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Some of the characteristics and hopes in this story reflect a piece of my family, and how I see them
“Grandma please tell us the story.” the buck-tooth girl pleaded.
“It would sweetie but I’m not sure how much I can read since y’all parents will be here soon.” The older woman slowly grinned, not revealing any teeth.
Beverly gently rocked back in her chair bopping to the low hums of unforgettable.
“This here is a classic, Nat King Cole!”
As the last of her words trickled out a single nickel-sized tear coiled down her face. Her face grew mellow remembering her life before all her wrinkles, and all her pain.
“We’re sorry Grandma” the kids spoke in sync. Their eyelids lowered, ashamed of ever thinking the thought.
“Don’t be sorry, I just get sad sometimes.”
She saw their faces and how miserable they looked. She hadn’t seen them this sad since they found out the truth about the tooth fairy.
“Y’all know what, I think I can read a few pages, just until y’alls parents get here.”
All of her grandkids scurried beneath her feet in awe of what was to come.
“Yall better get comfortable this ain’t no short story.”
“Popcorn long?” The boy too antsy to stay still questioned.
“Theo!!” Every grandkid yelled. Annoyed by his existence
Each grandkid trailed off coming up with a rude comment.
“Can’t live a second without food huh….”
“Annoying as always…”
“And to have you as a brother….”
“Y’all better stop it right now! That’s no way to talk to your family. Maybe I shouldn’t even tell the story if this is how y’all gonna act?” Beverly’s eyes beamed into each soul of her grandkids.
Each of their backs straightened up, railed up like a toy. Their torsos turned facing Theo speaking altogether in a high nasally voice, “We’re sorry Theo.”
“That’s a little better, but if I ever hear y’all say one more mean thing I’ll never read this story again. You hear?”
“Yes Ma’am” each kid’s head nodded as if their necks were made out of Jello.
“Is everybody ready?” she glanced over everyone’s face looking for reassurance. Each face lit up like a light bulb grinning from ear to ear. She reached next to her lamp and picked up the paperback book.
May 28, 1958.
“Bev I love you so much, make your mama proud. That world out there isn’t always kind, but I know you can because of how special you are. You're like a stream with many pathways leading everywhere. Each time you sprinkle a little bit of yourself on anyone you always leave a place of warmth in their heart. I know this journey is gonna be hard but you're strong, smart, kind, and beautiful. All the characteristics of a strong young woman. I know that voice of yours will bring light into so many people’s lives.” A single teardrop fell down her face. She wrapped her arms around Beverly, squeezing every bit of her body, hoping this could last forever.
“I love you too mama, but you're gonna have to let go of me sometime soon.”
“Fine, but daddy’s on the porch, waiting for you. He’s trying to pretend he’s a tough guy.” Ruth winked.
With a suitcase in one hand and a bag in the other Beverly slowly dragged her feet to the screen door, knowing this would be hard for the both of them.
“Hey, Daddy. I’m about to head off.”
William’s back faced Beverly. His eyes filled with tears, his nose was runny like a faucet, and his muscles grew tight.
“Daddy you're not even gonna say goodbye?”
He slowly turned around ashamed of tarnishing his tough-guy front. Beverly’s eyes grew wide. She had only ever seen him cry one single tear from when his mother died, but never many tears and a runny nose. She dropped all her things and ran straight for him. Her arms stretched as far as they could reach to cradle every bit of his body.
“Daddy I’m gonna miss you.” Beverly’s once normal-toned voice changed to a squealing cry.
“I’m gonna miss you more Bubs.”
These were the only words that needed to be said to fill the space of their sadness. Each step Beverly took away from her house made her realize how much harder this life she wanted really was.
It was a foggy morning, the sun had just risen and the birds were beginning to chirp. The neighborhood was quiet, waiting for the day to begin.
Beverly walked a couple of blocks to the bus stop, it took her all the way down to the train station. She believed the train station was magical because it was a place of possibility. Many would leave one person and come back another. She hoped the same for herself. Her boarding time was 9:15 a.m. It was currently 8:45. The station filled with a baby’s laughter, the clucking of shoes, and of low chatter that could only be heard if listening close enough.
Each bit of the station was filled with a variety of people. Some were barely awake, their eyes too heavy, barely able to keep 2cm of their eyes open. Some looked as if they were out of place. Nicely stitched suits and dresses, along with their expensive bags beautifully constructed. Seeming as if they should own their own trains. And some were just there blending in awaiting an adventure or fearful of their quest.
In the middle of the station, a group of men slowly played minor chords. Each of them steadily focused on their instrument. The Blues was what they played. And one could tell by how their body grooved that the Blues was what they loved. Beverly was astonished by how she could feel their emotions through the music. That gift wasn’t given to everyone.
“Are y’all playing Everyday I Have the Blues by B.B. King?” Beverly’s eyes grew wide, making sure she was correct.
“Yes, it is. It’s one of our favorites.” The guy on the keys said. All of the other guys on their instruments nodded agreeing with his answer.
“Would you guys mind if I sang one song with y'all? I still have some time until my train gets here.”
“You can sing?” The guy on the sax questioned, his eyebrows rising.
“I believed so. Just give me a chance. If I sound terrible y'all can immediately stop me.”
All of the guys looked at each other, reading each other’s faces. From a stranger’s view, it seemed as if each guy wasn’t thinking the same idea. They turned in perfect sync.
“Alright, but what songs do you have in mind?” All of them questioned.
“At Last by Etta James?”
“Seems like you know your music. Miss?” The guy on the keys questioned.
“Nice to meet you Beverly,” each guy said individually.
“The guy on the Saxophone is Kenneth, the one playing the bass is Frank, Louis is on the drums, Clydes on the washboard and I’m Leonard on the keys.”
“Nice to meet y’all.” A smile trickled across her face.
The men started the intro of the song. It was slow, steady. They all anticipated the voice of Beverly’s. Awaiting to see if she could really sing.
“At Last … My love has come along.” Each word she sang stretched in a long elegant tone. Her words, crisp as a paper. The men had never heard a voice like hers. Not only did she make people feel her emotions, but she also brought out their own. As the song continued more and more people gathered. Astonished by her voice and the feeling they got from it.
“For you are mine … at last.” The men calmly played after her as the last of her words trickled out.
The tons of people surrounding her gave her a standing ovation. Each face beamed, grateful for what she gave them. All of their hearts warmed and sooth.
Without fully taking in her applause she realized it was 9:05, time flew by too fast.
“I gotta get going, I don’t wanna be late for my train.”
Each of the men’s faces frowned.
“We wish you could stay! That was some amazing singing of yours. We’ve never heard such a rich voice with a range like yours. Your going places. Wherever you’re going they’re lucky and blessed to have.” Leonard grinned hoping to see her again someday.
“Y’all are too nice. The same goes back for y’all. If you guys keep y’all heads up and keep playing like this there is no telling where all of y’all might end up.”
They all grinned gently, waving goodbye to Beverly, as she slowly glided away. The men started up a new song Unforgettable by Nat King Cole.
Beverly hated being late so she picked up her pace. Her heels clicked frantically trying to race time. A newspaper caught under her shoe challenging her balance. Her foot swooped up in the air. Her back straightened. And her bags flew out on either side of her hands. Her eyes elongated, displaying her fear. She slowly waited for the hard impact but was gracefully caught by someone. As Beverly’s eyes grew open she realized it was a man. A handsome man. His face was sculpted perfectly, his lips were full, his eyes brown like caramel. She could see her reflection through his eyes. She could see her dazed face.
“Miss, are you alright?” The soft-spoken man awaited for some answer.
“Yes, I'm alright. I must’ve lost my balance a bit.” She bit her lip embarrassed by the whole mishap.
“Let’s get you up.” He gently set her down from his arms onto her feet. He still held her hands, giving her extra balance.
“I’m so sorry I’m usually not this clumsy, I was just in a hurry to get to my train. Do you mind telling me the time?”
“There is nothing to be sorry about. I was watching the whole thing and that newspaper had a fight to pick. It is 9:10.”
“Oh darn it. Sorry, excuse my language. My train is at 9:15!”
He slowly chuckled under his breath. He wore a black suit, crafty stitched. His hair was freshly done, nicely slicked back. He too had a bag but as one examined closely the leather of it was neatly sewn, each piece perfectly woven.
“You don’t have to apologize again. I’m sure you will make it. If you don’t mind me asking, where are you headed?”
“New York! The place of possibility!” Beverly’s eyes sparkled.
“Me too, but my train leaves at 10:15.” This head grew down an inch. Even though he had just met Beverly just a second ago, he liked something about her. And he wanted to know more.
Beverly’s face grew hot and a corny smile struck across her face.
“It’s too bad, it would've been nice to talk to somebody. But sadly I gotta get going.”
“Let me walk you there, just in case another newspaper is plotting their revenge.”
They both chuckled.
“Sure, it’s always nice to have a protector of newspapers handy!”
“Since I’m gonna be your newspaper protector, I would love to know your name?” The man stared into Beverly’s eyes. It was a soft innocent gaze that made his cheeks flare up.
“What a beautiful name! I’m Theodore!”
“What a fine name of yours too!”
Theodore insisted on picking up Beverly’s bags to reduce the chances of another mishap to occur, but also because he wanted to impress her and show her he was a gentleman. Their pace picked up trying to reach the depot before the train left. They reached the train at exactly 9:14.
“Made it just in time, that’s a relief.”
Beverly’s once tensed-up shoulders lowered down. But as she looked around she realized not a single soul was by this depot except for her and Theodore. She took out her ticket to get a better look at it. She suddenly realized her train was scheduled at 10:15, not 9:15.
“I must’ve read my ticket wrong, it says 10:15 instead of 9:15.”
Her emotions were all in a swirl. She was so upset with herself because she couldn’t possibly understand how she read it wrong. But she realized she wouldn’t be on a train by herself but with Theodore. Yes, he was a stranger, but he was a kind, handsome gentleman who she could learn more about.
“Looks like we’re going to be on the same train!” Theodore’s eyes grinned.
“It seems like it! Since we have all of this time on our hands, do you wanna go sit down and wait for the train?” Beverly suggested
“That sounds like a great idea.”
They both walked over to an empty bench and laid their bags beside them. They set roughly 2 inches apart. Anyone looking in could feel the tension between the two.
“Why are you heading to New York?” Beverly asked.
“I actually work there. My family runs a business here in San Francisco, and they’ve been expanding over the years, and one of the places they’ve expanded to is New York. I used to go when I was a kid and I loved it so much. All of the big buildings and all of the food! When my family was talking about expanding to New York, I immediately volunteered to go and I’ve been there for 2 years now. I come back a lot to see my family and report about the business of New York!”
“Wow, you really have your life planned out. I wish it were that simple for me.”
“It wasn’t always this simple. At first, I didn’t even want to be a part of our family business, I wanted to be a painter. I wanted to be like Edvard Munch or Leonardo Da Vinci or even Pablo Picasso. But I realized I can still be a part of the family business and pursue my dreams. I paint and draw in my free time and even help with designs for the business.”
“I don’t even know how to respond to that, a true perfection. Following your dreams and making your parents proud! You're definitely gonna have to show me a good place to eat!”
“I would be honored, It would be considered rude if I didn’t.” He said it with a mix of sarcasm and seriousness.
Beverly’s body began to open to Theodore as if a layer of being strangers were removed. She analyzed his face, his hair, his hands, and even his eyes. She didn’t see one mark of imperfection.
“Why are you heading to New York?” Theodore questioned.
“My story isn’t as renowned as yours but I want to sing. Ever since I can remember, that’s all I have done and loved. When I sing it makes me forget every worry I’ve ever had and replaces it with a feeling of love and warmth. I have practiced and sculpted my voice for many years so I believe it is time for the world to hear it, not to sound conceited or anything. I know it’s a dumb dream.” Beverly’s eyes lowered
Theodore picked up her chin with a single finger and stared into her eyes.
“I was sitting on a bench probably 40 minutes ago when I heard something, this beautiful voice that I’ve never heard before. I walked over to see what it was coming from and it was you. You have an amazing voice but not only that you captivated people. That’s a gift many don’t have, but you do!”
Beverly smiled. Beverly had never felt so comfortable around anything like this before. She had never connected with someone so deeply in such a short amount of time. And she had never met someone like Theodore, so amiable, gentleman-like, handsome, and so self-determined.
“You're too kind Theodore!” Her eyes batted.
Their conversation continued speaking on their childhood, their family, and their hopeful future. Without realizing it 50 minutes passed and it was time for them to board their train.
“We gotta get going if we wanna make our train,” Beverly said.
They scurried and gathered their things heading for their depot. More people filled the depot than before. It was filled with elder men, teenage girls and boys, babies crying, and frantic parents. Each person’s expression was different but they all displayed a sense of anticipation for their travel ahead. As the doors of the train opened tons of people fled in as Unforgettable played to their arrival. Beverly and Theodore manage to find a way to end up in the same car. They had roughly four days together, which gave them a ton of time to learn the simplest things about one another.
“That’s all there is to read today.” Beverly slowly closed the book.
“Come on Grandma!! There is so much more of that book to read, we want to know what happened to Beverly and Theodore.” Each grandkid pleaded, hoping to convince her.
“Y’all parents are gonna be here soon. And it’s not like I’ll never read it again, unless…” Beverly’s neck gestured out.
“We’ll never be mean again Grandma.” Each kid said in their own way.
“Next time all of y’all come over we’ll read more. Does that sound like a plan?”
“Yaaay.” All of her grandkids shrieked.
“You know what’s weird, Beverly is your name grandma and that is the name of the woman in the story,” Theo suggested.
“That is weird isn’t it.” She grinned with all of her teeth.
The front door of the house drew open
“That must be our parents!” Theo said.
All of the grandkids ran towards the door. As each and every one of them left the room Beverly slowly got up and replayed Unforgettable. She gently rocked back in her chair and looked up over the fireplace at a painting of two young adults holding hands smiling. One could tell they were in love. The empire state building peered in the distance with many other tall builds. 1958 was lightly painted at the bottom.
“I miss you, Theo,” Beverly whispered
The music still played as she lightly rocked herself to sleep.