Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a fiction story I’m working on or a novel in progress. If you share serial fictions on your blog as well please feel free to share a link to your latest installment, or the first part, in the comment section.
Right now I’m sharing from a novel in progress, A New Beginning, which is the sequel to A Story to Tell, now available on Kindle. As always, there may be typos, left out words or even awkward sentence structures I didn’t yet catch. This is a first draft so there will be changes before I publish it as an ebook in the Spring of 2020.
Are you caught up with Blanche’s story or do you have some reading to do? This week we continue with some take-it-easy character building, but there will be some excitement next week. Do you want to know what?
Well, I’m not telling you. You can read it next week. So there!
As always, you can find the links to the other parts of the story here and if you have any comments on how the story is going so far, or any ideas for future chapters, let me know in the comments!
“Here we go. Chicken salad sandwich and fries for Blanche and a small salad for Edith.”
Betty Bundle’s hot pink, looped earrings bounced as she placed our plates in front of us. She stood for a moment, one on her hip, the other hovering out to her side, smacking gum like a cow with its cud as she looked down at Edith.
“Is that really all you’re going to eat, hon’?”
Edith glanced up at Betty without lifting her head. “Yes, Betty,” she said with a sigh. “That’s all I’m going to eat today.”
“Eatin’ a salad is like eatin’ air, you know,” Betty said. “You need something more substantial than air to get you through the day.”
Edith sighed, stabbing a piece of lettuce with her fork. “Thank you, Betty. I appreciate your input, but I’m eating light today. My stomach isn’t feeling the best.”
Betty pursed her lips and furrowed her eyebrows, folding her arms across her chest. “Well, I guess but you make sure you get something later. It’s not healthy eating so little and if you’re trying to lose weight, well, you don’t need to. You understand me?”
“You’re starting to sound like my mom, Betty,” Edith laughed. “Don’t you have another table to wait on?”
Betty sighed and flounced across the diner toward another table, tablet in hand as she reached for the pen she’d propped behind her ear.
“So . . .” I sipped my iced tea and cleared my throat. “Is your stomach feeling off for any reason?”
Edith sipped her water. “I think it’s nerves. The adoption agency called this morning. Jimmy and I have been approved for adoption. Now we just wait for the phone call that says someone has chosen us to adopt their child”
“Oh, that’s great!” I cried.
My sister’s hand trembled as she stabbed at a tomato. “It’s getting real now, Blanche,” she said. “We’re really doing this and I’m not going to lie, I’m terrified.”
I reached across the table and took her hand. “It’s going to be okay, Edith. You and Jimmy are going to be amazing parents, you know that.”
“It’s not just the parenting that scares me. It’s the idea that we might fall in love with this baby, or child and then the mother changes her mind. I can’t imagine that heartbreak. Blanche, I think I know why you put up walls around yourself now. I’m afraid to be hurt again. I’m afraid to . . .”
She shook her head and I could see she was trying to hold back the tears. “I’m afraid,” she said a few moments later, her voice cracking. “To love this child in case we lose him or her the same way we lost Molly. Jimmy and I made a space in our hearts for our baby girl and then I came home from the hospital with empty arms.”
Edith wiped her eyes with her napkin. “I couldn’t bare to hold a child and fall in love with that child, only to have that child taken from me.”
“You’re acting like me, Edith,” I said. “You’re thinking of all the worse case scenarios and letting them guide your decisions in life, when you don’t even know if they’ll ever come to pass. That’s no way to live.”
Edith blew her nose and laughed softly. “Physician heal thyself,” she said with a smirk.
I bit into a fry and leaned my head on my hand, sighing.
“This isn’t about me, it’s about you,” I told her. “We are psychoanalyzing you today. My session can be tomorrow.”
Edith wiped her eyes again and smiled. “Well, at least you know I can empathize with you now and I understand the fear of letting anyone else into your life. I think this is something you and I will have to work on together. We will have to do what Lillian said during Bible study a couple of weeks ago: feel the fear and do it anyhow.”
The ding of the bell on the front door announced the arrival of Emmy, Judson and a few more of the workers from the construction business. Judson and the other men took up two booths on the other side of the diner while Emmy slid in the booth next to me, her belly almost touching the table.
“I said I was coming to lunch and the whole lot of them spilled out after me like a gaggle of schoolchildren,” she said picking up the menu. “The stench behind me was all-encompassing. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking agreeing to be Daddy’s secretary and having to put up with this group of dirty, sweaty gorillas every day.”
I sipped my iced tea and laughed at the drama in my best friend’s voice. “You love it and you know it,” I said. “All those men fawning all over you, especially now that you’re expecting. ‘Yes, Miss Emmy.’ ‘ Can I hold the door for you, Miss Emmy?’ ‘Let me get you a glass of water, Miss Emmy.’”
Emmy looked at me in mock shock. “Blanche Robbins, that is not true.” She looked back at the menu. “They get me lemonade, not water. Plain water is evil.”
Betty returned to take Emmy’s order.
“You know, Blanche,” she said smacking away at her gum. “There’s a lot of good lookin’ men over there. At least one of them has got to be single. Maybe you should—-”
“Good grief, Betty! Not you too!”
“What? I’m just sayin’ — You’re still a young girl, you know. You don’t have to act like such an old woman. Go out on some dates, have some fun already.”
Another person trying to fix me with a man.
“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…” I sang at Betty. I slipped into my regular voice as I shook my finger at her teasingly. “Don’t you join the Fix Blanche Cause being headed by the rest of my friend’s and family, Betty. I don’t need a man to make my life better.”
Betty blew a bubble of gum at me, standing with a hand on her hip. “Well, I didn’t say anything about it being better but it might be a bit more interesting.”
I mimed a person writing in an order notebook, moving my hand across the top of the table. “Why don’t you just take Emmy’s order and go play matchmaker somewhere else, Betty.”
Betty shrugged and took Emmy’s order as I’d suggested.
“Don’t blame me if you end up old and alone,” she said with her dry wit as walked back toward the kitchen. “I tried to help but you jus’ wouldn’t listen.”
As she walked from the table I sighed and ignored the giggles from Emmy and Edith, wondering who else would be next to remind me I needed a man to have a better life.
“Now, Blanche, you tell me, is this dress just too fancy for an old lady like me?”
86-year old Jessie Reynolds was modeling the dress I’d made for her in front of the mirror, holding herself steady with her cane and lightly touching the bun her long, white hair was twisted up in.
“No, ma’am. I think it’s just perfect.”
“Not too risqué?”
I snorted a laugh. “No, ma’am.”
She looked over her shoulder and winked at me. “Hmmm..maybe you better start over and add a little flare to it then.”
“Now, Jessie. . .”
The elderly woman laughed and sat back in the chair across from me. “I still have a little spunk left in me, you know. Maybe I can snag myself a new man before I walk across that rainbow bridge.”
“Oh my goodness,” I laughed again and shook my head. I poured some tea into a teacup and set it on the plate next to Jessie. “And which man do you have your eye on?”
“Well, that Bill Sprowles just lost his wife a year or so ago. He might be a bit lonely.”
Jessie and I laughed together. “Ah, well, you know I’m just teasing you. A woman doesn’t need to have a man to be happy, does she?”
“No, ma’am. She doesn’t.”
“But it certainly is nicer when she does. Now, tell me, Blanche, have you thought about dating again?”
I shook my head and laughed. “I should have known that was coming. Jessie, you’re a troublemaker.”
“Have to keep myself busy somehow at my age.”
“Honestly, I haven’t really been worried about it. I’ve had Jackson to take care of and this shop to run. I’m happy where I’m at, Jessie.”
Jessie sipped her tea. “I do know what you mean. Sometimes it’s easier to stay where we are and not allow change. But maybe in the future you’ll be ready to let someone else into your world and I hope you won’t be afraid to do so when the time comes.”
Although I didn’t enjoy discussing my love life, even with Jessie, I knew she meant well, and her blunt humor made the conversation less painful than it would have been with others. “Thank you, Jessie. I’ll keep that in mind if that time ever comes.”
“Oh no. Not ‘if’, Blanche, honey. When.” She winked at me over the edge of the teacup and giggled. “Plus, I need you to hurry up. I’m not a spring chicken and you need to have a nice big wedding with a nice, handsome man before I die.”
“Okay, Jessie,” I said. “Let’s get you out of that dress so I can get to work on making the alterations and have it ready for you by tomorrow.”
To myself I added: “And so I can rush you out of this shop before you start suggesting men for me to marry.”
As Jessie left the shop, Marjorie stepped in, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
“Blanche, do you know anything about Stanley Jasper?”
“Just that he’s the editor of the paper,” I said, choosing not to add that he’d asked me about his intention to ask her out to dinner.
“Well, the strangest thing just happened with him at the diner. He asked me if I’d like to have dinner with him some night.”
I feigned innocence as I looped some thread around a spool and slid it into a drawer. “Oh? Well, what did you say?”
Marjorie picked at a piece of lent on her coat. “I didn’t know what to say so I asked him if I could think about it.” She shrugged. “He said that was fine, but, I don’t know . . . I’m not ready to — I mean I’ve never thought about dating again. I’ve just . . . well, I’ve just never really thought about it. I don’t even know what to say. I guess I figured I was too old for such things.”
“Marjorie, you’re never too old for companionship but I understand,” I said. “It was nice of him to ask but you’re not sure you’re ready to open yourself up again.”
She nodded, sitting on the hard metal chair across from me. “I know you can relate to that, to putting up walls and being afraid to pull them down again; afraid to be hurt again.”
She sighed and tipped her head slightly, staring at the sewing machine with a far off look. Sitting with the front window as a backdrop, sunlight behind her, making the light grey streaks in her hair appear blond, she looked more like a young girl than a 55-year old woman
“I just don’t know what to do,” she said softly, wistfully almost, caught up in her thoughts.
“Well, it’s entirely up to you,” I said. “I think you did the right thing telling him you needed some time to think about it.”
A small smile tugged at her mouth. “It was nice being asked – having someone actually seem . . . interested in me, I guess you’d say.”
I smiled as I leaned back against the sewing table, happy to hear a hint of joy and excitement in her voice and curious to know if she’d eventually accept Stanley’s invitation.