A Many-Splendored Thing

by Natasha de Silva             


When Godfrey Chasm woke up on Sunday afternoon with crusty eyes and cottonball-mouth, he felt groggy but relieved. He hadn’t slept a wink for almost two weeks, not when thoughts of his newly minted ex-girlfriend, Lenora Lymehart, tormented him like a storm crashing down upon a man already drowning. But last night, somehow…last night, he had found peace.

“How you doing there, tiger?” a soft voice asked, jerking Godfrey out of his somnolent haze and alerting him to the fact that Lenora was lying in bed next to him. She was wearing the pink babydoll nightdress he’d bought her last year on Valentine’s Day, coiling a lock of dyed-black hair (naturally ashy-blonde) around her index finger.

“Lenny! What – what are you doing here?!” Godfrey was so gob smacked, so alarmed by the sight of her, that he tangled his limbs in the bedsheets while trying to eject himself out of bed, ending up cocooned on the floor.

Lenora emitted a dainty giggle. “Oh, Chasm. Don’t you remember? Last night, I came back. I came back to you. I voided our breakup.” She leaned down to pick up a corner of the bedsheet and began to pull, unraveling Godfrey inch by inch.  “It’s like it never happened. We can pick up where we left off.”

Now extricated from the sheets and exposed to the elements of Lenora, Godfrey felt his face flush candy-apple-red, that hue particular to overdrinking Asians like himself, the very color his face gleamed last night in a drunken stupor as he let Lenora into his apartment. What had happened? Why had she returned?

“Wh- what made you change your mind?” Godfrey asked, willing his limbs to cooperate as he scrambled to his feet.

“Does it matter?” Lenora smiled primly, her spindly legs dangling off the edge of the bed. “I’m back. Forget I ever left.  Now…shall we go to Brook’s Diner? Or do you feel like trying someplace new?”

Although Godfrey hadn’t answered, still flummoxed by the turn of events, Lenora jumped off the bed and strolled into the bathroom, leaving the door wide open. Several moments later, the water was pattering down like a summer rain. Steam obscured the figure of Lenora in the frosted shower glass, rendering her a mythical creature in the mist. She began to hum La Vie En Rose in rich, dulcet tones.

Godfrey sat down on the bed, struggling to gather his thoughts and feelings, which had been flung far and wide by Hurricane Lenny.

Lenora was back. She had changed her mind. This was what he had wanted, wasn’t it? Wasn’t she all that he yearned for, pined for? Hadn’t he wept saltwater lakes over the thought of her lavender perfume and vampirish smile?

But then he recalled what Lenora had said, the morning she had broken up with him. As the sun splintered through the stain glass window of the living room in a kaleidoscope of dusty rays, Godfrey had knelt down on one knee and opened the velvet box in his hand, revealing a vintage pearl ring. But before he could pose the question, Lenora had shrieked, “No! Don’t say it! I can’t! I don’t want to be with you any more…it’s over, Godfrey.”  The shifting patchwork of stained light on her face transformed Lenora into an otherworldly creature, into somebody, something, that Godfrey could neither recognize nor understand.  Then, tears watering her face, she had run off without another word.

Godfrey had tried calling, tried visiting, but to no avail. One day, a box of his things appeared outside his doorstep: his old NYU sweatshirt, his Paul Simon records, his toothbrush and razor and happy-face boxers. It was really over.

Except now…now it wasn’t.

Godfrey ventured into the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face. Lenora continued to hum blithely. It really was as though nothing had happened. His finger drew a smiley face on the fogged vanity mirror.

Godfrey returned to the bedroom and dressed with care. He gelled his black hair into an artful James Dean coif in front of the closet mirror. Then he took the ring box out of his sock drawer and went to the living room.

He waited.

Lenora came in about ten minutes later, damp hair swirled back into a bun, redolent with lavender. Her signature black-rimmed cateye glasses emphasized the dark pennies of her pupils.  She was wearing a cherry-print black dress. The same dress she had worn the day she broke up with him.

But before Godfrey could propose, Lenora knelt down on one knee and said, “I have a proposal.”

Stunned, Godfrey watched and listened.

“I love you,” Lenora said. The ray of stained-glass-filtered sun on her face was a pure violet, a moody spotlight. “When I broke up with you, it was because I was afraid. Afraid of forever. It’s not that I didn’t want to be with you forever; it’s that I didn’t want to do anything forever. I don’t want to stay at the same job forever, or live in the same place forever. I want my life to be full of variety and spontaneity and transformation.”

Godfrey felt a pinch in the core of his stomach, a painful blockage in his throat. “Lenny? I know that about you, I do…but being together forever doesn’t mean being the same forever.”

Lenora grinned, her sharp incisors a smidge longer than the other teeth. “I know, Godfrey. That’s what I realized. I know now that even if we’re together forever, you and I won’t be the same. We will change and grow and become better people because of each other. But we’ll do it together.”

Godfrey felt moisture spring to his eyes; his heart began to swell with emotion.

“When we were apart, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted,” Lenora continued. “But I realized that variety is meaningless without a constant. And you are my constant.”

She pulled out a small box that had been tucked within her bosom, and opened it. Inside was a secret decoder ring from a cereal box. “I am so sorry for the pain I’ve caused you, and I will spend a lifetime making it up to you. I want to spend forever in a variety of scenarios with you, and only you. Godfrey Chasm, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Godfrey Chasm said. And then he knelt down, too, with his own ring box. “Lenora Lymehart, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Lenora Lymehart said. She and Godfrey exchanged rings, sliding them onto one another’s fingers like sacred rosary beads onto a string.

They embraced, but in a completely new and unexpected way, in a whirlwind of tenderness and ferocity.

Once the tears and laughter had subsided, Lenora’s stomach began to grumble. “I’m so hungry,” she said, hugging Godfrey’s arm theatrically. “Shall we go to Brook’s Diner? Or…”

“Let’s try someplace new,” Godfrey said. And they walked hand in hand into the constant, golden sun.

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