Rosemontâ€™s Literary & Art Magazine Executive Board
President Emeli Kemmerer
Vice President Shelby Bergstresser Secretary Treasurer Sarah Schork Faculty Advisor Professor Katherine Ann Baker
Managing Editor Emeli Kemmerer Poetry Editor Phoebe Lamont Writing Editors Hope Smalley Stacy Wong 1
table of contents
Tierra Anthony Tierra Anthony Wicked Flames within Me| 11 William Appel William Appel The Secret of Ages| 13 Shelby Bergstresser Shelby Bergstresser Art| 3, 10, 34 Imran Chaudhry Imran Chaudhry Lifeâ€™s Cycle| 17 Michael Direnzo Michael Direnzo The Long Drive Home| 26 Ashira Frager Ashira Frager Going In | 4 Liliana Izaola Liliana Izaola Art| Cover, 5, 29 Emeli Kemmerer Emeli Kemmerer Bridge| 24 Heiress| 40 Art| 22, 25, 39 Kaitlyn Moss Kaitlyn Moss Checkmate| 18 Room 301| 35
Jacara Reid Jacara Reid Unbothered | 38 Ashley Sanders Ashley Sanders Big, Bold, and Beautiful| 8
Sarah Schork Sarah Schork Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania| 6 Displacement| 32 Hope Smalley Hope Smalley Burning Myself| 28 Stace Stace Still Learning| 23 Recounting it like a Fond Memory|33 Alexis Whitt Alexis Whitt Coming Out of the Darkness| 30
Shelby Bergstresser 3
with no windows, only wooden beams across the roing frames, overlooked the festivities. A purple banner wove through the beams connecting on one side to a towering tree. e sunlight slanted into the dusty alley in such a way to make the whole thing seem oddly aractive to make the scene glow from a place within. Another banner, blue, swept overhead as I watched the jester twirl and twirl his hoop until his place was taken by a medium with shimmering eye shadow up to the brows and hair of immeasurable height. Silver moons on a maroon robe shone as wisps of smoke curled around an oval face. e heavy perfume ﬁlled the photo both where itchy boas, stained fedoras, and masquerade masks missing one too many rhinestones were piled. A third banner of a dark green swooped the other way, peering down at the face painters. A bit of yellow, blue, and then pink. White ﬂecks ﬁnd their place and ﬁnally the splash of color gracing their cheek is complete. In the other chair rainbow ﬁreworks burst into being on a forearm. And I watch it all with white powder on my ﬁngers and chin from the fried dough. I look away and up again at the empty building with the peeling paint and the creaking beams, the slanting light and the swirling dust, the silver moons on the maroon robe 4
and the makeshi photo booth. I stood, leaning against a griy ﬁre hydrant, staring at a lone red balloon with its string tangled in a rusting gate, enjoying the circus.
Liliana Izaola 5
Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania Sarah Schork
I’m from the “Endless Mountains.” from the autumnal calendar backdrop, the murmur of pines aching under seasonal disorder, I'm from the church bell break in misty mountain mullings, bathing in the lilac infused sunrise, like we’ve known quiet, hairbreadth of heaven, I’m from the hesitant exchange of rosary beads from neighbor to neighbor, from basketcase, barrel-loaded boys who rise and fall on selfloathing and familial fracture, from the quiet, closeted violence of their repressed fathers, Men who only know how to divide their sons to bruise, to break, to coal miner and mechanic. I’m from mothers who have never been anything but. I’m from whisper-heavy adolescent trauma, from, “let’s climb the tunnel again” from burning our lungs to humidiﬁers of aggression and cycling through every blind impulse until we manage to smoke through our fruitless optimism, the “weak,” “college someday.” I’m from “the crick,” from the drunken gorge in backwoods soma-fests, the aernoon delight of, “one day I’ll be something,” From those failed somethings, I’m from the union of fearless hedonism and destitute wanderers, from calico-haired girls living in matchbox trailers waiting to be lit. My town is a town that issued suicide to melting pot America, rebirthed herself in hate-crime haven of slur and racism, from white-trash And the rape of suburbia, I’m from the dust of every person wise enough to leave. 6
But I’m also from church bells, from the earthy bellow of prayer in my grandmother’s diaphragm, from the wither, the spring, and the rebirth of “someday,” A someday bred in sidewalk musicians, children who chose meter over systematic consumer, gathered their eggs into one basket, and ran past probability with rapturous intention. I’m from mother nature’s promise to be kinder, to her starry-eyed, midnight excursions across campﬁre, the chocolate-stained lips, our mullings of God, and confessional catharsis. I’m from community pasta dinners, from compassion’s resurrecting laughter, the rambunction of extended family, and the choice to laugh in times of toil and dysfunction. I’m from the Promise Land of everything cliché and mundane, from the inch of light breaking a midnight drive gone wild, from ignorance and anguish in bold-leer backwoods, back-water and simple, I’m from Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania: I will never give up on our somedays.
Brave, Bold, and Beautiful Ashley Sanders
Have you ever heard the phrase momma’s boy? Well, I’m a momma’s girl, always have been since the day I can remember. My mother is my protector and best friend. Everyone looks at me like I’m crazy because I spend half my aernoons either texting her or on the phone with her, sometimes even just going home to see her. ey just don’t understand that when we don’t communicate I feel a sense of loss, and she does the same with me. It is a must with us and I could care less if people have a problem with our motherdaughter relationship. I can tell her everything and she can give me great advice if needed or have my side no maer the issue. Whether she is with me physically or spiritually, I can always count on my mother to guide me in the right direction when I’m feeling loss and can’t ﬁnd my way on my own. is makes her the best and is why I love her so much and thank her for all she has done even as I continue my journey alone. Selena David is my mother’s name. She is a striking beauty standing only ﬁve feet two inches tall with velvet chocolate eyes, caramel skin and a thick mane of hair, which she tends to cut into a short sleek style. She is a lady of many diﬀerent styles and new looks but still always manages to pull them oﬀ. Something she would tell me constantly, as a child who didn’t have conﬁdence in herself, would be, “You are beautiful just the way God made you to be.” Hearing those words over and over again really helped me become more comfortable with my body and appearance. I don’t really look like my mother, which is strange to me because I act just like her. I look more and more like my father, which I don’t mind at all, except when I hear, “You look just like your father, it’s so crazy.” To describe my mother, three words come to mind: brave, bold, and beautiful. I heard this from a friend, and I thought to myself that this described my mother right down to everything I’ve grown to see in her. Brave? Why, yes of course —she isn’t afraid of anything. She will go out into the world and do anything with a great mindset. Bold? Yes indeed—she is proud of herself and isn’t afraid to be who she is and doesn’t 8
care what others think of her. Beautiful? Well, you already know that because I told you so. ese three things are what I admire most about her. Of course a mother’s job is to protect her children, but some aren’t that fortunate to have a mother care so much. I am very fortunate and very thankful to have her in my life to save me from disasters I may cause to myself. Now, she doesn’t ﬁght my bales, but she does help me win the ones I’m not strong enough to win on my own. ere was a time in middle school when I was bullied everyday. ere was no particular reason why the kids picked on me (at least that’s what I thought) and then my mother found out. I can clearly remember her asking me what happened. I explained what the girls and boys were doing to me at school, why I cried every night and begged to stay home every morning. She grabbed my face, wiped away the warm tears from my face, kissed me right on the forehead and said, “ose girls are jealous of your beauty and afraid of your intelligence, and those boys just want to date you. at’s all it is sweetheart, you have to show them you’re stronger and what they say to you only makes you stronger because that’s what it’s doing and you don’t even know it yet.” She was right that day because that’s exactly what I did. I took what they dished out at me and used it to my advantage with my schoolwork. ere was no more trying to ﬁt in or make friends, all that maered was geing the grades and graduating. A couple months later I graduated with Honors and was Valedictorian of my class. I looked over to my mom on that day and I thanked her with all my heart for being my protector, because if not for her I wouldn’t have made it that far. I don’t know what it is that makes us so close; we have many dislikes and aren’t always the best of friends but our bond still remains strong. Maybe it’s our love for books that brings us together, or certain television shows, or maybe it’s because we can just have conversations with each other and have fun. She says it’s just the love for one another that brings us close together and what keeps our relationship growing stronger. I never want to give up what I have with her, because it’s a great honor being her daughter. She has helped me with 9
so much over my journey of nineteen years and that journey is still not over yet. â€™Til this day, she continues to be the one I admire. My mother remains Brave, Bold, and Beautiful.
Wicked Flames within Me Tierra Anthony
e wicked ﬁre that burns within me Has a vengeance no longer to rave Burned out, festered away, Like the shaking and dismantling Gnarled, and shriveled Melting of a Solid being into a part of nothing Nothing, nothing like the feeling Empty feeling Of the withering of my heart Fighting the feeling of nothing Screaming and shouting Leing loose Small nothings to say Discouraged, drained, dimmed Dammed and frayed Shiny, plastic smiling faces Distorted and creepy Filled with the Tension of everything And nothing at all My smile Is the image Is a black winter night Loitered with charcoal black ravens A image worth everything And nothing Needed is e wicked ﬁre that burned within me Nothing No longer sends a trail of smoke Once a failed aempt to thrive To survive, and to feed a need Of vitality, growth, and speed No more inner ﬁre No more inner desire Smoke turns into ash 11
Ash takes place into the darkness And emptiness of night e dead of night Of my smile e cooling of the ﬁre is Space taken Space going away e Strange ﬁre dies out No way to be refueled Refusal Angst, bursts through the last Flickering of the undying light e wicked ﬁre inside me Aborted, no longer a part of my being ivering, old with time Blue, very blue e color of the shell long forgoen Red like the anger inside Like the hastily splaer of blood Orange like the happier times Siing in the sun Crackling, ﬂickering, warmth e ﬂames that had a vengeance at raved on e wicked ﬁre that burned within me
The Secret of Ages William Appel
e man in the white-buoned shirt sat down in the wildly grown grass and motioned for me to sit as well. “It is good to meet you in a less hectic seing aer so long.” His voice, though he pronounced every syllable with a deliberate weight so as to make the meaning clear, still carried an unfamiliar accent. He seemed to notice my mind wander as to what language was his native tongue but he did not pursue that line of dialogue. “Would you have imagined I would have made my permanent residence all the way out here?” His voice carried a note of humor though I believe I could see why he asked the question he did. I thought about the possible meanings for what he said and mulled my response over. “I would not have expected you to live this far, either, but at this point I would argue that most of this Earth is your home.” I normally didn’t care so much as to what I said as long as I spoke my mind (when between equals of course) but I did not want our ﬁrst real talk to be ﬁlled with inane banality as I had long ago learned how important ﬁrst impressions were. He gave a ghost of a smile in return and turned to the acres of grass, doed by trees, as far as the eye could see from our vantage point on the small grassy knoll where we sat. Several dozen species of land animals doed the greenspace below us, as if we were in some sort of free-range wildlife preserve. “You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t immediately trust you to be who you say you are,” he said with ease and I realized he had spoken in a non-English language this time. He smiled expectantly as I struggled to meet him on his own ground linguistically, and aer a pregnant pause I realized he was speaking an older dialect of Latin. is is not going to be easy. I had no ﬁrst-hand experience hearing the now-dead language, but I made my best guess based upon how the languages derived from Latin were spoken. “I was in South America at the time of this particular proto-Indo-Euro way of speaking.” I spoke carefully at ﬁrst, starting to gain speed as I gained conﬁdence in grasping the father of the romance languages. A simple test of skill to show I 13
am diﬀerent from anyone else who has made the claim that I am kin to him. I should have practiced Latin more. He responded in a paleo-Balkan tongue. “Ah, but you have had all the time in the world, dear miss. Have you not?” Alright, let’s see how you like it then, Mr. Oh-socultured. I knew ancient Macedonian tongues well but I pretended to take my time in answering. If I can catch him oﬀ guard perhaps we can drop this silly charade and get to talking about what really maers here. I responded in Sanskrit, hoping if I bested him in this near-pointless exercise we could get down to business. “No one could even remember Etruscan culture let alone their tongues. And besides, not even you have had all the time in the world, Mister…?” I seemed to have suﬃciently impressed him enough in the way of the spoken word as he switched back to English, a language he had guessed (correctly I might add) I had been familiar with for some time now, despite its subtle changes over the years. “Clever, Ms. Scully, but I don’t think you would be able to pronounce my ﬁrst name, even if you are who you say you are. I have been told though that I have a ﬂair for the dramatic. You can call me Mr. Forever if you insist upon a name.” Even considering the circumstances, that was prey dramatic. “Well then, Mr. Forever,” I responded, puing a slight spin on forever to show I was not going to accept such a theatrical name wholesale. “Please do tell your story. It has been so long since I was even remotely convinced I had met another one like you or me.” Mr. Forever’s features relaxed slightly and he closed his eyes for a few seconds brieﬂy, aer taking a deep breath. “You are correct, of course, Ms. Scully. It has been far, far too long for my liking, if I ever met one like us at all. I believe what we both know now as Istanbul was referred to as Lygos, or perhaps Byzantium the last time I had barest suspicions of another. It is good to be in similar company aer all these ages. But I digress. My life starts somewhere in what would later be called Mesopotamia…” He spoke of being part of a small tribe involving his immediate family and a few other families who banded together for a beer chance to survive. e tribe spoke a 14
nameless patois that he reckoned would later become a dialectical inﬂection of ancient Mesopotamian. His rise to chief of the small tribe was easy when he grew older than the elders of the tribe whilst holding the body of a man of thirty or so. However, he was chased out aer people in his tribe began to suspect him of stealing their lives in order to keep himself young—and he had no way of knowing if it was true or not. I could not help but smile as this man, this “Mr. Forever,” spoke of his life. Much of it was clearly guesswork based upon thousands of lifetimes’ worth of events, but the speciﬁc events he seemed to remember were even more interesting than the rest of his tale. In particular, the time when he ﬁrst learned of murder and the idea of evil stood out to me. When the man who would become Mr. Forever was a boy, his uncle killed his father in a deserted clearing over the way food ought to be prepared. He described his uncle as a jealous man, always seeking to beer his own standing despite the cost others might have to pay. “My uncle saw me in the bushes during the unneeded death of my father and in the end, two murders were commied that day under the hot, dry summer of my homeland,” Mr. Forever described, but then refused to speak further of it. He spoke of languages and feeling like he was drowning in a sea of his own inadequacy at ﬁrst, but becoming a polyglot became signiﬁcantly easier the more he traveled and the more vernaculars he picked up. He spoke of becoming a wanderer aer being cast out from his family-tribe and outliving every person and beast he came across. I felt a signiﬁcant amount of empathy for Mr. Forever during moments like these, but stiﬂed myself from asking any questions—my reactions could wait until I had heard Mr. Forever out completely. As Mr. Forever talked of slowly moving westward from the cradle of civilization, he told of mountains and large, sprawling plains. I had, of course, experienced something similar but again held my tongue. Around the turn of his telling of the 19th century, I began to ﬁt the pieces together of how he and I would come together a lile over a century later. Aer the discovery of light-speed communications—something of which I am sure has never ceased to amaze either of us—he stopped. 15
“You are much more enthralled by my tale than I would have thought.” I quickly gathered myself from where I had absentmindedly laid next to him and responded in what I hoped would be a grateful and star-struck tone. “Only to be amazed to have walked the same path as one such as you.” He smiled sadly. “I think I can guess why you are truly here, Ms. Scully.” I returned his gaze with a similar expression, smiling apologetically. “Mr. Forever, we both know how valuable your body and mind are. It doesn’t have to be how you think this could go; you can be like me and simply do honest work for them and beer the future for us all.” His smile disappeared. “ere is nothing honest about the work I am now certain you partake in, Ms. Scully. You knew I would never come willingly. You knew I would only let down my defenses to allow one such as I into my habitat. You have tricked me into being here with you. You are insincere and a liar, Ms. Scully.” I gave him another sad smile. “It is with a heavy heart that I do what I must, Mr. Forever. And besides, the Directorate will treat one as rare as you fairly.”
“So you’re telling me that you’re from the future?” “Mhm.” He took a sip of beer. “You’ve obviously been drinking too much.” “Or maybe you have.” We both laughed. “What did you do in the future?” “Suﬀered for my past.” “Really? What happened?” “I was incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit.” “Ooh, that sucks,” I said with a laugh. “Tell me about it. Twenty years in a concrete cell is hell.” We remained silent for awhile. I looked at him. He looked familiar. I couldn’t place what it was. Maybe it was his facial features. His beautiful blue eyes were enhanced by the alcohol in my bloodstream and his voice. It sounded familiar. Suddenly, he took out a gun and shot the bartender. He then gave me the gun and said, “Have a nice twenty years.”
The gunmetal gray of my own eyes stared back at me, emptier than I've ever recalled before: a cool, patiently waiting weight. The simple, solid black plastic edges framed the cheap mirror in a stark contrast against the off-white paint. I knew that behind me there was a twin-size mattress, the springs panging with the slightest shift of weight. Above the bed would be a pink dream-catcher as cheap as the mirror I stood in front of. Yet the image reflected back at me was that of myself standing in a spartan room, the walls bare, and the contents therein nonexistent. I frowned and was startled to see my reflection still perfectly immobile. My breathing sped in order to feed my racing heart as I reached an unsteady hand out to the mirror, fingers trembling. To my great relief the reflection echoed me without hesitation. Perhaps my sleep addled brain had tricked me. I froze right before my fingers would touch the glass, paralyzed by the fear of what completing the motion could mean. I swallowed a scream as I felt the press of fingertips against mine where there should have been the smooth touch of glass. My eyes widened as I pressed my hand flat against the smooth warmth of hers. I jerked away and staggered back a step raising panic-stricken eyes to her calm ones, forgetting to breathe as I noticed the mirror was gone and the bare paleness of what had been my room was doubled in size. I shook my head and raked my fingers through my hair watching as she did not echo me this time. I didn't think my heart could beat faster but I could feel it at the back of my throat, the metallic taste of terror coating my tongue. I was too scared to move, afraid even to breathe. I took a much needed gasping breath as the woman began moving across the room to pull a simple hardwood chair out at a small square table I would swear had not been there before and sat down. She leaned casually back in the chair, folding her hands across her stomach and crossing her legs, face pleasantly blank. She simply sat there, waiting. Was she waiting for me? Who else would she be waiting for? I swallowed hard and stared back. There was a chair just like the one she sat in on the other side of the table and on the top was a chess board. It looked as if the game was half-finished. I walked slowly over to the table, eyes on the 18
conquered chess pieces sitting in a neat line on both sides of the board. I stood behind and slightly to the side of the chair and looked over to her. She inclined her head toward the chair, a gentle invitation. I slid the chair back and perched uncomfortably on the edge, confused, scared and, like a cornered animal, ready to lash out. I nearly jumped out of my skin as she gestured with a flick of her wrist at the board. I frowned. My turn? A small smile curled the corners of her mouth up and she dipped her head in acknowledgment as if answering my unspoken question, or maybe she was just encouraging me. I looked away from that peculiar smile down at the board. It was an odd chess board. The pieces on my side were black and white marbled swirls. The neatly aligned pieces to the left of my side of the board were a near mercurial twist of red and gray. The perfectly geometric checkered board was just as odd. The white squares were tainted with shots of gray and black while streaks of red and pale gray bled through the black tiles. It was odd and strangely beautiful. I glanced up to see her still patiently watching me as if she had been waiting for me to make my move for a long time and could sit there like that forever if she had to. Her peaceful calm was unnerving. I swallowed hard a couple times. “I was really never any good at chess. I don't think I want to play.” Her smile never wavered. “You have no choice. You may not win, but you must play.” I frowned and fought off the goosebumps creeping along my flesh at hearing my own voice speak with no thought or effort on my part. I shook my head and she echoed me this time. “It is your turn.” She glanced at my side of the board with a flick of her eyes in a not so subtle push to make my move. I eyed the board. I had one rook, bishop and knight left. Funny enough so did she. I was losing by one piece, giving her the upper hand. I finally reached out and when my hand hovered above my knight, I watched her face crumble into something like distaste. I cocked my head to the side and frowned; curious, very curious. I switched to a pawn and she raised an eyebrow. I got a near angry look for the bishop and one of awe for the rook. Her face reflected something for every piece. I shifted back over the pieces in a different order and got the same look for the big boys but a completely unique look for each pawn— sorrow, rage, bliss, happy contentment. Her eyes locked onto mine 19
suddenly and I could see the knowledge of what I was attempting in those calm eyes. She offered me a brilliant smile. “It doesn't really matter what piece you choose. There's only one endgame.” I cocked my head again and frowned at her. “Of course it matters.” She shook her head, still smiling. I retracted my hand from the board and waited for an explanation that I might never get. I sighed and moved one of my pawns. Her smile faltered for a minute, eyes going distant, before she smiled and a pack of halfsmoked cigarettes appeared in her hand from under the table. She put one between her lips and lit it, the ember flaring a brilliant orange as she closed her eyes and inhaled. The smoke slowly filtered out of her nose as she eyed the board. “If it doesn't matter what piece is moved, what is the point of the game?” She took another drag. “Necessity.” The word was emphasized by tendrils of smoke trickling from her nose and mouth as her knight rode forward and toppled my pawn. I frowned. “But what is the point?” The unending calm of those eyes stared into mine and I felt cold. “Isn't it obvious?” I shook my head and she smiled as the glow of her cigarette flared again. “The point is to win.” “But you are me.” She was so still I couldn't tell if she so much as breathed. “Am I?” A question breathed so quietly I had to lean forward to hear it. “Why would I need to win against myself?” “Why indeed.” I shook my head and sighed in exasperation at the cryptic nature of it all. I slid my rook forward and took the smooth weight of her knight in my hand. She nodded and stared at the board in bored contemplation. “Clever,” she said in a puff of smoke. I shrugged. “Sometimes you need to lose in order to win.” She stared at me for a minute as if I had finally done something interesting before she gave a surprised burst of laughter that startled me. She nodded happily, eyes glowing with some unknown joy. “What's the endgame?” I asked. She stared attentively down at the board long enough that I thought she wouldn't answer. Then she rolled just her eyes up to me and for the first time I saw a flash of heat in the 20
depths of those cool eyes, so like my own and yet completely different, but it wasn't the kind of heat that would keep you warm. It was just enough warmth to prove how cold neutrality could be. I rolled the chilled smoothness of her knight in my now sweating palms. She slid a pawn forward and sat back in her chair, taking a long drag from her cigarette, lips twisting into a sinister sneer I'd never had occasion to see on my own face that sent my heart racing. â€œThis can only end one way...checkmate.â€? With that she blew her smoke right into my face. I closed my eyes and swatted the smoke away, opening them to find myself staring into the mirror again. Behind her I could see my bed, above it hung my gaudy pink dream-catcher. The table with the chess game was gone and everything was back to normal. Mostly. She smiled at me and lifted a single finger to her lips in the universal signal for silence before she winked at me. I turned away from her and closed my eyes. When I gathered enough courage I turned and jumped around in front of the mirror, sighing in relief as nothing odd happened. Everything was back to normal. Except it wasn't. Something wasn't quite right. I looked into that mirror for a long time trying to put my finger on what it was. Then I saw it. I frowned at the odd gleam in my eyes, leaning close enough for my breath to fog the mirror. That gleam in the cold depths of my gray eyes reflected back at me and if I stared hard enough past the shine of it I could see her sitting patiently at that peculiarly beautiful little chess board, waiting.
i. ere was a time when I used to give Myself away to those who Didn’t want me. I le my virtue in places I Always return to. Hiding places that are never really Hidden. How many times have I spent Trying to ﬁnd myself in the Darkness of dimly lit parking lots ii. I used to hate the Smell of gasoline e way I used to hate the idea of nicotine and tar Filling up my lungs iii. I branded myself with tongues that cut like knives, Told myself words that ﬂow and taste like honey Could heal these Wounds. stace 23
Lonely in the odd hour between late night and morning, it is an ugly thing, sickly teal and grey, a necessary in-between for the human migration— this is not a bridge to die on. Slinking fog, rolling in from the bay, obscures the destination and origin, and I am stood midway between nowheres, and you are lost to me— this is not the bridge to die on. e best books do not go half-read and guests do not leave the table before the feast, and the fog will stroke your hair and the bay waters will beckon you jump— this is not the bridge to die on. For you are the best book you will ever read and the feast they will talk about for years, and this will seem a bad dream when you ﬁnd me on the other side of this in-between— this is not the bridge to die on.
The Long Drive Home Michael Direnzo
I dropped everything when I saw the obituaries. Your name dashed across my eyes like a bolt of lightning. e tears fell like shooting stars as I read every detail of the gruesome scene: how the driver’s breath reeked of a shiy cra beer, how he ran that red light at twice the speed limit, how your wife and daughter were at home waiting for you to come home aer a long day of work so they could ﬁnally start eating dinner like a family—the kind you see on TV where everything seems okay for that one moment, but now they won’t have that moment ever again because some twentyﬁve year-old punk, in his drunken state, thought that he could blast through the intersection before anyone made a move. It was 11:00 p.m. in New York, and I barreled down the interstate all the way to our small hometown in North Carolina, so remote it didn't even show up on my GPS. Luckily I had our old childhood memories to guide me home: how we shared a lab table in chemistry, how you laughed at my terrible jokes and how I marveled at the secret alcove you kept in the woods, and how we lived out that crappy cliché of sharing a kiss at the top of the Ferris wheel at the state fair. I pulled into the driveway of your old house and gingerly knocked on the door. Your parents answered, currently in the process of losing sleep over the fact that the big city consumed yet another naive small town kid, but they never thought that it would happen to their own son. e bags under their eyes hung like bats in a cave. e three of us stepped into our own lile time machine and retold all the great stories of you, like how you scored the winning touchdown of the state championship and how you looked so handsome in your tux when you took me to prom. I started to talk about how we were so excited to be going to colleges only an hour away from each other so we wouldn't have to end it, but I lost it halfway through. Your parents joined in shortly aer. In the morning, we drove up to the city morgue to meet your wife and talk about funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, 26
the accident screwed you up prey badly, so we decided a closed-casket service would be beer than open. No one else needed to see you now; we wanted to preserve the memory of you—how alive you looked, the way your smile curved, the way your eyes lit up when you came home every night to your loving family. I stand here now, at the service, thinking how I never thought I would have to say these words this soon. I just hope that wherever you are, you’re looking at us and hoping that it’ll be a long time before we meet up with you.
e ﬁrst time she tells me she loves me is not A spark it’s a shock--hands tingling Mind racing, heart restarting kind of shock She taught me that being in love Doesn’t always happen by falling And a shove And the feeling of walking on hot coals at leaves you the path of scorched earth she leaves behind. Her hands felt like the hot stove at my mother warned me not to touch “You’re gonna burn yourself,” she said.
Coming Out of the Darkness Alexis Whitt
Being in your presence is toxic And not in the same depiction as Britney Spears With you, there is no logic Consistently having me live in my own fears I always seemed to be blind I can't win no maer how hard I try Happiness is what I could never ﬁnd To you, everything I do and say is a lie To me, you were rarely ever kind Most nights, I couldn't help but cry He was never around For years, he was out of town When he's near, you always frown You both knew how to bring each other down And you both kept me underground In the darkness I always stayed All my friends you forced away By myself I always played I never thought I would have a beer day Heavier than light, darkness weighed In my head, life was ﬁlled with rain Because of you, my life I hate ere was no way to void the pain No longer did I desire to wait Life wasn't sweet like sugar cane Lingering in my head was my fate at maybe pills could relieve my pain Or maybe I’m as easy to cut like cake Aer every time, positivity came to thought at there's a chance darkness can be fought Each struggle has a lesson that can be taught In a dream catcher, nightmares can be caught
And somehow, happiness can be sought I could be a role model for my sisters One day, I’ll meet the Backstreet Boys Darkness will be easier to rid than blisters Eventually, I can even own a Rolls Royce Someday, this time period won't be sinister Life will be simpler than most toys Today, I can say so much I am improving myself in college My fears I get to punch For many, I paint a collage Celebrities? I’ met a bunch My career will be noticed more than Solange One day, I will get praised over brunch And I will send my future children to college No longer does darkness lurk Your hatred does not hurt My happiness is the greatest perk No longer am I buried in dirt However, I’ve no time to twerk For my studies come ﬁrst at way, Criminal Sociology is a means of work In the end, darkness sheds its light No longer am I in the trenches of darkness No more demons shall I ﬁght Never again should I feel worthless For in my heart, I know what is right Finally, I can come out of the darkness
A bleeding dog crawls to me and is ravenous. He is an orphan of excess and hovers over my emaciated body. Be it a playful pining or mouth-watering devour, it doesn’t maer: He tears my ﬂesh from sinew and ﬁbered muscle, and I allow it. I don’t deserve the consolation. I leave myself gaping, remember a dream of my stomach decaying in an open lot, and know the only direction to look is skyward. is isn’t a metaphor for hope. My gaze is a memory of where I once stood. e dog looks upright, even in his wounding: at least he can say he’s consistent to the hunger. I can’t ask for last words. I won’t. I am less of what I was and cannot oﬀer what ﬂesh has been roed. I am buried in a graveyard of promises, and the truth has to die before I become Lazarus. I suﬀocate. I am blood-soaked while he laps his tongue like a gluon. He is, aer all, starving. I reek of a sickly iron, all my ﬂesh hollowed out for this ﬁnal holy supper. is is my body: he leaves nothing le. is is my blood: I am ﬁnally empty.
Recounting it like a Fond Memory we sat with hungry stomachs and full mouths pale skin and shaking hands the school nurse started having lunch with us when the guidance counselor pulled us out of class we avoided the elephant in the room because we took far too many pills the emergency room ďŹ lled us with charcoal we grew apart but kept in touch with the emptiness inside ourselves.
Like Pandora, I wondered what secrets could be hidden behind so simple a structure. As I climbed the last turn of the winding stair and swept through the rounded archway, there it was simple and unmoved. e pale amber of the smooth wood set in a rounded arch, a slight peak at the top, nestled between the perfect geometry of the stacks overlooking the ground ﬂoor. e only blemish on its perfectly mysterious surface was the brass knob, worn from hands I’d never seen reveal the secrets beyond and the gold print of the number 301. e jamb around it was a deep brown, notched with age that the door itself seemed impervious to. I closed the short distance between the staircase and the door, hand clenched tightly around the large ring of keys, peeking between the stacks into the reading room, ﬁnding it lifeless before fumbling through the keys. I plugged key aer key into the lock, ignoring the ones that obviously wouldn't work. Despite my previous aempts, I just had to try again and as before my eﬀorts were found wanting. I sighed and shoved the keys back into my jacket pocket, digging in the shallow depth of my jeans pocket spilling into my hand the three keys I had found in various drawers at the circulation desk. None of them worked. I switched the keys out for the slim pouch of tools I had recently bought out of desperation. I knelt and palmed the two thin pieces of metal. As I ﬁddled with the lock I frowned in frustration at the tiny ticks and clicks that only emphasized my failure in the dead silence of the stacks. I closed my eyes and leaned into the door, placing my ear against that unblemished wood, allowing my ears and hands to guide me. Aer several minutes I sat back on my haunches and simply stared at the hulking wood panel that deﬁed my curiosity before carelessly tossing the pouch and tools into my pocket, giving it my back in defeat. Eleven o’clock the next evening I exchanged pleasantries and polite conversation with my coworkers during the shi change before the library fell into its usual quiet folds. I unloaded my laptop and tried to ignore the curiosity that plagued me every night in favor of the more pressing issue of 35
my ever increasing mound of homework. What could be behind a door with a lock but no key? I saw a dull glint on the shelf next to me and looked over to ﬁnd an old, brass key winking at me. I studied the key without touching it, not remembering ever having seen it there before, and resisted the ridiculous urge to ask my coworker about it. No way. I kept telling myself it wasn't possible and yet still couldn't shake the odd feeling wrapping around me. I stared at that key like I might reveal the secrets to the universe with it. “Hey!” I jumped and spun in my chair blinking in shock at the young woman with an armful of books, looking impatient as if she had been trying to get my aention. I smiled and apologized, exchanging niceties while I checked out her materials. When she le I found myself staring at that damned key again until I couldn't resist anymore. I quickly snatched it and without hesitation and began moving for the spiral stair again, calling over my shoulder to my coworker that I was going on my rounds. Before I knew it, I was in front of that door, key in the lock. My heartbeat was thick on the back of my tongue, hand trembling on the key as I turned it slowly. e thick sound of gears turning and the click of the lock sounded. No way. I held my breath as I pushed open the heavy wood of the door that broke free of the frame with a too loud cracking sound. e ink black that greeted me was almost more ominous than the door had been now that it was open. I searched for a light switch, fumbling through the dark, blinking through the sudden blinding light as my ﬁngers ﬁnally found the switch. As I looked around my heart sank. Nothing. ere was nothing here except dust and empty shelves. I looked around at nothing at all and suddenly felt pissed. I don't know what I had expected but this was not it. I turned oﬀ the light and le the room as quickly as possible. e rest of the evening passed uneventfully until I waved good night to my coworker and began down the slate path to go back to my dorm. I stopped as I saw a light on the third ﬂoor. Had we forgoen to turn oﬀ one of the lights? e thin window stared at me, oblong and slightly pointed like the damned door. My heart began to race as I realized that was the room. e light was on in room 301, the room no one ever went into. I was sure I had turned the light oﬀ. I shook my 36
head hard and was almost clear of the library when I stopped, without explanation and slowly turned. I just had to look again. In the thin window stood a slender ďŹ gure, shadowed by the distance between us. My blood ran cold, heart racing too fast as the ďŹ gure slowly raised a hand and waved to me.
Single by choice because Being with someone else gives you a reserved voice Nowadays things are temporary Relationships stopped being legendary is generation thinks a real date Is being cooped up in an apartment watching bootlegs and being thoughtless He will start rubbing her leg And ask, “If this is not a date, what do you call it?” She will leave He will ask, “Are you really leaving this behind?” but is it really leaving if it’s not really mine? You want me to commit to you with no deﬁnition But, me being with someone else is your worst contradiction. Inﬂicted with judgements from women you used to date Resulting in you looking at me as the women you hate. You’re inﬂicted with hurt from the women you used as fresh bait. Maybe it’s too late to turn your mindset blank. at’s another female’s journey because complicated people bore me.
His iPhone has no idea where the hell he is in Backwoods, Pennsylvania, so Will ﬁnally pulls his sleek rental car into the town’s only gas station in hopes of ﬁnding someone who does. “Gracemere?” echoes the old woman standing before the wall of cigarees, one held hostage between two ﬁngers. Will nods, sparing a glance at the No Smoking sign by the door. “Do you know where it is? My phone can’t ﬁnd it.” She takes a shaky puﬀ. “Why do you want to go there?” “I’ve been commissioned to do some paintings. I’m an artist.” is statement is usually followed by a smooth presentation of his business card, but Will thinks beer of it, leaning away from the exhaled smoke. “Gracemere,” she says again, like a breathless curse or a sad sigh. “You should stay away from there.” “I’m already late, if you don’t mind.” And he has no time for small town superstitions. “I just need directions.” “Gracemere isn’t in town. Not anymore.” He exhales slowly through his nose. “en where is it?” e woman manages to hold both her cigaree and a pen in the same hand as she hastily scrawls some directions onto a waterdamaged notepad. “It used to be in town, but we eventually learned to give her a wide berth.” She tears oﬀ the sheet, oﬀering it to him with a distasteful curl to her mouth. “You’ll learn that, too. Soon enough.” e messy cursive guidelines put him on a road out into an even deeper part of nowhere, the empty ﬁelds abruptly falling away to dense forest. His iPhone ﬁnally admits defeat with a no service alert, relegating it to somewhere forsaken in the back seat as he navigates the winding, bumpy roads, years of neglect reﬂected in pale asphalt and cracks—more pothole than road by this point. Sleek and European with the high beams on to combat the abrupt darkness, his car isn’t meant for this sort of abuse, and if he were to be stranded out here he doubts anyone will come looking. Without warning, the forest spits him out into the daylight once more, and that’s about the point where his car gives up. “Be joking,” Will pleads, trying the key and gas pedal as the vehicle slowly rolls to a stop. He checks his phone, but it somehow turned itself oﬀ with near full baery and refuses to respond. Panic 40
threatens with cold ﬁngers at his throat, but Will swallows it down and gets out of the car. He ﬁnds himself standing at the edge of a town—the part abandoned by the people on the other side of the forest, it would seem. e road he’d followed through the woods cannot be called such anymore, just a suggestion of one cuing a straight path through, a puzzle missing nearly all of its pieces. e houses doing either side—old Victorians barely standing—peer out from overgrown yards, wary animals with gaping black eyes. At the end of the road, Will can see a building larger than the rest, just visible over a stone wall. He checks his directions again: At very end of road, can’t miss it. He retrieves his useless phone and art case from the car and starts walking. e entire journey Will fears something’s going to jump out at him—a deer, a murderer, Big Foot—but nothing intercepts his path until he reaches the stone wall, his passage blocked by an impressive wrought iron gate. rough the bars a palatial manor rises up against the sky, untouched by the decay consuming the remnants of the town. Manor is probably an inadequate term. Castle. His client lives in a castle in the actual middle of nowhere. Can’t miss it, the directions had said, yet he hadn’t noticed Gracemere until he was standing right in front of it. He’d vainly hoped for an intercom, maybe a doorbell, but there’s nothing for him to announce his arrival. Scaling the gate would probably be frowned upon, but he grabs the bars anyway and gives them a rough shake. e gates swing inwards. A neat gravel drive leads up to the castle, lined with well-kept shrubbery and gardens. Will glances over his shoulder; the abandoned town is still there, losing the bale with nature, and the dark shape of his car at the tree line. He turns back to the towering structure, craning his neck back to see the top. It belongs in the hills of southern England or a mountaintop in Bavaria, not the Pennsylvania hinterlands. With cautious steps he walks down the drive and up the steps of the stone patio, looking for faces in the windows. e grand double doors part before he can reach them. A man stands in the opening, impeccably dressed in a suit and long-tailed coat. His abrupt appearance makes Will startle and swear, which earns him a scathing once-over and an unimpressed harrumph. “You were due here twenty minutes ago, Mr. Mayﬁeld.” Will stares like an idiot. “I wasn’t prepared to go hiking through the Swiss Alps to get to your remote cabin out here, sorry.” 41
e look the man gives him makes a shiver spike across his skin in the June heat. “And my car broke,” he adds. “Sir.” “You’ve kept Heiress Kesler waiting.” “Well, yeah, you see when a car stops running it tends to cause a delay in your arrival. And whoever arranged the commission forgot to include a phone number. I would’ve called, but…” But the man is already sweeping away, smooth-gaited and unperturbed. “We’ve set up a station for you in the solarium. Heiress Kesler values natural light.” Again, Will catches himself staring aer him, mouth agape, and has to scramble to catch up. Entering the manor, his footsteps echo loudly in the opulent foyer, down the corridor in pursuit of the man’s coaails. On the walls, a dozen other Will’s reﬂect back at him. He’s no interior decorator, but there’s something obscene about having this many mirrors in one hallway. “I thought I would have the opportunity to sit with, uh, Heiress Kesler and discuss her commission. e details my agent gleaned were rather non-speciﬁc. As in none at all.” e man casts a withering look over his shoulder. His shoes make no sound, though Will’s land like a slap with every step. “You’ve been commissioned for an oil portrait of the Heiress. at is all.” “ere’s a bit more involved than that.” Deeming Will’s remark unworthy of a response, the man eases open a door, dipping his chin as he enters. “Heiress. Mr. Will Mayﬁeld, the artist.” Will steps inside, and it is all he can do to keep his mouth from hanging open like a fool. e ceiling and all three walls of the room are glass, granting an unimpeded view of the gardens and sky. Natural light is an understatement—they may as well be outside. While gazing out at the greenery, Will catches a blue-eyed gaze reﬂected back at him in the window. e blonde woman hadn’t turned at their entry, but she watches Will’s reﬂection intently. “You may leave us, Warren.” e man dips his chin and glides out, shuing the door behind him. Will straightens and heads towards the easel set up next to the woman. “Sorry, I kept you waiting. My car didn’t like 42
your road.” She ﬁnally turns her head away from the gardens to look directly at him. “I will send someone out to repair your vehicle, though I fear it will continue to happen until you leave here. e road is quite unforgiving of automobiles.” “Okay, that’s—weird. But all right.” ere’s a convenient table next to the easel, which Will begins to lay out his paints on. He mouths the word automobiles to himself with a perplexed furrow to his brow. “So, I’m Will. But, uh, I guess you already knew that, though.” “Will Mayﬁeld,” she conﬁrms with a nod. “I am a fan of your work.” She sits poised in the chair, back straight and hands folded in her lap, as still and perfect as a porcelain doll. She would be right at home among the shelf of them his sister had when they were young, all neat golden curls and still, fragile faces. Her long-skirted dress reminds him of the old photographs in his Women’s History course, of suﬀragees in protest, but she does not wear it like the costume it should be. “I knew it had to be you for this commission.” “I’m surprised you’ve come across my paintings all the way out here,” he says mildly. “I’m mostly just online right now. Kind of spoy service in this neck of the woods.” She doesn’t smile, but there’s the shadow of one at the edge of her mouth. “We only appear to be isolated here, Mr. Mayﬁeld. It’s merely a bad day for the WiFi.” e word coming out of her mouth sounds cautious, like a grandmother testing out a phrase picked up from the neighbor’s children, but she can’t be much older than Will, if at all. “But no phone or e-mail? No contact info was le with my agent. And, uh, Will is ﬁne. I’d wanted to discuss some details before I came, but I suppose now works.” He seles on the stool meant for him, producing a professional-looking notepad and pencil. “We have the oil medium down, but I wanted to know exactly what you’d like.” She quirks a delicate eyebrow in question. “Like, uh.” Brilliant. Her gaze makes him forget his train of thought, and that shadow of a smile manifests once more. “Siing? Standing? Posing? Do you want a neutral backdrop or this room? Do you want to be in that dress or something else?” “Do you not like my dress?” she asks, smoothing a hand along her skirt. “It’s very old, but I hear that trends make their way around sooner or later.” Will’s eyes track her hand before he pulls them back up to 43
her face. “It’s—ﬁne. And I’m just covering my bases. I usually do a few sketches before I put a brush to canvas, make sure you approve of the ﬁnal concept.” “Well, then, you have free reign.” “at isn’t—” “You have a gi, Mr. Mayﬁeld,” she interrupts him smoothly, delivering the compliment with the same resolution one would state a fact. He tries anyway, because self-deprecation is an artist’s cancer. “at’s up for debate. You’re the one paying for this, Ms. Kesler. I just want to make sure you like it.” “I want you to paint me as you see me,” she says quietly, holding his gaze. “You have a gi for that. Seeing things diﬀerently than everyone else.” at isn’t much of an elaboration, and kind of a bull shit one at that, but he recognizes a lost bale and tucks away his notepad. “ose are some high expectations to live up to,” he comments, liing his pencil to the canvas. “And I don’t believe I ever got your name, or what you’re the, uh, heiress of.” “I’m a stranger,” she says. “I want to see what you paint, knowing nothing about me. You are an objective party. I want to see what you see.” “All right,” he relents, beginning to sketch out the rough shape of her, trying to piece together a ﬁnal image in his head. As lovely as she is face-on, those eyes are rather intense. Maybe if she were gazing out the window… He likes the line of her celestial nose, can showcase it in proﬁle… He has the pencil lines done when Warren slips back in, announcing the end of the session. Will barely has a chance to gather up his supplies before the suited man has covered the canvas with a sheet and is hurrying him out of the solarium. Kesler calls a so farewell as the door clicks shut. — He ﬁnds his car parked a few feet closer to the woods than he le it, facing away from Gracemere. When he tries the key, it roars back to life. — He hates motels. Especially motels in backwater towns. Apparently the woman at the gas station told everyone in town about Will and his destination—everyone being the entire populace of about eleven people—and between dinner and breakfast 44
this morning he’s met them all. “Did you really see her? Kesler? Is it true she has fangs like a vampire?” “Horrible woman. She must be ugly as anything.” “You should be careful out there. Kesler is a monster.” “No fangs, sorry. She’s very prey, I don’t know what you mean. She seems all right, thank you, I’ve got an appointment to meet…” and Will will never admit it but that swi, long-strided walk to his car is a tactical retreat if he’s ever made one. (It only got him as far as the tree line again, though Warren informed him once he’d open the doors that someone would go out and ﬁx it again. Will tried not to be salty when he suggested they do a beer job this time.) Kesler only looks at him when he oﬀ-handedly mentions the townspeople to her in the solarium. Will glances up from mixing his paints when his words are met with silence, ﬁnding her gaze on him with that unnerving intensity he’s come to expect from her. “Have they colored how you see me?” Her voice cuts like a surgeon’s blade, cold and keen. Will frowns, breaks eye contact to select a paintbrush. “Out of context, I don’t know what to make of it all,” he admits. “But I’m not here to judge you, Ms. Kesler. I’m just here to paint your portrait.” She turns her face with one sharp jerk of her chin to glower out at the gardens. Will glances up in time to see her ﬂinch away from the window, as if the sun were suddenly too bright. Catching his eye, she sets her face like stone. “en do what you’re here to do, Mr. Mayﬁeld.” — When their comments are unsolicited, the townspeople are all too eager to pester him like gadﬂies. But the moment Will turns and starts asking questions of his own, they look as if they want nothing more than to have a door they could slam in his face. “It’s not something we should talk about.” “I’m not someone you should be asking about that.” “Unpleasant business. It was a long time ago. D’you want more coﬀee?” Will waves the waitress away and continues to scroll through the pages of irrelevant search results. (His phone conveniently turns back on once he clears the woods). Both Google and Wikipedia have failed him, so he shoots an e-mail to his agent 45
—just what the hell sort of commission did you sign me up for?— and to an NYU friend who graduated with a major in journalism and a minor in dirt digging. When he gets to Gracemere—that walk is geing to be rather irritating and he’s going to demand a refund when he returns the car—Warren isn’t there to greet him. Will stands in the foyer alone and stares at himself in the mirrors for all of ﬁeen seconds before he slips down the hallway opposite to the one leading to the solarium. He knows snooping is frowned upon, much like scaling wrought-iron gates, but he’s spent twenty-ﬁve years as a nosy younger sibling, so he tests the ﬁrst door he ﬁnds and peers inside. Kesler really likes her mirrors; there are enough in this room to supply a ballet studio. Combined with the ones in the hallway, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn Kesler is the heiress of some multi-million dollar, mirror manufacturing empire. Seeing no one in the hallway, Will wanders in. He imagines this might be Kesler’s oﬃce, though there isn’t one piece of technology to be seen. e desk, old and heavy-looking, is empty save a leather journal and antique fountain pen. e script inside is so neat it’s unreadable, so Will sates his desires by popping open a drawer. It looks like Kesler shoved everything from the desk top into this drawer, the chaos swept into hiding. Will pulls out one of many loose papers, smoothing it out against the wood. It’s a rough sketch of a woman, done in heavy black lines. He recognizes Kesler’s svelte hands and posture, her antiquated dress, but the face is that of a gruesome monster. e next one resembles the ﬁrst, this one depicting the woman with a mouthful of fangs. Will stares hard at the third, a pen and ink where the woman’s back faces the viewer. She gazes into a mirror, but the reﬂection, rather than her cool porcelain features, is a dark ﬁgure straight out of nightmares, slender and spider-like, spindly arms reaching through the reﬂection. When Warren ﬁnds Will, he’s standing in the foyer, nose-tonose with one of the mirrors. “Mr. Mayﬁeld?” “is is a normal mirror, right?” Will asks, gazing suspiciously into the glass. He sees only his own scowling self and Warren’s terribly unamused expression. “is way, Mr. Mayﬁeld.” When Will sits down at the easel, he can’t help his eyes straying to Kesler’s reﬂection in the window, but ﬁnds nothing out 46
of the ordinary. Just the image of a lovely blonde woman who stares him down like she’s trying to read his thoughts or burn a hole through his head. e usual. “You asked me whether what the people back in town said to me colored how I see you,” Will begins casually, swiping his brush across the canvas. “I have to wonder, Ms. Kesler, whether they have colored how you see yourself.” He thinks of the gruesome portraits tucked away in his art case, of how much self-loathing and disgust must be behind the hand that drew them. ey look an awful lot like the pieces he painted during his ﬁrst year at art school, when his parents and successful siblings let him know, in no uncertain terms, just what they thought of his ambitions. When he was bier and hurt and spiteful. When he hated. Kesler dips her chin, regarding her folded hands. “You’re an artist, Mr. Mayﬁeld. You know that black is the absence of color.” “Or all the colors together, if you’re talking paints.” She glances up. “You painted a portrait of New York City last year.” Her abrupt subject change gives him pause, his brow furrowing. “I painted a lot of New York City. I went to school there for four years.” “e one where you depict a scene in the Bronx. It’s an alley, strewn with trash and refuse, an obscenity spray-painted across the wall—the dirtiest, most decrepit place in the entire city. I came across it recently.” He remembers the one, wondering what she’s geing at. “You made it the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” she says, sounding awed. “You found the light in that dark place, and I knew I had to meet you. I had to know if you could see the same in me.” Will sits back, bewildered. Aer a few moments of silence, she murmurs almost shyly, “I’ve noticed you mixing some rather bright colors for my portrait.” At his uncertain nod, the corner of her mouth curls up. — Will ﬁnishes the portrait within a week. Aer a moment of hesitance, he stands and oﬀers his stool to Kesler, taking her place by the window so he can watch her expression. Kesler perches neatly on the stool, fussing unnecessarily with her long skirt for a few drawn out seconds before she takes a 47
glance at the portrait. Her face shaers in an instant, like someone’s thrown a rock through the glass of her expression. Will stands abruptly, words of concern on his tongue as the woman covers her mouth with her hands and starts to shake. “You don’t like it?” he asks. “I can paint another. is is why I wanted to discuss the ﬁnal concept with you beforehand. I’m sorry—” “is is what you see?” she asks in a whisper, eyes wide. Will pauses. Nods. Kesler reaches out to touch the canvas, ﬁngertips pausing just before the surface of the still-drying paint. “It’s so… colorful.” Will comes to stand at her shoulder, trying to ﬁnd what’s upset her. He painted her as he’d seen her, siing like a queen in her throne. Her back is straight and her face turned slightly to gaze out the window, enough to highlight her graceful, up-turned nose. When he’d told her about the comments made in town, she’d shown him her ﬁrst real emotion through that mask of cool indiﬀerence. Rather than paint her looking angry, he’d seled for gentle vexation, but couldn’t resist giving life to that shadow-smile she kept showing him. As for color—well, she is blonde, blue-eyed, and pale in a sunlit room. Gold, blue, and white in the most vibrant shades he could make. “I painted what I saw,” is his helpless explanation. She shakes her head. “I don’t see this anymore. No one… no one sees this me.” Which reminds him: “I, uh, stumbled upon some sketches the other. ey were rather… I don’t understand why you would see yourself like that.” Her expression is open and raw as she looks up at him. “Because I’ve done horrible things. You don’t know, otherwise you wouldn’t see this. You would not be here.” “No one should think of themselves like that,” he asserts, daring to rest a hand on her shoulder. It feels fragile and so underneath his grip, feels like he’s clutching at smoke. “I’m not here to care about what you’ve done. is is what I see, Ms. Kesler.” Tentatively she lays her hand over his, clutching his ﬁngers tightly with her own. Her skin is cold like the porcelain doll she reminds him of. e look she gives him makes him want to hug her or kiss or do something more substantial than hold her hand, especially when she feels like she’s slipping through his ﬁngers. “ank you,” she breathes, a prayer of salvation. 48
— Will’s phone rings just as he’s puing his suitcase into his trunk at the motel. “I got your e-mail this morning,” says his agent. “I’m just going to say it: what the hell are you talking about?” “e Kesler commission. I ﬁnished it an hour ago.” Will notices a few people staring at him from the diner aached to the motel, the same ones who stopped speaking to him once he asked about Kesler. He slides into the car and slams the door. “It all worked out, but I’ve goa tell you—ever pull this shit on me again and I’m ﬁring you.” “Will,” she says. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” “Are you screwing with me right now?” “No. I’m serious. What the hell is the Kesler commission? You certainly didn’t get the job through me.” Glancing at the stolen drawings from Kesler’s desk siing on his passenger seat, Will puts his phone on speaker and checks his mail app. ere’s a response from his journalist friend, the subject in bold, all caps, and followed with far too many exclamation points. “You sent me an e-mail last…” Okay, no e-mail. Weird. He wouldn’t have deleted it. “I haven’t talked to you since you told me you were going to visit a friend in Philly. I tried calling you two days ago but it said your number wasn’t in service…” His agent is still talking as he opens the new message, skimming through what his friend sent him, then having to stop and reread it. It was in the archives of a library in the area, never digitized. I had to call someone and have them go search for me because they haven’t realized the technology era is upon us. So apparently there was a ﬁre—its hundredth anniversary is coming up soon, actually… Will’s car tears down the road, and this time it doesn’t croak on him once he clears the woods. e abandoned Victorians lurk like grotesques in the encroaching twilight, watching him with black eyes from the undergrowth. He skids to a stop at the gates of Gracemere, a breath from crashing into them. ey’re rusted and half oﬀ their hinges, the remains of a police-issued No Trespassing sign barely clinging to the bars. …there’s a lot of speculation of the motive—small towns and gossip, you know? ere’s an interview with a kitchen worker who hadn’t been there that night. She says this David dude came in, 49
seduced this Heiress into marriage, then ploed to murder her for her inheritance… He gets out of his car, ducks through the narrow gap in the gates, and art majors don’t run but he runs down the gravel driveway, ﬁnding it overrun with weeds. e manor he’d seen only an hour ago in its pristine grandeur is now a burned out shell, another ghost in this forsaken place. e main doors are boarded over so Will ﬁnds a stray brick and breaks through a window, clambering gracelessly inside. e foyer is charred black and empty, absent of the suited Warren and his unimpressed glower. He meets his own eyes in a mirror, the glass cracked and blackened with soot and time. …so everyone inside died in the blaze. All the staﬀ and the dinner guests—which was a good sampling of the townspeople. ey found the unlucky groom in the master bedroom, tucked away in bed like he’d slept through the ﬁre… Will sprints down the hall to the solarium, tripping over the debris of crumbling walls and ceiling. e door is gone, reduced to a blackened mass of ash just like everything else in the room. e place where he’d sat for a week with Ms. Kesler looks like a bombed out warzone, the garden beyond the cracked and shaered windows wildly overgrown and unkempt, nature reclaiming civilization. His portrait, a beacon untouched by the destruction, sits against the windows. e painted Kesler still gazes out of her solarium windows, with her gold curls and celestial nose, her lips shadow-smiling. He picks up the canvas, reassured by the weight of it in his hands. If this is here, it all had to be real. He’s holding the evidence of her in his hands. Cautiously, he ventures back out into the hallway, studying the painted image. He thinks of the monstrous self-portraits, dark alleys in the Bronx, a lovely woman with ghost eyes. His shoe crunches on glass, and it’s only then that Will looks up. …interesting enough, the ﬁre didn’t kill him. Someone had le the shard of a broken mirror in his heart. Prey gruesome, huh? e dozens of mirrors along the walls hang shaered, a circular imprint in each suggesting the memory of an angry ﬁst punching them all out. Heiress Kesler stands with her back to him, gazing into the ruined glass. e hem of her dress is blackened with ash and there’s blood dripping from her torn knuckles. ey never found Kesler’s body. She’s goa be dead, though —I mean, it’s been a hundred years to the day—so I’m not sure who 50
you’re supposed to have a commission with, Mayﬁeld, unless you’ve been painting a ghost… Will meets her blue eyes in the mirror. And she smiles at him. —
Rosemont’s Literary & Art Magazine All artwork and writing published in this issue of orn are copyrighted to the original artists and authors. orn, its Executive Board, and its Editorial Board do not take credit for any of the work published in this magazine.
e Executive and Editorial Boards of orn would like to thank all of our student submiers for their contributions to the magazine. e Executive Board would like to thank Phoebe Lamont, Hope Smalley, and Stacy Wong for their work as orn’s ﬁrst oﬃcial Editorial Board. We would also like to thank the indomitable Prof. Katie Baker for her endless support and assistance, as well as Prof. Marshall Warﬁeld for his guidance with this year’s issue. orn continues to be a successful work of literary art in the Rosemont community thanks to all of you!
2016 â€“ 2017