The Elephant Gate Part 1 – Ch 36 to 40
Sleep was long in coming that night. After Rose left, the place seemed emptier than usual. That was just stupid, though. He had just met her, so there was no logical reason why she was still dancing in his thoughts long after she was gone.
He cleared his mind and rolled over to his left side. Finally he fell asleep. But it wasn’t an easy one. His sleep was disturbed by fanciful dreams of horses and trucks and talking elephants. A beautiful girl who looked similar to Rose was sitting in a decrepit gazebo, her gaze sorrowful as she rubbed a heart carved into the arm of her wooden bench.
Suddenly, as if she heard a sharp noise, her head snapped up and she stared directly into his eyes. “K’vin?” her mouth seemed to form, and almost imperceptibly he sensed the murmur in his mind. He tried to reach out to her, but a mist obscured the scene into milky blankness as he felt some sort of pulling sensation.
He awoke sweating, the comforter twisted around his legs. What was that all about? He got up and paced his bedroom, his steps leading to the sliding glass doors and the chilly night air of his balcony. His head cleared immediately, the vision still sharp in his mind.
On impulse, he headed to his loft office. Opening up his laptop, he documented the entire dream in a brief, almost feverish burst. Once completed, he saved and closed the laptop before he leaned back in his leather chair and closed his eyes.
He was sure he had seen this girl before. He was equally sure that, despite their similarities, it wasn’t the production scriptwriter. He flashed back to his childhood and his imaginary friends. He opened his eyes and looked at his childhood friend on the low shelf. The thought all of this was somehow related flashed through his mind. But really, it had to be just a coincidence.
When he walked back into his bedroom, an icy chill reminded him that he hadn’t shut the balcony doors before dashing to his office. He quickly closed and bolted them before sliding back under the sheets.
* * *
In order to help his restlessness, he went for an early morning jog around the neighborhood. The crisp air and excertion helped clear out the tensions of the previous night. Cooling down to a walk, he decided to go out for breakfast rather than whip up something at home.
He was surprised when he saw the big red truck in his driveway. Why had she returned?
Rose was calling herself all manner of names. There was no earthly reason why she was there, except that she wanted to see this man again. She checked herself in the visor mirror for a moment; a rap on her window startled her. Kevin was standing outside, a few strands of hair escaping their confines. He cocked his head to one side as if listening for something.
She gave a crooked grin before holding up a drink holder with two steaming cups of coffee. When he stepped back, she opened the door and handed him the the cardboard carrier before reaching to the floorboard for her backpack and a small bag.
Sliding out, she hopped down to the ground before shutting the heavy door with her empty hand.
“Hi” she said, then inwardly groaned at the triteness. So she tried for professional. “I wanted to go over some of my ideas about the script, and Anne said you normally like black coffee and crullers from this shop.” She held up the bag. “So do you have time this morning.”
Kevin barely stopped himself from grinning. Whatever the reason, he was happy to see her, but he wanted to keep the upper hand.
“Sure.” The answer was a grunt and sounded far from welcoming, but Rose had perfected the art of people watching, and had seen the smile flit across his face. So that’s how it was going to be. She followed him up the townhouse steps and waited for him to open the door.
Sitting on the barstools with the coffee and donuts partially consumed, she felt ready to talk. “I’ve read most of your book series, in order to get a feel for your characters. I’d like to use parts of the second book as well in the storyline.” She nibbled a corner of the pastry. “I know the focus is Kraisak and his relationship with the elephants of the forest, but there should be some development of a love interest with the princess.”
Kevin bristled. “My novels are about adventures, not romance. Why put that element in it?”
“To be blunt, sex sells. A romance angle can increase the viewership by changing the demographics to be more favorable to women. And I don’t think that my treatment of your story is too much flowery romance. After all, she is Kraisak’s best friend, so why can’t it evolve into something more?”
He swiveled to fully face her. “It’s more important for him to have a companion he could count on while traveling a strange land, than to having to worry about love.”
“I’ve got my treatment on my laptop. How about you read it first before you make any judgement? You may find that I’m a pretty good writer at this sort of thing. ” She popped the final piece in her mouth, washed it down with the dregs and slid off the stool.
“Where is your office?”
“Upstairs in the loft.” he growled, already anticipating a fight. And if the donuts and coffee were a peace offering , she had another thing coming.
Rose marched up the short flight of steps, determined to win this battle. She felt for the little girl in the stories who always was running after the strange boy. And, reviewing fansites, many people believed that there was something growing between the two. Her ideas did not include a full-fledged love relationship so much as an acknowledgment that the spark existed between them.
Once in the loft she pulled her laptop from the backpack and set it on the desk. Kevin walked past her and sat down. He could smell her clean scent, of sandalwood and some kind of flower, as she loomed over him, manipulating the wireless mouse as she opened up the appropriate file.
“Here it is. Just read it first and then we’ll talk.” She straightened up and moved away, and Kevin felt the loss as the scent drifted away. His eyes followed her for a moment before he determinedly stared at the screen. He gradually became absorbed in her tale.
Rose absently wandered around the loft, trying to look at anything but him. She walked along the loft balcony, occasionally touching one of the elephants. The car collection caught her eye, and she went over to admire it. Then she saw the bedraggled stuffed animal. What was this? She picked it up, and felt the weight of an object inside.
When she turned around to ask him, her heart melted a little. He sat with his chin on his hands, looking like a little boy as his eyes darted across the screen. She put the elephant back in its place without saying anything, loathed to distract him. It also gave her a chance to observe him further.
She wasn’t used to long hair on a man, but she had to admit it suited him. It helped tame the natural wave a bit, although it was still rebellious. After reading his books, she was surprised at the depth and realism of the characters, especially given his young age when he wrote them. Where had he gained such experience?
He finally sat back from her computer. “I’ll admit it’s good. And you’re right, the romance is understated. I was afraid it would be the main storyline. Good job.”
Those words warmed her heart, spare as they were. “Thank you. I’m sure we will be able to work well during the production.” She slid the laptop towards her and stashed in away in the backpack. “Since you approve, I feel better about this. I have several errands I need to run, so I’ll leave you now.”
She slung the backpack over her shoulder, gave him an airy wave, and headed back downstairs towards the door.
“Wait” He called out. He managed to catch her just before she reached the front door. She looked at him inquiringly. “Can I get your cell number?” Inwardly he died at this cliched phrase, but outwardly he remained friendly and calm. “And your email address. That way, if anything comes up, um, regarding the production before everything is finalized, we can contact each other.”
She gave him a full on smile, and he almost reeled at the brightness of it. She reached into a small pocket on the side of the backpack and handed him a small embossed card.
“Here’s all my contact info, if you need to contact me. Ciao!” She opened the door, and was gone like a brief gust of wind.
He stood in front of the door and watched her climb into that big vehicle, his thumb rubbing the raised lettering of her name.
* * *
“Everything is signed and official, Kevin. The production of the series will begin at the end of next month, once casting has been completed. I spoke to Rose, who said you approved her treatment?”
Kevin scowled at the phone before putting it back to his ear. “Yeah, I read it and it sounded okay. But I still want to be in on the actual filming.”
Anne laughed, her speaker phone given it a tinny sound. “Relax. As soon as I receive the schedule, including script readings, I’ll email it to you. In the meantime, what do you plan to do? Have you thought about your next manuscript yet?”
Kevin shrugged, even though his publisher couldn’t see it. “Not really. I’m thinking about visiting my mother in Florida for a couple of weeks. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. And I’d like to go someplace warm.” He had another, deeper reason to go there, but he wanted to keep it a secret for now.
“Alright, stay in touch, then, and if anything comes up, I’ll let you know. Have fun, okay?” The line disconnected.
His mother lived in a secluded enclave of villas near West Palm Beach, one of the first purchases he made with his royalties. After the acrimonious divorce, she had become a bitter and unhappy woman, who constantly clung to him. Once she moved to Florida and found a few friends, her attitude improved, and Kevin never regretted moving her south, especially since it reduced their interaction to just several times a year.
He pulled his rental car into the small driveway and walked up the short tiled sidewalk to the door. Before he reached it it opened to reveal his mother, dressed in a tropical print caftan. She gave him a tight hug and kissed both cheeks before admitting him into her home.
It was decorated in the almost-standard Florida style – pastels and blues, seahorses, lighthouses, shells. The tiny backyard was dominated by a small pool, with several concrete lion fountains along the sides.
“How was the flight, Kevin dear?” she asked, as she ushered him into the open kitchen and poured him a glass of his favorite lemonade.
“It was smooth, no worries. How have you been, Mom?” She busied herself behind the counter, assembling a platter of hummus and pita chips. She set a linen napkin in front of him before sliding the plate within his reach. “You always like to use linen napkins.”
She smiled. “It’s no trouble and it looks nice. I’ve been fine. Yesterday, I met up with the girls for a little bunko game and some wine.” She continued puttering around the kitchen, chatting about her friends. He let the words roll over him, used to her conversations.
By the time she finally wound down, Kevin had finished his snack. “Kevin, dear, what do you want for dinner tonight?”
“Anything you make is wonderful, Mom. For now, I’m going to take a shower and nap a bit, if that’s alright with you.”
She patted his arm. “Of course, go freshen up and relax. I’ll have dinner ready at 5:30.” He stood up and gave her a kiss.
“Thanks, Mom, I love you.”
* * *
Later, he woke up, feeling better. From the bed he could see outside to a lone fountain with arecia palms and hibiscus as a background.
Whenever he felt the need to flee the DC area, he invariably went to a warmer clime, even as his friends headed for Jackson Hole or Masanutten for snow skiing. It was under the palms trees and the blue skies that he felt best.
He checked his dive watch. It was about 4:30, so there was still time before they ate. It was a good time to complete his unpacking.
As he pulled out his shirts and slacks, a small card fell out of his case. He picked it up, and thought about the beautiful woman who had given to him. Was she shivering in the cold air that had invaded Virginia right before he left?
He reached for his phone, intending to call her, when his mom knocked on the bedroom door. He left his phone and the business card on the counterpane and left to go set the table.
* * *
Over a dinner of broiled tilapia and arugula salad, he told his mother about the television deal. She clapped her hands and smiled. “Oh Kevin, I’m so proud of you! I can’t wait to tell my friends about this, the next time we meet up.”
Kevin used her euphoria to get to the real reason he was here. “Mom, I want to talk about what happened to me when I was eight.”
She immediately stiffened, a sure sign of her reluctance. “Why talk about it now? It happened so long ago.” Her face took on a note of alarm. “Are you having problems again? Have you had a CAT-scan? You still speak normally. What’s wrong?”
He soothed her. “Nothing is wrong. I’m revamping my biography and I noticed a few gaps in my life story. What do you mean by ‘speaking normally’? I don’t remember much from then.”
She was quiet for so long, he thought she wouldn’t answer. But she walked over to a rattan couch and sat down with her hands tightly clasped together.
“It was like there was a completely different boy living in my son’s body,” she began in a low tone, “Almost nothing was normal. He spoke with a strange accent that the speech pathologist couldn’t recognize. And these strange mannerisms. He would bow to everyone, didn’t like to be touched. He used a fork and a spoon at the same time, one in each hand.”
Kevin felt chilled as he hear his mother describe him in as a third party. He also sensed long-forgotten memories stirring in the back of his mind.
“We got a child psychiatrist involved. And gradually you came back to us. You had to relearn the alphabet, relearn to read. It felt like years before you called me “Mom” again.” Tears pooled in her eyes as she continued, almost desperate for catharsis. “You never really called your father “Dad” again. And you spent hours staring at nothing outside, holding your stuffed elephant. I wasn’t even sure where you were then.”
He slid off the barstool, and walked over to sit on the couch with her. He tried to rub warmth in to her cold hands. “I’m okay, Mom, really. Didn’t I turn out alright?”
She reached out with a trembling hand and cupped his cheek. “You’re still my Kevin, right, baby?” He pulled her into a hug as sobs racked her body.
“I’m here, Mom, I’m here.”
The next morning, Kevin wasn’t sure how things were going to be, but when he entered the kitchen, he mother was already at the stove making breakfast.
He greeted her before ending up on the barstool again, looking across the expanse of shiny granite as she finished pan-frying ham.
“Kevin, dear, go set the plate on the dining room table.” He gathered up place mats, napkins, and utensils, and arranged them before the two chairs closest to the outside, where the sunlight was streaming through the windows. She carried in two plates with eggs over easy, ham a toast, then returned with orange juice and coffee. “Sit.”
Kevin sneaked a glance at his mother. She appeared calm and relaxed, no tension in her demeanor. It seemed the events of the night had somehow released a knot inside. He felt much better, and dug into the food with gusto.
When they were down to sipping coffee, his mother spoke.
“I’ve never really talked about what happened back then. The doctors could never find anything medically wrong except for a tiny bit of scar tissue, and your father refused to even acknowledge that you came out of surgery with anything wrong.
“You know, I still have your medical records somewhere. I don’t know why but I shipped them down here when I sold the old house. Would you like them?”
Kevin’s heart beat fast. This was part of what he wanted. If this strange blackout is related to his childhood ones, he wanted to understand as much as possible what his eight-year-old body endured.
“Just do you don’t have to store them, if you can find my records, I’ll take them back with me.” She nodded and took another sip from her coffee cup.
“Once I change, I’ll dig them out of the closet.”
* * *
It turned out to be a light file. Most of the records, including his xrays, were in electronic form and stored on CDs. The only paper file was the actual minute-by-minute account of the surgery, and a few hand-written comments from the hospital psychiatrist. Kevin wanted to dive into them immediately, but given his mother’s emotional breakdown, he decided to upload a copy to his laptop, and store the rest in a RFID-proof folder in his suitcase.
He spent the afternoon lazing around the pool, and soaking in the warmth and sun. That night, he promised to have dinner with his mother’s cronies, a change for her to show off her famous son.
His phone buzzed across the black wrought-iron table, and he reached over and fingered it into his grasp. “Hunter.”
“How’s tricks?” The exotic voice voice had him sitting upright.
“Rose?” His afternoon just got brighter. “How are you?”
She gave a low laugh, one he felt clear down to his toes. “I’m probably a lot colder than you are right now. I’m in Wintergreen, and the pack is lightning fast and the skiers are few. I wanted to let you know that I’ve finished the draft of the first episode and already sent it to the pre-production crew for review and changes. Did you want me to email it to you? Or did you want to wait until you head north again?”
“Hmm, better keep it with you for now. I intend to head back in a couple of days anyway, and I’ve got something else I’m working on right now.”
“Okay.” She said, then her voice turned serious. “Have you had any other problems since that one last week? I’m asking strictly as a friend, of course.”
“Nothing. I think that may have been some sort of anomaly or chemical imbalance. I don’t expect a recurrence. “
She replied, “Except that things that go away by themselves tend to come back by themselves too. So you be careful, and I’ll see you when you return back, all nice and tan.” She chuckled again and signed off.
After several more days by the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Kevin was ready to brave the cold weather again. Not long after the airport shuttle dropped him off at his house, he was sitting on the deck off the kitchen, sipping a beer and watching his breath fog the late afternoon air.
Since there wasn’t anything in the refrigerator, it was time to find something to eat for dinner. The only meal he had was a quick sandwich in Charlotte in between planes, so he was ready for something substantial.
He backed his dark gray Charger out of his garage. Although it had snowed while he was gone, the roads were clear, no doubt thanks to both the efforts of VDOT and the sun.
Just down the street from his house was a series of strip malls, dominated by small storefront businesses. He pulled into the parking lot of his favorite sushi place, dodging a small pile of melting snow from scraping the lot.
Unfortunately the “Open” light was turned off and the door was locked. His stomach growled. Looking along the shopping center there was a new place at one end called “Lannas”. He was willing to try anything right now, and it was the only other restaurant in this stretch of mall.
He pulled open the outer door, and then pushed in another set. Warm air, redolent with strange spices, greeted his nostrils. His stomach perked up, as did his attitude.
A small, dark-skinned woman greeted him with a smile, bowing with her hands in a prayerful pose. He automatically returned the gesture, startled that it seem to be a natural response.
“How many, sir?” She asked in a heavily-accented voice. In his gut there was a flash of recognition; he did not know this woman, but he knew her word sounds in a way that was impossible to describe. A sense of understanding, a realization that he had an intimate knowledge of her culture.
“Just one,” he answered past the dryness in his throat. She led him to a corner booth. It was relatively empty, with just a few couples on either side of a central wall filled with greenery. The walls were vertical stripes of dark wood; there were carved dancers surrounded by lush plants. And in one corner, a large wooden elephant with a red headdress and blanket. There was another flash, this time of sorrow and happiness combined. Just what was happening to him?
His scrutiny of the décor was interrupted when the woman returned with a metal pot of tea, a small white ceramic cup, and a menu. “I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your order.”
He perused the menu, before deciding on chicken coconut soup and a curry rice dish. The tea turned out to be a delicious jasmine blend.
She stopped by with a small salad with a spicy peanut dressing, and he almost groaned at how good it tasted. It was gone in a moment, but it wasn’t long until the rest of the meal arrived. There weren’t any chopsticks, but just a fork and spoon.
Without thinking, he picked up a utensil in both hands and proceeded to use both to eat his meal. It seemed a natural way to eat the dish, and it wasn’t long before the plate and soup bowl were both empty, and his tummy was pleasantly full.
The waitress came by with another steaming teapot. “You ate like a native Thai. Have you ever been to Thailand?” She asked. He looked with consternation at the utensils before hastily dropping them on the plate.
“N- No,” he replied. “I’ve never been there. I just used the silverware you gave me.” She nodded and slip the receipt onto the table.
He sat there for a while, sipping his slowly cooling tea. The waitstaff took a break, and sat down in a booth not far from his location.
“It is really slow tonight, but I guess that is to be expected with the weather, Khun Sam.”
“Yes, but we still can’t close early unless we are sure there will be no more business tonight. And we still have a few patrons left to serve anyway.”
It took Kevin a second to realize they were not speaking English. It took another one to realize he understood most of what they were saying. What in the world?
He left the payment for the food on the table, stood up and bowed himself out of the premises, all the while his mind in a whirl.
He barely remembered the drive home. Mechanically he opened the door and took the stairs to the living room. He sat down on the couch. Now what?
Posted on October 19, 2018, in (completed) The Elephant Gate Part 1 (NaNoWriMo 2014), My Fan-Fictions and Novels and tagged nanowrimo; fiction; elephant prince; young adult fiction; novel; asia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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