Aaron lay on his pillows with his eyes shut tight. He lay there imagining her cold arm draped across his chest. Then grabbing the sheets imagining it was her hair. The closer he held, the heavier gravity's weight dropped in his chest. As his chest closed in, his throat began to gasp for air convulsively. Breathing heavily, Aaron abruptly grabbed his book and read aloud, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, come to me all who are weary and burdened." He folded his heavy hands and repeated the phrase until the shadows from the walls lifted from his room. As the clouds lifted, billions of stars nauseatingly appeared. He slowly passed out, overtaken by the light.
Aaron suffered from this strange dream, now turned hallucination, of a beautiful ghostlike image lying in his bed. The mornings brought comfort and helped him to forget. Aaron looked out of his bedroom window and watched as the sun danced freely in the fields. He was a poor man that worked odd-end jobs, but he lived a carefree life. Aaron lived in the country with his parents. He was always the first to wake, which made him feel responsible and independent. His scruffy Utonagan mutt greeted him every morning with a continuous rapid Woof! Woof! "Sanders, what's up, tiger?!" Aaron said, smiling rubbing his dog's head back and forth with his soft bear-like hands. Aaron had an infectious beaming smile that brightened his face and any room for that matter. He was a quiet man with drowsy soulful puppy dog eyes and shaggy tousled dark brown hair. Aarons rugged hairstyle was a perfect fit for his short thick beard on his brown oval face. He had a gaze that represented freedom and soft round lips that meant stillness. The stillness of his lips when his mouth was closed was one of his most attractive qualities. Sometimes, the words in his mind had trouble traveling down to his tongue. He blamed his mom for this. She was timid and did not talk much either. He felt this was why he could not land a good job. He hated this because he could not start a family without a career.
"Hey, mom, what's for breakfast?" he said as he walked into the kitchen. "Good morning, son," she said with a bright smile. Asteria had earth brown roundish-almond eyes with a mysterious glow. Her warm beige skin and round-shaped face complimented her full red lips. She often displayed her improperly aligned teeth that sparkled. Her lower jaw seemed dislocated because it jutted out a bit. Yet no one ever mentioned it. She was a curvy-shaped woman dressed for comfort and always kept her curly brown hair wrapped in a French twist. "Would you like pancakes?" she asked. "I made pancakes, bacon, ham, and sausage." "There are biscuits in the oven." "Honey will you get the orange juice out of the fridge and put it on the table?" she asked. "Your dad will be down in a minute." "Yes, mom," he said. As he set the juice down on their Christelle Acrylic Dining set, he saw her face wince as she hunched down to sit on the dining room chair. She sat unnaturally leaned back with her eyes closed. "Mom, is everything ok?" "Yes, I'm fine. Are you going to eat your pancakes? I made a plate for Sanders too." "Mom, he can't eat human food," Aaron said frustratingly. "Yes, he can. Aaron, he loves it." "Honey, where is your dad? Can you tell him the foods ready?" "No need, I am here." Mr. Handel said as he strolled across the marble kitchen floor. "What's for breakfast?" he asked, smiling radiantly. "Good morning, dad. Mom made pancakes, bacon, ham, and sausage." "Honey, why did you make so much food?" "James, I always make this much food," Asteria said. "I know you do, dear, and every morning, I ask why," he said. "Ahh, listen to the love birds," Aaron said, smiling. Mr. Handel smiled, and Asteria quickly changed the subject. "I made coffee; would you like some, James?" "Of course, honey, thank you," he said. She reached for the stainless-steel thermal carafe pouring coffee into his cup, watching the steam rise satisfyingly into the air. Aaron smiled through the silence as he ran syrup onto his pancakes. "Honey, can you come with me to the office tonight?" Mr. Handel asked. "I need your help." "You need my help on what?" she asked. Asteria, what kind of question is that? I have tons of paperwork that I need you to go through with me.
Asteria gazed out the window, slowly nodding her head up and down. "Yes, James." "Good," he said casually, sipping his coffee. "Dad, your right eye is red." Mr. Handel wiped his eye and saw blood on his finger. "Hmmm, strange, I should get this checked out." "Yes, dad, you should," Aaron said as he cut into his pancakes. Staring down at his food, he noticed black ants, with red tails crawling out of his pancakes onto the syrup. Finding insects in the food was a familiar thing, so Aaron ignored it. He ate around it and did not mention it for the sake of a peaceful breakfast.
That night Asteria felt at war. I hate this office, she thought. Asteria pressed the palm of her hand down onto the laptop's soft keys knocking it to the ground. "I'm sorry," she said. "That was an accident." Mr. Handel leaned back in his leather chair and laughed. "You're so clumsy, baby. You are always falling and breaking things. Don't worry about it," he said. I always fix things and make them better. That's why you married me, right?" With a blank expression, she uttered, "It's dark, and I can't see. Can we turn on the lights? May I leave?" Asteria was in misery in her marriage with Mr. Handel. Every morning, out of desperation, she placed drops of rodenticide in his coffee. Asteria hoped he could feel the slow dying pain she felt whenever they were alone.
The night had come and gone, and morning came. "Hey, mom, what's for breakfast?" Aaron asked as he walked into the kitchen. He noticed no food, and Asteria laid across the table, staring out the window. "Mom?" Aaron repeated. She sat soundlessly with no response. "Mom, what's wrong? Where's dad?" She turned her head and stared lying there, lost for words when she dropped her mouth to speak. Aaron ran upstairs to look. "Dad?" There he found James lifeless in bed. Aaron walked closer to see. Mr. Handel's eyes remained shut tight, and his mouth slightly opened dripping with blood, and under his arm hid a black notebook. Aaron moved his father's immobile arm and grabbed the Moleskine. He never left this book out, Aaron thought. He frustratingly noticed its indelible, flexible grip and compared it to his father's lifeless body. His hands began to shake while removing the elastic band to unseal the book, hoping to find an answer. As he turned the thick ivory pages, there were lists of names, numbers, notes, sketches, and countless affairs. His whole life was in this book. Asteria solemnly walked into the room. Aaron, she said. I think he overdosed.
That night Aaron read through the book over and over. None of the names sounded familiar except for Belle. Her name and number appeared next to the soft ribbon bookmark. She was Mr. Handel's assistant who lived in California. As Aaron pressed call, he quickly heard a faint voice on the other end. "Hello? Who's this?" she asked. "Hi, umm, this is Aaron. Can I speak with Belle?" "Oh, hello Aaron," she said, surprisingly." "Something has happened, hasn't it?" "Yes," he answered. "Did someone tell you?" "No," she said. "No one told me, but you are calling me." "Where is your dad, Aaron?" A lump started to form in Aaron's throat, and he could not answer. "I'll be there tomorrow," she said. "I'm sorry for your loss, love." The phone clicked. Did she hang up? The phone call had him on edge, so he could not call back. Aaron decided to finish their conversation in the morning.
"Hey, mom, what's for breakfast?" Aaron said as he walked into the kitchen. "Good morning, son," she said quietly. "Would you like pancakes?" "Of course," he said. As he set the juice down on the table, there was a knock at the door. "I will get it." He rushed to the door and opened it. Aaron smiled and stared as Belle told the driver to wait in the roundabout. She turned and greeted him graciously with a hug and a smile. "How are you Aaron," she asked. "I'm doing ok," he said, smiling. Belle was brown-skinned with black arched eyebrows and warm brown eyes. She had a diamond-shaped face with a soft button nose and full lips with long black hair that she kept tied up. Belle was athletically built and always dressed professionally. Her professional look and personality matched perfectly. "Where is the study?" she asked. Aaron led her upstairs to the office, and his mom stayed in the kitchen. Asteria did not want to be involved with anything surrounding Mr. Handel's death. While in the study, Belle sat in his dad's leather chair and pulled out her briefcase. "Ok, let's get to business. I have the will, Aaron. Your dad named me in the will as the executor. He left you with everything." "Everything!" Aaron exclaimed. "What about my mom? She's his wife." "Aaron, she was cut from the will." "Why?" Aaron snapped. Belle handed him a copy of the will. He scrolled down and read aloud, "Article II: Money and Personal Property, I give all my tangible personal property and all policies and proceeds of insurance covering such property, to my son, Aaron. I leave an early inheritance to Aaron and will receive the remainder upon these statutes." Aaron stopped reading and inhaled deeply as he stood there speechless. He looked towards Belle. "Yes, Aaron, there's $20,000 here in the briefcase. Spend it any way you'd like, but I encourage you to invest and follow your father's business plan. I'll send an electronic copy of his plan to your email." She stared and asked, "Will you take over the business?" Aaron looked away and hesitated. "Yes," he said gravely. "Ok, how about dinner tonight? A business dinner," she said excitedly. "Yes, let's go over the plan," he responded. "Well, ok then," Belle said. She stood up, walked towards Aaron, and put her hand on his chest. Aaron quickly stepped back, opened the door, and said, "Ladies first." "Thank you, Aaron," she said softly. "By the way, your dad loved your mom. He knew she was not strong enough to handle all of this. He knew you would take care of everything. He knew you would take care of her." "That is true, Belle, thank you; I will see you tonight."
The Black Notebook Challenge
-to be continued.