Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Wish I Was Esme Week 34: Red Tara

I Wish I Was Esme

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Picture 2

I Wish I Was Esme's Choice: Both

Red Tara

They were tearing it down today, the summer house were I spent every waking moment at as a teenager. I knew it would happen one day but never expected it to happen while I was still alive. It was the place where I met the love of my life, had my first kiss and even where I lost my virginity. Back then, that was scandalous being unwed and sleeping with someone, especially without protection.

It was a time of great sadness, one that could kill you if you let it. The stock market had crashed and it seemed the whole country was in chaos. None of this had touched me, my father worked for the greatest president there had ever been, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I had the great honor of meeting him and his wife on many occasions, they had a peculiar relationship. She knew of his many affairs yet, she stood with him and supported him. As a young adult I idolized them, I thought that I wanted to have a relationship like theirs, but I was wrong. I didn’t really want a husband that cheated on me; I wanted to have that light that she had inside her that was ablaze even in the darkness.

The first time I saw her, I was fourteen. My parents were hosting a dinner and I was supposed to be in my room. But I wasn’t, I was on the stairs peaking through the rails, looking at all the beautiful women dressed in gowns. The music was loud and there were politicians everywhere, dancing with their young wives. I was jealous, I wanted to waltz with a boy who was going to ask for my hand, dancing in pretty dresses and putting on Mama’s pearls. I was so entranced with the beauty of it all that I didn’t notice a woman standing next to me.

“And who might you be, little one.” Stunned, I just stared up at the tall woman. “Are you lost?” she asked me, bending down so that she was at eye level with me.

Still unable to talk, I just shook my head, praying that she wouldn’t tell Mama.

“Well then, if you’re not going to talk, I’ll talk for you. My name is Eleanor, and I have a son a few years older than you.” She looked at me with a sparkle in her eye.

“Miss?” I finally drew up the courage to ask her something. “Why are you up here when there is so much going on downstairs?”

“Well, all those stuffy politicians annoy me. It’s nice to talk to someone that’s not mixed up in all this trouble.”

We talked about dolls, and dresses, and a lot of other things before Mama found us. She scolded me and took Eleanor back to the party. I didn’t care that I was in trouble or that people were wondering where my companion had been, all I cared about was that she talked to me. Someone had finally listened to what I had to say, instead of just getting a pat on the head I had gotten an actual discussion!

Life had gone on faster after that conversation. It seemed as if everyone and everyone was too busy to talk or even think. Two years had passed since that day at the party. My parents had started pushing boys on me, trying to find a possible suitor. I had been resisting the attention though, because I hadn’t found anyone I could stand to be with for longer than an hour. I knew Mama and Papa were disappointed in me. they had invited all the politician’s sons to parties at the house, hoping that I would fancy one of them. They were all stuffy and depressing though. We were leaving for our summer house near the jersey shore in a few days, and they were hoping to invite more people to come see me then. I was dreading it. All I wanted was to be left alone to sit on the beach and bask in the sun.

As I lay in bed that night, I wished for my parents sake that they found someone I could be cordial to, so we could quit this nonsense. Mama had been making me dress up everyday, and I wasn’t allowed to even tend to my own garden. I knew these things were to be expected of someone my age, yet I longed for my childhood. Longed for the days where I played in the mud with the neighbor boys, when they didn’t act embarrassed to be around me.

The next two days passed by in a sloth-like manner, slow and uneventful. Preparations were made, and dresses were prepared for me. I hated every second of it. It was as if I was living in a cage, only no one cared enough to notice my depression. They were too preoccupied with all their plans. I felt like the little child at a family gathering, stuck in the corner by myself. My feelings were selfish; there were families that were living in poverty at the moment. People that couldn’t afford food, and I was complaining when I had everything I could ever want, except happiness.

The ride to Jersey was long but beautiful, the green scenery refreshing. Mama was in the front seat with Papa, while I was left to my own devices in the backseat. I had brought a book with me that I had heard was good. Papa was talking about it with his buddies. It was a scandalous book that I felt I had to hide. Anna Karenina - by a Russian man by the name of Tolstoy. By the first page I had become enraptured. It was the English translation which saddened me, but my Russian wasn’t good enough to read a novel. Before I knew it, we had arrived at the beach house; it looked the same as always - bright red and regal. It stood two stories and was home.

It had been my sanctuary, a place to come in the summer and escape the reality of life. The hardships of life seemed to melt away when I saw it. My mom had called it the Red Tara, after her favorite book, Gone With The Wind. I think she liked to imagine she was Scarlet and from the south. Mama always did have a flare for the dramatics.

I quickly stashed my book in the knapsack I had brought with me. Then I dashed out of the car and into the house, my face alight with happiness.

“Emelia, don’t go too far. We are going to have brunch soon,” Papa told me. Then chuckled as he saw me race up the stairs to my room.

My room was perfect, it had a large bed and sitting area - even my own radio! There was a balcony that overlooked the gardens on the far end of the room. The linens were white, and there was lace everywhere. Sighing, I flopped down on my bed, knowing that it wasn’t proper yet and not caring. A sort of peace had come over me, like someone lifted all my worries off of me. I felt energy that I hadn’t felt in months come over me.

“Lia, come downstairs. We have visitors.” Rolling my eyes at my mother’s voice, I obeyed, straightening my clothes and hair before walking gracefully down the stairs. There, I met the most gorgeous hazel eyes I had ever seen. My own blue eyes paled in comparison. His jet black hair was messy and unkempt. Suddenly, I felt very self conscious of my blond hair and blue eyes, they seemed ugly compared to his utter beauty. This beautiful man stared back at me as if he was just as entranced as I was.

“Emelia, this is John, he is senator Nichol’s son.” Papa introduced us, then we headed to the dining room, the maid had prepared omelets and french toast. John and I were seated next to each other, and at our parents prodding we were soon in a lengthy discussion about my gardens back home. He was perfect, and ignited my senses in a way that no one else could. By the end of brunch, I knew he was the one for me. He was charming and sweet and the most beautiful man I had ever seen.

Over the next weeks, John came to see me everyday and stayed hours. We talked about the future and our plans. How many kids we wanted, where we wanted to live, even what he was going to study while I waited for him at home. He told me of the gardens we would grow. I decided that I was ready to be with him completely. He didn’t know it then, but I planned to seduce him.

However, he sidestepped me whenever I tried to kiss him, as if he knew what I was attempting. Finally, a week after I had started, I completed my task. We made love when my parents were out for a walk. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. We had finally become complete in a way that mated us forever. He was gentle and loving and made sure that I wasn’t in pain. We didn’t use a contraception, yet I felt confident that we would be married within the coming years so I didn’t care.

Meanwhile, I had noticed that John had started getting weak. He told me that he was under the weather, so I just believed him. What else could I do? Our love had blossomed into something great and we were happy; nothing was going to happen to him.

That was, until he collapsed at a party my mother had thrown. They called an ambulance, and I refused to leave him, even riding with him to the hospital. For four agonizing nights they studied him and took tests to see what was wrong. I stayed right inside his door, not caring what was ‘proper’ or not. I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, watching him fitfully try to sleep and failing.

On the fifth day, a doctor came and told me the news - he had lung cancer. I was furious, he didn’t even do anything wrong; he didn’t deserve this. Yet I stood by him, even though my parents wanted me to start seeing someone else. He would fight this.

And fight he did, for seven years he fought. We were married in the hospital when I was 18, and we had one daughter when I was 22 - Sarah, named after my grandmother. Shortly after Sarah turned one, John succumbed to the cancer and died. It was the hardest thing in the world, having to bury him, but I stayed strong for our daughter. My parents kept telling me that I was still young and could marry again, yet I refused.

He was the love of my life and always would be.

-sixty years later-

I came back to Red Tara one last time, to see it before it was torn down. Sarah had accompanied me, for I was in a wheelchair. I sat in my chair and watched as they tore down the one place in the world that had ever made me happy. Then I did as I always had; I kept strong, said my goodbyes, and left.