If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted. However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.
If you want to read A New Beginning’s chapters that have been posted so far, you can find themhere (or at the top of the page).
As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.
As the nights get colder and we snuggle under covers, warm cups of tea and a book in our hands, let us embrace how life slows down to give us time to experience life around us in a simpler way. Don’t look at winter as just a time for dreary weather, cold winds, or snow to shovel this year. Instead, see it as what it can be – a time to pause, reflect and reconnect with those in your family as you wait for the warmth to come again.
I finished the last paragraph of my column, pulled the page from the typewriter and slid it into the envelope so I could drop it off at the newspaper office the next day. I pulled my sweater close around me as I stood and looked out my bedroom window at the leaves falling from the maple tree in our backyard. The colors weren’t as brilliant this autumn as they had been in previous years but mixed among the dark oranges and browns were a few bright yellow and red bursts of foliage across the hills that surrounded our small valley.
Jackson had been in school a little over a month now and while he had cried the first day I took him, he seemed to love it now. I missed him terribly during the day and I anxiously watched the clock, walking to the school every day to meet him outside. My heart melted at how his face lit up when he saw me, leaving behind the friends he’d been talking to so he could run to me and throw his arms around me. I walked with him back to the shop each day and we waited there for Daddy to finish at the office, pick us up and take us home.
I was happy to see him growing but struggling with it at the same time. He was growing so fast. His childhood seemed to be rushing by and I wanted to stop time and just enjoy it all a little more. I’d never thought I’d be a mother and now I could barely remember life before Jackson.
I turned to see Jackson looking up at me, one of his toy trucks clutched in his hands.
“Hey, squirt. What are you doing?”
“I’m pretending I’m a truck driver and I’m gonna dig a hole in the backyard.”
“That sounds fun.”
I sat on the edge of my bed and lifted him into my lap, pressing my face into his soft brown hair.
“How are you liking school?”
Jackson scrunched up his nose, spinning the wheels on his truck. “It’s okay, I guess. ‘cept for all that writing and numbers. That stuff’s borin’. But I like when we get to do that recess thing. And lunch is good, unless we have meatloaf. They don’t know how to make it like Grandma.”
I knew recess was his favorite part of the day by how hard I’d had to scrub his pants clean lately.
“Mama, how come I don’t have no brother or sister?”
The way children could change a topic so abruptly amazed me. I knew questions like this one would come one day and while I dreaded them, I knew being honest was important. Still, I wondered how honest I should be with a 6-year old.
“Well, honey, because right now Mommy and you live with Grandpa and Grandma and there really isn’t room for a brother or sister.”
I felt confident that while my answer didn’t address the lack of a husband to help provide a sibling, it still wasn’t a lie.
“Oh.” Jackson furrowed his little eyebrows and scrunched his nose again. “Well, if we move away, can I have a brother or sister?”
“Do you really want to move away from Grandpa and Grandma?”
“No. I like living here, but I want a brother too.”
“What if you had a sister one day instead?”
“No. That won’t happen. I’d have a brother.”
“Are you sure about that? You know you don’t get to choose, right?”
“What would I do with a sister? I don’t wanna play with no dolls or dresses.”
“Honey, some girls like to climb trees and play with trucks too, you know. I always did.”
Jackson scrunched up his face like he was deep in thought.
“Well, then, maybe I can have a sister, I guess.”
I kissed his cheek and hugged him close. “For right now, you don’t need to worry about that, though. Why don’t you and I bake some cookies after dinner?”
“What other kind is there?”
I watched as he slid from my lap and ran from the room, his toy tightly clutched in his hand. There were some days I liked that it was just Jackson and me, but other days I found myself aching for a father for Jackson and a man to love me. I didn’t like, however, that my family, and apparently even Emmy, thought any gaps in my life could be filled with a man. I knew for a fact that a man wasn’t the answer to all the problems in a woman’s life and, if anything, a man seemed to complicate it more.
Hank had certainly complicated my life, first with his attention and then with how he’d treated me not long after we were married. The arrival of Judson was threatening to complicate things too, but I was determined not to let it – at least not in a romantic way. I had a feeling even a friendship with him would throw a wrench in the regularly scheduled program that was my current life.
“What made you leave with Hank that day, Blanche?”
Six months after I’d returned home with Jackson and Edith had apparently decided it was time I share my thoughts behind leaving my family. I focused on the apples I was peeling for the apple pie and tried to decide how to answer without sounding like a silly schoolgirl. But there wasn’t any way I wouldn’t sound silly or trite. I had been a schoolgirl and I had been silly. My thoughts were immature; my idea of what life should be skewed by romance novels and Ava Gardner movies.
“I thought I loved him,” I said finally, still not making eye contact with Edith. “I was very stupid and naïve. I know that now.”
“I didn’t ask you to make you feel bad, Blanche. I just really wanted to know. I never really asked you. I guess I figured it was none of my business, even though I was dying to know since I never expected you to do that.”
I laid the knife down and gnawed gently at my nails, a habit I’d picked up on the days I wasn’t sure which Hank was coming home from work.
“I think,” I started, with a shrug. “That’s partly why I did it. No one expected me to. Everyone seemed to always know what I was going to do, what I was supposed to do, who I was supposed to be. Mama and Daddy seemed to have my life planned out for me. Everyone saw me as boring and predictable and you – well, you weren’t. In the back of my mind I guess I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I wanted to write my own story and I wanted Hank to be in it. I did love him, or the version of him I imagined in my mind. I didn’t know . . .” I starred out the window at a car driving by the house. “Well, who he really was underneath the charm and handsome façade.”
Edith picked an apple from the bowl and started peeling it. “I’m sorry I made you feel that way. It was never my intention. Honestly, I had no idea.”
I laughed softly. “Edith, I’m not blaming you. It was how I felt at the time. Feelings are not always facts, as we know.”
“True,” Edith said. “And what we think are facts are sometimes simply facades – like the idea I was always spontaneous or fun, or whatever you thought I was. You must know by now that I was simply a lost girl who never accepted my parents’ or God’s love as being enough. I thought I had to have a bunch of boys love me too.”
She shook her head as she tossed the slices into the pie crust. “I was so foolish back then. I guess you and I were foolish together. Thankfully God protected us from doing any worse harm to ourselves or anyone else and brought us back to our senses.”
“I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long to come back to mine,” I said, feeling tears in my eyes. “And I wish it hadn’t taken Hank beating me to wake me up. I did bring harm to at least one person – Jackson.”
Edith reached across the table and cupped her hand against my cheek.
“What’s done is done and it’s time to move forward. For both of us.”
Over the years, I did my best to move forward, as Edith had said, rebuild the relationships I’d damaged when I left but I was still stuck, especially when it came to building new relationships. I wasn’t only disinterested in navigating the world of romance; I wasn’t even interested in meeting new people. My experience with Hank had left me with a healthy dose of mistrust, not only in others, but also in myself. When I was younger, I had trusted myself to make the right decisions, to know by how a situation felt whether it was right or not. Leaving with Hank had felt right at the inexperienced age of 17 had moved forward with a confidence I no longer possessed.
Edith poured hot water over my tea bag and set the milk and sugar next to me. “Part of that moving forward means reaching for those dreams you had for your future before you left. So, what did you imagine you’d do with your life one day, before you met Hank Hakes?”
I stirred milk into my tea and shook my head. “Those were just childish thoughts, Edith. Like a lot of the thoughts I had back then.”
“You wanted to be a writer. I remember that. Why don’t you start writing? Even if it’s just for yourself. You still keep a journal right? Oh! Why don’t you submit a column to the local paper? You could write about small-town life, the weather, whatever. People around here really love those types of columns and our paper needs that. Take a sample column over to the editor and see what happens.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Why not? What do you have to lose?”
I laughed. “Certainly not my pride. I lost that a long time ago.”
“Oh, stop it, Blanche. Just go for it. You never know what will happen and there is no use living in the past. We’re moving forward, remember? This is just one more step you can take to do that.”
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