Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Story: "The Intermission"

Savannah gazed upon a weathered marquee, skirted by fractured and burned-out light bulbs. Dusty black letters declared the previous owner’s pronouncement: Closed For Business.

“Are you sure she left this for us?”

The paralegal nodded and said, yes, this was it. Dressed in a navy blue pant suit, a leather attaché strung over her shoulder, the lady was all business, an objective professional doing her job. To Savannah, though, the woman’s tone implied she would rather be somewhere else, doing something more worthy of her time.

“What is it, mommy?”

Savannah looked down at nine-year-old Natalie holding her hand in the brisk November air. Fine blonde hair lifted and flowed on a breeze before settling back down. A few defiant strands resisted the laws of nature as if they held the fingers of God.

Just like David.

Savannah knelt down next to her daughter. “This is an old cinema.”

“You mean where they show movies?”


Excitement filled the girl’s soft hazel eyes. “Can we see one?”

Savannah shook her head. “I’m afraid they haven’t shown a movie here in years.”

A shadow of confusion darkened Natalie’s face. “Why?”

Savannah turned and inspected the neglected building. Paneled wood sealed in the front doors on either side of an empty ticket booth, its grilled mouth held open in a perpetual cry for help. Beside one set of doors, two lifeless showcases hung on the brick wall, their glass panes shattered and posters stolen.

“Because some people don’t know what they truly have.”

Natalie frowned. She obviously didn’t understand.

The paralegal produced a set of keys. “Are you ready to see the inside?”

Standing up, Savannah felt her legs tremble. The drive down from Tulsa had provided plenty of distractions, mostly from Natalie with a thousand questions and simple observations. Now, there was only the theater with all of its memories.

“We didn’t ask for this, you know.”

The paralegal looked uneasy with the comment, which made Savannah uncomfortable as well. The woman could probably handle drafting a complex settlement. Asking her to listen to a broken heart was another matter.

“I’m sorry,” Savannah said. “I just want you to know that Natalie and I weren’t standing around with our hands out.”

The woman nodded but said nothing.

Inside, the air was stale. A dusty film clouded over the glass candy display cases.

“Mommy, can I look around?”

Seeing the curiosity in Natalie’s gaze, Savannah couldn’t resist. “Stay where I can see you.” The girl clapped her hands and bounced away. She stopped briefly at the popcorn machine, looked it over and then moved on.

Savannah touched the top of a display case. “She wouldn’t have given this to us if she knew.”

The paralegal shook her head.

“This is where we met.” Savannah trailed a finger across the glass. “I was ready to buy some Whoppers when this voice behind me said, ‘Try the sour gummy worms.’ His parents weren’t sure about offering worms to their customers, but David and his friends convinced them otherwise.”

Savannah closed her eyes, remembering that night so long ago. “We watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. I screamed during the scene with the snakes, and he held my hand. We came here every week after that.”

The paralegal offered a polite smile.

Savannah grimaced, feeling the emptiness in her heart. “His mother didn’t like me. To her, I was the foster child who kept David from college. I was the one he wanted instead of his family’s money.”

Across the lobby, Natalie cracked open a door to an empty theater.

“He died un-expectantly before we could get married,” Savannah said. “Brain aneurism. Of course, his mother blamed me. Which is why I’m surprised she left us anything at all.” She brushed a tear from the corner of her eye. “I wish Natalie could have known him. David was gone before I even realized I was pregnant.”

The paralegal quickly diverted her gaze. Embarrassment flushed Savannah’s cheeks. She told the woman she had seen enough and called Natalie over. It was time to go.

Outside, locking up, the paralegal said, “I know it isn’t much, but the land is at least worth something. If you want to sell it, our firm can assist you.”

Across the street, two teenagers walked beside each other holding hands. Savannah watched them for a moment and then glanced down at Natalie.

“No. This place isn’t for sale.”

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