Saturday, January 12th 2012

Kevin,

It’s the weekend, though that doesn’t matter much here. Every day is basically the same – I wake up, trudge through the snow to my office, and watch Dr. Who before settling in to get some work done.

I have actually been working, and I thought I’d share some of that now. Whatever I have to say about Ceremony can probably wait a little while long (I’ve already devoured another book since finishing it, but still, digestion takes some time).

This is the first chapter from my new novel, tentatively titled Woman King. It’s the third of the Paris Trilogy I’ve mentioned, and the first to have a female protagonist throughout the entire book (the one I’ve just finished drafting today has a woman narrator, but only for the back half). Here it is, hope you like it:

Peaceful nights into oblivion. All of them. She doesn’t dream anymore. Or if she does, she can’t remember it.

She wakes from the sun through the useless blinds. Thirty years. They’d bothered her that long, but now she feels too exhausted to change her house. Its imperfections mirror her own: lived in, considered and shrugged off. Elliot had not come to bed.

Rachel pushes the covers down and lets the early morning warm her body. She has been trying to ease off the coffee. All that has resulted is the need to lay in bed longer before she faces the day.

Elliot will be at his computer. She walks to his study in her bathrobe, finding him staring into the screen through his bifocals.

“Darling, have you been up all night?”

And there it is. That single moment of no recognition. Then his eyes focus and he remembers who she is. Each morning it happens. Each time it seems to add to the weight she carries. Oh lover, where have you gone?

“Um, I guess I must have.”

Why would he remember that one hour can bleed into the next? Why would he know she woke without him? Her black slumbers broken by moments where she wakes to an empty bed.

“Would you like some coffee?” she says, giving up on her caffeine fast with the hopelessness that greets her every morning.

He nods, and she walks to the kitchen.

As the water boils for the French press she skims yesterday’s paper before checking her phone for recent emails. The only one worth a reply is from Leah.

How is she old enough to be married? Rachel has felt herself age, felt her muscles lose their strength and her tongue lose its sharpness, not the razor whip it once was, grasping for words that once came easily. But Lead seems to have jumped into the future. Once a child, then a girl in a skirt too short to be worn, it’s bottom lined with sequins so she sparkled as she wagged herself. Then a woman. Now a wife. Or soon. The email was about the wedding invitation.

 

Hey Gram,

Has it come yet?

Love,

L

 

It hasn’t, though so little of their mail comes to their front door. Ever since a death threat in the mid-eighties she’s kept a P.O. Box in the tiny post office on Spadina. Leah must have sent it to the wrong address, a careless oversight that nicked Rachel’s heart. It seems an added insult to the fact that he granddaughter has not been out to visit in a year, and only then to show off her fiancé.

Rachel likes Nate. He is tall and broad-shouldered like her uncles and sons. He looked her in the eye when he spoke. Deferential, but not officious. He is a steady hand, one that might be able to quell Leah when the Gray blood inside of her begins to rally.

She brings Elliot a cup, not mentioning where she is going as she leaves by the front door. Her favourite mug stays in her right hand as she pilots the car out of the driveway. The winter has only left a light dusting on The Annex, so she drives at her usual speed – fifteen over the limit. He Uncle Benton had taught her to drive his father’s tractor when she was twelve, making her lay on the gas for the fun of it. She likes to think she speeds in his honour, though she’s been doing it long before he passed.

The P.O. box is filled with the usual detritus. Requests. Bills. Invitations from foundations where she might lecture. A check from her publisher. And, at the bottom of the pile, a small envelope from Leah and Nate. She tosses the unneeded mail before scooping the rest up in the crook of her arm. Her coffee is cold in the car’s cup-holder, but she finishes it off on the ride back. It is becoming more and more apparent how little she wants to return home.

I could drive south, she thinks, stay at the farm for a few days. But she cannot leave him alone. Even with the chow chow to keep him company, and maybe have Andrew stop by to check on him. Elliot is not their responsibility. She pulls into the driveway automatically, not breaking her reverie until she comes to a stop.

She taps out a quick reply to Leah as she drops the mail by the stairs.

 

Got it. —Gram

 

She’ll call later to give her two cents on the typography or color. The only other artist in the family, Leah looks to Rachel for aesthetic approval, though she never know what to do with her granddaughter’s love of vibrant colours and big, black font.

Of course, the letter is hot pink against a yellow background, though Nate clearly has talked her into using a reserved cursive for the typeface. She lays the little card down on the kitchen table to read it.

 

Jack and Susan Clarke welcome you to the marriage of their daughter,

Leah Reese

To Mr. Nathan Deil Clavell

At 1:00 p.m. August 23rd

In the 2nd Presbyterian Church of Paris, Ontario

 

At first she thinks nothing of it, but it is his name that stops her. It is a name she’s known her entire life. But he was always Nate to her. Nate, the nice young man her little Leah has fallen in love with. Nate, the great addition to the family they all agree on. But he is more than that.

He is a Deil.

 

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About greycitywhitenorth

Canadian born, Chicago raised writer. Contributer to The A.V. Club. Wearer of Brooks Brothers.
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