A Long Time Coming by Bedelia Paulson: A Featured Fun Guest Post

A long time coming

My eyes were always fixed on the heart monitor. I dreaded the moment the blue line flowed straight and the continuous beep turning into one long siren signalling the end. Heavy rains spluttered against the window, making it impossible to see anything outside. The streetlights flickered unwaveringly, like an ever-present lighthouse, faithfully guiding traffic through the storm. I wondered what the world would be like, when I am all alone. He called my name, tugging at his oxygen mask.
“Take…off…please..”

“Only if it’s for a good reason,” I responded with a light kiss on his forehead while I removed it.
” …or else it’s going straight back on again.”

At first I thought it was the medication; that he was hallucinating. He spoke with a sense of urgency. “Janice, I had an … affair…when I … was in Johannesburg. I … have … a four year … old … son.”

I wriggled my hand free from his, my mind in turmoil. He was not dreaming.

“This can’t be happening,” I whispered incoherently while I tried to restrain myself. “Derrick, you’re hallucinating.”

He reached out to me, beckoning me to come close but I could see it in his eyes. He was fully aware of what he had just said. I ignored the gesture and moved away from him.

“Why are you telling me all this now, Derrick? Why now?”

“You … have to … fetch … him … no one … to take care of …him.”
“I don’t believe this! Where’s his whore of a mother? Why do I…?”

“She died…a…month… ago. Car…accident. He’s… with… grandmother.”

“So? She can look after him. See if I care.”

“She… can’t…she’s… in…wheelchair.”

I left his bedside for the first time, since he became hospitalised. I went home.

The north easterly wind rushed through the hospital’s entrance doors, as I stepped
outside. How could he, my husband of twenty five years, tell me something so devastatingly life-changing at a time when I was supposed to show my love and support? How did he expect me to keep sane? Sort out his mess while I was dying too. A slower death, with no morphine to ease my pain.

I rushed towards my car with the rain pelting down on me. No sign of the storm backing down.

His laptop was still on the couch where I had left it after rushing him to hospital. Faint trails of his aftershave lingered in the passage leading to our bedroom. I stopped in front of the gold-framed mirror on the wall. I was in my late forties, with a body and looks younger models ‘would kill for’, he used to say. Why then, did he stray? We had spoken about my not being able to bear children. He seemed okay. That was the impression he gave me.

Johannesburg seemed so different, except for the usual busyness of a Metropolitan city. Derrick often suggested we come here for holidays.

“I don’t like Jo’burg,” I used to say.

“What’s not to like?” he’d ask. I never answered.

“Where to, madam?” asked the taxi driver.

“Kensington … 46 Unicorn street.”

I kept fiddling with the piece of paper bearing a name and address. What do I say to this woman?
The taxi stopped outside a small, slightly rundown house.
How could he do this to me?

I opened the gate, its rusty hinges squeaked in protest. The front door was ajar.

“Hello…,” said the little boy, barely taller than the doorknob. “…my Nanna’s coming.”
“Marco! Marco! I told you not to open the door for…”

“Well look what the cat just dragged in!” She was staring at me, her one eye wide open, the other one … blinking. I knew only one person, many years ago who did that, when she was mad at someone. My long-time friend, Lynn Wagner. We were almost like sisters back then. She reversed her wheelchair, making way for me to enter. She was mad alright … at me.

I squeezed past her, avoiding her obvious glare of contempt. “I…I…need to sit…please.”
She spun the wheelchair around, swiping toys from the sofa with the back of her hand, straight into a red Lego toy box.

“Excuse the mess,” she exclaimed. “The ‘help’ only comes in twice a week.”

“Lynn … it’s okay … please …you don’t have to apologise…”

“… Oh, quit selling yourself short now, honey. This house is a far cry from what you’re used to. I feel uncomfortable around you.”

“Why are you in a wheelchair? And what’s with the head scarf?”

“Drop it, Janice! You didn’t come all the way here to enquire about my health. What do you want?”

Well! I never expected the red carpet treatment anyway but nothing … nothing could have prepared me for this.

“Lynn, please tell me the mother of this child is not who I think it is.”

“Work it out, honey! You’ve always been good at that. Figurin’ things out on your own. For the good of your own.”

“Where’s Charlotte? Where’s my daughter?”

“‘Aren’t we forgetting’ something Janice? Then allow me to refresh your memory. Charlotte ‘was’ yours, before you shoved her into my arms, one cold Saturday morning, at a filling station opposite Sandton City mall. Shall we go down memory lane?”

I cringed at her suggestion. Lynn was not one to mince her words. Resigned to my fate, with no energy to engage in a ram-battering session, I did the sensible thing. I allowed her to spill it all out. I had it coming.

“You’d landed a modelling contract in Britain,” she hissed, while staring at the photo above the fireplace. “She’d only ‘be in the way’, you said. She was three months old, Janice! Three bloody months! The child you promised me you’d come back for. Twenty seven years later, you have the nerve to rock up here and ask me, where’s ‘your’ daughter?”

“Okay! Okay!” I shouted, cupping my ears with my hands. “I probably deserved that. I’m sorry.”

“That doesn’t cut it, hon. You should lower your head in shame. Charlotte’s gone and this little boy here, is her son. Your husband’s son.”

Well! If I thought Derek’s revelation had left me staggering in the aftermath of an unexpected earthquake, this one left me like a fish wriggling and gasping for breath on a beach abandoned by the ocean, to construct the grand finale. A monstrous tsunami! Destined to leave chaos and destruction.

“How did you find out I was Derrick’s wife?”

“I asked him…straight out. National Geographic’s award winning photographer with the queen of the catwalk by his side? Paris…Rome…Milan. Never a night in one place. He couldn’t deny it.

“ … and Charlotte? Surely she must have known he was married?”

“Oh get of your moral high horse, Janice! Of course she knew. Haven’t we all? You should
know. You’ve been there. But … if it means anything, she didn’t know who YOU really were.”

I bit my lip, swallowed hard. “You never told her?”

“I had no reason to. You weren’t coming back. It was pointless letting her hold on to something that might never happen. I did what I thought was best for her. I changed our names, in case your conscience got the better of you and you come looking for us. Then I burned all correspondence you and I had. Charlotte lived and died knowing she had a mother. Me!”“You could’ve stopped them …”

“You could’ve stopped them …”

 

“ … and then what? Tell her the truth? That I wasn’t her real mother?”

“Please, Lynn. Try to understand. This isn’t….”

“Hey! Listen honey! This is NOT about you! Now I knew … deep down I damn well knew you might come back one day; mess up what Charlotte and I had. But your husband beat you to it. I had no choice. I just wanted him to go the hell away, so I told him. But it was too late. She was already pregnant.”

“I’m sorry,” I stammered, choking on the words as it suddenly dawned on me how this was affecting Lynn. Something I haven’t even thought about.

“Janice! You and I know first-hand, what it was like growing up without parents. Living from one wretched foster home to the other; longing for a mother we never knew. I was NOT going to put Charlotte through that. Now I raised her so you could pursue your dream. I would’ve done anything for you, coz’ you promised you were coming back for her … but you didn’t. You gave up your rightful place in her life. Janice. You … have only yourself to blame.”

I was clearly in a one-way street, heading in the wrong direction, colliding with everything I had so recklessly abandoned. Now there were casualties; people were hurt. Lynn was right. What I should be doing was to hide my face; cower in the sand and wait for the first stone to hit my head.

I nodded … with conviction.

“Derrick said she died in a car accident.”

“Yes. His visits became less frequent. He kept sending money and gifts for the boy. Charlotte wasn’t herself anymore. She thought he’d dumped her”.

“He’s dying. That’s the reason I’m here. He wants me to take care of the child … with your
permission, of course.”

Lynn shifted uncomfortably in the wheelchair, her eyes still fixed on the enlarged photo above the fireplace.

“I know,” she whispered. “We’d spoken about it. It’s … just … so damn hard …” She stopped midway through the sentence, her voice trembling as she tried to hold back the tears, but it streamed down her face. “First Charlotte … now Marco will be leaving too. I understand … I mean … just look at me. I can’t even take care of myself, let alone look after a toddler.”

“Come stay with me Lynn, let me make it up to you.”

“No! We’ll only confuse the boy. You’re gonna have to go it alone this time, honey. For yourself … for Charlotte. I’ll go pack Marco’s things.”

“May I see a picture of her?”

“In the dresser … ,” she replied, swinging her wheelchair around. “…over there…left drawer. There’s a photo album. I’ll be back in a while.”

And there I stood, back-tracking a period in my daughter’s life with every turn of the page, gently stroking each photo of which I should have been a part of. Baptism – Primary school – High school – Prom and finally … Graduation. She wore a cap and gown, sporting a broad smile, with Lynn posing proudly beside her. I kissed her photo, clutching it against my breast. And the walls of guilt collapsed under the pressure of tears streaming down my face. Dear God, what have I done?

“No use beating yourself up now, honey.”

Lynn was back, clutching two small suitcases on her lap, with Marco in tow. I closed the album, still snivelling as I wiped my face. “Sorry … I didn’t realise you were here. I’ll just put this back, then we can go.”

“Keep it! You’ll need it more than I do.” Her voice sounded gentle, almost like the Lynn I knew, back then.

“Thank you,” I whispered, sighing with relief. I had this sudden urge to hold the little boy in my arms. My very own grandson! Exposed too soon to the harsh realities of life, yet he had nothing to do with it.

I took his hand instead, squeezing it gently before I backed down, thinking how this might affect Lynn. “Well, big boy! How would you like to fly in a big aeroplane?”

“Really! Can my Nanna come too?”

I shot a quick glance at Lynn before answering, waiting for some indication that she was coming.

Truth be told, I needed her too. I was not sure whether I would cope. Marco was not used to me.

“Hurry up …” she said, “… before I change my mind.”

Sheer relief swept over me. I almost air-punched.

There was something in Derrick’s eyes I had never seen before when he saw Marco. He kept thanking me; saying how sorry he was; how much he loved me. We held each other, all three of us, unaware that Lynn had rolled out on her wheelchair, quietly.

I was exhausted and must have fallen asleep on the couch while Marco babbled on with his father. In the wee hours of the morning, the dreaded sound of the heart monitor awoke me and by the time the nurse had rushed in, the blue line flowed straight, followed by the siren. Derrick had passed away, with his arm still around a sleeping Marco.

I was hurting, in the core of my soul, for having lived in my own world, overlooking things that were important to him. There was the time when we were house-hunting. He’d go for homes with big gardens; a swimming pool and courtyard where he’d talk to himself; envisaging the perfect spot for a basketball net; a little swing in a corner; bright yellow and red spades and buckets with big plastic balls strewn around.

My reason for wanting a big house was totally different. I wanted my own home, shared with someone whom I knew would always take care of me. Someone I loved deeply. At the time, that was all that mattered. But deep down I knew, I was only fooling myself. My husband longed for us to have a child. I chose not to see this.

Lynn was waiting for us in the courtyard, when we got home. She had a ball in her hand,
contemplating a shot at the basketball net.

“He knew about me all along, Lynn. Why didn’t he say something?”

“I guess things were complicated at the time but he really wanted to make things right, you know. I’ll give him that much. After I told him who you were, he tried to end the relationship with Charlotte. She wouldn’t hear of it. She stormed out, threatening not to let him anywhere near Marco again.”

“So he didn’t get a chance … to tell her about me?”

“I think he just never got around to it. The driver of the truck she had collided with, said her car was on the wrong side of the road. She went straight for him … deliberately.”

“Now she’s gone, not knowing that I was her mother?”

“And what would you have said to her, Janice? That your career was more important, so you gave her up?”

“Lynn, I needed to hear her yelling at me; telling me what a lousy, rotten excuse for a mother I was. I just wanted to ask her to forgive me; tell her how sorry I was …”

“Well … if you ask me Janice, what’s done is done. There’s really nothing you can do other
than seizing this opportunity to make it up to her … with Marco.”

“You make it sound so easy, Lynn. Yet you devoted your life raising my child, while I ….”

“ … Fate handed you the relay baton, Janice. Whether you stay on track and finish the race, is entirely up to you. I don’t wanna have to go into much detail. So please … let’s not go there. I’ll just be opening up old wounds, which is the last thing I want feel like doing right now.”

Lynn refused to talk about her illness, let alone stay with us. She was her cheery old self
when I dropped her off at the airport.

“…better this way, honey,” she chirped. “…and don’t worry, I’ll call you.”

I tried calling her anyway, but her phone was always on voicemail.

The last message I received from her was that she had landed safely and that she was on her way home. Two months later, I received a message from a hospital in Johannesburg. My ‘sister’, Lynn, was being transferred to hospice. I didn’t even know she was in hospital.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Lynn from the moment I boarded the plane until it touched down at O R Tambo International Airport. The sun had distanced itself from the horizon, now speckled with migrant birds returning from afar. I felt like one.
As the taxi cruised along the highway, my eyes wandered intermittently across sleepy suburbs and shanty townships. Both had houses surrounded by stately trees and shrubs heavy with bursts of pink and white blossoms. I was home!

I stood next to her bed, watching her drifting in and out of sleep. She had been given a dose of morphine earlier. I was hesitant to wake her, unsure of what my reaction would be if she sees me. She was propped against pillows, her head shaven, her eyes sallow and tired.

“Honey, this is it!” Her voice was barely audible but she managed a little smile, moving her fingers as a sign for me to clutch her hand. “I’m off … to departure lounge … cancer’s taken over … not much they can do for me anymore.”

I started bawling in full view of everyone, and was promptly asked to wait in the visitor’s room or contain myself.

“You’re gonna have to pull yourself together now, honey,” she bantered. “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

I laid beside her, snivelling while I hugged her frail body. We talked and giggled, like old times.

“Wanna know something, honey?” she whispered. “What doesn’t work for some, might turn out just fine, for others. Charlotte was the light of my life. I must thank … you.”

Lynn fell silent. She never made it to hospice.

I’ve had the not-so- pleasant task of explaining to Marco his involved parentage. Not an easy thing, but it had to be done. He filled a void in my life, which sometimes I have to ask myself, what have I done to deserve this unexpected gift? Not only has it been offered to me in a mysterious way, but it has also led me to find inner peace.
I told him everything, watching him closely, waiting for any signs of resentment. Not once did he interrupt me. He got up instead, went to his bedroom and stayed there for what seemed like a lifetime. I thought it best to leave him alone. I owed him that much.
The next morning, while I was preparing breakfast, he walked in and asked. “Janna, is it okay to call you ‘Grandma’? ”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I replied, ruffling his red curly hair before hugging him.

I have been given a second chance … to make things right.

I miss Derrick. A lot though but I am comforted by the fact that he had died peacefully, knowing that Marco was in good hands. Lynn and Charlotte were happy. That’s all that counts. Yes, there are regrets re-surfacing from time to time, when I wish I could have had my life all over; done things differently. Marco’s existence has made things tolerable. I cannot imagine life without him.

Now if I could only squeeze in one more photo, amongst all those who played a significant part in steering me back to finding myself. Marco … wearing his cap and gown, standing tall beside me, smiling like a Cheshire cat. Perfect!

END

Review: Environmentally Friendly, by Elias Zanbaka

Environmentally FriendlyEnvironmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shaefer helps people fight their enemies, with the assistance of the police a medical team and a one man war. This thriller, a suspenseful book was compelling and intense and only 19 pages long. The exercise was masterfully written.

This was not what I expected when I was asked to review this book. It is a short story, but a short story that packs a wallop. Great unique plot with the intensity that many books never reach. Great Story Elias.

Find this book at Amazon
View all my reviews

The Difference a Day Makes by Sojourner McConnell

Pushing the window up the teenage girl watched as her cat strolled in as calm and proper as you please. Carrie brushed her hand down the tawny cats back and gently pat the end of his tail.  The cat leaned forward and brushed his nose against Carrie’s face before jumping off the sill and crossing the room.

Carrie lowered the window and went back to her bed. Now she should be able to concentrate on the book she was reading without the cat mouthing “meow” at the window.  Buster the cat had always been such a drama queen of a cat. He would stand just out of reach and mouth “meow” as if he were too weak from hunger to ask for food.

Carrie had owned the cat for the last four years and they were so bonded that Carrie felt that he knew all her secret feelings and fears that she told no one else about.  In fact Carrie had sung secret songs to Buster soft enough that he alone could hear. Carrie was always sharing her deepest innermost secrets and feelings with the green eyed companion.

Busters climbed across the dresser and over to the night stand where he batted at the pen that was lying beside her journal. The lamp s circle of light gave Buster a place to warm himself under the bulb. He always laid on this night stand and watched as Carrie carefully noted her days events and creative ideas that she remembered from the day.

Carrie had started writing in her journal at the start of ninth grade when her literature teacher had suggested it.  That was two years ago and now it was just part of her daily schedule.  She could not sleep well if she didn’t at least try before sleeping.  Tonight was no different and she began to jot down her feelings about the family outing.

Today had started as most weekend mornings did, with pancakes and chocolate milk.  She hated milk so her mother accommodated her with the chocolaty treat in order to keep the peace.  Carrie had been so stubborn in her dislike over milk that she and her mother had come almost to blows. Not a good way to start the day, so they came to a compromise, chocolate for peace. It seemed to be working well for everyone.

Once the breakfast treat was past the family jumped into the SUV and headed to the local pool.  Mom had packed the SUV early this morning and so there were floats for the little ones and lots of soda and snacks in the cooler for them all.

Dad and Mom stayed close to the twins, since they were only five years old and allowed Carrie to hang out in the deeper end of the pool without too much interference.  She knew how to swim and besides, she mostly hung around on the edge of the pool with her legs dangling is so that she could see and be seen by her friends as they entered the enclosed pool area.  Carrie knew the moment Trenton entered the pool’s eight foot gate. It is like radar when he is close. She can feel him before she ever sees him.

She wasn’t sure if he felt the same, I mean he never spoke to her or acknowledged her in any over the top way. He sometimes slid a little smile that only she could see. It was enough for her to know that he was interested, even if only a little.  That was enough for her.

Carrie pushed the sunglasses down to her nose and felt comfortable that her eyes were now covered well enough by the dark tint that she could freely watch him as long as she did not turn her head too much. So her eyes cut to the left and watched him as he strode past her and planted himself somewhat near her and dangled his feet in the water right at the seven foot marker.

If he had wanted to he could have reached out and touched her with his fingertips.  He did not seem to want to at this moment Carrie realized.  He seemed content to sit close without speaking to her or acknowledging her overtly.

Carrie acted cool about the near contact and stared down at the water so that he couldn’t see her watch him out of the corner of her sunglasses. That would have been so embarrassing, if he had noticed her peeking over at him like that.  So she stared into the water and pretended that she could not see his handsome face reflected there in front of her.  As she watched the image would ripple in and out of focus and she squinted to make it clearer.  She smiled.  No one knew what she could see.

Suddenly she was looking at his profile, shimmering in the water. He was looking at her. Directly with his head turned at a right angle against his shoulders, he was looking at her.

She felt her face become warm and hoped that he would think she was just getting too much sun. She did not want him to know she was blushing.  She fought with herself not to look up at him, but she failed.

She could not resist turning her own face toward him. She wasn’t made of stone, who could resist that?  She fought to keep the silly grin that was threatening to appear at bay. He didn’t need to see that too.  She needed some secrets. She couldn’t be an open book to him.  But no matter what she told herself, she could feel that grin splitting apart her lips and growing into a full blown smile.

Gah, Carrie…really? Stop this!  Look cool, look casual.

Blinking once, twice and then a third time before widening her eyes and looking directly into those green eyes of his, she acknowledged his glaze.

She did not say a word; she only looked at him, breathing slow and steady waiting to see what he had to say to her.  She waited to see why he had turned so blatantly toward her, in public no less.

“Hi Carrie, Are you going in today? Or just sitting on the edge?”

Carrie blushed, she knew she did, she could feel the heat of her cheeks flaming. Swallowing hard she bit her bottom lip and said, “ I am going to go in later, right now I am just enjoying the sun on my back. Are you going in?”

Carrie felt that was a good response. She mentally congratulated herself for her cool calm demeanor.  She looked at his mouth as she saw that he was about to speak. She licked her lips as she waited for him to respond.

“I am going in, I just wanted to know if you would hold my watch if you were not swimming today.  I will stick it in a locker instead.” He laughed then said, “I am just kidding, I was wondering if you wanted to swim with me. I have wanted to ask you for a while, just didn’t have the nerve.”

Carrie started laughing, first out of shock then out of genuine humor at his behavior.  He was funny, she knew that already.  What she did not know was that he was shy about girls and now he wanted to hang out with her.

She stood up and walked down to the steps and waded into the pool.  Trenton stood and followed her stepping into the shallow water at the same time.   Slowly they waded into the deeper area before Carrie dipped under the water getting acclimated to the chilly water.  Trenton dipped down beside her and started swimming toward the deeper end.  She followed doing an underwater crawl until they both came to a halt at the ten foot mark.  There they held onto the side and began to talk.

For the next three hours they told each other about their families, pets and school histories. Both had been hesitant to start but after they started they had plenty to say to each other over those hours.  When Carrie’s Mom called her to come get a drink, snack and some more sun block, she asked Trenton to join her.  He surprised her by accepting. He again surprised her by being comfortable and friendly with her parents and little sisters.

At the picnic table they both pulled out their phones and exchanged numbers so that they could continue to talk in text.

As she was writing about this in her journal, she realized this was the first time a guy had shown such interest in her, and she really liked it.  It made her feel special. She never expected today to go like this in a million years and now that it had, she wanted more days just like this one.

As Carrie  closed her journal for the night,  she heard the little ping from her phone. She looked over and was thrilled to see that it was a text from Trenton.

Yes, she was going to have more days just like today, and she couldn’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Bones by Sojourner McConnell

Dragon bones? Are you sure you heard that right?”

I wasn’t falling for some silly Internet prank if I could help it. I wasn’t born yesterday so I wanted to have all the facts laid out in front of me before I believed this news and started passing it along as I was prone to do. Not that I blab everything I hear, I probably don’t do that. Ok, so sometimes I do pass along interesting tidbits.

Katie nodded solemnly, “I am positive, I saw the bones on YouTube and they were real. It is just a skull but it has all the ingredients of a dragon. Pointed nose, pointed horns on its head. It was a dragon.”

“Hmm… I am going to look for myself and make sure.” I reached for the laptop and pulled it into my lap. Clicking the icons and waiting for the screen to load I asked Katie a few more questions, just for my own peace of mind.

“Was it anywhere else other than YouTube? You know people play pranks on YouTube with homemade videos, don’t you? I continued to type in the words dragon bones into the search bar and waited.

“Yes, Amelia, I know that people play pranks on there, but this is true. I even saw the cover of National Geographic with a picture of the dragon. It doesn’t get any more real than that.” Katie formed quotation marks with her fingers as she spoke the last few words.

I did feel more confident once she produced the name  National Geographic. Although I was a bit annoyed at her use of the quotation marks. They always made me feel like I was being made fun of when she used them.

“Ahh here we go, hmm… I don’t see anything that would be like what you said. There is nothing about a dragon bones being found.”

“Did you put in Dracorex Hogwartia? I think that is how you say it.” Katie leaned over and watched the screen as I typed in a rough spelling of what she had said. The screen flickered for a moment then a revised response came up featuring the results for Dracorex Hogwartsia complete with images and links.

“There! See!” Katie was practically jumping up and down on the cushion next to me on the sofa.

“I see it; hold on let me click the link. Be still you are going to break the sofa. Then where will Sasha sleep?”

Sasha raised her head from her paws and gave an annoyed look, then she yawned and wagged her tail in a jerking motion. I wasn’t sure if she was more annoyed with the bouncing or my saying her name. She just looked completely annoyed as only a cat can.

I looked back down at the video that had finished loading and had started playing. The first thing I heard was that they had found a skull in North Dakota and it was an almost complete skull and several vertebrae intact. The skull had the thin narrow face of a dragon and had prominent horns and spikes. Plus there were bony deposits that formed scales. This thing had all the facial features of a freaking dragon!

My breath caught and I squealed into Katie’s face. “Oh my goodness, it is real!”

Katie pointed back to the screen. “Look, see, I told you, National Geographic!”

I looked over and there it was, a man sitting in front of the dragon skull holding a copy of National Geographic that happened to have that same skull on the cover. A smile crossed my face as I watched them discussing the eating habits and the fact that this dragon, dinosaur lived on what at their time was seashore. The scientist even explained that at this period in history the ocean went straight through the United States because the oceans were higher since there were no ice packs at that time.

Both of us were utterly quiet as we listened to the dinosaur expert explaining about this dinosaur that looked so much like a dragon.

“I owe you an apology” I acknowledged after the Director of the Dinosaur museum finished talking. I shook my head in disbelief. “If I had not seen it for myself, I never would have believed it. You were right.” I told her then I muttered, “for once.”

Katie rolled her eyes and blurted out, “I am always right. You just always have to try to prove me wrong. This time, you failed!” She pointed both thumbs back at her chest. “Winner!”

Sasha stood up arched her back and hopped off the couch, even she had had enough. Katie and I both rolled our eyes at her.

Dracorex Hogwartsia

The Daily Prompt 2016: Coming Home

Today, I am going to share my first rough attempt at suspense. It is probably pretty lame. But I wrote it for my daily prompt. So I might as well share it. Don’t judge it too harshly 🙂

The Prompt from: The Daily Prompt 2016 by J. C. Cauthon

Using the following setting, write a short story or poem:

In an orange room, 7:00 PM

Coming Home by Sojourner McConnell

Sandra King woke up slowly with the feeling that something was wrong. The feeling was intense and made her want to shut her eyes again and become lost in that cloudy nothingness that felt so secure.

Yet, before she could drop back into that dark abyss, she heard the constant tap tap tap across the room in the darkness. Sitting up she strained her eyes to see if she could make out what was making that distracting tapping noise.

Steadily creeping to the bottom of the bed, not daring to place her bare feet on the invisible floor. Her knees pushing down the blanket as she reached the iron bar that made up the foot of the bed. Leaning over the iron bar, the cold cutting into her stomach causing her to shiver. She reached out, stretching as far as her fingertips to go she brushed a cold hard object. Clutching the edge she brought it back to her face so that she could try to make out what it was in the darkness. She could feel the movement inside the object. It was familiar and suddenly she knew that it was simply a clock.

Squinting into the face, she angled the clock in an attempt to get a glimmer of light to cross the oval glass face. Shifting back and forth she found the thin stream of light and read. 7:00. She knew it was night, there was no light streaming in to give any semblance of daylight.
Why was she in this strange room at seven pm? It made no sense to her. The last thing she remembered after arriving at the train station in Omaha, was coming up the walk to her Grandparents house.

Where was her grandmother and why was she feeling so fuzzy and thick. “Where in the world am I?” Oh no, she did not sound like herself, she sounded hoarse and stuffy. Had she been drugged? With the tapping of the clockworks filling the room, she felt more comfortable to examine this dark room.

Climbing off the bed she cautiously placed her feet on the floor and shuffled directly across the room until she touched the wall. Her hands slid along the wall and she felt the narrow knob coming out of the wall. She flipped it up and the light almost blinded her. The overhanging light fixture reflected off of the orange walls causing even more confusion. Why was she in an orange room? Who painted a room orange?

Her confusion was growing by the moment. She saw the stark white door that was closed on the far wall. She rushed over to it her feet cold on the concrete floor. She had the fleeting thought she might be in a basement. Concrete floors were often in basements. Perhaps she was not in danger, but if not, then what the heck was she doing here.

Grasping the knob she turned it and the door creaked open. She was looking into a narrow hallway and she was uncertain which way to go. Her logic was intact and she knew that if she thought to go right she needed to go left. She aways had gone the wrong direction when given a choice. So she immediately went left.

The moment she reached the end of the hallway, she once again had to make another decision. She could go up the stairs to the right or she could go down the corridor to the left. She wanted to gt out of this clammy cold basement. She climbed the steps listening for any sound of occupancy. She heard nothing. She reached the door at the top of the stairs and she slowly turned the knob and once again entered an old linoleum floored kitchen.

The gray flecked table with chrome legs sat in the center of the room. Sitting at the table was a person. Sandra could see the stooped shoulders of a gray haired old woman with a shawl around her shoulders and fluffy pink slippers on her feet.

“Grandma? Is that you?”

She saw the head turn around on stooped shoulders and she saw a mouth full of large teeth that gleamed in the dim kitchen light.

“Sandra, Honey, Where have you been? Why are you creeping around like that?”

Sandra looked confused at her grandmother and shrugged her shoulders. “Grandma? Why was I in the basement? Who put me there? Did you know I was in the dark in the basement?”

“No, child, I didn’t know you were in the basement. I waited on you to come to the door, and you never did. Why are you sneaking around. Were you hiding in the orange room in the basement? Do you not remember that your Grandfather did not want you in that room?”

“Grandma, you are scaring me. I had forgotten that Grandfather did not like me to go down to his workshop. I don’t know how I got there. I am a little fuzzy.”

Are you on drugs Sandra? Are you back doing drugs again like you did as a teenager?”

“I did not do drugs Grandma, I was always afraid to do drugs after what happened to Mama. Remember, Grandma?”

The old woman turned again moving her entire body this time to face the young woman shivering next to the basement door. “Tell me Sandra, why do you keep calling me Grandma? Don’t you remember Grandma died almost ten years ago? Are you ill again Sandra?”

“Grandma died? Ten years ago? Oh my God…  you’re right. She did!  Who are you?”

Sandra dropped onto her heels with her knees folded under her. “Who are you and why was I in the orange room? What is going on?”

The woman’s face was spidery with wrinkles and her grin was not a friendly smile, it was a toothy smile that looked more evil than benign.

“Sandra, Do you not recognize me? Your Mama? Come give me a hug my dear.”

Sandra started screaming, “No no, My Mama is dead, who are you? Who are you?”

The old woman stood her back bent with age and her hand rested on a cane. “Come to me child. Come to your Mama”

“My…my mother died years ago. She died in the hospital when I was a teenager. I do not know who you are. I want my Grandmother. Stay away from me. Stay back!”

The dark eyes of the old woman stared at the young woman. “I am your Mother. I have been away a long time. I am back now. Now you will pay for choosing your grandparents over me.”

Sandra stood, kicked the cane out from under the old lady’s hand, and ran out the back door. She ran as fast as she could through the brush until she reached the house that she remembered as Mr. Coventry’s.

She knocked on the door and knocked again for good measure. When the old man opened the door and saw the ashen face of the young woman he was shocked.

“Is this little Sandra?”

Sandra opened her mouth to tell him that it was indeed, when she felt a gnarled hand on her back. She turned just in time to see the old woman reaching for her again. Screaming directly into the old woman’s face she hurried closer to Mr. Coventry. “Help me, Please!”

Mr. Coventry was unable to believe his eyes. He recognized this old beaten down woman with the snarled hair and the wrinkled face. He remembered her when she too was a young mother and wife. He remembered her before she went mad after the death of her husband.

He could remember like it was yesterday, driving the ambulance that took her to the sanitarium on the other side of the county.

He remembered her screams, wails and threats as they walked her out arms wrapped and bound tightly around her waist.

“Dotty! Dotty! It’s me. Earl… remember me Dotty? Remember how I took care of you before? How did you get here Dotty? Did you run away?”

Dotty’s eyes shifted from Sandra to Earl and back again. “I didn’t mean any harm. I saw her coming up the walk. I didn’t mean any harm. I love her. She’s my baby. I just wanted her to stay with me. I knew she wouldn’t stay unless I put her in the orange room. I just wanted my baby. I missed my baby. Is that so bad? I didn’t hit her hard, just hard enough to make her sleep. I didn’t mean any harm. You believe me don’t you, Earl?”

“Of course I do, Dotty, of course you love her, she’s your baby. I know you didn’t mean any harm, girl. Sandra’s fine. She is just fine. Come with me and lets get you settled.for the night. Come on with Earl, Girl.”

Sandra watched the interaction between the two, clarity coming to her finally. This was her mother, her mother that has been locked away most of her life. She was afraid of her mother, but she believed Earl would keep her safe.

Sandra, smiled a nervous fake smile and assured her mother that she was going to be fine. She was scared but she knew not to startle the old woman. “Let’s go with Earl… Mother.”

Sandra almost choked calling her Mother, but she felt it was the right thing to do. Sandra and Dotty followed Earl into the house and once the coffee had been made they all sat at the table and Earl calmly explained to Dotty that he would return her home. She would be fine and no one would be mad about her escape. She looked at him with trust.

His kindly face showed her there was nothing to fear. Sandra waited until Earl and Dotty had left in the long white ambulance before heading back to her grandmother’s home.

She was in a rush to get her car and go to a local motel. She was absolutely not going to spend the night in that house. She was going to put the house up for sale and never come back.

She never wanted to see the house, her mother or the orange room in the basement ever again, and she never did.

The Daily Prompt 2016 : The Second-Hand Hero

The Prompt from: The Daily Prompt 2016 by J. C. Cauthon

Take the following words, and use them in a short story or poem:

new, subtract, amused, escape, second-hand

The Second-Hand Hero by Sojourner McConnell

I woke up this morning in the mood for something new. I had known right away what it had to be. So I grabbed my checkbook and began to subtract the debits from my checking account. To assure I had the funds for my mid week escape. When I wake up in this type of mood, there is no other place that cures what ails me like, Susan’s Second-Hand Rose. That store amused me like no other. There were vintage clothing and shoes. I have always loved a good nineteen forties Dress.

It made me happy to dress like an actress in some of my favorite movies. The Egg and I, My Favorite Wife, I remember Mama. Oh, I do love a good nineteen forties movie. I loved wearing a dress that made me feel like Irene Dunn. Sure, I looked nothing like her. I for sure don’t speak like her. I am a country girl from Alabama with straight blond hair. I couldn’t pass for the beautiful Irene Dunn, if I tried. But I sure feel like her when I am in one of those dresses.

But today, I wasn’t interested in those dresses, or Irene Dunn. Today I wanted to find a well loved book. One that had been read by a sensible woman from the middle of last century. I wanted to fall in love with a man that had caused another woman’s heart to flutter in her chest right after the Second World War.

But not just any man. He had to be one of those handsome young men that felt the call to arms. A man that had enlisted with vim and vigor. A man that had written to his family regularly telling them of his love of God and country. A man that had stood up bravely on the shores of Normandy. A man that had loved deeply and was now afraid he would never love like that again.

I knew that he had come from a farming community somewhere in middle America. A man that would come home a little different than when he left. A little wiser, a little jaded and perhaps a little broken.  I  needed to find this man and mainly I needed to read his story.

Today, I needed to be the woman that saw him as he returned home, a hero. The woman that saw him as the only man she could love. The  woman that could acclimate him back to civilian life. The woman that made him able to love again. The woman that made him feel unafraid of loud clashes of thunder and vivid lightning. The woman that made him whole again.

Today, I needed to be that woman. I wanted to read myself into her words and see myself in her clothes, wearing her sturdy shoes. I wanted to read myself in her actions. I needed to be the woman that had sacrificed her own sleep to make sure that he was able to sleep through the night again. Today I needed to be the woman that loved that soldier.

I had only been inside the shop for a moment when I was approached by the owner. Susan always greeted me with a smile and called me by name, today was no different.

She asked, Lillian, what are you  looking for today, I have several nice dresses that I  just acquired.

I shook my head and told her “today I had something else in mind.”
I walked to the back wall where the second-hand books were stacked neatly on the floor to ceiling bookcase. I began to cull through the books hoping to find what I needed so desperately.

There were plenty of books on that large oak shelf that were about the war. The hard surfaces faded and the corners curled, but I did not find what I was seeking. I brought over the footstool that Susan kept for short people like me, to reach the higher shelves. I climbed up the first rung. There I was able to see what treasures were housed just above my head.

The faded greens and grays with the occasional pale orange and blood red bindings were a delight for my eyes. My nose was also twitching with excitement at the aroma of those books, some almost one hundred years old. My fingers felt thick with the ages old dust and oil of other people’s hands. Yet, I was in heaven. I had slid my fingers over every title written on the side panel of each and every book. Then I saw something that made my heart flutter. I took in a deep breath and smiled.

The title was Come Home My Darling by Dorothy Napier, the cover was deep blue and the letters were embossed. My fingers traced over the letters and I pulled it off of the shelf. I did not even step off the stool, I simply opened the book and read.

The train pulled into the station and the soldiers began to cover the cement platform like ants marching in green wool. Men in all manner of military garb stood shoulder to shoulder, duffel bags on their backs and nervous grimaces on their faces. Every eye was shifting back and forth as they looked desperately for familiar faces. One by one the grimaces became smiles when they found there was someone that loved them waiting at the station.

I watched hoping to find the one face that would respond to my smile. I wanted to be there when he came home, his welcoming wife. If he is not on this train, I will be here for the next, and the next. I will be here to welcome him home. No matter how many smiles I have to muster.

I sighed. Yes, in my hand was the book that had called me here. Here was the woman I needed to read about. I would wait with her on that crowded platform, waiting for him, our hero, to come home. I had found exactly what I needed. I took that blue hardback book to Susan. I paid in a hurry, ready to escape to my own home, to my own bed. To read the second-hand book that had so urgently called to me today, to meet my second-hand hero.

CNCementCityDepot[Dobronski]

Story A Day: Day 15: For the Greater Good

Prompts

Rewrite your First Person story from Week One

 

For the Greater Good by Sojourner McConnell

 

I have been a banker since graduating High School. I attended Night school while working at the bank to get my degree in Accounting. I was used to sad stories, stories of the downtrodden, the hopeful and the unworthy. It was one of the duties as a personal banker that I did not like. It was a normal day when I had the meeting with Roger Banks. I knew his father well, and I knew more about him that he might imagine. I was sorry to hear that Mr. Oliver Banks, his father and one of my clients, had passed away. I knew that it would be hard on the son as the trust fund would not transfer over to him. I had heard some unsettling news of his sense of entitlement from his own father’s lips. O

liver Banks always felt like he had failed his son by not making him more financially astute. Oliver was always embarrassed by Roger’s belief that he did not have to work hard for anything.
When young Banks showed up at my office this morning I was not surprised. Even thought he had never felt the need to come to me before, I expected him to come find out about his inheritance. I knew he had been given an ample allowance by his father. I had set up the trust fund originally.

 

When I saw young Roger in the lobby, I prepared for begging and pleading to release more funds. I did not relish the thought of explaining to him that he had been basically cut off without a penny.There were details that I was not privy to in the will. Those were not under my scope as personal banker.

 

I welcomed Roger when he was reaching my office. He looked sad, angry and a little bewildered.
He held out his hand and said, “Hello Mr. Conrad, thank you for meeting with me. I believe you were my father’s personal banker?” I shook his outstretched hand as I told him, “I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a good man. We shared a lot of afternoons together going over his finances. Let’s talk in my office.”
We entered my office and I motioned for him to take a seat. “I am sorry to hear of your father’s passing. I enjoyed working with your father. Oliver was a wonderful man.”
He began to speak with a shaky voice. “Thank you for seeing me, I am in need of some advice, and finances. I am here because you did know my father. To be up front and frank with you, Mr. Conrad, I need finances in order to complete his wishes in his will. He wanted me to continue his good work, and I feel compelled to do my best to accomplish his last desire.”
I listened to him and when he slowed, I encouraged him to continue.
He took a breath, his eyes were cast down and his head bent. His tone was quiet but sincere. “My father had a secret life, a part of his life that he never told anyone about. He had been born a twin. His twin was not a hard worker like Dad was. Dad and Uncle Carl were as different as day and night. Carl kept getting in trouble as a teenager and young man. By the time he was twenty five he had been to prison for grand larceny. He was given twenty years. When he got out, he was expected to be reformed and be willing to stay out of trouble.”
When he stopped speaking once again I prompted him to tell me more. I wasn’t sure what this had to do with me, but I was indeed curious. I simple said, “Go ahead, Roger.”
Nodding his head, gathering his thought he did speak again. “There was a problem in this. There was nowhere for him to go. My mother did not want him to come live with us. She didn’t trust him. It was sad, but she believed he would rob us blind. He ended up homeless and on the streets, supplementing his income with petty thefts. As you might have suspected, he was arrested again. Once again there he was spending more time in the local jail until his court date. Months went by and he was calling collect to the house. Occasionally getting through to my dad, most of the time being thwarted by my mother. My Mother never wanted him to be in her world.”
I could see he was nervous. His hands were fidgeting in his lap and his voice was raw with emotion.
“Why I am here meeting with you, is to ask for funds to open this halfway house. Fully funded and supported by a foundation I am to set up anonymously. This was the test my Father has put in place with his will. It states that I do not inherit enough to live on much less support this foundation unless I can find the funds to complete this project. I have come to you, with no credit of my own, to ask you to fund this project with the understanding that once the home is built and opened, I will have all the funds needed to pay the loan and support the foundation. If I am able to secure this loan from you, then many men will be helped. Taught to read, taught to make their resume, balance a checkbook. They will in essence be given an opportunity to thrive after prison.”
I tried to not let him see that his story was affecting me greatly. I kept my hands on my desk as he finished speaking.
“The project must be done anonymously. I am not even sure if they will appreciate me confiding in you, but I am asking you to respect my confidence. But I need this loan desperately. My uncle needs it. He is to be released in one year and that is my deadline on finishing the house.”
When he concluded, I nodded to him showing that I understood what all he had shared with me. I felt honored that he had confided in me and I assured him I would do my best with the board. I asked him to give me one week. I went to the board and without sharing the details of his conversation, I guaranteed his loan personally. I assured the board that they would get their money back if we were to back this project. It took almost three full days, but I was able to persuade them to agree.
On the afternoon of the third day, I called Roger. I could tell he was anxious, I could hear it in his voice and he had picked up on the first ring. When he said his expectant “Hello” I responded.
“Hello Roger, This is Elijah Conrad.” I could hear his breathing heavy and rapid through the phone. I went on eager to tell him the good news. “I hope you realize how much talking I had to do to get your loan approved.” I took a breath and could hear his own intake of breath.
“ I did not tell your story. I assured the board that they would be paid back. I guaranteed that fact to the board. We did it Roger! The loan is approved and the project can start immediately. I have promised you to help you and I hope you realize that means I will never tell your story to anyone, ever!”
I ended the call after a few more moments. I felt that deep satisfaction that comes with doing something for the greater good. I heard from Roger on occasion over the next several months. It was almost one year later. I believe it was eleven months, to be exact, that I received a letter in the mail.
The letter had a sturdiness to it that comes from card stock. I saw there was no return address and I grew very curious. Once I opened the envelope I could see that it was an invitation to a ribbon cutting. A smile began to crawl across my face. I read the words once, then once again.

A Home of New Beginnings
Founded by the Father’s Brother Foundation

A sense of pride came over me. I knew at that moment that I had made a good decision indeed. It was with great happiness that I attended the ribbon cutting of the halfway house that Roger had successfully opened. I knew I would never tell anyone the secrets that Roger had shared. The house would open just in time for his Uncle to be released from prison. I felt confident that with the support of his family, it would be for the last time.