#52weeks52stories “Dream a Little Dream”

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#52weeks52stories: Week 26

Word Prompt: dream

Word count – 2007 words; Reading time – 7 mins

~~~

She was here.

His day went from good to great.

Everything else fell away from his viewpoint as he focused on her every movement.

After clearing the east entrance to the park, she loosened the harness on the huge malamute and looped the leash around her wrist.

Mark Evans had seen his mystery woman at the park enough to know the massive dog who could be mistaken for a small furry horse, was named Midas.

Though his size was intimidating, Mark had never seen the dog misbehave and was sure his mystery woman had no need for the leash.

Mark followed her with his eyes as she and Midas did a slow jog around the park’s perimeter.

She wore no knit cap or jacket today because of the warmer temps of late spring. Her dark brown curls pulled back into a messy ponytail, bounced as she ran.

She was beautiful.

His Dream-girl.

Only she wasn’t a girl.

Mark guessed her age was closer to forty than thirty, and her thick thighs could be proof her park laps with Midas were the most exercise she saw on a regular basis.

But it wasn’t a criticism.

He admired every shapely inch of her.

Mark had never spotted his Dream-girl with anyone else and he wondered if there was someone special in her life. Or a child.

Her unhurried park visits coincided with his own—in late morning—and were more than enough time for her to give her beloved pet some exercise while a spouse was at work or children in school.

Yet, somehow Mark didn’t think so. While the love and attention Dream-girl lavished on Midas was genuine and showed no signs of ennui in her life, Mark picked up on signs of loneliness. The restless way she rested her hands on her ample hips while waiting for Midas to retrieve his toy. Or the extended hugs she bestowed on him for behaving.

Or perhaps Mark was amplifying his own feelings onto her.

After the third lap, Dream-girl and Midas went to their favorite spot on the grassy knoll.

Dream-girl slipped a bright green tennis ball from her pocket and lobbed it across the park. It didn’t matter how far she threw it, Midas always returned it, moving with a speed that belied his large frame. After dropping the ball at her feet, Midas would sit and wait for his reward, mysteriously pulled from a different pocket.

Mark wanted to know her name, what she did for a living, and what she did when she left the park. He needed to know everything about her.

He also wanted to know if she’d ever noticed him.

His park visits began several months ago as the brisk breezes of autumn gave way to the freezing cold of winter.

Mark didn’t mind the cold. It cleared his head and allowed him time to think.

It also made him feel alive.

Like a man.

His future was at first dark and bleak. And while he still had no guarantees, Mark had hope, something that had been missing from his life for too long.

Dream-girl and Midas wrestled when the dog realized she had put the ball behind her back.

Mark could watch her for hours. She got so much joy from playing with her dog.

Not like Bonnie.

Shep would be lucky if she remembered to let him out into the backyard.

But when Bonnie left him, she’d insisted on taking Shep since she picked him out at the rescue shelter. Mark found out from a mutual friend Bonnie sold Shep to a dog breeder less than a week later.

Just something else to add to the list of things he’d lost.

Laughter drew his attention back to Dream-girl. Her laughter was deep. Throaty. Sexy. She could tell him everything would be okay and he’d believe her, soothed by her sultry tones. Minute tinglings of desire buzzed through Mark and he smiled.

Midas scampered to retrieve the ball again and kicked it with his paw, causing it to roll in Mark’s direction.

After a few hesitant steps, the dog stopped and sat. He could not approach strangers.

Dream-girl gave him a quick pat on the head as she jogged past him to grab the ball.

“Good boy, Midas!”

After grabbing the ball, she stood and gave Mark a warm smile that lit up her face.

“Hello.”

He returned her smile.

“Hello. You have a beautiful dog.”

Her smile broke into a wide grin.

“Thank you. I think so too, but I may be partial. I’ve had the big moose since I could lift him with one hand.”

They shared a laugh as she backed away. “Treats will only hold him so long. I’ve got to get Midas home for his lunch… before he eats a park bench.”

Dream-girl turned back to Midas and Mark was elated and sad at the same time.

She spoke to him! She took the time to speak to HIM!

And now she was walking away.

He took a deep breath trying to steady himself when she turned to him again.

“Where are my manners? I’m sorry. I’m June. I’ve noticed you here before.”

Mark couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “I’m Mark. Nice to meet you, June.”

“You too. Well, I’ll see you around. Enjoy the rest of your day.”

She threw the tennis ball toward the east entrance and Midas ran, grabbed it and met her before she’d covered half the distance.

Mark watched dog and owner leave the park, still mesmerized by the encounter.

He’d been right about her age. The soft wisps of gray hair forming at her temples and the adorable laugh lines in the corners of her eyes proved she was close to his own age. Her caramel-colored skin was flawless and his fingers itched to touch her face.

And that voice. So deep, rich, and smooth Mark was sure someone had dipped him in hot chocolate.

He wished he’d had more time to talk with her.

“Okay, Mr. Evans. I think you’ve had enough sun today.”

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Miriam, his day nurse, slipped her book into her bag as she walked over to his wheelchair. She returned his seat to its full upright position before releasing the chair breaks and heading for the west entrance.

“Such a beautiful today, isn’t it, Mr. Evans? Not too breezy, not too hot. A perfect day to get some fresh air… and make new friends.”

Mark was glad she was behind him and couldn’t see his face. The wily grandmother was invading his thoughts.

“I couldn’t agree more, Miriam. And why do you insist on calling me Mr. Evans?”

“Because it annoys you and I can’t have you getting too complacent, now can I?”

They both chuckled as Miriam pushed him across the street and continued on to his three-bedroom home a half block away.

June. As warm and inviting as the month she shared a name with.

Her dark brown eyes sparkled like the stars on a clear June night when she looked at Mark.

At his face.

In his eyes.

Not at the chair which served as his prison for most of his waking hours.

Not at the legs held together at the knees by a strap and hidden by jeans now two sizes too big.

June may not have seen Mark Evans, the man, but she saw him as a whole person… and there was no pity in her eyes.

Mark was lost in thought as Miriam pushed him up the driveway and stopped to open the garage door.

He wished June could see him as he was before the accident. Mark would never be mistaken for a male model but he had worn the lost forty-five pounds well.

The accident had also cost him in other ways.

For a short time, he’d lost his memory, but even as it returned, his independence and personal freedom did not.

Paralysis had also cost him his marriage though Mark lost no sleep on that loss. He knew his marriage to Bonnie was a mistake, still, he tried to make it work. But her multiple affairs with younger men and her endless excuses for not starting a family killed any interest Mark had left and just a few short weeks before the accident, he’d decided to end the year a single man.

Though devastating and life-changing, the job-related accident gifted him with the fastest… and cheapest divorce possible.

Saying she didn’t sign on to be a nursemaid and that she wasn’t emotionally strong enough to handle Mark’s injury, Bonnie packed, filed for divorce, and fled even before Mark had a full prognosis.

Had she not been so quick to leave, Bonnie would have found out Mark’s years of paying long-term disability insurance premiums resulted in very lucrative benefits for him. And accepting full responsibility for the faulty crane which dropped the steel beam on Mark, Sunburst Construction avoided a lawsuit… and bad press by paying him his full claim. All eight figures.

Now Bonnie was shacked up across town with some muscle-bound idiot eleven years her junior who supported her with a part-time job as a bartender and selling illegal steroids.

Good riddance.

Mark Evans didn’t care about the money though. Except for paying for his round-the-clock care, his bank account went untouched.

What he was glad Bonnie didn’t know was he wasn’t a true paraplegic.

Initial tests first showed the tissue around his spine much too inflamed for clear test readings.

Mark had no feeling or movement below the waist and only minimal movement of his arms. Doctors were convinced MRIs and CT scans would soon show a severed spine.

It never happened.

It baffled doctors how an eight-hundred-pound beam could fall on a man and he not only survive it but also have no broken bones.

Mark Evans was living proof it could happen.

He was also proof swelling in spinal tissue could subside but it didn’t mean sensation in his legs and the ability to walk would follow.

His doctors were cautious in their encouragement but assured Mark the day might come when he could walk again.

Mark’s frustration with his situation soon became depression, and it was Miriam who insisted on taking him out for daily walks, forcing him to concentrate on something other than himself.

And that’s when he saw her… his Dream-girl.

Temperatures were dropping below freezing, but Miriam still insisted on his daily outing. She didn’t stop to read her book on those frigid days but she would push Mark around the paved concourse twice.

The park would be abandoned except for Dream-girl and her dog.

He marveled at her steadfastness and dedication to her pet. He decided any woman so loyal and committed to a pet would also stand by her man.

She occupied his thoughts as he created scenarios on what her life was like.

She occupied his dreams as he dreamed about what life would be like with her.

Miriam said something about lunch and Mark agreed, not sure what he was agreeing to. She pushed him up the ramp to the back patio doors and set the breaks while she opened the doors.

Now his Dream-girl had a name.

June.

And she knew his name.

Mark would give anything to run and play in the park with June and Midas.

It could happen.

It was just four days ago Mark spilled his morning coffee in his lap… and he felt it. Not just the sensation of the weight of the heavy, damp fabric, but also the warmth of the coffee. This morning he’d wiggled the toes on one foot. He’d tell Miriam before Chuck arrived and she left for the day. Mark knew she’d give him hell for not telling her sooner, but she would also be thrilled for him.

It was happening. He would walk again one day. He knew it.

Mark also knew his infatuation with June may never get past greetings in the park and comments about Midas.

But he had hope.

And he had his dreams.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

“He was supposed to love us not treat us like we were nothing.”

Free, a Novella 3D cover

Synopsis

Lenore “Lennie” Porter’s life had not gone as she planned.

The marriage she put her heart and soul into failed.

The man she sacrificed so much for abandoned her.

But Lennie refused to be broken. She pushed on, running a successful business and raising her three sons alone.

Through health scares and severe family dysfunction and trauma which forever changed their lives, the Porter family clung to each other to keep from sinking into the darkness.

With her marriage over long ago and her adult sons living their own lives, Lenore Porter decides to sell the cold fortress she worked so hard to make a warm, loving home.

A short, final inspection of her former home turns into a confrontation with ghosts from the past, and decisions and events Lennie felt she’d dealt with and moved on from.

Free, a Novella is a short, clean read recounting one woman’s determination to not be broken by life or lose her identity.

~~~

99¢

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Now Available at All Major Online Bookstores!

Free, a Novella 3D cover

Synopsis

Lenore “Lennie” Porter’s life had not gone as she planned.

The marriage she put her heart and soul into failed.

The man she sacrificed so much for abandoned her.

But Lennie refused to be broken. She pushed on, running a successful business and raising her three sons alone.

Through health scares and severe family dysfunction and trauma which forever changed their lives, the Porter family clung to each other to keep from sinking into the darkness.

With her marriage over long ago and her adult sons living their own lives, Lenore Porter decides to sell the cold fortress she worked so hard to make a warm, loving home.

A short, final inspection of her former home turns into a confrontation with ghosts from the past, and decisions and events Lennie felt she’d dealt with and moved on from.

Free, a Novella is a short, clean read recounting one woman’s determination to not be broken by life or lose her identity.

~~~

Excerpt

Anyone who knew Burt and Linda Kelimore knew they were devoted to each other.  More than half a century had passed since the day they each ran into a mechanic’s shop in need of quick repairs. Though they were both on their way to meet other people, a thirty-minute conversation changed their plans for the evening and the rest of their lives.

With their time together dwindling away, the couple did what they had always done… shared each other’s company.

Linda set Burt’s plate aside, and Lennie gathered up the dishes and excused herself.

While putting the food away and loading the dishwasher, Lennie was surprised to see her mother enter the kitchen.

“Everything okay, mo-”

“Yes, yes, sweetie. Leave all this. I’ll get to it later. You can head on home now.”

“Mom, no way do I leave a mess for you to clean up.”

Lennie reached for another dish but Linda caught her hand and held on.

“It’s okay, Lenore. You can go now.”

“But…dad…-”

Linda pulled her daughter into a tight embrace, speaking into her ear barely above a whisper.

“I know. His hospice nurse was here earlier and is returning soon. I talked to your sisters before you got here… and they each spoke to your father.” She pulled back, a pleading look in her eyes.

“I’ve never asked you for anything, honey and I know this is no small thing I’m asking of you now. But… I need this time with him alone. Right now, I’m no one’s mother or grandmother. Lennie, right now, I’m just a wife who has to say goodbye to her husband. Please don’t be angry with me or hate me, but I need to do it alone.”

Hugging her mother close, Lenore allowed the weight of her words to sink in. She did not want to leave. Her father was dying, how could she walk away?

Seeing the pain in Linda’s eyes, Lenore knew she would deny her nothing.

With a simple nod, Lennie returned to the den to say goodbye to her father… just as she did every night.

After a quick kiss on the cheek and a squeeze of his hand, Lennie told Burt she’d see him tomorrow, and turned to leave before she broke down. But her father held on to her hand with a strength Lennie didn’t think he still possessed. Lennie looked from their joined hands to her father’s face when he spoke.

“Very proud… of you, Lenore. Always… have… been. You help everyone… always.”

The weakness of his voice and the shortness of his breath caused Lennie to cringe. She wanted her father to stop talking, to save his strength. But, her own voice was lost to her, blocked by a lump in her throat which refused to move.

“I love you… baby girl.” He kissed her hand and slumped back in his chair, his energy depleted.

“I love you too, daddy.”

Lennie squeezed his hand one last time and rested it across his lap. With one simple nod to her mother, Lennie left the room, her calm belying the anguish ripping her apart inside. She wanted to scream, cry… stop the clock… make him stay.

With her bags in hand, Lenore Porter stood at the front door. Dizziness and nausea rejoined the inner turmoil threatening to break her. She had to leave… knowing she would never see her father alive again.

Instead of reaching for the door knob, Lennie took several steps backward until she could see inside the den.

Linda Kelimore had reclined her husband’s chair and climbed in next to him, cuddled into his side with her hand resting on his chest.

This is what her parents wanted… what they had planned. To spend their remaining time together… together as the couple they had been for fifty years.

With more determination than she felt, Lennie left the house, closing the door quietly behind her.

~~~

99¢

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Fiction with a Touch of Truth and a Lot of Love


Free, a Novella full cover


When I began writing Free, a Novella in early spring of 2016, it was supposed to be a 3-4 installment short story with Lenore Porter remembering the breakdown of her marriage as she finalizes the sale of her home.

Honestly, it was writing practice.

I was working on my debut novel, In the Best Interest of the Child and kept stalling out and hitting walls. So, Free was supposed to be a little pseudo-flash fiction to keep me writing.

I posted the second installment and had already began the ending of Lenore’s story, when on April 8, 2016, my mister went into renal failure. His kidneys could not be saved and everything changed from that day forward… the addition of hemodialysis, his employment status, his diet, his daily medication regimen… and my stress level.

As I sat in hospital rooms, dialysis units, and doctor’s offices over the next few weeks, Lenore Porter’s story changed too. Best Interest was still my focus, but Lenore would not be ignored.

I continued to post installments of varying lengths on my author page, but the once-a-week postings died a quick death. I moved the release date of Best Interest twice and attempted to push Lenore’s story to the back burner.

The mister’s fistula implant was a problem from the beginning, making dialysis difficult. By the time we’d made all the rounds for MRIs, ultrasounds and vascular procedures and found some semblance of normalcy, it was Halloween. Best Interest was published and I was exhausted. And… Lennie Porter was standing in the corner giving me the duckface.

I didn’t have much of a current word count for Free, but what I did have was sixty-one pages of notes!

As I organized and typed up the notes, the story continued to change.

It was clear by the time I had a working MS, oldest son Duncan Porter would need counseling to get past his issues with his absent father to avoid lasting emotional trauma.

As a character-driven writer, I generally sketch out characters before adding them to any story.

That wasn’t necessary this time.

While Free, a Novella is a work of fiction, the characters of psychologist James Richie and his wife/receptionist, Alice, are not fictional characters.

James ‘Pas’ Richie was my mentor, father-confessor, co-conspirator in epic pranks, and at one time, my boss. He and Alice were like family and can be seen as often in my family photo albums as my mother.

Pas Mom and Alice

James ‘Pas’ Richie on the left, Alice Richie on the right, and my mom, Helen, in the center. It’s obvious by his expression that Pas was quite a character.

In Free, Pas, is a retired minister with a successful practice in clinical psychology specializing in treating men and boys.

In real life, Pas was a minister for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. However, he didn’t receive the call to the ministry until well after his fiftieth birthday and put aside his career and degree in chemistry to enter the seminary.

It wasn’t long after Pas received his appointment to a Battle Creek church the community considered him “the city’s pastor.” (This was about the same time I gave him the nickname ‘Pas.’)

You didn’t have to attend his church… or any church… for Pas to lend a helping hand. Many who regularly attended other churches would find their way to his office when needing to talk.

And he would listen.

I don’t know if Pas solved any of their problems.

But I do know they left with a smile and a, “Thank you, pastor.”

He’d always respond with a hug and his trademark, “Peace & Blessings!”

Like Lenore Porter’s parents, Burt and Linda Kelimore, Pas and Alice were together over fifty years.

And the banter was epic!

In addition to his pastoral duties, Pas was the executive director of a local community outreach ministry, and Alice was a regular volunteer.

The days when Alice came in were the best days!

Staff would all suddenly find reasons to be near Pas’ office for another episode of what I dubbed “The Pas and Alice Show!”

Their banter was amazing, rocket fast… and hilarious.

Of course, Alice always won, but Pas wasn’t about let her have the last word and would always end with something like, “You’re adorable! I’m taking you to lunch!”

Over the years, through trials and tribulations in both our families, the Richie banter was an anchor for us all—as long as we could still laugh, everything would be okay–and their marriage was the model for couples newly married or married for decades.

After almost ten years, life broke up our small family circle, taking us in different directions, but the Richies and I stayed in regular—my children would say constant—contact.

Plans were put in motion for them to visit Arizona after Pas retired, which he did in January 2015. After a short search, Pas and Alice relocated to a small town in central Georgia which put them close to their three children and grandchildren.

Pas became ill while he and Alice were getting settled with what was first believed to be an upper respiratory infection.

It wasn’t.

The next year would see Pas hospitalized… and in a coma for several months.

But being the incredible man he was, James Richie came out of the coma, moved to a rehab center and learned to walk and talk again. He was discharged and went home to regain his driving privileges. He even went back to swimming three times a week.

Pas and Alice

Even a coma couldn’t keep Pas down for long.

Pas and Alice took a vacation to visit their children, and attended several social events, including one held by my family in Georgia.

I was encouraged. Alice said he still had a long road ahead of him to regain his strength, but they would get to Arizona.

Things in Arizona weren’t going as well.

Dialysis was still difficult for the mister and his blood pressure stayed at stroke levels despite several daily medications.

Alice called one evening and knew by my tone of voice something was wrong. We talked quite a while. I ended the call with a promise to call her in a couple of days after the mister saw a vascular surgeon.

Of course, she told Pas.

He called early the next morning.

Though the mass found at the base of his throat was benign, he still wasn’t strong enough for surgery to remove it. And it caused other problems. His voice was raw raspy and it hurt me to hear him speak. I tried to rush him off the phone. But Pas wasn’t having it.

He called to pray with me and the mister… and he did.

It was the last time I talked to him. Ten days later, he was gone… June 14, 2016.

Loss is a part of life and we all experience it. I’d already lost my father and a brother, but when Alice called me with the news, something inside me broke.

Suffice it to say, I managed to keep it together enough to take care of the mister, but I lost the fight with depression and spiraled for over three months.

This is why the release date for Best Interest was delayed… twice.

This is also why (and how) Pas and Alice became part of Free.

It took another four months to complete Free. Not because it’s long, in-depth or complicated. It was simply very emotional.

And it was cathartic.

I didn’t tell my family I’d added a bit of real life to Free until it was completed, and I still didn’t allow them to read it. I published it on May 30th and immediately began the formatting for print.

I received the proofs a week later. I signed a copy, stuck a note inside and sent it to Alice Richie.

I hadn’t told her what I’d done either. I was a little nervous with it being the first anniversary of Pas’ passing, but pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to concentrate on writing.

I was caught off guard a couple of weeks later when I answered my phone without looking at the caller ID… something I never do.

It was Alice…laughing… and crying, and screaming, “Girl, you nailed us!”

I laughed with her, and did some crying of my own when she said, “Richie would love it. And he would be so proud of you.”

It wasn’t an instant cure-all, but for the first time in a year, thinking of my dear friend didn’t cause me pain. Alice’s words were the best review I’ll ever receive for Free… and that’s enough for me.

Pas and Fle

Memorial Day Weekend 2012 at the Richie home in Cassopolis, Michigan. It was our last time together. I moved to Arizona two weeks later.

So, if by chance you read Free, just remember James and Alice Richie aren’t fictional characters and their dialogue isn’t scripted or contrived. Their words were real, spoken in another time when life was a little easier and less burdensome.

Peace & Blessings.

This was one of Pas’ favorite songs.


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