Angelina is the antique gliding between pine cabinets, the mouse who built her maze. She pulls her navy dress taut. One hand pinches the collar below her chin, the other shakes the ruffled waist. Arms linked, we face a mirror with teal flowers etched in its border. She angles my Tilley hat, evens the depressions above the brim. My husband Theodore wore a Fedora. He passed last Fall. I miss fixing a man’s hat.
We edge by an 1875 casting couch, a radio that broadcast the attack on Pearl Harbor, around a bookcase filled with first editions of Nancy Drew and Tom Swift, to a mahogany chest. These treasures are not for sale. Her veined hands are steady as she winds key after key over a ring until finding the lock’s mate. The ebony top is silent as it’s raised. Angelina reaches in, cups a locket engraved “All my love, Ted, Sept 9 1935”. She clicks the clasp revealing profiles of a youthful pair. The woman’s eyes prance, lips pout. Dietrich must have been jealous. The man sports a thick mustache. Theodore was a novelist, we traveled the world. I tell Angelina I recognize her hat, that she is a beauty; she and the hat haven’t lost style or charm. She pecks my cheek, moist. The wood ceiling fan raises my neck hair.
You’ll enjoy this miniature. Angelina gingerly opens an oak frame inscribed “July 9 1865”. It cracks as notches slide. She places the open frame under the locket. My eyes jump between Angelina in 1935 and the woman captured in oils. I ask if this woman is her grandmother. Wendell’s passion was landscapes, this is one of his few portraits, all were of me…including that one. She nods to the wall, to the nude prone on the casting couch, hair winding across back to hips. I look at Angelina. She pats my cheek. Yes, dear boy, there are others, many others, the rest are European and Middle Eastern, sculptors, architects, potters, men who worked in rock and so on. Have you seen Stonehenge? I cannot answer. I look at the locket photo, at the miniature, up at Angelina. My hands rattle, the ceiling fan rings my ears like a propeller. Come! This mystery is simple…and opportune.
Angelina’s hand is warm as she leads me back to the teal flower mirror. A wave of her arm, and the looking glass reflects us at age 20. Don’t we make a fine couple. Your body is 50, mine is 90. You can choose which side of the glass is real.
I look at her lined face, at the cover girl in the mirror.
When you were two years old, Jean’s mother bathed you and washed your clothes after you fell in the duck pen. She was afraid your mother would never let you come back to play. Your first girlfriend Cindy yelled SHIP in her home, a juvenile play on words. In college, the lass you lived with, Leanne, had a ménage a trois with your ex-girlfriend and her husband while you were at class. Need I go on?
I rub my forehead, damp palm trembles.
You’re married. Have two adult children. If we walk through the mirror, we’ll be the couple you see. I am the ultimate patron and siren of muses. I guarantee you seventy glorious years. You will become a great poet, verse will drip from your fingers like sweat from a racehorse.
I look to the floor, to the window.
I’m a very wealthy woman. We can go into space in a decade or so, that’s one of your dreams. Your children – we can befriend them, you know what they like. I can insure good lives for them. Your wife will be secure and not alone. I will find her a kind companion.
Angelina waves at the mirror again. We look 20 in 2003. She wears a baby doll tee and cargo shorts, a small red nose stud, rubies above triple platinum loops on her ears; hair dreadlocks to waist.
I don’t look at her image for me.
She pulls me towards the mirror. The door creeps open behind me.
Published in Sahara and twist
All rights reserved including copyright - Richard H. Fox 2003