Tongues of flame race down the curtain, into roiling crimson orange clouds retreating across the hard wood floors, returning their luster. The clouds condense into liquid fire, distill until they separate once more, embraced by shards of glass that crawl across the floor regaining the shape of hurricane lamp.
Leaping into the air, the now whole lamp whizzes within a hairs breadth of a man, raising to standing position, staring at the woman who catches the lamp in her hand, curling her fingers around the neck, just below the globe. At the top of her lungs she inhales a scream, "!dratsab uoY" She places the lamp on the small side table, turning from him, tears retreating up her cheeks into her eyes.
The lamp had been in their family for generations, forged before electricity found their first home. It has served as the beacon of hope on many stormy nights. None quite like that night.
Susan stood before the man she once loved. Still loved. The nail of her finger tracing the lines in the stone that called his name. She found it hard to believe it had been a year since his passing. Every time she came here, to his side, she thought of the night they fought. She ran it forward and backward, but knew she could never take it back. Would never take it back.
Leaves of various browns and yellows pinwheeled across the grass, grasping briefly at the edges of the stone, before letting go and allowing the wind to carry them on. A year had passed. She could not let go, though she felt the chill wind pressing into her. Their love had been one to cling to though.
Jeff was the last man she thought she would end up with. He was born with nothing, while she had everything. They were of different classes, but that meant little the afternoon she and her girl friends spilled giggling onto the secluded beach for a late refreshing swim. The beach was empty, but they all fell silent as he waded out of the water, body chiseled by hard labor in his father's employ.
That was the moment she knew that she must have him. He was not just another acquisition to be had though. With a humble smile he excused himself and walked away without looking back. Try as she might to acquire his attention, all her efforts were turned away. He wanted nothing to do with her.
She was used to people doing what she said. The servants at her family house. People that wanted favors from her father. They would line up to do her bidding, but not Jeff. It made her angry. Something he would continue to do even after they fell in love.
It happened one day when he was called to her family home to work on a stone wall, ringing the central flower garden. She stood in the window, watching him work, savoring the movements as he shaped the stone and the way the sun kissed his body. Her teeth worked grooves into her finger, until she could resist no further.
So intent on his work, he was surprised to hear her voice, but quick to retort. He had dismissed her as she would a butler.
"What makes you better than me?"
"For one, I am willing to work for what I want," he had chided her.
When her daddy found her later, covered in grime working by the side of a common laborer, he had no words for her. And none for the next couple days as he made arrangements to send her away for schooling, where she could learn to be a lady. She despised her father for what he was doing, just as Jeff was beginning to warm to her.
So many memories haunted her thoughts at what might have been, had Jeff lived. Turning from the headstone she left them there, among the leaves, once living now fallen and decaying, she made her way to the car parked on the driveway through the cemetery. She was going to be late, if she did not hurry.
"Mom!" they met her at the door, ushering her into their home. Her daughter. Her son-in-law. Their two boys. They led her to a comfortable chair in the living room, so aptly named. She smiled at each of their faces, each a part of her. All the regrets she felt earlier by the graveside, melted away.
Tim, the youngest of the boys came around the corner with a large wrapped box, his mother intercepting him with gentle hands, "Be careful with that. That is Gramma's special gift."
"Hap Birfday Gama!" he said excitedly, helping place the gift before her.
Separating the tape and removing the wrapping paper, a brown box sat before her and as she parted the flaps, her breath caught in her throat. There sat the hurricane lamp she had thrown at Jeff the night before she was to leave for school, when he asked her to run away with him, forsaking her family and all that was hers.
Tracing the cracks, now bonded closed, she smiled, and though of the feel of his hand as they had run across the yard to his waiting truck. How they got all the pieces, she need not even ask. How tends to work itself out when it needs to. No, she had no regrets.
This is a Magpie Tale.