The following is an excerpt from my current work in progress. It’s a story about a girl who–after finding remnants of who she used to be–finds it difficult to gather the pieces and set about the business of putting herself back together. Does she go back to how she was, give in to what others want her to be, or does she create a new version of herself?
Inilya, XOXO ——————————————————————————————————————————–
Why haven’t I heard from you? It was a text from her best friend Gabrielle.
It’s been 4 days. Deidra responded.
Exactly. I bumped into Kendra and she showed me your neighbor.
Deidra dialed her friend’s number. “Hey Gidget.”
“Don’t ‘hey Gidget’ me after not telling me about that fine man living next to you. Kendra said you all were childhood friends.”
“More like childhood nemeses.” Before Deidra could elaborate, the topic of conversation walked in the door. “But we’ll have to discuss that later.” Deidra smiled her hello. “Hang on a sec,” she tried to whisper, “Grammy’s out back.”
“I’m here to see you,” Justin said as he sat in the recliner near the opposite end of the sofa.
“Is that a man?” She heard her friend’s voice in her ear. Deidra had hoped Justin would reciprocate her lowered voice.
“Is that him?”
“Yep. I’ll have to call you back, Gidget.”
She hung up and leaned back into the sofa, “What’s up?”
Justin shrugged. “Just wondering if you have any plans later. They’re playing old movies on the tracks and this week The Goonies is showing.”
“Never heard of it.” Deidra answered.
“It’s from the Eighties, but pretty good.”
“Okay.” Deidra thought for a minute, “Wednesday a weird movie night, right? Seems like it should be on a Friday or Saturday.”
“It’s summer, weirdo. Every day is a Friday or Saturday. ”
They both laughed and Justin stood to leave, “Starts at seven so I’ll be back. I’m going to get some work done.”
After Justin left, Deidra plugged her near dead cell phone in to charge and texted Gidget to let her know Justin was gone. The landline rang seconds later.
“There you go, still acting like we’re cool.”
Deidra laughed. “We are. Okay, so what do you want to know about the neighbor?”
“Well I think the most important question is: are you going to smash?”
“Nope. Next question.”
“Is it because of the lawyer? I don’t know why you are so loyal to him.”
“I’m loyal to you, too, Gidget.”
“Yeah, but I treat you way better than that jackass. I haven’t liked him since the braid incident.”
“I told you they irritated my scalp.”
“I told you I didn’t believe you.”
Deidra let it drop. She wasn’t in the mood. They always argued about Blake, and sometimes the argument escalated to days of the silent treatment. The braid incident that Gidget was referring to happened during Deidra and Blake’s first summer as a couple. She had gotten beautiful Ghana-style braids about a week before Fourth of July. They were thirty inches of black/strawberry blonde ombre gorgeousness. She felt beautiful in those braids until Blake asked what she was going to do for his family’s holiday party.
“What do you mean?” Deidra had asked.
“Mother doesn’t like ethnic styles.” Deidra remembers how Blake had stood behind her, brushing the braids aside to kiss her neck. “I think you’re beautiful. But this group is very conservative. I want my family to like you.” He continued kissing her.
“But isn’t the party tomorrow?”
“Yes.” He stopped to look at her. They were standing in his bathroom and his eyes met hers in the mirror. He seemed genuinely upset, “I really hate to ask you to do this.” He opened a drawer and retrieved a pair of scissors. “I’ll even help you.”
And he had—for about thirty minutes; then Deidra was left taking down braids alone and trying to figure out how to style her disrespectful mane. She had cried while beating her hair into a submissive bun. And even with the boring hair and uncomfortable linen dress Blake had suggested she wear, his mother still hadn’t embraced her with the open arms Blake had promised.
Deidra’s focus returned to the conversation just as Gidet was asking about Grammy.
“She’s doing great, as a matter of fact,” Deidra moved towards the back of the house to where her grandmother was, “Grammy, Gidget wants to say hello” and handed the phone when her friend asked to speak to Grammy.
While her best friend and her grandmother were chatting like old gal pals, Deidra surveyed her new favorite room in the house. What used to be a cozy back porch was now a cozy sun room. The back of the house faced east so it was perfect for evenings. There was a mosaic style tile on the floor, comfortable furniture, and a television. Everything had a classy luau feel to it. All it needs is a bar, Deidra thought. She sat next to her grandmother as she finished her conversation with Gidget when the older lady ended the call.
Before Deidra could protest, “Gabrielle said she’ll call you back later.”
Deidra leaned back into the upscale patio sofa, “I just love this room.”
“I got it redone a while back…in fact, I started the year your daddy passed. Then I lost interest until about two years ago and finally decided to get it finished.”
“It looks good. Daddy would have liked it.” Deidra smiled. She started to speak then hesitated; she wanted to talk to someone (who was objective) about California. She wouldn’t mention the other issue…yet.
“Grammy, I know I haven’t said much about Blake. But…” She didn’t know how to finish. How could she even mention moving when she hadn’t even told her grandmother they’ve been together for over a year or that they were now engaged?
Helen reached over and patted Deidra’s hand, “Why don’t you tell me how you met?”
Deidra smiled at the memory before telling the story.
“It was the middle of March. One Saturday I remember I woke up early feeling restless, so decided to walk around Tidal Basin. It was beautiful, the Cherry trees were blooming. It was warmer than usual that day… as I was walking back to my car a breeze disturbed the blossoms and they started falling like snow. I couldn’t help but laugh and just opened my arms, spun around, and embraced the downfall.” Deidra glanced at her grandmother who was smiling. She continued, “When I turn around, this man—probably the most gorgeous man I have ever seen in real life—was standing in front of me smiling. He said ‘Let me guess, you’re the Cherry Blossom Queen?’ I laughed, curtsied, and said, ‘At your service.’ We talked, went for coffee and ended up spending the entire day together.” Deidra sighed, “It’s one of my favorite days, ever.”
She continued, “I always think about that day when things aren’t so great between us.” She looked at her grandmother to gauge her reaction.
“Are you happy with him?” Helen asked.
Deidra rolled the question over in her mind before answering. “I’m not not happy with him.”
“Is that what you want out the relationship, to be not happy?”
“Isn’t happily ever after a cliché? It’s a good, stable relationship. What about being an adult and establishing roots?”
Helen waited for Deidra to continue. When she didn’t she squeezed her granddaughter’s hand.
“Baby, you’ve got plenty of time to establish roots. Just make sure it’s something you don’t mind planting yourself in.”
Deidra knew what Grammy was hinting at. And while she knew nothing about California, Deidra knew that if she followed Blake—if she married Blake—she would lose herself. Was being with him, being married and living the “dream” worth it? Deidra had no answer as she scooted closer to her grandmother and rested her head on her shoulder.