Before my sweet husband died, I liked white wine, specifically a light Germanic Riesling. Something about sticky honeysuckle paired with minerals while arguing with acidic lime was very exciting for me.
But after my husband’s death, I didn’t want excitement. I wanted soothing. I needed melody, something with body while I myself withered away. Mother tried to tell me to drink tea, as if that would do anything at all. Uncle Pete offered me a sip of his whiskey, but it bit back as it always had.
My hippy sister made me a strange tonic from her garden, it was all bubbly and tasted like vinegar. My less hippy sister gave me a handful of unmarked pills from her pharmacist husband. Though I appreciated the gesture, I’ve still got every single one in my medicine cabinet. My brother told me to take a shot of vodka, and get a hobby, like knitting.
Out of spite, I did, and I knit him a thong for his birthday. Unfortunately, the satisfaction from his panicked blush in the crowded room was only temporary. My rows and pearls were perfect, yet my heart was still frayed.
I tried turning back to my Riesling, but that wouldn’t do. Just as the first notes lifted from the glass, I knew it wasn’t right. I’d seen the love of my life placed into the dirt, and I was sure that was enough minerals and acid in my throat I’d ever need.
My only solace was among the leathery aroma of his closet, where his favorite onyx-studded belt still hung, and the smell of his cologne wafted off his shirts like a vanilla, pepper spiced ghost. What I needed was the taste of his lips when he’d find me at the gallery, soft and distinctly masculine and herbed from the rosemary crisps he snuck while listening to the artists I brought in that week. I needed the sultry deep colors he caused in my world when he touched the back of my neck at the dining table, promising a long dessert. I needed the warmth he left in a room, from the lingering smoke of his outdated pipe he insisted was classic, to the laughter he caused in every social circle.
I needed my husband.
I needed my husband.
I needed my husband.
The only other option was to untie my own line from the mooring of this life, and I just didn’t think my family could take that. So, like a good woman, a good widow, I did what needed to be done.
He had always been so proud of me. Whenever we hosted a new patron or budding artist for the gallery, he’d always find a time in the night to boast “There’s not a piece in this world she can’t get her hands on. If she wants it, she’ll have it. And you’ll see it in the gallery!” Then he’d laugh his big laugh and our guests would be laughing with him as he refilled their glass. It was charming how confident he was in me. And of course it helped that he was right.
So, after a few busy weeks of planning and scheduling, I returned to the gallery. I was afraid I would have to reestablish myself from quite low after so much time spent away, but the loyalty I had built there was still very strong. All the way from the haughtiest benefactor to the sweet, strong-backed workers who heaved the weighty sculptures to and fro, I was still offered trust and favor. And I would be thankful for each and every one.
My family noticed the change in me immediately.
“Oh dear, this is wonderful! I think getting back to work is a healthy decision.”
“There ya go kiddo, that’s a little smile I see.”
“I’m so happy, you’ve got a little color back in your face!”
Unlike the previous years, I did not spend my days working until dusk at the gallery, awaiting the sound of my husband’s Oxfords to come clicking across the marble to whisk me home. No, I took myself home in the afternoon so I could spend the rest of the day working in his old study.
And so it went. From the small sliver of window I allowed to escape the curtain, I watched the seasons change. Do-gooders would come see if I needed company on holidays or special occasions, knowing the firsts without him would be the hardest. They delivered champagne for New Years, Chambord for my birthday. But these well intentioned gifts sat untouched by the door. Because I didn’t need to try another salve. I wasn’t truly without him, not now. It was what comforted me as I worked.
A full year after my husband’s heartbreaking departure, I decided to throw a celebration of his life. A party he deserved that I had been unable to give him closer to his funeral, due to my dismal state.
I invited everyone who had ever brought cheer into his life: both our families, his old college rowing teammates, his partners at the firm (well, the ones he liked), the rotary club, every artist who had stepped foot in the gallery, their muses, and their patrons. I made sure our old neighbors and new neighbors could make it, the butcher from his favorite organic farm, the owners from all the vineyards we toured on both coasts and Europe, even the caterers were told that once food was set out, they were encouraged to join in; not a soul was to be left out of celebrating the one I cherished above all others.
And of course I furnished all the delectables he loved. Sage-buttered brisket, garlic lamb pops, squid sautéed in their own ink, enormous slabs of velvet cake, the kind of food that’s ridiculous to eat in a large crowd of people, which makes it all the more joyous to do so. And of course, best served with red wine and it had to be his favorite, Cabernet Sauvignon. I had several bottles flown in from every good year and terroir left on earth so that guests could have their choice within the varietal, but it was my demand that if you held a glass, it was filled with Cab Sav.
The night appeared to be a huge success. There was dancing out in the garden to the same jazz music that had played at our wedding. Where I worried the food may be too heavy, everywhere I looked models and athletes alike enjoyed a second, maybe third, helping. Even Mother touched my sleeve as I passed by and gave me a small smile, which made me pause long enough to realize she was in the middle of one of her lavish stories. Everyone seemed to be truly cheerful, and that was the best way I could think to dedicate a festivity to my love.
Before the revelry could ascend beyond control, I stood in the doorway of the patio and clinked my glass. It wasn’t near loud enough for them all to hear, but slowly the attention rippled through the crowd until there was hush enough for me to speak.
“First, I must thank you all for coming, and for indulging a widow in celebrating such a great man,” there was a round of cheers, “I could go on forever about how wonderful my husband was, but you all know it’s true, and many of you were kind enough to speak so here a year ago. Instead, I hope you’ll indulge me once more.”
I heard a few clinks as the cue was heard.
“You’ll see that waiters are coming around to fill your glasses afresh. This has been the passion project I’ve been working on these past many months that has brought me both closer to my late husband, and back to life. In his memory, I’ve made our very own Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Just a small batch to start, and for all of you, our dearest friends, to have the first taste with me, tonight.”
An enormous cheer went up in the crowd, and by the time the applause died down, all glasses were full and ready.
I raised my glass. “To my love!”
“Hear, hear!” They called back, and drank.
As I made another round of greetings, I received many genuine compliments on the wine! This person thought it had a nice fruit-forward mouth, this other loved the spiced back. Yet another detected the tobacco I’d worked so hard to capture.
I must say it was very reassuring. I had a small worry all my work may have been a fool’s errand. But I had to agree with them, it was a satisfactory wine. I stole away to the study for a private moment with my second taste.
Swirl Yes, like a mist of plum over the blood red surface.
Sip The pepper hits first, then his vanilla, and the leather last.
Swallow And just as with him, it is the slight smoke that lingers, and the warmth spreading into my fingers.
Another sip, and I pick out the more earthy, mosslike tones as well. They hadn’t been my favorite when I settled on a blend, but I felt they were appropriate to keep, considering what I’d gone through to get them.
As I passed back through to rejoin my guests, I caught myself in one of the hall mirrors. I did indeed have a nice glow about me. They were right what they said- a little color back in my face. Though I could do without the stain red wine leaves on one’s lips.
Yet, what a small sacrifice to taste my husband again. Beauty may be in the eye, but flavor… that’s in the heart.
Tincture: (noun) 1. Medicine made by dissolving a drug in alcohol. 2. A slight trace of something. (verb) Be tinged, flavored, or imbued with a slight amount of.
Happy Hallow’s Eve!
This year looks a bit different for most people when it comes to Halloween, but that doesn’t mean we can miss out on the good stories. For myself, I am a scardy cat, but I still really love scary stories! I’ve wondered why that is for a long time. I think it has to do with the mystery, the intrigue. To actually be a scary story, it has to be well written. Think of stories that have truly spooked you- they’re all good authors, right? You have to know your way around timing and character, laying down the law and the land and a few clues to really draw someone in.
So attempting to write a scary story is actually really good practice for growing authors (such as myself). It helps you find that sweet spot of how much to tell readers, when to pull back, if a gotchu-moment is right for this one, when it’s not, etc. It’s interesting to say the least!
Today’s story was inspired by an actual TRUE story, themed much like the one above- a little sweet, a little spooky, and it is that of the Mother of Horror herself, Mary Shelley. If you don’t know what she used to keep in her desk, go check it out! Also just read up on Mary Shelley in general, because although she did not have the best life, she was a fascinating person that had really interesting things happen to her, and in between some of it she wrote Frankenstein.