Marnie lay by the river. It was cold this early in the morning. A white fog pounded the riverbank as if steam was rising.
The river churned. It was rushing somewhere – maybe to the hills where the wildflowers grew, maybe to the sea. Marnie couldn’t be sure which way it was going; she had lost her sense of direction.
It was the letter’s fault. Arlo’s letter. Written in that neat, sure script that always made her think of notes on a stave. Arlo was a composer of sorts, his letters were usually very well-considered, properly constructed like they taught you in school with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Arlo’s letter had explained everything. It was typical of him to elaborate. Marnie had told him there was no need. Once something was over, it was over. There was no need to try and paint it a different colour.
Arlo was decent. Everybody said so. That’s why he had written the letter in the first place. To make Marnie feel better for ending up alone.
She found she couldn’t read the whole thing in sequence. It was like ripping a band aid off a wound that was still weeping – you either had to do it all at once or ease it off bit by bit. Same with painful words – you either had to read the whole thing in an aching rush, holding your breath, or read stray phrases here and there, trying to piece together the meaning.
Marnie had known for a while that Arlo had met someone else and that he was thrown into turmoil as he searched for a way to tell her. She respected that about him, the fact that he would always come clean; but it didn’t make the sense of emptiness any less vast. How could it be that you could wake up in the morning knowing someone was yours and by the end of the day – one single day – he was someone else’s?
Three words stuck out on the pages of Arlo’s letter. Not – I love you. Marnie wouldn’t hear that from Arlo ever again. Not after – she is pregnant.
Sometimes scenes from life mirrored lyrics from songs. Marnie thought of Springsteen’s The River.
‘Then, I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote..’
That was all Arlo needed to write. If his new girl was pregnant he would never leave her. It was the beginning of something for him, but it was the end for Marnie.
All night she had been singing the song in her head. She had been thinking of Ophelia and the Lady of Shalott. Drowning, dying in the river for madness. For love. For love and madness. And that’s where she had ended up. By the river.
The river was lit with morning. Green and yellow and blue all at once. How could water, so colourless under glass be so full of the sky and the trees and the break of day as it flowed over ground?
Marnie wanted to cry, to drop her tears into the river to see if they changed its earthy hue but the tears were tightly closed. All she could do was dip Arlo’s letter again and again into the river water until the words melted, clumping at the edges of the paper like honey sliding down a spoon. She dipped and dipped until the colour of the words became the colour of the water, until there were no lines like leaving you or I won’t be coming back hurtling like arrows.
Arlo’s words changed to blurred blue, forming an arc on the paper like an open hand folding in on itself before disappearing into the water. The paper, clinging like damp cloth, was bare. Panic rose in Marnie’s throat. She didn’t want to see the words on that letter ever again; but she didn’t want to not see the words ever again.
Nothing could be done. They were gone, washed away. As the light hit the surface of the water Marnie saw trails of blue ink flick like fish before they followed the course of the river to the hills or to the sea; trembling, ghostly watercolours.
*Inspired by the Search Engine Stories prompt – water colours.
‘The river was lit with morning. Green and yellow and blue all at once. How could water, so colourless under glass be so full of the sky and the trees and the break of day as it flowed over ground?’
This is beautiful. Very nice, I liked the ending too.
a situation that most people often ends up in but told in a very smooth and gentle way, a cascading of emotions, I might say, I find it to be sort of fantasy-like blend with realism
ghostly watercolors – love those words
Wow, another treasure Sel! I loved this story, I truly did. So beautifully written and what an wonderful take on this prompt. Bravo SEL! 🙂
Damn Arlo, I hope she was a floosy and it wasn’t his baby!
Great story, as usual, Selma.
“Panic rose in Marnie’s throat. She didn’t want to see the words on that letter ever again; but she didn’t want to not see the words ever again.”
This. Was. Awesome.
Much appreciated. It always makes me feel good when you like one of my images. Cheers!
You are so perceptive. I wasn’t sure if I was writing it as a dream or not. That feeling must have come through!
Thank you for your constant support and encouragement. You are the best!
I should have done the Maury Povich ending, shouldn’t I? A DNA test. LOL.
I do think at that moment where our hearts are broken there is such ambivalence. We never want to see the person who has hurt us again just as much as we want to keep them with us always. Love is so complex. Whew.
Thought provoking story. I found you through Naked Soul blog. Enjoy your comments there. You are a talented writer. Tahnks for sharing insight into the soul.
I saw Bruce in concert while he was touring for The River. The title track has always been so haunting. Beautifully interwoven into this post. I saw this prompt on Search Engine Stories – ’cause, as you know, I’m gonna try my hand at fiction/creative writing – but I couldn’t come up with anything I felt was worthy. Certainly not as worthy as this post. Lovely job.
Held me captive til the very end – I saw the whole thing in pastels like I was watching a painting in action. Lovely – although, of course, sad. Which is perfect for the tone.
This is simply gorgeous!
I held my breath while reading this.
I did it three times.
It’s such a well written post.
“Arlo’s words changed to blurred blue, forming an arc on the paper like an open hand folding in on itself before disappearing into the water.”
WOW. Woman, you are so freaking talented.
I love the Naked Soul. It really gets me thinking. So glad you stopped by to visit. I really appreciate your kind comment.
I can’t tell you how delighted I would be if you wrote something. Now that would make my day. Just remember, it’s not about how good or bad it is – it’s about the process, honing the craft.
The other day I was playing The River on piano and a friend of my hubby’s dropped by. This is a guy who doesn’t like Springsteen (heathen!) Anyway, he commented on what a nice melody it was and asked what it was. When I told him he nearly fell over. He liked it so much he went out and bought the CD. That’s what I love about Bruce – his melodies are truly gorgeous. He just makes people fall in love with his songs.
What a compliment. WOW. You have made my day with that one, Tex 😀
Thanks so much. I really appreciate your comment!
REAL MOTHER HEN:
How kind you are. I am absolutely thrilled you liked it. Absolutely!
Well, I think that about you. Totally. You are one of my favourite writers.
Just lovely. You’ve really captured both characters even though only Marnie is “present” in the story. Arlo’s personality definitely comes through.
Thanks so much. That means a lot to me. 😀
You have captured that feeling of sudden aloneness so well, Selma, from that “I can’t bear to look,” to “oh no! It’s gone and I’ll never see it again.”
I destroyed something once which I later wish I had kept once the rage had died down. I’ll never forget how much I wanted it back. The things we do, eh?