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The ghosts of other places

by Astrid 

Posted: 16 September 2005
Word Count: 1084
Summary: This is a short story version of a chapter from a novel about memory loss. Feedback would be great...

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The ghosts of other places

Lucas was drunk. He strummed on his guitar in a minor key. He changed to a 12-bar blues, improvising a song about having no chick, no bird, no turtle dove. He put it down when Marnie started to read the paper.
“Honey, I don’t want you to leave. Stay here and see what happens. You might realize your other life isn’t worth pursuing.”
He picked up the guitar again and plucked the E string and played a walking bass line, carelessly dispensing notes into the air that rose to meet the heat, suspending and melting into an invisible melody above them. Long, slender fingers travelled up and down the polished neck of his guitar. A note was preserved in the air by the subtle quivering of one finger as the others poised above the bridge for what seemed like a minute.

Lucas’s eyes were conker brown. ‘He’s full time beautiful,’ Marnie thought as she looked into them.
It was his beauty, the beauty of the forest around him, the heat that hung daily on the air to make her drowsy, the blank wall of her past and the single vision of her future that kept Marnie’s path bound with his. So the question of whether or not she was doing the right thing in remaining with him was kept at bay as she indulged in the sweetness of all that surrounded her.

Lucas was a hand holder. Sometimes he gripped her hand, or stroked it, then simply held it, like a bunch of wilting flowers. Once he licked it. It was the day after he licked her hand that she decided to move on. Her life, she thought, should pivot and swing into a different place entirely. Their thoughts were always syncopated, triggering another direction of thought, another flight path, another migration of ideas, suspending the need to decide.

Marnie dreamt of rhythm and patterns that night, as she clung to Lucas’ hand. She was tapping out her history in half notes. She woke up wondering at what age she had learned to walk and what her first words had been. Had there been a funeral for her, or a memorial service? Was it badly attended or too well attended? Is there a just right? She wanted to find out.

It was Monday and therefore red. Each day of the week was a colour for Marnie. Tuesday was blue, Wednesday was orange, Thursday was purple, Friday green and Saturday black. Sunday was yellow. These colours did not change with the season or her moods. She picked out a red cotton dress that had flecks of navy scattered over the weave. It was a remnant of her old days. She placed it on the chair and retrieved her sandals from the balcony, which were a little more bleached by the morning sun and hot to the skin of her feet. Their thong ties trailed the floor behind her as she made her way across the wooden boards to the bathroom, kicking them back as she entered the room. A Red Hot Chilli Peppers track was thumping through an open window across the road. Marnie’s daily baths lasted half an hour – just enough time to answer her own questions. A bee padded against the window.

She was happy living in the household of the Lessandros, whose children she tutored and who let her work at her own pace. In the lesson, they looked at the naming of parts. Marnie loved to name things, to state their existence. A baptism of the familiar. When Marnie had finished with the children for the day, she headed for the kitchen to have tea and chunks of bread and jam with Carmine. Marnie sat on the high stool at the breakfast bar, trailing a leg to the cool stone floor, the family dog twitching at her foot, wound around his dreams. Carmine’s dark hair was piled high, as if a present was wrapped inside it. Marnie wanted to slip her hand in and tug it out.
“Are my children clever?”
“Do you think they are good?”
“Are they beautiful?”
This was a regular exchange after lessons before Marnie’s departure, usually to Lucas’s. That night, she was staying in to babysit for the Lessandros. Marnie was settled into the chair, half reading a Gracie Reeves paperback and half watching a music channel on cable TV. It was raining heavily outside, the first time in months. The living room was vast with a huge central fireplace. Lessandro had designed the house himself on Lloyd Wright principles of light, space and shape. Each corner was rounded and each window maximized light potential. There was a window to every wall. The windows were ceiling to floor and half the width of their walls. There were two doors in every room and two people could walk around the house and never meet each other on the way. Marnie looked out as the heavy raindrops burst into pale fireworks when they hit the ground. Lessandro was a highly accredited architect, his theories on design were well documented. He was currently working on a book. For someone who disliked art, Marnie had a passion for architecture. She loved the finely chiselled buildings of Eastern Europe, so sharp they might cut you. She had found a book in Mr Lessandro’s library. It was written in an unfamiliar language, but she read it aloud, knowing the language spoke of dark secrets and knowledge of cruelty. A language of love and hate, art and death.

A casket stood on the mantelpiece. Marnie lifted it, tilted it so that the ashes inside shifted. It made a sifting sound, like sand through a sieve, or a percussion instrument. She recalled the bass line of the night before and began to shake the casket. She found a groove in the low music of the droning channel. Sediment dislodged and came to rhythm. She hadn’t danced in a long time and the realization of finding pace and style made her joyful. She called Lucas, who was sleeping.
“I didn’t realize the time, sorry. I just wanted to chat. Can you come over?”
“I could…” he paused.
“I am sleeping.”
“Not anymore. Sleep here. They won’t mind.”
“You’re impossible. I’ll come over tomorrow. I’d like to see you in daylight for a change.”
She sighed.
“I just wanted to tell you…”
She considered for a moment and then said “I love your hair.”

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