Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Story-Time Tuesday - Living Fiction

Jenny Matlock
If you missed where this story started just click here to read it or simply click on the Story-Time Tuesday link at the top of my blog to take you to previous chapters.

Living Fiction - Chapter 35 (unedited)

Writing Fiction was always my working title, but over the weekend 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 34 left you.

I walked around the corner by the garage and saw her car sitting in its usual spot. She wasn’t in it. I looked on the front steps. No daughter. I looked up and down the sidewalk and couldn’t see her at all. I paused, “Think, Pearl, think. Where would she go?” After a second, I knew exactly where I would find her.

When I walked into the backyard, I saw that she had pulled the rope ladder up into the treehouse. The rough, painted boards of the structure were evident now that the sturdy branches had lost their bright green, summery leaves.

“Jessie? Are you up there?” I tipped back my head and looked up into the darkening gray-blue of the autumn sky. Instead of a reply she simply dropped the ladder down. It dangled there in front of me as both a challenge and an invitation. I put my foot onto the unsteady bottom rung.

And now we continue with Chapter 35.

With Jay’s words echoing in my mind, I put my foot more firmly on the first step of the rickety rope ladder wondering if it would support a big, FAT person such as myself. With both feet on the lowest rung, I kind of bounced up and down to be certain that the rope or the step wasn’t going to snap in half. So far so good.

I went up another step and bounced again. It looked like the ladder was going to hold me. Of course it was going to hold me. My ultra-careful, ultra-attentive-to-all-details husband had built it. I suspect he had done some engineering studies to see exactly what rope to use to ensure that our children were never hurt while climbing the ladder to their tree house.

He’d always been the one to make sure we were all safe and okay. I wondered in his last few moments on Earth, if he went through all the lists in his mind trying to be sure he had left everything perfect so we could go on without him. It happened so quickly, though, so I doubt if he had enough time to scrabble around trying to find a pencil to write me an important list. You know? Like when to take the recycling bin to the curb, and how to open our bedroom windows without having a temper fit.

I’d wondered more than once, if that’s what he thought about at the very end. Or if he had regrets. Maybe he wished he’d been more romantic. Maybe he wished he’d been married to someone else. Maybe since he …ummm… ‘left’ so quickly, he didn’t have time to wish anything at all.

My daughter’s curious, “Mom?” broke into my thoughts. I tipped my head back and looked up to the dark entrance into the treehouse. Her tear stained and swollen face was silhouetted in the doorway. I hadn’t even realized I had been voicing my thoughts out loud until she continued, “What are you doing talking to yourself down there?”

I shook my head in non-reply and continued the slow and shaky journey up the ladder. When I finally reached the top I had to wiggle forward onto my stomach to get into the cozy space. I looked around curiously…it had been years since I’d been inside the treehouse.

My husband had done a great job re-using old boards and windows to create a fantastic play space for the kids. Old drawings were thumb-tacked here and there to the white-washed boards and a small children’s bench and chairs filled part of the space. Faded curtains had been nailed over both rustic windows and tied back with mis-matched hair ribbons that had once adorned Jessie’s baby fine hair. In the corner farthest from the door, was an old travel trunk that my husband had found in our basement. He had spent weeks sanding and varnishing it, making it into a wonderful receptacle for children’s dreams and treasures.

Jessie had crawled back into the corner and was leaning beside it. I took a seat against the opposite wall so I could see her. She was a mess. Her face was blotchy and puffy. I think I told you before that I’m not a good crier. I’m not a gently weeping woman that takes a lace edged hankie from her pocket to dab at a few glistening tears. I am a full-on, nose-blowing, puffy-eyed, red-faced crier. It’s not pretty. Sadly, my daughter had also inherited those particular genes from my side of the family.

“Jess?” My soft inquiry floated around the treehouse like a supplication…or a prayer. I didn’t know what I was asking of her, really. I didn’t know what I wanted to hear.

“Mom?” came her almost whispered reply.

We sat silently for a few minutes more.

Finally, she continued, “How is it that you’re totally over Daddy? How is it that I’m the only one left with a broken heart?”

Words tumbled around in my brain. I wasn’t sure where to even start my answer. I wasn’t sure what answer to give. In the long moments while I was processing how to respond, she spoke again even more softly.

“Mom, didn’t you even love him?”

Those six quiet words hit me between the eyes like a bullet. How dare she? How dare she accuse me of not loving her dad! I had been suffering since the very second I had gotten the phone call. I had been doing everything in my power to protect her and her brother from the pain I was in.

“How dare you say that! There hasn’t been one second since your dad died that my heart hasn’t felt like it was getting mangled by a weed whacker. Not one single day where I’ve gotten up in the morning and felt like the sun was actually shining! If you weren’t grown up I would turn you over my knee and…”

In my rant I didn’t realize that Jessie’s eyes had hardened. Her jaw had set and she was in full-on ‘injured daughter’ mode.

“How dare I? How DARE I? You are so full of crap Mom! I mean he was hardly cold in his grave before you starting running around taking belly dancing lessons, and hanging out with friends, and joining stuff at church…and, in fact, joining church at all! You never went to church when he was alive and now you’re freakin’ working at the Church Bazaar! How dare I? You are so full of crap, Mom! You make me sick!”

I was puzzled. What was she even talking about. Before I had time to digest her harsh words, though, she continued.

“…and running the grief group and drinking with the neighbors and…”

“Hold up!” I raised my hand with authority (or so I thought) “What are you talking about? What drinking with the neighbors? Did Millie say something to you? I hope you know that Millie’s word is not exactly the most reliable thing in the universe and…”

“No, Mom! You hold up!” Jessie raised up her own hand like a traffic cop. “And on top of all that, you are blogging about how wonderful your life is and just rubbing it in the rest of us who actually LOVED daddy…you are selfish and sick and I…”

My head was spinning. First of all I’d never, ever seen my daughter so angry at me. She was even angrier than the time I had refused to let her go to the prom with that pervy Stu guy. She was even angrier than the time I wouldn’t sign the permission slip for her to get a tattoo of Stu’s name surrounded by serpents and hearts. I mean, seriously, she was ticked OFF!

“Stop, Jessie, just stop. Let’s go over this stuff. I have a headache and you’re shouting and I’m not even totally sure what you’re even talking about…”

Jessie stood up. Or sort of stood up. She had to kind of hunch over because she was pretty tall and the ceiling was pretty low in the treehouse. But the hunching over did little to minimize the venom in her words. “You know what, Mom? (how is that our children can make the word Mom sound like a dirty word when they want to?) I don’t want to go over this ‘stuff’, as you call it. I can’t even stand to be in the same room with 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.

To be continued on Tuesday, May 17th.

(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Jennifer R. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Jennifer R. Matlock. All rights reserved.

post signature


Jocelyn said...

I can see the tree house....I can see the two of them sitting there and the sense of anger and frustration that they both feel...Thank you so much for sharing another wonderful chapter with us this morning!!! I can't wait for next week!!

OH Dear Pearl....be careful going down.....

Ames said...

Wow! That's some pretty hard hitting accusations coming from her daughter. Why is it that noone will let her explain before they go rip roaring off? It will be interesting to see how Pearl will get this mess straightened out with her daughter, when she can't even straighten out her issue with Jay. Does this woman have a black cloud hanging over her or what? Hope she doesn't fall out of the tree house either! This just keeps snowballing. Nervous breakdown her comes Pearl!~Ames

Viki said...

Poor, poor Pearl. Her life is just getting messier and messier by the minute. Have her finally start writing that blog so she can get her true feelings out. LOL

Jeanie said...

It sounds like we may be seeing a breakthrough for Pearl, if she can ever get herself down from the tree house.

Anonymous said...

Poor Pearl, will she ever forget those harsh, cruel words Jay said to her. And now her daughter has hit her with all that. I sure hope she can get everything set right now and she and her daughter both can work through their grief. Now I have to wait another week to see what happens next. :( Pearl has some explaining to do. Another great chapter sweet Jenny. Hugs

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Loving your story writing. We can just feel Pearl's pain with her daughter's confrontation.

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Loving your story writing. We can just feel Pearl's pain with her daughter's confrontation.

Susan Anderson said...

This is a great piece, Jenny. And I love that at the end Pearl FINALLY confronts her loss head-on.

"I realized I had used the word ‘died’. Died. Died. As in dead. Dead.

Oh my God. Oh God.

My husband was dead."

Well done.


Pat Tillett said...

Chilling and full of emotion!
This got to me...
Really good Jenny!

Ms. A said...

I can FEEL the anger! Jenny, you are doing such a great job with this!

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

So much for that mother daughter moment. Boy, if I didn't have that one pegged wrong!

I sure hope Pearl doesn't have to call 911 to get outta that tree house.

Another great read my dear. :o)

God bless ya and have a magnificent day!

The Words Crafter said...

I gotta be here when she lets loose. She's had a lot building up for a long time and I reckon it's time she let it out. Wow.

Lourie said...

Oh man! A week! I have to wait a whole entire week! Now I don't retain stuff very well, but I don't remember Pearl even joking about the whole belly dancing thing Jesse. I know she--Pearl--was sick of people telling her what to do to move on. What a great chapter!

H said...

Awwwww!!! It always stops too soon :(

Pearl needs to pin that girl down so they can talk properly and get stuff straightened out!