EXCERPT: "Some Sunday"
The National Bestselling Sequel to "Butterscotch Blues."
The house on 112th Avenue in the middle of Hollis, Queens, New York was not particularly grand, new or specific. It mirrored the one before it, the one after it and the dozen across the street.
To a passer by it was just a speck in the landscape of closely placed homes and century old oaks. But to the woman who dwelled inside of it, it was a refuge, that these days, she had no desire to leave.
Life wasn't fair and it had been especially unfair to Sandy Hutchinson Burton, but it did go on. It went on despite the death of her husband. Went on even though all she wanted was for it to stop. Life went on though it had denied her much and with that continuum, responsibilities, like the one she was facing now.
Sandy thought about not going.
She found herself on the verge of just saying no. She didn’t want to get up, get dress, take the short drive less than two miles away, but life no longer gave her that option.
Every six months like clockwork, Sandy had to be tested for the various strains of HIV. Her dead husband Adrian made it so. He had died of it and she had to make certain she was free of it, the deadly disease appearing six weeks before their wedding day.
She wanted more than her own presence to occupy the three bedroom, one bathroom house. Missed the completeness that a simple late night conversation could bring. Sandy would have given a kings ransom just to have Adrian’s leg block access to the middle of the bed just one more time; witness his smiling face across from her at the kitchen table.
She was tired of meals becoming leftovers she didn’t want to eat, the dirty clothes hamper that took too long to fill. She was in need of helping hands to bring groceries from the car. Wanted just once to dash to the bathroom and find it occupied.
It was these little things that together drew life together, little things that made it complete, but she was cleaved in half, incapable of a healing. Locked away in a tiny cell, she couldn’t find the key.
So she lay there, immobile, longing and wished filled. She would have gone on that way had not the doorbell rang. Forcing herself from her bed, she grabbed her robe and made her way down the steps, fingers moving across her uncombed hair.
She peeked out the windowpane, thought not Adrian. But in her eyes it could have been. Adrian’s brother Winston looked every bit like him. Managing a smile she let him in.
Winston never called, just showed up and sometimes Sandy would turn him away.
There were moments when she was glad to see him, other times when she couldn’t bare the sight. Being in his presence, it was difficult discerning him from her husband and moments came when she became confused. They would be in the middle of a conversation and suddenly it would be Adrian before her, Sandy finding her self touching him in ways that went beyond appropriate.
She would pull back, mind her station. Tell herself a thousand times that it was not her husband, just the brother who looked like him. Now here he was before her again.
“Sleeping?” he asked, seeing the clutched robe, the wild hair. “Resting,” she offered, closing the door. Before her was the same wavy dark brown hair, the caramel skin. Before her were the eyes like honey, the same expanse of lips. Winston’s voice was Adrian’s, the shape of fingers, duplicate too. Even the way he looked at her sometimes was a conjuring of the man she had loved with everything she owned. Except he’s dead. “How’s your folks?” she found herself asking.
Winston nodded. “She’s doing good…what about you, you doing okay?”
“As okay as I can be I guess.” She took a deep breath, remembered state of dress. “I’m just going to run upstairs put on some clothes.”
Winston nodded. “Go ahead. I’ll be here.”
Sandy sat, lights off, the setting sun blazing full in the room about her. She sat in a sea of brilliant gold; Winston lost somewhere in the shadows.
She picked up her wine, took a sip. Her third glass, she was beyond counting.
In the corner, away from her, Winston watched. That she was beautiful had never been a question. That he was sitting witnessing it, his heart drinking her in with every beat, was.
He had been there a while and the brilliant low sun was telling just how long. Winston never planned to stay long, but more and more he’d found his visits extending themselves. She had been through so much and he just wanted to ease her pain. He knew it would take some time for her to get through it and just wanted help her get there.
He flipped his wrist, pushed the button on his watch, saw the hour and tried to ready himself for departure. If coming unannounced like he did was hard, leaving her was always harder.
Being with Sandy gave him peace.
Sometimes they would sit so close he could see the fine hairs along her ear lobes. Other times they were like they were now, he in one corner, she in another, it was always Sandy’s choice.
“I’m still dreaming him,” her voice catching him off guard, the blaze of light about her blinding.
“Does he talk to you?”
“He does to me.”
“What does he say.”
She shrugged, a careless gesture unsure of it’s importance. “That he loves me, always with me, that kind of thing.”
“He does love you, Sandy.”
But it was a love she could not touch.
Sometimes they would talk of Adrian and the sharing would be a comfort, but this time around it wasn’t. Though Winston could not see it, he could feel the sadness that had come over her. Powerless to change it, he was in no mood to bear witness. “Better be on my way,” he decided, standing. “Walk me to the door?”
If letting Winston in was sometimes hard, seeing him go was harder. Having him there made the empty spaces of her life less empty and a void would arrive the moment he left. But she was grateful that he had come and would not prevent him from leaving.
Sandy shivered as she stood in her foyer, the cold air sneaking its way around the windowsills and jam. She was reaching for the doorknob when he voice found her, surprising her with its directness, a real need to know.
“When the last time you’ve been anywhere?”
She did not expect the question though she had felt it often. Life had been on hold from the moment Adrian had gotten sick. Was still stagnant now that he was dead. Sandy could not remember the last time she had been anywhere but up until now it was just how her life was going.
“Can’t even remember, Wint.”
“How about next weekend?”
Her eyes moved to his, uncertain. “Next weekend?”
“Yeah. Get out the house. I think it’s time, Sandy.”
His voice was gentle. “To start living again.”
“I know that,” and a part of her did, but the rules were changed. It was new shoes she was walking in and wasn’t certain of the fit. The next step towards betterment was due, but she couldn’t place a bet on when.
“Well now that you know, do something about it….next Saturday, we’ll get out and about.”
“Next Saturday,” she asked again as if he had just requested the moon.
“Yeah.” He leaned over, kissed her forehead. “Next Saturday, out of this house. I’ll see you then.”
Winston left and she closed the door behind him, the idea of ‘getting out and about’ unsettling. She would have to, she knew that, but the time didn’t feel like now. It was still winter, she hated cold weather. Perhaps in the spring.