“. . . A reminder hangs on the door
You pick it up
Not by the words
But the sun
It sees you
Through the eyehole
And you look away
To the reminder . . .”
One day, in the week following the incident with Jack, Sam, Macy and Helen arrived to find Adam hysterical. He didn’t make sense at first. But no one does in that state. Helen sat Adam down at the couch and stroked his hair gently, calming him like one would a wild horse. She calmed him until Adam could make words. But they were choked and hoarse. Sam brought him water, and Macy sat on the floor in front of him, staring wide-eyed and concerned.
“Don’t leave me alone again, please.” Adam told them.
Immediately, they all agreed not to, with eye contact, rather than verbal validation.
“I don’t think I could handle it any more.” Adam continued, “I hate to be so dramatic—”
“Shush,” Helen cooed at him, “We’re here for you, Adam.”
After he calmed down more, Sam stood. “Let’s take a walk.”
When Adam stepped out of the house, his eyes squinted and he looked around like he hadn’t been out of the house in years.
They found themselves drawn towards the yard full of trees and flowers that Adam had found the night he took Poochie for a short walk. A white, beat-up pickup was parked in the driveway. The sounds of wind chimes permeated the yard. Somewhere underneath those sounds were the sounds of drums, and a soft humming. It was early May and all of the flowers had begun to bloom. The trees had exploded out into new growth, leaves onto extending limbs.
Macy had spoken few words about the neighbors, only saying they were nice people, especially Victor. Or was it Hector? Adam couldn’t recall exactly what she said the person’s name was. They had ended the conversation quickly, as the sauce was about to burn.
As Adam and Sam peeked into the front gate, they could see the back of a man who was humming something completely independent of the songs and drums streaming from a boom box only feet away. The man was kneeling, in front of a lavender bush, clipping stems of lavender and throwing them into a bin.
The wind from the night before had forced the trees to joust. The man stood and turned quickly when he heard a branch snap.
“Hello.” He said simply.
Adam and Sam stood awkwardly.
“What are you going to do with that lavender?” Sam asked.
The man brushed his hands clean upon his pants. Victor, he said his name was. They all introduced themselves and shook hands. Victor looked to be in his late thirties or early forties. His hair was long and dark, tied in the back by a silver clasp that held a large turquoise stone in the center. Magnificent paisley dots and lines fanned outwards from the stone, onto the silver.
“I’m going to bind them together into a smudge stick.” Victor told Sam.
“Cool,” Sam said, “My mom uses smudge sticks all of the time—except, she uses sage. She says it’s for purification.”
“Who’s your mom?” Victor asked.
“Helen Throburghe,” Sam told him, “She’s a school teacher a little outside of town.”
“She’s your mother’s friend,” the man pointed at Adam, “right?” I think I remember her coming over for dinner a few times. I’ve given her one or two smudge sticks. She makes a good strawberry preserve. Do you know if she’ll be making any more, soon?”
“No, I don’t but I’ll ask her.”
Macy sat beside Helen.
“I’m glad they went out.” Macy said, “Do you think they heard us last night?”
“No,” Helen said. “I think there’s been far too much going on for them to have noticed us.”
Macy remained silent.
“Besides, I think the wine put them out pretty quickly. What do you think?” Helen shared a scandalous smirk with Macy. It was the kind of smirk that told Macy she should know what Helen was referring to—even though Macy didn’t.
Macy laughed. “I didn’t even know we had left wine out!”
“Oh,” Helen grinned and kissed Macy, “I guess I forgot to take it with us.”
It’s a fact: Helen had planned to leave the wine out so the boys would be too distracted to notice where they had disappeared to . . . much less, the noise.
Helen had waited patiently for Macy’s schedule to open up more (it had been a month until it finally did). Her job at the school was only three days a week. The curriculum Helen had been developing for the counseling program at her school had been completed and she was awaiting word of its acceptance. So the rest of the week she waited for her date with Macy.
She wondered often why they couldn’t just move in together. Macy said it was to keep appearances with her family. But Helen knew it was for her business more than anything else. Once word got out that Helen was in a lesbian relationship with a local teacher, the shit would hit the fan. The school Helen worked for would be completely indifferent to it. As they were, she’d already told them. The entire school was run by the co-directors. All decisions were made through a modified-consensus process. She was a co-director. And even if there was an executive director (which would imply dictatorship), it was a fucking alternative school!
When they had the time they were inseparable. But there’s the rub. They didn’t have much time for each other. Macy was married to her practice. And Helen had a son. Not to say that she couldn’t leave Sam to his own devices. Sam had gotten used to being alone often. It was something that Helen had not liked to see happen, because sometimes she wondered if leaving him alone so much while he was maturing was neglectful. But Sam had to grow up. That was a hard pill to swallow, even if she was a therapist.
The nape of the neck was a very sensual place, Helen decided. Macy was sitting in the bathtub, allowing Helen to sponge her gently. Victor had called to let them know that the boys were at his place. Helen had asked him to please keep them as long as he wanted. They had some personal business they wanted to take care of. Victor took the hint and agreed that he would, as long as Helen sent a few jars of preserve his way. Macy chuckled at the thought of two sixteen year old boys having a babysitter.
Theirs was a relationship of few words. It had been since the beginning. They had gotten used to being able to tell what the other was thinking by sharing looks with each other. It started only days after the incident at the gym, the catalyst for their friendship.
Helen, a mostly passive woman, found it incredibly attractive that Macy had puffed herself up enough to scare that stupid straight man away. Helen made it a point to strike a conversation with Macy whenever she could. It didn’t take as long for Macy and Helen to spend time outside of the gym as it had for them to first start talking.
Helen carefully dipped Macy’s head back into the water, so she could wash out the shampoo that she had lavishly massaged into her scalp. When Macy’s head broke the surface, she was overwhelmed with the strong scent of roses. The candles surrounding the tub and the rest of the room were even brighter, after she had closed her eyes.
Their weekly meetings were to begin on Saturday, after Macy had finished the last of her work, and when Helen had already reviewed the last week and prepared for the next. Neither one ever really took a break. Sometimes it was Helen who wound up with more work, and Macy would be left sitting around waiting. But that’s later on in the story, after Macy’s practice had become more popular and she found her services in higher demand, and before Helen’s conception of a “Life Skills” curriculum that would change the standard of education nation-wide.
That Thursday, at the gym, Macy approached the subject shyly.
“Hey Helen,” Macy greeted Helen, who was beginning to pull off her work shirt and change into a tank top.
“Oh,” No matter how many times Helen had undressed in front of Macy, she still found herself becoming modest. She hoped Macy couldn’t see her shyness. “Hi, Macy.”
“Umm . . .” Macy looked down, into the gym bag that she was holding. “What are you—do you want to do something on Saturday?”
Helen’s heart skipped a beat, and she about died. She knew she couldn’t hide the shit-eating grin that she was wearing. And that only made her blush madly. Helen took her time, covering her face with her dress shirt as she tried to compose herself to look less shocked and . . . elated.
“Do something,” Helen took the opportunity to put Macy back on the defensive. “Like what?”
Macy looked up to meet Helen’s gaze, then looking down so quickly that she didn’t even notice the other woman’s blush. “I don’t know. Would you like to come over to my place for dinner?”
Helen feigned astonishment, “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Oh god, I’m sorry.” Macy wanted to run. She took a quarter turn towards the door, unconsciously, “I must have gotten the wrong impression. Please, don’t be angry!”
“I’d love to,” Helen grinned.
Macy let out a sigh and grinned, too.
Helen didn’t go home for two days.