Alone or Free?



It was a matter of perception really – both were true.  But Frankie had never thought of herself as alone until recently when a friend used the term to describe her status.  If she was being honest, the label stunned her a bit.  And now, at home with only a glass of her favorite red wine as company, Frankie contemplated her situation.   She pulled her knees to her chest and sunk deeper into the couch under the softness of her favorite blanket.  Teal strands of woven yarn …the color of the Caribbean Sea… wrapped her in a plush embrace.  The blanket was a Christmas present from Jim and it still smelled faintly of his aftershave.  Thoughts of him flooded her mind, followed by others…the men, and even a few women, who had come and gone from her life…each relationship running its course in due time.  Not all ended as well as others but she’d learned something from every one of them and saw her life as a beautiful tapestry of experience.  Frankie reached for her glass and drew in a long, slow sip, savoring the silky feel on her tongue.

No, not alone, she decided.  Alone sounded dangerously close to lonely.  She’d only been there once – after Henry’s death – and never intended to return.  Loneliness clings to you if you let it, with a quiet desperation that grows the divide between you and everyone else.  No, she was not alone.  Frankie was decidedly free.  She lived a rich and full life of her own choosing…perhaps she’d just forgotten that for a while.   Perhaps the fact that she was questioning this at all was a sign she was ready for a change.  A slender finger traced the rim of her glass, circling slowly as she sat quietly and watched the flames flicker in the fireplace.  And suddenly, as if remembering a part of herself, she realized just how very free she was.  Free to travel the world, unencumbered by the responsibilities of parenthood or obligations of marriage.  As of late, even the ties of friendship had loosed themselves and she began to understand that nothing held her in place.  It was an exciting revelation.

Leaning forward, she threw back the blanket and pulled open the coffee table drawer, rummaging through its contents for a notebook she thought she remembered was there.  The notebook, a beautifully embossed leather journal, was a gift given to her some time ago by a writer she’d briefly dated.  They’d since settled on an intimate friendship…long-distance love affairs, she learned, had a way of burning out.  Her fingers laid claim to an errant pen as she rifled through the drawer before finding the smooth of the leather and retrieving the journal.  She sat back into the fat, fluffy cushion of the couch and arranged herself under a sea of blanket once again.

Frankie opened the journal and scribbled “Musts” atop the first blank page she came across.   She underlined it thickly, drawing the pen slowly back and forth in meditation as she contemplated her requirements.  Warm, she thought, and she wrote the word in bold, swooping letters.  Her next home would need to be somewhere with lots of sun, preferably near the water.  Sunshine was a necessary ingredient for Frankie’s mood and the ocean a tonic for her soul.  Water, she wrote next.  But perhaps a lake house would do as well.  Something to consider, and she scrawled a note at the bottom of the page to remind her of the idea.  The fire popped, sending embers floating up the chimney and Frankie envisioned herself on a beach somewhere.  Yes, she thought…it’s time for a new adventure.

The list grew, carefully, over the next several months until finally it took the shape of her new home.  The choice was obvious by then and Frankie made it easily, without trepidation, thanks to the many hours of thought inked onto the pages of the journal.  She called her writer friend and shared with him the news and he offered to come and spend the weekend, helping her pack up her life in cardboard boxes before moving it across the country.  She thanked him, but declined.  A friend from work had already offered.   Besides, she was not eager to start things up with the writer again.  It was good while it lasted but she was not interested in revisiting the past and preferred to embark without any hint at entanglements.  After all, it was in remembering her freedom that she began this journey and she didn’t intend to complicate it now.

Barely a  month later and Frankie had settled into her new home with surprising ease.  It suited who she was, or at least who she was at this point in her life.  Every Saturday was now a beach day and Frankie lay on the warm sand at the edge of the water.  Teal blue waves gently lapped at her side.  With eyes closed, peaceful thoughts drifted like clouds through her mind.  She smiled and stretched like a cat, content in her patch of sun.

“Excuse me.  Would you mind if I join you?”

Frankie opened her eyes.  Above her stood a woman in a red swimsuit that wrapped itself around her curves in a way that deserved attention.  Frankie drew her gaze upward toward the woman’s face.  She was not a young woman, but the air of quiet confidence about her enhanced her beauty beyond the effects of age and her smile excited Frankie in a way she’d forgotten until now.

“Are you alone?” persisted the woman in red.

Frankie’s mouth curled at the edges then spread wide into a grin.  “No…but I’m free.”

© Kelly Rainey and, 2016. 

**This story inspired the creation of more art.  Take a look.  But first…

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