Prudence’s Correspondence

Pru, really didn’t think U’d be at Henry’s last night. Was there totally by chance. U looked great tho. Miss U much.

FU

Saw U & Henry today. U looked happy. RU together?

FU

Saw Henry today buying flowers.

FU

How long have U been w/Henry?

FU FU FU

I just want to talk.

Pervert. FU

Saw Henry at bar this afternoon.

You sick bastard. I called police.

Too late for Henry. Too late for U.

F

 

 

 

Part Of The View

The Irish school girls beg for money, 2 Euros for the Irish Heart Association,on busy Grafton Street as early morning commuters hurry past. In their overly long plaid skirts, white blouses, and red sweaters, the girls look very prim and proper, until I overhear one say, “This is shite.” Her friend swings her empty white bucket in silent agreement.

I make my way as always to St. Steven’s Green to watch the swans and ducks, the gulls and lowly pigeons. A woman in a rainbow sweater strolls by her arms loaded with bread . She asks if I would like some to feed the birds, but I decline. She nods. “You’ve come for the view,” she says.

“I’ve come for the view.”

She smiles, and her eyes twinkle a little. “It’s a good view. Peaceful.” She moves on, throwing chunks of bread into the water. The birds set up a clatter for a moment, then settle again as I seat myself on an out-of-the-way bench.

Outside the the park modern Dublin moves at a modern pace; its streets are crowded and voices speaking a variety of languages fill its streets. The Celtic Tiger may have been wounded but not mortally. I believe Ireland will sneak back on little cat feet. It’s part of it’s magic.

I feel myself relax, the peace and green, and the serenity restoring me somehow. It only happens here. Perhaps Leprechauns really do lurk under the bushes, just out of sight spreading their magic to us mortals.

I hear footsteps behind me and the click of a camera as a man in a jaunty tan cap begins to snap photographs. When I offer to get out of his way he says, “Oh no, love, you are the picture.”

Enough

“I got something to say to you.” She folded her arms and glared at him over the carcass of the cold chicken.

“I kinda thought we’d hafta talk about what happened. Or what didn’t happen. I mean nothin’ happened.”

“Please, just stop. You’ve spent our whole marriage looking over my head at the girl just behind me. like Miss perfect is just waiting for you if only I’d get out of the way.”

“I never thought that.”

“Then you come home and cut your damn toenails and leave them on the floor for me to clean up. You leave the toilet seat up. You never once let me pick a TV show. You never even ask what I want to see.” She felt her left eye twitch. It did that sometimes for hours. Usually, Stan mocked her, but tonight he didn’t say anything.

“You told me I looked like a fat, old bitch.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did. You said I looked like Linnie Tucker.”

“Yeah, cause she got red hair too.”

“No because she’s a fat old bitch.”

He swallowed.

“I’m good enough to make your meals and clean up after you, but you’ve never once thought about what I want.”

“I bought that griddle you wanted.”

“Jesus Christ! I didn’t want it for an anniversary gift.”

“If you don’t tell me, how am I supposed to know?”

She sighed. “We’ve been married for fifteen years, Stan. If you don’t have a clue by now, why bother to try?”

He looked down at the table and cleared his throat. “Because I love you?”

She stood. “It’s too late.”

He was still sitting at the kitchen table when she picked up her two suitcases and left the apartment.

On The Ward

It’s very quiet on the maternity ward tonight. It’s as if the little ones and their mothers know to be quiet and still. I walk down the hall and listen to the tap of my shoes against the linoleum floor. I love evenings like this. They’re so rare. Usually the some little lamb is crying, or one of the nurses is traveling to help one of the new mothers.

I open the door to the nursery and wave to the nurse on duty. As usual, we’ve placed the largest and smallest babies in front. I breathe in the smell of my children and take a mental picture of their small round faces. The largest is a nine and one-half pound, blue-eyed boy with beautiful long lashes and blond hair, the smallest a chocolate drop of a girl with liquid brown eyes and fuzzy black curls who weighs in at almost four pounds.

They are a study in contrasts wrapped in their blue and pink blankets, tiny pink, white and blue striped hats perched on their heads.

On impulse I snap a picture on my phone.

I want to place them in the bassinet together and ask the boy to look out for her, this precious child, born to a mother who’s barely more than a child herself. I want someone to look at this little bundle and realize what a wonderful gift she is before I send her back to a home where her mama has to struggle to put food on the table or maybe struggle with her own demons. I want her to go to a nice happy home like this sweet little blond cherub where he’ll be welcomed and loved, and he won’t live with the fear of going to bed hungry at night.

I’ll fail. The people from Social Services have already been in to talk to her mama. I’ve talked to her mama. She lies in her bed, sullen and unresponsive, except to mutter, “He just walked out on me. How I supposed to work with a baby? What I gonna do now?”

Tomorrow I’ll send two children home, just like I have for the past thirty years. I’ll smile at the parents and wish them and their children well. I’ll wish for miracles. Just like always.

Dandelion Dawson and Me

Since Charlie died, I’ve mostly spent my time in the garden pulling the weeds and trying to keep the roses healthy. Truth be told, I never was much good at it. Charlie used to say I had a black thumb. The only thing ever grew for me were hydrangeas. We have great pink hydrangeas in the front yard. Charlie didn’t like them near his roses.

Susan next door always said it didn’t matter because I made the best angel food cake in the county. I haven’t made any cakes since Charlie died—almost four months now. I guess my heart just isn’t in it.

I was out in the yard one day when Susan leaned over the fence. “Martha,” she called, “you’ll never believe it, but those nice Richardsons down the block are building a mother-in-law suite.”

“For his mother or hers?”

“I don’t know.”

As it turned out, it was for her mother. Dandy. I’d only ever known one female in my life named Dandy. Her real name was Dandelion Dawson, the meanest girl I’d ever met. She haunted me and hunted me in grade school, and she grew up to be a nightmare in high school: tall, blond, and perfect. She was a dandelion all right: impossible to miss or to destroy.

I’d heard she married some big shot and moved to New York. Now we were going to be living in the same neighborhood again. I planned to call the realtor as soon as I cleaned out my house a bit.

A few days later Amy Richardson came knocking at my door with her mother in tow. Dandy Dawson had aged well. I told myself it was plastic surgery and botox, but she was in great shape.

“Mom said she and you went to school together,” Amy said in a bright, desperate sort of voice. “I thought maybe you might like to have a reunion.”

She almost ran out the door.

I looked at Dandy. “So what’s the story?”

“That was short and sweet. No nice to see you?”

“Do you want me to lie?”

Dandy gave me a smile. “Oh, she gets tired of me hanging around all the time. I make her feel uncomfortable about her life choices.”

“What’s wrong with her life choices?”

“Do you see the way she dresses? Straight out of Goodwill. My God. She’s a teacher. She has all those grubby, little specimens climbing on her all day, which she says she loves. And that husband of hers isn’t much better. They live in this development with their child, which I’m sure they expect me to babysit when they start back to school. It’s absurd.”

I gazed at Dandy’s beautiful tan suit with its white silk blouse and her gold jewelry and wondered why she’d chosen to live here.“So why live with them?” I brushed off my dirty jeans, thankful that at least I didn’t get fat. I’m still short and small, though I colored my hair a light golden brown. Dandy used to call me the Mouse.

Dandy shrugged. “My late husband burned through most of our money. I’m not poverty stricken, but living in New York is out. All this is temporary until I figure my next move.”

“So what about you, Martha. I heard your husband died. What’s keeping you here?”

“This is my home.”

“You shouldn’t be so sentimental.” Dandy looked around the kitchen. “If it were me. I’d sell it all and travel.”

“Well, I’m not you, and I have children. Well, I have a son. In graduate school.”

Dandy slouched into a chair. “Well, the truth is, Martha, your son will graduate and get his own life. So should you.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’d want to travel alone.” Of course I had always dreamed of traveling to London and Paris and Rome, but Charlie had been a homebody. He always did worry so about the roses.

“Now that I’m living with my daughter, I have money to travel again,” Dandy said.

Good God. Travel with Dandy Dawson. What a horrible thought.

She smiled as if she could read my mind. “Oh, come on, Martha. I wasn’t that bad to you. You at least never teased me about my wretched name. Do you know what it’s like to be called Dandelion Daisy Dawson? It was hideous.”

“I suppose.”

“We’ll do an easy one. London first. If you have a bad time, I’ll never bother you again. Swear.” She glanced at my filthy jeans. “Really. No one can actually enjoy grubbing in the dirt, can they?”

“Of course.” I said it vehemently then sighed. “Maybe not so much.”

Her face lit up in a knowing smile. “Then we have things to do.”

Inertia is a strange thing indeed. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, but once it starts to move, it zooms. “We have a great many things to do indeed,” I said.

In The Morning

Last night after four 24K Nightmares I thought, he’s kind of cute. Maybe he’d like to come over for a drink.

This morning I wake covered in my own shame. all I want to do is turn back the clock to yesterday morning. the worst thing is I don’t even remember what happened. I just know I hurt all over, and I feel like I was torn open by a drill.

I shuffle to the bathroom, bent over like an old woman, and turn on the shower as hot as it will run. I scrub until my skin is red and use an entire bottle of soap. I still feel dirty.

I head back to my room and yank the sheets off the bed and throw them on the floor. I want to burn them but I don’t have the energy. I ball them up and stuff them in the hamper, then pull on a pair of sweats, wrap myself in my comforter and curl back in my bed.

Your fault. Your fault. You let it happen. It all runs like a mantra, a brain loop.

A soft thud on the bed startles me, but it’s only Cat. She snuggles beside me, kneading me with her front paws, trying to get close. She only wants to get warm, I tell myself, but I open up the comforter and let her snuggle in beside me. She doesn’t see the shame. She nestles against me and begins to purr.

I stroke her for a little while until I begin to smell the lavender body wash and my eyes grow heavy.

Together we drift away.

 

A Thin Line of Vermillion

She lay in the tub, surrounded by the scent of roses, and tried to rid herself of his heavy, musky scent. It lingered, even when she sank below the water and held her breath for as long as she could. She popped up gasping.

His words echoed in her head. “You belong to me, and I will never let you go. You are my wife, my love, my muse.” His presence surrounded her day and night, even when he wasn’t there. His canvas monsters hanging everywhere, watched her move throughout the house. The servants looked at her with pity, but guarded the doors.

Once she believed that marriage to the great Portafaro would be a dream come true. He would take her to his great house on the mountain, and she would watch the peasants below; she would look out at the hungry sea and live like a queen. now she knew that all such dreams came at a price.

Soon the gold light of afternoon would give way to the purple shadows of evening, and he would return. Once again they would sit at the long table, and he would watch her with his hungry eyes then draw inspiration from her body.

It was never enough. His art demanded more each time. Every day she walked swathed in white, the soft, cool fabric almost too harsh against her purpled flesh. Every day she dream of escape.

On the porcelain sink sat his straight razor, and she stared at it languidly. it winked at her in the sunlight, whispering at her to come closer, and she rose from the tub to pick it up. She ran the edge of it over her thumb and watched the blood quickly bubble up.

A sharp rap at the door. “Senora, are you finished? Do you need help?”

“No, no, Carmelita. Just a few more minutes to soak.”

She stepped carefully into the tub. The underside of her arm was still smooth and white, save for the road map of blue veins that ran just below the skin. The razor barely stung as she drew it up. A thin line of vermillion opened up on first one arm then the other.

Already she felt dizzy, and she watched the white curtains billow out in the afternoon breeze. Wind chimes tinkled. Spirits lingered just beyond her sight, and if she listened, she could hear them calling her to follow.

“I’m coming,” she whispered. “I’m coming. He cannot follow me now.”

She let herself slide down under the welcoming water. The scent of roses covered her now, the song of the wind chimes grew fainter as the wafting breeze faded away. Silence.

I am free.

 

Under the Burqa

I have seen you before, hovering at the edge of the crowd, watching as if I was a rare specimen in a zoo. Does my burqa frighten you? Do you know under this black cloth that I am fifteen? I like to dance and listen to music with my friend Marim.

Marim’s father is rich and will send her to England in two years to study engineering at University. I ask Mama if I will go to University too, but she only sighs. I have heard her talking to Khalid Faizul. He is old and fat, and he stares at me. Marim says I should come with her to University, but I know I will never be allowed to make that choice. Khalid Faizul is rich, and he wants a young bride to bear him sons.

Take my picture and know that underneath this burqa I am not so different from you. But my life will never be my own.

 

Olivia

That week after graduation we headed down the shore for Senior Week. In those days “down the shore” was the place to go. With its huge boardwalk, mile-wide beach and tons of hotels, Wildwood was the preferred place for the thousands of kids spilling from the Catholic and public high schools. We weren’t the rich prep schoolers. Our parents couldn’t afford trips to Cancun or Florida or the Bahamas, and it didn’t matter. The drinking age was eighteen; the pot was easy to get; and we were without parental supervision.

Our house sat four blocks back from the beach. Ten of us had paid one hundred dollars, but fifteen to over twenty-five kids would end up crashing there at night.

I remember the cloudless sunny days when we would head for the beach to bake ourselves. Even though I was a natural blonde, I never burned and slathered my skin in baby oil. I knew how good I looked in my bikini. Jake told me every day I was hotter than the sun.

 

I wasn’t like Olivia. I wasn’t sure how Olivia had managed to get in with our group, but she just showed up in her pink flowered sundress with a suitcase. Everything about Olivia was big and squashy. She never wore a bathing suit, just shorts and a tank top that stretched across her huge breasts. She had long dark hair and a big smile, so no one bothered her, especially since she volunteered to make breakfast.

When you’re hung over or coming down, it’s kind of nice to have someone to make you breakfast, even if it’s just dry toast and tomato juice. We decided to let Olivia have the small back bedroom because no one really wanted to share a bed with her. Jake said it was kind of like having a maid.

 

We all had our routines. Get up eat, head to the beach or wander the boardwalk, maybe grab some pizza, and start drinking. I don’t know what Olivia did. Sometimes she came down to the beach and sat reading a book. She always looked like someone’s mother because in addition to the shorts and tank top, she always wore a big floppy hat.

Some of the guys called her “Orca”, and the rest of us kind of laughed. I don’t know if Olivia heard or not.

 

The last night I saw her we were hanging on the boardwalk, and I was standing with Jake. It was a little breezy and he put his arms around my waist. I remember cuddling into him, hearing the beat of his heart. All around all people laughed and screamed, and I could smell cotton candy and buttered popcorn, the meaty grilled odor of hot dogs; tinny carnival music played while people yelled from the roller coaster and tilt-a-whirl. In the circle of Jake’s arms, though, I felt safe and protected.

He said, “Look, there’s Orca.”

A couple of people started to laugh, and I glanced up.

She was standing near the fudge shop with a guy who was kind of in the shadows, but he looked pretty big. I couldn’t see his face, but Olivia was smiling. I thought for a moment she had a pretty smile.

A bunch of our friends came up then, and when I looked over at the fudge shop Olivia was gone. I thought I glimpsed her walking away with the big guy, but the crowd swallowed them up.

I never saw her again.

 

A lifeguard found Olivia under the boardwalk two weeks later. She’d been strangled and raped and lay naked in the sand. I thought she’d be so embarrassed to be seen naked.

A few of us went to the funeral at St. Anastasia’s. It was closed casket because after two weeks, I guess she was in pretty bad shape.

I remember that it was stinking hot, and the stained glass windows sent gashes of garnet light across the floor. In my black dress, I stood in line and sweated and wondered why I felt I had to come to this service. Jake held my hand, his face screwed up in puzzlement. He didn’t quite understand why we were here either.

“It’s not like we were friends with her,” he said.

“We were with her at the shore, Jake. She was in our class. Please.”

He kissed me. “Whatever you want, baby,” he said. “But it’s kind of weird.”

I remember Olivia’s mom stood stone faced by the coffin as Jake and I approached her.

“I’m really sorry about Olivia,” I said, and Jake mumbled something similar.

She just nodded. “We’re you her friend? I don’t remember you.”

“We had some classes together. She was a very nice person,” I said. “We were all staying at the same house.”

“Yet not one of you knew who she walked off with.” Olivia’s mother looked like she wanted to say more, and I felt Jake’s hand tighten over mine. “Well, thank you for coming.”

I went up to Olivia’s coffin and knelt down to say a prayer, but nothing came out. All I could see was the round girl with the shorts and tank top walking down the boardwalk hand in hand with a guy whose face remained a shadow. He was never caught.

Any one of us could have been Olivia that night, except we were a group, and she was alone.

I couldn’t get it out of my head. Jake and I broke up a month later because he said I was obsessed.

Olivia walked with me for a long while. I felt her beside me when I set off for college and met many of her sisters on campus–the kind of girls I always mocked in high school—chubby and smart. When I tried to be friendly, they were polite and distant.

“The sorority girl wants our notes,” one girl said.

They liked to call me a dumb blonde, sometimes when I was in the same room. I told myself I didn’t care because I was still pretty and popular. I went to parties had boyfriends, and still got good grades, but none of the really smart people wanted me in their study groups.

When I graduated and went on to law school, the smart girls surrounded me. I felt a kinship with them, though now they excluded me even more as if I was a reject.

“Our group is filled,” one of the girls told me. “Try one of the guys’ groups. I’m sure they’d love to have you.” When I walked away, I heard her say, “Could you feel her draining your IQ or what?”

“It doesn’t matter,” someone else said. “She’ll be fine. She’s just here to grab a husband.”

Over the year, though, they began to soften toward me because I worked hard. In the middle of my second year, one actually invited me into a study group. I learned we weren’t so different. We were all trying to do something important with our lives, and if I was the girl they hated in high school, they were the girls who intimidated me in college. I don’t know if I would have realized it, if I hadn’t been for Olivia.

At graduation the girls congratulated me. When I hugged them and wished them luck, I did so sincerely. They were women of substance and had made me better by forcing me to excel. Many of them went on to powerful law firms, two are federal judges, and one works for the Secretary of State. I went to work for a mid-sized firm and do pro bono work for a non-profit that’s fighting to stop a proposed oil pipe line. We all keep in touch.

I did marry another lawyer. The girls were right about that.

When I finally greeted our daughter, I held her in my arms, felt her warm breath against my cheek and touched her tiny perfect fingers. It was as if I held my own redemption in my hands.

“She’ll be as pretty as her mother,” the nurse said as she left the room.

Later that day I dreamed Olivia was standing in the doorway in her too tight shorts, tank top, and floppy hat. She gazed from me to my daughter lying in the bassinet beside my bed, her face frozen into a mask of indifference.

“She’ll be different, I swear,” I whispered, but my voice came out hoarse and raw. “She’ll be clever and good and kind. She’ll be better than me. Please don’t let anything happen to her.”

Olivia just turned away.

 

Mrs. Zamora Moves In

The apartment on Pine Street was surprisingly cheap, which worked well for me, considering it was my first apartment, and I didn’t have a lot to spend on rent. My landlady, Mrs. Franklin, lived on the first floor as did little Mr. Fiedler, a nice old gentleman I seldom saw, but who wore large hearing aids and a soft gray felt hat that he always tipped politely to me. A married couple named Jon and Erin Glascott, and a twenty-something woman named Maggie Luzzi, who was never there as far as I could tell except for the occasional Sunday when she breezed in to pick up some clothes and disappeared with her boyfriend, occupied the second floor apartments, and way up on the third floor I lived in a surprisingly spacious place. True, the ceiling sloped in the bathroom, which was tiny, and I needed a window air conditioner to augment the building’s central air that didn’t seem to work above the second floor, but the ceilings were high and the window seats were deep. I lived near the grocery and a bunch of cafes. Since I usually worked from seven to seven, I wasn’t going to be home much, so what could go wrong?

Within two weeks of my arrival, the Glascotts moved out. I didn’t care much that Glascotts were leaving. After all, I had only said hello once to them in the hallway, so it wasn’t like I was loosing best friends, but two days later I came home from work to see a tall woman swathed in what looked to be red scarves and black leggings standing in front of the building directing movers, and I stopped mouth agape.

The woman wore a red satin turban that sparkled with a huge rhinestone pin. I had never seen a modern woman wearing a turban, much less one so gaudy. It matched her four inch red patent leather stilettos. From the back the woman, despite her turban, was in great shape; she had the lithe body of a dancer and long, muscled legs; from the front, she had the face of a gargoyle. Too much plastic surgery left her eyes pulled up and back and her skin stretched unnaturally tight over her skull. Her lips had been enhanced by collagen implants and bloomed around her flashing white teeth. Guessing her age was impossible; she looked like she had been dipped in formaldehyde.

I almost dropped my bag of groceries.

I tried to slip past her, but she swung around to survey me, her right hand on her hip.

“You must be the third floor girl,” she said. “Kelsey? Katie?” She extended her hand palm down as if she expected me to kiss it.

“Alana,” I said. “Alana Carver.” I shook her hand and let go as quickly as possible.

“I knew you had a K in your name. I am Rasha Zamora. I’m moving in today. I don’t like loud rock and roll or rap music,” she said. “Or negative energy. I’m very sensitive.”

“I don’t play rap music,” I said and wondered if I had an escape clause in my rental contract. I didn’t care about the security deposit. “I work.”

I walked past her straight to the landlady’s apartment and saw Mrs. Franklin hovering in the hall in her usual dark blue shift. Her white hair looked a bit disheveled and the corners of her mouth pinched in distress when she saw me.

“Who the hell is that?” I asked.

“Oh, Miss Carver. I had no idea who was moving in. She’s an old friend of Mr. Stinson, and he owns the building. He didn’t say anything.”

“Maybe she’s just eccentric.”

Mrs. Franklin seemed so discombobulated that I felt it was a bad time to say anything about my new neighbor, especially when I was so seldom home.

“She told me she wants me to cleanse the building. I don’t know what that means. It’s very clean.” She held out a bundle of what looked like straw tied together, and I smiled. White sage.

“She wants you to burn it. It’s a ritual. You burn the sage and the smoke is supposed to cleanse the bad spirits.”

Mrs. Franklin handed me the sage. “That sounds like one of those witch things. I’m no witch.” She walked back to her apartment and closed the door with a finality that left no doubt that she wasn’t dealing with the new tenant, the sage, or any witch rituals.

I figured a little sage wouldn’t hurt anything.

As I lay in bed reading that evening I heard the sound of music being played at top volume. “Beyond the Blue Horizon,” warbled the singer in the sort of high, semi-operatic voice I always hated. It seemed like the song was stuck on repeat because it played over and over again until I banged on the floor. Then it paused only to start up again.

I called Mrs. Franklin. “Get her to turn down that damn music,” I said.

Mrs. Franklin sighed loudly. “I think she’s a little deaf.”

“I want to go to sleep.”

At last the music stopped.

At six a.m. I was out the door and off to work. When I returned the damn song was playing. I could hear it as I climbed the stairs, sweating like a pig. I turned on the air conditioner, but I could still hear it. I turned on the television, but that song seeped through the walls.

It was time to take action. I walked down the stairs and knocked on Rasha Zamora’s door. After a moment she answered. The apartment smelled of burned sage, and the song blared in the background. Decorated in red and gold velvet with a big red oriental rug on the floor, the place looked like a bordello from the 1920’s. Giant red lamps trimmed in gold fringe stood on marble topped mahogany tables. It was as outrageous as Rasha Zamora who wore a black catsuit with a fuchsia chiffon skirt and jazz shoes.

“Mrs. Zamora,” I started, “That music.”

“It’s glorious, I know. My favorite song. Beyond the Blue Horizon. Only happy things to look forward to there. Jeanette McDonald sang it in Follow the Boys, you know. It’s the best version.”

“You’ve played it two days in a row.”

“It’s my good luck song,” she said and lifted her leg up in the air until it was almost horizontal. “Not too shabby, eh? Do you know I danced with Clark Gable and Cary Grant when I was younger?”

“That’s very nice for you, but I wonder if you might play the song a little quieter?”

“Quieter?” Rasha Zamora stared at me as if I’d told her the devil was coming for her soul. “I am releasing positive energy into this building,” she said. “You’ll see.”

“That may be, but I can’t sleep.”

“You should download your own copy, or whatever you young people do now. It will bring you luck. And don’t forget to burn white sage to cleanse your apartment. Listen to the lyrics, dear. They’ll make you happy.” She went to a large brass urn and pulled out a bundle of white sage then shooed me to the door. “Take this and burn it. Now I must stretch.”

“But I—“

“Just feel the positive energy.” She closed the door.

I went to my apartment and made brownies for dinner.

The next morning I wrapped the leftovers and on my way to work put them outside of Rasha Zamora’s door thanking her for the sage. When I came home that evening, my empty dish sat in front of my door along with a red crystal and a note of thanks. The crystal, she wrote, would help me find true love.

Our relationship continued this way. Every night I made something for Rasha Zamora, and every day when I returned from work I’d receive a little note with a stone or a healing crystal. Sometimes she would invite me to her apartment and tell me about her days as a dancer. The good days, she called them, when she danced in the movies or on Broadway.

“But eventually you get old,” she said. “You run out of energy. Sometimes when you’re young and beautiful, you’re foolish. You don’t realize how quickly it passes. Then pouf, you’re an old husk.” She smiled when I started to protest. “Oh no. I don’t regret a thing. In life you always go forward.”

After a while I .0

got used to Beyond the Blue Horizon, maybe because it didn’t sound quite as loud or maybe because it just became background noise. It got stuck in my head, and I’d find myself humming it at odd times. Mrs. Zamora would ask if I felt the positive energy. I always said yes, though I’m not sure I felt anything.

One night the apartment was quiet. It felt odd after months of Beyond the Blue Horizon. It was so odd, I couldn’t sleep. The next morning I knocked on Mrs. Zamora’s door, but there was no answer.

When I returned from work, the EMT’s were taking her away in a black plastic bag.

“Poor thing,” Mrs. Franklin said. “Did you know she was eighty-nine?”

“She danced with Gable and Cary Grant,” I said, feeling oddly nostalgic.

“She was a pip,” Mrs. Franklin said. “But I think I’ll miss her all the same. Her and that silly song.”

I watched the ambulance pull away into traffic and thought Mrs. Zamora had flown beyond the blue horizon at last.