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04-04-2016 02:27 PM - edited 04-04-2016 02:29 PM
Chapter 12 (Word prompts: sparkle, bicycle, ants, parade, hot dogs, sunburn, summer night, set in motion)
The power was lost almost immediately but Anna seemed to be taking it in stride. It was dark outside due to the storm, even though it was still only late afternoon. Clarissa hadn’t noticed all the candles placed around the house until their light sparkled and reflected from various surfaces around the room.
“Don’t worry”, said Anna as she lit another candle near the kitchen table. “The storm will be short and it’s a warm summer night. We’ll be fine.”
Somehow Clarissa had no doubt that everything would work out now that her hostess was set in motion. She watched as Anna went about the kitchen collecting items and setting them out on the cabinet. There was a bag of charcoal, matches, napkins, plates and lined everything up making Clarissa think of band members in a parade.
When she was satisfied with her collection she took her place on the other side of the table.
“We can have some hot dogs for dinner”, said Anna. It almost seemed she had been expecting to have a guest for dinner. “I’ll start the charcoal as soon as the rain stops. The grill is covered so don’t worry about that.”
Clarissa was surprised to realize that worry was not something she had felt from the moment she had turned off the highway and realized where she was heading. For the first time since she had found herself alone there was a feeling of, not joy but contentment perhaps.
She tried to make a little joke. “Well, at least we won’t have to worry about getting a sunburn.” The comment felt flat even to her own ears. Anna seemed not to have heard as she got up to collect a few more items from the cabinet.
Clarissa was feeling so tired that she wasn’t even certain her comment had been said out loud. She should have known the answer to that question when she realized why she was so exhausted. She yearned to stop the bicycle she was riding but wasn’t certain what might happen if she rested. The sight of a shade tree with a checkered blanket lying underneath was so inviting that she was willing to take the chance. When she got closer she realized that a feast was lying on the blanket, all ready for her.
She wondered what had happened to the hot dogs that Anna had mentioned but she was too hungry to wonder about it, or even look for Anna. Instead she took a piece of fried chicken from a basket and munched on it while she watched the ants investigate a crumb that had been scattered at the edge.
(To be continued)
06-29-2015 01:58 PM
Chapter 11 (Word Prompts: generations, thread, spider web, mud, upturned, thunder, porch swing, overgrown)
Once the tears began to flow it seemed they would never stop. The walls she had built up over the past months were being upturned in just a matter of minutes. At times she was unable to talk and when she was able to find words she knew they were less than coherent, but it didn’t matter. Gradually she felt the spider webs being cleared from her mind as the older woman held her, stroking her hair and murmuring words of reassurance.
Like all tears, they did finally stop and left Clarissa feeling more tired than she remembered being.
“Let’s take a little walk”, said Anna.
Clarissa followed along like a child as they walked through the kitchen and out some sliding glass doors. She thought they were going to the barn but instead they headed toward a gazebo beside what had once been a garden but was now overgrown and mostly weeds. The gazebo had once been painted white but was now mostly gray, but the porch swing seemed sturdy and the cushions looked inviting.
Anna asked no questions nor did she make any comments as to Clarissa’s tirade. Instead she told a bit of history of their surroundings and of the generations who had enjoyed the same view before them. It was good to just listen to stories of strangers and nice to get lost in the lives of those she had never known. Her fingers discovered a loose thread on one of the cushions and she began to wrap it around her finger. Somehow it helped to have something to do with her hands. Perhaps she should take up knitting or crochet.
All track of time was lost as she listened to the comforting words that continued from beside her. The swing moved gently creating a slight breeze and the insects exploring the blossoms in the garden was hypnotic. Anna didn’t seem to expect any response from her visitor, which was a good thing because Clarissa didn’t seem to be able to form words for the moment.
She didn’t hear the thunder at first. Instead she noticed that her companion was suddenly quiet and then began to coax her back into the house. She must have seemed a rebellious child when she resisted, but Anna was in no mood to argue as she grabbed her arm with more strength than it seemed someone of such slight build would possess and led the way back into the house just before the storm hit.
“You will be staying the night. The road turns to mud after a storm.”
Clarissa knew there was no point in resisting. She was entirely too exhausted.
(To be continued)
05-25-2015 03:05 PM
Chapter 10 (Word Prompts: fox, invent, disappearance, camera, ignite, magic, elusive, adaptable)
Clarissa was aware that her world was becoming a series of still shots as though taken by her old camera. She saw herself as a child with her father as they helped the fox found in the trap in the woods. She hadn’t thought of that in years but it was the first time that her gift had been noticed. The animal had been so frightened but when it looked into her eyes she felt it relax all allow the trap to be removed.
The images ran like a slide show, one image magically transforming to the next. A series of animals, some wild and others much loved pets, flowed through her mind, each one imbedding itself on her soul. So many of them had been forgotten as their contact had been short and yet they had made their impact as her desire to help was ignited. She was no longer aware of Anna sitting beside her or the need to answer. She was so absorbed by the story that was happening in her mind that she didn’t even hear the question or see the worried look in the eyes of the woman.
And then as suddenly as it had began it ended. The last picture had been of herself holding them phone after being told of Chad’s disappearance. She was able to see the expression on her face and feel the weakness of her knees as she sank to the chair. She had always prided herself as being adaptable, but she was no longer the person she had been. She had sat in that chair for hours. In some ways she had never left in all these months.
Through the fog of her thoughts came a voice that she hardly recognized. “Clarissa! Do you need some help? Should I call someone? The only person I know is that young man, should I call him?”
“Oh, how I wish you could”, sobbed Clarissa. “He’s gone.”
“Gone? Gone where?”
Clarissa realized this was the first time she had uttered those words. She had invented a thousand stories and situations that would explain where he was, each one having a return date, even though it might be at some elusive point in the future. But now she had said the words. He was gone. That was the truth of it. In an odd way it was freeing and as she realized this the sobbing subsided and she was able to take a sip of the coffee, finding it surprisingly hot, meaning that this entire slideshow and realization had taken only a few minutes, perhaps even seconds.
She told Anna of the angry phone call from Mr. Raines who had been expecting Chad to help with the birthing of his calf. She must have explained that he had left hours before, but had little memory of the remainder of the conversation, only of the feeling of dread that swept over her along with the sound of the wind chimes hanging from the tree outside the window.
(To be continued)
04-27-2015 01:39 PM
Chapter 9 (Word Prompts: cherry, petals, anticipation, dreaming, future, floating, nostalgic, conversation)
Clarissa had the feeling that she must be dreaming as more and more petals floated to the ground while none appeared to be missing from the tree. The voice seemed to be coming from a great distance and she felt it would seem rude not to respond or even make eye contact with the speaker. But it was the cardinal that seemed to be having an unheard conversation with her.
“Well, just listen to me. I swore I wouldn’t be one of those old ladies who would talk endlessly in my own world of nostalgia. Yet here I am.”
Clarissa forced herself to turn her attention in the direction of the hostess and raised her eyes just high enough to see the small hand gesture touch the general area of her heart, landing right on a clump of the embroidered cherries as though it was a target.
There was no need to look into Anna’s eyes. She knew they were focused on her with the anticipation that a response would me made. Clarissa had never so felt the need to flee. She was certain that if she tried to speak the truth, not only would the tears flow, but they would be the sobs she had held back for all the months Chad had been missing. The façade that she had shown was breaking. There was no way to hold it together in front of this woman. She didn’t know what would be left after the walls were down and yet she knew this had to be done if there was to be any sort of a future for her.
(To be continued)
04-07-2015 01:52 PM
Chapter 8 (Word Prompts: cherry, petals, anticipation, dreaming, future, floating, nostalgic, conversation)
The two women stood at the front door staring at each other, both with the feeling of familiarity but noting changes at the same time.
Clarissa wondered if she had changed as much as the woman who stood before her. She no longer resembled a fairy princess but rather the house wife from a 50’s TV show. Her hair was shorter than before and the overalls were gone and replaced by a skirt short enough to show the knees and a bit more. An apron embroidered with cherries tied around her slim waist showing that she had retained her slim body. The only thing that kept her from looking like Donna Reed was the missing pearls around her neck.
Suddenly a smile appeared on her face as she recognized the visitor. “Why you’re the young woman who came to help out that nice young vet when Lancelot was in trouble.”
“Yes”, said Clarissa. “I apologize dropping in on you like this. I don’t even know exactly why I’m here, or how I got here for that matter.”
“Are you lost?” A look of concern replaced the smile.
Clarissa thought about that for a few moments and felt a lump form in her throat and was aware of tears about to flow when Anna interrupted.
“Well come in and let me close the door. The pollen is terrible outside and I like to keep it out there. I enjoy all the blossoms through the glass”. She gently ushered Clarissa over to a sofa that faced the front window.
Clarissa had anticipated a question or an attempt at conversation, but instead she vanished without another word. Watching the azalea blossoms through the window was almost hypnotic. Some honeybees fluttered from one pink blossom to the next, giving each special attention. Just beyond the flowers a dogwood tree was shedding it’s last blossoms and petals floated to the ground with each tiny breeze.
She was suddenly aware of two heavy mugs being placed in front of her along with a tray filled with a coffee pot, bowls that she took to be cream and sugar and a plate filled with frosted cookies. As the coffee was being poured Clarissa noticed that sugar was being added to both cups. Anna must have noticed that she was about to be stopped. “No, today you drink the coffee with sugar. And have some cookies too.”
Clarissa did as she was told and began to feel better. She was looking out the window when she noticed a bit of red had appeared on the dogwood tree. She wondered who the cardinal was there to see. Clarissa wondered if there was something else in the coffee as she felt almost as though she was dreaming, aware that she was being watched by both Anna and the cardinal. She took another sip of the sugary liquid and felt the warmth as it flowed down her throat.
Anna began to talk of the day when Chad had come to help with Lancelot. Clarissa tried to listen to Anna’s flow of nostalgia, but she knew she wasn’t here to talk about the past. She needed help in finding a new future
(To be continued)
04-02-2015 08:42 AM
Chapter 7 (Word Prompts: cherry, petals, anticipation, dreaming, future, floating, nostalgic, conversation)
Clarissa was on the way to the store. She had taken care in her make-up and hair and was surprised when the face in the mirror looked familiar. She anticipated a dead battery but the car had turned right over with the turn of the key. Seeing the coat of yellow on the hood of the car reminded her of how long it had been since she had ventured out.
Although it was only a few short blocks to the store, she decided to turn left instead of right and take a more scenic route. There had been news of the Festival on TV for the past week, which she had avoided. Now she headed toward an area known for all the cherry trees. They were past their peak, but that also meant that many of the tourists were gone. She hoped no one would mind if she pulled over to the side of the narrow road to watch as the delicate pale pink petals went floating through the air, at the nearest hint of a breeze. There was already a sparse carpet on the ground and the pale green leaves were replacing the pink blossoms on the trees.
Her daydream was interrupted by the blowing of a horn. She hadn’t realized that she was blocking a driveway. But she could tell that the woman in the car was probably accustomed to having people stop and admire the view, as there was a smile visible in her rear-view mirror as Clarissa pulled away and continued on her private tour of nostalgia. Only this time it was not thoughts of Chad that filled her mind. It was of the person she had been before the phone had rung, before she had a husband, before she headed off to college, of when her future was hers to make.
At first she wasn’t aware of where she seemed to be heading, It was as though the car had a mind of it’s own. It seemed to remember the way without any input from the driver. It wasn’t until she saw the pink blossoms that she realized this was the turn off for Anna’s cottage. She made the turn and hoped the widow was at home and had time for a conversation.
(to be continued)
04-01-2015 09:47 AM
Chapter 6 (Word Prompts: faceless, burrowing, widow, cottage, charming, reflection, obligation, dancing light)
What had made her think of Anna, she wondered as she filled the coffee pot? All thought of going back to sleep was gone now that it was dawn. A cardinal looked at her from the feeder as though scolding her after finding it empty. The rising sun sent a dancing light off the bright red feathers making them appear be on fire.
“I’m sorry”, she said, “I’m out of seed, but I’ll get some soon.”
She felt a bit silly talking to a bird, but somehow he seemed to understand and instead of flying away just continued to look at her. She wondered if this was the same bird who had visited yesterday. She suddenly remembered that Anna had told her that cardinals were precious because they were messengers from the other side from loved ones. She said her husband often visited her that way.
At the time Clarissa had thought it was a nice story, that sort of fit in with the story book cottage, complete with white horse and, of course the widow, who slightly resembled a fairy princess would be able to charm all the birds and small animals.
Actually, Clarissa had never seen Anna again after that day. She had not been one of Chad’s regular patients but she had thought about her often and now she tried to remember what she had told about the cardinal, who had finally left. She remembered Anna had explained that a visit was a gift as there was no obligation as there was from friends and family on this side of the bridge. And she had stressed that the message was always one of love and of reassurance that the loved one was in a good place and happy.
“But how do you know who they represent?”
Although Anna couldn’t have been much older than Clarissa, she looked at her as though she was a small child. “Why it’s always the one in your thoughts”, she said.
“No”, thought Clarissa, as she had the overpowering impulse to head back to the bed and burrow down in the pillows and quilts as she had done so many days over the past months. Instead she headed toward the bathroom and did something she hadn’t done in a long time. She looked at her reflection in the mirror.
There had been a time that she had enjoyed the image that she saw there. She had worn little makeup but it was always carefully applied. And her hair took little more than a brush to put it in place, but it had always been clean and shiny.
“When did I become faceless?” There was no need to answer this question because it happened with the ringing of a telephone.
Without realizing that another great change was about to take place, Clarissa stepped into the shower to get ready to do some shopping.
(to be continued)
03-06-2015 08:37 AM
Chapter 5 (Word Prompts: faceless, burrowing, widow, cottage, charming, reflection, obligation, dancing light)
Clarissa’s senior year became a blur with obligations at the vet school and also those times when Chad would call with a need for her service. It never seemed to occur to her that the need might be his rather than for the animals. There was actually very little time in her day for any sort of reflection.
It was only a half hour drive between the university and the vet’s office, however it was rare that the office was her destination and their patients were scattered about farms and ranches in an area covering hundreds of square miles. Often the drive would take over an hour each way. This would be added to her class work and the hours spent with her job at the school hospital. Nights would find her burrowed down with a large pot of coffee dedicated to study. Her acceptance for Vet school was not guaranteed if she allowed her grades to drop.
She wasn’t even aware that the people in her life had become faceless as she ran from one to the other. Only the animals seemed to hold her full attention as she tried to take away their fear and let them know that help had arrived. She was only vaguely aware that the animals had owners who were concerned with their wellbeing and grateful for her assistance. Many times even Chad fell into this category.
All this changed in April before Clarissa was to graduate. Perhaps it was the beautiful day, or the fact that some of the pressure was off as she had her official acceptance to the vet school. But as soon as she started out after Chad’s call she was aware that this day was special. The sunlight was so bright that she needed her dark glasses and still it reflected off the shiny surface of the car. Wild flowers were growing beside the highway and she was tempted to just stop and admire the view when she reached to turn-off that Chad had told her about. It was in a different direction from most of the farms she’d visited in the past.
An area of several acres was lined with neat rows of trees, some larger than others with very tall ones toward the back that she thought might be pecan. The smaller ones were beginning to blossom in various shades of pink and white. She imagined apples and peaches but had never been really interested in plant life. The mailbox beside the driveway was painted a pale pink and charming was the word that popped into Clarissa’s mind. She found herself wondering what kind of person was it who would be need of Chad’s services and would have a pink mailbox.
Then she saw the cottage. It could have been in one of her childhood books. It was only slightly larger than a child’s playhouse, so small that the front was almost filled by a door with a window on either side. They were the same color of blue as the sky and made the perfect backdrop for the pink azaleas and yellow daffodils. She very much wanted to stop there but Chad’s instructions had been to drive around the cottage to the barn in the back.
She was met with yet another picture book scene. It was clear the barn had once been painted red but was now faded to what can only be described as a dark pink but that was barely noticeable because of the group standing before it. Standing much taller than the humans on either side was a white horse, looking enchanted with the light dancing around him. Of course when she was closer she saw that it was actually reflecting from the metal parts of the harness which was being held by Chad and it was taking every ounce of his strength to hold the animal. On the other side was a small woman who fit perfectly with the scene.
Later Clarissa was unsure how she learned that Anna was a widow, or very much of what happened that day, only that it marked a change in the way she saw the world.
(To be continued)
02-28-2015 12:59 PM
Chapter 4 (Word Prompts: Sausage, valentine, repairing, north wind, tenderhearted, awkward, shoulder, interference)
Over the following days that awkward feeling changed to seem the most natural thing in the world. Of course there was no way to tell how Chad was feeling about his prize student but it was obvious he admired her ability with the animals and, like the others, called for her with difficult situations. As for Clarissa, she continued to be impressed that the young graduate student seemed to have the same tender heart as her own.
Her experience had all been with the smaller animals, dogs and cats with the occasional bird or squirrel. Chad had been raised on a farm and was accustomed to horses, cows and pigs, which opened up a whole new world to the young freshman. She soon discovered that she was able to communicate with these animals in a similar way to the smaller ones. It was when she and Chad were working shoulder to shoulder with a cow who’d had a difficult time with the birth of her calf and they feared losing them both that Clarissa became a vegetarian. They saved both animals but Clarissa’s taste for hamburgers was lost forever.
Ever the private person, there was no great announcement of her new diet. She had no desire to be one of those people to preach on anything, certainly not the merits of the eating habits of her friends. No one seemed to notice that her order became a salad on the occasions when they had lunch together. She had decided that eggs and cheese along with other milk products would be OK since no animal was killed in the process and there was no need to change her favorite grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup for those days when the north wind blew.
The first problem arose when it was her time to bring the morning snack. She had become known for the sausage biscuits and everyone seemed to look forward to the treat. It was just by chance that she saw an ad for some vegan meat products. She tried them out and found they were pretty good so the next time she purchased plain biscuits that she stuffed while in the car and nobody seemed to notice the difference. In fact a couple of people commented on how good they seemed.
It was Valentine’s Day of Clarissa’s junior year when the relationship between Clarissa and Chad began to change. Chad was about to begin an internship with a country vet not far from the university but it would mean that he would not be spending time with his favorite student on a day to day basis. He would also no longer be considered her teacher.
Chad hesitated to ask Clarissa for dinner or any other private meeting. He feared interrupting the relationship they had formed over the past two years. At the same time, he didn’t want to disappear without some sort of acknowledgement between them so he arranged to be near her car when she was leaving to go home. This was not the first time they had met this way. After all, it was a small group of people and a small parking lot. Clarissa failed to notice that it was Chad that seemed to be there more frequently than any other.
But on this day he wore a much more serious expression than usual and it was Clarissa who joined him at his car instead of the other way around. She wondered if perhaps his battery was dead or he might need some help of some kind. Her AAA card had been loaned out before for friends in need of a minor repair. Only this time it was not her AAA card that was needed.
Chad told her about his internship which he was excited about, but he told her how much he would miss working with her. They talked for a long time that afternoon, first in the car and then over coffee that extended to dinner and finally an agreement was made. Clarissa would be on-call for Chad’s patients for the coming year and it would be counted as class credit. It was an arrangement that pleased them both.
(To be continued)
- accepting clients
- book club suggestion
- Book Review
- boomer books
- dancing and hugs
- historical fiction
- Job Loss
- literary agent
- Long-term unemployment
- Middle Class
- reading lists