Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Brown (11/26/09)
TITLE: The Desk
By Dimple Suit
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“It’s perfect Eli,” Ruth exclaimed over the writing desk he designed for the celebration of their fifth year together. The wood anniversary being the perfect occasion to give his wife something she wanted for some time now. His anticipation at her reaction had kept him awake all night, much like when he was a child waiting for St. Nicholas.
Eli, an unknown artisan of talent, used tiger maple sanded gently and lightly stained to bring out the asymmetrical striped grain in the wood. The finish with two coats of shellac gave the light brown wood shine, so much like Ruth’s twinkling brown eyes. Working in the shop, keeping the desk hidden from her as he measured each cubbyhole, turned each leg, and polished each brass fixture filled him with joy. A matching chair with a tufted cushion of tan velvet with cream satin bows tied at the spindles completed the piece.
In their comfortably modest home, Ruth used the desk daily. Recording her thoughts in her leather bound journal, preparing the Sunday school lesson, or corresponding with family, she astounded Eli, causing his breath to catch, each time he walked in to find her at the desk. Her tawny hair glistening in the sunlight streaming from the dormer window filled him with awe. His heart never failed to flutter with adoration every time she turned and smiled. Each moment with her chiseled a treasured memory in his mind and on his grateful heart.
Designing furniture, testing different woods and techniques as their household grew, Eli made a name for himself. Their home became a showplace for his work of walnut bookcases, mahogany crown molding, oak kitchen cabinets, cherry dining suit and tables of maple, alder, pecan, and apple wood. Each piece was unique and well made but none compared to the tiger maple desk created for Ruth.
Four children and eleven grandchildren played and loved in this Craftsman home. The two great-grandchildren, one three months old and the other due any day, would never know the place except through the stories their parents would tell them about the antique furniture they inherited. Although it saddened him to leave the only home they had shared together, Eli knew he could no longer care for Ruth alone. He could no longer work the fine woods in to furniture but honored with a son and a grandson who continued the art and would live in this house, he felt accomplished and complete.
Standing in the now empty bedroom gazing out the window where the desk sat from the day he gave it to her, Eli stood with his arm around Ruth’s shoulders. Like fine wood, their love seasoned, their life crafted to finesse, taking on a patina with age making it stronger and more beautiful, durable and priceless. Resting her head on his shoulder, Eli gazed in Ruth’s upturned face. He recognized the increasingly fleeting lucidity in her eyes as she smiled at him. He saw the brown-eyed girl he fell in love with over sixty years ago. Seizing the moment of clarity he tasted her lips, whispering, “I love you darling” in her ear as they embraced.
Running his arthritic hands over the tiger maple desk sitting in the corner of her room, Eli recalled every moment spent with Ruth. Heart aching for her, tears misting his eyes, he patiently shared his memories with a woman who no longer knew him or herself. Her fawn brown eyes vacant and distant pulled at him, drawing him in while pushing him away. For a moment, so brief he nearly missed it, Ruth’s gaze flickered on the desk.
Opening the center drawer, he found a weathered envelope. In her elegant scrawl, Ruth addressed it to “My Beloved, Eli.” A love letter five pages in length, writing as her health began to fail, her memories beginning to fade. Lovingly, reverently, she wrote of their bond symbolized in the desk she treasured, not because it was beautiful or functional but because he had made it especially for her. Like the desk, their love endured, with memories in the cubbyholes of her heart instead of her mind.
Loving Ruth was easy, watching her decline, so difficult it broke his heart a little more every day. Placing the treasured letter back in the drawer, Eli moved to the bed. Kissing her forehead, he held Ruth’s hand taking her through their joyful memories as her brown eyes strayed, then stayed, on the tiger maple desk.
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