Good Times

So with the twins planning to go off and doing their own thing and me finishing high school, I knew it was time for me and Laurie to get our show on the road. I held back every snarky remark I thought of and I tried to seem supportive even though the thought of them traveling the world playing stupid music annoyed me for some reason.

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It was time for me and Laurie to find our own place and start our lives. I let Laurie decide everything. This was, after all, her plan. We didn’t have a ton of money saved up but my mom helped us out a little. I couldn’t tell if she was being motherly or if she was ready for me to leave the house, but I got my answer when she smiled at the both of us and thanked Laurie for “all her help”. I bit my tongue once again. I had already told Laurie numerous times how much it irritated me that people thought she could change me. She never could. The best I could do was act the part.

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The day we moved into our house was pretty fun. I got into the car with Laurie and the drive was quiet. She took care of the decorating. I didn’t care about that anyway. I hung up my plaque from school right next to her’s. She’d gotten Most Popular. I got “Most Likely to Take Over the World”. I couldn’t help but smile. Our stupid classmates were definitely on to something.Screenshot-5

The next day I woke up to a loud alarm at six in the morning.

“Wha..” I muttered. Speaking was hard at six in the morning. Functioning was hard at six in the morning… I hadn’t woken up before ten in years.

“Rise and shine!” Laurie said cheerfully. “I’m going to make breakfast, but we need to go over a few things.”

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I let out a string of expletives, but Laurie ignored me and closed the door. I stayed in bed for another twenty minutes until the smell of food woke me up for good. I walked into our kitchen. It seemed like something from a sitcom. Leave it to Little Miss Perfect to decorate the house like this. Laurie hovered over a plate of waffles that looked delectable. They would even give my mother’s a run for their money.

“Sit down, I need to discuss some really important things with you,” Laurie commanded.

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I drenched my waffles in syrup before joining her at the table. They tasted as good as they looked.

“So, I’ve pretty much secured a position at the city hall. I assist the politicians before they do big speeches, and sometimes I get to help them prepare for things.”

“Oh boy, sounds neat-o!” I replied sarcastically.

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Laurie looked up at me, but decided to ignore my faux enthusiasm. She cleared her throat.

“Anyway… I’ve found a job for you as well. One that I know you’ll like. There’s a guy waiting on you named Benny. He doesn’t give out his last name so don’t ask. He’ll explain everything to you when you get there. He’s the guy who will show you the ropes. When I truly get my foot in the door in politics, you’ll need to remember everything he teaches you. And sometimes he’ll be a little rough. I told him you’d be there at ten.”

“Yea, Laurie, but it’s freaking 9:30!” Just then I heard an impatient honking outside. The look on Laurie’s face let me know that the car was for me. How long had it been out there?

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I got up as quickly as I could and rushed out of the door.

“Remember! This is the kind of work you’ll like. So enjoy yourself!” Laurie said before I made it in the car just in time.

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It turned out that I had enjoyed myself a little too much, and I got in trouble with the law on my very first day. It brought me back to my teenage days, but I wondered how this would go over for Laurie. I contacted her, but she seemed to have it all together.Screenshot-12

“I have friends in high places,” she bragged. Apparently, she had done some volunteer work at the science lab, and she was in good graces with one of the researchers. The researcher happened to be the brother of the police chief where I was, and before I knew it, I was free to go. Laurie teased me a good bit, but she seemed unconcerned for our image, and I was surprised about that.

“Everyone has secrets and makes mistakes. You’d be surprised about who has done what in their past here,” was her only comment on the matter. “Just work out all your mistakes in the beginning.”

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Right now, Benny was mostly into working out. He insisted that he needed strong guys who could run fast and lift things. There would be more to learn later, he said. While I worked out, Laurie would spend every waking moment that she wasn’t at her job chatting with people around town. A lot of people already knew her and liked her. It seemed like she had been doing favors for people and improving her resume for an entire lifetime. She was so ready to prepare for her place in politics. We got a dog named Bella. She said it would make us look like a young, hip family.Screenshot-3

So, being with her was a little adventure on its own. I liked being consumed in my own life. I must admit, I felt like I fit in. I mean, getting paid to assist with crimes… amazing. And I didn’t judge Laurie’s calculating ways. She didn’t judge me for being a diabolical piece of shit. I know we’re an odd couple. But… dare I say it…. I was really happy.

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Fast Times

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The trio was silent as they stared at the hustle and bustle of Bridgeport. Ready or not, Michael Simmies was waiting on Vince and Basil to blow him away.

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“Now… I think we’re going to just… take this street…” Vince said while staring at his phone. It had occurred to them all that maybe this hadn’t been the BEST idea. That’s why Basil felt he had to ace this audition. If he went home to his mom and told her how their lives were about to change, it would be a lot better than going home defeated and getting the punishment of a lifetime. After a lot of walking, anxiety increasing gradually with every step, they arrived to a mammoth building. All the buildings here were huge.

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Basil shot his sister a look first and she smiled at him and gave him a quick pat on the back. If anyone deserved this, she knew he did. And she had gotten to tag along. The journey for her was epic. She felt like such a small someone in this city. She could get lost in a crowd, taste new foods, and see new people. It felt so beautiful. She wanted her brother to succeed because he was great. But she also knew that if his wildest dreams came true, she could go on tour with him and see the world. That’s what she craved.

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Inside the building, a young, attractive woman sat at the front desk.

They all walked up with varying levels of confidence. Pepper barely looked up, Basil looked determined but nervous, and Vince looked cool and calm.

“Can I help you?” the lady asked nonchalantly.

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“We’re here to see Michael Simmies,” Vince said proudly.

The lady clicked on her computer a bit and then asked, “And you are….?”

“Vince Fox and Basil Kay. We’re here for an audition,” Basil answered this time.

“Ah, one second…”

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When it was clear that the woman (whose name was Denise) didn’t literally mean one second or even one minute, they sat down.

For over an hour, they went over everything over and over and over again in their heads. Their names were called eventually.

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Denise escorted them onto the elevator and into Michael’s office.

“This is it!” Vince whispered excitedly. It was hard not to get excited as they kept going because the building looked fancier. Mr. Simmies was a hardworking and talented man, and he was about to give them a chance at a life of luxury.

“Mr. Simmies, Vince and Basil are here to see you,” Denise said before disappearing.

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Pepper could no longer even feel her heart beat as she took a seat in his office. The chair she sat in felt heavenly. Meanwhile, Basil tried to keep his breathing normal, and he hoped his voice wouldn’t waiver. Luckily, remaining cool in business environments was Vince’s forte.

“My internet talent is here!” Michael said with a smile and he held out his hand to the boys. “Nice to meet you. You too, young lady,” he said nodding his head in acknowledgement toward Pepper.

“That’s my sister. She’s just here for… er… support,” Basil mumbled.

“Very well,” Michael said, sitting down in his chair again.

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He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Alright. You guys have five minutes to impress me. Let’s go!”

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The boys took out their instruments, took a deep breath, and gave it their all.

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Pepper felt like she was holding her breath for the entire audition. Vince forgot to crescendo, but it wasn’t too noticeable. Basil’s voice sounded pretty good. She gripped the arm of her seat, looking out for the imperfections, hoping that she was the only one who’d notice them. Mentally she sang every single word along with the guys, and she didn’t realize that she was also mouthing the lyrics until halfway through the song. She pursed her lips together and tried to focus.

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Finally the song came to an end. Pepper sat back in her seat. Vince gave a big smile at the end of the performance. Basil kept his eyes closed for a second before reading the expression on Michael’s face. He wanted this so bad. He had to have it.

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Mr. Simmies looked like he was contemplating. That didn’t make Basil feel good.

“So, what’dya think?” Vince asked.

“Hmmm… It sounds upbeat. Really good lyrics. Very nice arrangement. I think it would go over well with your generation. However… I want you guys to consider something here for a second.”

The boys glanced at each other before staring back at Mr. Simmies. They had no choice but to consider what he was going to say next.

“I have this talent. Her name’s Mindy Payne. She’s got this unique voice, really cute image. Have you ever considered expanding your group? Cause, Basil, let me tell ya! Your voice is golden, but hers would compliment it. This would propel you guys from an internet group to superstars, I think. What do you say?”

Everyone looked around confused. This wasn’t what they’d anticipated at all.

“Can we discuss this for a second? Give us just a minute or two to decide?” Vince asked.

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“Sure, sure. Take your time.”

Outside the door, everyone’s feelings erupted. Pepper’s mouth formed into a scowl and Basil kept asking, “What’s wrong with MY voice? Why does it need to be complimented?”

Vince was trying to figure out how this would affect the dynamics of the group and if this Mindy girl could even play an instrument and if so, if she would make a significant amount more or less than them. It was Pepper who finally broke the chaos.

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“Guys, you should do it. So what another person comes along? No one can break this awesome bond you guys have. This is  a once and a lifetime opportunity. Think about it. He basically just said yes to you, you just have to accept this new girl. I know it’s not what you really came here for, but maybe she’d be a good addition.”

“She’s right,” Vince agreed. “We have to go back home with something. We have to.”

“Mmm… alright,” Basil muttered. “But I’m not sure about this.”

They went back into Michael’s office to discuss their contracts and Mindy. Whatever happened, whatever didn’t… Basil and Vince were now officially on Michael’s team. And they had something to prove. Nothing would get in their way.

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Back at home, all hell had broken loose when Pepper and Basil arrived. At first Junie lectured them with how worried she was and how anything could’ve gone wrong. She never expected this from THEM. After a while after she calmed down, they broke the news to her. That was when she realized that there would be no stopping Basil. Inside, she felt weary. More like nervous. The music industry was cutthroat. But Basil had already taken the steps to do what he wanted to do, and he would soon be an adult. She congratulated him with a smile, and gave Pepper a hug.

“Yes, guys. Congratulations. Such talent and hard work deserves to be recognized,” Raymond commented before heading to the kitchen.

The twins looked at each other. Why was Raymond suddenly dropping compliments left and right?

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“Weird!” Pepper whispered to Basil. He nodded in agreement.

 

NOTE:

Hey guys. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. The short version of my reasoning is school and work, and I can’t promise there won’t be more breaks. I am a software engineering student and I’m trying to get internships and get myself together. So I’ve been super busy. But I didn’t mean to go this long without an update.

1.9

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I came home from work this afternoon to find the surprise of a lifetime! I’d stayed late at work to grade papers and proofread essays, and when I got home there was a large gathering waiting for me. At first, I thought it must’ve been Raymond. He had been grounded and begging to go to a party, so I thought he had thrown a party at the house and invited my friends to spite me. I looked around confused and a little nervous. Everyone had already settled into groups, talking about their jobs and the weather. I saw Ursula coming quickly toward me, but I couldn’t even hear what she said because I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Elisha. At that point I REALLY thought it must’ve been Raymond trying to make me feel embarrassed. It was working.

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“Woah! It’s your ex husband!” one of the younger teacher’s aides laughed as I walked through the crowd. I ignored her.

“What is going on?” I asked Elisha. Everytime I saw him I got a flashback of our lives, and it had all diverged into this single moment of us, exes, standing in my living room trying to figure out why we were in the same building at the same time.

“I don’t know. I got a phone call earlier this morning from Basil. He begged me to come. Said he had something to show me. I skipped out on the theater to come see it… I guess he’s got some explaining to do…”

“Yes,” I agreed. “He does. He must’ve invited you for a reason. The kids miss you, and Raymond has been acting out. It’s just been so stressful lately.”

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Elisha smiled at me.

“You’re a great mom, Junie. Always were. Always will be.”

He seemed genuine, but I felt like I was in the middle of something that was unintended for me.

“Well, thanks, Elisha. I’m going to go to my room and grade some papers. The kids wanted to see you I think so. I’ll just let this happen, just this once.”

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Standing on the stairs was Pepper. She watched us intently. Usually at this time she would be outside playing or catching fish, but she just watched us with a curious look in her eyes. We exchanged a look between us. I knew she understood it by the look on her face afterward.

Are you guys getting back together?

No, Pepper. It’s not going to happen, honey.

Basil ran past his sister and jumped and gave his father a big hug. They clearly needed to catch up, and while they did that, I needed to contact Raymond because he wasn’t home and he definitely should’ve been… That boy was always getting into some kind of trouble.

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Basil and Pepper’s next birthday was uneventful. Prom was coming up and with four teenagers in the house, I absolutely needed to cut costs where I could. Basil transformed overnight. His room got messy, but my did he remind me of his father. More and more each day. He expressed to me that he needed to play music. I didn’t think I would enjoy listening to the sound of a guitar wafting through the house. It would bring me back to another time in my life. Instead, I promised him that he’d be getting a nice keyboard. That way he could have access to a wide range of sounds and he could really explore. When he got it, he spent hours locked away in his room. He could really be focused when he wanted to.

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Pepper, on the other hand, spent all her time outside, which was no surprised. She was a sweet girl, and I was proud of all my children. Even Raymond, although I had a hard time picking out what to specifically be proud of. But he was still mine, and I couldn’t just cast aside my love for him. I could tell that he would never feel the same for me. I yearned for the mutual bond I thought I’d felt when he was smaller, but he had no trouble expressing his disdain for me and his siblings. Basil always focused his attention on other things, but Pepper was genuinely afraid of her oldest brother. She’d grown shy because of it. She never liked being around new people. She hated being around people who might recognize her as “Ray’s sister”. It seemed like nature was her only true friend, and although I was happy she’d found an escape like I’d found in cooking, I knew that that would never be enough. I worried for her.

When prom came, I was excited for each of my children for different reasons. Basil would get the chance to get off his butt, Pepper would get the chance to interact with others, and Raymond just… well Raymond just needed to have a night where he couldn’t possibly cause trouble.

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Of course, I was wrong, though. He got into a fight on the dance floor with a jock, and he ended up offending a teacher. I was shocked, though, that he got Prom King. But should I have been? I don’t know. Raymond did have a reputation. It preceded him. He certainly had a bad boy way about him, and maybe that was charming to his classmates. I hoped that his peers didn’t encourage his behavior…

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Basil seemed pretty unhappy when he got home. All in all, he described it as a fun night until someone threw punch on him for asking her to dance. I was furious, but I buried inside. Not only was someone rude to him, but they had messed up his very expensive suit.

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Pepper simply described the night as “uneventful”. I talked to Basil about it and he insisted that she just stared at the decorations and drank punch. Of course, she avoided her big brother like the plague and left as soon as he was announced Prom King.   Screenshot-9

Sometimes it hit me like a ton of bricks that my kids were growing up fast. They weren’t just growing out of old clothes and toys like before. They were growing straight into adulthood. Basil’s personality was turning out to be just like his father’s. It almost creeped me out. He was growing more and more confident in his musical ability, and even though I didn’t want him to, I knew he’d eventually fall right into his father’s footsteps. They were a close pair, and when he wasn’t talking about music with his dad, he was chatting with his new friend, Vince. I’m not really sure how those two found each other. The friendship was unlikely in my opinion, but Basil insisted that Vince was a really good guy. Basil always told Vince about how he wanted to become a musician and travel the world, eventually becoming a big star!

“It’s like it’s not even a want anymore. I feel like I need the music,” he would say.

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Vince, on the other hand, was from a pretty noble family. They weren’t very rich, but they had more money than us and they’d been in Appaloosa Plains far longer than I had, so they had connections. Vince claimed he wanted to be a musician and that he loved music, but he was a business guy. That’s what he was being groomed to do. With his mother being a nurse and his father being a small time politician, they wanted him to pursue something more practical than music.

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Maybe Basil knew it, too. Maybe he just didn’t say anything to his friend. Whatever the reason may be, they’d built a friendship off of their ambitions. Basil would take his keyboard and play Moonlight Sonata, and Vince would stand there and feel the music. I think that’s what he could do. He wasn’t a real musician, but he felt something about it even though music was probably out of his reach realistically.

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Basil would try to teach him. Vince had managed to buy a four string guitar from someone, and he was ecstatic about it, so Basil would teach him simple chords to play with while he delved into more serious things. Although they were on two different levels, they understood each other, and there was something beautiful about that.

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Even though Basil seemed to enjoy social interaction at a normal level, Pepper had insisted that she couldn’t take the students at her school. At first I held firm and kept telling her that the public school was what was best for her, but as time wore on, I heard the rumors too about Raymond. Basil could easily brush it all off and become his own person, but Pepper was too shy to carve out a unique personality for herself. She was going to stay in her troublesome brother’s shadow and remain unhappy if nothing so done. So, I homeschooled her. While I worked, she did assignments and studied at home. It was a good thing I already had experience teaching. This was a peace of cake for both of us.

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While I was gone, she would usually work hard, but sometimes, her mind got distracted on her computer.

Enter now for a cruise for two!

Al Simhara awaits! Book now!

So many ads about travel, and she’d been stuck in this place under Ray’s thumb. The foreign lands seemed appealing to her, but it was conflicting. If she traveled, she would be surrounded by nature in a new environment and away from Ray… but she would be away from everything and everyone familiar. She knew that she wanted to do it, but she just wasn’t sure when she’d work up the nerve to go see the world.

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One day… she promised herself. For now, the simple joys of the plains would be enough for her.

Meanwhile…

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Raymond had been grounded for so long that he knew he wasn’t going to get to do anything until he was about thirty. So he felt like he might as well sneak out and enjoy himself. He wouldn’t let his stupid mother ruin anything for him. Tonight, he was with Laurie. She was President of the student council and had also won Prom Queen. He’d had to share a dance with her which he didn’t care for… but he could see the perks of being with someone with such great standing with the student body.

“So, do you think we could start studying together? I need help with math. Math’s a bitch.”

“Of course! I’d love to help out,” Laurie insisted.

This is gonna be too easy… Ray thought to himself. He just had to continue to work his way into her naive little heart and then he could start taking action.

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“You’re pretty awesome, Laurie,” he said, pausing for a second. “You know, your eyes look beautiful.. wow.”

Laurie blushed

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“Maybe after we study, we could… hang out. I’d love to spend time with you alone. Just us.”

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“Of course. We can spend lots of time together. I’d love that. See ya then?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

“Yeah, Laur. See ya then.”

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As Raymond walked away, Laurie couldn’t help but smile. Sure he was a bad boy, but he was a cutie. She knew his tricks. She knew he was up to something. He never just let people get close to him. He was always trying to manipulate a situation to his benefit. In other words, he was trying to use her. But he wasn’t as smart as her. He was sharp, but not that sharp. She’d won over the student body and her teachers with her charm, grace and charisma, and he wasn’t about to mess it up. Her smile grew deeper. They would make a good alliance. She definitely had plans after graduation. BIG plans. If he scratched her back, she’d scratch his too. She just needed to play her cards right. And he damn well better play his right, too.

Junie’s Diary

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 So… I haven’t been keeping up with my life completely. There’s this man that I met. He’s also a teacher, and his name’s Alvin. He asked me on a date one night. I said no. He was persistent, though, and about two weeks later he asked me again. I said yes that time, but I lied last minute and said I couldn’t make it. Another month went by, and once again he asked me on a date. This time, I said yes and went. I don’t know why I ended up saying yes. His persistance had something to do with it, but I liked Alvin. He seemed like someone I would be friends with. He had a deep, hearty laugh and he actually loved teaching. He was enthusiastic about it which was great, because I needed to see some new perspectives about it so that I’d stay motivated myself.

The night started off slow. We just walked around and talked about our lives. Eventually, it led to me telling him about Raymond, Basil and Pepper. I didn’t get into too much detail since he taught at the school, but I began venting about what I wished for each of them. Then that led to him asking about their father, so I told him about my marriage and what went wrong. It was a bit much for a first date, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. We just relaxed and chatted.

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 At some point, we found a soft spot in the grass and sat down. I continued blabbering away. He listened patiently. Then when it was his turn to talk he told me about his college years and how he was close to being married once, but the woman ended things before they made it down the aisle. It was nice to just converse with him.

“You know, you’re a really nice person, Junie. I’d love to do this again,” he said.

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 “I don’t know where this will go, but I liked tonight. I had fun. So, yes, we should definitely do this again. Maybe next time I could cook for you,” I offered.

“I’d like that. I’d like that a lot,” he said, scooting closer to me. I didn’t say anything. I just sat there with him and enjoyed the comfortable silence as the crickets chirped away somewhere in the distance.

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Watching the stars, I suddenly felt like everything would be alright. Everything was changing, but all four of us Kays were working towards something in our lives. We all needed inner Even Raymond. Even me.

1.8

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It was right around this time that Raymond began to put two and two together. Mom wasn’t home and now he had more control of his own life and freedom than he had before. It was a beautiful realization! And of course, he wasn’t about to waste time reading passages in textbooks and mouthing off to teachers at school when the real fun was elsewhere.

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While Junie was off on her “vacation”, Raymond remembered that there was a specfic part of town that he was never allowed to go to, so of course he went there while he still could. Rustler’s Den was a very old building that looked to be abandoned, but when he tried to open the door, it wouldn’t budge, and he was sure he heard footsteps scurrying about inside.

“Hey! Let me in dumbass!” he yelled while kicking the door. He kept trying until he was tired, but it made him angry that those idiots wouldn’t open the door for him..

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“Hey! I’m from out of town. I was wondering if you knew where- ”

“Hey, look! Fuck you, alright? It’s not my job to show you around. Dumbass. I hope you freeze,” Raymond said furiously. The poor travleler stood dumbfounded. He’d heard that Appaloosa Plains was such a nice small town, and he was only trying to find the Business Office so that he could get a job. But every town had a “bad area” and he was sensing that this was it. Who knows if this kid was on drugs or had a weapon?

“I’ll just go”

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The traveler understood the name of the game a little too late. Raymond was already angry from rejection, cold from being outside, and he knew his mother would be alerted of his absence when she returned. He needed SOMETHING to take his anger out on. Before the man could even turn away, Ray grabbed him by his collar and began slapping him. The man tried to defend himself, but Raymond was quick and determined. He tackled the man to the ground and began kicking him in the ribs and stomach. Once his anger had mostly subsided, he saw the man bloodied and bruised below him. He ran away with a smile on his face. Being bad felt so good.

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As Raymond continued to skip school, news of his angry tantrums, pranks, and fights spread around town. All around town. Even the elementary school. Some of the teachers loved to gossip. Basil was the first to hear of the news as he was delivering a sheet of paper to Mrs. Johnson in the teacher’s lounge.

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Basil knew that if he left his brother alone and stayed out of his way, he would be fine. He had other things to focus on anyway. His look was inspired by his dad’s rock and roll career that he just begun to really take off. Elisha had replaced the lead guitarist for a pop star and was coming up in the music biz. Elisha encouraged all of the kids to explore their talents and the arts, so Basil would keep the stresses of school and his mean brother away by painting. His father was a much bigger inspiration that just that, though. Basil knew that one day, as soon as he could afford it, he would buy an instrument and play for people. Until then, he would work on getting perfect marks on tests.

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With hard work came hard… relaxtion. Sweet little Basil’s only flaw was that he could be very lazy. Sure, he wanted to make great grades, but he had to always remind himself to do homework first and then watch tv or paint later. Sometimes he was unsuccessful in getting things done, but he would always remind himself that at least he wasn’t the worst Kay child. That spot went to Ray.

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In sad news, little Pepper didn’t cope well with having her mother away. The days felt like months. When Basil told her that Raymond was going around tormenting people and skipping school, she was shocked. He wasn’t afraid of anything it seemed, and she certainly couldn’t defend herself against him. He knew she was afraid. Pepper needed extra attention, and Junie was great at nurturing her. Sometimes it was checking for monsters under the bed or letting her sleep in her room during a thunderstorm, but Junie always tried her best to make her easily scared daughter comfortable. Now that she was away, Raymond preyed on his little sister, making her cry every day.

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Basil cast sympathetic looks at his sister, but he knew he would get pummeled if he tried to intervene, so instead, he encouraged Pepper to find something to do so that she could avoid Ray. She realized that she loved being outside. There was something about the snow that winter that was captivating to her. She would go outside for hours admiring wildlife, trying to be extra quiet so that they wouldn’t run away. She would also go ice skating on the lakes, pretending she was the queen of the seasons, and she just happened to prefer the cold today. She would skate and explore for hours until it was late enough and she knew that Ray would be asleep. She just hoped that her mother would come back soon.

Diary of Junie Kay

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I remembered nothing. One minute I was running away and feeling anxious and in the blink of an eye, I was standing in front of my house with a green alien. I couldn’t move, but I saw it wink at me and smile before disappearing into thin air. Slowly I could move my fingers then my toes then the rest of my body. I ran inside to check on my children! Thankfully they were safe. I checked my cell phone to see that I had been gone for one week, and I had also gotten a ton of messages from coworkers.

I know you’re on vacation… but have you heard about your son?

Junie, do you want me to chat with Raymond?

I think you should know, Ms. Kay, that your oldest child has been terrorizing the town!!!

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Me heart sank as I prepared for bed. I had countless messages and missed calls on my phone. I couldn’t go away for a simple vacation without Raymond acting up! I cried a little bit and wondered where I went wrong….

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The next day at work was a living hell for me. It started that morning when Basil and Pepper hugged me ever so tightly and wouldn’t let go, begging me not to go on vacation ever again. I asked them what they had heard and what had been done, and I was furious! Raymond wasn’t just any old bully, he was bullying his siblings and perfect strangers alike. I went into his rooms and snatched the covers off of him.

“WHAT THE FU- Oh… mom. When did you get home,” he asked in a fake sweet voice, but this time I knew better.

“What is wrong with you, Raymond?! I can’t go on a vacation without hearing about your antics. I am extremely disappointed in you. You aren’t allowed to do anything, ya hear? No dances, no outings, no prom if this keeps up! Find another way to spend your time.”

At work I got a ton of angry stares and I was the center of attention despite not many people talking to me. I felt so embarrassed and had to cry in the bathroom a few times. I just wished that everyone would know that I wanted to be a great mom, the best mom and I didn’t ever encourage this behavior.


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Every single day I would go into Raymond’s room and sit in there with him to make sure he didn’t go anywhere else. In the mean time, I played chess. He was welcome to join me if he wanted, but his facade was gone after I yelled at him. He just sat back and muttered mean things about me under his breath. It hurt to hear him refer to me as a cow and for him to say things like “I know why dad divorced you…” but I had moved on from that. I knew he was just trying to get a rise out of me.

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Meanwhile

“You know… mom’s always cooped up inside with us. Or she’s at work,” Basil said one day. Pepper was like his best friend. Sometimes he wondered if Raymond was so angry because he didn’t have a twin to talk to everyday. He’d tried to ask him if that’s why he was so mad, but Raymond didn’t respond. He just held up his middle finger and slammed a door.

“Yeah. She’s doing grown up stuff, though. Besides, I’m glad she’s watching Raymond. He creeps me out,” Pepper admitted. She had continued to go outside and explore the world around her. One of her favorite hobbies was now fishing, but she always released the fish because she didn’t one time and it died.

“I have a plan! How about.. we get mom and dad back together?” Basil asked excitedly.

Pepper looked up with wide eyes. She had very few memories of her parents together as a couple.

“I”m listening…”

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The next morning the twins woke up with bright eyes and bushy tails, ready for this school day to be done with so that they could get the plan moving along. They pretended to do homework and they whispered to each other so that no one… not even Raymond… could ruin their plans.

“Did you call dad?” Pepper asked Basil. He nodded, looking behind him to make sure Raymond wasn’t eavesdropping.

“He’s coming. I also invited some other friends so that it wouldn’t be so awkward. I think that after being married for such a long time, though, they’ll have to talk.”

They ran outside to catch the bus. Today was going to be interesting.

1.7

Authors Note: I do not condone the use of the word retard… Just used it to really bring out a character’s asshole-ness

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It was really simple to get it done. All it took was deep thought, careful planning, and quiet observation. Dad seemed to resent the fact that mom didn’t ever want to do anything except raise children. Mom resented the fact that dad was always working and playing music. They still loved each other they insisted. Well… I wanted to see the boundaries of love… and get some entertainment in the process. It was so fun to get it started.

“Dad, why do I have to go to school?”

“Ray, school is important. You still have a lot to learn. I’m working hard so one day you’ll go to college, get a degree, and get a good job. It’ll be worth it! You’re a smart kid. Just keep working on your multiplication, you’ll be fine.”

“I guess I should go to school… Just the other day I heard mom saying you didn’t go to college and that’s why you’re always working with no time for anyone but yourself. I would hate for mom to be mad at me!”

I skipped right away, but not before glancing over my shoulder to see my dad pissed off!

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Then came the arguing. Mom was always talking about how quiet I was and how I was such a good kid. Little did she know, huh? I would sit downstairs, pretending to do my homework while listening to them argue. It went from “we’re having problems” to “It’s all your fault” to “I can’t take this anymore”….. and I had helped things roll right along slowly but surely. Sometimes I had to mention little untruths to mom and sometimes I had to do it to dad, but a fight would always break out. Then, I didn’t have to do anything. They couldn’t stand each other! I knew that this divorce would equal fun observation for me as well as double the gifts and celebrations for birthdays and Christmas. I just had to wait patiently.


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I can barely breathe. Elisha has gone on tour for the next few months… but he served me divorce papers! I knew that our marriage was all but over, but the more I looked at the papers, the more I thought about how I felt before. I had been in two relationships in my life and both hurt, but this was something I knew I’d never get over. I barely thought of James anymore, but now I was giving up the man I had had children with. The guy I thought wanted to be my soulmate. He enjoyed his music and he sent money often, but it didn’t make me feel any better.Screenshot-9

I tried explaining things to Raymond. It was very hard to do. The poor child just gave me a hug and hung his head low. He understood that his father wouldn’t be around as much, and I promised that we both still loved him and would be available to him whenever he needed.Screenshot-3

The twins, on the other hand, were pretty oblivious to everything since they were still babies. It made me sad to realize that they wouldn’t know of Elisha and I during happier times. Teaching them to walk and talk went by smoothly, but it was much harder doing it alone.

Being alone in general just sucked. Even though Elisha and I weren’t getting along, his presence was missed. When I wasn’t trying to block out the thought that I was about to be someone’s ex-wife, I worked. I was now a high school teacher, and I was no longer teaching my babies. They were long gone, some of them in college now, others taking up local jobs, and some had moved away. I no longer felt connected to the students like I had before. I was always on auto-pilot in the classroom. Instead, I made friends with the other teachers for once. I needed adults to lean on. Some of them had been through a divorce already, and they had plenty of advice to give as well as offering to hang out with me.Screenshot-10

I decided that while Elisha was gone, I needed to discover myself and find hobbies. I needed to live for me. I began doing what I loved the most – Cooking! Now, though, I was really vested in it and I purchased cook books and really began to learn a wide variety of recipes. By doing that, I was able to learn some of the most difficult ones to master, something I’ve always wanted to do! I eventually found out that Elisha was dating someone else through Raymond. I wasn’t surprised that he had found another woman. There were many other pretty, younger women for him to pick from that he toured with. I decided that it would be best to remain cordial for our children, and as soon as he came back to town, I allowed Raymond, Basil, and Pepper to see him, but I kept my distance.

I realized that I was getting older. My life had been a constant battle of trying to gain what I could without losing anything, and here I was twenty something years later with a lot of losses and a lot of gains. I didn’t feel as if I couldn’t go on, though, because now I had the joy of watching my children grow. I decided to let go of any anger I held toward my ex husband. It took time. It took a lot of time. I just couldn’t throw away the love I felt for him, and I know I will always feel love for him, but the divorce might’ve been for the best.

Instead of resigning myself to a lifetime of regret and moping, I signed myself up for a vacation!

“But MOOOOOOOM!” Basil and Pepper exclaimed after I told them I’d be taking a trip.

“We wanted you to be here for us when – when school started,” Basil insisted, looking a little sad.

“Ah, honey. Of course I’ll be back before then. I promise. Mama just needs some time to relax and enjoy life. I’ll bring you guys treats, and I’m sure Raymond will – well he’s very quiet, but I’ll cook meals beforehand. I won’t be gone long.”

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I packed my bags and called a taxi service. Since I was leaving around four in the morning, I kissed all my children while they were sleeping.

“I love you,” I whispered to each of them before going outside. As I waited for the cab to come, I thought I noticed something outside… something ethereal. I ran up to it to get a better view and I definitely saw something!

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“Gladys? Mama??” I whispered to the weird glow.

“WRONG!” I heard something or someone exclaim in my head. It was like it was there but it… wasn’t. Before I knew it some.. some UFO came out of nowhere! I swear that there was a little green thing in there just like the movies. I tried running away, but that just seemed to excite it.

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A huge wave of panic rushed over me, and that’s all I can remember from that night.

Meanwhile…

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When Pepper woke up the next morning, she already knew that her mom had left them delicious waffles in fridge. Pepper loved waffles almost as much as she loved yummy buttermilk pancakes. But then she remembered that Raymond did NOT care for waffles nearly as much, so she used her new Little Helper Oven to bake vanilla muffins. She pretended she was her mom cooking for a big happy family. After she washed up and brushed her teeth, she took her muffins downstairs for breakfast, just in time for them to cool off. Basil cheerfully joined her, then she heard Ray stomping downstairs. He was always so grumpy. He scared her, honestly.Screenshot-6Screenshot-8

She remembered when she was a little younger that he was so mean when their parents weren’t looking. If she had a toy, he’d take it. If Basil was drinking from a cup, he’d snatch it away and put it somewhere they couldn’t reach. If mama gave them gummy candies, he’d steal it as soon as the adults went away. Pepper could tell from the loud stomping that his mean streak had only gotten worse if anything.

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They hurried with their food. Pepper finished up rather quickly, but Basil couldn’t stuff his mouth fast enough.

“Morning,” Basil said to his brother as he entered the kitchen.

“Don’t speak to me. It’s too early. Redheads are always so damn stupid. You get it from mom.”

Basil didn’t know what to say and his mouth just contorted. Luckily, the elementary school bus honked outside.

“Bye, retards!” Ray said after throwing Pepper’s plate of muffins into the garbage. This was gonna be a long few days.

1.5

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I was carefully tracking my pregnancy using online resources, apps, and books written by the best doctors. Still, nothing could really prepare me for the back pain I had. Elisha tried his best by giving me massages which was sweet.

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Another thing that I hated were my cravings. It was like my body was having a battle. My back pain was telling me to lie down and my taste buds were telling me to get up and cook. I usually got up because I figured the cravings were all the things my baby wanted, and I wanted him or her to know that their mama was a good cook.

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I was also still working. There was no reason for me not to. I was finally an elementary school teacher just like I’d always wanted to be. The children were perfect angels, save one or two, and I was almost certain their home lives weren’t so great. I’d try to make class as fun but educational as possible. We went over fractions using cookies and celebrated every holiday. I wanted to be forever imprinted in these kids’ brains.

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As the birth of the baby came closer, I began to have “false alarms”. Elisha and I considered ourselves prepared but every time it happened we’d feel a wave of panic wash over us. I’d just gotten done eating an entire plate of cookies when my water broke and there was no denying what was happening. Unfortunately, Elisha was out at the theater working hard for a promotion. I had to call him from work to come pick me up and take me to the hopsital. I was extremely anxious the entire way. I wasn’t going to leave the hospital the same person, and we weren’t going to be the same family. From that point on I knew I’d be responsible for another life and helping a person develop. The thought of it made me cry. I was in labor for hours then I finally heard the wail of a newborn baby. My son was finally here.

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He had his father’s blond hair, and he was so beautiful and tiny. We named him Raymond after Elisha’s grandfather. The nursery we decorated was very simple but it was adorable and comforting. The first night we brought him home, both Elisha and I took turns just standing over the crib and watching our baby sleep. He was a perfect little angel. Eventually, we had to crawl into bed even though we’d only get a few hours of sleep at best.

“Isn’t he perfect?” I whispered in the dark room to my husband. “He looks so much like you, Elisha! It’s amazing.”

“Yea,” he agreed. “I can’t believe this is our life now.”

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I loved being a mother. The weight gain, labor pains, and sleepless nights were all alright with me for the end result. I had made one of my greatest dreams come true! I had a family. Life had a funny way of changing things up but my… it sure worked out in the end. I spent the next six weeks really bonding with my baby boy the best I could. He was a quiet little guy with a serious face. It was very hard to make him laugh, but he had the cutest way of doing it after he spit up on me or when he pulled on hair. Elisha spent time with him before and after work. He was new to being a dad and new to being around children in general, but because we read books together and I gave him tips he was doing ok. My only wish was to have another one… I told Elisha as much. I had just gotten promoted and he was very close to getting a promotion as well.

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“I’m not so sure I’m ready to have another baby so soon,” he said. I was surprised. I wondered why not? Raymond was an angel, so there was no reason why another child wouldn’t be.

“Why not? Give me one good reason,” I said defensively.

“Look, Junie. I love having a family. I do, but we have the future to think about. Let Raymond get a little older. We can save money in the meantime and-”

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“But I want a little girl to complete things! I just want one more. This is very important to me. Your passion is your music, mine is children,” I began to cry. I knew he was probably right that more money would be better for us, but really, we would be fine and I knew it. He was such a perfectionist that he wanted a time and place and planning for everything. I didn’t want to do that, though, because I knew that my next child was supposed to be here and we would just make it work.

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Elisha sighed and cut his eyes at me.

“We can try again for another child when Raymond turns three. I’m not budging on that, Junie. I love you and our small family so I want to make sure things go fine.”

That was that. I didn’t have a choice but to be patient, but my want for another child never dulled.

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I was now teaching middle school, which was a little different. Some of the babies I had taught before were now looking lost and confused. There were crushes and sometimes crying in my class. They were older and beginning to go through a lot of firsts, so I tried to be there for them the best I could. Sometimes, rarely, I got tired of being around children and I just needed another adult to chat with. That’s where Ursula came in. We were so close and I was lucky to have her as a friend. She would sometimes watch Raymond while Elisha and I had a date night, and she would go on walks to the park with me while the baby was in his stroller.

“Can’t believe he’s two now!” Ursula said. He saw her looking his way and turned his head.

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“He just woke up from his nap. He’s cranky,” I chuckled. Ursula just continued watching him.

“I’m ready to have more children,” I continued, ready to hear Ursula the Businesswoman’s response.

“I take it that you’ll be moving out of my mother’s house then?” she asked, which was reasonable. I nodded. There wouldn’t be enough room for a new baby, and we could now afford to settle down somewhere else. There would always be memories, but I was ready for a new place.

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“That’ll be nice. I’m really happy for you. You’ve grown so much over the years,” she said, making me smile.

“Oh, Ursula that is just the sweetest th-”

“No. No, don’t get emotional! I’ve been in my office all day doing paperwork and arranging meetings. No tears. I actually need some fun today. Wanna bob for apples?”

I agreed wholeheartedly. Ursula and I giggled like teenagers while coming up for breaths of air. I checked frequently to make sure Raymond was nearby. He was just starting at us with a stoic look on his face. Poor baby was probably bored. I dunked my head back under the water quickly to try to retrieve an apple. Maybe a little too quick, though. I began coughing loudly.

“Water… down… the wrong pipe,” I said while gasping for air.

“You ok, girl? Don’t need you to drown?” Ursula asked with a concerned look.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ok. Let’s keep going!”

Raymond’s interest grew as he began to smile and clap while we continued our fun.

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Eventually, though it got cold outside and we had to return to our lives as adults. I bundled Raymond up in my arms and hailed a cab.

“Now tomorrow, we’ll get started on learing how to talk so that mama can hear your sweet little thoughts, ok?” I smiled at him. He stared back nonchalantly.

The night ended with Elisha and I making love. It was fantastic. It was time for us to have another baby. Ray was already growing up faster than I wanted. I was stuck between wanting to see him become a successful young man to wanting to hold him in my arms as he stared up at me. I wanted the chance to kiss a baby again.

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The next morning I woke up early due to my phone ringing.

4 missed calls it read.

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“Junie Kay speaking,” I said sleepily after I heard a hello. I checked the time. It was seven in the morning, so it was time for me to get up anyway.

“Hi, Ms. Kay. This is Marissa Langston at Twinbrook Hospital. I am calling to give some bad news.”

My heart pounded as I could only think of mama. I had seen her twice in the past month. I wanted her to be around more often, but she kept her distance more and more. My stomach dropped. What if something had happened to her because I wasn’t there?

“What happened? Hello?” I said, anxious to hear an answer.

“Ms. Kay… I regret to inform you that your mother, Ms. Greta Kay, passed away earlier this morning. She was diagnosed with overian cancer about two weeks ago. She was in her final stage. I am so sorry for your loss.”

Long after he hung up I kept the phone to my ear as I had a meltdown internally. I could hear Elisha warming up leftovers for himself in the kitchen and Raymond began to make noise in his crib, but I could only think about the last phone call I had made to my mother and how I’d never see her again. I let out a loud scream and threw my phone against the wall before crumpling to the floor. I wasn’t sure if this was something I could handle.

1.4

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Life was going perfectly for me. It was one of the best times I’d ever experienced. After lots of hard work, I was finally promoted to a Teacher’s Aide. I finally had a spot in the classroom and I was looking forward to absorbing as much information I could about teaching.

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My relationship with Elisha was also going amazingly. Everytime I came home he was there to greet me, ask me about my day, and tell me all about his. We’d progressed so much over the duration of our relationship. I knew everything about him. His favorite color, favorite band, his lifelong dream to master different instruments. He was giving me a happiness that I had never experienced before.

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We had settled into a routine, kinda. I would come home from work. We’d talk. Sometimes he got gigs or played his guitar wherever people would hear him. After we chatted we’d eat dinner, and then we’d always go to bed… in separate rooms. I had given my body to James once before. I always regretted it, but it happened. Maybe it was guilt but I didn’t want to do anything with Elisha to jinx the relationship. It was simple and respectful and I liked that. That didn’t stop people at the school from talking, though, and making fun.

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As long as he was happy I was happy. One day he took me to the park to “talk”. I remember it perfectly. It was unseasonably warm and I had the day off. Birds were chirping…. it was like that day I had with James awhile ago. Except this time, the day ended perfectly. I wasn’t expecting it but Elisha proposed! He took my hands real gently, looked into my eyes, and said, “Junie, you’ve made my life nothing short of perfect since we’ve been together.” He then got down on one knee and asked, “Will you be my wife?”

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For a second there, I couldn’t breathe, and of course the tears were streaming down my face. The ring was shiny and beautiful.

“Y-Yes! Yes!” I whispered as my breath came back. “Of course!”

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The wedding was very simple, but we went to a chapel and spent most of our money on it. I don’t think Elisha really cared one way or another about the ceremony, but I sure did. I didn’t have a ton of friends, but I invited some co-workers, Mama, and Ursula. All eyes were on us. I got jitters halfway through the wedding. It’s a shame that I let my mind wander like that, but I knew that the downside to inviting my coworkers was that they were already making judgements about my wedding and my dress. But they weren’t any better than me, and we all worked at the same place. I pushed the thoughts aside and focused on my very soon-to-be husband.

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We read each other our vows and we wrapped each other up in a big kiss. The clapping was amazing, mostly it came from Mama and Ursula, but a few of my coworkers seemed enthusiastic as well. For a few hours we all danced, but I knew that it was my wedding night and I wanted it to be special. Mama promised she’d clean everything up, and she gave me a big hug and kiss, saying she was proud of me. I knew Ursula would catch up with me later. We would have a lot to talk about.

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As soon as I got in the house, I went into the bathroom to put on my lingerie. It was pretty and bold. It made me feel so attractive. I was strangely nervous even though I had been excited to share myself with him. I took a deep breath and exited the bathroom with my head held high and a smile on my face. The night was romantic. I enjoyed consummating our marriage, but I enjoyed lying next to him even more. He felt so warm and I knew that marrying him was the right decision.

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Elisha and I decided to try to start a family as soon as possible, but we knew that we’d need more stability than my job would give us. He decided to see if he could find any work at the local theater. His skills were impressive and he did very well in his auditions. He had a job before he knew it although it was at the bottom of the rung and it didn’t pay well. Still, we hoped that by the time we had a little family, we’d both have pay raises.

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To make this happen faster, we both tried our best to get on everyone’s good side. I felt more confident as a married woman, and now I wanted friends who were also beginning families so that I could arrange future play dates and get advice. Of course, we started looking for these friends at our workplaces to knock out two birds with one stone. My promotion came first which was a relief because I found out I was pregnant that very afternoon!

1.3

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Gladys’s funeral was peaceful, but sad. Ursula tried to keep a straight face the entire time, but she eventually let her emotions spill out. Not surprisingly, Paul didn’t show up. I wondered how he would be able to live with himself until Ursula told me he had checked into rehab earlier that week. Maybe Ms. Gladys’s wish for her son would come true after all.

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I was a huge wreck. I knew that her health had been iffy for some time now, but just the fact that she’d died so soon after I arrived…. and the fact that we were just beginning to bond…. it really bothered me.

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Going back to the house after the funeral felt odd. I still wanted to know how our story could’ve turned out. I wanted to know how she would’ve greeted me in the mornings now that she liked me, and I wished I could’ve talked to her more about her life. It all left me so confused.

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I began to pack my bags right after the funeral. There was a nearby motel that I could stay at until I found another job. I’d texted my mother to let her know how everything was going and how I was doing. She seemed to have sympathy for me, but she was largely unconcerned. For all I knew, she probably thought this was going to push me in the right direction. Maybe she was right, but I wanted my friend back. Ursula came into my room suddenly, interrupting my thoughts. Her face was still tear stained, and I knew it had been hard for her to break down like that.

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“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I found a motel to stay at for a little while,” I replied. “It’s nothing fancy, but it’ll be enough until I can find a new place to stay and another job.”

She stood by the door awkwardly.

“Well, I was thinking you could stay here a little while longer… if you wanted,” she began. “I know it might be a little… unsettling… since my mother just passed away in the other room. But the rent and utilities wouldn’t be too much.”

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My heart leapt at the news. Yes, it would be very emotional to replay the moment I found Ms. Gladys’s body every time I walked past her room. But I felt like this place had become my home, and I could never express my gratitude enough. We discussed rent and when it would be due. It was oddly inexpensive considering it was such a nice house, but that’s when she told me I’d be getting a new roommate pretty soon. Once everything was discussed, she said her goodbyes and gave me a nice hug.

“Thanks for taking care of my mother better than we ever could’ve,” I heard her mumble. It was barely audible, but I heard it.

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I used the little money that I could spare to buy a new computer. It was old and clunky, but it worked fine for me. I needed to get a job as soon as possible, so I finally broke down and contacted the school. Because of my lack of actual experience working at a school, I had to start from the very bottom as a Playground Monitor, not like I minded. I was excited to finally be working with children. I also did some rearranging and moved my room into Ms. Gladys’s. It felt like it was a weird thing to do, for sure, but I got used to it.

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I was so busy getting my new life together that I forgot about the new roommate that was moving in. The timing was bad considering it was one day before I started my job at the school. I was nervous and anxious. I’d spent all day in front of the mirror practicing what I’d say to the kids and how I could sound both nice and authoritative all at once.

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When my roommate walked into the house, I felt unprepared. On top of the shock I’d acquired from living with someone else, this someone else happened to also be male! So many things almost tumbled out of my mouth. I didn’t know much about Appaloosa Plains, but if it was anything like where I grew up, no one would appreciate seeing two unmarried people living under the same roof. I didn’t want my reputation to be tarnished, and I was about to call Ursula and tell her as much. Then he opened his mouth.

“Lucy! I’m hoooome!” he yelled. He began to chuckle, and it was his laugh that might’ve put me at ease a little bit. He seemed warm and friendly enough, maybe a little awkward with the way he said things. But everything I was about to say that would’ve started us out on the wrong foot stayed in my head. I laughed a little bit with him.

“While we are fellow redheads, my name is actually Junie. Junie Kay,” I said while extending a hand to him.

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As he shook my hand, I felt like I’d made a new friend even though we were just strangers. We spent the rest of the day chatting. I felt like I was telling him my life story, but I heard his first. He had come in from a place called Riverview to play music. Although Appaloosa Plains was no Bridgeport, it had a country music scene that was good enough. I retold my same old story about James and Mama and this time I included Gladys without crying much. He looked at me sympathetically and listened to me patiently. This guy made me feel like what I said was important, and I wasn’t just some naive, small town girl.

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We couldn’t talk forever, although we certainly pushed it. I let the time slip away, and before I knew it night had fallen. I didn’t want to be late for my new job the next day, so I told him there was leftover dinner in the fridge then I went to my room to catch some Z’s. Before I did, though, I couldn’t help but wear a funny smile on my face. This guy was cute, and I knew I had developed a crush too quickly. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine. I texted my mama about it, and she took it as a sign that I was getting over James.

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The next morning I woke up super early. I was as nervous as a sinner on the front pew. After I got ready I still was a bundle of nerves so I cooked myself breakfast and ate, hoping that warm taste of the toast would put me at ease. Eventually, I heard a honk outside and I knew that the carpool was going to give me my first interaction with a coworker. While the ride was nice and smooth, the driver didn’t say much at all and I gave up trying to start a conversation soon after I started. I hoped that all my practice in the mirror hadn’t been in vain.Screenshot-21

I felt a little less anxious as we approached the school. My first shift started at eight and I got to leave at two. Every day, it was like this. It was my job to watch the children and make sure they didn’t get hurt, talk to strangers, bully one another, etc. I also had to clean up the playground after the classes went inside. Nothing was how I expected. The children were often loud and rowdy with the exception of a few. I knew it was because they were young and energetic, but I didn’t expect to barely be able to keep up with them. I really had to use my voice to make sure I was heard and taken seriously. My coworkers were also challenging. It was hard to converse with them about things like the weather or the children. Instead they wanted to gossip about everyone and talk badly about the kids.

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I was always relieved whenever work was over. I was working harder than everyone else so that I could get promoted. I wanted to be around people who loved children and created a helpful environment. Mama kept in touch every now and again and Ursula would text often from her home, but Elisha is the one who helped me keep my sanity. Whether he played beautiful music on his guitar or he simply found a way for us to have fun, it made me feel good.
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I’m not sure how it happened exactly. I think I just liked the way he listened to me and made me feel important in that way. Then he started drowning me in compliments and spending time with me. He said he liked and appreciated my cooking and he liked my hair. Then he said I was his best friend.Screenshot-22

It didn’t take him too much longer after that, though, to give me a kiss. It was magical and beautiful. The hopeless romantic in me wanted more, but the good girl in me knew to be cautious and to take things slow. Regardless, I knew he was taking this- and me- seriously. He asked me if I would be his girlfriend and other half. I said yes.

1.2

Diary of Junie Kay

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Living with Gladys is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, hands down. Not only am I physically tired, but I am emotionally exhausted and at my wit’s end. I love the innocence of children, and it’s making me really consider applying for a teaching position instead of suffering through the verbal abuse this old woman hurls at me daily. Ever since I can remember, being called certain things and treated in an awful way has left me in tears. I’m an emotional person, and I just don’t understand what this woman could’ve gone through to make her so hateful.

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Every morning I wake up early to make her breakfast. I usually try to make wheat pancakes or waffles, and I top it off with her favorite fruit. If anything, I know I’m a good cook.

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However, Gladys never fails to complain about something. One day it was too much syrup, the next day not enough. I started bringing her syrup in a container so she could pour it and she intentionally spilled it all over the carpet. That took forever to clean.

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I try to cater to her and get her to open up to me, but instead she just continues to complain and make my life as difficult as possible. Another thing she does that absolutely kills me is smoking.Her health is already very fragile, and she has a terrible cough. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how she gets the cigarettes since I’m the only one who goes shopping and is consistently in and out of the house. It didn’t take me too long to break down. I used my new phone to call my mother. I needed someone to talk to, someone who knew me well enough. I hadn’t been fortunate enough to meet anyone in town because I was always afraid to be gone for too long.

I waited nervously as the phone rang. It had been about a month since I left home, and I knew my mother was worried sick. I wasn’t sure if she’d respond lovingly or angrily. I knew I deserved the latter, but I was finally standing up on my own two feet, something she had been encouraging me to do all along.

“You’re a weak little thing,” she always mumbled to me when I started to cry. I loved her, but I couldn’t be her. I knew I could never be that strong, so I focused on pleasing her with my meals instead of my emotions.

Finally, after several rings, I heard her pick up the phone.

“Hello?”

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Tears sprang up in my eyes. I held them back the best I could, but that didn’t stop them from pourng down my face at the sound of the familiar voice.

“Hey, mama. It’s me,” I answered. “It’s Junie.”

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I have never in my life heard my mother let out so many emotions (and expletives) in such a short amount of time. Much to my surprise, she cried a little bit. She exclaimed how glad she was that I was okay and how she had been worried about me. In one short breath, she was enraged. I absorbed every bit of it because I knew that I had probably put her through an emotional hell. She was a strong woman, but everyone has a limit to how much they can take. Before she condemned me to Hades for all of eternity, I mentioned to her that I now had a job and a place to stay. In one month I had gone from being a mama’s baby to an independent lady. This led to her being stunned, which I knew meant I’d gotten her approval. She just wasn’t ready to show it after being so angry.

“Why don’t you come over this afternoon?” I asked her. I’d explain the situation fully when she arrived. “I’ll cook us lunch and we can sit and catch up. I want you to see how cute the place is.”

She wholeheartedly agreed and said she was going to leave the house very soon. In the mean time, I peeked into Gladys’s room to make sure nothing chaotic was going on.

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She was napping, so I decided to start sorting through some of her old things. She’d left some books in an unorganized pile on the front desk – probably just to get me to clean it all up. I tucked each book away one by one. An old family Bible first, then a vintage children’s book, then a notebook. Eventually I had everything sorted out but one, and it had my attention front and center. On the first page it said The Diary of Gladys Cain. My curiosity was killing me.

Just as I was about to open it up the doorbell rang. I let out a huge sigh before closing the book… for now. It would have to wait.

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I walked faster and faster as I saw my mother’s face through the windows. She wrapped me up in a big old hug when she saw me. She noticed everything.

“You’ve lost a little weight!” she began before she pointed out details about my hair, teeth, feet, and whatever else caught her attention. I smiled through it all and basked in her love. Even though I had made a sudden move, I was always gonna be a mama’s girl. After my no good father left us when I was in kindergarten, it’d just been me and her. I had a stepfather, but he passed away when I was sixteen due to a car accident. Even though people were constantly entering and exiting our lives, it would always be just me and her really.

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I gave her a tour of the home. We went through every room and oohed and aahed at tiny details- every room except Gladys’s that is. My mother sure tried to go in that room, though. Luckily, I stopped her before she got the chance.

“No, mama! Not in there,” I interjected. I guided us over back to the living room. I needed Gladys to sleep for as long as possible.

“What’s in there? Do you have a baby?” she asked randomly. Instead of pointing out that I’d just been gone for a month, I just smiled and shook my head no.

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“I’ve been living here since I left. I found an ad in the paper from some people looking for a caretaker for an elderly woman. Her name’s Gladys,” I said, pointing in the direction of the room. I explained that I cooked and cleaned for the woman and I got paid well. My mother took it all in silently. I tried not to complain, but I did mention that she was mean to me.

“You’re a weak little thing,” my mom responded, as usual. “Do you enjoy slaving away for an old lady? Don’t you think you should be enjoying your life?”

I shrugged.

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“This is a good deal for me. I’m not really sure what to do since-” I stopped myself. All this time I’d been able to mentally block James. Some days were better than others, and the nights were always the worse because I’d gotten all the cooking and cleaning done, so there was nothing left to distract me.

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“James has had no trouble meeting new girls. It’s true. He’s already started flirting with some young blonde girl who comes from a family as snotty as his,” she scoffed.

“Mama, stop. I don’t wanna talk about this,” I responded coldly. My feelings were hurt, and I let a few tears trickle down before wiping them and trying to change the subject.

“How’s the school?” I asked.

“It’s fine, it’s fine. They don’t have any new positions. I know that’s why you’re asking,” Mama said. “Don’t they have a school down here you can apply to? You’ve resigned yourself to taking care of an old bat, and you’re too young for that, darling.”

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I scowled at that. She could be so insensitive at times. Before I could respond, I heard some stirring in the other room, and I knew Gladys was finally up. While my mama continued fussing, my eyes darted around the living room, making sure everything looked fairly decent. The day wasn’t over with yet, but so far the room looked nice. Gladys burst through the door and put a cigarette in her mouth right in front of me.

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“Who’s this?” she asked, looking Mama up and down. “I don’t want company in my house.”

“This is my mama,” I replied. “Gladys, could you please stop smoking?”

I waited, hoping that she’d cooperate just this once. I didn’t want my mama to think this was too much for me to handle because it wasn’t. Right?

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Gladys blew a puff of smoke out of her mouth then spent the next minute or so wheezing while Mama got up and snatched the cigarettes from her. Gladys looked taken aback, but she went into another coughing fit before she could really say anything. My mother shook her head at me with disappointment, and I tensed up under the judgment.

“This ain’t what I pictured for you, Junie,” she muttered.

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“Sorry, Mama,” I replied back sadly. I wanted her approval, but I wasn’t going back to Twinbrook, partly because she probably wouldn’t let me anyway.

“Looks like your work day is starting,” she said while preparing to leave.

“So soon? I thought we were gonna have lunch!” I pouted. It didn’t work. She continued talking without missing a beat.

“Now, I want you to call the school and get something set up. I know you’re in a rut because things didn’t go according to plan, Junie. But guess what? Life isn’t mapped out. It’s random as hell. You call that school, ya hear?”

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She shut the door and left, but her presence was still felt. I wanted her to wrap me in her arms and tell me it was okay. Instead, Gladys insisted that she needed help in the bathroom. I sighed loudly before doing as I was told.

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After much arguing, I got Gladys to eat and go to bed. Slowly, I pulled the diary out of its hiding place to avoid making too much noise. I didn’t know where to start so I started from the beginning.

Day 1

For our anniversary last night, Edward made sweet love to me, and he got me this beautiful diary.

That was enough for me. I winced and flipped a few pages, trying hard to push away any mental images.

Day 20

Ursula’s getting divorced again. Seems like the girl is so hardheaded. After she lost the baby, I knew it would put a strain on her marriage. She always throws herself into work when things get too difficult to deal with. I want so badly to be a grandmother, and at this rate, I’m never gonna get that experience. Paul won’t talk to me. He’s still sore about me cutting him off, but drugs are dangerous and I’m not supporting anybody’s bad habit.

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I found that ironic now that she was a smoker. I felt like I was delving into her children’s personal lives. I knew nothing about Paul other than the fact that he agreed for me to be the caretaker, although Ursula was the one who had come down to take care of Gladys until I was hired. Ursula was also still very much a workaholic. She hadn’t really checked too much on her mother since I was hired. I’d taken that to mean she trusted me, but a month was really too long to go without checking up on a close family member. I skipped ahead to the last page in the diary.

Day ???

It’s been years since I wrote in this old thing. Edward’s long gone and so are my children it seems. They never come to check on me, and now my damn health is failing. I’ve failed as a mother. Paul and Ursula argued for so long about whose turn it was to come check on me. All I am to them is a burden. Paul hasn’t come to see me in such a long time. He keeps replacing all his bad habits with other ones, and I won’t support any of those either. He’s lost custody of his children and I bet another man is raising them. Ursula has gotten too old to become a mother, and she only visits every once and awhile. I don’t think the girl will ever get married again. I can’t tell if her heart is broken or if she’s just cold. Regardless, I’m tired. I’m tired of being here and I hate being old. I don’t know what they’re doing with me, but I doubt anyone will be here for long. Not sure if I’ll be put in a nursing home or what, but I’m finally ready to just give up on life. I miss Edward.

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I slammed the diary shut, and cringed. I had just invaded this woman’s privacy and now I felt horrible about it. I knew the last entry had been made shortly before I came. The ink was a little darker than any of the other ones, and everything she mentioned matched up perfectly with what I knew. She was old and I was young. She was angry and I was sad. She had a stable lifestyle and I had stumbled upon temporary stability. The only thing it seemed we shared was heartbreak, but I knew that that was something.

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The next morning I woke up bright and early and went to the grocery store for some lemons, sugar, and water. I made Gladys a fresh pitcher of lemonade, and instead of waiting for her to get out of bed, I woke her up when she heard me enter the room with her drink.

“Hush that racket!” she yelled loudly. She looked at me, expecting me to leave. It melted my heart to know that she expected that. Life had been that way to her for so long that she now expected it. I smiled at her instead of leaving.

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“Can I talk to you?” I said with a smile.

She just sat on her bed looking quite uncomfortable. I took that to mean yes.

“The other night as I was clearing your books off the desk, I couldn’t resist reading your diary.” Her eyebrows raised and she looked angry.

“I know it was wrong! No denying that. I’m very sorry for doing that. I only read three pages, but they were so sad. You sure do miss Edward, huh?”

She continued to stare at me with her mouth slightly open. “Mhm…” she said. Her walls came down an inch, but that was still something. I decided to work with it.

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“I’m sorry that your children don’t spend enough time with you and that you haven’t gotten to experience being a grandmother. That’s awful,” I said. Her scowl broke down and I could see that she was very, very sad. She turned her head away from me and stared at the wall.

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“I think… I think you should stop sabotaging your health. Paul may or may not care. Ursula may not know how to show it. I don’t know. But I’d hate for you to die or get hurt under my watch.” I then began crying. I couldn’t help it. Me and Gladys were having a heart to heart all of a sudden, and I was happy about it. She continued to stare ahead, but I could tell the words were sinking in and leaving an impact. I told her about my first heartbreak with James and how he was chasing big dreams that I was never even included in for a second. She seemed to sympathize. There was a sliver of silence after I’d poured my heart out. It had been therapeutic and I could tell she couldn’t look at me the same way. Just as I thought we were finished and I was about to start cleaning for the day, she began talking about Edward and how much she missed him. They’d spent fifty years together and had two kids.

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“You know, sometimes it feels terrible to have your dreams ripped away. But, honey, it also hurts to get everything you asked for and to find out it was wrong all along. I got Edward then I lost him to cancer. We had our two miracle babies and now they couldn’t care less about me. I’m back where I started. Lonely.”

I gave her a small smile and told her to get out of bed and follow me. She seemed nervous, but I told her to trust me. She hadn’t been out of the house since I moved in, and I was tired of being cooped up inside. We, of all people, deserved to have one good day. We spent the day hanging out together.

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We took a short walk in the park until she was tired of supporting herself on that cane, then we just sat on a bench and made small talk. Afterwards, I took her to dinner instead of cooking. For once, she didn’t complain about the food. I think it had less to do with the quality and more to do with the fact she felt wanted for once.

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When we got home, I surprised her with new makeup and I did her hair. I had been saving the makeup for a rainy day, although I rarely ever wore any of the stuff anyway. She looked beautiful and happy. For once, I was excited about my job and happy to be taking care of Gladys. I knew I could offer something to her life that even her children didn’t seem willing to bring.

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But when I woke up the next morning, she was gone.

1.1

1

There’s this funny thing that happens when you just take off in the evening like a fool. I jumped in the taxi with my mind still feeling still and dead. I’d never known what people meant when they said they felt like a zombie. Maybe I wasn’t so sad at James not being by my side. But my future was ripped away. He took away my plans, and I’d naively let them center around him instead of focusing on myself. Now I had no clue who I was without him or Mama. In the taxi, things were awkward for a bit. We drove past a ton of trees for a long stretch, then as we were approaching a new town, the driver insisted she’d have to let me out soon. I complied. Getting out of the car should have been hard considering I had nothing and nowhere to go. If I’d had all my sanity, I would’ve asked the driver to take me back home. Instead, I walked out and let her drive away without so much as a glance back. Appaloosa Plains was beautiful. I hadn’t come here a lot. It was always described to me as another sleepy little town, same as the one I grew up in. This town seemed inviting to me because of that, I guess. I walked around in the dark for awhile before realizing that my body was tired and my feet were achy.

4

I stopped and slept on a park bench. I didn’t care about how I looked. No one was out to see me. I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering what Mama would’ve said though. I had avoided checking my phone and seeing her messages of worrying and panic. I knew that everyone would be waiting to see my next move, holding their breaths at the thought of me pining away for James. Eventually it occurred to me that I didn’t hate him, I just didn’t understand him, but I wasn’t ready to face that at the time.

3

4

When I woke up after three hours of uncomfortable sleep, I left my cell phone on the bench. I took my SIM card out and crumpled it up into a million pieces before I started walking again. I got a little bit nervous inside, and I started to cry. My senses and feelings were coming back strong, and I knew I needed to figure something out. I saw a newspaper lying on someone’s front yard, and I figured it probably wouldn’t be too intrusive if I read the Wanted ads. The town had many part-time jobs and few full-time jobs that required skills I didn’t have. I began formulating a game plan in my head about becoming a waitress and finding a hotel to stay in until I got myself together. It was scary and strangely exciting. Luckily, before I could make a fool of myself (again), I saw that there was a caretaker needed in a house. They wanted someone who was caring, patient, could cook, and clean for an elderly woman. They preferred for the person to have some experience in taking care of the elderly or knew a thing or two about medicine, which I didn’t, except for reminding Mama to take her Vitamin C pills every once and awhile. But I was gonna try it. I repeated the address to myself over and over again until I could recite it with no problem, then I took to asking locals to point me in the direction.

5

Just as I figured, everyone knew everyone just about. It took me no time to find the house. It was a nice size and quaint. All my nerves rushed in at once as I knocked on the door. I counted to ten slowly and managed to slow my breathing just as a woman opened the door. She appeared to be in her fifties, and she looked exhausted.

“Can I help you?” she asked with an accent that said she wasn’t from this area.

“H-Hi!” I said, perhaps a little too cheerily. I began wondering about my hair and my breath and what I’d say. “I’m here to speak with you about the job offer you had in the newspaper.”

“Oh! Come on in,” she said, opening the door wider. I felt a little better just knowing I’d gotten into the house. “Please, let’s chat on the couch!”

We sat on the couch in front of a warm fireplace. There was no television, and I kinda liked the way the house looked. I told her as much and she nodded and thanked me before getting back to business.

6

“So, my siblings and I are looking for a caregiver for our mother, as you already know,” she began. “We all try taking turns being here with her, but it’s beginning to be more challenging as she ages. This year she’s taken to using a cane and she doesn’t seem to fully be there. She’s cranky and has to take pills for several different things. Her body just……. isn’t working like it used to.” At that, the woman grimaced.

I politely nodded and gave a small smile, as if I really knew what that felt like.

7

“Anyway, we know she needs to be under constant supervision, and we’d just like it if someone were here to cook for her and make sure she gets everything done and doesn’t, you know, leave the house or hurt herself. Do you have any experience with this?”

5

It was my turn to talk, and I felt my throat tighten.

9

“Well, no ma’am. I don’t have any experience with taking care of the elderly.” I could see her brows furrow in frustration. She was wondering why I was here already.

“However, I’d be more than happy to learn. I’m good at taking care of children, if that’s any consolation. I can also cook and clean with the best of them, and I’d be able to start immediately.”

That seemed to do it. Not completely, but I know it helped because she nodded and her face stopped looking crumpled and irritated.

She seemed to have to think of the words to say next, but eventually she managed to make a decision.

“I’ll have to go back to my job within the next few days…. But…. I’m gonna stick around and train you. Show you how to take care of her. I’m Ursula, by the way. Now you can meet my mother, Gladys.”

10

11

Just like that I had a job and my hands were full. She taught me how to do everything, and I learned to grin and bear it when it was something I didn’t wanna do. Cooking and cleaning was natural and fine. However, I absolutely hated when Ms. Gladys needed any help in the bathroom at all. I felt like I was invading someone’s privacy. Learning to give her her medicine wasn’t too hard because Ursula wrote everything down for me. The most challenging part was setting the alarm and making sure she took the pills. Ursula warned me that she’d sometimes keep them under her tongue until she could hide them under the pillow or flush them down the toilet. It was honestly exhausting keeping up with the old woman. I could see why Ursula was tired and ready to go back to her job. Before she left, she gave me a key to the house. I felt like she trusted me now that she’d seen me do the work and she’d tasted my cooking. I promised her repeatedly that I’d take care of her mother very well, and I let the realization sink in that I’d left my own mom alone worrying about me. I couldn’t handle thinking about that just yet. Ursula made me promise I’d call her if I needed anything, and she bought me a new cell phone when I told her I didn’t have one. The last thing she explained to me was that I’d be paid once per week. She’d mail me a check along with money for bills, groceries, and medical expenses. I was also allowed to stay in the house rent-free. I felt like I had a great situation, and as soon as Ursula left, I couldn’t wait to start my job and begin to truly bond with Ms. Gladys.

13

“Well, I’m so happy to be here with you. Would you like anything to eat?” I offered to the older woman who was lying in bed. Using her cane, she slowly rose up from her bed and walked towards me with a scowl on her face.

“You can’t control me. I’ll cook for myself when I get hungry. Leave me alone!” the older woman snapped.

15

Quietly, I closed the door to her room and sighed. This was going to be a long, difficult journey. But at least I had gotten it started. I was quite proud of myself.