Every evening for the past four months Lydia has torn a page from the book and eaten it between two pieces of bread spread with jam or butter. Sometimes she has a cup of tea or a glass of wine, too.
The book was her mother’s diary. When Lydia was little, her mother’s magic had entertained her for hours. Joyce enchanted her daughters’ stuffed animals and dolls so that they frolicked and chattered. She blew bubbles that became butterflies and danced through the air on effervescent wings.
As Lydia grew older, her mother performed less and less magic.
Then, when Lydia was in college, her mother died in a car crash.
Lydia really misses Joyce.
For a long time, she thought the memories she had of her toy dog barking and of her Barbie talking nonstop about Rainbow Bright were figments of her imagination. Had her green beans actually somersaulted and formed designs on her plate? Had chewing a piece of broccoli really given her the sensation of climbing into her favorite tree?
While looking through a box of her mother’s things for a photo, she had found the diary. Lydia thought it strange she’d never really noticed it before. She took the notebook into the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, read it from start to finish. Joyce had been an inconsistent keeper of her journal, and the entries spanned almost twenty years. The first was dated when Lydia was only two. The last a few weeks before Joyce’s death.
Lydia kept the book on her nightstand for a year. One night she couldn’t get to sleep. She tossed and turned for hours before giving up. She turned on her lamp and reached over for Joyce’s journal. When she touched its cover, she felt a terrible ravenous hunger and a sudden compulsion to eat one of the pages. Her fingers trembled as she tore the page out. Her teeth chattered as she ripped a small piece of the page off. She put into her mouth. It tasted good. When she swallowed a blissful feeling of peace flooded through her. She relaxed. It was if she was floating.
Since then she has been consuming the residual sparks of her mother’s magic. They have mostly manifested in the form of powerful dreams. She dreams of the past and, like a prophet, of the future to come.
Now she traces over the words her mother wrote ten years ago. Reads them in a whisper before she pulls the page from its binding. A cup of herbal mint tea sits on the table near her elbow. Lydia drizzles honey on one slice of densely seeded bread and spreads another with butter. She makes a sandwich, takes a bite, and thinks of her mother as she chews.
Ray Ball, Ph.D., is a writer and a history professor. She grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, but now lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She is the author of two history books and her creative work has recently appeared in Cirque, Longleaf Review, Visitant, and West Texas Literary Review. She tweets @ProfessorBall