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by Terry White
Description: When Nancy Hunter meets Peter Allen, sparks don't exactly fly, but there is definitely something worth exploring between them. Imagine their surprise when they discover they have loved each other for centuries, through life after life after life.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2000 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: November 2007
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [246 KB]
Reading time: 165-231 min.
To those who believe
Love Lasts Forever...
* * * *
What do you do with yourself when your life is over? I don't know about everyone else, but when my mother passed away and I no longer had to be at her beck and call every minute of the livelong day, I started signing up for things.
I took telephone calls at the local bottle museum as an unpaid volunteer. I passed out juice and cookies for the semi-annual blood drives at the local firehouse. I joined a singles group one week and un-joined the next--every guy there was looking for someone to either support him or to nurse him through the infirmities of his old age. Romance, apparently, was not in the cards, so I decided to take some classes. After all, I had the time and I could afford to do so.
Mother had left me well, off, I can't complain about that at all. She came from money and she left money. After she was gone, I didn't need to work--unless I wanted to, but I had remained home most of my adult life, to cater to her endless needs and petty complaints.
I was ready for some excitement. If not excitement, then perhaps, the next best thing--a little mental stimulation.
"Creative Writing class offered by Adult Education." I read in the Prairie Star and called the community college to sign myself up. I had been planning to begin the Great American Novel for the past forty-five years, ever since I learned to read, but life got in the way. Now that I had time I figured it couldn't hurt to learn a little bit about the art of writing before I began.
Thursday night, the sky was just off dark, a whining north wind scoured the last faded leaves from the maple outside my front door.
"I might rather stay in and cozy up in front of the TV," I told myself and pumped the gas pedal a couple of times to prime my Oldsmobile, Good Girl, into action. I always say "Good Girl!" when she starts successfully, and that night was no exception. She started, but I could have withheld the praise.
Good Girl choked out before I got her out of the yard and I'll bet I drove most of the ten miles to the campus before I could feel my toes. She was getting old, and so was I.
The classroom was too bright. Flourescent lights always seemed to pictor, Mrs. Harriet Blake, newspaper reporter, prize winning author, and aspiring novelist.
"Is this seat taken?"
I looked up into a pair of the loveliest deep blue eyes. They were complimented very nicely by a handsomely tanned face and a pair of respectably wide shoulders encased in the ubitiquious plaid flannel of early winter. The owner's hair was white, but the rest of him was utterly beautiful. I shook my head. "Not at all. Be my guest."
My tablemate introduced himself. "Peter Allen."
So far, so good. Mr. Allen unzipped his leather briefcase, settled himself with legal pad and pencil. "Have you written anything yet?"
I decided he was just being friendly and shook my head. "I used to write bad poetry in high school. It was always about love and it always rhymed. Nothing rhymes these days, someone said it's not supposed to. Love is out of style right now, so that's a bust. But what I did write was ages ago, so I'm going to excuse my poor taste and put it off to youth and inexperience. You?"
Peter laughed, his teeth were white and even. "Reports, magazine articles, boring stuff. Nothing rhymed."
I couldn't help but wonder where I knew this man before. Those eyes were so familiar. But I didn't have long to brood about my classmate's eyes. Our teacher arrived. I couldn't help but notice Mrs. Blake had a limp. I felt a vague sense of uneasiness and wondered what caused the injury.
"Why don't we all introduce ourselves?" Mrs. Blake prompted, very much a veteran teacher. She sat at the chair her students left near the blackboard and sorted a big stack of papers while everyone said who they were and why they were in her class.
"I want to write romance novels," I heard myself say. But that wasn't right.
I wanted to write something people would read a hundred years from now. I wanted to write something significant. I wanted to write a book people would talk about on subways and pass around at family gatherings because my vision was so much like their own, my thoughts so deep, so pure.... "I'm here because I want to learn to write well."
Every other person in the room said the same thing. They said it fifteen different ways.
Mrs. Blake was plump and kind. You could see it by the way her lips twitched at our enthusiastic pursuit of the sublime and ephemeral. "We will discuss the elements of good writing during the ten weeks this class meets. Each week will be focused some different aspect of writing such as character, dialogue, plot, tension, hooks and transitions...."
Pencils scratched against paper, eyes raised to squint at Mrs. Blake's crabbed, crooked handwriting as she listed the points we would cover. After a few minutes she limped back to her seat, looked at her watch and sighed.
"Did anyone bring anything to read?" she asked hopefully.
No one had.
Mrs. Blake sighed again, this time there was no mistake. She drew in a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly, as if she were preparing herself for a long-distance run.
"Okay, since the object of this course is to help you learn to write, one of the things I will expect is that you come to class with something to read. It doesn't have to be long, and it doesn't have to be finished, but I can't talk for two solid hours and continue to make sense. You wouldn't enjoy it and neither would I." She paused to quell the fluttering of papers that came in the wake of this statement.
"The best way for a writer to learn what he or she is doing wrong--" Mrs. Blake paused again and raked her naturally frosted blonde-gray hair back from her ears. "--or right, is to read his or her work aloud in front of a group of interested persons and listen to what they think is good or bad about the work."
Peter Allen tensed at my left.
"We will have rules." Mrs. Blake had been teaching a long time. She recognized beginner's jitters when she saw them. "We say what happened, what was good, and what we would change if the work were ours. Everybody's--" she paused and beamed at her new students. "--work is good, everyone has a different voice and a different story to tell. I'm here to help you do it and I am looking forward to hearing something each and every one of you has written.
"But since none of you brought anything to read that won't begin until next week. In the meantime, I would like to discuss some common-sense elements that will make all of you good writers from the very start." Mrs. Blake's smile was encouraging. "The first thing you have to remember, no matter what kind of project you want to do is to write what you know."
I sighed. I had spent forty years of my life, ever since I was ten, taking care of my invalid mother. I knew about back rubs and I knew about antispasmodics, but I didn't know much at all about the world. I, most particularly, didn't know much about love. Mother always told me I would have been a better daughter if I had been more loving. But where would I have learned? After high school I had rarely been outside the house in which I had been born.
You could say I didn't know much about life at all.
And here I was setting out to write a piece of immortal fiction that would hang around a bezillion small-town libraries for the next couple of hundred years. I sighed.
Perhaps the spirit of my inadequacy was catching.
Peter Allen sighed as well.
"I don't mean to say you can't write about things that have happened outside of your own life." Mrs. Blake limped to the blackboard and picked up the chalk. "There are any number of ways to put yourself in other places and times so that you can relay those realities to your reader. We will explore some of them as well. The main thing," she paused to scratch more of her heiroglyphic scribbles on the board. "Is not to wake the reader from the dream. Don't draw the gun if you don't intend to shoot."
Peter shifted in his chair. I got a sudden whiff of some woodsy, clean aftershave lotion. I could almost feel his eyes, moving across my body like a caress.
Just the kind of material I was going to need, once I got to the love scenes.
Mrs. Blake continued to talk.
I had an affair with Peter Allen in the secret rooms of my mind. He was a very good lover.
"Time for a break. Stretch, be back in ten minutes." Mrs. Blake exhaled, settled back in her chair like an empty balloon. Several of my classmates ducked out for a smoke.
Two earnest young women in sweat pants huddled up with Mrs. Blake to discuss their plans for a science fiction novel. I started down the hall to look for the rest room.
"I seem to have forgotten your name." My erstwhile seatmate, Mr. Peter Allen followed.
"Nancy," I said. The restroom loomed on the left. What to do now? Go, and be comfortable for the rest of the class, or make some time with the silver-haired Romeo?
Peter decided for me. "If you'll excuse me." He opened the men's room door. Okay, so his hair was white. He still had the shoulders of a DaVinci statue. "See you back in class."
I did my business, fluffed my own graying brown hair and squirted just a smidge of perfume on the inside of my wrists. I dug in my purse and found my tube of peach frost lipstick. Right about then I was wishing it was vamp red, but you have to work with what you've got.
"Write what you know." Mrs. Blake proved her prediction. She couldn't lecture for two hours. She gave us an exercise.
"Pretend you are seven years old and it is your birthday. You know everything there is to know about being seven and being you. You know about cakes and candles and presents. I know you know and you know you know. The next step is to start putting it all down on paper."
Mrs. Blake looked at her watch. "You may write for ten minutes. I'll let you know at the end of nine so you can wind up whatever you're working on."
I looked at the miniscule scratch pad I had brought along for notes and a piece of yellow lined paper slid across the table. Peter Allen grinned and winked.
I mouthed my gratitude and did a little time travel.
Well, I tried. Seven was a very foggy age for me. According to Mother, I hadn't shown much promise as a child. Mother had been pecking at my self-esteem since the day I was born.
But everyone else in the room was either busy thinking or scratching their thoughts down on paper and I couldn't help but wonder how I was ever going to write a novel when I couldn't knock out an impromptu essay based on an actual event in my own life.
Even the handsome Mr. Allen knew no lack of words. His pen was as busy as all the rest.
"All right," Mrs. Blake said after what seemed like an eternity. "Who wants to read?"
No one did.
"Jackie?" She called on one of the sweat pants girls.
Jackie flushed and wriggled around in her chair for a while before she began to read. "When I was seven I wanted to be a ballerina. My mother sent me to Miss Pearl Hineman's class and I walked on my toes for seven months straight. She gave me my first tutu on my birthday. I remember it was pink and the skirt was real fluffy. I don't remember what kind of cake she made, but it was probably chocolate. My father came home late and he brought me a doll. My seventh birthday was one of the best I can ever remember."
I huddled over my paper, partly to hide my yawn at my classmate's deathless prose and partly because I hadn't written anything yet. I could feel Peter Allen's amusement at my expense. He shoved a scrap of paper my way. "Coffee after?" I read.
"What happened in this story?" Mrs. Blake led the critique of Jackie's work. I decided teachers had to look the other way at note-passing between adult students.
"She got something she dreamed about," Jackie's friend Connie offered. "I mean, she walked on her toes for seven months before her mother bought the tutu. Did she buy the tutu?" She looked at Jackie. "Or did she make it?"
"She made it."
Mrs. Blake smiled. "You might think about telling your reader that. Anything you recall about your subject is important. I can see a woman staying up late to sew a pink tutu after she sends her daughter to bed, can't you?"
"What was good about Jackie's story?" Mrs. Blake had her work cut out for her.
They say good writers don't talk much. If this class was any indication, they were right on the mark.
"What would you change if you were writing this story, Nancy?"
I jumped. I gulped. I was not here to critique someone else's lame walk down memory lane. I wasn't qualified. "I would try to make the story more.... "I stopped. More. But what?
Mrs. Blake rescued me. "A little more sensual?"
I nodded vigorously. "I couldn't taste the cake."
"Good observation." Mrs. Blake moved to the blackboard, swiped at it with the eraser and began to write. Cake. Chocolate Cake. Three layers. Vanilla creme filling. Pink icing. Seven blue candles. Strawberry ice cream, hand dipped. "What we have to do is to engage the senses of the reader. "People know what chocolate smells and tastes like. They know what it is like to blow out candles and make a wish. They know that nasty smell of burning wax that comes between the wish and eating the cake. They know what it is like to be seven, and if you can't help them remember, then you aren't doing your job."
The hands of the big clock above Mrs. Blake's head moved very, very slowly. Three other would-be writers read about their seventh birthday and received comments from Mrs. Blake and the class at large.
At long last it was nine o'clock. "Bring something to read next week." She began to stuff papers in her carryall and sighed as several members of the class closed in for private conferences. I could almost hear her think it would have been nice if everyone had said what they had to say during the class and cut her a little slack.
Peter Allen picked my blue wool coat up from the back of my chair and held it so I could slip my arms into the sleeves.
I fell in love.
"Was that a yes or no to the coffee?" He smiled down at me. I almost drowned in those big blue eyes.
"Sure, um, why not?" My cat was home, probably sprawled out on the back of the sofa to take the advantage of the heat duct that came up behind it. But something had my tongue.
We drove our separate cars to the all-night diner. It had rained just enough so that everything glittered like sequinned black velvet. The air was as fresh as spring. I discovered I could to brush my hair with one hand and and drive with the other. It is a wonder what a woman will do for the possibility of love.