Postcard Prose #11 (The Final Piece)

Dear Emmi, & Lucy,
Thanks for the Birthday Wishes. Really had a ball here. Spent last Wed. at La Rocca with Flaminio. She treated us to a lovely lunch. Harry found some mushrooms which we took her and she had them cooked for up at the castle.
We are really enjoying it. Miss our U.S. coffee and hot water tho. Hope you are well.
Love Theresa


Reading the part about U.S. coffee caused Emmi to pick up her small paper cup, and take a sip of her still-hot latte. After she finished reading the card, and sipping her coffee, she looked up at Lucy sitting across the small, black iron table, reading the newspaper. She also picked up her paper cup (hers filled with black coffee), and took a sip.

"I don't understand how they don't have hot water in Europe," Emmi said to Lucy, "it's not like Theresa and Jerry traveled back in time to the Stone Age."

Lucy replied without looking away from the paper, "I think their host Flaminio in particular just doesn't have hot water right now…I want to say that's what their first postcard to us said."

Emmi looked out of the window they sat next to, watching the cars go down the street. An airplane flew lower than normal overhead in the east towards the airport. Her eyes stayed on the plane until it disappeared.

"When are we going to be able to take a vacation?" Emmi asked, "I feel like if a married couple like Theresa and Jerry can do it, we as single roommates can do it too!"

This time Lucy looked away from her newspaper at Emmi, her cup still in her hand. The look she gave didn't encourage Emma that they would be taking a trip anytime in the near future.

"Don't glare at me!" Emmi exclaimed, "we've been roommates for almost two years at this point, and we haven't taken a road trip, or a trip out of the country together at all! And all of our friends who are dating or married have! How is that? How can they find the time, and we can't?"

Lucy sighed and put down her newspaper on the table. "Emmi, money-wise? It seems impossible. I mean, we're barely paying rent these days. Unless you want to try to find another job…"

"Umm, you could find another job too, ya know," Emmi retorted, "I know for a fact you want a vacation just as badly as I do!" She looked through the window again, unable to look Lucy in the face after she'd received that glare. Emmi knew that it would be a stretch to take a vacation right now; the place she and Lucy were living in was extremely nice, but barely affordable, and they were unwilling to move from it because it was located close to the community college Lucy was attending in the fall, and it was in the middle of the downtown area where all of Emmi's favorite coffee shops were, and where she did most of her work.

Emmi finally said, "Lucy, I think we should do it. I mean, we aren't getting any younger, and it seems like everyone is going on some sort of vacation. Can't we just pool our money together after we pay next month's rent, and see what we can afford?"

"I've never asked you in the two years we've lived together how much you make," Lucy began, "but I know for a fact that, even after I pay our bills, whatever's leftover won't be enough for a trip."

"Even if you don't buy groceries for the time we're gone?" Emmi asked, "Lucy, if you can't tell right now, I'm kind of suffocating here Pasadena."

Lucy took another sip of her coffee. "I know, I know, I mean, so am I, but that doesn't mean we should go bankrupt to save our sanity! We'd only make it worse once we got back."

Emmi was determined to make it work. Neither of them had ever left Pasadena since they both grew up there, went to the same school, and now lived together in a small apartment downtown. They were both tired of seeing the same things over and over again; it was time to explore the world.

"I'm willing to do some research on some cheap road trips or something," Emmi said, "if you're willing to actually consider this. Wouldn't it be nice to travel somewhere before the summer is over, and you'll be stuck studying?'

Lucy sighed again, wrapping her hands around her coffee cup. She looked towards the ceiling, and pushed her glasses towards her face. "I mean, I guess you're right," she said, looking down at the floor, "I can see what I can do with the money I have. Just let me know what you find, okay?"

Looking at her watch, Lucy stood up from the table and said, "I've got to go meet Sarah, my admissions rep, to talk about stuff happening this upcoming fall. See you back at the apartment?"

Emmi nodded, still lost in thought about taking a vacation. She grabbed her cup and Theresa's postcard, and headed out of the door right behind Lucy.

"I'm going back to our place now to do some research!" she exclaimed to Lucy, and quickly walked down a few blocks towards home. She wasn't going to let this chance to maybe leave Pasadena before the summer was over slip past them.

However, as soon as she walked through the front door apartment, Emmi's hopes fell. Instead of being greeted by the cool, refreshing air of the central air unit, she was met with sticky, humid air that was hotter than the air outside of the apartment.

"No, no, no…" Emmi muttered as she strutted inside towards the air conditioner control panel. The thermometer read 80 degrees, and she noticed that the switch was turned on, but there definitely wasn't any cool air to be found in the apartment. With a sigh, Emmi took her phone, and made a phone call to Lucy.

"Hey, it's me," she said when her call went to voicemail, "our AC is out now; feels like a sauna in here. I'm going to call Phil, and see if he can do anything about it today."

After she hung up, Emmi closed her eyes and placed a palm on her hand. She knew that getting the air to work again would cost them some extra money for next month's rent, which meant that, at least for the time being, a trip would definitely be out of the question.

"Get me out of here," Emmi mumbled before dialing for Phil, their apartment maintenance man.

 

💙 Mishy 🦋

The Wyatt Riot – Postcard Prose #10

Thank you for the puzzle! How very like you to remember and to send the puzzle as well as the answer.
Glad you had a good trip. We too arrived home safely and had a lovely Thanksgiving. My violets and iris are thriving so I'm reminded of you often. Happy holidays!
Kathy Wyatt


Ruby smiled as she read Kathy's postcard through the clear plastic covering. She was glad that the puzzle and the answer key had both made it to Kathy's house this time around; the first time, the answer key had gotten lost, and Kathy struggled to finish the puzzle without having the completed picture done.

She lightly rubbed the clear cover of the postcard between her index finger and thumb, reminiscing of the first few times Kathy tried to send postcards to her. Ruby had received them with nothing but smudges of ink on them, for the rains that had come through each time Kathy sent a card washed away any trace of her handwriting. This time, however, Kathy was prepared. And, of course, the one time she sent a protected postcard to Ruby, there wasn't a hint of rain in the area.

The smile on Ruby's face faded as she turned towards her bed to look at the half-empty suitcase that sat there, waiting to be emptied. It had already been a week-and-a-half since she and her husband John had arrived back home from her trip to see her family in Kentucky for Thanksgiving. John had already unpacked and put away his things, like she knew he would; he was the cleaner one out of the two of them. And, knowing that Ruby wouldn't unpack her suitcase if he didn't place it in areas where she would have to see it, every day before work he'd place it on top of the bed, hoping that she'd have the motivation to finally take care of it.

Clearly, his attempts hadn't worked; Ruby would simply place it on the floor next to the bed, or across the room. Realizing his tactic, she even tried to hide it, but somehow John had found it, and here it sat, waiting to be put away.

John won't be home for a while, she thought, maybe now's the time to get this over with.

She walked towards the suitcase, and began picking through the crumpled clothes and pairs of shoes she'd thrown in at the end of their vacation. She was grateful that her parents and John's parents all got along, and were willing to spend the holidays all together in the same place – Thanksgiving was in the house John grew up in from the time he was born until he graduated high school in Kentucky, and Christmas was in Ruby's parents' brand new house on the coast of Florida. Neither John nor Ruby had siblings, so it was just the six of them enjoying each other's company.

As she began separating what she thought were the dirty and clean clothes, she thought about how great it was that their families got along. They'd been married for almost five years now, and she couldn't remember there ever being a serious disagreement or quarrel among them.

If I or John had had siblings, would it be different? she wondered.

Her thoughts drifted back to Kathy, whom she knew had plenty of familial issues, especially during the holiday season. There never seemed to be a year that went without a famous "Wyatt Riot" as Kathy liked to call it. With three girls and four boys, along with all of their respective kids, not to mention the grandparents, there was bound to be some sort of conflict.

Ruby paused in the middle of folding a shirt, and turned back toward the plastic-covered Postcard sitting on her dark wooden nightstand. Quizzically, she stepped forward, and picked the card up to read it again to be sure she'd read it right.

Sure enough, she had – there had been no mention of a "Wyatt Riot" in Kathy's postcard, which Ruby found hard to believe. Surely, Kathy would've mentioned something if anything had happened…

Again, Ruby looked at the card. From the surface, it seemed all was well; Kathy and her husband Greg had made it back home safely from their Thanksgiving travels, she'd received the puzzle and the answer Ruby had sent her, the violets and irises…

"Well, looks like someone finally decided to put away their clothes from a week-and-a-half ago!"

Ruby looked up to see John in the doorway of their bedroom, a sly smile on his face. She smiled back and replied, "I mean…I had to, it was just driving me nuts!"

John walked into the room and planted a kiss on Ruby's lips.

"How was your day? I thought you weren't going to be home for another half hour!" she said, "I kind of wanted to surprise you with my suitcase being all put away."

John's smile continued with his reply, "I decided to take off a little early, maybe help you make dinner." He looked at the postcard in Ruby's hand and asked, "got some mail?"

"From Kathy." Ruby looked at the postcard again. "I feel like she didn't tell me something about her time with her family during Thanksgiving."

John looked puzzled. "Why do you say that?"

Ruby reminded John of the issues that Kathy's family regularly had during the holidays. "I just find it odd that nothing happened…or if something did happen, she didn't tell me. She always tells me everything."

John sat on the edge of their bed and suggested, "Maybe she's just tired of all the quarrels, and doesn't want to talk about it anymore. Or maybe her family has finally decided to end all the feuds. It's hard to put everything onto a postcard, honey. Especially seeing how Kathy writes."

Ruby sighed. "I guess you could be right. I just – I just feel like something's off."

"Well, while you ponder these things and finish unpacking," John said, slapping his knees before bouncing off the bed and standing up, "I'm going to go downstairs and start making dinner."

As he walked towards the bedroom doorway and through it, Ruby yelled, "You're not gonna even tell me what you're making?"

"It's a surprise!" he yelled back down the hall, "you also know that Kathy's just a phone call away, right?"

True, I could just call her and ask, but…there's just something about this card…Now, what was I thinking about before John got home, Ruby thought, something on the postcard…oh! The flowers!

Ruby looked at the picture on the card; there were three red roses set in a lush green background. And Kathy had mentioned something about violets and…what was the other flower?

Ruby turned the card, and read it again to find that Kathy mentioned an iris.

I gave her some violets last spring, but I don't remember ever giving her an iris…

As she picked up a few shirts to continue her unpacking, Ruby thought back on her and Kathy's friendship. Was there some significance to the flowers displayed and mentioned in the card?

Three roses…there are three girls on Kathy's side of the family. Kathy and her two sisters, Janet and Nicole. Maybe that's what they represent? If so, do the other flowers Kathy talked about in her card also represent something?

Placing the now folded shirts into a dresser drawer, Ruby wondered if she was completely overthinking Kathy's message. Why couldn't she just be happy that Kathy seemed to have a good time with her family?

I've known her for too long, Ruby internally mused, we've been friends for almost fifteen years, and Kathy never leaves a simple note like that. Not without…

Her eyes widened as she realized that her musings had to be correct.

A puzzle. It's a puzzle.

Ruby left her bedroom to go down the hall towards John's study where both their books were kept on a small, rickety wooden bookshelf that needed to be replaced two years ago, but never did. She scanned the shelves to find her gardening books then –

Ahh yes, The Meaning of Flowers, Ruby thought with a smile.

Sliding the book off its shelf, she flipped open its pages, searching for the meaning of roses.

"The rose symbolizes balance, and can express new beginnings…"

The wheels in Ruby's head immediately began to turn. So, three roses, three sisters – a balance among them all. Did any of them have any new beginnings?

"How's the unpacking going, Rube?" John yelled from the kitchen.

"Er, fine, it's fine!"

Ruby decided to check out the next flower Kathy had mentioned – the violet.

The violet definition wasn't so straightforward; its meanings were separated by color. What color were those violets I gave Kathy…white, they were white.

The book said that white violets symbolized innocence. Okay…a balance among sisters, one who might be going through a new beginning that's…innocent. What's a new beginning that's…

"A baby," Ruby found herself say aloud, "oh my goodness, one of them was going to have a baby for the first time."

It couldn't have been Kathy, she had two kids of her own. And Janet had her third child last spring. So it had to be Nicole.

Excitedly, Ruby races through the pages of the book to find the meaning of the last flower – the iris. However, her excitement faded as he read what it symbolized:

"In Greek mythology, the iris flower would represent the link between heaven and earth. Purple irises specifically were planted on top of women's graves to summon the Greek goddess Iris to transport them to heaven."

But Kathy didn't specify what color the iris was…

Ruby walked from the study back to her bedroom, the book in hand. She snatched up the postcard sitting atop her still-cluttered suitcase, and looked at Kathy's writing – it was in purple ink.

Oh my gosh. Someone's died. Nicole's baby? Nicole herself? Both of them?

Ruby dropped both the postcard and the book, and made her way to the kitchen where the only phone in the house was. John was at the sink, washing some tomatoes.

He looked over his shoulder at Ruby, a concerned look growing on his face. "Ruby, you look like you've seen a ghost, what's wrong?"

Ruby didn't answer, but picked up the phone, and dialed Kathy's number. As the phone rang, Ruby's foot continually tapped on the linoleum floors of their kitchen. She wrapped two fingers around the plastic-coiled phone cord, anxious to hear Kathy's voice.

As soon as the ringing stopped, but before anyone on the other end could say anything, Ruby interjected, "Kathy? It's Ruby."

There was silence on the other end for a moment, but finally Kathy's voice freaked out a small pitiful, "Did you figure it out?"

Tears began to form in Ruby's eyes as she replied, "Yes, yes, I figured it out, somewhat. Kathy, I'm so so sorry. Was it the baby, or Nicole…"

"The baby," Kathy said. Ruby could just hear the sadness in her voice, "Nicole didn't really have a choice."

"What do you mean?" Ruby asked.

Kathy sighed. "Nicole isn't married, Ruby. She got pregnant by some other man, who didn't want to be its father or her husband. And, of course, it all came up during Thanksgiving, and there were arguments about what Nicole should or shouldn't do with the baby. I voted she keep it, and our family support her through it, but oh, my parents just were too disgusted at the fact that she let some stranger create this being within her. So, they told her if she didn't get rid of it, they'd never want to see her again."

Ruby's hand slowly made its way to her mouth as she listened. Her eyes shut, unable to imagine the threat of never being able to see her parents again because of one mistake, because of one child.

She was no longer happy that she'd been right about there being a Wyatt Riot this year.

💙 Mishy 🦋

Lost Louise – Postcard Prose #9

HI STEVE & HELEN,
WE'RE SIP-
PING CAP-
PUCHINO
ON OUR BALCONY OVER-
LOOKING LAKE COMO. POS-
ITIVELY BEAUTIFUL! WE LOVED ITALY – EVERY PART OF IT! HAVE LEARNED
TO DRIVE ITALIAN STYLE –
GOD HELP ME WHEN (OK IF) I GET HOME.
SWITZER. TOMORROW. IT'S BEEN A FABULOUS TRIP WITH MANY "HAIR RAISING EXPERIENCES.
SEE YOU SOON, Louise


Helen read over the postcard, turned it over, looked at the picture, and had two questions:

Is the water really that blue in Italy? and Who is "our"? Who is Helen with??

"You're looking pretty puzzled about that postcard," Steve said from across the room. He was standing in the kitchen over one of the marble-top counters, cutting carrots for the salad he was making for dinner. "Is there something wrong with Louise?"

Helen shook her head. "No – at least, I don't think so. I'm not sure." She stood up from the dinner table, the postcard between her thumb and index finger, flapping it up and down. "She's having a great time in Italy."

"Well, that doesn't sound like something to be puzzled over," Steve said as he finished the last of the carrots, "what are you thinking?"

With a sigh, she looked at the postcard again, and replied, "I think she's met someone in Italy, but she didn't say who, or if this person was an acquaintance or new love interest or what."

"Maybe a new love interest for her could be good," Steve suggested, sweeping all of the cut carrot pieces off the cutting board and into the salad bowl, "I mean, after the divorce, and losing the custody battle for the kids…"

"Yeah, and the divorce and losing the custody battle was literally only like a month ago!" Helen said, "and then she got her passport, and flew out of the country to who knows where, leaving all of her messy problems behind!"

It was Steve's turn to sigh as he took the glass salad bowl, and made his way to the refrigerator. Opening the door, he replied, "Helen, honey, you're going to have to accept the fact that your sister is an adult, and can handle her life the way she wants to, no matter how messy it is."

Helen walked toward the fridge behind Steve, reaching over him to place the postcard against the white surface, and secure it with two magnets. "But Steve, her kids. They're wondering where she is! And we can't just keep making excuses for her, she needs to come home. They need their mother."

After putting the postcard up, she resumed her place at the dinner table, flopping into her chair, and continuing, "And their mother only. Louise doesn't need to be bringing a new man into their lives this early!"

Steve closed the fridge and looked at Helen with a smile. "You don't even know if she's with a man right now. And if she is, that's her right; it's her life, and you as the older sister just need to be there for her, and support her as she is dealing with a lot of major changes."

Helen looked away from Steve toward their glass porch window, crossing her arms. He was supposed to be on her side, agreeing that Louise needed to calm down, come back to the States, and take care of business. She was almost thirty-years-old, but you wouldn't be able to tell that with all of the irrational decisions she'd been making since her divorce from her husband Kevin.

Louise acted as if it wasn't that big of a deal to her; she knew that if she and Kevin were to divorce, there'd be no way that the judge would allow their kids to live with her. She had no job because Kevin was the household provider, and the only money she had was from a savings account that her parents had provided for her, and put money in for her until she graduated high school.

After the divorce, Louise moved back in with her parents, and started looking for work, thinking that maybe having a job would help her in the case to keep her children. But without her own living situation to keep them in, and no jobs getting back to her, the judge ruled in favor of Kevin.

It was like the final straw for Louise. She packed her bags and left, and didn't tell anyone where she was going. It was only recently that she began sending postcards to Helen from different places – first different states in the country, now more recently cities in different countries. She'd left a five- and three-year-old behind to travel the world for who knows long with Lord knows who, and Helen couldn't stand to think about her sister's poor choices.

The warmth of her husband's hands against her arms startled her, and she turned to face him as he knelt down to kiss the top of her head.

"I know you're worried," he said, "about Louise, about her kids, about her life. But worrying about it all won't bring her back. It won't strike wisdom into her. All you can do is love her through this."

"How am I supposed to love her through this if I can't even write her back, Steve?" Helen asked in frustration.

Suddenly the doorbell rang, causing Helen to sigh again. "It's the girls with Mom and Dad," she explained, "Mom called and asked if they could spend a few nights here to give them a little break."

As Helen got up to go to the door, Steve simply stared after her with concern. It had been a couple of months since everything with Louise began, and as much as he wanted to be strong for Helen, it was also wearing on him as well. Helen was so worried about her sister and her nieces that she could barely do anything around the house anymore. Thankfully, she still found the motivation to go to work, but as soon as she got home, she wasn't the person she used to be.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of arguing at the front door. He stood up from his chair and made his way to the foyer, where he saw Helen…and Louise. With a man by her side. He was a Hispanic man, almost shorter than Louise. His jet black hair was slicked back, and he look terrified hearing the sisters argue.

"What do you mean you married him, Louise?!" Helen was yelling at her.

"I mean what I said, Helen!" Louise yelled back, "we're married, and I'm back to get my life together, and to get my kids back!"

Steven came behind Helen, and placed his hands back on the sides of her arms. He didn't dare try to input his opinion on the matter.

"Does he even speak English?!" Helen asked incredulously.

Louise scoffed. "Well how racist is that? Just listen to yourself, Helen! Yes, he speaks English. It may not be that great, but he can understand it well enough!"

Helen crossed her arms and asked, "What are Amber and Ashley going to think? Did you even consider them before going off and marrying someone they didn't know? Someone you don't really know? Have you even gone over to Mom and Dad's to tell them any of this?"

Louise stepped back from the front door, defeated. She even put both of her hands up.

"You know what, I thought of all people, you'd understand, Helen," she said, "I thought, surely, as my sister, you'd understand the pain I was going through, and understand that I needed to go out there and find myself. I thought you'd be happy to see that I'd found someone who loved me for me, and who was willing to be by my side as I try to fix my messed up life. But I guess not."

Helen was unfazed. "You still didn't answer my question, Louise. Which tells me, you haven't told Mom or Dad. Or your kids that they have a new stepfather."

Helen turned towards Steve, biting her lip, then running her fingers through her short blonde hair before letting out another one of those sighs. Her fingers ended up covering her eyes after going through her hair.

"I'm assuming you want me to talk to them?" Helen asked, her eyes still covered, as if she couldn't bear to look at Louise and her new husband.

Louise looked a little shocked, but quickly regained her composure. "I mean…Helen, you don't have to do that…"

Another sigh, and Helen freed her eyes from her hands. Blinking a few times, she said, "They're supposed to be here any minute now, Louise. I'm sorry, but I can't get you out of this one. You and – your husband are welcome to come inside to wait until they get here. But once they do, you'll have a lot of explaining to do."

Helen then stepped aside, cuing Steve to also step aside, allowing Louise and her husband inside. As they stepped inside, Helen saw her parents' black Escalade driving down their street towards their home.

"Well," Helen whispered to Steve, "this should be interesting."

💙 Mishy 🦋

The Jones – Postcard Prose #8

Dear Dorothy, we are in Atlanta, I am taking a data processing seminar. Elaine is here too taking in the seen – She has a broken ankle but is enjoying it. We are really living it up on Singer.

Love
Wally & Elaine


“Dear, you spelled scene wrong,” Elaine complained, “and you make it seem like I’m enjoying my ankle being broken, when I, in fact, am hating it!”

She tossed the postcard back to Wally, her husband, who sat across the red and white checkered-covered table. He caught it with his fingers, and took a look at it.

With a sigh he replied, “Well, as always, you’re right, Elaine. But I don’t feel the need to change it; Dorothy will know what we’re talking about.”

Elaine worriedly asked, “Oh, do you think she’s okay with Kelly? We’ve been gone almost a full week, and I’m hoping Kelly hasn’t been so terrible to scare Dorothy away! She’s the only nanny we have left to call on!”

A waitress came back to their table to refill their water glasses, and to let them know that their dinner would be coming out shortly. Wally shook his head, and sipped his water, unable to find the words to comfort his wife. Their daughter Kelly was only five-years-old, yet she had managed to cause three different nannies to break ties with their family, never wanting to watch Kelly again.

As cute as she was, Kelly tortured the nannies her parents paid to watch her as they went on business trip after business trip, and seminar after seminar, across the country. Not only was her behavior and attitude disrespectful, but she would lock her nannies in closets, put dead beetles in their meals, leave poop in the tub for the nannies to clean. None of it was worth the amount of money Wally and Elaine had to offer the girls they’d asked to take care of Kelly. They’d even raised the amount they were willing to pay, but even then, every teenage or young adult female in the area was unwilling to risk spending any quality time with Kelly.

The parents and friends of Wally and Elaine tried to tell them that the only reason Kelly was acting out was because she truly wanted the attention and affection of her own parents, not the half-hugs-and-kisses of young women who were only in it for the money and the alcohol they were permitted to indulge in while they supervised their five-year-old. But Wally found it impossible to stay at home for longer periods of time, and it was out of the question for Kelly to join them in their travels. So, she stayed at home.

Once Elaine realized her husband was in no way going to comfort her, she tried to assure herself by saying, “Surely, things are going well since we haven’t received a phone call.”

At that moment, their meals were brought to the table – a plate of spaghetti and meatballs for Wally, and the filet mignon for Elaine. But before either of them could let out a “thank you,” the waiter said, “There seems to be someone trying to reach your hotel phone. They’ve called several times asking for you both; it seems urgent.”

Wally and Elaine looked at each other, each one trying to decipher who should handle the call, and wondering if it was Dorothy.

“Thank you, I – I’ll take the call in your lobby, if you don’t mind,” Elaine hesitantly said. She stood up and grabbed her crutches from against the wall, very annoyed that Wally would rather eat his dinner than have his crippled wife stand up to take a phone call.

She hobbled behind the waiter out of Lorraine’s, the hotel’s restaurant, and toward the front desk in the lobby. A woman with curly, brunette hair and dark red lipstick held the phone in her hand. Seeing Elaine walking towards her, uncertainty clouded her face.

“I’m sorry, miss, I kept telling the young woman over the phone that you and your husband were having dinner, and that you’d get back to her as soon as possible,” the woman told Elaine, “but she insisted that she speak to one of you right away.”

Elaine steadied herself on one foot with one crutch, and rested the other crutch against the desk. Her hand shook as she reached out to take the phone from the receptionist. “Thank you,” she let out after taking the phone, and she held it up to her ear, prepared to hear the frustrated screams of an unhappy Dorothy who was ready to quit her job in the middle of the week because Kelly had done so many awful things to her. “Hello? Dorothy?”

“Hi, Mrs. Jones,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice said on the other end of the line, “this is Detective Lori Brown of the Solano County Police Department, how are you?”

Elaine’s shock and confusion stunned her into silence. Detective? Police department?

“Ma’am, are you still there?” Detective Brown asked.

“Oh, yes,” Elaine finally responded, “yes, I’m still here. How can I help you, detective?”

Detective Brown replied, “Mrs. Jones, I was wondering if you currently knew the whereabouts of your daughter and Miss Dorothy Mielke?”

“Why, no…I assumed they should be at our home in Vallejo on Bayberry Street,” Elaine said, gripping the telephone cord, “why is-is something the matter?”

“Ma’am, a neighbor reported suspicious activity occurring in your house today. She said she heard screaming, crashing, possibly a gunshot. We reached your residence, searched the place, and…”

Elaine’s grip grew tighter as the detective paused.

“I’m sorry, to tell you this, Mrs. Jones, but your daughter and Mrs. Mielke are nowhere to be found.”

Elaine’s eyes widened, unsure if she had just heard the detective correctly. She wanted to ask a million questions, but her tongue had grown numb, or maybe she’d accidentally swallowed it after hearing the detective’s news.

Detective Brown, probably aware of the shock that she’d given Elaine, continued to speak. “As we searched your house, we found many of your valuables either taken or destroyed. Each room looked like it had been broken into. We also -”

There she goes again with that pause, Elaine thought, why can’t she just spit it out?!

“We found – blood in the middle of your living room,” Detective Brown finally said, “there was a pretty good sized puddle.”

Elaine could barely stand at this point. She quickly slumped to the ground, knocking her other crutch onto the floor, and stretching the phone down to the floor with her. She shut her eyes, unable to believe what she was hearing. She finally got the courage to ask, “Who’s-who’s blood is it?”

“We’re unsure of that still, ma’am,” Detective Brown replied, “we’ve taken it to the lab to be processed.”

There was another pause, then the Detective said, “Mrs. Jones, I understand you and your husband are traveling for business. But we need you to come back to Vallejo as soon as you can.”

“I – I need to tell my husband,” Elaine croaked, choking back tears.

“Elaine!”

She looked up to see Wally running towards her, his face a curtain of concern. She dropped the phone and wrapped her arms around him as soon as he knelt to the floor to meet her gaze. Uncontrollable sobs escaped her lips.

“We need to leave now, Walter,” she finally said after crying for a good minute, “tonight.”

Wally took the phone off the floor, and asked the receptionist to call the airport. Without knowing the details of the situation, he knew that it wasn’t good.

Elaine used “Wally” every day – when she was happy, sad, mad, etc.

And she only called him “Walter” for extremely serious occasions.

 

πŸ’™ Mishy πŸ¦‹

New York for Marion: Alice’s Choice – Postcard Prose #7

(HI DAD!)                7-17-81                                          HOWDY RACHEL & LLOYD

DEAR ALICE,
HEY, HOW’S IT GOING?! HAVE YOU BEEN PRACTISGING YOUR BASKTBALL? ITS REALLY FABULOUS HERE! I MET YOUR EXCHANGE, RACHEL, SHE’S REALLY NICE. THE GUBBINS ARE GOING TO HAVE THE KENNEDYS OVER FOR TEA! I STILL CAN’T GET USED TO RIDING ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD, BUT I’M LEARNING! WELL, GOT TO GO.
LOVE,
CHARLOTTE
P.S. Please give Post card to Dad.

I WENT TO H.C. ON THUR, I GOT LOST IN THE MAZE! Hi Mum!


Charlotte’s writing has always been so scatter-brained, Alice thought as she threw the postcard back into the wooden basket in the middle of the dining room table.

Yet, reading those last two words – Hi Mum! – brought on a deep melancholy that she had been experiencing for a while. It had been almost two months since their mother’s death, and Alice still wasn’t able to cope with the fact that her mother had left this earth.

Mrs. McCall had left behind her husband and three daughters – Alice, Grace, and Charlotte. The news of the death of their mother hit each of them extremely hard, for they were all out of town or out of the country around the time she passed. Their family was fairly wealthy thanks to their father’s past business endeavors, and once the girls were finished with school, with one of them married, their parents encouraged them to see the world while they still could.

And so they did; so much so that it was very rare that all three of the daughters were home all at once for a holiday. And for none of them to be around when Mrs. McCall died made her death even more difficult. None of them missed her funeral.

Once the funeral was finished, however, each of the girls reacted differently to the new world before them; the world that no longer included their mother. Grace went back to her hometown, and decided to apply to graduate school in the fall to further pursue writing. After hearing that she’d been accepted to Savannah College of Art and Design, she’d suddenly dropped communication with the family. No one had heard from her in weeks.

Charlotte resumed her travels, unable to just sit around and dwell on the fact that her mother was gone forever. She needed the distraction of new adventures to ease her grief. She’d still write to her siblings and father when she could; scattered postcards with random bits of information about her journeys – a possible attempt at trying to get all of their minds off of the loss of their  mother, and onto the possibilities the world had to offer.

As for Alice, she had decided to take a break from traveling for a while to be by her father’s side as long as he needed her to be, to ride out this sorrowful time their family was dealing with. Being the oldest, she felt it was her responsibility to take care of her father, to give him some company so that he would not drop so deep into despair so as to pass away himself.

In the weeks following her mother’s passing, Alice couldn’t help but feel guilt and shame for not seeing her mother as often as she’d traveled to other places. While she had been drinking wines in California, or walking through museums in New York City, her dear mother had been back home, eagerly awaiting to hear stories of her daughters’ travels, but just as eagerly awaiting to have every single one of them home.

“Why can’t you all just take a break from traveling at the same time?” Alice recalled her mother asking her during the Christmas holiday. It would be the last time she saw her mother in person, heard her voice, tasted her cooking. The last time experiencing her mother, and she didn’t know it. She couldn’t even answer her mother’s question without a joking answer – “We’re busy people, Mom. We want to experience life outside of Marion, since we’ve lived here our entire lives.”

Well, her mother would get her wish when all three of the girls took a break to go to her funeral. The thought caused tears to flow down Alice’s cheeks. How could they have been so selfish? How could they not have come home to see their parents? Did it really take the death of one of them to bring them all back together? And is that what it would take for them all to be brought together again?

Alice began to sniffle a little, and she wiped her nose and cheeks with the back of her hand. She’d been unable to have a full week without her crying about her mom or her family. She tried hiding her sadness from her father, but he knew her all too well. At least from her staying with him, Alice could tell some slight improvement in his attitude.

“Honey…”

Alice planted both of her hands onto her face to quickly wipe away any excess tears, and turned in her chair to face her father, who’d walked into the dining room with the mail in his hands.

“Hey Dad,” she said, “whatcha got there, more bills?”

Mr. McCall sat in the chair next to Alice, placing the envelopes onto the table. A worried look was painted onto his face.

“Alice, honey, were you crying?”

The tears forced their way through Alice’s eyes, and down her cheeks, as a giant frown appeared on her face. She could never lie to her father about crying over her mother. She wanted to be strong for him; to assure him that she could move on, therefore, he could too. But the weight of her mother’s death was too much to bear. Two months later, and it still felt like she’d gotten the call about it from Marion to London yesterday.

Silently, Mr. McCall opened up his arms, and Alice leaned towards him from her chair, laying her head onto his shoulder, and letting out heavy sobs. He hugged her tightly, rubbing her arm with his hand as she continued to cry.

She didn’t know how long they stayed in that position, simply holding each other. She’d cried for a good while, but eventually stopped, and even then, they didn’t let each other go.

As they sat there, Alice had a thought that changed the perspective of her staying with her father:

Maybe it isn’t about keeping Dad company, and supporting him through this. Maybe I’m the one who needs the support, needs the company, needs the comfort. 

Maybe I just need my dad. 

 

πŸ’™ Mishy πŸ¦‹

Julie’s Gift – Postcard Prose #6

Thursday

Julie,
Howdy! We’re visiting Florida over our Easter Holidays. I sure do wish you were here! First we visited Tampa where we went to Busch Gardens and Adventure Island.
We are now 
very sunburned! Ouch! Right now we are in Ft. Pierce, but we are going back  home tonight thru Georgia where we will stay 1 night.
Well, see ya soon!
Love
Charlotte


I smiled as I placed a stamp on the top right-hand corner of the postcard, and almost giggled aloud at the silly greeting of “howdy” that I’d picked up from an attractive young man I ran into at Busch Gardens. There was no romance involved, although I wouldn’t have minded if something had sparked a desire within him to suddenly marry me, and move me to America forever.

As much fun as I had had being a tourist, I couldn’t wait to get back to England to see my sister Julie again; to tell her about all the amazing things I’d seen during my first trip overseas with my best friend Tessa, and Julie’s best friend Beth.

Of course, I’d have to be gentle about the trip as a topic; Julie was supposed to go with us, but there was a major medical emergency at the hospital she is working in at the last minute, and they needed all the EMTs to stay in town and work. Although Julie assured us all that she would be fine staying behind, I knew my sister – she was truly crushed knowing she wouldn’t be able to take her first trip off of England soil with her siseter and closest friends.

“Do, keep in touch, love,” she had told me while we were at the airport departing on our adventure. She was so busy at work, she couldn’t even physically be there to say goodbye to us, so she had called me. “I eagerly await your return, and cannot wait to hear of the wonderful things about America!”

I was so close to staying behind with her, but she insisted that I go. “Really, I’ll be fine! This is such a great opportunity; who knows when you’ll be able to go again!”

“Charlotte, come on!” Tessa urged.

I looked up to see Tessa and Beth waiting for me to get into the taxi they’d called without my knowledge. I guess I’d been so occupied with the postcard writing, I hadn’t realized it was almost time to make our first small flight back towards home.

I made my way towards the open door of the vehicle, and squeezed in the middle seat, bumping Tessa with my arm.

“Ouch!” we both exclaimed.

Beth fell into the seat next to me, asking, “What’s the mat-OW!

I quickly moved my arms forward so as not to touch either of my friends. Our sunburn was pretty terrible; we had been so intrigued with seeing the sights and riding the rides yesterday and the day before that we’d forgotten to reapply sunscreen. Despite our efforts to take care of our skin after our misfortune, we still ached.

“Sitting on the plane so closely is going to be a nightmare,” Tessa whined.

Beth spoke up, “Well, at least the flight isn’t over three hours. And once we land in Georgia, and get to our hotel for the night, we can see if there’s a place we can get some aloe vera to help it out a bit.”

She then turned her attention to me and said, “By the way, it would’ve been nice if you’d helped with the luggage! Your bag was especially heavy!”

I cringed. “Sorry, love, I was writing to Julie!”

“That’s odd,” Tessa replied, “we’re going back home tomorrow, so why send her a postcard now?”

“I’m not sending it. I just thought writing to her on one with a nice view that we’d witnessed would be a good ‘I’m home and I thought of you’ gift. Better to hand it in person, though, than for her to receive it a week or so after we’ve gotten back,” I explained.

What I truly didn’t explain was that the postcard had been an after-thought; I’d been so occupied with having adventures with Tessa and Beth that buying souvenirs and gifts for my sister, or any of my family for that matter, completely slipped my mind. But because Julie couldn’t come with us, I felt especially bad that I hadn’t gotten her anything. Hence the postcard.

Beth rolled her eyes. “That still doesn’t make sense, but all right. I’m excited to see Julie. I’m nervous to talk about the trip with her, though. I don’t want to brag about it.”

With that comment, we sat in silence for a moment, each of us probably trying to figure out ways in which we could make the trip seem less extravagant to Julie than it actually was.

The truth is, our trip was extremely fun. Our flights were on time; the hotels we stayed in were beautiful, with some great service. The southern American meals we ate, although a bit greasy in Tessa’s opinion, tasted amazing. I’d always had these ideas about what America was like, and knowing that I’d only seen a portion of it made me want to visit the rest of it someday.

However, as much we wanted to tell each detail of our trip to Julie, we knew that with every fun thing we explained, there would be a small pang of hurt, and maybe even jealousy, because she was unable to go with us, and none of us wanted to hurt her feelings. And it would even be hard to bring up things in front of her later, such as inside jokes that we’d made about American culture and whatnot, without her feeling left out.

“Maybe we could just tell her the funny things about America?” Tessa suggested, “ya know, the weird things that we saw – that way it wouldn’t seem so great?”

“I mean, we should be honest,” Beth argued, “we can’t just lie about the whole thing, and tell her that our trip was awful; she’ll know we’re lying for her sake.”

I nodded. “Julie won’t mind us telling her about the trip. Sure, she’ll be a little sad, but she’d rather us be honest, and tell her the details than lie. And it’s not like this will be the last trip to America that we’ll ever take!”

At least I hope not, I thought.

*   *   *

The first leg of our journey proved successful. We made it back to Georgia, and settled into our hotel that was only minutes away from the airport so that the next day would be easy for us to deal with.

We arrived at the airport the next morning, and went through security without any trouble. As we made it to our gate, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that our vacation was truly ending, and we only had one more flight to end our journey. So many fun, new memories were made during our trip, and I wasn’t quite ready to leave the place in which we’d made them.

Once we boarded the plane and got situated in our seats, I looked into my bag to find that the postcard I’d written for Julie was gone.

“Oh no…” I mumbled, looking through my purse.

Tessa and Beth looked at me worriedly as I answered their silent question with, “I’ve lost my postcard for Julie.”

They both seemed relieved at my answer. “Oh, Charlotte, it’s all right! What’s one little postcard? You’ve got something else to give her, don’t you?” Beth exclaimed.

The regret and guilt of not getting Julie anything else sunk deeper into my chest. I wanted to tell Tessa and Beth the truth, but I didn’t want to seem inconsiderate to my sister’s feelings. But now, my one and only gift (if you could even call it that) for Julie was gone, and I knew that the truth that I’d been pretty selfish during this trip would eventually come out while conversing with Julie about everything.

But I gave a good try at defending myself anyway. “I mean, when would I have had time to get more gifts? We only stopped at a couple of gift shops, and there wasn’t really anything in either of them that Julie would’ve liked.”

“Yes, but a lot of the places we were in, although not necessarily ‘gift shops’ still had a lot of fun knick knacks and things that would have been nice to get,” Tessa replied.

Beth chimed in, “And I’m sure Julie wouldn’t have cared whether or not she liked something that came from America…because it’s something from America. From you.”

I saw it click in Tessa’s eyes before I could continue defending my case.

“You didn’t get her anything else?!” she asked incredulously.

She and Beth both looked at me in shock, making me feel all the more guilty.

“Charlotte! What on earth, you’ve been worried about talking about the trip to Julie, but didn’t think any souvenirs would make it better?” Beth demanded.

I suddenly no longer wanted to sit with the travel companions I’d had all week. Despite how guilty I felt, I still tried to explain my logic. “I mean, gifts would only be a reminder of what she wasn’t able to do with us, right? Plus, I don’t know…I was just so caught up in everything we were doing…it kind of just slipped my mind. It’s not like I got gifts for everyone else in my family and missed Julie -”

“You didn’t even get gifts for your family, Charlotte?!” Tessa asked in that same incredulous voice, “I won’t lie, I’m a little disappointed in you. Your family’s never been able to go to America, yet here you are with the opportunity to be here, and you don’t even think to bring them back anything?”

There was no other way to defend myself. I had to face the truth – I was completely selfish during this trip. I was caught in the moment of being able to be free from England and from my family, to do the things I wanted to do. My mother didn’t even want me and Julie to take this trip; her preconceived opinions about America and Americans were anything but positive. Getting her a gift wouldn’t have done her any good anyway.

And the rest of my family – what did they need gifts from America for? They’d probably place them on shelves only to have them eventually covered in dust. Maybe they’d talk about them with their friends, but how could they have explained anything if they hadn’t been to America themselves?

And Julie…

I stopped all my justified thinking, realizing I had wandered in thought without answering Tessa’s inquiry, but both of my friends had engaged in other things such as reading or listening to music, taking my silence as all the answer they needed from me.

As the plane took off, I felt as if I was being squished in my seat; as if the guilt that had settled in my heart now settled atop my head, weighing me down.

Julie would’ve loved whatever you’d gotten for her, I thought, and you let her down. You’re going back to England with nothing more than words, stories, memories – nothing tangible for her to feel as if she could possibly travel there – be there – someday.

I struggled to sleep during our flight back to London. I wanted to talk to Beth and Tessa, maybe bring up some of our inside jokes and memories from the trip, but I wasn’t sure if they were super upset with me, or just shocked at my thoughtlessness.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so fond of heading back to England.

 

πŸ’™ Mishy πŸ¦‹

Christmas with the Clifts – Postcard Prose #5


12-15-87

What do you think of this post card! It’s cute isn’t It.

Love
Carla + Bill


I mean…IΒ guess it’s cute…

“Sally, give me that!”

Mrs. Clift snatched the postcard out of Sally’s hand saying, “You know better than to read mail addressed to me and your father!”

Sally shrugged with a sigh. “Mom, it’s just a postcard from Aunt Carla and Uncle Bill, it’s no big deal. And it’s really not that important; the front of the postcard isn’t that cute.”

Mrs. Clift glanced at the front of the postcard after reading the message, and scrunched up her nose. “I mean…’cute’ probably isn’t the best word to use. But I’m still going to keep it for my collection!”

As her mother turned and walked up the steps, Sally turned back to her algebra homework sitting on the table. But instead of getting back to solving the problems, she simply stared at the wall. She wished her parents would have let her go to Napa, California, to see her Aunt Carla and Uncle Bill for a week before their entire family got together for Christmas day. But because her grades at the end of the semester weren’t too great, Sally’s mom hired a tutor to help her during her Christmas break, much to the dismay of Sally, who had planned to do more hanging out with her friends than studying.

Sally twirled a curly piece of her dark brown hair around her finger, imagining what Napa Valley would look like at this time of year. She found it so unfair that her parents would keep her back home here in Florida when she had the chance to go to California for the first time in her life. Her brother, Nathan, had already been several times, which made Sally’s whole situation all the more unfair.

“Sally, you need to finish your homework before dinner, I need your help setting up the guest bedrooms!” Mrs. Clift yelled from upstairs.

With a sigh, she picked up her pencil to continue her math problems when Nathan burst through the back kitchen door.

“They say!” he yelled, “that it may snow here in Florida on Christmas Day!”

Sally scoffed. “Riiiight, Nathan, and I’m a total Einstein, who doesn’t need any help with her homework, which is why I’m not sitting here in our kitchen in Florida; I’m actually traveling the hills of Napa Valley in California with Aunt Carla and Uncle Bill. I’m simply a figment of your imagination.”

Nathan chuckled and walked further into the kitchen, reaching his hand out to ruffle Sally’s hair. She tried leaning out of his reach, but his arms were way too long to evade. Her hair had suffered much under his hand.

“Still a little upset you couldn’t go, eh, lil sis?” he taunted, his palm roughly rubbing the top of her head.

“Okay, okay, Nathan, quit!” Sally exclaimed, “what’s this you’re saying about snow?”

Before he could explain, Mr. Clift came through the same kitchen door, several bags in his hands. “Wonderful of you to help, Nathan, thank you,” he said sarcastically, setting the bags onto the kitchen floor.

Nathan winced. “Oops. Sorry, Dad. I was just so excited to tell Mom and Sal about the snow!”

“What snow?” Mrs. Clift asked as she entered the kitchen. She glanced at Sally’s almost empty problem sheet, and said, “Sally,Β please, honey, finish at least half of that sheet, I need your help upstairs!”

“While we were at the store, there were a couple of these old guys saying that they were positive there would be snow this year here!” Nathan explained, “I mean, I wasn’t willing to believe them, but after I questioned them about it, I found out that one of them used to be a meteorologist, and he said that he’s been studying the weather patterns of the past couple of weeks, and he’sΒ sure that it’s all going to lead to snow on Christmas day!”

Sally looked at her brother in disbelief. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe Nathan’s story; she just didn’t believe that Nathan could believe some old guy at the store, claiming to be a meteorologist.

“Nathan, honey, you can’t believe everything you hear,” Mrs. Clift said, echoing Sally’s suspicions, “I mean, I couldn’t tell you the last time the state of Florida has seen snow…do you know, dear?”

Mr. Clift had been putting away the groceries during the conversation, and paused to turn around and answer his wife. “No, dear, I’m not sure. However, IΒ can tell you that I know for a fact now that Aunt Heather and Uncle Keith will be staying with us. And not only that…they’ll be arriving tomorrow.”

Mrs. Clift made a small hop toward the stairs, saying, “Sally, forget your algebra, I need you to help meΒ now. I’m not at all ready for anybody to be in our house just yet!”

Happy to be saved from algebra problems, but less than thrilled to be helping setup guest rooms, Sally got out of her chair, and followed her mother up the stairs toward one of the many guest bedrooms they had in the house.

The only reason Sally’s family held Christmas at their house was because it contained four guest bedrooms along with enough rooms for each person in the Clift family to have their own room. When the Clift children were younger, they always enjoyed to see their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all in the same vicinity. It brought out so much of the family personality, having everyone there together.

There was Aunt Carla and Uncle Bill, who didn’t have any children; Aunt Heather and Uncle Keith and their three kids: Francine, Oliver, and Wally, each among the same age as Nathan and Sally (they were the closest cousins they had); Aunt Barb and her twin sons, who just turned thirteen; and Grandma and Grandpa Clift. So many different personalities under one roof makes for one crazy holiday, and for the first several times the family was together, there was more joy than stress.

But as the years went by, and all of the Clift children got older, Sally’s mother had a tougher time catering to everyone’s needs. She felt like she was running a hotel rather than her own home during the two weeks of Christmas break, always trying to make sure everyone was comfortable, and never really taking time to rest.

Sally didn’t mind seeing her cousins, except they always wanted to play the same old games they had played when they were younger, attempting to keep the old traditions alive. It was sort of endearing to Sally, but she was internally struggling with trying to break away from the things that defined her as a child, and the things that defined her as a young woman, entering into her last years of high school.

“The fitted sheets are in the second hallway closet, Sal,” Mrs. Clift said, walking into one of the guest bedrooms, “grab them for me, will you, I’ve got to get these pillows covered!”

As Sally walked toward the closet, she thought she could hear a car pulling into the driveway. She looked out of the hallway window to see a dark green van parked right behind her bright white Honda Civic.Β Uh-oh…

“Uhh, Mom?” Sally yelled toward the guest bedroom, “they’re here.”

Mrs. Clift dashed to the bedroom doorway, eyes as wide as saucers. “Who’s here??”

Before Sally could answer, Mrs. Clift quickly went to the window, and watched as Aunt Heather, Uncle Keith, and their three kids hop out of the green van. Uncle Keith headed toward the trunk to pull out their luggage, while Aunt Heather and the kids made their way to the front door.

As the doorbell rang, Mrs. Clift’s heart seemed to stop. She stood frozen at the window, Sally looking at her concernedly.

“Mom?”

Instead of answering, Mrs. Clift quickly moved to the guest bedroom and barked, “Sally. Help me, get this,Β done!”

 

πŸ’™ Mishy πŸ¦‹