(by WingsofAnEagle )
I sit by the window seat, staring out the frosted panes.Snow filters through the sky, drifting, floating, flying, falling.
It is beautiful... and yet...I sigh, and press my cheek against the glass.
If only my life could be as beautiful as it is on the other side of the glass.
I close my eyes and feel the bite of the cold. My fingertips are on the glass, and when I open my eyes again, I see the melted frost running down like tears.
I blink back the droplets that are threatening to tear down my cheeks, and manage to straighten myself.
"Lesley! Lesley, we're going to Main street to do some shopping!"
My younger sister Lily skips down the hall, coming to a skidding halt and prodding me with her elbow.
I wonder how much begging it took her to convince Mom to go out...
She gives me an oddly thoughtful smile... almost empathetic...
"C'mon, Lesley! Quick, before Mom has a change of heart!"
"Lily, I don't know--" one look up at my sisters hopeful face makes me change my mind.
I can't squelch her happiness, just because I've lost mine.
I used to resent Lily for her inability to be sad over Katrina’s absence for very long... but I'd come to realize it wasn't fair to be angry over that.
After all, Lily was rather young when Katrina moved out on us... and sometimes I wonder if she really remembers much of her. Besides, Lily has always has been a remarkably happy child. Hardly anything dips her into sorrow.. and when it does, it is incredibly brief.
I shake my head.
I've never been able to understand that aspect of her personality.
"Lesley..?" Lily pulls a piece of paper from her armful, and wags it to and fro before my face, in an attempt to catch my attention.
I swat it away.
I hear myself saying,
"Fine Lily, I'll be down in a minute."
She gives me a jubilant smile, and I return it weakly. She jumps down the stairs two at a time, singing with joy.
This is what it means to be a big sister, I remind myself.
She scurries away, and a piece of paper she was carrying floats out of her arms, and after doing a few acrobatic flips.. it does a face plant on the floor.
I pick up the piece of paper.
It reads in my scrolling handwriting:
Will I always hurt this way?
Or is this just a part
of healing the wounds
in my very broken heart.
It is bad poetry, but I've kept it all the same. I've always felt it expressed my feelings perfectly, and so I'd kept it under my pillow to be pulled out now and then to re-read it.
How Lily chanced to find it, I don't know. But she is quite the snoop, and I very much suspect that she didn't mean to return it to it's spot.
Perhaps this little piece is what made her look at me so queerly...
I tuck it into my pocket, reminding myself of the reasons why I shouldn't change my mind about going shopping with Lily.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER...
I sit in front of another window, this one more foggy than frosty. The city lights that are glaring outside are blurred and look like candies through the unclear glass.
I can see people walking briskly outside.
Even though they are just dark smudges, they seem happy. Arm in arm with their loved ones, they stop at shops to make some purchases or to look at the display items in the windows.
I wish that was me.
I'm looking at a girl around my age skipping down the street, stopping at a toy store to fog the window with her breath and draw a smiley face in the moisture.
She looks so happy... so contented... so untouched by the cruelty of the world.
But I guess that's just the way it goes. Some never get stuck behind the glass, but I will always be looking through the frost and the fog. I will always be looking out the window, watching the world go by but never being a part of it.
Maybe she to will one day find that the world is not such a nice place after all.Maybe one day she'll realize that life enjoys smiting out happiness.
Our old van's purr attempts to please, but I refuse to be comforted.
We come to an abrupt stop.
I shatter my isolated world and listen to what's going on.
"I completely forgot about the Christmas Parade they are having today," Mom groans,
"I'm sorry girls, but there's just no way we can get through this traffic. As it is, we're going have a tough time turning around somewhere and getting back..." She pulls out a cigarette and pokes it in between her lips, a sure sign she's stressed by the traffic.
Mom cranes her neck and tries to find a spot to do a U-turn.
Lily looks ready to cry, and I feel sorry for her. She had been in such a hub-bub... so excited to go shopping.
She's so much like me when I was three years younger... high strung and energetic.
We manage to escape the craziness after some hassle, and drive in silence through a quiet neighborhood.
"Hey, what's that?" I point at a angular old building at the end of the street. It is worn down and falling apart, but all the same a bright open sign swings in the window.
"Looks to me like a bookstore..." Mom says, squinting over the dashboard, with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. I imagine she is trying to read the titles on the bindings of the books visible through the large window.
At the word "bookstore", Lily straightens and a grin begins form on her lips.Yup, she's my little sister alright.
"Anyone mind if we turn in here?"
"Nope!" Lily says in a sing-song voice.
I wiggle uncomfortably, fighting a smile that is determined to light up my face.
We park, and troop through the unplowed snow, Lily bowling over now and then as she purposely wades through the drifts.
Lily grabs the handle of the oak door and pulls it open.
We step inside.
We all inhale, as if musty book smell is nessecary to life itself.
I find myself smiling... and it's not put on as a cover up, either.I blush as I remember the many times I've fooled my family with hollow laughs with no sincerity.
I look sheepishly down at my boots, which I had forgotten to wipe off on the steps. But the man bustling around with towering boxes doesn’t notice.
A lady sits at the dusty desk,which also appears to serve as a till.Her pretty blonde head bobs up and down as she copies a list from her paper onto the computer.She looks up and smiles at us, then her finger runs down the list till it stops near the bottom. She taps the spot, and ushers the book man over. She whispers something in his ear.
The book man whispers back to the desk lady, and then straightens himself. He smiles at me and begins to shuffle around the till straightening things; looking up now and then as if he's waiting for something.
Dirt sticks to grainy wood floor, and cobwebs sweep in the corners of bookshelves.I look with wonder at the bookshelves that reach the ceiling, line all the walls and stripe the room.
Mom clears her throat, and time seems to come to a dead stop.
The computer keys stop tip-tapping, and the man darkly tanned, grey-haired man freezes as he reaches to put a book up on its shelf.I stare at the bindings of the books on the shelf nearest to me.
"Sir, where would find--" the book man cut her off,
"Nahhh...not that. What you need is straight down that row, turn left, middle bookcase, second shelf to the top." He wipes his brow, and adds like an after thought,"It will have a ragged brown cover."
Mom looks bewildered, she blushes, and now she nods and hurries off in the indicated direction.
The book man turns to look at Lily, who is slyly opening a box on the lady's desk, mouth ajar, and her inquisitive blue eyes widened.
"And you," Lily spins around, and gives him a defiant glare, tilting her chin up haughtily.
His face is suddenly severe.
"Youwill come this way."
He grimly guides her from behind, like a convict being lead to her trial. She casts me a suddenly desperate look over her shoulder, her eyes now wide from fear instead of curiosity. I just shrug.
They disappear into the rows of bookcases.
I run my fingers over bindings of books, inviting them to draw me in. But they do not whisper secrets to me, they do try to convince me to enter.They whisper tauntingly to me.
They scold me for the year I've neglected my own books, the year I've refused to smooth the crisp pages of a book and devour it's story word by word, page by page, chapter by chapter.
Sometimes I used to finish a long novel in a day, even. But now... the only books I touch are for school.
I pull back my hand, disgusted.
I'd hoped the magic would work, just this once. But no, no book could ever lure me into the boundaries of its cover again. I've finished that chapter in my life.
I sigh, somewhat disappointed.Oh come on, Lesley, admit it.
Alright, so I'mverydisappointed...
I move over to a velvety green antique chair with a mahogany carved wood frame and legs.I sit.
A clock is ticking rythmatically, leaving no space in the room for thoughts.
So I just sit.
A ginger mouse scurries across the floor.
But I sit still.
I hear footsteps, and I look up as the book man treks up the stairs.How'd he get down there?The naked light bulb swings on it's wire above him as he thumps and clumps.
Now he's right in front of me, just staring.
I shift uncomfortably. I look up.
Our eyes lock.
I tug on the necklace around my neck, and gasp when the chain breaks.
It falls to the floor with a tinkle.
The blue enamel heart pendant lays on the floor.
Yet, I stay motionless all the same.
The bookman crouches.
"Lesley, right?" He asks, but somehow, I know there is no need to answer.
He's looking deep in my eyes, unearthing my secrets, discovering my pain and hurt long endured.
Or did he already know it?
He smiles softly at me,
"Do you like books Lesley?"There's a question in his eyes to. He's asking more than that.
"I...Iusedto... but now..." I shake my head, and drop it. I'm ashamed.
"I see." There is sadness in his voice.
"But the magic... it worked for you once?" He looks testily at me, and I know my answer really matters.
I think. I think hard.
I think of the days before it all.... the days before Katrina eloped and ran off with thatwickedRudy.
I'd never liked him, despite the fact that he petted me a lot. The gifts and sweet talk never won me over.
Then something had happened. A shadow seemed to reside over our house and everyone in it.
The was an obvious blockade between my parents and Katrina.
Then one day the note.
It lay on my bed.
Mom had found one too.
They professed that my she wasn't coming back.
She'd gone to States to get married during our vacation.
She'd run off on me... on all of us, and professed that she would never come back. And all because Dad had simply forbidden her to marry Rudy.
Katrina had left me behind as a sensitive, sweet little sister... but when she had tried to get in contact, she found me a bitter, avenging teenager.
She had pleaded with me over the phone to forgive her, but I'd hung up with angry, hurt tears clinging to my eyelashes.
She'd given up her family, so she could go without my forgiveness.
It had made me shrivel up inside. All my happiness had evaporated into thin air.
I wince, ready to cry.
No, no! Focus Lesley. Think of the days before..........
I furrow my brow. I close my eyes.
Mom smiled at me, " You're a book worm through and through!" I wiggled out of her arms, laughing.
"Sure, so what?"
She shook her head.
"Just like yer Daddy."
Then I had snugged down again and submerged myself in The Hobbit. It was such a beautiful book... so full of magic.
It all came back to me in an instance.
The words running like water off the paper, the places, animals, creatures of all sorts and people coming alive in my head, like a mini stage set for literature.
The music, the laughter, the angry voices bellowing out from the pages of books and filling the room.
It had been beautiful. Simply beautiful.
I sigh...and then there is Daddy...
My heart slides into my stomach. My Dad had been crushed by Katrina's rebellion. His lil' girl had run off on him.
Despite the fact that problems had existed between him and Katrina, he evidently never thought that it would lead to that. And when it did, he refused to show his hurt. Instead, he ignored everyone's presence and worked as if his life depended on it.
Oh yes, I remember alright, but it doesn't change things. I'm just stuck this way. Stuck behind the window.
The book man is staring at me, trying to delve into my thoughts.
Or maybe he is...
He looks expectantly at me, waiting for an answer.
"Oh...sorry, I just... I was just thinking..." I am stuttering, and I don't like it, so I shut my mouth.
"But do you remember themagic?" he asks.
I smile, ever so slightly.
"Yes, I do." I blush.That sounds like a wedding vow.
"Then I just might have something for you," he says it like he's known me all his life.
I follow him down the rickety staircase, and we weave through the folds of the maze, turning this way and that, winding between the shelves.
He stops so suddenly that I bump into him from behind.
We are at the very farthest wall, deep down below the creaking floorboards of the main floor.
The bookcase in front of me looks about as ancient as the book man himself. But all the same, it has a mysterious fell to it.
I smooth my hand across the exquisitely carved wood.
I wonder what kind of secrets you hold.
I look up.
The book man is looking down at me, a smile tricked into his wrinkled mouth.
This guy needs some grandkids.
But despite all my efforts, I smile right back up at him.
His fingers are caressing a hardcover book covered with fern green fabric. Gold ink stretches out in the corners, the spirals, twists and swirls forming flowers, leaves, the Sun, a birch tree, blossoms, nuts, and small animals.
In large, gold scrolling letters is the title,Anne of Green Gables.
The book man extends it to me. He is staring, looking for my a reaction.
But I give none. I just take it, and feel the embossed, gold decorations.
"The cover is pretty," I say.
"Yes, but the story is even more so. In fact, it is abeautifulbook."Then there is silence.
"Will you read it?" he asks.
"Maybe," I shrug, pulling over a stool. I sit.
I'll just read the very first chapter. Here goes...
I lean back on the bookshelf behind me, and I enter Anne's world.
FOUR HOURS LATER....
I closedAnne of Green Gables, snapping the covers shut.
"You were right, it is a beautiful book. In fact, beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it--" I realize that the book man is not next to me anymore.
I sigh, and smooth the cover, smiling.
I'd entered a world where a little orphan girl was friendless and alone, and watched as she found a family and the love she had always pined for.
Anne lived in a world far from our own. She was always drifting off into the land of dreams, fairies, and romance.
Anne unearthed the beauty in everything. Not just in nature, but everything else… everything in-between.
I once lived in that world. I once saw the magic and fireworks. I to dreamed and wished and loved with passion... I too lived with a joyful song in my heart day by day.
I look at the books lining the walls.
There is beauty all around me. How have I failed to see it for so long?
I know the answer to my own question. Katrina. Katrina and her husband stole my happiness.
I feel bitterness beginning to well up in my heart, but I smote it out.
No Lesley, don't go back there. Don't go back to those days.
I take a deep breath.
The musty smell of books... the smell of magic. It's beautiful.
Yes Anne, it is good to be alive.
INSIDE THE VEHICLE...
I look at Lily and grin.
Harriet The Spyrests on her lap.
The book man couldn't have picked a better book for her, hopefully now she'll keep out of my journals.
As if she's reading my thoughts, she glances up at me with a dog-like guilty expression fixed on her face, seeing the small piece of paper I had pulled out of my pocket and torn to pieces.
Even Mom has a book tucked lovingly under her arm, but I can't see the title.
I watch her sheepishly tuck a cigarette package out of sight in the pull-out drawer beneath the dashboard.
"I decided to finally quit," she says, as if it's always been on her to-do list.
Yes, the book man had found the perfect book for each of us.
Lily clears her throat, and I look up to see moisture gathering in her eyes as she lifts a another book that I had failed to notice.
In gold print across the cover the title,Little Women,scrolls in an elegant fashion. Centered on the cover is three blithe, young girls huddled together, likewise in gold ink.
"Is it a good book?" I ask slowly, trying to comprehend the meaning of Lily's strangely saddened face.
"Yes, it is."
"What is it about?" my queries are searching for deeper answers.
Lily lifts her serious face, staring with unusual empathy into mine,
"Three sisters... Meg, Jo, and Beth. And--" her voice cracks,
"..Lesley, are you okay?"
"What makes you ask?"
Lily casts a furtive glance atLittle Women.
"I do care Lesley, I just don't know what---how---"
She looks desperately at me, struggling for words,
"It's okay Lily," I smile warmly at her,
"I know you care."
She smiles, relief washing over her small, fair, freckled face.
"I'm glad you understand."
I can't help but grin. I read Little Women once. The small and sweet March family were closely knit together, each regarding each other with warm, passionate tenderness and concern.
I look out the window.
The glass is frosted over.
I scrape my fingernails against it.
And I smile.