Read Appointment with a Smile Online
Authors: Kieran York
Table of Contents
Dedicated to all those who smile, and especially to those who make me smile: my family and friends.
And in the memory of Jay Conti.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, locales and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
PPOINTMENT WITH A
Copyright © 2012 by Kieran York
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher, save for brief quotations used in critical articles or reviews.
Cover design by Ann Phillips
A Blue Feather Book
Published by Blue Feather Books, Ltd.
First edition: March, 2012
Printed in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom.
Their unending encouragement and love steadied me.
My family in alphabetical order: Avery, Bob, Brody, Cooper, Dusty, Henry, Jordan, Julie, Karla, Luke, Nathan, Paula, Robbie, Sierra, and Tyler.
Their friendship and support strengthened me.
My friends in alphabetical order: My favorite Caulkster—Annie, Bobbie S., Doug G., Lana T., Mary B., Ruthie G., Sandy H.-G., Sharon D. and Clover
Their belief brought me to my appointment with a smile.
The extraordinary women at Blue Feather Books. Best in the business!
I am profoundly appreciative for their courage in publishing a book by, about, and for the Sapphic golden woman.
My thanks to Emily Reed, Jane Vollbrecht, and the finest editor a woman can have—Chris Paynter. And a special thanks to Nann Dunne for her precision line editing. I am fortunate to be in your company, and grateful to be on the Blue Feather Team. And thanks to Ann Phillips for the perfect cover design.
Finally, I thank artist Akiba Emanuel (1912-1993) for teaching me about the artist’s soul when I wrote his biography many years ago. Also, I thank his daughter, a remarkable poet, Lynn Emanuel, for allowing me to reference my gratitude to him and his family.
Sometime in the center of autumn, a lilting laugh from the past rose from a side street.
I saw her smile. She was watching two street entertainers with their band of marionettes. The puppets appeared to be zoo characters, wildly lurching. As was my heart.
Nearly thirty years had passed since she’d missed our appointment. Now we were an ocean and half a continent away from where we were to have met back then. Three decades ago I was in Denver, Colorado, standing in front of a ticket counter awaiting her arrival. She’d called and told me she’d return to me and to our home. That was not to be.
It appeared the thirty intermittent years had treated her with kindness. She remained lovely. Her face was fuller and gently formed with creased laugh lines. Her eyes were still bright and tender. I wondered how similar she was now to back then. When we approach thirty, the future seems so unclear.
Was that because we never connected those true dots of tomorrow, thinking we wouldn’t live such a very long time? I’ll be sixty in December, and she turned sixty last month. I remembered her birth date. I remembered everything about her from the eight years we spent together.
Not knowing if I should speak or if she would recognize me, I lingered a moment. I slid my sunglasses back over my eyes to filter the rare brightness of London’s October sun. As she moved toward the central street market, my heart began beating rapidly. I felt flushed, and my hands were sweating.
She seemed to be alone. Carrying one shopping bag, she moved gingerly, yet with all the grace she possessed years ago. So many years, I mused. I swallowed the lump in my throat. No, she was always with me.
Muted street sounds, smells, motions surrounded me, but all I could see was her beautifully matured face with piercing bronze eyes and lovely olive complexion, surrounded by dark hair streaked with silver highlights. Her hair, shorter than it was when we were together, fell against her neck. She’d swept it back, as she often had when she finished a shower.
She looked comfortable in her clothing. The confident style remained. Tan slacks and a blouse with tan, blue, and coral embellishment. I only saw splashes of color. Matching stylish dress sandals, sans socks, and a huge handbag looked expensive. Her medium-tall frame still reflected a casual carriage. As always, she carried herself with a proud air.
As if watching a motion picture play out, my gaze followed her. She picked up a book in front of a bookstall and flipped pages. I paid little attention to the book; instead, I focused on her face. Amused for a moment, she slid the book back into its proper place. Suddenly, her hand reached up to her face, and her eyes clamped shut for several moments. When they opened, they reflected enormous pain.
My chest thumped as if I’d experienced the same pain. I wanted to take her in my arms and comfort her, but that would not only be inappropriate, it would be embarrassing.
Those eight years we shared with one another taught me her signals. Within a minute, I knew she would again be smiling. And she was. From the opposite side of the street, I followed her. She stopped in front of a knickknack stall and glanced at her watch. Lifting a miniature blue and white teacup and saucer, she allowed a smile, too true to be fraudulent.
She was rarely bogus about anything or anyone. But on certain occasions she told someone they looked nice, when they were a wreck. She praised my aunt’s hair color and my grandfather’s lemon-gin drink. And for years, I believed that she loved me.
Perhaps in her way she had loved me, but I was doubtful.
Thirty years ago, when she didn’t arrive at the Denver airport, I was heartsick. Standing alone, more alone than I had ever been, perusing the Jetway, whirling around to examine the terminal, I gasped for air.
I waited three hours at the airport with an inconsolable longing for her. With tears in my eyes that eventually rolled down my cheeks, I drove to the rented townhouse we had shared. I entered and saw her belongings that she’d left behind. I was living my worst moment because I believed I would never see her again.
Now, as I walked toward her, she turned. With a look of amazement, she said, “Danielle, is it really you?”
“Yes. When I first saw you, I wasn’t certain you’d recognize me.”
“Of course, I’d always recognize you. You look wonderful.”
“You, too, Molly. You haven’t changed.”
She laughed. “Still flattering?”
“No, I mean it.” After a slight hesitation, I asked, “What are you doing in London?”
“I’m visiting London with my daughter, Samantha, and her family.”
I stalled momentarily. “You’re married?”
“No. My partner’s child, actually. You remember Pamela?”
How could I forget her, I wanted to say. “Pamela Meade. I didn’t realize she had a child.”
“That was one of the many things I should have mentioned and didn’t. Her little girl was five when we got together.”
“I guess that would make her thirty-five.” I tried to keep venom out of my voice.
“And you? What are you doing in England? I remember you saying that you’d never leave Colorado.”
“I haven’t. I still live there. I bought my home out in the suburbs of Littleton a few months after you left. Foothills, Jefferson County. After my grandparents’ estate was settled, I had enough for a small down payment.” Wanting to extricate myself from her possible pity, I added, “The townhouse’s rent went up, so I decided to leave the place we shared.”
“You always wanted to live in those glorious Rocky Mountain foothills.”
“Yes, although where I live now has grown enormously. Are you still teaching?”
“Retired now. Made it to a professorship a few years after I left Colorado. Are you still painting?” she asked.