The Beryl Delve [Installment 4] Click Here for Reader's Guide
Irvine, CA – A perforation of land and meditative mercy, the honeycombs of tawny stucco levels within this succulent place hissed their hypnotic and designed comforts through the glass of all incoming motorists and sustained the crackle of sensual swaddle throughout; all things breathed under a membrane, all wills prospered, and most botanical plots and sods reverberated with whimsy and diamond-abraded-mower-blade stasis—the endgame was the introduction, as the moment the virgin entered the garden the soul fell under the incantation and stood with all other markers in a staid formation of near exquisite complacency and preservation. The gentlest bouquets of manzanita and exhaust, orange zest, waffle cones and compressed air. Diagonally cut baguettes and savory olive paste. Incense bleeding from boutique challis bundles, bath beads strung over the hives, waiting to meld with the skin of their cooing owners. Vine cornices and molding framing faux gas lanterns at dusk over a plane of stultifying pikake, each eventide wrapped with spinach flour and sprouts, all imaginations sated and spelled to sleep…
____Gianna was the younger sister by seven years, the two growing up together in the weary branch of Bloomington, minutes southwest of Minneapolis. They were daughters of educators, and they were given incredible public instruction, along with extra curricular freedoms and the registration fees that accompanied them. David, coincidentally, was also the child of educators, and also from the neighboring hamlet of Eden Prairie, a proximity that brought him in touch with Carey beginning in ninth grade and lasting through graduation. Gianna nosed in on their fun from time to time, usually during family picnics and lake retreats, but the age difference was a chasm too wide to bridge, and David lost touch with the girl he only remembered in overalls and sandals on the swing set, covered in cheese powder or jam, her almond white hair braided tightly down her back.
____Carey informed her old new lover on her sister’s line of adventures since; she had gone from a business degree in Madison into the arms of a trust fund art historian named Bartlett, who, in his delirium of inheriting a generous allowance at the age of twenty-five, whisked Gianna to the Mediterranean, where they danced, dined, bid, hiked, chateau-ed, villa-ed, and consumed clear and amber alcohol for several years. To Bartlett’s chagrin Gianna grew discontent with the idle Mediterranean isle permanence and demanded a legal commitment with him back stateside. When her flush gentleman declined to nip on the hook she took her skin bronzer and handbag and returned home to open a chain of imported pottery boutiques. It was during a reunion with her Junior League friends years into her modest success that she mentioned her craving for a grindstone mate; within weeks she was introduced to a First Generation Estonian-American man named Stevin Lazda, an actual rocket scientist from Minneapolis who was visiting home from his work in California. The two leaned hard enough into each other’s expectations—Stevin promising backroad brunches and photo-worthy hikes, Gianna committing to raucous sexuality and rampant fertility henceforth—that they issued the notice of a wedding only a turn of the seasons thereafter. It was on the heels of this proclamation of love and luster that Carey and her plus one were drawn into the scaffolding for assistance and reverie in the County of Orange.
____Labyrinthine jade plant bushes unveiled a jet black parking area in a rising tendril of developed land markered with an enameled wooden sign which—in cursive bas-relief—indicated which spots were visitor spots as opposed to the numbered system assigned for residents. David wondered why each tall, two level condominium unit was heaved even higher by a private garage if they already held numbered spots; Carey informed him that a single car garage was only the very least for a homeowner, and that these portals ran deeply enough to file in two vehicles if needed, to which David nodded, shocked at himself for the temporary failure to understand that, in his home country, ample space for two vehicles, plus contingency space for a third, was the mandatory minimum requirement for a family-sized dwelling, although newlyweds may ponder the garage for storage until future progeny are brought up to schooling age or however the appearance to other refined property owners' askance peeks may evolve around them, for it’s a steady trick in California, like a uniform—how one pulls in and out of it requires both lurid appeal and modesty. No boats, no trailers, no motorcycles – only vehicles of silver, black, white or gold. A hiss greeted them as they opened their rental hatches and rose; the black web of trellised irrigation spouts fanned re-purposed water over faultless strips of Chinese grass, the vapor triggering floral notes just a pitch on the palate higher than the bouquet of oil pan drippings and automatic transmission fluid sludge on the jet black mantle. David stretched and surrendered his senses. The lavishness overtook him and he felt an urge to succeed in life for a beat of time, a rush of blood escaped his head and surged to his nethers, but he soon regained his stoic distance from the ornamental trap before him.
____Gianna ran down to greet them at the moment she spotted them from her elevated kitchen bay window, reaching for their cheeks with whisking kisses. “You two are adorable, let me have a look at you!” she trumpeted. “Like spots on a wineglass, oh, I can’t believe you found each other again after ninety-nine lifetimes, oh, I’m runneth over.” She backed away from them, stretched her arms low with her knees bent and squinted at them while shaking her head. “I hope my directions weren’t too bad?”
____“You mentioned the painted eucalyptus and the ledge of falling water at the bottom of the hill, so I figured we were either really close or very, very fooled,” said David, his face still drawing in the botanical stimuli from all directions. “You have a lovely experience here,” he added. “It’s like we’re in Egypt, but…but we’re not.”
____Gianna blinked several times at David and promptly reset herself. “Well, scoot yourselves up for a crock of brandied brie and aperitifs, I’ll leave the door open, I’ve got gruyère tapas browning in the oven, gotta run for ‘em, in a bit, you two!”
____David turned to Carey for a prolonged stare once they were alone. “She looks ecstatically distracted,” he offered.
____“That’s always been her brain chemistry,” said Carey. “I don’t fear she’s not in her element around here.” She looked at the array of gentle foothills and dissipating low mist surrounding her and allowed herself the immersion. “The alternative is an asylum.”
____Gianna’s kitchen, bright and accented with yellow woodwork and tiny, intense track lights, spilled away and down into a recessed living area tacked down with white berber and girded with silver studio prints on hand-troweled white plaster walls. The prints were high contrast nude shapes, obviously of Gianna, David concluded, since the face was always tastefully and anonymously tilted away from any angle of plausible recognition. He took a moment to study the goose pimples on her teardropped areolae; in a flash he saw her breasts at age eleven, budding out of her ribbed and frill-sleeved top as she stomped through her lush backyard between the swing set and the hammock, ignoring their tapering ripples as the nudge of pointless adolescence, not knowing then that she’d someday laud them across her walls as the ambrosia of her renaissance. David always experienced the allure of the sister when he was paired with a woman for long turns; it was an evolutionary conscription of needless pain that he managed to reduce to an irritant, and in this case he only needed to recall her obnoxious petulance as a girl to skin the veil of her nubile magnetism, an allure she most aptly employed for his sensory nerves as an evolutionary water torture—drip…trickle…drop. He then came around to the understanding that he was sipping white wine as he pondered Gianna’s areolae, and realized that he had never shared with Carey that he was no longer drinking, and that discovery made the wine a far more sinister emerald than he could shrug off. I could quaff it and roll back to the conversation, he thought, or I could renounce the poison straightaway with a haughty speech, he mulled, but, after the thunderclap of the moment had passed, he licked the last sip from his lips and set the glass down on a shelf and returned to the conversation, unhindered.
____“So, David, what are you doing these days,” said Gianna, “besides chasing my sister through the South Pacific?” An expression of cresting omniscience flitted across her eyes as she blocked gentle steps past the glass coffee table and planted herself nimbly—knees together and winged to one side—in front of her decorative taupe fireplace.
____With stolen seconds searching into the deepest pull of Carey’s brown eyes—a ceaselessly pooling experience, a spirit-enslaving combination of tranquility, allure, and comic bliss—David raised his palms outward and confessed, “I’m here to fold one thousand and one paper cranes for a wedding.”
____Gianna laughed. “I think it’s an even thousand, but an extra one may be better than one shy of a thousand. I can’t remember which is the curse, but don’t sweat the folding, Davy. I’m getting the cranes in by mail order, and, no, you don’t need to count them. I’ve decided there are no such things as omens, only gifts of goodwill, so I’ve ordered fifteen hundred.”
____Carey winked at him and ticked her mouth practically imperceptibly as a signal that they were there as symbols of support, to do her bidding, which, in her case, meant to passively sandbag metaphors while she paid for the retail equivalent by proxy. There was no reason to brace for hard labor; the tent poles would go up, the band dais would be fitted and founded, and the skies would plant the cloud wisps in breathtaking measure—they only had to listen and nod to her gospel. David reflexively adhered to the tick of Carey’s mouth, and invested the whole of his character behind it. It was an incomparable language, ironic and kindred, and he knew nothing before it or after it would ever be its match. He nodded to her sister and blew her a kiss, bewildered and unable, at this point, to ration or partition so much love.
____After the blush of the mainland return had settled into the pink of new comfort, Carey sank into the living room sectional and drifted away from consciousness. She took with her the tails of the conversation between Gianna and David, and as their words danced over her head she understood just how much her sister’s voice sounded like their mother’s; in the roving realm of sleep her sister’s words fell behind the shutters of her younger life and siphoned her into a room with Mother, not relenting until the frigid mists of subordination jumped across time (she could see the dim garden parlor in its patina of avocado and ocher, her mother on the floral polished cotton chaise with a lowball of iced vermouth in her hand, cutting ribbons from her confidence, tipping a craggy finger and issuing her conditions for the sentence of her adolescence which involved an edict inside of a sermon, one flapping like a barn owl through acid rain as ‘You’re spinning off the rim of society, you’re brooding, dowdy, bashful, recalcitrant, and most of all, you’re ungrateful for every advantage we’ve provided’ with the timed landing of a jaundiced sneer and eyes leaping from their webbed sockets like boils protruding from a sickly sea mammal, her disassembling tongue devouring all reason until her objective was conferred upon the breaking girl before her) to wrap around her bosom in a menacing reunion.
She awoke with the stirrings of ancient lightning coursing through her limbs. The almond light of the present filled her eyes, and Irvine slowly returned to her like a buoy behind a riptide. She reeled from the unsteadiness, however, that she had readily then and nearly now—again—drowned within the vise of a smothering womb.
©2017, p. elliott doherty