Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 8
–Sorry thought Scene 7 had gone up yesterday morning. WordPress’ new interface inexplicably requires me to hit publish twice, and I missed the second one.
Brian left a note with his room number at the front desk for Nikki. Her anger came back to a boil as she read it: Come see me so we can get this house thing taken care of.
“It’s not a thing,” she said aloud.
“Excuse me?” The front desk clerk, Erin, glanced up from the computer keyboard. “Did you need something?”
Yes, she did.
She wasn’t going to get it.
“Just talking to myself.” Nikki lowered her hand to her side and crumpled the note into a little ball. If Erin heard the paper being crumpled up, she pretended not to notice.
Nikki went to the coffee urn and poured herself a cup. It didn’t smell right with the fakey vanilla scent in the air. She added a tiny plastic cup of hazelnut creamer and watched the coffee change color. As she stirred the coffee with a plastic stick, she found herself looking up at the photo hanging on the wall. The photo had been taken in 1901, according to the placard. It showed a horse drawn wagon passing in front of a store with a painted sign that said Miller’s Grain and Feed.
She turned back to Erin. “Where’s the library?”
With directions and coffee in hand, Nikki headed outside in search of the library. She knew she was avoiding Brian, but it was what she could manage. The coffee was old and bitter in her mouth, so she emptied it into the huckleberries. Hopefully the bushes wouldn’t frizz out from all the caffeine.
The afternoon had gotten chillier. She zipped up the yellow jacket and stuck her hands in the pockets. But the brisk three block walk helped clear her head. She liked how quiet and peaceful the streets were. Cars rumbled past her, but even they seemed respectful of the town. No one was in a hurry to get to their destination.
The library had been fitted into what Five Corners called a mall—a two story building with an art gallery on the left and a convenience store and craft store on the right. The library had a modern glass face that made it appear sanitized.
Inside, the quiet wrapped around her like a quilt. It might be new and shiny, but it smelled like wonderful old books.
A dark-skinned woman in a pink floral print dress sat at the lone desk that served as both reference and checkout. Her hair was plum-colored and she wore big white hoop earrings. Nikki cut across the room to her, her heels catching in the carpet.
“Maye you can help me,” she said. “Randy Southworth—you know him? He said there was a picture of—”
The librarian’s face brightened. “You look just like her!”
That must be a pretty prominent picture for the librarian to remember it. Nikki followed the woman to a small reading area, marked with a curious display. The remains of a tree trunk was parked in the center, rising to about Nikki’s waist. Above it, framed black and white photos hung on the wall.
Nikki thanked the librarian, then started with the placard over the tree trunk. It was what was left of the tree that had been used as a survey marker for the Chandler House. Her house. Please Touch, the sign advised.
She laid her hand on the flat top, trembling. It was cool to the touch.
After a moment, she pulled her hand back. Her fingers tingled.
Shivering though she wasn’t cold, she started at the first picture and moved through each one. Most of the pictures were of the town in the early 1900s, showing buildings as they used to be. There was little left of those places, lost to change.
The third one was of a man and a woman—her great-great grandparents. Elias Chandler, who built the house, and his wife Adelia. She stared at it for a long time, trying to connect herself to the people in the photo.
Elias stood stiffly, his hands hanging awkwardly at his sides. He was clean-shaven and actually quite good looking. Though he looked stern in the photo—that had to be the picture taking process—she thought he had a face that would be full of smiles. He was dressed in a dark vest and suit. Adelia was seated next to her, her volumous skirt spread out. She wore a long-sleeved black blouse with a high neck. And her face…
Nikki leaned in close to study Adelia. Her hair was dark, probably brown, parted in the center, and fastened in a bun. But the resemblance to Nikki herself was striking. It was like she’d put on clothes from the 1800s and had her picture taken.
Now she looked at the background. She wanted to look again, but she thought it had been taken in the house. Those were the stairs, weren’t they? And that was the piano.
The piano blurred. Her head pounded. Music played distantly around her, the notes broken in places.
Then it was gone, as if it had never existed.
- Posted in: Writing in Public