Two Headed Snake of Key West- Coming Soon
The words pierced her heart as they had so many times in the past. Where had the man gone who vowed to love and cherish her, she seethed, slamming the phone on the desk. A tear hit the notepad and bled into the fibers of the yellow lined paper. Had Edward’s passion been another woman, Margaret would have known how to retaliate, but his lust for power and money was his mistress.
Exhausted, Margaret collapsed onto the sapphire, velvet desk chair. Leaning onto the desk, she studied her reflection in the polished mahogany surface. A drawn, haggard face with lifeless eyes met her gaze. Horrified by the sight, she covered her eyes. Unchecked sobs echoed throughout the empty Georgian mansion. Her body shuddered with sorrow until she had no more tears to cry.
Through the open door, she could see the dining room table set for two. White tapers and a Waterford crystal vase filled with fresh red roses added a touch of romance. It looked exactly like she had envisioned. Everything worked according to her plan. The cook was at a concert. Edward’s favorite, chicken marsala, was in the warmer . She had hoped that maybe a couple of glasses of wine, soft music and the house to themselves would rekindle the magic. But, again, he disappointed her. She was tired of the pretense and of eating alone. It only underscored the absurdity of their relationship. Edward insisted that they dine formally, although he rarely ate a meal at home. Night after night, she had her dinner, seated at the head of an ornate, 15 foot, hand carved table. She hungered for the days when all that they had were their love, hopes and dreams. Thoughts of peanut butter sandwiches on the beach and candle-lit spaghetti dinners curled the corners of her lips ever so slightly. She longed to be held and kissed by the man who picked flowers in the park and told her that their beauty paled in comparison to hers.
Appetite gone, all she wanted was to lay her head on her pillow and put an end to another miserable day. Had she the courage, she would go to sleep and make sure she would never wake up.
She flipped the switch to the right of the dark stained paneled door and shut it behind her. The foyer’s grandeur, with its imported, Italian marble floor, magnificent mahogany stairway that wrapped around two thirds of the room and the five foot crystal chandelier hanging in the center, escaped her. All she saw was emptiness and loneliness. Barely noticing the coolness of the stone beneath her bare feet, she shivered from a cold that penetrated her bones.
How could he put work ahead of her on their fifteenth anniversary? He had promised to take her to Bermuda for a few days, just the two of them, away from calls, texts and email. Knowing the answer, but not wanting to confront it, she gathered the strength and ascended the stairs. Her suite, consisting of a bedroom, bathroom, dressing room and sitting room, was at the head of the stairs on the right. Edward’s was on the left at the other end of the hallway. Two guest rooms with baths separated them. It had been months since Edward paid her a conjugal visit. They were strangers living under the same roof.
When she reached her rooms, she swung open the door, but did not enter. The sitting room was perfect, decorated by the best designers, or at least, those in vogue. Washington’s elite used them, so Edward followed the pack. The furniture was French provincial with rosy, satin brocade upholstery. The pieces were not covered in clear plastic, but they made her feel uneasy as if they were. Margaret imagined the room filled with fluffy, oversized chairs, the kind she could curl up in, and her grandmother’s afghan thrown over the back of one, for those chilly nights. She missed being surrounded by things that reminded her of home.
Margaret thought of the two story Victorian doll house she loved as a child. Two white rockers sat on the wraparound porch for the mother and father. They would meet to chat when the kids were in bed for the night. Margaret’s favorite childhood pastime was to bring her dolls to life. She created loving interactions as she maneuvered her family through every day scenarios, never doubting that her doll house world would be her life when she grew up. There would be a father. She would be the mother. They would have a son, a daughter, a dog and a cat. Margaret’s chest heaved a heavy sigh. The harsh reality is that Edward and she had become the plastic people that were able to sit, stand or lie down, but not to feel. She was no longer able to craft the loving relationship that she wanted. Almost robotic, their occasional conversations had been reduced to the polite bantering of strangers. Her life was out of her hands, a runaway train that she could not stop or control. Edward had set the course, launching her on a path with no return. Sleep and alcohol had been her only escapes. Fearing addiction, she battled the drinking and worked out every day for the last two months. Tonight, her hopes that Edward would notice were crushed with a mere phone call. There was nothing more she could do. She had lost him. The marriage was finished. She would just have to resign herself to the fact.
Margaret ventured over the threshold. The ruby red carpet was almost sensuous between her toes as her mere 110 pounds sunk into the pile with each step. Unbuttoning her blouse, she made her way to the dressing room. Sleep would not come too soon. Spent, she no longer wanted to face her failures. Margaret pulled her clothes off and tossed them into a chute that led to the laundry room below. Naked, she stood alone, surrounded by six images of herself, every one Margaret, bared to the soul. All the eyes bore the pain that she felt. She turned around and around. Each image was pretty, petite, a few weeks shy of 40 years old. None had the stretch marks of giving birth. Their breasts were firm, their abdomens flat and their buttocks tight, still in great shape. And yet, she stood on the edge of a bottomless black hole, rejected by the only man she had ever loved. If she allowed herself to slip into the abyss, she may never be able to climb out.
Margaret lifted a thick, white, fluffy, terry robe from the hook on the back of the door and slipped into it, wrapping the belt tightly around her waist. As her hand clasped the bedroom doorknob, the partially packed suitcase on the luggage rack in the closet caught her eye. The new bikini she bought for Bermuda was on top, the bright Caribbean print screaming for attention. She picked it up and admired it. Edward would have been shocked, maybe a little embarrassed, when she wore it in public, but she was desperate to win him back. She thought that if she turned a few heads, maybe he would pay attention. A selection of new lace teddies and silk nightgowns completed her arsenal. Throwing the bikini back with the rest, she thought about what a waste of time, effort and money it all was.
“Dammit,” she yelled, slamming the suitcase shut.
The rage rose within her until she thought her head would explode. She stormed into the bedroom, yanked the phone book from the bottom shelf of the nightstand and threw it onto the bed with such force that it slid across the pink and green flowered satin bedspread to the other side where it teetered on the edge. She tossed the cordless phone beside it. Belly flopping onto the bed she flipped through the yellow pages until she reached the listing for cabs, and then punched the number onto the keypad.
For the first time in years she felt she had control over her life. It was time to make some decisions. She dressed quickly in a pair of lightweight pale yellow slacks and a white short-sleeved cotton sweater with a matching cardigan. Her lined hunter green trench coat topped the outfit to protect her from the early Spring chill until she reached the airport. After that she planned to need nothing more than a bathing suit, a sundress, shorts and a tee shirt.
She closed the three suitcases she had packed and shuttled them one at a time to the front door. By the time she dragged the last one down the stairs the cabby was leaning on the doorbell.
“Airport?” he said in a thick accent she couldn’t identify.
She nodded, unable to speak. As he loaded the bags into the taxi, Margaret turned to say good-bye to the empty house. A tear trickled down her cheek. There was not a living soul there, not one that would miss her. Vindictively, she walked out of the house leaving the front door opened wide and smiled at the thought of Edward running from room to room checking to see if any of his precious possessions had been stolen. The harsh reality was that it would probably be days before he noticed her absence.
The cold wind slapped her face and tugged at her coat as she rushed to the waiting car. Without looking back, she climbed through the open door held by the dark-skinned driver wearing an orange knit ski cap. The door slammed behind her. Burying her face in her hands, she silently sobbed, unable to control the violent shaking that overtook her body.
The cabby opened the door to the driver’s seat and positioned himself behind the wheel. Checking his rearview mirror, he saw the crumpled woman in the backseat and regretted grabbing another fare for the night. He could have gone home to his small, 5th floor apartment that he shared with his wife and four children, popped open a beer, stretched out in his recliner and left this nutty, rich lady for someone else. Had the address not been in the wealthiest part of the city where all the big tippers live, he would have done just that. Just his luck, this wacko would probably stiff him.
Fearing that she might do something crazy in his cab, he asked, “Miss OK?”
Margaret nodded without looking up.
Shrugging it off as a woman’s monthly emotional problems, he put the idling automobile into gear and drove down the circular, tree lined drive to the street. Within minutes they were on the freeway, heading to the airport.
When the chills subsided, Margaret leaned back and rested her head against the seat. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, trying to relax and regain self-control. Now that she had made the decision to leave, she was determined to be strong, able to stand on her own two feet as she had before she met Edward. If she were to go back now, he’d never know that she had gone, but that would be quitting, taking the easy way out because she was scared to make it on her own. No! She had to do this. She couldn’t face another miserable day in his world.
The tires hummed as they rolled over the highway, thumping at regular intervals where two sections of pavement met. Lulled by the sound and the gentle sway of the cab, Margaret drifted into a deep, relaxed state, one of peace and well-being.
She was young, brimming with optimism as she bustled around the apartment in search of a make-shift table. Maggie and her roommate rarely invited anyone to their stuffy, cramped room overlooking Jake’s junkyard. Both of them were working their way through art school and barely had the essentials. Two futons draped with mismatched comforters from the Goodwill Store pulled double duty. They were beds by night and sofas by day. One quilt bloomed spring flowers in pastel tones, the other was a muted Southwestern design in dark earth tones. Bold strokes of yellow and green hand painted daisies covered the white sheet that draped the only window in the room..
Maggie lifted the books out of the orange crate and piled them on the floor in the corner by the bathroom. She turned the crate over and frowned. Dried ooze caked the bottom. It will never scrub off, she decided. Ready to can the idea, she surveyed the room for alternatives. The answer popped out of the laundry pile. All she needed was a tablecloth. The beach towel from Key West would do. It was bright, cheerful, but most of all, clean. With a quick snap of the wrist, the crate was masked in vibrant Caribbean color.. One problem solved, she crossed the room to the dingy, yellowed metal cabinet over the sink. Sorting through the dinner plates on the shelf, she found two that matched and set them on the counter for inspection. They were chipped and cracked, remnants of a bygone era If they fit, they will do, thought Maggie. She shuffled the treasures within the raised wood frame that edged her Japanese style table until they both lay flat.
“Perfect,” she said aloud.
Excited, she returned them to the counter.
The familiar knock of a short, a long, two shorts and a long sounded on the door. Flustered, she checked her watch. As usual, he was punctual and she was the one who had lost track of time.
She rushed to the door and flung it open to find Eddie ready to rap with one hand and the other toting a daisy. The mischievous blue eyes and cocky, boyish grin tingled her loins.
“Hi,” a seductive voice purred.
Eddie moved closer, his breath like Sahara wind. Passionate arms pulled her close. Electricity sparked when their lips met.
She closed her eyes and basked in the strength that enveloped her. Pressed against his firm body she felt safe and special.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Honey, I hope you’re not starved. I’m running a little late so dinner won’t be ready for an hour or so.”
He released his grip and stepped back. With a slight bow, he extended his arm and offered her the flower.
“For you, my love. I come here not for food, but to be with you. I’m sorry it’s not a dozen red roses, only a mere daisy, but I promise, someday I will buy you a dozen dozen of flowers, any kind you want.”
“Where would I put one hundred forty-four flowers?” she giggled.
“In the castle I build for you,” he said, his eyes dancing with merriment.
Maggie whispered a kiss on his cheek.
“I love your imagination. C’mon if you don’t get in here, I’ll never get dinner made,” she said tugging at his shirt.
“You don’t believe me,” he mumbled as he followed her inside. “Mark my word. It will happen.”
The cab screeched to a halt, throwing her forward and then slamming her back against the seat. Roused from thoughts of a happier time, she opened her eyes to find that their destination was directly ahead.
“Airline?” the driver asked, relieved that she woke on her own.
Margaret froze. This was the part of the plan she hadn’t worked out. The cab darted between lanes working its way toward the one marked departures.
“Airline?” he asked, a bit louder. All he wanted was to dump this woman, collect his fare and go home.
Hearing the edge in his voice, she knew she had to make a decision. She looked up at the sign and picked the first listed.
“Delta,” she said with much uncertainty.
Without giving her a chance to change her mind, the cabby turned the wheel towards the curb and double parked, leaving the engine running. He hit the pavement running. By the time Margaret scrambled out of the cab, her luggage was stacked on the curb. The two transacted their business in the street. Within seconds, the cab morphed into a yellow streak with red tail lights and was swallowed by the night.
Lost and disoriented, Margaret froze in her tracks.
Tires squealed. A horn blared.
“What’s the matter with you? You got a death wish? Get out of the road!” a gruff voice barked.
Dazed, Margaret turned to her left to see that a mini-van had missed her by inches. The driver, a beefy man with shoulder length gray hair and scraggly beard was shaking his fist and shouting obscenities. Unfazed, she wandered toward her bags on the curb.
“Do you need some help?” asked a burly black man.
“Yes,” a weak voice answered.
The Sky Cap loaded the luggage onto his hand truck and waited for her to lead the way. Moments passed, but she stood like a wax figure.
Realizing that she had no intention of moving, he gently nudged her arm. “This way ma’am.”
The glass double door parted, and she trailed behind. Margaret stood in awe. People were rushing in every direction, some with a cell phone pressed to an ear, but all with a plan. She had no plan and no place to go.
“What airline, ma’am?”
She looked around to find the longest line. It would give her time to think. They were all about the same, so she picked her old standby, Delta. At her request, the porter deposited the baggage beside her and took his leave. Loneliness gripped her heart as she read the computer list of departing flights. She understood the feeling of being alone in an empty house, but to experience it in a crowd was a shock.
The counter staff was more efficient than she liked, but her confidence grew as she inched closer to the counter, sliding the suitcases along one by one. Time ran out. She had to make a choice. The closest attendant motioned her forward. She slid the bags to the counter and hoisted them onto the steel platform.
“Hi. I’d like a ticket to Key West,” she said confidently.
“We can get you as far as Miami tonight, but you’ll have to wait until morning to fly down the Keys,” the clerk said as her fingers flew over the computer keys, her eyes glued to the monitor.
“That’s fine. I have all the time in the world,” she said calmly, a peace filling the space where doubt had been.
Posted on May 25, 2013, in mystery, reading, Uncategorized, writing and tagged books, creative writing, Key West, mystery, preview, reading, Uncategorized, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.