As you may or may not know, Devil’s Party Press is located on the beautiful “Eastern Shore,” which includes parts of Delaware and Maryland.
I invite you now to sample a story from our winter anthology from 2018, Solstice. The story, “Winter Eyes,” by author Mark Polo, takes place in a famous Eastern Shore location, Fenwick Island. Mark is celebrated interior designer on the Eastern Shore, known for his award-winning rooms featured each year in the Rehoboth Beach Show-house.
Mark Alan Polo
“SEE, THAT’S YOU AND THAT’S LES,” Sam said to Renee as he held the scrapbook and turned the pages. Renee had trouble focusing, but her own photo held her interest.
“That’s me?” she asked. It was encouraging that she recognized her own image.
“Yes . . . and Les.” Les and Renee had been married for sixty years. The photo was from the 1940s when they were first dating. They summered in Fenwick Island that year. The photo depicted them on the beach beneath a striped cabana awning. They were a striking couple. She was a violet-eyed beauty with light brown flowing hair, and statuesque in height. Renee had the bearing and body language of a more affluent person, someone who’d grown up in wealth instead of dancing around it from her actual birthplace, an apartment in Brooklyn. Les, a former marine had been a privileged upbringing of wealth, boarding schools, and nannies. He graduated from a South Carolina military school. Les and Renee met on Fenwick Island that year; and, under that striped awning he fell in love with those violet eyes. She returned the affection of the well-muscled man, six-foot three in height with wavy blonde locks. From that moment, that photo, they were inseparable. He would tell of their first meeting to all who’d listen.
Whenever Sam sat with Renee they were hopeful that she would remember, hoped that somewhere locked in the jumbled signals coursing around in her brain that this photo would hit a spark.
Renee paused for a moment and touched Les’ image on the photo. She looked deep in thought and a slight smile crossed her lips. She looked at Sam and said, “It’s a lovely photo. That’s him in the other room?”
“Yes. Your husband Les is in the other room.” Sam felt relieved that there was progress in her memory of Les.
“Well,” She said, “He’s a very nice man . . . a gentleman. But, I don’t know who he is.”
“Are you sure? Look, again,” Sam asked, sadly knowing the outcome.
Renee looked over her shoulder and said, “He’s in the next room, isn’t he? He’s very handsome, too.”
Les was nearing eighty-five but held on to the proud demeanor of a life well designed and executed with a face that aged into kindness.
Renee tried to offer more, “Well,” I know he lives here and he certainly is kind. I don’t know him though. But,” she said in a confidential whisper, “I do know that he’s very rich.”
She couldn’t recognize her spouse but she still understood her environment and its trappings.
Renee sat in the living room of their palatial apartment in the heart of Beverly Hills and remembered nothing of buying the home, furnishing it with Sam’s help, and moving into it with Les some three years before. Her deterioration was rapid, and everyone felt the onslaught.
It had been more than two years ago since Renee announced her devastating conclusions at a dinner party in their apartment on a balmy Saturday evening. She’d stood up in front of her seat and held onto the table, “I just want everyone to know that I believe I have Alzheimer’s.”
“Oh for God’s sakes, Renee! You are so dramatic!” Ivan, a retired film executive had reprimanded, “We all have moments of forgetfulness.”
“No, Ivan. This is more than a forgetful moment or two. And I am not going to ignore it anymore. I want my friends to know.”
“We have been to the doctors,” Les explained. “All signs point to this.” He’d sat slumped in his chair staring at the table. He was very used to Renee going full-steam ahead when it came to her passions and had learned years ago not to get in front of the fast-moving train.
The room had fallen silent while everyone faced their mortality.
“I don’t want to put a pallor on the evening, but I wanted all of you together. I’ve said it, now let’s move on.”
The evening hadn’t been quite the same after that. At the end of the night, the couples had all hugged at the door knowing that changes were happening and that no matter how insulated they might be from other things, this was something beyond their control.
Sam hugged Renee’s sister–in-law, Louise. “Don’t let her get lost,” she’d whispered in his ear.
Sam didn’t know how to prevent that eventuality. He thought that the announcement had been Louise’s way of letting it all go, and he was right. Soon after that fateful evening, Louise and her husband, unwilling to bear witness to Renee’s inevitable decline, began to separate from friends and family and quickly listed their house on the market. They were gone within three months. These were among the unintended consequences of truth. Les never allowed his hurt to show, but following Louise’s departure his lean and tall stature diminished. With Louise out of the picture, Les realized that he had to shoulder this alone.
Whenever Renee descended into her dark vacant periods, Les referred to it as her “winter eyes.” Renee’s transition into winter eyes was fast and frequent. Les always knew when she was absent from the conversation, her intense violet eyes visibly faded. “It was as if winter’s cold blast blew into her eyes,” he said.
When he saw it, as the months went on, he knew enough to stop and let patience and time wash over him.
Several months passed before they saw Sam again. People of wealth always traveled with their essentials: appropriate attire, passport, their portfolio and their Interior Designer. Sam being among the best, it was easy to incorporate him into their family and social circle. So, when summoned, he ran, always staying with them making sure that his plane ticket was open ended. He was like a son to them. Their time together linked them on so many levels that distance had little effect on their relationship. Over the years they explored and laughed and enjoyed unique and special moments far and above their initial designer-client business relationship.
Renee still remembered Sam, but it was unclear as to whether or not she remembered their thirty-five–year involvement in designing all of their residences throughout the years. Sam sometimes spoke about the fun they had in one house or another, the picnics at their farm house, or fireworks viewed from a window overlooking the East River, from their first beach house on Fenwick Island, onto East Hampton, and finally Beverly Hills where life rapidly unraveled. Each time he did, there was less and less response from Renee.
It was Sam’s routine now. Like clockwork, he would arrive at their apartment and sit in the living room with Renee and they would look through the photo album together. He closed the album just as Les entered the living room.
“Any luck?” He asked, knowing the answer.
“No,” Sam said, “it seems to have gotten worse.”
Renee looked up and poked at Sam. “See? Rich.” She thought she’d whispered. Renee’s response had seem to deteriorate since the last time Sam visited with her. They relived the exact moment over and over with less and less response.
Les’ forehead produced an immediate furrow. “That’s it. We’re moving.”
“Moving?” Sam asked.
“Yes, we’re going back to Fenwick Island.”
“Fenwick Island?” Sam said, incredulously.
“Yup, we’re going back.”
“But Les, it’s January. It’s warm and sunny here on Wilshire, but remember it’s cold and dank on the East Coast. You’re not used to that anymore.”
“We’ll get used to it. There’s no reason for us to be here anymore. I’ve had my fill of the distance, the palm trees, and the traffic of the 405. I am bone tired and this is the last move that I have left in me. I want to go back. We need to go back. Maybe starting from the beginning. I can stall the darkness, the winter.”
“But . . . winter in the East, Les . . .”
“Sam,” Les abruptly interrupted, “It’s not the winter in the East that worries me. It’s the winter I have in my own home, in my Renee.” He looked at her and stroked her hair. She looked up at him and smiled politely.
“Where are we going?” Renee asked. She had been distracted by the cover of the antique photo album and was fingering its edges and inlays.
“We’re going back to Fenwick, Renee.” Les said, as his eyes softened looking at her.
“I remember Fenwick Island. I remember my house there with my family. I liked it there. You know, that’s where I met my husband,” she said with winter eyes.
“Yes, kiddo, I remember. We need to do this right away.”
He left Renee and Sam in the room and began his mission. Les phoned packers, movers, and his real-estate agent. He also phoned his travel agent, who was more accustomed to booking trips abroad and cruises.
“We are leaving here by the end of the week,” Les said to the agent. “Get me tickets to the airport in Philly and a car service to Fenwick Island, Delaware. Yes, that’s right, Fenwick. I’ll give you the address as soon as I know it. Probably call you this afternoon, late.”
Intrigued? To read the rest of the story, buy a copy of Solstice: Own Solstice
To have the best damn designed house on The Eastern Shore, contact Mark: Mark Polo Designer