Emerald wouldn’t answer his calls, or any of the dozen of emails Harwood had sent. At times he felt silly trying to reconnect with a little girl but still Emerald was the first friend he made since coming here and she had been a great help to him it felt like such a shame to end their friendship in such a way but he had reached a wall, there was nothing he could do short of going to the Greenwood’s home and demanding for her to go out and talk to him but that was just way of the top so he didn’t.
Instead he called one other number he had been meaning to call for a long time.
“Patina Knack.” A business-like voice answered the phone and Harwood smiled nervously.
“Hello Pattina it is Harwood Clay.”
“Oh my!” She said dropping all the business out of her voice. “You actually called.”
“Sure did.” He smiled feeling a huge weight dropping of his shoulders. “I was calling to ask you out for drinks, we can go to the Red Rendezvous place?”
“Sure.” Pattina said quickly.
“We can meet there around five?”
“Of course, I’ll be there!”
The whole call lasted a little over a minute and Harwood was left wondering why he had waited for so long to make it… Feeling strange and unusual he couldn’t stay put in his own house. He couldn’t even sculpt, partly because he couldn’t think of nothing but Pattina and partly because he was afraid he might get lost in the work and miss their date. So he got dressed and went to the Rendezvous place ahead of time.
It had been the middle of the day but it was still buzzing with activity. Harwood saw a lot of people there but one little person especially caught his eye.
“The party’s at the Racket mansion? Tonight?” The girl was saying into her phone but then she saw Harwood standing in front of her and sighed. “Okay Jade I’ll cover for you this one last time…”
“Hey Emi!” Harwood said cheerfully. The little girl standing in front of him didn’t return his cheer. She was cold and expressionless, very unlike the girl he knew.
“Hello Harwood. Nice meeting you here.” She replied coldly.
“What are you doing in a bar?” He asked concerned.
“It is not a bar it is a hangout!” She said defiantly.
“You didn’t answer any of my messages, I was worried.”
“Now you know how it feels.” Harwood was silent for a moment and he and Emerald just stared at each other, her determined and cold and Harwood feeling sorry and lost for words.
“I was busy…I was…” He started
“I don’t care. You could have found the time if you wanted to. I thought we were friends but the truth was we… weren’t!” She finished with tears in her eyes.
“You are my friend Emi….” He started but she had put her fingers in her ears and was looking away. Harwood sighed. Maybe it is just puberty kicking in… Or maybe this friendship had run it’s course... He thought sadly and headed for the bar. He needed to calm his nerves, he was about to go out on a date with a beautiful woman and there he was fighting with a child…
He watched the people around him as he sipped his drink, there were a lot of interesting faces in the crowd. Ever since sculpting that police subject he yearned for a challenge of sculpting a human model. He wondered if anyone here would be interested in modelling for him. An elderly woman with long grey hair that had a pinkish tinge let her gaze meet Harwood’s. He smiled politely. Now there was a challenge he thought looking at that face perfectly lined with life. The woman must have misinterpreted the look he gave her because he saw she was heading straight at him with strong determination.
“I have heard you play at the park the other day.” She said when she was close enough for him to hear her over the music blasting from the stereo.
“So I did have an audience…” He said.
“I didn’t exactly stop to listen.” She replied. “I was walking by with my daughter and heard you. It was nice, although I am not a fan of the acoustic guitar…”
“To each its own.” Harwood said politely with a slight smile.
“You speak true. Milly Pidgin.” She said extending a thin frail looking hand that Harwood took with a confused look. So this was Juan’s ex… He thought.
“What brings you to Twinbrook Harwood?” Milly asked.
“Retirement.” He said with a soft smile.
“Oh really? And you were a musician before?”
“Oh no.” Harwood said. “The guitar is just a hobby of mine.”
“Wow. I would like to see you do your actual job then.” Milly said and Harwood laughed.
“Let me buy you a drink Mrs. Pidgin. Would a Spotlight Polish do?”
“Yes please. You are very kind Mr. Clay and I am Miss Pidgin.” Harwood smiled at her and went to the bar to get their drinks. While there he noticed Emerald was still here but she refused to look at him, her eyes were fixed on the TV screen where she was watching a black and white movie.
He didn’t engage her further. He grabbed the drinks from the bar and headed back to Milly. He was really curios about his best friend’s ex. In a lot of ways she was not as he pictured her to be but he could still imagine Juan courting this woman. They talked a while about music and life drinking their drinks.
“It was nice meeting you Harwood.” Milly said when she was done with her drink. “I am afraid I must go now, I am meeting my daughter, we are going shopping but I hope to run into you again.”
“It is a small town.” Harwood replied.
As soon as Milly Pidgin was gone however Emerald approached him. He was surprised to still see her here, he had completely forgotten about her. “Em, you are still here.”
“I am. And I am sorry.” She said quickly. “Maybe we can go to the park and play catch together?” Harwood smiled at her.
“I am really sorry Emi but I can’t… Not now, I am meeting someone here you see…” He looked over the little girl’s head and saw Pattina walk inside the door. She had her hair up this time and she was dressed in a tracksuit but still she was the most radiant person in the room.
“Whatever Harwood…” Emerald said and turned around heading to the door. Harwood wanted to tell her to wait but then Pattina’s eyes met his and she threw that seductive smile he remembered from the first time they met.
“Well if it isn’t the handsomest sculptor in all of Twinbrook.” She said as she approached him and Harwood answered with a smile of his own.
“At your pleasure miss.” She smelled of lemons again Harwood thought when he was close enough.
“I am sorry about my attire. Friday afternoon I go to the gym, these are the only clean clothes I had on hand.”
“It is quite alright.” Harwood replied still smiling.
He bought her drinks and they talked about art mostly. Pattina really knew her stuff, she didn’t lie, and she must have really been Harwood’s fan because she did know a lot of his work and a lot of other works Harwood himself admired. It was a much different conversation than any he had ever since leaving Bridgeport and he had to admit that he was quite enjoying it. After drinks they found a table and he ordered up some fruit parfait. When they had eaten he even managed to talk Pattina into a dance.
They were in a middle of a very heated discussion about one of Harwood’s early works he had always thought overrated when his phone rang.
“Harwood? It’s me.” His best friend spoke.
“Juan, is everything alright?” Harwood asked concerned.
“Sure, sure. Just wondering if you would come over.”
“Now?” Harwood asked surprised, and getting increasingly worried.
“Yeah… I am having a small get together at my house, I forgot to call you earlier… I bought a dog, you see little Cinammon’s her name, can’t wait for you to see her, she is the cutest darn thing. So anyways… I am throwing her a-meet-the-neighbours kind of party? What do you say? Do you want to come?”
“Well I am kind of on a date.” Harwood said looking at Pattina. She smiled widely.
“Well bring her as well!” Juan said loudly. “Just be here.” Harwood sighed. He didn’t really feel like dragging Pattina halfway across Twinbrook. They were pretty fine here but still he felt bed letting Juan down.
“A friend of mine is having some sort of party tonight. Would you like to come with me?” He asked nervously.
“Sure! Why not!” Pattina said. “Is it far? We can take my car.”
Pattina drove a white SUV and in it she and Harwood crossed the bridge and left the urban area of Twinbrook and headed towards the swamp. Harwood purposely avoided the conversation by gazing out trough the window. There was a strong feeling of unease growing inside him as they got further away from the town. It had nothing to do with Pattina or their date that was still in progress and Harwood wanted to convey that to her somehow but he just couldn’t find the right words to explain.
The drive was a long one. Juan lived far away, on a hill that overlooked the swamp. When they were finally there Pattina stopped her car and spoke. “Is this where your friend leaves? I think this is the address you gave…” Harwood nodded and walked out of the car. He hadn’t visited Juan once since coming back to Twinbrook and he wondered how would he feel when he finally saw it.
There was nothing left of the house. Nothing but the foundations and the charred front door. Harwood thought there would be more, he kind of remembered there was more. But then again so long had passed and he did his best to forget….
Juan had converted and old barn that had once stood next to the house to his home. It looked less ragged than one would expect and Harwood paced towards it, eager to get away from the old ruins. The door was open and Harwood walked straight inside.
The first floor was a large open space filled with old and mismatched furniture that screamed Juan. It made Harwood smile slightly seeing how he managed to make himself a nice home so close to that place of horrors. He looked up the broad stairs that lead to the second floor and saw a small white and orange dog running upwards. Cinnamon. He thought as he headed after her.
Harwood didn’t really expect anyone other then him to come to this party of Juan’s so he was quite surprised when he saw him upstairs in conversation with a tall dark-haired woman and a man with even longer brown hair. It made him feel slightly guilty, harboring such an opinion of his best friend. Juan introduced him, to little Cinammon and to the two people who’s names Harwood had forgotten rather quickly because his thoughts were on Pattina. After a brief polite conversation he excused himself and went to find her.
She was standing outside looking down hill to the city in the distance. “Your friend has a beautiful view.” Pattina said quietly as she noticed Harwood standing next to her.
“Yes, it is quite enchanting.” Harwood agreed. His thoughts strayed back to one New Year’s Eve, him Juan, Lacy and Macy standing, maybe right at this very spot looking at the fireworks above the city. Something tightened in his chest at the very thought. He could feel Macy more then ever, maybe it is because he was here so close to the place where she had passed….
“Are you okay Harwood?” Pattina asked concerned.
“I am fine.” Harwood said forcing a smile. Pattina smiled back. She then proceeded to step closer, placing her soft and warm hands on the side of Harwood’s face. Her eyes met his and they locked their gazes for seconds that lasted an enchanting eternity but the spell was hastily broken when Pattina spoke in a sudden whisper.
“I am married.” Harwood blinked hard in surprise. He was completely lost for words but it didn’t matter anyway even if he found them because Pattina quickly sealed his lips with a passionate kiss. Harwood wanted to pull back, he wanted to say something but he didn’t….
They sat together near the foundations of Juan’s old house and watched the stars. They could be seen so well from here, spread across the evening sky like diamonds.
“I wish I knew their names…” Harwood said. “Alas, age had taken it’s toll…” Pattina laughed.
“Don’t laugh. You should know them.” He said smiling as well.
“I am afraid I don’t…. I am no spring chicken either you know… I do have a young adult daughter…”
“Really? How old were you when you had her, a teen?” Harwood said making Pattina laugh again.
“I was not that young….” She said. “But young enough not to be a good mother apparently…” Her smile vanished and her eyes still pointed at the night sky were filled with sadness. It made Harwood sad as well.
“I am sure that isn’t true…” He started.
“She hates me you know. Maybe she knows we are unhappy and resents us from not trying to change anything…. I don’t know… It is not something you should be concerned either.” She added smiling again and turning to Harwood.
I am not happy either… Harwood wanted to say. I am lonely, maybe I always was… My wife’s ghost haunts me to this day and I don’t know if she wants me to move on or come join her…. But he didn’t say any of those things. “Let’s get out of here.” He said instead.
“Your view from here is not so bad either.” Pattina said. She was standing in Harwood’s studio looking trough the glass door that lead to the patio. “And your studio is enchanting…” She continued but her voice was completely flat, as if she was hiding some secret disappointment. Dawn was coming up, the sky had gotten lighter and the stars were slowly fading away as well.
“You should see the view from my bedroom as well…. The bay looks magnificent….” Harwood said softly coming behind her.
“I am sure it does.” Pattina said turning around. She even smiled, although to Harwood it looked false. “But it is getting late, or should I say early… I need to get home.” She slowly slipped away, not even bothering to kiss him goodbye. She speed walked outside and headed straight to her car without even bothering to look back leaving Harwood to stay and watch, unsure how to feel, or what exactly went wrong…