When Edith instigates a new game with her two best friends, May and Peter, on a warm spring day in 1869, she ignites sexual awakenings that will influence and shape the rest of their lives.
Although Edith lusts for Peter, she is aware that May’s desires are directed toward her, and when their triangular involvement begins to splinter, she leaves her two best friends to begin a career in Boston.
However, even after choosing what they thought was the more stable path, they learn that the past is not so easily left behind.
On their separate, yet connected paths, they find themselves drawn together, experiencing eroticism, love, confusion, trust, and grief throughout the course of their lives.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)|
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Seated in Ella's suite at the Statler Hotel, Jeremy Harris looked at the yellowed papers Ella had put in his hand. A few moments later, he was leaning forward in his chair, completely absorbed. After several minutes, he set the pages down and looked at Ella questioningly.
"Is this what it appears to be?" he asked.
Ella nodded, sliding the remainder of the aged and stained papers over to him.
"I had a phone call from a Mr. Thomas Benson last week. He recently purchased Edie's Fine and Rare Books, my mother's old bookstore?" She paused, looking at him with raised brows to make sure he was following, and then continued, "Mother sold the business to her apprentice long ago, but apparently she retained ownership of the building. The last owner died, and it's been untouched until now. Most of the inventory had been removed, but my mother's office was exactly as it was when she was there. It was like a trip back in time, Jeremy," she almost whispered.
"Mr. Benson tracked me down as the only person with rights to the contents. I came down the day after the call and I've been there all weekend. I found this file in the bottom of a drawer in my mom's old desk. I almost threw it on the pile of trash, but something made me stop and read that first page ..."
"I remember the bookstore," Jeremy said wistfully, feeling the tug of something long forgotten. Aunt Edie, as he'd always known her, had taken him and Ella there many times when they were young children. "Just thinking of it now, I can remember the way it smelled: dusty and warm like all those old books, mingled with the scent of beeswax she used to polish the shelves."
He looked into the past as he remembered the pile of large, worn cushions that sat on the floor near the front of the store. He smelled the warmth of books heated by the trapped sun and heard the ping of flies hitting the front windowpane. His eyes began to close as he heard the echo of the soft flutter of turning pages.
Ella had found a rough manuscript, written by her mother, Edith, with a prologue written by May, the woman who had given birth to Jeremy. Never really knowing what to call her, he had simply continued to think of her as Princess Maybelline.
The manuscript appeared to be the beginning chapters of a book about the somewhat shocking love affair Edith had had with Jeremy's parents when they were in their late teens.
Ella had also found a package Jeremy's mother, Eve, had sent to Edith after May died, containing May's journals, a beautiful emerald pendant, and a few small paintings. She pulled two paintings out of a large, dog-eared envelope and gently nudged Jeremy with her bare foot, rousing him somewhat from his pleasant reverie. She used the same foot to slide a box over next to his chair.
Jeremy took the paintings in his hands, studying them. Tentatively, he ran his forefinger across the grooves of colorful, thick, oil paint. Tears began forming in his eyes, causing the colors to blur even more abstractedly. This was his real mother, the woman he'd heard fairy tales about as a small boy, come to life. He saw the worn journals, stacked neatly in the bottom of the box, and he felt the pull of a history that had shadowed him his whole life.
Ella saw he was overcome. She leaned in and put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Oh Jeremy ... I'm sorry ... She seems to have been a special woman."
He picked up the pages again and continued to read ...
MEMOIRS OF A TRIANGLE, BY EDITH TATE
The misty lever, or the incandescent shadow. The goon or the gown; the holy trapdoor. These words came to me as I lay in a state between sleep and awake. These phrases ran, on repeat, before I stopped to look at them. What do they mean? What is their significance? The misty lever pulls open the space to the hinter world. It opens the stage to that beautiful scene of open moors, of vast spaces, of memories from another life. In this place, shadows and omens are shining beacons, messages. Word play, swordplay, words/sword, the knife edge of meaning, the third eye illusion. What is that optical nerve serving the third eye? What is the channel from here to there? The holy trapdoor to the soul. Parallel lines, lives. Strips of stripes. Whispering echoes. Driving down the gangplank. Entering the soulstice. Itching the bookends. Petting the lovers. Are you mad, or are you angry? Check the pulse of your shadow. Whatever enters is downcast. Whatever brings light is sublime. We each run our own shows. We shadow-cast the boxers. Redemption is mute. Righteousness is deadly. Withering decay sinks into fertile soil only to rise as fire for the gut. The alleys are shining as the moon writes its story in their name. The drunk man chokes on his own sputum, his own carriage, his own. Where is the lonely goose who cooks his own plate? These are the flowing talisman. These are the carved hillsides on the horizon. Opening the door and letting the shining light flood in. Taking a bath in the heat of reds and oranges. The strangeness of slippery colors. The pleasant surprise of bright equations.
May Copeland Harris, 1872
ONE — MISTY LEVERS
Running down the drive, hair rippling in her own self-made wind, she runs with joy, creating eddies and turbulence that will change everything. Change being the masterful block of illusion. The year is 1869. The girl is Edith and alongside is her best friend, May. Giggling lovers, they sprint with abandon for the sheer joy of it all. They are drunk on spring air and the newness of tasting the palette of green once again. With the breath of onions shouting their right to dash through space at top speed, and with leeks tucked in their pockets, they fly down the curving pebble drive, racing.
There is a father in this story, but he may just be Father Time. Fathers are teachers of lessons, and time is surely a masterful instructor. Is there a gift time hasn't given, or a need the sands have not carried?
Looking back, through the eyes of centuries hence, it would be easy to describe this scene through a black-and-white lens, but, oh reader, that would be so false, so inaccurate. Edith and May are luminescent with the peaches of youth. Their cheeks are dewy and their eyes are shining with the blues and aquamarines of the sky. These girls are happy, and they wear their happiness inside their perfectly fitting skin. We might think of these girls as old-fashioned, with their long dresses and their antique names, but to them, they were new-fashioned girls and the world was sparkling with possibilities and excitements! We can love these girls and they can love us back. They are our sisters for we share the same father.
Edith ran all the way to the dip in the road, the dip where she'd fallen last spring, in her haste to catch up to Toby, her big brother, and badly twisted her ankle. She'd had to spend two weeks eating frustration while everyone else ate from freedom. Two whole extra weeks of being tethered to the house were enough to make her wary of the hazard. When she slowed her pace, May passed her, laughing, because every good friend knows what's sticking in her friend's veins, but also knows how to unstick it. In this case, laughter and anticipation allowed the blood to fly through Edith's veins again and she picked up her pace. They wouldn't be late. They had a date with fate.
Or at least they had a date with Peter. Peter was the boy they had a mutual crush on and he was so deserving of their every other thought. In truth, for the past week, it was more than half her thoughts Edith spent on Peter. Since she'd seen him washing in the creek on the other side of the woods, Peter was almost all she could think about. She'd spent hours trying to describe every detail of his strange beauty to May, partly because she felt it was only fair to share, but also because she didn't care to think or talk about much else.
They were meeting Peter, or "that Harris boy" as May's mother always called him, for a walk and picnic up on The Meadows. None of the three thought it odd for two girls and only one boy to spend their free afternoon together; they'd done it often enough in the past. They were friends, the sort who grow up together and have an easiness about them. If this spring brought new, edgier feelings for the girls, it only seems natural. They were growing into young women, slowly, with all the sexual flutterings which accompany that age. Naturally, Peter was rowing right along beside them on the river of awakening.
The day was clear and the winds weren't too strong as the threesome made their way into the interiors of The Meadows. The Meadows was a good-sized park on the east edge of town, just over the bridge and past the churchyard. It had a pond and a path and a small wood. Edith, May, and Peter occasionally swam in the pond when the weather was warmest in late summer, but today they were headed to the woods to look for spring flowers and then to the small patch of open space in the woods they'd found as children, where the sun could shine and they would be protected from the breezes. This is where they would lay Peter's blanket for the picnic.
Today, when Edith thought of the spread blanket, her breathing got heavier and she felt a heat between her legs. Later, when Peter would tell a story about his younger sister being missing for two hours, she could only fake her sympathy, lost in her consumption of thoughts about the blanket and Peter and his nearness.
May had hooked arms with Peter and was telling him a story about her mother's butter and bad cream, when Edith had the thought that she would like to be alone with Peter. A strong thought that grew into a strong feeling and then a strong desire. What is a better seed for a plan than desire?
Edith ran through several scenarios in her mind, looking for a way to have Peter to herself, but none provided the outcome she so fiercely desired. So, her mind made the only switch it could. Today's reader may think it is only today's youth who have need for instant gratification, but they would be wrong. The awakening of the carnal has always been accompanied by urgency. It would have to involve the three. The blanket was large enough, and her love for her friends strong enough, to contain the three.
That afternoon no flowers were picked and food wasn't eaten until almost suppertime. Do you remember the feel of wool on damp skin? The smell of new grasses when they are crushed? Can you remember how beauty feels under your fingertips? Mustiness and sweat and the sound of jagged breathing.
These were the background for Edith, May, and Peter, and certainly not what they would think about as they lay alone in their own beds that night, and many after, but they are the very things that decades hence would bring rushing back, unexpectedly, the intense heat of that afternoon. As a father's strongly worded caution about certain dangers comes, unbidden, and so timely, in the face of that danger, so are the visceral memories of youth and lust brought to us, unbidden but so needed, through the cascading years of adulthood by a faint scent in the air, or a melody on the radio, or the glimpse of an incandescent shadow. The misty lever is cranked, and we fall through the holy trapdoor into wonder.
TWO — SHORES OF ENLIGHTENMENT
Peter laid the picnic blanket in the clear spot where the new grass was soft. The sun was shining and aside from a few lazy clouds, the sky was a rich blue. The blanket was an old wool plaid that his mother had discarded to the barn because of some burn holes from the stove. The spot he picked was close to the base of a large elm whose new leaves were a nice contrast to the blue of the sky. Not that Peter noticed, or it played any part in his choosing of the spot. He had simply laid it where he stood. Later, though, he would remember the lacy pattern and favor elm trees over all other trees, even if he couldn't tell you why.
He sat and removed his shoes for the refreshing air. Soon his feet would be calloused enough that he wouldn't need to wear shoes, even on the rocky paths around the garden, but this early on they were pale and soft with winter's recent passing.
While he sat there, he looked at the girls. Edith seemed intent on something behind him and May smiled a new sort of smile at him. On their walk out to The Meadows, he'd been aware of their easy chatter hadn't seemed quite as easy as last fall.
He'd hardly had a chance to see either of his friends over the winter with them living out of town and his chores at the shop. Both girls looked different, in a very pleasing way. He found himself stealing glances at May and receiving shy smiles from Edith. This was interesting to him because he had grown used to looking at certain young women who came into the shop with a young man's appreciation, even thinking about a few of them at night in his bed, but he had never looked at May or Edith with such eyes. They had been playmates, pals, friends, for most of their lives.
They were meant to be picking early flowers, but it seemed there were new plans. The girls stood near to him as he sat on the blanket.
"Come on, I have a game we can play." Edith sat next to him. She couldn't look at him as she said, "Lay on your back, Peter, and close your eyes." She swallowed loudly, trying to find some saliva to coat her dry throat. Let me look at you, let me touch you.
When Peter lay, unsuspecting, on the blanket, Edith said, with a quick glance at May, "May and I will take turns touching you very gently, or not, and you will have to tell us when you think we actually are." Her heart was pounding, but she continued, "We'll try to touch you so lightly you won't be able to feel it."
May's eyes were wide, but a small laugh escaped from her mouth. She dropped to her knees, landing next to Edith and biting her lower lip to control the nervous tremor threatening to erupt.
Peter opened his eyes and looked, questioningly, at both girls. They were up to something, he could tell. They appeared far too nervous for simple, childish games. But when they only returned his gaze, trying for innocence, he laid his head back and closed his eyes. The sun felt good and he smelled the food from the basket.
"Just relax for a minute, Peter, and then I'll take the first turn," Edith said. Her heart was wild. She tried to relax, but the thought of touching his temple was making her all shaky.
She swallowed again. "Okay, I'll start now. Tell me if you can feel me touching you. It could be anywhere," she added. Oh, dear God, it could be anywhere!
May watched Edith, also knowing this was more than an innocent game. She saw heat rolling off Edith, she sensed her fear and lust, although she didn't have a name for it. She closed her eyes because it felt private, what was happening, and when she did, the heat rolled in around her. She heard Peter say, "I feel you touching my hair," and laugh as he said, "Now my left arm." When he said, "My stomach," his voice had changed; it sounded tight.
The heat was lapping at her, and May's cheeks burned. She opened her eyes and looked up into the branches of the tree, trying to suck in some cool air.
She startled when Peter said, "Okay, now it's May's turn." Edith drew her hand back and sucked her fingers absentmindedly while she shifted over so May could get closer to Peter.
He opened his eyes for a moment and noticed May's flush which made his voice catch when he said, "I'm ready, May."
May took Edith's hand in her right hand, for support, while she reached out timidly with her left. With steady fingers she first touched Peter's left cheek, then his left thumb. Even with her light touch, the hardness of his muscles through his shirt was apparent when she touched his shoulder and then his inner knee.
When he didn't say anything, she said, "Peter, you have to say when you feel me."
"I will," he replied and then let out a breath he must have been holding. Suddenly, he flipped onto his stomach and said briskly, "Okay, now you two, it's your turn."
The girls lay side by side on the blanket with their eyes closed. The backs of their hands were lightly touching in the middle. Peter kneeled between them, relieved to have his hardness hidden in the bunches of his trousers. Each girl had on a softly worn blue dress, but May's was a darker blue with green ribbon for trim and Edith's was pale with yellow satin. They had removed their shoes and stockings at his suggestion that the sun was so warm and the grass soft. Looking down on them, with their eyes closed, he experienced new feelings of protectiveness and possession. Edith's hair was a warm brown and May's a few shades darker. Both had pale, winter skin, currently flushed, and their chests rose with their breath. He had to sit on his hands to calm them.
"Ready," said Edith as May swallowed.
Peter reached out to the girl on his left, May. He wasn't sure where was okay to touch, and where was not. He sensed he would be able to do things today, things he wouldn't dare do normally. He settled on her left instep and had to shift again when she made a quick intake of breath and said she could feel him. Edith lay, not patiently, waiting for his touch. To distract himself, Peter turned to Edith and very lightly touched her forearm. She lay still and didn't say anything. So he touched her gently on her outer thigh and allowed his fingers to linger there, something he desperately wanted to do to May. He moved again when Edith didn't respond but deepened her flush.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Memoirs of a Triangle"
Copyright © 2019 Christine Twigg.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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