Guest Post by Sue Vincent: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things

It is always fun to read about fellow bloggers. In this case, Sue Vincent, guesting on Noelle Granger’s blog, shares a few of her favorite things. Enjoy.

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Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo blog (http://scvincent.com/) agreed to my request for a guest post on the subject of: These Are a Few of My favorite Things. I know you will enjoy this.

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Noelle recently agreed to write a guest post for my blog, and in return, she kindly asked me to reciprocate by sharing a few of my favourite things. This is more difficult than it seems… how do you pick out a handful of favourites from a world full of people and wonders? Leaving people out of the equation entirely seemed the only way forward. I went back to the blog for inspiration and looked at the things that generally make me pick up the pen, because these are the things that always make my heart smile.

sv-1-aniNo surprise then, that the first ‘thing’ to come to mind was Ani, the accidental dog with a repertoire…

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Playtime

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“I’m hungry,” he cries, a mixture of snot and ice cream caked around his nose.

His mother sighs and disengages a small grubby fist from her denim skirt. Spitting on a napkin, she begins to clean his little face. “Mikey, one ice cream cone is plenty. Go play with the kids.”

The boy hurries to join the others around the swing set.

His mother sits down on the bench.  “That kid is always hungry.”

Silently, I watch the children play.

“You got any kids?” she asks, looking at me.

The sudden lump in my throat makes me dumb.

I’m hungry.

© 2017 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton, Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Note: Story written in response to 100 Word Challenge hosted by Thin Spiral Notebook (here).  This week’s prompt was to write a 100 word fiction story using the word “hungry.”

Posted in My Fiction, Writing | 14 Comments

Everyday Grace

grace-word-cloudLast week I shared my desire to write small stories about the  grace we experience in our ordinary moments. I’m working on a story about that now and I hope to link it to a connecting group of similar stories.

As this past week progressed, I found myself thinking about grace and how often it appears unexpectedly. For many years I struggled to understand its meaning. Guess what? I’m still struggling! It is a staggering concept.

Christians define grace as the unmerited favor of God. Beyond its theological implications, I believe that grace can be practiced by all of us when we extend freely the gift of love and good will toward men.  To extend it freely means we do it without regard to whether it is deserved or not.

luck-graceAs I think about my life experiences, I’m surprised and humbled by the manifestation of God’s grace in my life just when I have most needed it and did nothing to deserve it. Without going into matters too personal to share publicly, I recall at least four occasions when I felt God’s helping hand reach out and rescue me from situations beyond my control. Do I believe in the intervention of God in our lives? You bet. I’ve been the recipient too many times to scoff at divine assistance. What’s more, at the moment intervention occurred I felt a peace and sureness of rescue. Saint Paul called that assurance the peace that transcends all understanding. I agree; words cannot describe it. Those moments and the memories of them are precious because they are rare.

It is a struggle for us to believe in grace in a world torn by injustice, anger, brokenness and violence. Sometimes I wonder if the concept of grace might be a fairy tale, something too good to be true. I think of the holocaust, the Jewish people rounded up by the Nazis and placed in gas chambers. Those not gassed subjected to horrors recounted in the tragic, horrific remembrances of those who survived. The photographs and films of that time live in our memories and make us question.

Where was God’s grace?

We look at the horrors of today’s world – earthquakes, famine, greed, despotism, want, fear, disease… more tragedy than I can bear to consider. Where is God’s grace?

I don’t know.

And yet… I’m convinced it exists. I have experienced it. And more importantly: I believe grace existed even in the concentration camps. I’m not sure how or in what form. I’m not sure why God let people go through that horror… my mind is too small to comprehend it. But I believe in grace.

I believe in the grace of people reaching out toward one another. I believe in the grace of one friend forgiving another who treated her badly. I believe in grace when someone hands money to a beggar on a street corner, even while questioning whether the beggar deserves it.

You see, that’s the thing: none of us deserves grace. It’s a gift.

We seem to be living in an age where grace between people is in short sangerupply. The last election has brought out vehement anger and hatred between friends and strangers. I can’t recall ever having seen the degree of discord that we are witnessing today. I wonder how much social media plays into this. It is so easy to fire off a quick verbal retort on Facebook or post an angry tweet toward those who disagree with our point of view. Strangers attack one another behind the anonymity of social media.  Former friends no longer speak to one another because of ideological differences. Family members argue over manufactured political hype and part company. Who profits from this? Not us. Surely, not us.

This past Thursday, I had my monthly blood draw for a medication I take. I had a new lab tech take my blood. She was unfriendly and almost rude as she took my standing order (script), and answered my questions. I’m not a particularly patient or kind person. My first thought was to be just as rude as she, making it more difficult for her to take down my information.

That’s when I remembered that I was trying to write stories about grace.

I took a mental pause, reminding myself what grace is – that unmerited kindness of God toward us. I looked at this woman and wondered if I could do less.  The answer was no, not if I really believed that we must practice grace in our everyday lives.

I made the decision to speak pleasantly to this lady. I asked her how her day was. I smiled and attempted to make small talk. I tried understanding what her day might have been like before seeing me.

I’d like to tell you she became very nice in return, but that wouldn’t be true. She stayed the same – abrupt, impatient, not very kind. And honesty compels me to admit that I hope I don’t see her again next month.

On my drive back to the office, I thought about her lack of response. I was feeling more than a little self-righteous. My thoughts ran along of the lines of, “Gee, I was so nice to her and she was so rotten. Geez, am I glad I’m not like her!”

The truth is we are all like her at times. At least I am. I brush off the kindness of strangers, family members and loved ones. I fail to see and appreciate the way God has blessed me. My focus is too often on me. What’s that saying? “It’s all about me.” We say it flippantly; too often it is true.

How wonderful that God’s focus is on US. Those of us who believe in God and who fail to examine our lives need to seriously think about this.  All of us have experienced this undeserved kindness and mercy in our ordinary moments.

street-sign-graceWhen I awakened this morning, I heard my husband making coffee and talking and playing with our dogs. It was a good peaceful moment, and I felt secure and safe. In those fleeting seconds, I experienced God’s grace and was thankful for it. Such moments seem eternal, but they are not. We lose our loved ones. We lose friends. Sometimes we lose our way.

God is always ready to shine a light and put our feet back on the right path. That’s grace.

And that is what I hope to convey in the stories I’m writing.

Posted in Grace, Mercy, My Life | 10 Comments

A Fresh Wind

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It’s been a while since I’ve visited this old house.

Smells kind of musty. There are cobwebs everywhere. The air is stale. Just like my old hopes.

Truth is, when I started this blog I’d hoped to become a writer of fiction. I figured there was a novel inside me, bursting to get out. Maybe some short stories, too.

I wrote quite a few blog posts, engaged in a lot of flash fiction challenges and even tried my hand at a few very short stories. It was fun – and I felt energized. I was enthusiastic!

And then… nothing.

It was gone.

I lost my passion for writing.

I didn’t feel like opening up the laptop. I didn’t seriously think about writing a story or anything else for over a year and a half. During that time, about the only thing I wrote was a book review of my friend, Noelle Grainger‘s latest (and wonderful book), ‘Death by Pumpkin.” (If you haven’t read it, QUICK – go buy a copy!)

Even that seemed to tax me.

I believed my blog would die a slow death, and be a place I’d never visit again. A house left vacant, good only for stray cats and an unlucky rat or two.

But here I am. Go figure.

Now I’m opening up the windows and letting a fresh wind sweep through the rooms.  Maybe it will scatter the cobwebs, and I’ll be able to do a little housecleaning without their silky webs entangling me. There are a lot of musty sheets to whip off furniture that’s been left unattended for far too long.

For the past month or so, I’ve been thinking about picking up my pen again. Not actually doing it, just thinking about it.

The problem is that I’m not too crazy about the things I’ve written in the past. The subjects, the stories – well, with an exception or two, they have left me feeling unfulfilled and empty. I didn’t really believe in them. That’s never a good thing for a storyteller, is it? If I can’t believe in them, how can a reader?

I don’t want to write any more stories about murder or horror. I want to write simple stories. Small stories about tiny moments in the lives of ordinary people. The moments that seem insignificant at the times they are occurring, but often end up being the moments we remember. Love, friendship, the movement of sweet grace throughout our days – these are the stories I want to write.

I have found these are also the most difficult stories to tell! It surprises me to learn it is much easier for me to craft a short story about murder and angst than to convey the simple happiness of one heart accidentally bumping up against another.

Still, I think I want to give it a try before I get too much older. I don’t have that much time to waste anymore.

So I’m doing my housecleaning. I’m dusting off the furniture around here and seeing if I can renovate this old house. Maybe I’ll hang a few new curtains – nice, bright cottony ones that will let the fresh wind float through the rooms.

A fresh wind. That’s what my writing needs.

I’m considering changing the name of this blog. Pulling down the old fiction. Starting afresh.

I’d like to thank my friend, Julia Lund, for her encouragement. For reasons known to her, I want to say thank you. She’s helped me find my way back here. Now it’s up to me to spruce up the real estate.

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Book Review: ‘Death by Pumpkin’ by N.A. Granger

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I have been a fan of Noelle Granger’s mystery series about the adventures of the intrepid Rhe Brewster since the first book was published several years ago.

I love this series!

Rhe is an ER nurse who works part time with the Pequod, Maine Police Department. She has a boisterous young son, a brother in law who is crazy about her (and who just happens to be the chief of police), and a best friend who must be the world’s best cook. I think I gained at least 5 pounds just reading about the meals consumed by Rhe and the other characters in the book.

One of the things I like most about this series is Granger’s endearing characters. Picking up this latest book was an opportunity to say hello again to some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. What a warm and inviting treat to meet up again with Rhe and the folks who inhabit the coastal community of Pequod.

In this latest outing, Rhe has her hands full. In addition to investigating a murder that occurred at the town’s pumpkin festival, she’s also involved in organizing a campaign to help her brother in law retain his position with the Pequod PD in spite of angry student protests over the arrest of the local college athlete. That is just the tip of the iceberg: she must also evade the clutches of a crazy person out to kill her and anyone she cares about. Did I mention she manages all this while juggling a male suitor or two?

Whew!

If you’re unfamiliar with N.A. Granger’s Rhe Brewster mysteries, check them out. They are great fun to read and will definitely hold your interest.

The series is available in paperback at Amazon – as well as in ebook format via Kindle.

And because you were all nice enough to read my review, I’ll let ya in on a little secret: I have it from reliable sources that a fourth book continuing Rhe’s adventures is in the works. Now that ought to add some sunshine to the day of any Rhe Brewster fan! It sure did mine.

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ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: E is for Eddie

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And the Band Played On

Eddie had never been one for gardening.

At the end of his shift at the mill, all he wanted was a couple of cold ones while he sat in front of the TV, watching the ballgame. Rosie, his wife, had other ideas. She was always after him to dig up the backyard so they could put in a rose garden.

After ten years of marriage, Eddie was pretty good at tuning Rosie’s nagging out. He’d just grunt, take a swig of beer, and promise he’d get to it tomorrow; but somehow tomorrow never seemed to come.

So, knowing Eddie, it was with some surprise that Paula, his sister, viewed his handiwork the afternoon she stopped by to say hello.

“What’s this?” she asked, watching Eddie as he dumped shovelfuls of earth onto a growing pile behind him.

“I’m finally doing it,” he said, his cheeks smudged with dirt and sweat. Breathing heavily, he put the spade aside. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. “Rosie has been on my back forever to put a garden in for her. While she’s away, I thought I’d take care of it. I’m going to surprise her when she gets back.”

“Rosie’s away? Where did she go?” This was news to Paula, who’d just had lunch with Rosie the week before.

“She’s out on the West Coast, visiting her sister.”

Paula’s brow wrinkled. “Funny, she didn’t say anything to me about visiting Helen.”

“It came up suddenly. Helen wasn’t feeling well so Rosie took a plane out yesterday. She’s going to help out with the kids while Helen’s laid up.”

Paula nodded as her brother picked up the spade and resumed his work. Absentmindedly, he began to hum a tune their father had often sung when he was in his cups.

Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde
And the band played on.
He’d glide ‘cross the floor with the girl he adored,
And the band played on…

He’d married the girl
With the strawberry curl
And the band played on.

Hearing the song and remembering their father, Paula smiled. “Eddie, putting in a garden is awfully hot work, especially in the noonday sun. How about I go inside the house and make us both a glass of iced tea?”

Eddie stopped shoveling and looked at her. “No… I don’t think you want to do that.”

“Why ever not?”

“It stinks in there… see,” he said, pointing to the house’s open windows, “I’ve got the windows wide open to air it out.”

She shook her head. “Since when are you so delicate?”

“No, seriously, it smells. I think a skunk got under the porch floorboards – the stink is all over the house.”

“You should call someone in to take care of that… you might never get the smell out on your own.” She reached into her pocket for her cell phone, but he stopped her.

“I’ll take care of it. No need for you to worry. Look, I’ve got to get back to work, Paula. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

Stung, his sister shrugged. “It’s your house,” she said.

Eddie watched her get into her car and drive away. He then turned back to his shoveling, humming while he worked.

Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde
And the band played on
He married the girl with the strawberry curl
And the band played on…

* * * * *

Later that night, Paula sat on her front porch, waiting for the day’s heat to subside. That’s the problem with living in the south, she thought. It’s always so damned hot.

Sipping iced tea, her thoughts drifted lazily to her brother. No longer annoyed, she was thinking how nice it was that he was finally putting in the garden Rosie had always wanted. It gave Paula hope that the frequent fights between the two were over.

Rosie was more than just Paula’s sister-in-law; she was her best friend. The week before, over lunch, Rosie had dissolved in tears, worried that Eddie was involved with another woman.

Paula remembered her laughter when Rosie confided her fears. Her brother? She told Rosie that she doubted Eddie had the energy to walk from his easy chair to the refrigerator, let alone carry on an affair. Eddie’s biggest claim to fame was an ability to sit for hours in front of the TV, chugging back beer after beer.

Thinking about the conversation, Paula frowned. Like their dad, Eddie liked his beer; but unlike their father, he wasn’t a nice drunk. Where their dad had been full of life and song when loaded, Eddie became morose and short-tempered. He was happiest when left alone to watch his ballgame and knock back a few.

He hardly seemed the type to have an affair.

But Rosie had been adamant. “Something’s not right, Paula. I’ve gotten calls from his foreman at the mill. Eddie’s been calling in sick… Paula, where is he going during the day if he’s not at work?”

“Well, did you ask him about it?”

Gazing at her sister-in-law with troubled eyes, Rosie bit her lip and shook her head. “No…”

“For Pete’s sake, why not? He’s probably got an explanation.” And, hopefully, not one involving a barstool…

“No, you don’t understand! He’s different, Paula. Something’s not right,” Rosie repeated.

Remembering the conversation, Paula sighed and took another sip of the cold tea. Perhaps it was good that Rosie went to visit her sister. It would give her and Eddie a break, a chance to work things out. Like the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Maybe it was already working.

After all, Eddie was finally digging Rosie’s garden.

* * * **

Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde
And the band played on
He married the girl with the strawberry curl
And the band played on.

Paula could hear Eddie humming as she approached the front walk to her brother’s house and went around to the backyard.

“You sure hum loudly,” she teased. “I heard you as soon as I came up the walkway.”

“Was I humming?” he asked, surprised. “I didn’t realize…”

Looking around the yard, Paula grinned. “This looks great, Eddie! Rosie is going to be so pleased!”

“Do you think so?” he asked, tilting his head, giving her an odd look.

“Of course, you big goon! She’ll love it!”

It was beautiful. Several deep-red rose bushes were already in the ground, and there were several more sitting in buckets, ready to take their place next to the others. Near the bushes was a large mound of fresh soil and mulch. Paula inhaled deeply, liking the rich, clean smell of it.

“Trust me, when you get this finished, Rosie is going to love it,” she repeated.

“I hope so.”

The scent of fertile soil and pine needle mulch reminded Paula of something. “Hey, how is the house?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The smell,” she said. “Did you get rid of it?” Bending down to the rich soil, she scooped up a handful, letting the moist dirt fall loosely between her fingers.

“Don’t,” he said, frowning.

He grabbed her elbow, helping her stand. “You’re going to get filthy if you play around with that stuff.”

She was about to protest that a little dirt never hurt anybody when she noticed the look on his face.

“So… does the house still smell?” She looked toward the old place, noticing the closed windows.

“No, it’s fine now… airing it out the other day did the trick,” he replied, watching her.

Something in his expression confused Paula and for a moment she felt disoriented. “When did you say Rosie was coming home?”

“I didn’t,” he said, continuing to look at her closely.

“Well, don’t you know?”

“No, I don’t. I guess she’ll come home when Helen is feeling better.”

Paula hesitated before continuing. “I guess it gets lonely with her gone, huh?”

“Yeah, you might say that…but it’s a funny thing, sis… sometimes, it’s like she’s never left. I feel her presence everywhere.” He smiled, looking at the hole where the bushes would go.

Paula couldn’t explain why she felt a sudden chill or why she flinched when her brother reached out for her.

“Easy now,” he said. “What’s wrong? You look like you’re about to keel over. You okay? Want to come inside the house, have a cool drink? The smell really is gone now.”

“I can’t,” she said nervously, starting to back away. “I’m on my way into town to get some groceries. I just stopped by to say hello.”

“Suit yourself,” he said.

Paula watched him turn and pick up a bucket containing a rose bush. He stood there, as if considering just where to place it. Coming to a decision, he reached for the shovel and went to work.

Leaving him to it, she slowly walked away. Eddie was humming that song once again, but this time the tune sounded off kilter. Certainly not the way their father would have sung it.

In spite of the day’s heat, Paula shivered and picked up her pace, anxious to leave the yard.

* * * **

After that visit, Paula stayed away from her brother’s house for several days. There had been something alien in his eyes on her last visit, a darkness that had disturbed her, something she’d never seen before, and she began to wonder daily when Rosie was coming home.

A week later she had her answer when her cellphone began to chirp.

“Paula! I’m back!” her sister-in-law announced in a light, gay voice. “Eddie and I were wondering if you’d like to come by for dinner this evening.”

Taking a deep breath, Paula almost collapsed into the chair at her kitchen table. “Oh, Rosie, I’ve been so worried about you. Are you okay?”

“Of course, I’m okay, silly! What were you so worried about?”

“You left so suddenly…”

“I know. I’m sorry about that, but my sister was sick and having a time of it with her kids. I pitched in for a few days. Why didn’t you call me?”

Why, in deed? wondered Paula.  Maybe because I was worried there’d be no answer…

“Paula? Are you still there?”

Paula laughed softly. “Yes, I’m still here. Dinner, you said? That’s okay with Eddie?”

“Sure. And, Paula, wait until you see what Eddie did while I was gone! He put in a garden – a rose garden! It’s beautiful.”

Rosie’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Guess I was wrong about Eddie being involved with another woman. Since I’ve gotten home, he’s been acting the way he did when we were first married. Dancing me around the kitchen, singing that old song your dad used to sing.” She laughed softly. “Things are nice again, Paula. Please come to dinner, okay?”

* * * * *

And he married the girl with the strawberry curl
And the band played on…

“For the love of God, Eddie – will you stop with that old song? It gets tiresome after a while.”

Eddie looked up from the steaks he was grilling and grinned at Paula. “I wasn’t humming.”

“No,” she agreed. “This time you were whistling.”

He laughed. “Sorry, sis. Half the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. For the past two weeks, that tune has been stuck inside my head. Just can’t shake it loose.”

“Well, try, would you?”

“So, Paula, what do you think of all this?” asked her sister-in-law as she walked toward the rose garden and the new patio beside it. She approached Eddie, kissed his cheek, and then placed a pitcher of iced tea on the glass-topped surface of the wicker table. “Not only a rose garden, but this dear man built me a patio! Isn’t he the best?” Leaning forward, she gave him another kiss.

Paula watched her brother smile and return his attention to the steaks.

“It’s really nice, Eddie,” she admitted. “When you decide to do something, you do it right.”

“Indeed I do,” he muttered softly under his breath. He looked up for a moment and gazed at the roses.

“Are the steaks almost done?” asked Rosie.

“Yep, they’re ready to go.” He removed the steaks from the grill and they sat down to eat. The scent of roses mingled with the late afternoon air. The fragrance was strong and sweet, and they ate in comfortable silence. The sunlight cast fleeting beams of light on the roses’ deep red petals.

“This is nice,” said Rosie.

Paula agreed. For the first time in days, she felt herself relaxing.

“Paula, did you hear about Ruby Westcott?”

She glanced at her sister-in-law. “Who is Ruby Westcott?”

“Don’t you remember? She’s the girl who works the front desk at the mill.” Rosie laughed at the blank expression on Paula’s face. “You know who I mean… she stopped by the house one day when you were here for dinner. She brought some paperwork for Eddie.”

Paula tried to remember, but couldn’t.

“A tall redhead, gorgeous figure, long curly hair?”

“Right.” Now Paula remembered. That hair and body were hard to forget.

“Remember the bracelets she had on? She must have been wearing at least ten of those silver bangle things on her wrists. Sounded like Santa Claus with every movement she made.”

“Rosie, can you grab some ice for the tea?” her husband asked. “This has all melted.”

“In a minute,” she said, turning her attention back to Paula. “Seems Ruby’s missing! It was on the news. Her husband said she hasn’t been home in days. The neighbors told a TV reporter that he and Ruby were always arguing and throwing things about. The neighbor heard him accuse her of having an affair. You can bet something’s not right there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t behind her disappearance. Apparently, he’s been questioned and hasn’t an alibi. It she doesn’t turn up soon, I don’t think things will look too good for him.”

“Rosie, could we get some ice, please?” Eddie repeated.

“Ice? Oh, yes, right.” She got out of her chair and hurried inside the house.

Paula sat quietly, her appetite gone. Something in the rose garden caught her attention… something silvery, shining in the dirt…

She started to rise, but Eddie put his hand on hers, forcing her back into the chair.

“Don’t,” he said.

Paula looked at him. When had her brother become a stranger?

“She was pregnant,” he said quietly. “I didn’t want any goddam kids – and I didn’t want her. It was just a passing thing, Paula.”

Paula said nothing. She turned her gaze toward the blood red roses.

“You’re not going to say anything to Rosie, are you? Please don’t – I’ve learned my lesson. You don’t want to hurt her, do you? This would really hurt her, Paula; it would absolutely kill her.”

Kill her?

Paula felt a wild, terrible urge to laugh, but she didn’t. She knew that if she started, she wouldn’t be able to stop.

Instead, Paula rolled her hands into fists and continued to stare at the roses. Without being aware of it, she began to hum softly.

And he buried the girl
With the strawberry curl.

And the band played on…

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton, Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: D is for Dolores

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Mornings Are Hardest

Dolores watched as the gray light of dawn began to filter through the bedroom curtain. Now – finally – she could give herself permission to rise from her sleepless bed.

Glancing over at Dave’s side, Dolores’ heart began to beat an anxious tattoo. Business had taken him out of town. She never slept well when Dave wasn’t home. She needed him. His presence kept the sadness and confusion at bay. It made her feel she could cope.

Struggling to sit up, she swung her once-trim legs over the side of the bed.

Dave used to tell their friends it was her legs that had grabbed his attention those many years ago. First time he’d noticed her, she’d been standing in front of the old Majestic movie house, surrounded by a group of giggling girlfriends. Years later, he couldn’t remember the name of the movie, but he still recalled her short white skirt and the long legs that were tanned and slender. “All it took to steal my heart,” he used to say, “was one look at the laughing girl with the gorgeous legs.”

She’d always loved that story. She liked the way his eyes softened when he told it.

She’d maintained those legs so loved by Dave well into her fourth decade thanks to a stringent running program. Staring at the pockets of fat that now surrounded her knees she wondered what had become of the woman who used to run half-marathons.

Now the only running she did was from memories.

The extra layer of flesh around her middle reminded her that a woman’s metabolism slowed as she aged. But Dolores knew she couldn’t blame the extra pounds on the 50th birthday that had come and gone. It went deeper than that.

She just ate too damned much.

In their last session, Dr. Hammond suggested she used food as a crutch, a way to fill the emptiness in her heart. Clever man, Dr. Hammond, the way he tried to set a trap for her. Sensing pride in her once good looks, he used it against her.

“Why don’t you and Dave start taking a nightly walk on the street in front of your house? Think of it as small steps,” he said, grinning.

Small steps back to who she once was…

This is what things have come to, she thought, trying to force myself to take a walk down the street.

Once Dolores’ calendar had been proof of a busy life: luncheon engagements, shopping dates with friends, theater matinees. There had been high school sporting events, church on Sundays. And, of course, holidays.

Lovely summer holidays spent by the ocean, watching Teddy and Sarah splash in the surf while Dave lay by her side, snoozing in the sand. Sweet days followed by jolly nights in which the four of them strolled the boardwalk. Amidst the confusion of happy crowds, their laughter competed with the loud carnival music and spiel of concession stand barkers.

Closing her eyes, Dolores could once again feel the pressure of Teddy’s small hand, see again his eager little face aglow with excitement… feel him leading her toward the rides, begging for one more turn on the Ferris wheel.

Busy times back then. Always something to do, something to look forward to.

Sometimes Dolores dreamed she was again by the seashore, looking out toward the ocean, watching her boy frolicking in the waves. In those dreams, Teddy never turned to look her way, no matter how urgently she called his name. The crash of the surf drowned out her cries, and Teddy continued to play in the foamy waters, his face pointed toward some destination Dolores couldn’t see.

Then she’d awake, shaken, her face moist with tears, and head for the kitchen. Sitting in the dark, she’d hold a tub of ice cream, spooning its creamy sweetness into her mouth. She’d eat straight from the carton, silently, her tears drying stiffly on her face.

How much time does it take for a broken heart to mend? Unable to answer that question, Dolores continued to eat – and hide inside her house.

The only time she left it was for the sessions with Dr. Hammond, appointments that Dave insisted she keep. Except for those, she never ventured out. It was Dave who did the marketing, who accompanied Sarah when shopping for her prom dress. Dave did everything – and Dolores continued to hide, getting fatter, growing sadder.

It wasn’t fair to Dave. She knew it. She saw the unhappiness in his eyes. One night, while they lay close in the darkness, he whispered, “I feel like I’ve lost you both. Please, Dolores, come back…”

But Dolores had lost her way. She’d once been the laughing girl with the pretty legs; she didn’t recognize this new Dolores, a stranger who hadn’t the tools to navigate her way through the fog that surrounded her.

Dave didn’t understand. He needed the comfort of family and friends. This difference stood between them like a wall. She didn’t want the well-meaning advice or condolences of friends. She was relieved when people stopped calling; glad, even, to finally have some peace. It required too much of her, being cheerful all the time. It was exhausting to pretend she was still the woman who once shared amusing anecdotes about Sarah’s high school dates or Teddy’s genius with old cars.

A wave of pain threatened to engulf her, and she rose awkwardly from the bed. Pulling on an old, faded robe, she headed down the hallway and into the kitchen and began to make coffee. How many times had she stood in this room, performing just this task? Every morning for as long as she could remember.

Even that morning the black car had pulled into their driveway…

Dolores froze for a moment, disturbed by the memory. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it back.

She suddenly found her attention fixed on a piece of cracked tile in front of the sink and frowned. How many times have I asked Dave to replace this tile? But just as quickly as it surfaced, Dolores’ annoyance faded. It wasn’t Dave’s procrastination that bothered her. It was her fear that she was like that tile – damaged, perhaps irreparably.

Reaching into the cupboard, her hand fastened on a small bottle with miniscule print on its label. As water streamed from the faucet into her glass, she looked out the kitchen window. There were still patches of snow on the ground and the skies were a leaden gray.

Winter.

It was in winter they’d gotten word about Teddy.

Grabbing the pill bottle, she stumbled clumsily onto a kitchen chair, trying to push back the dark tide of feeling.

Dave! Please come home now, she thought, I can’t be here by myself!

But Dave wasn’t there and this time the memory held, and Dolores felt the room begin to spin.

That winter, a man in uniform had emerged from the black car and knocked gently on their front door. He’d removed his hat and sat down at the kitchen table and said the words that forever changed their lives.

“…Ted was out on patrol, a skirmish occurred… stress, confusion… he went down… I’m afraid the shot was from one of our own… friendly fire…”

Dolores had barely heard the kindly captain, his voice low, regretful. She just registered two words: friendly fire. Such a gentle term for something so cruel.

And now her boy was gone, dying in some village whose name she couldn’t even pronounce.

Her Teddy, whose eager young eyes had once looked expectantly into hers…

With shaking hands, Dolores jerked the bottle open, accidentally spilling its contents onto the table’s surface. How many of these would it take to end the pain?

Woodenly, she gathered up the pills, dropping all but one back into the bottle.

Not yet… She could make it through one more day. And the one after that. She knew she could.

Swallowing the pill, she waited for it to do its job. Mornings were always hardest – before the medication kicked in.

Moments later, Dolores walked over to the refrigerator and took out the tub of ice cream.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton, Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Photo credit: ‘Depression’ by Swiniaki, Deviant Art

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