Taking care, I unwrapped the flowered paper, careful of the multiple layers of tape to get to the box inside. Nestled in pink tissue was a magenta polka dot bag. As I opened the silk ribbon, my heart raced.
"You didn't...oh my gosh, Chad...you didn't!" It was a book. Just a book, but so much more. I'm going to have to be careful what I share out loud with this amazing, wonderful man who will go to such means to light up my life.
He's never kept a secret (worst poker face ever). He doesn't wrap, at least never like this beauty. His expression at my reaction tells me so much.
I am the luckiest woman alive, not because of the book that now awaits me, but because of the person God has blessed me with to spend the rest of my days with in love and true partnership.
To fully explain my awe, here's the piece I wrote about one of my experiences in New Orleans.
I Almost Became a Felon
I almost became a felon yesterday. It was close. I can’t say it would have been accidental, but it would’ve been unintentional.
My group had entered The Backspace Bar & Kitchen. Framed photographs of famous writers, deliciously old antique typewriters, and stuffed wildlife covered the walls. All intriguing, but I was drawn to the haphazardly piled books upon the wooden mantle above the fireplace.
“The Rueful Mating,” by G.B. Stern called to me. Reverently, I lifted it from the stack, brought it to my little round table. The obnoxious conversation of bartendress and horny patrons disappeared as I opened the worn cover. On an inside page I read a review of G.B. Stern by someone named Rebecca West. I don’t know who this woman is either, but she clearly appreciates the author whose book I hold in my hands as she’s written:
“She can make flesh and bones, and the hair on the head, and the phrase in the mouth…into a perfect living character.”
I am intrigued. I want more. Skimming downward, I find a long list of other works by G.B. at the time of publication. None of them ring up a memory, but the list makes me want more, so I turn the page. The dedication is written to another woman, Gladys Calthrop:
“Wishing I had not wasted so many years before seeking her company with as much appreciation as I do now.”
Were they a couple? Did G.B. love her from afar? Is she, or perhaps Rebecca, the focus of a rueful mating? Again, I am intrigued, needing more, wanting to dig deeper.
I feel myself wanting this book more with each word I read. I set it down on the table. I will only be here a short time, and I fight the urgency to put aside pen and simply lose myself in Stern’s story. Maybe just the first page, I think, and pick the book up again.
Halycon Day, the romping poet protagonist, the young daughter of the Captain, leaps into my mind as I read. I can imagine her, skipping through the pages of the book. I see her surprising her father with her sass and writing. She is begging me to put her into my Wild Horses bag.
I place it on the bench beside me in the dimness of The Backspace instead. Pondering. My hand caresses the cover once more. It would be so easy, I think. “I want this book,” I say out loud to my companions. Neither of them urges me to do it. My daughter would probably do it, I think.
I open the cover again. First edition, 1932, is written in pencil, small, on the inside page. Hmm…but still-The fireplace mantle was stacked with unread tomes! Decoration. Unused. Neglected.
Take me! Halycon cried.
I’ve never understood taking things that don’t belong to you, the random thievery in the world. But this…
Purposefully, I place the book back on the tabletop. I am too tempted. I stride to the blue haired barmaid, novel in hand. “Do you loan out these books by any chance?” The longing in my voice should have made her acquiesce.
“Oh, no. Sorry. But you can read it here.”
WTF! I thought. “I can’t stay here that long.” I said.
Reluctantly, I replaced Halycon Day on the mantle. Ignored her cries. Thought of her all night. Saw her sad round face in my dreams.
Amazon.com. Used. Starting at $500, I Googled this morning.
I almost became a felon. A part of me thinks, if I could keep the book it might still be worth it.
-Kristine E. Brickey
Kristine still dreams of Halycon Day and may be plotting her next visit upon her return to NOWM.