Our Final Giveaway this summer is "Scarborough: Quinn's Story," the story of Quinn and Alice from Quinn's point of view. What he thought was Alice's strange nightmare becomes his opportunity for redemption.
From "Scarborough: Quinn's Story:"
The Days After . . .and Before
FOUR DAYS had passed yet her perfume lingered in the bedroom and in her study. It was more noticeable when I entered after being outside, like this evening. I glanced about, waiting, and then tossed the keys into the majolica bowl we’d bought on our honeymoon in York. I still smile about that. Of the many romantic places I offered, she chose York. When I asked why she went up on tiptoes to kiss my chin and said that’s where it all came together. She knew then.
The bell-like ring of the metal hitting the glass was our signal; tonight it just echoed.
I wanted to hear one of the Orchestra’s recordings drifting out of the study she kept off the bedroom, or her happy chatter after she kissed me ‘hello’ and ask how the rehearsal or tour went.
Her golden retriever loped into the bedroom and nuzzled my hand; he looked about expectantly.
“Soon,” I told him, offering a pat.
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I was lying to a dog now.
The front door slammed.
“Dad? Dad, you home?”
Richard appeared in the kitchen just as I entered. He could have been my double: above-average in height and looks with the Italian coloring I’d inherited from my mother. He had my physique—the ‘swimmer’s body’ with broad shoulders, strong upper torso and narrow waist. Fortunately, my son was everything I wasn’t at his age of twenty-one: Richard was easy-going, relaxed, and eager for life. He could thank his beautiful mother for that. From her he received a positive outlook, and her big, round, green eyes. His mother swore the ‘swoon-worthy,’ engaging, smile and dimples came from me.
I beg to differ. One look at her and you fall in love.
“Any news?” Richard asked. He offered a hug when I approached, eschewing the usual guy pat his age now dictated.
“Soon,” I replied laconically. “Have you eaten?”
His mother’s line. In times of stress, she fed us with food and reassurance.
“I’ll order a pizza,” Richard offered, pulling out a cell phone. While he paced the kitchen and called our favorite place, I made a fresh pot of coffee and watched the brewing absently, my attention caught by little things on the bookshelves meant for recipe collections and cookbooks.
“I can’t cook. Why waste the space with books I’ll never open? Besides, the kitchen is our living room and these things remind me of that,” she said after I’d spent all day putting up the shelves. A copy of her first book—a history of medieval Italy— photographs of us when we were dating in high school, our prom photo from 1970 when she wore The Incredible Dress, her shawl of soft wool that looked and felt like it was spun of pastel-colored clouds, the one we wrapped round ourselves on early mornings or evening walks from the castle to the sea…
“Dinner’ll be here in about twenty minutes,” Richard announced, switching off his phone and pocketing it. He reached around me for two cups on the shelf and in doing so tapped my shoulder. A game we’d played since he was an infant. When he turned Richard winked and said, “You’re home so I guess there’s been some improvement?”
“A lot actually,” I said and explained as best I could what the doctors told me about her condition. I didn’t mention the long conversations his mother and I shared over the past three days.
“Don’t look at me like that!” she laughed from the hospital bed only this morning.
“Like what, Faery Princess?” I teased, bending down to offer a kiss.
“Like I’m nuts or need medication.”
“How about more medication?”
“Quinn, I know it happened! Everything, everything was vivid, the sounds, the colors, even the smells. You know how when you dream, everything is disjointed—out of sequence? First you’re doing one thing and then another, and somehow it all fits?”
“Yeah; kind of like this conversation?”
“Stop trying to laugh! Okay, laugh at me,” She started to laugh then but tears welled in her beautiful eyes. And then more seriously, “Please, Quinn. I need you to believe me. You were a part of it. You were there at times.”
“You didn’t tell me that.”
“I am now. And it all makes sense. Please, listen to me.”
And so I listened as Alice told me again about The Village. The more she spoke, the more animated she became, stopping only when a nurse or doctor came in to check her vital signs and shake their heads in wonder that she had come back from what would have killed a man four times her size. Then she’d pick up where she left off in the recounting of a time and place occupying her thoughts and made her serene and more determined to live…
“Hey! You guys didn’t open the presents!”
Richard’s exclamation brought me back to the here and now and I carried my cup of coffee to the living room where our son was kneeling beside a pile of birthday and anniversary presents to the left of the Gothic fireplace. A Christmas Tree would normally stand there by this time of the month—it was the twenty-fourth of December—but I’d not taken the time or even cared about one, not with Alice still in the hospital and still not out of danger. So I’d made a pyramid of the packages and left them on the floor.
There’s still time,” I said as I knelt beside him and ruffled his hair. Richard smiled and tossed a package at me. “Here. This one’s from Mom. For your birthday.”
“No, I’ll wait ‘til she’s home, Richard.”
“No,” he chuckled, “I think she’d want you to have it now.”
Without further prompting, I tore at the familiar paper—the wrapping paper from my grandmother’s shop—the blue foil with stars. It had always been a favorite of hers. In between the layers of paper was a handmade notebook covered in dark red velvet with gold embroidery on the edges. Something she’d made, I thought, smiling.
Within the beautifully-wrought covers were pages full of our memories. Here were sketches of us over the years and memories written in her perfect, cursive hand. Here were pages of my notes on the Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, with snapshots of me conducting the Orchestra in rehearsal. The guitar pick I used the night we played the Keystone and she sang White Rabbit. The hair ribbon she wore when we first made love. The train tickets from York to Scarborough. The program from the Orchestra’s first New York appearance after I was made conductor.
My throat constricted with a lump as I fought back painful emotion and tears.
So many things to say…to do…
“Pizza’s here,” Richard said when the doorbell rang.
We dined quietly in the living room and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas and other holiday shows on TV. There was no rock-scissors-paper for the last slice of mushroom spinach deep dish pizza. We wrapped it in foil and put it in the freezer for the day she came home.
For the rest of the evening I said nothing and listened while Richard practiced his guitar and sang. He left around midnight with a Merry Christmas and a promise to bring his girlfriend around in the morning so we could all visit his mother in the hospital.
Bring the Radcliffe Christmas to her and all that that entailed. The University Hospital was in for a big surprise.
I decided not to sleep upstairs in the bedroom where I would smell her perfume and be reminded. It didn’t matter. The memories lived with me and as I drifted off on the sofa, my mind could not fathom why a heart as large and full as my beautiful wife’s could fail as it did.
I knew why, for I had broken it.
IMAGINE Quinn Radcliffe's surprise--and trepidation--to find himself in that strangest and most unnerving of places, The Village.
What he thought was nothing more than Alice Martin's imagination becomes his own reality and chance for redemption.
The story that began in Tallis' Third Tune continues.
This is Quinn's story; it leads him to Scarborough.
The MIDWINTER SONATA Series chronicles the lives and relationships of two Berkeley teenagers in the Sixties.
The Trade Paperback Cover