#52weeks52stories “Christmas is Love”

Christmas is Love banner

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This short story was so much better twenty-four hours ago before SCRIVENER ATE IT without having the decency to auto-save it the way it’s supposed to. I had to step away from NaNoWriMo and try to recreate it from notes and memory and well, you know who this brain works. I hope I recaptured the sentiment even if the words escaped me. (Thanks for nothing, Scrivener!)

#52weeks52stories: Week 44

Word prompt: family

Word count – 2662

Reading time – 8:37

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The holiday season held no joy for Mavis Landry.

The thirty-four-year-old stood in the supermarket check-out line cringing as Christmas carols blared from the store’s sound system.

The First Noel used to be her favorite carol, now she fought off tears and a panic attack as the second verse began.

She wasn’t always like this, in danger of becoming a soulless Scrooge.

Her earliest holiday memories were happy ones. George and Carol Landry believed in living life to its fullest, and the period from Halloween through New Year’s Day was one long holiday for Mavis and her older brother, Michael, with Christmas being the focal point. Carol Landry’s love of Christmas and its magic was unmatched and she surprised them all each year with a new tradition.

But life for the Landry family changed the year Mavis completed pharmacy school.

Living and working three hours from her parent’ home, Mavis coordinated her arrival with Michael, who lived two hours away on the other side of their parents, as a surprise for George and Carol.

When she arrived just before five on the evening of the twenty-second, Mavis wasn’t concerned Michael wasn’t there yet. Despite living closer, her brother was from a more metropolitan area and had more freeways and traffic to contend with.

But worry did creep into her thoughts as each hour passed and her calls to his cell went straight to voicemail.

George talked Mavis and her mother into sitting down to dinner at eight but they hadn’t finished their salads when a knock at the door lead them to find two highway patrol officers in the doorway.

Mavis would never forget her mother’s mournful wails.

Two SUVs engaged in racing and road rage caused a multiple vehicle accident which took five lives, including twenty-eight-year old Michael Landry.

Mavis spent Christmas Day waiting for the medical examiner to release her brother’s body.

The Landrys went on because that’s what families do. George and Carol still decorated and Mavis still made the trip home but the holiday was like re-opening an old wound that would never heal.

Four years after Michael’s death, Mavis cut her holiday trip short. Instead of staying through New Year’s Day, she was going home on the 27th to ring in the new year with a new man in her life.

George went out to clear the walkway of the overnight snowfall and never returned.

Carol’s mournful wails became the center of Mavis’ nightmares.

She didn’t return home for three weeks, seeing her mother through the autopsy and funeral.

Altering her work schedules, Mavis made monthly visits to see her mom, whose depression appeared worse with each visit.

Inspired by her boss, who’d lost his wife to breast cancer, Mavis took a six-month leave of absence from work, moved in with Carol Landry and got them both into family counseling.

The slow process was cathartic for the Landry women but bought them back to the land of the living. Two years after George’s death, Mavis took her mom to Paris for Christmas. There was still tears and grief but Mavis was grateful they were together sharing new experiences instead of locked inside the family home sharing space with ghosts.

With her sixtieth birthday approaching, Carol went back to volunteering in the community and surprising the neighborhood with baked treats.

Mavis returned to work with a new outlook on life. She still felt the loss but refused to allow it to drag her down. Her father and brother wouldn’t approve.

There was humor and fun in the Landry home again when Mavis took James home with her for Thanksgiving.

Mavis knew her mom was excited over her relationship and hopeful for the future.

But futures aren’t guaranteed.

After speaking with her mother last on the twentieth, Mavis and James loaded his Range Rover the next day and made the three-hour-trip to Carol’s.

Mavis’ pulse quickened when they pulled up in front of the Landry home.

Unlike every other home on the block, the recent snowfall still covered the driveway and sidewalks.

Even after George’s death, Carol was still fastidious about keeping access areas free of snow during the winter.

Mavis trudged to the front door, dreading each step.

Using her key, Mavis entered the house, not bothering to remove her boots. Carol’s anger over wet floors was the least of her concerns.

Mavis stood in the foyer as James came inside.

“Mavis, where’s your mom?”

She didn’t respond.

“Mavis?”

She walked into the living room and her heart sank.

The Christmas tree stood in the corner…dark. Neither Santa’s Village above the fireplace nor the nativity scene on the floor next to it was lit.

Mavis knew.

She turned and raced down the hallway to her mother’s bedroom, but she froze when she reached it, resting her forehead against the door.

James’ arms slipped around her waist from behind. “Do you want me to do it?”

Mavis clasped his hands and squeezed. “I have to.”

She opened the door, surprised to find both bedside lamps on, but not surprised by anything else.

Surrounded by books, magazines, and with a notepad on her lap, Carol Landry appeared to have fallen asleep while making holiday plans.

Mavis crawled onto the bed and pulled her mother’s stiff, cold body into her arms… and her mother’s mournful wails from the past became her own.

James sat on the bed behind Mavis and held her as she cried.

He knew he should call someone, but he also knew they would separate mother and daughter. Mavis needed this time with the last member of her family.

Losing Carol broke Mavis, but she didn’t sink back into depression. Mavis’s anger boiled over and she lashed out.

When the medical examiner told her that like her father, Carol, too, had died from a sudden, massive coronary, Mavis flew into a rage and railed about how two people living a healthy lifestyle didn’t just die because of bad hearts.

She screamed about the inability of two people to share a road made for everyone taking her brother from her.

Exhausted, she’d fallen into James’ arms and it was only because of him, Mavis got through it all.

But as the newness and rebirth of spring arrived, Mavis was still angry and pushing James away.

Having lost his own mother, and only family member, while in high school, James knew what Mavis was going through and stuck by her side, enduring her hurtful comments and apathy. He also hung onto the engagement ring he’d planned to give her right after dinner with her mother.

Guided by fear, Mavis refused James’ offer to spend Christmas together. Saying she needed the time alone, Mavis made the solemn journey to the family home she refused to part with.

“Merry Christmas! How are you this afternoon?”

Pulled from her thoughts, Mavis realized it was her turn in line and stepped forward.

“All set for Christmas?”

Mavis considered the woman, close to her own age, in her red sweater and matching Santa-hat. Her name badge read, “Patty”, and Mavis also didn’t miss the wedding rings on Patty’s left hand. Patty, no doubt had a perky husband and 2.3 perky children waiting for her at home.

“Yes, thank you.”

After swiping her debit card, Mavis took her bag from Patty, anxious to flee her cheery presence.

“Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Mavis didn’t turn around or respond, but guilt and shame hit her in the face along with the frigid temps as she left the store.

“Would you care to make a donation to We’re Rollin’?”

Glancing to her right, Mavis saw a young woman bundled against the cold seated at a table.  She was in a wheelchair, as was the older man next to her.

“Excuse me? We’re Rollin’? What’s that?”

“We’re a local nonprofit organization that provides free rides to medical appointments for seniors and the disabled.”

“Free?”

“Yes, ma’am. Not everyone can afford the fee-based transport services. They’re income-based and there are forms and a process applicants must go through. Many get denied because their monthly income is over the required limit, but full fares are still out of their reach.”

Mavis approached the table.

“Sounds like a good program but I’m sure you get taken advantage of.”

The old man laughed. “There’s always someone who going to game the system, young lady, but we know they’re outnumbered by good folks who need a service like this one. Even though they can’t afford fee-based rides, most folks always make a donation. They’re glad we’re here, so we never turn down anyone.”

The sincerity in his eyes brought a smile to Mavis’ face. “I’m sure your dedication is appreciated.” She pulled out her wallet.

“Thanks, young lady, but I owe this program to my wife, Marianne. She was a retired nurse and a doer—always lending a hand to someone somewhere—providing rides to doctor’s appointments and taking up collections to help someone meet their prescription copays.”

Mavis had lost count over the years of the prescriptions she put back on shelves because customers couldn’t afford them.

“Even after I lost my legs to diabetes, Marianne took care of me, our home, and half the neighborhood. She was something else. When I lost her five years ago, I didn’t think I could go on. I just sat in my house waiting to die. This story came on the news about the increase in local 911 calls because people didn’t have any other way to get medical help, and most of those folks were seniors and the disabled. I heard Marianne in my head saying, “So? What are you waiting for?” He laughed again. “In a month’s time, I had a van and a volunteer driver. After one year, we were a registered 501(c)(3) with three vans and more volunteers than we can use.”

Excited, the young woman finished the story. “Now we have eight vans and sponsorship from local businesses that take care of insurance and vehicle maintenance, but we still fund-raise to cover fuel expenses so rides are always available when needed.”

“And the name, We’re Rollin’, how did you come up with that?”

“It’s what Marianne said every time she got behind the wheel.”

The chains of grief eased their grip on Mavis’ heart. Ignoring the loose bills in her wallet, Mavis pulled out the two bills hidden behind her driver’s license. Unfolding them, she handed the bills to the young woman, whose eyes widened.

“Ma’am? All of this?”

Mavis winked at the old man. “Yes, for Marianne.”

She dropped the two one-hundred-dollar bills into a money pouch, then reached for candy canes to show their thanks. But the old man stilled her hand, and instead handed Mavis a red envelope.

“Merry Christmas to you, young lady, and thank you.”

She accepted the envelope. “You’re welcome and Merry Christmas to you both.”

Mavis headed to her car, her steps a little lighter, her mind not as weary.

She wasted no time starting the SUV and turning the heat up to high. As she waited for warmth, Mavis opened the red envelope and pulled out a Christmas card.

The photo on the front showed a group of smiling people posed around a Christmas tree. In the center of the group was the old man in the wheelchair.

“Merry Christmas from Mitchell Pierce and the dedicated volunteers of We’re Rollin’!”

She opened the card and one side read, “May the joy and warmth of this holiday season be with you now and always”, and the opposite side had three linked candy canes and above them were the words, “Peace, Love, Joy.”

Tears erupted from Mavis Landry… and she leaned her head back and let them flow.

Clutching the card to her chest, Mavis didn’t cry for her brother and parents, but she cried for what she’d allowed her loss to steal from her. She cried because she’d forgotten the joy and peace of mind that came from love of family. She cried because she’d allowed her grief to blind her to all the good around… and inside her.

Wiping her eyes, Mavis knew she had to do better… try harder, and she headed home, grateful for meeting an old man who’d found strength in his grief to help others.

James.

She glanced at her watch.

It was getting late and traffic would be heavy in all directions. She had no right to call James and ask him to make the trip down, but she could go to him. All he’d ever done was love her and stand by her side and she’d pushed him away. James had proven the kind of man he was and what Mavis meant to him, now she had to step up and do the same… and pray she hadn’t lost him.

Pulling into the Landry driveway, Mavis felt joy for the first time in months.

James stepped out of his Range Rover and walked to her car as she jumped out.

“I know you said you needed to be alone, but I needed to be with you more.”

He didn’t have time to say anymore. Mavis launched her body at him and they fell over into a snowbank.

She covered his face in kisses, all the while apologizing for blocking him out and not considering his feelings.

He kissed her then stroked her cheek. “Mavis, why are we laying in the snow?”

She giggled as he stood and pulled her up, but realization dawned on her when she glanced at her watch.

Grabbing James hand, she dragged him toward her SUV. “C’mon! We have forty-six minutes before stores close and there’s nothing in the house for Christmas dinner.”

James laughed, stopping Mavis in her tracks.

Leading her to the back of the Range Rover, he opened the hatch and she was floored by the bags of food. He even brought firewood.

“I kind of figured you’d try to get through the holidays on pizza rolls and coffee.”

Mavis bit her lip, remembering the two bags of pizza rolls she’d just bought.

He shook his head laughing. “Let’s get this stuff inside. We’ve got a tree to decorate.”

“Tree?”

James pointed toward the front door and she saw a large, bound Douglas Fir leaning against the door. When she glanced back, he was already filling his hands with bags and Mavis joined him.

After everything was inside—including the pizza rolls—James went to work building a fire.

In the kitchen, Mavis emptied shopping bags, in awe of James’ attention to detail. There were even bottles of champagne for New Year’s.

She hadn’t lost her chance and she wasn’t alone.

Mavis had a sudden need to be close to James. Abandoning the groceries, she headed for the living room.

Her steps slowed in the hallway. She’d almost trapped herself in a dark place, consumed with all she’d lost. She caused herself pain by hanging onto nonexistent ghosts instead of letting go and reaching for what was right in front of her.

Michael and their parents loved her and that’s what she needed to show. People needed to see them live on in her and through her.

James had a fire going and was opening boxes of decorations when Mavis entered the room.

Kneeling at his side, Mavis opened a tote. Her chest tightened but a smile graced her lips as she pulled out the mahogany box. It contained one of Carol Landry’s most treasured decorations, a gift from her mother-in-law, Granny Helen when Mavis was still in her teens.

Opening the box, Mavis ran her fingers over the inscription on the mirrored candle tray’s edges and knew she would be okay.

James looked over at what she was holding. “What’s that?”

“Wise words I’d forgotten.” She held it up for him to read the words that held so much meaning for her this year.

“Christmas is about family; family is about love. Rejoice in Love.”

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “I Want to Take You Higher” – Sly & the Family Stone

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “take/taking.” 

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Unlike most of the other tracks on their 1969 album, Stand!, Sly and the Family Stone’s I Want to Take You Higher is not a message song; instead, it is simply dedicated to music and the feeling one gets from music and is a highlight of the psychedelic era in tune, instrumentation, and lyrics.

Released three months prior to the legendary music concert, Woodstock, I Want to Take You Higher was just one of the group’s stellar performances during the four-day event in the Catskill Mountains in August of 1969.

The crazy video is a live performance from the Mike Douglas Show in 1974.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

I Wan to Take You Higher

by Sly and the Family Stone

#52weeks52stories “…a time to every purpose under heaven”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 43

Word prompt: superhero

Word count – 2180

Reading time – 7:07

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Being a superhero had its off-days.

Setting the city bus filled with passengers down in the center of the street, Dex winced at the sharp pain in his right hip.

Shaking off the discomfort, he approached the mangled guard rail. Gripping the jagged, twisted metal, Dex pulled the ends together and squeezed them tight within his fist, creating a seal better than any welder.

Dex found it difficult to open his clenched fist and release the railing. He rubbed his fingers over the knuckles on his right hand.

Dex couldn’t remember the last time he felt pain.

Well, he could but it wasn’t important. He turned and approached the bus passengers gathered outside the bus. They cheered and called out his name, some with tear-stained cheeks.

They loved their hero.

Tilting his head to the left, Dex heard the sirens of the first responders.

After finding no injured passengers, Dex assured the frazzled bus driver help was moments away.

He waved to the crowd and turned to leave when a blue-haired senior citizen stepped away from the crowd, calling his name.

“MegaDex?”

Puffing out his chest, Dex flashed his winning smile. “Yes, madam? How may I help you?”

She walked right up to him, her movements agile and fluid for a woman of her years. Standing on tip-toes, she reached up and cupped his cheek.

“Young man, are you okay?”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Yes, ma’am.” He pointed at his chest. “MegaDex, remember? Nothing can hurt me.”

“Yes, dear. I know your personal superhero mantra, it’s just…” Her voice trailed off.

“Ma’am? You were saying?”

“Well, it’s just my Harold had that same look in his eyes you have… right before he got sick.”

Dex’s heart went out to the old woman. Her husband was ill, and she was seeing sickness everywhere. He took one of her frail hands into both of his.

“I’m sorry your Harold is under the weather, ma’am, but I assure you I’m fine.”

“Oh no, dear, he isn’t sick, Harold died ten years ago.”

Her response shook him and he heard conversations in his head from long ago but pushed them away from the front of his mind.

“I’m sure the two of you enjoyed a wonderful life together, but I can’t even catch a cold. MegaDex is fine, but I am touched by your concern.”

She smiled as she flipped her hand over in his and squeezed, but it was sadness he saw in her eyes.

“Take care, dear.”

He watched her walk away to rejoin the others waiting for first responders.

The gentlewoman stopped, turned her head and spoke over her shoulder. “But I know that look when I see it. I’ll never forget it.”

She disappeared into the crowd as unease settled in the pit of his stomach like a rock.

Dex saw the news station helicopters before he heard them and his inner turmoil grew.

Not wanting another microphone shoved in his face by an over-eager reporter looking for the big story, Dex turned to leave the scene.

Instead of being satisfied with saving several lives from disaster, Dex’s mind hummed with confusion.

I heard the first responders when they were still six miles away. I heard the old woman’s soft voice, and she was twenty-five yards away.

How did the helicopters get right on top of me before I knew they were here? It had to be the old woman. I was thrown off and unfocused.

Dex was moved. Her concern appeared to be genuine, and it had been a long time since anyone had cared about Dexter Richard Jacobs.

He smiled remembering she’d called him young man and wondered how she’d gotten that wrong. Everyone knew MegaDex was the oldest living human.

If he was still human.

Convinced his creation was ready, Earlie McGinty asked Dexter Jacobs to grab a pair of his dungarees from the clothesline for testing.

Just as Dexter opened the door to the workshop behind Earlie’s barn and stepped back inside, he heard Earlie laughing with his two brothers. “How could I forget the secret ingredient?”

Earlie held a jar of red liquid over the boiling vat and poured.

And Dex walked through hell.

The blast of the explosion doused him in Earlie’s secret formula and blew him into the far wall. He crumpled to the floor in a heap. A deafening cacophony of bells blared through Dexter’s brain bringing with it a wave of nausea. Dexter clamped his hands over ears and cried out at the pain the movement caused. Something wet caused his hand to slip off his ear and Dexter stared at his hand for several seconds trying to focus before realizing it was blood. His blood.

The ringing in his ears died down only to be replaced by screams.

Still unable to stand, Dexter propped himself on one arm and looked across the room. He froze in horror. The three McGinty brothers twirled in circles and writhed on the floor… engulfed in flames.

A second explosion blew out the wall near the vat and took one of the brothers with it.

Dexter leaned over, emptying the contents of his stomach in violent heaves.

He caught one last glance at the angry flames dancing toward him then passed out.

Dexter awoke thirteen days later in a hospital bed surrounded by faces hidden under surgical masks.

He stared back at the eyes full of curiosity and what appeared to be surprise. When his eyes found the lone female eyes in the room, Dexter relaxed. They belonged to his wife, Janet.

“How are you even alive?”

The question didn’t come from Janet but a tall, bearded man next to her.

He considered the man. “I don’t understand.”

Janet Jacobs gripped her husband’s hand as the man recounted the last thirteen days to Dexter Jacobs.

The McGinty workshop burned to the ground. Even the bones of Earlie and Elliott were little more than charred ash. Brass buttons on his coat identified oldest brother, Eason, blown through the wall by the blast.

Janet told the authorities her husband was headed to the McGinty’s when he left home earlier that day, so they assumed Dexter had perished with the brothers.

However, four days later, after the site had cooled, volunteers went through the debris searching for clues to the explosion… and something for the McGinty widows to bury.

Moving a large mangled section of the tin roof, workers screamed for the coroner several yards away supervising the packaging of bone fragments.

Dexter Jacobs was found… alive. Other than singe marks on the cuffs of his pants, Dexter showed no signs of being in a fire.

The year was 1865.

Dex reached his Kawasaki Ninja H2R but paused before mounting the powerful machine. Bitterness mixed with regret consumed him. The memories of all the years he was studied and tested, all the questions about what Earlie was working on and if it was a weapon, of all the time spent away from Janet and the boys caused Dex to bury his face in his hands.

When Dex’s condition couldn’t be explained, doctors gave up and researchers stepped up efforts to duplicate Dex… make more men like him. They were never successful, and more men showed up wanting to send him on missions for the good of his country.

Dex had enough and walked away. His strength had increased to immeasurable levels and efforts to stop Dex from leaving… by any means necessary, failed.

He tried to live a quiet life, returning to the profession of his father and opening a small lumber mill. But there were always shadowy figures around, lurking and watching. Some even approached him with satchels of cash, and others with threats against his family. He made it known any harm to his family would bring devastation no one wanted… or could stop.

Dex’s family had been his pride and joy. His boys, Rowan and Maynard, grew into fine young men who attended college and distinguished themselves. Janet was his rock, supporting his decisions in his new life. When Dex was inundated with offers, requests, and threats, it was Janet Jacobs who stood at the front door and dared anyone to cross the threshold.

In a newspaper interview, Dex said while Earlie’s concoction had changed him biologically, his true strength came from his wife who was a force of nature all her own.

Which is why it was even more heartbreaking when Dex and Janet, at last, broached the subject they’d both been avoiding.

Janet was aging—as she should—but Dex wasn’t.

The years passed and Dex watched his sons marry and become fathers—as his wife looked first more like his mother, then his grandmother.

Janet tried to send Dex away to start a new life, but the thought horrified him. He could not leave the woman who had been a part of his heart since he’d first laid his fourteen-year-old eyes on her at the county fishing contest—the only girl to enter.

He would never leave her side.

And so it was in his arms Janet died on the morning of April 18, 1906, her seventy-fifth birthday.

Dex could only shake his head days later when he learned his beloved Janet passed away at almost the same moment an earthquake devastated San Francisco and northern California.

One force of nature unleashed as another was extinguished.

He mourned with his boys but it wasn’t easy. They were aging too.

He lost them both before Hitler invaded Poland.

Dex’s three granddaughters were now grandmothers. He stopped calling them and dropping by twenty years ago. What was the point? He had all these powers that were useless to save those he loved most. He couldn’t watch another generation die.

He lived as a recluse, selling lumber from his property, only venturing to the city for supplies.

Returning from one of his trips into town, Dex came upon a flurry of activity at the Hadley farm. He slowed his old Ford pickup and figured out they were trying to upright an overturned tractor.

Not wanting to interact with people, Dex moved his foot from the brake to the accelerator but his conscious stopped him. Pulling over and parking the truck, Dex headed into the field.

No one saw him approach. Four men and two young boys called out to each other as they positioned two-by-fours under the tractor. Miriam Hadley stood on the edge of the commotion crying. When Dex reached the tractor, he understood.

Both Jonas Hadley’s legs were pinned beneath the tractor.

In one move, Dex lifted the tractor and set it down several feet away. When he turned the men and boys all stared at him, their mouths agape—then they cheered.

But Miriam was on the ground next to Jonas, her arms wrapped around his neck, still crying.

Despite his obvious pain, Dex watched the man lift his hand to pat his wife’s arm, comforting her.

He found his mission that day. His calling, his purpose.

Jonas made a full recovery and went back to working his fields with only a slight limp. He and Miriam added two more children to their family.

Dexter Richard Jacobs sold his lumber mill and moved to the city.

Sitting on his front porch, Dex focused his hearing, listening for accidents, explosions, fights, and calls for help.

It wasn’t the praise and hero-worship that motivated and spurred Dex on and it wasn’t simply saving lives.

Everyone had someone waiting for them somewhere and he didn’t want them robbed of time together.

Dexter Richard Jacobs became MegaDex, superhero to all, for love of family… and the loss of his own.

He mounted the bike, wincing again at the hip pain.

Those people with clipboards and test tubes and medals on their chests all those years ago had part of it right.

Earlie McGinty’s formula was intended for the military, but not as a weapon, because if it worked, he’d also planned to approach the garment industry, and farmers, law enforcement, firemen—anyone who wore a uniform.

After his wife’s many complaints about the endless mending of work clothes, Earlie, infamous in the county for his tinkering and crazy inventions, only sought a way to make fabric more durable and lasting.

Dex wished he could tell Earlie his invention worked… on him.

He fired up the engine but instead of riding off, Dex looked over his shoulder.

Back up the road, the scene was much calmer and shuttles had arrived to get the passengers to their loved ones.

But she was still there, standing apart from the crowd again, as though she’d been watching him the entire time.

She waved, and he returned the wave, then turned the bike toward the mountains and his secret retreat.

Her words ran through his mind.

“But I know that look when I see it. I’ll never forget it.”

He thought of his new aches and pains and all the human things happening to him.

Earlie’s formula had made him durable and long-lasting.

But nothing lasts forever.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Give You My Heart” – Babyface & Toni Braxton

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “give/giving.” 

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Recorded by R&B singers Babyface and Toni Braxton, Give you My Heart was part of the soundtrack for the 1992 film, Boomerang, starring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry. The collaboration was released as a single the same year, reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (behind another song from the Boomerang soundtrack, Boyz II Men’s End of the Road).

The song can be found on two of Braxton’s greatest-hits albums, 2003’s Ultimate Toni Braxton and 2007’s The Essential Toni Braxton, and as a B-side on some editions of her 1993 single Another Sad Love Song.

The upscale R&B Remix version is played during the end credits of Boomerang.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Give You My Heart

by Babyface & Toni Braxton

#52weeks52stories “Like Minds”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 42

Word prompt: schizophrenia

Word count – 1313

Reading time – 6 mins

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Anna Furlong was a weirdo.

At least, that’s what she’d been called for most of her thirty-seven years.

Sometimes people were kind and referred to her as offbeat or quirky, but no one had any use for kindness or manners in the new social climes. Taunts of kooky, strange and crazy no longer fazed her.

Anna knew she was special. Her Aunt Sadie told her so… right before the family had her aunt committed to a mental institution. Sadie Preston was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with a high probability of being a danger to herself and others.

Anna’s thirteen-year-old heart broke watching her beloved aunt sit in the straight-back chair in the corner of the family room while her parents, Tarla and Deacon Furlong, gathered the few things Sadie was allowed to take with her.

Motionless as a Greek statue, Sadie did turn her head when Anna stepped on that one squeaky floorboard across the doorway.

The stone face disappeared, replaced by the sparkling eyes and the mischievous grin Anna loved so much.

They held each other’s gaze for only seconds before Sadie held out her hand to the young girl.

Anna rushed to her aunt, wrapping her arms around her neck.

“I was hoping I’d see you before I left, Anna-banana.”

“I don’t want you to go, Sadie-milady.”

“There’s nothing can be done about that now, child. I doubt they’ll bring you to visit me, so never forget how much I love you. You are the daughter I was never blessed with.”

Anna pulled away, her face wet with tears. “I don’t care what they say, milady, you’re not crazy as a road lizard.”

Sadie chuckled and swiped at the tears on Anna’s cheeks with her thumb. “I see my brother-in-law still isn’t shy about sharing his opinion of me.” Her smile faded. “Anna, I am sick -”

Anna tried to protest.

“No, let me finish. I’m sick and everyone knows it, even you, Anna-banana -”

“But, milady -”

“Please, child, hush. We don’t have much time. I’m not going away because I’m dangerous. They’re locking me away because I’m an embarrassment. The old pills don’t work for me anymore, Anna, and I need such high dosages of the new pills I can’t think, can’t function, so I stopped taking them.”

Images of her aunt arguing and railing at voices only she could hear flashed through Anna’s mind.

“Ever since I turned twenty-three, I haven’t been quite right in the head, but it’s not only me, Anna..” She grasped both of Anna’s hands and pulled her close. “Several of the women in our family have dealt with or are dealing with different levels of schizophrenia. As far as we can tell, it began with your great-grandmother—the one you were named after—Anna Preston.”

Anna stiffened in horror and tried to pull away from her aunt, but Sadie held on.

“I know this is a shock, baby, but you have to listen. I left a journal in your closet under the black shoe box. It contains some of our history… of those of us who are… sick. Your great-grandma, her cousin, Bertha, Bertha’s daughter, Lois Jean, me… and your mother.”

Anna’s face crumpled. “Mama? I don’t understand, milady. Please -”

“I wish I had the time, Anna-banana, but you must read the journal, and don’t let your mother see you with it. I told her I burned it by mistake twelve years ago.”

“I’m scared, Auntie.”

“I am too, baby. I wish your mother had talked you last summer when you complained of headaches and hearing voices. But, she’s lived in denial most of our lives and said you were too young for it to be schizophrenia. When you didn’t say anything else about hearing voices I thought she was right.”

Anna averted her eyes and her aunt shook her. “Anna, no! It did happen again, didn’t it?”

She turned back to her aunt as her eyes welled with tears again. One simple nod caused the tears to spill, leaving new tracks on her face.

Sadie pulled her into a tight hug. “I’m so sorry, baby. So, so sorry. I hoped and prayed this ugly thing would never touch you.”

She paused, hearing footsteps in the upstairs hallway.

“We’re out of time, Anna. Promise me you’ll read the journal. Promise me!”

The lump in her throat made speaking impossible right then and another nod was all she could muster.

“It’s time, Sadie.”

They both turned to see Deacon Furlong’s massive frame fill the doorway.

Sadie averted her eyes as the voices told her Deacon was Satan intent on killing them all and she had to kill him first. To stay safe. To keep Anna safe. Instead, she shook her head and stood, pulling her beloved niece into another tight embrace.

“I love you, Anna Rose Furlong. Never forget that.”

She released her niece and strode across the room with her head held high. She pushed past her brother-in-law in the doorway without a word and walked out the front door to the car.

***

Anna closed the journal.

Now in her possession for over twenty-five years, she’d had the family keepsake longer than any other family member.

She caressed the dark burgundy flowers hand painted on the thick fabric cover. This beautiful book held the story of her family and its joy and celebrations, births and losses from three different centuries.

It also bears witness to the anguish and cost of mental illness to women with like minds and tortured souls.

From Anna Preston who was seen as fragile and eccentric and lived most of her life on her own terms, to her cousin, Bertha Riley Williams who never acknowledged her illness and lived life in a riotous circle of confinements to prisons and mental institutions until drinking herself to death before her sixtieth birthday.

Bertha’s daughter, Lois Jean, took her own life after her diagnosis of schizophrenia and the man she loved walked away.

Anna’s mother, Tarla Furlong, with a few exceptions, lived a normal life on medications that affected everything from her temperament to her weight. But her need to control and fear of being ostracized ensured Tarla never missed a pill right up until her death last year.

Unlike her sister, Sadie Preston, who grew weary of higher and higher dosages just to be normal and gave in to the mania… and lost her freedom. The irony was that after Sadie’s committal, she was medicated every single day, only showing the presence of mind during Anna’s visits.

After Sadie was sent away, it took another eight years for the disorder to fully manifest itself in Anna. Because she had the misfortune of finding doctors who believed in less traditional medicines and more homeopathic treatments, it took another two years for Anna to find new doctors and have a manageable life.

She finished college with a degree in library sciences.

She met a man and they planned to marry, but his family didn’t rest until they’d torn the couple apart.

Always upfront about her illness, Anna had a small supportive group of friends who made the taunts and shunning from others bearable.

And she had milady, never missing a weekly visit in seventeen years.

But there would be no more visits. With only Anna at the graveside, Sadie was laid to rest yesterday morning.

And now Anna was not only alone, but she was also the last family member diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had five distant female cousins who were living happy, healthy lives. While men aren’t immune to the disorder, none in her family had ever shown any signs.

Folding the journal in her arms, she hugged it one last time then slid it into the desk drawer.

Anna hadn’t decided which cousin she’d pass the journal on to but it would be passed on because life goes on.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “The Love I Lost” – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “lost.” 

 ~~~~~
As long as I’m in the Way-back Machine, may as well stop by the 70s! 😀

The Love I Lost  by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes was originally written as a ballad by Philly soul songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The song was transformed into a disco song and released from the Black & Blue album in September 1973. Selling more than a million copies, it peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and spent 2 weeks at number one on the Hot Soul Singles chart.  It also reached number 21 in the United Kingdom on the BBC Top 50 singles chart in early 1974.

This isn’t the greatest video… because video wasn’t a thing 45 years ago, but it is an original recording and the tall guy in the center is a very young Teddy Pendergrass before his Love TKO/Close the Door days.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

~~~~~

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

The Love I Lost

by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

#52weeks52stories “Watching You Watching Me”

This may or may not be Halloween-inspired! 😀 #Suspense #Horror

~~~

#52weeks52stories: Week 41

Word prompt: aroused

Word count – 2656

Reading time – 7 mins

~~~

He blamed Monica Montgomery for his predilection.

Four years his senior, the nineteen-year-old had lured him to her bedroom and introduced him to sex… and erotic asphyxiation.

Terrified at first, he soon learned how the right amount of pressure on her carotid arteries enhanced her orgasms. Her heightened arousal and reaction was a turbo boost to his own and soon he couldn’t have sex without the strangulation hold.

When he arrived at Monica’s for one of their weekly visits, she stopped him at the doorway with a kiss on the forehead and informed him she was headed to Europe to continue her education.

His devastation only worsened when he learned days later, Monica Montgomery moved to Germany… with her fiancé.

Despite his good looks and wealth, high school girls weren’t throwing themselves at him and he was miserable until he got to college.

He found some college coeds were more adventurous and had no problem with his request, yet most girls found it a total turn-off and whispers of pervert and weirdo grew around him.

By his senior year, he was frustrated and humiliated. He stopped frequenting the local favored eateries and pubs of the college crowd and ventured into more adult hot spots, which is how he met the lusty Vanessa.

Encouraged by the older woman’s enthusiasm as she dragged him from the nightclub, he didn’t make his usual sexual request.

Which was a mistake.

Vanessa had screamed in pleasure twice as he still struggled for his release.

Leaning on his elbows, he’d slipped his hands around her throat. He increased the pressure with each thrust and a smile grew on his face as his climax neared.

But the moment was short-lived when Vanessa bucked him off her with such force he ended up on the floor on the other side of the bed. She ran from his apartment naked and screaming he was trying to murder her.

It cost his father millions in legal fees and to buy Vanessa’s silence.

And, he’d lost his spot in his family.

Directed by his father’s attorney, with lightened hair and a new beard, he’d been uprooted from his home in the toney Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and dumped in Denver, Colorado.

No one asked him if he wanted to leave Illinois or where he wanted to go.

The attorney purchased a three-suite office complex and small estate in his name and handed him the keys, an envelope containing several credit cards and banking information… and the business card of a psychiatrist. After admonishing him to keep his therapy appointments and to not cause his family any more embarrassment, the stone-faced counselor walked away, headed for a return flight home.

So began his exile.

But rage and resentment burned in his soul. He should have stood his ground and protested. They had no right to cast him out. He was one of them. He was just like them.

His father called it an enrichment program for girls, but he knew the only reason Peter Stanhope created the nonprofit, Girls Can was to give himself easy access to nubile young girls.

His mother knew all about his father’s habits and couldn’t care less. Rita Stanhope had a thing for blue-collar men and spent her time cruising the construction sites and pubs of downtown Chicago. Stanhope money had lured dozens of working-class men to hourly motels.

And his older brothers? Peter, Jr. and Jarrett worked for the same law firm and between the two of them, had screwed every man and woman in the building, sometimes at the same time.

Joseph had a violent temper and was an abuser. Peter Stanhope had spent millions to silence two ex-girlfriends and two ex-wives.

Even baby sister, Rhonda, at twenty-four, wasn’t an innocent. A hard-core drinker and self-professed pain slut, she’d been thrown out of and barred from most of the BDSM clubs in and around the Chicago area. They didn’t like the type of public attention Rhonda’s behavior attracted.

But he was the deviant. He was the one judged for showing aberrant behavior.

For two days, he sat in his sparsely furnished mini-estate replaying everything in his head. As he railed at the hypocrisy and double standards and fumed over the judgmental glares from his mother and siblings his mind fractured.

With an eerie calm only the psychotic could understand he decided if his family didn’t want him, he didn’t want them, and they didn’t deserve to know his whereabouts.

A quick Internet search brought Marley Hennicks to his front door.

The bottle blonde grinned too much, exposed too much of her breast implants, and reeked of Caron’s Poivre, just like his mother. But she was a competent realtor and in less than a week, she’d sold his home and office building and found him a place in California.

He packed up his Mercedes GLS 450 SUV the same day he signed his sale and purchase documents and left Denver. Eleven hours later, he stopped for the night in Las Vegas. When he checked out of the Double Tree Hotel the next morning, the disgusting hair dye rinse and offensive beard were gone… and so was his mind.

***

Six Months Later

Tonight was date night, she just didn’t know it yet.

But she would. Soon.

He’d planned the evening down to the last detail.

Taking one last glance in the mirror he was pleased with his appearance. New navy dockers he paired with a button-down shirt the same shade as his ice-blue eyes. A fresh haircut to tame his unruly dark curls complimented his look.

She would be impressed.

He went into his back bedroom and peered out the window.

She was home from work.

He could see into her kitchen and dining area and watched her prepare her evening meal.

Gone was the conservative dark business suit she wore every day to City Hall. He wondered what her staff would think of the city’s senior accountant dancing around her kitchen in boy shorts and a tank top.

He knew she was putting on a show for him, teasing him. Running his hand over his crotch he anticipated how sweet she would be, how he would get what he’d craved since the day they met.

She was struggling with boxes in her driveway and he’d rushed across the street to offer his assistance.

“Hey, new neighbor! Can I give you a hand?”

“Oh, thank you! I don’t know what I was thinking of packing so many books in one box.”

He grabbed the box and followed her through the garage to the mudroom, setting the box down against the wall.

“I appreciate the help. Thank you again…” Her words trailed off and he didn’t miss a beat, thrusting his right hand forward.

“Hart Stanhope.”

Accepting his hand, she looked into his eyes for the time.

His stomach flip-flopped and his pulse raced. She had gorgeous brown eyes and smooth clear mocha-kissed skin. A few wispy strands of gray graced her temples, making her older than what he’d assumed.

Hart liked that.

But it was her neck, her long, feminine neck where his eyes rested. He imagined his hands around her neck, squeezing, taking them both to heights of pleasure.

“Thank you, Hart Stanhope. I’m Penelope Driver. Friends call me Penny or PD.”

Startled from his fantasy, Hart stuttered and rebounded.

“It’s… nice to meet you, Penny, and welcome to the neighborhood.

Focusing on the mudroom to hide his embarrassment, Hart took note of all the boxes already stacked along the walls.

“Wow. Are all these filled with books? What do you do?”

“I’m a senior accountant in the city comptroller’s office, and yes, most of these boxes are filled with books.” She looked around as though checking for eavesdroppers. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. These books have nothing to do with my job. I just love to read.” She chuckled and headed for the door.

Hart followed her out to her SUV.

“Need help with any more boxes?”

“No. The movers have everything else and should be here soon.”

It was his cue to leave.

“I’m just across the street if you need anything. I’m sort of the neighborhood geek-to-the-rescue for computer problems. Most of our neighbors are older and every time there’s a Windows update it gets crazy around here. But I’m a consultant and work from home so don’t hesitate to knock on my door. For anything.”

“Thanks, Hart. I’ll do that.”

Only she hadn’t.

Hart waited weeks for her to come to him. But other than friendly waves and smiles as she came and went, she ignored him.

Was there another man?

He’d never seen anyone visit Penny other than friends on the weekends.

Hart took advantage of the high walls and shrubbery people used to isolate themselves, using them as cover and entered Penney’s house several times while she was at work.

She was neat and had good taste in furnishings.

Her bedding was exquisite and he couldn’t help but admire a woman who lived alone and slept on organic linen chambray.

One side of her walk-in closet held the severe suits she wore to work in the obligatory navys, grays, and tweeds, but the rest of the closet was all silks, cashmeres, and wools.

Penny’s wardrobe was worthy of any supermodel or CEO’s wife. But he found no evidence of another man or that anyone was taking care of her.

Hart liked that.

She took care of herself and had standards. Just like him.

She was meant for him and they would be together.

It was time.

The lights in her dining room dimmed and Hart knew she was cleaning the kitchen.

He headed for his garage, stopping to pick up the handcuffs, chloroform, and dagger from the kitchen counter.

He’d never hurt Penny. She was his. But he had to be safe to avoid another Vanessa-episode. His family would find out and he never wanted to see them again… or the disgust and contempt in their lying eyes.

He backed out his driveway, stopping to wave at the Sondheims who were just arriving home from dinner.

He turned right at the corner on to Corral Cove but instead of continuing on to the Huntington Drive main drag, he took another immediate right onto the access alley which ran behind the houses on Penny’s side of the street.

Hart stopped three houses away from Penny’s and killed his motor. He sat there listening to the ambient sounds of the night.

He knew these people and their routines. Those who weren’t already in bed were watching Dancing with the Stars or reruns of shows from days gone by. Some were online chatting with family or hunting down the latest remedy for rheumatoid arthritis.

Locked inside their expensive homes, they were not concerned with what happened on the other side of their doors.

Hart left his vehicle and walked the short distance to Penny’s back gate. He hadn’t been able to master the combination lock but scaled the fence with little effort. His jump to the ground on the other side startled two feral cats and they roared and hissed. Hiding behind a rose bush, Hart watched Penny pull the kitchen curtain back and look out only for a few seconds before returning to her cleaning.

He rushed to the other end of the house and the bedroom next to Penny’s bedroom. He took down the window frame he’d loosened yesterday and pulled the screen back, slipping inside with ease.

Hart stood in the darkened room and relaxed, taking in the scent of Chloe Narcisse. Not pricey like Caron’s Poivre, but distinctive, and its spicy, rich oriental floral blend was a perfect match for his Penny.

His steps were slow but deliberate as he entered the dark hallway. He’d planned to wait for Penny in her bedroom but his need for her propelled him toward the kitchen.

Hart stood just outside the kitchen doorway, still shrouded in darkness. She was still at the sink, singing along and wiggling her ass to some 80s nonsense as she washed dishes.

Just as he was about to step into the kitchen, the feral cats sounded again, this time at war with each other.

She looked out her window again.

“Damn cats! Who keeps feeding you? If they can feed you, they can catch you and take you to a rescue shelter. Damn!”

His heart sank. Her mood had changed and now she was annoyed. She didn’t go back to dancing and singing, but stood with her back stiff, arms perched on the edge of the sink.

He fingered the dagger in his pocket.

He didn’t want to hurt her. He couldn’t.

Hart slid the blade from his pocket. He would only use it to keep her calm… until she realized it was him and this was their night.

He gripped the blade tighter as sweat beaded on his forehead. He looked at the distance between them and counted seconds.

Her shoulders lowered as she relaxed and slid her hands back into the dishwater.

Hart raced toward her, the blade raised in his right hand, but just as he reached her, Penny whirled around to face him.

He froze. The calm in those beautiful brown eyes showed she wasn’t surprised. She knew he was there.

Hart tried to speak but no words came.

Penny’s eyes went to his chest and he looked down… to see the handle of a butcher’s knife—the rest of the knife buried deep in his chest.

His eyes went back to her face. The calm was gone, replaced by a dark, malevolent glare.

She smirked and twisted the knife as she pushed him away from her.

Hart’s brain exploded with pain as he fell to the floor. His mouth filled with his warm blood.

He watched her stoop down next to him, her eyes filled with the same disgust and contempt as his family. She spoke.

“Did you think I didn’t know, Hart? After all this time? I’ve been watching you watching me for weeks.”

He watched her stand, step over him and walk away. He couldn’t go after her. He couldn’t even turn his head.

As his lungs filled with blood, Hart tried to make sense of what happened, but his mind went sideways again and he smiled.

She knew. All the skimpy outfits and sexy dances had been for him.

Hart Stanhope took his last breath and died a happy man. He’d been right. She was his.

***

Penny Driver checked the window Hart came through… to make sure he hadn’t closed it. She went into her bedroom, grabbing her green silk robe and cell phone.

Back in the hallway, she ripped the sleeve away from the robe, dropping it to the floor. She overturned a slim bookcase and lamp table on the way back to the kitchen. She pushed the breakfast table aside and overturned two chairs. Then Penny left the kitchen, never even looking at Hart’s body.

She stared out her front window at the quiet of the night… as she pulled strands of hair from her ponytail and ripped the strap of her tank top.

She sighed, dreading the next few hours.

The cops would show up, spending more time during their thorough investigation staring at her ass and bare legs than doing any real investigating.

They’d decide on the spot she’d defended herself from an intruder and whisk her away to the ER to be checked out.

A victim’s advocate would stand at her bedside, patting her hand and telling her how lucky she was to be alive. They’d go on to explain how difficult it was for the average person to take a life, but they would be with her all the way to help her get through it.

Penny smirked while powering up her cell.

It was a long time ago, but she hadn’t found the first kill difficult at all.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Can’t Hide Love” by Earth Wind & Fire

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “hide/hiding/hidden.” 

 ~~~~~
I FINALLY get to use a song by the Kings of old school music from the 70s and 80s – Earth Wind & Fire!
Written by Skip Scarborough as You Can’t Hide Love, it was the debut single of Creative Source in 1973. Earth, Wind & Fire included it on their live album Gratitude in1975. Can’t Hide Love was released as a single in 1976 and reached #11 on the US Soul and #39 on US Pop Singles charts. Their version was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).
Fun Fact: The nominees for the 1977 Best Arrangement for Voices were:
  • Starland Vocal BandAfternoon Delight Lyrics
  • QuireAin’t Misbehavin’
  • Queen Bohemian Rhapsody Lyrics
  • Earth Wind & FireCan’t Hide Love Lyrics
  • Singers Unlimited I Get Along Without You Very Well

Even though Earth Wind & Fire and Queen would reign at or near the top of music charts around the world and both groups had released ground-breaking hits by 1977, it was the Starland Vocal Band who walked off with the award for Afternoon Delight. 😀

I was surprised… and bummed to find there is no decent video of Can’t Hide Love available so I went with the Vevo original recording.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

~~~~~

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Can’t Hide Love

by Earth Wind & Fire

#52weeks52stories “Begin Again”

Begin Again banner

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#52weeks52stories: Week 40

Word prompt: memories

Word count – 2328

Reading time – 7 mins

~~~

I can do this.

“Sherry? Over here.”

Her belly roiled as the butterflies in her stomach staged an epic mutiny. She ran her thumb over the empty spot on her left ring finger.

Moving toward her coworkers seated by the stage, Sherry Davenport plastered a friendly smile on her face, wishing she was any other right now than Dave & Buster’s.

Millie Kemp, a thoracic surgical nurse with twelve years’ experience, squealed like a teenager.

“Sherry! I’m so happy you joined us tonight!”

“C’mon, girlfriend. We saved you a seat.” Jaynie Pomeroy, new to their department, motioned to the seat next to her.

“Hey, everyone. Thanks for inviting me.”

Sherry took the seat, sinking into the overstuffed lounge chair and spreading her silk scarf across her lap.

“Oh, sweetie, you just stop that right now.”

Sherry turned to the kind smiling face of Sue Grant. At sixty-two, she was the most senior employee in the department and the best surgical nurse Sherry had ever seen.

“You’ve always had a standing invitation to our Saturday night meet-ups, and not just because you’re our boss. You’re one of us, Sherry. We care and we want you to never forget that.”

Sherry smiled, unable to respond because of the growing lump in her throat.

Prep nurse, Lucy Gomez, agreed. “This last year has been a rough one for you and we get that. But you don’t have to isolate yourself, Sherry. We’ve all lost loved ones and understand. It’s damn hard.”

Sherry found her voice. “Thank you. Thank you, all. I haven’t been approachable for quite some time, but I appreciate everyone’s patience and am touched by your concern.”

A single tear slid down her face as she rubbed the empty spot on her left ring finger.

“Dammit, Sherry,” group cynic Melody Simons barked. “I may be ornery as hell but no one gets to cry in my presence without me joining in.”

Eyes welled up as heads bobbed in agreement.

Bolting upright to the edge of her seat, Sherry threw her hands up.

“Nope, we’re not doing this. You all were gracious to invite me out for some fun and good times and I’m ready for that. Who’s up for a game of pool, and why don’t I have a drink in my hand?”

The women laughed and cheered, lightening the mood.

Melody grabbed Sherry’s arm, dragging her toward the billiard room.

Though she was smiling, Sherry was trying to quell the battle of anxiety and nausea burning in the pit of her stomach. She clenched her fist to avoid rubbing her left ring finger again.

They came to an abrupt stop near the bar. Melody yelled out a drink order that minutes later was passed to her through the crowd.

“Wow, who do you know?”

Melody grinned. “I used to date the bartender’s uncle. We didn’t last but turns out his family likes me more than him. His brother is my dentist and his mom still bakes me chocolate chip cookies.”

Sherry laughed, realizing for the first time the ornery persona was a mask Melody wore.

She’d had no time to get acquainted with the surgical scrub teams after she took over the department before Warren got sick. However, it didn’t take long to learn every team member was skilled and dedicated. Bad management, personality conflicts, and favoritism had driven department moral to a new low. Jealousy and infighting had taken their toll and six employees had taken positions with other hospitals and surgery centers before Sherry took over.

She’d worked to exhaustion interviewing the staff and meeting with administration to find the point of compromise and stop the exits of valuable team members.

Sherry had even taken her laptop with her when she sat with Warren during his chemotherapy treatments. The work distracted her for a while and kept her tears at bay. She could forget the powerful cancer drug was only palliative and stalling the inevitable. Pancreatic cancer would take Warren from her sooner than later.

Startled from her thoughts, heat rose up the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Is your drink okay?”

Embarrassed, Sherry took a long sip through the decorative straw and smiled. “Honey Jack. How did you know?”

Melody smirked and shrugged a shoulder. “I overheard you and Sue talking about favorite drinks one day. Figured the info would come in handy one day.”

It was Melody’s turn to smirk. “I’m keeping my eye on you, Simons… and watching what I say around you.”

They both giggled like school girls and Melody tilted her head toward the billiard room. “Ready to play?”

“Ready to lose?”

Melody choked. “Aw, now I gotta serve you some humble pie.”

They laughed as they made their way through the crowd, selling wolf tickets the entire way.

*   *   *

“Woman, where in the hell did you learn to play pool like that? Pros couldn’t have made some of those shots. It was your dad, wasn’t it? He must have been aces.”

The crowd had thinned and they found seats at the bar.

“Believe it or not, it was my mom who taught me, not my dad.”

“What?”

Sherry guffawed at the woman’s slack-jawed expression.

“Yep… momma.”

Melody frowned, her dark eyebrows forming a deep V.

Sherry continued. “Grandpa Ernie, mom’s dad, was a champion pool player. Even held a national title twice. He started teaching me before I could reach the table. Used to stand me on phone books or in a chair. He passed away when I was seven and momma continued teaching me and my older sister, Angela.”

“How did your dad feel about that?”

“Oh, it irked him that he never beat momma in a game during their entire fifty-two-year marriage, but the bragging rights field was still level. He’s the one who taught me to cook.”

Melody shook her head. “Guess the battle of the sexes didn’t exist in your home.”

“Don’t you believe that. A simple meal of Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes could turn into a cooking challenge with a simple glare between the two of them. Dad would remind momma the best chefs in the world were men, and she was quick to remind him the best chefs were chosen by men so it was a no-brainer. Some nights I thought I would starve while they perfected sauces and plating.”

Sherry laughed aloud at the memory.

Melody turned away.

“Hey, you okay? Did I say something wrong? Melody?”

She turned back to Sherry, her eyes downcast. “No, I’m fine. Ready for another drink?”

“Forget the drink, Simons and tell me what just happened. What upset you?”

Her head dropped, her chin almost touching her chest.

“Just forget it please, Sherry? I don’t want to make you angry or have you hate me.”

“Hate you? C’mon, Simons. Have a little faith in me.”

Melody raised her head and Sherry’s heart broke seeing the dark brown eyes filling with tears.

“I remember your first day on the job. When you introduced yourself to the staff, you talked about your husband and how the two of you did everything together so we shouldn’t be surprised if he popped into the department often. So, when you lost him I know it was devastating for you. But, I don’t know that feeling of loss since I don’t let any man stay around long enough to develop true feelings for them.”

Melody blew out a harsh breath and continued.

“You smile and love is written all over your face when you talked about the things your parents taught you… and those family moments.”

Her eyes could contain the tears no longer and they spilled down her cheeks.

“You lost the people you loved the most. The ones who helped make you the person sitting next to me. I’m not trying to be mean or discount any of that, Sherry, but to someone like me, you caught the brass ring.”

Sherry frowned, not understanding.

Melody held her hands out in front of her, trying to explain herself. “At least you had them, Sherry. You were loved and cherished by good people who you loved and cherished just as much. That’s why losing them hurts so much.”

“But, when you’re a biracial teenager with a chip on your shoulder, you don’t have many good memories, only nightmares… of a father who beat your mom until he got bored and walked away for good; of a mom so broken by him leaving, she drank herself to death, and by a foster care system that can’t decide if you’re black or white, so they shuttle you from one disgusting foster home to another.”

She wiped her face with her sleeve.

“The luckiest day of my life was when an older couple showed up at the residential center where I lived to donate new toys for Christmas. They saw me sitting outside on the swing… in the dead of winter. They talked me into going back inside and they followed me around, asking me questions. It hit me, at last, these good people cared, and we sat down and talked. The director hid in corners as discrete as a KGB agent.  When the Simons asked him about the process to become a foster care home and how adoptions from the system worked, I thought he’d swallow his tongue. By Christmas the following year, I was the legally adopted daughter of Ed and Wilma Simons.”

Sherry’s face was wet too. “But that’s a great memory, right?”

“It could have been. The Simons were good people who were good to me, but they had four grown children who were suspicious of the quiet girl with the tawny skin and kinky hair. Instead of siblings, they felt like cops, always watching me, waiting for me to screw up. Even after my adoption was official, I still felt like if I didn’t something they didn’t approve of, they would convince their parents to send me back.”

“I’m so sorry, Melody. That had to be awful for you.”

“I got through it. At least there was no arguing, fighting, or drinking. I went off to college a couple of years later and developed my own routine for living alone, taking care of myself. Mom died six months after I graduated… dad, a year after that. My adopted siblings washed their hands of me and I was on my own for real… and alone.”

“Where you have painful losses, Sherry, you have wonderful memories to bring you some comfort. I have an empty void and only rejection and fear to fill it.”

Sherry smiled, and Melody’s face scrunched up in confusion.

This was her A-ha moment Angela assured her would come.

Having lost her own husband in an industrial accident nine years earlier, her big sister had tried to be encouraging after Warren’s service.

“I can’t tell you when or where, kiddo, but the day will come when breathing doesn’t hurt anymore. Losing mom and dad rocked us, but losing a spouse is different because you feel like a part of you died too… like your soul’s been ripped in half.

But one day you’ll be able to hold your head up without feeling exhausted. You’ll be able to take a step without fear of falling, and you’ll smile without the guilt of betrayal. The best part is it will be the love you shared with Warren that holds you up and moves you forward.”

As teenagers, Sherry would rather cut out her tongue than admit Angela was right about anything. However, the truth and wisdom of her words made Sherry’s smile grow.

I can do this.

She considered her friend who still sat wracked with confusion.

“It couldn’t have been easy to admit those things, Melody. Thank you for sharing them with me.”

“Wait. You’re thanking me for dumping my drama on you? No more drinks for you.”

Sherry laughed. “Yes, ma’am, I’m thanking you. You’ve made me remember all the good things in my life. I had amazing parents, and I loved Warren with everything I am. We did do everything together and I couldn’t have a conversation without mentioning his name. But after he died, I stopped talking about him… and anything else.”

“You nailed it. I am this person because of the people who loved me and that love and the memories it created aren’t diminished or erased because they’re gone.”

She hopped off the bar stool. “And in that spirit, we shall make new memories. And maybe we’ll start with a man worthy of you.” She twirled around and disappeared into the crowd, but she could hear Melody begging her to stop and come back.

Sherry laughed all the across the bar. Stopping in the hallway outside the Ladies’ room, she glanced back over her shoulder and caught glimpses of a nervous Melody Simons through the crowd, looking around as though something bad was about to happen.

She felt bad at causing her friend stress and would apologize the second she got back to her seat. Sherry had no intention of pressing Melody into anything. She wasn’t ready and Sherry still didn’t know her well enough to know if she would ever be ready for that level of trust and commitment.

Sherry Davenport glanced down at the pale spot on her finger where her wedding ring sat for twenty-three years.

It took as much trust and commitment to take it off as it had to put it on, and both times, she found strength in her love for Warren.

She had no idea what her future held but she’d move into it, even if only by baby steps. She and Melody were both shaped by their pasts and they both had the same problem. Life was happening all around them but they were static, not moving in any direction, and that was no way to live.

Sherry pressed her lips against her barren finger. She couldn’t pick up where she left off, but she could begin again.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Song Lyric Sunday | “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “find/found.” 

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I took a long walk on a very short limb to use this song!
I’ve never been a huge Diana Ross fan but this song remains one of my oldies favorites.
Much like Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, Ross’ Touch Me in the Morning is about a couple’s last night together.  In verse two, she sings, leave me as you found me, empty like before.”
Touch Me in the Morning was somewhat of a comeback for Ross in the music industry as it was released when she was receiving excellent reviews for her film debut Lady Sings the Blues.

This was written by ballad lyricist Ron Miller and songwriter/producer Michael Masser. It was Diana Ross’ first hit produced by Masser; he continued to produce more songs for her over the years, including Last Time I Saw Him, Theme From Mahogany,  I Thought It Took a Little Time and It’s My Turn.

Ross felt that this song was too difficult for her and recorded several takes on it. In a documentary about her, Masser said that she tried very hard to “get the vocals right for this particular song” and that it was a “draining experience.” Luckily, it became her longest-charting Pop record and also became her first #1 Adult Contemporary hit.
But it’s obvious the song wasn’t an easy one for her to sing. All of the performance videos I found were tinny and whiny… and pretty sure engineering wasn’t to blame, so I chose the original recording played over stills.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Touch Me in the Morning

by Diana Ross