They hadn’t seen each other since that summer twenty-eight years ago. Marian was now music director and youth group leader in her church. Ann, a public defender, had never visited the out of the way southwestern town Silver City before and decided to look up her old friend. Sitting outside at the beautifully landscaped Tranquilbuzz Coffee House, with a gentle Zen waterfall gurgling near them, complete with koi in the pool below, they soon reminisced about their magical summer retreat in Pennsylvania all those years ago. Three weeks of lakeside mystery and magic, studying, removing daddy-long-legs from their dormitory walls, and above all their guide, the unforgettable Devin Cooper.
While Marian went inside the coffee house to stand in line for a second round of cappuccinos, Ann recalled her first memory of him; “Call me DC.” She couldn’t remember why he and she stood at a blackboard where she had drawn a huge white chalk flower with vines coiled all around it. It might have been an assignment. She’d worn a pink wool dress inherited from an older cousin. Why had there only been the two of them? He had looked at her drawing and told her how pretty it was and how he hoped one day all those looped vines would fall away and the flower in the center would be free.
“I was just thinking about first meeting DC,” Ann told Marian who placed the two cappuccinos on the wooden bench seat between them. The small table in front of them seemed too long a reach for convenience. “He was my hero,” she added; “Still is to this date. I’m sure he made it to heaven. He was much too young. I’ve always been half in love with him, you know. I’m sure we all were. Most of us anyway.” It was a statement as much as a prompt for Marian to chime in with memories or her own. When
Marian remained silent, Ann continued, “He had such a knack for always making everyone feel as though they mattered. Well, he made me feel important at any rate. Always lifted me up. Not many people have made the effort to do that for me. And, do you remember, when we sat in a circle that summer? You couldn’t detect any individual movement, but once he started talking, ten minutes later everybody sat a few inches closer to him.”
“You dated his son for a while, didn’t you?” Marian asked.
“Yeah. Joey was lovely, too. Joseph.” Ann’s voice trailed off. She tasted memory in her mouth. “But nothing like his dad.” She thought of DC’s intense blue eyes, compelling in an unaggressive way. She wished she could look into those eyes just one more time.
“He came on to me, you know,” Marian said.
“Joey?” Ann felt heat in her cheeks.
“What do you mean?” Ann knew what Marian meant. She immediately regretted asking.
“I mean he asked me to go to bed with him,” Marian said.
“And did you?” Ann felt her lips stick together. It was difficult to get them apart to speak. It couldn’t be true.
“Heck no,” Marian said; “Come on. He was what, 30 years older? Something like that? And married.”
Questions tumbled helter-skelter through Ann’s mind. What did he say to her, or do to her, to make her feel he was coming on to her? Ann couldn’t see him as a culprit. The minister at DC’s funeral three years ago said he was the most perfect human being he had ever met. No, Marian had to be mistaken. Maybe she was a legend in her own mind, assuming any small friendliness was a come on. And if it was true, then why Marian and not Ann? Who would want to go to bed with Marian anyway? And not Ann?
Marian wasn’t ugly, but Ann was prettier. She felt abandoned, devastated. Was it fate? Perhaps even benevolently so? Ann had the queasy feeling, had he come on to her, she would have been his for the asking. Never mind age. Never mind marital status. She felt like an outcast. Skipped over. And how could Marian make this all sound so casual? Ann simply didn’t want to believe any of it. To have been a fool for not knowing what might have been going on, and on top of that to not be the chosen one.
DC and Ann had exchanged letters for years, even after her short interlude with Joey was over. DC had designed his own stationery, doves and the words for peace in several languages watermarked across the paper. Once, out of the blue, he had sent her a check for Christmas, and she had bought a silver shirt with it which she had worn until it fell apart beyond repair. She didn’t now want to be stuck with this secret she had no wish of knowing. Marian must have misunderstood. That had to be it. Twenty-eight years later, and Ann felt achingly dull. A reject. Not chosen. While Marian cavalierly dismissed the memory with her throaty laughter before changing the subject. She must have been wrong.
In the car on the way to a hotel in Tucson, having declined Marian’s offer to spend the night, Ann did her best to drive with special care, for this was exactly the sort of situation where she would miss a speed limit change or a stop sign because her mind was swirling elsewhere. She tried to imagine him kissing Marian and could not. She tried to imagine herself kissing him. She couldn’t do that either. Still, if it was true at all, why not her? Why not her?
Beate Sigriddaughter, www.sigriddaughter.net, grew up in Nürnberg, Germany. Her playgrounds were a nearby castle and World War II bomb ruins. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), USA, where she was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. Her latest poetry collection is Wild Flowers (FutureCycle Press, 2022).