Joanie, saw this and thought of you. Who else could I think of? “Yes. We must hurry if we’re going to dance.” – PS, watch the flame.
It wasn’t her father’s tiny, square lettering. This was the hasty scrawl of a passionate man. Marguerite dropped the unfolded page of college ruled paper on the table. Like it’s hot, she thought, suppressing a ridiculous giggle.
When she’d asked her mother if there was anything she could bring, she’d expected a list: the red sweatshirt-bathrobe, her Chanel #5, a Russel Stover sampler, the new Linda Lael Miller. Anything but this.
The endless tests, the needles and fluid lines were taking their toll, and Marguerite sensed her mother drawing inward.
“On the shelf above my writing desk,” Joan had said to her daughter, eyes glittering with pain and some emotion Marguerite couldn’t define, “there is a book, a play. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard. ”
The book lay splayed out on the floor. Marguerite had opened it, intrigued by its plainness. A paper bound Samuel French script, like a dozen she’d used in high school and college, pale blue, like an exam book. She’d flipped to the beginning, skipping the first billings and the dramatis personae, and spent nearly an hour, curled like a quotation mark over the kitchen counter, swept into the play.
When her phone shrilled she’d dropped the book, the note fluttering and skittering across the linoleum like a wounded moth.
“Yes. We must hurry if we’re going to dance.” She’d nearly torn a few pages, feverishly skimming for the quotation, certain it would be in the play. There in the final pages, a young Regency woman in bare feet, waltzing with her tutor by candlelight on the eve of her seventeenth birthday. Watch the flame.
Who else could I think of? Marguerite’s chest tightened. In her thirty-two years, no one had ever spoken such casually devoted words to her.
Joanie. No one was allowed to call her mother Joanie. Not even Dad. And it wasn’t her father’s tiny, square lettering.
A stand-alone scene, fiction or memoir, in 500 words or less, involving a handwritten letter.