Sunday, February 23, 2014
When the door first appeared in a corner of the family room where there had never been a door before, reactions were mixed. Some were for opening it, others against. Mother suggested we sleep on it and decide in the morning. By breakfast, however, we had begun to believe that the door had always been there.
It was a closet, of course, better left undisturbed since we had undoubtedly been storing old jackets and boxes of photographs in there. Father even asserted that he now recollected having put his missing coin collection in there some months ago and this explained why he could not find it under the bed.
In our socks and robes, we drank glasses of orange juice and consumed bacon, eggs, and blueberry pancakes until we were convinced that it was an ordinary Sunday morning.
Father dressed and went out to mow the lawn. Mother got dolled up then helped grandmother into her best velour jogging set and took her to the Indian Casino for the day. The twins dug out their allowance and walked to the Cineplex to see a movie with some friends.
My sister Madge and I exchanged a significant look in the hall way, her brown eyes magnified by her thick glasses. We paused there silently assessing one another’s level of skepticism. It was clear that we both had our doubts, but her closed lipped retreat to her bedroom spoke of a willingness to go along with the others.
I went and stood in front of the door, studying its features. It seemed to me equally plausible that I could remember the door having always been there and that I could remember an empty space where now a door stood. It reminded me of the time I couldn’t remember whether I had left the hose on in the backyard or not. The vivid memory of having turned it off was made less credible by a certain nagging doubt. The same was true of the door.
I could simply open it and know the truth, but was too terrified, not only of the possibility of the mysterious but more so of the possibility of the mundane. I had almost made up my mind to do it when my father came in and suggested taking me out for ice cream. We fetched Madge out of her room and drove to the drugstore for double scoops of strawberry with sprinkles.
The first time that the door opened and one of THOSE came in, we were all sitting in the family room watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS.
Again I would say that reactions were mixed. The cat hissed and jumped off the back of the couch. I looked up and saw the door opening, saw IT coming in and glanced at my family to see if they could see IT too. Clearly they did. I observed each one react, even if for only a moment before they quickly averted their gaze and pretended to be watching TV. Madge continued to stare silently at it. Grandmother, sitting in her wheel chair clucked her tongue and said, “Gads, not this again.” but my mother quickly hushed her, “Ma, we’re trying to watch.”
My grandmother sighed and joined my parents and the twins in their defiant TV watching while Madge, the cat, and I watched IT walk out of the family room and down the hall.
By the end of the week their visits were quite frequent. They came in groups of two or three, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes during the day, to roll, run, and scamper down the hall. They would leave all the cupboard doors open. The cat grew accustomed to them and sometimes chased after them as they frolicked.
While we played a board game, did homework, or ate dinner at the kitchen table, one of THOSE would sometimes stand there and watch. They didn’t usually open packages, but were always interested in food that had been left open or left out. They would drink the remaining milk from our cereal bowls if we left them on the table and would eat the crusts of sandwiches left on plates. We could no longer keep a glass of water by the bed because they would come and drink it while we were sleeping.
Nobody besides the cat, myself, Madge, and occasionally Grandmother, acknowledged their presence. My parents and the twins pretended not to see or hear them. Eventually it began to seem as if they actually were unaware of them. Grandmother would shoo them away in the same manner that she shooed the cat, waving a hand if they came close or were in her path and saying “Git” or “Shoo.” Madge would have staring contests with them, gazing silently and expressionlessly at them. Mesmerized they would stare back.
I took a page from the cat’s book. I would pretend that I wasn’t paying attention to them. Then, just as they got close enough I would whirl, roar, and charge, sending them scattering. I had the impression that they enjoyed it, but to leave no doubt of my good will I would leave out cups of milk and plates of cookies or cheese.
At the height of their presence they began to come in groups of up to five. They giggled rather loudly in the night and banged around in the bathroom and kitchen while we tried to sleep. The cat would nap all day, tuckered out from the nightly rumpus. They had started doing little favors for Madge and I, finding items for us that we lamented loosing, fixing broken toys, leaving strange little gifts such as unusual coins and glass marbles.
One day I saw Madge issuing commands in her bedroom, “Pick up my socks and put them in the hamper please. And close the window.” They obliged and stood waiting for the next command as if playing a game of mother may I.
In February, things tapered off. They came less often and in smaller numbers. A week passed when none of THOSE was seen or heard. The cat sat in front of the door waiting, tail twitching. Then one night we came in to watch Masterpiece and the door was gone. My mother stood there and stared at the empty part of the wall looking puzzled.
“I thought there used to be a closet here.” she said.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The show’s about to start.” my father answered.
My grandmother shook her head. Madge looked at me. Her lip trembled a little and her eyes got watery, but in her usual style she managed to maintain a straight face. The twins were crunching loudly on a bowl of popcorn. I invited our poor lonesome cat to come sit in my lap and scratched her chin until she remembered how to purr. The sound soothed me, but I couldn’t concentrate on the show. Absently, I gazed on, bathed in the glow and garble of dialogue.
Like Madge, I was saddened by the disappearance of the door, but worse was a nagging fear that by tomorrow I wouldn’t be sure if it had ever been there at all. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that it was, but the cat still sits in front of the wall sometimes, waiting. Now and then I leave out milk and cookies, just in case.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
None of the four Plum children ever understood their great uncle Alexander. He kept a great many strange artifacts in glass display cases throughout the house and begged the children to be careful whenever they visited. Running within the house was strictly prohibited. While some of the objects appeared to be quite valuable, others seemed questionable. In one case was kept an ugly wooden goblet which Uncle Alexander insisted was, in fact, the holy grail, though their mother always pooh poohed this notion whispering to them that he had found it at a garage sale. The same sale, in fact, where she had obtained a rather obnoxious chicken shaped lamp.
In another case what appeared to be a potato sack was nestled between a beautiful ball of solid gold and a ring encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. Nearby this display also stood a shabby antique spinning wheel and a case containing a shoe made of milky blue glass that looked as though it might fit the foot of a 12 year old girl. In one case rested a decaying ball of thread, in another a bejeweled statue, and in yet another some aboriginal instruments adorned with feathers and bones. But of all the oddities preserved within Alexander Plum’s home, perhaps the most unexpected was a cake of unknown antiquity displayed on a solitary pedestal beneath a glass dome in the middle of his library.
While Addi Boo and Baby Ray chased bullfrogs by the pond in the garden and Buddy pilfered cigars to smoke behind the garden shed, Tilly Plum stood transfixed for hours in front of the cake in the library. The frosting was an odd grayish color, which she supposed had once been white and probably would have tasted of vanilla. She would stand there wondering what flavor the cake might have been and what flavor it might still be if one were to taste it now. But most of all she wondered for what occasion it had originally been prepared and why it had never been eaten.
As the years passed and the Plum children aged Tilly continued to visit the strange gray cake in the library, memorizing the contours of the shell borders, roses and drop flowers. She took to cake baking and decorating at home, producing many replicas for birthdays, special dinners, and holidays.
Baby Ray once complained that she always made the same boring cake in different flavors. He, of course, didn’t realize that for Tilly, each cake was a different version of one particular cake whose true nature she could never know for certain. On one occasion Uncle Alexander found Tilly in his library deep in her meditations of butter cream, whipped cream, and royal icing. By this time Buddy was off in college and Addi Boo and Baby Ray had graduated to pilfering cigars to smoke behind the garden shed.
“I see something here has caught your eye.” Uncle Alexander said, coming to stand beside Tilly.
She nodded eagerly.
“I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, no touching, nor tasting.” her uncle added.
“Oh no. I know,” she told him emphatically. “I can have cake any other time. I would never touch this one. I just always wonder why it’s here.”
“Oh, well, I have it because it’s a magic cake,” he answered lightly and squeezed her shoulder before taking a book from the shelf and leaving the way he came.
This was indeed food for thought. That brief encounter left Tilly with more, rather than less, to wonder about. In fifth grade she penned a story entitled “The Magickal Cake.” in which a well meaning fairy godmother gave the cake as a wedding gift to a beloved princess. The princess was killed by a wicked witch and the kingdom fell under a dark spell leaving the cake uneaten. Its powers went unused and unknown.
Mrs.Gruber’s comments were written with scathing red ink in the margin, “Why is the cake magical? Why even mention the cake, if you don’t describe what it does? The story did not have the three elements of a story. There is no clear resolution to the conflict. Points deducted for spelling and punctuation. C-”
Naturally, Tilly was incensed. She wrote her own notes in the opposite margin.
“Three Elemints of A story: 1.The begining: A mysteryous magical cake is made. 2. The conflict: A princes is going to ruin the mystery by eating it. 3. The resolutun: A wich kills her. My story is about a magiCKal cake that survives. Not a stupid princeses weding.”
After re-submitting the story with her own comments on the comments, Tilly was sent to the principal's office. Her parents were called in and the school recommended that Tilly speak with the school psychologist. Her mother, accustomed to accommodating a variety of difficult people since marrying into the Plum family, simply nodded, pursed her lips as if concerned, and indicated that they would consider the counseling. She whispered to Tilly on the way out that Mrs.Gruber had been seeing a psychiatrist for years now, in the same building, in fact, where Mrs. Plum saw a podiatrist for her corns.
For Uncle Alexander’s 106th birthday, Tilly created for him a replica of his magic cake. It was entirely undeniable by this point that Alexander Plum's magic cake had impacted his niece Tilly. After high school and some community college, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu as a pastry chef and opened a high end cake shop on Colombus Ave.
Now, two years and one lost relationship into the endeavor, her personal funds exhausted, The Magic Cake was closing it’s doors for good. There were some last special orders to fill on Saturday, and then it would be off to the unemployment line and probably Baby Ray’s couch. Nonetheless, Tilly arrived that Friday night, cake in hand, to celebrate her uncle's continuing health and longevity.
Addi Boo was by then married with two year old triplets. Recognizing the impossibility of managing her brood in his makeshift museum, she hadn’t visited Uncle Alexander since their birth.
Baby Ray, recently divorced, came by often to keep the garden in shape, and particularly to care for the pond. He was absent on that particular Friday night, the occasion of Uncle Alexander’s sweet 106th birthday bash, due to an unavoidable trip to Las Vegas with the soon to be second Mrs. Baby Ray Plum. With Buddy in Brazil, and their parents on sabbatical in Florida, Tilly was the only other Plum in attendance, along with Uncle Alexander, and his live-in nurse, Amalia.
Uncle Alexander was surprised and delighted with Tilly’s replica of his cake. Spry as a man half his age, dinner was merry, the wine flowed. Even after Amalia had cleared the table, washed the dishes and gone to bed, Tilly and Alexander talked and drank. On the subject of his good health he chuckled and waved a hand,
“Gads girl, you know, I have the holy grail to drink from if anything ails me. That and more to scare off death.”
Of politic a weary sigh,
“Once you’ve lived as long as I have you’ve seen it all.”
And at last, of family matters, laughter, until Tilly herself was the subject. Then, too intoxicated to censor her woes, she told Alexander all that burdened her, more than she could ever tell Baby Ray or her parents. Who among them could understand her passion, her obsession with her cake shop? Who could see the loss for what it really was? Not just a failed business, but the end of a quest.
“You know Uncle Alex, I always thought, maybe one of my cakes would end up some day under glass turning pearly gray, a cake too perfect to ever have been eaten, some little cyborg kid or something, wondering how it got there.”
She laughed sadly at herself then, but Alexander sat silent and perfectly still. His eyes had acquired a fiery gleam and his back had straightened. His manner demanded Tilly’s full attention and she felt herself sober up a little as he rose and left the room without a word.
Within minutes he returned carrying the magic cake, the original in its glass dome, and set it gently upon the table near the remains of Tilly’s replica. Tilly stopped breathing. She could feel the goose pimples rise all over her flesh as Uncle Alexander took his seat and spoke slowly in a tone she had never heard from him,
“I have lived so long you know. You kids and your parents knew me as great uncle Alexander, and you wont believe me, but your grandfather knew me as the same. As many generations as I’ve watched come and go, and because I endure, no Plum has ever inherited one of my artifacts, nor ever shown the slightest interest in them, with one exception, long, long, ago. That makes you the second exception.”
He paused then, letting the weight of his words settle, observing Tilly’s breathless silence before continuing,
“I feel a certain responsibility to protect the items I have collected, not only from damage but from abuse. You’ve read fairytales, I’m sure, and so you must know that the guardian of a magical item can only entrust it to one whom they deem worthy. At least, that is my approach.”
Gingerly he lifted the glass dome, exposing the cake, and set it aside.
“I don’t know where it came from really. All I have found in my research is vague. I do know that it was passed down through generations of Austrian Princesses. This is the cake Marie Antoinette was referring to in her despair, when she cried, 'Let them eat cake!' And yet, even then, it seems it passed untouched. When the palace was stormed, and the royal family failed to escape, somehow, the cake did. It was returned to Austria until world war II, and then it was collected with a great many other artifacts by Adolf Hitler. After his death it made it’s way into private collections, finally mine.”
He pushed a fork across the table to her.
“I don’t know what the magic does.”
Steadying her trembling hand, Tilly picked up the fork. Slowly she brought it closer and closer to the cake she had spent countless hour admiring, speculating about, and endeavoring to reproduce. It was not, she now could see, the most artfully decorated cake. But it was pretty, if simple. She brought the fork within inches of its pearly surface. Everything was still.
She felt, for the first time, the naked strangeness of the house, its contents, her uncle, a strangeness that had always been pushed aside made into something small and silly, but now it loomed, immense, unfathomable, terrifying, and real. Suddenly, against such a backdrop, her cake shop, her financial worries, her failure in the eyes of her siblings and parents seemed inconsequential. It was her life which was silly.
In that moment, Tilly Plum knew that the cake was truly magical, and that true magic shouldn’t be squandered on petty material concerns. At the last moment she withdrew her hand and set the fork deliberately down. She took a deep breath and looked into the eyes of the man she thought of as her great uncle Alexander and wondered at all the strangeness. And he, whoever he was, whatever he was, relaxed back into his chair, his face melting once again into a broad easy smile, and said,
Friday, February 14, 2014
I watched him making the concoction there that night. While the world outside was in darkness and most slept in their beds preparing for the work day ahead, we sat in the yellow light of the studio.
We called it the studio, supposedly it was a space to make art and create things that existed in our souls, but he just cooked and shot up and got high and imagined he was an artist.
I had stopped drawing years before- right when school began and thoughts and words and self doubt clogged my mind and amputated my hands. I could no longer hold a pen and let the lines come. He was an artist when he wasn’t using or trying to find a vein or scheming and manipulating to get another bag, another hit, to end the sickness- but addiction was a full time job and art came in rare moments- mostly a thing of the past now, a memory he held onto, an image he projected of himself on himself.
I hoped too for a day my artist would return- the thick chested, tattooed man who had drawn me erotic mermaids. All I saw in front of me in that yellow lit room was a man much too skinny for his frame. A man with pale green and black bruises over his arms and legs and a paranoid glaze obscuring his bright blue eyes.
He had taken to wearing the dark blue suit I had bought him years ago for his first court date- only now he looked like an emaciated teenager in his father’s clothes, playing dress up in the middle of the night when the rest of the world outside slept in their beds.
I sat with him now in the yellow lit studio. With clear and focused attention he mixed a small amount of white powdered cocaine with baking soda and water in a metal spoon. He lit the spoon from below, the same way he cooked his sticky tar heroin. He let it all melt together and bubble around the edges and in a few moments the watery mixture evaporated, leaving a few hard little white ‘rocks.’ He picked them up tenderly and placed them in a four inch narrow glass vial. On one end of the vial was a piece of steel wool which created a filter. He tilted his head back a little and lit the filter/rock end and sucked on the tube like a straw.
I watched as thick whips of white smoke traveled up the vial and towards his mouth. He inhaled for as long as he possibly could, filled his chest with all that smoke and then held it inside even longer. He closed his eyes and then leaned in towards me. I opened my mouth and he breathed into me, giving me all those white wisps.
“Hold it in” he said.
I looked at him and waited until my body screamed for air, but then I couldn’t even hear it. The room was ringing.
I wanted more.
I took a shower and called for him to bring me a ‘hit’ in the shower. I sat on the ground, hot water pouring over my stomach and legs. He came in and pushed the shower curtain aside. I opened my mouth and he lit the filtered end. Inhaling, inhaling, inhaling, holding, holding, holding, release and riiiinnnnnnggggggggggg.
I could feel each droplet tapping my skin. Slapping my breasts and pink nipples, my hips and arms.
I wanted more.
Then he miraculously fell asleep. He never slept anymore but in those early morning hours I found myself alone in the yellow lit studio. I watched him for a moment on the bed which we hardly shared, awash with the neon glow of our television (which he needed like soothing lullabies).
The small plastic baggie of cocaine was half full and on the coffee table. I had not paid attention to the exact amounts he had used to cook- so I added a little of this and that. I tried several different batches, adding various amounts of cocaine to baking soda ratios and smoked all of them.
Then the light started to creep through the edges of the thick drapes. The baggie was empty and I started looked for crumbs that had scattered over the table and carpet. I picked up what I could find carefully and cooked it too.
I went into the windowless bathroom sometime around six. The face in the mirror startled me. It was dead and pale green and the eyes looked both shocked and dull at the same time.
Was this me?
“This is me,” I realized.
I looked into those eyes- brown, absolutely lifeless. I stared and had no words for this woman.
And then I remembered him on the bed. My addict. My once-lover. My child, my burden, my chain. My dealer, my demise. What would he say? What would he do when he discovered the empty baggie? He had never hit me, had never ever come close, but that morning I wondered. Would be kick my ass?
I sat on the couch, each minute pushing harder and harder on my shoulders. Every moment like another rock on my chest as the sun rose and I waited for his body to ache, for the pain of reality to shock him into wakefulness. Then he would open his eyes and remember himself and his life and his veins and the itch and the sickness and he would know that it was time for a fix.
And when he did open those paranoid blue eyes he saw me on the couch, pale green and full of terror.
“I cooked it all last night. All the coke is gone.”
“All of it?”
I nodded and he looked at me in disbelief. He didn’t touch me, but made me drive to the bank and get $80. Then he took the car and drove to the beach flats and looked for the short Latin guys on the corner. I stayed at home but I could imagine it all. It was a mechanical script and I knew all the players, each actor- what they said and how they moved and where they would be. I had taken that drive a thousand times. I had done this play each day for years.
Only this morning, I had joined them. In those few dark hours alone in the yellow room, I had inhaled something of them and now I knew what it was like, that dark pulling, pulling, ringing and pulling. It had my ankles. Like that ridiculous foot deep riptide which had almost taken me into the surf fifteen years before, I knew the haunting power of those white wisps of smoke. I knew what it could do. I knew it was too strong and I told myself I would never touch it again.
That day I went to school. When I came home I found what I expected. He was in the yellow studio. I could feel him mixing up a batch. He didn’t come out to greet me and I stayed in the living room, but I could feel the bubbles on the outside of the spoon, could smell it through the door, could almost hear the riiinggg.
I knew it was back there and it was calling to me. Like thick thorny vines that had wrapped themselves around my arms and legs and heart, I could feel its pull.
IT wanted me back there. IT was singing, so lovely.
I stayed in bed, I kept the door closed. I opened my books and read through the soft thudding in the back of my chest, part of me wanted to answer.
By the next day the singing was lighter and then the day after it was gone. I never touched it again, but that was the day I teetered on the edge. A few more puffs and I might buried myself in the WANT- in that dark hole I had lost him to.
Just a few more puffs- I might have never emerged.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
It started as a game, a simple game that they played on Sundays between cups of coffee and blueberry muffins. The endless stream of faces, familiar and new, would ebb and flow and they would take their fun as they could, here and there, in seconds, in minutes, in half hours of down time, moving chess pieces on a board that sat on top of the case displaying crumb cake, cookies, and croissants. Some of the regulars took an interest.
“Whose winning?” they would nod to the board before placing their order.
They would say, never revealing that it was impossible to tell. They each cheated frequently, re-arranging pieces when the other's back was turned, or moving knights like bishops and bishops like queens as though it were natural, sometimes trading color mid game. If a customer paid using a two dollar bill the entire board would have to be reset. If someone asked to break a hundred both players could reclaim a lost piece. The game never ended.
Sun filtered through the dusty windows, crowds of friends gathered at the mismatched tables and chairs. Lonely souls sank into the worn cushions of a maroon couch turning the pages of paperback novels whose covers had been torn off. Men and women dressed in filthy sweatpants, tattered sweaters and knitted gloves with the finger tips cut off, came in to beg or buy with change obtained through begging.
* * *
She liked the timbre of his voice, the unruly curls atop his head, the way he gracefully navigated the crowded space behind the counter, never missing a beat. He liked her crazy laugh, the flowers she wore pushed behind one ear, the way she looked deeply into the eyes of whoever was speaking, as though they were the entire world. Sometimes that was him.
He opened and she came in an hour later. He left after noon and she left an hour later. Once he thought of staying until she clocked out, but the only excuse he could think of was to continue the game. Then it might actually end, so he left.
* * *
Sundays came and Sundays went. Crushed leaves littered the sidewalk and were carried in by the scuffling of shoes like jagged orange and yellow confetti. Leaves gave way to rain thumping on the windows, leaving streaks in the dust. Umbrellas lingered in the stand by the door, sometimes forgotten, red, black, yellow, gray.
Eventually the windows were washed clean by the rain and the sun grew meekly brighter, polished by a crisp wind that begged buds out of the naked arms of the tiny trees outside. And still the game went on, hundreds broken, two dollar bills accepted.
One afternoon he was close to winning. He began to evade the game, too busy with foaming milk and shots of espresso, restocking cups, lids, wooden swizzle sticks, and napkins. Tables long neglected suddenly received his orange scented devotion as he carefully polished their scratched wooden surfaces.
Every old lady who passed through the door filled his heart with hope. Surely, in that oversized handbag within the folds of an overly somber pocket book his salvation had arrived. At last a blue haired woman saved the day and the board was reset.
* * *
There were excuses for touching, Brushed fingers as a cup was passed, hands on shoulders as one slipped by the other in the narrow space, a hug to say hello or goodbye. Buds turned to blooms of pink and an idea developed in his mind, a perfect reason to see one another outside of work.
He would take her to see the forest of cherry blossoms in the park, invite her to meet him outside the tea garden. They could walk, get caught in a spring shower, huddle together under a pavilion where he could slip his hand around her waist.
And then one, day, before he could utter those words, rehearsed to ensure perfectly casual delivery, calculated to be an enticing command rather than a question, “Meet me in the park in the morning.”, the schedule was changed.
* * *
He was fated to come in as she was leaving. Though their paths crossed, there was no time, no in for those words, just a wave then absence. The game continued slowly, one move each every Sunday. But it was more than a game now, it was a token of affection that was growing colder, more distant as the words died unspoken and the petals drifted from the blossoms to the earth and blew away into gutters. Green leaves sprang up in their place.
One week she was out sick. The board sat untouched, collecting a fine layer of dust. Someone, midweek, sensing the abandonment, put the board and pieces away. The following Sunday she returned to find that the game was over.
* * *
She was strangely distant as they crossed paths at the door. It was the fist truly hot day, and she murmured something about Baker Beach and slipped away down the sidewalk after he asked her,
“What’s up doc?”
It felt so cold, the way she barely answered, like a ghost, the way her body moved, shrinking in to avoid accidental touching, as though they were strangers. His mind fumbled with numb confusion as he watched her depart.
When he found the display case neatly polished and the chess board and pieces gone, a hollow feeling seized him. Had she done it? Had she given up? If not, did she think that he had? Did she think hat he would quit their game?
He was in agony between cups of coffee, blueberry muffins, and feigned smiles. He broke hundreds and accepted two dollar bills, the endless stream of faces familiar and new trailing off into an empty Sunday night. He closed the store alone and walked home, his heart feeling as though it were being wrung like a rag by a washer woman in a depressing black and white film.
It was Allegro Non Troppo without music, cartoons, or jokes. It had started as a game, a simple game they played on Sundays. But when the game died, what was underneath it was lost too.
* * *
That night he dreamed. As the two dollar bill was passed to him over the register he thought of resetting the board and looked at the empty display top. In that desperate sad moment, instead of shutting the register drawer doling out change and smiling vacuously at the next in line, he doled out the change, took off his apron and announced:
“I’m sorry everybody. I have to close up right now, I’m very sorry.”
He jumped over the counter and ushered them out into the late afternoon sun. He locked the door, ran home, found his car on the street collecting club advertisements and got in. He drove to Baker Beach and found her sitting there alone on the sand in a striped bikini, flower tucked behind her ear. He sat beside her, looked her in the eyes and said,
“Bishop to King 4.”
She smiled. The panoramic golden gate stretched out behind her, breeze softly ruffling her hair, sun sinking into the golden pacific.