#My52 “Night Light, Part III”

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#My52: Week 11

Word prompt: house

Word count – 719

Reading time – 2 mins,  11 secs

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Part III

Kent whistled. “You said that? To Aunt Pearl? What did she say?”

“Well, she wasn’t happy with me, but she said she hoped to hear from me soon and hung up.”

Jack pointed his finger across the table. “You are so out of the will now, no question.”

Jo ducked her head. “Yes, sucks to be me right about now.”

“Why didn’t we know she and dad were so close?”

“They weren’t that close.”

“But, you just said-”

Jo held up her hand.

“Aunt Pearl’s boys were like their father—loud, brash bullies… they still are. Your dad said he was grateful he didn’t share the same last name because they were always in trouble all the way through school. Aunt Pearl did what she could to keep them in line, but Uncle Ed let them get away with everything, then used his influence to protect them from being held accountable.”

“When he died, they went buck wild and ignored Aunt Pearl. Your Grandma Nettie felt sorry for her and sent your dad to run errands for her and take care of chores around the house. Pearl latched on to him for dear life. Tommy and Dale saw how she doted on your father and straightened up by their early twenties. Your dad said that was when she figured out the power of her wealth and began to use it to get her way.”

“But no matter how much your dad meant to her, I couldn’t allow her to barnstorm in here and take over our lives.”

“And as long as I’m being honest, it felt good to stand up to her. I’ve spent too much time being angry at your dad for leaving me and myself for being a wimp about it.”

“But dad didn’t leave you, mom. Not in the walk-away kind of leaving.”

“I know, baby. My mind gets that, but my heart doesn’t.”

She reached out, touching their hands. “Last revelation of honesty… I feel like a fraud for telling your aunt I’m here to help you when I haven’t been.”

Both boys opened their mouths to protest again, but a stern look from Jo stopped them.

“Look, this isn’t about absolution, deflecting blame, or even forgiveness. It’s about accountability and responsibility—two things I’ve skated on.

We lost an important part of our family, but we’re still a family. I’m your mother and Wesley Cameron Tanner would haunt me to the end of my days if I acted like anything less.”

Kent smiled at the mental pic of a ghostly Wes Tanner in a Crowded House band t-shirt and camouflage lounge pants, his favorite around-the-house attire.

“I’m a blessed woman to have shared my life with your dad, but I’m just as blessed to have you two as my sons.”

“So, going forward, new rules! One, it is okay to be sad and it is okay to cry… but it is not okay to hide it. No more hiding in my room for me, no more skulking in corners for you. Two, it is okay to talk about your father… share things, good and bad. He wasn’t a saint, and neither are we. Jack, I know you were ready to run away from home when he took your bike away for a week last year.”

Jack’s cheek’s flushed a deep crimson as he hid his face. “Oh man, the grass wasn’t even that high. I didn’t think waiting another day or two would hurt.”

“Yeah, but dad thought otherwise.”

Jack jabbed his elbow into Kent’s side, but he continued to laugh anyway.

“And rule number three,” Jo said in a raised voice to get their attention. “it is perfectly okay to ignore rules one and two.”

The Tanner brothers exchanged confused glances.

“Your mom’s not loopy or trying to be facetious. It just goes back to what I said earlier. No one can tell you how to mourn. What’s important is that you do… in your own way, and I’ll always be here for you.”

Kent stared at the genuine love and affection on his mother’s face and anxiety he’d been holding onto for too long seeped from his body.

Jo rose from the table. “Now you two go wash up for dinner and I’m going to share a happy memory of your dad.”

 

To be continued…

Part 1    |  Part II   |

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “Night Light, Part II”

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#My52: Week 10

Word prompt: copper

Word count – 1384

Reading time – 5 mins,  07 secs

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Part II

Jo Tanner kept a neat home, but the drain on emotions and sanity over the last two months dealt a harsh blow to the tidy organization of the Tanner home.

When the brothers left for school early that morning, the corner breakfast nook was covered in mail, newspapers, and piles of half-folded laundry… as it had been for weeks.

Now the table and benches were clear and clean, no longer a catch-all for a stressed household.

Copper cookware hung neatly above the chef’s island and its sunflower yellow countertop sparkled.

A slamming door caused Kent to look across the kitchen to see his mother enter from the back porch carrying a basket of clean laundry.

“Hey, you’re home. Good.”

Jo sat the laundry basket near the door and went to her youngest son, pulling him into a warm hug.

Kent pulled back, searching her face.

She was different.

Though sadness was still a resident in his mother’s brown eyes, they were not red and swollen from endless tears. Her features didn’t sag in defeat, and she appeared to be calm and in control.

Kent had so many questions but gave in to the lump forming in his throat and returned her hug.

The side-door opened, and mother and son turned to see Jack enter with the same wide-eyed expression Kent had worn.

Jo raised her hand, beckoning for her firstborn to join them.

Without a word, Jack dropped his backpack and raced into the group hug.

With an arm around each of her sons, Jo gave them both a tight squeeze before pulling back and looking up into their faces.

“I’m sure I have more tears to shed, but not now.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “Your dad and I had so many plans for the future—things we wanted to do with you boys and things for the two of us after you guys were on your own.”

“He was bigger than life to me and I’ve loved him since the day we met at a peace rally in front of the public library. I saw us growing old together, spoiling your kids and fussing about dentures.”

Jack and Kent smiled while their hearts broke for the memories their mother would never have.

“I know there’re no guarantees in life, but I never imagined losing the love of my life to a massive heart attack at only forty-two years of age. Dang man had never even had a cold in twenty years, then he just up and dies…”

The brothers tightened their grip on their mother, holding her up.

“It broke me, and I allowed it. I was doing things by rote, ignoring everything that took thought,” she looked at each of them, “ignoring my boys.”

Jack and Kent protested.

“Mom, we understood-”

“It wasn’t like that-”

She shushed them both.

“That’s exactly what it’s like… how it’s been.”

“After the funeral when everyone was outback and your great-aunt Pearl gave you both a dressing down because you weren’t sad and crying enough to meet her definition of grief, I said nothing.”

“Mom, it was the worst day of our lives, give yourself a break.”

“Exactly, baby, it was the worst day of our lives, but I could only think of myself.”

“Mom-”

“No. I didn’t protect my children. I know Aunt Pearl meant well in her own too-nosy-for-her-own-good way, but I should have said something.”

Kent interrupted her.

“But no one else did either, mom.”

“Hmmpf. That’s because she has money, and no one wants to get cut from her will.”

The truth of the comment made them all chuckle.

“But Pearl never knows—or doesn’t care—when to stop. She’s called every few days. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t.”

“What’s she calling for?”

Jo scoffed. “As she put it, ‘it’s her familial duty to make sure we’re okay,’ but it’s always about money with her. Offers to pay for a housekeeper or handyman, hire help for the crop rotation, even send us on a getaway trip for healing.”

Jack threw his head back and yelled, “Vegas!”

Jo laughed too, smacking his arm. “No, Mr. still-a-minor. I thanked her but said no thank you.”

Kent smirked. “I hear the sound of scissors… cutting you out of her will, mom.”

The Tanner family belly laughed together for the first time in months and Jo led her boys over to the breakfast nook. After they were seated, Jo became serious.

“It had been over two weeks since Aunt Pearl’s last call. I’d hoped she’d found someone else to harass.”

Jo shook her head.

“I wasn’t that lucky. She called this morning right after you guys left for school.”

Jack frowned. “Dang, mom. We left at six-fifteen. You said it was rude to call anyone before eight in the morning.”

“That’s for normal people who don’t believe the world revolves around them, honey. Aunt Pearl doesn’t fall into that category.”

“What did she want, mom? You look like she upset you.”

“Oh, yeah… big-time. She started right in the second I answered the phone.”

 

“Morning, Aunt Pearl.”

“Hello, JoAnna. How are the boys?”

“The boys are fine. They’ve already left for school.”

“No, I mean how are the boys, really? It’s only been two months since Wes died. Have they mourned properly?”

“Aunt Pearl, what is the proper way to mourn? Everyone deals with grief in different ways.”

“Oh, don’t get all defensive, dear. Everyone knows those boys were as crazy about Wes as he was them. Their life paradigm is forever changed. And no matter how big they are in size; Jackie and Kent are still children. I’d expect them to shed buckets of tears.”

“Auntie, again, there is no right or wrong way to mourn for anyone… children or adults. My boys were in shock just as I was. And yes, it is life-changing, but the boys had a father they loved and looked up to. I doubt losing him will alter their personalities. Wes’ death was so… so sudden. It still doesn’t feel real, but it is, and we’ll deal with it.”

“I know, dear, I know. That’s why I’ve cleared my calendar all the way to fall.”

“Huh? What? Auntie, what does that mean?”

“I’m coming to stay with you for a few months. While the boys wrap up the school year, I’ll line up a housekeeper for you and get some field help scheduled all the way through harvest. Then when the boys are on summer break, I’ll-”

“No.”

“… get them scheduled for some-”

“I said no.”

“… counseling and maybe even a trip to the Grand-”

“Aunt Pearl, are you listening to me? I said no!”

“There’s no need to raise your voice and get so dramatic, JoAnna. I’m just trying to help my family the best way I know how.”

“I’m sorry for yelling, Auntie, and I appreciate your generosity, but my answer is still no.”

“Why are you being so stubborn about this? Wes was my favorite nephew… closer to me than my own boys. Jackie and Kent are all I have left of him.” Her voice faltered. “It-it hurts to look at Kent sometimes. He’s the spitting image of his father. Please, let me help them through this.”

“Aunt Pearl listen to me. I know you miss Wes too, but you can’t work through your grief by forcing yourself on the boys-”

“JoAnna! I’m not forcing-”

“Let me finish. You can’t channel your grief through them. You cannot make them feel what you are feeling. They have to work through this on their own in their own way and if they need help, it comes from me.”

“JoAnna-”

“The boys have band camp and sports camp this summer. But I promise to sit down with them and go over their schedules. If they want to visit you together or separately, I will make that happen. But, it will be their decision to make.”

 

Jack and Kent stared at their mother with their mouths hanging open.

Kent whistled. “You said that? To Aunt Pearl? What did she say?”

“Well, she wasn’t happy with me, but she said she hoped to hear from me soon and hung up.”

Jack pointed his finger across the table. “You are so out of the will now, no question.”

 

To be continued…

Part 1    |

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “Night Light, Part I”

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#My52: Week 9

Word prompt: backpack

Word count – 880

Reading time – 2 mins,  12 secs

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Part I

“Karen told me Madeline is mad at you.”

“Hope she gets over it.”

Jack Tanner doubled over with laughter.

“Dude don’t even try it. You got it bad for her,” he chided his younger brother, Kent.

“Correction, I had it bad for her. I didn’t see it at first, but Maddie is just too shallow.”

“C’mon. Yesterday, if she told you to jump into Harper Creek, you would have.”

Fifteen-year-old Kent smirked. “Yesterday, she hadn’t shown her true face. Now I know she’s fake and an opportunist.”

“Ooohh, an opportunist? Really? What happened?”

Shifting his backpack from one shoulder to the other, Kent’s steps slowed.

“She was always cool, fun to talk to. We shared funny stories about our older siblings,” he tilted his head toward Jack, “and she asked da-… about how things were at home.”

Jack raised a brow. “So?”

“Whenever the upperclassmen came around, she changed, especially if Pete Michaels showed up. She tried to act older, call me a kid… crap like that.”

“She crushin’ on Pete?”

“I guess so.”

“That bother you?”

“Yeah, at first. But I got over it. I realized she’s wearing different faces for different people.”

“Okaaaay, what am I missing?”

Kent stopped in his tracks, his eyes focused on his feet.

“K-Man, what happened?”

Sadness and anger flashed across his face as he raised his gaze to Jack. His grip tightened on his backpack.

“I never thought she could be cruel.”

Jack’s jaw tightened. “What happened? Tell me now.”

Kent walked over and leaned against an old wooden fence at the edge of the dirt road.

“It wasn’t a big deal at first. While we were talking about band camp this summer, Pete walks up and teases me about my height, saying I must have grown three inches since school started. He switched gears and said I should drop the trombone and band and try out for the basketball team.”

Jack let out a long, slow whistle. “That’s major, dude. Pete acts like he invented the game, but the team is headed for a bad situation and Coach Turner is getting nervous. Half of his starters are graduating. He still glares at me for choosing to wrestle instead of playing basketball.”

“I know and took it as a compliment coming from Pete.”

“But?”

Squeezing his eyes shut, Kent blew out a harsh breath before responding.

“Maddie pipes in with ‘He can’t play with the big boys yet because he still sleeps with a night light’.”

Jack’s eyes widened. “No effin’ way! She did not say that! She said that? Out loud? How did she know?”

He hung his head. “I told her, right after dad-… when the nightmares started.”

Jack Tanner paced in front of his brother, fuming. “So? So? You told her. Didn’t give her the right to repeat it. What a cow.”

“It’s okay, Jackie.”

“No, K-Man, it isn’t. She took something personal and made a joke out of it so people would laugh at you. What a cow. Just wait until I tell Karen about her little sister.”

“I’m over it, man. I walked away. But Pete followed me.”

“Huh? Why? To continue the joke? Dude, I will kick his ass, I swear it.”

“Jackie, no, it wasn’t like that.”

Kent dropped his backpack to the ground and sat on it.

“When I got to my locker, I turned around, and he was standing there, looking kind of lost. He said he knew it wasn’t the same situation but when his dad left him and his mom he had nightmares for months.”

His brother was incredulous. “Pete said that? Pete Michaels? Tall guy, dark hair with a Dudley Do-Right chin? That Pete?”

Kent grinned. “Yes, Squidward, that Pete.” He ducked his head. “He also said it takes time, but it does get easier.”

Jack shoved his hands into his pockets. “Wow. Guess he’s not such a douche after all. I may have to do something nice like cheer him on at a game or tattoo his name on my bicep.”

“Oh, don’t go all adoring fan-boy on my account.”

Jack extended his arm, pulling Kent up. “What are big brothers for? C’mon, let get home.”

They walked together in silence until they neared the end of their quarter-mile trek from the rural school bus stop.

The Tanner farmhouse came into view as the brothers rounded the bend.

They stopped and stood under the walnut tree at the edge of the soybean field and exchanged anxious looks.

Jack thumped the side of his hip with a tight fist.

Kent bit the inside of his lip.

“I wish things could go back to the way they were.”

“I know, Jackie. Me too. I miss dad.”

“We all do, but especially her.”

“And we can’t make it better.”

Jack gripped his shoulder. “How can we make it better when we hurt too?”

Kent jerked out of his brother’s grip, heading for the farmhouse. “C’mon. We stand here every day wishing things were different, but our life still sucks.” He didn’t stop until he reached the kitchen door next to the driveway.

Throwing the screen door open, Kent stormed inside and stopped, startled by the sight surrounding him.

To be continued…

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 Writing Challenge 2019

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It’s a brand new year… are you ready for a new writing challenge?

In 2017, I participated in the 52-Week Writing Challenge (and was the randomly chosen winner) and in 2018, I did the #52weeks52stories Writing Challenge.

When I asked around about a writing challenge for 2019, none popped up, so I decided to go my own way, and you’re invited to join me!

If you’ve participated in any type of writing challenge, you’re already aware of what a useful writing tool they can be. If you’ve come to an impasse in your current WIP, stepping away for a moment to focus on something else can sort through the cobwebs, flick on the light, or move the forest so you can see the trees.

Parts of a current WIP can also be used in a writing challenge. The difficulty of character profiles, scenes, world building, and even book blurbs can disappear when task are tackled as flash fiction.

As the Queen of Many Wurdz and champion of the run-on sentence, I took part in challenges to focus on short stories.  I needed to focus on telling a complete story in as few words as possible. I’m partial to longer standalone books, but not everyone wants to read a 180K epic psychological family saga.

Okay, I lied. I don’t either.

So, after 70+ short stories, how am I doing? It’s an ongoing process. 🙂

What I enjoy most about writing challenges is the accountability. Someone is watching, keeping me honest, cheering me on during the good weeks, and talking me off the ledge during the bad ones. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but many times it helps to get out of your own head.

What are the rules for #My52? That’s the best part—there aren’t any.

  • Writing in any form counts. Haiku, Poetry, Drabble, Flash, short story… they’re all welcome.
  • Genres are also limitless. Suspense, Mystery, Romance, LGBT, Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA… it’s your choice.
  • The writing week is Monday through Friday with postings on Saturday and Sunday. (Posting earlier in the current week is acceptable too.)
  • Tweet a link to your post with the hashtag #My52 for retweets and likes

OR

  • Grab the banner at the top and link back to this page and I’ll feature your post during the challenge.

Don’t let the word challenge stress you. It’s not a contest and the challenge is only against yourself… to keep you writing-focused.

Life gets crazy and cluttered, so do not beat yourself up if you miss a week. Keep writing!

Word counts can be anywhere from a 17-syllable Haiku to a multi-week short story.

Have fun with it. Write outside your form or genre—I’m not a paranormal writer and I wrote paranormal stories last year and enjoyed doing it.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments or find me on Twitter – @MsFelicia, or Instagram – @fle_d.

Happy 2019… and happy writing!

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