Friday, February 20, 2009

An Invitation

I left that evening with a cookie wrapped in a napkin, sugar crystals gritty beneath the polished paper surface. Each breath tasted of honey and nectar, and I couldn't imagine eating anything that had been further sweetened. We had drunk mead with our dinner--a large but not dense salad accompanied by homemade bread. It had not soaked up enough of the alcohol and the clear glasses of water we had shared afterward had not completely cleared my head.

The sidewalk seemed to wink at me, flares of crystals that had floated to the top of the dull matrix. I wasn't stumbling, but I was humming to myself and thinking about sunshine, floating toward home without clear purpose. She fell into step beside me, dressed as if she'd just come from the office and smelling like refrigerated air.

Startled awake, I glanced over at her. "They told me that it was time to shake up the department," Fate stated. "They didn't tell me that you lived with the woman who destabilized an entire level of management before leaving for greener pastures."

"Is that an apology? I'm not really in the mood to care about them tonight."

"You're not? You smell like you've fallen into a florist's storage cabinet and I heard that you were both interested in the flowers that they keep behind the glass. I grew up around here, I've heard about The Pollen and The Sting. Don't you have a booth in there?"

She yawned and I noticed that her head was canted back, as if her neck had grown tired of its weight. Must take a lot out of you to spend days trying to determine which employees were goofing off enough to warrant firing.

"Take me to lunch tomorrow. I'm out at noon, after the last exit interview." Fate continued on from me, not looking back to see where I turned or if I grabbed a bus at night. I wanted to call my mom and talk about the evening, but I realized that she'd never accept what I was about to do. If there was a way out of the Garden, there also had to be a way back in. Maybe my human side would be enough to keep me safe.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thera, Thera, I Have Seen You

For the first time, I felt closer to my godmother than to my mother. Once upon a time, Thera had come here and taken tea in this room because her blood and mine were that thing which can't be spoken.

My host watched me take the tea again, watched the sugar and the warmth and the images tell me my story from down the rabbit hole, from the perspective of the people who watched it with sadness and a genteel appreciation for the exigencies of circumstance. "We were in love," my mother would say. Then she would rub another layer of lotion on my skin and give me another flask of perfume, unable to mediate the touch of my skin entirely under the greasy ministrations of gloves and petrolatum.

Like a rubber tire losing itself against the road until it is deflated, I had been running on her love alone and I am broken down.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

An Appertif of Memories

My hostess sat across from me on the low seat. When she moved some of the albums aside, I could see that it was covered in a fine lace that looked like it had been spun rather than knitted. She had cold sandwiches brought in, including a few that looked like flower-stuffed pitas. These seemed to be her particular favorite and she pulled out tiny blooms and ate them with the diffidence of a child sneaking candies from a bowl.

"I thought you'd enjoy looking through some of these." She smiled and petted an album. The sun had sunk until it had a straight shot through the upper sill of the window on the back garden and rather than washing out the pictures on the wall, their black frames sparkled with gold flecks, as did the walls. She noticed my eyes flicking behind her and turned. "This room used to be where we took Pollen Tea. The gold is supposed to resemble pollen grains."

I tried to drag my attention back to the album, but the entire room seemed to catch the light at once and I was dazzled by a firefly swarm of gold highlights around the room. Even the boquet seemed to have been sprinkled with gold dust. And the was like summer bloomed under the ficus, a warm summer evening.

She reached across and caught my hand. "Just give yourself a moment, dear. I forget that you're only half ours." I glanced at her, but she had opened the album before her. The first picture was a group shot, my hostess and her sisters along with a group of girls. One of them was my mother's employer, looking not one day younger than she had when I left a year ago, despite my mother's several decades of service.

"I see that you were...friends? With Thera's mother?" I realized that guessing ages is a fools game if you are the guest.

"Thera? I knew her as Cassidy. That is she, back when we were beginning to experiment with photography and human...things. She was so beautiful, a half-blood herself. But then, it wasn't mentioned then." She cut her eyes to me and a flush warmed me. The summer evening still smelled sweet, but the woman across from me had a scent as well. Not soft, but familiar. Almost like my father's scent, a compound of a dozen yards and a hundred flowers. Mom would hold me when I young and bury her face in the nape of my neck and I knew that I smelled like him. She was the one who gave me my first vial of perfume, a few days after he left.