A Long Way From Home
The road which brought Curtis Springer, suitcase in hand, to stand at the end of the long and lonely looking driveway had not been a smooth road. Slivering through the avenue of ancient live oaks the sandy and overgrown drive whispered, inviting. He listened, his heart feeling lighter than it had in a very long time. What looked to be a happy ending to a lifetime of sadness was in sight. For the first time in a long time, Curtis felt at home.
The driveway and the trees and the house looked just as they had in the photographs. Just like the pictures. In the red glow of the sun shimmering through the humid Mississippi delta summer evening, everything seemed surreal. With the dignity of a true southern gentleman the tired old plantation house off in the distance rested itself just inside the shadows of the old, old live oaks as the darkness fell. Like a blanket, nighttime was slowly pulling itself over Curtis as he took his time making his way toward the distant porch light.
The last of the dust from taxi began to settle as Curtis took one final look back over his shoulder with mild regret. The old cabbie who drove him from the airport and through the swampy lowlands would have gladly delivered him to the front door of the mansion. He even offered to. Curtis waved him on, the old cabbie with a face that looked like one of the road maps lying in the seat beside of him, eyes screaming of exhaustion.
Beat up and old like himself the suitcase, which Curtis lugged, was filled with his things – his entire life. It should have been heavier. Wiping the sweet summer sweat from his forehead as he eyed the distant porch light, he was glad it wasn’t.
Looking around, he thought about the photographs which rested in neat frames beside of his bed for over a year. They were nestled in the battered suitcase among his other treasured belongings.
It was all just as Trinity LeVeau so vividly described to him. There was a smell of the not so distant salt water, which crept into the bayou reminding him, that the ocean from which it came was not far away. And of course, there were the screaming cicadas and throaty croaks of bullfrogs which echoed through the evening air. It was all there. Even the smell of a promising thunderstorm which he and Trinity fell asleep to more than once. Many were the times as they lay together in bed, listening to the rain, phones in hand, miles apart and falling so madly and deeply in love.
Three years passed since they had first met. His marriage had recently come to an end and his wife, or ex-wife rather, was tragically killed in a hit and run accident leaving him no time and no one to hate but himself for the way things turned out. Equally tragic, Trinity’s husband was killed by friendly fire somewhere in France during a battle.
It was quite by accident they met. A wrong number on her part which he remembered jarred him from his restless sleep. Somehow in trying to fend off her apologies, the two of them had exchanged names and stories and within a week were had long conversations lasting well into the night.
That’s where things stayed for a while, just friendly phone talk. It was as much as either of them could manage emotionally at the time. They were just someone for the other to talk to and listen to, to laugh with and cry with, and to fall asleep with-someone safe.
Time changes things, and three years was enough to do just that. Lovers healing side by side Trinity often reminded Curtis was what relationships are all about.
“Healing our souls and helping us grow past the hurts and the pains of living,” she often reminded him in the soft southern voice which Curtis came to love. He agreed.
With no wife, no children and his parents long since passed, he was ready for more. Curtis was ready for the family he never knew and somehow with this sweet and gentle woman on the other end of the phone, he knew he found it.
Walking up the drive, he was more than a little nervous. This would be the first time the two of them would physically meet though Curtis felt a soulful connection with Trinity. He was sure she it felt too. He and his wife who he married just out of high school, the two of them, like so many grew apart rather than together. The “lets play house” connection with her, could not compare with, “the real thing,” he had with Trinity.
With Trinity, the nights were not so lonely and the two of them would chat for hours on end on topics ranging from philosophy to cooking. And there were always the chats with Mrs. Ruby, Trinity’s mother when the old girl could pry the phone from her daughter’s hand and squeeze a word in edgewise. There were also sweet short ramblings with Bonnie, Trinity’s six year old, with whom Curtis also fell in love.
Like icing on a piece of stolen cake, there were many deliciously exciting, though somewhat heated, toe-curling exchanges Curtis and Trinity shared in those midnight ramblings
It was thoughts of these conversations of erotic interludes which had filled Curtis’s imagination and left him tossing and turning in bed night after night for over a year. Thoughts which seemed to consume him as he stood in the over-sized claw footed tub in the upstairs bathroom of the old mansion and let the warm water spill over his body like warm summer rain.
Spraying out of the silver snake like nozzle from a bygone era, Curtis felt the warmth of the water. It was hot. It was his first encounter with hot water in over a year. After losing his job, hot water soon became a luxury, eventually going the way of other luxuries. Many were the time he awakened hungry and shivering, glad his wife was not there to witness his financial ruin.
Thoughts of being cold and hungry and his wife were nowhere to be found as he stood naked in the shower letting the water flow over him, his belly full of cookies and milk. Rinsing the thick blanket of foam and shampoo away from his flesh pink from the overly hot water his thoughts were of Trinity. Flashes of fantasy and Trinity’s voice echoed though his mind like the heat lightning he saw dancing on the far off ocean. His reflection smiled back at him from the ancient full length mirror in the corner of his room. Curtis, for the first time in a while felt clean, though, he could not say the same for his thoughts.
Only a few hours earlier after finally reaching the porch of the old mansion Curtis was greeted by Ruby, Trinity’s mother. She, though a bit older, than he imagined was as sweet and dear in person as she was over the phone. She reminded him of his grandmother with her now snow white hair in a bun perched on the back of her head. Her face, years of laughter and tears and worry was etched in wrinkled lines.
“Trinity and the grand baby ran to town,” Ruby explained as she invited Curtis into the shadowy parlor where the two of them sat and talked for the longest time. Then Ruby excused herself, leaving Curtis all alone to examine the contents of the living little room before returning from the kitchen with a tray of freshly baked cookies and a glass of tall ice cold milk.
With the only food in two days being a half eaten honey bun he found under the seat of the taxi, Curtis’s eyes grew as big as the cookies. Sitting there trying to control his almost insatiable hunger for the cookies and thirst for the milk, Curtis got a strange feeling.
It was the feeling that a cat gives when it unexpectedly brushes by. Maybe it was from the flickering hurricane lamp and the dancing shadows it cast over the tall furniture, or the lonely piano, or what must have been a million pictures of Trinity and Bonnie which stared at him from deep within their ancient frames.
The two of them talked on until the sun was gone and night completely settled in. Ruby wanted to know all about his trip and if he was tired and if he was comfortable.
Finishing his second tall glass of milk and what must have been a dozen cookies, Curtis felt his thoughts to run together but not before he realized, looking around the dark and dusky room, there was no sign of a telephone.
Weary from the trip and letting this slip on by, he listened to the beginning of a summer shower as the fat drops a rain tapped dance on the tin roof. Ruby smiled her sweet old smile.
Seated on the sofa thoughts running and colliding Curtis felt a strange memory wiggle in his brain. The rain on the roof brought it all back, but only for a second. Then, the satisfaction of the hot cookies, cold milk, steady drizzle and soft voice of Ruby’s which from time to time reminded him of Trinity’s, got the best of him.
He was left helplessly captive to the exhaustion created by a thousand sleepless nights.
“Go on upstairs and draw your bath, you have time for a good hot soaking before the kids get home,” Ruby said with a smile that Curtis found somewhat strange. Curtis hesitated; insisting, Ruby pointed him in the direction of a once busy stairway.
“Yours will be the first room on the right. Trinity left you some bath linens on the bed and the light switch is behind the door.
“We do have electric,” Ruby admitted. Then, with another strange and twisted smile she added, “I just prefer the old ways,” pointing to the kerosene lamp.
Then came silence.
“Trinity and the baby will be back shortly. It is a good ways to town and the rain has probably slowed her down a bit”, Curtis remembered Ruby saying as he felt a strong urge to stretch out in the inviting canopy bed amidst the walls papered with intricate designs cased in crushed velvet, designs which soon began to chase each other about the room. Curtis was sure he could catch the elusive rest he needed and be up fresh before anyone was the wiser. He was wrong.
The rest proved to be less than elusive as he nestled himself in the deepest of sleeps, lost in the smell of the once fresh sheets and softness of the down filled tick.
Almost clawing himself into wakefulness, Curtis struggled to remember where he was when sleep grew tired of keeping him in its clutches. The light in his room was now off and there was a faint smell of lavender and lilacs on the pillow beside him which he could not recall being there before. Maybe just maybe, the dreams he had of being tangled in passion-filled-sheets with Trinity were more than a dream.
A smile crept across his face as he brushed a stand of long hair which somehow found its way onto his pillow.
Catching up with his thoughts, Curtis heard the sound of an old grandfather clock from down the hall and around the corner as it chimed seven peals before returning to the silence of it ticks and tocks.
Standing beside the bed Curtis realized that the clothes he remembered laying down in were strangely and neatly folded and laying in a rocker at the foot of the bed.
Curtis was naked.
Without giving much thought to anything, he quickly threw himself into his clothes, laced his slippers and made his way through the shadowy darkness to the wafting smell of breakfast.
It was something which he knew long ago as a child and suddenly a feeling of being home and safe and waking up at his grandmother’s swept over him. He bounded down the steps toward the conversation in the kitchen.
It was Trinity and Ruby arguing over the best way to prepare pancakes and laughing. Even Bonnie joined in, her giggle high and light. Then Curtis stopped. Pausing outside of the kitchen he stood wondering how he should make his entrance into the open arms of his new family.
“Oh he’s a keeper, hon,” he heard Ruby say in her morning voice.
“I know mom, I really do,” Trinity replied.
Curtis felt suddenly afraid, almost as if he wanted to run down the long dark hall and through the kitchen doorway from which the morning light was beginning to spill. The feeling of being wanted was strange and standing there in the wafting smells of breakfast, he mustered his courage.
Stepping into the doorway, his eyes widened waiting to take in everything as it played out just the way he imagined. His beautiful lover, Trinity, would turn away from the stove and smile shyly and tenderly as Ruby excused herself taking Bonnie to another room, allowing her daughter and Curtis the intimate privacy for which she knew they hungered. Curtis anticipated a deep embrace and a kiss from Trinity’s full and pouting lips that would last forever.
Instead, standing in the kitchen doorway, with heart suddenly on the floor Curtis discovered the meaning of ‘Loving eyes will never see’. There alone, all by herself, in the kitchen among the shadowy flickers of the kerosene lamp and chatter stood Ruby. Her Mother Hubbard nightgown that was a thinning as her long and silvered hair hanging wildly and loosely as she stood barefoot on the tired linoleum facing the stove only turned long enough to cast Curtis a deep and invitingly maniacal glance.
Curtis’s heart still on the floor, stopped.
Finishing up his second helping of breakfast; hot cakes dripping with creamy butter and sticky syrup, eggs sunny side up, sausage and bacon, Curtis decided this was about the best breakfast he had had in forever and was already beginning to wonder what he would be have for lunch.
This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Copyright Edward Reed 2018