Vivica and Nora from Next Door
Written with my Thursday group with the prompts: well then, a most sarcastic talking man, coal and a thousand colored pencils, she was starving herself, days without mail, she was a spoiled child, worried, Vaseline on the mirror, status quo, remembering her roots, hostility with dignity and love, my own side gate, full-blown madness
Vivica was starving herself, subsisting on a diet of mandarin oranges and Darjeeling tea. So preoccupied was she that she went for days without checking the mail. The box on the front porch was stuffed with utility bills and charitable solicitations. Two dozen Christmas catalogs littered the mat.
Nora from next door became concerned. Out walking her whippet, Nora saw the colorful bounty crowd Vivica’s door. She knew Vivica as Vee, a frail neighborhood girl, a spoiled child, and there was no telling what she might be up to now. She worried, so she and her dog approached the threshold, and rapped on the door.
Vee was in the front parlor, perched before a table spread with charcoal, a thousand colored pencils, wet tea bags, and orange peels. The urge to draw had overwhelmed her. In a full- blown manic madness she had drawn and posted no less than four dozen sketches.
“I’m coming, Nora,” she called as she signed her name with a flourish to another paper, popped an orange section in her mouth and hastened to the door.
Nora was known for her soothing demeanor, even when accompanied by the skinny whippet she called Whiskey. They both stood still and silent as the door swung open. Vee looked breathless, her feathered hair brushed back as if blown by a big wind, her cheeks flushed, her eyes wide. Nora could see this was not the typical status quo.
“You okay, honey?” Nora asked.
“Come see,” Vee invited, and Nora stepped inside.
The north walls were livid with red camellias, red ponies, red Irish setters, and red tabby cats. The south wall was subdued with charcoal men and somber women in black, children dancing in shadow, and the outline of birch trees silhouetted in rain. It was stunning, perhaps even hopeful, to see Vee was creating again. But then Nora saw the big mirror above the sideboard, foggy with Vaseline, and she knew. Vee was trying to stifle the voice again.
He had been a most sarcastic-talking man, a man who spoke of dignity and love through clenched teeth, barely able to hide his hostility and envy. He lived now only in Vee’s imagination, but Nora knew him well. He was her late neighbor, Vee’s father, a man who beat a path through the side gate to Nora’s house, a small man, a petty presence, but so very charming when he wanted to be. Nora had not resisted him, now she felt responsible for many scars.
She sat down as Vee slipped a mug of tea into her hand. She watched Vee return to her art work, saw her scribbling with red and black. She blew on the hot tea, then gazed up at the mirror. Well then, she wondered, if I remember my roots, will I hear his voice too?
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash