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spring sale at the stitch and bitch by juleshg

14 Mar

“Let me get that…”

Hammond rushed forward to hold open the door and bowed from the waist with flourish gesturing for the small, white-haired woman to go ahead and enter the store.

The older lady smiled and thanked him with a giggle.  “Oh Hammond, you are such a gentleman.”

“Thanks Mrs. Grant.  Glad to see you out today.  There are lots of big sales: time to stock up!”

Hammond took a deep breath as he entered the store and let the door close behind him.  The Stitch and Bitch was his favourite shop and it had become a haven for him after his divorce.  As the only male patron who came in regularly, the older ladies had all wanted to take him under their wing which made him somewhat of a celebrity.

His crochet work was no longer an embarrassment.  In fact, the ladies at the store found it charming and each week he would bring in a stack of dishcloths that he had made to pass out to his new friends.  When he arrived they would give him a little hug and ask him about his health and his job.  They all commented on how he looked too thin and many of the women had pulled him aside to try to set him up with a daughter, grand-daughter or niece that they were just sure he would love.

“A man can’t live too long on his own,” they had told him.  Or “look at you, you are fading away.  You need a woman at home to make you a proper meal.”  At first he had made excuses but eventually he caved in to their wheedling and started to go on some blind dates.  For the first time in a long time he had felt that he may have something to offer a wife.

The store was incredibly busy as he entered and all of his friends were milling around the bins of wool for the Annual Spring Sale.  Knitting and crocheting were most popular in the winter and as the warm weather arrived the older wool stock was put on clearance to make room for lighter-weight cotton fibres.

Hammond was working on some new crochet projects but he still wanted to get some of the sturdy polyester yarn that he used to make dishcloths.  The ladies at the store loved them after all and they looked forward to seeing him arrive with a few new ones each week.

As he headed to the back of the store he heard his name several times and he stopped to hug or shake hands with a few of the ladies along the way.

“Hi Mrs. Thompson!  Thanks for the baking you left me last week.  No one makes brownies like you do.”

“Mrs. Phelps, I am glad you liked the dishcloth I made you.  Yes, I have a few left.  I will bring one in for you next Saturday.”

“Mrs. Carnegie, what in the world are you making with all of that grey wool? I just saw a picture of your grandson last week, he can’t possibly be that big yet!”

“Suzette has my special order arrived?  Super, I will be over in a minute to get it I just have to pick up a few things first.”

Finally he found his way to the back of the small boutique and selected a few balls of the sturdy fibre he had been working with for so many years.

“Hammond?”

He looked up slowly.  The voice was so familiar yet so surprising…. Madeline.

There she was.   His ex-wife was standing across from him at The Stitch and Bitch.  He worried for a quick moment knowing that the legions of old ladies around him would not be kind to the woman who had broken ‘their Hammond’s’ heart.

“Wow… Madeline…. what are you doing here?”

She chuckled quietly.  “I took up crocheting after our divorce.  It turns out that I was right about one thing.  No one makes a better dishcloth than you do. “

Too surprised to respond he just nodded his head and continued to stare at her.

“You look well,” she continued after an awkward pause.  “You look …happy.”

“I am.  I really am.  The ladies here are wonderful and they spoil me with home-cooked meals and all the baking I can handle.”

She nodded at the four small balls of yarn in his arms.  “I thought you would have needed more than that.  It’s a sale.  You should stock up!”

He looked down nervously at the beige yarn he had selected.  “I don’t do as many dishrags as I used to.  I have taken on a new project lately so I don’t have as much time.”

As if on cue Suzette held up two balls of baby pink cotton and called over to him.  “Hammond it’s here and this cotton is even softer than we had imagined.”

The color drained from Madeline’s face as she stared at him.

“I’m making a layette – well three so far.  My wife and I are having a baby girl.  Suzette is the baby’s grandma.”

Madeline stammered a goodbye and congratulations as an excited Hammond rushed over to the counter look at the pink cotton with a pack of twittering old ladies.  It appeared that Hammond now had a new life and she was the one who was left behind.

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clarity by parenthesized

14 Mar

“Sometimes on spring days, the world gains this incredible clarity.  The sun shines behind wisps of white cloud, just bright enough that shadows stand tall on the sidewalk.  There is no haze or uncertainty in the air.  Even the smell of it is fresh and new, like the scent of rain and…oh, I don’t know… growing things.  When you look up on days like this, tree branches are etched onto a brilliantly blue sky.  You can drink all of this in, inhale it, consume it, just absorb it.  You have to because it is so beautiful and perfect.”

She tells John all of this while she makes sweeping gestures.  She tries to encompass the whole world in her fingers.  He finds it a little ridiculous sometimes and adorable almost all of the time.

He discovered quickly that listening to her speak was worth all of those awkward, furtive glances in the coffee shop a year ago.   Completely, absolutely worth it.  Her voice was melodic and emotional, brimming with enthusiasm that could not bear to be hidden. He smiles at her, prompts her, asks her silly, tangential questions just to listen.  He wonders if she knows how much he loves this.

Loves her.

He asks her something nonsensical, something about spring air and rain that he realizes is barely coherent.  Nerves before eloquence, he calls it.  She laughs at him, ruffling his hair, and taps his nose with her finger before wrapping his arms around her.  Pulling him close, she intertwines their fingers and directs their hands to follow the arc of her thought as she traces the world for him.

She tells him that today is one of those clear days, that today she could see everything around them in sharp, crisp, wonderful detail.  Like the vibrant red of the jungle gym slide, or the carving of a tower on the bench in front of them.  She directs his eyes to how the polka dots on a little girl’s dress create a spiral as she spins in the arms of her father.  She brings their hands in closer and outlines the small tear in his jacket and tells him that she thinks she can see the individual threads.

He tips her chin up and kisses her, soft and gentle, just a brush.  She opens her eyes and smiles at him. Her head rests against his chest, her brown curls tickling his chin.  Soon enough, she begins again, begins sketching the world for him, gives it her colors and her words.  When she falls silent and closes her eyes, a sleepy contented look on her face.  He watches the breeze lightly toss her air, and then he whispers.

“Marry me.”

Her eyes burst open, and she stares at him, speechless.  She slowly turns to face him.  Her lips part, but her voice is not musical.  It is not beautiful or wonderful.  It is jagged and broken.

He wonders if clear spring days make it easier to see someone’s heart break.

***

Link to  Him & Her

the code by jadamthwaite

14 Mar

Adam hunched over. His back was tense, a bolder on the edge of an avalanche. He scratched his pencil frantically against the paper, dark numbers flying across the page like shrapnel.

Millie studied the display about Ancient Egypt on the other side of the hall. The border was slightly skewed and the staples gleamed in occasional flickers of sunlight. She glanced at Adam out the corner of her eye. There was a fine line when he was like this. She needed to stay with him but she couldn’t intrude. She had to let him ride it out, lock himself away from the world until the world was a place he could cope with again.

It always happened after lunch. The playground was busy with footballs and stalked by a flock of dinner ladies in pale yellow tabards. It was the optimum place for disaster. The noise today didn’t help. The council had started strimming the hedges that bordered the school: the first sign of summer. In every classroom distracted eyes were sneaking glances at the bright spring sunshine that bounced playfully into the field and flooded across the tarmac like lemon squash.

Adam had traipsed indoors with his hands over his ears, his face hot and angry as he tried to scrunch out the noise. Millie had seen the war going on behind his eyes and swept him away to their usual spot in the corner of the hall, where they would sit on the raked staging until he could face the classroom again.

Millie had been Adam’s assistant since he’d first come up to the junior school. Just out of university, she’d been intending to train as a teacher after a year, but a year had turned into three and now she didn’t have the heart to leave him. She liked Adam and she enjoyed the challenge of his Asperger’s, the constant search for new ways to help him.

She used to give him patterns in situations like this, thick black swirls waiting for bright colours to fill them. That had worked for a while – it still worked occasionally – but everything had its day. The best thing now was a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. He would add and divide endlessly, occasionally pausing to trace the round, red end of the pencil across his lips until he was relaxed and ready to face the problem.

Millie watched him work. She liked noticing when he relaxed his shoulders and lifted his head, when the frightened-rabbit stare disappeared from his eyes.

Millie heaved herself back against the wall and hugged her knees to her chest. She liked these moments of quiet too. A dark blond flop of fringe fell over Adam’s forehead as he raised his head slightly from the paper.

“Miss,” he said, slowly running the smooth end of the pencil across his bottom lip.

Millie looked at him.

“Yes?”

“I just discovered something.”

Millie raised an eyebrow. “Did you?”

Adam smacked his pencil against the paper triumphantly. His voice was quick and eager. “Pick five two-digit numbers next to each other,” he said.

“Er… okay… seventy one, seventy two, seventy three, seventy four and seventy five.”

“Right…” Adam wrote the numbers down in a column and added them carefully.

“Three hundred and sixty five.” He looked up at her for confirmation. She nodded, still totalling the numbers in her head.

“Well, if you find the middle number – so seventy three in this case – and times it by ten – which is seven hundred and thirty – and then divide it by two, you get the same number that you get when you add all five numbers together.”

“Three hundred and sixty five?”

“Yeah.” He showed her the calculation on the paper.

“Wow! So that works for other numbers too?”

Adam nodded excitedly. “Look!” He held up the paper, scattered with tests of his theory.

“That’s pretty cool, Adam,” she told him. “How did you work that out?”

Adam shrugged. “I just… did…”

“What happens if you do it with numbers higher than a hundred?” she asked. He needed more calming time and Millie knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the challenge.

He furrowed his eyebrows and swooped back down to the paper.

Millie traced the pale lines of sunlight as they trickled across the floor from the high windows around the hall. They spotlighted the scuffs and smudges on the polished wood. The tall climbing frames generally referred to as The Apparatus lurked against the wall, these days rarely coaxed out of their furtive stances.

“It doesn’t work,” Adam said, the pencil at his lips again.

“Interesting,” she said. “Maths is funny isn’t it?”

Adam shrugged. “It kind of makes sense though.”

“I suppose it does. Now. Are you ready to tell me what happened outside?”

Adam looked down. “I kicked Jacob. And I hit Kamal.”

Millie waited. Adam tapped a repetitive rhythm on his lips with the pencil and stared, unblinking, at a sliver of sunlight on the Egypt display. His eyes reminded Millie of hazelnuts.

“And I told Amy she was stupid,” he said glumly.

“And what do you think you need to do now?”

“Say sorry?”

Millie nodded. “It’s not as hard as you think. We have to walk past Amy and Jacob when we go back to class. You can tap them on the shoulder and say ‘I’m sorry.’ Okay?”

Adam nodded.

“And then how about I ask Kamal to come into the hall? Then you can say the same thing to him and you can show him the number trick. I’m sure he’ll think it’s really cool.”

Adam grinned. “It is a cool trick.”

She waited a beat; let him steel himself for the next step.

“Ready?”

Adam heaved a deep breath and slowly clambered to his feet.

Millie slipped her phone out of her pocket and followed him into the corridor. I get it now, Dad, she texted. I just discovered the beauty of maths.

*

Links to Three

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.

peacekeeping by phoenix.writing

14 Mar

Lisa darted around the corner, flying down the corridor as fast as her ridiculous shoes would allow, and saw what she’d been looking for.

The ladies’ room.

She darted inside, wishing that this place wasn’t so damn fancy so that the room had an actual door.  Preferably with a deadbolt, the kind which you could turn in an emergency.

She reminded herself that she was on her best behaviour and not supposed to be causing any incidents.  They were trying to keep it together enough for the evening to be salvaged.

Which was, of course, why Lisa was hiding in the bathroom instead of stomping on Ian’s instep right before she kneed him in the groin.

Not very discreet, that.

Probably hard to accomplish in this dress, too.

She stared at herself in the mirror.  She was stuck here in this hideous dress that was a colour that no one could possibly like—whoever’d said it was the perfect colour for a spring wedding was out of their damn mind—being chased by a man that no one could possibly like who had drunk too much alcohol and was even less likeable than he had been when he was sober.

And she was doing it for someone who wasn’t even here.

It was sort of like the blind date from hell.

She heard the sound of drunken pursuit and narrowly resisted the urge to start banging her head against the wall.  Her updo was too expensive for that, and the pain was unlikely to help.

It looked like she was going to have to try to knock him out after all.

“Psst.”

She looked over and found that a girl was beckoning to her from one of the stalls.

She looked to be about thirteen or fourteen, with straight dark hair and big blue eyes.

“In,” she instructed.  “I’ll take care of the Hulk.”

Lisa had had a little to drink, needing the liquor to make this almost bearable and prevent herself from just giving up and ducking out.  But she had been reasonably certain up to this moment that she wasn’t drunk.

Of course, Ian was kind of big and hulk-like….

The girl looked at her with exasperation.  “Come on, we haven’t got all day.”

Really, it was no stranger than anything else that had happened today.

She headed into the stall, the girl urging her to climb up on the toilet seat so that her feet weren’t showing.  Lisa locked herself in, slipped off her shoes so that she didn’t fall and break her neck, and then did as suggested.

She gritted her teeth as she balanced on the toilet seat.

Amy owed her so much for this.

There was the sound of running water, but Lisa couldn’t see what was going on without risking some part of her being visible.  It was impossible not to know when Ian arrived, however, because he bellowed.

“Lisa!”

The sound of water ceased.

“Are you aware that you’re in the ladies’ bathroom?”

Lisa’s lip curled up involuntarily.  The amount of disdain and condescension in the tone was impressive.  She could envision Ian looking round himself in confusion.

“Lisa!  Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

Lisa had to resist the urge to hit her head against the wall again.

“Are you talking about the woman in the salmon dress?”

There was silence for a moment, and Lisa could envision the eye roll from the girl before she repeated, “The woman in the pink dress?”

“Lisa!”

Drunken recognition at its finest.

“She went the other way,” the girl told him.  “Popped in here to get a drink of water, but said she wanted some exercise, so she’s taking the long way back to the ballroom.”  A beat of silence.  “You’d better get going if you want to catch up with her.”

Crossing her fingers, Lisa hoped, for once, that he was as drunk and stupid as he had been behaving all evening.

“Thanks, squirt.”

Lisa breathed a sigh of relief as it grew silent outside.

“I think it’s safe to come out now.”

She emerged from the stall, putting her shoes back on reluctantly; they looked great.  Unfortunately, they were the same colour as the dress, and she’d been wearing them for hours.

“Thanks,” she said with a smile.  “I owe you one.”

The girl shrugged carelessly.  “No problem.  You’ve been at it for hours, and he is clearly a loser.”

“Definitely not at his best while drunk,” Lisa agreed diplomatically, though privately, she’d thought he was a bit of an ass before the drinking had started.

“Don’t know why Uncle Dave is friends with him.”

Ah.  That explained the girl’s presence—and made Lisa lucky that she hadn’t been turned in forthwith.  Some of David’s family hadn’t been taking the desertion of the bride so well.  And with her gone, those salmon-coloured bridesmaids made obvious targets.

“Perhaps David simply hasn’t seen how he behaves in ladies’ washrooms,” Lisa suggested.

The girl cracked a grin.  “There is that.”

“I’d better get back out there.  Make sure no one’s started throwing cake at one another again.”

“Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

She headed back to the ballroom.  She understood the purpose of the open bar, she really did.  It would have been an open bar anyway, and now, with most of the guests either confused or pissed, it made doubly as much sense.  It gave them something to do now that there was nothing to celebrate.  The small group of them who were still celebrating the actual outcome were smart enough not to do so loudly, and Stacey had drafted the whole group of them to be peacekeepers.

No one had ever told Lisa that saying yes to being a bridesmaid could land her in a gig like this.

But she’d personally broken up one food fight and three verbal sparring matches, averted impending disaster with fourteen trips to the bar and thirteen walks outside—thank god for the mild weather—and got seven people on their way back to their hotel rooms to sleep it off.  She’d also ensured that at least half the men who wanted dances on David’s side got them.  And so long as there was an open bar and an excuse to dance with a reasonably pretty woman—even if she was in a dreadful dress—that was apparently a good enough reason for most people to be here and keep the peace.

It had been working pretty well until Ian had decided that he had a protracted interest in her.  The groping on the dance floor had been bad enough, but there was really only so much Lisa would take, even in the name of trying to prevent Amy from getting disowned by her family.

It was nearing midnight now, so surely they were getting close to the period where they were allowed to call it quits, go home, climb out of the dress from hell, and pretend that none of this had ever happened.

But just looking at the ballroom now, she could see the salmon colour scattered throughout the room and knew that nobody else had given up, so she couldn’t do so either.  Not even if she was the only one who had been stuck with Ian to this annoying a degree.

She made it through thirty more minutes, dancing with men whose names she didn’t know, carting off several more towards their rooms, and smiling what she felt sure must be a grimace.

And then, of course, Ian found her again.  Breath that reeked of alcohol wafted past her cheek, and then she found herself wrapped in an embrace from behind.

“You run fast, little bunny.”

She twisted out of his arms, turning to face him and trying not to look quite as pissed as she felt.  She had kept it together all evening, and she really, really didn’t want to be responsible for a brawl.

He sidled closer.  “I just want to dance.”

Yeah, if by “dance”, you meant “grope, fondle, and pinch”.  There was no way Lisa was going through that again.

“Sorry,” she said.  “I’m all done for the night.”

He frowned at her, clearly having trouble processing this.  “Just one dance.”

She loved Amy and had a lot of respect for David, who’d behaved like a true gentleman through this whole debacle, but not even half a dance.

“No,” she said clearly and tried to get past him.

His hand closed over her arm, hard enough that she couldn’t wrench out of his grasp.  Hard enough that it was probably going to leave a bruise to go with the one that she was sure that he had already left from that pinch to her butt.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

She was going to have to hit him.  She had a vision of the other bridesmaids coming to her aid, a sudden swarm of salmon all over Ian.  It was going to be a disaster.

“I believe the lady said she didn’t want to dance.”

They both swung around to face the new voice, Ian’s look of anger melting into one of submission so fast, Lisa was astonished.

“Take a walk, and make sure it ends at your hotel room.”

For a moment, it looked as though the man was going to protest, but then he lumbered off without another word.

Lisa looked at her rescuer with some confusion.  Blue eyes, dark hair that was just starting to grey a bit at the temples.  Older than she and Ian, definitely, but probably only two thirds Ian’s size.

His expression indicated he wasn’t someone to mess with, but she’d thought that Ian was well past caring about that sort of thing.

The other man held out his hand gravely, and Lisa accepted it without thought and was soon waltzing about the room.  Unlike half the men who had stepped on her toes tonight, this particular man actually knew what he was doing—and didn’t look as though he’d gone near the bar, never mind actually drinking any alcohol.

“Thanks for that,” she said gratefully.  “I was afraid I was going to have to cause a scene.”

“I was told quite firmly that if I allowed the Hulk to get you, I would be in serious trouble.”

Lisa frowned at him, and then her brow cleared as she finally recognized those eyes.

“It looks as though I owe your family a great deal this evening.  I’m Lisa, by the way.”

“Daniel Arnsworth.”

Looking into those brilliant blue eyes, Lisa decided that maybe when Amy’s mom had prattled on about spring being a time for new beginnings, she hadn’t been totally wrong.

~

Links to Cold Feet and Motherhood

“answered questions”, paris, may, 2004 by jmforceton

14 Mar

“Answered Questions”

A slender young woman with short, straight, black hair stood, arms crossed, and wearing a Bowdoin sweatshirt, is framed in the second floor window of her apartment looking out at the park across the street. She was thinking about their time together, that week here in Berlin, the most incredible of her life.

They planned to meet again in Paris in three weeks time and talking to her grandfather Alfred, days later, Lisa learned that he too would be in Paris. He was promoting a book and would be staying at the Hotel Crillon the month of May. Because she had the quickest mind of any of his six grandchildren, she had always been his favorite and he offered her the gift of a room there. She accepted and it was decided she would arrive three days earlier than she had originally planned so that her grandfather could show her some of the city. She told him she was meeting friends. He didn’t press for details.

It had been four days before the trip that she had become concerned. She had never been three days late. She couldn’t be pregnant. To anyone watching her, her life was normal as she made the final arrangements for her holiday. She followed through with her plan to buy the red strapless evening gown. She tried to finish her book about Amelia Earhart but couldn’t bear to read the ending. She changed her picture on her Facebook profile from, her reading on the beach at Ft. Lauderdale, to, her reading in a leather chair in a dimly lit corner of her den. None of her friends asked why. She had enough vacation time accumulated in her position at the U.S. embassy in Berlin to allow her to take more days off than she originally requested and she did.

For her, the world had changed. Inescapable thoughts kept running through her mind, questions that she had never thought she would have to deal with. A baby, her baby, his baby, all the ways her life could change. What would he say, what would he do? She learned that she should wait until day seven to take the test. She couldn’t stop her mind, options, questions, and thoughts drifted through uncontrolled. Never in her past had she spent time thinking about pregnancy, her unexpected pregnancy. She had never considered it might happen this way.

The trip itself and the first days in Paris quickly passed. Her grandfather Alfred took more pleasure in presenting the city to her than anything in his life. She loved the twinkle in his eye when he saw or heard anything that pleased him. It was an amazing three-day tour, Pantheon, Sorbonne, Luxemburg Gardens, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge. It was exuberant spring. The sky was clear, bright. He was happy and she would do nothing to distract or disappoint her grandfather, yet her mind, for those three days, grew more restive.

She had delayed as long as she could. Her mind remained in turmoil as she took the test kit into her small bathroom at the Hotel Crillon. Ten minutes and a lifetime later she emerged.

Relieved, invigorated, perhaps exhilarated, Lisa left the bathroom ready to restart her life. In that room she had realized and resolved that pregnant or not she must and would move on in her life. She would not look back but forward. If she had been pregnant her grandfather, Alfred, would have been one of the first to find out and, without thinking, she knew he would have supported her in everyway he could.

Her meeting with her new friend, her lover, was not for another hour. He was not the father of their child, not yet anyway. She decided to clear her head, take in the fresh spring air, and walk in the Tuileries Garden that her grandfather loved so much and had twice taken her in the last three days. There was a bench she liked, near the pond where the young children sailed their lifelike toy sailboats. New blossoms were everywhere. There was no place she knew that was better to just sit, relax, and gather one’s self. “Merci” she said to the doorman as she glided through the front door of the hotel and turned in the direction of the gardens.

Walking around the outside of the Place it occurred to her that there was more than the usual noise and congestion, particularly on the other side of the Obelisk. See looked over but it obscured her view. She also thought that her grandfather had told her he was going in that direction when he left the hotel some time ago. With a hint of anxiety she hurried past the entrance to the gardens to get a clear view of whatever was happening on the other side of the Place. She saw a cab and a Mini. Apparently there had been an accident. She felt momentary relief, then she noticed the man and two women, one a striking, young blond, taller than she was, walking together, away from her towards the Champs Elysée. “Was that him?” Now she hesitated, confused and a touch disoriented, perhaps it was just recent emotions catching up with her. Without thinking, she moved to have a closer look and weaved through traffic, cutting across to the center island. “That can’t be him, but it looked like him.” She was too far away to be sure.

She crossed again to the opposite side of the Place. Snarled traffic, horns, and angry cabbies assaulted her already heightened senses. She reached the curb walking briskly now and turned onto the granite-paved walk of the Champs. Still a good distance away, she saw the three stop at a red-canopied café. As they moved to a sidewalk table they walked past, Alfred?

The man she was following turned slightly as he sat. It was Jimmy. He was smiling and his hand was on the blond girl’s shoulder.

At that point she stopped and walked over to a nearby empty bench and sat, no longer following, not aware of the gentle spring breeze and the strolling cheerful people filling the broad, tree lined, walk.

After a short time, she stood up, walking slowly now in the direction of the hotel, passing the Obelisk, remembering her grandfather telling her that the name, “Place de la Concorde”, was chosen “symbolizing the end of a troubled era and the hope for a better future.”

Her cell phone chirped, it was a text message from Jimmy. “I was going to surprise you and get there early but got tied up. I’ll be a little late. See you soon.”

She would not cry. Instead she thought, “another test”. Lisa knew more questions would be answered before this day would end. She also thought, “Amelia would have walked over to the table”.

Links – week 9  “Pregnant? Thoughts” , week 8  “Number Talk” , week 7  “Monolithic” , week 6  “Committed?”

our kind of people by ingridfnl

14 Mar

“They just,” her mother said sighing heavily, “they just aren’t our kind of people.”

“Our kind of people?” said Karen. She sat across from her mother in the hotel restaurant, shredding her tissue into small balls. She looked outside at the tulips blooming in the window boxes and then back at her wintry mother sitting across from her, lips pinched, eyebrows raised.

“Oh you know,” her mother countered, reaching across the table and with two fingers removing what remained of the white shreds in Karen’s hands. Her mother gestured to the server near by who deftly swept the litter into a small crumbpan with tiny brass-handled broom and retrieved the proffered shreds from between her mother’s fingers. Her mother reached into her purse and pulled out a perfectly ironed linen handkerchief. She held it out to Karen while she clicked the purse shut sharply with the other hand.

The handkerchief hung between them like a challenge. Karen folded her arms and said quietly, “I love him.” Suddenly, Karen did not feel nervous any more. In some strange way, that heavily-starched white handkerchief had dried her tears and given her confidence.

“And?” her mother asked withdrawing the handkerchief with all of the imperiousness of a woman who had always ruled, a woman who had never been defied. That single word held a threat. Her mother placed the handkerchief beside her and laid a proprietary hand on top of it as if to say, “I will not offer you it again.”

“That’s all I have to say,” said Karen, who stood.

“Sit down,” her mother hissed. “Don’t make a scene. You can’t possibly marry a divorced postal worker.” At that moment, a server stopped beside the table.

“Will there be anything else, madam,” he asked Karen. “Can I do anything at all for you.”

“No. Thank you so much. No. I’m fine.” He paused a moment and nodded to her.

She smiled at him, and then found herself looking her mother in the eye, something she rarely did, while saying, “I can. And. I will.”

As if on cue, the waiter appeared behind her with her coat. “Madam,” he said, smiling warmly and helping her on with her coat. Karen smiled at him, “thank you,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “Have a wonderful day.” As she passed through the doors out into the warm sun and gentle breeze, she breathed in the new beginning. She breathed in freedom. She breathed spring.

***

Related story: grandma underwear

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