Friday, August 29, 2014

Summertime Part IV

Wrapping up the summer fun, this is Part IV, the conclusion to my short story "Summertime", from my Guppy Soup literary short story collection. Enjoy.

Guppy Soup by JT Therrien

Part IV

The cantor's lilting voice filled the church.
"Ave Maria..." the hymn began, the resounding organ notes raised goosebumps on Eugenia's back and arms. She wept, in part because this was her special song, but mostly because she could not express the overwhelming joy any other way.
The cantor continued:
"Gratia plena, Dominus tecum,
"benedicta tu in mulieribus,
"et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus,
"Sancta Maria, Mater Dei...,
Eugenia wore the elegant white-laced wedding dress her mother had sewn and worked on for so many months prior to the wedding. It felt snug and heavy and perfect on her shoulders. She was constrained and comforted. If love had a physical presence, she reflected, it was this dress.
Zachary stood beside her, straight-backed, debonair in his black suit and new black shoes. She had already seen the grey felt hat he had bought for the reception. Eugenia examined her fiancé's face; two deep oases of bright blue amid a tanned landscape of desert sand. A thin nose divided the two halves perfectly, the whole scene supported by his confident jaw.
Through the pale fabric of memory, Eugenia saw herself dabbing at a falling tear with the borrowed silk handkerchief clutched in her gloved hand.
Father Grady's compassionate voice asked her if she would like to become Mrs. Zachary Adams. "I do," she answered. Yes! A thousand times yes.
Eugenia almost fainted when Zachary said his own I do, so overcome with joy had she been.
And then they kissed for the first time as man and wife…
So long ago. They had been so young and so full of love. Eugenia turned over in her bed and suppressed a startled cry. She stared in wonderment at the man beside her and wondered if she was dreaming again. Zachary lay on top of the covers, his blue eyes serenely looking at her. Her heart raced, once again like that wonderful wedding day so many years ago. In her bedroom the world got a little bit dimmer, a little bit darker, except for Zachary's intense gaze, refusing to leave her face.
She was suddenly afraid and craved Zachary's reassurance.
"It's okay," he nodded. "It's almost time for you to come home, Genie."
"Oh, Zachary," mouthed Eugenia, another tear rolled down the side of her face and disappeared in the pillowcase. Like all those tears shed so long ago. She blinked away the rest of the tears. "It hurts, and I'm frightened, Zachary. Please take my hand and stay with me, even just for a little while?"
"Anything for you, Genie," he promised, gently squeezing her hand.

* * *

       Eugenia convulsed violently, in the process kicking the covers to the floor.
"Mother Adams? Can you hear me?" Fanny's cold, bony hands shook Eugenia's shoulders.
She gasped in agony, her eyes tightly closed in a futile attempt to ignore the present, the excruciating jostling of her body that threatened to keep her alive yet one more day.
"Hey! Mother Adams? Are you okay?" Fanny asked in a voice laden with syrupy concern.
Eugenia realized the growing darkness helped her to cope better with Fanny. She would need more patience if she was ever to actually love Fanny, but time now proved to be as elusive to hold on to as handfuls of water.
With the last of her strength Eugenia willed her eyes open, even though it meant having to look into her daughter-in-law's stone cold gaze one more time. She saw the look of disgust on Fanny's face but chose to ignore it. Time had become something too precious to be wasted on lost causes. Instead, Eugenia yearned to say goodbye.
"Martin? Where is Martin?"
Fanny's voice took on a sharp edge and her speech slowed, as if she were addressing a small child who was hard of hearing and somewhat slow. "I told you earlier, Mother Adams. Marty went out to get you some groceries. All right? Now, why don't you take another one of these little white pills and we'll see if you can't get back to sleep."
Fanny had already tapped a morphine pill out the plastic bottle when Eugenia's vision darkened, the world disappearing in a black fog. Fanny's squealing suddenly mutated into Ethel's voice.
"Eugenia? It's time for us to be going."
"Ethel...?" whispered Eugenia.
"No, Mother Adams. There's no Ethel here. All right? Now listen to me. This is Fanny. Do you hear me, Mother Adams? It's me, Fanny!"
Eugenia felt Fanny's claws dig into her shoulders again. Her head rolled limply from side to side when Fanny shook her.
In a panicked voice, Fanny shouted, "Mother Adams? Do you need a doctor? Do you want me to phone Dr. Frennette?"
"Ethel?" Eugenia said. She knew that wasn't right, but she was so confused. "Tell Martin that I love him very much, will you?" Eugenia mouthed the words silently, her breath feathering Fanny's cheek.
"What are you saying, Mother Adams? Mother Adams? What is it that you want me to tell Martin?"
Fanny's voice drifted away again, drowned by canned laughter pouring out of the black and white Philco television. Fred, still warning Ethel that if she knew what was best for her she would return that fur coat. Lucy, with her hair-brained scheme, would mix everything up and Eugenia and Zachary, who were now sitting side by side in matching pine rockers, would get a big laugh out of the ensuing chaos.
"Zachary." She stretched out a hand to touch her husband's shoulder.
He turned to his wife. "Yes, sweetheart?"
"It's good to see you again, Zachary. I've missed you for so long." Eugenia couldn't help dabbing at her eyes with the blue handkerchief.
"And I've missed you, too, Eugenia," he replied.
"Can we stay together, now?"
"We will be together forever, sweetheart. I promise."
Eugenia closed her eyes and sighed, combining the past and the future in a single last breath.


* * *

I hope you enjoyed the conclusion of "Summertime". 

If, after having read the four parts of "Summertime", you absolutely must read the rest of the Guppy Soup collection of short stories, it's available for Kindle on Amazon and for all other e-book formats at Smashwords and all online e-tailors.


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