While David was away, Douglas cleaned Marilyn’s house. He would always think of it that way: Marilyn’s house. His love for her deepened after her death, took on a sheen, like burnished bronze, almost more beautiful than brand new.
Douglas cleaned and replaced some of the things David had hidden away. He knew his son might find this irritating, and as he put the house back to rights, Douglas rehearsed the conversation he would have when David returned.
“I know it’s hard to be the new person in a community, especially a town like this one. Just hang in there. You’ll be accepted in time.”
That sounded stupidly obvious. David might be withdrawn, socially awkward at times, but he had never been stupid. Douglas worked on, hanging some art, putting out some tchotchkes.
“Now that I am back in her house, I feel her presence everywhere. I like that feeling. I like remembering her. A few of her things back out in the open, that helps lighten the weight of grief.”
A tear slid down his cheek. All that was true. But for David? He wasn’t at all sure an appeal to David’s compassion for his father was a useful tactic. Douglas remembered their troubled relationship, the picture engraved in his memory of David leaving for college. Eager to be rid of his father’s guilt.
There was a knock on the door. Precious, the elderly dog, lifted her head from her bed and crafted a sharp bark, a kind of after-the-fact watch dog alert. Douglas petted her scruffy head on his way to see who was there.
“Douglas!” Marilyn’s old friend Penelope boomed a greeting and entered the house unasked, as if no one would consider failing to invite her inside. “I heard you were here, and I felt that you were communing with dear Marilyn’s spirit. I thought you might want this.” From behind her back, Penelope drew a small picture, a piece Marilyn had painted many years ago for her friend. A slightly abstract wine glass filled with dark red wine on a background of bright turquoise lines. The background, upon closer examination, represented the tentacles of a squid.
More tears threatened to follow the path of that first one down Douglas’s face. He was taken aback at this evidence of Marilyn’s early talent. “It was just a practice piece, a kind of study, but I loved it so she gave it to me,” Penelope said. “I think an old lover of mine took in away in spite, once, and I lost track of it. I found it again, today, when Louise visited me and asked about it.” Only then did Douglas notice the other woman who had entered in Penelope’s wake. “Louise, this is Douglas, Marilyn’s final paramour. Douglas, Louise is my baby sister who has moved in with me.”
Louise’s expression suggested that “baby sister” was not her favorite epithet, but she greeted Douglas warmly. He shook her hand, a bit overwhelmed, but not so much as to fail to notice Louise’s bright blue eyes, almost the same color as the turquoise of Marilyn’s painting.