Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sue Says Goodbye

Glen’s landlady called up the steps, “Mr. Brock, someone on the phone wants you.” Glen arose from the folding chair by his study table and went down the darkened steps to take the phone from her outstretched hand. People never called him any more and he was puzzled as to who it would be. He was even more surprised to hear the voice of Sue.

“Hi, Glen! I’m leaving tonight and I wondered if I could see you just one more time?" Glen was stunned. No one had told him Sue was moving away, and he felt a stab of sorrow at her announcement.

“Sure” he said, “where are you”?

“Well, I’ve already moved my stuff out, what little there is. My car is all packed and I’m leaving tonight. Can you meet me at the Blue Bird in about half an hour?" Still reeling from surprise, Glen answered automatically, “Sure, sure, that will be fine.” His landlady studied his face with sympathy as she tried to read his emotions.

He went upstairs to pick up his jacket and turned off his reading light. He looked at his watch on the table and figured he had enough time to walk to the Blue Bird.

His mind raced as he strode along. He had somehow counted on Sue always being here. She had dreams of opening a fabric shop and seemed contented with her circumstances.. He was mystified by the new direction her life was taking and the vibrancy of her voice. It was as if she was a new person almost overnight.

As he crossed the street to the Blue Bird he saw her sitting at a booth by the window. He entered and sat down across from her. She reached over to touch his hand. “Sorry about the short notice” she said, “but everything is happening so quickly I hardly have time to think.”

Before she could continue, Cheryl appeared to take their orders. Sue went first. “I’d like a barbecue sandwich,” she said, “with home fries and a root beer.”

“And I suppose you would like your regular, grilled cheese” Cheryl said to Glen, already writing it down. “Not tonight” he said, “I’ll have what the lady is having, it sounds real good.”

After Cheryl walked away, Glen looked at Sue with such a questioning look that she felt pity for her old friend. “It happened like this” she began. “A couple of days ago I got a letter from a guy I went to school with. I really liked him and I thought he liked me. We were both kind of shy and nothing came of it, but I always felt there was some kind of bond between us. I was thrilled when I saw his name on the envelope. You know, that he had remembered me after all those years." Glen smiled at her phrase “all those years” but figured it must have seemed like a long time to her.

She went on, “Anyway, when I read his letter I was knocked for a loop. He told me he had married a local girl up there, in New York, I mean, and they had a little girl. I was so disappointed that he had married. Unrealistic of me, I know, like I was hoping he was still single as I was, like he was waiting for me or something. But then he said his wife was dead, killed in a car wreck. It was really dumb too, she wasn’t even driving. She was a passenger in a car driven by a neighbor, some ditzy woman who talked non stop and everybody said didn’t pay attention when she was driving. His wife had agreed to help her shop for something and as they backed out of the driveway she didn’t see a truck was coming, because of a row of evergreens. The truck hit on the passenger side and his wife died almost instantly. Their little girl was with her grandmother at the time.”

Cheryl brought their orders and Sue bowed her head as Glen said grace. She put the fingers of her left hand lightly on the bun and cut little pieces off with her fork. Glen, holding his sandwich with both hands, lowered it to his plate and followed her example. They ate in silence for a time before Sue continued, “He wanted to know if I had ever married, and, if I was still single, would I consider moving up there to be his wife and be a mother to his little girl? Just like that! Not very romantic, but he said he would give me lots of time to consider it and meanwhile we could explore his beloved Adirondacks. We could go in his Adirondack boat, whatever that is?”

“Kind of like a canoe with oars.” Glen said. It’s unique to the region and a handy little craft.”

“All I know about Adirondack things is those deep chairs” Sue said lightly.”You sit in them very long and you can’t get out.”

“Maybe they had servants to help pull you up?” Glen quipped. Sue laughed at the idea, diverted, for the moment, from her rushing thoughts.

“His name is Marc, “ she added, “he has a bait and tackle shop near Plattburgh, way up north. He lives in an apartment but has a down payment on a cabin near the wilderness area. He wants to guide people, says it is so vast you could go forever and not see the same lake twice."

Glen was trying to take it all in. Amazing, he thought, you think you know someone, even yourself, and then things happen and a whole new person emerges. But not new, he reflected, just the one you really have been all along.

Sue ate a fork full of slaw, then patted her mouth daintily with a napkin before she pulled her brooch up from inside her blouse. She opened it to reveal a picture of a young man with dark hair and blue eyes. “His name is Marc Jewell” she said. Then, opening her purse she retrieved his letter and lifted out a picture of the little girl, shyly looking up and holding a doll in her arms. "Looks like her father, doesn’t she?” she said. “But, honestly, Glen, can you see me as a mother!”

Glen swallowed a bite of his barbecue and hastened to say “You’ll be a natural, Sue, you can’t miss. All the children at the shop loved you.”

“Thank you, Glen” she answered, “But you know, I have been a child myself for too long, I’m going to have to grow up fast. All those ideas about a fabric shop and sewing, I mean I’ve been so unrealistic.”

Glen looked at her with affection. “Is this cabin furnished?” he asked. Sue pulled out some pictures Marc had sent her. “Oh, no, it’s never been lived in, it’s not even completely finished." She pointed to a picture of the interior. “This is his idea of decorating!” She had her finger on a window frame with what looked like a tree branch laid across two nails as a curtain rod. “I mean, I like things rustic, but he doesn’t even have a clue!” she giggled.

Glen took a swig of his root beer. “Looks like some curtains are in order and the little girl” , “Janet”, Sue interjected, “Janet, is holding a doll that you could sew clothes for. You know how fast a three year old grows, you could be busy sewing for her for a long, long time.”

“Oh, and I didn’t tell you” Sue added with excitement, "Marc wants to home school Janet! Now that is really a challenge.”

“You’ll have a couple of years to prepare” Glen said, “I know you can do it.”

By now that had finished their food and were sipping the last of their root beers. “What do you think, Glen? Am I crazy to go up there?"

“You’d be crazy not to” Glen said with conviction. They stood up and Glen walked to the register to pay the bill. Cheryl gave Glen a sidelong look. “She’s real cute, Glen” she said coyly.

“That’s what her fiancee’ thinks” he replied.

Outside, Sue took his arm and guided him, “I’m over here” she stopped by her little red car, parked under a street light. It was filled with boxes and shopping bags full of clothing and bedding. He saw a lamp made of pieces of painted wood. It was a bird and a birdhouse. Sue saw him looking at it. “I call that my birdy lamp” she said “I got it for my sixth birthday. It's the last thing I have to remind me of my childhood.”

Glen looked at the boxes and bags piled high. "I hope you can see out ok. Be careful changing lanes. Use your side mirrors.”

“I will, I’ll use my mirrors, don’t worry.” They stood in silence before Sue got out her keys out and opened the door. She turned to him and wrapped her arms around his neck as she kissed him goodbye. She held on as she told him “I’ll never forget you, Glen, never!”

Then she gave him one more quick kiss and slid into the driver’s seat . “That goes double for me” Glen said to himself. Sue started the engine and fastened her seat belt. She rolled the window down and checked her mirrors before she pulled out. Glen saw her little hand wave to him one last time.

He turned to go home. The night air was filled with the smell of wet leaves. He walked slowly. He was in no hurry to get back to his empty room.

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