5:37 PM

There it is, the garage door is opening. I glance at the beautiful clock on the mantle. It was a wedding gift from one of my friends. I am not sure why I bothered to look. It’s always the same time everyday, 5:37. I sit there wondering. How does he manage to get home at the exact same time. I wonder if he ever gets home early and just sits around the corner waiting until it’s time to open the garage door. He never runs late, never. It’s always the same time.
When we were first married we would commute together, well to the bus station at least. He would drop me off in the mornings then pick me up in the evening. It was a great time to get to know each other better. We would talk about a variety of things, there was no limit to the conversation. When he picked me up from the bus station in the evenings, he would hop out of the car, greeting me with a kiss then and open my car door . He asked about my day and listen to me as I filled him in on the ins and outs of my daily adventures.
When the first baby came, we agreed I would stay home. That was the same year we moved into our first house. I was always excited when he arrived home. The sound of the garage door opening meant so much to me back then. It meant adult conversation, somebody else to hold and change the baby and time with my honey. It was great. We were a happy family of three until the other baby came along. Then we were a happy family of four. 

The kids and I would run to the back door when we heard the garage door open. I would lead the way yelling, “daddy’s home!!!” and they would follow saying the same thing in their cute little toddler voices while clapping and smiling. He would walk in the door with a big smile. After kissing me he would pick them up and kiss them. Daddy was home. 

Then one day or maybe over the course of a few months, something changed. I no longer led the charge. I did not feel like being the head cheerleader. I stopped running to the door. Without me leading them and encouraging them the children stopped too. 

I looked at the clock, 5:39 pm? He’s late? He’s never late. I wonder if something happened to him. 

He Loves Me He Loves Me Not

Lauren was no more than about eight when she learned about this practice. Her best friend told her it would work and if she said so then it was true. She closed her eyes and giggled. She could see his face and laughed at the thought of him running from her as she chased him all over the play ground. As she sat in the middle of the field she picked a flower with lots of petals and began the ritual. As Lauren plucked a petal from the flower she said out loud, “He loves me”, then she pulled another and said “He loves me not”. She continued this pattern of plucking flower petals and reciting the words until she reached the last one, “He loves me not!” She picked up another flower and started again. He just had to love her.

Twenty years later she was sitting in a coffee shop thinking about her fiance Mark. She absent mindedly picked up a flower from the vase in the middle of the table and started plucking the petals and reciting the words. She knew it was a silly game but she continued until the last petal lay on the table, “He loves me not?”

She thought about the six years they had been dating. He was not perfect but then who is? They met her senior year in college. She has just ended a six year relationship year with her high school sweetheart. She was going through a tough time. Jeff had been her world since the end of their sophomore year. She would find herself sitting on a park bench crying. It wasn’t just any bench, it was their bench. At least they claimed it as theirs. It’s where they sat and talked for hours. It served as their dining room table. This bench was where they discussed their futures. It was also the place of their breakup. 

As tears slid down her face she had an overwhelming sense of being watched. She raised her head and looked into his eyes. Those eyes were beauitiful, intense, questioning and sympathetic. She tried to smile but according to his version of the story it was more of a painful grimace. He did not say anything that day but he came back a few nights later and gave her a lace handkerchief. He later revealed to her why he brought her the lace handkerchief instead of tissue. He told his mother about her and she said a brokenhearted woman needs permanence in her life, not temporary.

The betrayal

Something was not right. Her intuition’s sirens had been blaring for a few weeks. She kept silencing the alarms. She could easily tune them out while focusing on the kids. But as soon as there was some semblance of silence the alarms would sound again. Louder. More determined. Warning!!!

They had been married for almost a decade. They had five children together. The youngest was a baby. They took on traditional roles in the home. She was a stay at home mom and he worked outside the home. She did all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. He gave her a much needed break from the chaos of five active kids when he arrived home.

Some things changed. They were subtle. If wasn’t for the insistent alarms she might have missed them. He started working out. Consistently. No big deal. It happens all the time. People make commitments towards better health every day. He began leaving for work earlier than normal. Shrug. He could have had a major project he was working on. That’s not uncommon. He stopped answering her calls or they had abbreviated phone conversations even while he was driving home. Okay. He decided one day that he needed to start working from a coffee shop rather than at home after the kids and she went to bed. Why?

If you look at each of the incidents separately you find yourself asking, what’s the big deal? But the alarms. The alarms were telling her something was not right.

One day she decided to do what she had never done in the near decade they had been husband and wife, she signed on to their carrier’s website and checked his cell phone records. The alarms went silent. There was the confirmation of the feeling that had plagued her for weeks. Every morning on the commute to work, every evening on the way home, late at night when the household was quiet the same phone number was there. The number had taken up residence on the phone bill and owned more real estate on the pages than hers. She didn’t cry. She didn’t get angry, initially. She called him at work and asked who she was. He denied it at first. Cheating man rule #1 deny, deny, deny. Then he finally confessed. It was infatuation. He would leave her alone. But he didn’t. Things were normal for about a week. Then the alarm sounded again. This time she was angry. She wasn’t thinking logically. Maybe she was. She went to their closet and gathered up his clothes hanging the the closet and began tossing them in the front yard. Next were his shoes. After that she pulled the drawers out of the dresser and tossed those in the yard as well. (Perhaps she had seen Waiting to Exhale one to many times) After a quick trip to the hardware store boom bam bop, the locks were changed on the doors. She manually locked the garage door. Then she called him.

Come get your %#&! out of my yard before I turn the sprinklers on!! He talked to the other woman on the way home. She watched through the window as he filled his van with his belongs. Her anger subsided but her heart was broken. That day they began a journey down a path that was filled with twists, turns, forgiveness, and repeated betrayal. They would eventually come to a fork in the road and choose separate paths. They would no longer walk as one.

Pineapple Cake

As soon as I walked through the door the smell penetrated my soul. If goodness and mercy could take on a tangible form this was definitely one of the ways. My great grandmother knew how to make three generations rejoice. She made pineapple cake. 

Don’t confuse this with pineapple upside down cake. No, not at all. This was love baked, stacked and iced. 

What made this cake different? Oh my. How do I describe the light, fluffy, moist yellow cake? I see her standing over the stove stirring the sugary concoction. This wasn’t the typical buttercream frosting. This wasn’t a cream cheese or brown butter frosting either. 

It lured us in and brought us together in the kitchen staring and waiting. We had to wait until it cooled. The toothpicks where stuck in random places to keep the top layer from sliding off. As it cooked the icing began to solidify around the crushed pineapples. Now that I’m a baker I know she cooked the frosting to the point right before it hit the candy stage. 

When the cake was cooled she began to slice the cake and serve us. There always seemed to be enough. Not one person was left out of the experience. 

When she was layed to rest so was the pineapple cake. We’ve never been able to recreate the goodness and mercy in the form of a cake like Momma Lillie did. I came the closest years ago. I was entertaining family at my house. With awe and reverence we sat around my dining room table and as I lifted the lid on the cake plate we all looked, smelled and remembered. Most of all we experienced her love one bite at a time. 

Peter, Paula and Mary

Peter:
I had that same dream again. The one I’ve had so often I’ve memorized the dance of the leaves as they sway in the wind. It’s the same dream everytime. I am walking through the park. It’s a great day outside. The sun is shining, the clouds are soft, white and look fluffy. I gaze over at the bench and there she is. She’s always there. After 20+ years of knitting the same sweater you’d think she would be done. But, she’s never any further along. We make eye contact and she slowly rises off the bench, calls me by my given name and gives me a big hug. She steps back and looks at me and asks where I’ve been. Then I wake up. I never get to tell her what happened when my boat landed in America. I never get to mention how I searched for her for years but could never locate her. I never get to tell her about my devoted wife who’s carrying our first child. I never get to tell her because I wake up.

    Paula:
    He must be having that dream again. Sigh. When will it ever stop? He came over alone from Vietnam. He was supposed to meet his mom under the rainbow in the market. They had studied the map for weeks. The route was laid out, he knew where to stop for food and drink as he journeyed to the meeting place. She could not greet his boat because it was arriving under the cover of darkness and they didn’t want to draw attention to its arrival. There were no streamers or people gathered to welcome them to this new land. He didn’t know his boat was reported lost at sea but the boat and all seven of the passengers made it through the tumultuous storm that attempted to rob them of their future. They were a week and a day late but he knew him mom would wait for him in the place marked on the map. 

    Mary:
    I went to the market every night for a week. Finally someone told me the boat was missing. Missing?!? Aaaaahhhhhh!!! I cried out in great despair. No matter how much the tried to console me or hush me I could not push my pain down. It wanted to be released into the universe and so I let it go. I don’t know how long I laid there. In my mind I saw his sweet face smiling and waving at me telling me not to worry. He would be fine. For some reason they split us up. They insisted I go first to find a job and make a home. Why did I listen to them?!? This journey was for him, his future, his opportunity to be more than a poor village kid. Looking around the market and seeing the rainbow was too much to bear. I moved to another city far far away from my regrets and pain. 

    Peter:
    I rub my wife’s back and apologize for waking her. The further along she gets in the pregnancy the more she enjoys the back rubs. I suggest we take a walk in the park. It’s supposed to help with circulation. Besides, I like walking through the park I designed. The market was abandoned years ago. I was commissioned to design something that would continue to knit the community together. My immediate thought was a park. On the very spot where I was supposed to meet my mom I placed a bench. It was the same bench from my dream. I had hope I was aligning the stars and helping my dream become a reality. 

    Mary:
    After many years of running from my pain I moved back to the place where it all began. I needed peace. I needed to embrace my past and emotionally bury my son. The last time I saw him he was wearing a red sweater. I wanted to knit him a new one and bury it in the park that now stood in the place of the market. I planned to bury the grief I’ve carried for over 20 years. It was a beautiful place. Even though it was full of people it was still serene. I found an empty bench and continued knitting the sweater. I decided to make on the perfect size for a baby. I couldn’t bring a shovel with me to dig the hole. I wanted to be discreet as I held a short memorial service with one attendee. 

    Paula:
    I saw her first. Just as we rounded the bend on the walking path. She was just as he had described her in his dream. 

    Peter:
    Are my sleepless eyes providing me with a mirage? Am I at home in my bed sleeping? It’s her!! It’s really her! We make eye contact and she slowly rises off the bench, calls me by my given name and gives me a big hug. She steps back and looks at me and asks where I’ve been. 

    After the Ball

    once upon a time…
    life is not a fairytale
    i didn’t wake up like this
    this look took hundreds of dollars in make up and clothes
    be in awe of my efforts
    the ball gown?
    that was for one night
    tonight is flannel pajamas
    yes i have bags under my eyes
    the crows feet become more evident every year
    it’s called concealer
    the only time you know its there is in bad photos
    my hair?
    which hair are you speaking of?
    i have wigs and pieces and clip ins
    no, i will stay up with you past midnight dancing the night away
    i’m tired
    you like my hour glass figure?
    what is life without corsettes and spanx?
    i’m not the person you fell in love with!
    of course i am
    i am still the same on the inside
    i deceived you?
    i convinced you
    i am Cinderella but everyday isn’t a ball

    The letter

    Today’s challenge is to write a story about a letter that was found but be as brief as possible. Here goes. 

    There was a smudge of lipstick in the top right corner of the dainty stationary. It was directly above a heart. The carefully drawn heart contained two sets of initials.  

    Those words that filled the page gave me hope. That letter made me believe in love again.