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Nix Winter

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The House of Silver Oak
by Nix Winter   

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Books by Nix Winter
· Blood and Passion: The Cure
· Meet the Morgans
· The Theater of Emerald Tears: And Other Stories
· Tokala
                >> View all



Publisher:  SLPP ISBN-10:  1438297491 Type: 


Copyright:  2006 ISBN-13:  9781438297491

Barnes &
Nix's Cafe

Cain needed a safe place... He didn't need love or a ghost, but he's likely to get both, but he probably isn't going to get safe.


The worst kind of lonely is wishing to reach out, to touch, not being able to cross some invisible line in one's own head.

The therapist stared quietly at Vincent. "Why can't you do this thing?"

Alex Vincent didn't want any more medications. He didn't want something that he couldn't explain. He wanted. He wanted something he couldn't explain. "Why should I do this thing?"

"Because it is truly what you wish to do," she said softly, the sound of her pen flowing over the paper almost louder than her words. "You know whom you wish to trust."

"I'll ruin him," Alex whispered, studying the bland white ceiling for all he was worth. "He's too valuable to me."

"Alex," his therapist said, changing the tone of their session, transgressing some boundary that he'd put in place between them long ago. "Alex, you went to Madrid and you nearly chose not to live. Now you are here, but you can't go home. Home is too dark and too familiar with grief. You are brave, Alex. Go to him and ask him to call you by your name. Ask him to go with you into this new place of understanding. As Aretha did in your last book, you want to make that journey on your own, do you not?"

"Ricky is an idiot." Vincent said coldly, but it felt as if he were trying to drown himself, crushing his own heart as he said it.

"We have agreed not to lie to each other. Do you really feel your lover is an idiot?"

"No." Vincent closed his eyes. "I'm going to have a panic attack right now though. We need to cut this session short."

His therapist nodded. "Are you going to do it then?"

The panic attack grabbed Vincent then, tingles up the back of his neck, breath that wouldn't come. He sat up, swung his legs over the edge of the couch and gripped it with both hands. If he wasn't careful, he'd forget how to breath all the way. "I can't live like this!"

"Do you want me to write you another prescription, Vincent?"

"No." He swallowed, closed his eyes and imagined that picture of them, of Ricky so full of life, bouncing like a maniac behind him, imagined Ricky's voice and words and he combed his hair back, great messy blond history. It was hair that he always wrote about, in his novels, people with beautiful hair and beautiful eyes, and beautiful tragic lives that always came out happy by 'The End'. He wasn't like that. Every day he woke up and it still hurt. What he'd done was like a vampire, sucking away any life he might have.

Then there was Ricky pouring life into him, like the sun pouring energy into some damn plant that had been locked in the closet. The sunlight was there. Life was there. He just had to open the god damn closet door!

"How do I open the door? You're so smart. How do I get out of the closet," he asked her, not expecting her to answer or have any idea what he was talking about.

She'd been his therapist for a long time though, and many other clients before Alex Vincent had come into her practice. "Forgive yourself, Vincent. Trust in at least one person."

"Forgive?" He looked up, only then realizing that he'd bowed his head. "Forgive? Alex is dead. Any man I might have been is dead."

"No, he's not. He comes to see me every week at just this time. Trust and forgiveness, Alex. Give someone your name."

It was bullshit and he knew it. And yet, he couldn't live like this. "That's it? That's all you've got to say after all the money I've paid you?"

She smiled, eyes too plain to be in a romance novel, and yet there was something in them that woke something in him, that cracked that door just a little. "Try it."

He stood up then, running thoughtful fingers over the stubble on his cheek. It had been two days since he'd been home. He hadn't even called Ricky, but he knew that his lover would be ecstatic to see him, would rush him and wrap him in his arms. Quite suddenly, he wanted that, wanted Ricky's embrace, his sunlight. "Next week," Vincent said.

Once in his car, Vincent pulled out his phone, dialed the number for Ricky's mobile phone with his thumb. It rang and rang and the light turned green and it rang on more. Each ring was like the light from the crack of the door getting smaller, dimmer. Finally he closed and threw it against the passenger door. Trust? What was trust? He brought his sunglasses forward and hit the gas.

Middle of the day, he hit the on ramp and sailed towards the coast. He didn't know where he wanted to go, or why. He wanted to just to not be here, not alone, not with lies. The panic attack was coming back and he wished it would just kill him, just, something.

Police lights slowed him though and he pulled over, running scenarios through his head. 'Popular Novelist Shot in Police Misunderstanding' 'Formerly Popular Novelist Arrested for Excessive Speeding Tickets.' When the police officer got to his window, he smiled at him and handed him his driver's license.

Then the phone started ringing.

"You can answer that, Mr. Vincent," the officer said, pleasantly smiling before continuing with his ticket.

He didn't want to answer it though. Still he leaned over and picked the thing up. He didn't want to police officer to think he was as upset as he was. 'Novelist Confined in Mental Hospital' was not going to be a headline any time soon. "Yes?"

"VINCENT! Where are you? Oh Vincent! I saw your number and I called right back! Penny had my phone and she didn't answer it! Vincent! Where are you? I miss you so much!"

Vincent held the phone away from his ear a bit as the police officer tried not to laugh. "Mr. Vincent, my wife reads your books and my son has posters with your partner all over his bed room. I have to give you the ticket, but I didn't write it for 102 mpg, only for 85. Would you please give me your autograph?"

"VINCENT? A hundred and two?!"

Vincent groaned, but in that groan, he found the door to the closet open, light filling his space. He found maybe not forgiveness, but a reason to value himself and a trust in his pink haired artist partner. He held up a finger to the police officer. "Ricky, take a week from work, go to the coast with me?"

"Yeah, sure Vincent, anything you want. Pick me up at ComicNow?" Confusion, but acceptance hung in Ricky's voice and whatever was with Ricky's phone, Vincent could hear Penny groaning about needed to finish twenty more pages in the back ground.

"I will be there. I want to talk to you, tell you everything," he said, still holding his finger up to the get the police officer to wait. Silently he added, to Ricky, 'I want to tell you my real name, because I trust you.'

After he closed the connection with Ricky, he gave the police officer two autographs and shoved the speeding ticket in the glove box with the other two. He'd pay them, soon even. Today though, he was going to pay for the sunlight with a little trust.

The other option was the library. 

A profoundly dusty place, with just a hint of lavender hiding in the air, he waved at the dust as if that would help. There had to be more than a thousand books, floor to ceiling with one of those neat little wood ladders on wheels. The desk was, Cain struggled to find the right descriptor, Louis XIV? Gold and white with little lion's heads for feet, maybe it wasn't anything other than unique.  Slowly he made his way around the desk. He left footprints in the dust, and he had a hard time believing that the last caretaker hadn't ventured into the library. What else was there to do in a place like this? It wasn't like they were getting cable.

 The desk looked as if no one had touched it in ... a hundred years?  Certainly no caretakers had been in here. He leaned a little and blew dust from thick creamy papers. A feather quill spun in it's now dry inkwell, but the paper had words written in a fine and delicate hand.

'Forever is such a lovely dream. I forgive you. I understand. I love you in all good ways. I'll see you in Paris. S.' The letter was dated August 21, 1872.  It didn't have to be, but Cain was sure the 'S' was for Shelly. How someone both long dead and probably not at all like he was being presented had taken a hold so quickly in Cain's imagination, he didn't know.

"You've been alone too long," a voice said, light, playful, accented oddly.

"Who's there?" Cain snarled, wishing he had a flashlight, a big heavy black one, even though it was the middle of the day.   Wishing that he'd done a full house sweep. "Show yourself!"

"Why should I? I'd rather you didn't run away."

"I don't run from anything," Cain said, standing up, straight enough to hide the distribution of weight between his legs. "Who are you?"

Blue misted, swirling a little like a painting of a Chinese cloud, and a man stepped into the doorway. He seemed to have volume, substance, but he was blue, shades of blue from midnight in the shadows to summer sky for his eyes. Dressed like something out of Gone with the Wind meets Poetic Pirates, he looked very much at home in the dusty mansion. "Shelly Comstock Gray," he said, making a sweeping bow, but rising with a smile. "You're in my house. Who are you?"

"Cain Hardrain. I'm the new caretaker." He moved slowly around the desk, and towards the doorway, as if he were trying to get close to a wild bird. "If you're dead, it's not your house."

"Death," Shelly said, holding out a hand as if he expected it to be kissed, "is subjective. Hardrain. Such an usual name. Your skin is golden like tea. Are you a savage?"

Cain laughed, reaching for the extended hand, to shake, not kiss. "It's been said, sometimes. I can be savage as hell."

Shelly's hand passed easily through Cain's, back up to touch the lace at his collar. "Well, one either is, or one isn't, aren't they? Are you Northern or Southern? Not that I should ask, but I would really like to know before I let you stay in my house."

"That was over a long ass time ago, Shelly," Cain said, just giving up, until he got more information. Shelly was hardly the worst or most intimidating figment of his imagination.

The flouncing man could be a ghost. He had to allow for that. An open mind meant he might not be completely insane. Heading back to the kitchen, he said, "If it matters I was raised in New York. My mother was British. My father was Apache. People don't ask if people are savage anymore, unless it's at that kind of club and they're hoping for a close encounter of the leather kind."

"Excuse me," Shelly asked, "Did your mother escape then?  You also didn't answer. Are your sympathies with the Union or the Confederacy, Sir?"

"The Civil war was over a long time ago, more than a hundred years ago. The Union won," Cain said, winking before heading into the kitchen. "Did you run off the last care taker?"

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