I’m going to be adding most of my old writing exercises to the blog. This one was supposed to show people making an emotional connection.
February Level A Exercise
Julie Weathers (jmw751)
All rights reserved
Laura rocked slowly, keeping time with the desert’s heartbeat. Today was the day. Surely there was more to be done. She couldn’t think of anything, but surely there must be at least one thing that was still unfinished. This was supposed to be a new beginning.
So why did she feel like something was dying? Her eyes closed as she sipped the hot coffee. When they opened again, she gazed at the two running horses on the mug in her small hands. “Look for the beauty in each day” was the message above the horses.
A heavy sigh escaped from the depths of her soul. “You have surrounded me with beauty. How can I not see it each day?”
“Talking to yourself again?”
She blushed slightly. “Talking to the desert,” she lied.
Lee squatted down in front of her. He was a big man, well over six feet and built like a warrior. Muscled, but not muscle bound. His blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She didn’t like long hair on a man, but on him it seemed to fit. His hazel eyes danced with happiness. How could he always be so happy? He had nothing but the pickup and camper and that tottering old dog who followed him everywhere.
Sam laid down beside her. He might follow Lee, but it was at a much slower pace most of the time.
“Morning, Sam,” she said as she reached down to scratch his ears.
“What? He gets a good morning and I don’t?”
She laughed. “Sorry. Lean over here and I’ll scratch your ears, too.”
“I’d like that.” The grin on his face leapt into a smile.
She set the coffee cup down on the glass-topped table built of old horseshoes. Her boots clunked hollowly as she crossed the wooden porch and leaned on the ancient post that had once been part of some corrals. Her fingers traced the worm trails in the smooth gray wood. She could still smell the cedar from where Lee had cut the post to fit the new porch. How could that wonderful smell last nearly a hundred years? She gazed out across the Arizona desert. It was peaceful here. It was everything she had ever wanted. She thought of the man standing beside her now. Well, almost everything.
“Are you packed?” she said at last.
“Yeah, guess I’m ready to roll as soon as we do the walk through and make sure I haven’t missed anything in the house.”
Silence hung heavy in the air. She sighed again.
“Let me run to the bank and I’ll pay you the rest cash so you don’t have to hassle with them about cashing a check.” It was feeble, but the only excuse she could think of to delay his leaving for just a bit longer.
Lee’s pickup was parked in front of the sprawling adobe when she returned. “Are you in that much of a hurry to leave?” she said in an attempted joke.
He opened the front door and ushered her in. “Want to check the door chimes and the new lock?”
She walked back out the door and pushed the doorbell. Chimes, like bells from a long gone mission, reverberated throughout the house. “I’m glad you talked me into that chime,” she said. “It goes with the house.”
“I know. You needed a place to escape. Here, you can almost escape into the past.
He walked her through the house, inspecting each minute detail of the remodel job. Her husband had wanted to demolish the old house and build a new one, but she had insisted on preserving it. He would be shocked to see it in it’s restored splendor.
Her hands caressed the plastered walls Lee had so patiently patched and replastered. His final layers of burnished beeswax brought them to life with a warm glow unlike anything she had ever seen.
“I replaced two of the sockets in the antler chandelier because they were just a little crooked.”
She looked up at the massive jumble of deer horns hanging from her ceiling with lights that looked like candles nestled in the prongs. She still wondered how he had managed to hide all the wiring. He had the soul of a woodlands poet and the hands of an artist, but to most people, he was just a carpenter.
“It looks wonderful. More than wonderful. I’m thrilled with the way it turned out.”
He led her through each room, inspecting everything in detail, discussing future possibilities.
“Are you always this thorough?” she asked after he explained how she might add some wrought iron trim to the windows.
“I’m always thorough, but I want to be especially careful here. I’m in love.”
“I know. I love this old house, too.” She looked around and smiled. He was gazing at her. Longing glittered briefly in his eyes and then was gone. Was it the house he loved? What was she thinking? She was old enough to be his mother.
The inspection culminated in the bedroom. She was still astounded by the transformation. Lee had scavenged enough old wood to build an entire bedroom suite from cedar wood. She objected to the plan at first because she wanted a Victorian atmosphere. He asked her what the Victorian ladies did who lived here a hundred years ago did? They added what they could to what was here and made a home.
The light fixtures were new, but looked properly aged. He had robbed enough glass from the rest of the house to finish all the windows with the imperfect, slightly lavender-tinted sheets. He spent hours at the local historical society studying old photographs.
The wallpaper in the master bath was authentic. Her vanity was an old sideboard with too much damage to restore. It looked like it had been designed for her bath when he had finished. The washstand was an antique he found at a local flea market. All of the wood in the room, except the cedar furniture had be crafted and stained to complement that one piece.
He closed the double doors and drew the velvet drapes. The overhead lights dimmed and wall sconces with candlelight fixtures flickered to life.
“They don’t give off a lot of light, but they add atmosphere,” he said almost with an apology.
“I love it. It’s like I was back in the 1800’s. This is perfect. I’m glad you changed them.”
“And now, for the final room. Close your eyes, I have a surprise.”
She closed her eyes and allowed him to lead her into the bathroom. She could smell vanilla and roses. He clutched her hand a little tighter.
“Okay, you can open your eyes now.” The room was dark except for the glow of candles everywhere. The clawfoot tub was filled with mounds of white, fluffy bubbles. Fresh roses filled the vase on the marble topped vanity and spilled onto the floor. He pulled a small remote from his pocket and punched a button. A soft, romantic opera piece broke the silence ever so gently.
She laughed. “I thought rock and country were the only things you listened to?”
“Nope, I like most music. Opera has its place, too. Do you like the room?”
“Very much so. It’s something out of a fantasy.”
“Yes,” he agreed and pulled her close to him. His lips closed on hers as she started to protest. She drew her hands up between them and pushed him, but he only held her tighter. Heaven help her. She needed him. Her body betrayed her mind and molded to him.
“I can’t do this,” she whispered when he released her.
“Of course you can. We’ve worked on this house for eight months and he’s been here one time.
I’m sorry, honey, but he doesn’t want you or he couldn’t stand to stay back east and leave you alone like this.”
“He’s trying to tie up loose ends so he can semi-retire and move out here. He promised me this would be our chance to start over.”
Lee leaned against the vanity and picked up one of the roses. He buried his nose in it and breathed in the essence of the blood-red blossom.
“Come away with me. I have a log cabin in Kentucky and a little land. I can make you happy. I love you, Laura. He doesn’t.”
“You say that now, but you don’t need me. I’m too old for you.”
“I knew you’d say that, but you’re wrong. You’re everything I need and all I need. I’ve never felt more alive than when I’m with you.”
Laura sank deeper in the bath. Candlelight bathed the room in a soft, romantic halo. Opera music played in the background. She could feel his massive hands bathing her again. How could a bath be so sensual?
His fingers traced out every curve of her body. Old feelings and longings, somewhere deep within, stirred again. Her toe reached up and played with the droplet of water waiting to fall, but clinging desperately to what was safe at the lip of the faucet.
She felt him kiss her fingertips and wrists. His lips made love to her for hours, days an eternity. Who knows? Laura was lost in another dimension where time did not exist. She was no longer middle-aged. He was no longer 23. They were merely lovers embarking on a wondrous voyage of discovery. She imagined him leaning beside the bathtub with a fluffy white towel to dry her off. His fingers dried her body while his lips set her soul on fire.
He had begged her to leave with him. She looked at his handsome face. She felt the scars where he had been in too many fights.
She longed for the love she knew at that moment. And then, in the end, she released him and turned away.
His brother’s phone number was still tucked in the bottom of her jewelry box.
Laura meandered out to the bedroom and sat down on the edge of her bed. Had it really been six months since he left? She finished drying her long hair and dropped the towel. Her hand reached to the phone on the nightstand. Maybe she would feel better if she called Charles. She was probably just lonely. She replaced the receiver. She didn’t feel like talking to Charles tonight. What did she feel like?
Her fingers crept to the side of the bedpost where Lee had carved a heart with “Laura + Lee” in the center. He sat on the floor at her feet and pleaded with her to leave. She offered up all the reasons why she couldn’t. Absently, he pulled a knife from his pocket and whittled on the bedpost. It wasn’t until much later that he realized what he had done. He offered to fill it in and refinish it, but she told him she would do it later. She never did.
She stood up and walked to the patio door. The cool desert night surrounded her like a chilled gossamer veil resting lightly on her damp body. Somewhere in the distance a coyote sang.
Moments later, his mate joined his song. Her eyes closed.
“Father, forgive me for I have sinned,” she whispered.
“What is you sin, my child?” Conscience answered.
Silence engulfed her. Lee touched her mind and soul. He stirred her heart and called out to her. Time and distance faded as she felt his presence close around her.
“What is your sin, my child?” Conscience repeated.
“Greed,” she said at last. “My sin is greed. I traded an empty house for love.”