lightening never strikes twice by juleshg

21 Feb

“Come in…” 

Chris turned his head just in time to see the old man enter the room and rushed forward wrapping him in a careful hug.

“Grandpa!  You made it!  I can’t believe you’re here. “

“Of course I’m here,” Alfred said patting the young man firmly on the back.  “I don’t usually leave Florida to head North in February but how could I miss seeing my only grandson get married?“

“Thanks Grandpa, it means so much to me that you’re here.  Where’s grandma?”

“Well, you know your grandmother.  She needed to stop by the powder room to put on a little more lipstick.  Also, your mother was going to see about finding her a corsage and getting her to sit down; she gets a little tired nowadays when we travel.”  Alfred pulled a starched white handkerchief out of his pants pocket and wiped a few beads of sweat from his forehead.

“I am sure Amy ordered enough flowers to outfit the entire church,” Chris said laughing and shook his head.

“I saw Amy at the door when we arrived.  She is certainly a force to be reckoned with,” Alfred observed.

“This is quite the event she has planned here,” Alfred said gesturing at all of the decorations in the church lobby.  “It must have cost you two a fortune.”

“We’re way over budget, Grandpa.  She actually got another credit card without telling me and has already maxed it out.  She thinks I don’t know about it but she forgot that the payment comes out of our joint account.”

“Can I give you a little advice – from someone who has been married for almost sixty years?”  Alfred asked with a gleam in his eye.

“Sure…”

“Don’t tell her that you know.  First of all, it will do her good to stew a while and worry about having to tell you.  Second, it never hurts to have something like that in your back pocket in case you need some bonus points down the road.”

“Thanks Grandpa.  That sounds like a good plan.” 

Chris gestured towards a large armchair in the corner of the room.  “Why don’t you sit down and keep me company.  The wedding doesn’t start for another half hour and I’m going a little stir crazy here.”

Alfred lowered himself into the chair with a groan.  “You look happy, Chris.  I have to tell you I was not always sure about you and Amy but the more I see the two of you together the more I think you’re good for each other.  She’s got spunk but you seem to know how to handle her.”

“She’s the one grandpa.”

“Well there was a time in my life when I would have agreed with you but now that I am older I wonder if there is really one perfect person out there for everyone.”

“What?”  Chris felt his head jerk back as if someone had slapped him.  “I thought you and grandma were destined for each other.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I love your grandmother with all my heart but when I was your age there was another woman who was ‘the one’ for me.”

“Grandpa what are you talking about?”  Chris sat down in the chair across from his grandfather and looked at his watch.  “We have some time here.  Why don’t you tell me about her.”

Alfred chuckled softly and cleared his throat.

“Her name was Maggie and she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had long, dark hair and dark eyes.  She was small but by God she had a fire in her belly that knocked me out.  Brazen—that’s what they called it back in those days.  My mother always thought Maggie was too wild for own good but I fell in love with her from the first moment I saw her.”

“She was sitting in a coffee shop with a girl I had known in high school.  When I went over to say hello they invited me to join them.  By the time I had finished my cup of coffee I was hooked.

“I remember when I stood up to leave — she stared right into my eyes and said ‘I work at the pharmacy counter on Main Street if you ever want to come by and say hello.’

“I went by every day for two months,” Alfred said sheepishly and Chris noticed a slight blush creeping up his cheeks.

“What happened?  Was there someone else?” Chris asked.

“No,” the old man said with regret.  “I loved her but after a few weeks I realized that I was not the man for her.  I knew I would never be strong enough to deal with a woman who had so much fight in her.  Back then no one was looking for a strong-willed woman. 

“She was like a lightening bolt –bright and powerful — but I was always embarrassed around her because she laughed so loud and would talk back to the men who came into the pharmacy.

“So, I just stopped going…”  Alfred said nothing for a few moments and simply stared at the handkerchief he had been winding around his fingers. 

“I found out a month later that she was getting married.   I didn’t have the nerve to face her so I took a job in the next town and left without saying goodbye.”

 “Do you know whatever happened to her?”  Chris asked softly.

“Well, right now I imagine she is sitting in the front pew talking your grandmother’s ear off,” Alfred said with a laugh.

“Aunt Margaret?”  Chris gasped.  “Maggie is Aunt Margaret!” 

Chris looked around suddenly and whispered, “Does grandma know?” 

“Of course she does,” Alfred said with a laugh.  “She has known all along.  In fact, Margaret set us up.

“You see, I came back to town once a month to visit my mother but I was careful to avoid the pharmacy.  One day, though, I ran into Margaret at the same cafe where we had first met. 

“I was stunned to see her.  She was just as beautiful as the first day I saw her.  She told me she was married but that her little sister had taken a fancy to me and would I be interested in meeting them for lunch the next afternoon.

“I went – only to see Maggie of course – but I could see that Stella was a fine woman.  She had a gentle way about her and she was kind.  She looked at me with eyes that made me feel ten feet tall.  I knew that this was a woman I could build a life with.  We were married three months later.”

Chris sat in silence for a moment then shook his head and stared at the old man.  “Wow… just, wow…”

“I have never regretted marrying your grandmother,” Alfred said looking Chris straight in the eye.  “We had two beautiful daughters and three wonderful grandchildren.  We had a quiet, safe life.  But over the years, I have to admit that there have been times when wondered ‘what if’

“Chris,” he said softly.  “If you think you are strong enough, hold onto that lightening bolt.”

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8 Responses to “lightening never strikes twice by juleshg”

  1. jadamthwaite February 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    That gleam in Alfred’s eye just screamed that he had some kind of secret, didn’t it? I like how he found this day of all days to tell Chris and I like the extra sliver of hope you’ve given us for Chris and Amy!

  2. ingridfnl February 21, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Oh I loved this. What a great combination of tales. I also really like the realistic melancholy of other possible choices and the way we can look back but still have a moments of wondering, “What if…”

  3. juleshg February 21, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    I went too long on this but when I came back to edit I did not have the heart to cut anything.

    I was happy to ‘find out’ that Chris knew about the credit card all along and that Amy was not taking advantage of him. I couldn’t have Alfred encouraging his grandson to stay in the relationship without showing that there was some give and take to it.

    I also liked the fact that Margaret/Maggie was spirited long before she started having sex in the nursing home.

    • jmforceton February 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

      “I was happy to ‘find out’ that Chris knew about the credit card all along”. This is one of the parts of writing I like the best. You create a new person and before you get very far they insist on a life of their own.

  4. juleshg February 24, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    It is great to see that other people understand the process — my husband just shakes his head and wonders how many other ‘voices’ I hear in my head.

  5. Parenthesized February 25, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    I loved the combination of so many characters! This is great.

  6. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    I, too, loved that Chris knew about the credit card; totally gives me more hope for their future. The mix of characters, as others have said, was awesome. ^_^

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. a conversation between floors by juleshg « the character project - April 18, 2010

    […] We met Margaret in spiders, sex and the modern senior and Lightening Never Strikes Twice. […]

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