Moonlight on the Lake

 by Phyllis Green

I wonder what Marianne thought when she arrived at the office and learned her lover, Alvin Judd, had died.  Marianne was in the secretarial pool, and she had been overwhelmed when the owner had asked her out nearly a year ago.  They had begun an affair and had kept it secret from the whole company.  So I wonder what Marianne thought. Maybe she went to the washroom and swallowed a Benedryl.
I wondered if she would go to the wake being planned at The Ostrich Bar on Nottingham Street.  I wondered what she would wear.  Perhaps first, she would have her hair re-dyed Palladium Auburn, a dark red Alvin liked.  It enhanced her frail skin that looked like mouse tongue.  Sometimes Alvin called her Mousy. I wonder if she would wear a black or gray pant suit, not something gay to be noticed, and would she pull back her hair into a pony tail and tie it with a muted two inch black ribbon?  Would she wear heels or would she be afraid of tripping and cause herself to be noticed?  Would she need a Benedryl before she arrived at the bar?  Would she put tissues in her little snake bag just in case?  And more Benedryl? I wonder if she would take a cab in case she couldn’t drive home.
I wonder if Marianne would take the paper Alvin had given her where he bequeathed to her the little wooden cabin where they spent weekends, the cabin by the silvery blue lake, the tall pine trees, and the hiking trails.  He had written in it long hand one weekend.  He told her “If anything happens to me I want you to have this cabin, our love nest, so you will always remember me and the time we had together and the dusty trails we walked and the mist and moonlight on the lake and the lonesome call of the loons and our passion, mostly that.”  And he put that all in his bequeath and told her if he died to pass it to his attorney, Ulysses Rob Roy.  I wonder if Marianne thought Mr. Rob Roy would be at the wake at The Ostrich Bar on Nottingham.
When Marianne arrived at the Ostrich Bar did she make herself blend into the office crowd like a bee in a hive?  Did she sneak a peek for the widow whom Alvin had once showed her picture, a real ball-busting woman (Alvin’s words), severe, commanding, large and angry, who had an important job at another firm hiring and firing. She liked the firing part best; she traveled to Europe a lot. That is why Alvin had so much free time for Marianne.  And I wonder when Marianne spotted Mrs. Judd, did she ask anorexic Celine, who worked in sales and always wore aqua, who was the woman standing beside the ball-buster, the woman who looked like dough before it was punched down to roll into a pie.  And what if Celine said, the doughy woman was Alvin’s wife and the dynamo was Alvin’s sister, what would Marianne think?
And I wonder if Marianne downed a few Bombay Sapphires to get up her courage to show Alvin’s bequeath to Mr. Rob Roy.  But maybe she noticed Dumb and Dumber talking with the attorney and realized he was approachable.  Alvin had named the two blondes from accounting.  He teased about them viciously, so Marianne had begun thinking of them as Dumb and Dumber too. So maybe after they moved away from Mr. Rob Roy Marianne could approach him.  And maybe Mr. Rob Roy put his arm around Marianne and told her a funny story about the two blondes who presented him with a supposed will from Alvin that said he was bequeathing them a little cabin in the woods.  And maybe Mr. Rob Roy (“call me Ulysses” he said) told her Alvin was not basically a truthful man.  “But don’t take my word for it,” Ulysses Rob Roy said with his insouciant little laugh.
And then I wonder if Marianne saw Julie, Alvin’s daughter, whom she had grown to love as Julie had accompanied them several times to the cabin. Julie had been so understanding about Marianne and Alvin, not seeming to mind at all, and they had got on famously, making brownies, and eating French vanilla ice cream with walnuts with the three of them sitting on the rickety green sofa watching spy movies on the TV, Alvin in the middle with his arms around his daughter and Marianne.  And of course Marianne let them have some daughter/father time, so she napped as they went hiking or swimming or did homework together (Julie was in college). Marianne felt a part of the family and thought, like all mistresses think,  that one day Alvin would divorce the witch, and he and Julie would be her family.
And I wonder if Marianne, as she was talking to Ulysses Rob Roy, saw Julie and waved to her. Julie came over and Ulysses introduced her as his daughter, Olivia, and this Julie/Olivia said, “I’m glad to meet you” as if they had never met before, and Ulysses said, “Olivia’s graduates next week” and Marianne said “Oh, university” and Ulysses said, “High school.” And Marianne coughed and choked and excused herself by waving her hand and then perhaps went to the bar and asked for bourbon.
And I wonder if that is all Marianne remembers of the wake and the next week, and I wonder if that is why she ended up here.  And I wonder who brought her here.  She doesn’t have close relatives, so was it her neighbors in the apartment building who usually don’t speak. Or did something happen? Did Marianne do something like running through the halls naked and someone call 911?  I would really like to know.

Dear Dr. Whistler:
This is the best I can do.  I think it helped for me to think of Marianne as someone other than me. Thank you for suggesting it.  Am I improving?  I like it here. I know at first I wanted to go home, but now I think I want to get better and learn to trust (as you say “That is most important”), and then when you think I am well, I want to go somewhere warm, maybe Spain or southern California or Hawaii or Alabama.  Where do you think I should go?  Help me please.  Thanks in advance.

Marianne Da Silva
May 17, 2013
Can I have my Benedryl back?

Bio: Phyllis Green’s stories have appeared in Epiphany, Bluestem, Prick of the Spindle, The Chaffin Journal, Rougarou, Orion Headless, apt, ShatterColors, Paper Darts, The Cossack Review and other literary journals.  She will have upcoming stories in Empirical Magazine and Poydras Review.  She is a Pushcart nominee and Micro Award nominee.


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