A rough draft of another creative piece inspired by four characters from four different pieces:
Mercy from “Two Sisters” by Ama Ata Aidoo
William (aka Bill) from “When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats
Daru (aka Darien) from “The Guest” by Albert Camus
Sebembele (aka Sebastian) from Deep River by Bessie Head
The setting is New York City, the year is 1950
Mercy walked through the door and was immediately taken in by a wonderful fragrance. She stopped in the doorway, holding the frame for just a second, closing her eyes and letting the smell envelope her. A large bouquet of yellow roses filled a vase on the round table of her studio apartment.
Yellow roses are my favorite… I wonder if…
Mercy walked over to the table and eyed the note greedily. She picked it up and gently unfolded it, her heart racing.
“Last night was incredible. I would love to see you again.”
The note was unsigned, but taped to it was a silver chain with a beautiful pendant. Mercy held it up to the window, examining the way the jewel reflected in the late afternoon light.
Well it’s real for sure. Emerald set in sterling silver. The chain is metal though.
She slipped the chain off and tossed it aside, replacing it with a real silver chain. She fastened the necklace and looked in the mirror, pleased with her admirer’s gift.
She turned this way and that, watching the still pendant glitter against her cocoa skin. She let out a dazzling smile, one she usually reserved for occasions that lead to gifts like this.
Oh Mercy! She could just hear her sister’s scolding disposition now. Mercy what are you doing running around with those kind of men? You’re never going to get married running around with men like that!
Oh Connie hush! Mercy never approved of her sister’s loveless marriage. And imagine getting herself into a situation like that! A bunch of babies and a husband who’s off chasing other girls…
Connie it’s women like you who keep us down. You should be happy for me! At least I’m seizing a little freedom for myself.
Mercy let out an irritable huff. She pushed all thoughts of her sister aside and allowed her self one last approving glance in the mirror before going to the bedroom.
* * *
Bill saw Mercy before she saw him. She was walking to The Corner Café to get her black coffee with two sugars before work. She strode down the street with an aura that radiated in every direction. Bill’s eye’s lit up at the sight of her. He kept his face tucked behind today’s New York Times until she ordered and walked over to the waiting area by his table. Bill nonchalantly folded the upper half of his paper down and, mimicking surprise, said “Mercy! Fancy meeting you here.”
“Bill I’ve gotten my coffee here every Wednesday for the past three years.” Mercy smiled down at him. Bill grinned at her. He couldn’t help it. She was it; she was the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life with.
“Mercy I’m going to be quite frank with you… yes I may have coincidentally planned this little encounter…. But it’s only because… well…” Mercy looked at him quizzically. “Well you see Mercy… here’s the thing… I…”
“You’re coffee Mercy,” The older barista behind the counter waved her over. Mercy diverted her attention away from Bill and grabbed her coffee.
“Mercy I’ve been writing again.” Bill shook his head, no that’s not what he wanted to say.
“Oh Bill, that’s wonderful. I’m so glad for you, you have such a talent like no one I’ve ever met before.” Bill blushed scarlet.
“I really mean that Bill, I’m not saying that because you’re one of my oldest friends.” Mercy smiled sweetly at him.
“Mercy there’s something else… I…”
“Oh Bill I’m terribly late, I must be off. I can’t be late another time or I might lose my job. Wouldn’t really be much of a shame, but someone’s gotta pay the bills. We’ll catch up later, I promise.”
She leaned down and pecked his cheek, then ran off in a flurry of clicking heels, with the ends of her burgundy scarf trailing in the wind.
Bill could only sit there, awestruck.
“I’m going to marry that woman,” he sighed.
* * *
Knock Knock Knock
Darien looked up from the stacks of papers he was grading. He glanced sideways out the window trying to remember if he was supposed to be expecting any visitors. No one came to mind. He put down his pen and lifted himself out of his chair. The knocking came again, more abrupt this time, and Darien strode down the hallway nearly knocking over a vase in the process.
By the time he got to the door, he was slightly annoyed that someone would show up without a prior notice, but nonetheless there was also a spark of excitement at the idea of having a visitor. Rarely did people come to see Darien, and he frequently felt the grips of loneliness on his 34th floor apartment.
Knock Knock Knock Kno-
Darien opened the door mid knock and was surprised to see the young man standing before him.
“Sebastian,” Darien said. “What an unexpected surprise.”
“Uncle,” Sebastian smiled. “I hope you were not in the middle of something terribly important?” Darien stared at the young man before him, a striking vision of his mother’s soft eyes and his father’s hard features. Sebastian had moved to the city the same year that his father, Darien’s younger brother, had died in a terrible boating accident. That was nearly six years ago. “Come in my dear nephew, it has been so long since I’ve seen you.”
“I give my sincerest apologies Uncle Darien. I have just been so busy with the upcoming election… and Rachel and the baby.” Sebastian swallowed. “But that’s no excuse for not visiting.”
“Come my dear boy.” Darien led Sebastian into the living room and motioned him to take a seat on the black leather sofa. “Can I get you anything? Are you hungry? Would you like some tea or coffee?” Sebastian nodded. “Some tea would be nice, thank you.” Darien began to busy himself with putting a pot on the stove. By the time he returned Sebastian was nervously rubbing his hands over his thighs. “What is it Sebastian. You can tell me what’s on your mind.” Sebastian looked up, as if caught off guard. He hesitated before speaking, choking on his words, pulling them back and reediting them in his mind. It was a while before he spoke.
“I’m having an affair,” he said softly. Darien’s eyes widened. So this was what had the poor boy all in a knot. Sebastian’s elbows were propped up on his knees, and his hands were folded under his chin. His index fingers rested on his lips in deep contemplation. The silver band on his ring finger gleamed indignantly.
“What?” Darien gasped.
“I think I’m in love with her Uncle. I want to leave Rachel.” Sebastian said calmly.
“Sebastian,” Darien said softly. “Why would you say such things?”
“Marrying Rachel was a mistake, a big mistake that I went along with. I guess…. I guess I just thought it would get better, but it hasn’t.”
“I will have to strongly advise against this,” Darien said darkly.
“Imagine what this will do for your reputation. You plan to be mayor one day? Governor? Well if you leave your wife, your child, it will reflect very poorly, and you can kiss all of your dreams goodbye.”
“But I love her,” he said dejectedly.
“She’s running around with a married man my boy, you don’t know what kind of power this woman holds, a woman who is willing to break up a family. If you play with fire, you will get burned Sebastian.”
Sebastian stared at his uncle for a moment, lost in thought. His brow furrowed slightly and he slowly began to nod. The whirring of the teakettle broke the silence. Darien got up to turn the stove off. Sebastian cleared his throat. “I don’t think I can stay for tea. I have to run by the office on the way home and attend to a few things. You understand I hope?”
“Not a problem my dear nephew,” Darien said kindly. As his uncle walked into the kitchen, Sebastian stood up and straightened his suit jacket. Something on the table caught his eye. He walked over and picked up a beautiful silk scarf. The vibrant colors and patterns seemed to dance off of the fabric. “Uncle where did you get this scarf? It’s stunning.” Darien walked out of the kitchen. “Oh you like it huh? It’s handmade, one of a kind Indian silk. A gift for a special friend of mine.” Darien smiled wistfully. Sebastian raised a knowing eyebrow at his uncle and laughed. “Alright Uncle I better be off.”
“Take care Sebastian, and remember what I told you.” His nephew gave him a short nod and walked out. The door slammed a few seconds later, echoing through the apartment, leaving Darien in silence.
* * *
Mercy walked up the six flights of stairs to her apartment in deep contemplation. She was thinking about the day before, when she encountered Bill outside of her workplace. Poor Bill, I really do care for him, but I need to think about myself for once. Click Click Click. Her heels struck every stair purposefully. He just doesn’t understand. It’s not about love anymore. Love is for fools. Click Click Click. Mercy was nearly two floors past before she realized she had missed her floor. And Bill he’s just… he’s… Connie’s disapproving face stared hard at Mercy. Oh shoot, I missed my floor. Clack Clack Clack. Poor Bill, maybe he will write a bestseller… then maybe… Mercy opened her door and a flash of white pulled her eyes to the small envelope at her feet. She cocked her head, perplexed. She bent down and picked it up, flipping it this way and that. No name. Her fingers pried the note open and she began reading…
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book…
* * *
Sebastian ambled down the street. It was a beautiful day. Not in that obviously beautiful way, maybe a perfectly ordinary day by anyone else’s standards. But for him, today was the most beautiful, the most perfect day that had ever been. Freedom, he thought. Today was the day he took back his freedom. It had not been easy, he never anticipated it would be, but worth it, yes it was worth it. He walked on, smiling at complete strangers, stopping in front of houses to smell the flowers, even doing a little jig while passing some street musicians. Today was his day.
He came to Mercy’s building, barely able to contain his excitement.
Any moment now she was going to walk down through that door. He could just picture it now, how it was going to go. He would see her, she would see him, and it would be the most perfect, the most beautiful moment of his life. He would tell her he left his wife. They could start their life together now. She would be so surprised. He wanted to give her everything. He wanted… Click Click Click.
The unmistakable sound of Mercy’s heels almost brought Sebastian to his knees. He took a deep breath and turned around.
He saw it, it didn’t occur to him at first.
He stared in astonishment. He could feel a grotesque mask forming on his face.
Mercy stared at him in confusion, her long brown hand stroking the soft fibers of her brand new scarf.
Sebastian could only stand there with his mouth wide open in disbelief.