Writing Prompt “Valentine’s Day Love Advice”
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This post is for STORIES related to the Bonus Short Story Contest: “Valentine’s Day – thanks to a temporary rift in the space-time continuum, you encounter your 10-year-old self and have 10 minutes to give them advice or answer their questions about love. The story must be dialogue between the two of you.”
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20 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Valentine’s Day Love Advice””
by Mary Louise Van Dyke © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
I blink as I look around, the familiar lines of the old yellow house faded under sun glare, grass shaven close to the ground. A blue jay screeches from the safety of a pine tree.
In the middle of the lawn dances a young girl, whirls, twirls, bell-shaped skirt bobbing awkwardly from side to side. Brown curls bobbing with the motion.
My breath catches. Tightens.
I know her. That child. Is. Me.
But how? I draw in air, my throat muscles straining to complete the action. Sun warms my hair, the silvering strands mixed in with the brown, What am I doing here?
Seeming unaware, the girl dances on. Stops. Accepts the hand of an invisible partner. Curtseys and begins a dance with that unseen lad. The ghost of a lover of the future?
Oh God. My eyes drift shut, remembering the work of making my skirt billow out like a hoop skirt. Gathering dried grasses from the edges of my grandparents’ property. Sewing each into the skirt to create the dress a lady of the mid-1800’s would have worn.
The girl stops abruptly. Has she seen me? But no, she addresses that invisible person instead. “You danced on my foot!” she chides and leans over to rub her toes.
Laughter bubbles up inside me like soda shaken before the bottle is opened – and the child turns. Sees me. Blue eyes widen and she takes a step back. “Who are you?”
What can I say? The ghost of Christmas future comes to mind but at ten, I hadn’t read the Dickens tale yet, and I don’t want to startle her.
“I – I’m here to visit Dolly.”
“Grandma? But she’s gone to the store and won’t be back for awhile. Do you want to sit on the porch and wait for her.”
I glance at the side of the house, part of me longing for the shade there and the chance to arrange my thoughts of this dream – surely this is a dream. “I – no. I was enjoying watching you dance. Who is your partner?”
“I don’t know yet,” she replies matter-of-factly. “ But I have to get practiced for it you know.”
“Practiced for it?” I can’t keep my lips from quirking up.
“For falling in love.”
At ten? She’s years too young for any such thing, isn’t she, I mean me? “Well, you’re certainly getting practiced now. I like your dress, by the way.”
She holds up her hands.”I spent last night sewing my skirt to make it look old-fashioned. Like Mary Todd Lincoln did when she was a girl. I read about it in a book, you see.”
Yes, I remember, very well. Always pretending. Always reading. Trying to block out the other things in my life that I couldn’t control. Such as the dad who disappeared and reappeared in my life at irregular intervals.
And dreaming of someone who would love me. Unlike dad.
Like the invisible beau with clumsy feet.
I step towards her, hoping she won’t shy away. Stop before getting close enough to startle her. “So you read. What else do you like to do?”
I know the answer even before she says it. “I had a poem published in my school’s newsletter in March. My mother kept two copies of it. I don’t think my dad ever saw it.” She looks down at the ground. Her voice quiets and I have to lean closer to hear.
“But someday I’ll show my husband the poem and he’ll say what a wonderful writer I am.”
Oh God. I can see in an instant what comes in the future. The marriage to someone 15 years older than myself. To someone old enough to be. . . .
“Maybe someone else will think you’re a wonderful writer, too.”
“You think so? Really?” She lifts her face. Eyes me as if she wants to say something else but doesn’t quite dare because I am an adult, even if she and I are the same person. And how strange to think she doesn’t know I am her.
I draw a deep breath and this time release it. “I think that” oh let me find the best words to warn her. “If you write and go to college first, there may be lots of people who will say what a wonderful job you do.”
Am I getting through? Doubt fringes her eyes in dark shadows. “But I want someone to love me. Because it’s important.”
And because she is lost – and I glance to where she left off dancing with her unseen lover and imagine him silently listening to our conversation. Oh I don’t want him to be older and set in his ways. I want him to be on the same page she is – clumsy feet or not.
“You’ll find him. But you need to keep writing and dancing and learning about a lot of things first,” I say – and hope she hears what I am trying to say. What I want to say. “Because you are very special – and he” Hear me silent lover “will think so too.”
Hmmm. She glances at me, clearly thinking, and finally smiles a bit. “Thank you.”
I smile at her and step back, instead of stepping forward to hug her as I want to. She turns back to her dance, and I watch and hope as her homemade hoopskirt billows in the sun.
Dreams are funny things. They are fluid, and they move me from one scene to another without a clear connection to each other. Was I dreaming as I walked down a familiar road? Ahead I saw a young girl about 10, sitting alone with her back against a pine tree, deeply absorbed in a book. The sun shone on her auburn hair and highlighted the freckles that danced across her small nose. Several children playing nearby ignored the young girl. Watching her, I knew that she was used to being alone and she found comfort in her books. As I approached her, I stopped. It was me!
My breath caught in my lungs and I gasped. No! I didn’t want to be back here. I looked at the younger image of myself and winced. I was a skinny child, all arms and legs. My mother called me “homely.” Not ugly, but not pretty; it made it easy for me to be invisible. I’d never been popular or athletic, heck; I wasn’t even coordinated. I moved like a newborn foal trying to find its legs after birth and I envied the graceful girls. My friends were found in the books I read, helping me to escape my existence.
Taking a deep breath, I walked up to the tree as my younger self looked up. What does one say to oneself?
“Hi” the girl said, “Can I help you?”
“No, I’m just visiting and I saw you. What are you reading?”
“The Secret Garden.”
Kneeling, I touched the book, “I’ve always loved this book!” we said in unison, startling each other.
She laughed and her blue eyes sparkled. She looked almost pretty.
“I always dream about falling in love with Dickon in that garden” she sighed, “but I’m not really sure about love yet.” I saw the shadow cross her face and I knew what it meant. “Is love real?”
I sat beside her. “Well, your parents are good examples of love aren’t they?”
“Yes. But sometimes bad things happen.”
I looked into her eyes, understanding her feelings of pain, fear, and betrayal. It was our shared pain.
“You know, you are right. Sometimes bad things happen, but you have the power to decide how it makes you feel.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you can decide to be a victim or you can be a survivor. A survivor gets up and keeps going until she knows she will make it. She doesn’t forget what happened to her but she can choose not to let it control her life. As long as she allows it to make her feel bad, she gives her power away.”
I had her full attention now. The tears that had threatened were disappearing.
“Your power” I told her firmly. “No can make you feel something that you don’t want to feel. You have the power to allow the feelings to take over or you can use your power to focus on more positive things. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to use your power to change things in your life.”
She frowned a little and I could that she was thinking deeply. It felt strange talking to myself this way but maybe I could make some changes too.
“Power” she whispered, “I like that!”
“Sometimes it takes time to understand and learn how to use your power of choice. Be patient, little one, and it will come to you. Remember how long Mary and Dickon worked to help Colin walk again in the Secret Garden?”
“Colin had to make a choice. People told him he was sick. He could continue to believe he was a helpless cripple or he could choose to trust others and get well and walk again. He chose trust, love, and work and it changed his life, right?”
“Oh Wow!” she breathed.
“Mary had to make a choice. She could continue to be selfish, grumpy and angry or she could learn how to take care of herself. When she chose to focus on things other than herself, she became happier and healthier. She chose love and learned to care about people other than herself.”
“Love is like that and you must believe in it because love has a power all its own. Love is made of trust, faith, sharing, and hard work. Not all relationships come easy.”
I could see the edges of the scene fading and I knew I didn’t have much more time here in this place with my childhood image.
“Just remember, YOU have the power to make choices and to change things. Never forget that you are in control and never let anyone take your power from you.” I took her hand. “Make good decisions and choose happiness. If you do that and have confidence in yourself, love will find its way to you.”
“Do you really think so?”
“You know what? I really do and I believe in you too!”
She smiled. As the scene began fading and I could no longer feel her hand in mine, I heard her soft voice say, “Thank you!” as I closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes again, I was sitting on my bed. I wondered if I’d been dreaming. If I had really been able to talk to myself in the past, would it make a difference now? I’d never been a believer in love and romance.
A sudden noise startled me and I stared in disbelief as a former boyfriend walked into the room smiling.
“Honey? Are you ready?” He leaned over and gave me a lingering kiss.
Honey? “Um, no.”
“Come on, we’re going out for Valentine’s, remember?” He held out a muscular hand to help me stand and then he took me into his strong arms. “I’m so glad you chose me” he whispered. I snuggled into his arms as I finally understood the power of love.
By Alice Nelson ©2016
Ten year old Ophelia stood waiting for the rundown yellow bus to take her to school. When she stepped on board The Hens were sitting in back like they always were, snickering at her, like they always did. He was sitting back there too —Oscar Evans, Ophelia’s crush since elementary school, sitting in the back with her arch enemies. Oscar didn’t tease Ophelia, but he laughed, and that hurt far more than anything that was said.
Ophelia gave them the name The Hens, because they were always cackling, and pecking on the weaker birds in the coop —both on the bus and at school. Each day she dreaded the 45 minute ride, which began and ended with the merciless teasing by these popular girls.
Ophelia took her usual seat at the front of the bus, far from the madding crowd, where she hoped to be left alone —at least as long as the bus ride lasted. However, as soon as she sat down, Ophelia was pelted with several dozen balled up pieces of paper. Then The Hens began hurling the usual insults at her. “Ugly…big nose…where’d you get those old hand-me-down clothes from?” Oscar looked sheepishly at her, but said nothing. Ophelia heard it all day, every day, and had almost grown accustomed to it.
She closed her eyes, and put headphones on to escape the onslaught. Even with those bitches, the ride to school was her favorite part of the day. It was a time where Ophelia could stare out the window and daydream about life after the wilderness of her school years were over. The cassette in her Walkman was David Bowie, one of her favorites. Ophelia was lost in the song “Ashes to Ashes” when she felt someone sit next to her. ‘Probably one of The Hens,’ she thought, getting up close and personal with their special brand of bullying.
When Ophelia opened her eyes, there was a strange woman sitting next to her. This woman looked familiar, with her short afro, and leather coat. To Ophelia’s surprise, she was singing Ashes to Ashes as well, even though she couldn’t possibly hear it from where she sat.
“Hi Ophelia.” She said with a big bright smile on her face.
“How do you know my name?” Ophelia asked.
“Oh, I just do. We’re a lot a like you and me.” She smiled again.
The woman motioned to Ophelia’s Walkman, “Bowie is one of my favorites too.
Ophelia looked stunned, “How do you know I’m listening to David Bowie?”
“Because that’s what I used to do on my way to school.”
Ophelia was about to ask the woman what that meant, but just them one of The Hens yelled, “Did you bring your mother to school to protect you?” They laughed, Oscar did too.
“Don’t worry about him, he’s a follower.”
“Who?” Ophelia asked.
“Oscar. You don’t want a guy who won’t even defend you when you’re under attack. He goes along because he’s afraid. Believe me, the man you end up marrying will defend you to the end.”
Ophelia put down her Walkman, and listened more closely.
“Those girls back there, don’t worry about them, or Oscar. You’ll always meet people like that, who feel powerful picking on those who won’t fight back. Problem is, those hens don’t realize just how wonderful you are, that this stage in your life where you feel inadequate and lack confidence isn’t going to be where you are forever. You are a strong girl Ophelia, you just don’t realize it yet. Endure this now, because this will make you into the magnificent woman you are destined to become.
Ophelia looked at this stranger with a sense of fear, and curiosity. “How do you know all this?” she asked.
“Because I’ve been there,” she waved her hand towards The Hens, “I endured the bullying of Hens like this too.” She smiled, and so did Ophelia. She found the woman’s smile contagious.
“I never told anyone I called them Hens.”
“What a coincidence, that’s what I called the bullies too.” The woman said, but Ophelia believed it was no coincidence at all.
The bus pulled up in front of the school, Ophelia waited for The Hens to exit, so they wouldn’t trip her on the way out. When they passed, her tormentors snickered, but there was a different look in the girls eyes, and lead Hen Angie saw that Ophelia was different from when she stepped on that bus.
Ophelia headed towards the door, but turned around to ask the woman, “Will I see you after school?”
“No honey, I can’t stay long, I’m just glad I was able to spend even this short time with you. Just remember what I told you, and you’ll be fine.”
“What’s your name?” Ophelia asked.
“My friends call me ‘O,” the woman said.
“Bye ‘O.” Ophelia walked off the bus, and when she looked in the window to wave goodbye, the woman was gone.
At lunch, Ophelia sat alone, like she always did, but this time she was joined by the top Hen Angie, who plopped down next to her.
Ophelia braced for the rest of the crew to come and torture her, but the other Hens were at the center table, where they always sat.
“What do you want?” Ophelia asked.
Angie smiled timidly and said, “Mind if I call you ‘O, I think it’s a cool nickname.”
Ophelia was surprised because this was the same name of the woman on the bus. “Sure.” She said, and the two girls finished their lunch in silence.
Ophelia looked for the stranger on the ride home, she wanted to tell her what happened at lunch, but there was no sign of her.
The bus driver said, “Hey you, some body left this for you.”
Ophelia smiled when she saw that it a copy of Bowie’s album “Hunky Dory,” with a note that said, “Enjoy. Love ‘O.”
As was the case, when confused about life, love, or just about anything that seeped out of my imagination, I called a consult with my other half. Ron the adult and Ron the kid were about to have a pow wow.
“Do you think she’d like to go to a movie?”
“What kind of movie? Power Rangers may not be her cup of tea.”
“I was thinking of something a little more entertaining, maybe like Star Wars?”
I rolled my eyes as I looked at my other self. “Man, you’re going to have to spring for major league popcorn and soda if you take her there. Maybe she’d like something a little more feminine … like Sense and Sensiblity.”
And, there it was. The quagmire between boy self and man self. A virtual standoff since adult self was no bigger than young self.
“How about a nice walk in the park?”
“Yeah, maybe I could push her on the swings too.”
“Now you’re just being sarcastic. Why don’t you be a grown up about this?”
“Why don’t you?”
And then, realization struck me like a giant box of Lego’s. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Before any of this can happen, I have to ask Mom if she’ll drive us.”
by Travis Keys
The boy sits at the end of pier with his fishing pole in one hand and the other resting lazily on the side of his brown mutt, Cap’n Crunch. I consider turning around and leaving the two friends sitting there enjoying their respite. A boy and his dog, fishing on a perfect summer day, shouldn’t be disturbed—especially when it’s one of the last moments they’ll spend alone together.
A few days from now, while exploring the woods, Cap is bitten by a rattlesnake. The dumb mutt will run off yelping and the boy will never see his beloved dog again. It’s his first heartbreak. But it’s his second heartbreak I’m here to prevent.
I step foot onto the pier and Cap perks his head up. I don’t know how—maybe I smell the same as an adult as I did as a kid—but he barks and comes running down the rickety, wooden pier towards me like I wasn’t just sitting there petting him. I scoop him up in my arms and bury my face into his fur.
“Cap,” the boy calls.
The dog wriggles out my arms and charges back to where the boy is sitting. I wonder if he’ll notice that Cap’s fur is wet. I dry my eyes on my sleeve and walk to join the pair. The boy eyes me suspiciously the entire way.
“Hi,” I say, looking out across the shimmering water.
“Hey,” he says turning his attention back to fishing.
“Nah. I think Cap scared all the fish away.”
“He’s a pretty ferocious dog.”
“Nah. He’s just a dumb old mutt that don’t know nothing about fishing.”
He scratches Cap behind his ear lovingly. I glance at my watch. I only have six minutes left.
“Mind if I sit down?” I ask.
“It’s a free country.”
I sit down on the other side of Cap who is on the verge of purring from being so happy. I pat his haunch and rub him behind his ears.
“He loves that,” the boy says spitting into the water.
We sit there in silence. Inside my head I can hear the seconds ticking away.
“Charlie, I need to tell you something,” I finally say.
The boy looks at me sideways. “How’d you know my name?”
“Because my name is Charlie too.”
He looks at me more closely. A mixture of recognition and disbelief flashes in his eyes.
“Charlie,” I say as he realizes he’s talking to his future self. “I know what Father Francis does to you.”
Charlie’s face drains of color, except his ears, which turn a bright red. He looks at me angrily.
“Liar!” he yells. “You’re a liar!”
Cap lets out a low growl and scoots closer to Charlie. Charlie reels in his line then begins putting his lures inside his tackle box.
“Listen to me, Charlie.”
“I’m not listening,” he says dropping the tackle box and putting his fingers in his ears. “I’m not listening.” The tears that have filled his eyes begin to spill over. “You’re a liar!”
He knows I’m not lying. My watch beeps. Only two minutes left.
“Charlie,” I say reaching to pull his hands away from his ear. Cap barks and lunges at me. He bites me on the arm. Not hard, but hard enough to make me jump back. I grab my arm startled. I stare at my dog in disbelief. He’d never bitten anyone as long as I owned him.
Charlie grabs Cap’s collar to restrain him.
“That’s what you get for being a liar.”
I check my arm to see if Cap’s teeth have broken the skin. There’s a small drop of blood running down my arm.
“Charlie, it stops,” I say quickly. “You have to believe me.”
Charlie lets go of Cap, who has calmed down and is back to being the happy guy I always remembered. Charlie picks up his stuff and begins walking up the pier with Cap and me following him.
Charlie stops. I can see from the shuddering of his shoulders that he’s sobbing. He can’t see my shoulders but they’re doing the same.
“You have to let her love you. She’s the only one that can heal you. Don’t push her away, Charlie.”
“Who?” he asks with a tremble in his voice. “Who can make me feel better?”
“I can’t tell you her name, but you’ll know her when you meet her. Let her love you,” I plead with myself.
“Let’s go, Cap,” Charlie says walking off.
“Charlie!” I call after him as I begin to feel myself dissolve.
He stops again.
“Don’t take Cap to the woods next Wednesday.”
Charlie turns around to look at me. I feel a warmth blossom in my chest. I recall seeing my father and me, at the age of sixteen, taking Cap to the vet to have him put down. It’s still painful but there’s a twinge of happiness knowing that he lived a long, full life.
I hear her voice across time, beckoning me back, telling me, “I do.” Telling me, “We have a son.” Telling me, “I love you, Charles.”
I smile at my ten year old self. “You did it,” I whisper.
I stand there staring at the spot where the man had just stood. I decide at that moment that when I get home, I’m going to tell dad what’s been going on.
“Come on, boy,” I say to Cap who’s sniffing at something in the grass. “Let’s go home.”
loud bang and a blinding flash of light. When I can see again I’m not in my house. I blink in surprise at the soft yellow walls
and coral bookshelves in my childhood room. With a soft “mrrow” my cat, Mandy, jumps off of my bed and starts rubbing
against my ankles. “Hello sweetheart.” I coo bending to pet her. There is a sudden clatter on the stairs and my ten year old
self bursts into the room. She stops in surprise and stares.
“Who are you?! And how did you get in my room?”
“I’m you.” I respond.
“That’s impossible!” She exclaims.
“It is. Or I guess it was since here I am.”
“Did you use magic? Do I turn out to be an elf like I want?”
I laugh. “No. I’m not sure how I got here. There was a loud bang and a flash of light and voila.”
“Oh. It would be neat to be an elf.”
“It would. Audrey, I don’t know how much time I have.” Is there anything you want to know?”
“Um.” With a sigh she plops on the bed and looks at me. “What is the future like?”
“Pretty much the same as now. People live their lives the same way that they always have. The sun still shines and the grass is still green. No flying cars or anything cool like that.”
“Huh. Is it Valentines day there too?”
“Yes. But it’s almost over.”
“Am I, um, are we in love?”
“Very much so.”
“What is it like? Is he handsome? What is his name? How did we meet him?”
“Slow down!” I laugh. “Being in love is everything mom and dad say it is. It’s the best thing to be in love with your best friend. But it’s also a lot of work. You can’t put yourself first. Yes he is handsome. I’m not going to tell you his name or how we meet him. Life shouldn’t be about trying to find the ‘one’. It should be about staying the present moment. You can’t control what is going to happen and love can’t be forced. Besides if I tell you what happens it would take all the fun out of it.” I could see the wheels turning in her head.
“But how do I know if I’m doing things the right way? What if I miss meeting him or mess up and he doesn’t love me?”
“Audrey,” I take her hand and look directly into her eyes. “That will never happen. He will always love you. And he loves you because of who you are not in spite of it. There is someone else that you meet first and you’ll think you’re in love with him. But he wants you to change who you are to suit who he thinks you should be. That’s how you know if someone really loves you.They know completely who you are and never ask you to change for them. They don’t want you to be different because to them you’re already perfect. The people who truly love you help you improve and grow to be better but still be yourself.”
Mandy jumps onto the bed and settles between us. I start stroking her fur and smile as she purrs. “Love is simple. It’s our own human insecurities that make it complicated.” Ten year old Audrey smiles at me.
“It sounds perfect. Love, I mean.”
“It is.” I agree.
“Audrey! Time for lunch!” My mother yells up the stairs.
“Can you stay for lunch?” Audrey asks.
“No. I don’t think that mom and dad would understand if grown up you appeared at the table.” A breeze stirs the curtains and I hear my son’s laughter again. “Besides I need to go home. Just remember to be yourself. Love always wins.” She laughs a little and smiles at me before going downstairs with the usual clatter. No bang this time and the flash of light is softer. When I open my eyes I’m back in my kitchen. I hear Tyler saying goodnight it Andy and coming downstairs.
“Hello love.” He says coming into the kitchen. “Happy Valentines”
“Happy Valentines.” I smile and lean into his hug. A firetruck whizzes past and pulls over in front of the neighbor’s house. Smoke is pouring out of all of the windows.
“Hey what happened to Dr. Pearson’s house?”
“Hon, didn’t you hear that loud bang earlier? Another one of his crazy experiments to bend the space – time continuum gone wrong.”
“Oh, that’s what that was earlier.” I laugh as Dr. Pearson emerges from the house his hair on end and lab coat singed.
“What will he try next?”
Terminal Report Card
Rummaging within the deep recesses of my storage room cupboard is entrancing.
Boxes of anniversary memorabilia tied with ribbon, folders hugging homemade cards written to mummy and daddy in their large coloured lettering and adorned with love hearts are just some of the things that beckon me right into that cupboard and off to another time and space; every time.
Last time it was a box of old photos; black and whites taken with someone’s Kodak brownie camera. Mesmerised by photos of families stiffly lined up in gawky rows or posing in various farm and beach settings, I sat me down and began to sort and sift, study and squint in an effort to piece my past into some sense of a family tree.
My children insist I vanished for two days, non responsive to all their efforts to locate me.
They always exaggerate!
Now I am going into the store room to locate some long abandoned art projects. Of course I will leave just as soon as I find the paints and brushes. I am keen to complete some watercolour compositions while the natural lighting is at its peak today.
Fingering along the art shelf a box is catching my eye. It’s my children’s report cards.
‘Oh my word, I must give them to their rightful owners.’
Now I am seeing my own school report cards and two of Ashley’s reports. He is my husband, born in 1950. These are old!
‘Wow, I forgot about those!’ Gingerly I am picking up one of mine.
It’s yellow with age but the words are clearly legible;
Terminal Examination Report
NAME: Daphne Bell
Curiosity is starting to read. ‘Daphne is very quiet and works diligently…’ ‘Ooh! What is happe…?’ The room is suddenly turning, like a child’s kaleidoscope displaying intricately designed patterns. The colourful patterns are changing their shape. I am turning. I am a colour wheel!
‘Wait! Yes, I see some significant dates; 2009…2002…1998…1978…’78…’74… ’68. My life is reversing!
Now we are stopping at… you guessed; 1965.
‘That is me!’ I know it is. She embodies all my childhood photos.
It is home time and she is sitting apart on the slatted wooden bench outside the classroom reading this very same Terminal Examination Report.
Mine is yellowed but hers is crisp, the pages white.
I am observing her unseen, and peering through the classroom window too. The chalked date on the blackboard says Friday 17th December. So today is the beginning of the long summer holidays and Christmas.
I am stepping towards her. I must not miss this chance.
Any moment she will grab her school satchel and run for the school bus.
‘Hello, you are looking happy.’
‘Yes, this is my report card and my teacher has written nice things about me.
‘My name is Daphne and I used to always check that my report said nice things about me too.’
She smiles saying, ‘That’s my name too.’
‘Do you like your name?’
‘No, it is embarrassing. No one my age has that name.’ It belongs to old peo…,’ she trails off turning bright red.
‘I thought exactly like that when I was ten.’ I watch her closely. ‘Later I learned to like my name.’
‘I learned grouse things about it.’
She brightens. ‘Like what?’
‘A Year nine teacher told me about the Daphne flower. Daphne has a beautiful perfume.
‘In my twenties I was introduced to my Aunty Daphne.
Sure; she was older but she was smartly dressed and attractive. I began to like my name a little more.’
‘Two years ago I worked with an elderly Greek man.
“Koukla,” he would repeat, “you are a Pom so why do you have a pure Greek name?”
We both giggle.
Yesterday was Saturday, February sixth, 2016 and I was doing my annual online search for the perfect Valentine gift for my sweetheart.
‘Let’s talk about love,’ I am saying.
She is an escapist, a dreamer and a little romantic. I will present her with some love threads to weave into her homespun dreams and hope beads for her future.
‘At thirteen I fell in love with a Year Eight teacher. To demonstrate my love to him, every day I gave him an apple that I sneaked from home.’ I spare her the details of awakened hormones; my first experience of boy love. It would be a spoiler!
‘He taught me the love of learning and gave me courage to be adventurous. I loved him for many years.’
‘Wow, I love my teacher. I have had her for three years and will miss her next year. I hope that I find a teacher like yours in high school.’
I smile, ‘You will.’
‘Did you have boyfriends?’ she asks. We are getting very cosy with each other.
‘In my dreams.’
It happened when I was seventeen and he was twenty one.
‘We were introduced and I just gasped.
At that very moment Cupid aimed his arrow and penetrated my heart.’ I point my finger to my chest.
‘Did the boy love you too?’
‘Daphne, he did and you know what?’
‘We still love each other very deeply.’
‘Fairy tale stories can be true and end with the couple marrying and living happily ever after.’
Young Daphne claps her hands delightedly.
‘Mum, it’s me. Where are you?’
The voice is channelling itself toward my inner ear and transmitting its familiarity into my mind.
I am refusing to let it move my eyes still locking onto the ten year old flicking her eyes between her Terminal Examination report and friendly old Daphne.
The spell breaks. I am returning back through fifty years of beautiful, colourful patterns of homespun lifetime.
‘Who were you talking to just now?’
‘Oh, just to myself I suppose,’ fondly smiling at my adult daughter.
She is rolling her eyes and giving me a big squeezy hug.
Valentina agreed to go under a hypnotic trance on the show because she suddenly had the urge to revisit her young self. The hypnotist clicked his fingers, asked her to go to sleep and find herself as a 10 years old girl.
10 years old, Valentina was an unwanted, unloved, branded ugly, illiterate and deaf girl. She sat in a disused building with her head buried in her laps, arms wrapped tightly around her and stifling her cries as she willed away her traumatic existence.
“You have the strength to fight this.” Valentina said . Although deaf young Valentina somehow understood her.
“No, I can’t. I’m deaf, an inconvenience and a curse to my parents. They hate each other, always battling. I’m the reason dad married mum and they wished I was never born. Everyone, even I hate myself.” Young Valentina rose her head to carry on with the conversation
“I no longer do.” Valentina said
“I was you twenty years ago. On my journey I realised I have to love myself before anyone could love me. I cannot carry the burden of my parents’ mistakes. You want to be loved, have a family, a normal and good life. I have achieved them.”
Young Valentina loosened her grip on her legs, got up to her feet and wiped her cheeks as if to blow away her distress. “I’m ugly and deaf and unlucky. I’m crazy for being wishful. My parents drummed it into me that I cannot aspire for things that all normal girls do. But, you say I can.” She waited for an answer. “I’m going to run away from my cigarette flesh burning father, the man who locks me under the stairs so that he won’t see my face and hates to even see my shadow; and my mother who blames me for marrying my horrible father.” She inspected the scars made by cigarettes burns on her arms.
Valentina looked at her faded scars too.
“I know how you feel, we co-exist. Nothing stays the same in life. Things change for the better or for the worse. Your destiny will change for the better. Believe in yourself.”
“I bet it will for the worse. Someone will knife me in the park or throw me into a ditch or river, or strangle me as my parents threaten they’ll end up doing. The fear of prison stops them from carrying their wish.”
Valentina followed young Valentina as she skipped away. “Our guardian angel is with us.” Valentina reassured her.
Young Valentina was digging into the thrash bins for some leftover junk food when she was pulled by a female police officer and questioned and was taken back to her home.
“Where did disappear to, bitch,” He mother grabbed her arm, pulled her over and slapped her. “You brought the police here.”
“Hey, you’re not doing this in front of me. I’m taking this girl into care.” The officer pulled young Valentina away. She went into care and was later adopted by a childless couple.
“That was the best thing that could have happened to you,”Valentina said. “From then onwards, your life changed.”
“My life will never change. I’m hopeless and useless.”
“It will change. Our guardian angels will protect you. Your adopted parents are good people. You’ll experience their unconditional love. The day you will turn around will be when you stole their money and jewellery. Determined they will bring you on the right path, and will work really hard to get you on track.” Valentina said.
“Do you still want me to live in your house after what I have done? I stole from you.” Valentina remembered telling her adopted parents.
“Valentina. You have stolen your own money, your own jewellery. When we leave this earth, all will be yours. Whatever we have is yours. You’re our child, the child we could not conceived but are blessed to have today.” They had answered.
That was the moment we realised love is everywhere and we must seize it. Their devotion was unfaltering and unblemished.
I met Reece, my husband later on at a clinic. He was following treatment for his blindness. He was a pilot who became partially blind by the laser illuminations on the runways. He has a passion for dancing and he taught me how to dance and then later, we took part in a show called “Strictly Dancing.” He was my ears and I| was his eyes and we won the first prize and became well known. Believe me, my young self, you will come out trumps in the long run. You will conquer the World.
I have still got some journeys to go through and more battles to win.” Valentina soothed her young Self.
“I must go now, I’m so pleased and wanted so much to meet you again, to calm your fears. Be good to those who love you. My family are waiting for me and the hypnotist is ready to wake me up. I can hear him talking to me.”
“You can hear!” Young Valentina asked.
“With my hearing aids, yes.”
“Rise up, now.” Valentina heard the hypnotist and the clicking of his fingers. Her body shook as she came back to the present.
“Mum. We were so worried.” Valentina’s two children ran up to her.
“The things that you came up with are astonishing. You went 20 years back.”
“I know. I remember it clearly.” Valentina answered.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is my final act for tonight.” Sweeping his arms the hypnotist turned to address the crowd.
Valentina went down to the auditorium to rejoin her family. She hugged Reece, then hugged her stepmother who was leaning her head over her stepfather and sobbing.
“I was so frightened for you, my child.” Valentina’s stepmother said between gasps of air. She could not help herself from crying.
Suzy stood looking in the mirror, tears streaming down her face, the tips of her pigtails tinged black as coal. Here in her treehouse she felt safe; safe from all the mess of the world and that mean ol’ Nicky Huff.
She’d been sitting in class, minding her lessons. A knock on the door caused her to look up. There he stood, a blond blue eyed wonder, all full of himself, in his leather jacket, when he caught her looking he wiggled his eyebrows at her and grinned. The teacher directed him to the empty chair behind Suzy, that’s when the torture began: The unmerciful, teasing, pushing on her seat, the last straw, pulling her pigtails, dipping them in the ink well.
“Oh, that boy! I wouldn’t marry him if he was the last man on earth!”
“Are you sure?” the mirror whispered back.
Suzy jumped, plopped onto her favorite pillows. She must be so upset her mind was playing tricks on her. She threw a blanket over her head and cried some more.
A soft hand touched her shoulder, “It will be alright, I promise.”
Peeking around the blanket, Suzy saw a girl who looked just like her but with short hair. “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
My name is Suzanna, Suzy for short. I was looking in the mirror wondering how my life got so messed up…The next thing I know here I am. On the other side of the mirror I am 22, with a husband, and four kids. I’m not sure what’s going on, but here we are.”
Jumping to her feet, pacing the small space, “Wait! Hold everything! My name is Suzy, well Suzanna, but only momma calls me by that name. I ‘m ten, this is my treehouse, you can’t just barge in here.”
“ Suz, this has never happened to me before, this was my treehouse when I was ten.”
“Only my daddy and that mean ol’ Nick call me Suz. Today is the first I ever laid eyes on him, I hate him.”
“Because,” hiccuping,” He’s mean, look at my hair!”
Keeping back a smile, “It will wash. You know he only teased you, to see your reaction, because he likes you, right?”
“Well, I don’t like it.” Stomping across the room, examining the mirror, tapping it, it was solid, turning to the girl, “How did you do it? Come through the mirror?”
Adjusting her skirt, turning towards the child, “I don’t know. I believe I ‘m an older version of you on the other side.”
“Really, so you know my future?”
“What can you tell me about my life? You know my future?”
“I am not sure what the rules are exactly. I can tell you, you’re happy or at least you were until last week.”
Sitting back down on the pillows, “Why? What happened?”
Sighing, “ Things just piled up and tipped over. The house was a mess, the kids out of control, Hubby working late, my best friend Maryjane was in a huff about something and didn’t have time to talk, I just sort of felt abandoned, lost, I guess. I was standing in front of the mirror crying. Now here I am”
“Hey, I was standing in front of the mirror crying. Do you think that’s how you got here? Our tears got tangled?”
“Maybe, makes sense to me.”
Twisting her hair with a rag. “So, I guess you must like boys, I mean, you said you had a family and all right?”
Laughing, “I am married, if that’s what you mean. I love my husband and my kids.”
“How did you know? I mean, well, you know, who to marry? Who to love?”
“Love, I’ve learned is many things, what do you think it is?”
Clasping her hands behind her head, stretching out, staring at the ceiling. “Well, love is mom and dad taking care of me, making sure I have food and stuff, tucking me in at night, making sure I behave by disciplining me when I need it. But I guess real love is a boy being a knight in shining armor coming in to save you, living happily ever after.”
“Not all knights ride in on white horses. Sometimes love is the boy who drives you crazy, makes you so mad you can’t see straight one minute, then hugs you, makes your heart melt. Oh Suz, love is a choice, one you have to make every day. It’s giving to others expecting nothing in return, being patient when they’re driving you nuts, and trusting they love you back. Thanks for helping me remember.”
“Your welcome, can you tell me your husband’s name?”
“No, but I can tell you. He’s got dreamy blue eyes, like pools of water you can get lost in, He can make his eyebrows dance to music and his voice is like the birds chirps dancing on the wind. You like to call him Sir Lance.”
Dreamily sighing, “He sounds like a prince. When will we meet?”
“You already have. It will be awhile before you figure it out. He is a prince; I need to find a way back to him. Being in the treehouse made me remember how carefree life can be, to never lose the thrill of climbing trees. I do love my life.”
“Hey, we were both looking in the mirror, maybe if we both look at the same time again.”
Jumping to her feet, “True, but I don’t feel like crying anymore.”
Whispering, “Me either. What about laughing?”
“We could try it. What makes you laugh?”
“Tickling.” Suzy reaches with a wiggly figure, “Not just this way, but tickled on the inside, like when I do something clumsy, hear silly music, when people fall upstairs, or trip over nothing but air, things which tickle your liver.”
They both begin to giggle and Suzanna fades back into the mirror.
(Feed back please)
Hi, I whispered. Are you thinking about love?
Then I vanished from the scene.
The party was huge. The ball was splendorous; the whole ambience was like a fair – only here the richest were hobnobbing with each other. The chandeliers glowed bright, polished like diamonds. The tables laid out for people seated were as per their rank in society. The courteous waiters served platters of delicious chicken wings and mix of Mexican, Indian treats.
The ladies and gentlemen were all dressed to their t’s . The men were leading their partners to dance. But I was sitting in a corner – drinking my tequilas. It was fun being ten, but really, would I want to be? “Naah,” I exclaimed softly as I downed another shot of tequila.
I was sure she would find me. I had left her with a question that she wouldn’t be able resist, and right enough, she weaved her way through the crowd and plopped on the plush sofa.
“Who are you, and how could you read my mind? Are you some angel, a fairy or a witch?”
I’m you, can’t you see the resemblance.”
But, you’re so cool, yes it could be possible. Maybe I’m dreaming? Imagine meeting you’re older self!”
“Ditto.” Meeting myself at age of 10 was like a dream.
“What are you doing at the party?” I smiled. (as if I didn’t know!;)
“My dad’s throwing the party so I am here with my friends to watch the fun. And the thing you said was something on my mind. My friends and me wonder about love and what it’s all about. Plus I’m worried.”
“Worry, About what?
You know one has these thoughts, invading studies, and the other girls just speak about the guys and who’s handsome and who they would choose. When I look at these older girls and boys they seem to change partners like it’s a game. Isn’t love constant and forever?
“Oh for some lucky few…”
“So how do you know that this person is right? Is it true there’s one person made for each like in that movie ‘Dil to pagal hai (love is crazy)?”
“Actually…I” she interrupted me with her honest thoughts….
“Will he be like I want him to be?”
“How do you want him to be?”
“Just like that guy over there!”
I looked at the guy she pointed, and my heart skipped a beat. He was so familiar and so was the girl.
“Tell me,” she insisted, and when I looked back, he had vanished into thin air. Gosh is this a magical evening! Amazing!
Okay, from my experience it’s not the outer side that one should look for. Look for the qualities within. Would he care and support your decision even if doesn’t really believe in them?
I glanced at my watch, I couldn’t be late. I was told not to…Then I continued, “The chemistry will draw you like magnets.”
Chemistry, I study that but what is it to do with love?
Baby, you’re too young to think of love, but know that it is wonderful feeling.”
“Like kissing a frog to find the prince – that’s yuck… naah,” she announced familiarly.
“No, but you will know after a while of meeting him when the right time comes.” I had to hurry. I got up and Relle, my ten year self said, “Wait, Puhleeze”
“The right time will tell you, Relle, and you will have a wonderful life.”
That struck a chord and I said, “O my God I have to go.”
“Relle, darling baby, don’t you worry about love. Focus on your life your career. Love will happen at the right time.”
“Look at me. I am proof of your future. But there are experiences that you have to pass through but take them as a lesson to be learnt. Live in the moment and don’t keep grudges – that is my secret.”
“Bye.” I had kept looking at my watch, it was getting late. I had to be home.
I took a cab and asked the cab driver to hurry. What if they left without me? My heart beat hard. The cab screeched to a halt and I hopped off paying him more than the meter showed.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
“We were leaving without you.”
“Would you do that?”
“Cinderella left her prince, so why couldn’t you?”
“She’s so confused, and I know she needs to be assured and continue with her school and college, I’m really sorry.”
“Okay kid, I’m letting you off. Luckily your watch was set to 10 minutes to twelve, ha ha ha”
The pumpkin turned into a carriage and the white mice into horses. There were the riders and some magical spell and we were flying. In seconds it felt, I reached the gate.
“Where did you come from?” asked my better half.
“I was here all the time.”
“Liar, I was waiting for you and then he gave me a beautiful rose without asking any questions. He knew I would tell him at the right time. Rishi led me to a valentine experience of my dreams.
I smiled. I knew little Relle would be fine. I was proof of it.
The Shylina Saga
There she was… sitting under the early morning sun in the green grass wearing a pretty pink frock. Her hair, tied into pigtails, shone golden in the sun. Shylina was busy stringing flowers while her pup snoozed at her feet. She looked up at the sound of approaching feet. Shylina’s radiance hurt her tired eyes. Her nightshift at the call center was hectic and tiring.
Shylina kept stringing the flowers together and waited for her to come to her. It’s her birthday today. In a way it was good that they were meeting today. They could sing happy birthday to each other. She would not expect Daug – her elder brother by five years nor their friend Remus – who was four years older to her – to sing out the wishes. Daug and Remus were out in the mountains enjoying themselves.
She sat down next to Shylina. They looked into each others’ eyes… searching.
“You know, Remus proposed to me last week,” she said.
Shylina kept looking at her. She didn’t want to hear about them. Lately, both have been cruel to her. Like last week they went with her father to spend the better part of Sunday on their newly bought yacht. They argued with her father that Shylina would only whine and get sea sick, so it’s better if she wasn’t to go with them. Her father, though looked doubtful, nodded his agreement. And she was left behind. Only three days ago, she was ditched yet again. All three were co-owners of the tree house that they built in Remus’s backyard. But now, she has been ousted as one and has been given limited entry rights. But Shylina didn’t cry because if she did, both Daug and Remus would take tremendous pleasure in teasing her relentlessly for being ‘such a girl’. She didn’t want that. So today, ignoring the fact that they were enjoying themselves without her, she chose her own activity and was happy too.
Catching Shylina’s attention, she said again, “He doesn’t love me. Or atleast he hasn’t said so yet. But he wants to marry me. You know that I love him. With all my heart. Just that, I don’t want to get into a commitment with one-sided love. It’s breaking my heart. I can’t let go of him but I can’t marry him too.” She sounded anguished.
Shylina listened to her carefully. Remus, unlike Daug, atleast listened to her sometimes and seemed as if he understood what she was saying. But Daug was always eager to get rid of her. Remus wasn’t like that… atleast not always. But she couldn’t help adore both of them. Daug was always doing things to make their parents proud of him. And Remus… he always brought her some trinket or a wild flower for her. The pup at her feet was his dog’s. Shylina could never be angry with them for long… even when they ditched her more times than she can remember.
Shylina told her as much, “I like Remus better than Daug. Dad says Remus will be a famous builder one day. And I am going to design jewellery.”
She heard Shylina loud and clear and wondered to herself, “Where did I go wrong?”
Shylina continued, “They are not so bad. I know they will bring something for me from the mountains. And I am making these for them. They will love these,” showing her the threaded flower.
She kept staring at Shylina and thought how easy it was for Shylina to forgive Daug and Remus, despite their harassing her at every given opportunity. She too remembered that Remus was, more often than not, attentive to her unlike her brother, even when they were growing up.
Then, was she wrong to assume that Remus didn’t love her? She knew she didn’t want to marry for any reason other than love. How will she ever come to know, especially if he doesn’t ever tell her so? She didn’t want to confront Remus with her feelings. What if he just threw her words in her face and laughed at her, just like in their childhood? She won’t be able to bear it.
She confided, “I have to meet Remus tomorrow and let him know my decision.” She hid her face in her hands and her shoulders slumped. She knew it was Remus and no one else for her. But was it the same for Remus? The doubts were killing her.
Shylina touched her hands urging her to remove them to look at her, “Don’t be sad. Remus is nice. Do you remember the time when I scraped my knees falling from the bicycle? It was Remus who washed the wounds. He is nice,” saying that she smiled.
Shylina’s words struck a chord in her heart. It was true that Daag may have always wanted to keep her at an arm’s distance, but it was Remus who cared for her. She felt elated that she loved Remus. Her father’s prediction came true. Remus, now a famous architect, has set up his own firm and was making a name for himself. Shylina’s innocence, as against her doubtful mind, conveyed to her confused heart that Remus may not have told her the three magical words but their bond was strong.
She knew her decision in her heart. She stood up and looked down at the upturned face of Shylina who smiled at her. She smiled back and sang happy birthday in a happy voice. Shylina smiled even more broadly.
Leaving Shylina with her flowers, her pup, her pigtails, her radiance and her innocence, she made her way back to her apartment with a new found spring in her step.
By: Randall Lemon
Spinning, spinning! The multi-hued vortex had caught me completely unawares. I had been jogging along a trail in the forest preserve as had become my evening ritual. The doctors had told me to run or die. My weight had ballooned to 400 lbs. and no amount of dieting or type of pill seemed to work to check my weight gain.
Running had its own set of dangers. I started out very slowly. I ran for only five minutes each night for a week. Then I doubled the run to 10 minutes for another week. I continued until I was now running 25 minutes at a time. I was approaching the end of the run when the landscape began to shift around me. Trees, grass and rocks began to spin. I assumed that I had just run too hard and I slowed to a stop. I thought I would clear my head.
“Everything will be okay in a couple minutes,” I told myself.
But things did not return to normal. On the contrary, I began to realize that it wasn’t just the landscape spinning, I was as well. I began to corkscrew into the dirt of the path. I started to panic as I sank further and further down.
“Quicksand!! There can’t be quicksand in the middle of the Illinois forest preserve path. That’s ridiculous.”
Despite my attempt at logic, the sky disappeared as I fell right through the dirt. I was afraid I would suffocate but I could breath. Because of fear, my breathing was way more rapid than usual but unhindered in any other way.
Then the dirt gave way to the sky once more but now I fell out of the sky and landed with a thump onto green grass. Above me, I could still see the colorful swirling cone. It remained stationary in its location like a baleful eye staring down at me where I lay in the grass.
“Hey, Mister! Are you okay?”
I looked around me. I appeared to be lying on a small lawn in the yard behind a clapboard house. The majority of the yard was given over to flower and vegetable gardens and a slightly rusty chain link fence surrounded and separated it from similar backyards on either side. It reminded me of something…somewhere.
“Mister, I asked if you were okay. I don’t think you should be in my Aunt Mary’s yard. Are you a neighbor? Did you jump over the fence from your yard? How come?”
The words emanated from a slightly chubby boy standing on the bottom step of the house’s backstairs. He looked directly at me without apparently even noticing the swirling tunnel above me. Impossible! I was drawn to his face: brown eyes, sandy blond hair and a sprinkling of freckles high on his cheekbones. He wore blue jeans and a checkered shirt with a black string tie. He had a brown fringed rawhide cowboy style coat and finished his outfit with a white Stetson ten-gallon hat. Fastened around his waist was a gun belt with two cap pistols.
That outfit looked just like the one my brother had brought when he returned from being stationed by the army in Texas. Just like?? Exactly like!!
That face, those clothes!! I suddenly came to the realization that I was staring at ME, or a ten-year-old version of myself.
“Mister, if you don’t say something, I’m going to get my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dominic.”
He started to turn to pass through the screen door and into the house.
He turned back toward me. “How do you know my name? Have I met you before?”
A hasty plan formulated in my mind. If I played my cards right, I might be able to save myself a lot of time and effort and improve my chances for a long and healthy life.
“We have met before, Randy. In fact, I am related to you and to Aunt Mary, Uncle Dominic, your mom and your brother, Ron.”
“You do look familiar. Are you one of the Rossis? I don’t know all of them so well. I tend to get you all confused.”
“Listen, Randy, I can’t stay long. I just came to tell you something important, to tell you how to reach your dream.”
“That’s right, Randy. I know what you want most in life. You want to play football in high school, college and then for the Bears, right?”
“Gee, Mister. That’s right.”
“Well, I know how you can do it. It’s really much easier than you might think. Eat a lot of vegetables, avoid eating sweets and run at least one mile every day. Do that, and you’ll be one of the greatest football players of all time.”
I reached into the pocket of my sweatpants and pulled out my keychain. I removed the Bears symbol attached to my keys and handed it over to Randy.
“This is a magic amulet, carry it with you each time you run and it will transform you. Never lose it. Can you do the things I have told you? If you do, you will become the greatest player the Bears have ever had. The magic will only work if you keep it secret just like all good magic. Don’t tell anyone about the amulet or about me giving it to you. Now you need to start running and I need to be going. Good luck.”
Randy turned tail and ran out of the backyard to start his running. I watched him sprinting down the sidewalk. I saw nothing wrong with the little white lie I had just told my younger self. Randy might never become a pro football player, but if he ate well and continued running, he’d never become a fat slob either and I would be spared the health problems and the dusty runs through the forest preserve.
I stood on tiptoes and reached my outstretched hands toward the vortex and was swept upward toward Randy’s future.
It was the strangest and most extraordinary event in my 63 years. As skeptical as I was about the bizarre prediction, here I was, sitting on a bus bench at high noon with a young man whose countenance and wary wit thoroughly matched my own at exactly that age.
“How old are you?”
“Ten.” He said.
“So what grade are you in?” This was a kind of test.
It was early November. So that added up. I would turn eleven in a month. I entered first grade at the age of four, graduated high school when I was 17. In addition to being small for my age, I was always the youngest kid in all my classes. A distinct disadvantage when dating and flirting that I would have to contend with throughout my formative years.
I wondered why he/I was sitting at a bus stop. I never rode the bus. And neither did this kid. “Nice bike you’ve got there.” I remembered it. It was actually beautiful. All of my friends were so jealous they pretended they didn’t like it. Assholes.
“Thanks,” he said. “I got it for Christmas.”
“Oh,” I said. “A gift from Santa then.”
He snorted derisively. “Santa bears an uncanny resemblance to my Dad and Mom.”
“So you don’t believe in Santa any more.”
“Umm, no. Or the tooth fairy, or unicorns.” He paused and then said, “I have my doubts about friendly strangers, too.”
“Well, just so you know,” I said, “I’m not that strange, or especially friendly.” That seemed to put him at ease. “What’s your name?” I said.
“Kenny,” he replied.
“What a coincidence,” I said. “My name’s Kenny, too. Most people call me Ken.” He just nodded.
“So,” I said, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Pffff—I wish,” he said.
“So you like girls then.”
“What’s not to like?” He said. “They’re nice, they’re pretty, they’re girls.”
I nodded, still a little skeptical that this was me, that I was ever this bold at the age of 10. “So—is there one in particular that you fancy?”
“Yeah,” he looked away wistfully. “Susan.” My lips moved as he uttered her name. “Susan Edwards.”
Incredible, I thought. This really is me! I still remember Susan Edwards. I still remember her name. I remember what she looked like: Very thin, flat-chested, straight blond hair, big white teeth with a dazzling smile. She sat behind me in the sixth grade. We flirted with each other relentlessly. She was always whispering in my ear, poking me with her finger, other little things that, that I don’t remember. She was fun to be with. I can’t say that I ever loved her, at 10 years old, but I was definitely crazy about her. And after 53 years, I still remember her. That says something about Susan Edwards doesn’t it? What could I say, to myself, about Susan Edwards? And how could I say it?
“Does she like you?”
He shrugged. “A little.” His despondence was like an old wound, throbbing in my chest. Susan, like all the other girls in the sixth grade, was pining over James McMullen, a big kid, strong, good looking and dumb as a stump. He was nice though, not a bully. He treated me like a pet that he thought was cute. I could see that my younger self already knew his chances with Susan were nil, even though she sat right behind him.
We both sat there looking at the cars parked in the parking lot. The sky. I recalled how mature I was at his age. How wise. I never laughed at my own jokes back, then like I do now. I don’t think I knew how funny I was. Children are born with wisdom. As you age, life confounds you, love confounds you: And women? They’re the most baffling creatures of all. He would fall for many more girls, and women who wouldn’t even give him the time of day. His heart would be broken over and over. And each time, he would get back up, dust himself off, and move on. I remembered what his dream was. All he ever really wanted was a nice gal, one who was faithful. He wasn’t picky. He didn’t care about cup size, hair color or complexion. He just wanted to find someone nice, to be married, have a couple of kids, a job and a house in the suburbs. Maybe even a picket fence. That dream would constantly elude poor Kenny.
What could I say to change all of that in my few remaining minutes on this bench? Perhaps this time warp was not for his benefit, but for mine. Maybe the transfer of wisdom was from the younger to the elder, and not the other way around. Still, I felt like I had to give him something.
“You remind me very much of a guy I’ve known for a long time, Kenny.”
“Yup, your resemblance to him is almost uncanny.”
“Are you going to give me some advice?” He said.
“You want some?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Don’t settle, Kenny. You deserve the best.”
He was looking askance at me. I knew what he was thinking. ‘Easy for you to say.’
“Women will come, and they will go. You’ll love some more than others, and some you’ll want to kill—but you won’t. Some people find love once, some find it over and over.”
“That’s good to know,” he said, not really meaning it.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
But he could. “So, you’re saying I’ll get over my crush on Susan Edwards?”
I nodded, just as my ‘time-traveling’ bus arrived. “Yeah, in all likelihood.”
I stood up and extended my arm in friendship. We shook hands solemnly.
“So you’re saying that, in time I’ll forget all about her?”
I stepped on the bus and turned around. “No. That’s the funny thing about love, Kenny. You’ll get over her, but you won’t ever forget her.”
He frowned at that.
“Good luck Kenny—and don’t forget to have fun.”
The party had been planned with delicate care.
She had invited both her parents to come, her brothers, some children whose father had worked for her uncle for at least ten years. Her mother had made trifle and she was excited. Her grandmother was also coming over with her uncle of course.
The preparation was nearly finished so her mother sent her off.
‘Alice, don’t forget to wear the dress that Gran bought you.’
‘SURE. Where is it?’
‘I put it on your bed. I ironed the skirt’s waist band seam down. So it doesn’t scratch. Ok.’
‘Right. Thanks Mum.’ She ran off to get changed.
She was surprised to see a familiar figure in her room. She was sitting on Alice’s bed with the neatly ironed dress across her knees examining the waistband seam.
‘Gran, I didn’t know….’ She hesitated suddenly shy. It was not Gran. ‘Who are you?’ She stuttered afraid too.
The lady looked at her, piercing blue eyes that were like her gran’s but not. The face shape was the same, but not the same. Gran’s face was smooth and creamy white. This lady had a sprinkling of freckles like hers across the bridge of her nose and her cheeks. This lady’s had was not as grey, but still dark reddish, with white and salt and pepper at the temples.
‘I am not your Gran.’ She replied. ‘But I do know her well.’ She leaned forward. ‘You have made the cake with green icing and yellow and orange writing?’ Alice nodded dumbly thinking ‘how does she know?’
‘Who are you?’ she asked again.
The woman nodded slowly.
‘Who I am doesn’t matter at this moment.’ She looked She glanced around the room, then back at Alice, ‘I am here to give your some very important advice.’ Alice looked at her sceptically.
‘Who are you? I am not taking the advice of strangers. And if you are not Gran, how did you get in here?’ Alice was beginning to be a bit petulant and impatient.
‘Ok OK!’ The woman replied. ‘You would not believe me if I told you, so it is better you don’t know. You need to listen. Ok’
Alice folded her arms and wondered whether she should be afraid. After all her mother and the governess was merely a shout away/
‘This is what I am going to say to you. One day your mother will go overseas after your grandmother dies. She will be gone a long time. Don’t run to greet her. You may feel excited to see her but WALK. That was number one.’ She paused a moment. ‘Number two. After you leave school, if you do not want to do the kindergarten teaching course, don’t do it. Waitress and save money and do the graphic art course at the Tech. DO not allow them to force you to take the bank job that your Aunt wants to put you in.’
Alice thought to herself ‘How did this fruit cake of a woman get into my room?’
‘Is that all the advice you are giving me now?’ The woman composed herself. ‘No. There is more. Don’t go home from a parties with any man twice your age. In fact, don’t go home from parties with strangers. Don’t smoke; definitely not pot. Don’t take drugs and don’t drink and try to get married to a boring man before you are twenty or twenty one.’
‘Because with a boring man, you will stay married. The exciting men always like new things and toss the old out. They are never happy with last week’s or yesterday’s wife or girlfriend. They like the excitement and the challenge of change.’
Alice looked at this strange woman crossly. She wanted to get dressed and how could she get her out of the room without being too rude. The woman continued.
‘The boring man will love you and forgive you. You are his excitement. The exciting man will see beyond you to the next girlfriend or wife. You will be hurt. Many times over.’
Alice had had enough. She reached for her dress.
‘I have to get dressed now. Can you leave please?’
The woman smiled sadly.
‘Certainly.’ With that, she faded quickly from view. Just like that. Alice dropped the dress in fright. She shook her head in confusion. Was she hallucinating? She pondered the appearance of the lady and decided not to tell her mother. She already had been in trouble for an over active imagination and accused of lying several times in the past.
She decided it was better not to mention the strange lady. She felt as if she had dreamt it anyway.
‘Do you think she will listen?’ the woman asked the angel. The angel reflected and softly raised his shoulders in a shrug.
‘Does it really matter now?’
She looked up at him. ‘Well, I would have liked her to have had a happier life. More stable. Better choices, perhaps?’
The angel smiled. ‘We cannot change the past. Only the future. Through the present.’ His eyes were kind. ‘You know it is nearly time, don’t you? We have a long way to go still. Are you ready?’
‘Yes. I think so.’ She glanced down at the palms of her hands. ‘You know someone read my hand once. They said I would have a long life. I imagined around eighty or so.’ She laughed.
‘Sometimes the length is not in years, but in experience.’ She shook her head thoughtfully at this.
‘Yes, I think I know what you mean. Sixty two years can be a long time, just as ninety years can be too short.’
The angel held out both hands palm up.
‘Are we ready?’ Her sense of relief was overwhelming. She placed both hands in his, and felt the overwhelming power of forgiveness and the ultimate oneness of the universe.
As they rose up, the angel murmured, ‘You have no need to worry. The Creator controls all. Everything will be ok there and here.’
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