Smashwords edition 2012
The Thief in the Night
In the garden arbor, there was a vine with tender, fragile blue flowers that curled up over a lattice. She used to sit there, in patent leather shoes and a simple smock dress, dark hair in braids that were laid flat to her scalp. In her lap, she had a storybook her aunt had given her, detailing all the nights of Scheherazade. All the illustrations were done in red and black. If she closed her eyes, she converted these drawings to full scale canvases. It was only, ever, a matter of reaching far enough in. She liked to imagine she was lost in the midst of an unfriendly landscape…she was alone on the moors, or she was lost in a desert, where the sandy ground shifted from one moment to the next. At every second, her life might be taken from her, unless she spotted a shelter. She was always in the midst of a desperate conflict that took all of her. Sometimes she lost track of time, and was startled out of her meditations. “And what are you doing?” Someone would ask, confused to find her sitting with her eyes closed, (or not closed, staring at a spot in the distance). They did not understand. She could not very well say, “I am seeing how far down I go. I want to get to the bottom.”
“We are not rich,” said her aunt. “And you are not handsome. Here are the instruments of a life.” She pointed to the library shelves. She knew the situation well enough. What does it take to create a world within, and protect it? (And still grow old, and still protect it?)
When Ida was older, a teen, she passed a man and woman on the street. Tears stained the woman’s cheeks, and she was all undone.
“You can use me as you like,” she told the man, in supplication. “I adore you.”
And that’s love, sighed Ida. Later she remembered that the man’s face had betrayed no emotion.
The old drunk hadn’t moved from his spot at the corner of the train platform. His bottle of whiskey…largely a prop. It had probably been dry for six weeks. Certainly the rim was not moist, and there was no glistening amber liquid pooling near the exposed base. These things Ida noted from habit.