Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

Cruising with Mickey, Donald & Pluto

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Greetings, Mousketeers!

Are my ears on straight? Is my hair neat, smooth and clean? Is my pleated skirt just so? Are my bobbysocks straight and my patent leather shoes shiny and bright?

I hope so! Annette Funicello might have been the quintessential Mouseketeer, but I assure you, I was never been far behind.

imagesG6CJP17OI grew up on old Mickey Mouse Club and Wonderful World of Disney re-runs. That might have something to do with my never-ending love affair with all things MICKEY.

Which leads me to the subject of this very short post. I am off for a week’s vacation in the Caribbean. Since the weather here has suddenly turned cold and windy, it will be a treat to sip coconut rum drinks with funny little umbrellas while gazing out at the sparkling blue waters of the Caribbean. My last blast of summer, and what a blast it will be.

And how am I getting there?

The Disney Cruise Line ship, The Fantasy. Isn’t that the proper mode of transportation for any self-respecting ‘Mouseketeer Wanna-Be?’  Of course it is!

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As Mickey, himself, might say, “Oh boy, Pluto! I can’t wait to step onto that ship!”

Actually, this is not our first time taking a Disney cruise. We took one to the Western Caribbean last October; we enjoyed it so much that this year we are sampling the Eastern Caribbean.

imagesZ1CRU2GUThis means I will be without internet for the next week. OH NOOOOO!!!  (Good thing I have those fancy coconut rum drinks with the funny little umbrellas to sustain me; otherwise, I would need a 12-step recovery program to deal with my inability to CONNECT with all of you.)

The past week has been pretty much a blur as I had to take care of things at work and at home so that I could go off on my Caribbean adventure. I don’t mind telling you that I’m exhausted already and I haven’t even stepped on the ship yet! Does it ever seem to you that you need a vacation to get over your vacation?

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But I digress!

Because I’ve been so busy this week, I’ve gotten quite behind in reading all of my favorite bloggers. Please forgive me, folks! There are only so many hours in the day – and most of them have been spent cleaning the house so that the lovely people who stay with my dogs will have a reasonably nice environment for the week. The rest of the time has been spent ironing, packing, and generally going crazy with anticipation. Anyway, I hope to get caught up on my blog reading tomorrow while sitting in the airport.

But I couldn’t leave you guys without doing something nice for you! After all, that’s what Mickey would do!

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So, I’ve asked my pal, Heather B. Costa (Trials of a Wanna-be-Published Writer) to guest blog for me while I’m drinking those funny little umbrella concoctions. Heather has agreed, and so next Wednesday you’ll want to check this blog out and see what she’s come up with. I’ve given her full rein to write whatever her heart desires.

Knowing Heather’s mischievous streak, I’m curious what she’ll come up with.

Whatever it is, I know it will be entertaining. She has a keen sense of humor.

Anyway, that’s it for now, folks! I hope you all have a wonderful week.

I’ll tell Mickey you said ‘hey.’ See you real soon, Mouseketeers!

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Lucky Lisa

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“Careful, sweetheart,” said Niles, helping her from the car. “Dr. Mendez said you should take things slow.”

Clinging to her husband’s arm, Lisa forced a smile.

After twelve months, the doctors had pronounced her cured and released her from the Schuyler Falls Rest Home.

A stranger now in a strange land.

Her long convalescence had been a dark, hopeless time. Only Nile’s visits had kept her sane. His tenderness had slowly coaxed her back from the pit. Even in the grip of paranoia, she’d understood how lucky it was that she’d married a man like Niles.

There were only two bright spots in Lisa’s life: her husband and her brother, Lionel.

Lionel had never displayed any bitterness toward Lisa, despite their father’s leaving his entire fortune to her. The two remained close, and Lionel continued to live in the big house on the hill along with his sister and brother-in-law.

“Sweetheart, let’s get you inside the house. There’s someone anxious to see you.”

***

“Welcome home, little sister!” said Lionel, hurrying over, kissing her cheek.

Niles, spying fruit, cheese and champagne sitting on a side table, laughed. “Champagne, too? What a grand idea!” he said, paring an apple.

“Lisa’s homecoming is a celebration.” Lionel gently caressed his sister’s cheek.

Lisa smiled at the tender gesture, her eyes filming over. She was so lucky!

“Look, honey,” said Lionel, pointing to a print hanging on the wall. “Not the original, but unless I rob a museum, this is the best I can do. You’ve always loved the painting – it’s a ‘welcome home’ gift. I hope you like it.”

The Mona Lisa smiled benignly from the wall. Lisa tried to decipher the meaning behind the enigmatic beauty’s expression.

What do you know, Mona Lisa?

“Thank you,” she said reverently, studying the print. “She’s beautiful!”

Niles grinned. “And now, champagne!”

Lisa accepted a glass, gazing contentedly at her gift.

Several moments later, frowning, she set the glass aside.

Something wasn’t right.

Mona Lisa’s face had altered. The smile, once benign, was now ghastly. The dark eyes soulless…

Lisa turned away, rubbed her eyes, then hazarded another look.

The print kept changing, quickly morphing into something hellish.

“Do you see that?” she asked Niles, pulling on his arm. “Look at the print!”

Niles looked. “What about it?”

“She’s changing!  She’s… oh God! She’s a monster!”

Niles sat up, alarmed. “Lisa, there’s nothing wrong with the print.” He looked helplessly at Lionel who was staring at his sister.

“Lisa! Stop!”

Lisa, grabbing the paring knife, ran quickly toward the print. “Must destroy it… must!”

Niles grabbed her arm, wresting the knife from her. “Lionel, call the ambulance.”

***

Hours later, Niles returned home. He entered Lionel’s room and saw him lounging on a sofa. In silent greeting, Lionel lifted his champagne glass.

“How’d you do it?” asked Niles.

Lionel smiled. “Smoke, mirrors, a little thing called projection. It wasn’t hard. How’s ‘Lucky Lisa?'”

Niles poured himself a glass of champagne. “She’ll be lucky to get out of the rest home before age ninety.”

“Come here, lover.” Lionel held out his arms and Niles slipped into them.

“Now let’s really celebrate.”

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Word count: 523
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. For this week, she encouraged us to write a story based on the photo above. ThainInVain’s challenge can be found here.

Spotlight Sunday

Kate Loveton:

I am excited to share with you that Tiana Lopez featured me this week on ‘Spotlight Sunday.’ Every Sunday, Tiana features a writer who shares his or her thoughts about writing as well as the books and authors who have influenced them. She also allows a writer to share a story or poem. Thanks, Tiana, for featuring me!

I hope all of you will read the feature, and I hope you’ll also take some time to explore Tiana’s blog, Zealous Scrips (found here). She’s featured some interesting writers as part of ‘Spotlight Sunday,’ and I’m happy and excited to be in the Spotlight this week! :)

Originally posted on Tiana Lopez:

Writer's Notebook

 Kate Loveton

Location:A little town in Southern Pennsylvania, United States

 Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest in writing grew out of my love of reading. I’ve experienced many enjoyable hours in the worlds created by some fine authors. It’s amazing when you stop to consider it – how communication between minds can span centuries through the written word. I can open a book by Charles Dickens, and I’m immediately transported back to Victorian England, viewing the times and conditions of that era through Dickens’ eyes. On another day, I might pick up Seutonius’s ‘The Twelve Caesars’ and experience the early Roman Empire as witnessed and perceived by him.

Where else can you experience this but through the written word?

The idea that I might entertain or move a reader, or cause of flicker of an idea to cross the mind of someone years from…

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Damn You Frank S.I.N.A.T.R.A!

Kate Loveton:

Those who know me well know that I have always been a huge fan of the incomparable Francis Albert Sinatra. I’ve got quite the collection of Sinatra recordings and videos as well as just about every book written about him. When I was a kid, my dad always listened to Frank Sinatra. I grew up listening to Old Blue Eyes. And, even now, given a choice, I listen to Sinatra. The Capitol Years are my favorite Sinatra years (and you Sinatra fans out there will know what I’m talking about!).

Family and friends have given me Sinatra portraits, Sinatra-labeled wines, Sinartra program announcements; you name it, friends have kindly provided.

Imagine my delight when a request to the very talented Sharon Cummings produced this colorful Sinatra print. And here’s the thing: even with all the color, Sinatra’s intense blue eyes still stand out. What he’s telling you, casual listener, is that once you get past all the stuff about him, it’s the music that matters. That’s when Sinatra is at his best: singing his songs, telling stories through music. Sinatra is a dynamic story teller via the art of music. Just listen to ‘Angel Eyes’ or ‘I’m a Fool to Want You.’ And if that’s not your thing, give a listen to Frank collaborating with Antono Carlos Jobim. Beautiful stuff.

But I digress. This reblog is meant to be about Sharon and her talent. And she’s got plenty of it. Take a look at her blog, her art work. You’ll thank for me it.

Well done, Sharon! I love it… and you can bet I will be ordering a framed print of Mr. S for my house. Thank you. <3

Originally posted on Abstract Art by Sharon Cummings:

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“Old Blue Eyes”

Mixed Media Music Painting/Collage

Sharon Cummings

2014

I know this bright cheerful image belies the title to this blog.  But do not let his sparkling eyes fool you!  Frank Sinatra has been the hardest person for me to work with using my new Color Fusion technique.  I tried 4 different renditions and each one proved to be more zombie like than the last.  I am usually an hour or more in before I realize that an image just will not work.  And then I fight a little more before aborting.  So damn you Frank!  That is a lot of wasted time.

It isn’t his face, cool hats or wild jackets that prove difficult.  No, it is those blue eyes! They were so icy and intense naturally that adding my colors only makes them look freakish. Achieving balance was a real challenge. In the end, I decided to go…

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All’s Fair in Love and War

Kate Loveton:

Here’s a funny story for your enjoyment! Heather B. Costa, of ‘Trials of a Wanna-be-Published Writer,’ wrote a funny sequel to a story I’d published weeks ago called ‘Toy Patrol.’ Here’s her take – I think you’ll find it extremely amusing!

Originally posted on Trials of a wanna-be-published writer:

Fighting had always made Barbie horny.

She and her band of merry Mattel World freedom fighters had defeated the Toy Patrol, forcing them back to the boring and plain toy box that they’d come from.

Somewhere along the way, that idiot Ken had gone missing. He’d run headlong into the skirmish without a second thought to his safety, his stiff hair not moving even a fraction as he ran awkwardly with straight legs into the smoky melee up ahead.

That had been the last she’d seen of him. What if her Ken had died, sacrificing himself for the woman he loved?

He was gorgeous, more than any woman could hope for, yet he was such a boring pain in the ass!

But he didn’t deserve to die.

She heard footsteps to her right, glancing up to see GI Joe, man of action, lower himself down to the ground next to…

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Lesson Learned Too Late

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Frenzied, desperate warning unheeded!

Finally… bloodied knife.

Husband should’ve listened.
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Word Count: 10
Author’s Note: A piece of micro fiction in answer to Esther Newton’s Weekly Writing Challenge (found here) to write a story in 10 words.

Lonely Hearts

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He’s downstairs waiting for you,” said Dad, balancing on his cane.

He was Danny, the terrific guy I’d managed to snag thanks to an online dating service.

“You going out again? You were just out the other night. This fellow is rushing things… doesn’t he have anyone else to spend time with?”

Dad’s tone was disgruntled. Illness and old age had made him waspish.

“I won’t be out late, Dad. I’ll be home in time to say goodnight.” I finished brushing my hair and glanced at the mirror. I’d never be beautiful, but the face that smiled back at mine was pretty – full of happy anticipation.

“I don’t like this online dating stuff,” said Dad. “Back in my day, we met people at church or through family. We sure as hell didn’t meet ‘em on some machine!”

Dad had been one of the reasons I’d looked into an online dating service. Working full time and entertaining him in the evenings didn’t leave much time for meeting men the traditional way. Besides, I was tired of waiting for my prince to come. I was young and I was lonely. I wanted my chance for love.

“That fellow could be anybody. You’re too trusting. I don’t like him.”

“Dad, please. Danny’s a gentleman. I’ve met his parents. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

“He’s not good enough for you. You could do better. Even your girlfriends say so!”

Stung, I answered more snappishly than intended. “What they say or think isn’t important. Now stop it, Dad – I’ve got to get ready.”

With sour mutterings, Dad turned away.

Since that magical morning several weeks ago when Danny and I had driven past my office, intent on playing hooky for the day, we’d been seeing each other regularly. Before him, my life was lonely. Now there was happiness and fun.

Maybe even love.

We were living our own fairytale… or would be, if people would leave us alone.

Dad didn’t try to hide his dislike of Danny. Neither did my girlfriends, who had a habit of making cutting remarks: he was too short; too shy; too awkward.

Like Dad, they told me I could do better.

It wounds a person to discover that people closest to you don’t always have your best interests at heart.

Dad’s an old man. I understand his feelings. He’s afraid of losing me.

It’s the attitude of my friends that hurts. I’d expected them to be happy I’d found my soulmate. Instead, they bruised me with their criticisms. But I guess I understand them, too… lonely, themselves, they didn’t want to lose a fellow member of The Lonely Hearts Club.

I almost let them ruin things for me. I almost looked at my sweet guy through their jaundiced eyes.

But love won out…

Did I give two figs if Danny was an inch shorter? If he tended to be quiet and shy around others?

We had something special. To hell with the unhappiness and acid opinions of others. This was my life.

After one final look in the mirror, I hurried downstairs where my guy was waiting.

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Word Count: 519
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week’s challenge (here) was to continue an author’s story that had already been posted to #FFC41 over the past 41 weeks. I chose to continue Heather B Costa’s story, All I Need Is You (found here).

The Great Gamal

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Sheik Gamal, young, handsome, rich and used to commanding his little corner of the world, knelt in the grass, concentrating with all his might. His car failed to appreciate his greatness; it sat unresponsive on the side of the road, refusing to heed his command that it ‘GO!’

The Great Gamal was angry. How dare even inanimate objects defy him! He struggled to get his frustration under control.

Hidden from the view of strangers was the small bottle that was never far from his side. Offering up a prayer for patience, he opened his eyes. He took a quick look at his surroundings, making sure no one was in sight. Reassured, he reached beneath his flowing white robe, pulling out the smoke-colored bottle.

It had come to this.

Forced by circumstances – in this case, the stalled vehicle that refused to abide by his will – the Great Gamal, his noble brow furrowed, decided it was time for action. With deliberation, he began to rub the smoky glass of the ancient bottle, his long, slender fingers making small circular motions while he chanted a magical incantation.

A wisp of green mist suddenly appeared. Out of the mist stepped Jeannie, a beautiful woman dressed in a skimpy outfit, sporting a blond ponytail, and looking suspiciously like a former TV star.

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“Master!” she cried, her voice conveying happiness. Her large eyes sparkled with anticipation. “Oh, thank you for calling me out, Master! It was getting cramped inside that small bottle.”

The Great Gamal sighed. “I need your assistance, Jeannie.”

“Dear Master! Your wish is my command!”

He looked at her, his face grim. “Yes, well, don’t err this time – understand? Otherwise, I shall seal your bottle and toss it into the farthest ocean!”

Jeannie’s eyes grew moist. “But, Master! My wish is only to please you. That little, um, situation with your father was most regrettable… but my intentions were honorable.”

The Great Gamal pursed his lips. One never knew what to expect when dealing with a genie – especially his Jeannie. She was capricious.

The last time he’d requested her assistance it was to keep his too inquisitive father engaged until he could complete a deal he’d brokered with American oil barons. That had backfired. Jeannie had conjured up a storyteller, a busty siren who called herself Scheherazade. Jeannie instructed her to keep Gamal’s father occupied while Gamal completed his secret transactions.

Night after night, Scheherazade held his father spellbound with stories of princes and palaces and distant battles fought for love and power. The problem was that once Gamal had completed his deal, he wanted his wise father to again turn his attention to earthly matters. Instead, Scheherazade continued to enthrall the old man, who made her his chief wife rather than lose her wonderful stories. He remained as addicted to those stories as an American teenager was to video games.

It is unseemly, thought the Great Gamal.

“No more excuses, Jeannie. I have a specific reason for calling you. If you please me, I shall let you remain outside your bottle for a month.”

“Oh Master!” Jeannie cried. Filled with joy, she clapped her hands together. “What is your wish, Master? I shall grant you whatever you desire!”

“It’s that damnable automobile sitting over there,” he said, pointing in the car’s direction. “It has again stopped working!”

No longer able to contain his frustration, he jumped to his feet. It was with irritation that he looked up at the heavens and shook his fist. “A camel! A camel! My kingdom for a camel!”

Jeanie crossed her arms against her chest, and gave her upper torso a quick shake and –

Poof!

A large brown camel materialized out of a giant plume of gray smoke.

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The Great Gamal looked at the big, dumb animal in disbelief. “Jeannie! What is this? What have you done?” he cried.

“It’s a camel, Master,” replied Jeannie, her tone uncertain in light of her master’s apparent distress.

“I can see that! What is it doing here?”

“You asked for a camel,” said Jeannie, confused. Her master could be a very difficult man to please.

“I didn’t mean it literally, you fool! Have you never read ‘Richard III,’ you silly twit? I was taking literary license!”

Shaking with anger, the Great Gamal struggled to find the packet of cigarettes hidden in his robe. He needed a smoke; his Jeannie drove him crazy. Damn, where were those cigarettes? Finally he located the pack but it was empty. In disgust, he threw the empty pack to the ground and stamped his foot.

“Oh, Master!” Comprehension dawned suddenly in Jeannie’s eyes. “Now I understand! A camel!”

Before the Great Gamal knew what she was about, Jeannie again crossed her arms, gave her trademark shake, and –

Poof!

A packet of cigarettes fell out of the plume of gray smoke, dropping at the feet of the Great Gamal.

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Stupefied, he simply stared at the cigarettes. Finally, he looked up at Jeannie. “Cigarettes?”

“Yes, Master! Camels!”

“Cigarettes,” remarked the Great Gamal to himself in disbelief. “She sends me a packet of cigarettes.”

Realizing she’d blundered yet again, tears began to leak from the corners of her beautiful eyes. “I just never get things right. I guess this is why I came in last in Genie Class.”

Morose, she sank down to the grass, staring at the small bottle that was her home. “I guess you’re going to toss me into the ocean – and I get seasick so easily.”

Something in Jeannie’s sad voice caught the Great Gamal’s attention and he sighed. It was always like this with Jeannie. She drove him mad, was totally ineffectual, but she always managed to worm her way back into his good graces.

“Don’t worry,” he said, handing her the hem of his robe to dry her tears. “I won’t toss your bottle into the ocean.”

Sitting down next to her, he shook his head. “I guess we’re stuck with one another.”

“You won’t seal me up for a thousand years, will you, Master?” she asked.

“No…you make me crazy, but I suppose I’d miss you…”

Jeannie smiled. “You are such a good Master.”

She folded her arms across her chest and gave a quick shake. Another plume of smoke and then a cell phone dropped into the Great Gamal’s lap. It began to buzz.

Bemused, the Great Gamal answered the phone. “Hello?”

“Jake’s Towing Service – we hear you need a tow. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”

The Great Gamal watched the cell phone dissolve as the call ended.

Jeannie giggled, kissing her Master on the cheek.

The Great Gamal smiled.

Sometimes his life was like a sitcom.

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Word Count: 1,118

Author’s Note: This whimsical tale is written in response to Keith Channing’s photo prompt on his blog, Keith Kreates, which can be found here. The picture of the gentleman kneeling on the ground was the prompt.

Photo credit (first photo) – Keith Channing.

Contagion

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Her husband approached, a goofy, eager look on his face. Irritated, she looked up from her conversation.

“A rose for a rose,” he said, handing her the flower with a flourish.

“Elliot, please.” She frowned, turning back to her guest.

She was Stuart’s boss. I hated the frequent evenings in her company we were forced to endure. I watched her ineffectual husband, the faithful jester, currying for favor, each attempt doomed to failure. The pair’s unhappiness was viral, a contagion threatening to spread.

Urgently, fearfully, I whispered in Stuart’s ear. “Promise we’ll never be like them!”

Stuart, looking away, yawned.

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Word Count: 100
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to a challenge issued by VerbalVerbosity (found here) to write a 100 word fiction based on the word ‘jester.’

Hearts in Africa

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“Hey, Gram, who is this?” asked Samantha, studying the yellowed photo she held in her hands.

Sam was home from college for the weekend. She was helping Joan get the house ready for sale; it involved going through all the things stored in her grandmother’s attic. It was a bittersweet task for Sam, one that left her with mixed feelings. Her beloved ‘Pop’ had died over a year ago, but Sam still grieved for him.

So did Joan, and that was one of the reasons she wanted to move on. After four decades of a happy life spent in the aged Victorian, Joan had decided it was time to take her life in a new direction. This was no easy task. She and Dave had been happy in the old house. They had raised Sam’s mother there. Unexpectedly, they ended up raising Sam, as well. Sam was now off at school for months at a time, and Dave… well, Dave was gone. Suddenly, their comfortable old Victorian seemed too big, too empty… and too filled with memories of a wonderful man who had been bigger than life.

The house was filled also with an accumulation of the bits and pieces of their lives. The dusty attic had become the repository of happy moments from their past. While it was comforting and safe to live in the presence of old memories, Joan had always been a realist. She knew the time had come to forge a new life for herself.

Brushing back a lock of thick, silvered hair, Joan glanced at the photo. Suddenly, a sweet smile lit up her face. “Well, well… what do you know… Sam, wherever did you find this?”

“In that beat-up old box in the corner, the one stacked under all the Christmas ornaments.” Sam turned the photo over and read the faded writing on the back. It looked like her grandmother’s handwriting. It read: Bobby – Tanzania – 1968.

“Who is Bobby?” she asked again, handing the photo to Joan.

“Bobby Monahan… I haven’t thought of him in years. Wasn’t long after this photo was taken that we went our separate ways. He stayed on in Africa; I came home.”

Joan stood up from her kneeling position and slipped the photo into the back pocket of her jeans. She brushed the dust from her hands and thighs. “I don’t know about you, Sammy, but I could use a break. How about some tea?”

“Sure,” replied Sam, following her down the stairs. “You were once in Africa? I never knew that!”

Joan grinned and, in that moment, looked like the mischievous twenty something she’d once been. “There’s a lot you probably don’t know about your old Gram.”

Sam smiled. “You’re the youngest person, I know – and the best!” Sam slipped her arm around Joan’s waist and they headed toward the kitchen. Sam loved her grandmother. When her parents had died in an automobile accident, it was Joan and Dave who had taken the five-year old in. Sam had few memories of her parents; Joan and Dave were the only mother and father she’d ever known.

Looking at her still attractive grandmother, Sam wondered why she felt so unsettled to learn Joan had possessed a prior life she hadn’t known about. Naïve of her, perhaps, but she had always thought of Joan and Dave as people who lived quiet lives of service in the small town of Hatfield, Indiana. Until his death, Dave had been the rector of Saint Barnabas Church, their small Episcopal parish. Sam’s memories of her youth consisted of church suppers, choir practice, Sunday sermons and community service. It sounder drier than it actually was; Sam had loved the security of it all, and the members of the small parish who looked out for her as if she belonged to them. All of Sam’s memories were good ones, warm and golden. Her Pop had been a good man – a man who made a difference in the lives of others.

Coming across the photo, learning that Gram had once been in Africa, noticing the tender smile when looking at a long ago photo… well, it bothered Sam. It upset the everyday trajectory of her life. It confused her, and she wasn’t sure what to think.

Joan put the teakettle on to heat. She then pulled the photo out of her pocket and looked at it again. “Bobby Monahan… I wonder what became of him…”

Feeling Sam’s eyes on her, Joan looked up. “Bobby was my first love.” She smiled then. “They say you never forget your first love…”

“Gram, how did you end up in Africa, of all places? Did you go to Africa with Bobby?”

Joan laughed softly. “No, no… Bobby was already in Africa by the time I’d gotten there. He’d been out of medical school about two years at that point, and had been assigned to Tanzania as part of the Peace Corps.”

“The Peace Corps! Gram, were you part of the Peace Corps?”

“Don’t look so surprised!” replied Joan, enjoying her granddaughter’s incredulity. “I was just a few years older than you when I decided to join the Corps. It was a special time… 1968. I was just out of college, longing for adventure, wanting to do something that would have an impact on the lives of others. JFK had been dead several years by then, but those of us who remembered him continued to be inspired by his message. He called upon Americans to take an active role in making things better throughout the world. It was a heady time, Sam… we believed – each of us – that we could create a better life for all.”

Joan sighed. “We were so young, so earnest… My parents were scandalized when I told them I was joining the Corps. They were good people, simple people, and their dreams for me involved a teaching job and a good husband – and settling down here in Hatfield. Their plans certainly didn’t include my traipsing around the world with a bunch of ‘do-gooders,’ as my dad put it.” She smiled at the memory.

“Yet that’s how you ended up, teaching school in Hatfield… didn’t you meet Pop while teaching school here?”

“I did. His niece was one of my students, and I met him at a school assembly.”

“That’s a long way from Africa, Gram.”

“In more ways than one,” said Joan.

Sam watched her grandmother set out two teacups and a few cookies on a plate. “Well, go on… tell me about this young doctor who stole your heart. And to think I thought Pop was your only love,” she teased.

“Your Pop was the best man I ever knew. I love him even now. Miss him, too… terribly.” Joan finished pouring the tea and sat down across from Sam. “Bobby Monahan was a long time ago.”

She blew on her tea, allowing her warm breath to cool it while she gathered her thoughts. “He was so intense, and so committed to taking care of the people in the small village where we were placed. Bobby was part of a small medical team, working long hours, inoculating the villagers, teaching them basic hygiene.”

“What about you? Were you a nurse?”

“Me?” Joan chuckled at the idea. “No, no. I was a teacher. Oh, Sam, what a time that was.”

“So, what happened?”

“We fell in love,” she said simply. “In love with Africa, with life… with each other. We were young, excited. We had a shared passion for helping others. Unfortunately, Africa didn’t love me as much as I loved her. I became very sick over there, almost died. I lost a lot of weight. After a year, I came home, never to return.”

“But what about Bobby?”

Joan shrugged. “What about him? I couldn’t return to Africa, and his life was there. At first, we held onto the idea I might return when better, but my doctor said my constitution couldn’t take it. We wrote long, intense letters for several months, but then we began to drift apart. It almost killed me to give that man up… or maybe it was the dream. Either way, it hurt me. Oh, I did yearn for him and the life we might have had in Africa…”

Joan shook her head at the memory. “My poor parents… they were so worried about me. I was living in Indiana but my heart was still in Tanzania. I was like a zombie when I first got home, Sam… wandering around the house, thin, gaunt… aware that if I couldn’t get back to Africa, I’d lose Bobby.

“It just wasn’t meant to be.” Joan looked again at the photo. “Life had another plan for me. I recovered, and I got that job teaching school that my parents had wanted… and then I met Dave.”

“You ever have any regrets, Gram, about not keeping in touch with Bobby?”

Joan smiled. “No. That was a long time ago. When I met your grandfather, the past was just that: the past. Dave and I were happy; we had good lives. You know, you don’t have to go to Africa to make a difference in the lives of people. Dave made a difference here in Hatfield every day of his life. I like to think that I did, too.”

Sam reached across the table for her grandmother’s hand. “You sure made a difference in my life,” she said quietly.

“My good girl,” said Joan, patting her hand. “Now, let’s finish up our tea and get back to work. We have a lot of stuff to box up and crate.”

Sam watched her grandmother swallow the last of her tea. Joan rose, then, and went to the sink to rinse out the cup.

“Ever think about contacting him now? You could, Gram. Just to see how he is, find out if he ever left Africa.”

“I wouldn’t know where to start,” said Joan, drying the cup.

Sam said nothing. Looking at her grandmother, her heart was full. She made a mental note.

Nothing was impossible with the internet…

Samantha stood up and approached her grandmother, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She then rinsed out her cup.

The two women worked in silence, a silence that was sweet.

__________________
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to two challenges. First, Keith Channing’s photo challenge, found at KeithKreates (here); and second, Esther Newton’s writing challenge (here) to write a story around the words yearn and zombie.

Photo credit: Keith Channing

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