Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Worse Half

My family always camped over Memorial Day weekend. We had a multi-generational group that we went with - some of whom I would see frequently, some only once or twice a year. It was the official kick-off of the summer camping season. It was a trip I always looked forward to and enjoyed. We went to a State Park where there were many hiking trails of various lengths and of various levels of difficulty. There were campfires and stories and mountain pies. And for three years, there was Jeff.

Jeff was my boyfriend and eventually my fiance in college. When Memorial Day rolled around during those years, he joined my family for this trip.

I remember one of those trips - he and I had gone off to hike one of the longer trails on our own. We hadn't anticipated how long it would take us and dusk started to fall while we were still in the middle of the woods. I panicked a little, but he assured me that we'd be fine. I didn't believe him. I didn't feel fine. When we broke out of the woods and into the little picnic area with a stream that led to the campground, my sense of relief was practically palpable. He was clearly relieved as well, despite the confidence he'd expressed while we were still in the woods. He became playful at that point and sort of pushed me into the stream. Now we were back in civilization, such as it was, but we still had a half mile or so to walk back to the camper. Having to do so soaked to the skin, after my perceived ordeal in the woods, left me none too pleasant.

He didn't understand. He was just trying to play. That was what was the matter with me, I was told, I always took things too damn seriously. I mentally added it to the litany of things that we had already established were the matter with me. I tried to initiate play in the stream several times over the rest of the weekend, but it was too little too late.

Jeff broke things off for good just a couple weeks short of graduation, leaving me heartbroken, insecure, and unsure of where the future might lead. My parents convinced me that joining them for this traditional camping trip would be fun - that it would help me get my mind off of things. I didn't see how taking the same trip without him that I'd taken with him for the past three years was going to get my mind off of things, but I was feeling so raw and vulnerable that I agreed. It would be better to be around people than to sit home alone. It would be good to be around laughter. It would be good.

We pulled into the campground and, as we disembarked from the camper we were greeted by one of those people I only saw once a year. He said hello to me, then looked over my shoulder grinning while asking, "Where's your better half?"

Fuck.

My parents hadn't told anyone.

I ran off crying to the bathhouse with all the drama of a young fiance freshly abandoned. Our poor family friend stood at the camper; left to wonder how such a simple friendly greeting could have caused such an extreme reaction. Chicks, man. I sat on the cold concrete and sobbed to the daddy long legs, "Not only am I not whole without him - I'm not even the good part."

More than twenty-five years later - happily married to Tom and with two girls who are my world - I see this all from a different perspective. But I try to keep those feelings accessible as I talk to my beautiful daughters about remaining a whole on their own; even when the temptation to immerse themselves in the pleasures of being a half is strong. Being half of a couple is wonderful. Being a quarter of a family is pretty swell, too. But there is nothing more important than being a whole you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections
Chapter 7: The Real World

Chapter 8.
Hooligan’s

The four women had just been seated and their drinks had arrived at the table, courtesy of a slightly overenthusiastic waiter. Vodka martini’s all around.

“Cheers!”

“First of the day!”

“Marnie?” came a man’s voice from a couple tables away, “I thought that was you!”

Josh. What were the odds. She watched the eyebrows of all three of her companions rise in unison. Well, except Brittany’s. She couldn’t see Brittany’s eyebrows with all that hair covering her pretty face. But they were rising, all right. She could feel them.

Marnie half rose and gave Josh a hug. “Josh? This is my mom, my sister Corrine and my sister Brittany. This is Josh.”

The three women acknowledged him and he looked them over. “I just wanted to say hi. See you Wednesday, Marn?”

“Probably. I’ll let you know.”

“Ok. Nice meeting you. See ya!”

“Is that your young gentleman?” Corrine asked.

“He is rather devastatingly handsome”, Brittany added, leaning over a bit to watch him walk away.

“If you like that type...” Corrine threw in. The way her lips pursed implied that she did not, but the way she followed Brittany’s gaze said something else entirely.

Marnie laughed. “Josh? No, God. No. Josh is just a friend of mine. Josh is… a bunch of us hang out. Josh? Just, no.”

“You just have a whole” – her mother made a circular gesture with both hands – “thing going on, don’t you?”

“If you’re implying that you don’t know every detail of my life, you’re right. I highly doubt I know every detail of yours, either. Cheers!” she added, lifting her glass and trying to change the course of the conversation. She had never really meant for those two worlds to collide. Who could’ve guessed Josh would be having a beer at the very same place she had asked her family to meet her for lunch. Well, on the upside, maybe the topic of Cal would be an easier transition. She wondered if Josh was holding. A little toot might make this conversation easier, too. She didn’t risk asking. If her mom and sisters saw an exchange being made, she’d never hear the end of it. And they’d see. They didn’t miss a thing. Her martini would have to do. She took a swig, squared her shoulders, and relayed the events of the last couple days. She left out the part about starting at Josh’s and said she just ran into Cal at The Vista.

Something crossed her mother’s face as she waxed rhapsodic about the farm. Was it regret? Was it nostalgia? Marnie wasn’t sure, but she knew she’d somehow struck a chord.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

If You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI
If You Dream of Fairies - XII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIV

Liz and Maria spent time together the rest of the summer; reading, playing and dreaming in the garden. They never spoke about the fairies, although each glanced furtively at the fairy door from time to time, particularly when Keebler drew their attention to it.

When the time came to go back to school, they did it as they did everything: together.

Liz got a little more attention than she was used to, having grown up in Maria’s shadow. People kept telling her she was beautiful, which she thought was, quite frankly, really weird. She hadn’t had much practice with accepting compliments. Girls kept asking what she did to make her hair so shiny. She figured no one would be calling her Frizzy Lizzie (when Maria wasn’t around, of course) anymore. Boys were looking at her then looking away when she caught them. She’d seen boys look at Maria that way before and it had always made her roll her eyes. Maria always denied it. Now that it was happening to her, she found it oddly flattering.

Her mother kept telling her she was “growing into herself”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One afternoon shortly after school started the girls were doing their homework at the table in the garden. Maria looked up and said, “I think Justin Maples likes me.”

“Everyone likes you, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I might like him, too.”

Liz put her book down, never losing eye contact with Maria. “For real?”

“For real.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Nothing. Wait. See. I don’t know. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s dumb.”

“He’s cute, though.”

“Way cute!” Maria said, dissolving into a fit of self conscious giggles.

They hugged, squealed, and attempted to return to their homework.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm
Chapter 6: Helmet Reflections


Chapter 7.
The Real World

Marnie felt as though she was floating, as she hung up her jacket and scarf and made herself a cup of herbal tea. She checked her messages for the first time all day. It was funny how it hadn’t even occurred to her before now. Twenty-one messages appeared on her cell, almost all of them from her mother and her sisters. Nosy bitches would have to wait. She wanted to have tonight to just drink it all in.

In the moments between lying down and falling asleep, Marnie’s thoughts alternated between “this is crazy stupid” and “this is crazy awesome”. The only thing she was sure of when she finally drifted into an uneasy sleep was that this was crazy.

The next day, Marnie had a predictably hard time concentrating. She sat at her desk, she answered her calls, she looked out her window and she thought. She thought things like: “looks like a nice day for a ride…” and, “I wonder what Cal’s doing right now….” and, “that was one helluva kiss…” and, of course, that thought led to others and not a lot of work was getting done. She decided to go ahead and return her mother and her sisters’ calls. She knew what they wanted to talk about and – hell – it was all she wanted to talk about, too.

As she picked up her phone, an IM came through on her computer from Corri. Corrine’s screen name was Enirroc1997. Someone had told her that using your real name online was dangerous, so she had simply spelled hers backwards and added the year she and Alan had gotten married. Marnie wasn’t sure what amused her more – the paranoia that had led to Corrine using an alias or the fact that Corrine actually thought that spelling her name backwards was clever. Ah, why did one have to amuse her more than the other? Both reasons were funny as hell.

Enirroc1997: Hey Marnie – you there?

MarnieH: Morning!

Enirroc1997: Morning? Where the hell have you been? You didn’t answer any of our calls. And you ran out on brunch mighty fast.

MarnieH: you were WORRIED?

Enirroc1997: Well, yes! As a matter of fact we were! I am!

Another chat window opened.

Britwit: MARNIE!!! WTH???

MarnieH: Hey Brit – I’m chatting with Enirroc , too – let me invite you in.

Britwit: enirroc. snort…

MarnieH. You here Brit?

Britwit: yep. u here, enirroc?

Enirroc1997: I will never know why you two find it so funny that I want to keep my family and myself safe from online predators…

Enirroc1997: Anyway, we’re not here to talk about me.

Britwit: tru dat! u have a lot of splainin to do, miss marnie!

MarnieH: since when do I answer to you guys?

Enirroc1997: Since you ran out of brunch and left us with Mom and all of her questions – questions for which we had no answers, I feel compelled to add.

Who IM’s words like “compelled” and phrases like, “questions for which we had no answers”? Oh yeah. Corrine.

MarnieH: No big. A friend asked me to take a ride on his bike out to his brother’s farm.

Britwit: a friend?????

MarnieH: yep

Enirroc1997: A GENTLEMAN friend?

Britwit: a bike?

MarnieH: My friend is a guy, yes.

MarnieH: we rode out, yes.

Britwit: the guy ur bringing to thnx dinner?

MarnieH: I don’t know about that. It’s just – it’s not…shit, you guys – I don’t know what it is.

Enirroc1997: Watch your language, Marnie, the FCC might come after you.

MarnieH: I assure you that the FCC is not monitoring our conversation and neither is anyone else.

Enirroc1997: It must be nice to be so sure of everything.

Britwit: where is that eye-rolling emoticon when I need it?

MarnieH: 

MarnieH: Anyway, he’s very nice and we’re just hanging out.

Britwit: cute?

MarnieH: Devastatingly.

Enirroc1997: Money?

MarnieH: God, Corri – why do you have to be so superficial?

Enirroc1997: Oh, I apologize. Discussing his devastating good looks is deep but inquiring about his means of supporting himself financially is superficial. I’ll make a note of that.

Britwit: corri, u r 2 much.

MarnieH: I better call Mom, if she was actually worried.

Enirroc1997: Telling her you rode to the middle of nowhere on the back of a veritable stranger’s motorcycle should be very reassuring.

Britwit: srsly, corri, how do u even TYPE all that?

Enirroc1997: “Srsly”, Brittany, it doesn’t take that much extra effort to use actual words.

Britwit: wutev

MarnieH: yeah! And sit up straight! And I don’t know why you wear that hair over your eyes like that – you have such a pretty face!

Britwit: lol

Enirroc1997: You really would look prettier with your hair off your face, Brit.

Britwit: roflmao

Enirroc1997: “Wutev”.

Enirroc1997: So, seriously, Marnie – what does he do?

MarnieH: I need to call Mom – you guys free for lunch?

Britwit: i m

Enirroc1997: I suppose I could tear myself free.

Marnie: Hooligan’s at noon?

Enirroc1997: That seems appropriate.

Britwit: ur a hoot enirroc!

Enirroc1997: “Wutev”

MarnieH: Ok, see you both then. Should I invite Mom?

Enirroc1997: I suppose that would save time. She’d just be pumping Brit and I for information anyway – may as well let her hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Britwit: lol ur a horse!

Enirroc1995: lol ur an idiot!

MarnieH: Alright! Noon then! Should be fun!

She exited the chat and dialed their parent’s home.

“Hammond residence”

“Lupe? It’s Marnie.”

“Miss Marnie! Thank God you’re ok – Mrs. Hammond has been so worried!”

“Can I talk to my mom?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll get her!”

“Marnie?”

“Hey Mom.”

“Don’t you ‘hey Mom’ me, young lady! Your sisters and I tried to call you all day yesterday. Where have you been?”

“Mom? You do know I’m almost 30, right?”

“Darling, you’re still my child”

“I’m sorry I worried you – hey – I’m meeting Corri and Brit for lunch – want to join us?”

“That sounds like fun, actually. I suppose Lupe can hold down the fort. Where and when? I assume you’ll be explaining what was so important that you had to run out on brunch so abruptly.”

“Hooligan’s. Noon.”

Marnie heard her mother sigh.

“I’ll be there.”

“See you then.”

Marnie tried to return to work, but returned to looking out the window instead. She remembered the smell of the hay in the barn and the feel of the sheep’s wooly coat. She thought about Cal’s hands as he pulled her up – how strong and confident he was. She thought about that kiss – how he had kissed her lips, but she had somehow felt it in her whole body. She thought about what it would be like to touch his skin – to feel him…whoa there! Slow down! This was no way to get any work done. What the hell was this? It’s not like she’d never kissed a boy before…

She returned to her computer and stared at the screen. It didn’t make sense. Now kissing Cal – that made sense. That was the sort of idea she could get behind. Not much money in it, though. And heaven knows he wasn’t bringing any in. Was Corrine right? Did that matter? It had mattered to her mother. She left her farm life in a heartbeat when her father came along with promises of a better life. Marnie loved her father, but as far as a better life? She wasn’t so sure her mother had traded up. She’d never seen her parents act as naturally loving as Ted and Susie had acted yesterday on the farm. She imagined her dad casually patting her mom on the bottom as he helped with kitchen chores and shuddered. She couldn’t even work up the visual. Her parents lived in a different world.

It had mattered to her sister. Corrine had chosen her mate carefully, based on potential. Alan came from money. There was a position waiting for him when he got out of school. Money and the right names open a lot of doors. Corrine knew this was the lifestyle she wanted and she wasn’t about to settle for less. Alan had been her first real boyfriend and her only lover. If you could call it love. Alan was always more of a provider than a lover, although there were girls all over town who might disagree with that assessment.

Marnie sighed. She’d known money all her life. She was privileged and she knew it. She had no business feeling superior to Corrine, because she had allowed money to open doors, too. She took that for granted – and why not? It had just always been so. Would her grades alone have gotten her into the school she chose? Maybe. Would she have been able to afford school at all if Daddy hadn’t footed the bill? Probably not. She would have been waiting tables or pursuing a trade. Would she have gotten this job in this office if her last name hadn’t been Hammond? Possible, but unlikely.

Yes, money helped. Money paid for that beautiful condo on the hill and the never ending maintenance on the Shelby in the garage. Money provided the always up to date and stylish wardrobe she was accustomed to sporting. Was this going to offend someone like Cal? When he first picked her up, she saw a glimmer of – what? – something – when he saw her living conditions. She didn’t imagine they were easily comparable to his own. Was she ready or even willing to compromise on that? And what the hell was she doing here, anyway? They’d had one date – sort of – and one kiss. She reminded herself to keep it in perspective. She had never even seen where he lived. He might live in a mansion, for God’s sake, and just be slumming at Josh’s for kicks! On the other, more likely hand, he might not. Besides – this was a lot of conjecture based on one stupid kiss (there was nothing stupid about that kiss).

Ok. Work, Marnie. Get something accomplished, here. You’re acting like a school girl. A cute boy kissed you. How nice. Get over it! It’s Monday! Work!

Marnie didn’t listen to herself. She looked out the window and tapped a pen against her desk. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. Her cell rang. Cal.

“I was just thinking about you!” Marnie said, her smile splitting her face and her fingers absentmindedly twirling her hair.



A brief note about this chapter: Anyone who has ever attempted to text with me, knows that my texting style most closely resembles that of Corrine. I am not proud of this. Needless to say, I don't text much. I enlisted the help of my thirteen year old daughter to try to make Marnie and Brittany's styles more organic to their characters. Some of the changes she made made me cringe, but I think they were ultimately good. It was so much fun working with my kiddo! Thanks, Lea!



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

If You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI
If You Dream of Fairies - XII
If You Dream of Fairies - XIII

When Maria came back, Liz was beaming. “I want to show you something.” she said, barely able to contain her excitement.

She opened her book to reveal the sunflower petals. They had only been in the book an hour or so, so their natural tendency to curl remained. They were still fairly soft and supple.

“What do you think?”

“Well, I think they’re very pretty.” Maria answered, tentatively touching one of the soft yellow petals, “Where did you get them? We don’t have any flowers that color, do we?”

“They’re sunflower petals.”

“Oh! Cool! Sunflowers! Like you!” Maria touched one of the petals again, contemplatively, “But where did you get them?”

“The fairies left them for me.”

“Come on, Liz…”

“I fell asleep with Keebs and when he woke me up, there was another envelope by the tree.”

“Where’s the envelope?”

“Both times the envelope sort of – disappeared – in a puff of dust. Fairy dust.”

“Lizzie, I worry about you sometimes.”

“How can you not believe me? What other explanation could there be for my petals?”

“I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty sure the actual explanation does not include fairy dust.”

Disheartened, Liz returned to her house.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That night she dreamed again of fairies.

She woke before dawn, hoping to catch sight of them again without the danger of Keebler barking. Once more she tiptoed down the stairs and out into the dew laden grass. She crossed the lawn as quietly as she could and lowered herself to her hands and knees when she reached the garden’s edge. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, but once they did, she was nearly overcome with wonder. She gasped a tiny gasp that she hoped was soundless as she observed the fairies – there seemed to be hundreds of them, but she knew that couldn’t be so. They were talking and flying and laughing together as they sprinkled fairy dust liberally around the garden.

Liz clasped her hands in delight. So no one believed her? So what? She had this moment. This was hers. What did it matter that there was no one with whom to share it? She knew she would cherish this moment forever – quietly – in her heart.

At that very moment, one of the fairies noticed her. But instead of retreating into the tree, the wee winged being flew over to her and circled her head, tossing fairy dust into her hair. Liz laughed and rose to her feet, as gracefully as a ballerina. She twirled and laughed, the fairy meeting her twirl for twirl in a synchronous dance.

She closed her eyes and hugged herself. When she opened them, she was alone in the garden and the fairy door was closed. The garden was glistening and she alone knew its secret.

She smiled in her newfound knowledge and spun on her toes once before heading back into her house.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Friday

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch
Chapter 5: Ted's Farm

Chapter 6.
Helmet Reflections

As they headed away from the farm, off the gravely side road to the relatively smooth terrain of the main road, Marnie found herself lost in her own thoughts. This helmet was private all right. The perfect place for contemplation – and she had a lot to think about.

She had known Cal for years. She had liked Cal for years. Nice guy. Salt of the earth. God knew she had liked looking at Cal for years. Theirs had always been more of a casual acquaintance, though. They saw each other at Josh’s place, and sometimes at the bars. They were friendly, but barely even friends. Last night was the first time they’d really spent without the usual cast of characters at Josh’s place.

Josh’s place. How were they going to handle that? Were they going to maintain a fa├žade of friendly acquaintance? Were they going to arrive and leave together? Was she going to do her lines off of his taut, ripped, abs from now on? Her body gave a little involuntary shiver at this point. Cal sensed it. Pat, pat, pat. Was this going to change everything?

And what about her family? They’d like him, for sure, what’s not to like? Marnie rubbed her hand along Josh’s chest at this point. He reached back and patted her thigh. Pat, pat, pat. She smiled. What’s not to like? Well, perhaps they would find it less than thrilling that he was unemployed. They might be less than pleased with the fact that he had two relatively small children out there somewhere being raised by another man and having no contact with him. It was just possible, Marnie reasoned, that they would not consider him to be a reasonable prospect for their middle daughter.

Reasonable prospect? Where the hell had that come from? He’d kissed her once, he hadn’t asked her to marry him or anything. She was crossing bridges before she came to them again. That was a silly exercise. Oh, but what a kiss it had been! She smiled thinking about it and gave Cal a little squeeze. Pat, pat, pat was her reply. Seriously! First kisses were always amazing – everyone knew that. Maybe she was making more of it than she should. Oh, but even in a field of amazing, that kiss stood out. She thought things like ‘taking your breath away’ or ‘going weak in the knees’ were merely the stuff of romance novels and the dreams of silly little girls. But damn! Cal’s kiss had left her light-headed. It had changed her. Well, maybe that was a little dramatic.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t. Who didn’t want to live in a world where a kiss could be transformative? It was the stuff of the fairy tales she and many generations of little girls before her had been raised on. A frog transforming into a prince; a dead princess being restored to life; a witch’s spell broken…

Seriously Marnie? Seriously? She had never been a ‘helpless princess in distress’ kind of girl, and now she was having an internal debate about the relative merits of transformative kisses? Seriously? That was one helluva kiss, no doubt.

They were back at her place long before she’d noodled it all out.

She jumped off the bike and handed her helmet to Cal. He walked her to her door and put his arms around her. “Thank you for coming with me. I had a really nice time.”

“Oh, seriously! Thank you for taking me! It was – amazing.”

“Can I see you this week?”

“You better.”

The kiss in front of Marnie’s door was not transformative. But it was awfully nice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

f You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI
If You Dream of Fairies - XII

As the weeks went by, familiarity was re-established. The girls read together and played quiet games in the garden. They laughed and danced on the lawn once more. Neither of them spoke about fairies or the fairy door anymore. After a couple weeks Liz had almost convinced herself that it had all been a dream.

“If you were a flower,“ Maria mused, one lazy afternoon, “what flower would you be?”

Liz didn’t have to think about her answer longer than a moment. “I’d be a sunflower.”

“Oh that works!” Maria squealed. “Because you’re beautiful and strong.”

“I like that birds and animals can eat the seeds, too, so they’re sort of functional.”

“Yes! Yes!” Maria agreed eagerly, clapping her hands as she answered. “You’re good at this! What flower would I be?”

“You’re more like an orchid.”

“We can’t grow those in our garden.” Maria said with a slight tinge of disappointment in her voice.

“No, they’re hard to grow because they’re so rare and delicate. But when one does manage to grow, it is treasured – cherished, even.”

“I’m not hard to grow.” Maria said, her lips just beginning to pout.

“No. But you are delicate and beautiful. And certainly cherished. Everyone wants to be like you but no one quite can.”

“That’s not so…” Maria declared, a pretty pink blush flushing her cheeks.

“See? You don’t even know it. That’s part of what makes you so special and rare.”

“Come along, Sunflower!” Maria said, in a clear attempt to change the subject. “Let us search for the Sun King!” This game continued until Maria was called to run an errand with her mother.

Liz stayed in the garden and took a nap with Keebler, who had remained behind.

She woke up to Keebler barking and pawing at the fairy door. There was another envelope against the tree. It said:

For You

in the same beautiful script as the last one. She approached it with less caution than before, hoping it would be more fairy dust. It was. But among the dust this time were a few scattered petals. Long, golden petals. Sunflower petals. Liz once again basked in the happiness the fairy dust seemed to encourage. She raised her arms and face to the sun, laughing merrily. She carefully put the petals in the pages of her book to preserve them. She’d show them to Maria later and she’d HAVE to believe. The sunflowers in their garden had just started to grow tall. None were close to blooming yet. What other explanation could there be for the petals?

The brightness of her smile rivaled the very sunshine itself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm Holding 'Em For a Friend

Memoir Monday

It happened to Greg Brady. It happened to Theo Huxtable. And it happened to me. Yep. Greg, Theo and I were all found to be in possession of smoking materials that weren't ours. Theo had a joint. Greg and I had cigarettes. All three of us claimed to be holding them for a friend. Not one of us was believed.

I'm not saying I never tried it. Of course I did. But I just never developed the lungs for it. I liked the way I looked with a lit cigarette in my hand, but I took no pleasure at all in inhaling smoke. It's very hard to look sophisticated when one is hawking up a lung. So. So I tried a few times, but it never really took. There were way too many other vices that I actually enjoyed for me to bother trying to train my body to try to accept something it wanted to reject. Nope. I was never a cigarette smoker.

Of course I had friends that were.

And of course I always thought they looked cooler than I did. They probably did.

Once my mom asked me for something - I don't recall what - and I said, "It's in my purse, go ahead and get it." When she opened my purse, there it was. A nice fresh pack of smokes. My mother's face blanched. The hand that was holding my purse started to shake. She couldn't speak right away. When she DID find her voice, she spoke very slowly - clearly trying to maintain her control.

"What. Are. THESE?" she asked, holding the offending pack above her head like a war trophy.

"Oh!" I gasped, "I forgot those were in there!" In retrospect, that was possibly not the sharpest retort.

"Oh. You forGOT they were IN there. THAT'S all you have to say for yourself?"

"No! Oh! You think they're mine?"

She gave me that patented 'I didn't just fall off the turnip truck' stare.

"Oh, man! No! They're totally not! I'm holding them for a friend!"

"Oh. You're holding them for a friend. What friend, may I ask?" she asked, picking up the phone with her free hand while still brandishing the smokes in her other. Shit. Another mother was about to be called in.

"You don't know him." It was true. I was holding them for a very cute boy who I'd just met. My mother would've found him to be way too old for me. My mother would've NEVER approved. Throw in the fact that he was a smoker and... oh, man, I really wanted to see this cute boy again. I loved that he had asked me to hold his cigarettes, because I figured that guaranteed at least one more meeting.

I took the fall.

"I'm sorry, Mom. They're mine. I just wanted to see what it was like. I tried it and I hated it. I really did forget they were there - do you think I would've told you to open my purse if I remembered?" There was a good lot of truth there and one not very well thought out lie.

She thanked me for my honesty. She threw the cigarettes away. And she grounded me for a week.

Good bye, cute, bad boy.

Good bye full week of freedom. In the summer.

It didn't work out that badly for Greg and Theo. Of course, they had better writers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Friday

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4: Brunch

Chapter 5.
Ted’s Farm

Marnie thought she had something to wear for every occasion, but she stood in front of her closet, stumped. She’d need to wear something warm for the ride – last night had proven that. But she also wanted to look cute. Not that she thought Cal would be caught up in anything that superficial. He clearly liked her – he wouldn’t care how she dressed. But she cared. She finally opted for a short leather jacket and a soft, warm wool scarf. She grabbed a pair of leather driving gloves and shoved them in her pockets, just in case. She had a feeling she’d be glad she had them.

When the doorbell rang, she was ready to walk out the door. “Hey! Right on time!”

“I had no idea.”

“About?”

“About – this” he said, indicating her condo in a swooping gesture.

“Oh” she said, dropping her gaze for a moment.

“It’s really nice Marn. I mean REALLY nice.” When she didn’t respond, he continued, “I kept getting further and further into this neighborhood and thinking – this can’t be right.”

“Look, it’s no big deal. Did you want the tour, or were you ready to get going?”

“Raincheck on the tour. Let’s roll.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

“Fuckin’ A.”

She locked her door and hit the remote button for her alarm system. Cal handed her a helmet. “Full face, today.” They had both worn helmets with less coverage last night.

“How come?”

“Well, from a practical standpoint, they’re safer. But the real reason? It will be warmer. And the shield will keep that cold wind off of your face. You’ll thank me.”

“Well – thanks, then.” She said, smiling at him then putting on first the helmet, then her gloves. He started the bike and indicated that she should jump on. She did so easily and wrapped her arms around his waist. She hoped it was going to be a long ride.

The further away they rode from town, the better the ride became. She trusted Cal completely and relaxed her body into his, following his every move. He reached back absentmindedly from time to time to pat her on the thigh. Now why the hell would that particular gesture make her feel so cherished? Pat, pat, pat. Just like his tap, tap, tap on the mirror. She smiled at the connection. Wait – she was smiling at no-one and no-one could see her. She let the smile widen until she was grinning like an idiot. Well what do you know? This helmet was the most private place in the world. She could do ANYthing here! She sang a few notes, tentatively at first then more loudly. Cal didn’t do anything to indicate he’d heard her. Oh AWEsome! She sang every song that popped into her head. She squealed out loud when they took a particularly twisty turn. Wheeeeeeeee! This was pure uncut joy.

Her legs were starting to get cold, but it was nothing she couldn’t deal with. She had never felt happier or freer than she did at this moment. This was crazy good. Why hadn’t she been doing this forever? She was going to ask Cal to teach her to ride. Maybe. Definitely. Maybe not, though. If she could ride, she couldn’t wrap her legs around Cal. She couldn’t rest her heavily helmeted head on his shoulder. She couldn’t give in to him – give over all of the control. Giving over control was delicious.

They turned onto an unpaved road and Cal slowed down. They must be close, then. When the thrill of the ride slowed, the awareness of her discomforts rose. Her legs were cold and cramped. Her back was cramped from leaning over for so long. The weight of the helmet was heavy on her neck. How perfect was this? The moment she noticed things that were uncomfortable, the ride was over. She thought maybe she could seriously dig this whole biker chick thing. No doubt, life was good for Miss Marnie Hammond.

Cal pulled up in front of a big white farmhouse. If Marnie had to guess, she’d guess it was more than one hundred years old. It was beautifully maintained. There was a porch which wrapped around the entire perimeter of the house. She couldn’t have imagined anything more charming.

She dismounted and was surprised to feel her legs buckle a little bit beneath her. “Whoa there!” said Cal, putting an arm around her to steady her. “Trouble finding your land legs?”

“I guess so” she said, removing her helmet and handing it to him to put on the back of the bike. “Cal, that was amazing!”

“You liked it? I’m glad. It was a long ride for your first time.”

“It wasn’t my first time.”

“Last night didn’t count.”

“Oh. Then I guess it was. I loved it. Seriously. That was awesome.”

“Hope you feel the same way on the way home. Come on – let’s go say howdy to my brother.”

Marnie followed Cal up the stairs. He walked right in the door into the kitchen and yelled, “Ted? Susie? Anyone home?”

Marnie looked around. This place was great. It felt like her grandmother’s house. She could imagine her grandmother working on her quilting in that rocking chair by the fireplace. Marnie couldn’t think of much she loved more than a fireplace in the kitchen, unless maybe it was a fireplace in the bedroom. There was a fire going and she stepped over to it to warm her hands. She removed her gloves and rubbed her hands in front of the fire. The effect was almost immediate. She felt the numbness on the front of her thighs fade away, as well. If she were a cat, she would’ve purred.

“Cal? Is that you?” a woman’s voice called from the next room. “I thought I heard the bike, Ted said you might stop by…” her words drifted off as she entered the kitchen and saw Marnie. She was clearly surprised, but regained her composure in a moment. “I’m Susie.” She said, extending her hand.

“Marnie. Nice to meet you.”

Susie shot a glance at Cal that expressed surprise, confusion, and mild pleasure. Cal shrugged. “Marnie’s a friend of mine. I thought it would be a nice day to take her for a ride.”

“Well, you sure weren’t wrong about that. Have a seat, Marnie. Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you guys anything? I still have coffee on…”

“I’d love a cup” Marnie answered, “But first – could I visit your facilities?”

“Oh – sure enough! Long bumpy ride and I bet Cal didn’t even offer to stop… Right through that door there. Don’t mind Ted’s dirty towels – there’s a clean one on the rack by the sink.”

“Thanks!”

Marnie did indeed need to use the facilities after the long bumpy ride. When she stood up to wash her hands, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Oh, holy hell! Her hair was a nightmare. She tried to run her fingers through it but to no avail. Shit!

“You didn’t warn me about THIS!” she playfully accused Cal, holding it out on either side of her head with her hands as she re-entered the kitchen.

He laughed. “It’s the price you pay. For the record, I think you look great. Seriously.”

Susie smiled at this. It was nice to see Cal interested in a girl again. That last one, she’d been no good from day one, that one. She had a good feeling about this one. They seemed to have chemistry. And they sure did look good together.

“Where’s Ted?”

“He’s out in the garage. Why don’t you go get him, I’ll keep – Marnie is it? – company.”

Cal looked at Marnie and she nodded her approval. She watched Cal walk out the door and turned her attention back to Susie. “Have a seat at the table there – how do you take your coffee?”

“Cream and sugar, please. Your home is lovely.”

“Oh,” Susie said, “It is what it is I s’pose.”

“It’s beautiful. Absolutely charming. I love a fireplace in the kitchen.”

“This one opens on the other side to the dining room.”

“You’re kidding! Can I see?”

“Sure”

The two women walked out of the kitchen and into the dining room. It was informal and rustic and Marnie loved it. Her eyes gave this message to Susie before her words could. “We can stay in here, if you prefer” Susie said.

“Oh no, let’s go back to the kitchen.”

The two women headed back to the kitchen and clutched their cups of coffee at the big heavy wooden table. There were long benches on either side instead of chairs. The word ‘charming’ was getting a more serious workout in Marnie’s head today than it had in an awfully long time. Marnie felt instantly at home.

“So tell me about yourself. How long have you been with our Cal?”

“Oh, we’re not really together, you know, we’re just friends.”

“Um hmm.” Said Susie, not believing it for a moment. Marnie wasn’t sure she believed it, either. She knew she didn’t want to.

The two women fell into easy conversation. Susie told Marnie stories about Cal and Ted’s antics on the farm. Apparently this had been the house where Cal had grown up. Ted had inherited it when their dad passed on. Ted and Susie had been working it ever since. It wasn’t a large farm, but it was enough to provide enough income for them to keep it going. They had a few small crops, some egg-laying chickens and a dozen sheep. The sheep were her pride and joy. Susie hosted a sheep to shawl event every spring when the sheep were shorn. She asked if Marnie spun or knitted – she’d love for her to join them this spring. Marnie did not, but decided to make learning a priority between now and then.

So this was how Cal grew up. Awesome. Her mother had grown up like this, too, but she didn’t like to talk about or acknowledge it. Marnie could never understand why – it had always seemed like a pretty great way to live to her.

Cal and Ted came in through the kitchen door. Ted was a glimpse into Cal’s future. The same startling good looks, just a couple years further down the line. Well hello there, farmer Ted. Ted came over and pulled her to her feet in a bear hug. “I’m pleased to meet you, Marnie. Cal’s been telling me all about you.”

“Nothing too terrible, I hope!”

“Not hardly. Susie taking good care of you? Sus!”

Susie had already returned to the counter to fix coffee for the men. “You kids staying for dinner?”

Cal and Marnie exchanged glances. “If it’s an early one.” Cal answered. Long ride home and Marnie’s got to work tomorrow.” The fact that he did not hung heavy in the air for a moment. Susie tactfully swept it away.

“Dinner’s always early on the farm, Cal. Surely you haven’t been gone so long that you’ve forgotten that.”

“4:30, then?” he said, winking at his sister in law.

“Probably. And I don’t want to hear a word about it, either, Mr. Fancy Pants.”

Marnie smiled at him and then turned her head to include the whole cozy room in her smile. She wished she didn’t have to work – she felt like she could stay here forever. Of course – eating dinner at 4:30 would take some serious getting used to…

“I need to start fixing things. Why don’t you boys take Marnie for a walk around the farm.”

“I could help you” Marnie offered.

“Nonsense. You go out and enjoy this beautiful day. Take a little walk. Work up an appetite.”

Marnie had a feeling that wasn’t going to be a problem.

Cal helped her into her jacket, while Susie smiled approvingly. He held the door for her and ushered her out onto the porch, where Ted was already waiting for them. Ted’s pride was evident as he showed her around the grounds, pointing out the large garden and the field where the sheep grazed. Their next stop on the tour was the barn, where some of the sheep were escaping the elements. Marnie was enchanted by the sheep. She looked to Ted for approval and Ted nodded toward the sheep. She had never touched one before. She expected it to feel soft and fluffy, like the cotton balls they resembled in pictures. She was surprised to find that it felt rough, oily and matted. She dug into the wooly mass with both hands. The sheep seemed to like this, turning to look at her and nudging her hand with its muzzle.

“She likes you!” Ted proclaimed.

“The feeling is mutual!” Marnie dropped to her knees in the soft hay. She loved the way it smelled. Even the smell of the sheep – which was not what most would consider to be an olfactory treat – met her nostrils with delight. She hugged the sheep around the neck and smiled at Cal. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of her for a moment. His expression was one of simple, pure appreciation. Marnie was caught off guard for a moment. She wasn’t used to being looked at like that. A girl could get used to it, though. Oh yes she could.

“I’m going to check on the chickens – do you kids want to join me?”

“We’ll be along in a minute. I think Marnie might need another moment or two with the sheep.”

As Ted exited the barn, Cal approached Marnie. He squatted beside her in the hay and tousled the sheep’s fleecy coat with his big hand. Do sheep smile? Because it seemed that this one had.

“You havin’ fun?”

“This has been the most crazy, fun, surreal day of my life.” Then she added, “I guess we should catch up with Ted – I’ve never seen a chicken up close before.”

“They’re not quite as loveable as the sheep…” Cal warned. He rose to standing then offered his hand to pull her up. She took it and rose to stand next to him. She didn’t let go of his hand right away. She looked up at his face to find it looking intently at hers.

“Cal, I don’t know…” she started to say, but his lips were upon hers before she could finish the thought. It was a gentle kiss, but she was glad he had slipped his arm around her, because it was having a powerful effect. She parted her lips and it became more passionate. His arms tightened around her, one encircling her waist, the other supporting her head. She found his thick wavy hair with her fingers and entangled them in it, pulling him in closer. Her world faded in and out – nothing existed but her, and Cal, and this kiss. She never wanted it to end. When it did, Cal pulled her into him and Marnie rested her head on his chest. She could feel his heart beating quickly. Apparently this new development was having the same effect on him as it was on her. When she’d regained her composure, she said, “What are we doing here?”

“Did you want to be somewhere else?”

She smiled. He returned the smile. “You know what I mean. Less than twenty-four hours ago we were casual friends, sitting around Josh’s table, you know…”

“You didn’t want this then?”

“Oh hells yes! But I thought it was a bad idea. Why does it seem like such a good idea now?”

“It’s always been a good idea, Marn – we just never both had it at the same time before.”

She considered this. Cal had been involved with his ex for years. She thought he was good looking then, but never gave it more thought than that. What was the use of pining after somebody else’s man? When they first broke up, the thought had crossed her mind, but she didn’t want to be rebound girl. Then there was the matter of a job and the fact that he didn’t have one. But that hadn’t mattered a few seconds ago, when she was melting like butter in his arms. Maybe it didn’t matter at all. He was a good man. She had just been passionately kissed by a good man. How could that possibly be bad?

“So what now?”

“Now? We catch up with Ted.”

She smiled. “You know what I mean, dufus.” She said, punching him playfully on the arm and trying to lighten the intensity a little bit.

“Seriously, Marn. Now we catch up with Ted. Screw one day at a time, let’s take it one moment at a time.” Marnie brushed the hay from her jeans and Cal added, “I hope we have lots and lots of moments.”

Marnie and Cal headed to the chicken coop hand in hand. This was not lost on Ted, who couldn’t have been happier for his little brother. “Susie’s going to wonder where we’ve been,” he said, as they approached him, “we probably ought to be heading back.” The three of them walked back to the house in companionable silence. Holding Cal’s hand as she walked felt like the most natural thing in the world. Marnie couldn’t believe she hadn’t been doing it forever.

When they got back to the house, they were greeted by the homiest aroma Marnie could imagine. “Have you made?” she drifted off and Susie completed her thought.

“Chicken Pot Pie. I hope you like it.”

“Like it? I haven’t had it since - oh my goodness, I don’t even know when, honestly. My grandma used to make it for me when I was a girl. Honestly, Susie, this just smells like heaven!”

“Well, it’s going to be another fifteen or twenty minutes. You guys want a beer or something?”

“I’ll get ‘em, hon.” Said Ted, patting Susie’s ample behind as he passed her to get to the refrigerator. “Light beer ok?”

“Do we look like pussies?” answered Cal to Marnie’s amusement, Ted’s confusion and Susie’s disapproval. “Sorry. There’s this girl we know… Inside joke. Light beer will be fine. Sorry, Suz.”

Susie shrugged it off and joined them at the table, where Ted had opened a beer for her, too. Ted and Susie used this time as an opportunity to tell Marnie stories about Cal. Their love for him was so evident and so real. “I love this family so much.” she thought, and smiled to herself, resting her head on Cal’s shoulder like she’d been doing it forever.

Dinner was over far too quickly. Marnie had eaten with a gusto that surprised everyone, from such a little girl. Her belly was full of good food, her head was full of good thoughts, and her heart was so full she feared it would burst. When Cal suggested they take off, she balked at first, but conceded that it was indeed time. All good things, and all that. She hugged Cal and Susie and thanked them profusely for the lovely day. They extended a sincere invitation for her to come back anytime. Her equally sincere answer was that she hoped it was very soon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If You Dream of Fairies

If You Dream of Fairies is a story I wrote for my daughters and niece last summer. I will present it here in serialized form. It was my first foray into fiction.

In case you missed something:
If You Dream of Fairies - I
If You Dream of Fairies - II
If You Dream of Fairies - III
If You Dream of Fairies - IV
If You Dream of Fairies - V
If You Dream of Fairies - VI
If You Dream of Fairies - VII
If You Dream of Fairies - VIII
If You Dream of Fairies - IX
If You Dream of Fairies - X
If You Dream of Fairies - XI

Liz had intended to sneak out to the garden before dawn again, but she slept in instead. She stretched and yawned. She reckoned she had slept so long because there was no longer a furry little being sharing her bed.

She went down the stairs just as her mother was pulling a tin of muffins out of the oven. The aroma of the warm treats was almost unbearable to Liz’s empty belly. She grabbed one, and then tossed it from hand to hand when she realized how hot it was. Her mother laughed at her little juggling act. The muffin was never in danger of hitting the floor.

“Are you playing with Maria today?”

“Duh.”

“Elizabeth Renee! We’ve talked about manners!”

“Sorry. Duh, Ma’am.”

There was silence for just a heartbeat, then they both laughed.

“Take these to Maria’s mom”, she said, packing up half of the muffins in a pretty basket and covering them loosely with a cloth napkin. “Tell her I said welcome back.”

“Will do.” Liz replied, taking the basket from her mother and heading out the door.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I’ve seen the fairies, you know.” Liz mentioned in a tone that was intended to come out as casual, but somehow missed it’s mark.

“Oh!” squealed Maria, “You started playing without me!”

“I’m not playing!” Liz answered, a little more defensively than she would have liked. She told Liz about the open door, the fairy dust, and finally about her actual encounter with the wee folk the previous morning.

“Well, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, then!” Maria said with a wink. She positioned herself near the door in the tree. She held out her hand and began talking to the air in a gentle singsong voice. “Well hello, wee fairy! Do you have any fairy dust for me today?”

Liz started to feel a little anger growing in her throat. “Why are you mocking me?”

Maria looked genuinely confused. “Mocking you? I wasn’t mocking you! I was just talking to the fairy!”

“There was no fairy there! You were talking to the palm of your hand! You were making fun of me!” Liz’s voice became a little angrier and a little more accusatory with every sentence.

“Making fun? I – I was playing! I thought you just told me you LIKED talking to the garden fairies! I don’t know why you’re so upset with me!” Maria was starting to look very distressed. In all their years of friendship they’d never before exchanged a cross word.

“This is not a game of make-believe, Maria. I don’t like being made fun of.” Liz folded her arms and turned her back on Maria. Maria ran back into her house crying, unsure of what she had done to provoke such a reaction. Keebler followed behind, looking over his shoulder to see why Liz wasn’t following. Liz sat in the garden and sulked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That afternoon, Maria returned to the garden with a book. The two girls read silently among the flowers, but they didn’t speak much. The air around them had changed and was filled with tension.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That night, Liz dreamed of fairies.

She kept that information to herself.