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Chapter 40. (Fin)

Chapter 40. (Fin)

Read Chapter 39 here with Cupcakemummy

In sign language you spell your name out letter for letter. You do this until someone gives you a sign that is specific to you.  Normally something physical or a short sign for the meaning of your name.  I R I S, I R I S. I practice it over and over again until my hands move in an almost fluid motion. The sign I was given for my name is a one handed movement meaning flower. Not the most creative but it will do I guess. I sign good bye to the very patient little old lady at the Centre for the Deaf who took the time to give me extra lessons.

I choose to walk home from the centre tonight because it such lovely weather out. The sun is setting later and later. Winter seems to be over. I soak up the last bit of sunlight filtering through the tree tops as I take my time walking home. It has been such a crazy couple of months and I am enjoying slowing it down just a tad. Just a little. Enough to take in everything that has happened.  I count the light posts as I pas them and in my mind I list everything that has gone so, so right in the last few months.

1 – Winter. I found a best friend in a person I have never met. Winter might be over but my Winter, has just begun.

2 – Mark. Turns out letting people in will hurt. But for a select few the hurt is worth it. His love and affection is worth every little bit of hurt it could ever cause. Because someone along the line it will hurt. Something will break and we will have to put it back together. I have found the person I am willing to break, bend and be put together again for.

3 – Feathers and Fur. My swearing ass wrote a children’s book. Every word in there came from my drunken heart.  I miss those boys every day and I know my life would have been much different if they were still with us. But for the first time I am starting to believe that it can still be a good life. A life worth living.

4 – The stupid dog finally likes me. He even did “Hand Shake” with me this morning.

5 – I remembered to buy roll on and have been shaving my legs everyday this month.

6 – I can taste food again. I know this sounds silly but for so long my life was…grey. It had no joy. Or maybe it did I just refused to feel any of it. For the first time years I taste the sour of a lemon and pull my face, the bitter taste of good wine. The saltiness of oysters as Mark fed them to me. I taste things now.

7 – Writing. I am thankful for finding my voice again. my written voice. It may rhyme in children’s books but I still have it. People still want to read what I write and I wonder if anything will ever compare to that feeling.

I turn into my street and stop counting. Its getting darker and the street lamps flicker as they come on.  They light my last little path home.

***

I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down by the dining room table and pull my laptop closer. I saw there was a mail from Winter earlier but didn’t want to read it in class. The launch is at Mateo’s tomorrow and she has set it all up. Great. I was so hoping this would all come together.

Email : To Winter

From: Iris

Subject: One last time.

My dearest,

 

Paperwork has been sorted, the books go to shelves tomorrow across the country. I will courier a box for display purposes over to the restaurant in the morning.

Winter we did it. We are launching a children’s book and its the first of at least 3. I have never worked with an illustrator like you and for as long as I have you I will never work with anyone else ever again. Even if I write a sequel to T.I.T.S.

I mean it Winter. You made this book possible.

All my love.

See you tomorrow.

Iris.

I close my laptop and set my alarm for 8am.

***

BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ

Its so early even the dog doesn’t want to get up. But the excitement washes over me as I stretch. ITS LAUNCH DAY!  I stretch so wide I accidently push the dog over the edge and its safe to say he is awake now.

The books have been sent to the venue, everything is ready but me. Today has been a haze of last minute arrangement flowers being sent around and congratulatory phone calls. My family got the books. They were thrilled. Now everything is ready but me. I have gone through everything in my cupboard and nothing works or looks right and just as I have given up all hope of looking hot tonight Mark knocks on the door. He plants a kiss on my nose and hands me a beautiful bunch of flowers. Long stem blue irises. Stunning. He pulls out his other hand and is holding the most gorgeous blue dress I have ever seen. It is perfect! I was going to argue and do the whole “How did you know” but there is no time. Mark laughs at me as I try to get dressed mid run back to my bedroom.

Heels on, out the door. This is it. My hear is pounding so fast I can’t believe Mark doesn’t stop the car to ask what that “doef” sound is.

We pull up to the restaurant and I take one last deep breath in. My life as I know it is about to change.  A teary Mama meets me at the door. I was so afraid of seeing them after the whole debacle. But the hug and kiss prove my worries were unwarranted.

Before heading out to the crowd the Mateo’s and I step into the kitchen.

“Iris, we love you. We always have. Please know that.” Papa says as he points up to the wall above the arch way to the open dining room. Right there on the wall is the book I sent them. Framed up with the page of the inscription open.  I walk over and softly touch the glass. I tried to thank them but my voice is replaced with tears. Of all hugs in the history of hugs I think this one is the hug novels were written about. They squeezed every bit of fear and sadness out of me. Papa gives me a handkerchief to dry my tears and I take a few seconds to compose myself before I head into the dinning room.

In the far corner of the room I see Michael his tall head.  Next to him is a fury of red curls in a white dress.  She is bouncing up and down as she is signing something.  She is short and I can see so much of her words in her. Like he drawings she is whimsical. Covered in beautiful tattoos.  Like her emails she wears a kind smile but seems a little all over the place. I love it. I love her.

I tap on her shoulder and her red curls bounce as she turns around to face me. It takes all my courage but I lift my hands and sign, I R I S. And smile.

I can her eyes are as wet as mine.

She takes my hands and squeezes them tightly while she says

“ I am winter”

 

Chapter 38.

Chapter 38.

Read Chapter 37 here with cupcakemummy

Phillip squeezes my hand as I lean down to give him a kiss on his forehead.  His dark hazel eyes give away that he was a handsome man when he was…whole. There is a striking resemblance between the two brothers. Both tall, lean and olive skin. His sparkled when he saw Mark come in the room. I can tell how much these two care for each other. I stand back after I great Phillip and watch Mark say goodbye to his big brother. He high 5’s him like a real guy and the pulls him closer for a deep hug.  The embrace holds tight for a few seconds until Phillip burst out laughing. Deep good laughter, like a small child. Then I realise Mark was tickling him with his free hand. He was right. Mark was right. His brother is happy. Honest good happiness.

Mark settles his brother down and plants a gentle kiss on his head. It makes me fall deeper and deeper in love with him. We leave the recreational area and I follow Mark to the reception, he slides his hand into mine and squeezes it tightly. He greets each of the ladies at reception by name and introduces me to them. One of the older ladies came to the front of the counter to give Mark a hug and a big kiss. They really like him around here.

Mark pays for his brother’s care and has for years. Ever since his parents past away. How did I even get so lucky to have this man in my life? He has been taking hourly work as tech support at the office to be able to afford this. That is how he ended up helping Pam out with her computer. Not once have I heard him complain. Not a single word. The lady that came to the front of the counter, softly asked him how he is coping and he just smiled and gave her a kiss. He replied in a low voice that he will be fine and he is dealing with insurance but it’s not looking to great. Mark tells me to wait there he will go fetch the car. It is raining outside and I imagine Winter is loving today’s weather.  I give him a faint smile and nod in agreement. The minute he is out the door I let my curiosity get the best of me and ask. “I know it’s none of my business, but I overheard what you said. Is Phillips car in trouble?” She walks to the counter and leans over as she tells me; “His care is no longer being covered by Marks insurance. You see they changed their policies and now cover only his chronic meds and not his day to day care. Mark has been paying it cash ever since” She has real concern in her voice.  “I see, thank you.” Is all I manage to get out as I head for the door, Mark is outside with the car running.

***

It’s been 2 weeks since I told the Mateo’s about Winter. They haven’t made contact yet but I still want the launch to be hosted at their restaurant. I am hoping Winter can make it happen for us. I don’t know why they haven’t contacted me but I won’t push. I miss them though. And the bread.

Mark dropped me off after this morning’s visit and said he had work to do. I didn’t question it. But I have spent enough of my life sucking happiness out of the atmosphere. I spent all these years believing I cannot be happy nor can I ever add joy or care to the world but I can. I know I have something to give and this time it’s easy. Even if Mark and I end up taking different paths in life I will forever be grateful for him showing me I have so so much to be thankful for. I have no right to be this angry with the world. I feel ashamed for all the self loathing.

I brush the dogs head as I open my laptop. The kettle whistles signalling its ready to make some coffee. I step over the dog, now napping on the tiles and make myself a cup of coffee.  I miss the Mateo’s biscottis.

I settle down on by the counter and pull my open laptop closer to get cracking on a few mails.

Email : To: Juliet

From: Iris

Subject: Phillip’s care

Hi Juliet, thank you for the kind reception at today’s visit with Phillip. I was hoping you could take care of something for me. You see, meeting Phillip was a privilege and he is so utterly happy at your care facility. I firmly believe Phillip deserves the best possible care, and you, are the best.  Such a special soul.

I phoned your financial department earlier and have settled his care indefinitely. Please find proof of payment attached.

Phillip has taught me that being child like happy is ok. For a long time I felt my happiness will hurt those around me. Turns out, it’s not true. What is true is that Phillip can laugh like I have never heard anyone laugh and that is rather sad. Sad that people do not laugh like that anymore. Life too often gets in the way and I am making a conscious effort to push it out of the way again. If I fail to do it for myself, I can be calm in the fact that I have been able to help Phillip.

I trust you will keep this confidential.

Please give Phillip a kiss for me.

All my love,

Iris.

Finally my T.I.T.S did some good. I knew that money would come in handy one day. I always thought I would spend my savings on something adventurous. An extravagant holiday, or an expensive house. I was right about one thing though. It did enrich my life.

One idea down, one to go.

Email: To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: Its time.

Winter my darling,

It feels like ages since we spoke. I miss you.

I met Marks brother and he is amazing. I will tell you all about it someday. You will like him. He is special. In every single way.

How are the Mateo’s? I haven’t heard from them yet. Ill admit it scares me a little. I figured not everything could work out in the end. Not very Iris-like at all wouldn’t you say?

Listen we need to talk about the launch. I am wrapped up in paper work for the export of the last few boxes would you mind helping out? Just a few media and close friends. I was really hoping we could do it at the Mateo’s. Its such a great little venue and well, you know how well it suits our book.

I am so so thankful I got to work with you on this project. Turns out you were part of the story all along.

Speak SOON.

Iris.

I hit send and walk to the kitchen to put my mug in the sink. I really hope she is willing to help on the launch. She is better at making things pretty than I am. But I am working to change that.

I glance at the clock in the kitchen and do a little double take when I realise I am 10 minutes late for my class.

 

 

Chapter 36.

Chapter 36.

Read chapter 35 here with Cupcakemummy 

Winter outside and Winter inside my heart. I read her mail late last night and shouldn’t have. I should have known it would lead to a night of tossing and turning.  Somewhere around 3am I grabbed my ipod and put it on shuffle. Music, much like bread, tends to make things better.

The universe has a strange sense of amusement I think as Rebel Beat by the Goo Goo Dolls starts playing.

“We keep heading in the same direction
You become my own reflection
Is that your soul that you’re trying to protect
I always hoped that we would intersect, yeah

Give me time to cope and time to heal
Time to cry if its what you feel
Oh, life can hope, when it gets too real
I can hold you up when its hard to feel

Alive, alive
Alive is all I wanna feel
Tonight, tonight
I need to be where you are
I need to be where you are”

When I need music as distraction it ends up explaining my thoughts and feelings better than I ever could. And I call myself a writer? If you ask me real writers add lyrics to a melody. That is art.

Winter is angry at the Mateos. I knew it was coming and I know I shouldn’t feel so involved in their relationship but I can’t help it. Have I taken a second child away from them? I shake away that notion as I vowed to Mark I would stop blaming myself for shit.

Mark.

Well, he ended up being one of those don’t judge a book by its cover cases. He cooked me dinner last night and we played scrabble. He lost. Horribly. In fact it’s hard to believe the man works in publishing.  He even tried to put in “Italian” words. I googled. They were totally made up but it was fun. I laughed. I haven’t laughed in a while. He made chicken and some fancy salad last night. Every so often he would toss a piece lettuce to the dog. I had no idea my dog liked lettuce so much. Vegetarian dog? Is that a thing? I am enjoying getting to know mark more. All the little things you only get to know when you really look a person. I mean really look at him. He is marvellous.

Why does the good always have to come with the bad? I get life is pretty unfair but it just seems cruel. To be happy and sad at the same time. There should be a word for that. Sappy. Sad and happy = Sappy.  I roll over and look at my alarm clock and its already 6am. I fill my cheeks and lungs with air and dive beneath my duvet. I would be able to pull it over my head of my vegetarian dog wasn’t asleep at my feet.

I prop up in my bed and shove a pillow behind my back and drag another closer to balance my laptop on. I flip it open and start typing the gibberish in my head.

Email: To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject. Ships in the night.

Oh Winter,

Forget about me for a minute, I knew you were close to the Matheo’s and my heart aches for you. I do not know why they didn’t tell you about their son. Maybe it hurt too much. You filled a void that they must have thought would be an empty hole forever.

Please don’t shut them out. I will help you. I will help you fix this. I promise. Please trust me. I know I might not deserve your trust but I am asking anyway.

I know what to do. I will tell you in due course.

Speak soon.

Iris.

I jump out of bed and grab a copy of Feathers and Fur, the first box for autographing came yesterday. I open it up and start writing on the inside of the cover page.

Mama & Papa

We never speak of Antonio. I have said sorry more so many times the word has lost its weight and value. Little fragments of my soul drowned with those boys that day. I have written a childrens book in their honour. Their light little lives deserve to live on. In these pages you with find Antonio reincarnated as a little duck. A little duck whose friendship was so strong with a kitten, that he followed the kitten into another life. A wonderful whimsical life with no hurt or sadness. A cheerful life. That same life you created for Winter. She illustrated these pictures and now knows the truth about who the book was written about. Winter brought something back into your life that left the day the little duck flew away. Please don’t let Winter fly away when she needs you most. She does not understand your silence about your son all these years. I have no place in judging your actions or motives. But I plead; please let Winter feel the warmth of your love that she has gotten to know over the years. She told me all about your history.

Please channel disgust and hurtfulness towards me. I am the one who wrote this story. Winter simply brought it to life. As she does with everyone whose path she crosses.

All my love.

Iris.

I wrap the book in brown paper and tie a little red string around it to form a bow on the top. I put the Mateo’s book aside and grab another copy.

Dearest Winter,

Thank you for teaching me it’s ok to let people in. Not all of them break things and leave. Some come and fix things that were broken ling before their arrival. If I never get to hug you, please know that this was all thanks to you. What you are holding in your hand right now is because of you. If you didn’t push me in the right direction and showed enthusiasm when all I felt was defeat, this would have never happened. Your name might be cold, but I assure you, your heart is the warmest I have ever had the privelage of knowing.

All my love. Always.

Iris.

I turn the page around to see the inscription page I had printed for Winter as a surprise.

“Written for friends. Where ever they are. In all seasons”

 

Chapter 34.

Chapter 34.

Read 33 here with Cupcakemummy

 

Standing in my bathroom scratching for a clean towel for Mark. Why did he have to come over? I don’t feel like seeing him or hearing what he has to say. Even if his actions are justified and I was just being a bitch. Not now. I don’t care. I grab an old yellow towel from the top shelf. And head to the kitchen where he is dripping all over the place. There is an actual puddle around his feet and the dog thinks it’s the newest fashion in water bowls and slurps up the water as if he has been dehydrated for weeks. I hand mark the towel and put avoid going into the kitchen out of fear that he will insist on staying for coffee.

I watch him dry himself off. He takes off his drenched jacket and folds it over a bar stool. Then he pats the towel around his the back of his neck. The towel makes its way to his very wet hair and he gives it a half hearted rub before he puts the towel on the puddle of water he has brought in with him.  The dog looks displeased.

Mark : Iris, I am done pleading. Let me be clear about this. I won’t apologise for your own stubbornness.  I have put it out there, I like       you. All of you. But I am starting to thing you are a hell of a lot more complicated than I could fathom…

Me: Mark just…

Mark: No. Keep quiet for one minute and let me speak. The second you are not in complete control of a situation you freak out, close up and run. You cannot spend your life an emotional nomad. Put away your tent and build a bloody house for god’s sake. It doesn’t have to be with me but I cannot stand by and watch you ruin yourself any longer.

Me: Just shut up. It’s so easy to stand there and pretend you know me. You don’t. I am sorry I wasted your time.

Mark: Oh please, Iris if you think you are doing yourself a favour by shutting out one more person you are gravely mistaken you stupid girl. What happened to you? What made you this bitter? This brilliant? This broken? Tell me.

Me: Why should I tell you? You will do one of two things. You will either spontaneously morph into a therapist or you will walk out that door. Either way ends in me regretting me telling you anything more about me.

Mark: You are a selfish bitch Iris. What more must I do to spell it out that I am in love with you,  you narcissistic cow. Now stop trampling on my heart. It already drowned today. Tell me your story Iris. All of it.

He walks into the kitchen and puts the kettle on. As if he has been invited to make himself at home. His sharp tone took me by surprise. I didn’t expect him to be this stern. It makes me want him more and I throw caution out the half open kitchen window and sit down by the counter. One day I will have to tell whoever is brave enough to put up with me about it so I might as well practice with Mark. Judging by his reaction I can twist and tweak the way I tell it. Maybe one day I will be able to tell it in such a way that it stops provoking sympathy.

I take a deep breath. Walk over to the kettle where mark is pouring milk into our coffees. I take both mugs and look back over my shoulder to instruct him to bring the towel. He follows me to the couch with the yellow towel. I take it from him to throw over the radiator for it to dry.

I tell Mark about everything. My brother, the Matheos, the day at the pool. The years that followed and all the repercussions of losing a sibling. The words that leave my mouth are more rounded and soft than usual. I tell the story in detail. I explain about the children’s book. The duck and the cat and before I know it its 2 hours later.

I said it.

Mark barely spoke a word except for the occasional “where” or “How”. His expression is unreadable and I imagine him being very good at poker. He turns to face me, and I brace myself for the shame-routine. I gently remind myself people don’t understand and immediate always turn to “it’s not your fault”. But mark still looks blank. Did I scare him that much? A puzzled look creeps onto my face as he reaches into his pants pocket and takes out his wallet. I can feel my forehead wrinkle with confusion. He opens up his wallet to reveal an old photograph of a young man standing by a car. A dusty old Ford.

Mark : That’s my brother, Phillip. He didn’t die. After he rolled the car driving us home from high school  he is now in a home in the town where my parents live.  He didn’t die. He is half the man he used to be because of an accident. I use to feel he was stuck. I did the unthinkable and wished him dead. For him to be free. But I was so wrong. He might not be the same man he was before, but he is still my brother and he still feels joy. Why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t you Iris?

It’s as if my whole universe stopped for a split second. I feel so selfish and ashamed and I had the audacity to tell him he doesn’t get it.

***

Its early morning now and I slide Marks arm into the his Jacket. We spent the night talking about Phillip. About my brother. All of it. Just like life to surprise you you know? He slips out the door and I feel comfortable with everything. With him mostly.

I have been avoiding my emails in dread of Winters response.  When I open her mail the one line is pretty good indication that she means business. Since I am feeling brave, I repeat my story for the second time in 24 hours. God my therapist would be proud.  Couldn’t speak of it for so many years and now it bring it up twice in one day (Well, almost).

I console myself in the fact that Winter is a paid employee and if she hates me at least I have her drawings to comfort me. I lie to myself repeatedly telling myself she is not a friend. She is not a friend.

I tart the mail off slowly. Telling her about my brother again. telling her the full names of the parties involved and telling her about my guilt. My fingers dance across the keyboard almost knowing what to say before my head does.

I hit send.

Please don’t hate me Winter.

 

 

Chapter 32.

Chapter 32.

Read Chapter 31 here with Cupcakemummy

 

32 missed calls.

4 voices messages

Message 1 – Received  7:24 am

Iris, it’s not what you think. It never was. I would never…please pick up and let me explain. I will not do this over voicemail. I am not 14 years old.

Message 2 – Received 12:03 pm 

Please for goodness sake put on your phone. I NEED to talk to you. She was having trouble with her mail so I went down to technical and sorted it out for her. That is what was happening down stairs. Not HER downstairs. Who cares what she has down there. Everyone stops looking once their eyes hit the boobs. Shit, not that I look at her boobs but you know she has them. Fuck this is just all going south. NOT her south. Iris please just pick up.

Message 3 – Received 18:46 pm

Look Iris, I like you. You should know I do by now. I like you too much to just give up on you on a voicemail. I’m going crazy here without you. Someone gave me cookies today and they were tasteless because I had no one here to call me fat for stuffing my face with baked goods. I don’t really know how this whole dating thing works these days but I thought we were together and I thought you knew that. I didn’t know there was a need to say it out loud but if that’s what it takes I will say it.

Message 4 – Received 21:01 pm

Iris. Please.

I listened to all three messages without an ounce of emotion but the fourth got me. He said please and now all I want to do is phone him and tell him I’m his and we can forget everything and just hug.  Naked.  But I can’t. It is just too late. I know it is not a train smash and If I call him I can fix this but I am not sure I want to and this scares the living shit out of me. If I get derailed by such a little misunderstanding what am I going to do when real shit hits the fan. The kind of trouble and heartbreak that flattens you when you least expect it. The kind that comes around on a random Wednesday afternoon.  I don’t think I can be with someone until I can be with myself. But I want to be with him. All of me want it.

My phone has been on for 3 hours and he hasn’t phoned again. Has he given up? Most likely.  I try to forget about this whole mess by distracting myself with the cookies Winter sent me with the book. I couriered the book to the publishers for the final beta copy and I must admit, I am rather excited about this. I know the duck and cat and I had our days but there is something that makes me smile when I hold it in my hands and see Winters illustrations. Who would have guessed me to be a children’s book author? I certainly wouldn’t have.  I stuff another peanut butter cookie in my mouth and a flood of emotion hits me like a cold shower. Now all I can think about is the cookies Mark says he ate. He has now even managed to ruin my treat. That dick. There is no way his cookies could have been near as delicious as these. Even if you dunk them in petrol they will be scrumptious.

I eat another for good measure and feed the dog. He has been kind to me the last few days and hasn’t pissed in the house once.  If it weren’t raining I would take him for a walk as a reward. I slip him a cookie instead. Dogs deserve pudding too.

My apartment is as messy as a teenagers mind so I attempt to create some sort of order. I start slowly, fluffing the couches and stacking my coffee table books in neat little piles. Cleaning has always been a good distraction for me. I don’t do it often enough. I move on to the dining room and kitchen. Mark sat on that table waiting for me to get ready. I dust the thought away and with the motion I swipe the dust off of the mantel piece above the old fire place.

Before I know it my home looks liveable again and I put the kettle on for a well deserved cup of coffee. I decide to let go of my notions to ignore the universe and open my laptop to get a few mails done.  I am sure Winter has mailed me by now and I have been avoiding touching my emails in fear of her knowing everything. About the Mateos,  my brother, and me.  But I can avoid no longer and I flip my laptop open.

She went to the office.  She saw Mark. My worries about my non-relationship quickly disappear behind my heavily thumping heart. She knows the Mateo’s so well. She speaks about them with such love and care and I know they must feel the same way about her. What a mess. How the hell am I going to tell her she just illustrated a book about their dead kid. My heart aches from the cruel words that just went through my head. He is not a dead kid. He is their loved son whom is no longer with them. Because of an accident. I keep reminding myself it was an accident. The awkwardness is just too much to deal with right now.  I need to tell the Mateo’s about the book, but I need to tell Winter about the Mateos. Will I ruin the relationship between them once they find out their “adopted daughter” unknowingly just reincarnated their son as a duck?

Questions and conflicts and imaginary dialogs play off in my mind it’s making everything hurt. I have no idea where to start with this. I catch myself staring at the framed picture of my brother on the mantel piece and a wave of calm comes over me. I just need to start. But gently.

Email To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: Thank you for the cookies.

Dear Winter,

Those cookies are amazing. I can see why Michael never shares them.

I have something to ask you.  (Please think carefully before answering)

I need to tell you the truth about the book. The truth about the duck. And why and where he comes from. I told you the gist of the story about my brother but there is so much more to it.

If I tell you this story, there is no going back. It will changes things. Not only the way you see and read the book but much much more. It will change an important relationship you have in your life. It will change our friendship. The ripples of this story is reaching your life more than I ever imagined and I want you to have a choice. A bit of a “red pill blue pill” moment. You can choose the truth. All of it. Or you can choose to delete this email and life will go on as it has for you.

The choice is yours.

PS. I got Marks voice messages. Thank you for caring.

All my love,

Iris.

 

I hit send and hope she thinks about this. I owe her the truth but the Mateo’s are her family. Will they feel different about her after they learn she knows the truth? I get woken from my daze with a knock on the door. Must be the Chinese food I ordered for dinner.

I open the door and my mouth does something my heart never does. It opened.

“Iris” Mark said as he stood there drenched from the rain.

 

 

 

Chapter 30.

Chapter 30.

Read Chapter 29 here with Cupcakmummy 

The last bit of afternoon sun is seeping in past the gap in the curtains. Its lights nothing in particular but from my bed I can see dust dancing in a straight line in the lit little streak.  I pour another glass of wine. I stopped counting at 5. It’s not interesting or amusing but I can’t take my eyes off of the dancing dust.  There is peace in it. As odd as that sounds I like the movement. It makes me feel less alone. I squint my eyes and blur the light. Yesterday was more blurry than this.

After Mark ran after me to my desk he stood there and moved his arms a lot. Noise was coming from his mouth. I could see his soft lips form words but they got lost on the way to my ears.  Maybe my heart was thumping too hard to hear anything coming from outside of my body.  I am not sure what happened next but I grabbed my coat and bag and made a b-line for the door. Mark was on my heels until I reached the elevator.  I don’t know if I cut him off mid sentence but his face suggested it when I told him “No”. I don’t remember screaming it or even uttering it in an aggressive tone. I formed the words and heard them leave my lips, they floated through the space between us and it looked as if it hit him straight in the heart. The doors closed before I could stare at his face long enough to care.

My phone has been off since last night and the last time I quickly opened my mails was to send a short mail saying I am working from home today.

How could I ever believe it was real? Of course he is into Pam. I was probably just a fun bet. “Let’s get the dull one to open her legs”. Thank God I never slept with him. My vagina always falls in love faster than my heart. I am so angry at myself for allowing to be fooled. I haven’t cried. I think it hurts too much. Or maybe too little? In a wine filled haze somewhere between opening this bottle of wine and glass number 4 I convinced myself I never allowed myself to sleep with him. I could have chaced Michael away from that door. I didn’t.

It’s 12:04 and I haven’t bothered opening up the curtains. Or getting up for a fresh bottle of wine. Or something to eat.  I know I should open my laptop and do some work. I wish I could just phone Winter and speak to her.  After taking the last red drop from my glass I take my laptop and open it up. I can still feel the taste of grapes on my lips. I like it.

There’s a mail from Winter. Before I know it I can feel my face pull a smile. She hit a man in the face with a cast. I need to tease Michael about this at the office. Shit, the office. This is going to be so awkward now. The smile fades off of my face when I reach the part in her mail about talking to the Mateos. I know she is right. I know I need to tell them. But this is not an easy conversation to start. Nor one I feel up to starting anytime soon.

I forgot I told her I was going to be cooking for Mark and my mouth falls open when I read about her suggesting Papa Mateos for bread! How does she know them? Shit does she know? Surely if she knew she would have told me? My heart pounds so fast I can feel my stomach make its way to my throat. Was the ramp they built for her?  It all makes sense now. The accident Noah talked about.  She has been here, there, the whole time? I need more coffee.

I get up from bed and draw open the curtains. Light floods into the room filling every corner. It’s so bright it hurts my eyes. After putting the kettle on and feeding the dog I open my laptop up again , this time sitting at the kitchen counter.  The dog has been nice to me the past few days. Even sleeping at my feet. I like this kind side of the dog.  After he licks his bowl clean he makes himself comfortable at the foot of my chair. I am soaking up all the kindness I can get from this animal.

I know I need to reply to Winter but I don’t  know how. I want to go and see her but I also want to hide away under my desk in the fear that our connection is only in words and it will be lost in person. I can’t stand to lose another person in my life. Thoughts of Mark come stampeding back into my mind but I block them out with my worries about Winter.

I get up to make my coffee and start dictation of the mail in my head. I sip the coffee and it burns the tip of my tongue.

Email: To Winter

From: Iris

RE : Ducks, cats and flying panties.

Winter,

How do you know the MaTeos and how much do you know about them?

I hit send and realize I sounded so abrupt and rude.  I quickly start another one and hopes she doesn’t read too much into the first mail.

Email To Winter

From: Iris.

Subject:  I like bread too.

Hi Winter,

I had a good laugh about the smack in the face. Stellar move 😉

Turns out Mark has been shagging the receptionist all along. And here I though Michael was dipping into that pool. Did he ever mention what I did to his desk? Ask him about it.

Just my luck that my hot guy ended up being an asshole. I am too scared to put my phone back on. It has been off since I found out.  Well, since I walked in on them in the copier room. Clearly it is his hunting ground.

I love the Mateo’s breads. I often order lunch from Noah and need to convince him to deliver.

It’s a staple in my life.

Have you couriered the book back? I haven’t received anything yet.

Speak soon,

Iris. 

I hit send once again and really hope Winter doesn’t think I lost all my marbles and manners with that first mail. Could she know it’s about their kid? Did she know him? How long have we been living past each other?

I am drunk with questions. I am terrified she knows everything.  I want to crawl back into bed and forget everything. But I have learnt living under a duvet for a few days only make things worse. Blanket forts aren’t as protective as I remember them to be.

 

 

Chapter 28.

Chapter 28.

Read Chapter 27 here with Cupcakemummy

I snuck a chocolate into the package for Winter. I had to buy Michael lunch to get him to tell me what Winters favourite sweet is. I figured her life needs some sweetness. God knows she must have her hands full with Michael. Although I can see what she sees in him. Not so much the looks. He is a bit too clean cut for my liking but he is rather cute. He has these little habits he thinks no one sees. I guess we all have those.  Michael must be working from home or be at a client today. His desk is vacant. The thought of messing with him is just too tempting and I grab my post’it notes and go to town on his cubical. It’s starting to look like a highlighter puked on it and I get lost in the tedious task of pasting each little note at the last ones edge. As I paste the last one I give it a swipe with my index finger to insure it stays put and stand back to appreciate my work of art. It is perfect.

Mark is also not in today but I know he is on a deadline with his client. A magazine has so I am sure he has his hands full. Flat White Magazine. I mentioned it to Winter a few weeks ago. They needed some illustration work done. I hope she got into contact with them.

It feels strange to have the office so quite.  I wonder if this is what Winters world feels like? Nothing but a little muzzled noise coming from somewhere outside.  My mind is a little all over the place today. As you can tell. I keep thinking it’s time to tell the Mateo’s about the book. It is party about their son after all. But how am I supposed to bring it up? “Oh hey, here is a children’s book about the child you lost and oh, your son’s character is a sad duck”.  The might just throw me with a loaf of bread. Not really a topic I think they want to crack back open. I am perplexed though. I can’t NOT tell them. I have to do it before we go to print. Or before the launch. Part of me never wants them to find out. It would just be easier.

I have been doodling on the back of an old calendar on my desk.  I might be a novelist but part of thinks my soul has always been a poet. (Albeit not a particularly good one)

Silent was her world. But not cold nor dark.

Grey were her eyes. But not her heart.

She lived in colours unseen by others.  Beautiful thing that smothers

Her soul was green, Spring. Her name was Winter.

wpid-20140729_161303.jpg

I scrounge up the piece of paper and throw it into the bin in the far corner of the office. When I look up Mark is standing next to the bin clapping hands, with the biggest grin on his face. Gosh he is edible.

Mark: Nice shot.

Me: You sound surprised.

Mark: I didn’t know you were so…athletic.

Me: I am very athletic. You should see me run

Mark: Really?

Me: Yes, I am exceptional at shot distance running.

Mark: Oh really? What distance.

Me: Couch to fridge, I am the record holder.

Mark smiles and shakes his head. He walks over to my desk and leans over my cubical with folded arms. I can smell his aftershave. It smells of sweet pears and the ocean. It’s rather intoxicating and I struggle to focus on what he is saying.

Mark: Iris!

Me: Yes?

Mark: Wake up.

Me: I am awake.

Mark: It looks like your dreaming somewhere far away from here.

I smile at him.

Mark: I assume you went to town on Mike’s desk?

Me: He needed some colour. Don’t you think?

Mark: I agree. He seemed a bit lost lately. So pasta?

Me: huh?

Mark: can you cook pasta?

Me: yes, why? Well define cook.

Mark: edible

Like you, I think.

Me:  In that case yes. 

Mark: Done, dinner at your place. 7ish?

I try to argue but he leans over the cubical divider and plants a kiss on my cheek.  I immediately Google easy pasta recipes and get lost in words like “parboil” and sauté. I appreciate good food but couldn’t be bothered to cook fancy food for myself. Maybe things will change when it’s not just me anymore. A smile makes it way from my heart to my face. I have been alone so long the thought of coming home to someone is as good as my fairy tale gets. And I am completely ok with that. I don’t need swooping, white horse, flowers every night might kind of love. I need someone else on my couch that laughs at the same parts in a movie as I do.  He fits. It fits.

I finally set on a super easy recipe with chicken and bacon in it. Everyone loves bacon.  Well, everyone should. I hit print and before I make my to the copier room to pick up my print I hit send and receive and get a mail from Winter. I hit reply.

Email To: Winter

From: Iris

RE RE: BIG NEWS

Hey Sweet pea,

SO glad the chocolate made its way there. Figured you would want something sweet to celebrate with. Enjoy it. When you have a chance please go over the last details of the beta copy. I would like to submit it to the printers as soon as possible. Once we are happy with the colours etc we can do the first print. I would be honoured if you were to sign one for me? I will treasure it forever.

I want to ask you some advice. I need to tell the family (of my brothers friend) that I used their child in book. I don’t know when to tell them or if I should tell them at all. I feel a little lost here. If it were your child, would you want to know?

I am so thrilled about you and Michael. Also good to know the man is good with gardening. He is husband material. Hold on to him.

I am cooking for Mark tonight. I am SO excited. I even Googled a recipe am hoping he wants me for dessert.  

Listen I have to run. I still need to go shopping for tonight. And shave!

Courier the copy back with your notes as soon as you can.

Love,

I log out of my computer and grab my bag on the way to copier.  As I approach the printer I see Mark leaning against the table with the guillotine. I am flooded with a warm desire to take off where we left it in there the last time. That room is hallowed ground to us.  I open my mouth to say something sexy I haven’t quite formed in my head and suddenly my breath is stolen. As if vacuumed from my body and I freeze. Breathless.  I see Pam lean in and kiss Mark on his stubbled cheek while she says “Thanks for the other night Marky. It was…fun.”

I let out an audible sigh and Mark jumps back from Pams grip as if she was poisonous.

“Iris! Please… it’s not what you think”

 

 

Chapter 26.

Chapter 26.

Read Chapter 25 here with Cupcakemummy 

It has become apparent that Winter is more than just my illustrator.  It seems funny to thing you can connect with someone whom you have never met. But it happened. The thought of not being able to talk, or mail rather, to her everyday scares me. When did this happen? When did we become friends? I have never been one who has many friends. Not girls either. Woman in general are far too prissy for me. Not that guys don’t have their shit but I prefer a rude to a bitch any day.

The date with mark ended up not being a date. We ordered pizza and watched a few quiz shows  on television. While guzzling obscene amounts of red wine of course. This in turn lead to my light blue lace thong hanging from the ceiling fan. That man just makes me want to take my clothes off. It didn’t go very far though. As it turns out red wine makes me too tired to have sex. Where is the fun in that? I fell asleep on the couch after a few minutes of making out. He must have felt sorry for me or something because when I woke up this morning I was covered by a blanket and upon closer inspection I noticed he had taken the leftovers to the kitchen and wiped the counters. Or does he think I’m a slob? He even fed the dog.

I am working from home today as the offices are being painted. I grab my laptop and touch base with Winter. I haven’t told her the news yet.

Email To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: BIG NEWS.

Winter, my stormy darling.

Book 1 is going to print next month and the proof copy is being couriered to you as I am typing this. Please indicate necessary changes and then the final one will be done again for us both to approve once more. I have meetings next week with bookstores who are pre-ordering the book. (Still can’t believe I wrote a fucking children’s book, who am I.)

I have missed talking to you. Mark is wonderful. But it all seems a little unreal. We spent a few hours making out on the couch and I did my signature move where I fling my panties across the room. I shall now refer to this mating call as “Iris’s peacocking” Get it…peaCOCK. I apologize for my stale and bad humour, I should be in medication for it.

So…Michael…

He let it slip that he was with you the whole time in hospital. That man adores you. And here I thought he was getting it on with our receptionist this whole time. Turns out you are his distraction and his focus all in one. I asked him if I would be able to come and visit you and he told me I better give you some time to get used to this whole 2 casts thing. I respect that.  Michael feels very responsible for the accident. Even caught the man crying in the kitchen area at work.  My heart broke when I saw it and gave him the most awkward hug in history. I had totally forgotten to wear a bra that day. Here’s to wishing he couldn’t tell. Also it wasn’t too bright to wear a white blouse that day. But hey, if you are gonna go awkward, do it right.

Also he kept leaving early from work this week to go look after a garden somewhere.

He is a good man.  Take care of him and more importantly, let him take care of you.

Love,

 Iris

I do a few more mails before I close my laptop.  I am ahead of the curve with work. This means lunch. I grab my scarf and head out. Its chilly today and the clouds are hanging low. The world is dark grey and I like it. As I am approaching Papa Mateo’s I see some construction outside. What on earth…a ramp? Why the hell would they install a ramp? Noah sees me coming and does that thing where he whistles and looks around as if he has no idea I am there.  I smack him on the back and greet him with a hug.

Me: And this?

Noah: Wheelchair friendly and all that?

Me: I can see that, but why now after 20 years?

Noah: How insensitive Iris. People in wheelchairs need good bread too.

Me: Ok ok, geez calm down.

I ruffle his hair before heading in. Mama sees me and almost jumps over the counter to hug me. She honestly gives the best hugs.  I plonk down in my usual booth and it isn’t long before she brings over my avo ciabatta. But this time she sits down in the booth. She slides in on the opposite side and faces me. She takes me hand and I am now worried and puzzled.

Me: What’s wrong?

Mama: Nothing is wrong my dear.

Me: To what do I owe this lunch date?

Mama:  Iris…

Me: …yes?

Mama:  You are a such a great girl. Why do I never see a man with you?

Me: Oh Mama really?

Mama: A girl even a strong one like you needs a man in her life. We all have needs you know.

This though is putting me off the greatest sandwich in the world. I can feel that I-just-ate-a-sour-lemon mixed with smelling-something –bad look on my face.

Me: Mama please stop there.

Mama: We want to see you taken care of Iris.

I laugh and take her hand to place a gentle kiss on it.

Mama: Don’t worry.  I am very capable of taking care of my own needs.  

As I leave the cafe I realize that last line makes it sound as if I masturbate a lot. Great. As is that conversation could have gotten any more awkward.  Besides, I have a man. Well I don’t really know if Mark is MY man. I know we have known each other a while but I don’t know if I am ready to be that serious. Oh crap. Now I don’t know anymore.

As I reach my front door I see there’s a letter sticking out of the mail-slit.  I grab it and go inside and start ripping it open as I take my shoes off. The envelope just says “Iris” in a rather shitty handwriting. I drop the envelope as I realize what this is.

“Iris – I wanted to get you flowers. But I wasn’t quite sure what you liked.  Then I thought about chocolates. But again I didn’t know whether to go for dark or milk. I thought maybe she would like a teddy. But your dog hates you and would eat it. Then I remembered your paintbrush. The slightly chewed one you always wore in your hair. I noticed it has been absent these past few weeks so I got you a replacement.  Keep it away from the dog”

I pick up the envelope I had dropped take out a brand new wooden Paint Brush. It’s perfect.

Where on earth is my old one?

 

 

 

Chapter 24.

Chapter 24.

Read Chapter 23 here with Cupcakemummy

 

To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: Hey, You are quite.

Hey Honey,

It’s been two days. Did I scare you off with the news of the cover? J Getting a bit worried. Please let me know we are still good to go.

Speak soon,

Iris.

***

 

 

To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: Ok I am freaking out.

Winter what the hell is going on? I am freaking out here. Michael took a week’s leave and I have NONE OF YOUR NUMBERS. His phone has been off this whole week. .

PLEASE let me know we are still good to go.

5 days and nothing…

Iris.

***

 

 

What is it with people disappearing? The other day I couldn’t find the Mateo’s or Noah. The day he left me hungry. I had to settle for a bagel. A stale bagel. I went by the Mateo’s and the place was closed. Odd for a weekday but I didn’t want to intrude so I just left it. I have been enough of a burden to that family. I am a really worried about Winter. She is always pretty fast to reply. Shit I hope she isn’t backing out now. I will be severely ticked off if the is bowing out mere days before we are scheduled to submit. Perhaps I should look for a replacement. You know, just in case. I really like Winter. Really. But I can’t afford to screw this up. Not after my first novel. It was a hit and I am still not quite sure how that happened but it was a miracle that book saw the light of day. It was ever meant to be submitted actually. Michael proof read it and I think it was then showed to Mark who actually took it to the boss.  Wow, I only remembered that now. Mark and Michael made my dreams come true. Mark.

Mark is coming over tonight for drink. He texted me earlier saying I have delayed long enough and he isn’t taking no for an answer. I planned to work from home today to clean. But I can’t get Winter off my mind. I am terrified she drops me now.

I drop her one more mail before I need to clean up after the psycho dog.

To: Winter

From: Iris

Subject: Winter, Please

Where are you? It’s been a week since I last heard from you. I am on the verge of finding a new illustrator. I am worried about you Winter. If something is wrong please tell me. If I can’t help I can hook you up with some happy pills. (Ok maybe not, but I’ll try)

Please let me know you are ok.

Iris.

I close my laptop and grab the broom. I have always been particularly good at cleaning. There is something that satisfies my soul when I make a surface glisten. It is therapeutic. The music is blasting and I seem to get lost in the cleaning. I might have taken it a step too far by dusting the tops of the kitchen cupboards. I doubt we will be having sex up there. But you can never be too sure.

I glance at my kitchen clock and realize its 30 minutes until the doorbells is supposed to ring. Shit. Crap, I haven’t shaved.  I run a bath and sink into the warm soothing water. I got bath salts from Mama Mateo and they are amazing. It feels like every part of my body is massaged but teeny tiny hands. She made it herself. Its rock salt and herbs from her garden. I breathe in the aromas and breathe out the weeks stress. As good as this feels I have a dark cloud hanging in the back of my mind. Winter.  It’s so hot and steamy in here I hang my one over the edge of the bath to cool off. I’m just closing my eyes for a second.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

Shit. Crap. Fuck. I dozed off. I yell to the door while I jump, and I mean jump, out of the bath. “I’ll be there now, just a sec!” My hair is wet! Everything is wet! I caused a tsunami while getting out of the bath and the entire bathroom is a wetland. To make it worse the damn dog thinks its a game and is running his wet paws all over the house. Kill me now.

“Just a minute, I am coming! Please don’t leave”

Please don’t leave? I am so classy. Why am I such an idiot around him?

I run to the door with a cotton towel wrapped around me and my wet hair dripping down my breasts and clinging to my back. I swing the door open and he doesn’t say a word, but he bites his bottom lip and gives me a side-smile. “Look I am sorry I was in the bath and was warm and smelt so good…” He pulls me in closer mid sentence.  I can hear his heart beating faster. He is hugging me as if he hasn’t seen me in days. I love it. I take his hand and lead him into the lounge. He stops me in the foyer and pulls me into his arms once more. I stare up at him and lean it. Just as he leans in. Heads but.  Nice going Iris. Mark gives a little laugh and hugs me tightly with both arms wrapped tightly around my back. I imagine this is what people call “bear hug”.  He takes one hand and swipes the hair back from my neck. He gently kisses my bare neck and shoulder.

“Iris I like you. I like all the angry hand gestures when you are on your phone. I like that you pretend not to care about anyone but you are always mindful of others. I like the green in your eyes. The  gold shimmer in your hair when you swing your chair into the sun. The dimples when you smile. The sweet smell of your shampoo. I like it all. I want it all. Go put some clothes on and let me take you to dinner . Give me the chance to make you like me”

Oh Mark. If you only knew. My heart sinks a little. I can’t manage to get out anything audible and settle for a slight nod before I run off to get dressed.

I check my emails one last time while I am drying my hair.

I drop the hairdryer and it makes the noise of glass being shattered on the wood floor in my bedroom. I think I broke it. I cannot believe my eyes. My heart drops into my stomach and I feel wickedly guilty. Mark runs into the room screaming. “What happened? Are you ok?” He sees the hair dryer on the floor. “Iris, what’s going on?”

“Winter was in an accident” I say softly as I can feel panic rise up into my throat.

“Who is Winter?”

“My friend”

 

 

Chapter 22.

Chapter 22.

Read chapter 21 here with Cupcakemummy

 

Work has been busy today. Nonstop phone calls from clients. So many reviews written. After that message from Mark I didn’t know how I would be able to work today. Every couple of minutes I pretend to be working on my phone just to read it again.

Iris, I like you. I liked you even before you flashed me at your desk that day. Let me take you on a real date.

Yeah ok, I like Mark. Besides Michael he is the only one around the office that laughs at my shit jokes. And so what if he happens to be a bit of a dish. Anyway, he hasn’t been in office the whole day. As far as I have casually snooped, he is at the printers today for one of his clients. His eyes bring out the writer in me. I can’t wait till he comes back. Oh my word I have turned into a teenager dripping with puppy love. Enough I am better than this. I am cooler. Much cooler. I glance at my watch and realize it’s almost lunch time. I have been daydreaming and working so hard I haven’t eaten today. 4 cups of old coldish cafeteria coffee doesn’t count.

I decided my life needs some carbs. Some good carbs. I dial up Papa’s and Noah picks up.

Me: Hi Noah, its Iris.

Noah:  Yeah Yeah I know. (He says in a jokingly annoyed tone.)

Me: Fine, I’ll take my order elsewhere if you don’t want it.

Noah:  Fine, if that’s what you want go right ahead. I dare you to find bread this good anywhere else.

Me: Well…you got me there.

Noah: hahaha. Come now Iris. What do you want for lunch?

Me: The usual please, Ciabata with avo and tomato and that other thingy you always put on it.

Noah: You mean Blue Cheese. I got you Iris. (I can hear him smiling). I might be able to steal a few peanut-butter cookies for you.

Me: Oh those ones you brought me a while ago? They were awesome. Yes please.

Noah: Done, at the office.

Me: You know it. See you in a few.

Michael has been pacing in front of my desk ever since he got that text earlier. What is it with this man. He must be getting some somewhere. Possibly big-boobs-Pam.

I haven’t really gotten to any of my emails today. I should really reply to Winter…after one more cup of crap coffee while I wait for my lunch order.

To: Winter

From: Iris

RE RE: Yay us

Hi there darling Winter.

Business first.  Have you given the cover any thought? We will need to submit it to the printers soon for them to print proofs for you. Can you believe we have made it all this way? I would like to have a pond or body of water on the cover. With the duck and cat of course. I Think your water colour and Ink style would work perfectly here. Hey, look. Please let me if you feel a different style or approach will work for this. I trust your opinion.

Oh my gosh, Mark, is copier guy. Oh Winter, he makes me break out in verse and haiku’s. He is a chunk of man. Tall. Like Zoro. Dark and exotic looking. Everything about this man makes me feel like I just sank into a warm bubble bath. I feel like I am telling my high school BFF all about my crush.

I am starving. I ordered lunch but its taking forever. I am gonna go dig in the office kitchen for something to masticate on.

Speak soon.

Iris

Seriously, were the hell is Noah? Churning the butter himself. I in a daze of hunger I text Mark back. (16 hours later because ladies make ‘em wait)

Date? Yeah ok. I’d be keen.

How is that for a cool message? Nailed it. Or did I? Great. Did I just screw this up? What if he thinks I am not interested? Fuck.

I like you too.

Smooth Iris. A second message doesn’t sound desperate at all.

I wonder what it would have been like if mark and I …finished in the copier room. Would he still be pursuing me?  Why do I second guess every bit of good fortune life flings my way.  Even with my first novel. All the glitz and glamour that came with the launch and success of the book is what I hid of. I kind of felt that if I show that I enjoy it will all be taken away from me. Why do I deserve to be happy? I have never understood that.  I get lost in my thoughts, then more emails. Suddenly realize it’s been 3 hours since I ordered lunch.

I grab my phone. Mark hasn’t replied. I phone Noah’s mobile phone.

Me: Hey what happened to you? Did Papa have to teach you how to make the bread first? Did the zombie apocalypse hit the bakery?

Noah: There’s been an accident. I am so sorry Iris, I won’t make it today. So sorry. I have to go.

BEEP BEEP

The line went dead. Shit I hope everything is ok.

I grab my coat and head to the bakery.