Tonight is week two of our new Writer’s Group here in lovely New Brunswick and I am looking forward to it immensely. We have some really great people in our group and tonight promises to have at least one or two new people coming in. Already we are sharing work with one another and responding with editing and critique suggestions, all of which, I have to say, are very helpful.
As you know from my post earlier this week, I am in the midst of working on two projects at once. Finishing up draft one of Summer Poppies (which the group are helping me edit/hone) and my new book, The Lightning Tree (yes, you get to know the title) which is a bit of a departure from my comfort zone of ‘chick-lit’. Kind of.
I had a job interview today that went very well and with the finally warming up temperatures and repeated cameos of the sun, my mood has been lifting along with my creativity. I am feeling that ‘ol spring energy rise up in me again and it is the most welcome feeling in the world.
I’d love to give a little teaser of Summer Poppies so you can see where it is going:
The sun beat through the window with firm purpose as Angela directed the activities in the granny suite at the back of the house. Her son in law Martin, and her other daughter’s boyfriend Jack were attempting to take apart her mother’s bed. It was a cumbersome job as the bed was old. Really old. It had come all the way across the Atlantic thirty four years ago when she and her mother had immigrated to Canada and had been around for years before that back in Ireland. Angela knew that dismantling the bed was a necessary evil, but she was loath thinking of what her mother Siobhan would say when she came home to find it gone. One of the things the doctor had emphasized to her was that things should be as normal as possible for Siobhan when she was finally able to return home. ‘As possible’, her daughters liked to stress, were the key words. In their beloved Nana’s current condition, this old bed of hers was not going to be able to see her through the next weeks to months of her life. She needed a hospital bed, which was being delivered this evening, which was why the boys were taking the bed apart in the first place.
“It’s frustrating; this thing isn’t put together like anything I’ve ever seen. There are no proper joints in here, it’s all haphazard nails and screws everywhere,” Martin quipped from underneath the frame where he was arguing with one of the corners. “I swear, faith is the only thing holding it together.”
“Damn!” A loud shout came from the other corner. “I think I broke a nail in half. Hand my some pliers, would you Ang?” This time it was Jack. Angela put a pair of pliers into his outstretched hand and waited, her hands twisting the untucked edges of her shirt. “Got it,” he said, and Jack slid out from under the bed. He held in his hand two pieces of a truly ancient nail. “At least I got the snapped piece out of the wood. I don’t think there’ll be any damage, Angela, you don’t need to worry.” He clapped her on the shoulder.
“Thank you Jack,” she said, giving a watery smile. “And thank you too, Martin. I know this isn’t how you pictured your paternity leave.”
Martin came out from under the bed as well. “It’s no problem Angela. I know how important this is.
Just over three weeks ago Martin and Angela’s youngest daughter Sloane, had welcomed a little baby boy into the family. Right about that same time, Angela’s mother had been given the most frightening news that she was suffering not only from Alzheimer’s Disease, but that she also had advanced uterine cancer that had already spread into her other organs. All of this of course, being discovered after she fell from her bed, this very bed they were taking apart, and fractured her hip. Angela had found herself at the time thankful that things always happened in threes, not fours or fives. She honestly didn’t think she could have taken any more bad news at all. For the past three weeks, the family had been learning as much as they could about Siobhan’s various health problems, putting together her care plan, helping Sloane and Martin with the new baby and helping her older daughter Moira and her boyfriend Jack prepare to move into their new home. Frankly, Angela was exhausted. It wasn’t fair that all the major life changes should happen within the span of a few weeks, but, you couldn’t argue with the fall of the cards. You just had to deal with it. So here she was, on a truly beautiful sunny day inside her house taking apart her own mother’s room in order to put it back together as best they could with the new bed.
Angela’s house was nestled about four blocks away from the beautiful and charming downtown of Fayette, a bustling and happy midsized town in South Western Ontario. She had moved here fresh out of University years ago. It was the first and only home she had ever owned and she loved it as if it were another member of the family. It was here in this house that she raised her daughters, tall, auburn haired Moira with her amazing talents in the kitchen and her practical business sense and Sloane, her golden haired princess. This was the home where she and her husband had watched the girls grow, ride their bikes, climb the trees and skin their knees as little children. Then, after her husband had left, it was the house that Angela managed to hold onto against the odds. When her mother moved in to help with the bills, where Angela spent her weekends making cakes and deserts for the neighbourhood ladies to bring in extra money along with her regular teaching job.
It was the house that saw the girls grow into young women. When birthday parties and slumber parties gave way to dates with boys and stolen kisses in the den when they thought their mother was asleep. When the girls grew apart and started to fight all the time over everything. Over clothes, over attention, even over boys. Angela vaguely remembered a year or so where a young man had dated first Moira, and then Sloane, but since the girls had never really voiced what that had been all about; she had stayed out of it. It was all history now anyway, the girls were grown women and both were involved with exemplary men.
Moira had struggled with dating for such a long time, and she seemed to keep falling for the same type of guy; the wrong type. Two years ago she had been living with a man named Mark that no one in the family had cared much for. He didn’t seem to have any kind of actual income and was happy to let Moira support him. He was very good looking, sure, but he was very vain. He always tried both way too hard or way too little, and even when it was the former, it always came off as slick and insincere. Angela didn’t like him and Siobhan flat out despised the man. But they had both kept their opinions largely to themselves. As long as Moira was happy, then her mother and grandmother were content to keep the peace.
Of course, on that inevitable day when Moira had come bursting into the house, a bedraggled and crumpled mess, explaining that she had caught Mark cheating on her in her own bed and had thrown him out, the women were fast to defend their daughter and made no bones about the fact that they hadn’t liked him. Moira had been angry at first that they hadn’t said anything sooner, but she eventually realized that she wouldn’t have listened to them anyway. Not that any of it mattered anymore, as last fall Moira had met and fallen in love with a real keeper.
Jack was just a little taller than Moira’s five foot ten. He had sandy hair and bright blue eyes. He was also smart, funny and deeply caring. And he loved Moira. Looking back on it now, Angela was sometimes surprised that their relationship had managed to grow as it did in the first month they had known each other, as they had met when Jack’s father was dying, but flourish it did and now they had bought a house together. They made an excellent team and Angela was thrilled every day that her tall handsome daughter had managed to break free finally of the men who just upset her and find someone wonderful she could truly count on. She hoped that once the house thing was settled for them that it wouldn’t be too much longer until they got married.
Sloane was a whole other story. She went through a brief ugly duckling phase in her pre-teens but once she hit high school, that girl was a veritable force to be reckoned with. Boy after boy was paraded into the front hallway, only to be replaced within a week or two. Just before she was seventeen, Sloane went through a period when she didn’t date at all, for quite a long time, but that was back when she became tight friends with Katie and Michelle; friends she still held dear even now. They spent a lot of time together and were on the social committee at their school, so Angela had just assumed that her daughter hadn’t wanted to be tied down by a relationship. Sloane had gone to a local college and done a degree in office administration, but the first fall after she graduated, she met Martin, and everything changed.
They had only been dating for weeks, maybe a month, when they got engaged. It had surprised everyone, especially Moira. Angela and Siobhan hadn’t been too thrilled about the idea either until they met Martin. Towering over her daughter, Martin was just over six feet tall. He was dark haired and broad shouldered and classically good looking, not that he seemed to know it. When Sloane brought him home, Angela’s first thought was that he was going to be exactly like the guys Moira used to date, and she was worried for her daughter. She expected a vain, self-entitled man to try and ooze his way through the meet and greet lunch, but Martin had completely surprised her with his sincerity and his down to earth charm. Besides, he was head over heels in love with Sloane; anyone could see it in the way he looked at her. Angela and Siobhan both gave their blessing that day and just under a year later, the two were married. Then, the day after their wedding, they announced their pregnancy. Angela was no stranger to quick pregnancies. She herself had given birth to Moira ten months after her own wedding. Besides, babies brought people together. For whatever reason, from that day on her daughters had been getting along again like they did when they were little girls. Their men got on well also. Favourite days were the ones when all four of the kids came to the house for Sunday dinners and the laughter and conversation flowed as freely as the wine back and forth across the table. Those were the days when Angela felt best; like she had really accomplished something.
Now she stood back and watched Jack and Martin take apart her mother’s marriage bed while Moira and Sloane packed her things into boxes and bins to be sorted through and her heart just sank into the depths of her chest. For a while there, they really seemed to be living in a dream.
She should have known it was too good to last.
Siobhan’s doctor had given the family a very realistic view of how the remaining time in her life was likely to go. The cancer demanded medical care. That meant one of two things; either putting Siobhan into a hospice that could manage her end of days, or else making the necessary arrangements and adjustments and bringing her back to her own home to die. Of course Angela had chosen home. She knew that it was what her mother would want.