Page 44 - WTP Vol. IX #7
P. 44

The Yearbook (continued from preceding page)
 hadn’t stumbled across the letter she would never have known that her memories were false. She feels like she is losing herself, pieces breaking off like ice chunks from the edge of a warming glacier.
And never mind excuses. The fact is, she’d never re- sponded. Maybe Martha waited and waited for Fran- ces to write back until it finally became clear that a response wasn’t coming. Maybe, at first, she was con- fused by the silence but then felt hurt and angry, ex- posed. She thought Frances was one person when she was really somebody else. Someone, Frances admits to herself, even she herself wouldn’t want to know.
For a moment, she feels an urge to fight back, to set the record straight—they were not good friends
but inexplicable, yellow streak that zigzags across the river bed.
Without warning, the back door squeaks and bangs shut. Quickly, she slides the yearbook onto the seat beside her and throws one of the grandchildren’s forgotten beach towels over it. If she tells Peter about Martha, he’ll say: Try to find her. Maybe she’d appre- ciate an explanation. Even if it’s fifty years late. But Frances already knows she won’t do it.
Peter sits down beside her and stretches his legs. When she met him, he had a mop of curly blonde hair and ran three miles a day. Now he’s bald with a belly that rides the air like the Goodyear blimp, but his cheeks still shine baby pink and his blue eyes sparkle. “What a day,” he says, admiring his mowing job. “Any luck in the attic?”
“Not really. I just got started.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. If you don’t do it, the kids will.”
He’s right. The kids will be ruthless and unsentimen- tal, willing to get rid of anything they don’t want.
But her daughter is nosy. If she finds Frances’ old love letters or diaries, she’ll read them, and Frances doesn’t want that, even after she’s gone.
She’ll start with the yearbook. As soon as they go in, she’ll take it out to the garage and bury it at the bot- tom of the blue recycling bin beneath a week’s worth of papers. Although it will feel like forsaking a piece of her heart, tomorrow she’ll throw out Jack’s letters. Before her knees are too weak to walk up the stairs or her energy too feeble to let her prowl through a bunch of dusty old boxes, she needs to get serious. God only knows what else she’ll find in the attic, what else she’s forgotten.
The days are getting shorter. The tide goes out and the sun dips behind the trees. The reddish-brown glow
of the muddy bed reminds her of Martha Wild’s hair. Frances begins to sing her part of the first movement of the “Stabat Mater,” the lament of love and a moth- er’s sorrow at the loss of her child. Soon Peter joins
in. She lifts her voice high into the air and hits every note. Even their aging voices can’t spoil such beautiful music. For months, she has worked hard on this piece, practicing every day, with and without Peter. Still, it is comforting to know that if she forgets the music, it is always there, inviolate and unchanged by time.
Wadsworth is a psychologist and writer living in Newton, MA. “The Yearbook” is her first published story.
s much as she loves him,
she relishes her rare moments alone, when no one needs her or wants her. She pours a glass of chardonnay, grabs the yearbook, and heads out to the yard.”
 and Frances had never promised Martha a thing. Of course Frances could try to find Martha online and explain what had happened, apologize even, but if she tried to explain her silence, Frances knew she would sound defensive, as if she were trying to hide the deeper truth that she never cared for Martha the way Martha cared for her. Besides, Frances has never seen the point of opening up old wounds, resurrecting an unpleasant past that has been laid to rest. Martha’s life, whatever happened to her, must surely have left St. Agnes behind. The last thing she would want at this point, is to hear from a St. Agnes girl, especially Frances. And surely by now, Martha has probably forgotten the whole thing.
Frances’ thighs are slick with sweat, her ankles itchy from mosquito bites. Sounds of Peter slamming the freezer door, muddling the ice, making a caipirinha while he sings Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater” in preparation for their concert next month, spill through the open kitchen windows. Bluejays bicker and a mob of crows argues in the top of the hemlock. “Scram,” Frances shouts, waving her hands. Her eyes rest on a lovely,

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