The Smallest Things



Scene Title The Smallest Things
Synopsis A demonstration of a marriage that goes well until they remember who they're dealing with.
Date March 2, 2010

Small town in Sevier County, Tennessee

Ghosts fill the house. Joseph's not even thinking about the bad memories, the dead memories. White sheets cover the furniture, protecting each item from gosh knows what. Dust, he supposes, or maybe the decay of time itself, preserving it immortal under baptismal white. He didn't even know she'd moved out, until she told him so on the drive down from the airport, and now he can see it for himself, and marvel. Knowing he's gonna have to refit it, he drags off one of the sheets anyway, watches the hem skim along the rich mahogany dining table, one of the old prides of the Sumter household. It's plain, elegant, and has hosted many a respectable dinner.

He remembers with a sharper clarity than he should— or maybe he just remembers the trip, it's become woefully blurry, now— the sound of clinking cutlery, easy conversation, polite chuckles and the feel of Claira's hand beneath the table clutching his own. These lil' get togethers ain't what they used to be. Last night with the Morgan's had been stilted, and there had been no couply secret handholding to see him through. They'd asked him how New York was treating him.

And he couldn't even really tell them about the friends he'd made. Bundling up the white and letting it mountain on top of the polished, dark wood, Joseph gravitates towards the kitchen door, and pauses.

Claira stands with her back to him, and he reckons she's thinking of ghosts, too. Her hair is, as ever, perfectly straight, coming to a hedging dip down the centre of her back, thick blonde with finer strands forever flying free, the plastic clips curved against her skull designed to tame the wilder fly aways, but she can never get them all. The rose-red sweater she wears hugs her torso, the spill of a dark skirt ending above the knee, down to wear her feet are clad in womanly leather ankle boots with what Joseph would not be able to identify as kitten heels. They look kind of silly to him. As far as he can tell, she's peering out the kitchen window for guests of some kind.

Or maybe watching the spring rain flood down the glass. He wonders, idly, if it's still like winter in New York. "Hey," he greets, despite the fact they came here together. She turns, smiles, and goes to him. It's almost achingly easy, the way Joseph puts his arms around her, and she rests her head down against his shoulder.

Five minutes pass. Maybe even less.

Still raining by the time they get around to Joseph flying back that evening, and you know what? He's not even sure she wants him to stay. But for Claira, it just don't make no damn sense. These words exactly have already flown back and forth, and Joseph knows that something not making sense isn't exactly affirmation that yes, she wants him to stay. When pressed, though—

"Joseph," Claira sighs, her fingertips pressing to her temples, palms diagonal like horse blinkers, before coming down to clasp together like a prayer. "Of course I do. I can't know how things'll work out but it won't if you're in some other state. What do you have back there anyhow?"

"Nothing. I mean— I could rebuild."

Watching her face is like watching weak foundations give so that brick and mortar crumble, the slope of her forehead crinkling and mouth parting in silent disbelief. A wide eyed and avid gaze fixes fast, and her hands remain primly tangled together. "What do you mean, rebuild? You mean the church? The one that got burned down? Joe— " And she only ever calls him Joe when she's mad, even as her expression turns sweet. Her hands, cool as ever, seek his. "You got a church right here, and they'll welcome you back, we all would. If you're worried about your— you know, folks are more tolerant than they…"

Her voice goes into white noise when Joseph simply stops caring to listen, more concerned with detangling his warmer fingers from her's. "Tolerant? I don't want to be tolerated, Claira." There's that tired look on her eyes. Here we go again. He knows he has the same expression. Here we go again again.

"Words, Joe? Really? You gonna fight me over words?"

"They ain't just words. What are you gonna do, tolerate Hannah?" Quick as a snake, he sees her mood change, which is why Joseph already has his hands up, and his steals around her wrist when she brings it up, her blue eyes gone stone. He can feel it, the sliver of strength going through her arm from where she had wound it back to deal the aborted blow. "Oh come on, Claira!"

Her arm remains poised, raised, forgotten. "Don't you dare say such a thing about my girl. You don't know— "

"You haven't even had her get tested, have you?" As a Ferryman, and all, Joseph would advocate that Claira not do this for as long as she can get away with it, but New York seems a long way away. Joseph lets her go when she reels back, mouth pinched, gold-spun hair swinging when she turns a heel to stalk around the kitchen island, uselessly. "Look at us. We can't go a few minutes in this damn room without fighting." Because it is always the kitchen, the sectioned off battlefield, the way the bedroom became his and the living room because her's and the bathroom was neutral territory but the kitchen was where the action was. "Do you remember what you said? It was after I gave you the vision for the— " And he hates the way she flinches, but he soldiers on. "— first time, and we weren't sure what it was. If it was nothin', or if it was you, and you said— "

"This ain't fair."

"No, you said, 'I'm not a freak.' That's what you said."

"Joe, I didn't call you a— "

"Yeah, you did."

"Then just go!" The sudden octave of a shriek stalls Joseph for a moment, jarred by the ugly sound coming from his wife, and instantly guilty that he'd caused it in some way. She's not crying — pink, her face has gone, wild, her eyes have gone, and her hands spread out and splay like she might just rip something to pieces, and it might just be him. "Why'd you even come back! Just go, I don't even— " There, a tiny crack, riveting through her voice. It sounds more like frustration than grief. "I don't even know you anymore. And you dunno me anymore."

Rain patters against the windows, the roof, gurgles in gutters, contributes a new sensory cue about the box they're in, cupping them with sound in their own little world. Joseph's chest feels tight and Claira's shoulders have gone loose. With the cautiousness that one approaches a wild animal, Joseph moves around the table, and touches her arm. She doesn't move. "We could try," he suggests. "I could cancel the flight. Hell— sit in here all day and all night gettin' to know each other again."

She's shaking her head, steering a look up towards him, cool if by now a trifle watery. "I don't want to," she pronounces, carefully, with the precision an archer knocks the arrow to the bow. "And I don't think you do either."

They don't exactly shake hands in departure. He kisses her cheek, and leaves the house rotating the wedding band loosely in his palm. She's taking the car. He'd told her he wanted to go see the old shed up the hill. Yes, even in this weather, don't worry about me. And he walks like he doesn't intend to stop. He walks like he might just go back the way he came on foot. No matter which direction, it's not going home.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License