Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Snippets 30

Blow Me a Candy Kiss
by Joy Renee

part 4 (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5)

Iris saw her family to the door and after brief hugs all around and a few kisses blown to her sister, she closed and locked the door. She took the remote Daisy May had handed her and muted the TV to silence the white-noise which inundated the room with its belligerent nothingness. Then, thinking how wonderful it would be if bringing back the past were as easy as this, she pressed rewind. She wanted to re-watch the tape with the control in her hand, so she could relive her last hours with the girl who had been the first baby she ever bonded with, who had called her ‘Mama Too’ from the moment she started talking.

Candy Kiss was the nickname seventeen-year-old Iris had created for little Candice Kelsey Vickerson when she became her nanny. That perfect little baby had given her a thirst for motherhood that intensified with each passing month that her womb remained barren. When three-year-old Candy Kiss welcomed newborn Daisy May into her private day care, Iris’ joy was doubled. Briefly, for that same summer bright, vivacious Candy suffered a viscous allergy attack (her sinus cavities filled beyond capacity as she slept, putting untenable pressure on the brain) that left her in a coma from which she awoke, weeks later, with the mind of an infant and susceptible to seizures that often returned her to the coma.

She regained language and motor skills, but never the luminous promise of genius and grace that she had possessed. The only thing she retained from before was the ebullient love of life and unfathomable affection she bestowed on all living things. "When Candy hugs you, you know you’ve been hugged." Ron Vickerson would say of his daughter. "Even the trees stand taller when Candy blows her kisses to them." Carla would agree.

The two mothers had been college roommates and were both teachers--Irene of kindergarten and Carla a media-science instructor at the local college. So when it came time to consider the girls’ schooling they decided to manage it themselves. They designed the curriculum and supervised Iris as she home-schooled them. This had been so successful they had co-authored academic papers and magazine articles about it, and were working on a book. Inundated with requests for help from parents of special needs kids, Iris went after her Master’s in Education and began taking in students. Her day-school--held in the other half of the duplex she and Greg owned--had enrolled six to ten students each year for the last ten years.

The tape clunked to a stop and Iris was about to press the start button when she remembered her mother’s advise. How could she have been so callous? That she hadn’t given a thought to Greg’s ordeal this evening was disgraceful. Her husband and best friend gets such devastating news about his baby sister and she hasn’t had the presence of heart to go to him--even after her mother’s gentle reminder. She dropped the control on the couch and plunged down the long dark hallway towards the light and the sound of rushing water.

She found Greg in the bathroom. The shower was running full hot, filling the room with steam as it filled the tub with scalding water. He was stripped to his briefs and leaning against the wall, supported only by his forehead as cradled in his hands, against his breast, was the bag of Epsom salt. It was Greg’s habit, after a stressful day standing guard at the courtroom door, to soak in a hot Epsom salt bath with the room all steamed up. He had found it the most reliable way to relieve the muscle ache and joint pain.

Iris was awed by the singular starkness of his silhouette, by the stillness of his stance, by the enormity of the anguish enclosed by his skin. Her throat closed on all the words that came to mind, none of them adequate. Clouds of steam whirled and settled on him, giving his skin the sheen of polished granite and a glowing aura that seemed to undulate with a rhythm like heart-beat. She reached out her hand but pulled it back, fearing that her touch might trigger something cataclysmic, something she cold not control.

She laid a gentle hand on his wrist and almost jerked it away when she felt the throbbing of his pulse against her fingers. It was electric, conducting a tingle of vital need through skin, muscle and bone--straight to her heart, which clamored within the cage of her ribs in its attempt to enlarge itself to meet it.

"Greg?" Her voice was hoarse with urgency to ease his pain, her own pain coalescing into a pool of compassion. "Shall I add the salt for you:" she asked.

"The first time I saw her," Greg said, releasing the bag into her hand as if it were a newborn. "She was no bigger than this." Then the weight of it was in her hands, like the weight of a memory. She poured salt into the tub, and stirred the already wrist-deep water with one hand. When she touched one scalded finger to her tongue--it tasted of tears.

The steam in the room had saturated her clothes and her hair was glued to her scalp and forehead in heavy clumps. Sweat mixed with the steam, forming rivulets that stung her eyes and left a bitter taste on her lips. Unable to stand the way her jeans clung to her, she began to struggle out of them, so engrossed in her effort, she failed to notice Greg’s escalating travail and was startled when his fist swung past her, to crash into the towel rack. She blinked spasmodically at the buckled metal rail, reminded by its shape of compound-fractures.

When she ventured to look at Greg, his arms were at his sides, stiff as bone, his fists clenching and unclenching empty air. "Oh, Baby." she whispered. "Don’t." She laid a hand on his chest, light as baby’s-breath, yet at her touch he folded over and collapsed, sitting heavily on the rim of the tub, sucking air in fits and starts. She hovered over him, once more afraid to touch him.

"Whyyyyy?" His wail reverberated in the room, so primal a thing Iris felt her nipples harden and tug at her as if responding to the hunger cries of an infant. The water beat on his back and the tub half full, she reached past him to turn it off, but he grasped her by the waist and buried his face against her belly, stifling his next cry and the sobs which followed. As he shuddered against her, her womb clutched and un-clutched its own hollowness as though trying to enclose his need.

Instinctively she began smooth, rhythmical rocking motions, as she caressed the back of his head, the tautness of his neck. She leaned over him to place her lips against his ear and said to him, almost hummed to him. "Oh, my love, I know, I know." Her T-shirt had ruched up so his tears flowed hot against her skin and pooled in her naval. Still, her own tears are unreleased.

The shower, still going full blast, sprayed Iris’ face with hot substitute tears, but she ceased to notice, her focus, contained within the span of her arms, where Greg, finally quiet, still held himself firmly clasped to her. When he began to move his lips across her skin, laying a trail of kisses and kneading her back with his hands, she suddenly knew, with galvanic certainty, that this was the right thing--the necessary thing.

She kneeled before him, gazing past his contorted face into the glowing furnace of his eyes. "Iris," he choked out. "I need…I need…I need…" But he was unable to articulate his need and Iris knew this was the essence of it.

"I know." she said. "so do I." She joined her lips to his and with the kiss drew him to the floor with her, where his need was soon buried within her need--mutual need weaving them into a single entity that convulsed in the throes of birthing comfort. As the tub overflowed, flooding them with tear-warm brine.

Iris jumped up, starting to laugh, but bit her lip as she looked at Greg, only to find him grinning. "Candy would be the first to find the humor in this." he turned off the now cold shower. But iris still felt a shiver of guilt, thinking: Greg may have earned the right to laugh with his tears, but have I?

to be concluded next week.

4 tell me a story:

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