Chapter 14 of ? (dreams and nightmares)


I want to forget this date – it makes no sense to me. Hurry up sleep, and take me to the castle.

Ah, safe again and I can relax in my private courtyard garden. The flowers bloom constantly attended by the critters that live and breathe comfort. The big ornate gate opens as if it is expecting me. One of these days, I need to see if there’s another way in.

Right now, the huge roses are yellow like a sunny day. I’m walking along the low wide stone fences that separate several gardens. On top of them reside the old forever-cherished guardian pets, each one resting on their soft pillow beds. Their eyes follow me as they wait their turn to be petted and talked to. I love them, and they know it.

On the ground, the kittens and puppies romp in play, dashing around my feet. Everything in sight is made of natural materials. Fine woods and smooth marble slabs create seating and tables. Wooden lattice sunscreens sit high above and move to adjust for heat or rain. Lush green grasses grow everywhere there’s not a flower or tree.

I don’t know what I’d do without this place. It’s been here for me as long as I can remember. Tonight I need to be close to someone – I need rest. Walking toward the Gardenia Garden, the fragrance draws me in. Once inside I lie down on the long wide bench open above to the stars. The mahogany is soft and molds to support my body. Watching the moon rise, I know my guardian will be here soon.

I feel myself being lifted up like a child and a huge being supporting my head against his chest. Listening to the slow rhythm of his heartbeat, I feel his warm breath filtering through my hair. For a fleeting moment, I remember my determination to shed the demons that rob me of clarity of purpose – for now, I am safe and rest in peace.

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Chapter 13 of ? (the date)


[Note to readers: Sorry this chapter is so long – haven’t figured out where it should break! It has 1,196 words – maybe you might have a suggestion.]

Dad says he’s okay with the double-date and offers to watch the kids for Mom and me to go buy fabric for a new dress. I want something simple and sophisticated looking that I can wear to church too. We find the perfect polished cotton – baby blue that changes shades depending on the lighting. We don’t have jewelry, so Mom picks out a piece of silver velvet ribbon to create a necklace. She thinks these will look good with my dark hair.

Mom started to teach me to sew when I was twelve with her machine, but I’m still amazed how many designs she can get out of one dress pattern! With me being a size eight, Mom cuts out a simple princess style with a round neckline, very short sleeves, darts with just enough fullness to drape smoothly. I figured that was stylish enough. When I put it on, it is a perfect custom fit to me – and makes me feel like a princess!

Today’s the day. I set my hair with large rollers; it takes hours to dry because it’s so thick, but it combed out just the way I hoped it would. Don’t say it out loud, but I did shave my legs too! Now, I’m ready to go, just waiting in the living room for Carol. Dad’s watching news on television, and the aroma from the kitchen where Mom’s cooking makes me want to eat before I go!

They drive up, and come to the front door as I scurry to the bedroom, and Mom opens the door, “Come on in, Jane will be ready in just a minute.”

When Mom comes to the bedroom, I tell her, “I want to leave fast; I don’t trust what Dad might say to embarrass me. Please get me out quick.” She hands me a dime, “Put this in your shoe – call me if you need anything.”

Dad stayed in his chair, but held out his hand for the anticipated handshakes. “Make yourselves comfortable on the couch. I’m Jane’s dad, Mr. Wilson.”

“So you will have Jane home no later than ten o’clock, right?” He and I were both surprised both men were wearing Air Force blues. They weren’t at all what we expected, but looked very young and quite handsome.

“Yes Sir.”

“Be sure to tell Mrs. Wilson exactly where you’re going; I’ll be right here when you come back, and expect you to come inside to say good night.”

“Yes Sir, no problem.”

I’m waiting at the door relieved the formalities are over. I want to leave now.

The drive to the theater is strange. Carol is in the front seat chattering about something going on at school. Larry is driving nodding his head, not getting much chance to say anything. Mac and I are in the back seat of the biggest car I’ve ever been in! I’m thinking, why am I here. This is alien, sitting next to a guy in a uniform with his arm resting on the back of the seat behind me … he did smell good though!

I’ve never been to this theater before – but heard it’s the nicest one in town. Okay, the truth is, I’ve never been to any theater before! Carol chose Funny Face with Audry Hepburn. In my dreams – I could look like her! The characters talk so fast, I’m having to listen fast! It is funny though, sometimes. Like a different world, it’s hard to take it all in. The screen’s so big my eyes hurt from trying to see everything! Carol laughs so hard, she spills coke on her dress. After what seemed like an hour, it was over and the bright lights came on.

We make our way through the crowd to leave. Mom said it was only about three miles to the burger drive-in. Larry finds a good spot to park and we order. I don’t get comfortable with new people very fast, so I’m listening to Carol chatter and Larry laughing. Mac puts his arm around my shoulder and slides a little closer. He just decides it’s time for a kiss. Oops, a French kiss. Startled, I pull away. Mac straightens up and says, “What’s wrong?” Larry looks in the rear view mirror while Carol turns around to see what he’s talking about.

“Nothing,” I whisper, “I just don’t want to do that.” He withdraws his arm and keeps his hands resting on his knees.

I’m thinking … Oh man, what did I get myself into. This is not what I dreamed of for my first kiss, so it cannot be real. His mouth was cold and tasted like peppermint – totally unpleasant. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but he presumes too much. He shouldn’t be surprised what he gets when he tries to kiss a stranger.

Thank goodness the food is here, I’m starving. Now, the trick is going to be eating without dropping food on my dress. Mac is relaxed again. Larry’s telling jokes, so the mood is better now. Carol keeps a conversation going with me. She’s such a good friend, even patient with my lack of social graces – especially in this setting! She knows I’ve never dated before. That tells you how badly she wants to spend time with Larry!

Larry’s putting the paper trash on the tray and the car-hop is retrieving it – time to head home. He turns on the radio and tunes to soft music for the ride.

“Jane?” Mac whispers.

“What?”

“I think I love you, and I want to see you again. I’ll be going on my first tour soon, and I think it’d be a good idea to get married.”

I can’t believe what he’s saying – and with a straight face.

“Would you marry me – don’t answer, just think about it?”

It’s twenty minutes to curfew and I don’t want to start an argument or confrontation, so I turn my face away from him and say, “Okay I’ll think about it,” as if that makes a lie alright.

We’re back at the house with five minutes to spare; they all get out of the car and go to the door with me. The porch light is already on and the big door open with light streaming through the screen door. I open the door and we file in.

“Hey, did you have a good time?” Dad asks. It’s obvious he is visually checking us to see if we’re worse for the wear.

“Yes Sir, we did. The movie was good; I’d recommend it to anyone!” Doesn’t take but a minute before Dad announces it’s time to turn in for the night. “I’ll show you to the door; thanks for bringing Jane home on time, Good night.” Dad goes to bed.

The house is quiet; everyone else is in bed. I wanted to talk with Mom, but I’ll have to wait until morning. I hang up my dress, brush my teeth, and wash Mac off my face. I need a good dream tonight.

Chapter 12 of ? (first date?)


Oh, my gosh, I love this new living room! Mom finally saved enough money to buy some decent furniture, make new curtains and paint the walls. The most fabulous thing is the carpet! Even the boys are careful to keep it clean!

My friend, Carol, came over, “Hey, my boyfriend is coming into town next weekend and he wants to bring a buddy with him.” She’s a year older than me. “I thought maybe you’d like to go on a double date. We’re talking about going to the theater downtown then getting burgers later.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Carol, I don’t have anything nice enough to wear. Have you actually met his friend?”

“No, but he swears he’s a gentleman around girls, and we’d be together. Come on, it would be fun.”

After thinking for a second, “I’ll call you tomorrow.  I need to talk to Mom.” Carole seems anxious for an answer, so I ask her, “Can you go if I don’t go with you?”

“Well, actually – no. We can date as long as it’s at our house. Come on, this would be the perfect opportunity to actually go somewhere on a real date.”

“I’ll just have to call you tomorrow – we’ll see.” I noticed she crossed her fingers as she left. Maybe I won’t let her down.

It’s getting late, the kids are in bed and I’m doing my homework at the kitchen table. I told Mom earlier about Carol’s invitation.

Mom makes a fresh cup of decaf and cuts a thick strip of cheddar cheese to stir it with. Sitting down, she looks at me, “This might work out.”

Handing me a cheese bite, she says, “Find out what time you guys plan to leave and how long you’ll be gone. You’ll need a new dress to wear – can’t send you out on a special date wearing school clothes! There’s enough time for us to sew up something pretty.”

I’m not sure what I wanted her answer to be, so I just say, “Thanks, Mom, I’d choose you again!” I’m thinking, lame words – there’d that come from.

“Silly girl, finish your homework and go to bed?”

Chapter 11 of ? (chores homework)


Yesterday, I told Heather I would get some medical information on private girl things, like periods. Sure enough, the minute I get home from school, “Well, did you find anything about it today?”

“Yep, I made it to the counselor’s office before class. She knew exactly what I wanted. Here, she gave me one booklet to start with – if we have questions, we need to call. Don’t leave it laying around. Remember, Dad got pissed when he discovered Mom let us shave our legs.”  She took off to the bathroom and locked the door to read it – the only door in the house with a privacy lock.

This flexible sharing-chores thing is nice, but I’ve figured out somebody has to manage it! Okay, while she’s in there, I better go check what Mom put on the supper shelf in the refrigerator. We have to have supper cooked by six o’clock – let the boys have some play time outside, get their baths, check their school papers, straighten the house, set the supper table – and schedule homework time. Whew, two and a half hours that ends up feeling like minutes.

“Heather, why don’t you go ahead and get your homework done? I rather wait until after the boys go to bed.”

“I don’t have any.” Heather wasn’t looking at me.

I’m thinking this doesn’t make sense, “Go get your books and folders – spread them out on the kitchen table.”

“Good, keep an eye on the kids for a few minutes.”  I’m checking her books and going through each folder to see what she’s doing in class (sighing). No wonder she’s bored, she’s hardly doing any assignments. Oh my … I can’t deal with this today – she’ll just have to tell Mom herself.

Chapter 10 of ? (sisters)


Just between you and me, Heather is my balance and doesn’t even know it. She’s not only pretty and smart, she’s realistic. I face life with fear of what-if, and she appears to live it each day, sometimes by the hour. I admire that, but can’t find my comfort level with it. It’s not a judgment thing – it’s a fear of losing her in childish decisions where she gets hurt. I feel a responsibility. Saying that out loud sounds really silly, because in fact, I have no control.

She’s the fun person I can’t be – the friend that knows no limits to defend – the girl that says it like it is, whether anyone is offended or not – and one that can turn two hours of freedom into a memorable adventure.  I sincerely don’t feel jealousy – I’m in awe of her as a total independent thinking person … or so she seems to be. Right now, I think Heather is being rebellious because she hides out a lot and doesn’t talk much. I see boys are obsessed with her, and she gets a lot of attention from them.

I’m sitting at the dresser brushing my hair, and catch a glimpse of Heather’s reflection in the mirror as she quietly walks into the bedroom.

Heather sits down on the side of the bed, “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Jane, but you don’t understand – he told me I am the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. It’s not like you to be jealous.”

“I’m not jealous of you, I’m scared for you. You’re a woman now even though you’re still a kid too. You don’t need to be kissing him like that. I’m not even ready to have sex, and you’re younger. How could it be in your best interest to get talked into doing it?”

Turning around to look directly into Heather’s eyes, I asked her, “What do you want for yourself, Heather?”

With tears running down her face, “I want to have some fun. I want to be like other girls and do what they do. They must like me, I need that.” I waited to really listen to what she was saying.

“My grades are not as good as yours, it’s boring. I don’t want to be in an office all day. I want a real job, a fun job.” Heather looked around the room, “I want more than this, and get away from a father that yells so much I feel like I’m walking on eggs to stay out of trouble with him. Have you noticed Mom is more fun when he’s not in the house?”

“Yes, I’ve noticed, but that’s not the issue here. Let me put it this way, Heather. We need to come to an agreement on some basic things. Do we agree that we can live only one life at the time?”

“I’m not sure what you’re saying, my life now is not my life like when I’m older, maybe 20.”

“I thought so. I need to share something with you. Are you listening?”

With full attention, Heather said, “Yes.”

“You have just one life on this earth. It starts when you are still in your mother’s womb, you get a name when you are born, and it ends when you die. That is one lifetime. Can we agree on that?”

“Yes.”

“It usually takes about eighteen years for most people to become a mentally mature adult that can take care of themselves without help, Right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Well, Heather, tell me something … if you lost your family today, could you take care of yourself with no help from anybody?”

“I could get a job.”

I ask her, “What could you do to earn enough money to rent an apartment and buy a car you would need to get around and go to work? For Christ’s sake, Heather, you can’t even drive yet! You have one life in this one body – now is part of that life. What you decide now will matter to you later.”

I’m asking again, “What would you do?”

“I could get married, and he would take care of me.”

I speak to her slowly, hoping the words sink in one thought at the time, “Fine, think about that for a while. Also, think about the questions he might have about what you let other people do with your body. Who would you marry, a boy that’s been busy kissing any girl that will let him? A real man will not marry a child. You’re anxious to have fun, without seeing you could give up your right to be kissed and touched by someone you chose as a mature woman. Have you thought of this before?”

“No.” Heather put her hands over her face in embarrassment.

Reaching to hold her hand, “I promise you Heather, you are popular because people naturally like you. You don’t have to do anything sexual to try to win their friendship. Just be yourself – you have real friends that care about you – but I’m telling you now, you can’t count on someone else to protect you – that’s your job.”

Chapter 9 of ? (new baby)


It’s been several months since we found out a baby is joining us. Secretly, I’ve been wishing for a girl to balance out our family. Other than that, we’ve just been getting used to the idea.

It’s Monday morning before daybreak and Dad just bounced into my room to announce the birth of our – baby brother.  I pull my pillow over my head, “Trade him for a girl before you bring him home. We got enough boys.”

“Aw, come on girl, get up. We have to cook breakfast.” I know he wants me to share his joy, but I’m just not in the mood.

“You mean I have to cook breakfast. Oh man…,” with a moan realizing I have to get the kids ready for school.

###

With little Tad here, it is true love all over again. He’s the center of everybody’s life. With little Tad here, it is true love all over again. We were thinking when Grunt goes to school,  the church nursery wouldn’t be needed anymore. Now we’ll have two there during the school year, so we’ll need to contribute more hours to the community center kitchen to help earn the cost of their keep.

Grunt’s not too sure about this new addition, and wet his ‘big boy shorts.’ It was apparent when he demanded to wear a diaper again, he thought it would let him be the baby! It’s apparent when he demands to wear a diaper, he thinks he can be the baby again!

We are realizing fast that Grunt has to be included in the Big Boy Club. That means he will get yard privileges – but, we have to teach him Rule #1: Never go outside alone.

I’ve had a baby sleep in my bed since I was seven years old – maybe that’s why I was born – to be a babysitter!

In the kitchen, I want to talk to Mom about it. “Yes, Mom, I want kids but I want a break first. I want my own private bed in my own private room, in my own private house!”

“Well, how have you been treated so bad having a large family? Would you trade us to have more personal stuff you didn’t have to share?” Mom appears on the defensive.

“That’s not my point – my point is … do you realize you and I have been together since one year after you got married? I have shared your life and helped you raise your kids that I love too. I don’t regret that – you’ve taught me a lot. I’m just tired and frustrated. You have chosen this life for yourself, and for me.”

It feels like I said something to hurt her, “Mom, you have no idea how much I love you. I understand you – I can predict how you will respond to anything. Don’t you find that – unusual? We really need to talk about these things.

I’m looking for answers. It is not logical that you and I have never had a fight or serious disagreement. I’ve heard you yell at people before, but never at me. Yeah, you nag and complain a bit, but that’s it.”

The cleaning was done and we sat down at the table – Mom with black coffee and cheese, and me with milk and cookies. Heather walks in after tucking in the boys for the night, and grabs a cookie.

“What’s up?”

I smile at Mom, and start off real slow trying to sound serious, “The first thing I want to know is … is Heather really my sister; you know, her being so beautiful with that curly hair, big boobs, and all?”

Heather chokes on a mouthful of cookie and milk – Mom gets tickled and can’t stop laughing. “Okay … okay, if you don’t want to talk about that, how about telling us where we were born – what was it like?”

I see Heather cut her eyes over at me – a flash of a smile mouthing, “Thank you.”

Mom gets up from the table, picks up the dishes to take to the sink, “You, Jane, were born at home, and Heather was born in a hospital. It’s getting late and we have to get up early. Good night, turn off the lights.” I’m thinking, nice try, I will ask again.

“Good night, Heather.”

Chapter 8 of ? (baby?!)


[edit note: prepare photo of a shorthand note before publishing]

It’s early, but I’m awake just laying here thinking about important decisions I have to make this school year. Heather is coming in to see if I’m awake. I open my eyes as she sits on the edge of the big bed trying to not wake up the youngest boys on the other side.

“Jane, you’re not going to believe this,” whispered Heather. “Mama’s gonna have a baby!”

“Oh, come off it, where’d you hear that?” That was the last thing I wanted to hear. “I’ll never get out of here now.”

“What do you mean, where’re you going?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. No place right now – don’t worry.”

I want to make sure she understands. “I’m taking typing and shorthand this year so I can get a good job when I graduate. Next year they’re offering a class on introduction to business.”

Heather wrinkles her nose, “What’s that?”

“Don’t play dumb with me; you know what a typewriter is.”

“Well, yes I do!” Heather is cute and matter of fact about everything. “They have one at church. I still don’t know what shorthand is.”

“Well, Little One, it is a secret writing code that few people can read. It’s pretty too – you can hide the code in drawings and paintings, and use it for a lot of stuff.” She’s two years younger, but I can’t resist using terms to remind her I’m the oldest kid. Gotta earn my birthright, right? Kids need order and consistency.

Heather thought about it for a second, “Well, I’m not sure Mom would like the idea about you keeping secrets.”

“Go get a piece of paper and a pencil, I’ll show you.” When she brought back a page from her notebook, I wrote the message in Gregg Shorthand, “Boys are cute, but God loves you.”

“Now you keep that in your pocket. When you find someone that can read it, tell me who they are.”

“What does it mean – what does it say?”

“It’s a secret – can’t tell you.”