Copyright by Michele Young-Stone, 2009
Hours passed slowly, Gloria watching the clock, while the days, one after another, flew by.
This morning, she pretended to sleep, waiting for the sound of Jacob’s tires spitting gravel—Jacob going to find work—before opening the puckered back of her suitcase where she’d stowed the photographs from her summer with Isabel. There was the faint smell of home emanating from the suitcase, she thought. Somebody told her, probably Isabel, that everything has a scent. Not just flowers and food, but carpets and hairdos, sofa cushions, and even seconds in time. Fragrances linger. She sat on the floor in her flannel nightshirt, her legs bare, trying to remember Isabel’s scent.
Jacob smelled lemony. Isabel had smelled like rain—like a beginning, and it wasn’t perfume or soap; it was Isabel.
Gloria had once liked the smell of rosemary, thyme and lavender—the herbs that grew wild in Isabel’s garden—but nowadays she preferred pungent scents like ear wax, vinegar, onion, and skunk. She still liked hyacinth and cinnamon, and she still liked the smell of mothballs because they reminded her of her Nana’s closet where she’d spent hours at age four inspecting her nana’s vast shoe collection, another good smell—the smell of feet and stockings—while her mother sponge-bathed the ailing woman. The closet had been a safe place. Her nana had smelled like decay, like crunchy leaves and pine bark. And now Gloria’s new house had a musty smell, a smell she might like, but recognized as death, and there was life growing inside her. Gloria longed for natural light and fresh air in her new home.
One by one, she was removing old paint that kept the windows sealed shut. She’d inadvertently broken three panes trying to force them open. Afraid of Jacob’s reaction, she swept up the broken shards hiding them in paper bags, burying them in the bottom of their outdoor trash bin. Joy knew a handyman who replaced the missing panes without Jacob finding out. Joy footed the bill. Gloria didn’t want to be afraid of Jacob, but he ruffled easily. It was better when things went smoothly.
Shuffling through the old photographs, Gloria looked at her picture, age 15, wearing an oversized white shirt spattered with black ink. She was holding a piece of cedar she’d found. She remembered tracing the wood’s natural lines, following the coloring and shape—the shape of a woman’s body. The center, the belly, was full and round. The arms and legs danced through the wood. Isabel had said, “It is a magnificent find.” Gloria had wanted to paint all over it, but finding the form in the wood, she changed her mind. It was God’s art already.
Gloria tried not to be nostalgic, but pregnancy made that difficult. She put the envelope of photographs in a black bag and tossed it toward her closet, the straps catching her boot heels. Kicking her feet, the bag became more entangled. Shit. Four months pregnant, and it was already hard to move with grace. Her body, once lean and limber was off-balance. Too tired to get up, she sat there remembering Isabel, the past stuck to buckled-biker boots, size seven, that Jacob found at a clothes swap.