My writing partner, Lisa Venter, has just gotten a contract to have her short story published. I think it is absolutely phenomenal, so I got her permission to post it here. Feel free to leave comments, I will make sure she sees them.
Her lover had been coming more often of late. Sometimes it would be just a brief touch like the wind on her face, but she knew he was there. It was that same tension she had felt with her back turned; just as he would enter a room she would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was him. He was in the room; she could feel his hands on her before he came close enough to touch her. That honing ability had always fascinated her. Why did her body come alive for only one man, why the thrill, the quickening of her breath, the flush of heat, the fluid release. It had always been that way with Warren when he was alive, and it was just the same after all these long years since his death.
The rocking chair swayed rhythmically beneath her. She felt the incessant movement of it so familiar like the rocking of a lover in the throws of passion. She was not an old woman, she only felt like one. She sat in the rocking chair on the wide porch that wrapped around the entire length of the large antebellum home. Their home-it had been in Warren’s family for four generations, but they were all gone now. The children were buried up on the hill under the arms of a great oak tree whose branches spread out like the loving arms of a mother, the roots reaching down deep to take a part of them up to the sky again. The tree stood alone, a giant sentinel on the hill to represent the one great thing she had accomplished in life, a living monument to all those who were gone. Her husband’s parents were there too, but he was not. His body still lay in some unknown location, where it fell on May 5, 1863 in one of the largest and most devastating battles that the South had ever seen. She had not needed the letter that arrived to tell her that Corporal Warren C. Parks of the 2nd Virginia 3rd brigade had fallen doing his duty to God and country. She had known the moment he fell and the life had left his body. Just as she had known he was alive through the long years of battle with the Yankees, she had known the instant that death claimed him.
She looked down at the journal in her lap, her lifeline to sanity. It was the only thing that consoled her all these years after Warren’s death, and then the children. She had taken care of Warren’s parents too until now they were both gone. She had no one left on this earth to keep her here now, no one to nurse or care for, no one to be strong for. Orphaned from a very early age, she had become one with Warren and like the passage in Ruth; his people had become her people.
Again her eyes fell to the writing in the open journal and she re-read the last passage as if it had been written by someone else. My beloved, it has been 21 long years since I last touched your face. The battle scars on your body are deep. I fear they are no deeper than the wounds on my heart. Our children got fever long ago. I buried the both of them under the tree where you asked me to share your life, and the place I lay with you last before you left home. I cannot continue on in this life. There is no need. I have learned what I must learn and lived what I must live. I want to feel your arms around me once more; I want to know your touch. If I cannot feel that in this life, than I am ready to try death, at least it will be an end to my suffering.
Lydia knew the time had come to go to him. She knew somehow as strong as she was she could will it to be so. She had the bottle of laudanum that she had given to her mother-in-law to manage her pain. She knew there was enough of a dose to take her to Warren. They would find her later, and while some would not forgive, some would wonder how she had lasted so long. She would go to him, her body released from its bonds as it always did when she and Warren were together.
She prepared that night by lying on the large bed that she had shared with him. She had bathed and put on his favorite perfume, the scent he had brought her from New Orleans. She was not an old woman, as she had looked in the long oval mirror on a stand in her room she had seen a figure that was still womanly, with curves and shapes in all the right places. Granted they were not as firm as those of the young girl that Warren had rescued from poverty and fear, but she could have found someone who would have loved her and who she could have lived with the rest of her years. She had not wanted to. There was only Warren for her.
She drifted down into the beginnings of sleep; this was when she knew he would come for her. Suddenly she felt his presence above her. Her body still knew him so well that there was no need for a build up. Indeed, there was no gentle foreplay like they had known, abruptly and completely he was in her. He was a raging hunger that claimed her instantly, a tempest that was all consuming. The depth of it was heavy and crushing until she could no longer breathe. A tightening of her entire body, tighter and tighter, she went into a spiraling darkness, a throbbing remnant of time which seemed to hang on eternity. Then as suddenly as it had begun she lifted, floating lighter and lighter. Then she saw his face smiling, his beautiful blue eyes shining brightly, a brilliant glow around him and she actually felt his arms encircle her. She was coming home, she was home. A peace like she had never felt drifted into her being. Warren grazed her lips with a gentle kiss and said “Welcome home darling, I thought you would never come”
The Daughter’s of the Confederacy turned the Park’s home into a historical monument. The city paid for its upkeep and the lands and orchard surrounding it was preserved. A journal lay in a glass case on a stand inside the bedroom that was also preserved just as Lydia had left it. Crowds of people paid to tour the home and hear the stories of the people that had lived and died there, the revenue of which helped to keep it as an example of the perfect antebellum lifestyle. The large rocker on the long cool porch was big enough for two. Oddly, even with the faintest breeze it was often seen rocking, rocking in a motion not unlike that of two lovers in the throws of passion.
Lisa Venter copyright 2008