Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer Story Starter - Shards of Freedom

Shards of Freedom
If she could have literally jumped out of her skin, Jenny would have.  Instead she jerked upward like a marionette with its strings violently pulled.
The shelves behind her continued to tilt, allowing plate after plate to slide to the floor, each one breaking into mosaic pieces.  The kitchen floor was soon decorated with pieces of terra cotta, flamingo pink, sunshine yellow, turquoise and orange shards from the FiestaWare dishes she’d once loved.
Now, it didn’t matter, although she did look at the largest piece of earthenware, at least saving that one from breaking.  After all, she wasn’t totally without compassion.
Since Ted had walked out the front door last night after casually informing her he loved someone else, Jenny had spent the better part of six hours packing up what she wanted and breaking the rest.
She’d be heading to her mother’s house in Iowa, taking her carload of treasures and their pup, Sammy.  Ted could deal with the rest.
Tossing her last bag into the trunk, she whistled for Sammy.  She slammed the trunk hard, emphasizing her decision.  “Come on Sammy.  Let’s hit the road.”  She leaned over to clip the leash to Sammy’s collar and, at the same time, spied Ted’s jeep careening around the corner. “Time to go!”
With Sammy safely ensconced in the back seat, Jenny drove her beater to the nearest gas station for a fill up.  As she topped off the tank with a few gallons of fuel, she scanned the horizon, worried about Ted’s reaction once he found the destruction in the house.
“He’s reaping what he sowed,” she muttered under her breath, Sammy’s tail slapping the backseat with a thump, thump, thump.  He then growled lightly, as if he didn’t know what to make of his owner’s anger.  Jenny almost had to laugh.  Almost.
She’d spent the last three years attempting to make a series of shoddy apartments into cheerful, welcoming homes.  It wasn’t an easy task, but she had a good eye, passed along from her bargain-hunting mother.  The only problem had been Ted.  Just when they would get settled in, Ted’s construction jobs would dry up, and he’d announce that it was time to move to greener pastures.  She secretly worried about the reason for the lack of jobs.
And now, how sad, everything from her entire married life could fit into the back of an old beat-up Taurus.  Well, except for those FiestaWare dishes.  Jenny laughed.  It was a bit funny that she was missing those dishes more than Ted, the man she'd vowed to love and honor for the rest of her days.  At least she wouldn’t be around to see what happened when he returned to the empty house.
As she waved to the Welcome to Iowa—Where the Corn Grows Taller and the Sun Shines Brighter sign, it dawned on her that maybe she should call her mother.  What happened last time she showed up unexpectedly still rattled her senses.  Seeing your own mother posing nude for a portrait is something no daughter should have to witness.   
Yes, having an unconventional mother wasn't always fun but it certainly had given her things to talk about.  She pulled into the rest area, put Sammy on his leash and walked him around while she got out her phone.  At least her mother would not be one of those who fell apart or placed blame. 
"Oh, how lovely," her mother said sincerely.
"Um, did you hear the part where I said Ted up and left me?"
"Darren's in town!"  Her mother then squealed.
"Mom," Jenny sighed.  "I really don't want to see my old boyfriend right now."  Perfect, she never liked Ted, loved Darren and she's match-making already. 
"Oh, don't be rude, Jennifer.  He's just devastated and then the shock!  They're coming for dinner," she whispered.  "I'm hoping to get the latest scoop!"
"The latest scoop?  Devastated?  Shock?  What?"
"Oh.  You didn't get my telepathic message?"
Jenny gritted her teeth and rolled her eyes.  "No, mother.  It still doesn't work.  Just tell me over this wireless piece of equipment."
"Well, he showed up to the funeral.  Just walked right in . . .”
"Wait.  Who died?"
"Oh, Jenny darling, please pay attention.  Darren's father died and who knew?"
"Nobody knew he died?  Then how did he have a funeral?"
Her mother gave an exasperated sound.  “Of course, we all knew he died!  But nobody knew about the son."
"What, about Darren?"
"No, dear.  Darren's brother."
"Darren doesn't have a brother," Jenny pointed out.
Her mother laughed.  "No, he has a half-brother near his same age.  Can you believe it?  And I have an in thanks to you.  I’ve invited them to dinner and, oh, I'm going to get the scoop of the town.  Oh, look!  They're here.  Gotta go.  Oh, and by the way, dear, you really need to visit me sometime soon.  I miss you."
"Hello . . . I'll see you in about two hours.  That’s why I’m calling.”
“But, mother, wait, you invited Darren and his half-brother to dinner?"
"No, silly.  It was awkward enough at the funeral.  No, Darren and his wife.  Oh, she's a sweet, little thing.   Darren is crazy about her and I can see why.  Bye, sweetheart, thanks for calling."
“Mother?  Did you even hear I’ll be there in two . . .”  Click, the phone went dead.  Jenny stared at her cellphone, debating whether or not to call her mother back when Sammy's leash was pulled right out of her hand.
"Sammy, get back here," she yelled.
The dog ran right up to where a couple of cute youngsters were romping in the open space of the rest stop.  They were petting him when Jenny caught up to him.
"Hi kids," she said.  "Thanks for catching my little guy, but we have to go now."
"Awwwww . . ,” they groaned, pouting.
Jenny loaded Sammy into the back seat—barely enough room for him and his blanket with all of her other stuff taking up space—and they took off on I-80 west once again.  Not a mile into their drive, the phone rang.  She detached it from the charger—that darn thing was always too short to get it to her ear when it was plugged in—and checked the caller ID.  It was Ted.
Oh great, she thought and then to Sammy, "as if I didn't have enough to deal with.  My old boyfriend is married, it looks like I'm having dinner with him and his new wife tonight, and why the heck are they close enough to my mom for that to even happen?  I'm leaving my husband and now he's calling me.  Could this day get any worse?"
"What the hell do you want?" she barked into the phone.
“I want to know why, why would you do this to me?  Why would you destroy my FiestaWare collection like that?  What’d I ever do to you?  You know how long it took me to build that collection?”  Ted’s barking made Jenny’s blood boil.
Well, I never.  I packed everything up, took the dog, up and left him, and he wants to know about some old dishes.  Not me.  Jenny rested her right hand on the lump in the front seat and smiled.  Oh,
Ted would really have a real to howl soon enough.
“You know why,” she said in a much calmer voice.  Ted never did like when she was so rational.  “Does the name Cecelia mean anything to you?  It does me.  And, besides, I know it took you almost as long to collect those old dishes as it was for me to get a clue about what kind of guy you really are and what our marriage vows meant to you.  You didn’t mind breaking those and I didn’t mind breaking some dishes.  You know what Ted?  I don’t need this.  I’m done.  I’m done wondering where you are at night, who you’re with, whether you’ll hold onto a job long enough to put down some roots, and listening to you go on about your precious dishes.  Seriously!  I can’t believe you called me about them.  Lose this number because I’m done taking your calls.”
As she hung up on Ted, flashing red and blue lights caught her attention.  She looked in her rear view mirror.  “Great, just . . . great.”  She pulled the old car onto the highway shoulder, spitting gravel every which way.  “Just what I need now, a ticket.”  She gathered up her license, registration, and proof of insurance.
As the officer made his way up along the driver’s side, Jenny fluffed her hair, took a quick look in the mirror to make sure her make-up wasn’t too smeared, and plastered on her brightest smile. “What seems to be the problem, Officer?”
“Well, Miss, I clocked you doing 88 miles per hour.  The speed limit is clearly posted at 70,” he added with a long sigh as his eyes roved over the crowded contents of the car, a slight smile creasing his face when he spotted Sammy.  
Jenny nodded solemnly and wondered why he sounded so defeated.  After beginning to write the ticket, he took her driver’s license and stared at it.  Looking back and forth between Jenny and her driver’s license, he finally spoke. 
“You know what?  Darren has told me so much about you, and I had really hoped to meet you someday.  Just not quite like this.”  Then he burst into laughter.
“I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you are or what exactly is so funny about getting a speeding ticket right after my husband has left me . . .”  Jenny’s voice trailed off as she’d said more than she intended to.
It was then that she noticed how familiar his eyes were.  They were the exact shade of grayish-blue as Darren’s and his father’s.  It couldn’t be . . . 
“You’re the half-brother nobody knew about!”  Jenny clamped her hand over her mouth.  A fiery blush rushed up from her neck, flaming her checks a bright red, no doubt matching the color of her hair.
“Guilty.  Most people call me Eric, though,” he replied with a chuckle.  “Well, given the circumstances, I think I can let you off with a warning.  I’d better not see you driving that fast again.” 
Jenny nodded.
Just when she was starting to relax and her cheeks were returning to their normal pale shade, a tap came at the window.  She quickly rolled it down again. 
“I almost forgot,” Eric said.  “See you at your mama’s big shindig.”
Jenny opened her mouth to reply but nothing came out.  What big shindig?  Tonight’s dinner party?  Surely that wasn’t a shindig.  Mom must be planning something really outrageous.  Oh, Gawd . . . Shindig, shindig, no.  Her mother wouldn't! 
Jenny’s memories flashed back to her own father's funeral.  What a fiasco that had been.  But didn’t her mother say she likes Darren?  She would not do that to him.  Jenny had flown home alone, Ted making the excuse that he hoped to have a job interview while she was away, to console her devastated mother after her father had keeled over from a massive heart attack.  The only real problem was, she’d walked in their house to find bottles upon bottles of booze throughout. 
"We're having a waakkee!"  Her mother had gleefully stood—with some difficulty—and came to greet her.  "People will be here within the hour.  Grab a glass.  Here, let me pour you some champagne—or do you want something stronger?"
"A wake?" Jenny had stared at her, her mouth hung open.  "What are you thinking?  Dad hated alcohol of any kind.  We always teased that in a former life he was Carrie Nation.  Are you already drunk?"  She had held two bottles up to the light.  Empty.
"Hey, I can finally drink in the open.  Here's to putting the fun back in funeral," her mother giggled, as she expertly popped the cork on a new bottle. 
That little shindig had lasted three days.
When Jenny turned her old beater onto her mother’s block, she was shocked.  Cars as far as the eye could see.  Oh, no.  No, no, no!  Another shindig.  Not what she needed right now.
“Oh, come on!  There’s no place to even park,” Jenny groaned, as she pulled the car to the front of her mother’s house, left it right in the middle of the street, threw it in park, and stormed up to the door.

“How could you!  Throwing a part when I’ve just left my husband!  What kind of mother has a rager when her daughter is slinking home with her tail tucked between her legs.  If I had someplace else to go, anywhere else, anywhere, I would have gone there,” Jenny ranted and raved once she’d squeezed inside the front door.

“Honey, you’re here!  I thought you could use some cheering up.  Look at all the people who are here to love and support you.  Didn’t you get my telepathic message?  We’re all here for you, sweetie,” Jenny’s mother cooed, soothing her as she wrapped her daughter in a long hug.  “Look around the room.”

Jenny looked over her mother’s shoulder.  Oh, good gravy, there’s Darren and his—yes—very gorgeous wife.  And, Eric, the brother—how embarrassing—and, how in the world did he get here before her?  And now, Eric is walking over to her and her mother.

“Jenny, it’s against the law to leave your car parked in the street like that,” he said, tilting his head out toward the front of the house.  “Let’s go out there and move it somewhere safe.  What do you say?”

“Uh, sure.  Okay,” Jenny mumbled.  “I’ll be right back, Mom.  Everyone.”

Eric turned to her as soon as they are out of hearing.  “You look like you need a drink, and to regroup.  Let’s take a little drive, and we’ll come back in a bit.  You’re right, your mom means well, but this party looks like it will be going awhile.  I’ll drive.  You relax.”
“Nice of you to offer,” Jenny replied, “but let me just meet you somewhere.  I’ve got Sammy in the car.”
“How about Bishop’s?”  Eric named the one diner that Jenny remembered from a few years back, just hoping she could remember where it was.
“I’ll follow you,” she acquiesced to his suggestion. 
Within a few minutes, they were far from the maddening shindig, had parked their cars, and were seated at a booth toward the back of the restaurant.  Only a smattering of customers throughout the place so Jenny figured they could eat and get out fairly quickly before Sammy got antsy.  But then, she had a second thought.
“Eric, be a dear,” she said, sounding a lot like her own mother, “could you please order me a burger and fries and, oh, a chocolate shake.  I’m going to check on Sammy.”
Jenny hurried out of the restaurant and around to the back of the building where they’d parked their cars in the shade.  She jumped in her car, patted the dog on the head, and left as quickly as she could without raising any attention from passers-by.  She was on her way north out of town within a few minutes, figuring that was about the time Eric would be wondering about her.
Gawd, he was great to look at but she didn’t need another complication in her life.  For once in Jenny’s life, she was heading into the wild-blue yonder, not knowing where she’d end up, but she was free.  She had Sammy, her belongings, and a bit lump in the front seat—the FiestaWare flamingo-pink milk pitcher full to the brim with twenty-dollar bills.  That was the one piece of earthenware she didn’t have the heart to break and it would break Ted’s heart when he discovered it was missing!
Just then Jenny’s cell phone started buzzing.  She checked the caller ID.  Looks like Ted might have discovered the pitcher was not in all those hundreds of shards of clay.
The End . . . Or, Is It Just The Beginning?


  1. Oooh! Love this starter. Are we all adding to it in a certain order?

  2. Exciting start! But I'm mourning the beautiful Fiestaware!

  3. I agree, Beth -- love that stuff. Looking forward to seeing everyone when we meet up again at the library.

  4. You all know that I collect Fiestaware, right?

  5. I am loving this story - I'll try to finish it up some time Wednesday if anyone wants to add something before that.

  6. I love the completed project! I really enjoyed how the FiestaWare came around again for the end!

  7. Great wrap up, Marion! I, too, loved how the FiestaWare came back around.