Welcome One and All!

UPDATE: I've let this story languish for a while, but after some gentle prodding, I'm going to take it up again. Hopefully it will be finished in time for summer!

Welcome to my annual journey through literary abandon, the attempt to write 50,000 words within 30 days. This year, my themes are self-discovery and acceptance. For those of you following along, I want to explain my methodology. Writing this quickly requires a different approach; there is no time for major editing. As a result, you may find that place names, even people's names, may change mid-story. If I do make a change, I will try to note it so you don't get lost.

If you have ever been curious, this may be a chance to see a writer "in action", that is, to see how a story develops. Usually, the reader only sees a final, polished product. What you will find here is the first rough draft of a story. This year, additionally, I don't have a full synopsis to work from. Instead, I know where I am starting and where I want to finish, and I am going to let the characters take me there.

None of my characters are based on real people. They are the aggregate of my experiences through the years. If you see yourself in someone, please understand that while we are all unique individuals, our experiences have common threads. I am not copying you. Additionally, my characters may appear unconventional. There may be descriptions that are uncomfortable if you are squeamish about lifestyles other than your own. I hope this won't put you off reading along.

NOTE: Blog entries appear last post first, so to read in order if you are catching up, use the scene listing on the right hand side of the page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chapter VII, Scene 1.

As I proclaim my intentions, my life unfolds accordingly.

     Michelle was gone when Kelly finally pulled herself out of bed the next morning.  A note by the coffee maker indicated that she had gone back to help Toni with her car.  Kelly poured herself a cup from the by-now cold carafe and put it into the microwave to warm while she looked for something to eat.

     Her decision of the previous day weighed heavily on her as she hesitated by the Baileys, her usual addition to Sunday morning coffee - or any morning I can get away with it - but after a moment of chewing on her lip she turned away and opened the refrigerator for the creamer.  Michelle would only laugh at her if she returned in the afternoon to find Kelly "napping" on the couch.

     Finally, Kelly settled at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal and a second cup of rewarmed java.  She skimmed the paper that Michelle had left, as she usually did, scattered across the surface, and tried not to think about what she had decided to do.

     Thirty days hadn't seemed such a long time when she was discussing it with a glass of wine in her hand, but now the idea gnawed at her stomach with insistent uncertainty.  Thirty days … four weeks; untold hours of facing the silent house and the uncomfortable awkwardness that being around Michelle brought of late.

     Even the funnies couldn't hold Kelly's attention as her thoughts continually churned through the meaning of thirty days without alcohol.  Finally she abandoned the table, and the now soggy mass that had been a bowl of frosted flakes half an hour earlier, and wandered into the office.  Her day planner sat open on her desk where she had left it on Friday after checking for important research that might excuse her from the drive to Toni and Carol's.  Half collapsing into her chair, Kelly looked down at the date.

     The end of October meant that Kaitlan had been gone for almost two months; it seemed hard to believe.  As Kelly flipped the page, she realized that Thanksgiving fell almost exactly thirty days away.  Thanksgiving, the annual torture that masqueraded as a family gathering, was not high on her list of things to attempt to survive sober. 

     It was the one time of year that Michelle and Susan were in the same room together, which would have made it unbearable enough.  Unfortunately, Kelly's mother was none-too-fond of Michelle even after all these years, and when the bourbon and water's started flowing things were certain to turn ugly.  Kelly usually survived by getting so obliteratingly drunk that she could laugh off anything that anyone said to her.  The idea of facing the day without alcohol to fall back on seemed impossible.

     It was only a few days before the end of the thirty she had decided to stop drinking for, and seemed the perfect day to break what she had decided to think of as her "alcohol fast".  What did it matter if she didn’t drink for twenty-seven days instead of thirty?  By that time she would have made her point, that drinking was something she chose to do, not something she had to do.  Susan could never stay away from drugs for a week, much less almost a month.

     Feeling much better about her decision, Kelly pulled a red marker out of the top drawer and put an X through the date.  One day down, twenty-six to go.  How hard could it be, really?  She barely had a headache from the amount of wine she’d had the day before.  All she had to do was not drink.  It would be simple.  Confident that everything was under control, she got up and went to take a shower.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chapter VI, Scene 3.

Note: This is a revised version of this scene, and replaces the one that I ended with in 2010.

     Kelly’s decision lasted all of two days.  Michelle, while not quite avoiding her, had been withdrawn and as the weekend neared Kelly began to wonder how much responsibility she herself carried for the tension between them.  Michelle’s life had also changed drastically with Kaitlan’s departure and it occurred to Kelly that perhaps she wasn’t allowing Michelle to process in her own way.

     After two days of second guessing her decision, it was easy to accept the beer that Michelle offered her on Friday night.  It may just not be the time, Kelly reasoned, to try and figure out everything that was wrong with her life.  Let things settle down before making a major life decision.  The couple had a pleasant evening watching a movie and ended the night making what Kelly realized was probably the first real love in months.  No one got drunk, no one yelled or pleaded.  It was, simply, nice.

     The two headed to Toni and Carol’s the next afternoon where Toni and Michelle were planning to work on the old Chevelle Toni was restoring in her garage.  Once the two butches had vanished into their domain, Carol poured two glasses of wine and sat at the kitchen table across from Kelly.

     “How are things going?”

     “Better, maybe.  I’m not sure,” Kelly responded, sipping her wine.  “We had a huge fight a couple of days ago but it’s been ok since then.”

     “So you worked it out?”  Carol looked at her curiously.

     “Not really.  I just decided that maybe I wasn’t giving Michelle enough credit for missing Kaitlan.  I mean, her world has changed dramatically too.”

     Carol made a noise.  “You fought about Kaitlan?”

     “No, no.  We fought about Susan, which led to other things.  But looking back I think maybe Michelle is feeling a little lost now that she’s not expected to be ‘daddy’ anymore.” Kelly sighed.  “She sure doesn’t like the idea of my working more.”

     “God, what did Susan do this time?”

     “Nothing, really.  I gave her a ride.  Michelle wasn’t happy.  She said some awful things, things I can’t imagine she really meant.”  Kelly looked away.  “At least, I hope she didn’t mean them.”

     “Like what?”  Carol refilled their glasses.  “If I can ask.”

     Kelly shifted uncomfortably, aware that she had once more given up on a decision to stop drinking and the thought that it might prove Michelle correct.  “She said I could easily be just like her.”

     “Ouch.  I’m sure she didn’t mean that.”

     “The thing is it kind of scares me.  That I could be.  If I didn’t have Michelle to take care of me.”  Kelly bit her lip.  “It was really unnerving.  It still is.”

     Carol was silent for a moment.  Finally, she looked at Kelly with sympathy.  “You’re really that concerned about your drinking?”  When Kelly nodded, she continued.  “What keeps you doing it then?”

     “I don’t know.  Forever seems like such a long time, and when I stop it seems like nothing gets better.”

     “Well, I heard once that if you can stop drinking for thirty days you aren’t an alcoholic.  That isn’t forever, maybe you should try it?  Although I honestly don’t think you are.”  Carol looked at the wine bottle on the table.  “I’d be willing to do it with you.”

     “Thanks, but I really need to sort this out on my own.  Although it’s a good idea.  I haven’t really tried to stop for a specific period of time.  Michelle might be able to understand something like that.”  Kelly finished her glass and smiled.  “Although I don’t think I’ll start until Monday.”

     Carol laughed.  “Alright then, I’ll get another bottle out of the fridge.”

     As she watched her friend opening the wine, Kelly wondered if she could keep from drinking for an entire month.  It was much less daunting an idea than stopping forever, and success would mean that she needed to look elsewhere for a solution to the problems plaguing her relationship.   She would do it.  Starting Monday.  Until then, there was no point to waste good wine.

     She’d had enough wine by the time she and Michelle got ready for bed that night that it didn’t occur to her how contradictory she sounded as she asked, “Michelle … what would you think if I quit drinking for a month?”

     Michelle pulled her t-shirt over head and looked at Kelly quizzically.  “Why would you do that?”

     “A test.  To see if my drinking is a problem.  I don't want to be like Susan.”  Kelly turned down her side of the bed and sank onto the mattress.

     “If you want to.  But you aren't like Susan.  You have me.”  Michelle stretched and climbed under the covers.  “I wouldn't let anything happen to you.”

     What's that supposed to mean?  Kelly didn't verbalize the thought, not wanting to get into another argument.  “I need to know.”

     “Fine.  You don't want me to quit too, do you?”

     “No, of course not.”  Kelly felt a prick of irritation that Michelle seemed to be making the whole idea about her.  “I just … I need to know.”

     “Whatever.”  Michelle closed her eyes and turned on her side.  “I think it's kind of silly, but you do what you need to.”

     After turning out the light, Kelly lay on her back and stared through the darkness at the ceiling.  It felt strange, wanting to do something so badly that Michelle didn't agree with.  As she pondered this, she realized that in the past she had always deferred to her partner when it came to doing things.  This would be the first time she had gone ahead with something after Michelle had said she saw no point.

     She fell asleep wondering when she had become so dependent on what Michelle thought.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapter VI, Scene 2.


     The phone rang a little after five. Kelly put down her book and answered it when she saw Kaitlan’s number on the caller ID.

     “Mom called me,” Kaitlan said after a brief hello. “She was really mad at you.”

     “She called you? When?” Kelly hadn’t thought Susan even had Kaitlan’s cell phone number.

     “Yesterday. She was really messed up, I think.”

     “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. That had to be hard.” Kelly sent a mental curse at her sister.

     “It’s ok. Did something happen, because she was royally pissed.” Kaitlan sounded concerned. “She said you stranded her.”

     “She called me Monday and I picked her up. She had drugs on her so I told her to get out of the car. I’m sorry she’s pissed, but I’m not going to be a taxi for her when she’s using.” Kelly got up and walked toward the kitchen, intending to pour a glass of wine. “I wonder what prompted her to call you.”

     “I don’t know. She was being weird. I just thought you should know she did.”

     “Thank you, dear. Are things ok otherwise?”

     “Yeah, I’m really liking it here. But I miss ya’ll.” Kaitlan called to someone. “I gotta go, we’re heading to dinner.”

     “Love you, sweetheart.” Kelly reached for a wine glass after putting the phone down. The book she had bought was interesting, but it was making her uncomfortable and a glass of wine sounded good. Just one, maybe another with dinner. She wouldn’t drink at Michelle any more, she had promised herself that.

     “You saw Susan?” Michelle’s voice was hard.

     Crap. Slowly, Kelly turned to face her partner. “On Monday. She was in a bind.”

     “She’s always in a bind when she calls you. Jesus, Kelly, when are you going to stop bailing her out?”

     Kelly concentrated on pouring her wine. “She would have gotten arrested if I hadn’t picked her up.”

     Michelle moved into the kitchen, placing herself in Kelly’s line of sight. “Good. Getting arrested is what she needs. Especially if she’s using.”

     “I don’t really want to talk about it, Michelle.”

     “You don’t want to talk about anything lately. I might as well not even be here.” Michelle crossed her arms and glared.

     “Well I definitely don’t want to talk about Susan,” Kelly replied. “Especially if you’re in a mood.”

     Michelle snorted. “If I’m in a mood? You’ve been in a mood for weeks.”

     “Michelle, please. I don’t want to fight.” Kelly took a long drink of her wine. The tart fruitiness was a welcome diversion to her unpleasant thoughts.

     “Well, at least if we’re fighting you’re talking to me. Otherwise I can’t drag two words out of you.”

     Kelly ground her teeth for a moment. “I tried talking to you. You blew up.”

     “Do you even love me anymore? Or am I just a paycheck.” Michelle moved to block her way as Kelly started toward the living room.

     Stung, Kelly stopped and stared at her. “How can you ask that? You’re the one who doesn’t want me to work full time. Of course I still love you!” Do you? Do you really?

     “You have a funny way of showing it, then.”

     “I’m sorry I’ve been in a funk lately,” Kelly said quietly. “Kaitlan’s leaving really hit me hard.”

     “Yeah, you don’t get to play Supermom anymore. Poor, poor Kelly.” Michelle yanked a beer out of the refrigerator and opened it. “What about being a wife for a change?”

     “I want to be Kelly for a change,” Kelly replied angrily. “What’s wrong with that?”

     Michelle rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know who Kelly is,” she retorted. “Am I supposed to just sit here while you go find out?”

     Kelly blinked away unexpected tears at the venom in Michelle’s voice. “I’d think you’d be happy that I want to get to know myself.”

     “You want to know who you are? You’re my wife, that’s who. And you should be glad for it; you’d never make it on your own. You’d end up like Susan, drunk all the time and just looking for someone to take care of her.”

     “I am not like Susan,” Kelly screamed, finally overwhelmed by the emotions rushing through her. “I am not an addict, I function just fine!”

     “Maybe you aren’t,” Michelle responded. “But it wouldn’t take much to put you there. You should be glad there’s someone around to keep you functioning.”

     Kelly’s mouth moved silently for a couple of seconds. Finally, she shot out words she thought she’d never say to Michelle. “Fuck you.”

     “Fuck yourself,” Michelle said with a sneer. “Let me know how you like it.” She turned and walked away, leaving Kelly quivering with anger.

     How could Michelle look at her the way she seemed to? Did her feelings mean so little that Michelle thought she could say such cruel things and then just walk off? Kelly finished her wine and started for the bottle, drawing up as she neared the counter.

     Another glass would simply be drinking to spite Michelle. There was no point to it. Michelle didn’t think she could survive on her own? She may not think Kelly was an addict, but she had made it clear she noticed how much Kelly drank. Kelly would simply stop drinking. Maybe that would show Michelle that she could stand on her own two feet. Maybe then Michelle would treat her with something other than irritation.

     Maybe then the thought of being so like Susan wouldn’t be so painful.

Chapter VI, Scene 1.

I am my own unique self – special, creative, and wonderful

     Kelly was asleep by the time Michelle came home. From the muttering and noise as she came down the hall in the dark, she had been drinking heavily. Kelly, not exactly sober herself, woke enough to move over when her partner climbed into bed. Michelle said nothing, and Kelly fell back to sleep with a thought that alcohol seemed the only solution to arguments between them.

     A palpable sense of uneasiness descended on the house in the next couple of days. Even though Michelle didn't mention the fight or her words, her actions suggested she wasn't sorry for them and in fact she was miffed that Kelly hadn't apologized. Kelly, for her part, spent the time she couldn't avoid being near Michelle using wine to numb her swirling emotions and to stifle the urge to scream. She was miserable, and there seemed no end to her misery except through a chardonnay haze.

     On the third morning, Kelly woke to a headache and a roiling stomach. As she bent over the toilet, it occurred to her that she had completely forgotten all the reasons she had wanted to quit drinking in the first place. She had been so intent on drinking to avoid Michelle, drinking at her, that she had abandoned what progress she could claim toward sobriety. The realization clung to her through breakfast and hovered over her as she moved mechanically through her workday.

     When she finally left the office at one, she didn’t go home, instead driving almost aimlessly through town. She ended up at a used bookstore near UNC-G, one that she had always enjoyed browsing for their selection of lesbian romances. Romance was far from her mind now, however, and she wandered the stacks not sure of what she was in search of.

     “You look lost.” The voice belonged to a young girl with curly brown hair and an engaging smile. She was dressed in a flowing Indian-style skirt and Amnesty International t-shirt. Kelly had noticed her earlier behind the counter.

     “A little,” she admitted. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for.”

     “Well, what are you in the mood for; fiction, non-fiction?”

     Kelly sighed. “A how-to book for life, maybe?”

     The girl laughed. “Ah, more of an existential crisis.” She motioned toward the philosophy section. “I think I know something you might enjoy.”

     Kelly followed her and accepted the slim book the girl pulled off the shelf. The Wisdom of No Escape, she read, by a Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön. She scanned the back, finding the description surprisingly interesting.

     “Pema’s stuff is great, but this is my favorite,” the girl said. “It really gets into the meat of life.”

     “Sounds good, I’ll take it,” Kelly replied. She wandered for a few more minutes before heading to the cash register.

     The girl smiled at her again. “If you like this, there are a couple of other authors I can turn you onto.”

     “You know a lot about Eastern philosophy, I take it?”

     “I’m majoring in philosophy, so yeah. That, and it helped me through a really tough time.” The girl glanced away for a second, her smile dimming. “When things seem darkly hopeless, sometimes you have to make your own sunshine.”

     “Well, I could use some sunshine,” Kelly commented. “And you certainly seem sunny enough, so it must work.”

     The girl laughed. “It took some work, but yes. I think I’m pretty sunny.”

     Kelly paid and left. She thought about the girl on the drive home, how easy her laugh had been, how just being near her had lifted Kelly’s own spirits. She was probably in her late twenties, not a child by any means, although not old enough to be as heart-worn as Kelly felt. Still, Kelly had seen deep pain in her eyes for a moment, pain that couldn’t have been easy to get past.

     She glanced at the bag on the seat next to her; if Pema Chödrön could allow her to smile half as easily, she would be eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chapter V, Scene 3.

     Kelly was quite tipsy by the time Michelle arrived home from work.  Quite tipsy and quite cheerful.  She had spent the afternoon drinking and thinking about how much better her life was than Susan's.  The end result was that she was humming to herself as she fixed dinner when Michelle walked in the door.

     “My, aren't we in a good mood?”  Michelle dropped a kiss on her cheek on the way to the refrigerator for a beer.

     “Yes.”  Kelly wasn't going to mention that she had talked to, much less seen, Susan.  “It's been a pretty good day.”

     “Glad yours was.  Mine sucked.”  Michelle opened the beer and took a long swallow.  “They moved up the deadline on the quarterly reports and I spent all damned day tracking down information nobody seemed to have.”

     Kelly slid the pork chops into the oven.  “I'm sorry, honey.  You're home now, so relax.  Dinner won't be for an hour or so.”  They offered me a promotion, she wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come.  It would be a hard enough conversation without Michelle being irritated with her own job.

     “Great.  I'll be in the den.”

     Once she had vanished, Kelly poured another glass of wine and looked out the window over the kitchen sink.  She tended to get happy when she drank; with Michelle, it was the opposite.  If Michelle hadn't had a good day, it would get worse the more beer she consumed, until finally she was either screaming or trying to get Kelly into bed to “work off her frustrations”.  Kelly had a momentary thought that it was Michelle who should be trying to quit, not her.

     It was silly, of course.  Michelle found nothing wrong with finishing off a twelve-pack on a Friday night, or spending a Sunday in front of the TV with the coffee table covered in empty bottles, but she rarely overdid things during the week.  Kelly went to bed every night hoping she wouldn't awaken to a hangover.  Michelle could just stop when she decided it was time; Kelly wasn't finished until she could barely stand up.

     How anyone could miss her inebriation confused her, and yet it seemed no one could tell when she was ready to fall over.  Maybe it was her habit of drinking alone, or of topping her glass frequently, which made it appear she was drinking less than she really was.  Not that it mattered; drunk was drunk.  Whether Michelle, or Kaitlan, or anyone else could tell was irrelevant, Kelly could.

     Michelle came back for another beer, gave her a curious look, and left again without speaking.  Kelly sighed and drained her wine before refilling it from the box in the refrigerator.  There was no point in brooding if she wasn't going to put the effort in to do something about it.  Sobriety was something elusive, and she wasn't sure she would ever find it; wasn't sure she really wanted to.

     The first part of dinner was quiet, each woman lost in her own thoughts.  Eventually, however, wine loosened Kelly's tongue enough that she felt able to bring up her conversation at work.

     “Michelle … what would you think if I went back to school?”

     Michelle looked up from her plate quizzically.  “What for?”

     “Um, they offered me a promotion at work.  I'd have to take some classes at UNC-G.”  Kelly watched emotions flash across her partner's face.

     “A promotion?  More hours?  I thought you liked being part time.”

     Kelly sighed.  “I do.  But with Kaitlan gone, it's a little empty around here.”

     “So take up tennis again.  We don't need the extra money.”  Michelle poked at her plate.  “Why would they offer you a promotion anyway?  You're almost 46.”

     The burning that shot up Kelly's face was almost as painful as the knife she felt in her gut.  “Maybe because they like my work?  What kind of a thing is that to say, Michelle?”

     Michelle put her utensils down and looked her dead in the face.  “I don't like the idea.  You have a job here.  I make the money, you keep the house running.  That was the deal.”

     “It doesn't take that much to keep the house running with just the two of us, Michelle.”  Kelly felt the veins in her neck starting to throb.  “I can do both.  Or you could help out.  What's wrong with that?”

     “School?  And full time?  There'd be no time left for us.”

     Like we spend any time together now?  Kelly took a drink of wine to prevent that thought from verbalizing itself.  “It's a chance to grow.”

     “You don't need to grow,” Michelle retorted.  “If you think you do, take a pottery class or something.  You don't need to take on all of that.”

     “How do you know what I need?”  Kelly glared at her.

     Michelle stood up so fast her chair slid into the wall.  “I don't like it.  I don't know what's gotten into you, Kelly.  First you start talking about getting sober - which I notice hasn't gone anywhere, by the way – and now you need to grow?  There's nothing wrong with the way things are.  Half the dykes in town would kill to have what you do, someone who supports you.”

     “I want to be able to contribute!  I'm not the mom any more, Michelle.  I want to feel needed, can't you understand that?”  Kelly stood as well.

     “I do need you.  I need you to take care of the house and be here when I come home.  I need you beside me when I sleep.  That should be enough.”

     “It isn't.  I'm sorry.”  Kelly wished she hadn't spoken as soon as she saw the expression that settled over Michelle's face.

     “I'm sorry too.  I'm sorry I'm not enough for you.  I'm sorry I gave up my whole life so you could be a mom.  Do you think this is where I wanted to be at 45, working in an office?  No.  I had plans; dreams.  So did you, until Kaitlan.  So I adjusted, I gave you what you wanted.  Kaitlan's gone now.  I want my life back.  I want us back.”  Michelle drew in a breath and stared at her for a long moment.  “Oh, forget it.”  She stormed out of the room, leaving Kelly standing dazed.

     She had known all along that Michelle had taken Kaitlan in with misgivings.  Over the years, their family had seemed to settle into a quiet, comfortable rhythm, one in which Michelle appeared a contented participant.  She had obviously been wrong.  Now, it was like Michelle would accept nothing but Kelly's undivided attention, as if that could somehow make everything better, put things back to the way they had been before Kaitlan had come into their lives.

     The front door slammed, and a moment later Kelly heard tires squeal from the direction of the driveway.  Michele was gone, and in the mood she had taken with her wouldn't be back until late.  Slowly, Kelly sank back into her chair.  She wasn't sure she could give Michelle what she demanded, wasn't sure she wanted to.  Her confusion grew until the turmoil became overwhelming.  She got up and went to the kitchen, pulled down a juice glass, and poured it half full of bourbon.

     If she couldn't resolve, she would have to forget.  Maybe things would be better in the morning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapter V, Scene 2.

     Kelly’s cell phone rang as she was getting back in her car after stopping to pick up a bottle of wine.  She glanced at the caller id and groaned before answering.

     “Kelly, I need a ride.”

     “Seriously, Susan?  I haven’t heard from you in three weeks.”  Kelly fastened her seatbelt and started the car.  Her sister’s words were slurred, and from the noise in the background Kelly surmised she was at a bar.

     “Seriously.  I’m in a jam.”

     “What is it this time?”  Kelly reached for the shift lever and then stopped, waiting for Susan to respond.

     “The cops are here.  If I don’t get a ride they’re going to arrest me.”  Susan said something away from the receiver.  “Please.”

     Kelly blew out her breath in disgust.  “Fine.  Where are you?”

     “Aubrey’s on West Market.”

     “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”  Kelly hung up and backed out of her parking spot.  Aubrey’s didn’t have the nerve to call itself a sports bar, and it wasn’t; it was a downtown dive, a dingy hole in the wall that catered to an unsavory crowd.  Kelly hated going to that section of town at all, but Susan getting arrested would mean no end of drama that Kelly would end up in the middle of.

     She had to park half a block down as all the spaces in front of the building were occupied by police cars.  As she walked up, an officer came out with a large, burly man in handcuffs.  He was staggering and muttering under his breath.  Another officer looked at her business suit and raised an eyebrow.

     “My sister called me.  She said she needed a ride.”

     The man nodded.  “Yup.”  He called inside, and a moment later a policewoman escorted Susan out the door.  Susan’s face was pale, and it was apparent she hadn’t showered in a couple of days.  There  was a smear of blood on her pale yellow shirt.

     “Kelly, thank God.”  Susan pulled away from the officer and darted towards her.

     “What the Hell is going on, Susan?”

     “Just … let’s get out of here.”  Susan took her arm.

     Kelly looked questioningly at the police standing nearby.  One of them made a shooing motion, and Kelly allowed Susan to guide her away from the bar and back down the sidewalk.  Once they were in the car and driving, Kelly glanced at her sister and realized she was stoned.

     “What happened?”

     “Some idiot narcked Jimmy out.”  Jimmy was Susan’s current boyfriend/supplier.  “Things got ugly and they busted the whole place.”

     “You aren’t carrying, are you?”  Kelly’s pulse quickened.

     “No.  Jesus, relax.”

     “How can you be stoned at one o’clock on a Thursday, Susan?”  Kelly pushed away the thought that, if not for the phone call, she’d have been on her way to her own kind of stoned already.

     Susan made a disgusted sound.  “Like I have anything better to do?  Don’t judge me, Sis.”

     “What happened to the rehab Dad said he was going to line up?”

     “Screw rehab.  What have I got to get clean for?”  Susan’s leg started moving up and down and she tapped on the window in what seemed a nervous tic.

     “I don’t know, your daughter might like to know what her mother is like at some point in her life.”

     Susan’s voice was fierce.  “I don’t have a daughter any more, thanks to you.”

     “What?”  Kelly was startled.  “What are you talking about, of course you do!”

     “You wanted a kid so you stole mine.”

     Kelly turned abruptly into the cemetery they were driving past, shoved the car into park, and turned to squarely face her sister.  “I did no such thing.”

     “Yes, you did.  You stood in front of that judge and said whatever cruel things you could to make him think I was a horrible mother.”  Susan glared at her.

     “That was fifteen years ago, Susan!  And everything I said was true.  Kaitlan deserved better than to be raised in a flop house.”

     “She was my kid, not yours.”  Susan reached into her purse and pulled out a prescription vial, opened it, and shook two pills into her hand.  She popped them into her mouth and swallowed.

     Kelly reached over and took the bottle out of her hand.  The name on the label was one she didn’t recognize, and the prescription was for an amphetamine.  “Where did you get these?  You said you weren’t carrying.”

     “I’m not.  These are a friend’s.”  Susan grabbed the bottle back and shoved it into her purse.

     “Get out.”  Kelly pointed at the door.

     “I’m five miles from home!”

     “Get out of my fucking car, Susan.”  Kelly’s voice shook with anger.

     Susan threw the door open and got out.  She leaned back inside with venom in her eyes.  “Thanks for nothing.”  She slammed the door and stalked off across the cemetery.

     Kelly sat there for a minute, shaking.  She and Susan had been so close growing up, even with the six year difference in their ages.  Now it was like they were complete strangers.  Susan only called when she wanted something, and never expressed any sort of gratitude when she got it.  Michelle had complained more than once about how Kelly “coddled” her sister, but Kelly felt that someone had to be there.  Her parents had washed their hands of her years earlier, although their father still occasionally made an attempt at getting her into treatment.  Kelly thought it was more out of a desire to keep up social appearances than any real desire to help.

      Finally, she put the car back into gear and headed toward home.  She couldn’t save Susan any more than Susan could save her.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chapter V, Scene 1.

I rest my mind from worry and thoughts, and find peace in the stopping.

     “Kelly, would you step into my office?”  John Byrnum sounded stern as he spoke, but when Kelly looked up at him from her desk, he was smiling.  Hoping the trembling of her hands wasn’t showing, she got up and joined him.

     “Yes, Mr. Byrnum?  Is something wrong?”

     Byrnum went to his desk and sat down, indicating the chairs in front of him.  Nervously, Kelly sat.

     “Kelly, you’ve worked for us for what – three years now?”

     “About that, yes, Sir.”  Kelly shifted.  Byrnum was the senior partner at the firm, an older man fast closing on elderly but with a determination that belied his true age.  Kelly had always been a little afraid of him, as his interaction with the clerical staff was usually limited to occasions where problems arose.

     “You have a daughter that’s just gone off to college also, is that correct?”  Byrnum templed his fingers and looked over them at her.


     “Do you enjoy your work here?”  He gave her an appraising look.

     “Very much so.”  Oh God, please don’t let him fire me ….  She had been late that morning, but surely one absence and one day late couldn’t be enough to let her go.

     “Your work is always impeccable.  The other partners and paralegals all speak very highly of you.”  Byrnum coughed.  “I suppose I should come to the point.  We would like to offer you a chance for advancement.  It would require that you return to school, but we would be willing to pay for that.”

     Kelly blinked twice, her mind refusing to function momentarily.  Finally, she managed to stammer, “A promotion?  To what?”

     “Ellen has informed us that she will be retiring next year and we would like you to replace her.”  Ellen was one of the paralegals.  “If you accept, she would begin training you in January, and you would also be starting coursework at UNC-G.  It would mean some longer hours than you have been working, but it was my understanding you wanted part time to be home for your daughter, and now that she is at college I hope you will consider expanding your role here.”

     “I … that is … How long do I have to decide?”  Kelly’s brain clicked into gear, whirring faster than she could comprehend.  A promotion.  Full time.  College.  She wondered what Michelle would think of the idea.  She would probably hate it.

     Byrnum’s smile was gentle, almost grandfatherly.  “By the first of December, if you can.  I know this will be a big change for you, but I think you would be an excellent paralegal.”

     “Thank you, Sir.  I’ll … I’ll definitely give it serious consideration.”  Kelly stood and shook his hand before making a hasty escape back to her own desk, where she stared at her computer screen and tried to sort through everything rushing around her head.

     She did love working in the legal field, that much was sure.  But a paralegal was far different from a mere legal secretary, at least at Byrnum and Touche.  As a paralegal, she would be working with clients, doing far more research, actually delving into the law instead of proof-reading what others had done.  But, college?  She had been a mediocre student at best when she attended out of high school.  True, she had earned an honors certificate in her legal secretary course, but full college coursework was much different.

     Still … a paralegal made twice what a secretary did, at least.  And the firm was offering to pay for her schooling.  A sense of independence that she hadn’t realized was missing suddenly bloomed; she could actually contribute more than a pittance to the household if she took the promotion.  She might even have money of her own to spend, instead of asking Michelle if she could hold back a little of her relatively meager check when she wanted to buy new clothes.

     Confusion swirled within her.  She had a month to make a decision, but she knew that it would take that long to convince Michelle that it was a good idea, even if she made up her mind right away to accept.  And what if she failed her courses?  Would they fire her then, leaving her with no work at all?

     Quitting time came thankfully quickly, and Kelly walked to her car lost in thought.  She would have to talk to Michelle about it.  She was afraid to talk to Michelle about it.  She was afraid of failing.  She was afraid of succeeding.  As she turned the key in the ignition, the thought struck her that she was just afraid, period.  She needed a couple of glasses of wine to clear her head.  With a sigh, she backed out and headed for the wine shop.