…at first sight

Happy Birthday, dear Grandma,
Happy Birthday to you!


Emma took a shaky, deep breath and blew out the candle on her cupcake.  “100 years old today”, she thought to herself..  She never would have imagined she’d live this long, not with her careless, adventure laden life.  Boy had it been a good one though.

“Grandma, what’s it like to be 100?” Maggie asked, gently sitting on the edge of her grandmother’s bed.

Emma knew you weren’t supposed to have favorites, but Maggie held a special place in her heart.  Out of the 12 grandchildren her daughter Eva had given her, only Maggie shared the same flaming red hair and fiery temper.  Maggie also was the thrill seeker.  Apparently that trait skips generations as Eva, Emma’s only child was as timid and shy as a rabbit.  Maggie, though, was a spitfire.  She had dropped out of college, much to her parents horror, to pursue a life as a stunt-double.  She made damn good money at it, too  Unfortunately, the career meant a move to California and Emma rarely saw Maggie now.

“Its been a long journey Mags.  I wouldn’t trade my life or my experiences for anything.  Good or bad, its been my life.  Can’t say I thought I’d see this day though, not with what I put this body through.”

Maggie looked at her grandmother, suddenly seeing the frailty and hearing the years in her voice.  “Grandma, what is your best memory?  What day would you go back and relive if you could?”

“Oh that’s an easy one Mags, it would be the day I met your grandpa!”

Maggie looked uncomfortable for a minute.  She shifted herself carefully on the bed and opened and closed her mouth several times.  Each time she looked like she was about to say something, but stopped.

“Out with it Mags, what’s bothering you?”  Emma caught Maggie’s eyes and held them.  The stare said there would be no sidestepping her.

Maggie thought for a moment and then blurted “You would go back to that day even now knowing that grandpa would leave you with the shame of an unwed pregnancy?”

“Honey darling, war happened.  Its not like your grandfather up and disappeared.  He got himself enlisted and god bless his soul died during his very first battle. We had a nice night right before he left, though.  Ain’t ashamed in that and I have never, not once, been ashamed of my Eva.  Have I ever told you about the day I met your grandpa?  Oh he was so handsome!”

Maggie had heard the story a hundred times, but let her grandmother continue.

“I was out looking for some fabric to sew my wedding dress.  You know I was supposed to marry that old fuddy-duddy Marshall Whitmore, right?  Well anyway, there I was walking down Main Street, having myself a right darn good cry because I couldn’t afford even the cheap cotton over at Mary’s shop.  How was I supposed to marry Marshall, who was the mayor at that time, without a proper wedding dress?  Everything I had back on the farm had yellowed.  As I said, I was having myself a right good cry about it.  That’s when I felt an arm go around my stomach and a strong man was pulling me out of the path of Mr. McDermott’s Ford.”  Emma seemed to brighten at the memory as a small smile crossed her mouth.  “It wasn’t proper for a man to touch a woman like that back then, so I gave that stranger a right good lashing with my tongue.  Boy, oh boy though was he pretty to look at so once I was done acting proper, I flashed my best smile his way.”

“And the rest is history.” Maggie interrupted.  “Grandpa bought you lunch and some of Mary’s finest cotton and in the process stole your heart.  Honestly Grandma, how could that be your favorite day?  Surely mom’s birth or one of your amazing trips could top that day?”

Emma just smiled and closed her eyes.  “No honey.  You’ll understand the day you meet your man and see your future.  Sure ours was short, but we’ll have forever together when I leave this earth and I’m itching to have those arms around me again.”

“You come’n around tomorrow to see your old grandma before you head back home, right?  I’m getting tired and want to get to dreamin’ about your grandpa again.”  Emma shift her pillows and closed her eyes.

“Of course Grandma.  I love you.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”  Maggie bent over and kissed Emma’s cheek, then picked up her purse and got her sweater from the bureau.  Before she had time to shut the door, Emma was already snoring.

Maggie was still dumbfounded as she walked down the hallway.  “No way just meeting a man for the first time could be that special!” Maggie thought.  Just then the elevator doors opened and Maggie’s world changed.

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For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kirsten Doyle challenged me with "You are at your own 100th birthday party, reflecting back on your life.  Tell us about the best day of your life, from your 100 year old-self" and I challenged Kurt with "Your character wakes up only to realize it wasn't a dream/nightmare".
Since I had just done a 1st person last week, I took a few liberties and went with characters.  I had also wanted to challenge myself with dialog, something I suck at.  But yes, meeting my husband so far has been the best day of my life.

 

Orphan

I’m a 25 year old orphan.  Well, ok, not in the traditional sense.  My parents are alive and well, I am just dead to them.

I had a normal relationship with them until I met Roger.  Roger and I were fire and ice, steamy hot during the good times but ice cold when we argued.  We had been together for 3 months when we decided to get married.

My parents were against it from the beginning.  Being an Irish Catholic family there were rules to how this was done and we were breaking every last one.  Much to my mother’s horror, Roger and I were living together 3 weeks into our courtship.  That alone was the sin to end all sin.  According to my mother it was all fire and brimstone for my afterlife.  My father said nothing.  I just got the look.

Roger didn’t want a Catholic marriage.  We argued into the early morning hours night after night about it.  My parents expected a religious ceremony.  They damn well demanded it.  For everything I had done so far, I could at least give them that.  Let them marry their only daughter the proper way.  Save them from the scorn, ridicule and gossip that was surely already festering among the old biddies at their Church.

Roger won though.  He had given me an ultimatum – elope or lose him forever.  I was young and stupid.  He was my world and so we took a “vacation” and I got married at some Elvis drive-thru chapel in Vegas.  I cried through the ceremony.  Roger assumed they were tears of joy.  He gleefully told my parents what we had done, said it was my idea.  My parents didn’t speak to me for a year.

I sent them a letter when Rosie and Sophie were born.  My father was the one to call.  They had one condition – I was to come back to the Church.  Roger welcomed them with open arms, said he had been pushing me to make amends since the wedding and that we would be sitting right next to them every Sunday.  Funny how he never made a single Mass.

By that point I was pro at hiding the bruises.  Concealer is an amazing product – having a damn good poker face is another.  Roger hit me on our wedding night so that I would “learn my place”.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve “tripped and fallen” since.  I always left just a little bit showing.  Just a smidgen, enough for someone looking close.  Every Sunday I would sit next to my mother and silently pray that she would finally notice, finally ask.  My mother apparently has an even better poker face.  The closest I got was a comment that my “mascara had run” and I “might want to go touch up my face”.

Father Mel saw right through me the first Mass I attended.  He quickly befriended me. Asking how I was at the end of each Mass, inviting me for coffee.  I always politely turned him down.  What exactly could I have in common with a 70 year old Priest?

One Sunday, though, I just accepted.  I didn’t want to.  I wasn’t planning on it, but still “Sure” came right out of my mouth.  My mom took the girls and Father Mel walked with me to the corner coffee shop.  Over coffee words just tumbled out of my mouth, desperately trying to fill the void.  Father Mel just looked at me and listened to me ramble on about nothing and everything.  Finally he stopped me and simply asked: “how long has it been happening and when was it going to end?”

The question took my breath away.  Then I laughed in his face.  I didn’t mean to, but really “End it?”.  Does he think I haven’t dreamed of that?  How the hell was I supposed to stop a 250lb man from hitting me?  It was Father Mel who suggested a divorce and the escape plan.  I was never married in the Church, so it was never “official” anyway.  He said my parents would understand.  They were good people.  They wouldn’t want this life for their daughter or grand-daughters.  He would come with me, support me when I told them and give me a safe haven when I left Roger.

I never got the chance.  One of my mother’s friends was at the coffee shop and overheard us.  She called my mother out of “concern” for my eternal soul.  Fearing that I would divorce Roger, my mother told him about my “date” with Father Mel.  He beat the shit out of me that night.  Left me for dead.  I wasn’t though.  He fell asleep on the couch and I got the gun.

I’m serving 15 years now.  They labeled it manslaughter, but I murdered him and my only regret is that I could only do it once.

I’ve been told my parents are calling it an accident.  That there was never any talk of divorce.  I guess they got that much right.  I never did get to ask Roger for one.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Britania challenged me with "Your character has to tell her extremely religious parents that he/she is getting a divorce" and I challenged Carrie with "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. - Mark Twain The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson".

The Path Less Traveled

I hate strategy games.  I always have and still  I somehow managed to get a job where I played one every day.  Even something as simple as saying “Hi” to the Boss was a mind boggling exercise in frustration.  Say “good morning” and risk being noticed and singled out to complete some asinine project he won’t even remember asking for.  Ignore him and risk the dreaded “Not a Team Player” label.  It was like walking a tight rope every day, while juggling flaming bowling balls.  I hated it, but I played it well, rose through the ranks and was a top employee.

Sitting at my desk at work, I wondered what the hell I was doing.  I was miserable, the work was piling and time had stopped.  I sighed, put my head in my hands and closed my eyes.  I thought of my favorite walking trail.  It was a beautiful winter day and walking always cleared my head.  I traced the entire route in my mind, breathing in the remembered sights and sounds.  As I rounded the bend, there it was, my favorite spot.  The fork.

I don’t know why I loved this spot so much.  Maybe it was the way light streamed through the trees.  The way the wind seemed to blow from every direction, cooling me after the long uphill hike.  I breathed in the fresh air, ready to make my normal right hand turn, yet I stopped, paralyzed.

I stood there, at that fork, for what seemed like ages.  The wind blowing through my thick, wool coat.  I wrapped the scarf around me and pulled out my mittens.  I should go right.  I always go right.  The trail was well worn.  I wouldn’t get lost.  I could follow in the footsteps of so many before me.  The final destination calling out from the end of the path.  I could see it from here.  Right was the easy answer.

Left though, it was suddenly so tempting.  It was wild and unkempt.  The tree limbs and weeds obscuring its meandering trail.  Few had come this way.  I had no clue where it went.  My mind started envisioning so many possibilities.  The path could lead to untold beauty.

I suddenly laughed, scaring the drone in the cubicle next to me. My vision of the path ending in the greenest meadow I had ever seen was funny for some reason.  The daydream even included a young fawn nibbling on the emerald grass.  Ok Sarah, get a grip, it could also end in a swamp with both of your feet wet and cold and you suddenly lost.

Why was my daydream even contemplating this?  Go right, get it over with and get back to work.  Yet I didn’t.  I went left.  Through the overgrown bush, my mind creating obstacles that my body was finding ways around.  I pushed through the entwined branches, through the thickets and thorns.  My coat ripping, the scarf long gone caught somewhere behind me.  I’d never been determined like this.  It was frightening, yet I couldn’t stop.

In front of me suddenly was brick building, a bakery.  What the hell?  I’d never seen this before.  And suddenly I knew.

I picked my head up.  Grabbed the closest legal pad and scribbled down those 2 words.  I grabbed my pocketbook, my coat and walked out the door.  I was finally going left.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Grace O'Malley challenged me with "I Hate Strategy Games" and I challenged Mare with "I never looked back".