Excerpts from The Cardinal and the Monarch (modified)


Modified excerpts from my short story, The Cardinal and the Monarch

You’re sitting in the library of an old, log cottage that has faint, woodsy scents of oak and pine. You glimpse the pile of splintery wood that sits and waits for its turn to feed the fire, letting off a delicate, yet dirty aroma. The fire itself, which is surrounded by an array of granite stones, crackles and pops, whispers and sizzles. The flames dance and devour the wood, and embers descend like vivid raindrops. You’ve been sitting here for a while now, taking in the earthy, rich steam from your cup of French Roast. But its boldness is slowly overpowered by the fire’s thick, primitive aromas of ash and smoke. Suddenly you’re whisked away to your sixth grade camping trip, something which you would rather not remember. You decide to distract yourself from the memory, so you stand up from the comfort of the sofa and wander over to the bookshelf. You pick up the old books and flip through their worn, stained pages. You note the hints of vanilla and almonds and dust. Then you start to wonder if any of the pages have absorbed the distinct scents of its readers, because you’ve forgotten that sometimes a smell can not only take you back to a certain place, but also a certain person. Because then you would know exactly who blissfully flipped through the pages and absorbed the story the way the pages absorbed them. Maybe it was your grandmother, so you start searching for the scent of her perfume, with its floral notes, soapy, pure. You fail, but you have a better idea. You make your way from the library to the winding, creaking staircase, up to the room where she used to sleep. Bottles of perfume still line the dresser, Chanel No. 5, Norell, some with unknown names. You pick up the classic and timeless Chanel No. 5 and gracefully inhale a complex, woodsy mixture of citrus and linen. You don’t remember Grandma ever having worn this one, so you continue your search. And you find it, that comfort, that familiarity. It’s the Norell, with its golden bottle and floral, cedar-like scent. You inhale and it’s like hugging her all over again. It’s like being at her house again, with frozen snicker bars and greasy Luigi’s pizza. You linger by the dresser for a few more minutes, contemplating whether you should spritz the Norell, one time on each of your wrists. But you decide not to, because it was sacred, something that didn’t belong to you, and so you make your way back downstairs to the library. The fire is dying down; what was once a kaleidoscope of proud and blazing flames is now a subtle, fading crackling of lightly-glowing ashes. You glance in its direction before heading to the cottage kitchen, where you pour yourself a small glass of Chardonnay. Meandering back to the library, you sit by the dying fire, wine in hand. You try to smell the harmonious aroma of rich, buttery vanilla and citrus fruits that you know so well. But for some reason, all you can smell is that floral, cedar-like scent. It lingers just like a memory, like a past that won’t let you go…


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