Find a Conversation
|Mon, 02-12-2001 - 12:16pm|
I know this is kinda cheezy, but my February exercise is actually a continuation of my January story. I enjoyed this character very much and found I was only interested in writing her story right now. So, here you go...
HOLLY ZACHARY had the perfect life. She was raised in Connecticut, where her father was a doctor and her mother was the president of the League of Women Voters. She has two older brothers, both doctors, and if pressed, she couldn't tell you what either of their favorite book is, or even swear by the color of their eyes. Her family is outwardly perfect, and inwardly empty and distant.
She did pre-law at Syracuse University; got her law degree at Columbia. She is physically perfect; not too heavy, not too thin, not too beautiful, not too plain. She has brown hair and brown eyes and she dresses with just enough consciousness to be fashionable, without drawing too much attention to herself.
Although many men have claimed to love her, she has only loved one; Harry, a professor at Columbia. She ended the affair after three weeks because it was 'inappropriate.' Harry swore he loved her, even offered to leave his position at Columbia, but she refused to believe it. In brief moments where she allows herself to admit her regrets, ending the affair with Harry is the only one that comes to mind.
As a public defender in California, she met Anna, a drug addict whose repeat offense guaranteed some time in jail. In a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, Holly agreed to be a foster mother to Anna's baby, Abby. During the time that Abby was in her care, Holly discovered a history of neglect from Anna and sexual abuse from Bobby, Anna's boyfriend and possibly Abby's father. When Anna got out of jail, Holly fought for custody of the child. Noting Anna's apparent rehabilitation, the state ordered Holly to return the child. In an uncharacteristically emotional act, Holly took Abby and ran.
This scene occurs after Sam, an old boyfriend of Holly's, hires Max, a private investigator, to track Holly down. Max finds her surviving as a pickpocket in Alaska, and Sam catches the first flight to Anchorage.
"I don't love you, Sam." I sighed and stared at my hands, as worn and lined as the old butcher block table upon which they rested. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Max slowly stepping backwards until he had completely vanished from the dim pool of yellow light that hovered over Sam and me.
Sam breathed in deep, preparing his next statement, much the way he did before he closed in court. I knew he planned on arguing for my affection, and I was too tired to hear it.
"Sam, I'm sorry, but I don't love you. I never did. In my defense, I never said I did. You've created this whole thing between you and me."
"So I imagined it all? There was nothing, then?"
"No, not nothing. Just not everything. You need to let it go. Let me go."
His jaw muscles tightened as he bit back the words he travelled four thousand miles to say. Finally, after a strained silence, he spoke again. "I can help you. I can get you out of this. I can get you your life back.'
"Can you guarantee that I'll get Abby?"
He ran his hands through his thick, brown hair. "Holly, you know I can't do that."
"Then you can't help me."
He slammed his fist on the table. "Dammit, Holly. You're throwing your life away. Forget me. Forget what we -- what I imagined -- we had. Think of yourself."
"That's what I'm doing."
"Look, I'm sorry that you spent money hiring an investigator to find me. I'm sorry that you flew all the way up here. But I didn’t ask you to be my hero. I don't need a hero. I just need to be left alone."
Sam pushed back his chair, scraping the lineoleum with a screech of finality as he stood up. He grabbed his coat, put one arm in, then stopped and looked at me.
"I won't tell them I found you. Is that heroic enough for you?"
I stared at him coldly. "I think the question is, is it heroic enough for you?"
A blast of frigid air forced its way into the apartment as Sam opened the door, and it lingered even after the slam stopped ringing in my ears. I had forgotten Max was still there until he took Sam's spot at the table across from me. He clasped his fingers together in front of him, his clean shave and business suit giving him the appearance of any number of the lawyers I'd worked with in California. I imagined him selling his services to Sam, pictured him on the phone with his feet up on the desk… yes, sir, I can go from looking like Christ Our Lord to being the picture of a probate attorney just like that…
He drummed his fingers quickly on the table. "So, I guess you'll be packing now?"
"You sure don't let people get too close, do you?"
I shifted my eyes up to meet his.
"Isn't your job done here, Max?"
"I don’t know. Is it?"
"Don't tell me you're going to buy into this Dudley Do-Right bit, too. Look, I can take care of myself."
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "I never doubted that for a second. What I question is why you choose to go it alone when there are people out there who want to help you. And who can."
"Sam can't help me."
"I wasn't talking about Sam."
I looked up to find his eyes locked on me. "Oh, I see, you think you can help me?"
"Yes, I think I can."
Exhausted, I pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes. "And how would you help me, Max?"
He smacked his lips with a small pop. "I have no earthly idea."
I let out an exasperated chuckle and lifted my head. "Good night, Max."
"But if you promise not to leave tomorrow, I promise I'll come up with something."
"Oh, you will?"
"Oh, I will." He stood up and held out his hand. "Do we have a deal?"
"Will you leave if I say we do?"
"I'll leave when you tell me to. We both know that." He waggled his fingers at me playfully. "C'mon. Be a man. Shake on it."
I stood up and shook his hand. He tipped his hat at me and went to the door with a strut that was pure Bogart. I imagined him watching "The Maltese Falcon" and practicing. Too tired to fight it off, I smiled.
"You realize," I said as his hand touched the doorknob, "that I'm a petty thief. My word means nothing."
He turned and eyed me for a minute, then smiled. "If your word means nothing, then I'm a bigger fool than you think. And, honey, my mama didn't raise no fools."
"You watch too many movies."
"And you, my dear, don't watch enough."
A moment and he was gone. Fifteen seconds later, I collapsed in bed next to Abby and dreamed of train stations and lost baggage.