I’ve started my long-delayed love affair with Jeanne Dark™. It has taken me more than 19 months for her personality to come into focus, but now that’s she’s here, I’m never letting her leave. This is the 1st of several books I hope to write about Dark, but not the 1st piece. Her first appearance came in the short story “Crazy Magnet,” published last year in The Juice and Other Stories. Her partner and narrator, Foster Cain, told that story, which he relates in the novel in chapter 2. Below is the opening in Chapter 1, wherein Foss introduces us to Dark.
It was November before I realized Jeanne Dark had begun to unravel the stitching from my life. I awoke to the sound of soft jazz emanating from below me, and for a moment, I forgot that I no longer lived alone. I descended the stairs and followed the music to the large room that took up half the ground floor. It was still stark inside – bare, unfinished wood and dingy white walls – but it whispered of history and potential that the romantic in me found irresistible. The great room used to be an old ballroom, the focal point of the oversized house I’d purchased for a pittance owing to neglect and unpaid property taxes on the part of the previous owner. Bright autumn sun streamed through a series of large, arched windows to create a spider’s web of light-and-shadow markings on the old floor. My new partner was there, her face hidden by the full umbra of the shadows, with her body in radiant sun. She sat askew in a wooden chair, wearing a green t-shirt, a black fedora with a tan leather band, and long legs that ended in the prettiest feet imaginable. One foot was perched in the chair, forcing her knee skyward, and she held the dainty appendage in both hands. A scar as long as my hand extended from her right hipbone to mid-thigh.
As I stumbled into the brightness of awakening, she looked at me, barely turning. Her red lips were gently caressing her raised knee, and I wondered if she knew, just then, she’d broken me. Jeanne did not smile, but set her gaze on me as I stood transfixed, wondering if she slept in that ruby lipstick and marveling at how sexy my granddad’s old hat had become. I muttered something akin to a good-morning greeting as I looked around for the source of the music.
She responded with, “I Loves You Porgy.”
She nodded toward a smartphone in the corner she’d connected to some speakers. “Oscar Peterson, playing Gershwin. The song is a very dark and purple riff. It brings to mind the taste of chai tea. It is soothing, no?” I decided to avoid discussing the efficacy of jazz playing at 7:00 A.M. on a Saturday as a mood enhancer and just nodded. It was also way too early to explore all of Jeanne’s colors of music. “Did you know he died at 38?” she asked.
She gave a small laugh. “No, Gershwin.” Her eyes closed and she swayed to the rhythm of the soft brushes that caressed the drums. “You are 38.”
I was going to offer that I knew that and thanks for the reminder, but her eyes opened again, blinking despite the relative darkness in which she sat. I realized she was moving not with the beat but in syncopation to it. Her musical sense was complex, colored by the fragrant workings of her Technicolor mind. For Jeanne, there was no such thing as five senses. They were all one, intertwined, and I was certain that they were bolstered by a few senses the rest of us did not have.
“If you are wondering, I am, in fact, wearing panties,” she announced.
I hadn’t been, but from that moment, could think of nothing else. With her eyes slightly shadowed as they were, I couldn’t tell if she trying to make me uncomfortable or aroused. I was both. Jeanne Dark was a small woman, around five foot four and thin of frame. Her skin was nearly alabaster, with just enough of a rosette flush to give her a healthy glow rather than an Elizabethan pallor. She wore her hair short, with dark locks that ended just below her ears. A pixie cut is what they called it. Rather than being butch, it gave her an Audrey Hepburn glow that made a man want to take her diamond shopping. Her mama should have named her Tiffany.