Honeysuckle Love
Author:S. Walden

Honeysuckle Love by S. Walden

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

Out of a desolate source, love leaps upon its course. ~ W.B. Yeats

 

 

 

Clara sat at the kitchen table that afternoon running her eyes over the papers. She had them spread out, covering every inch of the worn Formica table top, somewhat organized as she tried to make sense of each bill. And how she would pay them. There were several notices of unpaid electric bills. That was her first concern. She picked one up and read it again out loud: “This is your final notice. A payment of $332.79 is due no later than September 15 to avoid termination of service.”

 

She felt the dull pains of panic ripple through her chest—butterfly feelings of dread—and breathed deeply. Today was the twelfth. Three days before her house stopped humming with the sounds of running dryer, whirling fan, buzzing light bulb. She placed the notice back on the table and picked up another. She read to herself:

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Greenwich:

 

 

 

Our documents show that you are not up-to-date on your gas bill totaling $126.12. These charges include late fees. We have tried several times to reach you and have handed over the matter to Collections. You must make a payment on or before September 7 to avoid your gas service being terminated. Please contact us with questions or concerns.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

The Blue Flame Gas Co.

 

 

 

Clara dropped the letter on the table and moved to the stove. September 7. Five days ago. But she had used the stove the previous night. The gas was connected.

 

She turned the dial to one of the burners and listened for the familiar click click that ushers the burst of low blue flame. Click click click but no flame. Her heart dropped as she turned the dial to OFF and then back to START. Click click click . . . burst! She watched the flames shoot up, licking the burner insert hungrily. Clara stared at the flames reluctant to turn the burner off for fear that she would not see them again. She did turn it off when she realized she was wasting gas.

 

She returned to the table and picked up a sealed envelope. It was the only unopened envelope she found amidst the stacks of unpaid bills, and she wondered why her mother never opened it. Clara immediately feared the worst, an amount she couldn’t hope to pay off with the money she made working at a clothing store. The envelope was stamped Baltimore County State Department of Assessment and Taxation. Clara didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded official and menacing. And she knew what a tax was. Nothing good. She looked closely at the postmarked date: May 22. My God, she thought turning the envelope over and running a shaky finger under the flap.

 

She pulled out a letter of multiple pages and unfolded it carefully. She didn’t bother to read the writing, only scanning hurriedly over the first page for a number. There was no number. She flipped the first page over. No number. She searched the second page until her eyes fell on the big, bold ink at the bottom: $1523.63. Clara let out a strangled cry. She covered her mouth instinctively, turning to the hallway. She waited for her sister to emerge from her bedroom. But no one came. Beatrice did not hear.

 

Her eyes went back to the letter. This time she read it, fast and impatiently. Her mouth moved forming the silent words. Property tax. Two payments. One due July 1! She panicked as she continued reading. Payment may be made without interest on or before September 30 . . . Second installment is due December 1 but may be paid without interest on or before December 31 . . . Delinquent notices are issued in November and January . . . interest will accrue . . . interest will accrue . . .

 

Clara didn’t know she was crying. It wasn’t until a tear dropped on the page, spreading in an uneven circle over a smear of black words that she realized her physical response to the information. She placed the bill on the table and wiped clumsily at her eyes. She tried crying quietly; she did not want Beatrice to hear. She moved to the kitchen sink and leaned her head over the basin. The blood rushed to her face immediately; she felt it pulling her head down farther into the sink like a heavy weight. She thought if the sink were filled with water she might just let her face be pulled into it. Permanently.

 

She watched as the tears splashed into the empty basin making soft plopping noises in the quiet stillness of the small kitchen. A moan escaped her lips, and she slapped her hand over her mouth once more.

 

“Clare-Bear?” Beatrice asked from behind.

 

Clara stood up immediately and wiped her face. She took a deep breath and turned to face her little sister.

 

Ten-year-old Beatrice stood in the center of the kitchen holding a piece of paper in her hands. Her fingers were small, her fingernails short and stubby, painted with a cheery purple that was already chipping around her cuticles. Her blond brows were furrowed as she took stock of her older sister.