The Muse by Sebnem E. Sanders

Sharma’s passion was writing, but she had to toil at a boring job. She devoted any free time to her work in progress, trying to adhere to her daily word count target of 1000. Always scribbling in her notebook, at lunch break and after dinner at home, she immersed herself in stories instead of going out with friends or watching TV. At weekends, she transcribed her work onto the computer and spent her time editing.

On a sunny weekday, she could be found on a bench in a remote area of the park, next to the woods. It was a niche, a pocket, surrounded by trees, with a small opening in the front. Sharma considered this to be her private patch, since visitors preferred to mingle on the wide lawns with the lunchtime crowds. Sharma felt comfortable, undisturbed by the commotion beyond. Sometimes she would close her eyes and listen to birdsong or gaze through the trees, lost in thought.

There came a day when she saw a lady, wearing an elegant wide-brimmed hat. Crunching the dry autumn leaves underneath her feet, she strolled in the woods. Sharma immediately felt a closeness to her that she could not explain. Another lover of nature on a solitary walk.

After seeing her a couple more times, Sharma noticed the mysterious lady always wore the same outfit. A charcoal hat over blonde hair pulled into a chignon, and a long, black coat. The next time Sharma escaped to her den, the woman was sitting on her bench. Her bench. Pale blue eyes looked up at her and the lady smiled. “Good afternoon. It’s a gorgeous day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Sharma said, unsure whether to find another seat.

“Come,” the woman said, patting the bench. “Sit by me and let’s talk.”

Sharma obeyed.

“You’re a writer,” the lady said.

“I try to be.”

“But you have little time, right?” The woman raised her eyebrows.

“Yes,” Sharma nodded.

“I’m Marsha Vavenza. Nice to meet you-”

“Sharma, Sharma Wells.”

“An Indian name?”

“I was born there. My father worked with an IT company in Mumbai.”

“Charming. The story you’re working on, do you need help?”

“How?” Sharma asked, pushing back a wayward dark curl from her forehead.

“I’m a retired editor. I only take on works by reference.”

“Really?” Sharma clung to her bag, holding her notebook.

“I can edit your work, but only if you wish me to.”

Sharma budged in her seat, looking into the pale blue eyes of the handsome woman.

“It, it’s only in shorthand, unedited, raw. For my eyes only. I couldn’t.”

“Dear, girl. I’m used to deciphering writing more obscure than hieroglyphics, more illegible than those on medical prescriptions. Most people didn’t use computers until the late 80’s, and impoverished writers couldn’t afford one.”

“I see, “ Sharma said, still resisting, yet her gut feeling said to trust her. Though showing her scribbles to a stranger seemed odd, something made her pull out her notebook and hand it to Marsha.

“Thank you for trusting me.” Marsha smiled, as she fished a pen from her handbag. She skimmed through the pages, writing notes in red. By the time Sharma had to leave, she had finished reading the entire contents. Marsha handed the notebook to Sharma and winked. “See you at the next chapter.”

At the weekend Sharma read over Marsha’s notes and edited her work. Marsha’s handwriting was clear, her comments and suggestions worth taking into consideration.

 

Winter had already arrived when Sharma finished writing her story and handed the last chapter to Marsha. After reading and jotting notes, Marsha said, “If you need me, this is where I live,” and wrote her address on the notebook. “I shan’t be resuming my walks in the cold. See you again in springtime, perhaps.”

Marsha walked into the woods and disappeared into their depths.

Sharma had Googled Marsha’s name, but hadn’t been able to find anything during the past two months. Marsha Vavenza did not seem to exist.

After editing and submitting her work, Sharma went to the address Marsha had written on her notebook. The residents at the block had never heard of her. Sharma was intrigued and asked around the neighbourhood, going in and out of the shops.

A pub called Angel’s Bliss looked old, perhaps Edwardian. The man behind the till, most likely the landlord, from the way he managed the staff, appeared to fit the old worldly scene. Sharma ordered a drink and a packet of crisps, and tried to attract the man’s attention. When their eyes met, she asked, “Excuse me, sir, do you know anyone called, Marsha Vavenza who lives in this area?”

“Why do you ask?” The man stared at her.

“I have an address, but no one seems to know her. Here,” she said, pulling out her notebook, and showed him.

The man’s eyes darted between the writing and Sharma’s face. “Who wrote this?” he whispered.

“Marsha,” Sharma replied.

“It’s not possible. She died in 1988 and is buried in the cemetery by the woods.”

Sharma’s heart pounded. She shivered and goose bumps covered her arms.

“I-,“ she said, but something made her stop. “Did-did you know her?” she asked, voice quivering.

“She was my lover. A great woman and writer I lost to cancer.”

“I’m sorry.” Sharma, said tapping her fingers on the bar.

“You saw her?” he muttered.

“Yes,” she whispered, holding his wet-eyed gaze.

 

Sharma placed a bouquet of flowers underneath the tombstone and read the engraving. “M.V. Clarkson, writer, lies here. 1938-1988”

A warm breeze touched her face. She closed her eyes and whispered, “Thank you, Marsha.”

 

Short Bio:

Sebnem E. Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she lives on the eastern shores of the Southern Aegean where she dreams and writes Flash Fiction and Flash Poesy, as well as longer works of fiction. Her flash stories have appeared in the Harper Collins Authonomy Blog, The Drabble, Sick Lit Magazine, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Spelk Fiction, The Bosphorus Review of Books, Three Drops from the Cauldron, The Rye Whiskey Review, CarpeArte Journal, Yellow Mama Webzine, and Punk Noir Magazine, as well as two anthologies: Paws and Claws and One Million Project, Thriller Anthology. She has a completed manuscript, The Child of Heaven and two works in progress, The Child of Passion and The Lost Child. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. More information can be found at her website where she publishes some of her work:

https://sebnemsanders.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Ripples on the Pond

 

 

 

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