A ring of words... Shameless Words began a story with this photo and then passed it on to Kay at As It Happens who gifted me with it. Each of the members of The Shameless Lions Writing Circle will take a turn writing part of the story, and after each piece is written, that member will choose the next writer. When it is complete, we will decide on a name for it. How many twists and turns will this lady named Grace take as she makes her way through the lions circle? Let's find out... I'll post the new chapters as they become available.
See here for the basic rules.
And... the story so far:
_______________________________________The new watch that Grace's husband had given her the week before slipped inside the sleeve of her coat as her arm went up in the air. She felt she had no control over the movement, as though it were completely natural for her to be hailing a cab in the middle of New York. She felt as if she were being directed by remote control. 4:42pm, October 7. She made a mental note of the time, thinking it might be something she'd always want to remember.
"I just want you to drive," she said as she got in, avoiding the driver's eyes.
"Drive? Drive where, sweetheart?" He sounded like he might be Middle Eastern, although the writing on photos and cards above his head looked like it could be Greek. She also noticed African music coming from the radio.
"I'll let you know. For now just drive anywhere. Wherever your instinct takes you."
"That is strange."
"Yes, it's strange. Please just drive. Anywhere."
"Whatever you say, sweetheart." During the few minutes it took for the cab to rejoin the flow of angry traffic, she stared at the entrance to the subway that she'd been using to get home every night for the past 12 years. Ample time to change her mind. She turned off her mobile as the cab swung into Third Avenue. Happy trumpets played as a grainy picture of Sebastian and the two little ones faded into black. (1)
Grace sat back and tried to relax. All her muscles were tense. She moved her head a little from side to side to try and release some of the tension in her neck. She made an effort to relax her face muscles that she was sure were drawn up into a tight mask. As the cab swooped along with the stream of homeward-bound traffic, a sudden gust of wind swirled fallen orange and red leaves into a mad dance. She found their dance mesmerising. It reflected her mood of being drawn into a wild dance, almost out of control. Where the dance would lead, she had no idea.
“Ok sweetheart?” the cab driver sounded uncomfortable with his role of just driving anywhere.
She nodded, still not meeting his eyes. She wished he would stop calling her sweetheart. She didn’t feel like anybody’s sweetheart. She looked down at her tan boots and noticed one of the toes was scuffed. She fingered the money purse inside the large red shoulder-bag sitting beside her like an obedient pet. She would have to watch the fare. After all, she only had so much money to go on. She made herself stop biting her fingernails as she tried to figure out just where she wanted the taxi cab to drop her. (2)
Grace closed her eyes and thought of the gaping entrance to the subway that she'd just abandoned. It was a turning point; she'd finally turned away from him, but to what? Never back to the barren arctic mausoleum; that prison home that the train had returned her to for so many nights, so many years, devoid of warmth, of love, of anything she really needed. She refused to lose another precious moment of her life to it, she knew if she went back again, there would be no more life.
Her thoughts were a blizzard through which she could only take a step at a time; slowly, carefully, blinded by the unknown... but feeling for it desperately, going anywhere as long as it was away. She had to escape. The storm of his loathing and anger raged around her in her mind and her heart began to pound, her pulse started to race and she knew this was it.
Reality seemed to fade into a dream and she fled the monster at her heels in uncertainty... could she make it? Could she really leave and be free? At last? The thought of it beckoned to her like a distant star in her dark night and the shadow of an image began to take form and make it's way to the forefront of her mind. Jack. It was her only chance.
The possibility of it was slim... but, perhaps. She had to try. Leaning forward, she instructed the cab driver with urgent directions and he was relieved that she'd finally determined a destination.
For the first time in ages, she stood at the base of the stairs that led up to his door and willed herself to move. How many years had it been... a hundred at least? What if he wasn't home? What if he didn't care about their friendship anymore? She'd let the winds of time carry it away in small fragments... like the leaves swirling about her feet, that skittered on the air and vanished. Grace carried the weight of the world and the bulk of the past with her up the steps and hesitated before pressing the button by the large door of the brownstone.
Time never passed so slowly. Her heart pounded in her chest and blood rushed in her ears. She drew a shaky breath. He might be gone. Maybe he had company. He probably wouldn't even want to speak to her. What if he didn't recognize her? How could she even come here at all? What was she thinking? Certainly he must be angry that she'd let their friendship go. All those years... best friends since they were children, and she'd let it go. How could she have done that for the monster she'd married? She began to breath shallow and quick. He had seemed so hurt the last time they'd talked.
She gasped and jerked her head up.
He'd opened the door, shock and disbelief registering on his face.
"Grace?" he whispered her name like a prayer from the heart. There was more emotion in that one word than she'd felt from her husband in a year.
"Jack... I..." she stammered, unsure that she should have come at all.
In a single movement he came through the doorway and pulled her into his arms tightly. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?" he only let her go long enough to cup her face in his hands and peer into it closely, searching for any sign of pain, as a parent might do to his long lost child. He saw it there and pulled her back into his whole embrace. Anxiety and hope filled her clenched lungs as she allowed herself to breathe deeply.
"Come. Come in and we'll take care of it." he said quietly, as he brought her into his home.
He sat with her on the couch and watched her, listening intently as she spoke.
"I'm so sorry to just show up like this... I..." she clasped her hands tightly in her lap and stared straight through them.
"Grace, please don't apologize, there's no need at all. We're best friends, and you know time can't touch that. It doesn't matter what brought you here, you are welcome to stay as long as you need to and you know that you are safe. No one can touch you here. I'll make sure of that."
She stared at his unwavering countenance. Into his bottomless, dark eyes. Time ceased to exist then, time that had passed and time that would have come after this moment. It was as if they'd never been apart even a day. She launched herself into his arms again.
"I've missed you so much, thank you."
"You are one of the strongest women I've ever met. You are unstoppable, vibrant and passionate, and you are so full of secrets right now! This is not the Grace that I know," he said skeptically as he raised one eyebrow and with his hand on her chin, turned her face from side to side, "where's that wonder woman that could take on the world? Why have you hidden yourself away behind this mask?" He paused and whispered, "What happened to you mon ami?"
Grace looked around for an answer to his question, as though the welcoming walls in the room might offer her the words that she could not find. She opened her mouth to tell him, but somehow the brave front that she had shielded herself with crumbled in this sanctuary where she knew she could finally fall on her knees and find solace. Tears carried the pain away as they streamed down her pale cheeks like a long overdue rain on parched land. Saying nothing, Jack drew her to his chest, held her close and stroked her hair until she cried herself to sleep. He laid her head on a deep pillow and covered her with a thick quilt. Grace drifted off into a deeper slumber than she'd had in months, and Jack watched her for a long time.
It was late when he reached for his phone and dialed the number. He spoke softly, his eyes never leaving her as she slept. "Sebastian, you won't believe this. Grace is here... she finally came; she left him. Now she can begin." (3)
That was so much fun. Thanks Seamus, Kay and Viaggiatore!
I shall pass this along to Minx now, and she'll open the next page for Grace.
1) Seamus @ Shameless Words
2) Kay @ As it happens
3) Scarlett @ From the shores of introspect and retrospect