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June — Portrait of Words #10

Jeff, our POW host, came up with a doozy of a set of photo prompts for us.  Here is the story they inspired:

Spaghetti on Wednesday

“But why, Robert. What is it I’ve done?”bike

“You haven’t done anything, Bev. You’ve been the perfect wife. You’ve kept a perfect house. You’ve raised a perfect daughter. I have no complaints against you.”

Emmaline stood in the hallway outside the kitchen door and listened to her parents talk to each other. When was the last time they’d done that? She remembered, she was in the 4th grade — Mrs. Drieson’s room — when she’d quit trying to start conversations at the dinner table. She had finally come to accept that her parents were polite strangers who happened to share the same house and a brown-haired, brown-eyed daughter named Emmaline.  It seemed that was about to change.

“But a divorce? Why now? Is there someone else?”

“No, Bev. There is no one else.” Emmaline thought her father sounded tired. “But I would like there to be. I would like someone to smile when I walk into the room, ask me how my day went, and share all of life’s joys and annoyances. I want a little spontaneity. I want something beyond meat loaf on Monday, sex on Friday, and ice cream on Sunday night!

“Oh.” That was all her mother said. Emmaline stood outside the kitchen door, picturing her father standing inside that same door, waiting. The only sound that followed was the clattering of dishes as her mother set the table.

spring-roll“Bev, is there anything else you want to say?” Her father finally asked.

After a moment her mother answered, “Are you staying for dinner? It’s Tuesday. I made Spring Rolls.”

Her father sighed. “Somehow, Bev, dinner wasn’t what I was hoping for.” Emmaline heard the back door open and close. Moments later, she heard her father’s car start. She opened the door and stepped into the kitchen.

“Sit down,” her mother said. “Your father won’t be joining us for dinner.” Emmaline asked why, but her mother only shrugged and forked two Spring Rolls onto her plate. They ate in silence.

After dinner, Emmaline went to her father’s study. She stopped at the door and stared. With the exception of her grandfather’s old chair and pipe stand, the room was empty. When had her father moved his stuff? Did her mother even know? chair

Emmaline went to her parent’s bedroom. Her father’s side of the closet was empty. The bathroom had also been stripped of his belongings. Her father had actually moved out.

Her mother came into the room. They stood staring at the bare dresser top together. “My parents — your grandparents — always fought. The house was full of screaming and yelling and throwing things. One day Grandma slammed out of the house and none of us ever saw her again. I didn’t want my life to be like that, so no matter what, I always made certain every thing was calm.” She raised her hands, palm up and shrugged.

“Do you care that Daddy is gone?” Emmaline asked.

“It will be much quieter now,” her mother answered. “You are such a good girl. You never try to break the rules or change our routines.”

girlEmmaline walked down the hall to her bedroom and stood in the doorway. Her walls were beige. Her carpet was beige. Her curtains were beige. Her bedspread was beige. She had complained about her little-girl-pink bedroom, and on her 16th birthday her mother had surprised her with this “adult” decor. Emmaline had asked for purple, but her mother responded that purple was neither practical nor responsible. Emmaline just realized that what her mother had meant was that purple wasn’t “safe.”

She crossed to her closet and opened the door. All if her clothes were black or tan or brown or various shades of beige. There was nothing there that her mother wouldn’t wear.

Wednesday morning, Emmaline skipped school for the first time in her life. She emptied her piggy bank and rode her mother’s old bicycle to the mall. She bought a pair of tight red jeans, a red and black snakeskin patterned naugahide vest, and thigh high, spike-heeled red leather boots. She had her eyebrows shaped, her lip pierced and her fingernails painted fire engine red. Last but not least, she had her brown-hair died electric blue.  Then she went home for her mother’s Wednesday night spaghetti dinner.


    1. Betty — at least not outwardly. I am thinking I could write novels about this woman. I probably won’t though.

  1. Very good story, Quilly. You’ve captured the pictures perfectly along with the mood and essence of sad lives and why children act the way they do. Excellent and subtle story building.

    Nessa’s last blog post..666 tag

    1. Nessa — I was a kid nobody paid much attention to who one day decided to make a sudden and shocking change in my life. I just applied that experience to Emmaline.

    1. Carletta — thank you. I was up an hour and a half past my bedtime with this. It had an entirely different ending, but Em didn’t like it.

  2. Poor Mom! She’s in for a shock. I don’t think Mom was unmoved by Dad’s leaving — i think she just processed ti differently. With my alcoholic, angry dad and my mother-in-law’s very weird, easily offended parents who showed favoritism for the other daughter, both of us grew up with the mantra “don’t make waves.” Maybe if everything stays calm and you keep off the radar, you won’t have to face any trouble. Not good training for learning how to talk through one’s problems!! Or maybe mom just learned to turn off emotions because she was overwhelmed by them as she grew up.

    Great story, Quilly — much to think about.

    Barbara H.’s last blog post..Hodgepodge

  3. Barbara — exactly. If I continued this story, I would write about a woman who, late in life, had to learn to express her emotions or risk losing the people she loved the most.

  4. I met her mother once. She will serve the spaghetti and ignore the change. Not to do so means conflict and the character you have created stays away from conflict at all costs.After all ” It’s just a phase”.
    Great writing. Great story.

    Dr. John’s last blog post..Together Again

  5. I love this story. You are right to let us all imagine our own story for the ending. I know people like the mother-hell, I was that woman for awhile. Thank the Goddess I am no longer. So-everything leads to rebellion does it?

    OJM’s last blog post..Not Participating

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