Mara lit a cigarette. She lay back in her armchair pretending that miraculously, it was a hammock.
She imagined that her cigarette had been turned into a joint and she was instantly transported to a secluded island , surrounded by nothing but blue waves and blue skies and her body was dangling between two rather strong Palm trees holding up her up in the hammock, swaying to and fro, un-sipped Mai Tai cocktail in the other hand, smiling, anchored between these gigantic shade trees whose leaves swayed to the tropical rhythm dangling on the wind and running its breeze through her natural hair just moments before sunset.
She sighed quietly. The dreams that she had always had, lunch with her favorite dead author, acceptance speeches for best adapted screenplay, had faded now, faded into only one fantasy. Her life at the beach. The life that she was living, Good Mara’s side of it, was fine, it was normal, it was common. But it was what everyone else on earth had wanted it for her, and not what she wanted for herself. All of a sudden she had a whole house full of children. All of a sudden she was going to be married to the one man who could have broken her heart in high school and who actually did. It wasn’t a bad life, she could admit. It wasn’t the worst. But was it the right one?
Grandma May had left a voicemail message while Mara day dreamed about the south pacific. The message was advising Mara that she should call her back as soon as possible because it was an emergency. It never really was an emergency. Normally she just wanted to see how Mara’s day was or catch up on some gossip. She was the grandma who cried wolf. Except for one time, the time Aunt Melody had passed away. Aunt Melody had been diagnosed with cellulitis mistakenly and as soon as the family found out her real illness was cancer, it was too late for her to go on. It had taken over. She was tired and wanted to give up. Mara wondered if Melody was throwing in the towel because she too had felt the sting of May June’s pressure. He rmother had given up on all of her children but she doted on Melody because she had a husband and kids. Mara figured she was just too tired to keep on doing it, while Maddy ran around free. Gene and his two little sisters, Sammy and Mini May were devastated. Grandma May didn’t seem like she would recover either. It had been a tough time for all of them. Especially for Aunt Maddy Jane, Melody’s twin. She had a nervous breakdown and moved out to California for a few years. No one saw her and she never called. None even knew if she was dead or not.
The funeral was the first time that Mara had seen Mean for a long time. He had grown up to be quite handsome. Mara immediately thought about what Johnny Depp would have looked like at Mean’s age. They favored now at least in her mind. Mean had developed a beautiful smile, yet it was devious, he had coated on a healthy looking tan from somewhere which was unusual in Indiana in early April, and he had let his once shaggy brown ratty mop grow long ; so long that he pulled his hair back like some television vice cop from Miami. They talked for a while and after the service was over, Mean was up to his old lewd ways.
“Hey, Mara, damn, sucks about Aunty huh? I miss her. I bet that now would be a really good time to do what we never got to do a long time ago.”
“You realize that Gene is over there, losing his mind and bawling his eyes out right?”
“Wait; wait one minute, hold on woman, I haven’t seen you in like ten years! What are you thinking about?”
“I’m sorry,” Mara said, “I’m sorry, that was inappropriate of me to get angry with you. I’m just a little overwhelmed right now. I’m very glad to see you Mean, you look good. I don’t even know why I thought that you were asking me to have sex with you after I just left my Aunt’s funeral.”
“Oh Shit, Mara!” Mean said, “Is that what you thought, seriously?” He grabbed her by the waist and put Mara’s head on his shoulder. His chest was hard and he smelled good.
They were standing there for a second before Mara had realized that Mean’s hands had slid past her hips and he was holding two handfuls of her ass in full view of all the sobbing guests leaving the Funeral Parlor.
“Mean, Stop!” Mara screamed, pulling away. She clutched her black purse in front of herself as she slowly backed away, keeping her eyes directly on his.
“What? What did I do? You brought it up I thought you wanted to… I’ll be happy to comfort you, you’re my girl. I’m sure I can make you feel better baby, don’t go.”
Mara started crying. She shut her eyelids tight and just stood there, purse clutched to her chest and cried for what seemed like hours. Aunt Melody had always been so wonderful to Mara. Mara always thought of herself as Melody’s favorite. Grandma May had been so proud of Melody and more than anything, Mara was terrified that now, she would also be responsible for taking Melody’s spot too. The pressure seemed heavier than a steel door being smashed into her head.
Mara’s mind was in another place. By the time she opened her eyes it was dark out, most of the cars had pulled away and Marshall Rogers, like everyone else, was gone. Mara hoped that it wouldn’t be another ten years before she saw him.
Mara put her cigarette out and was headed to bed. Jason hadn’t come home all night or called. Who knew when he would be back. And he would have the perfect reason for being gone all night. A perfect reason for not being able to find a phone. The kids had all had their baths and were all nestled in bed. Jason’s first wife was very upset that Jason had her kids staying with his highschool girlfriend. Maybe he was at her house right now, trying to calm her down in three minutes. The quiet time without Jason was unnerving so to calm herself she thought of her island. She lay down on the sofa, TV off, in the darkness and conceptualized the entire place; how the huts looked and how close they were to the beach. The sounds and smells from the birds and the sea.
She looked around her island and imagined the most important part of island living. The gorgeous native man. The single man who wanted no one else but her. The man who was going to fulfill her every desire. The man made for her. She moaned a little as she imagined where her island man would be and what he looked like. He would be walking toward her hammock, coming up from the water, shirt off, no shoes, wearing white linen pants and nothing but dark brown skin underneath them. He was getting closer. Mara put her hand into her pants. He was walking slowly toward her with the sunlight on his back making a halo around his head. His body was covered with water and he shined like he had been soaking in jasmine and coconuts. Mara slid her hand into her panties. He was walking toward her, sand covered feet and long dripping dread locks cascading over his neck and back. Mara was nearly finishing and she recognized the island man. He called out to him and started screaming his name as the pleasure overtook her.
“Oh, Kline, yes, Kline!”
Jerusalem had woken up and come into the living room. He thought that his mother was dying. He walked up to her and touched her on the face.
“Mommy some water, peas. Mommy, water?” He said. His big innocent doe eyes staring back at her through the darkness.
Kline? What the hell? Why am I thinking about Kline Burgess all of a sudden? Mara asked herself as she sat up. She could only hope that she hadn’t startled the bigger kids.Typically when they wanted something they always sent Jerusalem to ask for it. She was hoping they hadn’t been in the darkness, trying to make out what she was doing to herself. Jason had still not come home. Fuck.
Mara looked at Jerusalem, who was trying very hard to climb up on the couch.
“Sure honey, uh, I’ll get you some water, just let mommy wash her hands, first, okay?” Mara said.
After Jerusalem was tucked into bed and sung a good night lullaby, Mara took her shower and planted herself back on the couch. This time she locked the doors and all the windows. No need to let a little relaxation become even more embarrassing for the neighbors. She grabbed her comforter and decided that if she could stay awake she would wait up for Jason, perhaps something had happened.
Kline Burgess. Mara thought. I just wonder what he is up to now, she asked herself. He was so long ago. In undergrad, after Jason had gone off to marry the lady he met in the Navy, Mara was dating Kline Burgess. He was a year behind her in school and just about the closest thing she had ever seen to the island man in her head. If only he had long hair back then, she mused. She had lit another cigarette and pulled out her old photo albums.
One thing she had always been good at was imagining. She was alone. Somehow, like always. She would check Grandma May’s message later. What could it hurt to reminisce? Jason hated Kline. Mara on the other hand, did not