Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vera and the Brook House

The brook house wasn't old or special in any obvious way It was built just a few years before Vera was born by a fine young couple looking to start a family away from the harsh squeal and fast lights of a city not more than three hours south. They nestled it in a wooded valley where the mountain creek slowed on its tireless journey to Straight Line Pond, which was only a few miles down the road. The location was quiet, but not as far from civilization as mountainside plots. The young couple might have been very happy there, but they did not choose to stay and disappeared into unimportance.

Theda Bly just happened to stumble upon it fatefully, and being only eighteen and very girly at the time, dubbed it the Brook House with a crudely woodburnt sign outside the door.

She was a sullen looking girl with and energetic heart. Her thin straight strands of sepia hair hung dead at her cheeks with long mod bangs half over grey white eyes. She lusted to paint and to sculpt and to tell her story in fine fabric dresses of her own design. Brook House and its landscape was to be her divine inspiration - the purity and beauty of nature sewn into every stich would certainly put her at the head of city soaked designers everywhere.

For weeks she lay in the grass, watching the gentle sway of the trees, listening to the fall of water over rocks, feeling the ants crawl across her long white fingers. She absorbed in this manner until the sun went down each day. Then, after the last sliver of red and orange had disappeared behind the mountain, Theda would retreat to the Brook House to sketch.

Sometimes her drawing would take her long into the night. Others she would throw her black stemmed pencils out the window and pace angrily about the house, talking to the spirits of imagination, only to retrieve her tools the next morning with a refreshed eye.

In the rain she would stand in the rain. In the heat she would sit in the stream. And every night she would work until her hands ached. She would go to the farmer's market on Sunday to pick up all she needed for the week and on Friday she did makeovers at the local beauty shop for girls just a few years older than she, who would go down to the city for a wild night or two.

Theda felt that she'd like to go sometime when she was old enough and making more money. She was not at all jealous, but that energetic heart wanted someday to try out its dancing rhythm.

"Theda, I wish I could be dedicated like you," complained Paris as she batted the expertly glued blue glitter lashes. "I'm just hoping to get lucky with a born rich college man."

"Can't trust it to luck, my dear, " said Sisley. "I just sent away for a correspondence wedding planner certificate. In six to eight months, I'll be living on my own means."

Theda smiled and changed the direction of the conversation. She hated to brag, but oh what a good thing she would have.

And certainly, as one would imagine, the sketches began to pile up in the modest little Brook House. Theda pinned her favorites on the ceiling over her bed, hoping they would send her more ideas as she slept. She knew that when winter came, she would begin to sew. She had plenty to do - she had to have at least one hundred favorite sketches. And as weeks past and the goal felt closer than ever, Theda's pencil throwing nights became more frequent.

"I can't burn out now!" she would sob to the spirits. "I'm too close!"

On one potentially turbulent night she happened to break the pencil tip on an already mischievous design. Furious, she chucked it at the open window and nearly fell over her chair when it produced a yelp and a curse in place of the regular quiet thump on the grass.

Theda held her breath and steadied herself on her desk. She had never had an unannounced visitor at Brook House before. She was weaponless, lacking strength, and unsure as how to proceed. After a moment of silence, she crept on hands and knes to the window and slowly brought her eyes above the sill.

She saw nothing but darkness.

Sighing slightly, she slid down the wall and clutched her knees between her arms.

THUD THUD THUD! Three swift knocks by a large fist at the door. Theda covered her mouth with one hand. Murderers with chainsaws and switchblades! Big hairy mountain men! Hungry bears! Anything could lay behind the door.

"Just looking for a room for the night, Inn keep!"

It was a gruff, deep voice.

"I have your pen."

Reluctantly, Freda stood and approached the door. "This is no inn, sir," she said in her most fearless tone. "Just an artist's studio."

"I see," replied the man. "Couldn't you even spare a spot on your couch? I've been lost all afternoon in the mountains and I'm too tired to get home tonight."

"What would you pay?" Theda asked, thinking of the nice ribbon she could buy with some extra money.

"I have fifty dollars," the man said. "I'm desperate - I'll give you all of it!"

It was more than Theda had expected. She pushed down her fear and opened the door. The man fit the voice. He was tall, burly, and bearded in an old black sweatshirt, blue jeans, and boots. He had a long barrel gun in one hand and a backpack in the other. Theda glared up at him, a white rabbit playing the part of a tigress. She held out one hand expectantly, but he just strode past her to the couch and collapsed there. Theda closed the door and leaned against it.

"The fifty?" she snapped.

He leaned down and rumaged through his backpack, finally pulling out two crisp twenties and a wrinkled ten. His eyes lingeredon her as she snatched up the cash.

"I'm going to bed," she said. "Best for you to do the same." And with that, she whipped around and started up the stairs.

"Wait!"

She froze on the third step, heart beating madly. "Yes," she managed to say.

"I have your pencil." He walked to her and placed it gingerly behind her ear, smiling slightly. Freda merely scowled at him and stomped upstairs where she scampered into the safety of her room and its door lock. She fell backwards onto the plain black and grey quilt and stared at her sketches. The tears came shortly after. Though she had nothing of value to be robbed of, she feared for her life. "I am worth more than fifty," Theda whispered on the brink of sleep."

Late that night the man awoke, hungry. He took off his boots and shirt in the dark and groped his way to the stairs, taking them two at a time to the top. At Theda's door he saw the flicker of a candle from around the edges. Kneeling, he produced a paper clip from his pocket and bent it straight. Holding it in the tiny lock release hole, he hesitated a moment, licked his lips, and wiped his brow and beard. Then, with one swift thrust, the lock popped and he entered the bedroom.

Very Bly was born ten months later.

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