That incredibly emotive paragraph I wrote for the last blog post got me thinking again about Opening Pandora--a story I’ve been wanting to write but one that has lacked any kind of structure or focus. My biggest obstacle has been that I’ve had no idea how Stephanie’s journey begins. I’ve known where I want to take her, at least in part, but how to start… again, the complaint of pantsing your way through a manuscript. In fact, there have been several false starts, a few of them punished to this blog, actually. None of them worked, otherwise I would have been able to continue her tale. But I like this one… it resonates a truth to me. Setting up her ordinary world, before everything changes. What do you think?
Emptiness is like a plague, robbing life of light and color, stealing the innocence of beauty and the hope of joy, leaving only the shades of memory and longing. And I’d been living in the shadows far too long. I raised my glass. “Happy Anniversary.”
As usual, he didn’t answer back, merely smiled from beneath the glass pane, his likeness forever captured, his essence forever lost.
Right on schedule, my laptop sprang to life, calling me away from the past, and I clicked to answer.
“Hey, beautiful. How’s Durham?” A shinning, persistently optimistic face beamed back at me.
“Good evening, Dr. Monroe. How’s life in Boston?”
Joe swept his hand to the view behind him, a bank of floor to ceiling windows reflecting a cityscape lit up like a Christmas tree. “Effervescent.”
I shook my head. “You’re too damn cheerful.”
“Only around you, which begs the question. When are you coming back from that godforsaken place? Chatting but once a week is becoming tortuous. I miss you.” Joe was an urban socialite. The idea of leaving the seat of all that is modern and convenient for a small town, despite its natural beauty, surrounded as it was by lakes and forests, was heresy.
“I miss you too.” I sipped my wine.
“You’re avoiding the question.” He crossed his arms.
“I know this is hard for you to grasp, but it’s very peaceful here. I needed the break.”
“Well, surely you’re done traipsing about with the fairies and wee folk of the bogs and glens by now. It’s been a month.” He moved closer to the screen on his computer. “You’re chewing your fingernails. Oh, God. What are you not telling me?”
I dropped my hand as if I’d been caught reaching for a hot pot on the stove.
“Stephanie. What is it?”
“I found a job.” I came out as a whoosh, the urge to finish chewing my nail chasing quick on its heels.
“A job? You mean to stay then?” His voice screamed incredulous, but his eyes searched me across the miles, crestfallen.
“I can’t come back Joe. There’s nothing there for me now.”
“I know it was hard losing Jason, but you have friends here, a career…”
“And I’m grateful to you for both, but I need a mulligan, a clean start. I can’t do that in Boston where every café, every restaurant, every street I walk down reminds me of him.”
“It’s been over a year, Steph.”
“I know, that’s why I’m here. I have to do this.”
He leaned back, neatly manicured eyebrows drawn together in consternation. “There’s no budging you?”
“I’m not saying this is a permanent solution; it’s just a right-now solution.”
He regarded me, like a chess player assessing his next move. “Fine. Then Christopher and I are coming for a holiday.”
“Better bring goulashes—gets pretty mucky on all the dirt roads.”
The look of horror on his face made me spit out some of my wine. “Jesus, Joe.” I dabbed at my eyes and the mess with tissue. “It’s not that bad. I promise.”
He put a hand over his heart. “I’m only considering this because I love you. Christopher, however, might have my balls.”
“Well, it’s a good thing he’s been taking such good care of them all these years then isn’t it. He’s not likely to damage them now.”
“You don’t know how much he hates mud.” He grimaced.
“Well, let me know if and when you two decide to come down. I’ve got plenty of room.”
“I’ll clear it with the hospital and get back to you.” He paused. “You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m good. Honest. It’s been a rough day, but I start at the pub tomorrow. I’m actually excited.”
“The pub? What on earth have you gotten yourself into?”
“I’m the new bartender.”