XVII - The Star
"It's seconds, minutes, hours, days inside a maze. Ya keep your feet upon the yellow bricks, you got it made,
'cause every piece of the puzzle fits the master plan,in this pre-fabricated, formulated land.
It's every piece in its place. Red light, green light, Simon sez.
Take a tiny step forward and ask again."
Scatterbrains * That's That
High above the ocean, on Crestview Road's immaculate lawns, stretched a row of stately, intimidating mansions. Because this was considered a 'growing community,' undeveloped lots still separated the American castles that dotted the hillsides.
This feels so much better here!
Chance pulled aside the curtain and gazed out at the sea. It had been weeks since he drew back the shades, and even though night had come, the light of the moon bathed the room. He paused, searching the horizon. Once, this vista had been his favorite feature of the place. In the beginning . . . but now the air-born dust from the blinds made him realize some deeper part of his torment. Something was missing - the view.
Man, I didn't think I'd be this lonely. I thought that coming home would make everything alright . . .
The phone quit ringing. Unaccustomed to the silence, Chance spent the day wandering from room to room, pacing nervously for no apparent reason. He considered phoning Tara, but recently he felt uncomfortable around her. She had changed. It was impossible to understand her these days. Her mood swings were more erratic than ever, creating far more stress than he could handle, especially from the woman he considered as his wife.
Well, not exactly WIFE, since she says she's not the marrying kind.
Tara had made that clear from the very beginning. It was part of her appeal. For once, a woman had 'out-manned' him, with surprising results. Confused by this, he had actually asked her to marry him a few years ago. She had laughed in his face at his proposal.
"Chance, you know I'm not that kind of girl!" she had declared.
The subject never came up again.
All those women who had ever mentioned commitment came to mind. All the suffering he knew he had inflicted by cutting them off crashed unmercifully back. And now, alone in a house built for a family, Chance discovered what true loneliness felt like. But it wasn't until he looked out over the vacant lot next door that he realized what bothered him the most.
No longer did the shadow trace its outline on the crest of his view. When he had moved, the specter had followed him here to the coast. He recalled with a rush of adrenaline that first sighting of number one fan, a sensation which had both scared and exhilarated him. Even now, his heart pounded.
How long has it been?
At first, when that girl began 'stalking' him, he had been amused. The letters were a form of comic relief, softening the edge of the first tour. It wasn't that he was laughing at her . . . exactly . . . but sometimes, it was funny.
Strange, but interesting.
However, when the notes became more cryptic, Chance found them difficult to decipher, causing him to worry.
Interesting . . . but strange.
Unable to read the text, he decided to file them away . . . just in case. In case of what? Many reasons loomed, not the least of which were protective . . . just in case.
Quite often, Chance would discover some new piece of information which allowed him to 'read' another portion of her writings that he hadn't understood previously. It opened his eyes gradually to the hidden side of the world each time he went through the collection. It reminded him to retrieve the most recent additions.
His journal remained in his still unpacked suitcase, which stood as a monument of his transient existence. With his journal in hand, he went out on the balcony. He could smell her perfume from the paper, forcing him to recognize the fact that he actually regretted knowing she wouldn't be out there . . . waiting.
Waiting for what? Did she really think I might go out there? 'Hey, you, come on over!'
All those nights trapped inside by the girl-next-door now seemed like his loss. He had to admire her dedication, if that really was her out there. He was never quite sure, but who else would have stake claim in the empty lot across from his window? If it wasn't her, then why would some of the letters arrive hand delivered?
It has to be her . . . well, it had to have been her.
No longer, though . . . The hillside was devoid of any movement, except for the gentle sway of sea grass. He never realized how he might feel with her gone. Once upon a time, he wanted her to go away. Now, he admitted, he missed her. He tried to remember when he last saw her . . . years ago, it seemed. The last few parcels were postmarked Texas, but no address had been included since the first tour. Her phone number changed frequently, but luckily he had been able to keep it current. The recordings had given him 'the new number.' The last number he called, she had answered. He still said nothing. She quit writing. He quit singing.
The cool ocean breeze refreshed him as he made his way to the front gate. It wasn't often that he left the premises on foot. The passage towered overhead. The unfinished lane crunched gravel beneath his feet, leading him up the hill. His footsteps muffled as he stepped off the path onto the unbroken ground of the tract. He imagined the girl's vision of his not-so-humble abode, cold and uninviting in the California night. He tried to perceive what she might have felt as she made her lonely pilgrimage to this point, night after night.
She must have wanted me to come to her, to take her in, to say 'hello' at least, and all I could do was shut the shades between us.
Chance trekked through the low lying shrubs to the place were she always seemed to sit. He could see light peek through the drawn shades; he could almost see himself looking out the window.
When he came to the spot, he tripped over something in the brush. For a moment, he almost overlooked it but upon investigation, he found something. Half covered by overgrowth, a glint of silver caught his eye. Bending down to dislodge the article, he removed a tin box. Brushing the thin layer of sand from it, he stared at his prize in disbelief. Engraved on the lid was a message:
CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
His legs crumpled under him. Collapsing onto the firm earth beneath him, Chance was shocked by the concussion, which brought him back to the present. The past . . . For a moment, he was lost in the memory of that night so long ago.
Chance re-lived the thrill of the Momentary Magic tour, recalling how fresh he had been back then. The songs were new and the fans flocked to him. The venues were sold-out, city after city, which led to the throngs of the strange and the beautiful as a fixture of his surrounding entourage. People came and left but the party was never-ending.
Vaguely, he envisioned the first time he met that girl. It seemed odd that he could only briefly glimpse that moment. Had it changed his life? At the time, he hadn't been oblivious to the encounter. Had it scared him? Not sure why, he had avoided her then. And later, as well. In fact, this was the first time that he had ever reached out for her . . . and she wasn't there.
Instead, only a silver box greeted the man. Inside, its contents remained a mystery. He hesitated. He couldn't decide whether to open it right then, take it home to open it, or better yet, put it back and leave. He opened it.
Inside, he found a letter, a photo, some drawings, a white candle and some stones. He produced a lighter from his pocket; it flickered in the wind. In its unsteady illumination, he read the note:
"Light your world: place your cornerstones and then add your fire of inspiration . . . SHINE . . . say the word!"
He flipped over the paper but the other side was blank. The letter was sealed with "Not yet . . ." penned across the flap of the envelope. He pocketed it.
The wind was too strong at first to light the candle, but if he propped the box on end with the lid open, it made a perfect tiny closet. Maybe this had been her intention. Just as he lit the flame, the wind picked up making it impossible to keep the flame.
Then he remembered the stones. He felt like a fool placing twelve little rocks around him. Then he was supposed to say the word? All sorts of abracadabra / hokey-pokey things came to mind. Again he fingered the lighter. This time, however, the zephyr subsided. He lit the candle and said the magic word.
Trees motioned to him, dancing in time with the tiny flames, as the breeze returned. His eyes strained to focus on tiny pages but he decided to wait until later to read them, too.
On the back of the picture, a poem read:
I thought you'd never find me here
I've waited until now, you see . . .
You thought that it was over,
this never-ending mystery.
I never meant to go this far.
My life was not supposed to be
wrapped up like this letterbox
buried by your sea.
So, go inside, put out these flames
Think of me out here.
Add the names and play the games
I'll see you soon? Next year?
(April didn't see him that year or the next - she was gone by then.)
"That's today!" He froze.
Blowing out the candles, he hurriedly collected the stones, and crammed all of it back into the box. His eyes scanned his surroundings, searching for HER! He tried to walk quickly but nonchalantly back across the field toward home. He failed miserably.
Sprinting straight for the garage, he pressed the button on his key chain but not in time. He had to stop in his tracks. Bouncing to hurry the door up if possible, he anticipated her. Behind him. Her black-gloved hand reaching out for his shoulder. Or his neck.
Once inside, he sighed deeply, breathless from the run and the . . . fear? He laughed at the idea but locked all the doors and windows just the same. The letter in his pocket beckoned. Whipping it from his pocket, he tossed it on the table as if it repulsed him. Soon he was drawn to open it.
The rabbit has come, the rabbit has gone
It's getting late, the show must go on . . .
The puzzle don't fit, the spirit is weak.
How can you find if you do not seek?
When you wish upon a star,
No matter who or where you are,
"I wish I may, I wish I might . . . "
See it for its former Light.
Again, he was amused. Confused. Mixing a drink from the bar out on the balcony, he saw a white flash streak across the midnight sky. He made a wish.
Later that night, he went to put the new messages into the box. He climbed the stairs, with the tin in one hand, his suitcase in the other. Setting both down on the bed, he went into the closet. He flipped through the clothes rack until he decided on a shirt.
He changed outfits, and sat back on the bed. From the suitcase, he withdrew the invitation. It started to make sense.
The Mad Hatter
the March Hare
the Tea Party and Charity Ball
on the Twenty-Fourth day of March.
Chance fell asleep with the clutter still on his bed. That night he dreamed of the wolf again. This time, he watched as a snow white rabbit scrambled past him into the brush. When the she-wolf disappeared after it, he heard nothing at first. Then he heard the rabbit scream.
The next morning, he thought about the dream. He had seen the wolf somewhere before, but not in a dream.
Getting out of bed, Chance compiled the scattered pages. He stacked the papers on one corner of the bed. Going into the closet, he ran his hand through the garments, looking for one shirt in particular. When he didn't find it, he shrugged. I'll ask the maid if she has seen it.
He picked a different one and got dressed. Back in the closet, he finally reached for the box under the stack of blankets. He pulled it out into the center of the floor. The phone rang just then. He walked to the bed table.
Nothing. Just silence. And with a little laugh he repeated himself, then replaced the receiver. He shook his head and chuckled.
When no one called back immediately, he went back to the box. Something wasn't right. He looked on the outside of the carton but it wasn't the same. Ripping back the flaps, he realized,
Oh shit, I've been robbed!!
His face flushed red with anger and even some embarrassment. After calling the police, he contacted the security company.. No unauthorized entrance into the residence, they said. No record of anyone coming or going other than Chance. The police laughed at him when he told them what was missing. They agreed with each other that this 'fan thing' should be taken seriously but they couldn't understand why he hadn't reported it prior to this. He lied.
"I, . . . uh, thought that I could keep a file, just in case, . . . you know, if she. . . something happens."
He felt wickedly bad betraying his true feelings toward the girl, but here he had the police involved who found no forced entry, nothing else missing, and no reason to be alarmed. The report was made, and Chance was alone once again. He thought should call Tara, but then he'd have to tell her . . . tell her what?
Maybe it was Tara, but the security company said no one had been here. I gave her a key and her own code . . . but . . .
He felt sick knowing that all those years were gone now. Gone . . .All he had now, a few papers on the bed. A couple of photos, some candles and the stones.
Maybe it was . . . her!
He pulled the puzzle piece from the invitation, gazed deeply into her eyes. "So, witch, where did you go?"