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favour by lydiajayne

4 Jul

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Jake muttered, “It’s just prom.”

“Well, I’ve never been to one myself,” his uncle shot a teasing look at Jake’s mother, “but I have it on very good authority that they are very special, very important occasions in this family.“

“Li,” his mother protested laughingly, “You promised never to tell.”

Uncle Liam grinned in that impish way that had always promised fun for Jake. “I promised not to tell your children, Amanda. Once a guy’s been to his senior prom, he’s a man by then.”

She shook her head in resignation. Uncle Liam probably would have taken her protest seriously if she’d been able to hold her giggles. That she didn’t meant Jake might finally get to hear the story that his family had made joking allusions to his entire life.

Jake considered his options. He’d need a date.


A little more than a month later, Jake came down the stairs in his tux. He felt adult in a way that he didn’t when wearing a regular suit, and his mom, at least, must have felt something similar. She cried a little, while his father and uncle beamed. “You look so handsome. Make sure Kaitlyn’s parents take lots of pictures.”

Jake nodded, unable to speak past the lump in his throat at the reminder that he was going to the prom with Kaitlyn Tyler. He hadn’t expected her to say yes when he’d asked – there was a part of him that hoped for a sympathy plea, based on the fact that the girl he’d chosen had refused him – but she’d accepted with flattering speed. She wouldn’t appreciate him showing up three quarters of an hour early, however, which left him with just enough time for a story: “So, Uncle Li, you were going to tell me about prom.”

He laughed. “Well, technically, you haven’t been to one yet.”

“Oh, come on – I’m not going to bail on the day of, no matter how lame the story is.”

Jake didn’t understand why they all laughed at that.

His mom was the first to recover enough to speak. “The boy I’d been crushing on for my entire senior year asked me to the prom. He had no clue, of course, and he was very honest about the fact that he was grateful his best friend said yes, so he didn’t have to ask someone for real.”

“Ouch.” Jake was appalled.

“Exactly. In his defence, he promised to make it a magical, fairytale evening, which it was, though not in the way I’d expected. I’d been waiting about fifteen minutes when I finally heard the knock.” Jake winced again. His mom was a stickler for punctuality. “I opened the door and saw a complete stranger. An older man – college-aged, definitely – and wearing a tux: very hot.”

“Mom!” Jake looked at his dad and was surprised to catch him staring at his mother with the sappiest look.

Liam took up the story. “A guest soloist for the London Philharmonic had fallen ill, and the conductor had been an adjudicator at a competition I’d won performing the same piece, so he asked me to fill in. Unfortunately, the only flight that would get me there on time left twenty minutes after I was supposed to pick up your mom. I pleaded with your dad to go to the prom in my place; he agreed, thinking I was going to owe him the biggest favour ever.”

Dad laughed. “Instead, the door opened to reveal the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and instead of ‘hi’ or an explanation, the first thing I said was ‘Will you marry me?”

“At the end of the night, I said yes.”

unravelled by LydiaJayne

14 Mar

Getting ready for the annual Easter gathering was difficult at the best of times, but Julia was finding it more stressful than usual.  That wasn’t entirely unexpected in the months since her divorce, most things were but even choosing what to wear seemed to be more challenging this year.

The only bright side, one which made her almost grateful for the divorce, was that if she were still married, her husband would have been haranguing her about her inability to be punctual.

She glanced at the clock and finally grabbed at a sweater in her closet. No, he wouldn’t be, she corrected herself, since there was no way I’d be this late if he were here.

When they’d started dating, she’d been teased about the trouble that would come of dating a man whose professional slogan demanded punctuality.  She should have taken the hint.

“Erica! Jason! Hurry up!” She checked her reflection quickly, relieved to discover that her clothes did, in fact, match.

The sweater she’d instinctively chosen was not new she was certain she’d worn it to a previous open house, as a matter of fact but she loved it, felt good in it, and armour would be necessary.

She didn’t see either of her children as she passed their rooms and wondered where they had wandered now. “Kids! We should have left twenty minutes ago! Let’s go!”

Intending to retrieve the dessert she’d prepared, she stopped short when Erica appeared in front of her, holding Julia’s coat open for her.

“I made sure the dog is inside, and Jason’s taken everything out to the car.” She helped her mother into the coat.  “We‘ve been ready for ages.”  The emphasis was slight, teasing rather than whining, and Julia was confronted, not for the first time, with twin facts: Erica was her father’s daughter, and she was growing was up far too quickly.

“Happy Easter, Ju Ju.” Her brother’s wife was the only person on the planet who called her by that ridiculous nickname, and Julia worked hard to keep her already forced smile from becoming a grimace.

The malicious light that glinted from the other woman’s eyes suggested Julia hadn’t been entirely successful.

“And to you, Angela.”  Jelly. One of these years, Julia would actually call her that to her face.  Maybe when their daughters were in college.

That thought got her through the next few hours.

“That’s a beautiful sweater.”

“Thank you.”  The reply was automatic; Julia’s sweaters were a source of envy amongst those who knew her.  Her attention was fully captured, however, by Angela’s voice behind her.

“I’ve seen that one before, though, haven’t I, Ju Ju?  It’s lovely, of course, but you usually oh! I am sorry!”  If Julia had any doubt the apology was insincere, the hand her sister-in-law had clasped to her bosom would have dispelled it. “Dear Hammy used to give you a new one for your birthday each year, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did,” she replied tightly.

“He’s not dead, Angela.” Paul drew his wife away, grimacing apologetically at Julia.

The woman with whom she’d been speaking, a colleague of her mother’s, gave her an awkward smile.

“It is lovely,” she repeated.  “Do you know where he bought it?”

Julia shook her head.  She’d never managed to get her husband to tell her where he’d bought them, no matter how much she’d entreated. Handcrafted and unlabelled, she’d assumed they’d been purchased at a craft show and had looked for them to give as gifts herself, but she’d never found anything half so nice.

Each one fit as though it were made for her.

Late that night, when she’d finally managed to escape Angela and the well-meaning hordes and the kids were finally in bed, she sat in the living room on the floor, next to the fireplace.  There was no fire burning, of course, the spring was already far too warm for that. Normally, that would be a cause for celebration; tonight, she thought it looked lonely.

The fireplace had been one of the reasons they’d bought the house, though she couldn’t remember seeing it lit more than half a dozen times in the years they’d lived here.

Hammond was out of the house at dawn, often waking even earlier than that, so they could steal a few moments together when she got home from her shift at the bakery.  Opposite schedules were great for raising children one of them was always home but it made it difficult to keep a marriage together.

She’d been baking as long as she could remember, had worked for the same exclusive resort inn since she was nineteen, making her way from commi to sous chef.  It was all she knew, she was good at it, and she liked it.  Hammond felt the same about his job, so they’d tried to make it work.

Looking back, there were other choices they could have made: moving to a larger community, for example, would have provided more options for both of them, in terms of shifts, but they’d wanted to raise their children here, in the town where they had themselves grown up.

Eventually, the ways in which they had complemented now just grated, and neither was willing to yield.  By the time they’d realized the severity of the problem, it became obvious that the upheaval of trying to fix things would have been worse than the divorce.

Lost in her memories, Julia hadn’t noticed she was worrying the corner of her sweater unconsciously.

It was the strand of wool, loose now and gliding through her fingers that made her realize what she was doing, and her horrified start only unravelled it further.  She took the sweater off as carefully as she could, but the slightest movement only made the damage worse.

By the time she could properly assess the damage, repairing it was well beyond her admittedly meagre skills.

She sat there, holding what was left of her favourite sweater, and cried.

common denominator by LydiaJayne

1 Mar

“Not  everyone is as intellectually gifted as you are, Sweetie,” Her older sister managed to sound patient rather than patronizing, for which Samantha was grateful.

“It’s not that.  She’s very bright: she read the entire encyclopaedia, the one we bought her when she started middle school.  She read it for fun last month.  Then she corrected a number of entries with updated information she found online.  She just hates math.”

“It’s not a crime, Sam,” Joyce, having an artist temperament herself, replied defensively.

“I know!  But…. I was so jealous when she and Marty would go off on their father/daughter adventures.  It’s mean, and it’s petty, but after the divorce, when I was granted custody, I was grateful for the chance to spend time with her without competing for her attention with the cool parent.  Only now, I don’t know what to do.  We have nothing in common.

“I’m a mathematician, Joyce. PhDs in two separate branches of math.  In my spare time, I enjoy suduko, kakuro,  and the occasional poker tournament.  The only card game she likes, the cards have letters on them.  It’s like portable Scabble.” Joyce winced, knowing full well how much Sam hated games that required she attempt to spell.

“Once we’ve covered what happened at school and the weather, there’s nothing left.” Sam was losing her battle with tears and got up for a tissue.

Quiet footsteps in the hall carpet were masked by the sound of a chair scraping on the kitchen floor.   Joyce crossed over to her younger sister, holding her as she fell apart.

“You’ll figure it out.  You always do, Sammy. After all, you’ve managed to talk to me for years, and I don’t know anything about math.”

Sam coughed to keep from choking as her sob became a half laugh.

The next morning, Sam dropped her sister off at the airport, detoured past the grocery store, and returned home resolved to find some way to connect with her daughter.  She had nothing resembling a plan, but Joyce had been confident that she could manage, and Sam was determined.

She carried her bags to the kitchen but stopped short at the sight of Cassie sitting at the kitchen table shuffling cards.  The regular ones, with numbers.

“Hey, Mom.” Her greeting was deliberately casual, but Sam could tell she was trying to hide nervous tension. “Want to teach me to play poker?”

witness by LydiaJayne

31 Jan

“That guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week.”  The waitress snapped her gum, daring him to show surprise.

Mike really hadn’t been sure she’d respond, no matter how much was resting on her answer.

He’d been a cop for fifteen years, and in that time he wasn’t sure he’d ever had a case with leads this slim.  At this point, his only hope was that someone in this diner had seen something.

The patio seating was perfectly positioned to observe the  entrance to the Earl’s Court Apartments – an entrance that had neither security camera nor guard.  The weather had been clear and mild, and the diner was known for good, cheap food and great service.  It should have been ideal.

Unfortunately, great waitresses made lousy witnesses – they were too busy working to watch what was happening in the street.  That efficiency meant a large volume of patrons turned over with great speed, so locating a viable witness would be next to impossible without the help of the waitress who’d been responsible for this section.  The woman in front of him.

She’d stared at him for several long moments, snapping her gum and looking for… something.

Apparently, he’d passed her evaluation because she gave him what just might be the information he needed.

“Thank you.”

to dust by LydiaJayne

24 Jan

Margaret narrowed her eyes and stared at the spider on the ceiling, making a mental note to speak with Nora when she arrived on Monday morning.

She moved with measured steps – no longer for effect, but because it was the only way she could hope to successfully cross the room – and settled into a chair to wait.  It was all she seemed to do these days.

It was a far cry from the years when she’d taken for granted the number of people who waited for her, people who paid or were paid to do so.

For she was Margaret MacInnes.

Unbidden, her eyes focussed on the wall opposite. It was bare now, but for the floral arrangement that Nora hated to dust.

Philip had been her other half, her soul’s mate, but the piano that had graced that wall had been an extension of her self.

It did not deserve to be punished for her body’s failings, and when Philip died, there was no longer any need to indulge his sentimentality, so she severed that connection as well.  It was preferable to being forced to watch it deteriorate as she had her hands.

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