Well, ladies and gents, it’s time for part 5 of our serial story, Flowers. There’s just one more part to go after this! Can you believe it? I’m planning on editing it, maybe looking into a cover designer, and publishing it on Kindle.
As far as me supposedly being on a once-a-week schedule … I felt like posting today. *shrugs* My blog, my rules …
That night, Adele awoke to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. The house creaked and sighed as the wind pounded against it. The door to the bedroom flew open; she sat up with a gasp. A flash of lightning illuminated Judy’s face, eyes wide with fright.
“Judy,” Adele said slowly. “What’s wrong?”
“Our apartment never used to creak like this,” Judy replied.
“You’re right. It didn’t.” Adele edged the blankets aside and Judy climbed in.
“I don’t remember a thunderstorm at Daddy’s vineyard, either,” Judy whispered as she snuggled into Adele’s side.
A little surprised, Adele put her arm around her daughter and kissed her forehead. “We weren’t there very long, and the house was more structurally sound.”
Judy nodded and sighed. Thunder roared again and Judy shivered.
“Daddy,” Adele said, seizing on a topic. “He told me he’d be able to visit us soon.”
“Really?” Judy asked eagerly.
“Really. He’s not so very far away from us, you know.” Adele took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“It feels like a long way,” said Judy, suddenly subdued.
Adele brushed Judy’s hair back from her face. “I know it does. But this isn’t forever, baby. The war … it can’t last forever. Even so, he’s near to us, even if we can’t see him every day or every week or even every month. I think, though, that he’d be near to us even if he wasn’t actually in England or … or Europe or on this planet, for that matter.”
“I don’t know exactly.” Adele dropped her head back against the pillow. “He’s just such a part of our life that I keep thinking he’s just working or upstairs or outside … just gone for a minute.”
“I keep thinking that, too.”
“I know it’s only been two years … but everything’s happened so fast.”
“We had to leave France … and then London … and the moving about hasn’t pulled us apart. It’s meshed us closer together. We really are a family now, I think.”
“Yes.” Judy yawned and tugged the covers up to her neck.
“I feel as if I’m holding us back sometimes … but I’m not really as much as I used to,” Adele said thoughtfully. “At least, I don’t think so.”
Judy didn’t reply.
“I miss him so much,” Adele said in a low voice. “More than I thought I would. Seems to be a pattern with me, doesn’t it?”
“I guess,” Judy murmured.
“He’s everything I am not,” Adele continued. “I thought that meant we were incompatible for the longest time … but it really just means we offer what the other doesn’t have. We are complete.”
Judy was asleep. Adele smiled and closed her eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Adele awoke the next morning, rolled out of bed, and pulled on her bathrobe, leaving Judy sleeping. She crept down the hall and into the nursery. The baby was awake in her cradle, her whole fist in her mouth, and Adele scooped her up and kissed her forehead.
“I wonder if I can fit my whole fist in my mouth,” Adele pondered. “Probably not.” She decided not to test this theory, and carried Camilla down the stairs. She began absently preparing a bottle as she told the baby her troubles.
“Which is why,” she said in conclusion, “I will never be good enough for your father. He doesn’t think so, of course. He thinks we stand on level ground, as equals. But we don’t. We are possibly the best thing in the world for each other, but we are not equal. He offers more to me than I offer to him.”
Adele sat down on the kitchen table and gave Camilla her bottle. The baby felt just right in her arms – not too heavy, not too light, not too big, not too little. There was, Adele reflected, something very satisfactory about it.
She turned to face her mother, standing in the doorway.
“I got up to get Camilla, and she wasn’t in her cradle. I was worried.” Granny’s voice sounded mildly shocked, which prodded Adele to stare at her absently for almost a full minute before responding.
“Well, I have her.”
“I can see that. But why?”
“Because she wanted her bottle.”
“It’s seven thirty. She never wants her bottle until eight.”
“Then why did you get up to check on her?”
“I wasn’t sure if you’d gotten up with her last night.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good.”
“Why don’t you think I’d take care of Camilla?” Adele asked.
“You didn’t with Judy.”
“But … that was before …”
“Before you chose to return to Troy? Yes. But it was also before you left Troy, from what I understand. You never cared for your child then; why should you now?”
“I’m changing. I’m devoted to my daughters. I really am.”
“I know you are.”
“So when will you trust me?”
Granny sighed and took a seat at the kitchen table. “I don’t know. Trust is earned. It doesn’t just happen.”
“It’s been two years. Two years when I’ve been faithful to one man, tended his children and house (to some extent, at least), and been as selfless as I know how to. I’m trying, Mother. I’m trying.”
“I know you are.”
“So, I’m watching and waiting.”
“Waiting … for me to fail?” Adele asked, dropping her eyes. “You think I’ll never be good enough?”
“No. Not exactly. But I do think you’ll never accept Jesus Christ as your Lord, and it’s so hard otherwise. It separates us. I … well, I’m your mother,” Adele figured this must be her way of saying ‘I’ll always love you,’ “But it creates a boundary of sorts.”
“I don’t see why.”
“You know how important my faith is to me.”
“I know how important your morals are to you.”
“There is no difference.”
“There is with Troy. With Troy, morals come from being a Christian, not vice versa.”
“I didn’t know that was how you perceived me.”
“Well, it’s made up for by the fact that I always know what you think of me.”
“I see no reason to keep my opinions to myself.”
“I’m sure there’s something in the Official Lady Code Book about not nagging, but I’m afraid I haven’t read it.”
Mrs. Collier sighed. “I don’t know why you hate everything I respect and honor, but it’s rather noxious, Adele.”
“How can I give you any tolerance when you give me none?”
“How can I ‘tolerate’ what is and has always been a breach of everything I believe in?”
“What’s wrong with tolerating? I’m not saying I want you to agree with me – even I don’t agree with me – but you could at least … you could at least pretend like you think I’m a human being instead of some changeling child a demon left in your cradle in exchange for your real daughter.”
“That’s not what I think about you!”
“As I’ve said before, you’ve made it perfectly clear what you think of me! I’m a disappointment, I failed to meet your standards, and I will be punished for that failure for the rest of my life. Wouldn’t it be better if I weren’t your child? You’d be able to sleep nights, and you could leave, you could go far away, and never claim relation to me again. That would make you happy, wouldn’t it? It would give you peace. You could leave this mess behind, and never look back, and if you want to know the truth, I wouldn’t care one bit.”
Mrs. Collier’s chin raised another notch. “Adele, if you think that, no matter how mad you drive me, that I want to give you up, you are insane, possibly more insane than is healthy. Mothers decidedly do not work like that. You should know that. And even if I did wish to deny relationship to you, even if I wanted to spurn you, I could not. You are all I have left in the world. I lost my husband and my sons. My family died long ago. I’ve no one left. You are my last reason for living. So please try to keep in mind that, when I plague you, I do so because you’re the only person I can plague. Not that I’ve some great desire to make your life miserable, but that I know that if I give up on you, I might as well give up on life.” She glanced around the kitchen, then nodded tersely. “Well. It looks like you’ve got everything under control here. I’ll dress and start breakfast. Would eggs be all right, do you think?”
“I normally just have toast,” Adele said, too speechless for any other reply.
“Nonsense. You’ll have eggs. You can’t start a day without a healthy meal. No wonder you always looked so emaciated. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
Adele watched her retreat, not sure who had won the battle, and ignoring the strange feeling that neither of them had and that that was perfectly all right.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After Mrs. Collier left, Adele washed the bottle and left it to dry on the windowsill. She set Camilla in her basket and spun the makeshift mobiles, a mismatched set of kitchen utensils tied to a piece of stick with a tangle of brightly-colored string. It made Camilla very happy, and she cooed and reached for it, eyes wide with fascination.
“Now, you just stay there and don’t move while I check on our flowers,” Adele instructed.
Camilla made no reply save to reach even harder for the baubles – though, alas, they were a good foot above where she could reach. Adele shook the strings again and turned towards the door.
The sun was shining now, and only a few clouds lingered here or there, marring the blue. However, despite it being a beautiful day, the garden was not a pleasant site.
Adele would have been pleased by the flower petals strewn everywhere except for the fact that they weren’t meant to be strewn … not yet, at least. No, no, no! These flowers, these flowers she’d worked so hard on, were precious to her, and she couldn’t bear the sight of them, dead or dying, all over the back yard.
The worst thing was, there was no one to blame. No one could hold back a thunderstorm – no one she believed in, at least – and there was no point in blaming anything but the rain and wind for this disaster. Still, the fact remained. Adele’s flowers had been cut down ruthlessly in the prime of their bloom, scattered about the yard, lying in damp, muddy tangles everywhere.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry or scream or hit someone. She only knew she was angry and, for once, there was no one to direct that anger at. She couldn’t even yell at herself, for there was nothing she could have done. Cover them until the storm passed? Nonsense. What would she have covered them with, and how could she have known a storm was about to brew, and how could she have blocked both wind and rain without crushing the flowers?
There was no release to be had, so Adele turned away from her garden, all the sunshine in the world blocked from her, and marched around the house.
Well, that’s “all” (glares at the 2,046 words) for today. The final part will be posted next Friday. I hope you enjoyed this part and all the parts before it, and I’m excited to hear your thoughts!
What do you think of part five? Who’s right – Adele or Mrs. Collier? Are you excited to read this last part? What do you think will happen in it?
What do think of Reveries’s new theme? (I know I just said that, but I redid it, and I’m liking it so far.)