Eclectic Voices

Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More

PART TWO: Turning Around

stockvault-colorful-rocks127683by Taylor Ashbrook

John waited. Let Tommy try to do it alone. But the rocks, though smooth and mostly flat, were put together like a rough mosaic. There were deep crevasses and sharp angles. Things an adult would have trouble navigating in a wheelchair. Tommy didn’t really have a chance.

Tommy was seven. He’d never been able to walk. His spinal column was damaged during delivery. But he was a determined little guy. Loved his wheelchair. Kept trying to learn how to pop a wheelie. Tommy said it would be like riding a bike: once he figured it out, he’d never forget how to do it. As though Tommy knew anything about riding a bike.

They passed this cliff side spot almost every day on their walk. Their “walk ‘n roll” as Tommy put it. The kid was so bright. So interested. So unafraid.

Today they found themselves stopping to watch a beautiful woman out near the edge. She wore a big white wedding dress. She was very pregnant. And she was alone. John could tell Tommy was holding his breath. She was too close to the edge.

“I think she’s crying,” Tommy said.

“Yes, I think so,” John said. The kid didn’t miss a thing.

“I’m going to go out and see if she needs any help,” Tommy said, and he pushed off the sidewalk onto the first boulder.

John couldn’t take his eyes off her. He knew Tommy wouldn’t get too far on his own. The woman looked so familiar. And so sad.

Tommy managed his way over the first difficult spot and made his way onto a large piece of rock. He sped his chair toward a large join. John knew he should tell Tommy to calm down. The woman’s business was none of theirs. But Tommy had a way of knowing what people needed. The woman was in trouble, no doubt about that. She needed something.

“Hey, lady,” Tommy said, shouting in his little boy soprano. “Hey, lady!” The sound was piercing. The woman looked over her shoulder. “Can you help me?”

John’s heart skipped, blood rushing like a freight train down to his feet. What if she fell, looking back at Tommy? But she didn’t.

She stood silent and still for the longest time. Tommy didn’t say anything. He grunted and struggled with his chair, letting it get stuck near a smaller stone in the fissure. She rubbed her hand over her belly. Where the baby was. Tommy had just learned about that from their neighbor’s cat.

“You’re okay,” she said. She seemed surprised.

“But I’m stuck. Can you help?”

The woman apparently hadn’t noticed John. When she reached Tommy, she carefully stepped across the divide, moving around behind the chair. She pulled Tommy back from the crooked position the chair had settled into.

“Thanks.”

“What are you doing out here?” she said.

“I wanted to see over the edge. Is it cool?” he said, smiling hugely.

The woman started to laugh. Then she sobbed, and Tommy’s face flushed. The woman used his chair to help balance as she sank down to sit at his feet. She leaned her head onto his tiny knee and cried. Tommy put his hand on her head.

“It’ll be okay, lady,” he said. “Are you lost?”

She laughed and looked up at him. She wiped the snot and tears away with the back of her hand.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said. “But I’ll be okay. Do you want me to push you out further?”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. We won’t go too close to the edge though.”

She rolled her body onto her knees and used the chair again to help pull herself up. That’s when she noticed John, not far away now, moving slowly closer, just in case. She took a deep breath and smiled.

“Is this little guy yours?” she said. Then a puzzled look took over her face.

John stopped about ten feet away.

“Carla?” he said.

She hadn’t seen him since she was sixteen. Warm, nostalgic feelings waved over her. She remembered him so well. His faint blue eyes. His whisper-soft voice.

“Hi, John,” she said.

Her mother had taken charge when, at sixteen, Carla told her she was pregnant. Carla hadn’t even told John until the night before the abortion. Over the phone. He’d driven 200 miles to see her. He’d come to her bedroom window around three o’clock in the morning, waking her up. Crying to her through the screen. He wanted to keep their baby.

She couldn’t go against her mother. And Carla was running for Minister of Festivities in Student Council. What would they do anyway? Get married? She was only sixteen.

She hadn’t seen or spoken to him since.

John stepped to the side of Tommy’s chair and held his arms out. She waddled around and relaxed into his chest.

“It’s so good to see you,” he said.

She turned toward Tommy and John stepped back to give her room. She kept her hand on his arm.

“Does this old guy belong to you?” she said to Tommy.

“That’s my dad,” he said.

“This is Carla, Tommy. We knew each other a long time ago.”

“Your daddy was a real sweet guy,” Carla said. “Sweetest guy I think I ever knew. Your mommy is so lucky to have the two of you.”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “My mom couldn’t take care of me very good. Too much to handle. We haven’t seen her in a long time. Are you going to have a baby?”

“Yes, I am,” she said.

“Where are your shoes?”

“I left them at home,” she said.

“Do you have a husband?” Tommy said, putting his hand on her stomach without invitation.

“Tommy!”

“It’s okay, John. Not anymore,” she said, simply. “He thought it was going to be too much to handle.”

“Just like my mom,” Tommy said. Carla could see the pain in John’s eyes, the pain he felt for Tommy’s sake.

“What irony, huh,” she said. John’s blue eyes were as piercing as Tommy’s shouts, getting to her in a way nothing had for such a long time. “You look just the same.”

“You look better.”

“Thanks for lying.”

“My dad never lies. And that’s a really pretty dress,” Tommy said, carefully straightening a fold with his tiny hands.

“Are you going to a wedding?” John said.

“I don’t really know what I’m doing in this dress.” They looked at each other. Tommy watched them figure it out. Smiled.

“Somehow doesn’t seem so long ago since I last saw you,” John said.

“It is though,” she said. “I’m not the same girl.”

“That is obvious,” he said, almost whispering. “You really do look beautiful.”

“Still mad at me?”

“I’m different now, too. And I have Tommy.”

“Are you going to kiss her, Dad?” Tommy said, giggling, angelic and devilish.

“I think I am.” And he did.

“See? You don’t need to be sad anymore, Dad,” Tommy said, putting his hand on Carla’s tummy again. “Now we’re going to be a whole family.”

____________________________________________________________

Taylor Ashbrook’s current favorite quote about writing: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” By one of her favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard. A born and bred “Theater Geek,” Taylor aspires to write more than she actually manages to put words down on paper. Having written mostly with partners for live theater projects, she hopes to someday write a novel she would enjoy reading. Currently, she’s working on a dark, full length play – sans partners – just to get it out of her head. Except she takes a lot of breaks to direct, act and produce. Taylor has been a Member of The Eclectic Company Theatre, except for a couple brief years, since 1990.

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This entry was posted on July 14, 2014 by in Fiction and tagged , , , , , .
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