Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chapter Two: The Birds

Blair Landers was startled out of a sound sleep by the crashing of a bird against her bedroom window. The graceful bow window in the master suite faced east, causing its panes to darken, losing their transparency as the sun rose, making this sort of aviation disaster relatively common. But as Blair fumbled for her eyeglasses on the end table and gazed toward the window, she saw not one, but two nearly identical signs of impact on the frozen glass. Swinging her legs out of bed and onto the carpet, Blair rose slowly and walked to the window. On the snow covered deck below her window lay a pair of cardinals. A male as red as geraniums, and his less colorful, but no less beautiful, female companion lay side by side, their necks badly bent and broken. Even from two stories above Blair could clearly see that they were both very dead.

Clearing the snow from a small patch of her garden beside the deck, Blair picked away at the frozen ground with her green-handled Brookstone spade. The ground was three months frozen requiring a good bit of effort to penetrate. As she picked at the ground, Blair wondered about the cardinals. How did they first meet? How do birds meet? How many days or months or years had they flown by each other's side? Were there babies in a nearby nest waiting for their parents to bring breakfast? Lifting the two cardinals into her gloved hands, she carefully placed them into the small hole she had managed to carve from the frozen earth. Dead only minutes, their bodies were still supple, their eyes still open like tiny black pearls. Blair stared into the grave, her eyes welling with the tears of a hundred lifetimes, tears for broken relationships, for parents long since dead, for a marriage increasingly losing its intimacy and connection, and she began to cry, almost without control. There she kneeled, the knees of her jeans soaked from the snow, her breath clouding the frozen morning air, sobbing over two dead birds who had the rotten luck of not being able to tell the sky from its reflection.

It was just after 7:30 a.m. when the phone rang. The kids were still out like lights and Blair new that if she didn't rattle them out of their beds soon, they'd be late for school.

"Hey," Jack said, checking in as he normally did on his way into Manhattan. "The eagle has landed."

"Hi Jack. What's up?" Blair replied, not completely recovered from the cardinal couple's funeral.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, Jack."

"You sound like you've been crying. What's wrong?" Jack pressed. "Have you been keeping up with your meds?" he asked, knowing full well that Blair hadn't taken her antidepressant in a week. There was a rhythm to her madness. She'd dutifully obey her doctor's instructions long enough for the Venlafaxine to kick in. Once the clouds of depression and anxiety lifted, once the propensity to cry at the drop of a hat subsided, once she no longer daydreamed about running from her home, her kids and Jack and never coming back, that's when she'd convince herself the medicine wasn't necessary. Soon she'd drop back into a dark pit filled with the demons of an abusive childhood and a life awash in disappointment until such a time that she would choose to climb out again. Then whole exhausting cycle would begin anew.

"Jesus, Jack, can't I just feel bad once in a while without you pushing drugs on me?" shot Blair. "It's OK to feel off without having to constantly medicate yourself."

"Honey, this isn't just off, and it's far from being once in a while," answered Jack trying to stay calm and non-threatening. "Please get back on the meds."

"What's your day look like?" Blair asked, redirecting the conversation.

"I've got my regularly scheduled ass whipping at FLY at nine, said Jack. "There's some major stuff going on and with a little luck I might be able to sell some TV. If that happens, I'm going to try to make the 1 o'clock shuttle back and who knows after that? I wouldn't expect me for dinner. Sorry."

"It's alright, go sell something to those bastards. I'll see you when I see you. I gotta go get the kids up and off to school."

"Take your pill. I'll call you on my way home," said Jack. "Love you."

"I will. Me too," answered Blair.

Blair hung up the phone and walked over to the sliding French doors that opened onto the deck out back. Peering over to the spot where she buried the cardinals, she wiped the sleep and what was left of the tears from the corners of her eyes and then headed upstairs to rouse the kids.

Jack leaned his head against the chilled window of the Lincoln Town Car as it entered the Midtown Tunnel and closed his eyes.

Look for Chapter Three in December.

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