This is another blog post imported from my old fiction blog. I had found a new tool for writing inspiration called the Writer's Toolbox which helped me write most of the posts for that blog that followed. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for some new writing challenges.
February 15, 2009
We were drinking champagne and losing our shirts. No big surprise; it was Friday night and the Ladies Book Club always turned into this cock-eyed poker game. Sherry swore that she wanted to make this a serious venture, but, if so, why serve champagne? I should have known better to carry any extra cash - I can't ante-up if I have no money on me. So here I am, staring down a pair of deuces as my only shot of redemption. I could tell by the looks on Mary and Linda's faces that they weren't doing much better than me and thinking that a conversation about the new Stephanie Meyers book would be much less painful than our current situation.
"Tell your husbands that the price of meat went up again!" Sherry explained after our pitiful losses, "It's not like they won't believe it in this economy!" I hated that she was right, but I also hating losing. I am not coming back next Friday. I don't really like this book anyway. And if she really wants me to enjoy this champagne she should invest in a better brand or at least bring some strawberries... Mary and I left after that last hand, of which Sherry took the pot, and left Linda to fend for herself. Sorry, Girl, you need to figure your own way out - get a backbone and get a-walking!!
"I don't need this," Mary started. She seemed a little more aggravated than the situation called for.
"Don't fret about it, Sherry's right, Dan won't even realize the lost money."
"It's not that, it's Charlotte, she is sick again and I can't control her anymore!" she explained.
"Is it really her fault that she is sick?" I couldn't believe she was this exasperated that her daughter was sick!
"Nicole, Charlotte ate green peppers all day long." I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked her what she meant. " I mean that all day, while I went to work and cleaned around the house and worked on the garden my daughter was up in her room eating green peppers non-stop!" she shouted.
"Alright, Mary, I can see how that's weird and even a little off-putting, but did you ask her why?" I know Mary has a tendency to fly off the handle at the smallest of things without looking back.
Now she seemed to get angry with me, "You must be kidding me? Ask her why?... Why bother?! First it was the lemons, then the turnips, why the hell not eat green peppers all day?!"
Lemons? Turnips? What the hell is she talking about?, I thought, but didn't dare say. I think she read it on my face.
She stopped walking and looked me in the eyes, "Nicole, don't tell the others about this, okay?"
I stared silently for a moment. What the hell would I say? What was so bad about strange eating habits? If she didn't want me to say anything, I wouldn't, but I didn't understand why. "Okay..."
"Charlotte thinks she has magical powers. I have scheduled an evaluation for her next week and not even Dan knows about it yet. He won't even talk about her behavior with me. He thinks if we ignore it, it will go away, but he hasn't even talked to her since she started it," she started to cry. "My husband won't even talk to our only child! She needs our help and he won't even address her! This has been going on for three months!"
"Three months, Mary! Jesus! And you haven't told anyone about this?! We could help. I don't know how, but something..."
We talked for three hours that night before Dan called my house looking for Mary. We told him we were looking at pictures from that last barbecue and lost track of time. He bought it, this time. I caught a glimpse of Dan's attitude toward his daughter on the phone, "Tell Mary Charlotte is sick and needs her," he said. When I asked him how serious it was he said, "You know how it is, Nicole, she's a girl, I am her dad, I don't think it is any of my business." I wanted to scream at him right then, but I knew I had to play it down for Mary's sake. "Sure, Dan, you're probably right. I'll send her right over."
It took some convincing, but I got Mary to agree to come over with Charlotte on Saturday afternoon. I sent all the boys out of the house and thought it would be helpful if just the three of us could hang out, to see how Charlotte would act around me. The excuse was simple: I needed help baking. The plan was cookies, ice cream and a cake for Bobby's birthday party on Sunday. It was true, I did need help with all of it anyway, and so did Mary and Charlotte.
Mary walked in first, looking abashed. I wondered what had caused this look around me. No matter what was going on she had nothing be ashamed of in my presence! And then Charlotte came in behind her. I hadn't seen her in probably about a month and a half, maybe two, but the difference was striking. Charlotte is 13 years old, so I expect changes to be happening all of the time, but so much of her change seemed to be internal instead of external. Her eyes were sunken which made me wonder if she had been sleeping and her arms fell to her sides in a tension that can be best described as cat-like, waiting to pounce. She seemed to be ultra-aware of her surroundings and her smile was uneasy and forced. "Thanks, Aunt Nickie. I don't think I am much of a baker, but I'll watch out for the windie-flakes when we get to the cake-making."
Mary jumped, "Charlotte, 'NO! Don't get started with that again!!" and tears started to well up in her eyes, "Nicole, I am so sorry. This was a mistake. We will go."
Granted, I had no idea what "windie-flakes" were, but there was NO WAY I was about to endeavour to do all of this baking on my own. "Don't be ridiculous, Mary. I will take whatever help you can both offer!" I felt for both of them. This was going to be a strained afternoon, but the secrets in this family flowed deep.
I handed out aprons, head scarfs and reviewed the recipes for the day. We agreed we should started with the cookies. I gave Mary charge of the wet ingredients, Charlotte charge of the dry ingredients as I began to prepare the equipment. Mary came over to me at the counter, away from Charlotte, "Thank you," she whispered, "...and I'm sorry. It has been a bad week. The strange stuff she has been talking about has been increasing exponentially. I try to stop her the minute she gets started, but it is getting worse by the day." I swore she was going to start crying again.
"Mary, we'll figure this out. Let's give her some time today to just be and let's see what happens. I won't tell anybody, you won't tell anybody, she'll feel safe and you'll have more information by the time the evaluation comes up."
And then we heard Charlotte whisper into her mixing bowl, "'There you go, making up lies again.' That's what they told me. But I wasn't lying, Marcelo, I swear! I was just doing what I was told." Her eyes skirted toward us at the counter, where Mary tensed and I became extremely interested in the oven temperature. "Excuse me, Aunt Nickie, do you have any beets?"
"No, Honey, I'm sorry just sweets today, no beets. Why?" I had a feeling I already knew, but I figured I'd ask.
"No biggie, I was just looking for something to nosh on. I'll hold out." She continued sifting the flour into the bowl.