Beyond the Stained Glass



(mildly R at the end)


I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.

An Anniversary Story, sequel to Thank You … Love


It was not their first morning together. Nor the second. Not the third. Though every day together was a celebration, every moment a triumph. Every dawn – with her, because of her – a glory.

Her head on his shoulder, she was snug at his side, the mound of her breasts against his ribs, the gentle swell of her belly at his hip. Hours ago, her hand stroking the contour of his clavicle and deltoids, his trapezius and pectorals, she’d whispered him her stark mountain, an old-soul rock with roots in eternity, the beacon materialized at last from the mists – her sacred home. If he were – and at the memory, he pulled in a hitching, shallowed breath – if he were, then she was the satin, velvet, silken cloud that moved along his crest, that softened every jagged ridge, that settled to his every emptiness, shimmering bringer of dreams, refractor of light, brightener of all hopes. But before he’d managed to gather his prismed thoughts, she sighed and nuzzled his cheek, when he turned to her kissed him fully – if more promising than seeking – falling asleep before her lips parted from his, sinking to the pillow of his chest. He could not imagine the imperative necessitating he shift her from the crook of his arm, and now his respiration stirred the fine hair at her crown. Her leg gentled between his thighs; a contentment sounded low in her throat. Her fingers moved, burrowing deeper into the thatch at his bosom as if seeking his quickened heart. She was, he knew, most definitely, deeply, determinedly, asleep, but he would swear she smiled. 

They would not leave these rooms today, they’d vowed. Or this bed, she’d added, arching her brows when he listed any number of inevitable reasons they surely must. You know what I mean, she murmured so thrillingly close to his ear, and he gasped when she clamped her hand – hard – about his leg just above his knee. I do. I won’t. We won’t. Now he eased his arm up and over his head, the flexing muscle encouraging her transfer onto the waiting feather pillow. Only when he was sure of her steadied rhythm did he slip from their covers, careful to keep the chamber-cool air out. He pulled the quilts higher, bunched them close, though he craved – evidently, incontestably – a long look at her peach-ivory skin, an inventory of her sweet shadows. If she chose this moment to open her eyes, to turn and seek him out, she would laugh at his … conspicuousness. Her perfect, trilling laugh that he could not, would not resist. It crossed his mind to stumble into the bedside table, to rattle the spent candelabra, flutter the pages of the book of poetry open there. 

But to wake her now …

He followed the trail of his cast-off clothing, dressing almost as hurriedly as he had earlier disrobed. There was something he must do … and do quickly. If they had counted the sacrifice, admitted the fears, there was one left – this day of all days, he’d best return before she found him gone.

Even in a land where time did not depend on the rise and set of the sun, morning had broken. Traffic on the pipes, bustle in the passageways. There was no shortcut to his destination save through their central corridors, past the library, past Father’s chamber. He considered a deeper detour, a less-peopled but circuitous route, dismissing the bypass as he shrugged into his shirt – a half-hour he dared not add to his absence. If luck were with him, Father might yet be at tea.

Once on his way, he tried for a meditative expression – a downturn of his lips, a preoccupied, path-centered stare, a slow, controlled stride – his habitual sway, he believed, familiar enough to call no notice, broody enough to recommend quiet berth. But memory and anticipation sped his step, pulled his gaze skyward, and at the edge of his vision, he noted the the smiles of the passersby, mirror to his, noted the liberty they granted him. He rounded the crucial bend. Father leaned from the alcove of his entryway as if he’d waited with a sentry’s notice of his approach. 

“Vincent!” Father exclaimed, stepping out into his path. “I, ummm, didn’t expect to see you today, but since …” And he gestured the way back into his chamber. 

But having at last said yes, he was learning to say no. There was no necessity in Father’s request, only custom. Indeed, he would define emergency … today, at least. “You don’t,” he said.

Behind his spectacles, Father’s brows knitted. “I don’t … what?”

He reached out, rested a hand on Father’s shoulder, gave it a tender squeeze. “You don’t … see me.”

* * *

“There’s a place,” she’d told him, “a special place in the park. Behind the Met, across from Cleopatra’s Needle. The trees there – the Japanese magnolias, the crabapples … when everything else is brown and gray, suddenly– I watch for it every year, the bloom. Oh, Vincent,” she said, brushing her fingertips across his cheekbone, down the slope of his jaw. “I wish you could see it.”

She could say that now. She did say it, with care but without qualm. He’d caught her hand, pressed a kiss to those fingers. He knew the spot she described, one he shied from in the park’s winter. In an alley between the Great Lawn and East Drive, the monument, before the canopy leafed out, was too easily viewed by passing motorists, by the museum’s night watchmen. “Tell me,” he encouraged her. “Take me there.”

Indescribable, she declared, yet he saw and felt and smelled springtime. A luminous profusion, exuberant and sensuous. A sweet, clean perfume, lemony, almost spicy. The blossoms saucers, cones, and stars. Cloud-white, some of them, sugar-white, pearl and cream. Shell-pink, others – blush, pale rose, the pink of a ballerina’s satin slipper. Some the color of strawberry ice cream – peppermint and raspberry. Some a richer fuchsia, some a royal magenta. “They’re … ephemeral,” she told him. “The blooms last only a few days before they begin to fall. The petals are thick on the grass and the path, and so tender they show the treads of shoes across them.”

“A magical window,” he agreed. “Open for such a very short time. There must be a moment, before anyone comes …”

“Yes,” she answered, and for a moment looked away. “Sometimes,” she went on, “the trees blossom early, in March; sometimes a frost takes the buds, and the trees go straight to green. But most years, the flowers come in April.” She smiled and brushed his lips with her thumb. “They’re blooming now, Vincent. Now. Today.”

* * *

Walking would not do. He gained speed, leaned into a pace, but his heart’s rhythm asked more, asked for match, and spurred by some strong welling he leapt out above a blurred terrain. Leave all the old patterns behind, release all that weighted and clouded and deprived. Unlearn the fears. Drink in the cool, fresh air; embrace the newness so long longed for. Surrender. Surrender to love. Never again be afraid to want it. Never again deny the deserving. The prize before him was so great … and he had already won.

He skidded to a stop before the secret door within Greywacke Arch, put his shoulder to it. The sandstone and red and white brick panel pivoted open. Early, yet not too early for the grounds-worker or the solitary runner. Still he did not hesitate. He was changed – eased and softened – and so the world above was changed. As Adam early in the morning, Walking forth from the bower … behold me where I pass … Touch me. Touch the palm of your hand to my body. Be not afraid of my body.1  Love made him bold, not reckless but sure. The obelisk was but steps away. We are here to risk ourselves, meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman, for a gift given against all the odds.2

He slipped out into soft shadow, and then … into the light. 

* * *

“I’m not asleep,” she murmured, sunk into pillows, cocooned in the quilts. 

“I see that.” He sat down on the side of the bed, and his weight dragged the blanket from from its high tuck. Her shoulder appeared, the definition of her arm. He stroked damp hair from her cheek. While he was gone, she’d risen, washed her face, returned to bed to wait for him. He was a lucky, lucky man. He bent to untie his boots.

“Where did you go?”

“Above,” he said, once he pulled his sweater and his henley free. He shook out his hair. She’d replaced the dwindled candles, relit the sconces and candelabras. The room fairly danced with light – more so than was customary, he considered. Perhaps his vision was altered, perhaps the new brilliance was not just Catherine, but the two of them together. Truly … together in this room, in this life. Her eyes were wide, her pupils dilated. He smiled at her, smiled more broadly when her gaze traveled to his cloak, still wadded with her jacket in a heap on the floor. He brought up his package. “I have something for you.”

He’d had nothing with him to carry the petals home to her, nothing save his blue chamois shirt, soft from years of wear, the very color of the April sky, he realized for the first time. He’d spread the garment open, scooped the just-fallen blossoms from the ground and into it, buttoning the buttons over his treasure, carefully bringing the tails and the neck and the two arms together. A few, he decided, he’d press between the pages of a heavy tome. He’d run home with the bundle held out away from his body, determined to crush not one velvet petal. Now he let them flurry down on her perfect skin.

There will I make thee beds of roses,” she whispered, gathering in a quick breath when he stirred the petals drifted between her breasts.

“Or in our day and time … beds of magnolias.” He drew her pearled nipple into his mouth, breathed in the scent that was part-sun, part-flower, part glory. He would touch her … here … … and here … … … and here … with loving hands, with hands that could gather tender blossoms and bring them home unmarred. The welling returned, filling his chest, his throat. His heart pounded. 


Joy. What happens to us, he’d once read, when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.3 

It was true.

It was theirs. 


I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

~  Pablo Neruda



Next in the Beyond the Stained Glass arc is The Thing With Feathers


Pablo Neruda. Every Day You  Play. #XIV – 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair (title, opening quote, end quote).

1. Walt Whitman. As Adam Early in the Morning. Leaves of Grass – Children of Adam. 1881-1882.
2. David Whyte. Longing. Reader’s Circle 2012-2-13.
3. Marianne Williamson. A Woman’s Worth. 1994.





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