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Date Posted: 22:09:13 04/14/11 Thu
Author: Debi
Subject: Not really serenity, or particularly silent...but it kinda fits
In reply to: Esther 's message, "HOMEWORK for 11-04-2011" on 13:35:18 04/11/11 Mon

So, this is after Daniel and Valerie break up, Christmas Day, toward the end of Old Dogs. You'll see why I think it falls into the silence category.
*************
Old Dogs, copyright 2011, Debi Matlack; all rights reserved. Posted for sharing and critique purposes only, does not constitute publication.
****
The pile of gifts stood in the middle of the coffee table, the festive wrappings like an unwelcome mourner in a red dress at a funeral, dancing on the grave of her lost relationship with Daniel. With a sigh, she slouched into the couch cushions and dragged the coffee table closer.

Gabrielle leaped to the back of the couch and purred, rubbing her face into Valerie’s arm and swatting at a stray curl. Forced to disentangle the kitten from her hair, she rubbed the pointed ears, eliciting a louder purr and diminutive claws kneading into her arm. Gabby settled down on a cushion nearby, watching and kneading the pillow, her golden eyes dreamy with contentment. If only Valerie could settle herself as easily. Maybe the gifts would prove to be a distraction.

The first box she picked up was a slim, flat package. It was from Vanessa and Alan; more home center gift cards tucked inside a book on wildlife photography. The gift cards were timely; there were a couple of leaky windows she wanted to replace.

Vic’s gift, touted to also be from the kids, was another gift card and book, but his book was on depression. With a wry smile, she tossed it to the coffee table with a thump, startling the dog and sending the kitten scurrying.

“Sorry guys. Didn’t mean to scare you.” Pushing the book further away with an expression of distaste, she raked the gift cards together. “Your Uncle Victor sure knows how to beat a dead horse. If I wasn’t already depressed, that book would do the trick.”

Boxes from her other relatives held more books, mostly fiction, a pretty silver Rennie MacIntosh pendant and earrings from Sheila and a gaudy ceramic rooster cookie jar from her dad and Catherine. One box remained and she dragged it closer. It was heavy and gave no clues to its contents when shaken with care. The wrapping was bright green foil, bound with a blue satin ribbon. A gift tag was tucked under the wide decoration and Valerie gasped in surprise when she saw the handwriting. Daniel’s neat script was easily recognizable, though she hadn’t read the sentiment. She sat, staring at the package for a long time before she reached for it and untied the ribbon. The satin slid to the table and over the edge to the floor, attracting the kitten’s interest. Slipping her finger beneath the neat folds, Valerie unwrapped the box.

A digital camera and a portable global positioning system were hidden under the vivid paper. Reaching again for the tag, she read it this time.

“Since you lost your camera in the creek, I thought you might like another one. I hope it’s good; I know little about cameras since they don’t have engines. And the GPS, well, I think you could use it. (Don’t hit me) All my love, Daniel.”

The camera was a portable model, easily slipped into a pocket, but it had all the bells and whistles. A waterproof container, designed to allow the camera to be used while protected was hidden beneath.

The GPS device came on at the press of a button. It found satellites to track her position as she scrolled through the menu. ‘Points of Interest’ caught her attention and she selected that option. A list appeared on the screen and her heart stuttered as she read the entries. St. Augustine, Savannah, Gainesville, the airport, her house, his house, even the spot in the creek where they’d capsized the canoe were there. She dropped the thing back in the box, covering her face with her hand until she regained control. She reached for the box again but stopped before her hand touched the box.

“No.” It came out in a whisper, Taser cocking his head to listen. Valerie looked at him, tears blurring her vision.

“No. Not now. Not when I probably won’t ever see him again.”

Pushing the coffee table away from her knees, she stumbled to her feet and out the door, into the cold night air, the dog trotting at her heels.

Grey clouds scudded across the sky, only dimly illuminated by starlight. Waves lapped at the bulkhead below, the rhythmic sound helping to calm her.

Her father’s words came back. I think you helped him, but nothing but time ever eases that pain. Valerie didn’t begrudge Daniel the right to mourn, but she also didn’t expect him to return. Her emotions were wild; excitement over his gift could be false hope. He may have slipped it under the tree one evening before he left, before they--

“No, I have to assume it’s over. Why else hasn’t he called, emailed…”

Neither have you, stupid. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out her cell phone, staring at it for a long moment like it might bite if she moved too fast. The phone remained toothless and innocuous, so she flipped it open and pressed the speed dial. Her heart hammered as it rang.

With a mixture of annoyance and relief, she heard the call go straight to voicemail, which could signify a number of things. His phone could be off, the battery dead, or he was screening his calls and didn’t want to talk to her.

But his voice was there and Valerie lost herself in the sound of it, though she’d heard the announcement a thousand times. As upset as she remained, his voice still had the power to make her heart thump. There was no denying the truth. The message ended and the voicemail beeped, her rambling thoughts leaving her unprepared.

Groping for words, she said nothing, just listened, imagining his voice and the tenuous connection between them. The waves still lapped along the shore, Taser sat at her feet, whining and leaning his head back into her leg.

A squabble broke out among the egrets roosting in a cypress tree nearby; Valerie remained silent until the voicemail beeped again, then she slowly closed the phone.

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Replies:

[> [> Very poignant, Debi >>> -- Esther, 03:15:27 04/18/11 Mon

And yes, it does fit, doesn’t it. It might not have been silent after she heard the beep that signalled she was to leave a message, but sometimes silence speaks all for itself. And a very strong message it was that just hearing his voice on the message had the power to undue her. That was golden!

I’ve read this a couple times now, and caught the thing I missed the first time, and by that I mean the points of interests on the GPS. Just how sweet was it of him to program those in. And of course I’m wondering the same thing as Valerie. Did he leave the present before or after they broke up, cause you know, Valerie is right, it does mean something different.

I always enjoy reading about these two, so thanks for sharing.

Hugs

Esther

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