Near 500 words: TW and Sylvia

Episode 21 of The Writer

“Have you let Sylvia go?” TW (aka The Writer) wasn’t sure he was imagining the question until he heard Helen ask a second time, “Have you let Sylvia go?”

It was then that TW remembered the postcards. “I’m afraid not.”

“Then I’m sorry,” Helen said. “I was thinking maybe. But now I realize things aren’t going to work for us. Even casually dating. I’m not up to competing with another woman. I’m much better than that.”

She stood up. “Thanks for the breakfast. I’ve got to go.” Then she was out the front door and gone.

He paid for breakfast, then made the walk back to his house. It was a mile or so but it gave him some time to think. What’s moving on going to look like?

By the time he walked up his driveway, he had decided. The best thing was to keep busy. And the first item of his agenda for keeping busy was finding out more about Sylvia’s postcards.

Standing on the front porch, he opened his mailbox. There was only piece of mail. Another postcard from Sylvia.

Inside he sat down. On one side of the postcard, Sylvia sat beside an older woman dressed in red. The woman’s hair was long and white. The two were surrounded by children. Behind them was a Buddhist temple with blue and white and yellow and green flags flying above them.

On the other side was Sylvia’s short message: “The end of the rainbow. Shangri-la at last. Sylvia.” Then the ancient text below her signature.

As he looked at the  photograph of a smiling Sylvia, shivers shot up and down his spine. Then a calm came over him.

He sat the card down on the table, then pulled the box down from the hall closet. He opened the lid of the box. And the postcards were not there.

He searched through the other things in the box. Everything was the way he had left it. With two exceptions. Sylvia’s carvings of the robin and butterfly and the mustang.

He dumped everything in the box onto the carpet and rifled through the ingredients a second time. Nothing. Nada. The missing postcards and carvings were gone.

He sat staring at the items on the floor, then at the empty box, struggling to think what might have happened to them. He started questioning if he had put them back in the box. After several minutes of doubt, he was sure. They had gone back in the box.

He remembered his appointment with Dr. Christine Baxter. It had been for ten a.m. that morning. He looked at his watch. Two p.m. Maybe he could still catch her.

He grabbed the postcard and out the door he went. Thirty minutes later he pulled up into the parking lot for the social sciences and language disciplines. He locked his car and headed inside the white stone building and up the stairs to the third floor and Dr. Baxter’s office. He found her office and knocked on the door, then opened the door.

At her desk sat a pale, thin woman stooped over a text behind a wall of papers and books.

TW knocked again on the door and the woman looked up.

“Dr. Baxter? Dr. Christine Baxter?”

She slipped off her glasses and looked up. “Yes,” she said, her voice sounding like music.

Near 500 words: TW and the Postcards

Episode 9 of The Writer

“A horse. My spirit animal is a horse,” TW (aka The Writer) said, floating a foot off the floor in the arms of his wife, Sylvia.

With that, he returned to the present, dropping the carving on the floor. It was hot. Beside it was the mustang Sylvia finished carving the night before she left. Why had he left it in the box? Why hadn’t he left it where he could see it? Mostly because he wanted to forget.

And mostly he had forgotten. About once a year, a postcard came in the mail. He picked up the postcards and the other things and dropped them back inside the box and put the lid back on.As far as he was concerned, there was no use crying over spilled milk. She was gone and that was it.

Oh sure, he dated from time to time. Except for Helen, none of the relationships took.  He went to Helen’s wedding and then settled into his solitary way of life. As far as being lonely, he never thought much about it.

Then the robin appeared outside his house. Why?

He wasn’t sure why he did it, but he lifted the lid off again. He reached inside the box and picked up Sylvia’s postcards and put them in chronological order, the oldest on top. He looked at the oldest. A picture of Timbuktu on one side and a short note on the other. It was signed Helen. Under her beautiful script was a line of text that looked like Arabic calligraphy.

The next year the postcard was from Egypt. The pyramids and the note and the same calligraphy below her name. Then a third postcard. Jerusalem and the calligraphy again. Next was Petra, then the Parthenon, then whirling dervishes. Hagia Sophia was on the following postcard. On and on they went, each from a holy place. And each one carried the calligraphy below her signature.

Why didn’t he recognize the script below her name? It looked familiar and yet strangely unfamiliar.

Suddenly he was hungry. And not just hungry. He was famished. From the kitchen, Cat was meowing, giving the signal that she too was hungry.

“Okay, okay,” he called out to Cat. “I’m coming.”

He dropped the postcards onto the carpet, then headed for the kitchen. Outside the sun was setting. “When did it get so late?”

He reached into the cat’s food box and pulled out her food and poured the kibbles into her bowl. Absentmindedly.

For the next hour, he felt like he was sleepwalking, his mind elsewhere, as he prepared his food, watched the news and ate. Quickly he washed the dishes, then went back to the box and the postcards.

Year by year he laid the cards out on the table. First he laid them out with the photographs facing upward. They made a beautiful collage of color and images. He sat for over an hour, admiring them. Then he turned the cards over. He checked the postmark. All were dated the first week in April.

Then it hit him. One was missing.