Q Lindsey Barrett
SHE THINKS, now and again, about her. Pink and perfect and oh so still.
She didn’t for a long time. Shut that memory off, wrapped in a christening gown turned to ash.
Kiki learned long ago, so young when she said goodbye to what she now knows was an easy life, when she started anew with a husband-stranger out in Green-Acres-is-the-life-for-me, that dwelling on disappointment keeps you mired in misery. Her mother’s way didn’t have to be hers.
Her three sons kept her occupied, skinned knees and can I have the keys, zooming off as fast as they dared, away from mommy, careening toward manhood. Would she have been closer, less driven to separate?
Her husband’s a good man, as far from her father as she could find. She should be content. She is content. She is not satisfied.
Royce would have her continue sketching bowls of apples landscapes still-lifes. Not roof trusses, if he had his way. Studying architecture taught her this: Perception of the world is made vivid through creation of sensorial experience, by orchestrating materials and space. She believed if she designed a home that was functional beautiful great spaces color-coordinated her life would be full. Shared ballgames school plays soccer matches all the intimacy needed.
Royce believed another would heal the wound in his heart. After three healthy boys Kiki said it was time to stop. She told Royce, we could fill the backyard with boys trying for a girl and I’d still be the only double X in the house.
Besides, when her boys came home from a date or a school dance, no matter how late it was, they’d wake Kiki. Royce wasn’t even allowed in the room during the whispered rundowns of their night. Problems, secrets, she was the one. The parent they called when they were sick. No disparagement of Royce, who taught them balls and bats, skating and swimming.
They’re grown now and nearly gone. Kiki made herself a future, class after class, year after year. Sheer walls and reclaimed water and off the grid. She put her hopes and dreams into designing and building this home. She allows herself one lingering longing look back at the house after the moving truck pulls away.
Kiki will organize other people’s perceptions, design other people’s homes. Never again for herself. No compounding her already vivid losses through repetition.
She never opened her eyes. Were they blue like Kiki’s or destined to be dark like her husband’s? Would she have been a daddy’s girl?
Kiki sighs and arranges the last of her belongings in her car. She needs her life to be about more than the past. Two decades gone, at the sight of a rocking chair Royce is sure to travel to that dark place where he, racked and hunched, held their girl-baby until she grew cold in his arms.
Q Lindsey Barrett’s stories have appeared in Shenandoah, Night Train, Los Angeles Review,
and elsewhere. Her current project, a novel based on real events, is set in 1890 in the wet
and remote Northwest rainforest. Despite taking place on the Olympic Peninsula, the
novel has neither sparkley vampires nor Sasquatch.