Adelaide inhaled the calming nicotine, then tapped the cigarette against the glass rim of the ashtray. Smoking was a filthy habit and one she should give up. But not this weekend, she thought, bringing the cigarette once more to her lips.

Sitting on the edge of the canopied bed, she looked around her old room. All these years and it was still the same: lace curtains, pillows dressed in pink ruffles, and furniture painted white. A timeless testament to the girl who never was.

She frowned, grinding the finished cigarette into the ashtray. Why hadn’t Mama changed the goddam room into a den or a sewing area?

But Adelaide knew the answer. The room was her mother’s bitter monument to what should have been.

It had been twenty-five years since the confrontation. At the time, giving in to a tempest of tears, Adelaide had sworn she’d never come back. In response, her mother regarded her with icy eyes and turned away. Twenty-five years of bitter silence.

It was her father’s call, heartbroken and in the middle of the night, that finally brought Adelaide home. “Please, Addie – the service is tomorrow. Come home – just don’t bring her.”

Her. Even after all this time. She has a name, thought Adelaide, she has a goddam name!

Still, Adelaide came home. For her father’s sake.

Liar! You came for Mama. In spite of everything, you came for Mama.

Reaching into her purse, Adelaide fumbled for the crushed packet of cigarettes, dismayed to find it empty. Tossing it onto the pale pink coverlet, she wondered if she should make a quick trip into town. Instead, she walked over to the framed photograph sitting on the bureau. Taken the day of her parents’ wedding, it set the course for the relationship between her mother and father.

Her mother, beautiful in pale blue, wore white gloves and a wide brimmed hat that dipped slightly over one eye. Glacial in expression, she stared resolutely forward. Beside her, Adelaide’s father gazed raptly at his wife. She was his glorious Varina, the center of his life.

It would always be that way.

Varina Douglass, the original steel magnolia, possessor of soft words and even softer skin. Beneath the softness, however, was a hide tougher than that of an armadillo. She conquered her small town with exquisite manners and fastidious propriety, reigning ruthlessly over the Clayton County Junior League, the Ladies’ Garden Club and the First Baptist Church. She was the arbiter of what was right, coolly reminding transgressors tempted to stumble, “That’s not our way; it isn’t seemly.”

She imposed her will on everyone, especially the unhappy Adelaide, who was forcefully dressed in ribbons and bows. Even as a young child, Adelaide knew that frills and flounces were not for her, and yet her mother persisted. Adelaide would be the debutant her mother had been, the girl with many beaux. Adelaide would be popular, would marry, would bear several beautiful children that would be a credit to all Varina held sacred.

So many ‘woulds’ – and the biggest of them all was that Adelaide would live up to her mother’s code of what was seemly.

There were early indications that Adelaide was not her mother, indications Varina steadfastly ignored – at least until the afternoon she entered Adelaide’s room without knocking, surprising the two girls in bed.

No soft words then; instead, a sharp slap.

“What’s wrong with you, Adelaide? Some behaviors are evil,” said Varina. “You’re a freak – an affront!”

The ‘freak’ soon left home, never to look back. Except… maybe sometimes… Holiday calls, her father always answering, saying her mother couldn’t come to the phone. Cards and letters returned unopened – Adelaide had a drawer full of them.

It was always about you, Mama, always about what you wanted.

But I loved you… in spite of everything. Why couldn’t you love me, Mama?

Turning away from the photograph, Adelaide picked up her purse. Maybe she would go into town and get those cigarettes. Later, after she returned to Chicago, she’d make an effort to give them up. It would please Janet, who worried the habit was killing her.

It’s time to let go of killing things.

Walking past the front parlor, Adelaide heard quiet voices. It was one of the ladies from the Junior League, speaking with her father.

“Poor Adelaide, home at last. How is she, Robert? Such a terrible thing for a daughter, losing her mother.”

Slipping quietly from the house, Adelaide’s eyes filmed over. The truth was she’d lost her mother a long time ago.

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

Note: With this story begins a series of short tales I hope to write, each tale named for the character in the story. The entire series will be called the Alphabet Soup Stories. I hope you like this first entry.

The story is also written in response to the Three Word Wednesday challenge (found here) to write a tale using these three words: bitter; glorious; stumble.

About Kate Loveton

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?
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45 Responses to ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: A is for Adelaide

  1. Adan Ramie says:

    I’m late to the party, Kate, but A for Adelaide has me hooked already!

  2. wktucker says:

    Another winner, Kate…as always.

  3. My apologies for being so late to the party! I have to say that I love the idea of the ‘Alphabet Soup’ series and I know you will do a fantastic job taking us right through from A to Z!

    Poor Adelaide, how damaging it is to be rejected by a parent for not conforming to their parent’s ideals. A heart-breaking loss to deal with, but something that happens all too often in families.

    Bravo, Kate! ❤

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hey, friend! You know you need never apologize to me for being late in reading a story. If anyone knows (and understands!) the busy workload you are currently managing, it is me. Having said that, I’m so glad to have you taking a look at my new story and I appreciate the support for the idea of the Alphabet Soup Stories.

      Thanks for always reading my stuff and encouraging me. You know how much it means. ❤

      • Catching up with your blog was at the top of my list of priorities yesterday and so I made sure that I was able to do that 🙂

        I love the idea of the Alphabet Soup series and I cannot wait to see what else that wonderfully creative mind of yours comes up with! ❤ ❤

  4. I just love your sense of detail.

  5. You met the challenge well. Adelaide is a real woman, through your writing, and her sense of sadness and loneliness pervades.

  6. Your poignant story reminds me of the orthodox Jewish tradition that if a child marries out of the faith the parents act as if the child has died and cuts them out of their life completely. We are often our worst enemy, aren’t we?

  7. markbialczak says:

    I very much like the ‘A’ kick off to your Alphabet Soup Series, Kate. This is a marvelous idea, my friend. Bravo.

    You captured the sadness of Adelaide quite well, the details of a quarter-century missing the primary relationship that gave her life. You painted her lonely, Kate.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you, Mark. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can come up with twenty-six stories that will prove interesting to readers.

      It must be a terrible thing to have a mother reject you. I suspect someone in those circumstances might feel the loneliness forever. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  8. Claire says:

    Fantastic! Loads of atmosphere & intrigue – looking forward to more!

  9. Glynis Jolly says:

    A wonderful story. And so relevant.

  10. Faith Simone says:

    I think you’ve got a hit series on your hands Kate! Loved every word of it.

  11. The story is so relatable in many ways, but I like the plot in this one. Excellent writing, Kate. It’s a tough life when mothers don’t agree. ❤ ❤ ❤

  12. Dalo 2013 says:

    Beautiful writing Kate ~ look forward to these short stories, it is off to a great start.

  13. Julia Lund says:

    “A timeless testament to the girl who never was.” That was the phrase that absolutely hooked me. I loved this story, so much depth in so few words – whole worlds and characters. And I love the concept of Alphabet Soup too – can’t wait for the rest.

    Kate is back and better than ever 🙂

  14. This is a great concept Kate, and a brilliant start. When reading the title I thought perhaps the initials would be for themes, like, say B for Busking. In your choice you have, I think, really put your imagination to the test. I look forward to more.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Derrick – glad you like the Alphabet Soup Stories idea. I’ve always wanted to participate in the Blogging A-Z, but with working full time, I can’t commit to posting something on my blog every day. I’ll take these stories at my own pace, and hopefully readers will enjoy.

      You’re right: it is certainly a test to see if I can come up with twenty-six imaginative stories over the next few months. 🙂

  15. nimi naren says:

    That was absolutely beautiful. Very well written, Kate. Looking forward to more….

  16. A novella, Kate, a succinct, haunting novella..we may succeed in so many of life’s ventures but conquering relationships is the toughest Everest

    Big Hugs and Much Admiration


    • Kate Loveton says:

      Well put, John – relationships are the hardest things in the world to enjoy or to end. Getting past a mother who rejects you must be similar to climbing an emotional Mount Everest! Thanks for weighing in – your comment made me happy. 🙂

  17. noelleg44 says:

    A brilliant beginning, Kate. Can’t wait for B. You make your stories very real, very emotional.

  18. mihrank says:

    Nicely done Kate – very impressive and deep!

  19. Nicely done, Kate! I look forward to more in this series…great idea. 🙂

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Jill! I hope to post story number two in the series very soon. Each story will be unique in terms of genre. Some might be dramatic; some might be romantic; some just feel-good stories; others skewed or horrific. I think they are going to be great fun to write. 🙂

  20. jan says:

    Great bit of writing! I left home for the same reasons at Adelaide so I can really identify the character!

  21. Absolutely brilliant, Kate. I love the Alphabet idea. I might borrow the concept a little down the line myself by calling it something else but doing it alphabetically. This is a wonderful beginning!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Bruce! So glad you like the concept – feel free to borrow the idea of using the alphabet. I borrowed from the idea of A-Z blogging. With working full time, I’m unable to post something daily on my blog, so I’ve never been able to participate. This is my answer: I can post according to my own schedule.

      The other thing that appealed to me about using this concept is having a series of stories I can bundle together on my blog.

      I’m happy you liked the first story! 🙂

  22. Excellent character building, Kate. It all seems so real. I shall look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Keith! It makes my day to have you say the story seemed realistic!

      Story number two will be up in the next day or two. I hope you enjoy that one, too. 🙂

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