Written with my Thursday night writing group with the prompts: empty journal, her lips tasted like wine, no one ever noticed her, she was just there, 16 years gone to hell, I have good memories of that house, there’s nothing quite like, until the sun smiles, write me a litter and tell me about It, complicated onions, a dark moist brownie, remember when, Annabelle, just-looking
When Josie was young there were many men, and women too, who professed that she was good looking. But now as the decades passed, whenever Josie caught a glimpse of herself in a window or mirror, she felt herself to be ‘just-looking,’ as in, just enough, fair enough, balanced. She wasn’t too pretty, nor too plain. She hadn’t profound character lines around her jaw, lips or temples indicating hours of deep thought or contemplation. Nor did she have exaggerated laugh lines. She was just there, and often no one noticed her, an advantage that pleased her, especially on summer evenings when she could sneak into the wine garden, order a carafe and taste the rosé on her own lips. She was her own woman now, satisfied that despite a marriage of sixteen years gone to hell, she could still cherish the good memories of a cheerful stucco house, adorned with jewel-toned murals she and Annabelle had painted themselves. Hidden at the back of a dead-end street, obscured by trucks-on-blocks, discarded mattresses, and dented bicycles, the house sat at the edge of an open field that stretched down to the river. Few people came down that way, except the refugees with their fishing poles and waders. She offered them her produce–onions, tomatoes, and rosemary. They kept her supplied with sturgeon and wild fennel they’d picked from among the river reeds. A few teenagers used to come by with dark chewy brownies, baked by su madre Mexican style with a pinch of cinnamon. They said their mother offered them in gratitude for what they called Josie’s “complicated onions,” dark red on the outside but golden under the skin.
Josie kept a record of every recipe, every gift, every fragrant spice exchanged in her tiny journal which she kept tucked inside the pocket of her large mannish jacket. But now the journal was empty, filled with invisible lemon juice ink, because Josie’s recipes were secret, as was her sorrow, elegiac poems to her tiny plot of dirt where she had gone to hide, tucking herself into an envelope like a long letter, filled with twists and turns and a red herring or two.
Josie liked to sit now in the public garden, cupping the bowl of her wine glass, watching the sunset as it spread pink and orange swirls like a smile across the sky, like the pretty peonies that were Annabelle’s favorites, like the long thin ribbons the church ladies tied on the cotton wood tree down by the river near the spot where Annabelle’s body surfaced. There was nothing quite like remembering when, because Josie knew if she could remember and hold it in her mind’s eye, then she knew she was strong enough to withstand anything.
Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash