I sat down on a park bench across the street from a restaurant called The Dancing Lobstah. Its neon sign – of a mustachioed lobster, dancing, naturally – was turned off. Like everything else in town, the Dancing Lobstah was closed, and would stay closed for almost two more months, until the tourists took over the island for the summer.
I huddled deeper into my jacket, wishing I had someone to talk to. I did not want to burden my dad with my problems, even if I was willing to interrupt what would be, for him, dinnertime. I'd always been able to talk to my friend Rosa about anything—but Rhys had changed that. It had now been almost a year since I'd spoken to her, even to say hello. She wouldn't want to hear from me after all this time. Nobody wanted to hear from me. Except one man.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and turned it back on. Rhys had called me back and left me a voicemail, just as I'd known he would. I hated to think I might be glad. Shivering, I pressed the play button on my voicemail. "Hey. I just wanted to say sorry for whatever I did." He sighed. "Come home, Miranda. I miss you."
Drawing my feet up onto the park bench, I hugged my knees. I met Rhys while Rosa and I were having a smoke on a sunny boardwalk. He flirted shamelessly with me and had my number within minutes. After only a month, I found myself moving to Connecticut with him when he started law school at Yale. I had wanted to continue bartending after the move, but he insisted men would flirt with me. I got a job at Annette's café instead. The hours, he said, were not too demanding, permitting me plenty of time for chores and errands. I was not good enough at the housework to suit him. I had a lot to learn. Better to spend my time learning how to wash his whites than frittering time away on my paintings, anyway, which Rhys always referred to as little, no matter what size they were.
Sometimes I hated him. But other times, he was so thoughtful, always bringing me flowers and buying me gifts, and I was always privately awed by how funny and charming he could be.
My hand hesitated over the play button again. Giving up bartending wasn't such a big deal. It wasn't a true career, like law. And my paintings were usually small in vision, if not in size. I certainly was no Suzanna White. It was no big loss if I...
No. My fingers released the phone as if it had burned me. It fell to the frozen grass with a thump.
I would not go back, no matter how lonely I was. I'd made that promise to myself on the long drive to Maine and I would keep it.
I scooped up my phone from the grass and stuffed it in my purse underneath the plastic-wrapped pie. With restless, jittery energy thrumming through my limbs, I crossed the street and stared into the dark windows of the Dancing Lobstah. My own solemn reflection obscured the view of the empty tables. I will keep it, I told myself, staring at my haunted dark eyes.
Next to the Dancing Lobstah stood a small building made of gray stone, with a recessed front door that reminded me of the entrance to a church, or a medieval castle. An unfurled sign on the door read: GRAVESIDE GALLERY. The text below the sign mentioned local artists, including, in the biggest font, Suzanna White.
I wished I could go inside, but the somber windows beside the medieval door were as opaque as the Dancing Lobstah's. Was there nowhere for me to go in this town, but my car and Claire's? Nowhere I could just be?
Frustrated, I turned down Church Street. Though the small Protestant church in this town held no appeal for me, a lapsed Catholic, there was somewhere else where I knew I could go.
I walked up to the graveyard's low wrought iron fence and closed my eyes, letting the scent of pine trees and decaying roses drift over me. After my mom died, my dad used to read Shakespeare to her headstone, and then he always gave her a little update about our lives: Miranda got an A on her English quiz. When I was old enough to take the bus there myself, I did it, too: Dad's sick, still, but he's getting better, so you don't need to worry about him, okay? or, later, I met a new guy, and I think he's the one.
Unlike the flat, green lawns of my mom's Florida cemetery, this graveyard was small and cramped, with faded, lichen-spotted headstones slanting in the dead grass and snow under the pine tree boughs. Stepping over the low fence, I crossed through the oldest section of the graveyard first, into the new. The same handful of family names repeated in both: Doyle, Lacroix, Whittaker, Murphy. I didn't see any Larsens.
In the new section, huge pine trees encircled a life-sized statue. An angel. I slipped through them, curious. She was made of white marble and stood on a pedestal as high as my waist, towering over me. She was expertly carved, all serenity and beauty, from her cherubic face to the intricate spirals of her curls. Between her prayerful hands, she held a paintbrush carved out of the same white marble.
Standing beneath her, my tense muscles softened, my blood calmed. Despite the bite to the air, the snow on my boots, the dull weight of the phone in my handbag, I felt at peace. Perhaps I didn't belong anywhere anymore—not Florida, New Haven, or even in this town. But at this moment, with this statue, I belonged.
My gaze dropped to the inscription on the pedestal.
Here lies Suzanna Lee White
Beloved by All
July 29, 19-- to September 5, 20--
I blinked and read it again. This statue marked Suzanna White's gravesite? Or was this statue supposed to be her? I glanced up at her face again, with unlined eyes, its delicate nose, full mouth. After the Artist's Lodge, I had imagined Suzanna as a spry old woman with paint-stained fingers and a floppy sun hat, with years of work and passion underpinning each beautiful painting. Instead, she had been a beautiful young woman, two years younger than I was now.
Her name and art touched every inch of this town—from the paintings on a rack by the grocery store counter to the banner in her honor at the post office—but I had not seen anything about her death, or how she had died, seven years ago. She had seemed more alive than I was. Even now, so many years later, pristine white calla lilies lay on the thin snow by her pedestal. She was remembered, always, even on a cold, arbitrary day in April.
I crouched down to examine the lilies, searching for a card. A deep red ribbon, stark against the snow and white petals, held the lilies together, but nothing revealed who they were from. I wondered, as I left the graveyard, if the love for Suzanna was so great, and so commonplace, no one needed to say it aloud.
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Set Me Free [complete]Romance
A Wattpad Featured Read -- also featured in Cosmo! Where to buy the expanded & professionally edited version: Ebook or paperback: http://www.londonsetterby.com/where-to-buy.html Audiobook: https://wattpad.bandcamp.com/album/set-me-free * * * * * ...