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Living Fiction - Chapter 44
Here's where Chapter 43 left you.
All three of us let out a collective sigh of relief.
“Now, what were we talking about?” Jessie said in a perky voice after she had thrown the soggy pile of napkins into the sink, “Oh, yes! We were talking about the weather. Right, Mom?”
I almost took the easy way out. I almost just said, “Why, yes, Jessie. Yes, we were talking about the weather.” Millie had quit crying while Jessie and I had cleaned up the coffee. When I glanced at her mascara smeared face, I almost remarked on the barometer but I couldn’t do it. I’d spent too much time ‘cupcaking’ out of my emotions for far too long. And I knew from past experience that seeing a teary face wouldn’t stop Millie from steamrolling over ME!
“No, Jessie. We weren’t talking about the weather. I was asking for Millie’s help.”
Millie leaned forward on her chair looking like she was planning to flee. Jessie leaned forward on her chair like she was ready to stuff a piece of coffee cake into my mouth to shut me up.
I leaned forward on my own chair and continued.
And now, Chapter 44 Continues.
“Millie? Jessie? I need your help.” I straightened my shoulders and took a deep breath. “Since my husband … ummm… passed away… No! Wait! I mean since my husband DIED, I’ve been lost. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat…okay, I can eat…I can’t eat HEALTHY stuff, I mean. Millie, I know you lost your first husband and now here you are with Myron and perfectly happy. Jessie, you just keep doing what you need to do despite … well, despite everything. I can’t seem to do that. I can’t seem to be happy or even know what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Millie, you get all dolled up every day and go to bridge and go shopping and do all kinds of fun things; and Jessie, you are just so strong…you just keep up with your life…no matter what. And I’m…I’m…well…I need help. Even getting out of bed in the morning is too much work. How do you do it? How do you manage everything perfectly?”
Millie looked at Jessie with wide eyes. Jessie looked at Millie with the same expression. They both started talking at the same time.
Jessie stopped talking and motioned for Millie to continue. That girl is all kinds of polite, you know?
“Pearl! Are you crazy?” were the first words out of Millie’s mouth. “I don’t have anything together. In fact, you make me feel rotten about myself because YOU’RE the one that has it all together. After Jimbo, my first husband died, I thought I’d died, too. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t even leave my house. I just stayed inside and hid from the world. Or I tried to. But even when I was hiding and not answering the doorbell, not going out at all, it didn’t work because I couldn’t hide from me. I was so, so, so unhappy Pearl. I think I spent years dressing in a black bathrobe and not combing my hair.”
I was fascinated. This was certainly a side of Millie I couldn’t imagine.
“Then one day I looked in the mirror. Oh Pearl! It made me feel sick. I couldn’t even see the woman that I was when Jimbo and I had been married. I didn’t even know who I was. All of sudden, I couldn’t stand being who I’d become. Sure, I know you think I’ve always been this glamorous and fun…but if you’d have known me then, Pearl…oh, I’m tellin’ ya. I was really just a mess.”
Pearl leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes before continuing, “So that very day, I made myself get dressed. Jimbo had never liked bright colors; he was a very conservative man. Don’t look so surprised, you two. It’s true. When I dug through my closet, all I found was black,navy blue and brown. And do you know what? I’d never, ever, ever liked those colors. If I brought home a bright pink sweater, Jimbo would roll his eyes…just a tiny bit. No, really. He was a good husband, you know? And I always figured that if my wearing hot pink made him uncomfortable, it wasn’t worth it. Pearl, should we check on the dogs? They’re mighty quiet. Princess is always so, so, so well behaved but I’m not sure…well…I just think we should check on the dogs.”
Jessie jumped up. “I’ll check ‘em…but Pearl…don’t start talking again until I get back.”
I figured I’d take a minute and put on some more coffee. I wanted to be sure Millie had enough caffeine to keep her going through her fascinating little story. Just as I put the pot on to brew, Jessie stuck her head in the kitchen doorway and motioned for me. She held her finger to her lips, warning me to be quiet and then showed me Princess and Edgar curled up together taking a nap on the couch.
When we returned to the kitchen, Millie was standing by the back door. “Pearl, Jessie…can you grab Princess for me? I really need to get home and I’m so, so, so certain you don’t want to listen to my little blast from the past…”
“Yes! Yes, we do!” Jessie and I chorused in perfect stereo harmony. “And besides,” I continued, “Let me show you what Princess is up to.” I led her into the living room.
“Oh Pearl. Look at them. All cuddled up together…you’re right…we’ll just chat some more while we let them take their little nap…besides, you just brewed up that new pot of coffee…”
I dumped out our cold coffee and refilled everyone’s mugs. Jessie cut a few more pieces of the coffee cake.
Millie looked down at the steam rising from her mug. “I don’t know, my story really isn’t all that interesting …and I just…well…I just don’t even remember where I was.”
“Hot pink sweater!” I said. “Jimbo was conservative!” Jessie said at the same time.
Millie reluctantly started her story again. I was surprised she was being so reserved. Normally you could not shut that woman up.
Jessie and I sat entranced for the next hour as Millie continued the story of how she had reinvented her life. That woman went from a wardrobe of brown and black to wearing all the colors she’d loved as a child, the brighter the better. She made herself try new things and meet new people. She told us that her goal every single day was to make herself do something different, even if it was just driving a different way to the grocery store.
“But how did you do it, Millie?” I asked.
“I just did it, Pearl. I knew if I didn’t, I’d spend the rest of my life wearing that ugly black bathrobe and feeling sorry for myself.”
“But how did you even start?” Jessie asked.
“I just did. Everything has to have a first day, you know? Everything.”
“Okay, but, Millie…” I interrupted her again, “How did you know what to do? Did you make a list? Did you read a book? How did you do this?”
“Pearl, you’re making too big of a deal about this. Just do something. Do something different that you didn’t do the day before. Anything. For instance…” she narrowed her eyes at me, “Try putting some make-up on…”
“Millie, my husband was not a big fan of make-up, I just never…” All of the sudden, a light bulb went off in my head. “You mean, just do things I might have wanted to do, and didn’t? Or do things I never got around to trying? Right?”
“Exactly! You’ve so, so, so got the idea, Pearl! And start today.”
I hesitated. Sure this all sounded like it could work, but I was pretty tired out. And I really felt like I needed to plan this out a little more thoroughly, and…
“Pearl! Stop it! You can make excuses. You just have to do it. Don’t think so much about it. I’m not telling you to get a boob job or something…”
I spit the coffee I was just about to swallow out all over the table.
Boob job? I had to ask, “Millie, did you ummm…”
Millie easily deflected my question. “Boob job or not, now is the time, Pearl. Carpet diem!”
I started to say, “Millie, you mean carpe…not carpet diem,” but it was too late. Millie had rushed out the door.
Chuckling to myself, I turned to Jessie. Jessie didn’t look like she was finding any humor in the situation at all.
“Mom,” she said, “Do you think Millie might be right? Maybe we’ve both just been making excuses for our lives right now. I think I’m going to take Edgar and Princess for a walk. Do you have an extra leash?”
To be continued on Tuesday, July 26.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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