Sense of Smell can be so Evocative (by mumu74)

Summary:  This story was written for the Challenge “Lorne Greene’s birthday”. It’s not a poem, it’s not a 102 words text, it’s a 2915 words short story about Ben during one very special moment of his life. I wrote this text in french, the translation was not an easy one because I wanted to keep the special atmosphere of that romance. I was helped by my English friend, who reread and corrected the text. Now you’ll be able to discover it ; I’m glad to share it with you.

Have you ever experimented that sensation that one special smell could bring so many memories ?

Rating:  K+ (2,915 words)

Sense of Smell can be so Evocative

« When will you stop, honey ? Will you knit until you run out of yarn ? », I asked. Elisabeth had just stopped for a few minutes because it was dinner time. But as soon as she had finished clearing the table, she had picked up her needles again. She sat in her rocking chair, close to the fireplace. It was such a pleasant sensation to watch Elisabeth smiling, she was now part of my life, she was sharing my dreams, each day of my life and she was about to give birth to our child.

*********************After many, many days, the nursery was finally done ! Back in February when we had learned we would be having a child, we had been keen to create a special space for the baby. 

The wooden chest was full of small shirts and cute woolly booties. We had put some diapers on the table, our pink and white china bowl and a new  pitcher. In the middle of the room there was the crib which I had finished making. While on board I had learned different jobs, including being a carpenter. The three -drawer dresser had such a beautiful patina. There were some red and white sheets in the crib. The baby was due in August but Elisabeth had already finished a woolly crochet baby blanket.

The baby will be here soon,” Elisabeth said quietly, running her hands over her belly, “Soon we’ll be able to put our baby to sleep in the crib you made, we’ll be able to play with him or her and rock him or her to sleep…”

Yeah,” I replied, hugging her from behind, my hands running over her belly as I nuzzled my nose in/ her unruly locks.

I’m a little scared,” Liz admitted, “What if we mess something up ? »

All parents mess up,” I said softly, bending down to gently kiss her along her neck. « Our baby will be happy, we’ll do everything we can in order to make him or her happy. Don’t worry, okay? We’ll take great care of our child. I know we will.”

Okay,” Liz smiled, leaning back against me, our hands settling on her stomach to feel the baby’s little kicks, “I trust you.”

 

**************A few days later, as Elisabeth felt the onset of labor, I was out at the back, completing the inventory. I left the room and went upstairs, but I had learned my lesson, I knew, I wasn’t allowed to be present in the bedroom. So there I was, walking around in the corridor, pressing my ear to the thick door, just in case.

Hours went by, not fast enough for me and that was exasperating. No baby’s crying to be listened to, just horrible hoarse sounds ; I was nervous.

***************Evening came and our child wasn’t born yet. I still was walking around, walking around, walking around, I just stopped for a few seconds to swallow  three bites. Elizabeth’s father didn’t manage to eat anything.

****************Suddenly we heard a piercing shriek, the unmistakable sound of a baby. My step-father glanced at me and I rushed upstairs, just as Mme Genwood was leaving the bedroom :

– You have a son, she told me… «a beautiful boy ».

– May I come in and see my wife and the baby ? , I asked.

-hem, well. I have to warn you… »

I had a strange feeling, something in her voice was alarming. She didn’t want us to come in and was waiting for something. Then the doctor Mason came out and closed the door silently.
« Is there something wrong, Sir ? , I asked.

The old doctor, we had called as the labor had started, was drying his hands. He turned his head towards me and said :

– She’s weak. I tried to…. She has lost a lot of blood. I…. well, I’m not sure. I’m really sorry, Mr Cartwright. »

I closed my eyes and pinched my nose. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was afraid, my mind was already telling me the end of the message the old doctor hadn’t managed to express.

– I’m sorry, it’s completely unexpected. I’ve known Elizabeth for a long time, and I’m terribly sorry. But we have to prepare ourselves for the worst. We have to prepare to say goodbye.

– NO. No. Oh no. »

I turned my head, shocked and angry.

– No, it can’t happen ? Why ? Everything was alright. She was tired, but…. No, you told us, she would be fine. What’s happened ?

-Mr Cartwright, I’m sorry. But further explanations will have to come later. Now it’s time for you to see your son and be close to your wife. »

I opened the door and pushed it silently. There was a soft light in our bedroom. The bowl, now clean and dry, had been put on the table, close to clean tissues. My beautiful wife was lying on the bed, her head was resting on two embroidered white pillows. I came close and caressed her hair. I saw her face, she was pale, so pale, the skin on her face was almost grey, she looked so tired but she was smiling at our new born son.

I sat down on the sheets, close to her. She lifted her eyes and smiled at me :

« Look, Benjamin, it’s our son ».

I welcomed the gift she was offering me ; I reached for the baby’s hand, he grabbed my finger and I kissed Elizabeth tenderly.

-Liz, sweetheart.

-Our son is a fine boy, » she said amazed. « Oh Ben, he’s gonna love life, he will be a strong smart boy. Look, he’s so beautiful. He has your mouth and the same curve of his eyebrows. »

Her eyes were full with tears, as she lifted our boy for me to hold.

« Now, Benjamin, give him your blessing , then we’re gonna decide on a name for him ».

I didn’t know how to deal with all the emotions welling up inside . I tried to swallow all the tears blocked in my throat, how painful it was. My eyes were supposed to be filled with tears of joy, not of grieving. It couldn’t be happening, she couldn’t be taken away from me. Not today, not now. I was now holding our newborn son, he was so small, his little fist was so tiny. His skin was soft and warm, he was sleeping, like a kitten. I pressed him against my chest, I could feel his heart beating, fast and strong. Mine was so unbelievably heavy.

Elizabeth suggested :

«Let him hear you speaking.  Our baby’s already heard your deep, soothing voice, he’ll recognize the sound of it ». I didn’t know what to say, so I started to whisper.

«Welcome ; son. » I paused. «You’re here, Son, welcome to life on Earth, and welcome to your family, Adam. »

Elizabeth was right, his mouth was just like mine.

« Oh, look, he’s dreaming, for sure », I said, contemplating our son, who was smiling.

I put him back into his cradle and caressed Elizabeth’s forehead, I gently pushed away a lock of her hair.

« You need to sleep, honey.

But she refused and looked at me intensely :

– Benjamin, please, come by me, let your face be close to mine »

So I did as she said and caressed her cheek with my finger :

-What can I do for you, Sweetheart, bring you a glass of water ? Do I have to call the doctor ? Maybe I should call your father ? » She nodded. I left the room, went downstairs and called the Captain . He followed into the room and walked towards his daughter. He bent over and tenderly kissed her on her forehead after having looked at his grandson.

« Sweetheart, what a treasure. He’s so beautiful. You can be proud of yourselves, my children. I’m so happy. » He smiled and gave me a solid hug. Abel Stoddart was not known for outwardly showing his feelings but on that particular day, he was very touched and moved. Elizabeth smiled. She propped herself up against her pillows and beckoned to me to come closer on the other side of our bed. Then she closed her eyes and as she needed to sleep, we quietly left her. Downstairs we shared a coffee with the doctor and Mrs Genwood who had finished cleaning the kitchen. They both left after having told me, they would hire a wet nurse to take care of Baby Adam and eventually feed him, in case Elizabeth would be too weak. Dr Mason promised to be back quickly, he wanted to stay with Elizabeth.

****************”Benjamin? Sweetheart?”
In the darkness I heard her. The chair in which I had fallen asleep seemed so uncomfortable, I struggled to open my eyes. God, I was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, lightness replaced the darkness, and the room gradually appeared less obscure.

« Water, please ».

I gave her a glass of water and she wet her dry lips and spoke hoarsely,

“Benjamin… I feel as though I’m drifting away.  I feel so tired.  I’m gonna to have to leave you  soon . »

She was avoiding looking at me directly, otherwise she would have seen how my eyes were imploring her to stay.

– I’m going to the wide green land we’ve already talked about and I won’t be coming back. You know, nobody has ever come back from the green plains, oh no, please Benjamin, don’t cry. I’m so glad, I’ve married you and carried our son… »

– Elizabeth, no, don’t leave me. I… » I couldn’t finish my sentence. I didn’t want to beg her, I wanted to be brave.

She ran her fingers through the dark curls on my forehead as she so often used to do.

– Teach our baby son to see the world as you do, promise me. Teach him to love people and believe in dreams… » She smiled again and sat herself up with difficulty.

– I love you Benjamin.

– Me too, I love you », and those were the very last words I whispered into her ear.

 

********************************Elizabeth touched Adam’s cute little nose with her finger tip, she tenderly caressed his small lips and the tiny arch of his eyebrows.

« He was our dream, Benjamin », she whispered. « I wanted to hold him, to kiss him, I wanted to take his small hand and guide him along the roads of our dreams. I wanted to see him play with a wooden horse and run towards us. I’m so glad, the desire of carrying our child has become a reality. » She kissed him on his sweet cheek and I came closer to take Adam in my arms. He grabbed at one of my fingers with a surprisingly strong grip. It prompted a slight laugh from Elizabeth.

“Just born and he already has your physical strength. I know our son will do just fine.”

 

It was dawn in Boston, the first rays of sun came to chase away the obscure dark coat of the night above the white houses. Elizabeth Cartwright my wife, my love had been taken from me.

*****************************The following day , we buried Elizabeth. As we walked to the cemetery , I looked around at the people. So many people were gathered there, standing so still and quiet. Since the Captain and I had renounced sailing back, I had organized our social life for Elizabeth and I. The trading we’d done had given us the opportunity to socialize with Boston citizens. On that day they were there to honor Elizabeth. Then there was the Captain. He lay there with his arms resting on his stomach, his eyes closed as if he were only asleep. But he wasn’t asleep. He only looked… empty. Death had stolen the beauty, the laughter, the charm of his daughter. Everyone threw white roses into her grave just before it was covered over.

« There are times when there are too few words left to heal us, when what we wish for is to be carried away , when all we have left is the hope that tomorrow will be a more gentle place to anchor than today. Grief will be a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is the price of love. » the preacher said, as soon as the funeral was over.

We paid all our attention to our fellow townsfolk who murmured condolences, as we passed by. Their kind words, well intended, were a slight comfort. But nothing could change the fact that the Captain’s beloved daughter, my beloved wife had gone. I blinked back tears and snuffled as we continued on our way to the mercantile vessel. Once there, we went aboard and then I shut and locked the door behind us.

 

*****************After leaving the nursery room in which Caroline Surandon had taken care of Adam, I slowly walked back to our bedroom. I opened a drawer in the dresser, I was looking for a document. It was then that I saw it, your blue scarf, the one you had so often worn around your neck . Just one sniff of this scarf and all the memories of earlier days came flooding back. Its soft cherry blossom fragrance was you. I was instantly transported back in time , I was reminded of the beautiful moments we had had together, I was reminded of the intensity of our love, of the warmth of our physical intimacy. For one brief moment I thought that if I were to turn my head, you’d be there behind me ; asking me for a kiss or a hug. I could still remember your lips pressed against mine in a passionate kiss. The thought of you brought a smile to my lips but it also brought pain to my heart and tears to my eyes. The loss I had felt was immense. Waking up every morning and having this enormous weight on my heart, my mind and my soul had seemed to be unbearable. My feelings of loss and sadness had left me tired, so tired. My ability to think clearly and make decisions had diminished but nevertheless I continued to do my job, and I took care of our son. As evening came and I would find myself alone in our bed, there would be a time for me to cry. But right now, it was not night, and a simple piece of material had brought tears to my eyes. So that was how your memory had decided to express itself ; you seemed to be so close as if you were in my arms. Your parfume, a bond between your vivid presence and myself, was so strong. This sweet fragrance reminded me how much you had counted for me and how much you still did. You ,Elizabeth, my beautiful wife, had died. You had been my companion, the person I had shared my life with. I had felt so confused, because I had lost a part of myself. I had been disoriented. For several seconds, I took a long breath, my face buried in the material ; I wanted this sensation to last. I needed to take time for that, I had the feeling, I hadn’t had enough time to say goodbye. Because it had been so sudden, so unexpected.   Death had destroyed our happiness, it had been so unfair and I still thought so. I hadn’t realized your life was so fragile, our love had been so pure. Each day I wanted my job to be done, I wanted to do something to mitigate the pain of my loss , I was trying to turn my grief into something positive, but right now, I was just standing there, being still, being sad ,thinking about all that you had given to me and that I would cherish for ever : our memories, our conversations, the tender hours we had had together , everything that had been ours would belong to us for ever. You had given me the taste of happiness and I still could smell it. I had vivid memories of one day when we had had an argument, I had raised my voice, I had lost my patience, and you had come close to me. Your parfume had calmed me, immediately. How many times had you walked with me in the streets and your smile had lightened the day of an old woman. My dear Elizabeth, my sweet love, this was the first anniversary of your death. Time has passed by but not the pain. I miss you, Liz, I miss you every day, I wish you could be close to me, I wish you could see our son. I hope that from heaven you are able to watch over us and I hope you are proud of him. He has become a fine boy, and you would have been so thrilled to see him walking for the first time. I love you so much, Liz, you were a wonderful wife and you’ll stay in my heart for ever. You are not forgotten my love, nor will you ever be. As long as life and memory last, your soul will live in me. »

Tags:  Ben Cartwright, Elizabeth Stoddard Cartwright

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Author: mumu74

I live in France. I'm a teacher. I'm a recent Bonanza Fan, but not a recent writer. I always used to write so I keep writing. And now Bonanza is part of my inspiration. I love writing prequels, trying to imagine how Ben Cartwright could raise young children, after so much pain and tragedy. I work now with an english friend who help me for translating. I read many fanfiction, and my english is improving. I hope, you'll have fun reading my imaginary world. Thanks for future visits and reviews.

6 thoughts on “Sense of Smell can be so Evocative (by mumu74)

    1. oh thank you for having taken a few minutes to read it. I appreciate that. I really was touched by Ben’s story and especially the love stories he had with his wifes.

    1. thank you my friend, thanks for having taken a few minutes in order to read my “more-than-102-words” short-story and commented it.

  1. You’re gentle, expressive words transported me into those sweet moments between Ben and Elizabeth. It is amazing how something so simple, so ordinary can trigger such vivid memories. What a wonderful tribute to a beautiful couple.

    1. I’ve read several articles about the power of smelling and how it brings memories and I can assure you, it’s very strong. I experimented it myself and it’s one of the strongest sensation I’ve ever had. I thank you for having taken time to read it and comment it.

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