Take Back Friday (Novella) 2020 Writing Project

Piece of the puzzle 6:  Elise, The Queen

Another thunder booms in the distance, only to be followed by a lightning strike and another thunder. Even with the windows closed shut and the big drapes covering them, the building shudders with the outside drama, that echoes the drama brewing on the inside.

The round-table discussing Arthur started hours ago. For several, it was just business talk. Thea cannot remember anything if it were to save her life. 

“Hayden, hey, did you hear me?”

Morton’s question startles him. 

Thea, despite knowing better, is happy to know she is not the only one not paying attention. She sees Hayden stiff in his chair and at his side, Elise throwing virtual knives across the table…

“No. Say it again. Please,” he says, to sweeten his words.

“I was saying that you and Miss Marlow will have to issue a press release on this subject and you should both think about what you want to put in it.”

“Why me and… her?”

If she could, she would stand up at that moment and slap Hayden with the thick pile of papers in front of her with the first scenes of Arthur she spent two weeks working on. But Elaine is close to her, whispering:

“I’ve got you covered.”

Then she turns to the band’s manager and says:

“Miss Marlow has already prepared a statement and if it will be fine by Mr Hasting’s part, she will publish it on her website and on all her social networks.

“Fine by me. If she can delegate this to her editor, Irwing, you do the same for me. Now, if that’s all for today-”

“We have the first scenes of Arthur ready,” says Elaine. “ You all have copies, but due to Mr. Morton’s request, you have to read them here, and not take them out of this room.”

“This is bull-”

“Hayden!”

Thea can see him roll his eyes before he slumps in his chair. He has always been a petulant child when things did not work his way. Somehow that makes her happy.

They’ve been at the same scene for over an hour now. She cannot take it anymore. Nothing she wrote is good for Elise, especially the way she portrayed Guinevere. 

Another boom makes Thea shiver. She hasn’t been sleeping well in the past weeks, and the hotel life does not agree with her. Despite being invited over and over again by Mark and Marie to use their spare room, she keeps postponing the move. If she did that, it would feel like growing roots. And, God forbid that would happen!

“I will rewrite the scenes,” she whispers, cradling her forehead when Elise complains once again about the poor depiction of the best queen of all times. “I will rewrite it all. And I’ll do it right away.”

With that she gets up, gathers her papers and leaves the room, only to find herself chased by none other than Hayden. Probably he is there to complain as well.

“Wait.”

She does not want to turn around. She does not want to see his face, his disappointment must be probably written all over his face. Arthur meant so much to him, and now she is ruining it. To her surprise, Hayden does not say anything more but starts fumbling in his jacket.

“What’s this?” she says when he pulls a key out.

“It’s your key.”

Like she could forget that stupid key-chain he won for her at a Renaissance Fair depicting a queen with a crooked smile. He said, then, it looked like her. She was his queen with a crooked smile. In time the golden crown had turned reddish and the queen’s smile had completely disappeared. 

“I know what it is, I wanted to know why are you giving me this?”

“You’re supposed to be better with words…” he says, dropping the key on top of her papers. “Anyway, you can use the house. You’ve got as much right to do it as I am… and I know how much you hate hotels.”

“What about…”

“Don’t worry, I’m not staying there.”

With that he just turns around and leaves her alone, staring at the fading queen. 

The stairs creak in the same spots as ever. The flowerbeds have grown wilder than she saw them, thorny roses clinging to the bricks, up to the balcony. Thea unlocks the house, leaving the queen dangling in the door. Colorful stained glass throws colorful patches on the floor. Surprisingly, the air is fresh inside, even with the windows closed shut. While still on the porch, she looks inside, unable to convince her feet to move. The house is quiet. Thea remains still for a while, bag in hand, heart raising to her throat. A gust of wind ruffles her hair and she finally steps over the threshold.

There’re fresh flowers on the dining table and in the kitchen. White roses, hydrangeas and peonies. Lush arrangements, cascading from the counter-tops.

The house feels expecting. Expecting her to make a sound. To say something. To either welcome her back or spit her out on the street. The house wants to recognize her, but when she catches herself in a mirror, she stops dead in her tracks. 

Who is this stranger in their house? Who is this pale woman with empty eyes starring herself down in the hallway? Whose hands are these? Whose face and lips are those? She seems familiar somehow.

Thea turns away from the mirror, and walks into the living room. The grand piano occupies half of it, and is open, as if Hayden just stepped out for a quick run. A pile of books is on the table next to it, and one is open on the chair. She knows what book it is. And at what page, even from across the room. Taking a deep breath in to calm her erratic heart, she catches a whiff of a scent. She knows that scent. The home scent…

Everything looks frozen. As if a sleeping spell had been placed on their castle, but its occupants were outside when it happened and they could move for a year, while their home slept.

In a way she feels like she slept too. Even though her body and mind moved, her soul has remained trapped under the same magic as the house. Turned to stone. Waiting. Dormant. And this while the world spun around her. While Hayden moved on and lived his life to the fullest. 

The mere thought brings tears in her eyes. She gets out on the porch and pulls her phone out.

“I can’t. Please come get me. Please come.”