Wesley remained in his chair, unable to process the event with which he was confronted. As the door opened, all he could see was a silhouette carved out of the bright rectangle that was the hall light spilling into his apartment.
“What are you doing in here?” the Super barked at Wesley. “I never imagined you’d be in here when I got a call about water leaking into the apartment downstairs.”
“What? Water? From where?” But then, much to his horror, he knew the answer. He was going to wash some dishes, then started making tea and had apparently gotten distracted. He’d found his mind wandering on multiple occasions lately. The simpler he had been trying to make his external existence the more complicated his internal landscape had become. During that moment of consideration the Super had finished his work, which really just meant turning off the faucet in the kitchen and tossing some towels down to start soaking up some of the spillage.
“Could you pay a little more attention next time?” he added on his way out.
And so he did. For the next several weeks he tried to reorient himself. It was very disturbing to his psyche for things to be disorganized and frankly his mind had become discombobulated. He double-checked everything for several days after the flooding incident. Water. Check. Water. Double-checked. Book. Check. Reread and edited. Double-check. Schedule. Check. Confirm tea time. Phew. Gradually he felt his confidence that he was on course return.
Rain had kept him away from his clean-up tasks at the cemetery for nearly a week, but that just freed up time to complete other tasks. One of his neighbors had gotten a number of new books which made borrowing some of the older ones even less obvious.
He felt better when the clouds cleared and he was able to go and visit his parents and tend to the funerary plots. He performed the usual anti-litter campaign. Clearly the rain hadn’t stopped the local teens from having some beers graveside. He gently brushed away some rain soaked leaves that were clinging to the top of the gravestone. Across the top it had the family name, Yardley, carved deep into the marble headstone.
As a small boy Wesley could remember going into his parents’ room and peering up from the foot of the bed to see if they were awake yet. As a grown man he now stood at the foot of their final resting place. Just as in life, Wesley’s father slept on the left as indicated on the grave marker which read Frederick Gerald-Harris, devoted husband and father. To his right lay his blessed and loving mother, Ida Jane Klempton.
After completing his tidying up, he put out a blanket on his area and stretched out for a few moments. Hands behind his head, he watched the clouds pass overhead and even tried to identify some of the shapes that marched across the sky. He admired the tree branches that hung over his plot and watched the breeze play with the leaves. It did seem a shame that he wouldn’t have this same view from inside his planned mausoleum but he should still have space on the plot to have some outdoor entertainment.
Elsewhere Abby was also visiting the cemetery as she had done for almost as many years as Wesley. She now sat, slightly askew with her feet tucked underneath her left hip. There was a much simpler and cryptic marker atop her father’s grave which read Quispiam rarus. Sic tu una voce. As she did each time she visited, she pulled a volume from her bag, opened it and began reading, quietly but out loud.
This was a ritual she and her father had had since she was old enough to sound out words. He would spend hours with her on his lap saying words that she pointed to. She would smile and giggle and repeat them. As she got bigger her father continued to dote on her and they would spend even more hours together in his study taking turns reading to one another. He would end each reading session by giving her a kiss on the forehead and saying her loved her.
That was until she was nine. That was when her mother had left them. She didn’t know what had happened, she only knew that while her father continued to love her and give her kisses, she never heard another I love you. In fact there were no more spoken words. He never uttered another sound. But she would continue to read to him in life and death.
Wesley spotted Abby on his way out of the cemetery and quietly walked over. “My Latin is a bit rusty,” he ventured. Abby clutched a locket that hung low on her neck that bore a similar inscription with one hand while keeping her place in the book with the other.
“It was a phrase my dad made up. Roughly it means ‘Something precious. You have a voice.’” Wesley didn’t fully comprehend the message but had to admit that he had noticed what a beautiful voice she had, even in those first moments when she was pointing a gun at him. He suddenly sensed that he was intruding, became very nervous, and left with “So, I’ll see you tomorrow for tea?” She simply nodded, having never raised her head nor turning to look at him.
The following day they met at the designated time for tea. They had taken to alternating between their apartments, but today it was Abby’s turn to host. After some preliminary chit chat, she took a deep breath and said, “As long as I’ve known you, you have been trying to get two things: my books and your permit for the mausoleum.”
Taken a bit aback by her directness Wesley, nonetheless, had to agree that those had consumed a good deal of this thoughts in recent months. Before his brain could filter his words he uncharacteristically blurted out, “Yes, I do look forward to the day when I can invite you to tea at my new place.”
“I only visit one man at the cemetery, Wesley. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.”
Like a house of cards collapsing in on itself, Wesley could feel the paper cuts scrape across his heart. It had never occurred to him that she wouldn’t come visit. He thought she understood him.
Before he completely sank into his sadness Abby continued, “I have something for you.” Wesley snapped back into the moment and watched as she gently laid two items on the table between their teacups. The first was the volume of ella minnow pea that so continually tugged at Wesley. “You can read this book, or any of the others, but only so long as I am in the apartment.”
Then she picked up the second item, a large envelop, and opened it to reveal a stack of papers. “Or you can take this and never come back.” Abby had previously mentioned to Wesley that she might know someone who could help gain the permit he so desperately sought but they had never discussed it again.
After a long moment, another wave of shock rolled over him. Reaching for an answer Wesley looked to Abby, but she remained as silent as her father. His eyes danced back and forth between the book and the permit. And finally taking one more look back to Arabella Beatrice Clementine, Wesley Xavier Yardley (Z) reached out and accepted her offer.