The Wedding and the Web: Part 4

            *

Charlotte eventually settled on a venue for the wedding—the grand ballroom of the Hotel del Coronado. Gradually, painstakingly, the colors were picked, the dress was finally chosen, and the bridal party wined, dined, and fêted the bride-to-be. Specifically, this bridal party consisted of the three of us: one matron of honor and two maids. Carmen was the last to accept Charlotte’s request to stand alongside her on her big day, but not without a promise to Caroline and me that she would arrive intoxicated to the wedding and any other wedding-related events. (We believed her.)

“So do you have to wear crowns for the royal wedding?” Andy Flood asked me that morning, after I filled him in on the final stages of the wedding planning. As usual, he stood before my desk.

“Not the ladies-in-waiting. Just the princess gets the crown.”

“Ah. I’m sure you’ll be relieved when it’s all over.”

“Incredibly relieved. I plan on taking a few days off, actually—until I’m tasked with being the wet nurse for their first child.”

Andy laughed. “Let’s hope you never get that phone call.”

Marta Weeks, another assistant, then rounded the corner and approached us. “Andy, you’re being summoned by Ed.”

He waved goodbye to us before heading down the hallway. Marta openly watched him walk away. It was no secret that she had a thing for Andy, as did most of the female population at Hardy and Malloy. “That Andy Flood,” she murmured. “It’s a shame.”

“What is?”

“The fact that he’s not the least bit interested in me, despite my efforts to change that. A gal gets tired of parading herself around, believe me.”

I raised my eyebrows and left that particular statement alone. Marta’s penchant for short and tight-fitted clothing was a point of discussion around the office.

“Rumor is he has a crush on someone in the office, though,” she continued.

“Really? Who?” I knew quite a bit about Andy and his background, but a crush had never come up in conversation. But then why would he reveal that kind of information to me? We tended to discuss general topics like work, family, and things of that nature.

Marta shrugged. “It’s not me, that’s for sure.”

“Well, it’s probably another lawyer. Rachel Neal seems popular.”

“It’s definitely not Rachel Neal. She’s engaged to an aide in the mayor’s office. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Like I said, it’s not yours truly, so I really don’t care.” She winked at me before walking away. For a moment, I reflected on how difficult it was to actually like Marta Weeks.

Who did Andy Flood have a crush on?

The Wedding and the Web: Part 3

*

When I wasn’t sitting by Charlotte’s side during the wedding preparations, I was a litigation assistant for a law firm in the city. The world of lawsuits and trials was a significant diversion from frilly dresses and color swatches, and far more interesting. Nevertheless, my busy job didn’t necessarily mean I could escape from my family.

“Sweetheart,” my mother began when I answered the call on my desk phone that morning, “there’s a potential change in venue. Your sister heard about a lovely banquet hall on Catalina Island. You know how special Catalina is to her.” The island was where Charlotte and Sanford had their first date.

I sighed inwardly. “When is she planning to take a look at it?”

“This afternoon.”

Oh, God. “Mom, I can’t go. I need to be in court this afternoon. There’s a case, and—”

“Catherine.” Her voice had dipped into that lower register reserved for mothers ready to remind older sisters about miracle babies and providing them all the support they needed. I knew it well. “Your sister needs you.”

“Maybe Carmen can go. I know she’ll be free this after—”

“Carmen cannot possibly go. You know that.”

True, it was a silly suggestion. Carmen tended to get physically and verbally combative with Charlotte. Despite being largely incensed with our parents about, well, everything, this didn’t preclude her from taking it out on the baby. “Ok,” I replied. “I can check with Caroline, then.”

Mom breathed into my ear.

Oh, God.

“Catherine, it is important that you go. You know how easily turned around your sister gets, even with that GPS thing. She probably won’t find the harbor. And Sanford is in Sacramento today, so he’s unavailable. Can’t these lawyers understand that your little sister needs you?”

It was the typical guilt-trip triumvirate: Charlotte being alone, her well-being, and how those two things superseded everything. I held my breath and closed my eyes, hoping the phone would somehow disconnect. A slight tapping on my desk caused them to open. Andy Flood, one of the attorneys I supported, stood before my desk. “It’s ok; you can go,” he said softly.

“Are you sure?” I whispered, placing my hand over the phone’s speaker.

He nodded.

“Mom,” I said, “I’ll meet her.” I could practically hear my mother’s lips widening in a smile.

“Wonderful. Pick her up around 1pm, sweetie. ‘Bye.”

“Thank you,” I said to Andy after hanging up the phone. Having supported him for almost three years now, he had become well-versed in my family’s antics.

“I couldn’t help but overhear. Duties for the royal wedding, I presume,” he replied.

I laughed. “Exactly. But is it really ok? I’ve finalized most of the briefs, but there are few more left to finish.”

Andy waved his hand. “It’s 10:15. If you can finish the rest, Marta can take over and come to court with us. No worries.”

I thanked him again and got to work. I dreaded going to Catalina, but in the meantime, anything to take my mind off the island was welcome.

                                                                                          *

After Catalina and touring the banquet room (“it’s a possibility,” Charlotte had decided), I returned to the office a bit after 6 that evening. All in all, the excursion had taken a whopping five hours; my mother and sister failed to comprehend things like the hour it took just to get from the city to the harbor, where a boat took travelers to the island and back.

“Cath?”

I turned around, having walked past Andy’s office toward my desk without realizing he was inside. I approached his office.

“You didn’t have to come back,” he said.

“It’s fine. I have a ton of things to do.”

Andy smiled. “Be honest with me, Cath, really. Do you ever feel like saying no to your family?”

“All the time.”

“But you won’t. Or can’t?”

“Hey, are you a lawyer or a therapist?” I joked.

He chuckled. “I just kind of marvel sometimes, at your dedication to them.”

“You and me both.”

“Believe me, I love my family, too. But your patience is extraordinary. I respect that.”

“Thank you.” Later, the ideas that Andy “marveled” at my dedication and respected me struck me. I wasn’t sure why.

                                                                                            *

By and large, Caroline’s husband, Danny, didn’t interact with our parents. Their tense relationship started when our parents disagreed with their oldest daughter marrying an auto mechanic. It didn’t matter that, at the time, Danny already owned two successful shops. They still objected. In the end, only my father chose to attend their wedding in order to walk his weeping daughter down the aisle. Five years later and a few weeks ago, learning about the price tag of Charlotte’s wedding and their eager support of her marriage was all it took for Danny; Caroline and I had been forced to restrain him from getting into a car and driving to our parents’ home for a confrontation. (Carmen had cheered on his plans.)

The next morning, I sat adjacent to Danny in their kitchen as he sipped a cup of coffee and peered at me over the lid. “I heard you drove to Catalina yesterday,” he said.

I understood Caroline telling her husband everything, but I questioned the wisdom of informing Danny about these types of things, being that he was usually minutes away from burning down my parents’ house. And, along with everything else, my adventures with Charlotte, as dictated by my parents, didn’t rank high on his list of favorite things. I merely nodded in reply.

“What was that, like a six-hour drive?” he asked.

“About five hours,” I said, not meeting his eyes.

“And is she booking the venue for sure?”

“Danny…”

“Don’t worry about it, Cath. After breakfast, I’ll check out your car. I’m sure you’ve been logging more than a few miles on it lately.”

“Thanks, Danny.” I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Caroline entered the kitchen then, armed with a basket of oranges, strawberries, and other assorted fruits from their garden. “Fruit salad, anyone?” she asked, smiling at us. She playfully ruffled Danny’s hair.

He gazed up at her, beaming. Parental objections or not, not one of us doubted their love and affection for each other. It was another web, wasn’t it? I thought. Tested and challenged, but no less solid.

The person you want this kind of love with loves your little sister, a voice then reminded me.

Things need to change, Catherine.

Now.

But how?

The Wedding and the Web: Part 2

Charlotte may have been the fragile baby, but I was the one with the problem. The short of it, akin to a plot from a frothy, clichéd soap opera: we had all grown up together, the Vine sisters and Sanford; I fell in love with Sanford somewhere along the way; he fell for Charlotte. And why wouldn’t he? She was smart, beautiful, trilingual. (There was a year of studying abroad in Portugal, too.) I was fine with it, except for the days, hours, and minutes when my heart seemed poised to take its final beat from the stress of it all. This was what Carmen had alluded to in her apartment those few days ago. Although my parents knew nothing about my feelings for Sanford, it wouldn’t matter, anyway, who I had feelings for—I was merely the nurse whose sole responsibility was to take care of her baby sister. That certainly ruled out expensive weddings for me. (“You’re their spinster martyr,” Carmen liked to say.) All that said, unlike a frothy, clichéd soap opera, there would be no devious plot to steal the man my sister loved. I had no plans to ruin my sister’s life. Until I woke up one morning with my heart and emotions back to normal, I had no choice but to wait, suffer, and ensure that my sister wasn’t overwhelmed by all the wedding planning. A spinster martyr, indeed.

*

“How’s life, my Catherine?” my father asked me that evening.

“Good.” There was no need to provide further details. It was my father’s requisite, surface attempt at conversation, and my “good” would suffice for him. My parents weren’t bad people, however. Having been molded by so much tragedy, our existing family dynamic was the result. The three years between my birth and Charlotte’s had been fraught with two heartbreaking miscarriages. Charlotte was their miracle pregnancy when they had been told that a baby would likely not come; hers was the dangerous journey toward birth, as my mother was ordered to bed as soon as they learned she was pregnant; and when Charlotte finally arrived, she came 7 months premature. Some time ago, I began to recognize that a type of cocoon, a web, formed around parents and children with that kind of history. It was the kind of structure that no other child could penetrate. I didn’t doubt their love for the three of us, but the web around our parents and Charlotte was altogether different and indestructible.

Dad and I continued to wash the dishes—I soaped and rinsed, he dried—in silence. We had been invited to dinner that evening; Carmen had declined the offer, while Caroline had promptly disappeared once the wedding talk commenced. Behind us at the kitchen table, my mother and Charlotte peered through bridal magazines and intermittently punctured the quiet atmosphere with excited squeals over a dress or a decoration. When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, I nearly dropped the plate I was washing. Undeniably, it was Sanford.

“Sorry I missed dinner, love,” I heard him tell Charlotte in the foyer, after she had raced to open the front door. “It was bedlam at the office.” His apology was obviously accepted, as audible sounds of affection reached my ears in the kitchen. My chest burned.

“Sanford, we saved you dinner. Get in here,” my mother called playfully.

As if she had come out of thin air, Caroline appeared in the kitchen. My protector, I thought. She was instantly by my side at the sink, gently pushing our father out of the way and commanding that he go and greet his almost son-in-law.

“It’s 1 and 3. Ladies, how are you?” Sanford asked behind us. “1” and “3” were his longstanding nicknames for us, based on our pecking order as siblings. However, following a particular tense conversation between him and Carmen about the chauvinistic implications of a woman being identified by a number, Carmen was simply Carmen.

Caroline squeezed my hand beneath the warm, soapy water. “We’re fine,” she replied, quickly turning around to smile at Sanford.

I turned and waved at him before returning my now blurry gaze back to the sink.

“Charlotte, show Sanford some of our ideas for the big day. No photos of the dresses we’re considering, of course,” my mother said.

“Let the man eat first, Irene,” my father said mock gruffly.

Charlotte retrieved the pan of lasagna from the oven and began to prepare Sanford’s plate. Peripherally, I watched her hum and smile to herself. My heart skipped more than a few beats. Caroline squeezed my hand again. I looked up at her and silently communicated what she already knew: I needed to get out of there. Quickly, we finished the remainder of the dishes.

“Mom, Dad, lovebirds,” Caroline said when we were done, “we’re going to head out.” An excuse for our abrupt departure wasn’t necessary; my parents were happily preoccupied with the lovebirds. They would not protest. We said our goodbyes. Once outside, I crouched down on the driveway and took in long, deep breaths of the cool evening air. Caroline rubbed my back wordlessly before leaning down next to me. “Things need to change, Catherine,” she whispered in my ear. “Now.”

The Wedding and the Web: Part 1

So while in the middle of a strange, hormone-fueled rage sometime in 2013, I wrote a short story one evening while sitting on the couch in our living room, not getting up and not pausing in my vicious scribbling (yep, I wrote in longhand in a spiral notebook like it was 1992) until I was finished, which was around 3 that morning. Riiight? It was bizarre. I still don’t get it. But hey, inspiration is inspiration, I suppose. I’ve longed believed that my creative muse needs medication.

In simplistic terms, the story is about family. The different roles and expectations within that dynamic, the ties between siblings and parents, husbands and wives, so on. Basically what I always write about, but quite personal in ways that I’ll save for a sighing, beleaguered therapist one day. Anyway, since This Square Peg is all about sharing, I’ve decided to share my story with you. Each day, I’ll post brief excerpts of The Wedding and the Web for your reading (and psychoanalyzing?) pleasure. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments as you go. Without further ado, Part 1 begins below.

*********************************************************************************

The Wedding and the Web

We had coddled her from the beginning. She was born “fragile”, which was a tender, childproof way of telling us what we couldn’t yet understand, that Charlotte had come into the world several weeks premature. After days of staring at our fragile baby sister through a curious glass partition in a hospital room, covered in tubes, she finally came home to us. We were always to be careful around her; this meant traipsing through the house quietly, donning masks at the onset of colds or coughs, and holding our sister only after thoroughly washing and sanitizing our hands. By the time Charlotte was 10 years old and seemingly less fragile but still being treated like a sickly infant, the three of us—ages 13, 15, and 16—were right sick of her. While my older sisters halted their coddling, I certainly had no choice, as I was too terrified of my parents to imitate the aloof disregard that my sisters now had for Charlotte. Nevertheless, our parents were fine with continuing to take up the lion’s share of babying her, which they did heartily. As a result, Charlotte grew up in the kind of gilded cage the rest of us had barely known: eternally pampered and her every whim funded by our parents. Don’t get me wrong; the three of us were hardly paupers, but there was a marked difference nonetheless.

Naturally, when we learned that Mom and Dad were paying nearly $100,000 for Charlotte’s upcoming wedding, we were stunned. Specifically, Caroline vomited; Carmen uttered words no human being should ever be forced to hear; and I recalled a time when my parents refused to pay for a college trip I wanted to take to France, while three years later, Charlotte was studying a year abroad in Paris. As we continued to digest this information, however, I couldn’t help but reason away my shock. It was impossible to be that surprised, wasn’t it? How did an expensive wedding differ from all the other things our sister had benefited from?

“I swear,” Carmen muttered repeatedly as she paced the living room. Our weekly dinner had taken place in her apartment that evening.

Caroline returned again from the bathroom, wiping her ashen face with a towel. Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked at Carmen and me. “How can they do this? What about the two of you?” she questioned.

Carmen laughed mirthlessly. “Please, when have the three of us ever mattered to Bob and Irene Vine? Especially for a wedding? You didn’t count, Caroline, when you were getting married. I’m too mean to deserve a husband, according to Mom, so I don’t count. And, well—” She cast a glance in my direction.

“What?” I demanded.

“Do I really have to say it, Cath?” she sighed.

“Say it,” I retorted, despite the painful thumping that now commenced in my chest.

“Don’t,” Caroline interjected, sitting down next to me on the sofa. She put an arm around my shoulder. “There’s no need to discuss what we already know.”

A part of me was thankful for Caroline’s constant need, as the oldest sibling, to protect us from each other. The other part of me wanted to vomit, too, based solely on the truth she would not allow Carmen to say.

“Fine,” Carmen replied, shrugging. “My point is that we are afterthoughts to our parents. And that royally stinks. But it’s not news, girls. It never was.”

And so there we were, striking the customary poses we were used to as the older siblings of Charlotte Vine: tearful, angry, and utterly lost.

*

            As usual, I was tasked with assisting Charlotte with the wedding planning. However, since my parents had also retained the services of one of San Diego’s top wedding planners (whatever that meant), my job essentially meant sitting quietly while Charlotte and the planner discussed the merits of having an ecru and powder blue color scheme. This was the conversation at hand as we sat in the massive grand ballroom of the Hotel del Coronado, more than likely the venue for the wedding.

“Cath, do you like these?” Charlotte asked as she showed me a bevy of blue and white color swatches.

As if my opinion mattered. Short of shuttling her around town and making sure she was warm and well-fed, my thoughts about anything else were fairly inconsequential. I simply nodded.

“They are lovely, aren’t they?” she replied, gently caressing the swatches. “This shade of blue reminds me of Sanford. His eyes are exactly this color, like the afternoon sky.”

The wedding planner, Mindy or Marni or something, cooed over Charlotte’s statement, going on and on about the “romance of it all.” As I imagined the blue ocean of dollar signs she likely dreamt about in her sleep thanks to the impending Vine/Bailey nuptials, the sudden vibrating of my cell phone brought me back to reality. I excused myself and took the call outside in the lobby. It was Carmen.

“Are you with the baby?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Why, Catherine? Why didn’t you say no to Bob and Irene?”

“Because I didn’t feel like being lectured about family responsibilities and being supportive.”

“You know they bring up ‘family togetherness’ when it suits their needs. You know that, Catherine. You should have spoken up. You need to speak up.”

I closed my eyes. She would push me off the nearest cliff if I told her that she was as demanding and controlling as our mother. Furthermore, it was easy to criticize when she was rarely in the role of Charlotte’s caretaker. “Did you want something, Carmen?” I asked, unable to keep the weariness from my voice.

“Just checking if you had a backbone. I have my answer.”

“Fine. Goodbye.” All the same, upon returning to the ballroom, I couldn’t stomach another moment with color swatches and the exciting cooing of Mindy or Marni or something. Feigning a migraine, I beat a hasty retreat from the hotel and was soon in my car. Later, while I waited at a stoplight, I gazed up at the brilliant afternoon sky through my windshield. Yes—precisely the color of Sanford’s eyes.

Your Elephant, After All.

and while the others gasped when you called me an elephant,
I gazed at you with pride—as if you were mine, a lover armed with a compliment—
and understood that you were hailing my ability to seemingly hold memory tightly in the palm of my hand, knowing the nuances and ridges of time and past experiences.

and yet your rudimentary compliment was for surface things, silly memories of who won this and who wrote that; not for the deep things I could recall—
the scent of you when we first met, the ticklish way your arm gently brushed mine that time we stood next to each other.

and as I explained to the others that elephants always remember,
you now gazed at me with pride, only because you believed us to be merely intellectual and artistic equals and nothing more, and, boy, how I made your heart soar when I let you into the warm confines of my big brain—
even though I cared nothing about smarts and just wanted you, you, you.

but I was your elephant, wasn’t I?
bending to your will as I danced around the big top and took you back in time,
back to memory,
back to useless information.

and like they do, you took the memories of me and combined it with the memories of her and you fused it all together,
shiny and strong like ivory,
and you believed that it all came from one source (her),
and not solely from the poor elephant in the corner, bleeding and broken and bereft.

and yet, your elephant will find her way up and she will keep dancing.

Project Blogtober: Check. (Blogtober #31)

fall3

The plan to combine my favorite month with my favorite season by blogging every day? Check. Done and done.

What good times. Thanks for supporting my blogging efforts this month by reading and/or commenting and/or liking, thanks to those of you that joined me for the project, for those of you that decided to follow This Square Peg, for all of it. I certainly hope that I won’t disappear because we’re done with Blogtober, but I’m also extremely lazy and that’s what we lazy writers/bloggers/square pegs do. But even if I’m away from a day or two, resting my typing thumbs, take comfort that I’ll return soon enough. Kidding. (Or nah?) So I started blogging in 2008 because a former co-worker mentioned that my acute writer’s block would be forced to retreat if I wrote regularly. In her estimation, the creative part of my brain, filled with sad cobwebs at the time, would wake up if it saw that I was making an effort to simply write, even if my blogging wasn’t necessarily fiction or poetry. I took her advice and began my very first blog. She was right. It’s been an adventure ever since. I remain a very happy blogger, and Blogtober reminded me of that.

Thanks again. Team Blogtober! Yeah! (Um, there will be no Project Blogvember, in case you’re wondering. Feel free, though. All yours.)

fall2

 

Storytelling and Nursery Rhymes.

In the end, I think it was inevitable that writing would become my passion. Starting from the beginning, my fascination with words and stories was engendered by the original, the best, and the most compelling storyteller of them all: my mother.

I remember watching her when she would tell a story. Her voice would dip into this low, quiet register. Every emotion that the story called for would pass across her beautiful face, causing the listener, particularly me, to breathlessly wait for the denouement. I’ll never forget the tale of her friend, Peace, whose life was turned upside down when she married a man no one wanted her to marry. I remember the stories of Anansi the spider, of the fables of Aesop, of curious events and people. Each and every time, my mother would weave the story as if it was happening right before my wide eyes. I was quickly intoxicated. She also read us fairy tales and nursery rhymes. To this day, there are some rhymes that I know by heart, by rhythm, by sound, all traceable to those times when my mom would read to my sister and me. A few of my favorites:

This fabulous lady and her girls. Me on the left, my sis on the right. Back in Ghana.
This fabulous lady and her girls. Me on the left, my sis on the right. Back in Ghana.
Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

When one of my friends requested that, for her baby shower, we gift her newborn with books, I immediately purchased a copy of nursery rhymes for her. Before wrapping it, my mom and I reminisced about those old days and all the rhymes I could still remember. I could definitely see how happy that made her.

I often credit my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Madeline Chrytzer, for starting the journey of my life as a writer. One afternoon, after running to her desk and professing my love for books and reading, she gazed at me with a smile on her face and said, “you know, you can write books too, one day.” I’ll never forget that moment; the sweet shock that I, too, could write the books that brought me so much joy and excitement. Quite a seminal moment. In hindsight, though, I was already born to be a writer. Mrs. Chrytzer fueled a flame that began with the woman who brought me into this fascinating world and proceeded to tell me all about it.

Short Story Prompt – 04/21/14

Short Story Prompt: Write a story incorporating the first day of school, a love note, and a recipe with a significant mistake. Thanks, Laur!

 

The Firefighter

 

The morning was stressful. The kids were all starting their respective first days of school, which meant varying degrees of mania. Alexandra was a brand new 7th grader and, naturally, obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair; Will was in 4th grade and currently in the “I don’t want to bathe” phase; and the baby, Rose, was no longer a baby and almost hyperactively excited about the first day of kindergarten. Nevertheless, Rebecca Morris was good at putting out fires. She was a pro. With ease and deep breaths, she was able to calm them down, get her son in the bathtub (not without a few bribes), and put each child on the bus before collapsing on the couch when it was all over.

Normally, post-collapse, she would get herself ready for the second part of the day, which involved getting the house in some sort of working order and other housework. However, with a smile on her face, she reminded herself that it was her first day of school, as well. Dragging herself off the couch, she ran up the stairs to get herself ready.

 

Perhaps, like Alexandra, she, too, was needlessly obsessed with the “coolness” of her outfit and hair. Having changed her clothes for the fifth time, she pulled them off and sat cross-legged on the ground, her head in her hands. She was an adult, for heaven’s sake. What was wrong with her? Or, did it have anything to do with the clothes?

Did she really believe this, going to school, would work? She was 38 years old, a mother of three, a wife—could years of putting out fires compare to what she was about to embark upon? When would she have time to help with homework and do her own? With shaky fingers, she reached for the cell phone on her dresser and dialed his office. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said when he picked up.

“Don’t psych yourself out,” Nathan replied, his warm voice instantly blanketing her senses. This is what it typically did, that voice. It was a salve.

“Too late,” she muttered, peering at herself in the mirror adjacent to her. “I’m currently sitting on the carpet, half-naked, and my hair looks like I fried it with the curling iron. This is ridiculous.”

“Babe, the interns in my office can barely spell their first names. I heard one of them ask whether Canada is considered a U.S. state since it’s close to Alaska.”

“Stop it,” she said, bubbling over with laughter.

“I’m serious. These are Harvard sophomores. You, by far, are the most intelligent person I know and you can do this.”

Rebecca sighed. “You’re sure?”

“100 percent sure. And I’m sorry I couldn’t help with the kids this morning.”

“Don’t apologize. You had to be at work at, what, dawn? You’ll get to be with them tomorrow morning.” She continued to gaze at herself in the mirror. Fried hair and half-naked, yes, but this was also the woman who introduced three human beings into the world. That counted for something. It counted for a lot, she reasoned. In that moment, a Master’s degree in Education seemed to pale in comparison.

“Up, up, up,” Nathan said gently.

She smiled and rose from the carpet. Moments later, she pulled out a pair of slacks and a blouse from her closet.

“Have a great day, love. And I left you something in the oven.”

“An apple pie for my professor? Actually, I have four classes today, so four apple pies?”

Nathan laughed. “No pies. I’ll grab Rose at 12 and bring her to the office. And we’ll be home before Alex and Will come in.”

“All right, dear. Thank you. I’ll call you later.”

“Please do.”

After ending the call, she finished getting dressed and pulled her hair into a loose ponytail. With a final glance in the mirror, she went downstairs and entered the kitchen.

Rebecca shook her head and chuckled as she pulled out a plastic bowl of fudge brownies from the oven. She deduced that he made them last night after she had fallen asleep; she had a vague memory of opening her eyes and wondering where he was. A note was taped to the cover of the bowl. Her stomach fluttering with anticipation, she opened it.

 

Remember last year when Alex ran out of glue for her school project? And you poured some flour in a pan, turned on the stove, and made her some homemade glue? I’ll never forget the look on her face when she came to me, her eyes wide and her mouth open, and said, “Daddy, Mom made glue. She can do everything.” So, Rebecca Ann Morris, you can do everything. Anything and everything. From glue to a Master’s degree to everything in between, I have no doubt that you can accomplish this goal of eventually becoming a teacher. Happy First Day of School, my love. I made these all by myself. Aren’t you proud?

 

            P.S. – I may have confused a teaspoon of salt with a tablespoon. It was 4AM. Eat with caution. I love you.

 

Despite her attempts to keep them at bay, tears budded in Rebecca’s eyes as she opened the plastic cover and pulled out a brownie. The sharp burst of salt that permeated her taste buds at first bite didn’t matter; she ate the brownie and licked a few vestiges of fudge from her finger when she was finished. After wrapping the rest of the brownies in foil and placing them in her bag, she turned and headed for the door.