Fifty: Old Ghosts

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Episode 1, Part 2

York Mills, Ontario

Every window was illuminated in the luxurious home situated in a quiet cul-de-sac of Toronto’s most affluent suburb, creating a beacon in the midst of the otherwise sleepy neighborhood sufficient for guiding ships to harbor in Lake Ontario on a foggy night.

Upstairs in the master bedroom, Brooke was pacing the floor, hissing undiluted venom with careful enunciation to ensure every word was heard loud and clear through the receiver of the iPhone that was lying face-up on an end table in speaker mode.

“…and I can’t even say I’m surprised, Amanda.  After all, you couldn’t be bothered to show up for my wedding or Tabitha’s bat mitzvah or—

“I don’t consider someone’s third marriage something that rises to the level of an occasion.”

What?  It was my second wedding, you little shit, but now that you mention it, I don’t recall you gracing us with your presence at the first one, either.  Just forget I even called.  It’ll be far more gratifying to accept this award withoot having to see your bitchy face sneering up at me from the audience.”

Brooke snatched her phone from the table and hung up, feeling briefly nostalgic for the days when one could punctuate unpleasant telecommunications with a furious slam of the headset into a receiver.  Amanda had been correct, of course.  Elliot Hoffman was Brooke’s third husband, but rather than acknowledge the mortifying emotional abuse she’d endured from Augustin, she chose instead to pretend that memories of her impetuous Parisian nuptials were merely the contents of an oddly recurrent bad dream.

She had fallen for Augustin the moment she heard him vociferously lecturing a group of students in a shady courtyard of École Internationale.  It was two months after she’d enrolled at the institution, so Brooke felt vulnerable and memories of home were fresh.  Regardless, Augustin’s youthful passion and shoulder-length raven-black hair were enough to obscure from her conscious mind the fact that he was just as aggressively misogynistic as her father, another topic which Brooke found prudent to avoid.  It had taken a considerable effort to refrain from spitting in his casket at the funeral last year.

Shaking off these unpleasant psychic intrusions, Brooke turned her thoughts to a week from tonight, when she would be a nominee for the Womenswear Designer of The Year at the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards.  A faint smile crossed her face as she remembered someone from long ago and retrieved the phone from her pocket.

 *************************

Our Lady of Sorrows Convent
Vancouver, British Columbia

“Sister Courtney!”

From the far end of the corridor, Sister Regina skipped to Courtney’s side, her habit swaying precariously from side to side before her sneakers slid to a squeaky halt upon catching up with her comparatively reserved friend.

“Hi, Regina.  What’s up?”

“I saw your brother on Jimmy Fallon last night – he’s sooo funny!”

“Yeah, that seems to be the consensus.”

“He’s dreamy, too.  If he ever decides to pay us a visit, my vow of chastity is toast!”

“You sound pretty confident.  Listen, I have something important that I need to discuss with Mother Judy.  Have you seen her?”

“Sure, she’s down in the church basement helping pick up after last night’s 12 Step meeting.  For a bunch of sober guys, they sure do treat our place like a dive bar.”

“Yeah, I guess…I’ll see you around.”

Sister Regina bit her lip and stared after her friend as she disappeared down the north stairwell.  Something wasn’t right.  She hadn’t seen Courtney laugh or even crack a smile in weeks and her manner had become uncomfortably brooding.  She thought back to morning mass and remembered something else: Sister Courtney neglected to make the sign of the cross at the commencement of the Gospel, and she hadn’t lined up to receive communion with the rest of the nuns, opting instead to remain in her pew and stare straight ahead.

Regina resolved that this afternoon, she would have her own private chat with the Mother Superior.

*************************

Vancouver, B.C.

Jerry finished swabbing the last of the tables in the back room, whipped off his apron and killed the lights.  The quiet three block stroll back to his apartment afforded him his only opportunity to ruminate free from the noise of boisterous teenage idiots.

Last week, Jerry had turned 45 years old withoot a hint of fanfare (or even recognition).  He held the same job that he’d had since the age of fifteen and made nearly the same salary.  Back then, the cafe had been called The Avalon, but aside from the addition of the word Bistro to its moniker and some updated Formica countertops, the establishment was essentially stuck in a time warp.  Jerry couldn’t help but feel like he was, too.

As he rounded the corner onto Crown Street, he noticed a loose flap of paper wedged at the base of a chain link fence.  Bending down to investigate, Jerry picked up a small paper bag emblazoned with the Mac’s logo and peered inside.  It contained roughly a dozen Lotto Max tickets bearing yesterday’s date, all intact aside from some slight water stains around the edges.  With a smirk, Jerry deposited the bag in his coat pocket and continued home through the gloomy night, making a quick pit stop at the corner Petro-Canada for a copy of The Sun.  Pessimism was Jerry’s mainstay defense against feelings of loneliness and failure, but still…it couldn’t hurt to at least check the winning numbers.  With the paper rolled up under his arm and a six pack of Labatt Blue in hand, Jerry arrived at the door of his studio apartment and let himself inside.

Jerry hung up his coat, removed the small paper bag from its pocket, grabbed a beer, twisted the top off and flicked it across the room before settling his voluminous frame on the sofa.  He shook the tickets oot of the bag onto the coffee table and opened the paper to yesterday’s OLG results.  Running his finger across the row of numbers on the first ticket, he checked it against the winning Lotto Max numbers.

24 – 9 – 47 – 15 – 39 – 4 – 33

Jerry choked, took a quick pull from his beer and looked again.

24 – 9 – 47 – 15 – 39 – 4 – 33

Ho-ly shit!”  A demented smile contorted his facial features into a demonic display of  glee.  He chuckled at the recollection he’d almost called oot sick today as he jumped up and down on the precariously buckling sofa cushions.  Tonight, he would celebrate. Tomorrow, he would finally kick this world’s sorry ass.

 

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