How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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#BlogBattle – Week 62

Prompt:  Photograph

Genre:  Drama

Check out the rules:  https://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

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Image by Pixaby. No  attribution required.

Broken

Shoulders curled, Marlene dropped a wobbly chin. “How has it come to this?” Leaning back into the kitchen counter, her voice dropped to a whisper.

“Shocking and a long time coming, but I’m not surprised—are you? Hey, this is a nice place. ” Alice peeked into the living room.

Marlene’s chin shot up, brown eyes bulging, accusing. “What are you saying? Not surprised.”

“Easy, sweetie. You have to admit Charlie has been mutating for years—even before you thought he might be fooling around.” Alice flicked pensive, Barbie-Doll lashes over her girlfriend’s anaemic complexion. Child-like hands dropped to narrow hips.

“Mutating.” She sniffed. “Good word. In equal parts, I’m tired of thinking about him and can’t stop. If I wasn’t eligible for the government pension… If my son hadn’t found this place and moved me in to help cut expenses… I don’t deserve this.”

“Nobody does, sweetie.” Alice reached for her sturdier friend. “The kids are grown and making their own way. You will too. The worst is over.” The women hugged; neither spoke. Alice pulled back. “Tea? Sit.”

“Remember the first little house we bought. Charlie was so house proud. Tore down and put up walls, painted, cleaned. And then… Marlene’s mouth quivered. “The babies kept coming and a prouder father you’ve never seen until…” Resolute tears drifted to her chin though she swabbed them with a shirtsleeve. “When did he begin to resent them? Us?”

“Hey. Change of subject—what did the discovery process shake out?” Alice grinned and helped herself to a sip of tea, pushing back into the kitchen chair rails.

“He’s ignoring e-mails, letters, and telephone calls. My lawyer says a court order will force him to hand over financials. Don’t know if he’s hired his own yet. Did I tell you Breann found a wad of bills stuffed into a jar in the basement rafters? I should have pocketed all of it.”

“What?” Alice set the mug on the kitchen table with a thwack. “You didn’t? Not like you—what about for decent groceries for you and Breann?”

“I mock-handed him the jar after I lifted all but $100.00 wrapped around strips of newsprint—I’m no saint.” She snorted into a palm. “Thought he’d have a stroke. Reminded him the stove didn’t work, the furnace needed replacing—it hadn’t worked for three winters—the ensuite toilet didn’t work… Thought he’d hit me. Grabbed the jar hard enough to break but didn’t, and slammed out of the house.”

“I’m your best friend. You never said. What an actress. I wondered why we met in spurts, in coffee shops—how did you stay warm?”

“Electric heaters. Expensive, but I wasn’t paying the stupid bills. The kids left one by one before the first winter was half over. Breann was the last.”

“What if he skips town?” Alice paced the narrow kitchen, her short legs stabbed at the floor like chopsticks at an empty plate.

Marlene shook her head. “He’s hanging on to the house, though it’s falling down in pieces.”

The other woman stopped, hands in her hair. “I’m amazed you hung in so long. What made you cave?”

Marlene rose to plug in the kettle again. Back turned, she shook her head, running plump, ringed fingers over the electrical cord. The silence stretched until the kettle’s noisy heating element sputtered. “I died a little after every lie and every calculated promise till I didn’t recognize him anymore, or me. The screaming fights—you don’t want to know.”

“I knew you were having problems—doesn’t every couple—why didn’t you say? Did you talk to anyone?”

“Yeah. The oldest, Cathy, the one with all the kids. Forcing my children out was the worst. I wanted to leave, but where could I go—no money of my own? Remember when Charlie, Jr. came out? I told you, right?”

Alice nodded, fading copper curls bounced around her creased, waif-like face.

“That man went crazy roaring this was no son of his. Tore up the house, broke everything in his path if it wasn’t already broken.”

“But Junior is his splitting image. What did he have in mind? Send the boy back?” Alice cackled and slapped her knee.

“Worse. My fault, he said. Wished my boy had never been born.” Eyes dull, bruised half-moons sagging underneath, Marlene stared into the distance. “Broke young Charlie’s heart.

“Computers saved me. I took classes at the library. Printed out reams of his chats and he still lied to my face. To. My. Face. My kids were gone, nothing in the house worked, only a microwave for frozen dinners. I’d had it. With only the clothes on my back, I took a cab to Cathy’s and her houseful. Where else could I go?”

“I’m starving. Anything to eat? You’re no mouse. What took you so long?” Marlene stuck her head in the fridge. “Not much here. Let’s order pizza.”

Lips compressed, Marlene gathered bleached hair, snapping on the elastic from her wrist. “Avoiding temptation. Sorry.”

“Oh? Expecting young Charlie for supper?” Alice opened cupboards till she found dinner plates.

“Don’t know. We’re free spirits. Wine?” Not waiting for an answer, she sauntered into the living room. Alice found wine glasses and pulled out her cell for pizza delivery.

 

“So, how is it on your own—I mean with Charlie, Junior?” Alice grabbed the wine bottle on her way to the living room.

“Fine. You bet I’m mad, though. This isn’t the life I’d pictured.” She snatched the remote and plopped into a chair. “CNN, okay?”

“Wait. Your couch, right? Coffee table. How’d you get them out?” Alice appraised the room and chortled.

“He changed the locks, but the kids and I broke in while he was at work. Took what I needed.”

Alice smiled wide. “Oh-oh. Trouble’s coming. Does the lawyer know?” She leaned to fill her friend’s offered glass.

“Funny enough, I have his blessing. No one suggested we were splitting up before I left. He locked me out. Simple.”

Alice poured what little was left in the bottle and tossed it off. I have a couple bottles in my overnight bag. “Girls’ night. Wait there.” She grabbed her bag by the front door.

“Use the back bedroom on the left, second door.” She heaved herself out of the chair, followed Alice down the hall, and gave her a tour of the rest of the house. Another bottle relieved of its cork, they settled back in front of the television.

Alice swung round as if struck by lightning. “Shh. Turn it up.”

“What?” Marlene sloshed wine over the back of a hand in her haste. She licked it up and thumbed the volume button until the sound blared too loud. She thumbed it down. “No way.” Mesmerized by the image on the screen, she tore her attention away and centered on her friend. Tears obscured her vision though she made no sound. Mascara streaked her cheeks. Alice set down her glass. Grabbing Marlene’s hand, she unpeeled her fingers from the goblet and set it down, too.

“Where’d they get that photograph? Wait. Cathy took it of her father on our 25th anniversary. I thought she’d burned it.” Marlene wavered and would have sunk to the floor had Alice not pushed her into the sofa. Mouth flapping without words, she turned her attention to the television screen.

The words tumbled out of the excited news reporter as if he had to tell it all in five seconds.

This just in. Police stopped a suspicious driver on old Highway 99 as his car wandered from one ditch to the other.  No additional traffic on the road at the time. Incoherent when apprehended, his blood alcohol level was well below the limit. On checking the car for drugs, a dead body—not yet in rigor mortis—was heaped like rubbish in the trunk of this man’s Mustang.

A close-up of Charlie in his best suit filled the screen, hair fuller by six years and eyes clearer and present.

“Crap. What about our divorce?”

Alice pursed her lips. “And your assets? He’s given you the shaft again, hasn’t he?”

“No way. I want a divorce before his case goes to trial.”

“Call your lawyer. Now.”

The End

I have been challenged by  Gary here, another #BlogBattler, to  capture the wife’s POV following Week 61 found here.

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.


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#BlogBattle Week 53 – Bun

To celebrate, the one-year anniversary of #BlogBattle we will not be writing a new story for the battle. For Week 53, Rachel at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/  has suggested the following:

  1. Choose one of your #BlogBattle stories from the past year
  2. Edit it however you would like
  3. Reblog/repost it next week on Tuesday, March 15th.
  4. Make sure you specify the genre and the theme word

Voting will be done from the compilation of awesome stories presented!

Genre: Humor

Theme Word: Bun

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Bun?

 

Clunk. Sylvie plonked the groceries on the floor by the front door. Shrugging off her coat in a rush, she headed to the kitchen. Halfway, she made an about face, hung her coat in the closet and grabbed her shopping bags.

Her cell spun on the counter, but she ignored it while it vibrated in circles. Purchases stored, she put on the kettle and dropped into a kitchen chair. The Thompsons and Millers were due at seven; she had time to change her planned dessert. What shall I bake special for tonight?

The kettle clicked off. She sighed and rose to make tea. The aroma of herbed roast beef filled the kitchen. Mr. Crockpot, her ever-faithful helper, hard at work again. She peeked through the glass lid and gave it a loving tap. Okay, five minutes—maybe ten—and I’m off to set the table.

***

Half an hour later Sylvie laid out fresh clothes and headed to the shower. She frowned into the mirror, turned this way and that, smoothed faint lines around her eyes and stroked her temples, caressing hints of gray threaded through mousey brown hair. Time for a color. Forty-one in a month. Imagine… Stop!

As always, the front door clicked open and slammed shut at exactly six o’clock. Sylvie smiled and rushed down the hall to meet her husband while inserting an earring. Arms outstretched, she rushed to embrace him.

“George, darling.”

Eyes aglow with pleasure, he let out a bark of laughter, caught her in his arms, and spun them around a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

***

At 6:51 p.m., the doorbell chimed. “I’ll bet my favorite shoes that’s my mom and stepdad. Always first. Always early.” Sylvie arranged pots on the stove in readiness for turning on during cocktails.

“Mom and Dad Thompson. Come in, come in.” George kissed his mother-in-law’s powdered cheek and shook hands with her new husband, the lucky owner of dense cloud-white hair. “Welcome to our home, Frank.” Before he dispensed with their coats, the doorbell announced another arrival. “Mom. Dad. Come in.”

Sylvie tossed her apron into a kitchen chair and joined the families, waving them into the Great Room. The still bare fields and garden were spectacular through the wall of unadorned plate glass windows.

“How are the twins doing at university?” her mother asked.

“They’ll be finished in less than two months and have to face the real world,” George said, a faraway look in his eyes. “How about drinks?” He rubbed his hands with zest. “The usual for everyone?” Nods and echoes of agreement ensued. “What will you have Frank?”

“What?” George made a drinking motion. “Whiskey, neat.” He looked about not knowing the routine.

The parents settled into their established seats. The women sank into the sofa facing the garden and the men into La-Z-boys across from them, footrests popped up at once.

General greetings exchanged, George delivered drinks on a tray and raised his glass. “A toast to our health at this happy gathering.” Glasses extended, nodding and hear-hears resonated around the room. The seats too far apart, only the mothers clinked glasses.

“Excuse me, one moment.” George disappeared around the corner. Upon his instant return, Sylvie sprang from her chosen hard-backed chair and exchanged a glance with her husband. He presented a white plate to the room. “Look what came out of the oven.”

“What’s this about done? Gun? What did he say? His new stepfather cupped a hand to his ear and squinted at his wife.

“He said nothing of the sort,” she said, eyes twice their usual size. One hand grazed Mrs. Miller’s lap. They gawked at each other, then at Sylvie.

“I said, look what I found in the oven.” George grinned wide. The tip of his ears crimson tinged, he tipped the plate several degrees.

His father scratched his chin, wiry salt and pepper eyebrows squished to attention over his nose. He studied the faces around him. “So?”

George set the plate on the coffee table and wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist. They grinned like children with a secret. Sylvie leaned her head back against his shoulder. Both mothers gaped at each other, their husbands, then back at the young couple while their spouses sat with mouths flapping.

George’s father shifted in his seat. “Will somebody say something? What in heck’s going on?”

 Blinking, her mother leaned forward, voice soft, hesitant. Cautious. “How do you feel about this, Sylvie?”

“Mom, I’m fine—ecstatic. Aren’t we, George?” He nodded. They rocked side to side, his arms wrapped around her, chin on her shoulder.

“I need another drink.” His father raised an open palm. “No, I’ll fix it myself. Haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Dad,” George said, his voice subdued. “We’re having a baby.”

His father’s brows shot heavenward. “Why didn’t you say so in plain English?” Empty glass in hand, he hugged his son and placed a resounding smooch on his daughter-in-law’s cheek. “Do the boys know? Bet they’re excited.”

“You’re the first to know.” George said. “I only found out an hour ago.” He suppressed a smile in his wife’s hair.

The grandmothers shook their heads and heaved themselves off the sofa to join the hug-a-thon. “It’s like starting all over again,” said her mother to Grandma Miller. “I wouldn’t want to do it.”

George’s deaf stepfather scrambled out of the chair and raised his glass. “I’ll drink to that. What are we celebrating?”

“We have a bun in the oven,” his wife shouted in his ear over the melee.

“We do? Take it out before it burns.”

The room rang with laughter. He joined in too though he still appeared confused.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Pixabay. No attribution required.


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#BlogBattle Week 50 – Prompt: Pure

To join in the fun, click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Drama / Humor

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A Little Malarkey

Grandma Mercy had no patience for wimps nor fools. In her book, Sidney fit both categories. “How’d you ever hook up with a fool like him?”

“Now MeeMa. What’s done is done. No point tempting your blood pressure. He’s a good man.” Celeste paced the hundred-year kitchen, stepping on the creaky spots she still remembered. Freckled and ponytailed, she looked closer to eighteen than thirty. ”I’d like tea. You want tea? Where’s the kettle?”

“Sure. Made double chocolate brownies yesterday. The man’s hands are softer than a baby’s brand new skin.” Grandma reached into a cupboard for the treat tin and another for cups and saucers.

“He’s a scholar. A University Prof. What’s wrong with that?” She watched the gas flame catch beneath the beat up kettle. “Where’s the one I bought you for Christmas?”

“The man’s never done an honest day’s work. What? This one still works. New means better, does it? How long you known him?”

“Off and on—about five years. Why don’t you like him?”

“I said no such thing. So he’s a scholar, but a mighty slow thinker. Asked him did he want vanilla ice cream with his cherry pie at lunch. Both homemade, I told him. I thought we lost him in a black hole somewhere till he blinked and dipped his head, which I took for a nod. I guessed right ‘cause he dug in. I wonder how long does it take to pick out a pair of socks every morning.”

“You’re talking about my husband. My husband.” Celeste, arms crossed, watched Grandma Mercy arrange brownies on a chipped plate. The kettle whistled. She snapped the knob to off and carried the boiled water to the kitchen table. “Brownies smell heavenly. Oops. Forgot the sugar for your tea.”

“You’re my favorite granddaughter, ‘course you’re the only one, but I hope you haven’t made a huge mistake. Who’s gonna look after who? Tell me that.” She stirred the tea with vigor, studying the dark liquid.”

“These aren’t the old days, MeeMa. We aren’t farming or homesteading. I guess we’ll look after each other.” Celeste reached for the older woman’s hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”

Gray eyes, still clear and sharp, studied her over the rim of the teacup. “I wonder.”

“What do you mean? You’d met him before and never said one word. Why now?”

“Sure twice for about five minutes and what—a year or two ago? I had no idea you were serious about him. Tell me. Who proposed to who?”

Celeste’s jaw dropped. Tea spilled into her lap and onto the placemat. “Ow-ow-ow. Darn. Darn. That’s hot.” She jumped up unzipping her jeans and hobbled to the bathroom.

Grandma removed the wet placemat and dried the table and chair. “You okay?”

No response, except for gushing water. Then silence. A towel wrapped around her waist, Celeste returned to the kitchen. “No damage done. I’ve hung the jeans on the shower rod to dry. What time is it?”

“Knowing Gramps, he and Sidney won’t be back for hours. I hope he doesn’t bore the boy to distraction. Sit. More tea?”

Celeste took a sip. The tea had cooled. Brows raised she drank again. “Now he’s a boy? Please.” She looked away and smiled in spite of herself.

“So, you did the proposing, eh. I knew it.” Grandma slapped the table. Cups and saucers rattled. Teaspoons twitched and slid.  “There’s no order anymore. I don’t understand it.”

“If you must know, we proposed to each other. This is absolute malarkey. What’s it matter?” Tea finished, she huffed, throwing her hands in the air.

“Book smart is one thing—common sense is another. Who’s wearing the pants in this family? Seems to me he’s a bigger wuss than one of them lap dogs.”

The creak and rattle of the old farm truck announced its imminent arrival. Rounding the corner, it swung into the gravelled yard in a cloud of dust, scattering the few free roaming chickens. And skidded to a stop. “I guess Gramps proved me wrong. Bless him for not overwhelming the poor boy with our country ways.”

One door creaked open and slammed. Then the other. The women gaped. Singing? Not one voice, but two, each carrying his own tune like cats in the night after a date gone wrong. Grandma Mercy winced. “Gramps doesn’t drink, nor has he ever carried a tune even in church, not that he’s carrying one now.”

Gripping the table for support, she pitched forward upsetting her chair. Shuffling on twig-thin legs, she aimed for the door. Celeste close on her heels clutched her towel. Grandma Mercy flung open the door, feet apart, arms crossed. “Well, what have we here?”

The men, arms around each other, continued singing, eyes aglow, silly smiles pasted on stupid faces. Grandma stomped a foot. The screeching stopped, a look of pure mischief on their confused faces. “I thought you were out buying a riding lawnmower.”

Sidney and Gramps wove this way and that. If either lost his balance, they’d both end in the dirt. “Hello, Precious.”

“Don’t you precious me. You’re drunk.”

“Old Sam Waters wanted to sell me a broken down mower, but Sidney talked me out of it. He knows machinery. The boy’s smarter than he lets on.” With a free hand, Gramps patted Sidney’s chest.

“You don’t drink. He put you up to this?” Grandma pointed with her chin.

Faces scrunched, the men gawked at each other. Grandpa shrugged, losing his balance. Sydney tumbled over him. Hooting as if they’d lost their minds, they separated, attempted rising to their feet, but fell again.

The door slammed as if a high wind had come up. Grandma and Celeste were gone.

“Guess Sidney’s not such a wuss after all. He’s still a fool.”

The End

 

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


84 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 49 – Prompt: Lollipops

Join us at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Genre: Drama

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This is a type of Lollipop

Change

Nothing had changed in ten years. Liz hadn’t cared he wasn’t a romantic when they married. She’d accepted it. Why did it matter now? Was the sound of the clock ticking louder and louder towards her thirty-fifth birthday putting her on edge? Possible, but not probable. Her birthday was three months away. She yearned for something, something to change. Did the why matter? Sam was a good man. Eyes wide open, she’d married him, hadn’t she? Put aside yearnings and whimsy for married life.

Lost in thought, she started when Max the family poodle nudged her hard enough to knock her over. She landed bent over the kitchen counter. “Hi you—oh!” Liz squinted at the wall clock surprised at the time. “Thanks, boy. Better hurry and clean up.” She patted his woolly, apricot head. “Don’t want a nickname like painted lady and scare the other parents, do I?”

Before rushing out, she shut the door to the studio at the back of the old house. A warm glow filled her, as it did each time she admired the huge window Sam had insisted she have. No, he might not be romantic, so what silly goose? Still, Liz craved something. She didn’t understand what.

Her teeth chattered. The temperature must have dipped since early morning. Hands buried in yellow wool gloves, she drew her hat lower and clutched the white quilted coat at the throat. A throng of other parents at the corner stamped feet and circled round each other like piranhas in a fish tank. She laughed aloud at the thought hustling to the bus stop stomping as well. At the sound of crunching snow, several of the waiting looked up, waved or nodded. The shake and rattle of the school bus caught their attention. They turned as one. No one noticed Liz wave. The changing gears grated, whined, and stopped. The door screeched opened. Six-year-old Cat lumbered down the stairs first as always, wobbling past the throng of parents into her mother’s arms. “What a sight you are, darling.” Hat askew, blonde bangs and hair messy as a haystack, the girl’s face red from the overheated vehicle showed no concern. Her eyes glowed, a smile stretched across her face, missing teeth yawning.

“Mommy, Mommy. Wait till I show you my picture from school. My friend Nathan—he’s a artist like me—made a wonderful picture with me. My teacher wanted to hang it in class, but I said no.” Liz zipped her daughter’s snowsuit and wound the scarf round and round her head.

“I want to know all about your valentine’s party too, but not now.”

“Hey, I can’t talk.” Cat pushed the wrapping beneath her chin.

“Darling, it’s too cold to talk. Tell me at home. Let’s hurry. Mommy’s freezing. Aren’t you?” Liz caught her daughter’s hand. “Let’s run. Bet you can’t beat me.” Cat yanked her hand from her mother’s grasp and tottered forward like a miniature Michelin man. Liz stomped in place holding back.

At the bottom of their front steps, Liz swung the backpack over an arm, grabbed Cat beneath the arms from behind, and frog-marched them to the door. Inside Cat unwound, unzipped, tugged and wrenched, sweating like a lumberjack. “Darling, you’re hot.” Liz dropped to her knees, seized the bottom of her boots and heaved off the one-piece snowsuit.

Without missing a beat, the girl dumped the contents of her backpack on the floor. Wrapped chocolate kisses, a box of Reeses Pieces, and loose valentines scattered all over the floor. Hands shaking, a look of reverence on her flushed face, Cat unfolded a white sheet of paper, studied it for a couple beats, and nodded. She stood as if in a trance offering the gift to her mother.

Biting her tongue and blinking back tears Liz knew that look, understood the satisfaction and amazement her daughter was experiencing. Her heart swelled all the way to her throat. “Let’s see. Ooh.” She swallowed hard to push it back. “Wait till Daddy sees this. Your attention to detail is astonishing.”

“So, you like it, Mommy? Happy Valentine’s Day.” Cat drew invisible lines on the ceramic hallway tile with a stockinged toe, hands clasped behind her back.

Liz sank to her knees, clasping the girl as tight as she dared. “This is the best Valentine’s gift ever. Thank you. Come. Let’s make a special supper tonight to celebrate.”

“I’ll set the table. Want the dishes from the china cabinet?”

“Good idea. Wait. l’ll take them out for you. Your favourite tonight, roast chicken.”

Cat clapped her hands, stopped and tore down the hall.  “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Liz chuckled. “Don’t forget to wash your hands.” I’ll open a bottle of wine. It’s Valentine’s after all.

* * *

An hour and a half later, the doorbell chimed. Mother and daughter stared at each other. “Who can that be?” Cat turned to the door. “No, you don’t young lady. I’ll get it.” Shoulders back, Liz snatched open the door. Her jaw dropped.

“Are you Liz Wilson?”

She nodded if you could call it that. The deliveryman handed her a bouquet of yellow flowers, spun around, and disappeared down the drive.

“Mom, you’re letting in the cold. What is it?” Cat lingered down the hall knotting fingers together.

With gargantuan effort, Liz unglued her feet from the floor and closed the door. “Flowers.”

“They’re pretty. Who from?” The girl tiptoed within reach of her mother, extended a finger.

“Don’t know.” She held the cellophane wrapped bouquet away from her body, eyes feasting on them. Yellow. My favorite color.

“Open them.”

“What?”

“Doesn’t it say who they’re from? My teacher got flowers today. There was a card.”

“Oh. Yes. There is.”

A key in the door announced Sam’s arrival. He grinned. “They’re Lollipops. Like ‘em? Cat, these candy ones are for you.” His daughter squealed.

Blinded by tears, Liz grabbed Sam’s tie and pulled, crushing the flowers between them.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles.

Image from Pixabay: No attribution required.


62 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 48 – Prompt: Chasm

To join us and / or to meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content– let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

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Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 3

“What is that awful noise? ‘There birds in here?” Raising her bird’s nest bedhead, Grace unglued a puffy eye. “Wha…?“

Frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr.

Blinding light suffused the room. She rolled over, face pushed into the pillow.

“Never known you to sleep this late. Everything okay, baby sister? Here. Brought you coffee.” She plunked a mug on the night table and dropped into the tub chair alongside, already fully dressed in Khaki pants and white blouse. “Polly, talk to me.” She sipped her coffee.

Her sister rolled over; grabbed her glasses. Squinting at Grace, her fingers fumbled for the coffee. “Why’s it so darn bright?” Grasping the pillows, she swooshed them against the headboard, and scooted back, leaned in and sighed. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“It’s past nine—you didn’t answer my question.” Grace lifted her mug. “You look like something the cat threw up.”

“Says you. Truth is I didn’t sleep well, at-all, at-all, at-all.” She slapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. I fell as if into a chasm at the first hint of day.

“Oh? Do tell.” Grace’s eyes wandered to the window as if she could care less, ever watchful from the corner of an eye.

“Tommy called last night. I didn’t pick up.” Polly turned her cup round and round studying its contents as if reading tea leaves. “Terrific coffee, sis. You’re looking perky. You had me worried last night.”

“Uh-huh. This is news? Boohoo for Tommy. What’s really eating you? Don’t bother fibbing ‘cause you can’t fool me, like you think you’re doing.”

“Duh.” Polly made a face. “Better get up if I want more coffee.”

“Cut the crap already, what did you get into when I went to bed?”

“Nothing.” Hazel eyes innocent and enormous, she bowed to her coffee.

“We’re sisters, but you are trying my patience.”

“You heard any rumours about family secrets—being the older first child—you know?”

Grace’s mouth dropped. “What are you talking about?” Forehead furrowed, she swung her head around like a puppet, blinking, scanning the files in her head. “This isn’t like you. What’s going on? Is Tommy blackmailing you into marrying him?”

Polly snorted, coffee splattered over the lily-white bedcoverings. “Sorry-sorry-sorry.” She bounced out of bed hauling off the stained candlewick bedspread and top sheet. “Forget Tommy. He’s not news.”

Grace grabbed the bottom of the heavy spread. “Laundry tub, downstairs, I think. I’ll start the soap and water. Bring the vinegar?”

“Here. What do you know about granddad and Uncle John?” Polly swished the soapy water while her sister added the vinegar.

“What an odd question. I have no idea what you mean.”

“Uncle John was not to be trusted. Dad worked his fingers to the bone in Grandpa’s business.”

“Oh yeah? What if you’re wrong? How about breakfast. I’m starving. ”

Polly watched her sister through lowered lashes. “Wrong? I don’t understand. Dad was the good son. Worked and slaved—he saved Granddad’s grocery store from ruin. Uncle John was the black sheep. Everyone said so.”

“Or scapegoat. Help me lift this in the tub.”

“What?”

“Let’s play what if. Coming?”

“What if what?”

“Both Dad and Uncle John worked for Grandad, right? What if Dad had a gambling problem?”

“What? No way.”

“What if he had sticky fingers and helped himself to the till and the store check book.”

“I don’t believe you. Is that why—?”

“Why, what? You want eggs or oatmeal? Why, what?”

“Nothing. Eggs. You too? Great. I’ll do the eggs.” Polly opened the fridge.

“Back in a shake. Have to rinse the bedspread.”

“I’ll do it. It was my fault.”

“Thought you’re doing the eggs? Get cracking. When I return, I’ll expect answers. Tut tut.”

* * *

“Grandma’s spread is good as new. It’s in the washing machine now. You still look like last week’s leftovers. Why couldn’t you sleep and why all the questions? Good. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

“Coffee?” Polly grabbed the pot and poured two cups. “Going to the attic today?”

“Tut tut. Come on. Clean slate. What’s on your mind?”

Her mouth full, the younger woman chewed and chewed. And chewed. Eyes growing by the minute, she swallowed hard. “I found something in one of the boxes last night.”

Eyes narrowed, Grace clutched the mug to her chest, still as a statue. “What?” Her voice gruff, she cleared her throat.

“It’s better I show you. Be right back.”

Lost in thought, Grace jumped at her sister’s reappearance. Polly thrust the paper under her nose. Studying her sister’s impassive face, she dropped into her chair. Arms around her torso, she rocked in place. The air sizzled with tension. Grace fanned herself with the birth certificate. The women stared at each other.

“Anything else in the box you found this?”

Polly blew out a breath. Her body sagged. The words spilled out in a tumble. “Know anything about this?” She gripped her fingers till the knuckles turned white.

Grandpa handed over the business banking to Uncle John when dad’s bad habits surfaced. The checks to cash were for his gambling debts. He paid them off in person, in cash. Uncle John didn’t want a paper trail.

“And the birth certificate? Why was brother Frank a secret?” Her voice, though a whisper, cracked.

Grace exhaled loud and long. “Mom couldn’t kick dad out, but she’d had it with him. He up and disappeared one day. Frankie was born a year before you, but he wasn’t right…died. You came seven years later.

“Before dad left—“

“No. Grandpa lived to see Frankie. Not grandma. It would have broken her heart. Everybody’s gone now. I’m glad I’m moving into a gated retirement community. Too many ghosts here. You should come.”

Polly shook her head, hand up open-palmed. “I don’t understand, then who…? Not Uncle John, of course, because he was…

“I guess he wasn’t.”

“He’s my fa…?”

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


65 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 47 – Prompt: Forest

To join in the fun and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

chest-371386_960_720 Pixabay

Image  from Pixabay. No attribution necessary.

Along Came Polly – Part 2

Part 1 here

Grace’s eyes swept the attic one last time. Enough for one day. Her sister grumbled, teetering on the ladder, an arm hugging a box and the other white-knuckling the beam.

“You okay, baby sister? What’s the matter? Out of shape?”  She stooped near the top of the folding ladder with a chuckle. Forehead glistening, Polly glared back, face a blistering red. “Going to live to your 60th birthday?” She shrieked with laughter till she choked with a coughing fit.

Polly stumbled to the floor below and released her box. Thump. Folded at the waist, she gasped for air, knees clutched as she heaved. “Make way. Coming down.” Grace sing-songed in a cheerful voice. The ladder quivered and creaked beneath her weight. Her sister already halfway to the kitchen, booted the box down the hall. A tap gushed water. A cupboard door slammed. Arms around her box, Grace peered around the corner. Her sister gulped water as if it might be her last chance to drink. She grinned and whacked the wall with the flat of her hand. Polly spun round, the glass grasped tight, eyes huge behind tiny granny glasses.

“Something in the dust you ate? Settle down, Grace. Aren’t you thirsty and tuckered out?” She grabbed another glass, filled it with water and handed it to her sister, who glugged it too. Simultaneously, the women dropped into chairs eyes locked on each other. Polly broke the stare first. Slamming her glass on the table, she giggled like a school girl. “You should see your face.” Yanking the kerchief off her head, she wiped her forehead. “I’m all sticky. Mind if I take a shower first?”

“Go. Where’s the day gone? I’ll rustle up something to eat. What do you feel like?”

“Surprise me.” Polly, rescued overnight bag in her hand, had made her way half-way to the bathroom, her voice faint.

* * *

 “How many boxes do you suppose there are?” Polly settled on the floor in front of the sofa, slicing the air with her mug. “A couple dozen?” Tucking the fluffy white robe from her sister’s guestroom around her knees, her chin pointed at the ceiling.

Eyes glazed, Grace shrugged in her pink velvet robe and stifled a yawn.

“Did you see the trunk buried beneath the boxes? I’m anxious to peek inside first thing tomorrow. What if it’s locked?”

“We’ll find a way.”

“Grace, are you all right? Too much, too soon? You haven’t had time to recuperate after the flu. Off to bed with you.” Led by the arm, her sister toddled down the hall to her room. “Sleep as long as you like. Don’t you dare get out of bed till you smell the morning coffee.” Polly pulled back the covers and padded the mattress. “First, hugs.”

The boxes in the living-room had lost their appeal. Plunked on the carpet like discarded presents, Polly eyed them with trepidation, but only for a moment. Ignoring her cooling coffee, she tore the top off the nearest box, her curiosity overpowering. Envelopes of bills and receipts bound with disintegrating elastic bands filled the box to the brim. Mouth pinched, she removed layer upon layer of envelopes. Disintegrating rubber crumbled in her hands and onto the gray carpet. On the bottom lay a large record book. She flipped through the pages, stopped and blinked. Wait a minute. What is Uncle John’s signature doing on the checks? The bills were in her grandfather’s name. Some checks were for five hundred and one for a thousand dollars made out to cash. Strange. Why cash and why such large amounts with Uncle John’s signature?

A page floated into her lap, less yellowed than the book pages. Light-headed as if floating in a dream, Polly dropped the book and unfolded the paper, heart clenched like a fist. Unable to focus on the writing, she closed her eyes. Why am I so nervous? This has nothing to do with me. Her head hurt as if gripped in a vice. She peered at the writing. A birth certificate? Still the words swam in a murky fog. She gripped the sheet and brought it to her nose. Too close. Back again, the words became clearer, sharper. Polly dropped the paper as if her hands burned and stared into space. Not possible. She covered her face, rocking against the foot of the sofa.  No. No. No.

Her cell chirped in her handbag on the sofa cushions. Not wanting to talk to anyone, she ignored the phone, but as always her curiosity won. She dug the cell out of her purse.  Tommy. Why didn’t he give up? How many times did she need to explain she liked her singlehood? Re-marrying was not in her future. She chucked the phone to the cushions concerned with more important matters.

This must be some kind of mistake. She planned to do a birth record search online, but not tonight, though tempted. This latest development had sucked the life out of her. Not confident she would sleep, Polly threw the paraphernalia back into the box anyway, shut off the lights, and tiptoed to the guestroom, the unsettling evidence clasped to her chest. She stopped at her sister’s door, her ear to sleeping mumbles. A chilling thought struck her. Sometimes, a forest of trees hides what you’ve always known or thought you had.  

To be continued

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


68 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 46 – Prompt: Indian

To join  and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:  

  1. 1000 wordsmax
  2. fictionaltale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG(no more than PG-13Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered aroundthe theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainmentvalue!
  6. State the Genre of your storyat the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a link back to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/or include a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive the awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage.

**********************************************************************

Attic Window Pixabay

Along Came Polly

Grace rolled up her sleeves. Where to start? The attic had twenty years of dust hugging every surface. The deep footprints she made reminded her of an old horror movie with no idea which one. She knotted a kerchief over short, auburn hair. Even this slight movement stirred a cloud of fine powder. A roaring sneeze shattered the spooky silence. Eyes stinging from the force of the unexpected eruption, she covered her face. No point putting off the inevitable anymore. She’d put the job off for weeks already. Moving day loomed large. So much to do in six short weeks. Grace uncovered her face and sneezed again. “Maybe I should vacuum first.”

The Kirby, too heavy to lug up and down the ladder, she loaded the old canister model into an orange plastic leaf bag, heaved it over her shoulder and mounted the ladder again. Good idea, but was there a plug? The low-watt, naked bulb hanging on a cord wasn’t much help. She scrambled down the rungs again for a better bulb and flashlight.

No matter how careful, she stirred gagging clouds in her path. The bulb, too hot to change, Grace flicked on the flashlight and ground her teeth. More slow work. Feathery cobwebs clung in clumps in the corners, undulating as she passed the light in columns over the wall surface. No plug on the first wall, nor the second. She stamped her foot, realizing too late what she’d done, and choked on particles of stirred up dirt, again. Shoulders slumped she wanted to give up. “Work with me,” she said with clenched teeth to the watching shadows. A distant sound from downstairs caught her attention. Head cocked she froze to listen. The muffled dong of her doorbell called to her. “I’m coming,” she said aloud though no one heard and grinned to herself. A reprieve. Down the ladder, she plunged fast as her throbbing legs carried her.

“I’m coming.” She wrenched open the door. “Polly—what a surprise. Come in. Come in.” Her sister, a fuchsia overnight bag at her feet, smiled wide, and threw open her arms. Grace blinked, chin tucked over her sister’s shoulder. “Your timing couldn’t be better. I finally made it to the attic but haven’t accomplished a thing today.”

“Isn’t that the reason you invited me?”

Grace stood back. Squinting, she studied the face before her. “I did? When?”

“A month or so—I think. I wondered what you’d find after all these years… If my missing diary might be in one of the boxes.”

Grace chuckled. The back of her hand erased the frown lines from her forehead. “I remember. Funny, I finally made it up there the day you decide to come. How long can you stay?”

Polly clutched her purse and luggage. “As long as you like. Phew. You smell like dust and mouse droppings. Tea first.” She dropped the small bag by the closet door and kicked off her sneakers. “Traffic was brutal. Seems the whole world is either going to the beach, cottage, or a driving vacation.” She swooped down the hall to the kitchen as if she lived there. “Supposed to be high eighties by the weekend.”

Grace already had cups out and the kettle on. The kitchen smelled like a bakery. A batch of cranberry bran muffins cooled on the counter from earlier that morning. “Guess we better put a dent into the junk upstairs before the heat hits. Muffin?”

“How’s it up there today?” Polly ran a hand through her mud-brown hair. “Like the cut?” She turned her head this way and that.

“Lovely.” Grace reached over to stroke the springy curls. “Dark and dusty. I found a plug up there for the vacuum. Hope it works.”

* * *

The plug worked fine. The women vacuumed and wiped down every surface with a dampened cloth. Polly wasted no time digging around inside boxes. “Why don’t we take some of the more interesting ones downstairs to poke through at our leisure?”

They worked in silence, the howl of the vacuum between them. Polly whooped over the noise. Grace switched off the power. “What?” Her eyes grew enormous.

Polly approached her sister. In each hand, she clutched two golf ball-size balls, all striped red, white and blue. “Remember these? Indian rubber, right? How many could you juggle? Three—no—four at a time.”

“Four. I must have been about nine? You wanted to sell tickets for a show starring yours truly. Already a wheeler-dealer at six.” A faraway look in her eye, Grace grabbed two balls, tossed one to the floor and snatched it as it sprang past her shoulder.

“Wheeler-dealer me. I wonder could you still do it?”

Grace shrugged. “Tennis balls were better for juggling off a wall, though. These babies kept punching me in the face until I acquired the proper feel for them.”

Polly giggled. “Remember the night Mom thought you’d been in a fight when you showed up with a black eye? She didn’t believe you blinked and slam!”

“It hurt like… Hey we’re done here.” Grace dropped their find into her apron pocket. “Pick a box. I’m curious what we’ll find—maybe even lovesick Polly’s teenage diary. Come on.”

To be continued…

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

 


92 Comments

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year;

Pockets full of money and a belly full or beer…or wine if you prefer.  

Can it be five days till Christmas already? I popped in to wish my special friends in Blog World a Merry Christmas, a fabulous holiday season, and a Hap-hap-happy New Year. Here’s an Oldie but Goldie for a sing-a-long to put you in the spirit of the season if you need a nudge. I do. We have no snow and it’s warmer than usual for December.

Credit:   ChristmasTimeTV

My granddaughter dressed my tree this year, and even put the lights on—her first time at not yet twelve—because I’ve had tendonitis for the past six months and needed help. She took it a little easy on the ornaments, but the results are a colossal success and I’m grateful she was willing. This means we’ll have less to take down before my trip to Vancouver three days after Christmas. (Can’t let the cats have too much fun while I’m away or maybe cut themselves on broken bulbs, though they’ve been good as long as I took away the tree skirt).

Do you know anyone born on New Year’s Eve? This particular sister I’ll be visiting has missed birthday presents for 60 years.

Credit:  Sarah Robinson

I had no idea my cat Dickens, adopted last January, had FIV and gingivitis. I found out about his health conditions when I took him to the vet shortly after adoption. He’s lost so much weight in the past few days, I took him to the vet two days ago. He’s lost more teeth and his gums have been a bloody mess.  He’s on pain killers and antibiotics now and already his coat looks less mangy today. How I hate forcing kitties to give them medication. On the other hand, it’s a bonus not to bleed to death myself while fighting with them. The pain meds are thick enough to smear on a paw, but the antibiotics are thin as water and he’s not forgiving.

Dickens is the tan one; Lady G. is brindle.

Dickens is the tan one; Lady G. is brindle.

November had me chained to my desk. I’d participated in NaNoWriMo though I hadn’t registered. At the last moment, a friend challenged me and unprepared, I dove in, thinking no way would I complete the task ahead. Had it not been for Karen, I would have given up by day ten—my first brain drain–but she, the competitive type, kept me at it because no way was I pooping out first. Now I have a book of short stories to edit in the New Year and maybe, maybe, I’ll complete that circle too. I tell you to stay accountable. November paid off much better than last summer had workwise.

If I had not had your kind and generous support all year, I have no idea how I might have moved forward towards my long-time goal: indie publication. Thank you. Thank you for the jab in the ribs whether you had any idea or not. I could not have done anything without you, my supportive community, and I plan to return the favor again soon in 2016. I have been mostly absent since the summer, but it has been worth it. I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness, each and everyone of you.

It’s been an unusual, but exciting year for me. Thank YOU.  Thank you. I had no idea what a wonderful world I’d entered when I began blogging four+ years ago. I am close to 500th posts. Close, but still a few to go.

 

Credit: gabychest

Or maybe you’d prefer a more honkytonk version:

Credit:  TheChiefEmperor

Happy New Year!

Hip-hip-hooray 2016

Hip-hip-hooray 2016


103 Comments

Blog Friends, Neighbors and Countrymen

Due to extenuating circumstances (unexpected family and social obligations: i.e. life in the fast lane), I haven’t had enough time to visit you all more often.

November, I spent writing with furious diligence, while  life around me came to a standstill. Still appointments and family visits continue to take much of my time this month. Off and on holiday entertaining and a visit to the west coast for a sister’s 60th birthday also loom large.

When time permits, I shall flit in and out and can’t wait till my schedule isn’t hampered by all these commitments. You’re always on the edge of my mind. I have not forgotten you and miss you and our daily banter.

MH900434403


39 Comments

#BlogBattle Week 33 – Prompt: Lurk

To join  and / or meet the wizard behind this challenge click below:

http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

Rules:

  1. 1000 words max
  2. fictional tale (or true if you really want)
  3. PG (no more than PG-13) Content – let’s keep this family friendly!
  4. Your story must contain the word(s) from the theme and/or be centered around the theme in a way that shows it is clearly related
  5. Go for the entertainment value!
  6. State the Genre of your story at the top of your post.
  7. Post your story on Tuesday, by 11:59 PM PST
  8. Use the hashtag #BlogBattle when tweeting your story, put a linkback to your #BlogBattle Short Story in the comments section of this page, and/orinclude a link to this page in your own blog post(it creates a “ping-back” which will alert me and our friends to your #BlogBattle post)
  9. Have fun!

Each winner will receive this awesome #BlogBattle Winner Badge to display with their winning story on their webpage:

*************************************************************

IMG_2361

Previously:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Choices

Part 5

 

“What’s going on?” Carol hovered at the top of the stairs.

Steve slipped both hands into his pant pockets. “Seems the neighbor can’t open her door.” His wife tore down the stairs and peered over his shoulder.

“Victoria. What’s wrong?” She grabbed the doorknob.

“Let me.” Her husband’s hand covered hers. He shouldered his way past.

“Can you fix it?” She grabbed his sleeve.

“Don’t know the problem yet.”

Straightening her shoulders, Victoria spun round, lips like a hyphen. Will this night never end? She punched numbers into her phone. “I’m calling a locksmith. Thanks anyway.”

“A locksmith at this time of night? Maybe Steve can help.” Carol stepped outside. Steve was already turning up the adjoining driveway.

“Hello. For some reason, my key doesn’t work.” She raised a forefinger, then changed it to an open palm. “Yes, it’s a deadbolt.” She turned from her waist as if to shield her conversation from the man standing two feet from her. “I see. I did hear a loud clunk on my way out earlier.” She nodded and gave her address. “Thanks.”

Since the rain had dissipated, the night air seemed warm, the of scent fall’s leaves pungent, a reminder winter hung in the background. Carol lingered behind the privet. “Come over for coffee till they get here.”

“Thank you. It’ll be only fifteen or twenty minutes. The locksmith lives close by.” She studied her shoes a moment till Steve turned to leave.

His wife safe in the house making preparations, Steve paused at the bottom of the driveway. Victoria stumbled, reached out a hand to prevent a full body collision. “What’s your problem? Why do you hate me?”

His jaw set in a hard line, he stared her down, eyes cold and steadfast. “You don’t remember me.”

Her head shot up. “Remember you? I know nothing about you. I’m new in town, remember?”

“You best think on it.” He gave an ugly laugh. “Let’s go or the wife will think we’re up to no good.” He snorted and jogged up his drive leaving Victoria on the sidewalk, mouth dropped wide enough to catch fireflies.

“Honey, I’m ho-ome.” He yanked the door open wide. “You coming?”

“What are you two up to out there?” Carol gazed down from the kitchen landing

“Don’t lurk, Carol. It doesn’t become you. We were discussing the problem with her door.”

Victoria rushed in and squeezed past Steve. “Sorry, dear neighbor. My brain’s sawdust. I’m dying for a coffee. The baby’s doing well. Still sleeping?”

Carol nodded. “So far, so good. Sit.” She pointed to the set table.

“Thank you. Nice. Can you believe it’s after 10:00 already? I hope the locksmith is as good as his word.”

Steve hung back, shoving hands into pockets and removing them again. He slumped into the chair next to his wife, across from Victoria, who buried her nose in her mug sipping the hot liquid.

“How long have you lovebirds been married?”

Carol beamed and reached out to caress her husband’s forearm. “One and a half years.”

Victoria blinked to cover her surprise. “I see.”

“My first husband and I divorced. Enough said. What about you?”

“Divorced. Do you mind a nosey question about Sylvie?”

“You mean why doesn’t she talk? She’s always been a quiet child—like her father—she talked around age three, then less when Sarah started talking. By the time Ryan arrived, she’d stopped completely.”

Wide-eyed, Victoria searched the girls’ mother’s  face across the table. She clamped her mouth shut, but couldn’t break eye contact.

“We had her checked. Physically she’s fine and has no hearing problems. The doctor wants to send her to a therapist, but feels she’ll talk when she’s ready.”

Honk. Honk.

“Must be the locksmith. Thanks. Talk later. Bye.” She sprang out of the chair, grabbed her belongings and flew out the door, slamming the wood and storm doors harder than necessary. An A to Z Locksmith Please van glowed white next to her house. A short male with thinning hair nodded in her direction. “Take your time.”

Breathless she explained about the clunk when she’d slammed her door earlier.

“Tube door?”

“Yes.”

 

“Could be the key cylinder fell inside the door.”

* * *

The next morning, mousey brown hair gathered in a ponytail, Victoria lugged groceries through her now fixed side door. Steve slipped outside as she ran out for another load. “You almost gave me heart seizure.” Jaw clenched she ignored him and proceeded with her task.

Leaning against the house, he glanced over his shoulder. “We need to talk.”

“Nope.”

“Let me ask you one thing. Is your father’s name Stephen Hackett?”

She flinched, tightening her grip on the groceries. “He died five years ago. What’s it to you?” She lowered the bag back into the trunk. “What do you want?”

“Didn’t your mama never tell ya to look the person you’re talking to in the eye?  Look at me when I’m talking. Think. Better go inside.”

Victoria gaped like a baby bird working its beak, waiting to be fed.

* * *

Little did Victoria know what lay in store when Carol invited her to dinner a week later. The food was delicious, the company pleasant, yet an electric tension crackled in the air.

Over Spanish coffee, Steve cleared his throat and dropped the bomb. “We played as children a handful of times. You were twelve and I nine. Do you remember me?”

Victoria strained to read his face. “No-o.”

“My mom delivered Avon and saved old samples for you?”

“Vaguely.” She squirmed in her seat, hands clutched in her lap.

“We were poor and I hated you who had everything. I couldn’t believe when you moved here. Small world.”

Carol stroked his arm.

Victoria frowned. “Why…?”

“Stephen Hackett was my father. Ditched us like yesterday’s leftovers when I came along. Didn’t give us one crummy dime in support. Went back to his real family. You got it all, and me—nothing—not even him.

The End

© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles. All Rights Reserved.