Here is Chapter 20 & 21 from “The One That Got Away”. I will post one more chapter next Monday, and then if you would like to read further you will need to get your hands on the actual book! Links to the previous chapters and the link to purchase the novel follow the excerpt.
I pulled at the puffiness around my eyes trying to encourage more blood circulation. Then I massaged around them with my fingertips. It was to no avail. I looked hideous. All of the world would know that I had been crying. But, I suppose it wouldn’t matter because I wouldn’t know most of the world that I would be seeing today. I studied my figure one last time in my bureau mirror. Was it obvious? No. Not yet. Right now I just looked padded and plump. I blew out the candle. The sun would be up in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. I needed to hurry if I didn’t want anyone to see me take my leave. Snowdrop meowed pitifully in the latched basket as I picked it up.
“Shush!” I hissed anxiously. Surprisingly, she instantly ceased her yowling. Perhaps this was a good omen for my day. I grabbed my satchel, but then had to put it down again to open my bedroom door. It creaked as I pushed it.
“Ach!” I whispered. I hadn’t noticed before how noisy it was. The stairs seemed just as loud as I tiptoed carefully down. As I passed Danny’s door I felt that my heart would burst into pieces. I walked a few paces down the hallway to my parents’ room. I held my breath as I pushed the letter under their closed door. No sound from inside. No sound from my cat. The Saints be praised. If I could get down to the common room without that cat carrying on I would truly be blessed. My stomach twisted as I crept down the last flight of stairs. I would surely miss my parents. I hoped that they managed fine without me. I was supposing they’d have to hire someone. But business was good. The money was there to pay someone to help. I barely breathed until I stood alone in the Peppertree Pub. I surveyed the silent room and found myself staring at the place at the end of the bar that Danny usually occupied. Da was right. Danny was not worth givin’ me heart to. I bit my lip and angry tears formed once again in my eyes. Aye, he had stepped all over me heart. I had made my way to his bed alright. Only thrice, but that was enough to plant a seed in my belly. I knew he was playin’ with other women too, but I was certain that that I could bend him to my side. The fact that I was now with child had derailed my plans and made everything quite complicated. At the present, Danny didn’t want to have anything to do with me or the child growing inside of me. He had been angry when I told him. He insisted that it was not his. How dare he accuse me of sleeping elsewhere! Working with Danny at the pub had become quite unbearable. My parents knew that we were at odds, but did not know the reason behind it. I could not tell them. I needed to take my leave and start fresh. Rachel had offered for me to stay with her in her flat in Paris. She wrote that the theatre she danced at was in need of a good seamstress to fashion costumes. Yes. This is what I needed to do. I squared my shoulders and walked with determination and purpose out into the boreen in front of my family’s pub. I marched out onto the main street and spied a fiacre almost immediately. Another good omen. I waved to the driver. He acknowledged me by tipping his hat and began readying my ride. I counted out the proper amount of coins from my drawstring purse as I approached. I kept my step firm and my face expressionless.
I woke up slowly. The cobblestone streets of Belfast seemed to smear and sway. My vision readjusted and the plain white popcorn studded ceiling of my apartment bedroom gradually came into view. Wendy Parker’s reality came washing over me. So, I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tests came back indicating as such. Of course more tests were needed to ascertain the severity and proper treatment. There was no way to get around the fact that ‘brain tumor’ sounded severe. I can’t say that I was surprised, but to hear this phrase spoken in relation to oneself is quite appalling. I had been forbidden to work and assigned to semi bed rest until the next battery of test results were available. I actually didn’t fight the bed resting thing. I really didn’t currently feel capable of doing anything much more strenuous than padding around my apartment. I was almost constantly dizzy now and the headaches were quite severe. I had new medication which helped the symptoms but caused me to feel rather loopy and definitely sleepy. My bed was the best place for me at this point. My apartment was still littered with unpacked boxes. Every day I unpacked a few, but it seemed to completely sap my strength. It just felt so important that I do it. I knew I was grasping at normalcy. Leigh had insisted that under the current circumstances she could get me out of my lease. I still vehemently refused to move into her guest room. She was thoroughly exasperated with my stance but decided to humor me for the time being. She told me that she would finish the unpacking for me so that I would stop doing it. She spent quite a bit of time at my apartment. If she wasn’t there she had Jeff or Jeff’s sister stop in to check on me. I did not protest. Leigh suggested that Anna be enrolled in a preschool program to prepare her for Kindergarten and give her something else do to besides eat snacks and watch TV in my bed. I did not protest. She also broached the subject of alerting you and your father of my situation. I protested loudly and she backed off. I do not want you to feel that you need to speak to me merely because I am perhaps terminally ill. What kind of conversation would that be? Awkward and pointless. I am not looking for pity or forced love and acceptance.
Anna enjoyed preschool. She had a lot to tell me when I was awake enough to listen. I realized that I should have put her in preschool earlier. She has such a sharp mind and was gaining so much from the experience. When she wasn’t in school or with her cousins she would often set up an elaborate play area in my bed. I was constantly knocking various items to the floor as I would change positions. Normally, I would mind the clutter. Recently, however, I just wanted her company. I played more Candy Land in two weeks than I had played in the entire past year.
Sometimes when it was very quiet I could hear piano music coming from Sara’s apartment upstairs. It was beautiful and stirred me in a way that I had not experienced before. Many times it became the background music as I dozed and dreamed of Meg in France. During this phase of dreams it seemed that one blended into another and then blended seamlessly with reality. I was often not aware of exactly when I awoke or fell asleep. It was probably the medicine I was taking. Much as I didn’t want to admit it, it was a good thing that Leigh had arranged to have a responsible adult in my apartment at almost all times. I could tell that she was frantically worried about me, but she would not talk about it. This was unlike her. Of course I did not talk about it either, but that was like me. I really only wanted to hang with Anna, write in my journal and sleep endlessly. I surprised myself at my ability to be listless and unproductive. These were new traits for me. Sometimes it felt like it could go on forever this way, but I knew Leigh was waiting for the next round of test results. She was poised to take action. If it was bad news she would put her foot down and move me into her guest room. I knew it was too much trouble to station people at my apartment if I really needed some serious looking after. It felt so odd to be in this position. I had always been one to find the stamina within to walk onward alone and determined. I couldn’t find it anywhere at present. But even odder still, is that I found myself not really caring. My dreams seemed more like reality than my actual reality. I found myself confusing them sometimes. This did not phase Anna a bit. She was always able to keep up with my state of mind even if I was not able. It was just like another one of her make believe stories that she acted out with her dolls. Some of these appeared vaguely reminiscent of my dreams. She moved in and out of them and mine with ease.
My dreams during this period were fragmented slices of Meg’s experience in France. It was the bright spot in her life. It appeared that she spent approximately four years there. She spent her days surrounded by theatre life. It made her feel breathless and happy to be involved in the production of such whimsy although she never felt that she truly belonged in this arena. She fancied herself as a hen among swans. She made herself invaluable working long hours creating costumes, props, and sets. Her quirky wit and skill gained her acceptance and many friends. When her son Jackson was born he was well coddled by the entire dance troupe. There never seemed to be a shortage doting aunts and uncles. His early years were filled with the pomp and bustle of backstage existence. Meg’s adventure in France came to a grinding halt when news of her mother’s death reached her. Of course she needed to go home. Her heart was heavy to leave the life she had carved out for herself and her young son, but her strong sense of duty required her to do so. Play time was apparently over. Meg was immediately thrown into managing the pub upon her return. Her father was getting up there in years and the death of his wife seemed to rob him of his spirit. Danny didn’t have the inclination or the gumption to fill in the gap. He seemed to spend more than half of his waking hours drunk. In the time that she been away he had added to his girth and was missing a couple of his teeth. He still acted as though he thought that he was God’s gift to women. Meg was not the least bit interested in him anymore. After her experiences abroad, Danny appeared backward and bordering on pathetic. Jackson was the spitting image of his father with the exception of his mop of curly, tawny hair. Meg did not introduce Danny to Jackson as his father. Danny did not mention it either, but occasionally would make awkward and friendly overtures to his son. Jackson would respond good-naturedly, but other things and people were much more interesting to him.
The Peppertree Pub was in a run-down state when Meg encountered it after her absence. She was quite aghast at its’ condition. With determination she took the matter into her capable hands. She started off by dismissing all of the staff except Danny. She would have loved to oust him too, but knew that her father would not hear of it. She hired two middle aged women and a teenage boy and took to the task of revitalizing the family business. In six months the Peppertree Pub was once again a thriving watering hole. Meg tried not to think about the fact that her spirit was unhappy. Instead, she threw herself into the upkeep of the pub and her son. She believed that this would end up being her existence. Until by chance or fate two people came back into her life on the same day.
Chapter 17 https://blogkelliannesweeneydeardiary.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/chapter-17-the-one-that-got-away/