity, but faithlessness in the sense that I had lost all my interest in Charles. He no longer has that same flair he did when w my day was or his day was, I simply cook, we eat and then it’s off to bed for us, or I go and reach for the one foot long piece of polished wood that gives me the utmost happiness.

 

Charles has been talking about trying to have another kid but after what happened the first time I’m no longer feeling that same excitement or joy at the prospect of trying for another, suppose it ends up like last time? I bore the pain of that once, oh how I miss you Anthony, but I’d never, and I know this for a fact, I’d never be able to bear that same pain again, Anthony how I cried when the doctor took your stillborn body away from me, how I thrashed and screamed and wrestled you from the doctor’s arms and how they eventually forced me to let go of you, I’ll never forget that very moment where the doctor said you had joined the abode above.

 

But eventually I give into Charles and I’m pregnant again, this time with another boy whom we decide to call Scott. My pregnancy is horrendous and I find myself hating this child just a few months in because this is nothing like Anthony’s pregnancy, Anthony was a calm, tranquil baby but Scott is a storm. The kicking is incessant and I’m unable to sleep, unable to practice, unable to do anything for the most part and most days I’m bedridden and Scott comes home from work and comforts me, I suppose only because now he’s happy to find out he wasn’t a fatherless figure in a married home anymore.

 

And that’s the reason I hate Scott more than I do Anthony. It’s not that I hate him for being created, no that would actually make me an evil person. It’s just that Scott came as a result of Charles’s consistent begging and pleading whereas Anthony was a result of my past love for Charles’, but what am I even saying I can’t blame Scott for that, or can I, oh God, awaken me, rouse me, make it be known if I’m in the right or if I’m in the wrong.

 

Time is slow these days, it’s as if all the clocks in our house and the world have stopped working altogether, I can’t even practice since I hit my stomach everytime I sit and draw the bow across the strings, I most certainly can’t stand, and I shudder to think about what I’ll sound like after nine months with no practice at all. I hope Scott is a good child, well I hope he is a child, but if he’s a child I hope he’s a good one, I’m going to be the best mother ever, there’s no doubt about that in my mind, he’s going to play the violin, he’s going to do everything, no wait I’d be so much like my mother in that regard, I have to let him be independent, but if I let him… and so my mind goes into tangents about Scott when I don’t even know if he’ll be alive first of all, I don’t feel myself anymore, it’s as if another body has inhabited mine and taken over, well that is what a pregnancy is, but I don’t feel as if I know myself anymore.

 

It was a bitter Boston Christmas Eve. the blustery winds produced howling dissonant melodies that resounded through everyone’s minds. The turbulent gale was relentless, going around from tree to tree, stripping them bare of their remaining leaves, gnashing the bark as best as it could Everyone with their chapped, beet red skin and ears did their best to say inside. But not the Lundgrens. Charles and Laura were on the way to the hospital that morning. Scott or perhaps a power above chose that it did not wish to remain trapped in an ovarian bastille any longer, and so Laura went into labor that morning. And so the lundgrens got in their car, entrusted the mansion to their butlers, and began he arduous journey to the hospital.

 

Traffic that morning was simply awful, as was Laura’s pains. The screaming emanating from the back where she was drowned out the sounds of the other cars. “Damn these tourists”, Charles thought, struggling to arrive at the hospital as fast as he could, swerving and overtaking as many cars as he could.

 

Charles looked back and his blood ran colder than the weather outside when he discovered Laura passed out in a pool of her own blood. Charles stomped on the gas and went into a frenzy, relentlessly passing and nearly pushing many cars off the road, earning the ire of every driver in Boston that morning. And at last, he saw the hospital, but there were more cars in front of him than he could afford to overtake without risking safety in the process.

 

So Charles did the only thing he could have done in such a desperate moment. Noticing the large, open, snow-covered field beside him, he made up his mind to drive through it. Praying to the lord there wasn’t ice, Charles revved up the engine and veered off the road and then, hitting the gas again as hard as he could, began to drive through the field with cool calm determination he had never seen in himself before. The other drivers ignored the nasty winds and cold for a few moments and opened their doors and windows to get a better look at who this lunatic was.

 

Traffic halted for a few minutes as everyone had their phones and cameras out to document this extraordinary Christmas phenomenon, while Charles on the other hand was struggling. The knee deep snow was not allowing his tires to properly roll across the clearing, and he realized he had severely miscalculated how deep the snow actually was, but there was no turning back now, he realized.

 

Mustering the last bit of energy he had he then floored the gas one more time. The car budged and then began to trudge across the clearing. But now for the last quarter mile Charles was in shallow snow, and the car drifted well after a point.

 

At last, after what seemed like ages to Charles but was only five comedic minutes to the rest of Boston, Charles arrived at the hospital, where a team of doctors were already outside.

 

“My wife is losing blood and she’s going into labor”, Charles said to the head surgeon.

The doctors hoisted Laura Lundgren from the backseat and placed her on a stretcher and rushed her to the emergency room, while the main doctor, William James, stayed to comfort Charles.

 

“How is she doctor?”, Charles said.

 

“I couldn’t really be sure just as yet from that brief look I had of her, Mr. Lundgren”, Dr. James said. “But she’s losing a lot of blood. There’s a chance she may not make it, but we’ll do everything in our power to make sure she does. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the team”, he said, rushing back inside.

 

Charles trudged into the waiting room outside the emergency ward and sat down, his face buried in his hands while he was there, only getting up to go outside and smoke to calm himself down, but it didn’t and he resumed compulsively tapping his fingers on his forehead and his feet on the floor.

 

At last, after eighteen and a half hours Dr. James came out of the emergency ward, smiling. “Mr. Lungren, I think you should see this”, he said.

 

Charles immediately got up and Dr. James was silent as they walked down the hall, unwilling to answer any of Charles’s frantic questions. At last they reached the end of the hallway. Dr. James stood by CHarles , still smiling.

 

“I think you’ll like what you’re going to see, Mr. Lundgren”, he said.

Chapter 5 Beginning (Excerpt) Last one I’m Posting

The twilight outside matures gracefully, second by second, it’s corpulence exposed as the oranges outside turn into reds that gradually fade back into orange and eventually returning to red, revealing an oscillation of passion that finally elevates to a fiery one, one that I hope won’t die out for eons and eons to come, but I don’t see a possibility of a tomb of passion tonight, for the only mausoleum of passion is apathy and there’s none to be seen on this beautiful night out the window, but how I wish I could be outside to enjoy it so, I try to turn my doorknob but it’s locked and bolted from the outside, how I wish I wish could be in the great outdoors now, with my back on the soft tickling verdant grasses staring up into space and wondering what wonders the universe has to offer me at that time or thereafter. I’m disappointed when I look at the pond, and notice those buffoonish youngsters had made a complete mess and mockery of the former serene setting; the cattails and reeds were uprooted to create a cataclysmic graveyard right before my very own eyes, I tear up thinking of all the life that might have been teeming on just one cattail alone, where would the dragonflies rest? Where would the ants swarm up? I suppose they’d just find another place but there was no reason at all for those reckless fools to do what they do. The water, crystal clear earlier that day was now filled with muck and grime, for when they uprooted the plants all the sediment and silt must have fallen below, and some fish lay on the shoreline, dead from either the youngsters skipping far too many rocks or their plucking them from the water directly. The reason man gets his karma is because man disturbs nature. If man did not disturb nature we would not deal with all that nature has given us back, including our evil state of mind, after all what other kind of creature kills their own kind, what other kind of creature harnesses their surroundings to work only for them and not for the well-being of all? The trees and their leaves at least lie asleep or are heading off to sleep peacefully, the dying winds gently waking the leaves before they put them back to sleep again. Occasionally a leaf falls from the tree into its graveyard down below, where some sort of animal grabs it and uses it to make a nest for his home or perhaps his dinner, no one knows.

 

“Hello, mother”, someone says.

 

“Lisa Jean, Eddie, have you finally come?”, I say.

 

“No mother, it is I, Anthony”, Anthony says.


“But how are you here, Anthony”, I say.

 

“I came to visit you, and have been watching over you for all these years. Thank you for giving me life, even if it was brief”, Anthony says.

 

I hug him close to me. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have been-”, I say before he vanishes.

 

Why must the right people be sent to me at the wrong times, I wonder to myself. I guess it means angels really do exist in heaven to watch over us, and their burden is even greater than ours on Earth for they get no rest at all.

 

“Are you alright”, Jack says.

“I’m alright”, I say. “I just saw Anthony. It breaks my heart”, I tell Jack.

 

“But how did you see him? He’s dead isn’t he”, Jack says.


“So I thought”, I say. “I guess it must have been my imagination.”

 

“I saw you talk to him or the wall it looked like to me, was he a ghost perhaps? Perhaps one you could only see?”


“An angel visiting me maybe”, I reply.

 

A few silent moments pass, just sheer deathly silence.

 

“You know what I regret most, Jack”, I say.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“The fact that Anthony didn’t even pass in my arms. He passed in the doctor’s arms instead.”

Prisoner’s Sanctum Ch. 4

 

“I told you so, didn’t I”, Jack says.

 

“Why must you always come at the wrong times, Jack? Isn’t my suffering enough for you, I haven’t seen my children all day and I’m here in straightforward isolation. Must you torment me?”

 

“It’s not that I’m tormenting you as much as I’m being honest with you.”

 

“Honest about what. That I failed? As a mother and a wife? I know I failed. I don’t need your continuous reminders.”

 

“I think you do, because you keep acting the same way. Denial, denial, denial.”

 

“Denial of what?”, I say and then he vanishes. I look out the window and see that small man running towards the pond. I hope he drowns himself in it and vanishes out of my life.

 

Over the years Jack never ceased to remind me that my mind became a mausoleum for hope, desires and dreams, for each time I had one, whether it would be near or far, it would be smashed into oblivion, giving me one less reason to remain on God’s green Earth, and when my mind finally crumbled to one million pieces, even long before then, I wasn’t even a shadow of myself, I remained as a hollow shell of what I once was, a compendium of vitriol and faithlessness.

 

It’s still smoky outside and remember my beautiful Anthony. How I miss Anthony, my hope and joy for him. Lisa Jean and Eddie were beautiful twins, but Anthony, how I longed for him, I still have the little jumper I bought for him somewhere in my suitcase, how excited I was on the day I realized I was expecting him, and how I miss him so, how he broke apart Charles and I, but how I love him so, even still to this day, long after Charles has gone.

 

“Laura Christine Mays”, the preacher says. “Do you accept Charles William Lundgren to be your lawfully wedded husband?”, he says, repeating the same monotonous lines he must have used at all the marriage ceremonies he must have performed, treating our wedding as another to add to his repertoire, but ours meant something much more than that; ours was a bond of two souls destined by the stars to be, and if not by the stars then we must have been destined on a starless night, when the dearly departed indeed rest in peace rather than watch over us all.

 

“I do”, I say, smiling, my flagrant red hair and bright teeth shining brightly in the sun.

 

“And do you, Charles William Lundgren, accept Laura Christine Mays to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

 

“I do”, Charles says in the same soft voice I was so attracted to, puffing out his chest and dominating the entire scene.

 

“Then by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

 

And Charles pulled me in and kissed me and while it may have been a kiss to the audience it was the best kiss I had received from him, full of passion, full of hope for our future, full of our desire to be with one another until the end of our days, until death did us part. And from then on I was Laura Christine Lundgren, violinist and wife.

 

We leave the wedding and head to the limousine to go to our reception while everyone follows behind in their ordinary vehicles, for it was an event of food and wine to the rest but not for us.

 

We reach the reception hall when all of a sudden the sun fades away and it begins to pour. Everyone brings out their umbrellas and heads into the hall and begin to dance when the music begins to play. My mother pulls me aside.

 

“I never thought I’d live to see the day my beautiful daughter gets married”, she says, a tear trickling down her cheek.”

 

I hug her. “Mother don’t cry this is supposed to be a joyous occasion”, I say.

 

“It is, Laura, these are tears of joy. I haven’t had these kind of tears in ages, only the other kind”, she says, quickly wiping them away.

 

I pull her even closer. “Ma, don’t you worry. I can’t forget you. You’ve taken me through life.”

 

“I know I have, and it worries me that I can’t take you along any further”, she says.

 

“Ma, I’m a lady now”, I say.

 

“You’ll always be my little girl”, she says. “Don’t you ever forget that.”

 

I laugh. “Shall we get a glass of wine?”, I say to her.


“I don’t’ drink, Laura, you know that. I didn’t know you did”, she says disapprovingly.

 

“Occasionally with Charles. Just the occasional glass”, I say.

 

I excuse myself to the bar and pour myself a glass of wine and return to the corner my mother was standing at.

 

“It’s just wine, Ma”, I say, taking a sip.

 

“That may be the case, but you’ve changed a lot since you’ve been with him”, Ma says.

 

“For the better”, I say.


She says nothing for a moment. “Alright dear, I’m just concerned is all, even spoilt milk is white”, she finally says.

 

I love her but I refuse to let her past get in the way of my happiness. “Very well mother, enjoy the reception”, I say.

 

“I will”, she says pulling my exasperated self in for a hug. I hug her back realizing I’m lucky to have a mother such as mine, most mothers would have given their daughters away and gone out the door but not mine.

 

I find Charles, who’s talking to some friends over on the other side of the room. He sees me and pauses the conversation. “And there’s my darling bride”, he says, giving me a kiss. “Laura, I’d like you to meet my friend, Barry Mills and his wife Sheila, they own the town’s country club, and this is…”,

 

And Charles goes around introducing me to his circle of elites and I was in heaven. I never thought such a life of glamor with such a good man was ever in my destiny but here God was finally being good to me.

Someone taps me on the shoulder and I excuse myself from the conversation. Jack is sitting in at a table all by himself.


“Jack, I’m so glad you could make it”, I say.

 

“You’re not married to the right man”, he says.


“Have you no shame?”, I say. “To say this to a married woman at her own reception?”

 

“You’ve hardly been officially married twenty minutes, don’t call yourself a married woman just yet”, he says

 

“You’re really disgusting”, I say.


“Don’t come crying to me later”, he says.

 

“Why can’t I get rid of you ever, you always know how to kill a perfectly good time.”

 

“No I’m just the realest projection of the realist in you but I’m not real”, he says.

 

“Then why are you sitting across from me”, I ask, before he disappears.

 

Charles walks over to me and puts his arm around me. “Sweetheart, why are you talking at the wall?”

 

“I wasn’t talking to the wall, I was talking to my friend Jack who kindly showed up here today”, I say, putting some sarcasm on the word kindly, but he’s nowhere to be found.


“I didn’t see you talk to anyone”, Charles says, confused.


“He was just here a moment ago”, I say.

 

“You’ll have to introduce me”, he says.

 

“Most certainly, when I find him, he’ll love you for the amazing man you are”, I say, hoping that wherever Jack was he could hear me.

 

Charles kisses me and goes back to his friends and continues his mundane business conversations. I guess that’s what being an heir is after all, but he’s still my heir and these last six months and the future we have aren’t anything I’d trade, not even for the entire world, not even for my dream as a violinist for that dream is nothing when compared to the dream I’m experiencing.

 

The reception finishes and Charles and I enjoy a night inside the largest suite at the Lundgren Hotel, oh how I’m so happy I have a share in a hotel with my own name on it, and we enjoy our first night as a married couple inside the Honeymoon Suite and in the morning Charles tells me he’s arranged for a honeymoon in Paris.

 

I’m absolutely thrilled. I had always wanted to go to Paris, the city of love, the city of art, the city where all ideas and expressionism meld together into a colossal conglomerate of what humanity is all about, the city where I had always dreamed of performing, this was where we were going. And a few days later we embark on our journey and we reach there, greeted by the sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe just on the Champs-Elysées Boulevard and the smells of fresh baguettes and croissants.

 

“How marvelous it is, sharing this experience with you”, I say.


“I’ve been here many times”, Charles says. “But I thought you might like it”, he says in an offhand way that puts me on edge for a moment. I think nothing of it however, Paris must be nothing to him after all.

 

“I do love it”, I say. “I love it very much.”

 

“Oh how wonderful that vacation in Paris was”, I say.

 

“Did it end wonderfully”, Jack says, while I’m sitting down on my bed cross legged, doubling over, nearly wanting to vomit and Jack’s sadistic behavior.

 

“No it didn’t, but must we discuss it?”, I say.

 

“We must”, he says.

“Why is it that when I see you no one else does?”, I say.


“Because I’m a part of you”, he says.


“Is that supposed to be some sort of perverse description”, I say.

 

“Not at all”, he replies, looking at me. “Just the truth.”

 

“I’m glad you love it”, Charles says “Because I don’t, I’m doing this as a favor for you”, he says, leaving me shocked. In the last six months he had been so kind and gentle, and now he was acting so distant.

 

“And why don’t you think he loved it”, Jack says.

 

“You know what Jack? Just go away.”

 

“I can’t, I’m bound to you.”

“I didn’t ask for you at all”, I say.

 

“I know you didn’t. I came to you”, Jack says. “So why don’t you think he loved it?”

 

“Perhaps because he was rich?”

 

“Perhaps, but I don’t think so”, Jack says.

 

“Charles, what’s wrong”, I ask. He’s nowhere to be seen. I look around and he’s on the corner of the next street buying a glass of whiskey. I rush over to him.

 

“Charles, dear, isn’t it a little too early to drink”, I say.

 

He stares at me. “Yes, I suppose it is. Just this one glass”, he says, guzzling it down and then buys another.

 

“Charles!”, I exclaim. “You only said one!”

 

“By one I meant two”, he says.

 

“And by two you knew he was a drunk”, Jack says.

 

“No, I didn’t”, I say. “But even if I did he was my drunk. My everything”, I say, clutching the headboard.


I am too shocked to know what to do and before I knew it he grabs my hand and kisses me passionately and I suppose this time it was the alcohol that made him passionate rather than his heart. Perhaps I bored him. Perhaps I wasn’t good enough. No, that wasn’t it. Perhaps he was in one of his moods. Yes, that was it.

 

“Shall we go up the tower”, I ask.

 

“Yes”, he says. “I’d love that.”

 

“Why do you want to go up the tower?”, Jack says

 

“Because it’s the pinnacle of love, Jack”, I say.

 

“Who the hell’s Jack”, Charles says while sipping his glass.


“You must have heard wrong dear, you’re drunk”, I say.


Charles nods his head. “I’ll beat the hell out of whoever this Jack is, he must not be around”, he says and grabs my hand and we walk towards the tower.

 

“He isn’t don’t worry”, I say, struggling to keep pace with him. As we make our ascent up the tower I wonder if it’s normal for people to have such rages, I never did, Jack wouldn’t have stayed by my side so long if I had. Ma always taught me to be under control but I suppose every man has his own flaws, and and alcohol exacerbates them for when a man drinks in the company of other men everyone’s evils are exposed and no one cares.

 

We reach the top of the tower. The sky is a fierce blue but not a sad one, and the sun is radiating down to us but not burning, making my spine warm and shiver at the same time. Charles and I look straight ahead at the city skyline and then down at the people below, hundreds and thousands of them all clustered below, living out their daily lives which I hoped were as happy as mine was, and were as productive as mine was too.  

“They all aren’t”, Jack says.


“Jack, how did you make it up all the way up the tower without us noticing”, I say.

 

“That’s it, where the hell is he”, Charles says, blindly swinging and stumbling, almost losing his balance and thank God I catch him just in time.

 

“Charles, for goodness sakes behave yourself, dear”, I say, much to the amusement of some onlooking Frenchmen.

 

Jack vanishes, as does my pride, for we are now the laughingstock of everyone at the top of the tower, but Charles seems to pay no mind.

 

“Look at all of them down below, puny as can be compared to us my love”, he says, and I’m delighted to see his passion returning, even though his arrogance was too. That was the one part of him I always hated, his pride. He could say the most hurtful things in that sweet soft voice of his where you’d think that he was saying something absolutely pleasant even though it’d be just the opposite.

 

Sometimes I don’t know what it is about a man or a woman that someone sees that makes that person ignore all the other person’s flaws, I guess that’s what love truly is, ignoring the worst in a person and embracing the best, because that’s what I’ve done with Charles, and he’s never shown his worst to me personally, which I’m glad for because I don’t think I’d ever be able to leave him, he’s charmed me far too much, entrapped me in his spellbinding snare.

 

We spend all day up at the tower, holding our hands in an enchanting unbreakable tranquility that I hoped would never end.

 

“Let’s bring our children here one day, Laura”, Charles says to me.

 

I’m not in the mood to think about children at the moment so I nod at him and try to enjoy the calm and gentle breeze that’s tickling my face nearly making me sneeze and I hope my time at the top of this tower never ends, for when time ends I’ll be just like the people below, monotonous and irrelevant.

 

Eventually the light of the sun fades and we regretfully and mournfully make our descent down the tower, regret that time had finally come alive and ended the day, regret that now tiredness set in, but then again there always is another day until time comes for us once and for all and there’s no time for regrets then.

 

“I have a surprise for you back at the hotel, I bought it this morning”, he says softly.

 

I wonder what it could possibly be, anticipation creeps through me since every single one o Charles’ presents have been exquisite and more so sentimental; he isn’t the type of man who throws money for the sake of buying a gift, which to me is more than enough, he doesn’t even have to buy me anything, just his company is enough.

 

We go back to the hotel and I’m waiting as we walk up the stairs towards our room.

 

“Close your eyes, darling”, Charles says as he opens the door and leads me inside.

 

I do that, my heart pounding, sweat running down my brow wondering what he got me since Charles never put this much of drama on before over a gift. I hear the switch flicker on as he leads me inside and then off again. He lets go of me for a moment and then I can hear something click open before Charles walks over.

 

“You can open your eyes now”, Charles says and I open my eyes to total darkness.

 

Wondering if it’s a joke I laugh in the total darkness. “Charles all of a show for that”, I say, before he turns on the lights again.

 

And then I gasp in utmost shock and bewilderment.

 

Lying in the case was a violin. But not just any violin. It was an antique Stradivarius violin and I could smell the maple from the body of the violin and the ebony from the chin rest emanating from across the room. I rush towards it and run my fingers across it carefully, taking my time to stroke all of its delicate features, from the body to the neck, from the fingerboard to the pegs. Then I take the bow and delicately stroke the top and the fine horse hairs, tightening it then loosening it and tightening it again before I gently set it back in the case. I open the side pocket and take some of the resin out and resin the bow slowly and carefully before I pluck a string and listen to the lush sound bounce off the walls.

 

I look at Charles smiling coyly to the side of the room and rush and give him a hug not wanting to let go, for no ordinary man would have ever bought me such a gift, not even God himself would have presented me my dream. Now I was ready to enter the concert hall, with some practice of course, after nearly three years without touching the instrument.

 

“Charles… It’s amazing… I don’t even know what to-”, I say before he puts his finger on my lips just like the first time we met.”

 

“You don’t need to say anything”, he says, before kissing me gently. “Will you play something for me?”, he asks.

 

I don’t let go for a few moments, my mind still unable to comprehend the magnitude of what I had just received.  

 

“So you got what you wanted didn’t you”, Jack says.

 

“I loved him at the time, I made a made a mistake Jack!”, I say to him, speechless at the fact that someone who was supposed to be at my side could be so unkind, so cruel.

 

“But it resulted in nothing, that violin didn’t even come along with you when you left”, Jack says.

 

I begin to cry. Why must Jack remind me of the past. “Go away, Jack”, I say, but leaves me at my worst moments, with no prompting to leave

 

And I begin to play the Chaconne, this time instead of putting my heart just into the music I put my heart into the music and the man who made the music possible. For the next fifteen minutes, with each stroke of the bow I don’t look at Charles who I assume is just sitting on the bed and when I finally finish I feel that same feeling of peace that I had not felt in so long returning to me.

 

I look up at Charles who looks back at me with a mixture of astonishment and delight. “That was incredible”, he says. “How I wish I could play like you, Laura.”

I laugh. “It’s quite alright, dear. I’m sure you have talents of your own”, I say.

 

“That’s the thing”, Charles says. “I have no talents of my own.”

 

“Now, don’t say that”, I say. “There must be something you’re good at, something your heart attached itself to and couldn’t let go of?”

 

“Absolutely nothing”, Charles says. “I’ve lived my entire life the wrong way.”

 

I reach in to embrace and comfort him but he gently pushes me away. “Not now, Laura”, he says. “I’m feeling much too ashamed.”

 

Feeling bad that I made him feel this way I resign myself to a different corner of the bedroom that night. A man is the sum of his insecurities, that much I know, why Charles was insecure I don’t know, but whatever it may be, I hope he doesn’t show them any further, but I know that’s not likely to be the case.

 

We wake up the next morning at around the same time. Charles approaches, me walking slowly, looking ashamed of his behavior the night before which I am relieved to see, but nonetheless I wait to hear what he has to say.

 

He wraps me in a bear hug. “I apologize for last night. It’s just that I have never been good at anything myself and-”, he says

 

I put my finger on his lips the same way he does to me. “You have nothing to apologize for. People have done much worse to me in the past to break me down. It’s quite alright”, I say.


“That doesn’t make it any better”, Charles says.

 

“Well, I forgive you if it does make you feel any better. We all lose our temper from time to time”, I say.

 

“It does make me feel better”, he says, his face lighting up again the way I like. “Shall we get some breakfast?”

“Let’s”, I say.  “Just let me freshen up first.”

 

I brush my teeth and wash my face and head down to breakfast with Charles in which we dine on a delicious but unorthodox combination of bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy and cereal, but I suppose that while I may think it’s unorthodox, no sort of breakfast is unorthodox especially when you’ve had a night of fun prior, as I did.

 

As we dine Charles tells me, “I hope you’re enjoying your vacation, dear, and I hope I haven’t made it worse than it could have been”, Charles says.


Realizing that sometimes that honesty isn’t the best policy, and not wanting to make Charles feel any worse I say, “I am enjoying myself dear, and don’t you worry you’re alright, I love you”. While I am enjoying myself I am a little standoffish about how Charles acts when he drinks but it’s not really a big issue, perhaps I’m giving it too much of importance in my mind than I need to. Perhaps I listened to my mother far too much and couldn’t think for myself, why did I allow myself to be raised as such a sheltered little girl? I still feel little though I may be twenty and Charles twenty-five but his age reflects his maturity but mine doesn’t.

 

We have another day around Paris and Charles reverts to his naturally charming self and I’m relieved; I don’t want to think he’s suddenly changed, it would devastate me. I hope he didn’t put on an act before our marriage, if he did it was a very good one indeed, I’d never be able to get over myself if it turns out to all be for nothing. I couldn’t… I couldn’t… I have to make this marriage work at all costs even at the cost of myself. Here I go on again, thinking that things will get worse can’t I ever be optimistic? Guess that’s my Ma’s fault too, God bless her soul.

 

I remember back home how Ma would always make the worst out of the best situations and make the best out of the worst, it wasn’t that she had any darkness within her she just couldn’t find any light, and this made it worse for the rest of us since everyone else’s mood depended on hers, if she went haywire so did we all and when she was calm we were all still as a tree branch in a windless field.

 

Within a few days we leave back home to what has become the humdrum of our everyday lives, Charles leaves to work every morning at the hotel and comes back every evening, beaten by the day, red-faced and worn, while I just stay at home and practice my heart out until I’m myself beaten by what is supposed to give me pleasure; Charles has arranged a concert for me at the hotel in some days, I know I should be excited for it and nervous at the same time but instead I’m quite apathetic, for I’ve lost all the excitement this instrument is supposed to give me, it’s mad I tell you, perhaps I should give myself a break I tell myself, so that I can renew what my life once was, a shimmering beacon of hope and pleasure, why must we humans live to work and work to live, work to be happy but never happy to work, at least after a point?

 

I leave my violin aside for a few days, giving my fingers and heart a much needed retreat, On Wednesday Charles returns home and tells me that I’ll be giving an evening concert at seven at the hotel and I agree, nervous for my first public appearance that I haven’t even prepared a program for. I rush and prepare a program and continue practicing, hoping that Friday comes slower, suppose I’m a flop and fail it’ll be the end of me, suppose I break my hand before and I’ll never be able to play again? I stay in my room the next two days to avoid any possible calamity.


Friday comes and I go through my program once more, confident and ready and I leave for the Lundgren hotel at about sixish, carrying my case with both hands since they were shaking, I must have either looked weak or foolish to the other pedestrians, a grown woman of twenty-three needing both arms to carry a case that must have weighed less than ten pounds, but they didn’t matter. I reach the hotel and just outside the door, I bum a cigarette from the doorman though I usually don’t smoke, but since I’m nervous as ever I suppose this one time couldn’t do any more damage to my lungs than what the night could do to my reputation.

 

I inhale slowly, allowing for the burn to fully absorb down my throat and into my lungs, each passing second that I’m one second closer or a lifetime or ten away from my destiny, the nervousness refusing to subside even though that is what cigarettes are for I always thought. But never mind. I stomp on my cigarette like I might my future and walk inside the hotel, desperate and demented, forgotten and forlorn, when I catch Charles’ eye and rush to him and hug him, crying.

 

“What’s the matter, Laura”, he says.

 

“I’m worried, Charles, I’m worried”, I say, looking for a way out of this or an answer.

 

He kisses my forehead. “Don’t be”, he says. “Remember how you played for me the other night?”


“Awfully?”, I ask

 

He laughs, as if I asked a rhetorical question. “No darling, you played incredibly. If the audience bothers you imagine you’re playing for me”, he says.

 

“I’ll try”, I say.


“Do well, Laura”, he says. “I’m counting on you”, he says.


I nod and go behind the stage and open the case and suddenly I see Jack behind me patting my shoulder.

“Don’t worry about tonight, Laura dear”, he says.


“Why shouldn’t I, Jack? And don’t call me dear”, I say


“Remember that night, Laura”, Jack says as I lie down still on my bed.


“Yes, and how I wish I had let you”, I say looking up at the stone ceiling.

 

“Why shouldn’t I call you dear”, Jack says.


“Because only my husband can, that’s why”, I say.

 

Jack chuckles and smirks. “Regardless, dear, you’ll do just fine tonight, I promise.”


I nod curtly and Jack disappears and I rosin my bow and sling the violin up to my shoulder.

“Ladies and Gentlemen”, I hear Charles say. “Tonight we have an amazing spectacle to behold. My wife, Laura Lundgren, will be performing for us all on her violin!

 

The audience’s thunderous claps are nearly too much for me to bear but I compose myself as the curtains open slowly revealing me, insecurities and all, naked to the public eye. I take a bow and begin to play.

 

The first few notes come out strained but sooner or later I close my eyes and transport myself to another dimension, to one where my loved ones and I only exist, where the trees are made of gold and the day is twenty four hours long, there exists no night, to a dimension where anyone can accomplish their dreams, where my father was a blessed and benevolent man, where desires and dreams are merged together to create the ultimate cornucopia of bliss, one which hope isn’t necessary nor will be, where the flowers grow ten feet tall and humans are six inches, and nature could reside and reproduce in abundance without mankind’s evil interference, a place where one could think and it would be. But I know what an aberration this really is for what if there existed someone I could love more who wasn’t in that world, and I’d never know them? In that regard my world is flawed and not a utopia.

 

In before I know it I’m finished with the first piece and the audience is clapping their hands off and I see Jack whistling in the crowd right next to Charles who’s smiling at me, and i take care to wave to them both before taking a bow and diving into my next piece. And before I know it the whole program is over and the whole audience erupts into applause and the front row throws me roses, how I wish that was the case but they do stand up and didn’t stop clapping for at least four, five, maybe even six minutes, I must have played well or this is a cruel joke, either way I got what I wanted, a few minutes of well deserved recognition, hopefully I can give it to myself sometime soon.

 

I walk off stage and into the back room where Charles meets me, looking tense.

“That was phenomenal, Laura”, he says.


“Thank you, dear”, I say. “I’m glad I could play in your hotel for my first performance.”

 

“I’m glad as well, dear, they loved you out there tonight”, I say.

 

Charles chuckles. “You should hear them right now”, he says. “Laura Lundgren this, Laura Lundgren that, they can’t have enough of you dear”, he says.

 

He pauses for a moment looking mildly uncomfortable.

 

“Come outside whenever you’re ready to the reception hall”, he says and I nod at him, the sweat finally leaving my forehead, relieved that the evening was over.

 

I let my violin rest in its case and head out to the reception hall.

 

“You were phenomenal tonight, Mrs. Lundgren”, someone says, and I smile and nod at them.

 

“That was an excellent Bach you played tonight, Laura, I thoroughly enjoyed it”, someone else says.


“Thank you”, I say. “It’s one of my favorite pieces as well, I’m so happy you enjoyed it”, I say.

 

Just then Charles comes and pulls me aside, looking furious.


“What are you doing with all these people”, he demands to know.

 

“I’m just… I’m just thanking people for acknowledging me”, I say, confused at his erratic behavior.


“You have no business to entertain the guests other than to play for them, I’ll see to the remaining entertainment”, Charles says, fuming. “Come with me”, he says.

 

And just as I feared, his insecurities have returned, but what am I supposed to say to the man who has already given me so much love and patience and a chance to do what I love most on a stage? Why do people act their worst when someone else does their best I never will understand.

 

Regardless I just walk along with Charles with my head held down, gently and gracefully acknowledging all the praise from then on, wondering if the night was mine or Charles’, if I was following my own heart that night or whether I was the man’s trophy for his own evening, nonetheless nothing could defeat me that night for I had accomplished what I had always dreamed of ever since I was a little girl, the right to express myself in front of a portion of the world.


The reception ends and Charles and I head home.

 

“What was the matter back there?”, I ask Charles as we walk down the lane.

 

Charles turns back and looks like me. “What was the matter? The matter was that you were parading yourself around as if you owned the place.”

 

“No, I wasn’t I-”, but Charles cuts me off.


“Don’t you ever forget that I’m the one who helped you get you where you are and I’m the one that made your dreams possible, tonight or any other time. I took you to Paris, I got you a place to perform, what more do you want from me?”

 

“And you didn’t see it then?”, Jack says

 

I start to cry. “Jack, he was just so charming and had demons of his own, there was no way I could have left him like that”, I say.


“I never asked you for anything more, dear”, I say. “You’ve given me everything I could have ever asked for.”

 

“And no man can ever take that away?”, he asks.

 

“Noone. Not even God can take away what a splendid night I’ve had.”

 

Charles begins to weep too. “Dear God, why does my mind do this to me”, he says and hugs me tight and I hug him tight too.

 

“What’s wrong, dear?”, I ask him.

 

“Nothing, my love, it’s just my head that bothers me all the time. I could never explain it to you because you’d leave me in an instant”, he says.

 

Not at all having that thought in my mind I ask, “What makes you think that?”

 

“The things that go on inside me are much too terrible to reveal to any sane person.”


“And what makes you think I’m sane”, I ask him, confused at how I’m sane though I was raised to be.

 

“Look at the way you act all ladylike and pure with so much talent and a heart of gold, and look at me a talentless buffoon who only owns a hotel because his father gave it to him”, Charles says, dismayed. “Regardless, what goes in my mind is much too terrible for anyone to know, I’ll save you the trouble”, he says.

 

“Well, Charles dear, if you ever need to let out what’s in your mind, I can always stop practicing to listen to you”, I say.


“I appreciate that, sweetheart. Really, I do”, he says, his eyes wide open and dripping with tears, genuinely hurt and confused, revealing a vastly different man than the one I was talking to at the hotel and I was so bewildered by how quickly he could change who he was as if he meant to to toy with me or really couldn’t help it but I pity my husband just the same, for only he knows what’s going on in his own mind, no amount that he could ever explain to me would ever enable me to grasp the severity of what was happening to him.

 

We sleep peacefully that night, and I find out the next morning that I’m pregnant. We go to the doctor’s office.

 

“Well, Mrs. Lundgren, I should say you’re about three months along now”, Dr. Williams says.

 

I look at Charles and we’re both ecstatic about having a new bundle of joy in our house, I hope our marriage doesn’t become too strained by then because I’d hate to put an innocent being through all of that, Charles’ fatherly instincts immediately take over and he’s all over town, even taking days off work to buy things for the baby and set to work immediately creating the baby’s room.

 

“Is it a boy or a girl, Mrs. Lundgren”, everyone in town would ask and I sadly would have to tell them I wouldn’t know for another few months. I was hoping for a boy, and I was hoping he’d be just like his father, and grow up to be a tall and handsome fellow.

 

Concerts were becoming more and more tiring on my body, I am playing nearly every other night at the hotel, at least the roars of approval and the thunderous applause make it worthwhile but with this baby inside me I don’t know how much longer I can take it. While Charles is in the middle of a conversation I pull him aside one night after I’ve finished playing.

“Charles, I need to ask you something”, I say, hoping he wouldn’t fly off the handle.

 

“Yes dear, what is it?”, he says.


“I need to stop playing for a little while. The baby’s kicking too much and it hurts when I play a lot of the time. Might I just take a few nights off at least?”, I ask.

 

Charles looks out me doubtfully. “Very well, sweetheart, if that’s what you need, then that’s what you’ll get”, he says, kissing me on the cheek.

 

I hug him tight, the father of my child. I hope to raise this child much better than my mother had raised me and even though she had raised me well she raised me in the home. No, I’d show my child the outdoors and the entire world, so help me God. He deserves to know the fresh air and the beauty of life.

 

A few months pass by and I find out that I’m expecting a boy. I’ve never seen Charles more thrilled in his life.

 

“Laura we’re going to be parents!”, he says excitedly.


I reply with fake enthusiasm, not because I’m having a kid but because I feel Charles’s selfishness ruining the experience. Is he having a kid to bring us both together, or so that he can have his own joy? Lately I feel as if he’s been using me just to advance his own social position by making me play endlessly but it’s something I enjoy doing so I never said anything in the past, but now I don’t want his selfishness to seep into a child when he’s so childlike himself.

 

Why am I acting and thinking like this, I reprimand myself. Everyone has their flaws, as if I’m perfect, why can’t I enjoy the miracle that’ll happen in a few months? I go with Charles down to the local baby store and purchase this colorful little purple jumper that I know Anthony, as we decided to call him yesterday, will fit right into, I can already imagine his snug little body sleeping away in it and when he opens his big beady eyes to laugh or cry how cute it’ll be, the anticipation is just too much, nine months can’t come soon enough.

 

We throw an enormous baby shower at the hotel and I’ve never seen Charles happier as if he was already showing off his baby boy to the entire world. I myself am happy I made the pilgrimage to Charles heart and returned, a slight bit broken but nothing terrible if for his own happiness my pilgrimage was worth it then let it be, there’s always sacrifice necessary when there’s someone you love on the line, and I know Charles is much more fragile than I am, however sad that is, I might be the husband and he might be the wife not the other way around, but the baby shower is an enormous success and guests pour into the hotel.

 

“I’m so happy I’m going to finally be a grandfather”, Anthony Lundgren says to me, pulling me aside.


“I couldn’t be more excited for you either sir”, I say.

 

“Now, now”, he says, “You can call me Anthony. After all my little grandson is named after me.” He roars with laughter and I laugh weakly at his pathetic joke.

 

“Alright, sir”, I say and move on to find Charles.

 

“Your father’s a bit drunk”, I say.


“Leave him be, the doctors say he won’t live long anyway. Let him enjoy the last few moments of his life.”

 

I accept this. It’s always wiser to let a dying man be happy and correct than to correct him and to make his dying moments moments of misery. The baby shower finally ends and we all go up to Charles. Later that night Anthony Lundgren passes in his sleep, presumably of a heart attack and the entire family but I is mourning.

 

But sooner or later time flies as it always flies by fast when you’re least expecting it to, and I’m in painful labor at the hospital with Charles right by my side, but I hear no crying and the doctors are doing everything they can to get Anthony out and one hour goes by… two, three, four, five…  ten, eleven… thirteen, fourteen, seventeen, and at last we see Anthony’s head pop out and then the doctors begin pulling him out and then we see his legs, but he’s not moving.

 

“Mrs. Lundgren”, the doctor says, “We regret to inform you that-”, and it goes silent.

Chapter 4 Prisoner’s Sanctum Excerpt

Note: This chapter is a bit difficult to read. The character is schizophrenic, so she shifts back and forth from past to present while narrating the entire chapter in the present tense.

 

 

“I told you so, didn’t I”, Jack says.

 

“Why must you always come at the wrong times, Jack? Isn’t my suffering enough for you, I haven’t seen my children all day and I’m here in straightforward isolation. Must you torment me?”

 

“It’s not that I’m tormenting you as much as I’m being honest with you.”

 

“Honest about what. That I failed? As a mother and a wife? I know I failed. I don’t need your continuous reminders.”

 

“I think you do, because you keep acting the same way. Denial, denial, denial.”

 

“Denial of what?”, I say and then he vanishes. I look out the window and see that small man running towards the pond. I hope he drowns himself in it and vanishes out of my life.

 

Over the years Jack never ceased to remind me that my mind became a mausoleum for hope, desires and dreams, for each time I had one, whether it would be near or far, it would be smashed into oblivion, giving me one less reason to remain on God’s green Earth, and when my mind finally crumbled to one million pieces, even long before then, I wasn’t even a shadow of myself, I remained as a hollow shell of what I once was, a compendium of vitriol and faithlessness.

 

It’s still smoky outside and remember my beautiful Anthony. How I miss Anthony, my hope and joy for him. Lisa Jean and Eddie were beautiful twins, but Anthony, how I longed for him, I still have the little jumper I bought for him somewhere in my suitcase, how excited I was on the day I realized I was expecting him, and how I miss him so, how he broke apart Charles and I, but how I love him so, even still to this day, long after Charles has gone.

 

“Laura Christine Mays”, the preacher says. “Do you accept Charles William Lundgren to be your lawfully wedded husband?”, he says, repeating the same monotonous lines he must have used at all the marriage ceremonies he must have performed, treating our wedding as another to add to his repertoire, but ours meant something much more than that; ours was a bond of two souls destined by the stars to be, and if not by the stars then we must have been destined on a starless night, when the dearly departed indeed rest in peace rather than watch over us all.

 

“I do”, I say, smiling, my flagrant red hair and bright teeth shining brightly in the sun.

 

“And do you, Charles William Lundgren, accept Laura Christine Mays to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

 

“I do”, Charles says in the same soft voice I was so attracted to, puffing out his chest and dominating the entire scene.

 

“Then by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

 

And Charles pulled me in and kissed me and while it may have been a kiss to the audience it was the best kiss I had received from him, full of passion, full of hope for our future, full of our desire to be with one another until the end of our days, until death did us part. And from then on I was Laura Christine Lundgren, violinist and wife.

 

We leave the wedding and head to the limousine to go to our reception while everyone follows behind in their ordinary vehicles, for it was an event of food and wine to the rest but not for us.

 

We reach the reception hall when all of a sudden the sun fades away and it begins to pour. Everyone brings out their umbrellas and heads into the hall and begin to dance when the music begins to play. My mother pulls me aside.

 

“I never thought I’d live to see the day my beautiful daughter gets married”, she says, a tear trickling down her cheek.”

 

I hug her. “Mother don’t cry this is supposed to be a joyous occasion”, I say.

 

“It is, Laura, these are tears of joy. I haven’t had these kind of tears in ages, only the other kind”, she says, quickly wiping them away.

 

I pull her even closer. “Ma, don’t you worry. I can’t forget you. You’ve taken me through life.”

 

“I know I have, and it worries me that I can’t take you along any further”, she says.

 

“Ma, I’m a lady now”, I say.

 

“You’ll always be my little girl”, she says. “Don’t you ever forget that.”

 

I laugh. “Shall we get a glass of wine?”, I say to her.


“I don’t’ drink, Laura, you know that. I didn’t know you did”, she says disapprovingly.

 

“Occasionally with Charles. Just the occasional glass”, I say.

 

I excuse myself to the bar and pour myself a glass of wine and return to the corner my mother was standing at.

 

“It’s just wine, Ma”, I say, taking a sip.

 

“That may be the case, but you’ve changed a lot since you’ve been with him”, Ma says.

 

“For the better”, I say.


She says nothing for a moment. “Alright dear, I’m just concerned is all, even spoilt milk is white”, she finally says.

 

I love her but I refuse to let her past get in the way of my happiness. “Very well mother, enjoy the reception”, I say.

 

“I will”, she says pulling my exasperated self in for a hug. I hug her back realizing I’m lucky to have a mother such as mine, most mothers would have given their daughters away and gone out the door but not mine.

 

I find Charles, who’s talking to some friends over on the other side of the room. He sees me and pauses the conversation. “And there’s my darling bride”, he says, giving me a kiss. “Laura, I’d like you to meet my friend, Barry Mills and his wife Sheila, they own the town’s country club, and this is…”,

 

And Charles goes around introducing me to his circle of elites and I was in heaven. I never thought such a life of glamor with such a good man was ever in my destiny but here God was finally being good to me.

Someone taps me on the shoulder and I excuse myself from the conversation. Jack is sitting in at a table all by himself.


“Jack, I’m so glad you could make it”, I say.

 

“You’re not married to the right man”, he says.


“Have you no shame?”, I say. “To say this to a married woman at her own reception?”

 

“You’ve hardly been officially married twenty minutes, don’t call yourself a married woman just yet”, he says

 

“You’re really disgusting”, I say.


“Don’t come crying to me later”, he says.

 

“Why can’t I get rid of you ever, you always know how to kill a perfectly good time.”

 

“No I’m just the realest projection of the realist in you but I’m not real”, he says.

 

“Then why are you sitting across from me”, I ask, before he disappears.

 

Charles walks over to me and puts his arm around me. “Sweetheart, why are you talking at the wall?”

 

“I wasn’t talking to the wall, I was talking to my friend Jack who kindly showed up here today”, I say, putting some sarcasm on the word kindly, but he’s nowhere to be found.


“I didn’t see you talk to anyone”, Charles says, confused.


“He was just here a moment ago”, I say.

 

“You’ll have to introduce me”, he says.

 

“Most certainly, when I find him, he’ll love you for the amazing man you are”, I say, hoping that wherever Jack was he could hear me.

 

Charles kisses me and goes back to his friends and continues his mundane business conversations. I guess that’s what being an heir is after all, but he’s still my heir and these last six months and the future we have aren’t anything I’d trade, not even for the entire world, not even for my dream as a violinist for that dream is nothing when compared to the dream I’m experiencing.

 

The reception finishes and Charles and I enjoy a night inside the largest suite at the Lundgren Hotel, oh how I’m so happy I have a share in a hotel with my own name on it, and we enjoy our first night as a married couple inside the Honeymoon Suite and in the morning Charles tells me he’s arranged for a honeymoon in Paris.

 

I’m absolutely thrilled. I had always wanted to go to Paris, the city of love, the city of art, the city where all ideas and expressionism meld together into a colossal conglomerate of what humanity is all about, the city where I had always dreamed of performing, this was where we were going. And a few days later we embark on our journey and we reach there, greeted by the sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe just on the Champs-Elysées Boulevard and the smells of fresh baguettes and croissants.

 

“How marvelous it is, sharing this experience with you”, I say.


“I’ve been here many times”, Charles says. “But I thought you might like it”, he says in an offhand way that puts me on edge for a moment. I think nothing of it however, Paris must be nothing to him after all.

 

“I do love it”, I say. “I love it very much.”

 

“Oh how wonderful that vacation in Paris was”, I say.

 

“Did it end wonderfully”, Jack says, while I’m sitting down on my bed cross legged, doubling over, nearly wanting to vomit and Jack’s sadistic behavior.

 

“No it didn’t, but must we discuss it?”, I say.

 

“We must”, he says.

“Why is it that when I see you no one else does?”, I say.


“Because I’m a part of you”, he says.


“Is that supposed to be some sort of perverse description”, I say.

 

“Not at all”, he replies, looking at me. “Just the truth.”

 

“I’m glad you love it”, Charles says “Because I don’t, I’m doing this as a favor for you”, he says, leaving me shocked. In the last six months he had been so kind and gentle, and now he was acting so distant.

 

“And why don’t you think he loved it”, Jack says.

 

“You know what Jack? Just go away.”

 

“I can’t, I’m bound to you.”

“I didn’t ask for you at all”, I say.

 

“I know you didn’t. I came to you”, Jack says. “So why don’t you think he loved it?”

 

“Perhaps because he was rich?”

 

“Perhaps, but I don’t think so”, Jack says.

 

“Charles, what’s wrong”, I ask. He’s nowhere to be seen. I look around and he’s on the corner of the next street buying a glass of whiskey. I rush over to him.

 

“Charles, dear, isn’t it a little too early to drink”, I say.

 

He stares at me. “Yes, I suppose it is. Just this one glass”, he says, guzzling it down and then buys another.

 

“Charles!”, I exclaim. “You only said one!”

 

“By one I meant two”, he says.

 

“And by two you knew he was a drunk”, Jack says.

 

“No, I didn’t”, I say. “But even if I did he was my drunk. My everything”, I say, clutching the headboard.


I am too shocked to know what to do and before I knew it he grabs my hand and kisses me passionately and I suppose this time it was the alcohol that made him passionate rather than his heart. Perhaps I bored him. Perhaps I wasn’t good enough. No, that wasn’t it. Perhaps he was in one of his moods. Yes, that was it.

 

“Shall we go up the tower”, I ask.

 

“Yes”, he says. “I’d love that.”

 

“Why do you want to go up the tower?”, Jack says

 

“Because it’s the pinnacle of love, Jack”, I say.

 

“Who the hell’s Jack”, Charles says while sipping his glass.


“You must have heard wrong dear, you’re drunk”, I say.


Charles nods his head. “I’ll beat the hell out of whoever this Jack is, he must not be around”, he says and grabs my hand and we walk towards the tower.

 

“He isn’t don’t worry”, I say, struggling to keep pace with him. As we make our ascent up the tower I wonder if it’s normal for people to have such rages, I never did, Jack wouldn’t have stayed by my side so long if I had. Ma always taught me to be under control but I suppose every man has his own flaws, and and alcohol exacerbates them for when a man drinks in the company of other men everyone’s evils are exposed and no one cares.

 

We reach the top of the tower. The sky is a fierce blue but not a sad one, and the sun is radiating down to us but not burning, making my spine warm and shiver at the same time. Charles and I look straight ahead at the city skyline and then down at the people below, hundreds and thousands of them all clustered below, living out their daily lives which I hoped were as happy as mine was, and were as productive as mine was too.  

“They all aren’t”, Jack says.


“Jack, how did you make it up all the way up the tower without us noticing”, I say.

 

“That’s it, where the hell is he”, Charles says, blindly swinging and stumbling, almost losing his balance and thank God I catch him just in time.

 

“Charles, for goodness sakes behave yourself, dear”, I say, much to the amusement of some onlooking Frenchmen.

 

Jack vanishes, as does my pride, for we are now the laughingstock of everyone at the top of the tower, but Charles seems to pay no mind.

 

“Look at all of them down below, puny as can be compared to us my love”, he says, and I’m delighted to see his passion returning, even though his arrogance was too. That was the one part of him I always hated, his pride. He could say the most hurtful things in that sweet soft voice of his where you’d think that he was saying something absolutely pleasant even though it’d be just the opposite.

 

Sometimes I don’t know what it is about a man or a woman that someone sees that makes that person ignore all the other person’s flaws, I guess that’s what love truly is, ignoring the worst in a person and embracing the best, because that’s what I’ve done with Charles, and he’s never shown his worst to me personally, which I’m glad for because I don’t think I’d ever be able to leave him, he’s charmed me far too much, entrapped me in his spellbinding snare.

 

We spend all day up at the tower, holding our hands in an enchanting unbreakable tranquility that I hoped would never end.

 

“Let’s bring our children here one day, Laura”, Charles says to me.

 

I’m not in the mood to think about children at the moment so I nod at him and try to enjoy the calm and gentle breeze that’s tickling my face nearly making me sneeze and I hope my time at the top of this tower never ends, for when time ends I’ll be just like the people below, monotonous and irrelevant.

 

Eventually the light of the sun fades and we regretfully and mournfully make our descent down the tower, regret that time had finally come alive and ended the day, regret that now tiredness set in, but then again there always is another day until time comes for us once and for all and there’s no time for regrets then.

 

“I have a surprise for you back at the hotel, I bought it this morning”, he says softly.

 

I wonder what it could possibly be, anticipation creeps through me since every single one o Charles’ presents have been exquisite and more so sentimental; he isn’t the type of man who throws money for the sake of buying a gift, which to me is more than enough, he doesn’t even have to buy me anything, just his company is enough.

 

We go back to the hotel and I’m waiting as we walk up the stairs towards our room.

 

“Close your eyes, darling”, Charles says as he opens the door and leads me inside.

 

I do that, my heart pounding, sweat running down my brow wondering what he got me since Charles never put this much of drama on before over a gift. I hear the switch flicker on as he leads me inside and then off again. He lets go of me for a moment and then I can hear something click open before Charles walks over.

 

“You can open your eyes now”, Charles says and I open my eyes to total darkness.

 

Wondering if it’s a joke I laugh in the total darkness. “Charles all of a show for that”, I say, before he turns on the lights again.

 

And then I gasp in utmost shock and bewilderment.

 

Lying in the case was a violin. But not just any violin. It was an antique Stradivarius violin and I could smell the maple from the body of the violin and the ebony from the chin rest emanating from across the room. I rush towards it and run my fingers across it carefully, taking my time to stroke all of its delicate features, from the body to the neck, from the fingerboard to the pegs. Then I take the bow and delicately stroke the top and the fine horse hairs, tightening it then loosening it and tightening it again before I gently set it back in the case. I open the side pocket and take some of the resin out and resin the bow slowly and carefully before I pluck a string and listen to the lush sound bounce off the walls.

 

I look at Charles smiling coyly to the side of the room and rush and give him a hug not wanting to let go, for no ordinary man would have ever bought me such a gift, not even God himself would have presented me my dream. Now I was ready to enter the concert hall, with some practice of course, after nearly three years without touching the instrument.

 

“Charles… It’s amazing… I don’t even know what to-”, I say before he puts his finger on my lips just like the first time we met.”

 

“You don’t need to say anything”, he says, before kissing me gently. “Will you play something for me?”, he asks.

 

I don’t let go for a few moments, my mind still unable to comprehend the magnitude of what I had just received.  

 

“So you got what you wanted didn’t you”, Jack says.

 

“I loved him at the time, I made a made a mistake Jack!”, I say to him, speechless at the fact that someone who was supposed to be at my side could be so unkind, so cruel.

 

“But it resulted in nothing, that violin didn’t even come along with you when you left”, Jack says.

 

I begin to cry. Why must Jack remind me of the past. “Go away, Jack”, I say, but leaves me at my worst moments, with no prompting to leave

 

And I begin to play the Chaconne, this time instead of putting my heart just into the music I put my heart into the music and the man who made the music possible. For the next fifteen minutes, with each stroke of the bow I don’t look at Charles who I assume is just sitting on the bed and when I finally finish I feel that same feeling of peace that I had not felt in so long returning to me.

 

I look up at Charles who looks back at me with a mixture of astonishment and delight. “That was incredible”, he says. “How I wish I could play like you, Laura.”

I laugh. “It’s quite alright, dear. I’m sure you have talents of your own”, I say.

 

“That’s the thing”, Charles says. “I have no talents of my own.”

 

“Now, don’t say that”, I say. “There must be something you’re good at, something your heart attached itself to and couldn’t let go of?”

 

“Absolutely nothing”, Charles says. “I’ve lived my entire life the wrong way.”

 

I reach in to embrace and comfort him but he gently pushes me away. “Not now, Laura”, he says. “I’m feeling much too ashamed.”

 

Feeling bad that I made him feel this way I resign myself to a different corner of the bedroom that night.

Ch. 3 Prisoners Sanctum Excerpt

 

There’s a fire around here, I can smell the smoke in the air, perhaps it’s coming from the kitchen or something like that, I had dinner already thankfully, and no one at this establishment can cook at all. It’s nearing night and not quite it’s usually dark by seven and I feel a reverberation down my spine I don’t know why and-

 

“You should have been there, Laura, I could have helped you”, someone says.

 

“Been where”, I ask, to no reply and I’m annoyed, perhaps it’s one of those electronic gadgets the youngsters have nowadays, always fiddling on them and such.

 

The Academy, Laura. The Academy”, it says.

 

“You should be dead by now!”, I scream waving my hands in the air in all directions. “Go away! You’ve tormented me enough.”

 

“Are you alright?”, someone says outside my door.

 

“There’s a man in here!”, I say.

 

“No one’s there ma’am, your door’s been locked and secured, the voice says growing fainter as whomever it was moved further and further away, obviously unaware of my suffering, or simply just didn’t care at all. Doesn’t this hotel have any security?

 

“They can’t see you, Laura, only I can see you”, it says.

 

I rush and begin to pound on the door relentlessly but no one hears me.

 

“Charles!”, I yell, “There’s a man in my room, come save me, Charles!”

 

But no one answers and after looking around the room with my eyes wide open, up, down, right, left, and center and at last my fears are assuaged. How I wish Charles were here, he would have found whomever was scaring me and beaten them to a bloody pulp I look at my shaking finger and I see that ring, the beautiful diamond ring.

 

I have no idea where I am but I’m in a ornate building, it looks to be a hotel, the finest hotel I’ve ever been to in my life. I feel my energy returning and I’m alert as can be. The front desk is made of magnificent mahogany and the floors are the finest Persian rugs and all the staff are in fine velvet or silk uniforms, complete with coat and tie and they all stand in the same rigid posture and march as if they were soldiers.

 

I approach the front desk and see a tall handsome young man with kind but pleasant childish expression and the most warm blue eyes staring up at the sky earnestly thinking about something very important his hair parted to the left side, both his long muscular arms gripping his desk, his beard very well trimmed and shoes neatly shined.

 

God gives us instinct for a reason for when we are in moments of doubt instinct is our source of knowledge; at the moment my mind was telling me that there was something about this man I shouldn’t trust, yet he looked so inviting and so friendly that my breath is instantly taken away by his fabulous physique and calm demeanor so I approach the front desk.

 

“Excuse… Excuse… Excuse me”, I stutter.

 

He instantly jumps back to earth and with utmost professionalism grins and showing everyone of his glistening white teeth replies, “Yes Ma’am? May I help you?”

 

“I’m kind of lost I say”, blushing.

 

“I’m kind of lost as well”, he says and I think I catch him blushing and looking into my eyes for a quick second before returning his gaze to my face so as to not detract from the seemingly professional nature of the conversation.

 

I smile. “I’m rather new to this town, and I’m not quite sure where I am at the moment”, I say.

 

“Well, Ma’am”, he says, putting his elbow on the table and resting his jaw in his cupped hands, “You’re fortunately in the Lundgren Hotel.”

 

Lundgren, Lundgren, I think. Where have I heard this name before?

 

“Alright, thank you very much for the information”, I say, and turn to leave.

 

“But wait, Ma’am”, he says, and I head back to the desk.

 

“Yes?”, I ask.

 

“I didn’t quite catch your name”, he says and how am I to refuse such a bright smile?

 

“I’m Laura Mays”, I say, “And you are?”

 

“Charles. Charles Lundgren”, he says extending his hand. “My utmost pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Likewise”, I say completely transfixed.

 

He grins again and kisses my hand gently completely transfixed. “Would you like to get dinner and some wine at The Resort just across the street from us”, he asks in a soft voice, soft enough so that only I can hear him.

 

I wonder how a man of such impressive stature can have such a soft voice and I’m completely enamored and swayed and reply, “Yes, Charles, it’d be my pleasure to join you this evening.”

 

“I’ll see you at seven, then?”, he says.

 

“Yes, I’ll be there”, I say. I’ll definitely be there. I can hardly wait for seven o’clock to hit.

 

“John”, Charles says clapping his hands. A younger boy abruptly appears before us.

 

“Take this fine lady here up to the single suite. At no charge.”

 

“But sir, your father would-”, John says.


“At no charge”, Charles repeats himself menacingly and John the bellhop nods at Charles.

 

“Right this way ma’am”, he says, picking up my bags and carrying them to the elevator and opens the door and holds it to allow me in and then shuts it.

 

“So how do you know Mr. Charles?”, John asks.

 

“Just met him”, I say, and he looks confused but says no more as the elevator ascends one, two, three, four, five, then six and we walk out and exit to the halfway point of the hall where two large locked double doors stood. John takes a key from his pocket and unlocks the door, looking at me with utmost contempt that I won Charles’ graces, but I pay him no attention as he sets my luggage to the side and walks out. I make a mental note to tell Charles of his behavior.

 

The suite is almost a dream and I can’t believe I’m getting this nice of a room all for free. Charles must really like me.

 

“He really does like you”, a voice says. “I guess he likes you more than I ever did. I’m happy for you”, it says sounding dull and dejected.

 

“Jack?”, I say. “Jack Crawford? Is that you?”

 

It is and I see a much older version of Jack and give him a hug.  “Yes it is”, he says, not smiling but dejected instead.

 

“What’s wrong, Jack”, I say. “It’s been so long, aren’t you happy to see me?”

 

“I am happy to see you Laura, it’s just that you seem that you’d rather see Charles than me”, he says.”

 

“It’s not that I’m not happy to see you, Jack, I just think we’ve grown apart”, I say.

 

“What do you mean we’ve grown apart, Laura Mays? I’ve always been a part of you and always will be”, Jack says.


“No Jack, you’ve been a good friend and companion, but it’s nothing more than that, I’m sorry”, I say.

 

“It’s alright, Laura, I’ll always be there”, Jack replies to me with a sad look plastered upon his face.

 

“Jack, I’m sorry, but people grow apart”, I say but then he’s gone where does he disappear he always was a little Houdini.

 

I’m sad a little on the inside for disappointing Jack but after all it was my life and if he had wanted me so badly he should have asked earlier I would have been perfectly content to spend my life with him he seems like such a good man and a wonderful genuine person on the inside I hope he’ll find someone for himself one day and we’ll still keep in touch.


The hours tick on by as I lay down in my warm soft comfortable bed and look up at the white ceiling, three o’clock, half past, four o’clock, half past, then five then six, and at half past six I put on my best skirt and comb my hair back and when I’m sure I’m nice and pretty I walk downstairs pompously since I’m very glad I’m about to have a wonderful evening, I hope Jack doesn’t show up while we’re having dinner to ruin it, though I didn’t think he would because he’s the perfect gentleman after all.

 

I walk across the street to the resort where Charles is waiting for me, immaculate dress and tie and all, and he takes my hand when I walk over to him.

 

“Hello, Laura”, he says. “I’m so glad you decided to come.”

 

“I wouldn’t dream of missing this evening”, I say. “Thank you for asking me here.”

 

“Don’t thank me, and don’t mention it all”, he says, opening the door and allowing me in first and we both take our seat by a nice window, a gorgeous bouquet of roses on the table.

 

“I arranged for these”, Charles says softly, pointing to the roses.

 

I take one out and smell it, admiring at how the roses exude their mystical breathtaking fragrance.

“What’s this one for?”, I ask, pointing to the white rose in the center of the bouquet.

 

“This one”, Charles says, making a great show of taking it out and presenting it to me, pressing the thornless rose into my hand, “is a rare kind of rose, for the most beautiful and special of people, namely you, Laura Mays.”

 

I’m taken aback, flattered. Never in my life have I ever been shown this much attention before and to be honest, I like it very much since for the first nineteen years of my life I had been shut in my house with only my mother for true company.

 

“I love it”, I say. “What an amazing gesture. Thank you so much”, I say.

 

He puts his index finger to my lips. “Quiet”, he says quietly. “I told you not to thank me.”

“Alright, I won’t”, I say, laughing. His soft voice combined with his impressive stature is spellbinding.

 

“Shall we order?”, Charles says. “Would you like something to drink?”

 

“I don’t drink”, I say.

 

“Really, not even wine?”, he asks.

 

“Never have”, I say.


“Not even in Church?”, he asks.