Monday, May 24, 2010

Hev99 Week 3 Entry: Diving for Pearls

Hev99's Pick: Pic 2


Diving For Pearls

I stood staring at the small red house, my unrecognizable eyes glazing over with impossible tears as long forgotten memories tore at the embers of my heart. A perfect house, complete with white picket fence, skin- deep marriage and two point four children. The bright red wood paneling, which fronted the house, was kept in perfect condition. Every summer my father would spend a full weekend up a ladder painting it, keeping the fa├žade impeccable, just as he kept the pretence of a happy loving family.

The house was faded now, the paint peeling and falling away after who knew how many years of neglect. The once perfectly maintained lawn and flowerbeds were now uncared for. The grass had grown so tall that it was nearly at my waist, and the flowerbeds were so overgrown with weeds that it would take a skilled gardener days to clear them. But I could still clearly see it the way it once was.

Red house, white shutters, just the way my mother always wanted. The house my father provided for her, to win her heart. They were foolish; they ought to have known that a house alone cannot create a happy marriage, a happy family.

They had one great joy in their lives, one perfect thing that was the glue that held the family together. Of course, when the glue was removed all that was left were loose fragments with nothing to keep them from floating apart. So float apart they did, with no direction, no sense of anything really, anything but the grief that tore them apart and left me watching on helplessly, wondering what was so wrong with me that I could not be the glue.

But she was everything that I wasn't. She was little with long, golden hair that flowed down her back like spun silk, and perfect wide eyes the color of cornflowers in summer. Her wide smile could light up a room and frequently did, her sweet laughter ringing out through the hallways, bringing sunshine into everybody's lives.

She was sunshine and lollipops, sugar and spice, all the things that little girls were supposed to be made of.

Supposed to be.

Venom prickled at my eyelids in the place of tears as I recalled the day my father brought her home from the hospital, his eyes alight and gazing at her in a way he had never once stared at me. She already had soft tufts of bright blonde hair poking out of the blanket she was tightly swaddled in. My father had shooed me out of the way, as I tried to get a peek into the bundle of blankets, desperate to see what could be so special that he would look at it so tenderly.

I had gone back to what I was doing, playing with an old doll in the corner of the room, absent-mindedly moving the worn out toy while keeping my eyes fixed on where he was rocking her gently in his arms, the soft sounds of Pearl's A Singer crooning from his mouth as he steadfastly refused to take his eyes off her.

As she grew up, she proved to be everything that I wasn't. Every little thing that I failed to be - sweet, pretty, funny and good natured - she oozed, while I continued on, largely unnoticed, the quiet one, the one who always had her nose in a book, the one with the thick red hair and freckles who paled in comparison to her perfect sister. I shrank back into the shadows - the perfect place for somebody who nobody wanted to see - and let her shine, the way she was obviously supposed to.

Pearl. Everybody's favorite little girl. Immortalized as a seven year old with bright golden pigtails, cornflower eyes and the fluffy pink dress with too many layers, which she was wearing the day she left us.

The whole town mourned her as though they had lost a great head of state or war hero. Nobody used their cars for weeks after Mr Jameson's old rusty Ford Cortina hit her as she skipped into the road. It was the car's fault, you understand, not her's. Never her's. She didn't look where she was going. She went everywhere with that skipping rope. The skipping rope my father bought for her the day she impressed the whole town with her piano recital. The skipping rope he burned to ashes along with the broken up fragments of her cherished instrument, the sad moans and squeals of the strings crying out as he bashed it to pieces with his axe.

The dense smoke had filled the air, choking the air out of my lungs as my mum begged for him to stop, tearing at his arms desperately as he swung the axe at the piano blindly, again and again, his eyes unfocused and blurred with tears as he refused to stop until each and every piece of the piano was broken apart.

When the axe swung too far, the thick wooden handle catching my mum on the side of her face, sending her crashing to the ground, her hand clutched over her bleeding face, I knew that it was over. The fabrication of a picture perfect family had come crashing down around us as my parent's less than loving marriage could no longer hold up under the strain of losing one child and still being stuck with the one that if they were honest with themselves they would rather have buried in that tiny coffin.

I climbed over the low picket fence my father had painstakingly erected around the house at my mother's insistence. 'A home is not a home without a white picket fence,' she had teased as he came in at the end of the day, sweaty and disgruntled about what he considered a pointless and time wasting task. It should have been obvious right from those early days, two people with so little in common could never agree on enough things to make a marriage work. In fact, as far as I could see the only thing that they ever did manage to agree on was that Pearl was the most beautiful, perfect child they could ever have wished for, and that both their worlds ended the day she died. My fingers trailed softly over the dry, peeling paint of the blue mailbox that stood, leaning sadly towards the ground, the number 43 in white paint barely visible now, the letters and cards that had once laid within just a distant memory now.

My fingers trailed through the tall, dry grass, the soft rustling sound breaking the dead silence, which had shrouded the place since I arrived. I fought my way through the jungle of weeds and plants, which had all tangled together in protest at lack of care, and made it around to the back of the house where the old porch swing still sat, its joints rusted, creaking and groaning with age. I sat tentatively, my keen ears listening out for any sign that the old metal couldn't take my weight. My mind swam with the memory of another time, another day when I sat right here, my legs curled up and my chin resting on my knees as I stared vacantly out at the garden.

"Hello, Victoria," his soft voice had pierced the silence, as he came and sat beside me. The strange man whom I had never laid eyes on before, sat beside me and placed his hand on my arm comfortingly. The pain I ought to have felt at the death of my father instead hit me as guilt for my lack of emotion. When you lose your father, you cry; that's how it works. And yet I couldn't shed one single solitary tear for him. I was twenty-two years old the day he died, my last living relative, yet I felt nothing. Nothing but an overwhelming sense of emptiness that these were the people who had given me life, yet they never gave me any reason to believe that they didn't regret it.

This man, this stranger sat by my side for hours as I stared vacantly at the perfectly manicured lawn with the color-coordinated flowerbeds. He didn't say anything, he just sat with me until the sun went down and I started to shiver, my teeth chattering loudly in the evening chill. His body shifting beside me pulled me from my non-existent thoughts as he shrugged out of his black leather jacket and draped it over my shoulders. Planting my arms through the sleeves, I gasped at the coolness of the material inside. He had been wearing it for hours; surely, it should be warm from his body heat.

Finally dragging my eyes from the garden in front of me, I glanced to my right at the stranger who was perched beside me. He was quite tall with long blonde hair that was secured at the nape of his neck in a bright red band. Noticing me staring at him, he looked up at me, his eyes meeting mine and causing me to jump back in alarm.

"Y-your eyes... What happened to your eyes?" I whispered, unable to tear my gaze away from his compelling gaze, his deep crimson eyes boring into my soul with their stunning intensity.

His hand reached out towards my face, his fingers splayed out as they gently caressed my cheek. Everything in me was telling me to recoil from his touch; my heart was pounding in my chest, but something inside wouldn't let me move from the spot I was frozen in. An odd electric current seemed to pass from his fingers and into my skin, emitting out from the point of contact and filling me with a comfortable sense of warmth and safety that I had never encountered before.

"Victoria," he murmured slowly, his voice gently caressing each syllable of my name as his fingers moved into my hair, tangling in the abundant locks and running down my back. His eyes followed their progress as though it was the most important thing in the world to him.

My mind whirled with the insanity of the situation I found myself in. By rights, this man should have scared me. He was a stranger to me, yet here he was, running his long thin fingers through my hair and gazing at me as though we had known each other forever. And yet I couldn't find it in myself to be afraid of him. The gentleness of his fingers and the reverent way that he looked at me and said my name screamed to me that I could trust him.

"Who are you?" I tilted my head to one side, a questioning look taking over my features as his hand-gripped mine, bringing it up to his lips where he ghosted a kiss on my knuckles before looking back up at me. The coolness of his touch not lost on me, deepening the riddle he posed to my sensibilities.

"I'm the one who saw you when you were invisible," he replied, a soft smile lighting up his serious face. "My name is James."