This is my sixth Pay It Forward offering. It’s a short story starring Remington Pecore.
Cedric wondered if he was in the right place.
He looked at the address on the piece of paper in his hand and then back at the building in front of him. It was certainly the right number…but it had to be the wrong place. It just had to be. You couldn’t find the entrance to the hell in a building that looked like that.
999 Elysian Way was a sprawling bungalow made out of soft pink stucco with light purple trim. There was a garden planted in the front of the house that made it look as if the house sat within a small jungle. There was even a large fountain that fed water into a small lake, for fucks sake.
Scratching his head, he looked at the paper again and then back at the bungalow. It was the right place. He folded up the note and put it back into his pocket and made his way up to the front door. Ringing the doorbell, Cedric heard a small tinkle of chimes ring out somewhere in the house.
He heard the sound of high heels approaching the door. Cedric heard the click of a lock being undone and then the door was opening, and he was looking into the face of an angel. She had light brown and blond hair swept into an updo and the most gorgeous brown eyes he had ever seen. Her mouth opened up into a smile.
“Hello there! I’m Remington! Welcome to Elysian Ways. Come on in. Can I get you anything?”
Cedric shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. “No, I just, well, I want to get it done. That’s why people come here, right?” He asked. “For the final moment?”
Remington smiled. “Well you’re not one to beat around the bush. Come on in honey and make yourself comfortable.”
She opened the door further and Cedric could smell something in the air that reminded him of the lavender perfume his grandmother used to wear, only nicer. The foyer was done in dark wood and there was a gorgeous entryway into the rest of the house. The walls were done in periwinkle blue which complimented the exterior of the house.
Cedric could stand it no longer. “I’m sorry, but where the fuck am I?”
Looking taken aback, Remington closed the door and then turned to face him. “Why, you’re at 999 Elysian Way. Is there something wrong?”
“Yeah, well where’s all the fire and the burning people. Where’s the damnation and the dark lord?” He held out the piece of paper with the address on it. The hand holding the paper shook slightly.
She thought about what he was saying. Then everything clicked as if a light had gone off in her head. Cedrick could see it in her eyes. “Oh, my poor man. You want 666 Elysian Way.” She took the piece of paper and turned it around and showed him, the numbers going from 999 to 666. “While 999 Elysian Way offers you an ending of sorts, it isn’t the one you seek.”
“Well, shit.” Cedric said.
“No shit indeed, Cedric. You came here instead. I believe that your spirit guided you. Come in, come in, I will get you settled. Would you care for something to drink? We offer a full service here and specialize in endings.” She took his hand and led him further into the bungalow after closing the door with a soft click.
To Cedric, it was as if he were finally seeing the light after a long time in the darkness. He looked around him. There were hardwood floors that shone like gold, walls painted in a lovely light lilac colour and windows that looked out on the meadow that surrounded the house. The house itself smelled of lavender and sunshine and something else that was heady. It stirred things in him that he hadn’t felt for a long time.
“I should go. How do I get to 666 Elysian Way?”
“It burned down, Cedric.”
“It can’t have.”
“I’m afraid it did, ages ago. See that dark field over there across the way down the street?” She pointed out one of the windows and he did see it, so he nodded. “They said there was an electrical fire. You should have seen the flames! It was as if the end of the world had come for a bit, all the fuss that was going on. The people that lived there were always very kind, though, but they kept themselves to themselves.”
“Oh…” Cedric stopped walking and turned his face toward Remington. “You said that you provide endings, too, right? Would you be able to give me one?”
“Oh, now don’t worry about that for now. I want you to sit down here and make yourself comfortable. I’ll bring you a cup of tea and we can have a nice chat, okay?” She patted his hand and led him to a comfortable wingback chair that matched the décor. The fabric was a much darker purple.
Cedric nodded and watched Remington walk to the kitchen, her high heels clicking on the hardwood and then on the tiled floor of the kitchen. He looked around him. The house was beautifully furnished. There was a small baby piano in the corner and there was a vase of flowers sitting on it. A soft wind came through the window and Cedric could smell the scent of lavender and honeysuckle. A short tune came from the piano, one that he recognized, though there was no one playing it. When it ended, he found that he was smiling for the first time in a very long time.
When Remington came back into the room carrying a tray with two tea mugs, he pointed to the piano. “Your piano was playing itself.” He said.
She smiled and handed him a mug filled with hot tea. “Yes, it does that from time to time. Do you recognize the tune?”
Cedric’s mouth hung open for a moment before he said, “How did you know?”
Remington sat across from him on the small loveseat, also done in a matching purple fabric. “It’s always doing things like that. If I try to play it, the piano is always out of tune. I’ve had the repair man in several times and it always ends up sounding the same. However, when it plays a song for someone, it always sounds perfect.” She gave him a smile. “What song did it play for you?”
He felt sheepish admitting it, but looking at Remington, he she meant no harm. “It was the first few bars of Lavender Blue…my mother used to sing that to me when I was a kid when she was putting me to sleep.”
Instead of replying right away, Remington surprised Cedric by singing the first verse of the song: “Lavender blue, dilly-dilly, lavender green, if I were king, dilly-dilly, I’d need a queen…” It always was one of my favourite songs. A favourite colour of mine, too, as you can see.”
“If your whole house purple?” Cedric asked.
“No, there are all kinds of colours. The kitchen is done in shades of yellow. One of the bedrooms is done in a soft pink, the other in a rich blue. The den is done up in shades of orange.”
“You live in a rainbow!” Cedric exclaimed.
Remington let out a soft laugh that sounded like music to Cedric. It was as if each peal of laughter was a bell ringing. “Yes, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. I just love colour. Life is too short for black and white.” She leaned forward and took a sip of her own tea. “Don’t you agree?”
Cedric shrugged. “I don’t know anymore.”
Remington gave him a concerned look. She looked like somebodies’ mother when she looked at him like that. “Now, you don’t mean that. Isn’t this room beautiful, all these different shades of purple?” She nodded her head once as if she had made a decision. “Come with me. You can bring your tea with you.”
“Where are we going?” Cedric asked.
“Why, don’t look so worried, Cedric. We’re just going to the back garden. Come with me.”
Remington held out her hand to him. Cedric took it and he let himself be pulled into a standing position. She handed him his tea and took hers and she made her way to a patio door. As they passed the piano, it began playing again and Remington sang along. “Lavender blue dilly dilly…”
When she opened the door, Cedric smelled lavender and the earth. It smelled thick with the promise of something more. Cedric didn’t know if he was right to want something more, but he wanted this moment with Remington.
They stepped out into the air and Cedric didn’t know if he had ever seen anything so beautiful. Remington turned to look at him and she gave him a gentle smile.
“What’s going through your mind right now?” She asked him.
“I’m thinking that if this is my ending, it’s a good place to end it.”
She set her tea down on a little bistro table and he did the same. The table sat right under the canopy of leaves from a large oak tree. When the wind blew, he could hear the sound of the leave rustling.
“Why did you want to go to 666 Elysian Way?” Remington asked gently. “You do know what that place was, don’t you?”
He nodded. “A guy I work with told me about it. He said it was the place to go when all hope is lost and there is nothing left.”
Remington took a sip of her tea, looking at him over the rim of the mug. “Surely you have a lot to live for. Why would you want to end it all? If it had still been standing, you would have entered and they would have taken everything from you.”
“I know.” Cedric said.
“I don’t think you do.” Remington replied. “When I say that they would have taken everything from you, I mean everything.” She said the last word in a whisper. “They would have taken your soul and you would have ceased to exist.”
“I don’t care.” He said. “That’s better than going on this way. I don’t think I can live without him. I’m not sure what to do anymore.” Cedric knew that he sounded pathetic, that he was acting like a loser, but he was beyond caring. “You said you provide endings. If I can’t get one at 666 Elysian Way, couldn’t you give on to me?”
Remington shook her head. “I can’t give you the ending that you seek.”
“Then what kind of ending do you give?” He asked, his voice cracking. “I can’t go on this way, I need this to end, I need to end.” He shook his head. “I can’t get him out of my head, but he’s already gone.”
Remington laid one hand on his. “Sometimes, matters of the heart take a while to heal.” She said. “How long ago did he leave?”
“Three months ago. He left me for another guy, someone younger and hotter.” Cedric said, his eyes tearing up. “He took my heart with him. I’ve got nothing left.”
“That’s not true.” Remington told him.
“You still have your heart. Otherwise, how could you feel so strongly?” She gave him a soft smile. “But Cedric, no one person is worth ending your life over.”
“But I loved him! I had no idea anything was going on. He just up and left one day and told me he didn’t love me.” He looked her in the eyes to try and convey this to her, to make her understand how much their love meant. “He was my soulmate.”
Remington grimaced. “Well, obviously he didn’t feel the same way.”
“I need to end; I need this to end.” Cedric said. “I can’t go on like this. He won’t return my calls, won’t return my texts. It’s like I no longer exist to him and we spent three year together.” Cedric took a big gulp of his tea. “I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I don’t know what to do. End this for me.”
He heard the piano play again, that first bar of Lavender Blue, Dilly Dilly and he turned to look at it through the window. When he turned back, it was to find that the sky had gotten dark and that Remington had lit candles all around the garden for light.
“Well, I do provide endings.” She said gently. “Just not the ones you’re thinking of. I used to read the tea leaves, but that got old pretty fast. Sometimes, if the occasion demands it, I read Tarot cards. What I really love to read are the stars.”
“What do you mean? Like an astronomer?”
“Yes…and no. You’ll be able to read them too. I wait for the sky to show me a number made of stars. That will be the ending that you will work towards.”
He nodded. It sounded simple enough. “How does it work?”
“Well, it’s pretty simple. You just have to hold my hand. We’ll both look up at the stars together and wait for them to show us a number.”
“Okay.” He reached out and they clasped hands.
While they sat there looking up at the night sky, a soft breeze swam through the air around them. The piano started to play again, a slow and soft version of Lavender Blue that made Cedric think of his mother. She loved to sing the song nice and slow, hitting every note in her soft, sweet voice.
As they sat there holding hands, the night sky in front of them put on a ballet of stars. They moved and swam and floated across the sky. Cedric wondered if Remington was moving the stars somehow, or if they moved the way they did because they knew that she was watching them.
They moved and shifted one final time and then Cedric could see that some stars were beginning to shine brighter than the others and he could pick them out amongst the other stars in the sky. Soon, he could read one number, then a second and finally, after what seemed like all the time and no time at all, a third.
“Nine Nine Nine.” Remington said.
Cedric felt strangely calm, as if those numbers. They were the numbers of this house and now they were up there in the sky, looking down on him. He didn’t believe in coincidences, but he did believe in synchronicity. However, there was one thing he had to know.
“What does that mean?” He asked her.
Remington took a moment before answering and they both looked at the stars sparkling brightly for them as if they were putting on a show. “Well, the meaning of number 999 is completion. The stars are letting you know that it’s time to start a new journey, a new part of your life. You need to let go of what isn’t doing you any good so that you can prepare for what is coming.”
Cedric snorted. “What could be coming for someone like me?” He asked. “I’m no one.”
“You’re wrong, you are everyone.” Remington said. “You need to let go of this attitude that you aren’t worth anything because one man who didn’t value you. You need to value and love yourself, Cedric.”
“I’ve been trying!” He said. “I don’t know how to do that?”
“Well, it might have something to do with that song.” Remington said. “What do you feel when you hear Lavender Blue playing on the piano?”
Cedric sighed and looked back up at the stars again where the numbers 999 were shining so brightly. “I told you before that my mother used to sing it to me when I was a kid. She continued to sing it as I grew up. She would always hum that tune when she was around me.” He looked back at Remington. “I lost her a few years ago. But every time I hear that song, I think of her.”
Remington took her time before responding, letting the wind and the sound of the crickets in the garden fill up the silence. “I think that means that she’s watching over you. That if you can’t love yourself yet, she will love you.”
“How can she when she’s gone?”
“Oh Cedric! The spirit world is vast and there are many multitudes there. Just because she’s not here physically doesn’t mean she’s not with you in some way, shape or form.” The piano let out a tumble of notes as if in agreement.
“Well, maybe you need to approach your life with that love you remember feeling. It will help you to love yourself. I know that it is easier said than done, but you are here, and we are talking about it, so this is really your first step on your new journey.”
They were quiet again for a while, listening to the wind and watching as it moved the stars about, scattering the number 999 throughout the sky once more. Cedric was still holding on to Remington’s hand and finally let go.
“So what happens now?”
“Now?” Remington said. “Now, you just take your next step. You are beginning a new part of your life. Go out there, explore and see what the world has to offer you.”
“Okay.” He said. He stood and, surprisingly, he smiled. “Okay.”
“I’m so happy to have met you, Cedric. I do hope we’ll meet again; you are always welcome here.”
“I am?” He said. “I would love that.”
“Well, of course! We share a bond, you and I. Once I look at the stars with somebody, I will always think on them whenever I look up in the sky at night.”
“Have you met many people?”
“Oh, the sky is filled with the people I know.” She patted his cheek. “Now it includes you.”
Cedric smiled and felt warm and comfortable in his own skin for the first time in a long time. “Thank you.”
“No thanks needed. Remember that a journey begins when you take that first step. It will take you anywhere.” Remington said.
When they reached the front door, Remington leaned forward and kissed Cedric on the cheek. “Now go home. It’s getting late. I’ll make sure the stars look after you on your way home.”
“Thank you again. I’ll come back soon.”
“See that you do. Now go on home, Cedric. Your life is waiting for you.”
He watched her close the door and could have sworn that he saw the sparkle of stars shining from behind the door. As he made his way home, he looked up at the stars above him. He was so intent on the stars that he wasn’t looking at what was in front of him.
Cedric was walking one moment and then he had hit something big and had he fell to the ground, hitting his head so hard that he saw stars. He felt someone near him, and a hand cupped his head. When the stars did clear, Cedric was looking into the most beautiful blue and grey eyes that he had ever seen.
“I often get lost within the stars myself.” The man said. “Are you all right?”
Cedric lay there, looking at the man above him and the multitudes of stars beyond him. “I wasn’t, but I think I’m starting to feel better.”
As Cedric stood, the man took his hand and Cedric was excited and frightened at the same time. With one last look at the stars, Cedric took that first step…