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A Short Story; The House of Joy and Pain
The red Buick pulled up Slowly, then stopped outside the imposing blue and white Victorian style house. The old house stood proud, like a grand dame from another era. Although the architectural design was popular in this part of the country, the old house stood out, it oozed New England style and charm.
The middle-aged woman sat at the wheel of the car; she made no effort to exit the vehicle; she gazed at the house intensely, as if looking right through it. The woman felt compelled to enter the house, but most of all she wanted to run away.
Maya turned off the engine of the Buick, reached into her purse and withdrew a packet of cigarettes and a gold lighter, she extracted one of the slim white sticks, placed it between her lips, and lit the cigarette. She inhaled deeply and exhaled with a sigh. An overwhelming sense of sadness threatened to consume her as she leaned back into the seat.
Years of loneliness had left its marks upon the still beautiful face; Maya removed the cigarette from her trembling lips. "The place hasn't changed one bit!" The sound of her voice startled her.
While driving through the town; Maya was surprised to see the familiar white tents, under which the local farmers held a weekly market. She once bought fresh produce from there every Saturday.
A sad smile touched her lips as Maya remembered a visit to the farmer's market with Jack and how well she had haggled with the stall holder from whom she bought the Red Elderberry and two Yoshino cherry trees. The old farmer flirted with her mercilessly while Jack encouraged him. With a the twinkle in his rheumy eyes, the old man gave her a third Cherry tree free of charge. She used the trees to create a stunning landscape in the rear garden.
Against her better judgement, Maya allowed Jack to sign her up for the hog roasting competition a traditional favourite at the farmer's market. Her eyes misted over as the memories came flooding back like a river that had suddenly breached its bank. They didn't leave with a prize, but all they needed was each other.
Her heart was filled to bursting, as her love for Jack threatened to overcome her. Gazing at her husband, Maya wrinkled her nose as he dug greedily into the bowl of Mexican Menudo soup. She felt safe and happy in Jack's arms as they listened to a live band and watched the sun disappearing beyond the horizon. Yes; she was happy here, once.
As she approached the house, her eyes fell on the old garage doors. She wished she knew what she would do with Jack's extensive collection of tools that still lined the inside walls. Since the twins had no use for Jack's tools, she will have to sort them out and place them in a garage sale, she should have sold them years ago, but she could not sum up the courage to let go.
Lately; Maya's thoughts kept returning to the past, she often find herself reliving her wedding day, the day she came to this beautiful house.
It was a warm sunny day in June; she was the newly married Mrs Jack Grant.
The wedding went like a dream; she was floating on air, a sea of happy faces smiled up at the vision in white silk and lace, Pachelbel’s Cannon played in the background with the heady scent of apple blossom in the air. She felt like a princess gliding down the aisle where her love waited for her at the altar.
The world faded into the background, Jack looked at her and smiled, she thought her heart would explore with her love for him, she was barely breathing but managed to make a superhuman effort to refrain from running into his arms.
Her journey was almost over, Maya opened the car window and inhaled the countryside. She felt the tiredness lifted as she drove across the bridge, and the cold air from the river washed over her face. She had forgotten how impressive and commanding was the view of the river from the bridge, today it brought tears to her eyes. She looked down at the passing fields and the meandering river snaking through the valley, Maya thought of her first meeting with Jack. Love at first sight, it most definitely was not.
Maya was no sailor, but she was tenaciously stubborn. She enjoyed sailing her yacht 'Morning Mist' a gift from her father, and would practice on the lake most Saturday mornings.
With the breeze in her hair, the feel of the boat responding to her touch, Maya come alive. She screamed with the sheer exhilaration as she tacked in and out of the wind, finishing her morning sail on a high.
She maneuvered the small vessel towards the marina and noticed another yacht bearing down on her, also heading for the narrow passage. Too late, she realized she should have tacked behind him.
The wind picked up, and Morning Mist was blown into the side of the other yacht, bringing the sails down, and the wrath of the sailor upon her head.
“You stupid woman!...where the hell did you learn to sail? Couldn't you see me? Are you so flaming blind that you can't see a 45 footer in front of you? I had the wind, damn it," he shouted, waving his arms in the air, Maya smiled sweetly and shrugged her shoulders. The angry sailor surrendered; Why fight with this gorgeous creature? He thought, and began to laugh.
Jack and Maya enjoyed a large seafood platter at the Marina that evening, the first of many.
Jack had inherited the impressive old house, from his grandmother. Maya fell in love with the house the very first time she set her eyes on it on her wedding day.
Painted pure white, when the couple first moved in, the house was known locally as ‘The White Mansion House.’ When Maya became pregnant, Jack decided to give the old place a facelift.
Jack was busy painting when Maya called out. "Jack! White is so....so.. bland, let’s add some colour to the old girl." A bit miffed; Jack replied, "Maya, it's been the white mansion house for as long as I can remember, I wouldn't want to be the one to change it, the locals are not going to approve."
"Ouch!" Maya yelped as if in pain, concerned; Jack asked if she was alright, "Your son," she replied, "he is going to be a footballer, damn; he can sure kick!
So at least, one's a boy? Jack joked, grinning from ear to eat . Maya pointed ignored his remark and instead called out to her husband, "Jack..... let's paint it blue," she said thoughtfully.
Jack painted the old house baby blue all over, except for the gable, exterior mouldings and cornices.
The couple felt blessed as they awaited the birth of the twins. The fly in the ointment was Maya’s father. The Iranian diplomat would not accept an American husband for his only daughter. The family had disowned Maya for marrying Jack against her father's wishes.
However, with the birth of two perfect boys, named William after Jack’s dad and Karim after Maya’s, the old man's feelings began to thaw, and her family welcomed Maya back into the fold.
Maya thought her happiness was complete, but soon, Jack was called up to fight for his country in Vietnam, one year later the news came, Jack was missing in action. Maya’s world collapsed.
For the sake of his daughter’s sanity Karim did everything he could to find Jack, he accompanied Maya to Vietnam after the war, they searched for Jack, but they found not even a trace.
Now; over a decade later, she had finally, plucked up the courage to sell the property, but severing this last link was killing her. However, since she had come this far, she must take the bull by the horns.
Maya got out of the car and looked towards the house; a figure emerged on the porch, she could not breathe. She blinked, rubbed her eyes, expecting the apparition to disappear, but there it remained.
One word left her mouth, and she fainted. "Jack?"