Roses for Duke

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The Miscalculation of Gwen Parason

Gwen Parason turned the beef over in the pan, listening to it crackle and fry against the heat. She had planned on a gourmet dinner of steak and potatoes with thick gravy and a pie for dessert to celebrate the end of Duke’s career at that awful piano bar. His love for the place had been puzzling to her, the place was wrenched with college age students and drunks looking for cheap thrills. She had missed his last performance purposely, though she couldn’t admit it to Duke. Her last appearance there she felt uncomfortable and sweaty in the tight space.

She had supported Duke since their relationship began but she was hoping he would finally start looking for a real career. Her nightly talks had no effect on him, he was determined to be the next huge discovery. Gwen sighed placing the thawed steak into the refridgerator. She was longing for a scrumptious meal, but the alternative, a simple hamburger seemed sufficient. She was slightly steaming inside herself, Duke was nowhere to be found and it was nearly midnight. Was he out with someone else? In someone else’s bed?

Gwen turned off the stovetop with a forceful click, she had been holding her breath while lost in her thoughts, her hands quivering as she placed the beef on a plate. She had called him multiple times with no answer. No answer. Where was he? Her nerves were on thin rails, she couldn’t stop the thought from creeping into her head that had ran off.

“Gwen...stop” she said aloud as she took a knife to cut up the romaine lettuce. She trusted Duke more than she trusted anyone. He was handsome, caring, and he had proved that time and time again that he was willing to make a commitment...eventually. She was plauged by worry that Duke would never propose and the very thought of it was eating away at her. Their relationship had been going strong since their first interaction and she felt the next natural progression would be marriage. She wanted the satisfaction of being Mrs. Masters, to wear a sparkling diamond ring and officially be his. The plan was destined to work...but a gnawing feeling that Gwen felt in the pit of her stomach could not find relief. She sighed taking a tomato and absentmindedly slicing it.

The soft ticking of the clock reminded her immediately of not only her age but of how much time she had sat in this miserable one bedroom apartment, forgoing her dreams while he chased his. The night she had met Duke had been one of the worst nights of her life. The night she had decided that love wasn’t real.

The night she had considered running aimlessly throughout the town in the freezing weather with no shoes or clothes in hopes of becoming completely numb. As long as the vodka and gin we’re plenty and she could find some handsome stranger to sleep with then everything would end in her favor. She would sell all of her things the next day and move back home to New York. She could then indulge in rambunctious behavior again, and drink her 30′s away along with the rest of population. She had felt her purpose was gone.

She would quote “With him, went the wind” and she believed it deep down in her heart. What was the point of life without him? She feared perhaps that she was slowly losing her mind, so why not speed up the process? She was tired of the painful process of heartbreak and that night she would have done anything to rid herself of it. She retired in an small and stuffed bar, her body nearly frozen as she sought to down as much alcoholic beverages she could consume. She sighed as she lost her self in the memory, Duke’s voice coming back into her mind.

It’s important to play...passionately I think, to create something incredible” he smiled

Duke chugged down the last of his root beer, nervously wiping away the reminents with his sleeve off of his upper lip.

“Would you say it’s vulgar?” Gwen sked him, her bright eyes scanning his face.

“Piano a vulgar instrument...no...not at all miss...I don’t understand the connection?”

“You’re right...it’s beautiful music, vulgar would be your boyfriend screwing some woman in the middle of the night....have you ever done that?” she giggled.

Duke glanced at her empty shot glass. “How many of those have you had?

“Oh who knows....who cares...the night is young right?

Tears began to flow from Gwen’s eyes. “I just...hate it...”

“What?” Duke frowned.

“I am cold...and empty...just like he wanted me to be”

Duke looked over at her. “No...you’re beautiful.. and warm...you light up this dreary place.” “You have to understand something miss...”

“What is there to understand?”

“Love doesn’t betray you...hurt you...cheat on you..” “Love is looking into someone’s eyes and knowing you’d never want anyone or anything to harm them ever again” You experience the pain with them you see...you never let it consume them”

Gwen started at him in silence, before downing another shot of gin.

“Let me play you something...” he offered her, extending his hand. She took it into hers, the texture was smooth and warm

“Something vulgar..” Gwen sighed.

“No...something passionate...”

The memory washed over her like a morning shower. She would keep his words within in her for a long time, if not a lifetime. His sincerity has honestly saved her life, his passion for the instrument and a year later her.

Her mind then went to her ex boyfriend Peter, that insecurity was frustratingly still with her. Peter was the man she had loved with all of her heart, sometimes she feared that it would explode when he looked at her. Now that he was gone and Duke had came into her life, she finally believed that it was possible to love like that again. Slowly but surely she had came to adore Duke, his need to console her in times of need and love her when her heart was begging for it. He had given her solace after her anger had inflamed her senses. She winced as she felt the sharp knife wedge into her fingertip, a soft puddle of blood formed and for a second she was entranced by it “Blood, bone, and skin...that’s all we are” she thought. She turned away from the stove and paused, her heart beginning to quicken as she felt a rush of panic. Something was wrong...very wrong.

He will leave me...” she thought.

She raced to the bedroom, checking the closet, his clothes hung there perfectly ironed. His pairs of shoes were stacked neatly in a row. She let out the breath she’d been holding. Duke wouldn’t leave her..no...she thought. “Just like I thought Peter was...he said he wouldn’t leave too”

Her thoughts begin to race at a rapid pace, with no beginning nor ends, all chipping away at self esteem that she fought so hard to keep in tact. She walked slowly back into the kitchen. Her bleeding fingertip dripping drops of tiny blood over the carpet and tiles. Gwen grabbed a kitchen towel and wrapped it around her finger, applying intense pressure as she went back toward the stove. Gwen found herself lost in a panic she had known all to well, it was an inner beast that seemed to be unleashed. It was uncontrollable and raging words of worry.

No...no he wouldn’t leave, he would pack up everything...God knows how hard he’s worked for it..

Her thoughts rambled.

“No...he loves me...he wouldn’t ruin everything for some one night stand....or cheat on me...”

“He’s nothing like Peter but...if he’s nothing like Peter then where is he?”

He left you because you’re pathetic...”

“You cling to him like a mother would, you’re suffocating him, he’s been dying to get away from you ...your father was right...you’re a worthless...”

SHUT UP! Gwen yelled grabbing the tray of lettuce and tomatoes and throwing it to the floor. She gasped as it clattered to the ground, her heart racing against her chest as she got on her hands and knees.

Her sobs came out quickly, she clinged to the towel around her finger and allowed the tears to run furiously down her cheeks. Her emotional release brought her no relief from her current situation. Her eyes blurred from the tears and she found herself longing to be held. She needed Duke now more than anyone else in the world. She groaned clutching her stomach gently.

She was Gwen Parason, an incredibly smart and stable woman with her head on her shoulders. People trusted her, she was the rock for her friends, the comfort of young woman. She had finally found her place at a youth center. She taught young girls the importance of self confidence, she coached them on self love and hard work ethic. It was vital to her place in the world. It felt like it was all falling to pieces. Her father had warned her what would happen if she left New York and now his words ranged in her ears like a roaring train. “Leaving isn’t going to change you or me now is it?”

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