TITLE: Sing For Me
By Karin Butts
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Genre: Short Story
Sing For Me
Outside the windows of her warm, cozy apartment, fall leaves swirled in colorful array about the wooden terrace. The cushioned chairs, round glass table and umbrella, Marie had used all summer, had been stored in the shed, safe guarded against the icy winds of winter.
Looking out onto the patio, Marie could still see Anna sipping from her tall glass of iced tea, fanning herself with an original Japanese fan. Across from her sat Millie, her flaming hair streaked with silver, glittered like spun gold in the sun. Marie mused, how quickly summer had passed. They wouldn't visit as often now on gray days, plagued by this and that ailment.
Lost in fantasies of her long standing relationships with her friends she felt lonely, but the feeling dissipated quickly; she sat upright in her chair. Her cheeks flushed with joy as she felt his presence near.
"You are mine now," he said. "Sing for me." It seemed his voice came to her from somewhere above, or from a hidden corner of her consciousness. Marie wasn't sure and it didn't matter. Whenever he spoke her body thrilled as a bride's when her husband calls to her. The voice was stronger than any voice, carried an authority as no other and would never be denied, not by her. She had denied him once and it cost her everything that she held dear. But I'm old now; He knows I can't sing. If I could, which songs would he like? You know, songs of joy, of praise, songs that swell in you till your heart bursts, like that one vibrating sound that shatters a glass. Marie nodded, her eyes closing to slits as she leaned back again in her chair. He always speaks in parables. He was there when they cut my vocal chords to save my life. He doesn't mean for me to sing, it's something else he wants, something equal to a song.
Oh, but he'd said, "You're mine now...." After her first resounding, "Yes, I am yours," she stopped short. How could he say such a thing, she thought disturbed; she had been his more than half her life--or, God forbid, had she not been his at all? I have loved him all these years, with all my heart. She smiled softly, savoring the feeling of total bliss. "What he meant is I am his, finally, completely his. This will never change, it is forever," she marveled out loud, her face lit by an inner fire.
A shadow fell across her heart as she remembered how she had loved him slavishly at first, she had served him and joyfully fulfilled his every wish. Ever so subtly, with the years she had changed with a bent to self-centeredness, with murmuring, complaining, always questioning his leading, while he grew more distant and his voice dimmed to slight whispers. Her do-it-yourself philosophy hardened as she pushed through the obstacles that blocked her path, sometimes rejecting his tender warnings, sometimes not hearing his quiet voice in the roar of her own distraught mind. At first, when her love was new, she had assumed his love would grant all her desires; she was his bride, a child of the king and, like a princess, she believed everything her heart desired would prosper.
It did not; a struggle of will ensued, ending in failed efforts and disappointment every time she ventured into some new direction. This lasted many years. She later thought of them as the years the locusts had eaten, her desert years. Like a spiral downward, her life had spun slowly, relentlessly into decay. New things grew old too soon; her occasional, small joys faded like flickering and dying ambers. All she had loved died by and by, even her husband Joseph, who promised never to leave her, until she fell into a dungeon of darkness and deep depression.
She always knew he was near, but not responsive to her cries when she felt as if she were a twin to the Phantom of the Opera. She'd played the sound track of the movie almost every morning, setting the sad stage for the day until she felt the phantom's essence mingle with hers. The last and added song urged the phantom, "Child of the wilderness, learn to love, learn to live alone..."
Marie didn't know how to retrace her steps and where to find him, while he stood in the shadows, waiting. So much had come between them. His deep, sustaining love had remained patient but subdued. Now that she had come to the end of her will he sent her new friend Sophie, to guide her back to him. This time the way back to her beloved carried with it a discipline she was willing to endure. He tested her more severely with obstacles she could only overcome with the help of her new friend. Sophie did not come for tea nor did she ever meet Millie and Ann, she was not an ordinary friend, but solely focused on Marie's healing and restoration.
At the almost unpleasant thought of Sophie, Marie got up and busied herself in the kitchen making dinner for one. At every meal she was tempted to set another plate for him but what if...how could she explain the second plate if someone dropped by? Slicing onions brought tears to her eyes that turned into tears of frustration.
She turned on the radio as she often did and hummed a familiar tune. Sing for him--sing! She opened her mouth and croaked a few words and stopped embarrassed. She knew he wasn't asking her to sing again, that gift was gone. He had spoken to her at other times and made his wishes known and she was still agonizing over some of the things she had put off. He was urging her on with these last words, assuring her of his love, reminding her to stay on course. "You are mine now..." How could she withhold one thing from him? The daily things, the tangible demanding of her time, no longer irritating, but second rate--they would get done--for him, now he had made his eternal commitment final. What greater joy it was now to serve him with utter devotion.
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