At one of our monthly meetings I confessed to the group that I'd been struggling. They were very supportive. It felt good to say it out loud, like a weight was lifted off my chest.
The next weekend I attended a different writer's group meeting. This one more for the pure joy of writing rather than critique. We had prompts and were given twenty minute to write. I wasn't sure how it would go and was very nervous. But what ended up happening was better than I expected. I found something that had been hidden from me for a while.
So I thought I'd share. Maybe you can finish these stories.
The first prompt was "I hope you're happy, because...."
The phone rang. It echoed throughout the house, bouncing off of white walls and teasing its way into the corners where the musty books lay waiting. An old man pushed himself up from an armchair and made his way slowly toward the kitchen.
“I hope you’re happy…”
He passed by the portrait of his late wife and winked at her. “I am,” he said.
The phone lay on the counter where he’d left it. The plastic casing was greasy, because the last time he’d used it he was making bacon and talking to his son, Peter.
Bacon sounded good. Was there any left? Absently he picked up the phone and then opened the refrigerator.
“Hello?” a woman said in his ear. “Are you there? Carl?”
“Yup,” said Carl as he moved a carton of orange juice to the back and searched the shelves.
“Good Lord,” the woman said. “I’ve been calling you all morning. Where have you been?”
Carl looked at the phone. Was there a speaker button? He wanted to use two hands to look for the bacon. Peter had installed these new phones last month. He said they were the latest technology. Carl pressed what he thought was the right button.
“CARL!” the woman was shouting.
“Yup,” said Carl. He set the phone down on the counter and went back to the fridge hunt.
There was a pause. “Carl. I know you said you wanted your privacy, that you needed time, but I don’t think that was a good idea. I’m coming over. I’m brining Maggie and Jennifer. They miss you.”
“Ah-Hah!” Carl lifted the bacon out of the meat drawer.
“Did you hear me, Carl?”
“I can be there in two hours.”
Carl looked for his fry pan. It wasn’t where he left it. “I hope you’re happy…”
“I am, sweetie,” Carl said. “I am.”
“Okay, then. We’ll see you soon. Don’t do anything crazy.”
“Yup,” said Carl. He heard a click and then a dial tone. He picked up the phone and pressed the button he hoped would turn it off. It did. A sack of chips lay on the counter next to the phone. It would be easier to eat the chips than make the bacon.
“Marion?” Carl yelled to the living room. “Do you want chips?”
The only sound was the television. The news was on.
Chips sounded good. He picked up the bag and shuffled back to his armchair passing the portrait of his late wife.
“I hope you’re happy,” she said. “Because now I have to fry all the bacon.”
The second prompt was a woman's picture, just the side of her face. She had the sleek, trim look of a 1920's flapper, dressed in a black with a string of pearls around her neck.
She held the ad in her hand as she rang the doorbell. It was a crisp sounding bell, ending on a sharp trill. In seconds the door opened and a man in suit and tails peered at her from behind the bars.
“Yes?” he said.
“I’m Crystal,” she said. “I’m here about the job.”
The man stepped closer to the gated entry.
Crystal stood straight, thankful that she’d borrowed her mother’s dress. Her own had gotten too short at the knees. She smoothed her hair and tugged her pearl necklace so that it hung straight down.
“Do you have an appointment?” the man asked.
Crystal’s finger caught on her necklace. “I didn’t know I needed to make one. The advertisement didn’t say.” She looked at it. The small type was brief and to the point. House Manager needed promptly. Experience running household. Neatly dressed. 477 Brown Street. Inquire.
The man stared at her.
Crystal looked at her shoes. The white scuffs she’d tried so hard to wipe off were showing. The salt on the sidewalk hadn’t helped.
The gate creaked and Crystal stepped back as it opened outward. The man held it with one hand and stepped back so she could enter.
The vestibule was immense with a ceiling that extended several stories and was crowned like a cake with an enormous chandelier. Crystal felt her mouth open and firmly shut it. The couches and chairs that lined the round room were covered in a warm green silk. None of them looked like they’d been sat on.
“Please, wait here,” the man said. He left through a white door that was half hidden in the wall to her right.
Alone, Crystal stood in the center of the room, hearing her own heartbeat in her ears. She tugged at her necklace and heard a tiny snapping sound and then felt the pearls drip off of her neck and land on the marble floor, scattering to all corners of the room.
For a second she stood, horrified, her finger still poised where the necklace had been. But then she heard the sound of footsteps and muffled conversation and set to work trying to gather the tiny baubles.
The floor was white and the pearls were hard to find. She had to drop her face until it was inches from the floor. She cupped each pearl she found and deposited them into her purse.
The voices were louder. The footsteps just outside the door.
Crystal stood and kicked the last few pearls, hoping they would roll under the chairs and couches and not be seen.
The white door opened and the man who’d let her in said, “Please, ma’am, may I introduce you to the owner of the house, Mr. Blumenthal.”
A tall man entered, his hair raven black and his eyes thoughtful.