[Swann] (Chapter 1) The End Of The Beginning
She repeated her name a hundred times over in her head, making sure she was still herself. While she mumbled, the bumpy highway made her stomach churn and was was glad she had downed a few motion sickness pills. She could almost feel the friction of the smooth black tires against the concrete and hear the tiny gray pebbles whisper their sad songs. The taxi driver, who was covered in pale age spots and had a large bald oval on his head nodded his head in the direction of the wood sign that announced their arrival into the sleepy town of Twinbrook. The blue paint was chipped on the T and B and a bush overran the rest of the cursive. Already there was a thick layer of dirt covering the road and filtering through the air.
“You sure a kid like you is ready for this old Boonie town?” His salt colored eyebrows knit together and Bethelynn sent back a reassured smile that even surprised herself in it’s authenticity.
“I’m actually not quite sure it is.” She raised her head to the window and saw the clear and menacing water of the lake. She settled back in so she would only see through the windshield and steadied herself quietly. “But even so, I know this is the place I have to go.”
The leather interior did nothing to calm her nerves. Bethelynn felt baked to the seat, sweat already drenching her thin green blouse. Just seeing that same old sun made her think of all those endless Summers. She could feel the slight bump that signaled they were on the famous Twinbrook bridge. Beth just bowed her head deeper into the familiar romance novel that was keeping only half of her attention. The water below her demanded her thoughts and her tenseness about it alerted the driver once again.
“I’ll give you a ride back to Sunset Valley for free. Just tell me. I wanna help you.” His tone was forlorn and compassionate, a mix that irritated Beth to the point of anger.
“I already said no thank you. Now please excuse me while I read my novel.”
He just grumbled and only muttered again when they pulled up to a large plain of grass that only had a few springs of wild grasses and patches of daisies. Bethelynn was caught off guard when the engine seized and the radio, which was carrying the signal of a country ballad, went silent. The driver was already shuffling her bags to the grassy lot and a second later he was back in the vehicle, a deep furrow playing across his brow.
“What are you waiting for? Get off then.” He said gruffly, while adjusting the little tree air freshener that was hanging from the mirror. Beth noted that the moment of him feeling sorry for her had evaporated. She tossed seventy dollars into his palm and gathered her phone and pack of gum into her bag. “Thank you…” She smiled and he huffed a little before driving off in the same direction he had just driven.
Bethelynn’s first thought was to wave down the grumpy old man. She had known him for not more than a couple hours yet she felt like he was one of of the few people she did know. The grass below her dainty heels seemed to pull her down and will her to drop down and cry. But she told herself she was stronger than that. At least for now. instead she slid a stick of gum into her mouth and surveyed the area.
“So I order a plot of land and this is what I get?” A wave of anger rushed over her and she was confused when she saw just how big the lot was. There was a makeshift fence separating her new land from the rest of the town. It seemed to expand into infinite green. She could barely make out the houses of the neighbors behind the trees and bushes. She already knew that they were full sized mansions with shiny windows and full porches. She had known that this was the rich part of town ever since she was a child. She felt a tad bit of shame by looking at her own puny dwelling. If you could actually call it that. It really was just a queen sized bed, which was set up by the local furniture store, in the middle of somewhere very close to nowhere. Beth brushed her hand across the gold colored metal of the bed frame and eventually collapsed onto it. The fabric seemed to envelop her. She tried to ease her pulsing nerves and she curled up in the covers and imagined that the pale blue sky was a ceiling, the grass was a floor and the trees that were spread around her were walls. She felt immeasurably safer when she could think of her situation like this.
When she woke up a few hours later, the fog that had clouded her vision in a faint haze was clearer, and she surveyed her surroundings with renewed spirits. She spit her gum into the garbage can that was parked near the side of the street. She then saw the little wood mailbox with a bright red flag pointed to the sky. “SWANN” had been tacked on to the side in a bold black font, probably by the happy real estate agent who finally sold the giant lot that nobody really wanted. She carefully opened the mailbox which still smelled like fresh pine. There were only a few small pieces of parchment and most of them were from the people of Twinbrook. The majority of them read with things along the lines of “We missed you! Come see us anytime!” or “Welcome home!”. Just the feeling of all these once known people sending her kind letters gave her the chills. She was sure not to read the names since it would only send her into uncontrollable sobs. But as she was flipping through the mail, her fingers caught hold of a thick piece of folded cardstock paper. It had dark veins around the edges, and the writing inside was clearly inked in dark purple permanent marker.
You’ll Always Be My Love.
Bethelynn read it more than once. She read it more than ten times. Thirty times. She took in the way the “A” curved on the right and how the “love” was written bigger than the rest. She checked to see the return address but found it empty. The stamp was in the image of a retro car, cherry red and shining beautifully. She didn’t even feel her heart pumping her chest. She shook up all her memories of a “Johnny B” but came up with nothing except a song she couldn’t even place the lyrics to.
A part of Beth wished that the letter was from the land developer or from a person who had flubbed on a postal address. Unrequited love was never part of her life. But the marker smelled so fresh, and the words seemed to curve and flutter off the page in a way that only love letters can. So she zipped open a bag from home and pulled out a roll of dark blue painters tape. Bethelynn stuck it to the post of her bed. She suddenly had the realization that upon all the stresses and anxieties and uneasiness in her life already when she moved into Twinbrook, she now had a not-so-faraway lover to worry about. Bethelynn just laughed and thanked God that she wasn’t a worrywart, because then she would probably implode.
But the note did bring out even more emotions she hadn’t felt in…longer than she could remember. And this town, the one she once knew so well, made her feel on the edge of something she needed so badly. A tear slipped across her cheek before she knew what was happening. She was angry at herself for crying. But instead of getting angrier, she hoisted the old pink guitar on her shoulder and started strumming loudly. She was actually pretty glad the lot was so big at that moment since the music that was coming from the wooden instrument was earsplitting. She had only taken it up, hearing it was a requirement for the job she had applied for here. Bethelynn tried to forget about who had given it to her. But his name was grinded into her thoughts; a part of her. Stop thinking about Marc…
“Johnny B, who could you be? Johnny B, who could you be?” Beth sang off tune, yet it was still melodic, the sound jumping off the trees gently. She had been singing since she was five and a half, where she would use flashlights as microphones and bring tears to her parents eyes at choir recitals. If there was one thing Mom and Dad loved about me, it was my singing, Bethelynn thought.
“Bethelynn Swann, who could you be? Bethy Swann, who could you be?” Her words searched for an answer but couldn’t find one. She finally sighed and walked over to the edge of the sidewalk and called another taxi.
“Can you take me to the theater?” She thought about adding more details but then realized the town was small enough that it only had one theater. The perky woman on the other end said she would be right on her way. While she waited Beth looked around her new homestead. It had looked so much more idealistic on the Sunset Valley library computer. LARGE AND LUSH – BUILD YOUR DREAM HOME HERE! She rolled her eyes and wondered why she was suckered into this. You know why Beth, you know why. Bethelynn battled with the part of her mind that knew why she had chose this less than idea spot to call her home. She did know why, and it all, of course, had to do with Marc. When is it not, Beth thought.
In the next three minutes, a bright yellow cab was parked in the huge cul-de-sac that was by her giant lot. Bethelynn waved and smiled to the fawn haired woman who was wearing a tiny smile on her face. Before she left, Beth stuffed her bags under the bed and hoped that Twinbrook’s crime rates weren’t as high as Sunset Valley’s. She grabbed only one of her bags and her guitar and case, and slipped inside the cab.
“Thank you.” Bethelynn gave the driver a generous tip and ducked off before another taxi driver recognized her from the grim pictures scattered on the news. Beth covered her face with her long chestnut hair and looked up at the tall brick building, which despite the dust that covered most of Twinbrook, was clean and lovely. Movie posters covered the walls and the ground had a geometric pattern that crissed and crossed. And then there were the stars. Laid tactfully around the perimeter were golden symbols of the famous actors and singers and musicians of the town of Twinbrook.
There were plenty of them. Their names engraved in cursive and tossed with glitter. Bethelynn was taken slightly aback. It had been six years since seeing the stars at the theater, yet they all still gleamed the same. It made Beth a little angry that the town hadn’t changed quite as much without her living in it. It still felt quiet, yet had an undertone of excitement.
“BETH! BETH! I THOUGHT WE WOULD NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN!” Yelled a old woman sitting behind the ticket booth. Bethelynn knew who it was as soon as she heard the shrill voice. She smiled, yet still had a nervous feeling in her chest. You can’t hide what happened, she told herself, everyone will look at you in a different way but don’t get hurt by it. They’re just worried about you. The girl who grew up here is now the girl on the news. Bethelynn told herself then waved to the woman.
“Hello Miss.Marjorie. How are you?” Bethelynn walked over to the stand where the woman was staring at Beth, a small glass spectacle propped on her left eye.
“How am I doing? How about you sweetheart? I’ve heard about it all…” The tiny old woman lost her joyful tone and slipped into light despair. “I loved your parents. What with your mom’s smile and your daddy’s green eyes…They were the beauties of Twinbrook.” Bethelynn looked down at her delicate orange heels,which was her favorite color. She was past tearing up at her parent’s mention, but still felt a tight grasp in her throat when someone brought them up. Miss.Marjorie took notice.
“I’m so sorry hon.” The white haired woman suppressed her own tears as Beth smiled weakly at her. Beth had learned that putting on that brave smile and acting like everything was OK was better than wallowing in the hard past. She looked the woman in the eyes, and remembered all the nights she and her best friend, Marc had spent at the theater. But just as Beth thought of his name, she tucked it back. Not right now, not right now, she thought.
“I’m sorry I brought all that up Bethy, I know you came for the job.” Miss.Marjorie pulled out a crisp white paper with Beth’s playful scrawl printed across it. “It came in a few days ago. Very good resume, I’m sure our little theater is ready for the next great musician. This Lady GaGa, is really getting on my old nerves.” She handed Beth a piece of lined paper with a name printed neatly in the middle. “That’s where you need to go to officially pick up the job. Hes the manager, even though all he really does is funnel in more money to keep this place going.” She scowled. Anyway, be nice, be cordial, but don’t let him take advantage of you. He’ll do anything for a pretty little thing, and you fit the bill. He thinks that since he was something back in the day, he’s entitled to all the Twinbrook ladies. If I wasn’t so old he’d be all over me too.” She scowled even deeper although just the tiniest sparkle in her eye gave way to the fact that she would actually like it if that happened. “But listen to me ramble on, 53 years in a lonely theater booth does this to me. Off you go sweetie!”
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