Letting Life Lead
Note: I haven’t done one of these in a while. Writing on the Fly is a series I do when I write cold. Very few edits beyond spelling as I see it. I don’t do outlines. I just write the story as it comes to me usually because it won’t let me sleep or keeps coming back to my thoughts. Enjoy!
Marcus wasn’t usually hard to pick out in a crowd, but it took Mari a while to find his face in the crush of mourners huddled together despite the clear-blue humidity. It was a black sea of crisp suits, sharp ties, expensive hats, and high-heels sunken into the turf. Her scuffed flats allowed her mobility without an escort and her white blouse didn’t blend well with the dress code despite the smart black trousers. Dee Dee always said she had the coloring to wear white. “Darling, for the love of grace, don’t come to my funeral looking like an undertaker.” A hundred years old, but spry, Dee Dee had no qualms about inserting the certainty of death into conversation when she could. “I’m old dear. I’m going to die sooner rather than later. Talking about it won’t bring it faster,” she’d said when Mari showed discomfort. Her passing happened as the old lady wished it. Sitting on her back porch on a beautiful day in summer when the bountiful lilacs on her property perfumed the entire county.
She found him surrounded by family and almost disappearing among the slick hair and starched collars. An uninvited guest to the private affair, Mari waited for the services to end before approaching the grave briefly to pay respects. Dee Dee wouldn’t mind the hasty farewell. She’d probably scold her for even this sentiment of placing a letter on the casket.
“You hated gladiolus and caskets.” Mari sighed and shook her head. Dee Dee would have detested the arrangements and would have preferred her ashes scattered or planted beneath the lilacs.
Where did they take Marcus? Mari half trotted and half walked to the parking lot and made it just in time to catch the threads of conversation encouraging him to come home and to let go of his silly whims and get back on track now that great-grandmother Deidre was gone. She saw his shoulders crumple under the weight of their crushing love that came with a side of guilt and a heaping dose of control. Mari could read their lips — a talent she’d picked up as a child. Marcus refused to enter a limo and pulled away from the group, though he dragged his feet and kept looking back
Mari made it to him just at the moment he hesitated and shoved his hands deep into his tailored trouser pockets. She threaded her arm through his and let him lean heavily on her. She guided him to his beat up car parked near a retaining wall. The trunk of the classic beast could smuggle at least five friends with room to spare.
“Hey, don’t let them get to you. No ducks in a row remember?”
He stared off into space with red rimmed eyes and wouldn’t even blink at her. Mari sat him on the low wall and ruffled his coiffed hair gently until it was a mass of disobedient curls. She loosened his tie and set it askew, unbuttoned his cuffs and pushed the suit coat sleeves up, and then untucked his shirt and wrinkled the hem in her fingers.
“There you are.” She cupped his face in her hands. “She preferred you as is. You remember that.” When he didn’t respond Mari untied his shoes and tossed the laces.
Marcus peered down at himself and huffed a short laugh puffed through is cheeks which turned into heaving sobs. He wept into her chest, wrapping his arms around her waist, and dampened her blouse with his pain. Mari hugged his head to her in silence.
She cried too. Not for Dee Dee. For herself. She’d forgotten what a hug was like — how warm someone’s body was, the tremble of their breaths, and the smell of their hair. How could she not know she missed them? The old lady had been right. Mari had let herself die. She wasn’t going to let her friend suffer that.
“I’m leaving for Korea in a few hours. Will you see me off?”
“The fuck!?” Marcus sniffed and blew his nose into a hankerchief. Mari didn’t know anyone else who used the old throwbacks.
A year ago, Dee Dee had given Mari a collectible glass figurine and told her to sell it and stop all the nonsense. She’d scolded her for a quarter of an our after a game of Whist. “For pity’s sake girl, enough of your foolishness. You’re smart and still young. This is worth a few pretty pennies and you’re a thrifty one. Get yourself a ticket to anywhere and see something. Find a place that will force you to get down to the business of living.” The old woman was well off and assured Mari the item had no value to her or purpose other than accumulating dust along with all the others. And she sold it on a whim six months ago and never did anything with the frightening amount — too overwhelmed to touch the account. Probably not a lot to some, but it might as well have been a bottomless fortune to Mari.
“It was the first place flight that came up when I called the airport. I got to to do it before I…can’t. I’m not even packing anything!” Mari laughed a snort and held her cheeks. All she had on her was her purse and her phone.
“You speak Korean!?”
“Shit, Mari. That’s crazy.” Marcus’s eyes were glazed but bright again. “What about your stuff?”
“Leave it. ”
“I’ll take care of it.” He kissed her forehead and slung his arm over her shoulders. “I’ll drive you to the airport before you puss out.”
On the plane, Mari felt the first waves of panic and she distracted herself with a language app on her phone. What had she done? Who in their right mind calls the airport, asks them what their first flight out is, and says: “I’ll take that one.” Mari groaned and tapped her stupid head with the phone.
“First time?” The man sitting next to her broke into a friendly smile. His black hair was styled short with bleached tips at the front.
“First time anywhere. You?”
“Going home to visit my family. I’ve been in the states for years — since college. I try to go back whenever I can.”
He asked her a question in Korean and she held up her phone to show him. “Sorry. I’m still on level one.”
He quirked an eyebrow and said more unfamiliar melodious words and then introduced himself. “I’m Minjoon, but you can call me Mike.”
“Marigold — Mari.”
By the time the plane landed, Mari knew she fallen into opportunity.
“Come on,” Mike motioned. “I’ll escort you to the Council on International Educational Exchange. They can help you from there.”
If she were too busy surviving and experiencing the unfamiliar she could finally let go of her sorrows.
Short stories and general observations about the world of writing.
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