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Authors: Kris Radish

Tags: #Literary, #Fiction

The Elegant Gathering of White Snows

BOOK: The Elegant Gathering of White Snows
5.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Contents

 

Cover Page

Title Page

Dedication

Author's Notes

 

C
HAPTER
O
NE

C
HAPTER
T
WO

C
HAPTER
T
HREE

C
HAPTER
F
OUR

C
HAPTER
F
IVE

C
HAPTER
S
IX

C
HAPTER
S
EVEN

C
HAPTER
E
IGHT

C
HAPTER
N
INE

C
HAPTER
T
EN

 

Epilogue

About the Author

Praise for
The Elegant Gathering of White Snows

Preview for
Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn

Copyright Page

 

This book is for all the women I love, have loved, will always love, have yet to love. Most of you know who you are—the rest—get ready. It is especially for my mother. She was my first girlfriend and remains the best.

 

A
UTHOR'S
N
OTES

 

S
OMETIMES A STORY FORMS
in a writer's mind that will not let her sleep, rest, breathe, or stop to change her clothes. This is what happened with
The Elegant Gathering of White Snows
. This story, all these women, their lives, their sorrows, joys, losses—it all came to rest in my mind, heart, and soul and this story came alive. These women became my friends. I talked with them. They whispered in my ears when I fainted above my computer keys. I felt their hands on my shoulders.

Their voices became the voices of all women. I truly believe that, but there are some distinct voices that need to be thanked. No one writes a book alone. It is impossible.

From the beginning it was my mother who formed my feelings on female friendship and for that I am grateful every day of my life. The way she talked with her women friends, loved them, spread them into her world. It was a fine example. My Auntie Barbara also held my hand as a young girl and then as a young woman taught me the joys of sharing laughter, secrets, and a “what the hell” attitude that has steered me through more than one blind alley. My Girl Scout leader, Mary Baker, gave me the fine gift of adult friendship and she inspired me to be myself—no matter how tough that might be. I will always love her.

There are dozens of female musicians who worked as artistic muses while I formed the words to tell this tale. Nanci Griffith and Laura Nyro were the strongest voices and their music was an inspiration.

Bev Siligmueller told me a wonderful story about a tea and she became the source for the title and the main thread in this book. Todd & Holland Tea Merchants in Illinois deserves credit for helping me understand the sacred rituals of tea and for keeping my own tea bin full. My cup runneth over.

When everyone else grew sick of the sadness, sorrow and joy in the very real lives of these women walkers my dear friends Carolyn Sorensen Balling, Coni Thorn, Kristine Klewin, Lauryn Axelrod, Pat Steuer and Jean McGoff, Vickie Radish, Audrey Limbert, Marie Dorothy Finegan and Betty Fowler kept pace with each step of this story.

My editor, Vicki McConnell, made the words in this book that were humming sing very loudly. Vicki, I kiss your face. Nina Miranda, Spinsters Ink woman extraordinaire, pushed and pulled in the right places against enormous odds. Nina—you are a treasure. My photographer, Lisa Witte, who has tremendous talents, not only captured my image but helped me through a particularly difficult time during my own Elegant Gathering. Lisa—you are a gift.

My daughter, Rachel Ann Carpenter, and all the daughters of the world, also need to know about the glorious spiritual connection that all women hold and the power women have to change and charge the world. This book is real. A movement—one foot first—can inspire and change the world.

My fondest wish is that every woman in the world would have the chance to experience her own Elegant Gathering.

 

C
HAPTER
O
NE

 

J
UST A GLASS.
Balanced for a moment as brief as a breath. Like a confused dancer undecided about a direction here on the edge of the ancient yellow Formica counter. A speck of light filters through the crystal etchings on this last, best glass, one of three remaining after years and years of life following the goddamned wedding.

Susan watches the glass, her hand stretched out in a flat welcome, her stomach moving in waves as the glass falls and Susan, always anticipating the next movement of everything, moves with it.

“Shit!” She screams as the glass punches through the soft skin in the folds of her fingers. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” The blood gushes, covering the spot where she used to wear a ring and then down onto wrists that are as thin as the stem of the broken glass. Before a drop of blood hits the floor, before Susan can raise her hand, before a thought can form, the women come running.

There is a concert of unrehearsed movement on the kitchen floor. Alice runs for the dishcloth; Chris is on the floor cradling Susan in her arms; Sandy is looking to make certain the good bottle of wine has not spilled. Joanne and Janice are crouched like frogs close by, their hands dangling between their legs; Gail guards the small door between the kitchen and the living room, and Mary is poised to grab more towels and maybe, if the cuts are deep enough, those big bandages she knows Susan keeps on the shelf behind the kitchen sink.

“Is it deep?” Chris asks, extending her fingers around the tiny bloody wrist where a red-colored stream begins moving over her own fingers.

Everyone waits. There is a silence that reaches toward Susan, who answers by pushing herself into Chris's chest, bending her head so she can lie against her friend. Then there is the unspoken gesture of Alice slipping the stained dishcloth into Chris's free hand, and Chris placing it around the bloody wrist once and then twice like she is wrapping a holiday gift.

“Hey,” Susan stutters, a whimper visibly rising from her stomach through her chest and toward any opening it can find. “I'm fucking pregnant, fucking, fucking pregnant.”

There it is, suddenly as plain as the long splinters of glass. Forget the blood, forget the crystal glass, forget every damn thing. Everyone moves closer, except Sandy, who reaches for the bottle of wine, grabs the plastic cups off the side of the table and then sets them down in a circle around the bottle of wine.

“Oh honey,” Alice says, reaching without thinking to run her fingers, already bent with arthritis, into the edges of Susan's incredibly short hair. “It's okay, sweetie, we're here now, we're here.”

Susan weeps into Chris as if she is a giant Kleenex and although Chris has never rocked her own babies, she rocks Susan. Back and forth, back and forth, while the other women slide closer, reaching first for a glass of wine until the eight women are touching, breathing, drinking, sitting in a mass that has quickly surrounded Susan and Chris.

“How pregnant?” asks Gail.

“Just barely,” whispers Susan. “I found out yesterday.”

“I take it this isn't the best news you ever had?” Chris already knows the answer. “Oh, you poor, poor girl.”

Everyone knows right away. They know without Susan saying a thing, without looking into anyone else's eyes, without a single movement in the room. Susan knows they know. These women have seen the lining of her soul, the secrets of her heart, the insides of her mistakes and faults. When they walked into her house thirty minutes ago under the pretense of one of their charmed female gatherings and saw the circles under her darting eyes, saw her hair matted to one side, saw the newspapers stacked on the living room table, saw only one car in the driveway, they knew.

“It's not John's baby. Oh Christ, it's not John's baby.”

While it is impossible for the women to sit any closer to each other, they quickly try, tucking under legs, clasping their plastic cups, scooting sideways, brushing shoulders and pushing their rear ends just another inch closer to Susan and Chris.

“Does John know?” Mary asks quietly, knowing already that the one thing John is ever in and out of is a hell of a lot of trouble, and definitely not a wife he most likely hasn't had sex with in twenty years.

“I don't even know where John is,” Susan answers. “A clinic in Milwaukee knows, but that's it. John hasn't been here for a long time. He's gone, he's always gone, he's always been gone.”

Now there are a thousand things to say and the women are restless, tapping the plastic cups with nervous fingers, holding back questions, wanting to skip over the obvious and find a solution, solve a problem, help their friend, a woman they love. But they wait, because they know this has to happen slowly, and they want it to be perfect and right and cautious, just a little bit cautious, because Susan has never been like this, and it's important, so important.

“Let's pull the glass out of that hand before we go any further,” Alice says. “Here, just open your fingers, and let me clean this up.”

Alice, with her bent fingers, is the one who knows about babies born and unborn, alive and dead, and when she touches Susan, picking the little shards of glass out one at a time and dropping them into Janice's outstretched hand, she tries hard to think only of that. “There now. We'll just put a few Band-Aids on those fingers, and I think you'll be fine.”

The Band-Aids are passed over, more wine is poured, and Sandy and Mary quickly pick up the remains of the glass and drop the pieces onto the shelf where Susan keeps her recipe boxes and cookbooks.

BOOK: The Elegant Gathering of White Snows
5.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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