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The International Writers Magazine
First Chapters

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

Chapter II
Chimes make such distinct sounds. From the onset, the sound seems interminable, or endless, and just when one begins to accept it as part of the background, it stops.

With the final swing of Ms. Opal’s clock’s pendulum, the chime ended and I thought that what I was feeling, that what I had just felt, would at last come to an end. Naïve.

On the contrary, the first time someone tells you they love you, is never the last. Over and over again, the words continue to be repeated. With each repetition, the magical and seemingly chance combination of circumstances defining that moment is recalled and revisited. The person, situation, time, and place defining that moment will forever lead us down an imaginary aisle in our minds.

My mind continually bears witness to a marriage between the unchanging sound and ever-changing significance of the words Ms. Opal was the first to ever tell me.

Those three words were a gun that fired and commenced a race with no finish or end in sight. In that dark place inside me, the measured stride and the slow trot of a horse, upon which my emotions firmly reined, suddenly became a fast, furious, uneven, giddy, gallop. That horse charged to the top of a mountain. High up there, on that mythical mountain, I experienced transports of pure ecstasy, joy, and happiness I’d never known.

To remain forever in the place where those words took me was probably too much to expect, but just the memory of that paradise would’ve been all I needed. However, it simply wasn’t to be. I’d be dragged down and yanked from that mountain by the same string of words that had led me there.

Forever, the announcement of her love would coincide with the shattering of the picture image she held of me.
The sound of her voice would evoke a searing sensation of pain that’d be quickly substituted by what I’d come to feel for her. It was a feeling, that for so long, I’d never been able to announce. There seemed to be no escape from this situation, for its recurring nature was just like Ms. Opal’s antique grandfather clock.
At twelve o’clock, everyday, the chime would sound and the pendulum would swing. For the next twelve hours, the sound of the chime would stop and the pendulum would cease to swing.

Ding. Dong. Swing. Stop. Twelve Hours. Ding. Dong. Swing. Stop. Twelve Hours. Ad Infinitum.

"It’s 12:01! I gotta go! My dad’ll kill me," I told her.
In slurred and syncopated speech she began, "Come over here. Gotta tell you something."
Pointing her finger at me and shaking her head, she began with a strained conviction, "You can love and hate him at the same time. One day, I said no more. I heard my voice and it told me to scream."
While giggling and raising her glass, Ms. Opal said, "Gotta toast. To life. To our lives. Together. Forever. Oh, how could I forget? To love. "

I raised my glass, replaced it on the floor beside my chair, and then slowly moved towards her. Her breath smelled of alcohol. Her hair was slightly disheveled and her lipstick was slightly smeared at the corner of her mouth. I moved closer to her, nervous about what would happen next. We were about an inch apart. Our eyes engaged. I saw the pale blue of her dilated pupils. They reflected a calm that mesmerized me.

Under the flickering light of the burning candle, she inhaled deeply.
Amidst the dark, dizzy, alcohol-induced disruption of my forming thoughts, I saw her for a tiny moment. Under her usual make-up mask, I pieced together her eyes, nose, and mouth into a symmetry I could’ve only imagined before.
Immediately, she smiled and exhaled at the same time. A rush of blood immediately colored her pale cheeks and the deceptively timeless snapshot of perfection before my eyes disappeared just like a scene lost forever under the closing of dark stage curtains.
Then, coming from nowhere and without warning, her lips gently engulfed mine. When I looked at her, I believed myself to be seeing the faces of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Madonna, Marlene Dietrich, and others.
My chapped lower lip now began to sting with gin from the Tom Collins cocktail she’d taught me to make earlier that evening.
My eyes quickly darted to the mirror above us. I could see only a face. It was that of a dead man I now hoped to become. James Dean.
Recollecting her face once more, I withdrew, unlocking her pursed lips from mine.

Preparing to leave, I took another look at her now open eyes and found an inconsolable sorrow. My fearful eyes began to trace the outer circumference of her iris. All at once, their light blue hue darkened. It was the same shade as the ink from my Mont Blanc fountain pen, a recent graduation gift from my father.
This immense blue then became a blinding myriad of colors, sparkling almost like an iridescent rhinestone found on a ball gown. In addition to their changing color, her eyes took on a glossy quality, like glass marbles.
As I collected my things, Ms. Opal moved towards the window. Numb to all that had happened, I finally made my way to the door.

As I unlocked it, Ms. Opal said tearfully, "Richard, don’t go. Even it’s only for tonight, I beg you not to be like the others. Stay. Don’t turn around, open that door, and walk away from me. Please don’t. I need you."
However, amidst her sob-muffled words, the slight tremor of fear in her voice made me turn around. Her calling my name and saying she needed me rung like a loud siren driving my heart mad with an odd, irregular throbbing of joy, confusion, and obligation.

Hypnotized by her fear, I forgot my own. I moved towards the black lacquer commode in the vestibule. A telephone and an empty red and gold carton of Dunhill cigarettes were lying on it. I rested my left hand on the edge of the black table as I picked up the phone with my right hand.
Hoping to get a better hold of the black commode, I placed more of my weight upon it. My left hand then suddenly slipped from the shiny, slick, slippery surface. If it hadn’t been for fancy foot maneuvering, I’ve fallen. Managing to maintain a somewhat insecure balance, I dialed, with difficulty, a phone number children much younger than I’d memorized by heart.
"Hello," I said.
In a highly concerned tone, she asked, "Richard, where have you been? We hadn’t heard from you since this morning. When are you coming home? Are you all right?"
Before I responded, I wanted to turn around and read the answers to these questions in Ms. Opal’s eyes.
Never turning around, I nervously responded, "Ma, I’m fine. There’s no need to worry. I’m feeling good. I’m at a friend’s party. I…"
Interrupting my sentence, my mother began, "Your father’s been worried. What should I tell him? Richard, when are you coming home?"
"Ma, tell him I’m staying with a friend and I won’t be coming home tonight."

Answering that final question, I placed the receiver down, as my mother asked where I was or how she could reach me. I couldn’t give them because, in earnest, I didn’t know, at that moment, where I really was. I repeatedly asked myself how I’d gotten to this place.

Coming behind me and taking my hand more gently than before, Ms. Opal led me from the dark. I followed her shaking shadow projected upon a wall to the left of the banister railing. At the top of the staircase, we left our shadows behind as we stepped into the candlelight.
The candelabra rested upon what seemed an ostentatious bronze Roman imitation of a three-legged round table found in Greece during its height, the Hellenistic period.
The positioning of the light, although at an appreciable height, was slightly below my eyes, forcing me to always look down towards it. Grabbing hold of a knob next to the round table, she pushed open the door.
I waited, thinking she’d walk in before me. Her body was splayed upon the door.

I looked at her face. A streak of cherry red lipstick extended from the corner of her mouth as though a child had colored outside the curved outline of her lips. Besides this, I continued to focus on her lips for another reason.
She smiled that strange smile I’d seen after class when she’d first asked me to recount my story. I turned away and walked inside.

Ms. Opal closed the door behind her. As it creaked and circled through its half-revolution, the tranquility I just rediscovered in the clear blue of her eyes became increasingly turbulent as every degree of light soon became eclipsed by a corresponding degree of darkness.
As the bolt of the door slipped, I stood motionless as a bead of sweat slowly rolled from the bridge of my nose to the ridge of my lips.
It was then that I knew where I was. It was there, in her bedroom, face-to- face, in the silence, locked away from the light, with only the darkness separating us.

Years later, I believe that Ms. Opal saw more than the alcohol-laced perspiration that dripped from my face that night so long ago.

In fact, standing here today in the New York blistering heat, dripping with perspiration, I’m more than convinced she saw me. In her dark bedroom on that night, having torn passed the peculiar smile that clung tightly to her lips, I know I saw her.

That night, even in our drunken haze, one thing was certain. Ms. Opal and I both experienced a miraculous moment of lucidity that forced us to see one another. Only, it was in the names of other people that we saw each other.
Some things, however, continue to remain uncertain. Could I, for example, love a person who saw someone else when they were looking at me? Was it possible to love only one person and no one else? Did I even know then what it meant to love somebody? Do I know now?

© Sam Nortey Jr July 2007


Chapter One here


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