My friend Mrs. Chicken had a mah-vel-ous idea, dah-link, to create a fiction round-robin story and pass it around, meme style. I signed up with her and the story has been traveling through the blogosphere hither and yon, until it finally landed at Tater and Tot…. and she tagged me! So here we go: let the game
The Mother Of All Memes
(by Mrs. Chicken @ Chicken and Cheese)
I thought I saw him at the grocery store. It was raining that afternoon, and he had an umbrella. The red and white triangles that made up his portable shelter partly obscured his face, but I caught a glimpse of his eyes. Those eyes. Huge, blue and empty.
When he left me I remember searching their vast cerulean expanse for some sign, some flicker of love. It rained that day, too. Why does it rain when you lose someone you love? My tears left him unmoved. I don’t know why that surprised me.
The baby kicked in my cart and I let my gaze fall on her face. Her father’s eyes stared back at me. Green eyes, warm and full of life.”Mamma?” she said. “Mamma!”
(by Binky @ 24/7)
The question-turned-exclamation jarred me out of my reverie. There was pressure in my temples and behind the hazel tint of my colored contact lenses. “Mamma’s here,” I cooed. My voice was a manufactured kind of soothing. I leaned in and brushed a kiss over Bethany’s forehead, where a drop of rainwater hung like the tiniest Swarovski pendant. Its chain was made of fine blond locks.
“What do you think, baby girl?” I asked as I pulled her into my arms. “Is it time to go home?” Her searching legs and center of gravity found all the right contours as she settled atop the jut of my hip. I tugged at her coat until the hood framed her face, then I stepped into the rain. A small deluge of water streamed off the curve of the lowercase “o” on the Save-A-Lot sign and landed at the back of my neck. I could feel the tag from my shirt sticking sharp and soggy to my skin.
I sighed against Bethany’s face and tried to avoid the bigger puddles on our way to my twenty year old Civic, which was miraculously close. One row over and three cars ahead, I saw a familiar red and white umbrella spanning the gap between an open door and the driver’s seat of a rusty 4Runner that had to be as old as my own piece of junk. The guy I’d mistaken for Paul sat sideways and watched the rain as he talked into a cell phone.
(by Tony @ Creative-Type Dad)
Hastily reaching into my purse holding Bethany firmly, I could faintly hear the sound of his voice. His mumbled words were almost too reminiscent of Paul’s. The way he laughed as he said “Gouda” into his plastic phone brought back imagery of the two of us, sitting together last winter on the living room floor, sipping Merlot watching “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. Occasionally Paul would jokingly burst out vocabulary in his comedic English accent – expressions like “Don Perignon!” and “Caviar Dreams!” oh, how I loved Caviar and that faux bear skin rug.
With keys finally in hand, stumbling to open the rusty car door, I could sense this stranger’s stare against my cheek. His phone chatter abruptly ended and I could hear the sounds of squeaking cowboy boots crushing the wet pavement.
(by Occidental Girl @ The Occidental Tourist)
My mind was suddenly full of so many thoughts vying for my attention at the same time that I couldn’t think straight.
It can’t be him, I thought, no way. What would I say? What do I look like? What am I wearing???
The answers came in rapid succession: It could be him, it’s okay if it’s him because I’m not angry anymore; I could talk about my fulfilling life that I’ve enjoyed since knowing him, like this beautiful child I created with someone else, without him; I look like shit but since I’m too hard on myself in general, I probably look just fine; men – especially Paul – don’t notice what women are wearing unless it’s nothing at all. Then, they notice.
When you coincidentally encounter someone you loved once, a long time ago, the traitorous mind tends to retrieve only the good memories and leave the battles and frustrations out of it. This leaves us to wonder what in the world we ever thought was wrong and maybe it was a mistake to end the relationship. After all, doesn’t every relationship have ups and downs? Ours certainly did. It was passionate, without a doubt, but in every area: the loving AND the fighting. It was when the fighting overtook the loving that we fell apart. I wonder if he ever thought about all of that, even now. Paul didn’t seem to notice many thing unless they were stark – naked or otherwise.
And yet, here he was – maybe – coming over to talk after all this time.I took a deep breath, then turned around.
(by Meg @ Mainely-Megin):
“Hey.” He practically whispered.Oh. My. God.”Hi.” Was it relief or despair?”I wasn’t sure you’d remember me.””No, I…” Not Paul. Not Paul. Not Paul. Who the hell was it?”Peter Johnston, I sat behind you in statistics freshman year.
“Peter freakin’ Johnston. I felt my pulse in my neck, and I focused my breathing the way I had 15 short months ago in labor. Not Paul.
Peter held his umbrella over me and the squirmy Bethany. Idle chat. Wife, 3 kids, new job, just moved into town, wife hasn’t met anyone yet. Not Paul. Not Paul. Peter was bursting with the need to share his happiness, which allowed him to simply see an old acquaintance, not someone’s former lover plagued by mere memory.
“Dinner sounds great, I’d love to meet Lisa and the kids.”
With the baby buckled in and my door as close to closed as it got, I watched Peter close his own door. The rain rushed down the window and distorted the images. It blended the head and brake lights of the cars winding their way through the parking lot.
(by Bethany @ mommy writer):
The seven-thirty hour, the one right after dinner, is always the worst. Waiting for Daniel to come home, feeding and changing Bethany for bedtime, cleaning the kitchen. It’s a nuisance and a routine all the same.
That is, until Daniel comes stumbling into the back door in nothing short of drunkeness.
“Hi honey,” he chirped balancing himself against the cracked linoleum counter kicking off his shoes, “Sorry I’m late.”
When isn’t he late?
“S’okay,” I look up from the over-used skillet I’d been tackling with a worn Scotch pad for the last 15 minutes, “Had a good time tonight?”
Daniel only tripped past my shoulder to the spaghetti, waiting in the stained Tupperware and fixed himself a plate of dinner.
It’s just as well. I didn’t have the energy to congratulate him on an obvious vaccuum sale. Not today. The office post-sale drinks in celebration are too habitual, if not an excuse. And it isn’t as if he’d just made a commission worth writing home about. It was more like we’d be able to splurge on groceries. Or buy Bethany the expensive diapers.
“This is good,” he chewed, spilling sauce to the edges of his lips. The edges I used to adore when he spent more time smiling.
“Bethany went to bed easily tonight,” I said more to myself than Daniel. “For once anyway.”
Daniel shoveled another tangle of noodles into his mouth. He was either too drunk to realize I was trying engage him in conversation, or plain ignoring me.
I rinsed the pot and placed it beside the sink where the drying rack should be, the one I was too lazy to take from the bottom cupboard. Patting my hands on the stretched blue jeans that hugged my legs for the last two days, I pecked my husband on the forehead and walked towards the bedroom.
Just before leaving the hallway, I called back to him, “Your nemisis, Peter Johnston is back in town. We’re having dinner with him, wife, and kids this weekend.”
(Heather @ Cool Zebras)
I paused for a moment just inside the bedroom door. Ahhh. There is was, the choked sputter of breath, then silence.
I allowed my thoughts to wander while I pulled on my well-worn flannel nightie.
Peter and Daniel had been at odds since they were five. Preschool battles over who got the first cracker evolved into teenage hostilities on the basketball court. B Squad basketball at that. If there was something they could compare, you could bet there would be a pissing contest about it.
I’d avoided both of them in high school.
I continued my bedtime routine and tried to ignore the clink of bottles from the kitchen. I pulled at the corners of each eye and slipped out my contacts. Even to me my eyes looked tired, my skin drawn. It has been too long since I’ve dyed my roots.
The woman in the mirror looked sad, but then one corner of my mouth started to twitch.
I loved that Peter had no idea that I married Daniel.
(by Christy @ yankeeinontario)
As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I thought about the fireworks that were sure to happen during dinner next week. I wondered about Peter’s wife. Would I like her? Would she like me? What would I wear? Could I possibly get myself poured into a pair of slacks without the 2% lycra content that allowed me into my jeans? Would I be able to carry on an intelligent conversation about something besides the newest Fisher Price offering or the latest guest star on Sesame Street?
I worried myself into a wide awake tizzy until I heard Peter dragging himself up the steps in his drunken stupor. He slammed the bedroom door against the wall and the baby woke up, howling with the injustice of being awakened. “Now you’ve done it, you ass!”, I hissed at Peter. I hauled myself out of bed, cursing my husband, too drunk to tend to his daughter. He was snoring, face down on the bed, when I returned after quieting Bethany. And here I am, 1 a.m. Still awake.
(by Tater and Tot @ Tater and Tot)
It took 2 full hours before I fell into a deep sleep. My buddy anger had given up and dosed off, but my good friend discontent was up and ready for a party. I tossed and turned while the tides of thoughts surged through my mind. Is this really as good as it was going to get? Was this life to its fullest? This certainly wasn’t what I dreamed of when I was a little girl. I never thought to add dirty dishes, laundry, half-nights of sleep, poopy diapers and stained Tupperware to my pretend play. Nor did I think that my thoughts would drift toward a “what if” life with an ex instead of spending time with any of the other 25 letters. I’ve watched enough Dr. Phil to know that I only think about Paul because I can make the pretend relationship however I want it to be.
But then there is real life – and Daniel. Complacency is his best friend. He’ll sell Kirbys door to door for the next 30 years and never be bored – or promoted. He’ll have the same celebratory drinks at the same bar with the same guys and revel in the predictability. He’ll be obliviously happy and expect the same from me.
“If only it were that easy,” I whispered out loud before drifting off into a hard, dreamless sleep.
But not before I felt the very first quickening deep in my womb. Sixteen weeks. Right on schedule.
(by me, @ NewDotMom)
The days of our week tripped by, falling and stumbling over one another like my own emotions. The dreaded sameness wearied me as it sustained me – I could drift on the eddies of the routine without thought. And then, finally, it was Saturday night. Bethany was bathed and fed earlier than usual – there was no way I’d be trying to feed a cranky toddler in someone else’s home. It was basically asking for a full-body dousing in applesauce and strained peas. Of course, I thought, getting drenched in baby food might be a step up on the fashion scale if a miracle didn’t occur in my closet sometime soon.
Silence greeted me from the den, where dual screens vyed for my husband’s attention. The television screamed, the XBox roared, and the man I’d pledged to love, honor, and cherish all the days of my life sat openmouthed between the two. “Daniel! What are you doing in here? We need to leave soon, I’m not dressed, and you need to watch Bethany while I get ready.” Still, silence. Either he was deliberately ignoring me again, or he was starting to experience hearing loss from all those surround-sound speakers he kept blaring at top volume. I finally stepped between Daniel and the TV, positioning my body so that he couldn’t see the game.
“What the hell!? Laura, move your wide load outta here. I’m trying to watch the Skins.”
“Look, you need to watch Bethany for a little while. I have to get dressed – and we are leaving in forty minutes. Dinner with Peter and Lisa, remember? We never go out anymore – we are not cancelling this. So I don’t want to hear it, okay? Just… here!”
I plopped Bethany onto her father’s lap, and smiled in spite of myself. Seeing her beautiful green eyes and their older, larger counterparts in Daniel’s face reminded me of what was good and right in our house. Maybe not every day, maybe not every minute, but mostly. My hand involuntarily sought out the soft curve of my belly, and I sighed. Then I turned on my heel and stomped up the stairs to wrestle with my clothes decisions. I was going to have fun tonight, no matter what Daniel did or said.
Tag! You’re it, Word Girl!