So this spring saw me a bit distracted with some other areas of life that needed attention, along with a hefty dose of writer’s block. But I have been pleased with some of the writing I’ve been able to do in the last week or two. I thought I would share a little from my current work-in-progress. This bit has been written for a while, but it’s one that I enjoyed. I would love to hear what you think, so if you like it, or don’t, leave a comment:)
The walls of Anna’s apartment were bare, no pictures, no nicknacks. She changed into her jeans and a faded, cruise line sweatshirt, a lucky thrift store find, and hung up her uniform shirt to wear again tomorrow. She had moved into her apartment with what Camille had been able to give her: clothes, a bed, and a tiny TV. She had nothing else. With her first paycheck she had gone to the big box store and picked out a cherry red bean bag. It sat lumpishly in the middle of the empty living room floor.
There was already a well-formed dent in the bean bag and she settled into it, but the room was cold, so she went to the closet for an old quilt that Camille had been given. People were always giving things to Camille; cast off clothing, unwanted furniture, stray possessions to go with her stray girls. Anna carried the quilt to the bean bag and pulled it over herself. It had a pleasant weight. The cotton squares were soft to the touch – it had been washed until the fabric was thin and easily torn – and she rubbed it against her wrist.
The blanket was another reminder of Camille’s goodness, her ever present kindness and love, a light glowing in the background of Anna’s life. Where would she be without Camille? She knew the answer to that question, and at this moment, tucked in, quiet and safe in her own life and her own home, she bathed in relief that she was here and not where she might have been. She was stilled now, and quiet, the feeling of stagnation and hopelessless that sometimes haunted her was far away. She had been steered into a safe port, a quiet harbor. Sometimes the calm was frustrating – she felt like she was paddling in circles without much hope for the future – but most of the time she felt gratitude. She wasn’t sure who to thank, so sometimes she thanked Camille.
“You don’t need to thank me,” Camille had said, the last time Anna had called, and ended with another long expression of gratefulness. “You’ve done more than I have. You’re the one who has had to fight the good fight, Anna.”
“I couldn’t do this without you.”
“If I’m a help to you, then it’s enough.”
Anna smiled at herself when she remembered the first time Camille had brought her home, to the apartment in Houston. She had felt ill at ease then. She had lived her life in a long string of Houston apartments, but never one as nice as this one.
“So are you paid to do this?”
“Paid? To do what?”
“To look after people like me.”
“No, I’m not paid. Some people are I suppose. But this is just who I am. Come sit down. I’ll tell you about it.”
They sat in the living room, by the glass doors, and the tabby leapt into Anna’s lap to be stroked behind the ears. Camille sat down with her knitting in her lap, but instead of knitting, or even answering, she rested her chin in her hand and looked out the glass at the city beyond. Her blue eyes turned a different shade sometimes, when she looked thoughtful. They looked dark against her pale skin and her white hair.
“I have a niece,” she said at last, “my brother’s daughter, who was much like you. She had a dreadful life. I didn’t have any idea what to do to help her, but I felt it was a calling I couldn’t refuse.”
Camille was a widow, and there was more than one picture of her husband on the wall. One was always at her bedside; Anna had seen it there one day. “What happened to her?”
She answered slowly. “I don’t know. I lost track of her. But, I met other girls.” She cupped her hands together, holding onto an open place within them. “It has been a blessing to me, Anna. Though you might not think so sometimes. After Henry passed away – when you pass from one stage of life and into another, it leaves you feeling stranded at times. It is a disagreeable feeling. But the Lord has blessed me with my girls.” She touched Anna on the chin. “Girls like you. I can see it in your eyes, my dear. You have the desire to be a new creation.” Anna hadn’t known that then, but she knew it now. “You too will pass through, from one life to another. Don’t be discouraged, if it turns out to be a little harder than you expect.”
Lying beside her on the living room floor was a tall book with a cracked binding; an old children’s picture book full of nursery rhymes. Mother Goose gamboled on the cover in fluttering ribbons and petticoats. Anna reverently touched the cover and opened the familiar pages. It was the one solitary link that remained to her past. Her life before Galveston – before Eddie – no, she wouldn’t let Eddie define her life, before Camille. It had been a gift from her very first foster mother. She could barely remember her now. She had no photographs, but she could remember Helen reading to her.
Helen used to stop and wipe her glasses as the story progressed. She read in a shaky voice, and yet she never faltered. But for some reason that Anna didn’t know, and would never know, Helen was not able to continue caring for her, and she had gone on to another home, and another. There had been four all together, and her last foster parents had been happy to see the last of her. She had certainly made their relationship as unpleasant as possible. But sometimes it seemed so long ago that it belonged to another life, another Anna. The petulant, angry, impulsive girl had been swallowed up by the years that followed.
But she had managed to keep this book. It had always gone into her suitcase, year after year. She didn’t open it for most of that time, but now she read it almost every day. She quietly chanted the singsong words to herself, trying to remember the little girl she had been once, tucked in with her pajamas and her bedtime story, listening to a mother read to her. It was a feeling she had forced herself to forget, because it was too painful to remember that she lived without it.
Anna stopped turning pages when she landed on her favorite rhyme. There was an illustration of a little boy in slippers, kneeling by his bed and gazing out the window at the night sky.
I see the moon
and the moon sees me.
God bless the moon
And God bless me.
Camille believed in God. She spoke of him often, as if he were a real person. As if she knew him. Anna had never given much thought to God. Aside from an occasional prayer when she particularly wanted something, it simply never occurred to her to think about God. But ever since the hospital – no, she wouldn’t think of that.
She focused on the drawing of the boy on his knees. Did God really listen when people asked for things? She wasn’t sure. She wondered idly what Mark Powell believed in. He seemed like a thoughtful person in his way. He probably had an opinion on the subject. Had he ever knelt by his bed in his slippers to say his prayers?
She traced the crescent moon with her finger. She had always loved the moon. The moon would listen to her, when there was no one else to hear – that was just nonsense, but she had almost believed it when she was young. That’s what it felt like, when she tried to talk to God. It was like talking to the moon.
She carefully closed the book and curled up snug into her bean bag, It was nicely warm now, with the quilt wrapped tight around her toes. She could just get comfortable if she propped her head on her arm – she pulled the quilt up around her shoulders – she had been up before six o’ clock in the morning – and drifted softly into sleep, the book lying open on her lap and the boy fervently praying into the night.