Milk and Cookies

Schuyler Ebbets

My parents met in Manhattan New York on the subway. My mother worked as an executive secretary in one of New York's many skyscrapers and my father was a draftsman designer at the Dealavalve Separator company. After getting married they rented a small apartment in Greenwich Village New York and soon after that, I was born. My parents were talented professionals and nonconformists and reveled in the beatnik scene so prevalent in Greenwich Village during the fifties. Eventually, my father landed a job working for Electric Boat near Groton Connecticut, drawing the plans for America's first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus. What began as a very good job soon turned into a lucrative career drawing and designing America's entire submarine fleet.

So my mother quit her job in New York and they bought their first home in New London, Connecticut. I remember as a five-year-old child going with my parents to look at different houses along the rocky Connecticut coastline. Eventually, they found a house they liked with an unusual stretch of beautiful white sand beach. Our home on the beach attracted many interesting people. The house was always full of guests on the weekends and the gatherings often became parties with loud music, drinking, and dancing late into the night. I had an exceptionally interesting childhood surrounded by my brother's friends from prep school and Harvard and my parent's friends. There were several young submarine crewmen and their girlfriends who came to visit. My father became acquainted with them while inspecting their ships for his employer Electric Boat. My father had been a lieutenant in the navy and enjoyed an instant rapport with the young crewmen.

My parents decided to let me sleep in their bedroom which was furthest from the revelry in the living room. As I laid in their big comfortable bed in the darkness, I could faintly hear the people and the music playing on the stereo. The year was 1962 and there were no computers, flat-screen TVs, or cell phones. Suddenly a large painting on the wall in front of the bed came to life lighting up the entire bedroom with moving imagery like a flat-screen TV. It was showing one of my favorite Popeye the Sailor cartoons in full bright color complete with sound. I experienced no fear and was quite delighted to watch cartoon after cartoon projecting from the painting for over thirty minutes. When my father came to check on me the painting went black the instant he opened the bedroom door. He was surprised to see me lying there wide awake and said, "You're not asleep?" I didn't try to explain, I knew I wouldn't have been believed and so remained silent. "Go to sleep Sky" he said as he left the room closing the door behind him. l waited for the painting to come to life again. After a couple of minutes, I said out loud. "Can I watch some more cartoons? " Within seconds of my request, the painting lit up the room with my favorite cartoons until I fell asleep. This became a regular occurrence on those evenings when the house was full of people and my parents put me to bed in their room.

After a few months, the painting stopped showing me cartoons and soon after that, I met Laura. I always awoke just before the sun came up. I liked to walk along the seashore early in the morning during the low tide in search of sea shells, glass float buoys, and all manner of unusual objects washed up on the beach during high tide the night before. It was a cool morning in late spring and the sky was grey. As I approached the shoreline to begin my search, I encountered a young woman on my parent's beach standing at the water's edge with her back to me. This was very unusual as I had never encountered anyone on the beach that early in the morning before. I always wanted to make a friend and although the young woman was obviously in her early twenties that didn't discourage me so I decided to strike up a conversation. "Hello," I said boldly in my little boy's voice. She turned slowly as if she had known I was there, and with a pleasant smile she said, "Hello". "Hi," I said again, "I live there", pointing back to our beach house. "I never saw you here before, do you live around here?" I asked. "Yes I live there," she answered pointing at the rental house at the end of the street behind my parent's house. I immediately remembered that it was the murder-suicide house owned by old man Perrault, the man my parents had bought our beach house from. The house was vacant and no one had lived there since the tragedy. My mother told me that a young married couple lived in the house and the husband had taken his own life after murdering his wife.

I decided not to say anything to the young woman about the history of the house choosing instead to keep our conversation on ordinary things. "Wow, you live close to me!" I said. "Yes," she responded with the same pleasant smile, "I live close to you". "Do you have any friends around here?" I asked. "No," she said, "I don't know anybody here". "Would you like to be my friend?" I asked innocently. "Yes," she said enthusiastically with a big smile, I would like that very much!" "I will be your friend," I said, "My name is Laura," the young woman said, "What's your name?" "My name is Schuyler, my nickname is Sky." "I like your name, Sky. would you like to come to my house and have milk and cookies sometime?" Although my mother and father had warned me about talking to strangers, I had no fear of this young woman. "OK" I said. "That will be wonderful." Laura said, "I will be waiting for you." she said as she began to walk back toward her house. "Bye Laura." I called out" "Bye Sky" she said, "Come by soon. I'll be waiting for you." "I will" I said as I continued my inspection of the shoreline.

A week went by and the weather had become a little warmer. Early in the afternoon on a sunny day, I decided to visit Laura. I was looking forward to the milk and cookies as all boys love milk and cookies and I was no different from any other little boy in this way. I was also curious and intrigued by the mysterious young woman. Laura's house didn't have a front door and instead had a side door with a long sidewalk that ran between the houses and alongside her house out to three steps and down to the public sidewalk on the street. There sitting on the steps in front of Laura's house, was an old man skinning fish. I stopped at the steps to watch the old man. He looked at me with a smile and asked, "Whatcha up to young fella?" "I'm going to visit the lady that lives here," I said, pointing to Laura's house, "to have milk and cookies." The old man laughed loudly and said, "You don't say? Milk and cookies you say." "Yes." I asserted defiantly, "Milk and cookies". The old man looked back over his shoulder at the murder-suicide house, looked at me, and chuckled as he continued skinning fish. I proceeded around him and up the walk to the side door of the house. I walked up three more steps to a small concrete landing at the side door and knocked. Within a few seconds, the door opened and there stood Laura. With a big smile, she said, "I've been waiting for you."

She held the screen door open and stepped to the side making room for me to enter the the small kitchen. There was a table along the wall just big enough for two people and on the table was a tall glass of milk and a plate full of cookies. How did she know I was coming I wondered and how did she prepare the milk and cookies so quickly? Laura pulled a chair away from the table and stood with her hands resting on the back of the chair waiting for me to take a seat. As soon as I sat down she sat down across from me and looked at me with her beautiful pleasant smile. I began to eat the cookies which were still hot having been freshly baked, and the milk was unusually cold. "Do you like the cookies?" Laura asked. "Yes, they're good," I answered as I ate a second cookie. "That's good, I'm glad," she said. "Tell me what have you been doing?" she asked. I proceeded to tell her about my adventures on the beach and the activities I liked to pursue such as swimming in the ocean and exploring the woods near the beach. I talked of the things a little child likes to do like hunting for turtles and rowing my father's dingy in the bay. Laura listened intently as if enthralled by my every word.

And when I ran out of things to tell her, Laura said. "I love you," as she stared intently into my eyes. I was surprised by her words and demeanor, and for a few seconds I stared back at her not sure what I should say. I liked her and I wanted to please her, I wanted her to be my friend and so I responded, "I love you too". She smiled and asked, "Will you be my boyfriend?". I was a very mature child and yet my concept of the term boyfriend was limited. I only knew that a girlfriend was a female friend and I knew girls' interests were different from boys'. I liked girls and I liked Laura so the idea of being her boyfriend appealed to me and I said, "Yes I will be your boyfriend." Laura sat smiling at me, she seemed very happy at that moment. I had enjoyed my visit with her very much. I liked that she listened to me and talked with me, however, I was just a little boy and I was becoming bored. I wanted to go out in the sunshine and swim in the ocean and build sandcastles, so I stood up from the table and said, "Thank you for the milk and cookies, I think I will go for a swim now." "I know you want to go outside and do things. When will you come back and see me?" she asked, "In a few days" I said. "I will be waiting for you my love," she said. I smiled and said, "See you soon." as I went out the door.

The warm summer days passed quickly and I went to visit my girlfriend Laura often. The conversation was always the same. "What have you been doing?" she would ask "Do you love me?" I told her about my adventures and assured her that I loved her. In late summer a few months after Laura and I had met, I began to change, becoming a little older and yet I still enjoyed Laura's attention and the milk and cookies. Our conversation had become very predictable and was always the same. I was becoming bored with repeating the same words over and over again and decided that I wanted to see what Laura would say if I played a little joke on her. So one day when Laura said, "I love you, do you love me?" I said, "No, I don't love you." With the utterance of that single phrase, everything changed instantly between Laura and me. She calmly stood up from the table and said, "I must leave now." Her warm smile was gone and her face had become cold and emotionless. She walked out the kitchen door leaving it open behind her. I was stunned and very surprised. I had not expected such an extreme reaction. I ran down the sidewalk behind her proclaiming my love for her. I apologized to her profusely and said I was sorry and didn't mean what I said. "I love you," I said again and again, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it." Laura turned and said only these words. "No, it's too late I must leave now." "No, don't go!" I begged, "Don't leave, please come back, I love you!" She didn't respond as she walked along the shoreline.

I followed her for nearly two miles, running much of the time as fast as I could while she only walked and yet the distance between us grew greater and greater. I couldn't keep up with her. I called out to her, "Laura don't go, don't go, please don't go." as tears ran down my face. I was so far from my home and the distance between Laura and I continued to increase until I knew she could no longer hear my pleas. Finally, I stopped, it was hopeless. I watched as Laura's image faded into the distance along the edge of the sea. Laura was gone. I stood staring in the distance, my heart broken. Eventually, I turned around and made the long lonely walk home. I was still crying when I entered the house and my mother asked me what was wrong. I didn't know what to say, I didn't want to tell her about Laura and how I had lost her. I went to Laura's house the next day, but she didn't come to the door when I knocked. I went to see her again and again hoping she would greet me with her warm smile. She was not there anymore. Laura never returned. I asked people who lived near her if they knew anything about the young woman who lived in the house at the end of the street. No one knew Laura, no one had seen her. I eventually told my parents about my friend Laura who lived in the murder-suicide house. They didn't believe I had ever known such a person and laughed at my silly child's tale.

Laura was a visitor to our world only visible to me. She came seeking pure and innocent love, a love denied her in life. Our parting was inevitable. I was lucky to have known this beautiful soul Laura, and lucky to be loved by her. Laura will always be a part of me.


Image: © Pinterest. AWIP:


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