Finish verb to finish a job, accomplish, achieve, bring to an end, complete, round off, sign off, stop.
I have done all of the above. I have finished my NaNo novel, all 52,272 words of it, had the word count validated and can now breathe easy.
This is an accomplishment that leaves me feeling...satisfied, proud, and very sick and tired of sitting in front of my laptop.
Now I have another deadline, to get my Christmas shopping done, my gifts wrapped and my cookies baked.
Oh, and I forgot. I have two sweaters I knit, still in pieces waiting to be sewn together. There's a vest for my granddaughter as yet unfinished, hat and scarf sets to make, and why, I don't know, but two Christmas stockings I agreed to crochet.
Tis the season, right?
I'm going to put my dictionary back on the shelf, along with my Thesaurus until I write again.
Right now, it's 4:37 pm, and I've been so busy writing my 52,272 words, I've neglected to eat. Finished a pot of coffee but somehow forgot breakfast and lunch.
I wish I had a nice bottle of wine to celebrate, not very forward thinking on my part.
It's hard to explain, but I feel different than I did on waking, as if a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Was the effort of the last 28 days worth the outcome? Hell, yes.
I've had a rough six months, and feel good to have completed this challenge. Though I may have felt beaten down at times, (chronic pain will do that to you), I stuck with it and saw it through.
I'm in a good frame of mind, looking forward to the holidays.
A time for friends, family and some good cheer. I'll get that celebratory wine yet.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
NaNo overtook my life today, I’m at 49,687 words. The last bit I wrote was difficult, the writing and the topic, so I needed a break and will finish it tomorrow.
The thing is, 50,000 words will be enough to have successfully met the NaNoWriMo Challenge, but I’ll need more to finish the story.
I forgot what day it was, I was so involved, and here it is 2:30 am Wednesday morning and I haven’t written my blog.
Apologies, but this is what you get at this time of night.
I was watching an old episode of CSI Miami, crime junkie that I am, and saw a scene that baffled me. The only word that came to mind was ludicrous.
Ludicrous adj. amusingly absurd.
The scene I’m talking about had the bad guy, sitting in a vehicle, watching a house, waiting for the owner to come home, I presume. At least I think that’s what he was doing, there was a guy in a car, a house and some watching, I wasn’t paying that much attention.
What struck me, (other than house envy), was the beautiful neighbourhood, the rich neighbourhood. Huge three and four car garages, swimming pools, monster sized houses, surrounded by an acre, my guestimate, of lush green lawn.
They gave a panoramic view and there it was; something that seemed totally…ludicrous.
Now, a scene like that cannot possibly be filmed on a studio back lot, it has to be real, right?
So this neighbourhood exists, somewhere in
South Florida. What blew me away; was the curbside, black
mail box that appeared in the panoramic shot. It wasn’t there to forward any
story line, it was just there.
And the first word to come to mind was ludicrous.
If one could afford a multimillion dollar home, you assume it one has all the assets to go with it, namely cars, furniture, art, jewelry etcetera. And if one has all those valuable items, there’s probably a security system to protect it.
But they get their mail delivered way down there at the curb where anyone could drive along and steal it?
I don’t know, maybe ludicrous is not the right word, maybe nonsensical is, and I can honestly say that that is not a word I’ve ever used before.
The thesaurus is a writer’s best friend, so here are a few more words to say the same thing.
Absurd, amusing, comic, crazy, daft, eccentric, farcical, foolish, funny, hilarious, illogical, irrational, laughable, mad, preposterous, silly, stupid, unbelievable, weird.
Do you find it weird that at this ridiculous hour, I would be so daft as to contemplate the illogical placement of a crazy mail box?
I just had a thought. The only time I ever got my mail delivered at the curb was when I lived in the country and my address began Rural Route. If that neighbourhood was country living, then, in the words of John Denver:
Take me home
To the place where I belong.
I think it’s time I went to bed.
In someone elses’ famous words….that’s all folks.
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Friday night I was writing, trying to play catch up with my NaNo word count. You need to write about 1600 words a day to make the 50,000 words required by November 30th. I’ve had a few zero count days, hence the need to catch up.
So, Friday night, I’m writing furiously, the wind was howling and I could hear the rain against the window pane. Suddenly, the power went out, and I’m sitting in total darkness, except for the light from the screen of my laptop.
I might have kept going, except I don’t have the greatest battery back-up, and I’ve experienced that horror of losing work because the battery quits. My battery doesn’t like to give me a warning before it dies, a little game it plays with me. But I digress.
It’s dark, I have craft projects sitting on the floor, just waiting to trip me up, and I can’t remember where I put my flashlight when I moved.
I closed all the programs and unplugged the laptop from the now useless power source. With the screen saver to guide my way, I found a flashlight in my bedside table, planning ahead I guess, and useful had I actually been in bed.
It was ten o’clock at night, so I put the laptop away. I added my fuzzy blanket to the bed and climbed under the covers. I’ve learned from experience that if the power doesn’t come back on within minutes, we’re probably looking at hours.
With the covers pulled tight around my shoulders I grabbed my book and settled in to read. It worked for awhile, but then it got tiresome moving the light across the page, holding the flashlight and my hardcover book. So I took a nap.
Taking late night naps is not really something I’d recommend. It messes with your sleep schedule something fierce. When the power came on it was bright lights and the sound from the television, and I was wide awake.
I got up, thinking I might write some more since I was refreshed from my power nap, but the mojo was gone. No more writing that night, totally brain dead.
What was I to do? I answered some E-mails, cleaned up my Sent and Deleted files, checked my bank balance, checked on the progress of my NaNo writing buddies, and drooled over food items I found on Pinterest when I searched baking.
That did it. I was now ready to go back to bed.
I burrowed under the covers, grabbed my book and read a bit more before falling asleep.
So now it’s Saturday morning. I slept in, why not I was up for a few hours last night. And here I am, back at my laptop. I’ve checked my E-mails and the coffee’s on, I should be writing my NaNo novel.
Looking out my window I see snow, big fat fluffy flakes of snow. It won’t amount to anything, as it’s gone as it hits the ground. The skies cleared for a moment and we had a taste of the sun, then the sky darkened to a grey that warns of more snow to come,
Another little storm hit, inconsequential, and we are left with bright blue skies, and sunshine. It looks nice out, and I know if I open my door I’ll shiver with the cold.
Snow in November, not our usual though I’ve seen on the weather channel it’s been an early snow right across
Last year, after a month of intense writing to finish a novel in 30 days, I had to reorient myself to what was going on. And found to my dismay, we were just over three weeks to Christmas, and I wasn’t ready.
This year I wanted to be better prepared for the holiday, so I didn’t have that panic in December. Did I do it? Of course not.
I’ve done a fare bit of shopping; don’t remember what exactly, or for whom. It’s all being stored at my son’s for the time being.
When December 1st comes, the book gets set aside and my focus will be the holidays, and those six grandchildren of mine.
I have shopping to complete, and if we’re going to have snow, it better remain inconsequential, or I’m going to get really mad.
It can snow all it wants after the holiday; I just want some clear roads so I can get all my running around done first.
That’s not too much to ask.
We’ll have to see how it goes, for now, it’s back to NaNo.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
We're more than 1/2 way through November, and the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel in thirty days. I'm at just under 30,000 words and am running behind the daily quota to finish on time. So today you get a short story from my files.
I don't know why I did it.
My frustration had been mounting and I didn't seem to be getting anywhere with my arguments. What was wrong with her that she couldn't see what was so obvious to everyone else?
The words had spewed from my lips; angry, demeaning, insulting words, so vile the intent could only be to inflict pain.
Callie was already hurting, and I had just given her the final punch to knock her down and out, figuratively speaking. I remember the shocked look on her face. Her eyes went wide and a little wild as she stared, her lips doing that guppy thing, opening and closing with no sound. Finally, she cleared her throat and looked at me.
“What did you say?”
“Callie, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said anything.” I reached for her hand where it lay, still, on the table in front of her, but she pulled it back in angry rejection.
“What is it you think you know?”
“Nothing. Come on, Callie, I'll drive you over to Mom's. You don't want to go home tonight.”
“You never liked Rick,” she accused. She didn't move from her chair, in spite of my urging her to stand.
I knew we were not going to leave any time soon and sat back down. My plan to have this discussion with my sister in a public place, to avoid her usual histrionics, might backfire on me. The quiet statement she'd just made belied the seething emotions I knew she was holding in check.
“Did you take pleasure in telling me my husband was sleeping around?”
“No, of course not,” I said, trying to defend my actions. “I care about you and don't want to see you hurt.” As soon as the words left my mouth I knew it was the wrong thing to say.
I could see her take a deep breath, and braced, knowing she was about to let me have it. I would have to sit back and take it, and hope she didn't embarrass us both by yelling and screaming and pointing her finger in accusation as she usually did.
“You didn't think telling me my husband was sleeping around would hurt me?”
“Callie, I knew it would hurt, but I hoped it would finally get you away from him. That it would be the final straw, and you'd leave.”
“Are you jealous?” she asked, with such sincerity that I could only stare at her, dumbfounded.
“Are you jealous I still have a husband, and you don't?”
My sister always knew how to push my buttons, and she was hitting on all counts. This 'talk' that our mom had pushed me to have with her was turning out to be just as horrible as I'd anticipated.
“Why would I be jealous of your marriage? I've got more self respect than to continually let some man use me as a punching bag.” I was on a roll now, and couldn't hold back. The filter between my brain and my mouth was definitely not working.
“Do you think all that make-up is really hiding that black eye, or that I can't see the bruises on your arm?”
“It's not like that,” she said.
“Not like what? Are you saying he didn't hit you, grab you, knock you around?”
“It was an accident. He didn't mean it.” Callie said the words, but couldn't look me in the eyes when she said them.
“And was it an accident last month too? And the time before that, and the time before that? Don't be such a fool. You've been having these accidents for years.”
I should have been glad I'd finally made my point; but all I'd done was inform my sister that her shameful secret was not a secret after all.
“Come on, let's go,” I said. I wanted out of there before she broke down and became a public spectacle.
She raised her head and I was shocked to see the dry eyes, the lack of expression on her face, when I was expecting hysterics.
“How do you know Rick's been with someone else?”
“It's not important now,” I replied, trying to change the subject and get her out of there. I started to get up and felt her hand on my arm, her grip so tight I could feel her nails dig into my skin.
“Sit,” she ordered, her teeth clenched, her face hard, her expression grim. “You brought it up, so tell me.”
What was I supposed to do now, I thought. She seemed to sense I was reluctant to get into this discussion, and sat back, her arms crossed over her chest, more in control than I would have ever have believed possible.
“We're not leaving until you tell me what you know.”
I gave in and decided to tell her, I had been the one to bring it up.
“He was seen in a motel in
, on a day when you said he was in
Simcoe, at a conference.” Richfield
“Maybe I had the location wrong,” she said, quick as always to make excuses, and to make it her mistake, never his.
“He was with a woman, on the balcony of their room, and he was kissing her.”
“Who saw them? How did they know it was Rick?”
“It was the day I had the workshop at the Best Western in
. A few of us had
walked out the back to have a smoke, and I saw them on the balcony. He was too
busy to look around and never knew he'd been seen.” Richfield
I could see her thinking about that day, for she had to remember exactly what day it was. I had asked her to get my son from school as I wasn't going to be home in time, and she'd said it was no problem as Rick was in Simcoe, on business.
It was going to be hard for her to come up with some lame excuse for him this time.
“Did you recognize the woman?” she asked her voice calm and patient.
I should have been concerned right then, she was not reacting with her usual emotional tirade.
“I think it was the woman from his office, the one with the streaks in her hair.”
“Monique,” she murmured, more to herself than to me. “I appreciate you telling me. I'd rather know than to continue letting him make a fool of me.”
“I am a fool. For years I've let him tell me that everything was my fault; because I was too stupid, too inadequate, too whatever. If dinner was late, if his pants weren't pressed just right, if whatever it was I did that didn't meet his exacting standards. Well, no more.”
“Will you go and stay with Mom?”I asked, relieved she might finally extricate herself from the abusive relationship that was her marriage.
Yeah, I'll go to Mom's.”
We stood, gathered our purses, the bill already paid, and exited the restaurant to make our way out to the parking lot.
“Do you want me to drive you?” I asked, unsure about this new calm I was seeing.
“No, it's OK. I'll need my car tomorrow.”
When I hesitated she came to me, wrapped me in a one-armed hug and kissed me on the cheek.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Yeah, right.” I thought a thank you was hardly appropriate, but what could possibly be appropriate at a time like this.
I watched her cross over to her car, get in and start the engine. Without a glance or wave in my direction, she pulled out of the parking lot and turned in the direction of Mom's house.
Slowly, I got in my car and made my way home, glad for once that my son was at his father's for the weekend. I made myself a hot chocolate, added a generous splash of Bailey's and sat down in front of the television. I hoped the hot drink and the liqueur would help me sleep after all the coffee and the emotional conversation earlier.
It must have worked, for the ringing of the phone woke me about two hours later.
Now, here I was, standing outside, looking through the small window in the door, watching the team of medical personnel moving quickly and efficiently in an attempt to save my sister's life.
Had I caused this? I couldn't help but wonder. Callie had said she was going to Mom's, but she must have driven directly to the house she shared with Rick, and confronted him.
If it hadn't been for the neighbour who heard the screams and called 911, my sister might have bled to death on her spotless kitchen floor.
I still couldn't believe it. That bastard hadn't been content to beat her with his fists, he'd stabbed her with a knife from the knife block on the counter...and left her to die.
From what the neighbour told the police, and the police told me, Callie had stormed in the door, yelling at Rick; and a vicious fight ensued. He'd seen Rick strike her, and when she screamed, he told the police, Rick had kept on hitting her.
The sirens must have finally caught his attention, for he'd run like the coward he was. But not before he'd made Callie pay for her moment of bravado.
The police would catch up with him, he had nowhere to run. There was no way he could blame this on Callie, this time he'd pay for his actions.
I glanced back over my shoulder to where my mother sat in the waiting room. Just like me, she felt responsible for Callie's current situation. Nothing we had said over the years had made the least bit of difference, Callie had tuned us out, and we had backed off lest she shut us out completely.
I know how this abuse stuff works; it's like any addict and his or her addiction. Callie had to make the decision when enough was enough, But the fact that she made that decision today, and faced Rick alone, was on my head.
I had listened to my mother when I should have listened to my instincts. Her intentions were good, she had wanted her child to be safe and happy, and knew that was never going to happen if she remained married to Rick.
Could I have picked a better time and place to tell her about Rick's affair? Could I have been kinder in the telling? For sure, I had let my frustrations over rule my better judgment.
Maybe I should have quit smoking like everyone had been bugging me to do, and I wouldn't have been out back of the motel that day. No matter how much I wished it, there was no magic spell, no genie in a bottle, that could grant me a wish to do this day over, and to do it better.
Through the window, I saw the doctor leave the group and turn in the direction of the door. Looking to the waiting room, I caught my mother's eye and motioned for her to come.
In surgical scrubs, the doctor exited the room and looked about. “Cassie Whittaker?” he asked.
“I'm her sister,” I said. As my mother joined us I took hold of her hand, “and this is our mother.”
“Your sister is one very lucky woman,” he said. “The wound missed any vital organs, though she's lost a great deal of blood. We're going to take her into surgery, and if all goes well, I think she'll make a good recovery.”
“Thank you so much. Can we see her, just for a minute?” I asked.
“I'll tell the nurse,” he said and returned to the examination room.
When we were finally able to see Callie, she was drowsy but awake.
She opened her eyes and held her hand out to us. “If you say I told you so, I'll kick your butt.”
“Wouldn't think of it,” I replied with a smile. “You always kicked hard.”
“I'm learning,” she said, fading into a drug induced sleep.
Mom and I just looked at each other and held on. “Not the way I wanted it to happen, but I think she finally got the message,” I said, the tears running down my face.
Friday, 15 November 2013
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Okay, I’m supposed to be working on my NaNo novel, but I’d hit a point where I was struggling. The television was been on for background noise, and I got sucked into the movie that was playing.
At first it was the visual, a three story house built right at the edge of the ocean, the waves moving over the sand, the ebb and flow of the tides, the water reaching the house, swirling around the posts that supported the numerous porches.
The appeal struck me on so many fronts. The house, with numerous porch views over the water, the background sound of the wind and the waves, and then the scene in the art studio. What a space to work, I felt such artist envy.
Nights in Rodanthe, made in 2008, starred Richard Gere and
The movie was adapted from yet another Nicholas Sparks’ best selling novel.
Needless to say, I’m sitting here crying, searching my pockets for a tissue.
In this movie a woman is taking care of her friend’s bed and breakfast for a week. A timely opportunity as she needed time and space away from her family to think. Her husband had left her, and their two children, for another woman, and now wanted to come back, saying he’d made a mistake, saying he was sorry.
Amazing, because this is just how it happens. A man thinks all he has to do is say he’s sorry, and all is forgiven, life goes on, right? Wrong.
I remember a Doctor Phil show from years ago. His guests were a husband and wife, trying to reconcile after the husband had an affair.
The man was angry because she wasn’t letting him forget what he had done. She wasn’t throwing it in his face, but was holding back, not quite trusting him. “I said I was sorry,” he told Dr. Phil.
He was given one of those looks, that only Dr. Phil can give, and you knew a lecture was coming.
Basically, the good doctor told the man that saying you’re sorry, for breaking such a sacred trust; was not enough. If he was truly sorry it was his duty to prove, every single day, that he loved his wife and that she mattered, more than anything. Anything less was unacceptable.
The situation with the wife in this movie/book is a common one. A woman marries and gives up on her dreams, for the responsibility of being a wife, a mother and a homemaker.
Add in, for most women, the added responsibility of a career outside the home.
The demands on a woman’s time don’t leave her much energy to pursue personal desires or ambitions, not unless she has a husband like the men these fictional characters meet.
In this movie, the woman’s reawakening comes with the new love interest. He encouraged her to go after her dreams, supported her in whatever endeavour she wanted, and gave her unwavering support.
He wanted her to find the ‘her’ she was before all that responsibility changed her.
It was the same theme in the movie “PS, I Love You”.
This time, a woman was worn out with work and the struggle of the day to day, and forgot what had been important to her before she got married. The husband dies; she’s inconsolable, until letters he’d written before his death arrive, one at a time.
In each letter he gives her a task, and each task takes her back, through the memories of their life, until she’s back to when they met. She was full of life, full of colour, wanting to be an artist, wanted to create.
She’d lost that part of herself, and he wanted to show her what she’d lost.
Happy ending, except he was…well, still dead. She found herself and was able to move on, her memory of him, of them, more precious than ever.
I remember the art studio my mother had in any home she lived. She would work in her space when my dad was at work, the kids in school, and often late at night when everyone was asleep in their beds.
She could do this, as she was a stay at home mother, her career was her art.
I wanted to paint, and I learned the basics from her. What I didn’t learn, was to keep at it no matter what. I let it go for all the years my children were small, and picked it up when they were about nine or ten years old.
Things happened and I let it go again, too many demands on my time and energy.
But if you have that need to create, you find a way to satisfy it, even if it’s not exactly the way you want.
Now I’m retired, the kids are gone, and I have the time to do whatever I want, when I want. I can paint, write, sew; whatever my heart desires.
But we all know, life is not that simple.
At any rate, I’ve had a good cry, a needed break from my writing, and got an idea for this week’s blog. Now back to work, I’m at 15,000 words and I’ve fallen behind.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month started November 1st. The goal…to write a novel in 30 days. It is now 10:59 pm on Tuesday and I have written almost 9000 words of my novel and zero for the blog. Oops.
My plan was to write a few posts and schedule them so the pressure was off, but I didn’t quite make it. So, at this late hour I’m going to cheat, and give you a short story out of my vast array of short stories. This is the story I submitted to the Toronto Star Short Story Contest. Not a winner I’m sorry to say.
I’ll warn you in advance, it’s long. Won’t leave it to the last minute next time.
Who was it said you could never go home again, she wondered as she took the exit ramp off the highway. It would have been nice if it had been her idea and not something forced on her in response to an ultimatum.
As she’d avoided this trip for the last fourteen years, it was a sure bet she wouldn’t be here if she’d had any other choice. Well, she was back now, and if she couldn’t lay all her childhood ghosts to rest this time, she would be haunted by them forever.
Turning in the direction of town, she drove right on past the street she was looking for with a quick and fearful glance. Not quite ready to face her demons, she followed the signs that directed her to the town’s downtown business section.
The stately old houses she passed were familiar, and the main street looked the same, and yet different. The old style store fronts with their second and third floor apartments lined and defined the downtown core. It was the stores that had changed, there were new signs, new businesses, and tucked here and there were the tried and true shops she remembered; the bakery, the bank, the smoke shop.
She drove on through the four corners and turned back, toward the old house, back to where it all began.
As she turned down the road she’d bypassed before, she was surprised to see the old house looking so abandoned, showing the signs of age and neglect. The house stood, fighting the ravages of time, while the neighbourhood had moved on, changing to meet the needs of the town. The other homes on the street had been razed in the name of progress, and in their place was a strip mall, a gas station and a school.
She turned into the school driveway and parked. Across the street, sitting with an eerie emptiness, was her house, the one she’d grown up in, the one she’d inherited, and the one she’d been afraid to claim.
The ultimatums had come from two directions.
First, the town wanted their money, their due, in the form of annual property taxes, and the bank had informed her that the payment was overdue and there were no more funds to pay.
The other ultimatum had been delivered by her husband of seven years. His reason for an ultimatum, ultimately, led back to this house, she thought. For what happened all those years ago still had a grip on her, filled her with anger, with fear and with grief.
The house had never been pretty, not with the green clapboard on the second floor and the horrible insul brick on the lower level. The windows were boarded up, the plywood weathered grey, and there were black patches evident where the shingle-like insul brick had been lost.
With the yard full of knee high weeds, the out buildings falling down in pieces, the house was an ugly reminder of the ugliness of her childhood.
There had been some good years, she supposed, before the drinking changed everything. Her father had always enjoyed a beer after work, then one beer became more and not just after work. The long liquid lunches had affected his work, and he’d lost his job, and every job that came after.
She got out of the car, pulled her coat tight, though the shiver she felt was not from the cold, and crossed the street. There was no path as there had once been, leading to the front door. The house stood, isolated, in a sea of brush that formed a barrier to keep trespassers from the door.
She had no intention of entering, the door could remain closed on the echoes of her past, yet it didn’t matter, those echoes were with her always, in the memories that haunted her.
She’d spent most of her childhood avoiding her father. She learned how to gauge his mood by the number of empties strewn across the living room floor, but avoidance wasn’t always possible.
At first the abuse was verbal. Angry rantings when her father would use words to hurt his wife and daughter; use words to lash out at what he perceived to be their inadequacies, rather than face his own.
She was twelve the first time he struck her, a vicious backhand across the face that sent her sprawling to the floor. The shock of it, the pain, the shame, were overwhelming…and so the circle of lies began. He was a mean drunk, but he wasn’t a stupid one. He never hit her in the face again; it was too visible and encouraged comment and speculation.
The house rule, what happened at home was family business, and was not to be discussed with any outsider. So she’d lied, and her mother lied, they all lied to keep the violence a secret.
She made her way through the brush to the window, stumbling when her foot caught in a tangle of weeds, catching herself and scraping her hand on the rough exterior. The windows were covered over, hiding an interior that was dark and empty. But it didn’t matter, there was nothing to see, the evidence was long gone.
A sob escaped, suddenly and without warning. How could she have known, she asked herself, that his abuse would take such a violent turn?
She made her way around the side of the house, struggling to walk, the tears running down her cheeks unchecked. The grief she’d held in for years suddenly hit her like it was yesterday, instead of fourteen years ago.
The day she turned eighteen, she’d left this house, to escape the anger, the abuse, the battery. She always wondered why her father hated her, for she could find no other reason for his horrible treatment of her. He’d never struck her mother, though she’d not always avoided his angry attention.
It had been crazy, she knew, to think if she was gone from the house, the abuse would end. What it did, was escalate. Unable to hold down a job, angry all the time, drunk more than he was sober, her father had lost one target for his rage, and found another, her mother.
They couldn’t find her at first; after all, what was the point of running away if those you were running from knew where you were? But find her they did. Not her parents, but the police, when they informed her that her parents were dead, the result of an apparent murder/ suicide.
She had never been able to forgive herself, thinking her mother’s death was her fault. The last time she was in town she’d buried her parents, with no ceremony, no visitation and no funeral. There were no friends, no family to consider, and she’d wanted it over and done, and did it quietly, secretively.
When the lawyer told her she inherited the house and money from an insurance policy, she couldn’t touch it, for it was blood money in her mind. So the money had paid the taxes, and the house had stood, a monument to death and disaster, until now. The money was gone, the taxes overdue, and she had to decide what to do.
“What are you going to do?” her husband had asked her last week. She’d accused him of having an affair, a cliché seven year itch thing, and he’d laughed. Laughed, she remembered, with a sad and resigned look on his face.
He’d denied it of course, said she was the one who’d shown no commitment to their marriage. From the beginning, he said, she’d had one foot out the door, ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
And she supposed he was right. She’d been afraid to trust, had waited for that first strike, and this time, when it happened, she’d be ready to run. She had no intention of living through that hell again.
When her husband found the letter from the lawyer he’d discovered one of her secrets. Why was he so angry, she wondered, that was how families worked wasn’t it, they kept secrets?
When they married, she’d been ashamed of her family and told him her parents died in an accident. She had kept the house a secret, just as the house had kept all of her family’s secrets. Now her husband wanted to know why a lawyer was writing to her, and she’d broken down and told him the truth. It was a novel experience, to shed the burden of secrets and lies.
At the back of the house there was a makeshift mud room, pieced together by her father to shelter the door from the wind and cold. She gave it a push and felt a sense of satisfaction on hearing the groan of wood on wood, and stepped back to watch the structure fall, in slow motion, in on itself with a bang.
She looked quickly to the gas station next door, wondering if anyone was watching, if the noise had drawn any attention. But no one noticed. It was late in the day and the sun to the west had turned the sky to a blend of blue and gold. She’d lose the light soon and wanted to be away, far away from this house before dark.
Groping her way past the remnants of the shed, she stepped carefully. Her foot hit something where the shed joined the house and she saw a hint of colour, of silver and red.
The memory hit her, and kneeling, she pushed and shoved with her bare hands until she had what she was after. It was an old metal cookie tin, with an embossed Christmas design on the lid. It had some rust, but was in fairly good condition. It had been protected from the elements in a hole in the shed wall.
This was her time capsule, filled with keepsakes from her childhood.
She hugged it close and ran. Tripping and stumbling, she reached the curb and ran on, without looking or thinking of the risks, across the street and fumbled her way into her car.
She held on to the tin like it was found treasure. It was filled with items of no value, but they were invaluable to her, collected and stashed away…in secret. The tension eased from her body and she laughed; an easy heartfelt laugh that gave her hope.
She looked beyond the house to where the road ended. A solitary house on a dead end street was made for secrets, she thought. The guard rail was still in place, a warning that there was nowhere else to go, that it was a road to nowhere.
She’d seen that barrier everyday from her bedroom window, and thought it mirrored her life, until she’d finally found the courage to leave.
A car pulled out by the guard rail and came toward her from the end of the road. She slipped out of the car and walked to the end of the parking lot. She’d missed it before, all her attention had been directed to the house. The road continued to the right, past the front of the school and on into a subdivision she hadn’t known existed.
She stood on the sidewalk and had an epiphany of thought. What she thought was a dead end, didn’t have to stay a dead end. Things could change, things could be different.
As she turned back to her car she saw the silhouette of the house, a dark shadow against a sky painted in a glorious blaze of colour, and realized what her answer to all the ultimatums was going to be.
She didn’t want to live her life feeling trapped on a dead end road. She wanted to take a new road and see where it would take her, with no more secrets and no more lies.
If she had stayed all those years ago, would her mother have lived? Maybe…or maybe they would both be dead, victims of her father’s rage. She would never know for sure, and that was something she would learn to live with.
As she made her way back to the car she remembered an old argument with her husband, when he’d said she had ‘issues’ and needed help, professional help. She’d scoffed and retaliated, in her own defence. But he’d been right, she realized now, she needed help. All the feelings and emotions she’d kept bottled up for years were about to overflow, and she’d need help to survive the flood.
Tomorrow, she’d call the lawyer, make arrangements to cover the tax bill and, finally, let it go, put the land up for sale. She didn’t need the house any longer. She’d done her penance and punished herself enough.
And that other ultimatum?
He’d asked what she was going to do, forcing her to make a decision. Go or stay, he’d said, but if she stayed things had to be different. Well, so be it. She dug her phone out of her purse and began to text. She was avoiding a conversation, she knew, but she needed a bit of time, and some distance from the past first.
She quickly sent the message. I’m on my way home. You were right all along. LOL It was good I came back, please be there so we can talk, really talk. Love you.
She looked over, saw the cookie tin on the passenger seat, and smiled. She wouldn’t open it until she was home, and she wouldn’t open it alone. This piece of her childhood was worth keeping, and worth sharing.
And when she opened it, she knew she would be opening more than just a cookie tin, she’d be opening her heart and mind, getting rid of all the shadows and secrets that had kept her closed off and isolated.
Go or stay, she chose stay. Suddenly she had a new direction to go, and she was anxious to see where it would take her.