fiction

Giggles

She giggled as the sand worked its way up through her tiny toes.  It made me wonder if I had experienced the same awe?  If so, did daily life push everything aside so there was no longer room for such a memory?  Somehow I felt this tiny little soul was going to open the flood gates to my heart and maybe even to my childhood memories.

I clicked the shutter on the camera and caught the moment.  I was determined that Bella would remember life’s simple pleasures.  I did not want her to become an emotionally hardened woman like I had been.  I wanted her to live her life with an open heart and as a willing participant.  My mind immediately raced to the beautifully adorned cardboard box that held all these photographs.  I knew today would be the day.  I would start Bella’s Heart Journal while my memories were still fresh. 

“Mama, look!”  Bella’s voice whipped me back to the present.  This beautiful little girl looked to the sky and pointed, “It’s a barroon.”   I chuckled as I saw the brightly colored balloon drift across the horizon over the breaking surf.

I closed my eyes and tried hard to remember anything new.  Of course I had memories.  A lot of them.  Just nothing magical.  No memories of wonderment.  I wanted to believe I was as curious and as excited about life at that age as my daughter was.  No matter how hard I tried, nothing.

“Let’s go, Bella darling.  It’s time to pick up Daddy.”

“Yipppeeeeeee.  Dadddy!  I take him this treasure, Mommy.”  I smiled as I watched her bend and pick up a tiny white seashell.

“Okay, my love.  Daddy will love it!”

Don had always been the perfect husband.  He provided for me in every way.  He loved me and supported every career decision I made.  As I was promoted up through the corporate ladder, he applauded my success.  We were the perfect couple.  Until the day he told me he wanted a family.  Every fear I had come alive.  I was angry with him for even suggesting this because we had talked it through so many times.  This world we live in is no place to raise a child.  What if something happened to us?  Who in our families could we trust with a child?  What about our jobs?  I had not worked 12 years to become an Executive Vice President just to throw it all away.  We had the perfect condo.  We had white carpet in the living room with a beautifully upholstered couch.  No place for a child.  I think a little piece of him died the day I told him ‘Absolutely not.  It’s my body.”

When I told Dr. Gwynn about my period and how I was experiencing perimenopause, he insisted on doing some tests.  Mom had gone through menopause early and while I wasn’t ready for this transition, I would just have to adjust.  I thought about Susan, the Vice President down the hall and I knew I would not allow myself to grow a moustache.  I would wax every day if necessary.

I sat in the dark waiting for Don to come home.  I knew it would be hard, but I knew he would agree with my decision.  This was not the way we planned it.  As he walked through the door he called out my name.  “Molly?”  Then his glance turned toward me.  I must have been a sight.  A 34-year-old woman, sitting among saturated Kleenex at a beautiful hand-made table from Bali.  “Molly, my God.  What’s wrong?  Did someone die?”

He held me and rocked me in his arms well into the night.  He held my hand and my heart while he told me over and over everything would be okay.   I’m not sure what happened, but by the time the sun rose Friday morning, we had decided we would keep the baby.

As I loaded Bella and her treasures into the Volvo station wagon, I chuckled to myself.  It wasn’t a red Ferrari and my flip-flops weren’t exactly corporate, but I was on vacation after all.  I knew I had missed so much, but I had to work.  These little mini-vacations were a God-send.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, Bella let out a giggle-filled squeal.  “Mommy, ice cream!”  As I started to say the words, ‘no we can’t stop now’, I felt a wave of memories rush over me.  Suddenly I was a little girl sitting in the back seat of an old panel station wagon.  I could remember everything about the old ice cream truck and how the music faded away as Mom drove in the opposite direction.  “Not now, Molly.  I have to get home and get ready for work tomorrow.”

We were a few minutes late as I pulled the car into the parking lot.  I saw Don sitting on the bench in front of the office.  He was smiling as always.  I knew Don would understand.  He always did.  He would support my decision no matter what changes we would have to make.  He loved both his little girls.

Who needs a title anyway?

fiction

Paris

I always hated that poem.   Most likely because I was born on Wednesday.  I can remember so well when we read it in elementary school.  I rushed home to find out what day I was born – Wednesday.  Somehow I think I never shook that moment – it helped craft the life that followed.    ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe.’  Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy.

Things hadn’t gone well for me from the beginning.  I was the sickly child.  I spent weeks in the hospital the summer everyone went to camp.  While Sharon was learning to swim, I was learning to be afraid.  While Sharon was making smores at the campfire, I was eating sickly green jello in a sickly green hospital gown.  Every night I cried when Maria’s parents came to visit.  Every morning I woke up hoping this would be the day someone would bring me flowers and balloons.  I just imagined how it would feel to have the nurses come in and ‘shoo’ off all the visitors that packed the room.

The blessing of high school was even worse.  I got hand-me down dresses – faded like Grandma’s wallpaper.  I got hand-me down shoes that were already formed to fit Sharon’s feet.  I also got all the wounding remarks about being a ‘Hand Me Down Rose’.  I never knew what it meant; I just knew by the accompanying voice inflections it was not good.  My hair was thin and stringy.  Even when I washed it every day, it just looked horrible.  My life, my grades and the promise of my future could all be described in the same way.  Hopeless.

I finally graduated.  Two years later than I should have, but I had my diploma and that was all I needed.   Sharon left before she graduated.  She was somewhere in New York I heard, but it didn’t matter because she was only a sister in name.   Mom and Dad left me with Aunt Meredith the year Dad got offered the big job in Texas.  I was just as glad they left, too.  Little by little I was becoming independent even if by no work of my own.   I knew Aunt M would not care when I told her I was leaving.  She would not ask me all kinds of questions about where I was going and how I planned to make a living.  I didn’t know and she didn’t care.  I just knew I was leaving.

The first bus out of town was scheduled for 7:00 AM Saturday.  Friday night, I packed what few clothes I had into Grandma’s old canvas bag and left Aunt M’s house at 5:00 AM.  I had saved the obligatory money that Mom and Dad sent me for my birthday.  It wasn’t much, but I knew it would get me out of this place and fed until I found a job.  A job?  Sigh.  Dare I dream someone would look at me and offer me a job?   Too much to think about right now….that would come later.

“One way ticket on the 7 o’clock bus please.” 

“Where you headed, little lady?”  I was startled by the kindly old voice.  I had never known anyone to refer to me as a lady.

“Out.  On the 7 o’clock bus.”  I liked the kind face that looked back at me.

“Don’t you think you ought to have a plan about where you’re gonna lay your head tonight?”  His eyebrows raised as he waited for my answer.

“I’ll lay it the same place I lay it every night.  On a pillow.”  I dug around in my purse not wanting to look in his eyes.  “Ticket please.”

“Okay, one ticket to Paris.  That’ll be $859.50.”  He smiled.  “Unless you’re not goin’ that far.  Maybe just a ticket to Atlanta?  That will only run you $32.”

I didn’t know if I should be angry or chuckle.  I just handed him two twenty-dollar bills and asked for the ticket to Atlanta.  Paris would have to wait.

I climbed aboard the bus.  The smell of fuel assaulted me to the point of nausea.  I headed toward the back of the bus when suddenly a leg covered with faded denim raised in front of me. 

“I wouldn’t sit back there if I was you.  That toilet will sure enuf stink long before this here bus rolls into Atlanta.”

I looked up to see the most amazing blue eyes I’d ever seen looking back at me.  He was young.  Maybe 16 or 17 at most.  The old button up shirt struggled to cover his chest.   When he smiled I felt my face flush and decided to be bold and take a step over his leg and just walk right to the back of the bus where I was intent on sitting. 

About half an hour into the ride I felt myself drift off to sleep. In the background I could hear the faint strum of a guitar rise above the mix of traffic and air brakes.  I did not open my eyes but I knew it had to be coming from him.  The song matched his look – simple and reassuring.  I felt all my sorrow fall away.  I could not help but smile. 

At last I was free.  Who knew I would find Paris right here on a bus bound for Atlanta?

fiction

Destiny

Straight black hair could be a nuisance obviously – especially when there were no colorful ribbons to tie it into a neat and tidy place.  I would soon learn that cascading hair might have a purpose I had never imagined.

Destiny had been a rescued child.  She was brought into the states from Vietnam.  She lived in a stately brick home with thick carpet and cream-colored walls that held too many secrets.  She never really knew what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Danvers, except that they just disappeared one day.  She was whisked away in the darkness by the housekeeper.  All she could hear were sirens piercing the night air.  The old blue car rattled in the opposite direction until the sounds were simply a faint memory.

~~~

Destiny rose to the rocking chair.  The morning sun was warm but it wasn’t late enough to really be hot.  She looked to the floor and pondered the objects that lay at her feet.   “Destiny, what’s to become of you if you cannot make every day special?”  She moved the objects around with her toes before she rose and again rested on the floor among the disconnected objects.

She placed the dominoes end to end.  All the black was facing out except for the center domino.  It was a double blank and would be the gate to enter into the palace.  In front of the domino would be the long skinny book with words she did not understand.  It would make a perfect drawbridge.   The chess pieces were sorted.  The horses would be the guardians of the gate.  She mixed the black and white men with the pointed hats to use as guards to the kingdom.  Gently, she tore the cup into long strips to use as a carpet toward the throne – a large book that rose above the kingdom.  The queen rested on the throne looking out over her subjects. 

There were treasures all around her, shiny stones that sparkled – the only riches that made it into the old blue car those many nights ago.  The other books fanned out to create a labyrinth of places that even a queen could hide when the enemy came to the castle. 

Destiny heard footsteps approaching.   She quickly collected her rocks and looked around for a place to hide them.  Gently, she placed them into her pillow.  She knew it would be uncomfortable, but at least she would feel SOMETHING.

This was the time of day that dreams were put aside and reality crept in.  The miracles she wove in her head created a blanket she would use in the future to cover and protect other children that had no one to love them.  The tears started to roll down her cheeks. 

Slowly, Destiny used her ebony black hair to dry away the tears.  For if there was one thing she had learned, crying just gets you hurt.

fiction

Going Home

The screech of metal against metal sent chills up my spine as the train drew to a slow but forceful stop. I could smell the smoke in the air even before the doors on the train were opened. The cold damp air carried the black dust from deep in the earth into my lungs. I felt myself choking. In some ways I knew it was an emotional choking rather than something physical. Suddenly I was 17 again and almost paralyzed at the thought of setting foot on this rocky terrain again.

No one would be at the train station to greet me. I had not told anyone I was coming. Everyone knew how to reach me, but I had been extremely clear that I had no desire to talk to any of them. If I loved and acknowledged these ‘people’ – my family – then I had to accept that this place was somehow part of me. That was more than I could bear.

I had been so precise in all my planning but I had overlooked the most important concern. Transportation after leaving the train. I had walked these hollers many times, but not in $200 shoes. Que Sera Sera. I stepped onto the platform and picked up my small bag. One didn’t need a lot of excess clothing when there was no intention of staying for any length of time. Get in and get out. That was my plan.

I could feel the moisture sitting on my face and knew that the black smoke was already invading my pores. It took 10 years to get that black feeling out of me – I had forgotten how quickly it staked its claim. God, I hated this place. I stepped off the platform, bent over, unclasped my shoes and slung them across my shoulder. I was amazed at how comfortable this red clay felt as my feet moved against the ground. I had forgotten how many times I had done this as a child. And I had forgotten how good it felt.

I passed the house where I grew up. Dad passed away several years ago and I had not come home for the funeral. I sent a card but didn’t call. Mom would just have to understand how hard it would be for me to come back here. I remember feeling so right about that decision then – but I had come back now – because Granny was gone. The thought of being a gold digger crossed my mind. Was I here because she left something for me? No, no. That wasn’t it. I ‘had’ to be here now. This was my chance to finally exorcise the spirit that held me to this God forsaken place.

I was shocked when I started up the old rocky drive that led to Granny’s house. In my mind it was in disrepair. The shutters were falling off and half of the floorboards on the front porch were missing. Instead I saw a beautifully maintained house. The clapboards were painted a beautiful pale yellow and the shutters were a deep forest green. The small walkway that led up to the porch was lined with flowers. Portulaca – in all the colors of the rainbow. On either side of the steps leading up to the porch were bleeding heart bushes. I wanted to sit on the steps but I was drawn to the front door. A small engraved plate was now somewhat discolored but you could still make out the letters that said WELCOME. I bent down, lifted up the corner of the braided rug and picked up the key. I held my breath as I put the key into the lock.

“So you DID come?” The voice was familiar yet distant. I turned to see an old woman that I didn’t recognize. A small smile formed on this stranger’s face and suddenly I realized it was my mother. It had been 28 years.

“Mama?” I choked on the word. “Is that you?” I could not believe the years that were etched in the lines of her face. I wanted to cry.

“Let’s sit.” Mama said.

I put my bag down as she walked up the steps and across to the old porch swing. I sat beside her and she put her arm around me as if we had seen each other yesterday.

We talked and cried and even sang the song that Granny sang to me when I was a child. The woman I thought I hated was lost in the body of an old woman. Her hands twisted and stiff. She held my hand and I suddenly felt such sadness for all the years that I had been gone. For the life that I had not shared. And for the price I paid for my freedom. It wasn’t until now that I realized the price was too high.

“She didn’t leave you the house. She was afraid you would feel she was trying to force you to come back here. There’s a small box on the kitchen table. I haven’t touched it. I do not know what is inside.”

Instead of inquiring about the house, I released the hand of this old woman and walked into the house. It was clean and remarkably I could not feel or taste any black dust. It was not like I remembered. As I walked into the kitchen I could see the dotted swiss curtains move in the gentle breeze. On the table was a rather large cardboard box. There was no note, no card, nothing. As I opened the flaps on the box I felt the tears roll down my cheeks. Inside I saw four books – old bookkeeping ledgers. I opened the cover on the first one. Granny had left me her journals.

I could hear the creaking of the old chains that held the porch swing. The wind moved the trees outside the window as I looked at the first paragraph and started to read.

“I wasn’t angry at her because she ran away. I was angry at myself for not doing the same thing many, many years ago.”

Finally, I knew I was free.