“I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! YOU LISTEN TO ME, ROSE CLARKE AND YOU LISTEN WELL!”
“I have had it up to HERE! You have been many things the time I have known you. You have been stand-offish, you have been hot-headed, you have thrown all sorts of imaginary baggage at my feet – don’t interrupt me! – you have been beyond selfish but now… Now you’re being so immature I don’t know what to do with you! I know you’re still young but that is NO excuse for this… this… GARBAGE! How DARE you! All I asked was for some respect from you and you made it sound like I asked you to… to…” A strangled sound escapes from him, like his words his face is contorted with anger, I’ve never seen anyone look so furious before (except for maybe me). He doesn’t continue that particular statement, just lets me fill in the blanks and continues.
“I’m not asking for more, I’m asking for what we had, but to be frank I’m not even sure I’m interesting in that any longer. You’re a petulant, spoiled child!”
Not for the first time in my life, I am so aggravated, annoyed, ANGRY with someone that I’m also amused. I look at the man standing before me, pissed off and hurt and so utterly unreasonable!
“Oooooh look at me, I’m Stephen, I’m SOOOO perfect. Everything about my life always goes SOOOO right and I know SOOOO much about everything and everyone! You’re such a snob Stephen that you can’t even entertain the idea that not everyone is as absorbed in you as you are! You can’t even consider that you, the perfectest perfectionist could do something wrong and when it DOES go wrong – ’cause you CAN be wrong – you flip out like a drama queen! Well what if I’VE had enough Stephen? I may be young, old man, no gray in my hair like yours, but I know what I want and I know who I am and I didn’t have to come to another city seeking some fame and fortune as… What are you now? Don’t you teach toddlers to kick around a soccer ball? Hah!”
It’s 3:00am. I am tired, my throat is sore and I can’t help but feel a smug satisfaction as I watch Stephen walk stiffly from the front door to his car. I’m sure we kept everyone up, even Mama, and my ears are still ringing from the names we called each other and the volume at which we did so. I’m pretty sure that NOW he knows where he stands though, where we stand, and I’m glad to be through with it. I think? As his car drives out of sight (with a squeal of tires at that) I can’t help but wonder if this strange feeling in my chest is gas, or what they call ‘tugs of the heart strings’ either way my bed looks comfortable and I’m thrilled that all this madness is over. It is bed time, and I think I may just sleep for the rest of the week. It’ll be worth it. Petulant?! Selfish?! Bah!
I awoke the next morning as I would awake for many mornings to come: to the smell of burning blueberry muffins. Once Millie had gotten old enough that she could be trusted with lightbulb cooking her parents had folded to the pressure and bought her a Piece-of-Cake-Bake oven and she set right to work trying to perfect her recipe. She’s been at it for weeks now and still hasn’t gotten any better. I swear she’s gonna give Mama a heart attack if she doesn’t work this out… Mama still doesn’t like to let any one else near a stove, nevermind her grand-daughter! At least the girl tries though, every morning she’s up early enough to ruin a new batch of pastries before school and Mama’s up early enough to clean up the mess and make sure there’s something for everyone to eat before work/school/whatever it is I decide to do that day, which lately has been nothing.
Seriously, I don’t do much these days, I just don’t seem to have it in me. I’ve lost my focus and I feel pretty sluggish. I try to paint or sculpt but I end up back in bed or in front of the television. Millie keeps trying to get me involved in one of her impromptu dance parties (for a girl who takes after me in so many ways *cough*couch-potato*cough* she sure does a lot of twistin’ and turnin’!) that Mama, Micah and Vi all seem to enjoy but I just don’t have any rhythm in me. My feet feel leaden. Violet thinks I’m all broken up and mopey over Stephen but I swear I’m just… I dunno. I’m sure not sulking over a bad relationship ended though! I’m just in a funk I guess, and much to my niece’s displeasure it’s not a groovy funk. Ugh.
I thought that while I had some free time on my hands I might get my studio going, just a nice, private place in the backyard where I could paint and sculpt and relax. I’ve gotten as far as getting some foundation laid and I’ve kinda lost my inspiration for it as well as my motivation. Seems to be a theme here, huh? At night, sometimes, I sit out next to the slab of cement with only the fire to light the night and I stare at it. I try to imagine it actually being a room, with walls and flooring and a roof but all I see is bricks, mortar and flames that flicker with the colours of Stephen’s eyes. Usually that’s around when I douse the fire and head inside to bed ’cause I know that I’m not going to build my studio any time soon.
I took my latest painting to the consignment store this morning, it was the first one I’ve finished since Stephen and I fought and it feels good to be painting again. It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but I think it will sell, I hope it will, most of my paintings do at this stage and not to toot my own horn but I’ve become a little bit of an artist celebrity here in Sunset Valley. it’s pretty cool! I picked up a little… I don’t know what it’s called. Let’s go with “doohickey” shall we? Anyways, so this doohickey is fascinating! You lift a ball and let it fall and the balls just click-clack back a forth for ages but only the ones on the end. The more I watch it the more I’m certain I could make something like this if I tried, in fact, I think I could make exactly this and I’m excited to try it… One day.
“Don’t do it Rosie” I’m talking to myself in the middle of the road in the middle of the night (ok, it’s evening) and I’m not even listening to me. Is that what it means to be crazy ’cause I think it might be. Crazy might also be texting your ex-boyfriend ’cause you just spied him walking to his car and he didn’t spy you. Crazy is contacting the man when you finally are over him enough to admit – out loud – that yeah, you were missing him a lot. Yeah, I missed Stephen a lot for a long while. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t a big deal when he stormed out, tried to pretend that I was faultless and happy with the way things worked out but well, you all know what pretending means. Spying Stephen just caused my heart to leap and butterflies to fill my stomach and before I can stop myself I’m hitting the “send” button and hoping that “Would like 2 talk 2 u. Coffee?” isn’t too forward.
I never heard back from Stephen, I’ll start off saying that, it’s been a couple months and nothing but I’m actually OK with that now. I totally wasn’t the first couple weeks but I’m moving on now, a bit. My creativity is back in full force but it really does kinda represent the way I’m feeling – all full of turmoil and confusion and stuff. Mama keeps getting on my case about being heiress to her legacy. About babies and the future and babies. Always with the babies. I keep reassuring her that I have every intention of following through with her plans and that she will get grandchildren from me too. As best as I understand this legacy thing, I probably won’t have any more choice about it than I did about actually becoming heiress or the constant click/whirr camera sound that Mama’s so happy to be rid of and I’ve been cursed with.
I don’t think Mama’s really interested in me having babies for the legacy’s sake though. Not any more. She loves Millie more than anything and I’m sure that she just wants more and more grandkids for the sake of more and more grandkids. She’s on my case, she’s on Vi’s case and I’ve even overheard her nagging Micah! Millie has Mama wrapped around her little finger. She doesn’t even have to whine and she gets exactly what she wants. They go to the movies and the park, Mama pushes her in the swings and will even play in the sprinkler with her! Mostly though, the two of them play tag or catch in the yard once Millie’s done her homework and the lot is filled with laughter until dinner is served or one of the two of them tires out.
A shriek slices through the silence of the house. Even through the brick walls Millie’s scream is ear-piercing. At first it’s inarticulate, I’m sure that she’s tripped or skinned her knee. Maybe the baseball her and Mama have been playing with hit her with more force than intended or she fell off a swing but my Mama’s there and Violet and Micah are closer by so I sort of ignore her first cry until: “Gramma!!” For a second the world whirls around me, my heart sinks like a stone and while I may be dizzy I’m still scrambling down the stairs as fast as I can, phone in hand and ready to call for an ambulance or rescue copter. I fear the worst… maybe she tripped or skinned her knee… Maybe the baseball she’s been tossing around hit her with more force than intended? Please?
The reality doesn’t even occur to me. By the time any of us are out the door Mama’s gone and Millie’s standing in shocked silence. All that’s left are the remains of my mother, the mother who taught me to walk and talk, the mother who helped me with my homework and gossiped with me. I just can’t imagine that she’s not here anymore… She’s MAMA! She’s Lily Clarke, she’s immortal or something close… All of a sudden I’m sure that she’s in the kitchen, scrubbing the counter tops and I can’t help but turn to see if I can see her through the window. I can’t. The ground seems to teeter beneath me and I stumble back, tears of anguish filling my eyes and I add to my family’s quiet chorus of sobs.
We don’t wait long before we bury Mama. We know that she wouldn’t want to miss being with Daddy for much longer, not when they could be together now. Still, in the week it took for us to make the arrangements, I don’t think my eyes fully dried once. The house has been quiet and somber, nearly everyone in the town came by with casseroles and condolences but I can’t remember a single visit. We’ve kept the funeral small, just the family and it’s just as well. Most of our words are choked and broken, sentences are left unfinished and in the end, so are the eulogies. Daddy would have had words for this, he would have known what to say but instead he lies silently beside her while the four of us attempt to console one another.
Violet, Micah and Millie leave, I can’t bear to go just yet. I can’t remember feeling so alone, I didn’t realize how much I depended on Mama. My sister has her family, her husband and daughter, I have an easel and a slab of concrete in the back garden. So I sit, I listen to the crickets as the stars rise above my head and then I sit in the silence when the crickets move on. I drift off into reminiscing and it’s the whisper of shoes on the grass beside me that rouses me from my memories. I watch as he approaches me with tentative steps and worry etched into his brow. He stops and looks down at me, not sitting, not yet. “Rosie… Oh Rosie I’m so sorry…”
As I dissolve into tears once more Stephen falls onto the wooden slats beside me and, wraps his arms around my shaking shoulders and pulls me close.
“It’s alright Rose, it’s OK.”
He holds me until I stop crying, until the sobs cease and I pull my face from his tear-stained shirt.
“Sorry.” I whisper, wiping the last dampness from my face with the back of my hand but I can see in his eyes (they’re still beautiful in the dark) that he doesn’t mind comforting me. “For everything.” I hope that makes it clearer and he just nods, ever so slightly and rises to his feet, hand outstretched.
“Let’s get you home.”
That night was the first night of many that Stephen shared my bed with me. He made me feel warm and safe in a way I couldn’t really remember feeling and now I have trouble sleeping on the nights when he isn’t able to stay the night. He holds me when I’m sad and laughs with me when I’m happy. We talk in a way that we didn’t when we first started dating. We really talk, but we never about the big L. That suits me just fine, to be honest, I’d much rather take this slow and make sure we’re doing it right. I don’t see any reason to rush into it too fast and I’m pretty sure that Stephen finally understands what I’m talking about, where I’m coming from. But having him in my bed, snoring (softly, and only sometimes) beside me? I can’t get enough.
Even when he comes over still stinking from the gym I’m still happy to see him. So I guess that’s a good sign, right? I mean, things aren’t all sunshine and puppies, I’m still pretty unsure about the whole relationship but I’m starting to feel like that may be more in my head than anything else. Just ’cause every other guy I’ve been interested in has been a jerk, doesn’t mean that Stephen is, right? That doesn’t stop me from worrying the ‘working out at the gym’ may involve another girl or that he’ll just grow bored or that he’s married to like 3 other people around the world but I think I have a grip on that. After all, Stephen’s a proud man and his ultimate goal is, as he says it, “to be a finely tuned machine. Mind and body have to be in tune with one another and at the top of their game.” So for now ‘working out at the gym’ is something I’m trying to take as the truth.
With a soft and guiding hand from Stephen (and Bridgett who is still the best contractor in the city) I’ve finally gotten my studio built. It’s perfect and minimalistic and quaint and it has room for me to actually sculpt inside! It’s amazing. Vi set up her old easel in here as well and Bridgett left her drafting table because Micah can’t seem to leave it alone! He’s nearly at the top of his career already but he seems to have a secret passion for fashion ’cause I often come in to see his half finished sketches still clipped to the board. It may be a plain room, concrete floors and unfinished brick walls but it’s full of light, has a great view and seems to be filled with inspiration!
The old sofa from the old living room and the TV from my old room got moved into the studio (and out of storage) when I finished building it. Now there’s a little club house for Millie and I for when we want to watch some of the programs that Vi and Micah make fun of us for. I have to say, I really do love my studio. I’m thrilled that I’ve finally finished it and that it feels as comfortable as it does. It’s my space but it’s open to everyone and everyone uses it freely so sometimes it’s Vi’s practice space, sometimes it’s the family room and most of the time, it’s my studio. I love, love, LOVE it!
Now, do I love Stephen? I don’t know about that, really I don’t, but I do know and now I can admit that I really do care about him. He staves off my loneliness and is nothing short of supportive and chivalrous, even if sometimes he is a world class drama queen. Either way, I’m willing to take this relationship a little further… Ready to see how it goes. A little progress for me, huh? I’ve been nervous all day, not that I think he’ll say no but… Just nervous.
“Stephen? Can I ask you something?” Before I lose my nerve, please.
“Uh huh.” How eloquent.
“Well… We, uh I mean, I… You. Me and you have… And I was wondering if… Uhm…” Who am I to judge eloquence! Might as well blurt it out. “Do you, I dunno, maybe wanna… Can we make this, uh official or something? I dunno…” Thank goodness he’s not laughing at me!
“Yes Rosie, I’d love that, whatever you want!” There’s something in his eyes, a twinkle like maybe this has been official for a while. Shhh… Don’t tell me that!
“And I mean, since you uh… Well you spend a lot of time here already so… Doyouwannamoveinwithme?” Phew! I did it!
Of course he said yes! Did you think that he wouldn’t? It’s nice having another man around the house, another person at that… Even if Violet does sometimes flirt with him. Can you believe it? Driving me up the wall! And Micah too. Anyways, Stephen and I still try to make plans with each other, even though we’re pretty much together all the time unless he’s at work or I’m painting or something but we like going on our dates together. It’s fun! We go to the park to play chess sometimes, like we used to, or to movies or the pool. He likes to swim laps, says it’s good for the body (and the mind) I like the pool chairs, they’re good for my resting and comfortably in the shade. I don’t tan as well as I used to!
Things aren’t perfect though… We still argue quite a bit. I’m trying to get my insecurities under control, obviously, but he’s such a drama queen sometimes! Between that and my hot-headness and the fact that he is SUCH a snob at times well, we have more than just the occasional fight. It seems like every other day since he moved in we’ve been bickering like children over something small and inconsequential. I can’t even remember what most of them are about! Neither one of us seems particularly able to act like the adults we’re supposed to be all the time, but I mean, isn’t he supposed to be like, waaaay more mature than me? Holy cow getting upset ’cause I didn’t replace the toilet paper tube!
Buuuuuut… even the fighting’s not that bad. You can’t make up if you don’t fight and Stephen and I well, we’re getting good at making up if you know what I’m saying. Besides, even when we’re fighting we’re (mostly) respectful of one another and it just means we’re passionate people, right? I don’t know if I’d trade never fighting again for not being to make up and apologize anymore. Is that too much information? Oh wow it’s for sure too much information!
OK. This birthday schedule thing is just weird. Also, so is having a birthday party without Mama. It’s the first one we’ve had since she’s been gone. I can’t believe how long it’s been and then I look at the bathrooms and see that someone didn’t sweep the corners properly. But Millie’s going to be a teenager and we’re not going to let that birthday go by without a little bit of fanfare. We almost did but I remembered that someone actually had to go out and by the cake and party horns and stuff… They weren’t going to magically appear. I still don’t know why Mama never saved our old noise-makers. I suspect germs but that’s just my guess.
Millie grew up beautifully – there was never any doubt that was going to happen – and I am so glad that I’m just Auntie Rosie and not her mother ’cause this girl has the potential to get herself into some real trouble. Now that she’s a little older she’s taken after Mama in some ways… For example, clean corners in the bathroom, but she’s very much her own girl and none of the four of us can believe just how much herself she is. Does that make sense? I hope so ’cause she’s just Millie and no one else. Wouldn’t want her to be either. I wonder if there’s still any of that cake leftover… Or maybe some pasta.
Violet’s totally preggers again. She hasn’t said anything to me but she’s glowing and changed into some really ugly clothing that isn’t doing a great job of hiding her new belly. Her and Micah are always tucked away somewhere discussing the future… Babies and gardens and stuff. I think they’re talking about moving out at some point but I kinda don’t want them to. This would be a really big house for just Stephen and I and… Well it would be so empty! I’m not gonna say anything but I really super hope that they’re not going anywhere any time soon. Maybe they’ll wait for the baby to be born or for Vi to be a super successful(er) rock star.
There’s been so many changes around the house that I’m starting to feel out of sorts. I haven’t felt well for weeks and I’m constantly breaking down in tears. I lock myself away in the bathroom like an idiot, trying to get myself under control, trying not to be so stressed out about the future, so tired all the time. First Mama goes, then Stephen comes back, now Millie’s practically an adult and Vi might be leaving and… and… and… Oh gosh everything’s just so overwhelming! Stephen’s worried about me. He wants to take me to the doctor but I’m sure that I know exactly what they’ll tell me. I’m fine, I just need to relax, I can’t stress over everything. Just relax…
Is this true love for Rosie?
Will Millie have a little brother or little sister?
Who has been taking care of the house since Lily died?
Where do the ghosts go when they drive their cars from the graveyard to random other lots then disappear?
Seriously, why can ghosts drive?!
One day you’ll have Chapter 7 – Just Relax
R.I.P. Lily Clarke
You were the founder of this legacy and even at over 100days old you sure could cut a rug. I’ll miss your cleansing presence and crazy flip outs. Lily passed still mourning Connor’s second death, a fitting but heartbreaking time to go.