Song of the Rose (poetry through 2009)


 
There Is A River

There is a river between us
Or is it a sea?
It is the difference between truth and lies
Between nothingness and infinity.

This is probably my favorite of everything I’ve done….written in 1992, published in 2009.

The Rose by Another Name

There was a flower
Growing strong in the sunlight
Oh,what a proud gardener!
Boasting of all he had built!
Til one day, he crushed the flower
Because he held her too tightly in his hand
For he could not understand
He demanded, without words that she
Dance no longer in the sunlight
That she, for his pleasure, should change
And she complied in love, longing to please him
Who is really to blame?
The gardener who kills his flowers?
Or the Rose who took on another name?

 

Another from 1992…..and another favorite:)

Lover, Child, and Friend

I walked along the shore with you
And we were holding hands
You were so much like a boy
Yet so much like a man
And I remember you, I remember you
Tho’ our love has reached its end
(even as it once joyously began)
Always, I remember you
My darling, loving man
And I will always miss you
For you were my very best friend
And I will always long for and miss
All that has come to an end
And I was wrong, I know
To push you into places
That you weren’t willing to go
I will remember you my beloved
Even when I am at an end
You and the precious times I can’t forget
My lover, my child, my friend

Just One Tiger Lilly

Just one Tiger Lilly
Or even a rose bud
To tell me you were sorry
Or even that you cared
Just an honest tear
Or to hold me in your arms
To tell me I was protected
Safe from all ancient harm
Yet, there was only denial
Enough to darken the sky
Not even a Tiger Lilly
Not even a reason why

Discordant Destiny

Though swiftly turning pages might
Ebb and flow as they yellow and die
The book cannot be written again
No matter how we try
So we make whatever peace we can
With a discordant destiny
Here for but a moment
Till we link hands with eternity

The Sea Continues On

You had to have a villain
And so, it fell to me
And I guess that’s the way
That you need it for to be
But -look! The world changes, and still
The stage upon which our spirits danced
Will survive, oh yes it will!
The proud ocean will go on
Unmindful of what it has seen
Our tears, the erotic chess match
Is scattered as mere ashes upon the sea
For therein lies the secret
The hero and villain must go on
On to their next adventure
No matter how the truth is re-done
And that brief moment
Where I loved you
And you said that you loved me
Floats away as mere flotsam
To the floor of the eternal sea.

If I Walked

If I walked, I could reach you
But what of when I arrived?
All the love in the world cannot sway
A heart set on denial
If I touched you then perhaps
You might finally see
To look past my studied indifference
And at last, truly see me.
Learn of me, my lover

Learn of me, my lover
And well, you might find
Not the one you thought you knew
But a new and better mind
A heart that has learned to love
Tended by your unselfish hand
A love that will not let go of me
No matter how I demand
Learn of me, my lover
Let us join hands once again
And find a shared road together
As our souls entwine and befriend
This time like no other
Not the mistakes of the past
This time a hope and a future
This time a love that will last.
Copyright © 2009

The Roads Left Behind

….That’s when I looked over my shoulder
At the roads I left behind
At the ones upon which we pause and wonder
The ones upon which we cry
And, thinking, with more than a shudder
I thought of where I now stand
For, even as I stand and watch
It is becoming part of my past
What meaning can be gathered?
What truth could be told?
What wisdom could be shared
With those yet to know?
Of that road which we all shall travel
Each place so quickly left behind
The world where we love, long, and dream
Sometimes called misery, sometimes called life.

You are my home

Funny to learn the ways
Of falling in and out of love
Each time a bit deeper
Each time with the same heart
Funny to find that when the soul finds
Its human home
The search is over
And there really is no need to look further
Amazing how times away make me love you even more
How I can still get so lost in you
When infatuation is only a ghost
Rattling chains in memory’s hall
Amazing, how this one who would never love again
Still loves you best of all.

While You Slept

While you slept
Another came and stole the treasure
You thought you had claimed
Beyond charm, he could offer so much more
A shoulder to cry on
Something real and something sure
Beyond eyes that could turn my world upside down
When trouble came, he could be found
While you slept, assuming I would wait
He was there, and he came to stay
So while I loved you, he became more true
For he did all the things you would not do.

Sweetest Poison

Sweetest Poison, let me go
From the soul you fill with woes
Woes that should be unto death
That accompany every breath
Yet, somehow, you just miss the mark
Leaving me blinded in your dark
Even in stillness, no respite
Heartbreak feels the same day or night
Guards and snares held my heart
But you found a way in and tore it apart
Sweetest poison, why must you cling
Dirges and elegies are the gifts you bring
You dog me to most sacred grounds
Your skeletal embrace my burial gown.

Heaven Has It’s Own Society

Heaven has its own society
Just as hidden secrets in the heart
The ultimate price needed for acceptance
A willingness to give your all
Heaven knows its own people
No matter where they are on the road
Finding, perchance, that surety stands
By that which never ends
Heaven knows has its own society
Standing guarded, yet open and free
Death conquered, sins forgiven and grace abounding

He Caught A Firefly

He caught a firefly in his hand
A gypsy who brightly blazed
Yet he just couldn’t believe
And so, he allowed her to fly away
She found a lion in her room
His wild beauty made her gasp
But wild things are meant to be free
So she let him go at last
How they loved each other!
On those brief, shining days
But how they wounded each other
With worldly, stereotypic ways
Now apart, the lion and the firefly
Close tearful eyes in goodbye
Love once strong must be buried deep
As they move on with their lives
He caught the firefly, but let her go
She found the lion, but set him free
Now they turn their backs, with more than a tear
And set off for separate eternity.

Issues of Pain

Leafless, the deadened tree
That once suggested hopeful blossom
It sways in a storm without wind to guide it
Never ending, yet ceasing when eyes fall upon it
Heartbreak, premature end to hopes and dreams
Of a thing unspeakably beautiful
Returning to a solitary island
One which I have always known
One which is my permanent home
Leafless, the branch of human life
That once promised to flow freely
And I breathe, though my soul feels dead
As I glimpse all the shades of what might have been.

Metamorphis and Returning

You’ll go on, and so will I
In years to come we’ll know why
Things came to this pretty pass
Why things so hopeful just could not last
The mail will come, and winds will blow
Rain will fall and so will snow
And in time you’ll just become
A stranger in a heart grown numb
Yet smiles return against my will
In quiet moments, I love you still
Hating memories yet returning to them
Wondering what I can choose to give
To a season that ended far too soon
To a deadened rose ere its bloom

Uneasy River

Uneasy River, glide we o’vr
A shared lantern still obscures
The splash of progress fills our ears
Makes no notice of our tears
Uneasy river, turns and twists
Yet never prepared for the new course
A shared purpose, yet uneasy truce
In how to yield the sole oar
Uneasy river, rolls with might
We pass in silence each small light
Til we find there’s nothing more
But a foreign sand, a distant shore
Uneasy river, yet friend to man
We traveled well, as long as we can
And in parting company, we finally see
The tumbled path to eternity.

Casualties of Love

Losing ground, by the day,
Trying to remember what to say
Memories of greatness, of love once shared
Seem to fly slowly away
How long would I have waited
How much would I have gave
Yet you turned your heart from me
And pushed me further away
In this battleground of heart
I slowly, slowly greive
And learn that as with all hearts
There is finally a time to leave
Leave the things which never were true
Turning my heart is the hardest thing to do
Yet, in turning, I remember and am grateful still
Glad that I loved you, and always will.

The Path Stumbled

The most heartbreaking path
Is that which we rush to, unready
Which we only see in retrospect
As the dance stumbled,
The chance fumbled away
And the world continues to go ’round
Till almost all would forget
The wisp of love we once kindled
Like a premature baby’s breath
The path we rushed to unready
Too broken to truly give
The childlike love too weakened
To ever truly live
And now we stand, a gulf between us
Pretending nothing ever was
Clutching discreetly the sacred remnants
Of that which we once called love.

To a Friend Now Gone

Lay roses all around her
Tears upon her hair
Some don’t understand
Why there could be so much care
But no one can deny
That she was here
And that her precense
Was ever so dear
Each moment without her
Is like music without a tune
Like melody with no inspiration
Like an endless aching wound

The Lovers Season 

The eyes of my beloved
Are like a majestic cascading sea
Rolling powerfully yet gently over me.
The voice of my beloved
It is my favorite song
So sweet, yet so strong
The heart of my beloved
Is true, brave and just
It has slowly but deeply won my trust
The soul of my beloved
Is on fire for the one who called him to be
Greater is his love for him, than it is for me
The sight of my beloved
Makes my reason go astir
It is love, finally love, grace without words

On Requition

Past understandings of love
By life’s wayside fell
When such gentle whispers touched me
Only heaven’s heart can tell
The majesty of saphire sea
Overwhelms and seems to own me
As I find myself regarded
A jewel of highest price
We rush towards one another,
Hearts unabashed, souls open wide
And when I think I cannot love you more
I find myself more and more surprised

Overcoming Futility

Did you think love could survive
In a barren, arid place?
Yet, though it still lives
It seems utterly abased
Did you wait, still wondering
How much I could take?
Did you wonder, just pondering
What might fuel my wait?
Yet, beloved, as I am weary
And desire no more to cry
I must push aside the love
And dry such exhausted eyes
For whatever we meant to the other
Now lies confused and in the ground
Love, or what seemed close to it
Just can’t seem to be found
In the hearts of both,
At just the same time
And in knowing this, we are delivered
From such sad and desolate times.

Bitterness

You are warm when I touch you
But the warmth does not reach my heart
And we grow more lonely
Each day we love, yet are apart
Yet, there is no one who I know better
And no one who better knows me
Still, we will spend our lives with others
And this compounds the grief

Dost the Wind

Dost the wind with arrow like quiver
Wind its way to you at night?
Springing upon you as dew like heather
As the world slips darkly out of sight?
Dost the river, ever flowing
Caress sweet limbs as I long to do?
Dost the sun, its eye never tiring
Grow faint with love for sight of you?
Does each road find its heart breaking
As you rounded each new bend?
Did each place note the journey
And wonder if it would end?
For now, I give you leave to wander
Knowing it would finally be true
My heart full of sweet sorrow, waiting
Evermore crying to you.

Music Never Played

I, your luminous candle
couldn’t bear your flame
It filled and overwhelmed me
Its fury could not be contained
I, your diamond worn proudly
My soul all ablaze
Forgot the God who had made me
And Who taught the stars their ways
So fateful intervention
Mercifully laid idols bare
And I stand here alone, yet pitifully
Wondering what a soul can bear
Yet, I’d take it all on again
To have just one more precious day
To live in the grace of your sweet smile
To dance to music never played.

In Absentia

Why is the fragrant Rose
Really just always out of reach
That which we in hindsight
Longingly seek?
Why do we linger
Tears no stranger to our eyes
Long after love or what passed for it
Takes a weary breath and dies?
Why do we long after ‘used to be’
And looks long extinguished in
A beloved ones eyes
When memory, faded memory
For a lifetime must now suffice?

How Deep it Goes

How deep it goes
The wellspring of the heart
How deep, and permanent
As wind through winter windows
Till silence starts….
How deep the love
So strong so pure
Till one pulls away,
And the other, unsure
Reaches for the stars
And finds only empty air
How deep love goes
Still, still there.
Till, walking at the sunset
With nothing but memories to keep
A love so promising, forever asleep
How deep, oh how deep
How deep.

Leave Before Winter

Leave before Winter
Fly far from my side
Lest ye stay, having remembered,
That blessed Christmastide
In haste did ye come to me
Now in haste, ye have gone
Before Spring could warm the blossom,
Ending the sweetest of love songs
Cast me far from thy heart
For it was never for ye true
Leave the widow at the altar
The feast without food
Because Ye might pity when ye remember
And I’d only want ye if stalwart and sure,
Fly far from my breaking heart
And, love, leave before Winter.

I Let You Go

Even if I owned the sands of time
It would make no difference in your heart, dear
So, beloved, I let you go.
Even if I held your willing hand in mine
It would not be enough to hold you
So, beloved, I set you free.
Even if I knew your every secret
And the meaning of your every smile
I wouldn’t mean I had ever known you.
\For love is in giving away
Love means giving away
Love means giving away
So, Love, I give you away
Even if I sold my soul for riches untold
It wouldn’t change what was never there
So beloved, with a full heart, I give you up
And though I’ll never understand the fear
That stalks and cheats your soul
I know that I could never hold you near
So, beloved, with all my love, I let you go

You, My Weakness

Weakness never makes you strong
So why am I missing a place
I never really belonged
Loving you was my weakness
And not my strength………
And now the pain reminds me
Of where I don’t want to be

I think of the tears
That once made me appologize
But it was only your pain
That brought them to your eyes
Did you ever once weep for me?

To know how I wept for you
How I longed to see your smile
How I sit here now
And wish it could be different
But knowing all the while
Everything that can never be again
We can’t even be friends……..

Pain protects me now
As much as it hurts
It has become my friend
Protecting me from you
And all that should never have been
Truly, truly the end
Goodbye
My once beloved friend.

Here Among The Dead

Can you imagine the quiet
Here among the dead?
Minutes tick by mercilessly
Drops of water endlessly dripping

There is no peace
In the boredom of acclaim
So used to one another
Each day essentially is the same.

You were my knight in armor
My king upon a throne
But even royalty shows flaws
And the magic, slowly is gone

Can you imagine the stillness
Playing monotonously in my head?
I wait for something, anything to happen
Here among the dead.

Deep Winter

After a rose reaches its zenith
It begins to wither
We mourn it for a time, then forget.
It returns to the soul that gave it birth
We gaze upon a shooting star
Making our wishes so recklessly
Unaware that we are witnessing–a death
Like a rose past its zenith
Even memories begin to wither
Like flames licking paper
Soon, only ashes will remain
And, I can’t help but grow bitter
Sadly questioning ‘why.’
Our rose seemed destined to wither

And why

Love for us wasn’t born in the Spring
Instead of deep winter.

Beloved Sculptor

Given to me, a sculptor
Who enacted lasting change
What I scarcely knew the others
Surrounded me and I became
Untried clay in tender hands
Like a song waiting to be sung
Like a riddle one at last understands

Given to me loving solace
Peace near a steady heart
A chance to love my tender sculptor
And become a work of his art.

Anymore

Naught lives here anymore
So shutter the windows
Lock twice all the doors
Close up the garden, latch the gate
Time to be going, it is so, so late.
No reason to listen, in emptiest of halls
Where once rang laughter
Now, nothing…..nothing at all
Where hope once grew
Now strives the refrain
Of purposeless memory
The aftermath of pain
The house now empty, bereft of grace
No further expression on a loved one’s face
Move on quickly, as one did before
Because nothing…naught lives here
Anymore.

A Winter’s Story

Draw near if you will
By a warm fireside
I’ll tell a winter’s tale
For I know a lot about ice
Eyes once alive, now hollow
A heart once fervent, now still
Grieving in passionate consummation
We find that it never will
Be part of lover’s story
The tale of two hearts
A frozen love that wouldn’t speak its name
Doomed from the start
We came to a crossroads,
First you, and then finally me
Finding there was only goodbye
In a saddened Winter’s story.

Regret

Quicksilver Butterflies
Memory is enemy but also friend
Now that it is all over
Before it could truly begin
A flash of blue thunder
Home in a stranger’s smile
A chance to feel welcom
In another one’s eyes
Tears and misunderstandings
How did it even start?
Till a desert in coldest winter
In the center of a broken heart.
Things I wish I couldn’t remember
Things I never will forget
Tears fill the most tender of rivers
And what remains is only–regret.

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The Girl Who Danced With The Prince of Wales


By Laura Kathryn Rogers @2012

“The most important thing you need to know,” Julia Parway said, “Is how to deal with Nella.”

At the age of 42, I, Anthony Bainbridge, son of a stone mason, had been hired as the youngest administrator  that Sedley’s Place, an elite retirement home had ever had. I was eager to start off on the right foot.

“I know you are wondering why its priority that Sedley’s top man needs to know about a specific resident.” She said.

“Indeed.”

“Nella is speacial. A resident for twenty years. No living family. Only child of Lord Patrick Lipton, former Labour M.P. He was fairly outspoken during the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“Infamous, you mean.” I said, smiling. “Probably the most loathed man in the Isle. Sided with Kruschev if I recall.”

“Nella made her debutante debut that year. She was  reigning debutante, but she never married.”

“Very unusual.” I commented.

“Well, she didn’t feel it necessary.  Lord Lipton left her very wealthy when he died. She was only 30, then, and very adventuresome. She didn’t like the men who wanted her money, land and her father’s title. So she stayed single. Traveled widely. She came to us after she broke her hip when she was 68. She’s totally mended since then.”

“You said, adventuresome?”

“Very much so. And quite lucid. Nella is almost 89 years old. Lovely. Charming. Intimidating if crossed. A great conversationalist. Some would also say…..she is bewitching.”

Julia gave me a long, keen look, and lowered the boom.

“Nella is house royalty. But she shares her father’s extreme labour-oriented views. Don’t coddle her. She despises it. She is very private and independent. Never enter her room, or even knock unless invited to visit. And if you hear music inside her room, you must not knock at all.”

“Nothing difficult so far.” I said.

Julia wagged a finger at me. “Ah, here’s the twist.”

Of course, I thought. There had to be something. I considered possibilities. Did Lord Lipton’s daughter have a penchant for setting fires? No, hadn’t read any accounts of geriatric arson or latent pyromania in The Mail..….Did Lady Nella tipple from a private stash? Possibly….but one could deal with oft-drunken 88 year old…..

“The thing you must humour Nella about….Is her belief that she danced with the Prince of Wales.” Julia said, carefully.

“Pardon?” I frowned, trying to understand. “Perhaps, Julia, she did. Not, as a debutante….he wasn’t invested then….but later, perhaps? In the 70’s? Or the Diana years?”

“Not that Prince of Wales.” Julia’s eyes shone with impish satisfaction.

“Ah, then, William. Our current King. No, he was only Prince of Wales for a year, and she would have already been a resident here……” Seeing the smug look on Julia’s face frustrated me. ” Well, are you going to let me in on this delicious little secret?”

“The bonnie Prince David…the Late Duke of Windsor. That Prince of Wales. ”

“It’s possible.” I said, stubbornly. “He was a contemporary of her father. The Windsor’s came back to England occasionally after the abdication. Or, she might have gone to France, and been received in their home.”

“Not last month.” Julia said sweetly.

Now, it made sense. I nodded. “Then she’s mad.” I said. “Lucidly mad.”

“Perhaps you should meet. She’s expecting us.” Julia said. She turned on her smart black heels and walked away, leaving me to follow her.

No matter how often I walked the facility halls, I always admired them. The light peach paint with understated rose and greenery border made for a cheerful atmosphere. Also, there was the  tasteful use of Monet prints, and reproductions of a few Rodin statues. All very charming. Well-tended greenery and cool looking, white marble floors completed the picture.

We came to a mahogany door, which led to Nella’s suite of rooms. I’d been told that no expense had been spared when she committed to living at Sedley.

Julia, paused, knocked. No answer. Tentatively repeated. Still, nothing. She waited.

On the other side of the door, I heard a feminine giggle.

“She likes to take her time. ” Julia said. “We’ll wait.”

The door opened to a tall, stylish woman who could have easily passed for 50. She wore a turquoise evening gown, with a light scattering of seed-pearls around a scoop-necked collar. There was one perfect strand of pearls with a matching bracelet and earrings. A tiara set off masses of white curls elaborately pulled up and falling about the sides of her head in a feigned disarray. She wore just enough makeup without seeming garish. Her eyes were ageless sapphire. She was breathtaking.

“How do you do, Ma’m?” Julia said. Her voice held an implied curtsy, although her body did not provide one. A twinkle of amusement lit Nella’s bright eyes.

“Julia, my dear.” Nella seemed unaware that I existed. I was suddenly filled with a childish impulse to do something to get her attention.

Then, there! She was looking at me, as if bestowing grace. Indeed, that was what it felt like.

“Is this the new director? ” Nella’s voice was proper Oxford-scented English, with a deep, husky quality. I could see why she’d been a leading debutante.

“Yes. This is Anthony Bainbridge, Nella.”

Nella extended her hand. For a moment, I felt confused. Should I gently shake it, or kiss it? I took the small, slender hand, unblemished with age. Lost in her charismatic gaze, I forgot her age or my own. The moment passed. Julia cleared her throat behind me.

“I’ve spoken well of you. You mustn’t let me down, Anthony.” Julia said, with an irritating lilt in her voice. But I forgot that quickly. How could one be irritated in the presence of a goddess?

“I’m sure that Julia has told you that I value my privacy? Other than a few hobbies, I rarely leave my rooms. I have no need, you see.”

She opened the door so that I could see a bit of her sitting room. It was not cluttered with nic-naks as were most elderly patron’s rooms. Instead, there was tasteful art, china, delicate antique furniture, bright throw pillows…a comfortable home. “Beautiful.” I said, not sure whether I was speaking of the room or of its occupant.

“Wallis and I became good friends, later….” Nella was saying. ” In spite of David’s prior allegiance to me.” She turned, to signal the end of the conversation. “You’ll have to meet her sometime. She’s very stylish. Wicked sense of humour…..tasteless at times, but she is………..American. No doubt, you’ve met a few.”

“Yes.” Then, the ethereal ancient goddess slipped behind the door and it closed. Reality and common sense came back with unwelcome harshness.

“How far do we tolerate her delusion?” I asked, helplessly.

“Anthony.” Julia said, reprovingly, “All the way.”

She began to walk back towards the office, still talking. “She’s harmless, really. Just follow her rules. She gets very upset if she is disturbed at the wrong time. When the music is playing. When she is dancing.”

I shook my head. “Dancing…alone.”

“Not in her view…….and a few people…… well…….never mind. I’ve never seen anything.”  After that, Julia became strangely unwilling to discuss Nella further.

Weeks passed and I settled into the new job. I made sure the new staff were aware of Nella’s rules. Af first, I rarely saw her, but I often thought about her. What had happened to this breed of woman? Intelligent, spunky, beautiful, but natural.  She seemed the last of a dying breed. Why had she never married?

I became acquainted with a young woman, Gina Barnes, who I had known slightly at university. Gina was divorced, just starting to date.  We were both vegetarians, avid gardeners and rabid Manchester football fans. Gina was a banker and enjoyed talking shop with me.  Soon we began to date and became very close.

She helped me find a lovely cottage within walking distance of work. We decorated it together. We enjoyed the ample yard which included a brook with an ancient stone bridge. We often sat in the yard and enjoyed Chardoniet while watching magnificent sunsets.

I didn’t love her, but that didn’t bother me. To me, compatibility and mutual interests were more important. Love wasn’t necessary. I knew, however, that Gina loved me, and sometimes, I felt guilty. That guilt made me double my efforts to treat her well. In time, I even considered marrying her.

We only disagreed about one thing. Nella.

At first, Gina enjoyed hearing about her. Some quaint story or thing she had said. Then, she seemed a bit distracted when I brought her up. Then, Gina’s smile became forced, and she would change the subject. As time went on, Gina seemed irritated when the subject of Nella (though not about any other aspect of my work) came up. Confused, I tried not to bring her up as much. I wondered if Gina could be jealous of the decades older grande dame. The idea was too startling. I pushed it out of my mind.

As time went on, Nella had started coming out of her rooms more frequently. She would seek me out, and I was always delighted to see her. She always had some interesting tale. Some urbane comment that Wallis or Thelma Furness had made…at the last dance.

I had learned to keep a straight face and just listen. I wondered if Nella was a history buff. The tales she told about the late Duchess and the equally late Madame Furness were so detailed. If one didn’t know better, one would think that she truly had known them…..although the later had died before Nella was born.

Then, not long after, Nella took ill. I had missed her visits and was told by her nurse that she had double pneumonia.  It was dangerous to move her, so her doctor visited her, sometimes several times daily. The staff were frequently in her rooms, sitting with her, reading to her, encouraging her to eat or drink something. I had found that she liked Shelley and Wordsworth, so I would read their poems to her, even when her fever was high, and she didn’t seem to know that anyone was there. I was vigilant that her pillows were kept plumped up and her bedding was comfortable and fresh. Sometimes, I would pray for her, although my last prayers had been as a schoolboy. And slowly, Nella came back to us.

One day while I was reading Wordsworth, I felt a light touch on my arm. Nella’s bright blue eyes smiled at me. “I especially love that one. How did you know?” She asked.

“I didn’t.” I stammered, tempted to claim the opposite. But how could I? The truth was, I just wanted to please her, bring her back to her old healthy self. She had become very important to me, and her illness had made this clear to me.

I spent the rest of the day with her, and was delighted when her doctor came in, and pronounced her past the crisis place. Returning to my office, I found that Gina had called four times. Annoyed, I wondered what she wanted, and grudgingly called her back. I was somewhat brief on the phone and was relieved when the conversation was over.

Soon, Nella was well enough for rides in her wheelchair. I would push her through Sedley’s magnificent gardens, or even into the small town nearby of the same name. Any errand she needed, if I couldn’t personally see to it, I would make sure someone immediately took care of it.  I personally prepared her tea the way she liked it, and made sure her favorite magazines were within easy reach of wherever she happened to be sitting. Soon, she was walking again. Not much longer after that, her doctor pronounced her fully well. The dark cloud that seemed to hang over Sedley’s was gone.

Then, I realised that I had neglected Gina terribly. I had been slow to return phone calls, and had canceled most of our dates. I had not called, telling her only that Nella was ill and I was needed at the facility. However, the worst part, was I hadn’t missed Gina. This troubled me. I had considered, early on, asking Gina to marry me. Now, I rarely thought of it.

Not sure what to do, I called Gina, and suggested dinner. Gina seemed distant, but agreed. We decided that we would prepare a meal together, as had been our custom before Nella became ill. The evening came, and I found myself procrastinating, not really wanting to go. However, I showed up on time, and looked my best.

Gina was not affectionate that evening, and this surprised me. She was quiet, tentative. The silence was heavy as we prepared the meal, the opposite of how it once had been. After a dozen derailed attempts at conversation. I found myself wondering how long I had to stay before I could politely make an excuse to go home. To my embarrassment, Gina caught me looking at my watch.

She smiled, though the expression seemed contrived. “So, how is your favorite resident?”

“Hmmm? Oh, she’s on her feet again, good as new. We were quite worried.”

“I know you were.” Gina said gently, setting down a wonderful smelling lentil soup. “I didn’t see much of you while she was ill.”

“Oh, sorry…..” I said, smiling, patting Gina’s hand.  I was shocked to see her recoil from my touch. “It’s just…….she’s so special, she’s our most colorful resident………so interesting, so…..”

An wistful look crossed Gina’s lovely face. “I wish I could compete.”

“Pardon?” I sputtered, “With who?”

Her………Nella. You talk about her so much….so lovingly.”

“Dont’ be absurd! I do nothing of the sort!”

“You don’t hear yourself. I do. If it were your Mother, I’d understand. Or a beloved Aunt. Something, anything to make me think that it’s not more……..”

My face flushed, and I felt defensive anger rising. “Gina, I know I’ve been away a lot. I was just concerned about her. She’s got no family, She’s outlived them all! I promise we’ll spend more time together………I don’t mean to talk about her……”

“Like an infatuated boy?” Gina asked gently. “I wonder if your work is about its own merit anymore…….or if it’s just a chance to spend time with her. You’re devoted.”

I got more defensive. Gina, more insistent. It became the most dreadful row.

When I left Gina’s home later, she was no longer my girlfriend. I walked the short distance to the facility, wondering how Gina could be so foolish. Nella was 89. I was 42. How could she be anything to me except a special resident? How could Gina be jealous of something that was clearly impossible?

To my surprise, Nella was sitting in one the oversized wicker chairs at the front. She was sipping a glass of white wine. There was an empty glass next to her. She smiled fetchingly. “Please sit. I knew you’d be coming along.”

“Did you?” I asked, sitting obediently.

“Yes, just instinct. I even knew you’d be troubled. And, here you are, and that is how you look. Like you lost your best friend.”

“I’m minus a girlfriend, actually.” I said, smiling at her humbly. “You wouldn’t believe what we argued about. And I dont’ think I want to say.”

Nella poured me a glass. “There, drink. Don’t say anything. Enjoy the breeze. Relax.”

It was easy to accede to her wishes. Easy to forget that this ancient, charming hostess was, in fact, ancient.  A pleasant hour passed with very little conversation. Far too soon, she stood up, after re-filling my glass. “Enjoy. I have a dance to attend. I’ll see you soon.”

A bit tipsy, I stayed, intending to go to my office. Instead, I found myself walking the hallway, towards Nella’s suite. To thank her, for being kind, and to return her wine glass……..

To my surprise the door to Nella’s rooms was ajar. Alarm seized me. Was she unwell?

I stopped at the threshold and pushed the door open just enough to see in………

The room was hung with tapestries, rich with vivid colours. There were several women wearing tiaras, priceless jewels and exquisite gowns from Worth and Chanel. They milled about what was not Nella’s rooms, but a crowded ballroom. Escorts, in vintage clothing, expertly guided them.

In the center, a ravishing blonde woman, in a turquoise, flapper-style dress was extending a gloved hand to an equally dapper, blonde young man. He wore a gray, cutaway coat, in excellent taste, again vintage. For a moment, he glanced my way. I froze as our eyes met.

Old film. Photos. It was him, Dancing with Nella.

Nella looked as she must have in her twenties. She glanced at me, smiled flirtateously. Then, she lowered her eyes, and began to dance with the Prince of Wales.

Gulping, I stepped back, and pulled the door shut. The sound of closing seemed terribly loud, like a thunderclap. Then, silence was total. The music in the room beyond ceased.

Moments later, a tall, slender banshee issued forth from the room. Nella.

“Who did it? Who?” She was every bit of  a graceful 89 again. Lovely, elderly…and furious.

Stammering, I managed……”It was I, Ma’m. I’m sorry, I must have been intoxicated….I saw, I thought I saw……..I most humbly apologise.”

“You made him go away……We were at the Fort! It was the week before he met Wallis! I had a chance…….do you understand what you did?” She cried out, plaintively.

What could I say to her? How could I comfort her? Then, I realized that I didn’t want to. That I was jealous. Of him. I didn’t want her to dance with him. Anyone who knew history knew what David Windsor was! A womanizer, a user of women, careless and uncaring about the hearts he broke. Only Wallis had been different. After her, for the remainder of his life, he never looked elsewhere. Didn’t Nella know what she’d be getting? Why set herself up for heartbreak?

“Its alright, Anthony.” Nella said gently……”Maybe it can’t be changed.” She turned on a slippered heel and went into her room, and shut it firmly. I stood there for a moment. Cold realization flowed over me. If Nella was insane, I was right with her. Why be jealous of a delusion?

I went home, stared at the cold fireplace until my eyes were sore, then dozed. My sleep was filled with odd dreams, some of Nella as a young woman, some as she currently was. In the dreams, I was dressed in vintage clothing, and I was dancing with her.  Then, the alarm clock broke it all up for another day.

Weeks passed and the incident was forgotten. Nella seemed to have forgiven me, and would come by, talk to me about her latest dance or social event. I only half-listened because I was gearing up for the annual board of goverors meeting at the facility.  This would be where I got my ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ mark as an administrator. Our facility being filled or having satisfied residents meant little compared to whether the board approved of me.

I planned a detailed report of my accomplishments since I began work there, but knew more was expected. The governors board meeting was the social event of the year for the area. There had to be exquisite food, dancing, entertainment. Julia, my predecessor, had been explicit on this. Planning and hosting such things was definitely not my forte. Nella saw that I was distracted and commented.

“Oh, I had forgotten. It’s that time of year again. The governors’ meeting? Don’t worry. You’ll do fine.” She said.

I smiled, feeling some of my anxiety go as I listened to her calming words. She could do that for me, without even speaking. I had often noted that just sitting next to her on the porch had a peaceful effect. “You seem very confident in me.”

“Remember how long I’ve been here? I know the board. Wankers all.” I raised an eyebrow at this sudden crude comment from such a lovely face. She raised her own brow, and I saw that she was teasing me, try to get a rise……again, it hit me, how delightful she was, and how all those years ago she would have been hard to resist……even now………

“The evening that Thelma Furness canceled out and I had to hostess……..oh, David loved the menu I made up……..”

I’d learned to keep my face stoic when she mentioned her time with the Prince.

“I’ll rescue you, Tony.” She said, smiling impishly. “I’ll plan the perfect evening for you, right down to the recipes. I have friends in the area who will come, provide the music, everything you need. Just call them and tell them that Lady Nella would like them to be here.”

“I thought you didn’t like to be addressed that way.” I said, teasing her.

“I don’t.” She said. “But they like to address me that way. So, when it works for me, I let them. Ta for now, dear one. I’ll bring you all the details later. I’ll even ask Wallis for advice. She’s horrible, but a genius with these things. I’ll tell you what she suggests.”

Then, she was gone, leaving me to ponder my fate. Nella and the ghosts from her parties planning the most crucial event of my career? Risky, possibly insane. But how could I tell her no?

Hours later, she brought me, in her delicate, careful handwriting, a full plan for a delightful evening. In blue pencil she had “W” for ideas that she said Wallis Simpson had contributed. I looked at the items for the suggested meal, and the names of the people who she suggested entertain. A renowned violinist, a virtuoso pianist. After she left, I called the phone numbers, expecting agents. Instead, I had their direct lines. They were eager to accept. Every bit of Nella’s plans seemed perfect.

I went over the menus with Ward Thanner, the lead chef of Sedley’s dining department. He was joyous over Nella’s contribution. “She never does this! Why, all of a sudden?” He smiled mischievously. “I think the old girl is getting mellow, at last, and you’re a great influence on her! Before, she’s didn’t give anyone the time of day…..too busy with her imaginary romps….”

“They’re not imaginary!” I shouted. When I saw Ward’s startled expression, I forced myself to be calm. “Not to her, they aren’t. As long as they are not harmful to anyone, we shouldn’t tease her. About anything.” I put enough firmness in my voice that Ward immediately dropped the subject and went to look for some of the items the recipes required.

Ward and his staff carried out Nella’s recipes to perfection. Everything she had suggested was done, and even I was astounded by how our dining area seemed to be transformed to a palatial appearance. I had considered bringing a date, but Gina wasn’t speaking to me, and no one else seemed appropriate. I stood, greeting all the governors, feeling stiff and uncomfortable. In my heart, despite the perfection around me, I felt something crucial was missing.

Finally, I realized what it was. Nella wasn’t there.

It was only right. I could see her in a tasteful ballgown, walking around, chatting with the board, looking beautiful, charming everyone. Making everyone feel comfortable, while I would be proudly in the background watching my wonderful…….

I stopped myself sharply. This was mad. Nella was 89 years old. I was 42. Gina might have been right. Perhaps there was some sort of infatuation for her. If so, I would simply have to get over it. The whole thing was impossible. I was the facility director. She was a lovely old woman who entertained the notion that she could escape, at will, to other times, and dance with notable men of her choice.

And yet, I had seen it. With my own eyes. I had seen them. Together, dancing. It had been completely real. And then, it had been….gone.  Again, that horrible sensation of jealousy lurched around in my gut.

The meeting was a success, and the governors assured me that my tenure at Sedleys was assured. I mechanically responded to them, doubting their words. I thought of what I had witnessed in Nella’s room, the delusions that provided part of the basis for this evening. How long could I function and believe these things true?

Instead of going to my office, I went to talk to Nella. I needed to reason with her. Try to extricate myself from everything. Thank her for her help, but put distance between us. I got to the door, and saw that it was open. Again, I heard laughter, music, and celebration.

I didn’t waver. I walked in. This was a different room, perhaps in a palace. Nella, looked divine in a sea-green gown. Beside her stood David Windsor. Beside him, stood a tall, Olive-Oyl looking woman who I knew to be Wallis Warford Simpson.

The butler took a coat that I didn’t know I had. I looked down, and saw my tuxedo was gone. Instead I wore the same type of vintage garments the other men in the room wore.

Behind me, there was no door to the other place……the world where I’d grown up. It was gone.

Another man would have panicked. Begged to go back to the world that birthed him. However, Nella began to walk towards me, and I forgot everything else. The Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson followed closely behind her.

“Astounding to meet you, Tony!” The Prince of Wales said enthusiastically, his voice that odd mix of upper-class English, New York Bronx and Cockney. I recalled the last time I’d heard it, as a student, listening to his abdication speech. When he gave up his throne for Wallis….the woman he loved.

I looked at Nella, wondering what I’d be asked to give up for her. It occurred to me that there was nothing, other than her that I was interested in keeping.

“Nella told us all about you!” I heard Mrs. Simpson saying. “You’ll have to be a good boy and stick around. I’m sure David can help you get things sorted out…..a good situation, digs, all that….” Wallis said, pumping my hand as strongly as a man.

The Prince seemed delighted with her suggestions, or orders. I thanked her, and felt Nella’s hand on my arm. I felt like an anxious schoolboy who’d finally found the right school to attend.

“You two should dance. Nella is delightful that way. I’ve danced with her many times….” David Windsor said, a big grin across his face.

So, not missing the old world at all, I took Nella’s hand and led her to the ballroom floor and we started our first dance.

These days, each morning is a wonder. Nella personally makes my coffee, and often sits with me on the porch. We are fortunate to have our health despite being in our late eighties. Occasionally, we still indulge in a bit of ballroom dancing.

I know that I have been blessed in life and in love. To think that, I, Anthony Bainbrige, with no title, no inhertance, nothing, was able to steal the heart of the most eligible debutante in England in 1933! After we married, our friends were very kind to us, and helped me get my start in banking. A very successful career followed.

Nella and I became active in philanthropy, and towards the end of my fifties, the Queen granted me an honorary knighthood. We were not able to have children, but copied our dearest friends Wallis and David Windsor in adopting Pugs. We adored the creatures, and always had one or two in our home until illness and age forced us to move into our suite at the retirement community.

It has been a good life.

“Sir?” I turn my head, and see the departing Administrator, Julia Parway. I thought Julia too ingratiating, and was relieved when I found she was being replaced.

“I’d like to introduce you to Tony Bainbridge,  my replacement. It’s an amazing coincidence! Did you know you share the same name, first and last?” Julia said.

The young man seemed startled to see me. However, I must confess to you, the feeling was mutual.

You see, he reminded me so closely of myself, that he could have been my twin at the same age. Julia continued with her comments. “The difference, of course, is he likes to be called Tony. And you, don’t.  But Tony, I’m sure, knows how to address a peer of the realm.

“Julia.” I said, gently. “I actually do like to be called Tony. The Duke of Windsor started that….years ago. Young man! Most impressed with your education, I took a first in business at Magdalen University, myself, just like you…..is something wrong?”

The younger Mr. Bainbridge had gone sheet white. I was not sure why. Julia looked at both of us, for once, unable to think of something to say. I jumped in, hating the awkward feeling. “My wife, Nella, has gone inside to rest. I can’t wait for you to meet her. She is delightful.”

“Indeed.” The younger man was able to get out, relieving my concerns that he might be mute.

“Yes. She danced with the Prince of Wales, a few times, you know.”

The Image (@2009)


It may have been his best friend as often as he directed long, loving looks at it. And it never disappointed him. It was always there, always the same, always yielding a pleasant result.

Yes, Spencer Hawthorne and his dressing room mirror were pretty tight.

Awake. Two cups coffee, black. Meticulous shower. Shaving. Each use of the razor like the stroke of a lover. Care to combing and styling of hair to reflect a look suggesting that God just kept it in a tumbled mass of ebony curls.

Clothes, last. Clothes to accentuate bodily perfection. A strong, well developed chest from years of careful diet and exercise. An almost girlishly slender waist. Trim hips. Bow-shaped legs of a runner. All hinted at through clothing, yet still decently displayed. He preferred bright colors which brought out the velvet darkness of his eyes, and the olive color of his skin. His shirts always pressed, open just enough to show female passersby a tantalizing bit of curly black chest hair escaping over an impeccable white undershirt. Tailored pants, patterned socks, brown leather loafers, just old enough, always immaculate.

If he was always conscious of eyes upon him, it was because, generally, they always were. It made him weary sometimes, but he’d learned to cope with it. He’d been an almost seriphicially beautiful child, and now, as a man in his early forties, he could still be called ‘beautiful’ without it sounding foolish. The rosebud had simply turned to a mature and ripened flower.

If weather required, there was a Burberry trench coat of a warm chocolate color. Suitable to go with all that Spencer owned. He was never caught in the rain. No one had ever seen him look flushed, or even perspiring.

He grabbed a slice of whole wheat toast. Devoured it plain. Scrubbed his perfectly aligned teeth mercilessly and sweetened his breath. Grooming complete, Spencer Hawthorne stepped out to head to his office where he was a publishing executive, and had been for nearly seven years.

On the walk over, he allowed himself some time to brood. The last week had been very unpleasant. For the first time in his career with Byron and Bryon Publishing, he’d had a disagreeable encounter with someone. He’d always been able to get along with anyone. Now, it had happened. And, amazingly enough, it was with someone he normally would not even notice.

He thought of how it all started the Monday prior. He’d gone for a cup of coffee at the downstairs lounge when he heard the office manager, Betty Alberta, and another woman, with a disturbing, high pitched voice talking. Something had made him stop and listen. To his surprise and shock, they were discussing him.

“Does he even like women?” The squeaky voice asked.

“Oh, yes. Socialites. Famous beauties. Starlets. Models. That type.” He heard Mrs. Alberta say.

“Oh well, what a relief for us girls then….I mean it would be such a waste….”

“Well don’t let Mr. Hawthorne hear you discussing his looks, Kyra. He gets furious if you compliment him. Or do more than give him an admiring glance.”

“Why ever for?” Kyra, the owner of the high pitched voice, seemed almost miffed in tone. “It’s obvious he puts huge effort into his looks. Does he just like to tease us poor girls?”

“He gets the notice of the one who means the most to him, Kyra.” Mrs. Alberta said patiently. “You’ll soon see what I mean.”

Just then, steps coming close to the door made him back up and feign innocence of the conversation. Mrs. Alberta greeted him, in a way that suddenly struck him as superficial. The same as always, though—why hadn’t he noticed it before?

Kyra looked much like her voice suggested. Dull and limp ash brown hair, grey eyes, tiny and shiny like lumps of polished lead. No attempt at make up. A hopelessly out of date horror of a pink lacy shirt and grey skirt that showed how little nature had shown grace to her almost boyish figure. Sensible black shoes that seemed to shout to the world her seeming intent to be as plain as humanly possible.

Judgment passed, he gave her a brief and curt nod and went to the communal coffee pot.

That week, each time he had reason to be in the reception area, Kyra seemed to be overly aware of his presence. She would stop whatever she was doing, and stare admiringly at him. No one else seemed to notice but him. Spencer found it appallingly impertinent. Probably, he told himself with disgust, one of those ‘new women’ who felt free to be mannish and aggressive under all the frills and flounces that seemed to get more hideous with each days new outfit.

Normally, he paid little attention to people around him unless they were right in front of him, talking to him, or meeting with him. But this dull drab of a secretary, this Kyra, made it impossible not to notice her with all her gaping and voyeuristic interest. Once, when he met her eyes, he thought that he did know her from somewhere, and indeed, it seemed that she might have been waiting for him to remember, where…..but how would he have forgotten such a rude and presumptuous creature?

He was curious the early part of the week, and gave it some thought. But by Thursday, he found himself more irritated than curious. By Friday morning, he’d had enough. She’d taken to getting up and being in the coffee lounge at the time he always went for coffee, and standing there, just looking at him. It was time to stop this obsessive interest, or whatever it was, Spencer thought firmly. Stop it in its cradle before it truly got bizarre.

He went to her desk that Friday morning, quite aware of the discreet but admiring looks that Kyra’s coworkers gave him as he passed. Kyra looked at him steadily as he neared her. She never averted her eyes. So bold. With something like amusement on her lack luster, thin lips. Could she find him amusing?

The mere possibility of this threw him into a passion.

“Ma’m I must ask you to confine your attentions to the work you have at hand.” He said, more sharply than he intended to.

“What?” The squeak seemed more pronounced in Kyra’s surprised voice.

“Your attentions. You seem fascinated with me. Please direct that fascination elsewhere. It is not welcomed.”

“Is there a problem, Mr. Hawthorne?” Mrs. Alberta was on the spot, her face all seeming concern, but her eyes full of curiosity….or….. amusement…..her too? Whatever could the joke be?

“No, Mrs. Alberta. I think I’ve made myself very clear to Kyra.”

He turned on a finely leathered heel and went toward the glass walls and doors that surrounded the reception area. He noted as he drew near that the highly polished glass showed that his color was high, even for his olive skin. It was agreeable, although he didn’t approve of the means causing it.

The rest of the day passed without incident. As he was preparing for home that evening, he heard a girlish giggle from the hallway, and an answering chuckle from a man.

“Narcissus, you say?”

“Yes. One of my favorite stories.”

“I’ll have to watch what I do, Kyra. You’re quite insightful after only a few day’s observation.”

Spencer heard the giggle again. “Thank you, Mr. Phillips. I never mean it for harm, only a chance for the person to learn…..if they can. But looks like I have my work cut out for me……..with him.”

By the time, Spencer got to his door, the two were on the elevator. Suddenly the bit of conversation came together for him. Narcissus. Of course! A man in love with his image, in an ancient Greek pool. A quaint, cautionary tale about vanity. She was mocking him to Mr. Phillips, Spencer’s supervisor! All because he’d calmly set some ground rules with her, an impertinent mouse of a secretary!

He fumed most of the weekend, but managed to be calm by Monday. Maybe he’d misunderstood. Maybe he was wrong. Surely, he had to be. He would just go back in, do his job impeccably, as he had done for years. And if Kyra continued to be insolent, he’d discuss it with Mrs. Alberta, her boss. It was just that simple. Surely job security was more important to the young woman than indulging a curiosity that was almost….indecent.

With hope for a peaceful week, Spencer walked to his job. It was his habit each day to stop, chat a few moments with Connor, the ancient doorman who’d dutifully opened his doors for him each day of the seven-plus years that he’d worked for the publishing company. This day was like every other. Today’s topic…the gray weather, the smell of thunder in the distance…lighting bolts dropping from the sky, unusual for April…….and this day, Spencer had left his umbrella…perhaps the storm would pass by the time work was done.

In the secretarial pool, he stopped, went to look at the appointment book Mrs. Alberta kept for him and other account executives. Nothing unusual. A 10, a 12, a late lunch with a new client, a 4 o’clock staff meeting. He glanced over to where the plain Kyra usually sat. She wasn’t there. Someone else was.

And what a person. A vision of an angel. Mrs. Alberta was talking to her, apparently explaining the contents of a manila file. The woman looked up and made eye contact with Spencer. He was freshly amazed by what he saw. Long, thick blond curls. Large, doe-like eyes that were a heavenly shade of blue. She wore what appeared to be a smart, tailored violet dress/suit. She was petite, yet womanly. All this could be summed up quickly in one, awe-filled glance. He heard her answer Mrs. Alberta, and his heart began to pound. Her voice was like one long, joyful song. Something exotic about it, a trace of an accent…so familiar…where had he heard it before?

Spencer knew he was staring at this ethereal goddess, but he didn’t care. He glanced at his reflection in the glass wall, and, satisfied, stepped up closer, gaining the attention of the two women.
Suddenly her sapphire eyes met his.

Narcissus. The word hung in the air, like a child’s whisper.

He swore he’d heard it, but her lips hadn’t moved.

Narcissus………

Again, that lilting, musical voice…dragging the name out a bit longer, this time. Still, her mouth didn’t move. Was it some intricate practical joke?

Where was the girl from Friday? The obnoxious mouse who couldn’t keep her eyes to herself? “Where is Kyra, Mrs. Alberta?” He demanded, louder and more strongly than he meant to do.

Mrs. Alberta raised overly tweezed eyebrows in apparent confusion. “This, Mr. Hawthorne, is Kyra. Kyra Theodoridis…..Have you met before? This is her first day here. She wasn’t here Friday.”

“How ridiculous!” Spencer snorted, aware that he was attracting a lot of attention to himself. “They can’t be the same person! The other was……..” He almost said ‘ugly’ but managed to stop himself, “not at all, professional, I was going to say something to you, today about the matter….”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hawthorne. I’m mystified. But Kyra, here, is assigned to be your personal secretary. She will manage your appointment book, and take your messages. She comes highly recommended.”

Narcissus………

Again the voice, without lips…….could she be a ventriloquist? If so, why play such a childish trick? How could someone so beautiful be so mean-spirited?

Narcissus……….Now, the voice came from behind him.

Narcissus…….Now, it was to both sides of him. Then, like a chorus of rippling drops of rain, the name was pronounced, again and again.

“This is insane!” Spencer clapped his hands over his ears and fled, nearly running from the reception room. He didn’t need to look at the reflecting glass to know what he looked like. It was the image of a very frightened man.

He took the rest of the day off, a request easily granted because in seven years, he’d never asked for a single vacation or sick day. He found an isolated bar and drank until he didn’t think about Kyra or the multitude of voices. He fell into his bed and slept until late the next morning. Called in sick. Another request granted, seemingly without concern. He nursed a savage hangover throughout the day, slept more. Felt well again on Wednesday.

This day, he prepared himself for another typical work day. It would be embarrassing, he thought, seeing Kyra and Mrs. Alberta today, but he was a professional. Cool. Immaculate. Never letting anyone see him ruffled. He’d just been over-tired. It was simply explained if need be, but best to act as if nothing had happened.

He walked up to Connor, the doorman, ready to banter as he’d done every day for the past seven years. This time, he was astounded. The old man not only cut him cold with no greeting, he seemed to look through him and refused to even open the door for him. Puzzled and offended, Spencer opened his own door, and went to the coffee room. A woman he knew slightly from the mail room was there. She walked right past him.

As if he wasn’t……..there.

He swallowed this irrational thought and headed for the mail room. He always had prided himself on picking up his own mail.

His name was no longer on the box.

He’d gotten his mail at the same place everyday for seven years. In place of his name he saw Kyra Theodoridis, Sr. Account Exec. The name was stenciled in hard plastic, and showed signs of wear as if it had always been there.

Always.

In a fright, he looked at all the mailboxes. All names he knew. His was the only one, gone. He heard a rustle behind him. Mrs. Alberta–calm, unflappable, coming in to do whatever she did first thing in the morning.

“Mrs. Alberta!” He said, commandingly, “Something odd….can you explain why….?”

She went past him as if alone in the room, or more aptly, she went through him.

Panic began to tickle at his measured calmness. He called her again. She went out, a package in hand, no sign that she’d heard.

“Mrs. Alberta!” The voice was not his, but he knew it to be his. It sounded, however more like a high-pitched, squeaky scream.

He bolted down the hall. Running into and past countless co-workers he’d known for years. Yet, he seemed feather-light. No one was so much as jarred by his actions. It frightened him even more. He began to weep, tears that were not unlike that of a lost or terrified child.

He got to his (?) office and ran inside. Slammed the door shut. Relief surged through him. All was as he’d left it Monday. All except one thing…
..
There was a large book, open, weathered with age, yet still readable. It appeared to be a book of stories, more accurately, myths. Greek myths. Yet, as Spencer neared the book, he saw something was wrong. A large picture should have been on the page of the first tale. Yet, the picture was blank. Odd.

He looked at the story’s words. It was a familiar.

A beautiful young man saw his image in a quiet pool. He was bewitched and couldn’t look away. A nearby wood nymph Kyrissisa, fell in love with the youth, and longing to love him, was unable to leave his side. She pined away. The gods in their unpredictable and capricious judgment condemned the youth to be an image for all time…….all time…..

“I’ve never been real?” Spencer asked out loud, his head and heart full of what he now knew to be the horrible truth.

“Once.” It was the voice. Silvery. Like bells. Kyra….Kyrissisa. Spencer turned to her. Eons rushed backwards. She looked again as she did then. In flowing gowns befitting a wood nymph. He saw that he now wore the robes he’d worn then. White with silver trim.

“You knew it was me, didn’t you, my love?” She asked.

“Yes.” Suddenly, he did know. Centuries like days. Faces, identities swam before him. Achilles, Solomon, Arthur, Casanova. He had lived all these lives. And more…yet, always the same result. Always, Kryissisa had found him…….

“There was quite a wager going on this time.” She said, gently, a hint of sad amusement in her ageless eyes of blue.

“A wager?” He asked, confused.

“At Olympus. Hera knew I could find you. Bring you back. Father Zeus, not so sure. Especially when you seemed to notice me as a plain, unlovely secretary….we all wondered…could you finally love someone other than yourself?”

“More time…. I could have, with more time…..”

“No, Narcissus. Only when you saw me as someone close to your equal in beauty. Then, only as a possible ornament. Through the ages, you’ve chosen only beautiful ornaments for yourself. Only to use and abandon for something more beautiful…..”

The harsh truth of it hit him at a deep gut level.

“You’ll have another chance….in a few centuries….to redeem yourself……if possible….but now its time to come home with me……I’ve missed you.”

“Home.”

“You know where we’re going.”

The room was suddenly empty of people. Perhaps, no one had ever been there. On the desk, the aged book lay open to an old tale of eons before.

In a once empty space was a stunningly lovely picture. Of a wood nymph looking longingly into a pool. At an image of a man of seraphic beauty. Next to his image, her own, for eternity.

If the curious had looked closely, the pond seemed to ripple once…as if touched by a slowly falling teardrop of regret.

-30–

@LR 2009