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Ciara Cagemoe

United States

A head, my head, is chock full of whimsy and half in the clouds.
When I write I pull down the thick cotton fluff from the sky and wind it into a thread of a tale.

Message from Writer

Two thousand mysteries tied together loosely by brittle twine.

A Girl Who Liked To Dream With Her Eyes Open

April 2, 2016

FREE WRITING

0
    The paper was burning a sizzling hole into my palm. I wanted to crinkle it up all tight and small so I could pretend it was unreadable, but I knew that what really burned was the words digesting inside of me. The ones I already consumed the first time I read them.
     “The words...the words...they’re too much for me!” I said, gasping and flinging my unburned hand to my head in a mock faint before I let myself thump to the floor. I closed my eyes and breathed in slow, shallow breaths; leaving my body in its contorted landing position, one hand splayed and loose around the offending paper. Now I’d just wait for someone to stumble upon the abhorrent sight of tragedy, of woe: dearest Cecily, brutally dead somehow without any apparent wounds! Such a young thing for a heart attack! My body would be discovered in the old house occupied by my very own family, more specifically in the front bit that happened to serve as a florist. The photograph in the journals would show me, dead Cecily, lying amidst the clutter of rusty tin buckets full of bouquets. Maybe some spilled flowers and water pooling beneath me. Perhaps one of my legs propping open the front door, the little copper bell that usually hangs on a hook above it having fallen in the violent actions preceding my dreadful demise. Yes, that would be quite the story. A private detective might be hired, and he’d read the typed note in my hand. The only clue to what could have possibly occurred.
    I sighed and sat up, taking my shoes off as I re-read the note. They were handed out in abundance to all of our grade. It was a reminder to buy a cap and gown for graduation. What bothered me wasn’t the cap or the gown or the buying but the promise of graduation.
     The flowers didn’t stir in their jars and tins as I bounded past them into our home. The air behind the shop was thick with the smell of a pungent cheese and earthy rosemary, melting old sock to me but “curiously smelly in the most delightful and delicious way” to my father. He was whistling an old french song as he melted his sock and spice, the sound holding the house snug in a loop of familiarity. I picked a rose out of a jar by the entrance hall and placed it to my nose as I galloped past the kitchen to the greenhouse.
    Out here the air was also thick but with dirt and moisture, the glass walls beaded with the sweat of the sun. The orchids live here, with their moon faces, and the citrus trees: blood orange, lime and lemon. I wondered if they ever look out of the glass and wish they could break out, be free in the sea of angiosperms that surround our house.
    “Sebastian! I was murdered in the shop just a few minutes ago.”  I gasped, opening my eyes and breathing hard as if I had narrowly escaped staying murdered a few minutes ago. Sebastian looked up from his arrangement, setting his little scissors onto the work table so he could brush his hands off against his apron. There was dirt smudged on his cheek in the shape of a hedgehog. I brushed it off lightly with my fingers, “hedgehog today,” before giving him a hug. Inside of me the burn ached as I remembered the first time I gave him a hug and was embraced back by the sickly sweet odor of puberty. I had to talk to him about bacteria and armpits and deodorant; which he has never needed a reminder about since. Sometimes I’m amazed by how hygenic he is considering I was the one who taught him the importance of it, when I often forget to shower myself.
    “I should really start fearing for your life, shouldn’t I? You seem to come home murdered frequently these days. Who do I have to talk to this time?” His voice was protective, he’d always been defensive of our family. I held up the paper in my hand and was relieved when he took it from me, although I had already memorized it. His thick eyebrows lifted in humor, inching caterpillars; surprised it wasn’t a cruel note from some bloke at school. I added the expression to my mental catalog to practice later.
    “This is just a note about graduation information, Cecil,” He said, folding the note into a little origami flower before pressing it into my hand and gently folding my fingers around it. “And now it’s just another flower.”
    “Sebastian it isn’t the note that bothers me. It’s you! It reminded me that you’re graduating, how old you’ve gotten! Which, might I add, is very old. Practically as old as me!” A smile bloomed across his face, the dimple on his left cheek digging a cavity to protect itself from the corners of his lips. I couldn’t help feeling happy whenever he smiled; not when he was five and brought me handfuls of mud and squirming pink worms or now when he was seventeen and pressed an origami blossom into my palms.
    “Soggy stockings Sebastian! I’m just amazed is all, amazed how BOOM!” I stomped and raised my arms, “and suddenly my brother is graduating. I’m graduating. I don’t want to imagine possibly being separated from you in a year. I’ve watched you get tall and stinky and now soon I’ll have to watch you walk away.” Sebastian hugged me again.
    “Cecily, I will never walk away from my family.” His voice was accusatory but firm and I believed him.
    “Good. Ahh!! I’m so happy, though! So proud and happy about you! I mean look at this,” I motion extravagantly to his current flower arrangement. It’s dark and moody, olive greens and midnight blues, with lovely sparks of lily of the valley that are reminiscent of stars. “It’s wondrously, magnificently, SPECTACULARLY...very incredibly, extremely good!” This time I might have overdid my praise just a bit. “The last time I saw such talent at flower arranging was the last time I saw one of Sebastian Voughftin’s arrangements. Maybe you’ve met him?” He stopped my energetic hands before they could crash into the vase and ruin his work. When I almost ruin his arrangements is usually when he politely attempts to usher me out of the greenhouse.
    “If you have time, after dinner I’d like help with my english homework. I have some shakespeare I need to decipher again,” He said.
    “When have I not had time to help you? Absolutely, positively, of course I will. Until dinner then!” I pledged my aid and marched from the kingdom of plants back into the domain of cheese and warm food. But, really, still plants. There wasn’t a room in our house spare from their presence, dried and hanging from the wall or living and stacked in tins and jars.
    As the greenhouse door clicked behind me the bolt of a memory unlocked in my head. I had been trying to make sense of the strange feeling inside of me since seeing that paper and finally the mess of my intestines seemed to be starting to unknot itself.
    
    I’ve always been the only girl living in this house full of men and of blossoms. I’ve been perpetually tucked between stem and stigma, a brother, a father, an uncle and a grandad; a rare artifact in a museum of male lineage and angiosperm arrangements. I never got to meet my mother. There wasn’t a woman in our house that picked me up, hugged and praised me, kissed my scraped knees and listened to my sorrows like there was in my friends homes. My father did all that, of course, but I thought there must be something special about having a mother. Strangers had them, veterans had them, so did musicians, magicians and old ladies with veiny, translucent hands. Why didn’t I have one? My father wouldn’t give me a response when I tugged his sleeve or hung on his leg and begged my voice and spirit out all over the floor. I didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, why she would leave us, leave me, if all of these other women didn’t leave their children and families. That’s how I began imagining things, dreaming with my eyes open. I used to imagine what it would be like to have a mother.
    I began to study them. I’d watch their faces move to suit their actions and emotions, and their shrill excitement when they found nice shells on the beach. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and make faces at myself until I was sure I had the same look as she did when she pushed aside the sand and unearthed the great chipped conch.
    Then there was that day in mid April, when the sun was just beginning to bleed into the moon and everything was grapefruit. The field was full of shivering tulips and resilient little green shoots and sprigs. The apple trees had buds like miniature artichokes, I was four, the air smelled damp like rain, and my bare feet were black with mud. I was running towards a patch of cream colored tulips, intending to pick one, when I found him alone and asleep and squishing a great many of the flowers. His hair was dark and long, and his skin was badly sunburned and scabbed; dark grapefruit. I ran inside with a cream tulip clutched in my fist.
    “Dad! Flower for you!” My father had his striped apron on, like usual, and his hands were covered in bread dough as he took the flower from me and pretended to smell it.
    “Ahhh….delightful. Just like my favorite cheese!” He ruffled my hair and went back to kneading his bread, tulip behind his ear.
    “There’s a grapefruit boy in the flowers.” I said, jumping so I could watch him mold the white blob on the counter. “He’s sleeping so I didn’t get to meet him.” My father stopped kneading and cocked his head.
    “A grapefruit boy? Is he human? How old is he?” He asked, a lopsided, quizzical grin on his face as he considered me.
    “Umm I don’t know...He’s just like me!” I said, shrugging with as much arms as I could.
    “Can you show me?” He asked. I nodded and grabbed his dough covered, white hand. A poof of flour escaped into the air and we ran outside into the encroaching night. His pants rustled as we moved through the field, I liked the sound of it. When my dad saw the patch of cream tulips and sleeping child he gasped and rushed over, kneeling gently beside him and feeling for a pulse on his neck. White on grapefruit. I imagined I could see my father's hand throbbing with the beat of the boy’s heart.
    “Why’s he sleeping outside?” I asked in a whisper like the wind. My father shook his head and leaned back from the boy, his voice equally quiet.
    “I don’t know, kiddo.”
    “Did his mom leave him too?” A vein on my father’s arm popped out, blue and bulging against a thin shear of skin. His hand gripped a clump of grass and twisted hard; when he gulped I could see the little knot in his throat bobbing uncertainly. I put my small hand on his arm, afraid he was going to fall into the ground and be swallowed by the earth and dirt. When he turned to me I saw his features soften and the vein jumped back into his arm. Shaking his head of whatever thought had been haunting him, he stood and looked around.
    “Well, no one’s out here but us and the flowers. It looks like he’s had quite the journey. I bet he’d eat a whole loaf of raw bread! What do you think, Cecil?” My father looked down at me, but I had my attention on the boy. A word had flown into my head. Abandoned. He didn’t have a mother either. Right there, in April, in a patch of cream colored tulips and the grapefruit light of a sleepy sun, with four years to my name, I had a plan. I’d act like all those mothers I’d observed. I’d act like his mother. Then maybe someday I’d understand why my own could have left me.
    “I guess we might’ve just gotten a new edition to our family then, huh? Ever wanted a brother, kiddo?” My dad asked, scooping Sebastian into his arms.
   
     When I closed the door to the greenhouse, the rusty hinges in my mind finally broke off and I found myself stumbling into the room of that memory. The feeling inside of me I still didn’t have a clean name for, but I understood it. It was love, pride, admiration, astonishment. It was the feeling of planting a seed and watching it begin to sprout, watering it carefully, setting it in the sun, supporting the fragile young stem, and finally, all the sudden, having it be a big, blooming sunflower full of it’s own seeds. A feeling that maybe a mother would have.
    I watched my father in the kitchen, wearing that striped apron, whistling still and setting three plates with ornate silver cloches upon the table. Feeling that warm wormy mass of an emotion, of a connection, I understood even less how my mother could have abandoned me at the exciting time when I had just begun to sprout.
    But I also realized that she didn’t abandon me. Just as there isn’t a part of our house spare from flowers, there isn’t a part of me spare from my mother. I never knew her but her influence on my life is as dramatic as my acting. Because of her I started imagining, I have my life and heart shaped face. Because of her I have an extraordinary relationship with my brother, and I get the pleasure of watching him interact and grow with the world. I will always have these things, even if I never meet her or if Sebastian and I become separated. I understand that sometimes you must let people go; and not just the dead, but the living, and that letting go doesn’t mean losing or forgetting.

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