The Sound of Laughter, the Sound of Tears

So, here is our pilot scene!  I’ll explain a little more about it at the end, but I’d like you to read it through first before you see the explanation.

Searching through the treasure chests of precious family heirlooms snowed over with dust, I marvel at the heritage at my fingertips.  The sunlight gleams through the dusty windows, creating an illuminated haze of dust particles floating in the dense, ghostly air.  Traces of the haze can be felt extending out into the shadows hovering in the corners of the attic.

I look up to one of the windows, sensing that someone almost danced through the shadow-haze and vanished into the sunlight with a faint tinkle of a laugh.  Turning my attention back to the chest, I lay my hands on a smooth, leather-bound book.  Carefully, almost reverently, I slip it out of its home and unbuckle its personal confinement.  Embedded into the cover is the name “Caurie.”  Opening it, I read the heading on the first page:

July 20, 1925

The handwriting seems vaguely familiar to me, as if I had seen it somewhere before.  I continue on:

Mother says I must marry soon.  She and Father cannot go on like this- not with three girls yet after me.  Father quite likes Tate Hawethorne.  I see them talking at our house parties.  Oftentimes I cannot steal myself away fast enough before he sends Tate over to try to woo me.  Last night Father gave Tate permission to take me into the garden alone.  I fear he has given Tate permission to ask my hand in marriage.

It was then that I could place the handwriting.  I’ve seen it on countless recipes, birthday cards- the like.  I don’t know why I hadn’t recognized it until now.  Maybe because it was just so out of context.  Intrigued, I continue reading:

It has become increasingly harder to see Nicholas.  I cannot very well talk to him at Father’s parties- not with Tate always trapping me in a conversation during which I must politely smile and nod while sipping my drink very lady-like.  Father has been studying in the study late at night these days as well.  I do not know what to do.  I think Father wants Tate to propose at the dinner on Sunday.  Time is running out.

As I reach the end of the passage and am about to turn the page to find out what happened, someone softly clears his throat from the doorway.  I turn to see Grandpa T leaning against the doorway, watching me intently from behind is round glasses.  “What you got there, Caurie?” he asks with his gruff, old-man voice.

“I was going through these old chests, and I found one of Grandma Caurie’s old journals.”  I hold it up, binding in my palm, for him to see more clearly.  Straining over the rims of his glasses, he squints his eyes, searching for a familiar mark in the book.

The look that crossed his face was fleeting, but unmistakable.  It momentarily clouded his foggy, grey eyes, and then was gone- passing so quickly I wondered if I’d really seen it.  It faintly seemed as if a ghost had passed in front of him and into the shadows.  “Don’t let your Grandma see that.  It’ll upset her.”  As I open my mouth to protest, he adds, “And come wash up for dinner before the clam chowder gets cold.”

I have no choice but to obey, gently replacing the journal in the chest, silently vowing to investigate more later.

Before bed, I stand out on my balcony, looking out over the still, dark street below.  The cool wind dances across my face, tousling my curls playfully.  The scent of the lilacs below floats up to my awaiting nostrils, breathing deeply, eyes gently closed, as I enjoy my harmony with the world.

I open my eyes after a moment, searching for the origin of the sound.  The faint, womanly laughter, floating along on the breeze as if it were carried up to me from the street below.  But looking down at the street, the antique streetlights cast pools of light on empty benches and lonely sidewalks, longing for visitors, friends, lovers, in the pale moonlight.

I take one more look over the street, feeling as if I could carve a sculpture out of the silence, if only I were to pierce it with some sort of sound.  The low hum of the crickets create a rhythm for my footsteps as I move to blow out the single candle on my balcony.  As the night sucks up my candle’s light for its own, I realize that today is July twentieth.  Dismissing the thought after a moment’s ponder, I pass through my billowing, white curtains fox-trotting in the breeze and into my bedroom.  With a final look at the desk opposite my bed, my eyes rest on the leather-bound journal I secretly retrieved from the attic after dinner, and as I remove the bathrobe over my nightgown, sleep overcomes me.

The initial sound was quite faint I scarcely thought I heard it.  The second caused me question, and the third drew me investigate for fear someone would hear.  Gingerly, I lift myself up onto my elbows, head spinning in a daze.  As I blink my eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight, the room materializes beyond the hazy sleep curtain.  The light breeze whirls around my ringlets, drawing my gaze to the floor-length white curtains dancing with the slightly ajar balcony door.  My eyes shift to the open journal on the desk opposite my bed, but I look quickly away, not wanting to think about the entry I had written prior to dozing off.   With a glance up at the clock on the wall, I note the time: five minutes to midnight.

With stocking feet, I pad out of bed to peer, with a creak, out of my bedroom and into the half-lit hallway.  I smooth down the creases in my dress, old friends who crept up during my night’s vigil, keeping watch when I should have been.  And sucking in my breath so as not to make a peep, I creep down the stairs on tiptoe, head swiveling on alert for so much as the crinkly flip of a newspaper coming from the den.

A great, grunting snore rumbles out from the bear’s den and sends me flying up the stairs as quickly and silently as my stocking feet will carry me.  And sitting back on my bed, I slip on my Mary Janes, snatch my white gloves off of my nightstand, hastily pulling them over my delicate fingers, and two-step over to the ajar balcony door.  A soft plink hits the glass, a voice calling, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”  The corners of my mouth turn up into a smile, and I bite my lower lip as another rock plinks the window.  “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”  And with the final word, the plinking of rocks on glass falls silent.

Gently, I push the balcony door open and step out into the sweet night air, plunging my left hand into my right sleeve to draw out my white handkerchief.  Hand over the edge of the balcony, the rest of me still out of sight, I dangle the hanky, waggling it back and forth, then letting it slip out from between my fingers, fluttering down to the pavement below.  Holding in a squeal of delight and wasting no time, I race through my room, pausing only to blow out the candle on my desk and grab my lace parasol from beside the door, and down the hall and tumble down the stairs and out the door, taking special care so as not to wake Father as I pass by the den.

Clear of my captor, without a backward glance, I throw myself into the night, all sense of tension dissipating up into the sky, as I hastily unlatch the gate on our white picket fence, fingers skidding sloppily over the metal, and fly into the arms of my love.  With a feverish passion, he kisses my lips, and pushes me fiercely away, hands still on my upper arms, holding me at arms’ length.

“I do not know how much longer I will be able to stall them,” I murmur, exercising all my willpower to continue looking into his sorrowful eyes.  “Nicholas,” I breathe, white-gloved hand on his cheek.

“Caurie, I know what it is.  I am not of Tate’s status.  You cannot help it, and neither can I,” he says, gently removing my hand from his cheek to hold it in his own.

Tears push on my tear ducts, threatening to burst past the dam stopping them and well up over my ocean blue irises.  And as one is starting to roll down my cheek, Nicholas is already wiping it away with the white handkerchief I had sent him on the wind, a sign and bondage between the two of us.  Laughing a little to help brush away the tears, I take the hanky from him once my face is dry and once more return it to my right sleeve.

“We live each night as if we will never see the morning sunlight,” he adds, offering me his arm and steering me down the sidewalk and away from my prison.  For an eternity, we walk in peaceful silence, merely enjoying one another’s company and touch.  The nightingale chirps his cheerful tune, providing the harmony to Nicholas and I, staccatoed with my swinging parasol.

A little drop of rain lands on the tip of my nose.  Nicholas lifts his hand that is not grasping mine, palm up to the dark sky, and we both watch as another drop falls into his hand.  That was all Nicholas needed.  Fingers laced in mine, holding tight to my hand, he takes off down the street passing under eerie streetlights and by lonely park benches.  Like something described in a novel, the rain starts slowly and steadily builds to a downpour at a pace hardly natural.

The pouring rain flows through my long tresses, weaving in and out of my ringlets.  Rounding a corner, Nicholas pulls me through the iron gates leading into the park.  He tugs me down one of the paths, my full skirt flouncing in our wake.  Wet foliage slaps over my eyes as we break through the leafy curtain into the shelter of the willow’s umbrella, few drip-drops hitting us now.

Just as we’re coming to a halt, I blurt out, “I want you to ask Father for my hand.”  Nicholas looks me square in the eyes, dumbfounded.  “I do not want to marry Tate.  I know it is not proper, but, Nicholas…”

I never am able to finish that sentence because Nicholas’s lips are on mine.

Chirp.  Chirp.  I become aware of a faint orange glow.  It gives way to a rainbow of popping colors gleaming off of my bedroom materializing before my eyes.  Singing birds flit by the balcony door as, once again, the white curtains dance, happy that it is morning again.  Yawning and stretching, I sidle out of bed and over to the balcony to greet the sun with a smile, reaching for my bathrobe to cover up my nightgown.  Looking around at the sky and the street and the glorious day before me, I notice something quite curious.  A wet handkerchief sprawled lifelessly on the balcony floor.  I bend to pick it up, smoothing it’s wrinkles between my fingers, brow furrowed as I ponder how it could have gotten there.

Startled by a loud knock on my bedroom door, I return inside, shutting the balcony door behind me.  Looking up from inspecting the hanky, I am greeted by Grandpa T’s gruff face.  “Caurie, is everything alright?  I thought I heard footsteps in the hallway last night, but when I came up to check, all was still and everyone was asleep.”

“Yes, Grandpa, everything is fine.  I don’t know why you heard footsteps.  Once I turned in for the night, I didn’t wake up until a few minutes ago,” I tell him honestly.

His eyes are then drawn to the handkerchief in my hands, and again, a somewhat unrecognizable look passes over his eyes.  Soon his eyes widen in recognition, and he says, “Oh, your grandmother has been missing a hanky.  It must have stuck to your wash.”  He reaches out his hand, much sooner than I had expected, and somewhat reluctantly, I hand it over, wishing I could have held onto it longer.  He has already started out the door when he calls over his shoulder, “Don’t forget that that nice boy Troy is coming over today to help you prepare for your ACT.”

Rolling my eyes and internally grumbling to myself, I fumble with the matches to light my scented candles on my desk.  Seeing their light always cheers me up.  Here’s to a day spent studying with a guy that I can’t really stand…

Trudging back to my room, I slam my books down on the bed, mind thoroughly exhausted after four hours of practice tests and quiz questions and Troy making me feel all-around stupid.  I head over to the balcony doors to thrust them open, but decide against it, realizing it would blow out my happy candles, probably taking any remaining ‘happy’ with it.

Instead, I turn around to look at my happy candles, only to find that one’s light has already been extinguished.  I take a moment to sarcastically think about how that must be the explanation for the extent of the grueling ACT session with Troy, but am pretty soon distracted wondering how on earth it was blown out in the first place considering the balcony was shut and no one had been in my room.

Walking over to the desk, I look down at Grandma Caurie’s journal, only to find that, since this morning, the page had been turned forward one, the date reading:

July 21, 1925

            Again, I am struck by the date coinciding with that of today, and again, I am so intrigued that I must keep reading:

It has happened.  This morning, Father told me to put on my best dress.  The Hawethorne family was to be joining us for dinner.  He did not have to say anything more.  I knew it was coming.  I knew it was coming and yet I could not stop it.  Nicholas would be too late.  On the way to the Hawethorne’s, Father hinted as if I did not already know.  All throughout dinner I sat there like a duck waiting to be shot.  I politely smiled, nodded, and responded when spoken to, just as I had every time that Tate had come to one of Father’s parties at our house.  After supper, Tate motioned to father and took me out on the veranda.  I could not breathe.  The air around me was stifling.  The veranda is not with Tate as it is with Nicholas.  And now it is done.  And what is done cannot be undone.  I should say Father is pleased.  I do wish that I could write the same of myself.

As I finish reading, a solemn weight floating to the bottom of my stomach, I see Grandpa T’s face glossing over the cover of this journal in my mind’s eye.  In the widening of his cloudy, grey eyes, I see the answer.  It comes to me: what Grandpa knew, what he wishes he didn’t.  And somehow the hanky he had taken from me seems even more precious.

The second candle on my desk puffs out.  I look around the room, expecting Grandpa T to be standing there, reading my thoughts, reading her writing over my shoulder.  But I am alone.  The balcony door creaks open a little, as if the wind had pushed it open.  White curtains swirl uncertainly, half-dancing, and the chirps of the birds take on a melancholy sound.  Sunlight illuminating my bed through the window, casting a pattern of bars like a cage, I could swear I hear a woman weeping.  Crying quietly.  Unnoticed and in solitude.

First of all, there are a few references I need to credit.  Obviously, the Rapunzel quote is pretty famous.  “What’s done cannot be undone” is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the Romeo quote, which I’m assuming you’ve all heard before is Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 2.  Just want to give credit where credit is due.

Somewhat of an explanation: I experimented here with parallel timelines in which two scenes take place at the same time, in the same space.  Some of the characters were in both of the settings, but most of the connections were made by objects.  If you’re a little confused, I hope this helps: from “The initial sound was quite faint I scarcely thought I heard it,” to “I never am able to finish that sentence because Nicholas’s lips are on mine,” ‘Caurie’ is Grandma Caurie.  This is the first scene I’ve written in this fashion, and although it was difficult, it was very fun to write; I find the idea of parallel timelines really interesting.

Hope you all enjoyed; we’ll be posting more scenes soon!



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