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The International Writers Magazine
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Dreamscapes First Chapters

Opalescent Blue
By Sam Nortey, Jr.
An excerpt from his literary fiction novel, Thumbwars


As I turned around to change the radio station, Ms. Opal said, "I’m going to turn off the music. When I come back, I want to hear the end of your story."
It was later that same evening of her farewell graduation party. I searched my knapsack and found a copy of First Impressions, a story I’d been writing and re-writing since the first day of her English class. Ms. Opal returned to the living room and sat opposite from where I was sitting. Falling now under my attention was the barely perceptible heave of her chest. Under the faint flicker of the candles, I cleared my throat, looked down at the papers in my hand, and began to read.

"I know. I know. I know." Ms. Opal said, with the surprise of a detective who finally discovers his most helpful witness during a long, drawn-out murder investigation is the murderer himself.

Betraying the stern, upright posture she usually assumed at her school desk, Ms. Opal reclined comfortably on her red plush settee. The manner in which she sprawled herself over the sofa reminded me of pictures I’d seen of Cleopatra sitting on an Egyptian palanquin. Still, despite Ms. Opal’s air of serenity, it was her looks that drove men to war.
With her blue eyes, she now looked intently into my own as the subtle tick of her grandfather clock continued to signal the passing of what seemed a timeless moment.

Now staring at the overturned, empty bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape red wine beside her, I asked inquisitively, "What do you know?"
"I know who she is. The woman in your story the boy falls in love with. The woman he calls beautiful even though her smile’s fake. I was wrong to say she was made-up. She’s real and I know her name," Ms. Opal said with satisfaction.
"How can you be so sure? " I asked, shifting my eyes toward the mahogany bookcase.

There seemed to be a zillion books. I could tell she’d read all of them because of the bookmarks jutting out from virtually each one. Opposite the bookcase was a huge window with off-white silk drapes. Against the wall, perpendicular to the bookcase and the window, was the beautiful ruby red plush cushioned settee upon which Ms. Opal sat. Above the settee was a large mirror; flanking each side of the mirror was a sparkling crystal sconce, from which a candle burned. To the left of the settee were a huge grandfather clock and a Turkish tapestry with red and gold ornamentation set off by the darkly stained oak walls. Opposite the settee was a Biedermeier Austrian walnut chair upon which I sat. Each article of furniture, with the exception of one, seemed to have been carefully selected and contributed to create an almost perfect replica of an eighteenth century neoclassical drawing room.
Beside the walnut chair was a silver-colored, metal-framed chair fitted with simple singular strips of brown leather for the seat and backrest.
"Stop. You don’t have to play games any more. You’re no longer my student. Since last Friday, I’m no longer your teacher. I now know the name of the woman you’re in love with. To be honest, I think it’s charming."
"You’re wrong. This isn’t about me," I retorted with slight alarm.
"Oh, who’re you kidding? This story has been about you since the beginning," she said with a smug smile.
"Well, how can you be so sure if I haven’t finished the story yet? Let me at least finish." I said, looking at the grandfather clock. In the nearly complete darkness, I could see it was eleven o’clock.
"Oh don’t worry, my child. Night’s young. After all, got all the time in the world. Now, be a dear and make me a drink," Ms. Opal said with an unusual air of familiarity.
"What kind?" I said upon seeing her shapely legs dangle over the edge of the settee and wrinkle her black, sleeveless, satin, A-line, Jackie-O dinner dress.
"Oh, I’m not too particular this evening. Richard, make whatever you’re feeling at the moment," she said nonchalantly.
"Uh. All right," I said half-assuredly.

I moved to the liquor cabinet, withdrew several bottles, and poured her a little shot of gin with tonic and a slice of lime. However, adding a third ice cube to her glass did hardly anything to cool the one part –fear, one part-desire currently stirring within me.
Still with my back towards her, I made one for myself, still apprehensive that she’d disapprove of the drink I’d made her.
I resumed my position just opposite her. However, unlike before, our gazes were so perfectly aligned that one could draw a straight line connecting our eyes.
"Love, thanks for the drink. Just how I like it. Now tell me, why you chose that chair instead of the other one you were just in?"
"I don’t know. Is there a problem?"
"No, child. It’s fine. I never really liked the chair you’re sitting in. All the leather and metal."
"Looks pretty modern," I said.
"It’s a Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer. All part of that Bauhaus movement. You know, where an object’s function rather than its form makes it beautiful.
"Well, as you can see, it doesn’t fit in with the classical look I was aiming for. Disrupts the overall harmony created by the other pieces. Funny though, with you sitting there, love, you help to bring back that lost unity and harmony," Ms. Opal said.
"How?" I said genuinely interested.
"Silly, when you’re sitting in the chair, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. Even though I know it’s there, I can’t see it. You and the chair become inseparable. Always wanted to get rid of it, but could never get myself to part with it. Oh, if you could’ve seen the fit I went into when Charlie gave it to me."
"Because it didn’t fit the décor?" I asked somewhat confusedly.
"Well, yes. Charlie said with all of my classical tastes, I was trying to avoid dealing with, well, how should I say this? My savage needs and primitive desires. There, I said it. Can’t take it back.
"Charlie said I wanted beauty at the expense of how it made me feel. To him, even though the chair wasn’t ‘beautiful,’ it felt good and was comfortable. Much more than the ‘beautiful chairs’ in my apartment. He said the way the chair made him feel was more important than its beauty. You know what?"
"What?"
"I’d never on my father’s grave ever admit this to him, but there was some truth to what he was saying. All this talk about him makes me remember how he was with me. I shouldn’t say what I’m about to say, but with all that’s happened this year... What a year… You’ll see after you turn twenty, the years come and go so quickly. Hope they move more slowly in my forties than in my thirties.
"Already we’ve come to the end of the school year and I feel as though I could tell you anything. You’re like a friend I’ve known my entire life. Listening to you this year. Listening to you read your story. Haven’t even let you finish it, But, I see the person you’ve become, the person you’re becoming. And you know what? I just know I could ask you anything. "
"Ms. Opal, you trust me that much?"
"Of course, Child. You trust me, don’t you? What a silly question. Richard, I want you to feel you can ask or tell me anything. Anything, okay."
"Okay," I said.

"Where was I?" Ms. Opal questioned.
"You were telling me how he was with you."
"Yeah, well what he did with me was barbaric, passionate, and unimaginable, all at the same time. Even though what we did was never described in the novels I’d read or soap operas I’d watched, he knew how to fulfill one of my desires. It was the very thing I needed, perhaps the most important of all. He knew how to make me feel good. Since my childhood, it was a feeling I needed to have again."
"Anyone who can make you feel that way is someone you should never let go of. You must still be with him." I asserted.
"Long gone and short-lived. He and that feeling," she sighed.
"Hell," she said with a renewed animation, "this drink is strong. Making me forget to tell you what initially attracted me to him. It was his looks. How good a looker he was. As cute as they come. Looked like a Kennedy. Hell, he probably was. Certainly was a real beauty."
"There must’ve been others," I said jealously.
"Of course, there were. Let’s see, there was my favorite, Austin. He was from Tennessee. Reminded me of Hemingway, his stoicism on life. There was Philip. He reminded me of Louis XV. I was his Madame de Pompadour. How Philip loved life. You see this ring on my finger. No diamonds or anything, but just look at how she shines in the dark. Nothing beats eighteen-carat gold from Cartier. Ever since he gave me this, never taken it off. That day, thought he was going to marry me. Philip loved to lavish me with expensive things, but, in the end, he loved his wife more. One day, I saw it’d always be that way.
Oh, there was also this guy who reminded me of Robert Redford. I’ll tell you about him sometime. He was quite a character."
"Ms. Opal," I said, "all these men remind you of someone other than who they are. Can you tell me who they are without comparing them?"
"Before I answer that," she said, "Pour me another drink, Love."

I went to make her another drink and then resumed my place.
"Well Richard, that’s a tough question. Dunno if I could do that. Hell, in the sack, don’t think I ever saw any of their faces or heard their voices clearly. Their faces were people I wanted them to be. Their voices were the ones I wanted to hear.
Looking at her closely, I began "Well, how then do you see yourself?"
Guzzling down her sixth shot of gin, she drawled, "Depends on the day of the week. On Mondays, I’m Marlene Dietrich. Tuesdays, Grace Kelly. Wednesdays Madonna. Thursdays, Marilyn Monroe. You get the picture."
"Well, when are you ever yourself?"
"Hell, haven’t you been listening to me?" she quickly fired back.
Instantly becoming calm again, she continued, "Child, dunno what it’s like to be myself. Ever since I was born, people always told me I looked or sounded like this or that person. Hell, my own father would come into my room, climb into my bed, and fall on top of me in the dark. He’d always say I wasn’t as beautiful as my mom, but that I reminded him of some nameless blond in a porno magazine.
"See why I can’t tell you who I am. Given up on that question. Leave it to someone who claims to know me better than myself."
"Who?"
"The three-hundred dollar-a-week shrink I’ve been seeing every week for as long as you’ve probably been alive. Damn, with this last minute graduation party, can’t remember if I took my pills or not. Wouldn’t be the only thing I forgot today. I mean, it’s no wonder all the kids were looking at me so strangely tonight. Remembered my lipstick," she said smacking her lips for validation, "but forgot to powder my face. Good thing it’s dark so you can’t see me up close."
"Ms. Opal, can I ask you something?"
"Don’t know. Can you? It’s not ‘can I’ but ‘may I ask you something?’ Force of habit. Grammar rules I know by heart. Beginning to think they’re all this old maid English teacher will ever have to fill her empty heart. Oh my God. What am I saying, Child? You were going to ask me something, right?"
"Is everything all right?" I asked.
"Sure," Ms. Opal said with an unusually calm expressionless look on her face.
"Ms. Opal, may I ask you something?" I began.
"That’s better, child," she said with a smile that cracked the solemn and cold concrete expression on her face.
"Go ahead," Ms. Opal continued, "Anything, long as it’s not about me. I can see all this talk about me and my dark past is scaring you."
"No, not at all. Uhh. What I have to ask isn’t about you."
"Then, I’m all ears," she said, having served herself another shot of gin.
"You just said, a couple of minutes ago you couldn’t tell me who you were, but that someone who knew you well enough could."
"Who knows what I just said, but if you say I said that, then I did."
"Well, like you were saying, with all that’s happened this year, I’d say you know me pretty well."
Giggling unexpectedly and then raising her hand to clear the drool, she said, "Yeah, I’d say so. What’s your question?"
"Never mind," I said despondently with an undertone of anger.
"What? I’m sorry. What’s your question?" she said, showing concern in her eyes.
"Ms. Opal, I need you to be honest with me," I said with slight annoyance.
"Haven’t I always been? Believe it or not, tonight I’m obliged to be honest,"
"Obliged?"
"Yes, don’t you know that old Latin saying, in vino veritas? With wine comes truth. As you can see, the wine’s flowing. Go ahead. I promise to be honest. Scout’s honor," she said raising left hand as though she were swearing before a court of law.

Somehow authenticated by reciting that old Latin phrase, Ms. Opal regained my belief in her.
Less nervous than before, I began, " Like I was saying before, with all I’ve written for you, with all the stories I’ve told you, I’d say you probably know me better than most people. Who knows? Even better than I know myself. The last time you said you couldn’t do it, but I need you to do it this time."
"Will you just ask me what’s on your mind?" she said becoming more irritated.
"Ms. Opal, who do you see when you look at me?"
I noticed how pale Ms. Opal had become. I could see beads of sweat beginning to form on the arch of her brow.
Distant and withdrawn, she said in a matter of fact tone, "Well, it’s hard to say exactly. Hmm… Child, you were so natural when you let out that little laugh… And your face now, so serious with that innocent school-boyish smile. It’s a face you couldn’t put on and take off. It’s like James Dean’s been sitting here talking to me this whole evening.
"Why, Child, when I see your face I picture the face of James Dean. I see his beautiful face. It all becomes so clear then. Your life now, the future, all of it, so bright and then poof. Dark. Suddenly, it all goes dark. Everything’s faded to black. I can’t see you anymore. Your face is black. Dunno why, but I can’t picture the face I saw just a second ago. Your face is black. What a shame. Child, you could’ve been so great. Your life could’ve been great. But hell that’s life."

I looked at her and didn’t know what expression she saw upon my face. She’d just told me what those boys in the hall had told me several days prior. Did Ms. Opal really believe what those boys said to be true? Could she have meant something else? If only I flip a light switch and escape my fear of the answers to these questions.
With a confused look, Ms. Opal hurriedly placed her hand to her mouth as she turned away from me.
Immediately breaking the silence, Ms. Opal began, "Daddy, were you just talking to me? Was I talking to myself? Oh my God, Richard, was I just talking to you? I’m sorry…Robert…Redford… sorry…. Daddy, I’m sorry...Richard, I’m sorry…."
In a faltering voice, she continued, "Child, we all could’ve been great, if… if only we were beautiful…if only you could love me and no one else."
Now facing me directly, Ms. Opal quickly flashed a smile. I felt it was the first genuine one I’d ever seen from her.
She then said, "I love you. From the beginning, was you I loved with all my heart."

"Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong," chimed Ms. Opal’s grandfather clock.


© Sam Nortey Jr July 2007
snorteyjr@yahoo.com

Chapter Two here

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