Author: mmmmmmmm PM
Anagrams, darling? she asks, flustered. Anagrams? What are they?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Mystery/Suspense - Words: 1,294 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 01-06-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2300338
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She's digging through her mother's old paperbacks, stacked in a cardboard box and shoved into the garage, where no one was really supposed to find them. "Oh," her mother had said quickly, with a large and teeth-filled smile. Her bright tone hadn't been fast enough to hide the distaste and embarrassment in her eyes. "God! I haven't seen those in years. The trash I used to read," her mother giggles.
She looks up at her mother, with a hand to her open-lipped mouth and gazing, unsure, down at her daughter. She sees the way her mother's blonde hair has a halo in the sun, in the light that is filtered thorugh windowpanes and blinds, the light that escapes in thin lines and dances, nearly choked with dust, around her mother's face. She smiles at her, a vague and complacent gesture. Her mother smiles back, but she is scurrying away before her daughter looks up again.
She observes the covers. They are gaudy, bursting with electric colors- the gold of skin, the purple of robes, the red of hair. The women are all swooning and they look beautiful from far away, but when she leans in close to observe their identical faces, she sees the graininess and faintly spotted texture to their printed skin. There is always a man next to her, muscled and long-haired and half-absent of clothing. She finds it strange that the women look all the same, trapped forever in a helpless, adoring gaze. But she can turn the book in her hands, drinking it in with each new light, and the man's face will never look the same- then bored, now joyful, now pensive. On any other day, their faces might just look blank- she blames it on the optimistic weather.
As she opens the first one, long-stationary plumes of dust are breathed up into her face by the book's yellowed pages. The illusion of mystery is shattered as she finds herself coughing, flapping her hands. She looks down at where the book has fallen onto the bare concrete floor, strewn open and morose with bent covers and seperated pages. For a moment she wills her hands to reach down, to pick up the disheveled book and wipe away the dirt, but she is still too shocked. Her mind and her fingers are always so filled with planning, with predictability- the unexpected is never welcome.
The book ends up in her hands, anyway; the temptation is overwhelming and she has always been persistent. She doesn't read it, she couldn't stand to. The writing is banal and flowery and horrible and just the kind of thing, she knows, that her mother- in college and still a hopeless romantic- would love. Passages like ""The heaving waves on the vast, ink-black ocean sent a salty spray over the proud bow of the three-masted ship, leaving beads of water on the exposed alabaster skin above the bodice of the tall, raven-haired woman who stood sobbing on the deck, her salty tears mixing with the storm-tossed sea," were almost, almost enough to make her laugh, but then she remembered that they were serious.
She flips through one and another, remembering to shield her eyes from the dust each time, and it becomes a routine. Soon enough the entire box is empty, book after book and gaudy cover after cover spread out across the garage floor. In each she had searched for something she couldn't quite name- an honesty about life, a noticing of little details- but there was nothing.
One cover caught her eye. It was dirtier, more faded than the rest- once-bright greens and reds of a Christmas tree had faded to yellow and pink. 'Aural Hopskin,' read the author's name. She smiled, just a little. Yes, these were the sort of books pseudonyms were made for; the kind of books that you never wanted anyone to know you had written.
She stood. Her legs were dirty, she was sure, and her knees felt stiff from sitting so long, but she strode back into the house and fell to her knees in front of the bookcase. These were all her mother's, or a few old historical things of her dad's, but she had never bothered. She had her own minature collection, her own library card; the trash her mother devoured and the droll nonfiction her father perused had never interested her before.
She took the first book, green and leather-bound with a man's name printed on the cover. It was her father's shelf, unofficially- filled with mind-numbing biographies and recounts of horrific battles in a way so cold, so calculated, it gave even her the shivers. She flips through it and reads sentences here and there, but it tells her nothing she hasn't seen in words before, nothing that she couldn't have expected.
She moves to her mother's shelf instead, ignoring the curious feel of dread in her stomach. What does she think she can find here? She tears pink books and bright colored covers from the shelf, texts so new the spines aren't bent and they still smell like paper. She looks through page after page and they are all the same, always always the same.
She pulls off every one, not stacking them now, only dropping them across the floor and letting them slide where they please. When she is done the shelf is empty and the dust from their tops is gone, whirling around in the bright afternoon air and muddying its effect. She sits and she breathes deeply, closing her eyes, forgetting everything.
She opens them. She looks up to where her mother is standing, a quizzical expression on her freshly made-up face.
"Darling, what's all this?"
What can she say? How fast can she think up some kind of lie? Actions like this are the things that no one can put into proper words. No one.
"I was organizing," she says finally. She forces her face to stay calm, lets a small, kind smile curve on her lips.
"Oh!" her mother says brightly. She sees where the golden-hair halo on her mother's head is dimmed. Noon is gone and the night is drawing closer. "Why- well, thank you, darling!" She totters away, leaving behind only small 'clicks' from her heels on the floor.
She puts the first book back on the shelf.
When she is done, the air is darker, even inside. Her mother is cooking in the kitchen but hasn't bothered to turn on the lights. Steam swirls up from a pot on the stove and melts away into the ceiling. The gleam of a little gold plaque on the counter catches her eye, but it's one she's seen many times before- it decorates the tiny bronzed statues of wedding-cake figures, her parents' names emblazoned below: 'Thomas and Laura Hopkins.'
"Mother, are you a fan of anagrams?" she tries to keep her voice not curious, not cold, just blank. It doesn't work, but her mother never notices tone.
"Anagrams?" she asks, flustered. She looks up from where she has just shut the oven. Her cheeks are filled with a rush of red, and a stray lock of glossy blonde hair crosses her forehead, falling into a pair of confused green eyes. "Anagrams, darling? What are they?"
The sun has gone down outside, she notes, and the halo in her mother's hair is gone.