He walked along the road. The sky was dim. Fading grey clouds rolled above him. The wind was light, and made the hairs on his neck raise, like when someone lightly touches your ear lobes. Whilst walking along the road, and the edges of others’ properties, he became warm.
Ted rolled up the navy blue sleeves of his tattered, yet favorite, shirt.
He wore black flip flops. He trod a sandy terrain, as he lived on the coast. Sand teased his toes as the soles of his black, plastic shoes smacked his heels. The loud slap reminded him of the sound of a horse’s hooves trotting on pavement. The white sand blasted the backs of his legs, making them sting, with every step.
He decided to walk along the white line that bordered the road, as to avoid the pricking sensation from those pesky, glimmering granules.
The spring sun began to shine behind the wispy, grey clouds, making them look like the silver streaks in an aging woman’s hair. Its overwhelming, scorching southern rays radiated down on him, and the desolate black road. His cheap, black sandals stuck to the hot tar beneath him. His decision to move to walking on the pavement was supposed to be easier. Ted’s pale, hairy feet struggled to lift. He felt like he was walking through mud, in his black flip flops. Both sand and stability strained his comfortability.
I guess Mr. Hedge wasn’t ordinary. He seemed to not mind when things were or went awry. If it bothered him, he’d just find his way to ignore it, for the other party’s benefit, of course. He avoided confrontation at all costs.
He believed there was a closet in the back of his mind, like the one people over-stuff quickly before company arrives, as to appear proper. That was where he stored his thoughts and feelings.
He also didn’t mind being misunderstood, or perceived as peculiar.
Occasionally Mr. Hedge would venture through the maze of his mind, to the dark closet. He’d poke and prod at the lost thoughts and neglected emotions.
He was a man of few words. Therefore, when we was silently examining the murky material of his mind in public, he was not viewed as being abnormal. What he always found, as he analyzed, is that he was abnormal, but in a way that made him more real than most he encountered.
The closet was overflowing, cluttered with memories of abandonment, loneliness, resentment and regret. Lost love, and rejection comprised most of the carelessly tossed objects in that closest.
One memory he always seemed to brush was his first love, Destiny, his only love. Since then, he didn’t even try to love. Sometimes she’d play tricks on him when he wanted to leave the closet. Destiny would stand in front of the door, not letting him leave.
When she did this he was overwhelmed with panic. Trapped in the thoughts that haunted him. Lost in the sea of dark matter he’d tried so hard to make not matter.
He squinted his eyes, attempting to conceive what lie before him through the haze of the sun’s vibrant rays, and the searing glare that reflected from the white line that ran along the edge of the road. He could perceive a small, white house at the end of the lane. Overgrown brush hid its location. As he approached it, he became more and more curious. The town he resided in was small, it was rare to find something you had not seen there before.
He subconsciously walked on the tips of his toes, towards the small, dilapidated white building. The thong part of his sandals dug into the flesh between his toes as he strode carefully. The sharp pinch from the plastic made him wince at first, but he continued. Pain never seemed to phase Ted.
His nervousness made his heart race, like the nervousness one has when they do something their parents will scold them for. He held his arms in front of his thin, pale body, trying to shirk the prickly green-yellow shrubs and grass. He did not know he had reached the house until his fingertips touched the rough exterior.
He felt his way along the perimeter with his left hand, while continuing to use his right to guide him through the growth. He came to a window.
He peered through the dusty, cracked window, pulling himself up high enough to see in, with the support of the chipped, brown painted window sill. He rested his chin on the sill, the scruff from his pepper colored facial hair caught chips of the brown paint. They clung to the matted, disheveled hair relentlessly. He did not bother to wipe them out.
The house was furnished, adorned with a thick layer of dust.
Ted spontaneously decided he should check the strange structure out. He blindly explored the edges of the house, wading through the sandy soil and grass until he found the entrance, or was it a back door? He was unsure.
The rotting cedar wood creaked and bowed as he cautiously ascended. He held the frail railing with angst. He needed to ensure if the wood broke beneath him, he had some sort of support, even if it wasn’t strong.
He crept toward the white painted door. He could see the streaks from the brush that had been responsible for the sloppy paint job. It was clear that the job was rushed, and the white pigment sporadically smeared and spread, seeing as the streaks strayed in several different directions. The dark wood of the hollow door shown through, it was exposed, appearing like the dirt from grass stains on the knees of a child’s jeans. Ted clenched his hand into a tight fist anxiously. He lightly knocked on it with his pale hand, knuckles slightly reddening.
The door cracked open. He nudged it open with his dirty finger tips. The door fell open with ease, as the hinges were entirely rusty, and falling off.
Mr. Hedge stood in the threshold. The frame was the same mud brown as the cracked and chipped window frame.
The room he stood before appeared to be a living room of sorts. The walls were filthy. Smudges from sneakers tossed, and carelessly smoked cigarettes stained the ivory white walls. The floors were rotting, and moaned with age, like an old worn body, with every step.
He could not decide if he wanted to shut the door and walk away, or go in. He took one step forward, his right foot in the room, his left still outside the doorway. The floor creaked and groaned, reluctantly accepting the weight of his body. He looked around.
An old cot lie in the corner. It appeared to be a one bedroom home once upon a time. What were once white sheets, embroidered with yellow, blue and green flowers were carelessly balled up at the end of the small, rusted cot.
An unavoidable aroma of must and mold mingled in his nose. He smirked. The smell reminded him of his grandparents, and the basement he slept in when he visited. He had a great relationship with them. They held him after dad beat him and mom up, they clothed him in the winter, they were the only people he truly felt an emotional connection with in his life.
In the center of the dingy room was a green painted wooden dining table. Two white chairs sat opposite of one another, on either side of the table. One stood stable, for its age. The one on the left only had three legs, and leaned sideways, yet was still upright, as it was somehow supported by the edge of the round green table.
It appeared that every object within the small cottage was hand made, molded over time. It was sad to see it was no longer occupied, and neglected, thought Mr. Hedge.
Why was it abandoned? What made the residents leave such a quaint, cozy home to fall apart? What had happened?
Who were those people, and who are they now?
Ted still stood in the threshold, his left foot outside, planted lightly, his right foot planted firmly, as he gazed around the room. An overwhelming sensation that someone stood behind him overcame him. He jerked his head around quickly. No one was there.
Ted felt it was time to leave, before being caught. He carefully stepped back out onto the creaking deck. He didn’t bother to close the door.
The darkness of the flecks in her blue eyes shone more prominently than the lightness. Her gaze was intoxicating. To Ted, she was a siren.
The way she looked at him, through her long, dark lashes at him was enough to make his breathing falter. It was as if she looked into his soul. It was as if she was the carpenter that constructed the curious closet in his sub consciousness. Yet she was the one to keep him from it, to protect him from the writhing agony that the closet created. The love she gave to him guarded his grieving heart.
The softness of her olive skin, as she caressed his calloused character, was comforting. She never judged him.
She spoke softly, soothing his sorrow. Her long red fingernails, gently grazed his warm, pale cheeks, as she gathered the tears that trickled out of Ted’s torn heart.
Her voice was captivating, and her laugh contagious. Not one day would go by that the grin she gave Ted wouldn’t make his cheeks hurt.
Like fairy dust, she watched their love twinkle from afar, and fade away, it slipped away, The gleam of happiness that carried the two whimsically, from day to day, vanished. Like the fog that one sees on a cold morning when they exhale, it disappeared. Like the hum of a note on a piano key, the sound lingered, and left.
Ted would never forget the smell of her. It was like decaying flowers, a tarnished, alcohol scent. And like decaying flowers, the petals of their relationship wilted, and browned, crumbled, and fell lifelessly to the brown window sill of their small home. They lie there until one of them decided to throw them in the trash.
She brushed her long black hair, with a solemn stare. She sat in front of a large, polished wood vanity. She pursed her thin, pink lips as she mulled through her memories. The dark eye shadow that coated her small, oily eye lids emboldened her blue eyes, and accentuated the dark speckles in the iris.
She missed Mr. Hedge every day. He had been a light in her life, and she felt, she his. But one day, a darkness took hold. Like a black veil covering the face of a mourning widower, they lost sight of each other.
She no longer looked into the depths of his soul. She had seen it all… and finally gave up. Destiny watched Ted flail in the sea of somberness that soaked his sorrowful soul. She watched. She no longer went out on to the dock to reach out and pull him back from the thick sea of sadness in which he sank. He tirelessly struggled.
Destiny turned away, and left Mr. Hedge to drown. She could only hear him wailing, as he struggled to grasp the edge of the dock. He never found that stable structure. Instead, he swam away, through the dark thoughts that flooded his mind.
Destiny stood before her reflection in the mirror. Long, frail arms lay by her sides. She wore a tight black dress that fell just above her knees. She flung her long black hair over her shoulders and clasped the silver chain of the necklace her husband had given her. He had recently passed unexpectedly. She felt nothing.
Ted’s heart yearned to know what that feeling was, that someone was watching him. He continued on his excursion into town, still thinking about that small abandoned house. Although it was falling apart, he thought it would be a nice place to have. He considered asking towns people about the residence, but figured no one would care or know. So, as he passed the few folks that meandered through town, he stayed silent.
Mr. Hedge now walked along a carefully constructed concrete sidewalk, no longer trudging on the sticky black tar. His cheap, plastic flip flops no longer stuck to the ground. The wind blew recklessly, Ted found it ominous. It felt as if a storm was coming.
He shielded his eyes from the sun, and looked up. Large dark clouds were swiftly travelling across the sky. The dark blue-grey hue reminded him of Destiny’s eyes.
The chime of church bells rang, and lingered in the thick, humid air. He was curious as to what they were doing ringing church bells on a Monday afternoon.
Mr. Hedge casually strode down the sidewalk toward the church.
As Ted walked toward the church he noticed the darkening blue-grey clouds approaching quickly. He remembered as a boy he was caught in the rain on this very sidewalk. He loved the way the rain smelled fresh, and brought the aroma of wet, fertile soil to life. The way the rain splashed and cleansed his face was refreshing.
While pondering this memory, Mr. Hedge balanced himself on the curb as he walked, trying to stay within the drop to the road, and the crack that divided the curb from the sidewalk. He’d also enjoyed doing this throughout his childhood, and into his adulthood.
Ted’s feet began to sweat from the humidity created by the oncoming storm. He slid while on the balls of his feet, while balancing on the curb. He faltered, but never fell.
The gust of the wind picked up, indicating rain was near. It picked up stray sand from the bordering properties and whipped his face, getting in his hair and eyes, and piercing his pallid complexion. He came upon the church. He noticed a black, shiny hearse, and men and women lined up alongside the church.
The building looked like a small country post office. The bricks that comprised the structure had faded with time, and the red was more of a rusty brown hue. A large, white plastic cross was plastered on the side on the building. Ted decided to find out who had passed.
Black and white suited attendees slowly filed in, mumbling among themselves, heads faced toward the ground. After the last of the straggling townspeople went inside the building, Ted went over to the church. He opened the heavy oak door by its gold plated handle. It creaked loudly as he opened it. Thunder grumbled, deep and guttural above the service. It had yet to start, and the people mingled among themselves. Mr. Hedge assumed they spoke of stories of the deceased they came to celebrate.
Ted stood in the threshold of the door, back exposed to the storm outside, facing the cool breeze of the church. It felt refreshing, as his perspiration had been collecting on his brow and upper lip, and dripped salty beads into his pursed mouth.
The sudden feeling that someone was behind him, like at the rundown cottage came over him. As he did before, he swung his frail body around, realizing if someone wanted to get in he was being rude. His jaw tightened, large brown eyes widened, faster than they ever had.
He gasped, struggling to suck down the sticky air from the storm. The air from the church wafted onto the back of his neck. Goose pimples formed instantly from the chill, or was it from the anxiety that was overwhelming him?
A tall, thin woman, in a tight black dress appeared before him. She wore a black hat, and a short veil in front of her face. Her olive skin contrasted with the darkening grey-blue clouds. But her eyes, they were a perfect match to the brewing storm. The wind grew stronger, and whipped the woman’s long, stringy black hair wildly.
An overwhelming sense of fear and claustrophobia took over his body. His limbs stiffened. Mr. Hedge didn’t think he could breathe.
“Actually, it’s no longer Muth, it’s Techiya. This is my late husband’s service. Come, join me.”
Ted didn’t speak. His breathing was staggered, he began wheezing. He felt like he was trying to breath water. Mr. Hedge shook his head slowly, his awe-stricken body was too tense to move any faster. He finally realized he was making direct eye contact with her speckled, soul sucking blue eyes.
Thunder crashed above them, and lightening shot across the sky, sharp, white and blinding. For a moment, he lost sight of the sinister statue that stood before him, as the white flash lit up the sky. The lightning lingered, and he could see her looming silhouette, and her piercing, stippled sapphire eyes. Her ominous presence continued to heighten Ted’s anxiety. His body trembled like a beaten puppy.
The woman in black flashed a sassy smile, her stained yellow teeth contrasting the stark white of her menacing, deep blue eyes.
“Come on, don’t go.”
Another deafening growl came from the dark sky behind her. The reverberations of the thunder vibrated his body. The same stifling, paralyzing sensation like when Ted would venture to the closet in his mind overcame his body. Her teasing him to not leave was all too familiar. She guarded the threshold. He could not escape.
Mr. Hedge turned around, cautiously, as if his back to her somehow hid him from her. He then swiftly paced down the aisle of the church. Away from Destiny Muth. His flip flops smacked his heels, making a clapping sound that echoed through the church. Ted maneuvered the crowds of mingling members. He sought a back door, and fortunately, he came to one. It was a white emergency door, a heavy, metal white painted door, with a silver bar latch. He heaved his body weight into the bar, the wind whipped the door open. Without looking, Mr. Hedge grabbed the edge of the door, slamming it shut behind him. He heard it latch, and lock.
He was at almost a jog. Ted did not attempt to take the streets, but jogged through random people’s yards, veering around white lawn furniture, and tacky pastel colored lawn ornaments. Mr. Hedge had never gone this way before. He had never gone through the landscape, he had always stayed at the edge of the lane. Nor had Ted ever turn away from Destiny, he usually pleaded to get past her, the same way he came in. Not this time.
At this point Ted was running. He gasped for air, the thick moist air made it feel like he was breathing cotton balls.
The rain came suddenly, and hard. Ted slipped in his black, plastic flip flops. He kicked them off carelessly, and left them wherever they land. He was sprinting along the slick, wet, green grass. It seemed more vibrant in the rain. Rain trickled down his face, tickling his brows and nose. His dark, pepper colored hair was soaked, with the cool water. It flowed from the black strands of hair to his back, running like a cool stream down his spine. The heavy air lightened, as the clouds wrung out their saturation unto the welcoming green grass. Sand from the terrain stuck to Ted’s feet, exfoliating his soles with every stride.
He saw he was coming upon the little white house he had encountered on his way to town. He reached the property’s edge, and didn’t stop. Ted didn’t even bother to put his hands out to avoid the long, bristly, yellow-green grass. He reached the weak stairs, and didn’t care to cautiously ascend them.
The door was still open. It swayed in the wet, gusts of wind. Ted quickly entered the dusty room he’d explored earlier, and quickly slammed the door shut. He let himself fall back onto the rickety brown door. He exhaled with exhaustion, and relief. He would stay here until the storm passed.
Ted never left the little white cottage. Instead, it became a safe haven. He felt comfortable in his quaint, white house. Throughout that spring Mr. Hedge rebuilt the structure. He painted it a solid white, instead of having the cracked, chipping white paint along the sidings. He replaced the weak, rotting wood of the deck and window frames. Instead of brown, he painted them a dark green. The doors, he eventually found the front door, were exchanged as well, with two stable cedar ones. He painted those dark green too.
There was always a residual musty smell from its former neglect, but it added character, and soul from its history. Ted cleaned up the long grassy landscape, cutting the hay like grass, that was eventually revived, and vibrant green again. Along the perimeter of the small cottage, where he had explored the first time he came upon the house was lined with white, pink and red flowers.
Ted Hedge never forgot Destiny Muth, or Destiny Techiya, which ever you prefer. But after his last encounter with her, the time he finally turned away, she stopped haunting his thoughts.
Destiny never trapped Ted Hedge in the closet again.