Two of Swords
One of the orange sodium lights was out. Alexandra could see it was the last but one at the farther end of the permanently deserted platform. The recently installed radiator burned her knees, and her hands picked up a less extreme warmth from the rippled cream painted surface of the window cill directly above it. Beyond the frail net curtained panes of the old sash window the night temperature looked to have dropped to below freezing.
Alexandra liked the night time view partly because of its now acquired familiarity. But it was also a view of contrast. An unpopulated dreamscape just for her. The station had long since ceased to be. Only the occasional day time goods train trundled by the disused platform now, serving the near by industrial estate. The one bedroom first floor flat came at an absurdly low rent. Yet Alexandra had made it cosy. Inside, her safe haven, her retreat, her domain. Outside, the alternative dream. The vaguely, yet still deliciously menacing sodium night.
A rare, involuntary smile briefly lifted one side of Alexandra's mouth.
Who else would choose to live in this shadowy industrial waste-world a good two miles outside of town? The steel shuttered and padlocked ground floor of the former Station House now stored rack upon rack of enormous paper rolls.
An unbroken white picket fence ran the whole length of the back edge of the former platform under the glare of the hook shaped sodium lamps. Very occasionally on the bumpy weed grown surface of the waste ground directly behind it a courting couple might park up for a half hour. Or maybe a tom with a client? Closer to, the half collapsed wire mesh fence running from the derelict weigh bridge house helped provide a tenuous support for a straggly bramble which had somehow managed to take root in the oily dirt there.
Rather as Alexandra had done she supposed. The ever present glow of nearby civilization tinted the nearer horizon. Her own personal AuroraBorealis. Reluctantly she turned away from the window, carefully re-drew the thermal lined curtains, and faced her upstairs living room.
A view of contrast. A low, new, pine wood coffee table occupied centre stage upon the new, plain beige carpet. Immaculate, mushroom soup coloured walls dotted here and there with tasteful green landscapes in gilded frames. A real coal effect electric fire glowing cheerfully in the brand new fake marble fireplace. Everything bright, shiny, new.
Alexandra crossed over to the the flat screen T.V. in the corner and switched off the 'Amelie' DVD even though it was playing through the Ghost Train scene which was one of her most favorite parts. But now was not the right time for it. She turned her attention to the coffee table. The deck of tarot cards which James had given her for her birthday six years before lay unboxed upon it. The many times read letter lay four ways folded on the MFI bookshelves over by the door.
Alexandra passed by the table, through the door, and out into the corridor. She turned the key in the mortice locked door at its end, and descended the enclosed right angled staircase which led down to her ground floor entrance. The stairs were carpeted, and two pairs of innocuous prints faced one another across the otherwise bare walls. At the bottom she checked the massive locks and chain on the re-enforced steel door which she'd had installed there. She recalled as she did at this time every night the strange looks of the three man team of builders - two of them Irish - who had needed a full day and a half to fit it.
Satisfied, she re-traced her steps and re-secured the stair head door behind her. She re-entered her living room. The white shaded ceiling light was turned up bright, augmented by the two lacquered brass standard lamps in their diagonally opposite corners.
Alexandra knelt stiffly down on the deep pile carpet beside the coffee table and gingerly touched the deck of cards. She glanced up at the door. If only James would walk through it! She picked up the deck and closed her slender fingers around it. It felt like nothing more than pieces of card. She began to carefully shuffle the seventy-eight cards. She had been reading the slim booklet which had come with them, but had found no real insights into their purpose nor function. She replaced the well shuffled deck on the varnished pine surface. She tightly closed her eyes for a few moments and sought to focus her thoughts upon the question. She looked around the comfortable room once more. Taking a deep breath she slid the top most card off the deck and turned it face up.
The Chariot: Alexandra had decided upon the simplest of the spreads in the booklet. Three cards only. Past, present, and future.
With a growing sense of uneasy comprehension she took in the image. An antique chariot pulled by two galloping horses - one white, one black - hurtling across a desert landscape with a great bank of clouds on the horizon. The charioteer, in Saracen like light amour, yelling at the steeds for yet more speed. Clouds of dust thrown up by hooves and wheels alike trailing behind.
Alexandra lightly touched the card's exposed surface. A vehicle. Speed. Recklessness.
She quickly turned over the next card on the deck.
The image portrayed a long haired young woman seated on some sort of throne on a sea shore. She was wrapped in a heavy cloak, was blindfolded, and appeared to be balancing two upright swords in her hands. The Two of Swords. Alexandra quickly flipped through the pages of the little booklet.
'Key Aspects', she read. 'Repression of emotions, defensiveness, vacillation, log jammed, burying one's head in the sand'. She read the sentence through twice more. The present. That's me then, is it?
So what about the future then? The cards had been a secondary gift only. A bit of joke really. She and James had laughed about them at the time. She reached out for the deck once more, then quite suddenly stayed her hand, replaced the revealed pair back onto the pile, then slipped the whole lot back into their box. She got to her feet and went over to the bookshelf, and again unfolded the year old letter. The enclosed photograph of the small boy she caught in her free hand as it dropped out.
Cassandra. What kind of a name was that? She had never liked her. The good looking blonde hell raiser who had seduced her only child, got herself pregnant, married him, and then just months later caused the high speed car crash which had claimed his life. She gazed down at the small picture cradled in her other hand. He would be nearly four now. James' son. Her grandson.
Alexandra let out a long, pent up breath, and sensed a weight finally lifting from her shoulders. She would reply to the letter, she would re-establish some kind of contact with Cassandra and her young grandson. The decision had had to be hers, and hers alone, and so ultimately it had been.
She turned her eyes back into the room again, noting the tarots back in their box still stood on the table. Softly, under her breath, Alexandra whispered: “Thank you, James.”
Copyright Terence Hugh Hazelton, 2010.
Published on writebuzz®:
> Stories & Scripts