This story vexes with me. It’s another that has more to say, but I’m on WIP-overload right now and have to go with the HFN (Happy For Now) ending.
#52weeks52stories: Week 30
Word prompt: gray
Word count – 1791
Reading time – 2 min, 10 sec
“I hope you’re remembering how hot Kiefer Sutherland was as a vampire.”
Pulled from her thoughts and The Lost Boys movie poster by her best friend’s voice, Moira whirled around.
“Josephine Octavia Jacobs-Broadnax!”
Josie guffawed, embracing her friend. “Woman, if I wasn’t so happy to see you, I’d have to deck you for going full name on me, Moira Suzanne Jennings-Lambert!”
They both laughed aloud as the years melted.
Moira leaned back, appraising her classmate. “Geeze, Josie, you look amazing.”
The self-professed diva spun in a circle and struck a runway pose. “Of course, I do. And it’s just Jacobs now. Divorce is final and Clarence is free to ruin another woman’s life.”
Moira laughed but heart swelled with love for her oldest and dearest friend.
Unapologetic and brash, Josie Jacobs had always been the pretty, chubby girl. No amount of teasing and taunts could break her spirit.
Josie was a force of nature.
She was also the rock-solid pillar of support Moira needed after Kevin committed suicide.
Moira could do little more than breathe when police showed up at the Jennings’ home with notification of Kevin’s death.
Just a few short hours after arguing with their father and after kissing her goodbye, her brother put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.
Moira’s pain bottomed out when neither of her parents reacted to the news.
All these years later and Moira still believes she saw a short, cursory nod shared between Abraham and Genova Jennings.
The familial bond between daughter and parent snapped that night. Moira became an occupant in the Jennings home. The honor student seldom spoke to them and kept her head down, studying.
She smirked at the irony of her estrangement with her parents being the catalyst for her edging out Don Thompson for the number one spot in their class.
Most teenagers would experiment with drugs, sex, alcohol, or join a band in an act of rebellion. But Moira Jennings’ act of anarchy was to become class valedictorian. What a troublemaker.
“MJ? Where’d you go? You zone out on me again.”
Flushed, Moira looked away. “Sorry, Josie. Guess it’s just a night for memories.”
Always the schemer, Josie grabbed Moira by both arms, glaring. “You know what else it’s a night for? Across the dance floor, in fifteen minutes… the Walk Like an Egyptian dance contest.”
“Aw, Josie, no way am -”
“C’mon, Moira. This is our night. This could be our last hurrah. Think about it. Ten years from now our knees could be shot or we’ve had hip replacements.”
Moira couldn’t hold in her cackles. “Ok, ok, fine. We’ll dance but -”
“Who’s dancing? I hope you know you’re not dancing without me.”
The two women turned and rushed toward the new voice, already screaming.
“Melanie! YAAY! You’re here.
“So good to see you, Mel.”
With an arm around each of her lifelong friends, Melanie Yankama hugged them close.
The Asian-American wife, mother of five, and middle-school science teacher pulled back, her eyes brimming with tears. “Why do we wait so long to get together? I love my life and everything about it, but, damn, I miss my girls.” She turned to Moira. “It still bugs me I couldn’t be with you after Alexander… well, it was just frustrating. Louis’ dad’s Alzheimer’s advanced so fast and then we lost his mom. She was healthy as an Olympic swimmer and one morning, she just didn’t wake up.”
Josie didn’t respond, recognizing her friend’s need to talk.
Moira touched Melanie’s arm. “Don’t, Mel. No one knows better than me… life doesn’t wait for the right time, it will take its due. Your daily calls meant the world to me and helped me get through some bad days.”
Moira blinked, fighting to hold back her own tears.
“So, are we dancing or dissolving into a messy heap of old ladies?”
“Oh, hush!” Melanie chided Josie. “Of course, we’re dancing, but I’m the only old lady in this conversation. You two look amazing. Do you have portraits in your attics? I feel like one of the Golden Girls standing next to you two.”
“Woman, you are stunning and you know it. Your gray hair looks like professional highlights. Mine look like I lost a battle with life.”
The trio shared a laugh at Josie’s expense.
“Now let’s go dance and watch out for the Conway Twins. Word is they’re on the prowl.”
Moira giggled. “Oh, no! Rick and Dick are here?”
“Yup! And they’re still identical. Even their comb-overs match!”
Howling with laughter, the friends made their across the ballroom, greeting classmates, posing for quick photos, and avoiding Rick and Dick Conway.
Moira Lambert was still well aware of the heaviness on her heart but the despair was gone.
As she danced, shared toasts and reconnected with friends, she was reminded of the fun of high school.
For thirty years, her one focal point was the day her brother died and her parents’ lack of concern. Moira spent so much time hating and avoiding them, she blocked out all the happy times in her young life, even the ones shared with Kevin.
The evening passed faster than anyone wanted, and the pre-dawn hours found the hotel’s efficient wait staff replacing centerpieces and empty snack trays with large bowls of fresh fruit and pots of strong hot coffee.
The early breakfast was such a hit at the last reunion, die-hard class members voted for another and now sat around the ballroom minus shoes, jackets, and a few wigs, in small group conversations making plans for family visits and cookouts.
Moira, Josie, and Melanie each claimed a lounger behind the bandstand. Melanie was on her cell giving husband, Louis, a quick rundown of their evening, while Josie was exchanging texts with someone.
Reclined with her eyes closed, Moira wasn’t asleep or even tired.
Montages of her past played in her mind, along with her late husband’s words.
“Baby, we get one life. Don’t spend it focused on your pain or the people who caused it. We have our kids and careers. We have each other. Days like these are the sweetest. Don’t focus on the pain, honey-bunny. God knows we’d never smile if we only remembered the bad times.”
He was right. Alexander Lambert was always right and as long as he was the center of her universe, she knew the truth.
When Moira returned for her sophomore year, she rented a bungalow from a former professor who recently married and moved all her things out of her parents’ home. Again Abraham and Genova were emotion-free and their daughter was glad to be rid of them.
Until the phone calls began.
When Moira moved out, karma moved in. Excessive drinking, extra-marital affairs, and empty bank accounts were just a few of the things one of her parents would call to complain about.
Moira never took sides or gave advice, and after one too many emotional outbursts from her mother calling her an uncaring daughter, she stopped taking their calls.
But Alexander refused to let her turn her back—he knew regret would catch up to her one day.
He held her hand when they invited her then-divorced parents to dinner to announce their engagement.
Alexander’s wink from the altar made Moira grin as she held her father’s arm all the way up the aisle.
When her parents became ill two years apart, Alexander was at her side, helping to move them each in turn to Indianapolis and manage their affairs in life and after their deaths.
Moira never again had a daughter’s love for Abraham and Genova. She could never mine deep enough in her soul to find forgiveness and her parents made it easy by refusing to talk about Kevin. However, her husband made her understand turning her back on them would only make the memories worse for her.
How could one person be right all the time?
Well, not all the time. There was the one time Alexander was wrong.
Home just three days after corrective knee surgery, her husband waved off chest pains as indigestion. When antacids didn’t help, Moira wanted to take him to the ER but Alexander refused, saying he’d had enough of hospitals and would prefer to try resting for a couple of hours first.
Less than an hour later, he woke in distress. His breathing was rapid and shallow and he coughed up blood. Moira’s 911 call brought paramedics to her home in six minutes, but it was too late for Alexander. He’d suffered a pulmonary embolism and never made it to the hospital.
Moira sat up, in awe that the memory which caused so many of her tears for over a year wasn’t breaking her down now. Losing the love of her life still hurt, witnessed by the dull ache in her chest, but at last, she knew she’d go on not in spite of her loss but because of it.
“What are you smiling about, MJ?”
Glancing over at Josie, Moira’s smile grew. “Nothing, just memories.”
Melanie ended her call and sat up. “Louis said if you two leave town without coming by to say hello and give him a hug, he’s going to put an ancient Asian curse on you both which will cause your hips to spread.”
“Too late!” Moira chirped.
“Yeah, your hubs is a little late to the party on that front. How did he come up with that idea? A supernatural message from his ancestors?
“Nah. An old episode of Tales from the Crypt.”
They all dissolved into giggles, then Josie looked at Moira with a wicked glint in her eyes.
“You know, we could grab my things from my room, stop by your hotel and get your bags, then spend a few hours at Mel’s, making Louis sorry he ever met us.”
Melanie leaped to her feet clapping her hands. “I like that idea.”
Moira agreed. “Sounds like fun. I’m in.”
The clatter of dishes made Josie peek around the bandstand.
“They’re bringing out the grills and steam tables. First, breakfast, then Operation Annoy Louis.”
Moira chuckled as Josie dragged Melanie toward the breakfast buffet wondering about her chances of getting a six-egg omelet.
Before joining them, Moira paused, resting her hand over her heart.
Alexander Lambert loved her and saved her from every bad thing in her life. Though he was gone forever, his words were still with her, urging her on. Moira closed her eyes, grateful for the time they had together and the life they’d shared. She said a silent thank you to the memory of the man who worked to see the good in everything and everyone… and brought out the best in her.
Smiling, she went to join her friends, looking forward to the sweetest days still to come.