Posts from the ‘Fiction’ Category

Dust and Spider Webs

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” — Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury in September 1929. Just one month later, the American stock market crashed into what was later called the Great Depression. The following is a fictional account of the impact of the historical events.

~     ~     ~

When I walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Mother stopped me. “You’re not going to school today.”

I blinked. Mother’s face was pinched was stressed, and I knew better than to interrupt.

“I need you to do something.” She took my hands gently in hers. “Mrs. Brathwaite knows of another house that needs cleaning.” Mrs. Brathwaite, my mother’s boss. The weight of that statement sunk in. “Now, you’d be just down the street from me, a few houses down, doing chores just like you do at home, except you’d be earning your wages, like me. She said you can start this morning. Can you do this for me, Evelyn?”

“Of course I can.” Several girls in my class had already left school to go work like their mothers and fathers. My chest puffed out in pride that I, Evelyn Stork, would be able to help my mother like the other girls help theirs.

“When you’re there, you can’t give her no back talking.”

I nodded. “But what about baby Faye?” I helped my sister in the mornings, after Mother went to work and before I left school.

“Grandpapa will look after your sister this morning, like he does during the day. Don’t worry about it.” She ran a hand over my hair, smoothing my obstinate fly-aways, and then she straightened. “I will walk with you this morning, on the way to Mrs. Brathwaite’s. Let’s go.”

My stomach growled just then, but I quickly pulled my arms over my belly, trying to muffle the noise. I knew that the ice box and the pantry were still empty, just as they were last night. I didn’t want Mother to hear my hunger and feel worse than she already did.

My first day as a cleaning lady was like most first days at school – awkward and bumbling. I was too short to reach some of the spider webs in the corners of the foyer, I didn’t polish the silver well enough, and I slipped once when I waxed the stairs. The lady of the house was kind, and when she told me she’d like me to stay on, I could have hugged the elegant, gracious old lady. I made mistakes that were perhaps worthy of being let go, but all day I thought of the grief – and hunger – I would cause my family if I didn’t have this job.

The hardest part of my day came as I walked home, in the fading light of the evening. Mother would be home already. Today was pay day for her, so we’d most likely have a feast tonight. A feast would only be a couple baked squash to share, but the thought made my stomach ache even more.

Suddenly shadowy figures appeared in front of me. I knew who they were before I saw their faces shine in the moonlight.

“Well, if it isn’t Evelyn Stork,” a voice purred.

It was Clifton and his crew of two idiotic sidekicks. I rolled my eyes at them and kept walking, but my heart picked up speed and my free hand was already clenched into a defensive fist.

“Didn’t see you at school today,” he said in a sing-song voice, following me.

“That’s because I wasn’t there.”

He glanced at the dusty apron I was wearing. “No more school for you, I see. Another school girl bites the dust.” He slapped his knee. “The dust,” he said between spurts of laughter. “How cute. Really, it is. You dropped out to help your cripple grandpop and your snot-nosed little sister.”

“Just because he used to have polio, doesn’t mean he’s a cripple,” I growled through a clenched jaw.

“Oh,” howled Clifton. “The cleaning lady can talk back!”

But he wasn’t done. He started to say some crude comment about my mother, and that was when something inside me cracked. I picked up a stick on the side of the road and held it in front of me as a weapon. I swung at him, purposefully missing – by a mere centimeter. “I’ve been cleaning cob webs all day, and I found I have pretty good aim when it comes to sticks.”

Clifton only laughed. “Hey now, you know I was just playing.” But he muttered to his two silent friends, “She’s not worth all this trouble.” The three of them scampered off in the opposite direction. I felt my fists begin to relax, and I tossed the stick back into the ditch.

I was grateful when I reached the warm halo of my home. The first thing Mother did when she saw me was pick the cob webs out of my hair. “How did you get all that on you?”

“Must have hit my head on the ceiling once,” I said, as if I didn’t remember how it happened. But I did. I was on a ladder, using a broomstick to collect the sticky web, when I was starting to get sleepy from being so hungry and started to doze off. I dreamt of Mother’s disappointed face if I got fired, and I jolted awake. I hit my head on the part of the ceiling I hadn’t cleared yet.

“Are you alright? Did you have a bump?”

“I’m fine, Ma. I have a strong head.”

“That’s true, you’ve always been headstrong,” said Grandpapa with a twinkle in his eye.

I knew I was headstrong, and even though everyone made it out to be a good thing, I longed for the day when I didn’t have to be anymore. I sighed, watching the three of them. My pinched-faced mother, limping grandfather, and gurgling baby sister. My first day of cleaning could’ve gone smoother, of course. And I already missed my friends from school. But strength is what kept my patched up family together. Looking at them, I knew I would be headstrong for as long as they needed me to me.

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Stay or Go?

She did not know whether to leave or to stay. Should she go or should she stay?

Catie was torn and the decision needed to be made by morning. Should she flip a coin? She was either heading out to California to live with an Aunt and Uncle she barely knew and nanny their kids. Otherwise she could stay in her hometown and work at a local Famous Dave’s.

She was laying face up on her bed, contemplating the ugly ceiling she had put up with her entire childhood. She would like to get away from this town but she also knew that there were so many things she would miss. She was heading off to college at the end of the summer and this was her last chance to enjoy these people. Part of her knew that she might not enjoy them. Ever since Christmas break senior year, she felt like part of her had never come back to high school. That part of her was beyond these people and this drama and everyone knowing everyone.

Catie went to her backpack and pulled out her Chemistry notebook. She ripped out a page, nearly tearing it in half. “This’ll do,” she muttered to herself as she grabbed a pen that had chew marks on one end. Her thinking pen.

Before she could start her pro/con list, her phone rang. It was her friend Amy who didn’t mince with the hello process, “So I hear you’re leaving for the summer? Where are you going? Why would you leave? This is like the last chance we have to say goodbye!”

Catie sighed. She had told one person and the information traveled so fast. Catie started to reply. She meant to tell Amy that she was still thinking about it and didn’t know what she was going to do yet. She meant to say that she wanted advice. Amy kept talking and asking questions while Catie turned her iPhone on speaker and Googled flights to California. There was one the day after graduation.

“I know, it all came up so fast!” Catie said, interrupting Amy’s monologue. “But I have to leave the day after graduation. It’s the right flight and my Aunt and Uncle need me.”

“Oh no Catie! Why would you do that? I’m going to miss you soo much.” Amy trailed off. “Well we should have a party! Celebrate our high school time! We could have it this weekend since next weekend is graduation!”

Getting up and walking to the window, Catie said, “Sounds good. One big goodbye!”

The rest of the conversation, Catie completely zoned out as Amy talked about graduation and what she was wearing.

Catie was leaving. She didn’t need these people anymore. She was ready to be someone else and do something different.

She didn’t want to stay so that meant she would go.

Undercover (pt. 4, final)

This is the conclusion to the four part Dreams Come True series.

Catch up on the previous installments here:

Part 1 Dreams Come True

Part 2 Integrity International

Part 3 Express Lane to Danger

 

“It’s pay day,” Skylar announced as I strode into the office. She did a little dance around her desk. I joined in.

“Finally,” I said. The time had come. “I know what I’m going to do this weekend.”

“What? Party your paycheck away? I never pegged you as a partier…”

I chuckled and settled down at my own desk. “I’m going apartment shopping.”

“What’s wrong with your current apartment?”

“Um, my childhood bedroom just isn’t cutting it. This job requires general privacy, and I just don’t have that.”

“Ugh, you still live with your parents? What are you doing there? You’re a grown woman.” Skylar perched herself on the edge of my desk. “You need an intervention. I’m going with you to find an apartment.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes. There’s no question.”

Adam strode out from his office. “Gather around, gather around,” Adam called to us all. He picked a desk to sit on.  The forty-some of us circled around.

“Emergency meeting?” I mused. Skylar shrugged.  We knew something was up.

Jacob Stiller, a non-dreamer co-worker that I’d barely noticed before, took the floor.  “I’ve been working the case downtown,” he started. “There’s a drug ring we’ve been keeping an eye on – they call themselves Nexus. This case just became our priority. A few months ago, my eyes on the street told me a Nexus customer dropped dead. It happens, we know, with drugs, but this seemed different. The PD told us that toxicology showed the girl had a non-lethal dosage in her system. There was no reason for her to die. Last week, another customer turned up dead.”

Heads shook around the circle. For sounding so intelligent, I was surprised at how young Jacob really looked.

“We think they’re making bad batches for specific targets. We’ve been keeping an eye on them from a far, but the stakes are higher and we need to get closer. We’ve received information about a transfer taking place this morning. We don’t know if the customer is targeted, but either way we will bust them. We will be there, along with the PD.”

“Are the two dead customers linked?” Skylar asked.

“Both victims were children of former 14th Street Gang members. In the 90’s, Nexus rose into power and fought 14th Street for their turf. Nexus won.”

Adam added, “Jacob can’t go, since he’s already undercover acting as a Nexus costumer. If he was caught loitering, it’d be suspicious. Cammie and I will go.”

My heart stopped. Did he really say that? Did he know I had absolutely no field experience?

Regardless of my qualms, I was brought into the undercover resource room. Adam was given a shabby overcoat and facial hair, and I had a makeover to give me freckles and a birth mark on my neck. Anyone who knew me in real life would not recognize me now.

“A member of our homeless network was fortunate enough to hear vital information. The exchange between Nexus and a buyer will happen at Goldberg Pier, next to the seventh lamppost in from the Jamba Juice kiosk. We will loiter, a natural looking loiter. Jacob and the police will be standing by. Our word is magazine.”

“Word for what?”

“When we see the exchange happen.”

“And our goal is…?”

“Stop the transaction. If the drug batch is bad, we’ve saved a life. At the very least, we’ll catch another dealer.”

He made it sound so simple. “Can I ask – why would you have me go?”

He shrugged. “Everyone has their opportunity to go undercover. Yours is right now.”

I continued to stare at him.

“What? I told you you’d be part of a special operation. What I meant was you’d be the next one to go undercover.”

“College did not prepare me for this,” I mumbled.

Adam chuckled. “No college ever does.”

“But I was a criminal justice major,” I protested.

“Don’t worry. I have a camera attacked to the button on my shirt, and we’ll both be wired.” He handed me a tiny ear piece. “Jacob will be in our heads the whole time.”

 

It was windy out on the pier. I was grateful for the hat that I wore. It kept my hair down over my ears, hiding my ear piece.

Adam and I strode down the walkway, as if we’re just two old friends out for a stroll. “Nice day, huh?”

I nodded. “Windy, though. I’m glad I have this hat on. I don’t want my ears to show.”

Adam gave me a small grin, but sent me a look with his eyes, wondering if I was about announce that I was wearing an earpiece. An elderly couple walked beside us, and secretly I knew they were listening.

“I don’t like my ears showing,” I covered. “I’m very self-conscious. Did I ever tell you that my nickname in 3rd grade was Dumbo?”

Adam burst out laughing, and I could tell he wasn’t acting. “You never mentioned that.”

A voice crackled in my ear. “Your 2 o’clock – don’t look, Cammie.  That’s him. Brown hood pulled over his face. His shoes are exactly how the homeless witness described..”

“Hm, thought I told you that,” I said to Adam, trying to keep the conversation moving. “Remembering to tell people things like that aren’t my gift.”

“Adam, I’m losing visibility,” Jacob said in my ear. “Keep an eye out for the buyer.”

“How about we sit down for a bit?” Adam motioned towards a bench close to Jamba Juice.

“There’s still a crowd blocking the camera. You have visibility?” Jacob continued.

“Yes,” said Adam to the both of us, “I think this date will be a success, what do you think?”

“It already has been,” I said, grinning. “I’m so glad you took me here. The view is great.”

“Hm, getting late,” Adam said. “Want me to buy you smoothie?”

I shook my head, playing along with Adam’s clever reply to Jacob. “That’s alright. I’m not very hungry.”

“Ugh, where is the buyer?” Jacob groaned loudly in my ear. I winced. “These people usually want their fix. They’re never late.”

“Actually, I’m getting hungry now,” I said after a moment. From across the wide pier, I could see a young man approaching the brown-hooded dealer.

“Okay, I’ll go buy something for you.” Adam stood up.

I heard Jacob in my ear, telling the police to be ready.

The young man, in an oversized red t-shirt, turned to the dealer. The Nexus member pulled a brown paper bag. That was our evidence. That was our cue.

I stared at Adam. The next two seconds took a lifetime. Magazine. How to say magazine? Two girls sat on the bench beside to us, obviously people watching and picking us to watch. We had to act natural.

Adam was leaning closer to me. “Cammie, you’re a novel in a sea of magazines.”

“Baby, you’re too kind,” I said, staring into his alluring eyes. I may have reacted promptly, but my mind was spinning. Those were the exact lines that had happened in my dream weeks ago. The dream were I thought Adam had flirted with me. Now I saw it wasn’t a flirtatious line, but a line that proved we had accomplished something together.

All chaos erupted in my ear as the police officers rushed out of the unmarked van.

 

“The scans came back on the drugs,” Adam announced at the end of the afternoon. “That batch contained rat poison. Also, it has been confirmed that the buyer’s dad had been a member of 14th Street. Nexus had been targeting buyers that have ties with 14th street. Not anymore”

The room erupted in cheers and applause.

“Have a great weekend everyone, and pick up your paychecks on the way out.”

Skylar stopped me in the parking lot. “Hey, so I saw Jacob making eyes at you today. He’s a really sweet guy.”

“Oh? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Haven’t you?”

That hadn’t exactly been my priority today. “After the thrill I got today, I realized how much I love this job. I think I’ll stay married to it for a while.”

—–

“This one looks nice,” Skylar commented.

It was Saturday, and we were touring the fourth apartment.

“Location’s nice. Close to work, farther away from your family’s house.”

I chuckled, but said nothing.

“What you are thinking?”

“The bathroom’s spacious,” I commented. I truly loved this apartment – it would offer the privacy and independence I truly needed.

“But your mind isn’t here,” Skylar inferred. “What else are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking this is better than I thought it’d be.”

“I get the feeling you’re not talking about the apartment.”

I shrugged, smirking, and turned from the window. I couldn’t get my mind off going undercover at the pier. Despite my original qualms about my first undercover assignment, I now had the overwhelming desire to do it again. The shivers I got when I saw the Nexus dealer being taken away from handcuffs. That was why I was there. That was why I was a dreamer. I accomplished my duty today, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Busy busy busy

She told me she needed to do something. She said she was busy. She had “things to do.”

I never followed her. I didn’t need to. She (being my friend Rachel) went, she was busy and came back in a better mood. I didn’t really know her, either. I may have thought I knew her but, looking back, she was about as constant as the wind.

It all happened so fast. Everything changed.

I was avoiding class one day in high school, walking aimlessly down the halls, when I saw her chug a Mug root beer by her locker. It didn’t occur to me until we were talking after school on why that had been odd. She hated root beer. She was constantly telling us how she hated root beer. She also said she hated it when people bothered her when she was busy and that she was afraid of water.

How much of what she told us was true?

I was curious. The root beer incident was the day I wondered. So I followed her after school. Along the walk I silenced my mind and didn’t let myself think about what I was doing or why she went.

We came to the river that ran about a mile away from our little town. Rachel stopped in front of the river and smiled. I saw her take a deep breath and as she let it out the tension disappeared from her body.

So she did relax. Good to know.

And then she went a little ways back into the woods and started pulling a canoe closer to the river. It had been hidden in the underbrush and she pushed it out into the water and started to paddle away. I almost ran after her and asked if I could go with but I was too afraid to put myself out like that.

I never said anything to her about it but I let myself become a closer friend of hers. I let her in like I usually didn’t because I thought she was lonely. Independent with her canoeing, (and who knew what else) but lonely all the same.

One day, years later at a high school reunion, I asked her if she had really feared water and hated root beer like she always told us in high school.

She laughed, “Of course not. I just wanted to see who would figure it out.”

Rachel was lonely. She pretended she was busy but deep down she was simply lonely. I guess we all are, in some ways.

Listen for the Music

 

“Lisa. Lisa.”

My fellow co-worker’s call grated against my tired nerves. I quickened my pace as I raced towards the elevator. Maybe if I acted like I didn’t hear, then Calvin would give up.

“Lisa, it’s an emergency.”

I slowed. I turned. Calvin’s innocent boy-like face was turned innocently towards me. “Ha! I knew you could hear me.”

“What is it?” I said, eyebrows raised.

“I’m still confused about what you want me to do with my manuscript. I’m not sure that I agree with your comments about my main character.”

“Calvin, can’t this wait until Monday?”

“I just don’t get it,” he whined.

“We talked about this. I gave you suggestions.”

“But I tried to create her to be so real, so life-like, but you said she comes across as flat. She’s like a ‘talking stick.'” Calvin quoted my words.

“Yes. Yes, that’s because she is. Readers need to believe that she’s human. They need to see her emotion.”

“But how? I don’t know how to do that. Please, you’re my editor; you’re supposed to help me.”

I gave Calvin a gentle glare. The elevator beeped and the doors opened. Employees scrambled in. “Yes, and you’re a writer. You’re supposed to use my advice and write better characters, okay?” I gave him a small smile, a nod, turned on my heel. I made it into the elevator just in time.

The doors closed on the crowded silver elevator, and I blinked my eyes closed. It was Friday. My two-day vacation had started. I was going camping – hard core camping, none of that RV or pop-up camper nonsense. This weekend I would canoe around in the wilderness and think about everything other than work. That last part sounded pretty great.

It was pitch black when I fell asleep that night. Pitch black as in so dark I couldn’t see my hand if I held it in front of my face. I’d reached my destination earlier in the afternoon, and I was officially on vacation. My lips curled into a smile. I had driven up north several dozens of miles, planted my canoe in the water, and found a suitable campsite. I was too exhausted to even set up my tent fully. Instead I sprawled out, on top of my tent. I lay under the stars with the mosquitos and the wolves cooed me to sleep.

I woke with a start. I had overslept. I had missed something. I realized with great glee that indeed the only thing I’d missed was the sunrise. It must be in the late morning by now.

I dug for worms and then took my old pole into the canoe. Two hours later my stomach was rumbling, but a fish was frying over the fire pit.

I ate my fish down by the unmoving waters. I was still surprised at how silent it was up here. I always was. Compared to the boisterous downtown district that I lived and worked in, this place was a desolate void. Then I remember something my grandfather said, the first time he took me camping. I was nine. I had complained that it was too quiet, that the silence hurt my ears.

“Silent?” Grandpa had looked at me like he thought I was off in the noggin and dissolved into guttural chuckles. When he had regained his composure, he implored me with one question: “Listen.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For the music.” He grabbed my hand. “Close your eyes.”

The wind in the mile-high trees. The tiny, watery ripples lapping against the rocks. A loon calling from somewhere, its mate answering. A small splash from somewhere; a fish jumping. A rustle in the bushes. I peeked open an eye and saw a mouse scurry past my feet.

“Unlike the city’s noise, the music up here is beautiful,” Grandpa said with reverence. “Lisa, wherever you are, listen for the music.”

I inhaled quickly as a shooting pain ripped through my heart. It still hurt me to think of him. He’d died years ago. Suddenly. Heart attack. It shouldn’t have happened. I suppose that’s why I still came up here every year. Grandpa had engraved in my heart a love for the peace. I didn’t get much of that now. I needed to remind myself of the music.

I brushed those thoughts away now, looking at the serene scene before me. In a day and a half, I’d have to go back to real life. But it didn’t matter. During my meetings – arguments, really – with Calvin, while meeting with new writers,  I’d think of the music.

Seller of Brothers

“Did you meet her?”

“Is she insane?”

“Why would she do that?”

The school was buzzing with the sound of a million questions. That morning, some Mother had been watching the news and her daughter Ellen had been sleepily shoving Captain Crunch into her mouth.

Then the story came up. “Girl tries to sell her brother on Ebay.” The young girls head shot up and some of her cereal fell out of her mouth. The mother grabbed the couch seat with a death grip.

“Did I hear that right?” Ellen asked her Mom, who nodded back at her. And the mass media sharing began as other students in other houses read Ellen’s twitter post and as other fathers heard it on the radio and text their wives who, in turn, told the kids.

It was an odd day at school. Everyone had that awkward laughter that only happens when no one quite understands something but feels the desire to respond.

The girl was gone from school. None of the kids knew where she was but it wasn’t a long shot to think counseling although some kids thought she’d gone to jail. What else were you supposed to do with a brother seller?

Siblings started to get paranoid. What if their sister or brother tried to sell them? Did their other siblings hate them? How much would they even get sold for?

Parents tried to explain it to their kids but it was like trying to explain why the world was round. Who really knew?

One day, the girl showed up back in school as if nothing had happened. Ellen, being the main player in this story and the spunky one, asked the girl why she had tried to sell her brother.

The girl replied with a simple answer. “I didn’t want him anymore.”

Ellen simply looked at her, confused. And so the response, short as it was, was added to the young students’ list of “mysteries never to be solved.” They were a little bit less innocent and a little more confused. Overall, they were headed down the path of maturity which meant accepting that there was no real, true explanation for it.

Magical

“How did you and Grandma meet?”

“Haven’t I already told you this story?” I tucked Emma into bed, but she set up again in anticipation. Emma had been home with the flu, and her mother worked nights. I had the grandfatherly privilege of babysitting.

“No. Mom says you haven’t even said Grandma’s name since she died.”

I grinned at my beautiful grandchild, but the truth is, the memory of my Ester pained me. It’d been five years, but some things never heal right. Heal right? Well, some things just don’t heal.

“Please tell me. Pretty please?”

I cleared my throat and began peering at her bookshelf. “What about a book? I could read to you instead.”

“Only if it’s about you and Grandma.”

I looked down at Emma, her innocent seven-year-old eyes begging me. Those eyes always got to me. “Alright, alright.” In true Princess Bride fashion, I said, “You’re sick; I’ll humor you.”

I settled down into Emma’s kid-sized desk chair. It wibbled and wobbled. It was not made for a big old man like me. I pretended to take a long time trying to balance myself in order to stall for the right words.

“Well.” I started.

“Well?” She asked, leaning forward and waiting.

I sat still a long time, twiddling my thumbs together, until I thought of the words. “I could have avoided all that trouble. Yes, I could have, if only I’d remembered to shut the hood of the car hard enough. But I didn’t.”

“What trouble?”

“Your grandmother. She was trouble.”

“She was?” Incredulous eyes stared up at me.

“Now don’t go getting your knickers in a wad and I’ll tell you about it.” I paused. “One fine morning I was trying to get to the grocer down on main street, but I had a hard time getting there. My car shuddered and shook, and I thought something was wrong. I pulled over and looked under the hood, but I saw nothing out of place. Then again, I was no expert. I got in my car again. I was driving down the road, quick as you please, when the hood just came up and hit my windshield.”

Emma gasped and placed her dramatic hands over her mouth.

“Couldn’t see a dog gone thing. I swerved and ended up running into a fire hydrant. By the time I got out of the car I’d made such a big scene that children were running and ladies were screaming. But there was one lady who wasn’t. She just stood there staring at me. I took one look at my crumpled car and I knew I was in deep water. The car was my daddy’s – not even mine. I starting pacing around it, mumbling to myself, not knowing which way to turn. All the while that lady stared at me. The nerve of her. She came up to me, real calm like, and asked how I was.”

“And you said you were doing bad?” Guessed Emma.

“Yes, I did. Then she told me, “It helps if you talk about it.” I guffawed and mocked. She was a stranger; I don’t just  go spilling stories to anybody. Finally she dragged it out of me – the whole story about the car not being my own and how all I wanted was to go to the grocer to pick up a few things for my Ma. All this time I was realizing this lady had mighty pretty eyes.” Ester’s eyes. I still saw them when I fell asleep. “They were hazel; one had brown speckles in it. She told me her name was Ester and helped me find a phone to call my father.” I took a deep breath, exhausted.

“And that’s how it all started?” She asked. She was settled deeper in her blankets now, her eyelids low.

I nodded. “Her daddy was a mechanic, she he helped fix my beat up car. That old fire hydrant never was the same, though.” Those were the days. Idyllic, when the only thing on my mind was whether this girl fancied me or not. “We spend days in my garage, watching her daddy fix up my car and drinking soda. Learning a lot of things about each other. Talking can do that.” I glanced at Emma. “Words can hold magic,” I said softly.

I slowly stood up and kissed Emma on the cheek. I stood a moment watching her. Her hair was the same strawberry blonde color as Esters. I grinned. I’d heard traits could skip a generation, but I’d never realized that was the case with her. They looked so much alike. I suppose I had tried not to notice it before because it would’ve been so painful. Truth is, before today, I didn’t want to think of Ester so much. I realized that thinking is alright. Thinking leads to talking, talking leads to magical words, and the magic leads to a change in the thinking, and then it starts all over again. I suppose if I had never met Ester, I would have been spared the heartache of losing her. But Ester would have admonished that way of thinking. She would have told me not to despair but to focus on the magical things around me. That’s just would I would do. Emma – this beautiful child before me – was magical.

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