Of Red and Fire
She felt it again – the pull.
She felt it course through her body and as she closed her eyes, her mind went to that place between consciousness and dreams and her fingers responded. She touched the strings every so lightly, like each of them were made of ice and as her right hand moved from side to side, she felt the pull.
Her body began to sway with the sound, her curves wakening with a mind of their own. Every note was an entire universe of dances from a thousand ages and she knew them all by heart. She swayed and she swayed along to the rhythm of the sound at the mercy of her hands, oh, how easily she could manipulate the waves. She slid her fingers along the strings she knew so well and as they bent under the weight of her hardened skin, she played.
She played to the room she was in, to the house that was her shelter and to the night that served as her shield to the world. She played as though her very life depended on it, and as she reached the crux of her song, she felt the pull turn tug so hard at her heart that she felt tears of pure ecstasy roll down her cheeks. She felt her body move closer to the wood that was pressed against her curves and her head tilted back, curls of gold catching the light of the candles that surrounded her.
And as the music dies down, so did the familiar pull. And as the candles burnt out, so her tears dried and she was brought back down from her place amongst the angels. She lifted her bow from the strings and she sighed. She sighed a resigned sigh because she knew that outside her room of absolute quiet and shadows, there was that. That being the looks that they gave her, that being the pity she felt for them. That was the secret that she tried so hard to hide from the world.
That was what he had done to her and that was what she would never forget.
Days after he had made the red and purple flowers bloom on her body, she still felt the pain. Flowers on her arms, flowers on her stomach and a flower on her face; that is what he gave her as a show of his dominance. He had raised the decibels of his voice to a pitch she had never heard before and she thought that she would die that very night – from blood red petals that bloomed on her.
She left the room and she saw him there, sitting in his chair, still with his beer in hand. He didn’t even look at her as she walked past him into the kitchen they’d played husband and wife for four years. She made herself a cup of tea with the tea leaves he had brought her back from South Africa – a peace offering because she knew that she wasn’t the only one who he whispered to at night.
As she sipped her tea, at the mahogany dining table that they hosted a Thanksgiving dinner every year, she smiled as she watched the vapors of his cowardly present waft into the air. The sharp smell stabbed at her nose like how he had stabbed her with his lies and she smiled at the vapor.
Ah, the memories. The memories of picnics and sudden trips to Paris – memories of better days when she played her music in the garden during the summertime and he built skyscrapers that reached the outer planes of Jupiter. Memories of museums and movie dates, of county fairs and carnation tattoos, and memories of blatant lies and a beating that spirits encouraged.
She thought about it all and she drank her tea that was bitter to the taste, just like what her life had turned into. But she knew that it was over, because she was leaving. She would go somewhere where she could play again, where the lights reflected in her eyes and where she would find new and hidden notes in her fingers. She would leave the shell of the man she once loved and she would find someone else. She would fill her night sky with lights again, and they would burn brighter than any day star. She would go back to the stage and she would revel in the applause that her fans would provide; thundering like the hooves of a thousand stallions across the land.
So she packed her dresses and her clothes, her graduation photos and her heirlooms and she left the room that they’d explored each other’s beings. But she hesitated before the door clicked its final click. Because she remembered him. She remembered why she had fallen in love with him and she remembered why she had said yes to him. But those times were in the past, where they belonged.
She brought her suitcases to the front door and she called herself a taxi, because if she had to leave everything in her past, she was leaving her sky blue beauty behind, the car that had been her familiar for so long. Everyone knew that when she was around, her sky blue car was likely to be parked on some corner, bringing some color to the street.
She went back into her room of music and candlelight and played her instrument until she heard the sound of an engine and as she rose, she felt tears fall again, but it was not from the revelry of melody, but it was because she knew that she was parting with her most beloved possession in the world, her cello. She knew that one day, she’d see it again, because there were just too many times she’d let her bare skin touch its wood and her she’d left part of her soul in the its timbre – so before she let go of the lacquered wood, she kissed the top of it and set it down, bow resting by its side.
She went to the front door and the cabby took her bags from her, and she smiled at him. She went into the kitchen and turned off the lights and made sure that all the windows were closed so that there would be a draft. And she went into the room where her husband still sat and she kissed the top of his head lightly. And she left the home that she’d built with a man that did not live in there anymore.
“Where to?” asked the cab driver and the woman looked out the window and closed her eyes.
“Take me to the airport,” she said and rested her head on the cool glass. Her adventure had begun.
A few days later, a man in a suit pulled up to the house that seemed empty and he got out of the car. He buttoned his suit jacket as he walked up to the house and called out the name of the man he knew. There was no answer and after minutes of waiting that was answered with silence, he unlocked the door with the spare set of keys that he knew was under the hydrangeas.
And the smell hit him first, and the weight of stale air made him take a step back. He called out the combination of alphabets of a cowardly name in a state of panic that would have made the woman that had once lived her laugh, and as he walked through the house in his quickened step, she sipped wine on a terrace in France.
As he burst into the room where the TV was still blaring out its propaganda and sexism, she took a bite of cheese and leaned back into a white chair, her sheer dressing gown billowing in the cool air. As he gasped in shock as the man that had gotten him out of many a tight spot, the woman closed her eyes and smiled as the Sun broke through the clouds and caressed her face.
Days later when the men who wore pieces of plated metal rushed into her Parisian apartment, she was there by her dresser putting on lipstick. She smiled at them and told them to give her a moment and she rose to her feet, her cream dress holding her curves close, making her hourglass shape look more beautiful than ever.
She followed them willingly, no crude bracelets required and when she left the apartment, she locked the door and smiled. They led her down to the cars that blared out such unsophisticated racket and she slid into the seat, easy and gently as she did anything else these days.
When she stepped foot onto the land she was born in, she went freely with the men that greeted her and as she sat in a room surrounded by metal pieces, she was polite and amicable with everyone around her. They asked her why she sat in there with them and she told her story to those who would absorb her words. They listened and after she had said her last word, she was met with understanding and words describing her as brave and strong. She never said anything to those words.
In the houses of justice, she was scrutinized by all and by all was she judged. People were shown pictures of a chair soaked by a ruby river and a knife that lay next to it, set as if it were next to a board, ready to cut. The people were shown pictures of her with the man she knew and stories came from their friends and their family. Water fell from seeing orbs and poison was spat at the woman, but she kept silent till the very end.
And at the very end, when everything had been exhausted and everyone had expounded their energy, the man in the black robes who sat on the highest seat asked the woman if she had words to put up as a shield to all the syllables that had pierced her mind, and she, in a voice quiet as the night that she loved, said one truth:
“He hit me, and I defended myself.”
And she left the house of justice as a free woman. She left to return to her apartment in the country of love where she spent the rest of her days composing tadpoles into symphonies and sway her ever-present curves to the beauty of her freedom, finally.
For no man will ever make flowers bloom on her body ever again, and that was a promise she kept to her dying day, surrounded by her daughters and sons, her grandchildren and the man who she had later married – a man that made flowers bloom for a living, but in the rich soil of mother Earth.
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