Story of a Mistress

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her… what a plunge, what a lark?

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself For Lucy Mrs Dalloway said she would buy mrsdallowaysaidshemrsdallowaysaidmrsdallowaysaid –

“That’ll be four dollars and seventy-eight cents. Miss… Miss?”

“Oh… Sorry.”

She exits the flower shop with a sigh, a bouquet of roses cradled in her arms. It was Jake’s voice, reading the first sentences of Mrs. Dalloway that had distracted her earlier.

“That voice… the one I can never forget,” she thinks with relief despite her hazy memory.

How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of the wave; like the kiss of a wave

 “Ah, there it is again…”

One could not overlook the exotic features of this woman – this mysterious lady who, with her white hat and plain white summer dress, blends in with the bright sky and yet could catch everyone’s eye. Who could not help but notice the luscious colors of the red roses matching with the color of her lips? Or the deepness of her dark brown eyes, delicately hidden under her long eyelashes? Hasty businessmen slow down their pace and stare; artists in Union Square desire to draw her powerful stride. Aware of such attention for some time, she used to reciprocate and survey the crowded street, helplessly in search of a familiar face, the face of Jake. Eventually, though, she gave up and settled for a promisingly resembling replacement.

Now she enters Central Park, avoiding the gaze of any people around her except for one man waiting for her in front of the Boathouse. She sits across from Lawrence, the demi-prize to her quest. Just as she starts to think of ways in which Lawrence and Jake are different, Lawrence makes an order.

“Two margaritas, Asian Shrimp Salad for the lady and Striped Bass for me, please.”

She then remembers again what first drew her to him: his voice is just like Jake’s.

Lawrence looks at her. “Beautiful flowers! What are they for?” he smiles sheepishly, “You make me think of Mrs. Dalloway, do you know that?”

“Yes, I thought of her as well.”

He, just like Jake, is a bookworm. An aspiring writer, he currently works at one of the local public libraries. She was skimming through flaps of books for hours one day, imagining Jake reading the words to her, when she heard Jake’s voice – or so she thought.

“Are you, by any chance, looking for a particular book?”

She quickly turned to verify the identity of the voice, but only in vain.

“N-No. I’m just… wandering, just picking up books… here and there…”

“Would you like some recommendations?”

“Yes, I would.”

“Well… this book is about a boy who is separated from his parents during the Holocaust and he…”

She let him go on like that, serenading her with that soothing, familiar voice when she came to library from that day onward, not in search for books but rather his voice…

“Well? The flowers?”

“What – Oh, yes,” she says and downs her margarita, “Well, I just thought – these are some gorgeous roses, don’t you think? – so I bought them… Can I get another glass? Apple martini, this time.”

“They are beautiful,” he grunts while chewing on his meal.

Little does Lawrence know that the flowers are actually for Jake. Although she has told him about Jake, she would never tell him about how much she thinks of Jake or how often she tries to visit him. Continuing to drink, she plays with her engagement ring. She lets herself giggle at the thought of visiting Jake despite the fact that she’ll be married, and very soon!

“What’s so funny, sweetheart?”

“Nothing,” she sighs, “It’s just such a beautiful day, no? Just so damn beautiful – ha ha, look at that child over there! She must be so scared of the water, crying so loudly on the boat. So damn beautiful…”

Lawrence frowns slightly. He decides to talk about the New York Times best-selling books he has read and his thoughts behind each book.

She nods and repeatedly gives answers on auto-pilot, “Yes, that is very interesting.”

He continues and talks about interesting selections of books that people make at the library, such as romance novels picked by old couples. Lawrence reaches out to caress her hand and crosses his legs so that one of them could touch hers under the table. At the same time, a waiter approaches with a check, which she takes and signs before Lawrence can.

“Oh, perfect timing. You should start heading back to work, Lawrence.”

“Right. And you?”

“I want to take a walk around the park.”

“I can hang around for a while. I shouldn’t leave my beautiful lady all alone in the park.”

“No, c’mon. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“You sure? You sound like you might need some assistance. Look at you, you’re already tipsy and slurring your words.”

“Oh, I can walk it off, walk it off… Just go.”

“Okay, but don’t forget, tonight is the wedding rehearsal! Seven P.M.!”

Lawrence kisses her on the cheek, steps back and smiles at her ever so widely. She returns his smile only with a slight grin. As they exit the restaurant, Lawrence says goodbye and runs off toward the Yorkville Library, soon after which she takes a taxi to Grand Central and boards a train to Philadelphia.

Yes, to Philadelphia, to Jake, for one last time, at least for now. She presumes she will be busy with last-minute arrangements as the wedding approaches and she then will not be able to visit Jake. Once married and returned from the honeymoon, she and Lawrence will move to Maine, where he recently received the position to be a librarian of a private school. Not knowing when, or if, she will be able to make another trip, she hops on the train with a deep sense of need… and fear. As she looks out the window, she inhales the calming aroma of the roses.

“Almost there…”

A few hours later, she arrives at her destination, the graveyard, and finds Jake’s tomb easily, almost out of habit. She gently lays her bouquet and sits comfortably next to the tomb.

It has been almost twenty years since her brother Jake left her for the better world. He was twelve, she was seven. She knew he adored her, adored her so much throughout their childhood, and she admired him as well. Jake had learned to read very quickly; she on the other hand did not. She rather enjoyed having him read aloud the books to her, analyze each character, and share his opinions. In fact, she found his narration and interpretations more interesting than the books themselves. His praise for Tom Sawyer, his angry attacks at Napoleon the pig, and his sympathy for Ophelia enthralled her.

Toward Jake’s adolescent years, though, she noticed that no girls of his age had the same kind of reverence she had for him. He must have been aware of that, too, or at least had fear of ending up alone, without a girl. One night, Jake was reading to her when suddenly he stopped and looked at her.

“What do you think of me?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Well… Would you consider me as attractive?”

“Oh… I don’t know. You’re my brother!”

“Can I ask you something… Can I kiss you?”

She was completely perplexed. The question seemed odd since it was Jake who had asked the family to stop giving him pecks, complaining that it was gross. Nevertheless Jake took her silence as a yes and leaned in.

She should have known that this kiss was going to be different. He held the kiss for a while, holding her face with his hands so that she would not pull back. Then he burst into laughter, quickly mumbled good night, and ran out of her room. Nothing was said or exchanged between the two during the days that followed. After all, there was little time left to allow anything else to happen between them. Very soon came the fatal day.

The following week the whole family went to the beach. She was crying because of her favorite swim cap that went missing in the water, but Jake promised her that everything was going to be okay.

“I will find the cap, so don’t you worry, my darling, my little sister,” He said with a soothing voice.

She nodded with hope, and let him face the ocean, the murderer. An indefinite amount of time passed, and everyone became worried. Her mother asked her father to swim and find him. The next thing she remembers is seeing her father come back with Jake in his arms, whose body remained rigid, and his eyes open, never blinking and staring at nowhere.

A teardrop suddenly falls from her eye.

“What a shame, what a shame. If only I had kept better track of time.” She whispered to herself.

She wanders how handsome Jake would be now. He probably would have found a girl, and even be married much sooner than her. From a distance, she sees a couple exchanging a kiss at the same cemetery.

“Ugh, out of all places.”

She then thinks of Jake’s kiss as she lies on the ground and stares at the sky, feeling dizzy.

“Damn margarita. To hell with margarita. To hell with all. To hell with you, Jake.”

*  *  *  *  *

            She is at the beach again, and Jake is waiting for her, as expected. He has a book with him, and he smiles as she sits next to him.

            “Well, shall we begin?” she asks.

            He knows what to do. He opens his book, but she sees that unlike before, the pages are blank.

Yet he turns the pages one by one and without taking his eyes off the book, Jake says solemnly, “You seem different. You’ve grown.”

            “I guess I have.”

            “And you’re finally settled.” He points to her ring. “He’s got a good taste.”

            “Are you upset?”

            “No, it’s about time.”

            “I hate to leave you like this.”

            “Don’t.”

            “How can I not? Time goes, and I experience life, but not with you. Isn’t that unfair? Isn’t that selfish of me?!”

            “Isn’t it selfish of me to hold you back from fully enjoying your life? Don’t worry, just let me go.”

            “Are you sure?”

Large waves crash at the shore, soaking their clothes. The book evaporates into the water and disappears. Jake leans in and kisses her just like the way he did twenty years ago, until he dissolves into water and splashes onto her.

*  *  *  *  *

            She wakes up to the sound of the roaring thunder. Feeling the wetness of her clothes, her face, her mouth, she laughs out loud.

“Well, that explains the wet kiss!”

 She is then alarmed by the sound of approaching footsteps – Lawrence’s footsteps.

            “You knew?” She asks in surprise.

            “I figured you would be here.”

            “How did you get here?”

            “A lot of asking for directions and stopping at any graveyard in Philadelphia. This was my third stop.”

            “What about the rehearsal?”

            “What about you? The rehearsal can wait. I’d rather have you back.”

            He wraps his arms around her shoulders and brings her under his umbrella. She feels safe and warm.

“I think I made the right choice,” she thinks to herself.

            “Oh, Jake,” she says out loud, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

            Lawrence opens the car door and waits for her to enter.

            “Yes,” Lawrence answers, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Haysung Yoon
Age 18, Grade 12
Trinity School
Silver Key

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