Never Been To Me

by Enola Jones

Song used: I've Never Been To Me, by Charlene

"She's got some nerve comin' back here."

Vin and Ezra stood side by side in the small hallway, Chris standing slightly behind them. Four Corners had closed an hour or so earlier, but one patron was still there.

"How'd she evade Inez, anyway?" Vin continued his sentence.

Ezra sighed. "More than likely, she stayed in the women's room until after all had left." He nodded toward the woman sitting at the piano on the stage, playing song after song, seemingly killing time. "We've done it before when we wished to stay after-hours someplace."

"She's still not getting you," Chris snarled softly.

"No, she isn't," Ezra said with a smile. "And once she gets tired of waiting, she'll leave -- then we can leave."

The other two nodded and watched Maude Standish sit playing the piano, waiting for her son.

She finished the song and sighed. A look at her watch and she stood up, moving around the bench --- then she stopped. She blinked and looked toward the keys, then shook her head and took a step forward.

"What is she up to now?" Vin whispered.

"I'm not sure," Ezra whispered back. He knew she couldn't see or hear them from where she was at, but they could clearly see and hear her. "I've never seen her look so -- troubled -- before."

Maude paused again. She looked back toward the keys then -- slowly -- moved back and sat down. She seemed hesitant to put her fingers back on them, but she did, and played a few bars of a lonely-sounding song.

"I've never heard that," Chris whispered.

"Me either," Vin frowned.

"I have." Ezra sighed. "She wrote that melody when I was a child. She said she just needed to find the perfect words to it. Whenever she was upset, she'd play that song."

They nodded and watched her play. Suddenly her voice rose into a one-line melody. "...I've been to paradise...." Then she stopped cold.

Ezra's eyes widened. "That fit..."

Maude blinked. She looked around, finding the nightclub seemingly deserted. Satisfied, she licked her lips and put trembling fingers back onto the piano keys. Soft and low, though amplified by the stage acoustics, the melody poured back out of her fingers. As the soft piano notes continued, she began to softly sing.

"Hey lady, you, lady --
Cursing at your life
You're a discontented mother
And a wretched, venting wife...
I've no doubt you dream about
The things you'll never do,
But I wish someone had a talk to me
Like I wanna talk to you...
Oooh, I've been to Georgia and California
And anywhere I could run--
Took the hand of a preacher man
And we made love in the sun--"

Ezra smiled. "I remember her telling me about that...."

"But I ran out of places and friendly faces
Because I had to be free --
I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me."

Ezra blinked, hard. "....Mother?" he whispered. The others blinked too -- unable to believe what they'd just heard.

Maude stopped playing. She bowed her head and visibly pulled herself together. Then her fingers went back to work and the song resumed. But her voice was audibly trembling now.

"Please lady, please lady -- don't just walk away,
Cause I have this need to tell you why I'm all alone today --
I can see so much of me still living in your eyes;
Won't you share a part of a weary heart
That has lived a million lies?"

The three just stared, though now two of them had their hands on Ezra's arm and shoulder as he turned paler and paler as his mother continued to bare her soul to what she thought was an empty room.

"I've been to Nice and the isles of Greece
Where I've sipped champagne on a yacht
I moved like Harlowe in Monte Carlo
And showed them what I've got...
I've been undressed by kings, and I've seen some things
That a woman ain't supposed to see
I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me."

Ezra nodded gently -- he remembered every one of those incidents.

Maude then whispered gently, eyes unfocused as if she were addressing someone who was really there -- and perhaps she was seeing a younger version of herself as she spoke instead of sung, the words still in rhythm of the music she was playing.

"Hey, you know what paradise is?
It's a lie -- a fantasy we create about people and places
As we'd like them to be.
But you know what truth is?
It's that little baby you're holding
And it's that man you fought with this morning
The same one you're going to make love to tonight
That's truth -- that's love!"

When she began to sing again, her voice was full of pain. It reflected on her face and tears filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

Ezra's eyes widened as the words hit his ears and he learned things about his mother he'd never even suspected.

"Sometimes I've been to crying for unborn children
That might have made me complete
But I--" her voice finally broke and had tears in it as she finished,
"I took the sweet life and never knew
I'd be bitter from the sweet--
I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring
That cost too much to be free--
I've been to paradise...."

She stopped, then finished without music in a voice almost too clogged with tears to speak. "But I've never been... to me...."

Maude then put her hands over her face and her shoulders heaved as the agony of a life filled with nothing but wrong choices spilled out.

Ezra shook off Vin and Chris's hands and moved forward soundlessly.

A moment passed. Maude raised her head and turned to leave -- to find she was no longer alone on the piano bench. "....Ezra...." she whispered.

He looked into her eyes and saw her struggle to put the blank face up again. He lay his hand on her cheek. "Don't, Mother. I heard it all." As she blanched, he took her hand. "And I love you."

That melted her and she began to cry again. She whispered his name as she gathered her son into her arms and sobbed, "I'm sorry... I understand now...."

Vin and Chris shared a smile as they saw healing begin before their eyes.


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