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Living Fiction - Chapter 36 (unedited)
Writing Fiction was always my working title, but a few weeks ago I realized I want to change it to 'Living Fiction'. It's still the continuation of the same story, but I will start using the new title from this point forward. I've made quite a few minor changes to earlier chapters to accomodate this shift in title. Thus the unedited version of this chapter...since I'm working from the beginning and moving the changes forward
Here's where Chapter 35 left you.
And with that angry proclamation, she disappeared through the doorway of the treehouse and climbed down the ladder like it was nothing.
I realized it was futile to call after her to hold the ladder steady so I could climb down.
I realized I had never in my life seen her so angry at anyone, much less me.
I realized I had used the word ‘died’. Died. Died. As in dead. Dead.
Oh my God. Oh God.
My husband was dead.
AND NOW, CHAPTER 36 CONTINUES...
I sat in the doorway of the treehouse trying to absorb what had just happened. The air in the small space seemed to be almost explosive from the grenades of strong emotions my daughter and I had exchanged.
How could she accuse me of not loving her dad? How could she indict me with not caring? Since my husband had…had…
I couldn’t even make myself repeat the words I had said in my anger. I wanted to resort to the comfort of euphemisms, but none came to mind.
I had screwed up. Big time. Little snippets of my daughter’s remarks came back to me. Although I had been confused when she was yelling at me about the belly dancing and the grief group, I now recalled with shame all the lies I had told her. The only thing that had actually happened was the drinking with the neighbor thing. And that was only once. And it was Millie so, technically, it probably doesn’t really count.
Okay, and I HAD gone to a grief group and I HAD tried writing a blog, right?
“Pearl, stop it!” I admonished myself. “You’re turning into a total big, FAT, liar.”
Honestly, none of it had been completely factual.
Except the part about my husband being dea…ummm… ‘gone’.
Dangling my legs down into the empty air outside of the treehouse doorway, I continued to process what Jessie had said to me. The back of my nose started burning and I knew I was going to start crying. I pinched my thigh, hard, through the soft fabric of my sweat pants. “Toughen up, Pearl! You made this mess, now you have to sleep in it. Don’t fall off your bridges! Get back on the horse that bit you!” I gave myself a little pep talk of semi-mixed metaphors and realized I was just stalling. I had absolutely no idea what to say to my daughter. How could I? I didn’t even know what to say to myself.
It was the headache, I told myself. Yeah, the headache was keeping me from thinking clearly. And to get rid of the headache I needed to get some more aspirin. And to get some more aspirin I needed to go down this dreaded, wobbly ladder.
Realizing I’d have to lie on my stomach and blindly dangle my feet over the edge of the doorway until I found the top ladder rung, almost gave me a nervous breakdown. I scooted back from the edge of the abyss and tried to figure out how to accomplish the daunting task of going down, especially when I had thought going up had been difficult.
I took a deep breath and got down on my stomach. I wriggled around until my feet were pointing straight at the door and then I began inching backward. On my first inch, something jabbed me hard in my side. I shoved my hand inside my sweatpants pocket and pulled out my daughter’s car keys. Like mother like daughter! That was the good news. She couldn’t escape without talking to me! That was also the bad news! I had no idea what I could possibly say to her if I happened to survive the perilous descent.
Maybe that was the solution. I could see the headlines now in my imagination. “Local Widow Breaks Neck in Tragic Fall from Treehouse. Distraught Daughter Says, I Should Have Helped Her Get Down Instead of Storming Off so Unfairly.” I wondered for a moment if breaking your neck would actually hurt. Or maybe it would just hurt when you hit the ground. Either way, I thought it might be better to actually attempt the ladder.
When my husband had built the treehouse, he had worried about the kids getting hurt when they climbed down. To help keep them safe, he had installed a handle on each side of the doorway. I wondered if he was watching from his ‘celestial wood-working shop’ as I edged back to the doorway, dangled my feet out and grabbed the handles like they were the last raspberry-filled chocolate bars on a Godiva sale table.
I finally found the top rung with my right foot. My left foot played copycat, and soon my feet had gone down three rungs while my hands still clung to the safety handles in a death grip.
I realized to finish the last eleven steps I would have to let go of the handles. My white knuckled fists refused to cooperate with the idea.
Suddenly a voice floated up and reached my ears. A heavenly voice. The voice of a hero. And the voice was saying, “Hurry up and get down here Mom! I need some help finding my car keys.”
“Oh, sweetie,” I said in a quiet voice trying to shake the ladder as little as possible, “I knew you wouldn’t leave me up here.”
“Mooo-om. Seriously. Do you ever hear a single word I say? I can’t find my car keys. Hurry up. I’ll hold the ladder steady.”
See? See? My daughter does love me. Even though she had been acting all annoyed and hateful to me she still didn’t want me to fall to my death from the treehouse.
With her help, I safely finished climbing down to the ground. I really, really wanted to fall down on my knees and kiss the dirt, but I figured Jessie already thought I was semi-crazy, so I resisted. Instead I just patted the ground with my toe a few times in gratitude. Jessie still looked very annoyed at me. “Mom? Earth calling Mom? Car keys? My car keys?”
Gosh. For a girl that loves her mother that child can definitely spout the sarcasm. I was getting tired of all this drama. And my head hurt. And I needed to find a ladies room…pronto!
I opened my mouth to explain myself, and then quickly closed it. Instead, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the keys. I held them out to her. She took them.
“Mom? I just have to know. Are those things you told me after Daddy died a lie? Did you just lie about everything to me? Shit! Maybe you need to write a book. You are so full of fiction…or maybe you’re just full of something else.” Her eyes were so filled with pain I could hardly look at her.
“Jessie,” I said wearily, “I don’t expect you to understand, but I was trying to protect you. I didn’t tell you those things to…”
“Mom? Really. This is just too much to process. I’m going home. Maybe we can talk in a few weeks. It’s hard to even look at you when everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie.” And with that harsh pronouncement she strode off...long legs taking her away from me too quickly. Shoulders set in a rigid line that warned me not to try calling after her.
As tears crept down my face I wondered how my good intentions to protect my daughter had gone so awry. My mother, God rest her soul, had always told me, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ Maybe she was right. Maybe I was in hell.
Standing in the lonely night air and watching my daughter’s car speed down the street a few moments later, I realized how badly I had messed things up. “Jessie,” I said to myself to quietly, “Oh Jessie. Not everything I’ve told you lately has been fiction. I really do love you…and that is the honest truth.”
To be continued on Tuesday, May 24th.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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