Prologue to Sonnets
Sonnet No. 1
She walks the night with yearnings undefined
Her auburn hair reflects the harvest moon
Toward which she gazes with a look designed
To capture hearts and make emotions swoon
By day she reads auditions to the Muse
Reflecting passions of the poet’s heart
But nighttime brings the darkness to confuse
And, with the twilight, tortured feelings start
So into evening’s dark embrace she falls
As love forbidden in the day awaits
She listens for the voice that gently calls
To justify the joy her heart debates
And so her heart will plunge into the night
And grant her restless soul its final flight
THE KISS, although unexpected, was warmly welcomed. Margaret Fenwyck was lost in the moment–face upturned, eyes closed, and a glass of wine in each hand. She had held high hopes for the evening, but she had not expected it to start like this. She certainly was not expecting what happened next.
Two hours earlier, Margaret bade everyone at the newspaper goodnight and then hurried out into the crisp October air. It was six o’clock, and a splendid full moon was already visible above the campus clock tower across the street. A good omen, she thought as she walked briskly up Main Street, nodding pleasantly at those whose eyes she caught. There were many because Margaret Fenwyck was an attractive woman. Her hair fell about a delicate face in sun-streaked, reddish curls, and she sported a perfect hourglass figure, kept firm by her frequent workouts at The Slim Gym. Tonight, however, she passed the health club without a second thought, and entered the wine shop next door. There she purchased a chilled Kendall Jackson chardonnay, and then continued the four-block walk to the small but cozy house she had recently rented for a surprisingly affordable fee.
Margaret’s original misgivings about trading the fast-paced city life of Atlanta for the tranquility of a small, north Georgia college town had been unwarranted. She had landed the job of arts and leisure editor of the Smythville Gazette at least ten years earlier than she could have risen to a similar rank at a large newspaper like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And while the Gazette’s circulation was admittedly a fraction of that enjoyed by the Atlanta paper, its readership was atypically intellectual for a rural town. Smythville College could take the credit for that. The private liberal arts school attracted not only a relatively sophisticated faculty and student body but also a variety of upscale restaurants, art shops, and bookstores.
One of two fervent hopes that Margaret had held when arriving in Smythville eight weeks earlier was that she would make her mark at the newspaper quickly. She thought she had found a way to do that with a project she had just announced–one that had the potential to become a permanent feature in the paper. It was essentially a poetry contest, although Margaret preferred to describe it as a “showcase for local talent.” Each week, Gazette readers were invited to compose and submit an original poem. The arts and leisure editor, with the help of Melissa Turner, her assistant, would select the one deemed best for publication in a new, weekly column called “Risk-A-Verse.”
She and Melissa had spent the entire afternoon reviewing the first round of entries, finally deciding that the winner would be a simple but properly constructed Shakespearean sonnet entitled “Sonnet No.1.” Like many poems, “Sonnet No.1” was abstract enough to allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions as to its true meaning, and this one had particularly spoken to Margaret.
The aspiring poet had not included a full name, address, or phone number, simply signing the submission with a single name–Eliot. Actually there had been several anonymous entries, which did not surprise Margaret. Poetry was, after all, about feelings, and it was not unusual for people to feel insecure about expressing their innermost emotions in a public forum. Whoever he was, Margaret hoped Eliot would submit more compositions because she felt the poem demonstrated a raw talent that was worth developing. And sometimes, all a person pursuing a new endeavor needed was an initial success to fuel his confidence and feed his desire.
Desire. The thought of that word sent shivers of anticipation through Margaret as she hurried toward her house, anxious to get everything in place for her eight o’clock rendezvous. Desire had been the subject of Margaret’s second harbored hope when she moved to Smythville. Actually, it had been more a concern than a hope–a fear that her love life might suffer in such a small, conservative town. But one day, shortly after arriving in town, she had found herself gazing into the most mesmerizing brown eyes she had ever seen. And even though neither of them had actually spoken of anything other than what would be expected in a polite, social exchange, the eyes had said it all. They had told Margaret that the interest was not hers alone.
Her anticipation of their first time alone together had increased exponentially by the time she hurried across her short walkway and up the three steps to the front porch. Retrieving her mail from the slightly rusted mailbox mounted on the wall, she fumbled for her keys, unlocked the door, and let herself in.
After putting the wine in the refrigerator, she hurried into the bedroom to undress for a quick shower. On a hopeful whim, she stopped to put fresh sheets on her bed. She selected her outfit for the evening, a low-cut emerald green dress that always turned heads, and laid it neatly on the bed. After also laying out her matching bra and panties, she stepped into the shower and turned on the hot water.
Later, after she had showered, dressed, and reapplied her makeup, Margaret stood in front of the full-length mirror and surveyed the image staring back at her. She was proud of what she saw. She felt that if she could not entice those bewitching brown eyes with this body in this outfit, they just could not be enticed.
She hurried about the process of making the final preparations for her date’s arrival. Magazines were neatly arranged, her favorite Norah Jones record in the CD player, and a crystal dish containing smoked almonds on the coffee table. She even opened the wine, not wanting to take a chance of fumbling with the corkscrew and broadcasting her nervousness in the presence of her date.
She would have liked a glass of the wine to calm her nerves but willed herself to wait the remaining ten minutes until eight o’clock. Instead, she busied herself with a final inspection of the house, and then checked her reflection one last time in the antique mirror behind the sofa. Finally, she heard the sound she had been waiting for, the distinct creak of the top step to her porch, followed by footsteps approaching the door. A moment later, the doorbell rang. She paused briefly, not wanting it to be so obvious that she had been anxiously waiting mere feet from the door, and then took a deep breath and opened it.
As she stood there peering into those eyes she had thought about all day, she noticed that her favorite song was now playing on the CD. Perfect. This was the moment for which she had been waiting, planning, hoping–the moment when everything could change.
Margaret made meaningless small talk as she retrieved the bottle of wine from the refrigerator with trembling hands, glad she had had the forethought to remove the cork earlier. She carefully filled two glasses and carried them into the living room, leaving the wine bottle on the kitchen counter. As she extended her left hand to offer one of the glasses of wine, she got her first surprise. The kiss was gentle and ripe with the promise of passion. She closed her eyes and savored it, like a wine connoisseur relishing the texture of a fine Bordeaux. So focused were her senses on the lingering kiss that it took a few seconds for her to become aware of a strange, muffled noise, a staticky yet somewhat melodious sound that she had not noticed before. Puzzled, she pulled her head back slightly and opened her eyes.
“Do you hear that?” she asked.
The ice pick was so quickly and deftly plunged into her chest that the long, sharp point had already pierced her rapidly beating heart before she felt the first twinge of pain. But when the pain came it took her breath away, rendering her incapable of screaming in response to the agony and shock. Her legs began to quiver and twitch but she did not fall, held upright by her assailant’s strong hand.
It was all over in a matter of seconds. Just before her body went limp, just before she took her last, shuddering breath, her dimming eyes opened for a final, agonizing moment. The pain was so great that she could not summon the breath to speak the word but her eyes asked the question as her lips mouthed the single syllable.