I’m writing a series of novels: the Seeking Scylla series. Some characters dance on the edges of the narratives. Some never make it in. In Beyond Scylla blogs, I share stories and vignettes about these characters.

Debbie Beaufort

You wake next to him. Today’s the day, you tell yourself. Today. Today I’ll leave him.

“But I don’t understand,” he’ll plead.

And you don’t either. You just know.

You know so many things, and this —doing this today or any other day— doesn’t make sense.

“But I love you.”

“I know you do.”

And somewhere in your misaligned heart, you know you love him, too.

“Is it because of your mom?”

This line of questioning will make today easier.

“I think it’s time to institutionalize her,” he told you a few months ago, at the end of a long, difficult day.

You weren’t ready. She wasn’t ready. You’d know when it was time.

You know so many things, but you don’t know why today is the day you come out, the day you betray your heart. She tried, but she’s not in it.

But you know you have to do this for her. You will empty your bed, empty your home of other hearts. You will listen for your own.

Starting today.

Because your heart’s not aligned.

You slip out of bed without waking him. Your heart catches, tender watching his unsuspecting chest rise and fall with each breath above his heart. You avoid the creaky planks as your dainty toes tip through this old house. It’s becoming ramshackle. No one tends to the details that holds it together like your dad did. Does he watch with a broken heart?

Dad was still more than bones when Bates moved in. He wasn’t the handy sort and the bones of the house trembled as the decay set in.

Yet Bates was good for your mom. Their hearts seemed aligned. But were they? Lloyd thinks your heart is aligned.

You peek into your mom’s room. Still asleep. The meds help.

Who will she look for today? Dad? Bates? Her parents?

Your foot accidentally lands on a creaky board. You pause, arms in the air, listening. Not a creature stirs.

You’ll ask Lloyd to leave today. Leave so you can leave him. You’ll stay with mom until you can’t. Maybe on the other side of all the leaving, you’ll know, you’ll make sense of why, what’s missing, what’s in your heart. Or not in it.

Sadness tangles in your chest, constricting your throat, tightening your jaw. He’ll cry. He loves you. He’ll be confused, resigned. But not angry. His love is true.

How long will your heart seek before she finds her true?

Mom won’t know. The knowing is over. When it’s time, the not-knowing will help. She’ll have more attention there. You’ll visit. She won’t know who you are.

You take your coffee on the back porch. The screens are dingy. Dilapidated house. The wood a shabby chic mottle of age and chipped paint without the chic.

The morning is still dark. You sit, wait for the light, and listen for your heart.

Is she my shadow or my light?

One day you’ll know.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021