Archive by Author

civic duty by phoenix.writing

16 Jan

It was a reasonably busy Saturday afternoon, the bell on the door dinging every few minutes as someone came in or out, most of them greeting Janet and exchanging pleasantries as they headed further into the shop on a quest for something new to read—or at least a way to pass a few minutes out of the drizzle that had yet to let up all day.

There was nothing about the day to suggest that it was going to be at all out of the ordinary—right up to the moment that Janet caught a glimpse of a very guilty-looking Tom stuffing a book under his jacket near the back of the shop.  He was partially obscured by shelves, but there was really no doubt about what he had done.

She’d always been a good deal more tolerant than many in her generation when it came to the youth of today.  While others complained about the degeneration of morals, lack of respect, and the destruction of the English language, Janet usually found that people got what they expected.  When treated with respect, there was a pretty good chance that someone would respond with respect.

This was not universally true, of course, so while Janet always wrote off a portion of her stock to theft, it was generally a small portion, and she tended to think of it as charity work.  There were those who could barely afford to feed themselves, never mind keep entertained, and Janet would just as soon that someone took up with a book than went out drinking or joyriding or fighting.

Tom, however, could afford a book.  The slight, dark-haired boy—young man, now, she supposed—was a favourite of hers.  He was quiet and studious and had spent whole afternoons with her when he had a spare, helping out if it got busy just because he could.

He’d refused to be paid, though she had occasionally managed to talk him into taking merchandise, seeing where his eyes strayed and then pressing the book on him as he was leaving, not taking no for an answer.

That was what made this so shocking.  Had he asked, she would have given the book to him, a fact which she had assumed him well aware of.

He waited until she was busy with a customer before sidling past the counter, offering her a faint wave as he hurried out.

Janet had to wait nearly half an hour before it let up enough that she could head back to the section that Tom had been browsing.  Her lips tipped up at what she found.

There, on the floor, was a twenty dollar bill, folded so that it looked as though it could simply have fallen out of someone’s pocket.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford the book, it was that he’d been too embarrassed to buy the book from her.

Apparently, it was time to order a couple more copies of The Survival Guide for Queer & Questioning Teens.

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unexpected alliance by phoenix.writing

12 Dec

Zita had not breathed a word about what she had discovered to anyone else in the family; she had allowed Adam to swear her to secrecy, though that had not prevented her from chewing him out so soundly that his ears were still ringing.

She thought Aiden was amazing, and she thought that Adam was particularly stupid for keeping the man hidden.  Adam agreed in theory, he really, truly did, but he didn’t want to start World War III within his family.  It wasn’t even that he was scared of falling out of Gran’s good graces—though he was pretty sure that’s what Zita thought—it was that having one person who could be assured of peacekeeping with the woman meant that it went altogether more smoothly for the entire family.

If the two of them fell out, he really wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

But Zita had brought home what Adam had been thinking for weeks—months—on his own.  If he didn’t introduce Aiden to his family soon, he was going to lose the man, and if he thought that staying in Gran’s good graces at the expense of his relationship with Aiden was worth it, then as Zita had pointed out, he didn’t deserve the other man.

Aiden was the best thing that had even happened to Adam, and while he didn’t want to offer up the peace and happiness of his family on the altar of his own desires, Zita had reminded him that he needed to see to his own happiness and the rest of them would see to theirs.

It would be easier if he invited Aiden to meet the rest of the family first, but he just knew how Gran would react if she found out that everyone had known but her.  No, that was definitely a bad plan.

The closest he was going to get in the way of being clever about it was introducing the man first without indicating exactly how they were related.  If she decided that she liked Aiden, it was possible that this would only go disastrously wrong instead of exploding with the force and city-levelling destruction of a nuclear bomb.

He hadn’t wanted to talk about it at all, but he’d recognized that Aiden was walking into a mine field and deserved to know what he was getting himself into.

So Adam carefully invited Aiden to lunch with his gran, his mother, and his sister.  He carefully explained to Aiden that he’d like to just introduce them first, and he went on in as much detail as he could about the likely reactions that his gran would have, detailing some of the rather colourful examples so that Aiden would know what he was getting into.

Aiden found the whole thing a little bit amusing, from the look of him, but he seemed to realise how much effort it had taken Adam to gear himself up to this, so he didn’t tease Adam too much.

Adam made sure that his life insurance policy and will were up to date—not that he confessed this to Aiden—ensured that his hair was perfection itself, and at 12:45pm, he presented himself at his Gran’s house with Aiden at his side, trying and failing miserably not to feel that he was a dead man walking.

His gran had wanted to know why he’d decided to bring a friend, wanted to know why he’d suggested a meeting with his mother and his sister, wanted to know what was going on.  She’d sounded more and more suspicious, and he could only imagine what theories were bouncing around in that shrewd mind of hers, but since she wanted answers, she’d allowed the lunch.

This was going to end in complete disaster, but at least no one would be able to accuse him of not trying after this.

Susannah, the maid, escorted the two of them out to the terrace where his gran was waiting, and Adam tried to shake the feeling that his doom was approaching; when had he gotten so theatrical?

They rounded the corner and he could see his gran.  It was too late to make a run for it.  They were right in front of her now, and Adam opened his mouth and—

“Aiden, dear boy, what are you doing here?”

“Isa, how lovely to see you again.  I had no idea that you were Adam’s grandmother.”

Adam’s mouth closed with a snap, and he tried not to goggle as his gran patted the seat next to her, ushering Aiden into it.

By the time Zita and his mother arrived, Adam had gathered that Aiden was Isa’s hairdresser and they were fast friends, but he still hadn’t managed to do much more than stare in shock, and he was amused to note that his mother and Zita didn’t do much better.

It was the best possible outcome, of course, but it was more unexpected than he had words to describe.

Maybe, just maybe, this was going to work out all right after all.

<><><>

Adam, Aiden, Zita, and Isa have been seen previously in Blame Aiden, Flustered, The Consequences of Rage, Multiplication, and Good Samaritan.

good samaritan by phoenix.writing

5 Dec

When Zita realised she couldn’t find her phone, she didn’t panic at first.  While she tried to keep it on her person, she didn’t always manage it.  With four mouths to feed and eight little feet to run after, she didn’t stay nearly as organised as she wanted to.

But that was part of the reason that she had the phone.  Adam had given it to her as a Christmas present, even helping out with the monthly bills, because he had been sure that she would benefit from more time management and organisation.

Apps, he said, were the wave of the future.

Adam had a habit of giving her presents that he thought she should make use of, but to give him his due, the iPhone had been very useful in ways that Zita had not expected.

It seemed there was an app for just about everything out there, so not only was she trying to budget and track her expenses as Adam had suggested, as well as using the calendar for all her appointments, she had found an app where she could track everything about the babies, a grocery list that remembered all those regular items she needed to buy, a banking app so that she could check her balance and pay bills from her phone, and so on and so forth.

In short, her life was on that phone, and after not finding it in the usual locations, she tore the apartment apart looking for it, all to no avail.

Shit.

Because it also contained all the contacts for her and the kids, babysitters and doctors and potential daycares and everything.

Double shit.  Or in her case, quadruple shit.

She couldn’t even think of the last time she’d had it, mind too panicked to be able to actually focus.

There was a knock at the door. Just what she needed, someone trying to sell her something.  The peephole revealed an ordinary-looking man, and she pulled open the door with a sigh.

He was actually very handsome, she saw without the distortion of the peephole.  In his mid-thirties, she thought, tall, dark hair, dark eyes, and … proffering her phone?

She snatched it up, woke it, and confirmed that it wasn’t just her frazzled imagination: this was her phone.

She looked back up at the man she’d grabbed the phone from.  He was still standing patiently in the hallway, and now she thought about it, he looked vaguely familiar.

“John,” he supplied, “from your Business Management course.  I usually sit at the back.  Since I had your phone and couldn’t contact you, I was going to leave it until next week so that I’d seem less … stalkerish, but I kept getting alerts about things you should be doing, and I realised you were probably missing it.”

“You can stalk me all you want if you bring me such lovely gifts.”  She beamed at him, realised that she probably sounded like a complete moron, and invited him in.  “I could make coffee, at least, a thank you for taking the time.”

He smiled at her, and her heart fluttered.

She ushered him in, closed the door behind him, and turned around to behold utter chaos.

He was clearly trying not to stare.  She cleared her throat awkwardly.

“I was trying to find the phone,” she said quietly, face flaming.  “Um, why don’t you try to find a seat, and I’ll just get going on that coffee.”

She slunk away to the kitchen, wondering why the hell she hadn’t suggested that they go out for coffee one day when they weren’t in her disaster of an apartment.  She looked down at herself and whimpered.  And when she wasn’t dressed in pyjamas.

At this point, she’d probably just look desperate if she ran off to change, so she made the coffee and headed back out to the living room … to discover that he’d been cleaning up for her.

She wasn’t sure how it was possible to be this mortified and this touched all at the same time, but she definitely was.

“Stop that,” she told him, offering the coffee.  “You’ll make me feel beholden to you for all eternity.”

He finished with the pile of CDs that he was putting back on the shelf and came over to accept the coffee.

Their fingers brushed when he took the mug, and she decided that the tingle that went right up her arm meant that it had been far too long since she’d had sex.

There was nothing like quadruplets to kill your sex life.

He smiled at her again, moving to sit down on the couch that he had cleared, and she did the same.

“It was nothing,” he said simply.  “I’m happy to have helped.  And if I can confess without sounding like a phone-snatching psycho who now knows where you live, it was a lucky chance as far as I was concerned.  You’ve always seemed in such a hurry, I didn’t want to bother you.”

He’d been paying attention to her.  She still couldn’t work out why she hadn’t been paying more attention to him, except that she sat at the very front of the class in order to focus, focus, focus, and it was possible she just hadn’t seen him much.

It was also possible she should be far more worried than she was, but the vibes she got off of him simply weren’t scary at all.

“Out of curiosity,” she thought to ask, “how did you work out where I live?”

“Bill, the instructor, is a friend.  Had to swear backwards and forwards that I had only good intentions, and he found out your address for me.”

Because of course the college had it on file.  That was very clever.

“The world needs more good Samaritans.”

“I confess that I had an ulterior motive,” he admitted, staring at her intently.

“Oh?”

“Harder to ask you this if I’d never met you.  I was wondering if you’d like to go out to dinner.”

Zita should have thought about it, but she didn’t even hesitate.

“Yes.”

<><><>

We met Zita last week in Multiplication.

multiplication by phoenix.writing

28 Nov

The odds of having quadruplets without fertility drugs of any kind was approximately 1 in 705 000.

Zita’s mother said it was a miracle.  Sometimes, Zita remembered to agree with her.

The problem was that multiplying everything by four was more math than Zita liked.  It meant four times more diapers.  Four times more sleepless nights.  Four times more mouths to feed.

It meant four times more chances that your husband would run for the hills because he hadn’t signed up for quadruplets, and while child support helped, it was two fewer hands and two fewer feet actually helping.

Zita was only twenty-four years old, and being known as “the mom of the quadruplets” was actually not that much fun.

The terrible twos were looming, and she didn’t need anyone to tell her that in her case, that meant four times the trouble.

Zita did love her babies, she really did, but forty mischievous fingers and forty wandering toes….  Zita felt like all she did was run around like a mad woman sometimes.

She didn’t get Zita time anymore, hadn’t got Zita time in what felt like an eternity. And she needed time to herself.

It was why she’d started taking a class part-time.  Her mom thought she was crazy, and she was probably right from a time-management perspective, but it was the only way that she’d been able to get any time to herself, and that made the juggling worthwhile.

At least, it made the juggling worthwhile until she had a mid-term, the babysitter bailed at the last minute, her mother was sick, and the ex wouldn’t even answer her phone calls.

It meant that she was quite desperate but completely out of ideas when she showed up on her brother’s doorstep with four more children in the car than should be in the car when she was going to sit an exam.

There were lights on, and she was about a quarter of the way to being relieved—it would be an uphill battle to convince him that this was a good idea—when the door opened to reveal … someone she’d never been before.  A cute guy who looked to be about her age.  And a giant dog.

She blinked at him, then looked to the side to make sure she’d got the right number.  She was so frazzled right now that it was possible she’d just misread.

But no, this was definitely 424.  Maybe he’d moved and forgot to mention it?

“Are you looking for Adam?”

“Sorry, yes.”  She realised that she’d just stood there, staring, for a very rude amount of time.  “Mid-term in about half an hour and kids in the car with no babysitter.  Very frazzled.  Is he home?”

The man at the door shook his head.  “Apparently someone’s account went disastrously wrong at work, though how it managed to do this at six in the evening, I’ve no idea.  I’m Aiden, by the way, and this might seem a little … forward, but I’d be happy to watch the kids for you.”

Zita’s heart leapt, and she realised that she was probably out of her mind.  She didn’t even know who Aiden was.  But really, the likelihood of his being a serial killer with Adam chopped up in the bathroom was slim to none, and she trusted Adam’s judgement; if he trusted the man alone in his home, she could trust him with her children.

“That’s awfully generous of you,” she said, “but I feel it only fair to warn you, they’re just about two years old.”

He smiled.  “I love kids.  And I’ll put Dess next door—that’s where my mom lives—as I think he’d get a little too excited.”

“There are four of them,” she pushed out with an effort, seeing  her happy ending diminishing with her every word.  “Quadruplets.”

His eyes widened slightly, but the smile didn’t falter.  “Four times the fun.  Bring ’em in.”

Zita was well past desperate, so in she brought them, introduced them to the nice man who was going to take care of them since Uncle Adam wasn’t here and saw Aiden’s look of surprise.

“Adopted sister,” she said.  “He never talks about me, I’m used to it.”

Aiden shook his head.  “No, he just doesn’t talk to me about his family much at all.  It’s great to meet you.”

“And it’s really nice to meet you.  Here’s all the emergency numbers.”  She pressed them into his hands.  “They don’t have any allergies.  If you can convince them to go to sleep, I will be forever in your debt.  I’ll be back by ten thirty at the latest, though I’m hoping the exam won’t go that long. My cell’s at the top.”

“Highlighted and underlined three times.  Got it.”

“Right.”  Zita smiled at him.  “I’m sure I’m forgetting everything.”

“Not to worry.  Kids, I can handle.  School’s the tough one.  Here’s my cellphone number, but I’ll answer Adam’s phone too.  Now get out of here.”

“You’re a lifesaver.  I didn’t know Adam had such great taste in friends.”

Although Aiden smiled, Zita realised she’d said something wrong, but then he was shoving her out the door, and she was driving too fast to the college, reminding herself that cramming was not supposed to be useful so there was no reason to attempt it while driving.

She arrived with four whole minutes to spare and tried not to spend the entire time worried about her children.  This was Zita time, and Zita had spent her hard-earned money on the course she was determined not to fail.

All in all, it was probably not her best effort, but since it was worth forty percent of her mark, a pass would be enough for her at this point.

It was as she was getting back into the car that she realised that not only was she an idiot, Adam was a bigger one.

Someone he trusted enough to leave alone in his home, a friend he’d never mentioned, and his flimsy excuses as to why he was never bringing a girl home to meet his gran.

She couldn’t believe he hadn’t at least told her.

She knocked lightly on the door when she got back, ever hopeful, but still entirely astonished when Aiden opened the door with a finger on his lips and four babies sleeping in little nests on the floor.

“The way little animals sleep.  They thought it was exciting.”

“May I hug you?”

He laughed softly and opened his arms.

She hugged him.  “You’re my hero.  And Adam is very lucky.”

For a moment, Aiden’s arms tightened around her, and then he slipped out of her embrace.

“Let’s see if he still thinks so when he gets home and sees that his turf has been invaded.  He’s still touchy about my bringing Dess over.  Come on into the kitchen, I made dinner for you.”

Zita followed him, reminding herself that it was surely very bad form to try to steal your brother’s boyfriend.

She supposed the chances that Aiden had a twin were pretty slim….

At this point, she’d settle for an occasional babysitter, but she was damn well going to make sure that Adam realised what a treasure he had.

<><><>

Adam and Aiden have featured previously in Blame Aiden and Flustered.

find the magic by phoenix.writing

21 Nov

Fred entered the bar feeling a little lost.  There was nothing like deciding that you needed to reevaluate your entire life to leave you at loose ends.

It was nearly two in the morning, and the Carnival Splendour was full of folk who were Fred’s age or older; the bar was practically deserted.

Fred squinted as he realised that there was someone at the very end of the bar.  He thought about whether or not he should disturb her, and then decided that not only could she tell him off if she didn’t want company, it was more likely that she’d drink in her cabin if that were the case.

He reached the seat next to her.

“This seat taken, Captain?”

She looked up warily, but her expression eased when she saw who it was.

“Fredrick.  Was worried for a moment that you were going to be one of the needy passengers.”  She gestured at the chair.  “Please.”

He slid into it, and when the bartender, Alex, arrived, Fred ordered scotch, neat.  A double.  Captain Stewart’s eyebrow rose.

“Been a long day.”

She shrugged, allowing this, and Fred settled back with his scotch, enjoying the heat that slid down his throat and pooled in his belly.  Liquid courage, that’s what they called it, didn’t they?

It was a few minutes before she asked, “Going to tell me what’s eating at you?”

That was what he liked about Captain Stewart.  She was no-nonsense, and while the cruise was theoretically all about the passengers getting everything that they wanted, she always stuck up for her crew.

“I’m too old for this,” he admitted, taking a longer gulp of scotch and making himself say the words.  “It was one thing twenty, twenty-five years ago.  It was fun, the kids enjoyed it, I was a kid myself.  Now I’m a middle-aged joke doing magic tricks for a group of middle-aged jokes who’d rather chase after anything in a skirt.”

“Or pants,” the captain pointed out.

Fred frowned.  “They’ve not been giving you any trouble, have they?”

She was nearing forty herself, apparently, and could be assumed to be able to take care of herself, but it didn’t mean that Fred didn’t worry.

Stewart waved this aside.  “They’re mostly harmless, and Francis would squash them like a bug if they tried anything.”

The first mate was fiercely protective of people that he cared about.

Fred finished off the scotch.  Stewart held up her hand for Alex.

“Give us another.”

“I shouldn’t,” Fred protested.

“Why not?” she asked.

He sighed.  “There’s nothing sadder than a drunk ineffectual, middle-aged magician.”

She laughed softly, took the drink from Alex, and placed it squarely in front of Fred.

“You’re gearing up to tell me you want out of here.  Of course you need another drink.”

Fred conceded the logic of this and had another gulp of scotch.

“That’s just it,” he admitted.  “If I leave, I don’t have any clue what I do next.  I’m a middle-aged failure who’s spent his whole life sailing the sea trying without much success to make people laugh.”

“Oh, it’s not as bad as all that,” she said, sounding slightly irritated that she was coddling him so much.  “So the last trip didn’t go too well.”

Fred snorted.  “It was a complete disaster.  They threw fruit.”

“They threw one piece of fruit,” she corrected.

Fred groaned.  “You were there?”

She shook her head.  “Francis.  He always goes to your show, or didn’t you know that?”

He frowned.  He remembered seeing the man sometimes, certainly, but all the time?  Really?

Stewart continued, pointing out easily, “No one in their right mind would try that again after Francis hauled the lad off for assault of a crewmember.  So it didn’t go smoothly; some trips are a disaster on all fronts.  It sounds like you need to rekindle the magic in your life.”

Fred tried not to choke on the scotch he was swallowing.  “What magic in my life?” he asked bitterly.

“Exactly,” she said triumphantly.  “You’ve lost that spark.  We’re none of us rich and successful.  Most of us didn’t put down ‘cruise ship’ as our dream job when we were growing up, but we still have a chance to make something of ourselves.  For some of us, it’s a way to save up money and move on to something else.  A way to get on the ocean and it doesn’t matter what for.  A way to be with someone we care about.  There are all sorts of reasons that make this a valid option, Freddie, but you have to be happy.”

His lips tipped up.  No one had called him Freddie in an age.

And maybe she was right.  The shows weren’t always successful.  He tried to gauge the audience, but it wasn’t possible to peg them every time, and the failures didn’t usually make him think that it was time to leave the ship.

But he honestly wasn’t sure the last time that he’d been truly happy, and he could see how that was a bit of a problem.

“Why are you here?” she asked him softly.

He looked over at her and realised in that moment that she already knew.  His big dark secret, and she already knew.  She’d only been here for, what was it, a couple of years now?  How had she seen so much?

He swallowed, gestured, and took up the third scotch, gulping at it greedily, trying to drown out his thoughts.  “It’s foolishness. I’m an old man.”

“You’re younger than three quarters of the people on this ship.  What’s foolish is that you’re sitting here telling me that you’re going to leave without ever going after what you want.”

“Sometimes it’s better not to know.”

“And sometimes, if you don’t take the risk, you never have the chance to be happy.”

All the scotch had pooled in Fred’s stomach.  He hadn’t eaten since this morning, hadn’t drunk this much in a long time, and the heat burning in his belly was telling him that maybe Stewart was right.

If he was really thinking about leaving for good, he might as well burn all his bridges.

He rose to his feet, only slightly unsteady.

“I’ll give you my letter of resignation in the morning.”

She rose to her feet and leaned in to press a kiss to his cheek.

“You’re a magician, Freddie.  Be brave.  Find that magic.”

He nodded at her, not sure that there was anything else he could possibly say.

He made his way through the ship, wondering if they were in slightly choppy water or he was really having this much trouble navigating all on his own.

He reached his destination, alcohol churning in his stomach, and hesitated.  Was it really worth it?

Find the magic, Stewart had said.

Fred raised his hand and knocked.

a vacation to remember by phoenix.writing

14 Nov

Marsha couldn’t believe that she’d let her mother talk her into this.

“It’ll be fun,” her mother had assured her.  “You’ll get to meet lots of singles.  Get to know people.”  Marsha was nudged in the ribs.  “You know how you never get to meet people in that library of yours.”

Actually, Marsha met lots of people at the library, given the purpose of the institution, but there were so many times where it was simply so much easier not to argue with her mother; Marsha had given in to the inevitable.

At twenty-eight, it was likely about time that she stood up to the other woman, and Marsha knew it, but it seemed that every time push came to shove, Marsha found that she simply didn’t care that much, that the effort involved was so great—her mother could employ tears and guilt trips more effectively than anyone Marsha had ever met—that it never seemed worth it.

Only now Marsha wasn’t so sure because she was stuck on the Carnival Splendour, and she was about ready to kill someone.

First off, who named a ship the Carnival Splendour?  It sounded cheap and tawdry, and that should have been Marsha’s first clue.

Her mother had said that she’d meet people, and that should have been Marsha’s second clue; her mother normally went on in exhaustive detail about the men she set Marsha up with, their profession, their background, their house, their car, their pets.  Hell, she’d probably get to their dentist and their eyeglass prescription if Marsha let the woman get that far.

On this particular occasion, she’d only said that Marsha would meet people.  Marsha had been so relieved to be spared the boring information overload that she’d just assumed that her mother didn’t personally know too many of the people, had maybe decided that that might have a better chance with her daughter when nothing else had worked so far.

But no, what her mother had carefully not been mentioning to Marsha was the fact that every single person on the cruise was at least three decades her senior.  At least.  And while it was true that there were whole groups of them that were still willing to hook up, what the hell had her mother been thinking?

Marsha had spent money on this, had managed to convince herself that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea, that even if she didn’t find her one true love—or a really rich husband who would make her mother happy—she would at least get a proper vacation well away from work, would be in the Caribbean, and could enjoy herself.

She should never have trusted her mother when she said that she would take care of all the details.

It would be one thing if she could just have normal conversations with everyone, but no sooner did she sit down for a meal than four or five gentlemen were trying to sit down with her, offer her drinks, tell her all about their mutual funds or whatever the hell it was they were talking about….

She couldn’t go swimming in the pool because putting a bikini on was like throwing gasoline on a flame.  She had no interest in being ogled by men who could be her father, never mind her grandfather, thank you very much.

It was like they were all drowning men, and she was the life preserver.  She wasn’t ever going to forgive her mother.

Just dodging all the men who wanted to take her around town anywhere they stopped was an adventure; she spent most of her time trying to get lost and avoid everyone—not just the men, but also the women who were glaring daggers at her for distracting their men or their prospects.

She honestly wasn’t sure what her mother had been thinking, unless she’d imagined that Marsha would be simply overwhelmed with the numbers and her inability to get away from them.

The Carnival Splendour had lived up to its name in every way, too, all gaudy and glitzy with an entertainment director she wanted to kick in the teeth—it was getting pretty close to literally—because he was intolerably loud, intolerably grabby, and intolerably amused by her attempt to get out of every possible event that she could.

The dances were the worst.

Marsha wasn’t just at her wits’ end, she was so annoyed with her mother and the Worst. Cruise. In. The. History. Of. Ever. that she was determined that not only was she not going to give in, the next time she saw her mother, she was going to tell the woman just where to shove it and let Marsha get on with her own life.

It was the only choice that she had, the only thing that was fit and proper because her mother had signed her up for ten days of hell.

The entertainment director that nightmares were made of came over the P.A. system to announce that shuffleboard would be starting at 1400.

How far a swim to shore would it be, really, and how expensive could a plane ticket from there be?

And he was sure that everyone would want to participate.

Marsha’s head hit the wall with an audible thump.

Six more days of this.  She didn’t know how she was going to stand it.

Lots of alcohol, probably.

But she did know one thing for sure, as it happened.

This was a sure-fire way to grow a backbone.

opportunities lost, opportunities found by phoenix.writing

7 Nov

Hank knew her because she looked exactly like her mother with the exception of her eyes.  That first moment was a shock, though he couldn’t work out why, afterwards.  Francis had always been extremely controlling, and when she had realised that her ambition far outstripped his own, that had been the end of their relationship.

The fact that she had hidden a child from him was typical, really, and a good indication of why they would never have worked as a couple.  Looking back, he realised that almost all of his heartache had been unwarranted.  It had hurt at the time, sure; he had not been at all sanguine about being dropped like a hot potato—he thought that was the term for it nowadays—but she had made him miserable, and she would have crushed the life right out of him if he had stayed with her.

She had taught him several valuable things about himself, though, not the least of which was the fact that his career wasn’t making him happy.  That had been the last straw for her, his announcement that he was quitting, but it was the best thing for him.

He wasn’t making anywhere near six figures anymore, but he didn’t need six figures to support his lifestyle.  He had shifted through a few different jobs, ones that were low stress, ones that he had always been interested in trying.  Being a janitor certainly wasn’t glamorous, but it kept him busy during the day without giving him so many problems that he didn’t sleep at night.

Francis had never understood the value of relaxing, of taking it easy.  Looking at their daughter, his only regret was that he hadn’t been there to try to instil a few more of his new values.  She looked as picture-perfect as her mother always had, the reason that he had fallen in love with Francis in the first place.  She had been so beautiful and so poised with the same golden blonde hair.  He saw that the style had changed very little when it came to the neatly pulled back in a bun look.  She was lucky that she had inherited her mother’s small, straight nose and pointed chin rather than inheriting his larger features.  But it was those eyes, the bright green eyes that were his rather than her mother’s and which made him certain that he was looking at his child and not that of another man.

He wondered what she would think of him as a father.  Would she be as ultimately disappointed in him as her mother had been?  If she had been raised up in her mother’s image as he could only assume from her current demeanour, he was afraid that she would be, and he didn’t want to go through that again.  He was fifty-eight years old, and she was young and beautiful, and she might not want to have anything to do with him, might look at him with disdain, and so he was sure it was not worth it.

He was very careful, though he never considered quitting his job or seeing if he could be transferred to another building.  He had basically decided that it was meant to be if he happened to end up working in the apartment building where his daughter lived.  What were the chances in a city this size, after all?

It meant that he got to see her, and he started rearranging his cleaning schedule so that he would be in the lobby at eight ten every morning when she left for work.  She passed by like clockwork, just like her mother.  She almost always smiled at him, though, which was more than Francis would have done for someone in his position.   That didn’t mean anything for certain, though, didn’t mean that she would suddenly want a father sprung upon her. No, no, he’d be content with simply watching, keeping an eye on her as best he could, though it was too little, too late for anything resembling fatherly duties.

He stopped seeing her everyday and started to worry, but then came the morning where she left at eight twenty-two with a young man, and Hank let out a deep sigh of relief.  She’d met someone, someone who could make her twelve minutes late without the world coming to an end, and he was so happy that he didn’t even find himself worrying too much about who this boy was.  As long as he made Hank’s baby girl happy, he didn’t really care about anything else.

He wondered what sort of inquisition Francis had put the poor man through.

It must have been the relief that made him sloppy.  She passed through the lobby the next morning—alone again—and smiled at him as she always did, and he didn’t even think about it.

“Good morning, Miss Nichols.”

She stopped, turned, a faint frown in those bright green eyes.  “How do you know my name?”

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We’ve met Karen before in From a Distance and Face-to-Face.

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