You are the Music of my Life – A Christmas Love Story

the-ringAll Sarah wanted was a ring, a simple gift. When she saw this one in the James Avery catalog, she knew she had to have it. It was designed like the rings from years ago with ancient symbols on it and an actual spinning top that flipped to reveal a secret message – one from John, the man she had loved since she was fifteen years old.

She hemmed and hawed for a week and finally came out and told him, “I want THIS ring,” she said and pointed to it on the screen of her phone. “And I want you to write something special for me.”

“Oh, ok,” he half-heartedly agreed. Even though his words freely flowed when writing, those songs weren’t about love but parodies about life in the school system. The teachers always got such a kick out of hearing them and remembered them long after they were sung at some party or another. But words just for her? Suddenly the words were hard to find.

When they finally made their way to the mall and managed to make it to James Avery, the store was crowded with holiday shoppers. The young man who waited on them, anxious to make a sale, encouraged them to pick out THE ring. After trying on several different sizes, Sarah finally said, “We’ll take it.”

“What do you want to engrave inside?” the young man asked sheepishly.

“Oh, he’ll tell you,” Sarah said pointing to John, “But I don’t want to know,” she answered quickly and stepped to the side.

The young man handed him a piece of paper, and John scribbled the message quickly.

“Oops,” the young man muttered after seeing the message, “Too many letters.”

“What?” she asked incredulously, “What was the message?”

John scratched his chin and looked into the eyes of his wife of forty-three years, “You are the music of my life.”

Quickly, before anyone had a chance to speak, she uttered, “Never mind, we don’t want the ring.”

“Wait,” the young man said suddenly.

“We can get the ring,” John tried to stop her.

She put her arm around him and hugged him tightly. “I don’t need the ring now; I have the message. That’s all I really wanted.”

Together, arm in arm, they left the store. No one even noticed the tears pouring from Sarah’s eyes or saw the words she’d hidden deep in her heart.

walking-away

George Goes Along

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A Short Story Finalist in the Texas Writer’s Quarterly

My husband George always loved the idea of trying something new.  When we went to Cayman, he parasailed, went snorkeling, and actually swam with sting rays.  “See? The guide took pictures of me holding a sting ray in my arms!” He crowed.  All I could see were his puny little arms covered in gray hair and a smile on his face that could light up a small city.

I, on the other hand, waited sedately on the shore, watched from afar, and enjoyed the latest romance novel.  I did try a new rum punch they offered and was very proud of that feat.

“Hey Junie, why don’t we go white water rafting?” He asked me one morning over our non-caffeinated coffee and sugar free creamer.

I looked up from my paperback, still dog eared from the night before and said, “George, listen, this bucket list of yours is getting ridiculously long.”

He scratched his scraggly gray beard and smiled at me.  I saw it then, that young man who had worked all of his life in the maintenance department picking up after other people.  He deserved this time.

I patted his hand gently, “Honey, if you really want to go, I’ll go with you.  But you know I’ll wait on the shore at the end of the ride.”

That’s how we ended up on the water.  He had talked me into going.  He had talked me into packing.  He had even made me promise to go with him in the canoe.  I always kept my promises to him including a corny one that went “For better or for worse”.

The young guide, Ben something or another, was surprised to see us there waiting to take the trip down the river.  “Well hi there!” He welcomed us with a lopsided grin.  “Are you ready for a great adventure?”

Before I had a chance to back out we were suited up and in the canoe.  He saw my trembling hands holding on to a velvet pouch with white old lady knuckles.  He said calmly, “Relax, this is going to be fun.”  And I had to believe him after all I was already in the canoe.

Slowly we pushed away from the shore.  The water was cold and frothy and that worried me.  I tightened the strap of my life jacket and hoped it would live up to its given name if the time came.

Ben paddled slowly down the river talking about the mountains that surrounded us and the animals we saw from time to time.

I looked back at him and noticed his longish, brown hair.  ‘This kid must be younger than my grandson!’ I thought.  “How did you learn so much about this river?” I asked and wished I had checked his canoe license.

“I was raised not far from here and went rafting every week with my dad,” Ben answered and tried to smile reassuringly.  It failed.  He still looked like my grandson who could barely drive and was graduating next year.

That’s when the white water slammed into us.  The canoe tipped from side to side and threatened to throw us both out.   We hit a particular rough bit and George flew into the water.

“George!”  I screamed and reached out of the canoe to catch him.

Ben grabbed my arm and held me back.  “No ma’am!  Let me get further down and get the canoe stopped.  Then I can get George, ok?”

He seemed so calm!  I hated him!  And I was so mad at George I could have spit!  But when Ben put George into my hands, the velvet bag that held him was wet and squishy.

I held the bag for a minute and thought, ‘This is what George would have wanted.’  I emptied the bag into the water and watched George swim joyfully away in a bright silver ribbon.

Ben touched my arm and asked, “Are you ok ma’am?”

I nodded and smiled, “My name is June son.  Are we going to see any more white water?”

“Lots,” he answered.

I sighed, “Then let’s get going, I have a good book waiting for me.”

The Letters

Attic memories

The bundle of letters lay in Jessica’s hand as she sat in front of the old trunk that had belonged to her grandmother.  The letters were filled with poetry and utterings of great love.  They were romantic and beautiful and filled Jessica’s heart with the passion of the young woman she once was.  But where had that handsome lover gone?  Where was the sweet way he used to touch her hair and caress her cheek?  “I’ll love you till the day I die,” he would say as he held her close.

She sighed and felt the aged brown paper crinkle between her fingertips.  “Where are you Jessie girl?” Samuel called as he struggled up each wooden step to reach her lofty perch in the attic.

When he walked through the door she recognized him, the handsome young man who had written the letters so long ago promising to love her till the day he died.

The Puppet

becky's getaway

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Luisa never liked his carving. It left shavings all over the carpet and she never could get all of them out. Even when she pulled the tiny, minute particles out of the carpet she could still sense they were there taunting her even as her Mario sat there happily singing while he painted the puppets.

“Aye Luisa, Maria Isabela will love this one! It will be the hit of her puppet show next week. See how it moves its legs? Just like a real horse this one!”

He was so proud of the work he produced and being able to help with his granddaughter’s puppet theatre made him so happy!

“Come Luisa, come sit with me while I work and tell me about your day!”

She knew he would only listen halfway. His heart and mind were in the carvings that took up so much of his time and energy…

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Doll House

Doll House

Wouldn’t it be interesting if all of our homes were made like this dollhouse? There would be no secrets, no dark corners to hide in. Everything would be out in the open and viewed by the world. We would not be able to hide any skeletons in the closets because your neighbor could see them as clear as white clouds in a bright summer sky.

Of course, you could see your neighbor’s as well. You would have a front row seat to all of their sufferings, all of their pain as they would yours.

That wouldn’t be such a bad idea would it? Then we couldn’t hide behind our fine “facades” because there would be nothing we could hide. Then, we would all be the same, frail, disfunctional, struggling human beings who are just trying valiantly to have a happy life and to make one for our families.

We often fail at this, but still we persevere. After all, since everyone knows everything we’ve hidden away for so long, it doesn’t really matter does it? We’re all the same inside. Vulnerable.

Dollhouse

The Puppet

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Luisa never liked his carving. It left shavings all over the carpet and she never could get all of them out. Even when she pulled the tiny, minute particles out of the carpet she could still sense they were there taunting her even as her Mario sat there happily singing while he painted the puppets.

“Aye Luisa, Maria Isabela will love this one! It will be the hit of her puppet show next week. See how it moves its legs? Just like a real horse this one!”

He was so proud of the work he produced and being able to help with his granddaughter’s puppet theater made him so happy!

“Come, Luisa, come sit with me while I work and tell me about your day!”

She knew he would only listen halfway. His heart and mind were in the carvings that took up so much of his time and energy. She snorted and began their supper banging pots and pans loudly. Even that didn’t keep Mario from his work or from his joy. That made her even angrier.

When was the last time they went to feed the squirrels together at the park? She knew it hurt for him to walk, but he could try knowing how much she loved to do that. The squirrels would be too frightened now to come and take the nuts out of her hands. They wouldn’t know her anymore.

Mario died at his work table that night leaving shavings and a half-painted puppet of a horse on the table. Luisa couldn’t think of anything for a long, long while except cleaning up the shavings from the carpet.

When she began clearing out his clothes and giving his things to the neighbors she found it. It was in a shoebox underneath his winter boots. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a tiny miniature puppet of herself, sandals and all, wrapped carefully in tissue paper. On top was a note written in Mario’s shaky hand. “My dear Luisa, please take this little lady out with you when you go to the park.” He knew she would return to what she loved best.

The first time she took their “little lady” to the park, the squirrels came up and gently took the nuts she offered.  The squirrels and Mario had remembered after all.