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Two figures stood over the freshly covered gravesite. Dusk was arriving with a light mist and moisture stood thick in the air. The sun was dying slowly on the horizon, sinking partially into gulfs of large darken clouds. The graveyard was now absent its visitors, save the two who stood graveside and one shadowing man resting against an old cypress tree in the distance.
Thomas Mader had inherited a large sum of money from his father at the age of twenty-four. He was a very private man. Known for being very polite and somewhat eccentric, his past life was mostly a mystery to those who knew and worked for him the past few years in the small town of Greenwood Michigan. And over the last ten years he quietly withdrew from social life to eventually become almost hermit like. Thomas employed several people to conduct specific duties for his estate and household. Sandy Duggan was his housekeeper. Lee Harris was his handyman. Of all his employees, Sandy and Lee were the only two that Thomas held personal friendships.
By his grave, they reminisced and shared his life.
“Thomas,” Sandy said, “oh, Thomas!”
“He was really a nice guy,” Lee said clasping his hands together in front of him.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone!” Sandy blurted.
“What did the doc say he died from?” he asked.
“He didn’t,” Sandy started, “and nobody bothered to tell me. You don’t know?”
“Hey,” he whiffed, “I just worked for the guy. You know they won’t share that stuff with people like us.”
Sandy nodded her head.
Lee looked over to Sandy, “Didn’t he have any family? I knew everybody that attended and all of them either worked for him or were local. I wonder where his family lives?”
“He didn’t have any family, or at least never mentioned any family to me,” she said, “but he did mention an old girlfriend from time to time.”
“Girlfriend?” Lee surprising said, “Hell, He had a girlfriend? I didn’t know that. Did she show up?”
“No... She’s from long ago. He never really spoke of her much by name. I sort of pieced it all together.” She paused for a moment. “But if I had to guess, I would say memories are what killed him. The memory of her.”
“Sounds kinda sappy to me.” Lee smirked, “how do you figure?”
“Romance!” Sandy firmly replied, “He was romantically in love with her, a lost love.” She frowned at him, “Men! or in your case ‘Boys!’”
Lee stood there shaking his head looking down at the grave. He was missing his friend, thinking about the ‘Thomas’ that he remembered. After a few moments he muttered, “Not the man I knew!” He rubbed his forehead and said “I knew Tom as being technical, crafty and good with a wrench…” he stopped and looked over to Sandy, “I mean, the two of us built an airplane in the garage, for crying out loud. That’s adventure, not ‘romance’! I didn’t even know one could build their own airplane until I met him.”
Sandy’s eyes started to swell as she looked toward his grave. Stuffing her hands deeper into her front pockets, she readjusted her posture and shifted her weight to her other side.
“We used to take walks together,” she started, “He always reminded me of how it was ‘easy money just to accompany the boss on his voyage through the park’.”
She stood silent and looked up to the ragged fence standing off in the gray distant yard, which approached the roadway. The old fence blended away with her gaze and her mind drifted back to when Thomas had taken her to the park for another casual walk. She remembered that he never really spoke much during any of their strolls together; their walks were his way of reliving the past. One particular time they stopped at an old statue located in the middle of Hickory Tavern Scenic Park. Sandy recalled, “I remember a time at Hickory Park...”
“Nice statue!” Sandy said, “Who is he?”
“This is Phoebus Apollo, the Greek god of truth. Also known as the ‘Healer’,” Thomas said mildly.
“So you know about Greek history?”
"A little..." he continued, “history is what seems to plague me most.”
There was silence as she watched him look at the large gray-stone statue trying to guess his thoughts. He pondered it top to bottom and she could see his eyebrows move as he was thinking. He sat rigid with his knees drawn to his chest, held by his arms, while sitting on the park bench. Sandy, herself, was leaning against a cypress tree wondering how long his pondering would last.
“I envy him”, he quietly said.
“Delphi, site of the Oracle of Delphi…” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry, what?” she repeated.
“Encased in time,” he spoke up, “Apollo here is encased in time and at a point where he is great, majestic and happy.” He paused. “Oh how I envy those who can forgo the passage of time; to be held where they live repeatedly in happiness.”
“You're weird, Thomas!” she laughed.
“Can you remember the point in your life where you were the happiest?” he asked.
“I don’t know...” she started, “I suppose...”
“I do,” he jumped in, “I remember it vividly and with such clarity it appears to me as if it happened this morning.”
He looked at her for a second and then looked back to the statue. “Can’t you see? He is here now, as he has been for years. Each day comes and then goes again and Phoebus Apollo sits, unaffected by weather, attention, time or regret. His eyes gaze upon the same visions in every instance of every moment...” He stopped and looked at Apollo’s foundation. “He lives in the same dream forever.”
Knowing that this was the same old poetic rambling, Sandy just listened.
Thomas speaking to himself, “at one time, some time ago, I knew love, joy and happiness found within the warm heart of a gentle soul.”
“Really?” she interrupted, “and who was she?”
“Aw, my dear,” Thomas smiled putting his hand over his heart, “that is a secret, you shall not learn today.” Thomas whispered, “but how I wished that I could be solid in that time, so that I wouldn’t be aware of the future it had in store.”
Lee listened, head straight, eyes shifted over to Sandy with slight smile on his face. Sandy looked back to him and noticed his smirk.
“What’s funny?” she snapped.
“Nothing,” he said as his smile crept further across his face.
“He was a very lonely man!” she barked. “Have some respect!”
“You’re right,” Lee whispered, “Sorry.”
Both stood standing, side-by-side, not really noticing the growing chirps of the evening enveloping them. The sun, now bleeding onto the horizon, displayed golden red curves and quiet waves of light while the mist was now steady and lingered evenly in the air. The greens of the trees growing richer in color as the sun sat obliquely dominant at the sky’s edge and swelling in size as if ready to engulf the landscape.
“It was a 1944 N3N Navy biplane.” Lee suddenly said. “It was yellow with red stripes and very cool!”
“Biplane?” Sandy said puzzled, “what are you talking about?”
“Tom always let me help him with his airplane. It was a two-seater and was awesome to work on. During one time while we worked...”
“We need to get this stitching done, hopefully today,” Thomas announced.
"Sure thing boss,” Lee replied, grumpily.
"I’d like to get on to painting as soon as we can.”
“Sure thing boss,” Lee repeated.
“You’re quite the conversationalist today, aren’t you?”
“Oh,” Lee began slowly, “my old lady is mad at me; it’s got me all messed up.”
“Well, that happens.” Thomas didn’t want to be nosey.
"You see!” Lee continued, “I just wanted to go and hang out with the fellas. She said it was ok, but now, for no reason she’s 'all kinds of mad' at me!”
“Nothing happens without reason,” Thomas observed.
“Well, she had this nice dinner all planned out at home. And we did that! Afterwards, we were just sitting around watching t.v. when my partner, Anderson calls and wants to meet me at the bar for a few drinks.”
“And?” Thomas replied.
“And!” Lee continued, “So I ask her real nice, if it would be ok and she said fine. I even asked twice. She said it was ‘my decision’, but when I get home, she gives me the ‘Cold’ treatment. What do ya make of that?”
“I would say that you should have stayed home,” Thomas answered.
“Think about it…Let’s say you’re taking ‘her’ out for dinner, to a movie and back home for, lack of a better word, some warm hugging. How would you feel if suddenly she decided to get on the phone and chat all night with her best friend.”
“Yeah, I suppose your right, but she said it was ok!”
Thomas looked up. “You’re thinking too logically. She’s not going to throw a fit just because she doesn’t want to you to leave. She expected you to think of her first and realize the importance of that particular night. You hurt her feelings with a common male disease called: lack of insight!”
“Ok, doctor,” Lee chuckled, “what should I do now?”
“Well, I can tell you what I would do.”
“And that is?” Lee responded.
“Go and buy her a gift, say maybe a flower; a rose is easy. Take off early today and ‘you’ fix dinner for her this time. Try to do a decent job of it. Rent a few of her favorite movies and wait for her to get home. When she gets there, apologize sincerely; and I mean sincerely as you can. Tell her that you made a mistake and didn’t mean to abandon her on that special night. That 'tonight' won’t make up for it but can be a 'uninterrupted' evening for the both of you. Then promise you will try to be more attentive.”
“Whew,” Lee miffed, “I’ll give it a try.”
“No!” Thomas replied, “You must mean it; think about it for awhile and it will come to you.”
“Ok,” Lee answered, “I will!”
“Ok,” Thomas agreed, “Now level out that scale, will ya, I’ve got some composite arriving today.”
“Sure thing boss.”
“And that’s good advice,” Sandy said in response to his story. “Maybe you should heed those words. Might do you some good.”
“I did and it worked!” Lee admitted.
They both stood, staring down at the headstone. It read “Thomas Mader, Born March 19th 1967, Died June 13th 2002, ‘Forever my peace in God’s love.’” It was dark gray with lighter swirls of gray, which spun randomly throughout its casing. An eternity lamp posted on its right side burned brightly and quietly flickered with the wind. Fresh flowers lay bunched or in vases upon the ground; some just laying untended and one planted at the end of the grave.
Sandy suddenly spoke up, “You may have known, ‘Thomas the pilot’ but I knew the real man that he was!”
“Who was he then?” Lee asked.
“Well, he was an avid reader; Intelligent and kind. He must have been one of the most gentle of gentlemen I’ve ever met.”
“I knew that!”
“Did you know that he kept a diary?”
“No, why should I have?” Lee asked, “I wouldn’t expect that I’d want to read it if I did.”
“Well, it wasn’t really a diary, but more like spilling out his feelings on paper.”
“So!” Lee said wondering what she was leading to.
“One time he was sitting at the kitchen table, scribbling on his notepad. I heard you call for him from the back yard and he left to find out what you needed.”
“So you ‘ease dropped’!” Lee interrupted, “I bet he’s turning over in his grave right now!”
“Hey!” Sandy defending herself replied, “It was harmless.” She paused. “But what he wrote was so sad and beautiful...”
‘Each day, always gives a part of itself to you. I find myself lost in reflection, which takes my mind to visions of our past of which I must endure. Suddenly I am paralyzed in time; it becomes my own cell, made of boundaries in which I cannot free. Forced into a yoke of your remembrance and my soul. How long will my lord burden me to this sphere where I cannot find a foothold or grasp. Must I swallow sour regret until that time where no remorse touches any man? Yet, bitter as it ends, the sweetness of your image and history lovingly haunts with luring want. I almost encourage the despair, for in that moment, you are with me in kind. And briefly, I enjoy what might have been; what I wished had been. Only in my dreams are my realities fully known to me. I have fallen in love with a memory.’
“If only I could find a man that loved me like that!” Sandy sighed.
“So you were in love with Thomas?” he said almost in shock.
“No!” She looked up at Lee. “You know what I mean!”
Golden red shades defuse into orange blurs and finally fades to saturated bluish hue. Dusk was arriving quietly as did the death of the man being mourned. Those of night are awakening with eerie songs, continuously sung in waves. Some of the streetlights click and blink as they begin their humming charge of vigilance. Cool air comes down and blankets the grounds as night approaches. And now shadows elongate along the yard; fingers stretching in earnest for the curvature of the Earth in the distant corn fields.
“All the flowers; they’re beautiful!” Sandy spoke up attempting to break the silence. “They were all selected by instructions through his will; did you know that?”
“Nope!” Lee replied.
“Each one has meaning. You did know that, didn’t you?”
“Nope,” Lee admitted, “they all smell, if you want my honest opinion.”
Sandy frowned at him, “No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend!”
“I tell you what...” Lee started.
“All these flowers where picked for their meaning, dummy!” Sandy interrupted.
Lee looked at her waiting for the finish.
“Ok, check it out.” Sandy pointed to one of the flowers. “This is an Arbutus and it stands for ‘Thee only do I love’ and this one is a pink Camellia and it stands for ‘Longing for you’ and this white one here is a Gardenia and it means ‘Secret Love’ and...”
Lee interrupted, “how do you know all this?”
“Just hold on!” She commanded, “Let me finish!” She paused to gain her thought. “And like I was saying, this one is a Tea Rose and it means ‘I’ll Remember Always’” She stopped and looked up at Lee, “Do you see a pattern here?”
“What’s that red one there, mean?” Lee asked.
“Oh, that one?” Sandy clasped her hands together. “That is an Anemone and its meaning stands for ‘Forsaken’.”
Lee pondered the information and stood wondering. Sandy could see his confusing state grow as he tried to interpret all that she just told him. He reaches back and scratches his hip, and then rubs his forehead again.
“Oh brother!” Sandy sighed. “Your girlfriends aren’t made of rubber, are they?” she sarcastically said.
“Very funny!” Lee smirked, “Where did you learn about all these flowers?”
“From Thomas,” she replied, “we worked together in his garden all the time.”
“And I suppose that all these here came from his garden?”
“I doubt it, but you do see a correlation, right?” she asked.
“Sure I guess, but...
“Let me tell you about a time when Thomas was teaching me about flowers...”
“...and this is a Gloxinia and it stands for ‘Love at first sight’, perhaps a flower that Lee can appreciate.” Thomas continued.
Sandy laughed out loud. “That’s fore sure!”
“There are so many beautiful flowers and plants, one could never absorb all the wonder they provide.” Thomas paused and put a Tea Rose close to his face and breathed in deeply. “Awe, Mother Nature’s gift is definitely a gift, indeed. And one I will always remember!”
“What’s your favorite flower, Thomas?” Sandy asked.
“I would have to say... a purple Hyacinth. It is full and robust but sad in a way.”
“Much like you are,” Sandy added. “What does it stand for?”
Putting his hand over his heart, he said, “Awe my dear, that is a..."
“Secret!” Sandy finished, “I hate it when you do that!” She jerked her shoulders in jest.
Thomas just smiled at her. Crouched down on his knees, he bent over and plucked out a small pinkish flower and handed it to her. “This is a ‘Sweet Pea’ and someday it will have a meaning for you.”
“Meaning?” looking down at him, she asked.
He didn’t respond.
Sandy sighed and looked up to the sky. “I miss you Thomas!” She muttered.
Lee looked at her with expectation. “Well?” he finally blurted.
“What did the Sweet Pea flower mean?” he earnestly asked.
“It means ‘Good-bye’. I had to look it up.” She looked back at the grave. “It’s almost as if he knew this day was coming.”
“Crap!” Lee barked, “Tom! No way!” He too, looked at the grave. “Suicide? Are you suggesting suicide?”
“No,” she answered, “We would of heard about that, but it almost feels like he could see this happening; he knew he was about to die. Why else the reason for the flower?”
“I don’t know,” Lee replied.
“Do you see the flower at the foot of his grave?
Sandy peered at Lee, “don’t you think it unusual that a flower is planted at the foot of a grave?”
Lee looked at the flower and realized: “hey, that’s a 'Sweet Pea', isn’t it?”
The evening was blooming and branching across the yard. The sun had fallen and bluish hue fades to navy glow. Darkness was about to give birth to, yet, another nocturnal passing. Cooler now, dancing imagery fools the mind as shadows take shape and form within the trees. The twilight now defines the gloom that is the reputation of such a place. The rusty nightfall surrounds and cuddles the landscape. Sight now aided only by the continual glow of the nearby streetlamps, singing in unremitting low tones not distinguishable unless one gave purpose attention. But the two stand loyal and ponder the questions: How? Why?
“You know,” Lee began, “talking about ‘knowing what’s going to happen’, Tom probably had an edge.”
“What?” Sandy replied.
“Tom was a brain on time travel!”
“What are you getting at?” she firmly asked.
“Did you know that if you traveled around the world, say on a motorcycle, at the speed of light, a baby that was born the second you left would be sixty-four years old the second you stopped.”
“That’s interesting!” Sandy laughed confusingly.
“If you throw a baseball, at the speed of light, around the world it will hit you three times before you could move; and it will travel around the Earth seven times in one second,” Lee instructionally announced.
“And your point is?” Sandy curiously asked.
“Tom told me all this,” he replied, “maybe he could tell the future, like, maybe he was some sort of time traveler.”
Sandy looked at him and just chuckled.
Lee shook his head and spoke up, “I remember a time when Tom talked to me about the future and so forth. And you’d be happy to know it was actually a dicussion about women!”
Sandy just smirked at him.
“We where sitting on the front porch. My car was in the shop and I was waiting for my girlfriend to come pick me up...”
“She should be here any minute,” Lee stated.
“Don’t worry about it, we’ll just drink a few more beers while we wait,” Thomas assured him.
“She’s not normally late; she knew I needed a ride.”
“Don’t fall off the deep end,” Thomas warned, “she may have got caught up in something. Don’t forget, time is a precious commodity and must be spared at times.”
“Your right,” Lee admitted, “another beer sounds good, anyway.”
“I've got ya covered!”
“You’re the only boss that’s ever let me drink on the job. What’ll happen if I work somewhere else? I won’t fit in!” Lee said while twisting off his beer cap.
“Well,” Thomas began, “First off, you're not ‘on the job’ right now and secondly, you’ll never leave my employ; I’m a great person to work for!” Thomas started to laugh out loud.
“Tell me something,” Lee started to say, rocking back in his chair, “my girlfriend is getting serious. It’s not that I don’t love her, I really do, but how do I know if she’s the ‘one’ or not? I mean... I don’t want to invest a whole bunch of my life into a relationship that will eventually end, right?”
Thomas stretched back and interlocked his hands behind his head. Rocked a bit in thought and finally said, “let me tell you something about ‘investing’ and the future...” He rocked a few more times and then laid his elbows down to rest across his lap. “When a man and woman are falling in love, there is a time where they get to know each other, of course. But sooner or later, you get that feeling and know that you love her and that’s it; from that point on you’ll know, deep inside, how things will turn out.”
Lee took a sip of his beer, and then another. “Ok, I’m a little confused. Millions of people fall in love but later on they get divorced. How does that fit?”
“I’m speaking from my own experience, you realize, but when I say ‘you know that you love her’ I'm talking a feeling that might elude some but for others it is overwhelming.” Thomas paused and sat back. “I feel.. No! I ‘believe’ that love is a complex and fixed issue in some degree. But on the other hand, it is free form, lucent and ebbs in all directions.”
Lee scowled and said, “Ok, now I’m really confused.”
“Allow me to explain,” Thomas began again, “If you love a woman, you’ll realize it. When you do, it will occupy every thought you will ever have. This feeling will embed itself in all that you do. Your fundamental beliefs, as solid as they are, will be rewritten. But when you bend, it bends with you. When you move it will move with you. It’s difficult to describe but magnificent to know.”
“How will I know?” Lee asked.
“You’ll just know that you’re in love. Nobody can tell you you're in love, you’ll just know it. From that time on, you’ll see the future. Visions of your life without her are unimaginable.”
“Sounds tough!” Lee pointed out.
“Not really, like you said, millions of people fall in love. But I tell you, not all end in divorce.”
“What about you, Tom, why don’t you have a girlfriend or wife?”
“Well.” Thomas crossed his arms against his chest looked over to Lee, “I had my chance. I suppose this may just be a one-way street.”
“I see,” Lee replied, “what happened?”
“I see,” Lee stated again. “Maybe you should give her a call, look her up. Must be some time now. I’ve worked for you several years now. Never know until you try!”
“Not a chance,” he said, “She's probably married. Besides, I'd die if she found out.”
“That sounds pretty sappy, man,” Lee joked.
“No really, If you love her then you must respect her. We’ve been apart for so long it wouldn’t feel right; uncomfortable. I wouldn’t want to burden her knowing that I live here. So I keep my distance, as I must. You keep in mind that loving a woman doesn’t always mean that you have to get something out of it. Love is bigger then just one person.”
“So she lives here?” Lee spoke up. “She doesn’t even know that you live here, too?”
“Do you want to keep your job?” Thomas chuckled.
“I got ya,” Lee smiled, “you’re safe with me.”
Then a car pulled up the driveway.
“Got to go, see you tomorrow, Tom!” Lee said as he jogged off.
Sandy looked straight at Lee and said, “So ‘she’ lives here? All this time and he never said a word!”
“I guess,” Lee answered, “What’s her name, do you know?”
“Well, if we are talking about the same person, her name is Marie.”
“Got to be! I found out one time when he slipped out her name.”
“Do you know her?” he asked.
“No,” Sandy shrugged, “but I’m convinced that she was who he babbled about all this time.” Sandy paused for a moment. “He said ‘he’d die if she found out’ he lived here? Isn’t that what you said, he said?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“Nothing!” she paused again. “It’s nothing, just thinking.”
Misty rich blue fluent tones that abounded now drift into pitch; black as coal was becoming the ceiling’s display. The driven lamps posted along the adjoining street gave the only illumination for one to see. Loneliness accompanied the darkness as two figures stand graveside and one wispy and faint figure still poised against an old weathered cypress tree, still watching from a distance. Night has fallen upon them in force, which obscured the area in a stratum of darken shadows and a hazy canvas loomed overhead.
“You know,” Lee began, “It might be time to go.”
“Yeah, I know.” Sandy agreed.
Summing up their thoughts and emotions both prepared to go home. But suddenly a figure could be seen approaching them. It was a woman dressed in a dark brown coat, walking quickly in their direction. Both waited for her arrival.
“Hello,” she politely said, “is this Thomas Mader’s grave?”
“Yes it is,” Sandy answered.
“I’ve come to pay my respects.”
Sandy and Lee stood quietly as she looked down at the headstone. Moments passed by as both wonder who she was and why she came so late.
“I knew him,” she finally murmured.
“He was a great guy!” Lee added.
“How did you know him, if I may ask,” Sandy questioned.
“I haven’t seen him for years,” she started, “I didn’t even know that he lived here until the other day.”
“Really?” Sandy perked up.
“We dated for a short time while we were in the service. I haven’t thought about him for over ten years. And now, here he is...”
“What did you say your name was?” Lee jumped in.
“My name is Marie DaLienke.”
“Marie!” Lee blurted.
“Shut up!” Sandy scolded. “We’ve heard of you,” she continued, “through Thomas.”
“You have?” she replied.
Sandy smiled but Lee started twitching.
“How did you know him?” Marie asked.
“We worked for him,” Sandy answered.
A few tense minutes passed and Lee noticed that she was holding a flower. “Sweet Pea!” he shouted.
“I’m sorry?” she said startled.
“He’s talking about your flower,” Sandy replied.
“This flower was sent to me. By his next of kin, the note said. I received it yesterday. Funny, I just bumped into him for the first time, yesterday.”
“But he didn’t have any next of...” Sandy said but suddenly froze. “Oh my God!” she gasped remembering Lee’s story once again and realizing; she spun around and looked at the shadowy figure off in the distance. Her heart started to pound as she tried to make the figure out. Quietly the man stood upright, placed his hand over his heart and waved. Then he turned and disappeared into the night.