Architect

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Iris felt as if she had been sitting in silence for most of her working life. More often than not, her clients remained enmeshed in their own silent Gordian Knots for much of their allotted fifty minute slots too. Whilst she believed in the process, whilst she stressed to the buttoned-up men and women that it was they that needed to ‘do the work’, and if that meant silence with their thoughts, then so be it, more and more these days, she was finding it hard to prevent her own thoughts from ruminating on her own troubles.

Forty seven years old and not a sniff of a relationship for eight years. Was there something wrong with her? Did the men she met every now and again find her too strong, too professional, were they afraid of her chosen career? She sometimes looked in the mirror and saw shades of Lilith from Frasier staring back at her. Same severely drawn-back dark hair, same black suit, same eyes that could wilt a flower at a thousand paces (her ex-husband’s words that had remained, eating away at her since the bitter divorce). Oh, she had continued with her own psychoanalysis as all good mental health professionals should, but after some time she had used her own silent fifty minutes to mentally redecorate her apartment, to compile shopping lists, to think of the ballet she had so enjoyed last night. She wasn’t, it was fair to say, doing the work.

Don, the jailbird, was waiting in the wings. Just as soon as he got out from his stretch inside for a string of tax infringements, he’d be at her door, smiling and expectant. Much as she enjoyed writing to him and visiting him when the penitentiary allowed, she wondered if their relationship was doomed to failure. His idea of her was of a downtrodden divorcee, a poor shadow of a woman who needed a strong, capable man to protect her. He adored her sweet, feminine ways, or at least the ones she portrayed to him in her letters and on her visits. Observing her female clients over the years had given her plenty of material on which to base her alter-ego. She though of herself as a thief, no better than Don really. She stole people from themselves, and was paid handsomely for the privilege.

Iris stepped out of her court shoes, sighing at the relief of stockinged feet flexing on the shag pile carpet. Shaking her hair loose from its tightly knotted bun, she stared at herself in the mirror. She could do faded, timid, eager to please, if it meant having Don’s strong, capable arms holding her close every night, if it meant that she would no longer be on her own. Hell, most of her clients came to her because they were making compromises every single day of the week, and saw her as their safety net, their place to accommodate all that accommodation. If they could do it, so could she. Anything had to be better than sitting at home in silence with only her thoughts for company.

She checked her calendar, counted the days until Don’s release. Twenty seven. Time enough to hang up her psychoanalyst’s metaphorical hat and reinvent herself. Time enough to learn domesticity. She checked the small ads in the local paper and found just what she needed. ‘How to be a Fifties Housewife: Cookery to please your Man’.

She picked up her phone, found who she was looking for and waited to be connected. “Hello Darrell? It’s Iris here. Yes, I need to resume my sessions with you. Tuesdays at 3pm? Perfect. Looking forward to seeing you then. Bye.”

Fifty minutes of constructive silence once a week was hers once more. ‘Worth it for true love,’ thought Iris.

Wasn’t it?

 

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The Mirror Crack’d

Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something. Little did he know,that I hated him, had hated him for years. Little did he know that the very reason that I hated him was because he reminded me far, far too much of me, or rather the parts of me that I disliked the most. Little did he know that I envied him, because he had given into those parts, had lived his life just the way he wanted to, had left chaos and destruction in his path like the tornadoes that plagued our part of the world, and yet I, I had not. And he seemed not to care. Here he was, sitting opposite me in the bar, sipping meditatively on his scotch on the rocks like the past twenty years just hadn’t happened.

“So, Shelley, how’re you findin’ motherhood? It’s a tough call, am I right?”

Huh. ‘Am I right’ – that phrase that took me back to my shitty teens, when he went to work one day and never came back, when he tossed us all out of his life like so much trash, when he shacked up with that two bit floozy in her mouldy old trailer and was happy, dammit.He hadn’t had to pick up the pieces, watch Mom take away the pain by losing all our meagre savings at the casino, lose herself in a rainbow of meds, and then finally walk away from me and my brother once I turned seventeen.

“There you go, making up lies again.”

“What?” I double-taked, cartoon style. “What did you say – err, Dad?” The word still felt uncomfortable in my mouth. Like eating chalk.

“You didn’t answer, so I know that means  you’re thinking. Thinking about all the bad stuff – and Shell, I know it was bad. I know you thought it was all my fault.”

“Wasn’t it?” I demanded, heart thumping. Our relationship, such as it had been, hadn’t been built on blunt questions, let alone honest answers.

“Shell, your mom, God love her soul, well, she was sick. Sick for a long, long time. I couldn’t handle it any more. Granted, I wasn’t always on it, wasn’t always there for you kids when I shoulda been, but she wanted it all, Shell. The 6 bed 3 bath house, the cars, the housekeeper, the chef, the gardener, the pool. And it was just me earning. I couldn’t be there to look after you and work all the hours to provide that for her. She wasn’t a happy woman, Shell.”

I looked at him. I mean, really, really looked at him. Searched the expression on his face, the look in his eyes, noted the silver hair, the crows feet, the nails bitten down to the quick as he nervously turned his scotch glass round and round in his hands.

“There was only me, Shell, only me. And I wasn’t enough for her. She told me to leave, told me not to contact you or her ever again, told me I was a piece of trash, so I should go and live with the trash, out at Riverside Park. What could I do?”

“And Lucille? Who the fuck was Lucille?”

“Is. She and I are still together. I worked with her, kinda. You know, she was a cleaner at the office, nobody gave her a second of their time exceptin’ me. But I was there all the hours, saw how she did her work, polished every inch of every desk, every bin properly emptied. She was good to me, brought me a Subway every night, and God, she didn’t ask me for anything in return. I just moved in to the spare room to begin with. It grew from there.”

“A cleaner, Dad? Really?”I shook my head. Why sink so low?

He looked at me, sadly. “You may think you’re too much like me, Shell. You may hate the parts of me that remind me of you. But really, it’s your mom you don’t like the reflection of. I loved her, but she never really loved me, for me. Only what I could buy for her. That ain’t love, Shell. Better wake up before it’s too late.”

Parallel – Five Sentence Fiction

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The Girl stands at the far end of the platform.

She checks her watch, stares along the curve of the tracks glistening in the sunlight, then checks her watch again.

Amongst the busy, non-stop crowd of commuters, she is conspicuous, rooted to the spot, unmoving apart from the lift of her wrist to check the time, and then the tilt of her head to search for the train.

Her small movements are metronomic.

And then, then train arrives – she steps aboard, disappears – and she is free.

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Here is my latest entry into the lovely Lillie’s Five Sentence Fiction, where she has provided this inspirational photo for us as this week’s inspiration. Please do visit here to read, read, read some more! No two pieces will be the same…