Don’t judge me. I know you want to, but let’s get some facts straight in my defense.
1. I love Arturo King
2. Arturo left me behind.
3. I was lonely.
4. Lansing was an old friend.
5. I love Arturo King.
Did you burn the fictional damsel in distress that cuddled and kissed her best friend when her fantastical boyfriend disappeared for months? No, you didn’t. You sympathized with her loneliness before you read ahead to make sure the boyfriend was coming back to her. Loneliness is not a crime. It’s cruel to be alone, but not a crime, the last I knew. If it is a crime, I’ll light the match to ignite myself for what I’ve done. Goodness knows, I’m burning up with guilt as it is. In my defense, I want my story to be told before I’m judged too harshly. Arturo King might be a rock legend, but he and I are human. We make mistakes. We made mistakes. Do we need to suffer for all of eternity because of them? I hope not. The jury still seems to be out, though. The greater question is: Is it possible to rekindle our love, when the past could burn us all?
I’d like to say I was always a writer. I’d also like to say that I wrote every day of my life since a child. That I took the teaching advice I give my former students because writing every day improves your writing. I’d like to say I have my ten-thousand hours that makes me a proficient writer. But I can’t say any of those things. I did dream of writing the “Great American Novel” until one day a friend said: Why does it have to be great? Why can’t it just be good and tell a story?
As a teenager, I wrote your typical love-angst poetry that did occasionally win me an award and honor me with addressing my senior high school class at our Baccalaureate Mass. I didn’t keep a journal because I was too afraid my mom would find it in the mattress where I kept my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever that I wasn’t allowed to read as a twelve year old.
I can say that books have been my life. I’m a reader. I loved to read the day I discovered “The Three Bears” as a first grader, and ever since then, the written word has been my friend. Books were an escape for me. An adventure to the unknown. A love affair I’d never know. I could be lost for hours in a book.
So why writing now? I had a story to tell. It haunted me from the moment I decided if I just wrote it down it would go away. But it didn’t. Three years after writing the first draft, a sign (yes, I believe in them) told me to fix up that draft and work the process to have it published. That’s what I did. But one story let to another, and another, and another. Then a new idea came into my head and a new storyline was created.
I was accused (that’s the correct word) of having an overactive imagination as a child, as if that was a bad thing. I’ve also been accused of having the personality of a Jack Russell terrier, full of energy, unable to relax, and always one step ahead. What can I say other than I have stories to tell and I think you’ll like them. If you don’t, that’s okay. We all have our book boyfriends. We all have our favorites. Whatever you do, though, take time for yourself and read a book.
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If I ever wondered what the pits of hell felt like, I sensed my current position was similar to being in the fiery depths. The orange-yellow glow danced before me; blinding me to the man I knew was on the other side of the flames. His face was melting, fading in the fumes that surrounded and flowed from the heat. I sensed the wooden walls of the barn structure were crackling and eventually would crumble, but I continued to stand as if frozen. There would be no chance to freeze under the circumstances. If anything, I should be melting slowly to form a puddle on the floor. My skin felt as if it would peel off of me, one droplet of sweat at a time.
The blaze started in an attempt to gain Arturo’s attention. The boy wanted to impress his father: a rock god who stubbornly ignored his son, as he had done over a year ago in this same barn. The Barn. The place of inspiration for Arturo King and his band, The Nights. The place where they performed their magic through music. The place that marked where history was made.
I continued to stare through the flames that separated us. I could see that his lips were moving; calling or shouting out to me, but I couldn’t hear over the roar of the fire. His face was warped in my vision, drifting with the bright light that framed his head filled with dark waves and a jaw covered thicker than before. His brown eyes looked black as they stared back at me. I was trapped. The flames formed a wall between me and my beloved; a man I loved more than anyone. A man who I hurt more than I ever intended. A man who hurt me with his mysterious disappearance and lack of communication.
I didn’t move. Allowing the heat to consume me, I decided this might be my fate. Death by fire was how the adulteress was punished in ancient times. Of course, in romance novels a hero comes to the aid of the persecuted. My mind flashed to another man. He had been a hero to a little girl trapped within a burning building. He had been my hero, as well, when I was kidnapped in a drugged induced haze. He was someone I should not have been thinking of.
I continued to watch the movement of Arturo’s mouth. The roar of the flames was all that I heard. It made music to my ears, drowning out the accusations.
How could I do it? How could I be with another man?
The world seemed to stop as I struggled to give my answers. In contrast, it came alive in an orange glow that spread rapidly along the old wooden floor. My back was now against the warmth of the stones behind me. It was almost like I imagined a brick oven would feel. The ancient fieldstones were absorbing the heat and reflecting it back within the cramped space. Wood crackled above my head. The ripping sound only assured me that my end was eminent. The walls were catching and the barn was doomed to collapse.
Suddenly, I heard my name. The voice that screamed to me was clear, familiar, and not the voice that should have called for me.
“Guinie, turn around and reach up your hand,” he shouted down to me. It was like an angel spoke to me from the heavens. I couldn’t break my gaze on Arturo, but he was gesturing above me. His expression showed he clearly recognized who was over me, who was calling me. His eyes found mine through the flames and he nodded once. Then he looked away and I quickly spun reaching upward blindly. My eyes were dry, boiled orbs within their sockets. The smoke so thick, I confused it for fog. Stretching, my fingers connected with those reaching down for me. One hand was clasped, the opposite wrist encircled, and up I went into the freshness of the cool summer afternoon air. The scent of pine and lake water burned my smoke encrusted nose and I gasped for more oxygen. It was like I’d been drowning. A brief sensation I’d had a year ago in the water of that lake below.
My mind was clouded, but a passing image flashed of Arturo and me spinning in the blue water. He’d kissed me for the first time on that day then rolled us off the boat into the water in distraction. We were playful then. Not today. I heard his voice ringing in my head; his words enflamed with his bitterness.
How could I do it? Didn’t I love him?
I balanced on hands and knees in the dry earth near the burning barn. My throat was hoarse from gassy fumes and screams. I called out his name one more time, and then the inevitable happened. The wooden structure collapsed.
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