Tag: Emotional

Mourning Marie – Short Story Sunday

Mourning Marie – Short Story Sunday

This is another short story I wrote as a character’s backstory, and it’s even sadder than The Dust Thief, so be prepared. (Change in tenses was intentional. Don’t throw me under the bus for that, please.)


“Alick! We’re going to the hospital!”

Alick recognized his father’s voice and his eyes widened. It was time! His mother was in labor!

He dashed through the halls, not even bothering to put on shoes, and threw open the door, nearly forgetting to close it behind him.

The car was already pulling out Continue reading “Mourning Marie – Short Story Sunday”

Rainy Days & Coffee Grounds – Short Story Sunday

Rainy Days & Coffee Grounds – Short Story Sunday

Here is yet another installment of the short story series starring Keslie Bardell that I’m calling Memories & Photographs. Enjoy. :) (Also keep in mind that I don’t edit any of my short stories before I put them up and that I don’t have a lot of practice in writing romance. And for some reason the formatting did weird things that I can’t manage to fix.) Continue reading “Rainy Days & Coffee Grounds – Short Story Sunday”

Friendship Bracelets & Seashells – Short Story Sunday

Friendship Bracelets & Seashells – Short Story Sunday

Y’all remember Keslie from Sea Glass & Pressed Flowers, right? Well… I might have gotten attached to her and planned a whole series of short stories with her as the main character. This is the second of currently five planned short stories following her and her friends (as will be introduced mostly in this story), and hopefully you like them, because there are going to be several, lol. Enjoy. :)


“Keslie Bardell, would you please pay attention when I’m talking to you?”

Keslie’s gaze snapped up to the front of the classroom and she turned beet red. This was at least the fifth time she’d been caught gazing out the window in class today. “Yes, Miss Pieterse.” All eyes turned to Keslie, but as soon as the teacher started talking again they looked away.

“Thank you. Now as I was saying, the correct way to shade a sphere is to….”

Keslie’s mind wandered again. She was missing her dad again, as usual. She drew her gaze away from the window for the umpteenth time and decided to set her attention to listing off as many things as she could about each student in the room.

Dominic Cole. Running back for the school football team, best friend since who-knows-when, barista at the Piano Shoppe Cafe.

Teresa Kyle. Cheer captain, semi-friend semi-acquaintance, loves painting.

Her gaze stopped on the new girl. Livi Brooklyn? She didn’t really know much about her, but she seemed quite absorbed in her classes all day. Unlike Keslie… The girl had silky black hair that fell in waves to drape around her shoulders, and her Asian features were quite pretty. She wore bright yellow Converse, which immediately made Keslie think of Dominic; they were his favorite kind of shoe.

The bell rang and Mrs. Pieterse gave them their assignment. “On Friday I’d like a piece of work that shows any pencil techniques you remember from last year. You’re dismissed.”

Keslie hurriedly stuffed her supplies into her backpack, making it even heavier than it already was and hurried out of class to find her mom. The red SUV wasn’t at the sidewalk yet, which surprised her. She saw someone skip up beside her, bright colors catching her vision out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see Livi standing beside her, a pink floral backpack slung over her shoulder, bright yellow top almost neon and pink skirt the color of bubble gum. Continue reading “Friendship Bracelets & Seashells – Short Story Sunday”

This Is His Story – Short Story Sunday

This Is His Story – Short Story Sunday

This is a short story I wrote around Valentine’s Day. It’s sad, sweet romance told mostly in flashbacks. I’m pretty proud of it, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.


I held out my wrist to be scanned before boarding the train and finding Marie, my wife, in the far corner of the car. I sat next to her and she pointed to a man who was boarding.

“I wonder what his story is,” she said.

The man was an interesting character, to be sure. He slipped into a seat and turned immediately to looking absently out the window, fingering a deep red rose in his left hand. He was elderly, probably well into his seventies, and his chin was rough with grey stubble.


A young man stood on the porch in the rain, a deep red rose in one hand and an umbrella in the other, waiting for his fiance to come outside. She slipped out the door and he held the umbrella over them both as they stepped out into the rain and rushed to the car.

He opened the door for her and she slid in. He rushed around to the other side and got in himself, closing the umbrella and setting it in the back seat.

“How are you?” she asked, running a hand over her short brown hair.

“I’m good.” He smiled at her as he started the ignition and buckled up. “How are you?”

“Always good, with you.” She smiled back and buckled.

They drove off toward the auditorium, where Valerie would be singing in an hour.

They arrived and he grabbed the umbrella, unfolding it and walking around the car to open the door for her and hold the umbrella over her. He’d set the rose on top of the umbrella and picked it up at the same time, and now he held it out.

“Oh, this is for you. Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” She smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

He offered his arm and they walked inside.

“I have to go get ready,” she said, pulling away.

“I’ll see you on stage,” he said with a smile.

She returned it before entering a rehearsal room.

He walked into the performance room and took his seat, looking up at the stage. He’d seen Valerie sing on that stage many times, and she never ceased to amaze him. Her voice was the most beautiful he’d ever heard.

He sat and waited as others filed in and took their seats. A couple of violinists were tuning up on the stage. His toe tapped as he waited, silent, for Valerie to take the stage.

She came out of the wings at precisely seven, and people clapped as she headed to center stage with a broad smile on her face.

“Thank you,” she said. “Welcome. I’m glad to see you all here. I recognize the majority of you. But in this small town, how could I not?”

A ripple of laughter fluttered through the auditorium.

“Anyway, you’re not here to listen to me talk, so I’ll get started. My first song is one that my brother wrote specifically for this occasion, and I’m happy to share it with you. Without any further ado, here is Valentide.”

The violinists gave an intro and Valerie eased into her part, starting soft and growing stronger as she reached the chorus. Her voice was clear and beautiful, and the young man smiled as he listened and was put in awe yet again at her beauty and talent.

He sat in dumbstruck admiration for the entire concert, and barely managed to shake out of it when she left the stage. He headed over to the rehearsal room, where he knew Valerie would be flooded with fans giving her flowers and some even asking for an autograph so they could brag about it when she was famous.

For all their faith in her, she didn’t want to become famous. She only wanted to make people happy with her music. She could be famous, everyone knew it, but he loved her even more for her humility.

He stepped into the room and looked around, spotting Valerie in the middle of a mass of people. They were respectful of personal space, thankfully, but there were a lot of them. He waited at the back until they’d dispersed, watching her gracefully accept bouquets and compliments.

She set the flowers on the piano and slipped on her coat, walking over to him as she did so.

“What did you think?”

“You know what I thought. It was absolutely beautiful. You’re absolutely beautiful.”

She blushed.

“Thank you.”

She picked her flowers back up and he offered her his arm, which she accepted. They walked back outside to see that the rain had faded. Starlight glittered overhead and made the world glisten from its recent rain.

“It’s beautiful,” Valerie murmured.

They walked around to the back of the auditorium, where red and white lights were strung up between lampposts for Valentine’s Day, and he brushed the worst of the water off of a bench for them to sit on.

“I almost forgot!” she said. “I got you something.”

She pulled a small box from her coat pocket and handed it to him. He opened it and pulled the watch from it. He put it on and grabbed a nearly identical box from his own coat pocket and handed it to her.

“I have something for you, too.”

She opened it and lifted the necklace from it, careful with the delicate chain. A heart locket hung from it, and she smiled.

“Thank you, Tristan.”

“Open it.”

She set the pendant on her hand and opened it. There was a picture of the two of them in one side, and the other side was engraved. She read the engraving.

“February fourteenth, five-thousand fourteen. Yours forever, Tristan.”

He held his hand out for the necklace and she handed it to him, turning so that he could place it around her neck. He clasped it lovingly and smiled softly.

“I love you, Valerie.”

“I love you too.”


​I jolted awake as the train stopped. I glanced over at the man for some reason. He was still there, and still just looking out the window absently.

“Good morning,” Marie said.

“It’s morning?”

She nodded.

“We left at midnight, so yeah, it’s morning.” She chuckled.

“He was awake the whole time?” I asked, wondering.

“I don’t know. I fell asleep, too. We passed several stops while you were asleep.”

“Where are we now?”

She pointed up and as if on cue a voice came over the loudspeakers.

“Disembarking at Aneta.”

No one from our car got up to leave, and the man kept gazing out the window as if he’d never heard. Was he deaf, or just entirely lost in thought?

“All aboard!”

A few passengers entered our car and took seats. A little girl waved to us, and we waved back. I saw her look at the old man as she took her seat. Her gaze lingered on him and became interested, almost concerned. After a moment she turned and whispered something to her mother. Her mother nodded and she got up and walked over to the old man, taking a seat next to him and putting a hand on his.

He turned to her and smiled wearily.


“Hello, sir.”

The old man turned to the little girl and gave her a weary smile.

“Hello, my dear.”

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Tristan. What’s yours?”​

“Kasey. Are you okay? You look sad.”

“I am a little sad. It’s Valentine’s Day, you know, and I’m going to see my wife.”

“Then why are you sad?”

The train started moving.

“Because my wife isn’t alive anymore.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. Where are you headed?”

“Vacation with my parents.” She pointed. “We’re going to Alexandria Bay.”

“Oh? That sounds fun.”

“Yeah. We go every year whenever Daddy gets time off work. That’s not very often. He has to be careful how he spends it so we can go on vacation. He told Momma.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

She shrugged.

“I’m used to it. And I won’t be too disappointed if we can’t go on vacation one year. It’s no biggie. Do you ever go on vacation?”

“I do sometimes. Not very often anymore.”

“Where’s your favorite place?”

“For vacation or in general?”

“Either one.”

“I like Alexandria Bay for vacation, too, but my favorite place is Abbotsville. That’s where I first met my wife.”

“That’s cool. What was her name?”


“Did you and Valerie have any children?”

“No. We both wanted them, but we couldn’t have any.”

“That’s sad.”

“Yes, it is. But we loved each other, and that was enough.” He gave a small smile. “Do you have any siblings?”

“Not yet. But Momma’s gonna have another baby soon. I’m hoping for a baby brother.”

“Brothers are a lot of fun.”

“I think so. My best friend has an older brother and a baby brother and they’re both fun to play with.” She smiled.

“That’s nice. I had an older brother, but he passed away several years ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes. Are your parents missing you?”

“No, they said I could stay over here. How did you meet your wife?”

He smiled at the memory.

“We met a long time ago, in choir.”

“Choir. That’s for singing, right?”

“Yes. And she was the most amazing singer I’d ever met. I still haven’t heard any better, actually. She had a beautiful voice.”


“Who would like the solo for Path of Moonlight?”

A girl in the back raised her hand, as did a couple other people. She had brown hair cut shoulder length, and her brown eyes sparkled with life.

“Valerie. Would you do it?”

She nodded eagerly and the director beckoned for her to come to the front.

“Let’s take it from the top,” the director instructed.

Tristan could see that Valerie was preparing herself for her solo as she sang by the way she tapped her finger against her thigh and the extra deep breaths she took between lines.

When it came time for the solo, Valerie sang rather softly, but as she gained confidence her voice expanded in power.

Everyone in the choir was awestruck. Her voice was beautifully light and clear.

The solo ended and Tristan stumbled back into the song. The song finished and the director smiled at Valerie.

“Thank you, Valerie. That was beautiful.”

Valerie smiled shyly and blushed down at the floor.

After class, Tristan walked up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped and turned around.

“Sorry,” Tristan said. “I just wanted to tell you how beautiful your voice is.”

“Thanks.” She gave him a shy smile. “I can always hear you in the bass part.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“No, no, no! It’s cool! You have an amazingly deep voice! It was a compliment.” She bit her lip a little.

“Oh. Well in that case, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”


“We became friends not long after that, and we were engaged by the end of high school,” Tristan said with a smile.

“Did you two keep singing?”

“She did. I didn’t, really. I was a lot more into the writing of music than the singing of it, although I still enjoy singing to this day.”

“What kind of songs do you like to write?”

“Different things, depending on my mood. Some are sad, some are sweet, some are powerful and loud. It all depends.”

“I’d like to hear your music sometime.”

“I might just have to share it with you sometime.”

She smiled and he returned it.

His stomach growled.

“Oh! I suppose it’s time to refill the tank.”

She giggled.

“I guess so. Do you mind if I eat with you?”

“Ask your parents.”

She nodded and skipped off to ask, returning in a moment and sliding back into her seat next to him.

“They said it’s fine.”

“You have very trusting parents.”

“Do they have any reason not to trust you?”

“No, but if I were them I might not be so trusting.”

“They’re just right over there.” She shrugged. “They can see us, they’ll know if you do anything bad. And I know you won’t. You’re a good guy.”

“Well, thank you.” He smiled and hailed the attendant as she moved to leave the car.

“Two breakfasts, please.”

She nodded and left, heading for the dining car.


“You made pancakes?” Valerie asked, coming down the stairs in her pajamas and slippers.

“It’s our first morning as husband and wife, I figured it was worth celebrating.”

He smiled and gave her a kiss.

“You didn’t forget the chocolate chips, did you?”

Tristan gasped in mock hurt.

“Me? Forget the chocolate chips? Never!”

He held out the batter bowl, which held perhaps a few too many chocolate chips.

“It looks perfect.”

“Yeah, let’s just hope it tastes perfect. I’m not the most amazing cook in the world.”

“Here, let me help.”

“No, that’s okay. I’ve got it. You just sit down. This first batch is almost done.”

She smiled and took a seat at the table.

“If you insist.”

He scooped the first three pancakes onto a plate and handed them to her, grabbing a fork for her as well.

“There you go. Enjoy.”

She took a bite and nearly spit it out.

“Tristan! This is completely raw in the middle!”

“I’m so sorry!”

She spit it into a paper napkin and threw it away.

“How about letting me do the rest, okay?”

He nodded and stepped away from the stove as she chuckled.

“Well this is why,” she said. “You’ve got the stove turned up too high.”

She turned it down.

“Sorry, Valerie.”

“It’s okay.” She smiled. “I completely understand. I’m actually a little surprised you didn’t burn them, turned up like that.”

“Was that a backhanded compliment?”

“Yes, that was a backhanded compliment.”


Tristan smiled at the attendant as she placed a plate in front of each he and Kasey.

“This looks delicious!” Kasey said, picking up her fork to dig in.

“Now aren’t you forgetting something? Or don’t people say grace anymore?”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

“That’s all right.”

She closed her eyes and folded her hands and he said grace.

“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this trip and for the time we get to spend with each other and for this delicious breakfast we’re about to eat. Amen.”

She opened her eyes and got straight to work on her pancakes.

“Is it good?” he asked.

She nodded vigorously.

“Don’t nod so hard you choke.”

She held back a laugh so as not to spew pancakes everywhere, but her eyes gave it away.

​”Thank you for breakfast,” she said when she’d finished her bite.

“No problem.” He smiled.

“So, why couldn’t you and your wife have children?” She took another bite.

“The government wouldn’t let us.

“Why not? That seems silly.”

“I think so. But I suppose it makes sense. She had a terminal illness and I am not the most emotionally stable person in the universe. They didn’t think we were suited to be parents.”

“What does ‘terminal’ mean?”

“It means they already knew she would die from it.”

“How did they know?”

He shrugged.

“Something in her blood or something, I guess. I don’t know for sure.”

“I’m sorry. What would have happened if you’d had a child anyway?”

“We would have had to put him or her up for adoption.”

“I was adopted.”

“Oh really? That’s interesting. How old were you?”

“About two, I think. I don’t really remember. I’m six now.”

He nodded.

“You’re a grown up young lady then.” He smiled.

“Not really. I’m not as old as my Momma yet.”

He chuckled.

“Well, good luck catching up.”

“Thank you.”


“Tristan?” Valerie whispered, easing open his office door. He was asleep in his chair, a book in his hand. “Tristan.”

His eyes opened and he looked over at her.


“I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

“I’m…I’m pregnant.”


“I said I’m pregnant.”

“But we’re not allowed-”

“I know. So we’ll have to give up the baby.”

“Oh Valerie.”

He stood and embraced her as a tear ran down her face.

“I don’t want to give him up.”

“I know sweetheart. Neither do I.”

“Is there any way we can avoid it?”

“Not one that we’d be comfortable with doing.”

“You know they’ll encourage us to abort.”

“I know. But we won’t.”

“I know.”

“We have to go tell them.”

“But why? They’ll find out soon enough anyway, won’t they?”

“Yeah, and we’ll get in trouble if they do. They’ll think we tried to hide it or something. We have to tell them now.”

“Tristan, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to.”

“I know that, I do. And I don’t want to go either. But we have to.”

She nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks as they were replaced by fresh ones.

“Let’s go then,” she said. “In the morning.”

Tristan nodded.

“Let’s go to bed.”


The attendant cleared away their dishes.

“I need to scan your chip, sir,” she requested.

He held out his wrist and she scanned it.

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you. Breakfast was delicious.”

“Well I didn’t cook it, but you’re welcome.”

She headed out of the car.

Kasey leaned her head against Tristan’s arm and closed her eyes.

“Eating made me sleepy.”

“That’s okay. You can rest.”

He smiled down at her softly and she was soon asleep.


“I wonder what they’re talking about,” Marie asked.

“Me too,” I replied.


The doctor entered the hospital room with a clipboard in his hand.

“So, you two are ineligible to become parents, correct?” he asked.

“That’s correct,” Tristan replied.

“Then I’d encourage you to abort. If you don’t, you’ll have to give up your baby as soon as it’s born.”

“We’re aware. And we won’t be aborting. It’s a human life, and we won’t be taking it.”

“Very well. But I will warn you that the next nine months will be very uncomfortable for you.”

“You think we don’t know that?” Valerie asked, tears running down her face. “We’re pregnant with a baby we’re not supposed to have, and you think we don’t know that carrying a baby that isn’t allowed to be my own is going to be ‘uncomfortable’? It’ll be worse than uncomfortable! It’ll be nearly unbearable! It will probably be the most pain I’ve ever been in! We know it will be ‘uncomfortable’!”

“I’m sorry ma’am. I understand.”

“Do you?” she croaked, her voice overtaken by tears.

“There’s more news,” the doctor said.

“About what?” Tristan asked.

“About Valerie’s illness.”

Valerie looked up at the doctor.

“What about it?”

“It’s begun to develop sooner than we expected.”

“How long do I have?”

“Two years, more or less.”

She nodded.

“Is there anything you can do to slow it down?” Tristan asked.

“I’m afraid not. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” Valerie said.

“I’ll leave you alone now.”

The doctor left the room and Valerie collapsed into tears again. Tristan didn’t say anything, just sat next to her on the hospital bed and put an arm around her shoulders, pulling her against him and holding her close.


Kasey stirred and Tristan looked down at her as her eyes opened.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

She smiled up at him.

“Hi, Mr. Tristan.”

She sat up and glanced over at her parents. Her father was absorbed in a book, and her mother gave her a smile.

“What do you think each of these passengers are like?” she asked. “That girl over there, for instance.” She pointed to a teenage girl with blonde hair cut short. She had earbuds in her ears and was doing something on her tablet.

“What do you think she’s like?”

“She looks lonely. She also looks like she likes music, and music is always good.”

“Not always, but nearly always, yes.”

“Your turn. Pick someone and tell me what you think.”

“I don’t think I should. What if we assume something completely wrong and they hear us and are offended? We don’t want to hurt anyone, or to make assumptions.”

“Don’t you make assumptions automatically? Doesn’t everyone?”

“I suppose so, but there’s no need to say those assumptions out loud. Let’s do something else, all right?”

“All right. Like what?”

“Can you read?”

“Of course I can read, silly! Why? What are we going to do?”

“There’s a newspaper stand over in that corner.” He pointed. “Let’s see if we can find a crossword, shall we?”

She nodded with a smile and headed over to the stand, grabbing a newspaper and bringing it back to Tristan, taking her seat. He pulled a pen from his pocket and uncapped it, flipping to the crossword.


Valerie held a newborn in her arms. The baby was completely healthy and smiling up at his mother, but Valerie was pale and had dark rings under her eyes.

“We’ll be taking the baby now,” the nurse said. “I’m very sorry.”

The nurse held out her hands for the baby, but Valerie didn’t hand him over.

“This is my baby.”

“Yes, but you and your husband have been told you’re not allowed to have children. We have to take the baby and send him to an orphanage. It’s protocol.”

“I know, but he’s mine.”

A tear rolled down her face and dripped onto the baby’s. She brushed it away with a trembling finger.

“I understand the pain you must be feeling. If you knew you weren’t allowed children, perhaps you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.”

Valerie’s head snapped up and she glared at the nurse.

“How dare you make this out to be our fault! So I have a terminal illness. So what! While I lived I would still love the baby. And Tristan would take perfect care of him both while I was living and after I died. As for his ’emotional instability,’ who knows? Maybe the baby would have helped him with that!”

“Or it might have made things worse. Mrs. Wickersham, hand over the baby.”


Her defenses collapsed and she began to sob. The nurse wrenched the baby from her arms.

“No! Please, no…”

Tristan held her, allowing her to cry into his shoulder as his own tears dripped into her hair.

“I’m so sorry, Valerie.”

“Me too.”

Her eyes fell closed and she went limp. He laid her down, beginning to panic.

“Nurse! Nurse!”


“Four across is ‘potato,'” Kasey said, pointing.

“So it is.” Tristan filled in the word. “And that completes the puzzle.” He smiled at her and she smiled back.

“What now?”

Tristan glanced out the window a moment.

“It’s getting rather late. You should probably go have lunch with your parents.”

Kasey nodded a bit, disappointed, and headed back to her parents’ table, taking a seat next to her mother.

What a sweet girl, Tristan thought, gazing out the window as he thought back to the last night he’d had with his wife.


Tristan held Valerie’s hand, tears threatening to spill down his face. She was unconscious and had been for hours, but he hadn’t left her side.​

“Valerie. You might die tonight, and there are some things I want to tell you before that happens. I don’t know if you can hear me or not. First, I love you. I always have and always will, and ‘even death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.'” He chuckled a bit and a tear escaped. “You introduced me to that movie. Even if you do die tonight, I know I’ll see you again. The best thing you ever did for me was lead me to Christ.” A few more tears streamed down and he wiped them away with his free hand. “I honestly don’t know what to say. The love of my life is dying, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m helpless.” He shuddered with a sob. “I love you, Valerie.”

He cried until he fell asleep, and the last thing he heard before he fell asleep was a weak, “I love you too, Tristan.”


Kasey came back over to Tristan an hour or two later.

“Tristan, Abbotsville is on the way to Alexandria Bay, and I was wondering if I could come with you to see your wife. My momma and daddy already said it was okay. They said I should keep you company.”

“You’d like to come with me?”

Kasey nodded, her blue eyes earnest.

“All right. Are you sure it won’t hold up your vacation?”

“No. It’ll be fine. Daddy said so.”

“Well all right then.”

Kasey smiled and skipped back over to her seat with her parents.


When Tristan woke up, Valerie’s hand was cold. He glanced at the monitors. Nothing. Flatlined.

A tear slid down his face, releasing a series of sobs like a floodgate.

The doctor came in a few minutes later.

“I’m sorry Mr. Wickersham. We left you alone for the night so as not to disturb you.”

“You should have woken me.” Tristan’s voice was husky.

“I’m sorry. And I offer my deepest, heartfelt apologies. I’m afraid we have to handle the body now.”

Tristan fought down another sob at the words. ‘The body.’

“I’m going to need you to leave, Mr. Wickersham. We’ll let you know when the funeral is arranged.”

Tristan nodded, leaving the room. He gave one last look over his shoulder at her peaceful face, nearly as beautiful in death as it had been in life.

“Goodbye, Valerie.”


“Embarking at Abbotsville!” the conductor announced over the loudspeaker.

Tristan got up, grabbing his bag from under his seat. Kasey skipped over to him and slid her small hand into his.

“It’ll be all right,” she said.

The rose he had brought was beginning to wilt by now, but it was as deep red as ever.

“Are your parents coming?” he asked.

“Yeah. They wanted to give you some space, though.”

“Tell them we’re going to Lindenfall Cemetery so they can follow us.”

She nodded and walked back to tell them before returning and slipping her hand back into his.

“Let’s go, then,” Tristan said, stepping out of the train with her and walking over to the shuttle deck. He paid for a shuttle and the two of them slid inside.

“Lindenfall Cemetery, please,” he instructed the shuttle. It gave an affirmation in a mechanical voice before moving off onto the road.

They arrived at the cemetery in ten minutes and stepped out of the shuttle.

“Wait,” Tristan instructed the vehicle.

He led Kasey between the cold stone grave markers to one made of marble. It was collecting dirt, and moss was growing in the letters. Tristan knelt down and wiped it off, pulling the moss away.

Valerie Peterson Wickersham.

May 27th, 5617-February 14th, 5658

“She died on Valentine’s Day?”

Tristan nodded.

“I’m sorry.”

She got on her knees next to him as he rested the rose against Valerie’s tombstone and gently fingered the lettering. Tears slid down his face and she placed a hand on his shoulder. She saw her parents come up a few feet behind and stop out of the corner of her eye.

“I still miss you,” Tristan said. “Always. But I know you’re home now. I just wish I was home with you, sometimes. I love you as much as ever.”

Kasey sat quietly and listened as he spoke, giving him silent support.

A few minutes later they rose and headed back to the shuttle to drive back to the train station.

“I’ll miss you, Tristan,” Kasey said.

“I’ll miss you too, sweetie.”

She smiled a little.

“I’ll see you around, won’t I?”

“Maybe. Maybe I’ll come to Alexandria Bay sometime and see if you’re around.”

“That would be fun.”

“Kasey really connected with you today,” Kasey’s mom said. “She’s usually rather shy. You helped her come out of her shell.”

“I was glad to do it. You have an amazing daughter. She’s very tenderhearted.”

“She is.”

“Goodbye,” Kasey said, hugging the old man and kissing him on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Kasey,” he replied, embracing her back and kissing the top of her head.

Kasey and her family boarded the train.

“Departing Abbotsville!” the conductor announced.

As the train pulled away, Kasey leaned out the window and waved to Tristan. He smiled and waved back before turning back toward the shuttle deck and heading to his hotel. Kasey was a girl he’d never forget.

Sea Glass & Pressed Flowers – Short Story Sunday

Sea Glass & Pressed Flowers – Short Story Sunday

Image by JSpiess (JSpiess – photography shot in Eastern PA) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a short story that I wrote just for my blog, and to practice writing internal dialogue (I may or may not have forgotten that was the aim of the story halfway through.) Enjoy. :)


Keslie sat on the beach with a pen and paper in her lap. She wasn’t focusing on that, though, but instead looked out across the ocean with glistening brown eyes. Her blonde hair was full of salt and whipped around in her face to tangle itself into terrible knots, and she didn’t bother to brush it out of the way; she knew it would just find its way back into her face in another moment.

The beach held so many memories, and she’d been trying to write them into the music she held on her lap, still half unfinished. Unfortunately, they merely stuck in her head and played over and over, like a living chronicle of her whole life. Keslie saw herself in her mind’s eye a toddler, swinging down the beach between her mom and dad. They both had the same blonde hair as she did, and it was just as constantly salt-filled as hers. Growing up in a house right on the beach meant daily trips to go swimming in the ocean.

As a little girl of seven, she was still skipping down the sand dunes to the water’s edge. Her parents came behind her, hands clasped with each other’s, fingers entwined. She’d longed to have a love like theirs, so sweet and carefree. Her white cover-up danced in the ocean breeze, and she grinned as the salt taste hit her lips. A giggle bubbled up in her, and she allowed it to escape.

At thirteen her dad joked about buying a shotgun and she laughed at him, her brown eyes dancing with delight at her father’s adoration of her. He taught her all he could of the piano, and after that paid for classes to take her to the next level. She had him to thank for her love of music.

From a young age she could hear that music in everything. It was in the waves, in the wind, even in the shift of the sand beneath her feet. It had been a wish to put that natural music into her piano playing that had started her in composing. Not that she did much of that, at least not officially. She played with melodies and harmonies when she played, but rarely wrote her compositions down. It was an escape from reality, nothing more.

Keslie looked down at the paper in her lap, snapping herself out of her thoughts. She looked at the notes on the page, trying to concentrate. She hummed out the tune and just kept going, jotting down the notes as they came to her. She stopped when the page ran out and looked over the melody again. Several notes were erased or changed, and she hummed it out again. It sounded good, but it would sound better on the piano, with harmonies laced in.

Rising from the sand dune she was sitting on, she turned away from the shore and up to her house. Her sandals clipped on the steps onto the back patio and she knew they heralded her return to her mother, who was no doubt in her bedroom working on her book.

The sliding door keened as it opened, and she stepped inside, closing it behind her and leaving her sandals on the woven mat.

The room she stepped into was an office, and a sharp pain shot through her chest as she looked at the walnut desk. No one had sat at that desk in two years. Her father’s impression on the seat was almost entirely faded, despite the millions of times he had sat there.

She turned away from the desk toward the piano in the opposite corner, just a small standing instrument. She set her music and pencil on top of it before heading through the living room to the stairs and heading up to her room. Keslie glanced at her mother’s closed bedroom door as she passed. There was no sound coming from the room except that of the large metal fan that she knew took up the space next to the desk, and the click of keys as she typed out her book. There was no greeting as she passed.

Keslie stepped into her room and closed the door behind her before heading to the closet and changing out of her blue floral bathing suit into a flowing white tanktop and skinny jeans.

As she started back for the steps she hesitated at her mother’s door, considering knocking. She just wanted to see if her mom would reply. If she would be the cheery woman Keslie missed so much. But she knew that wouldn’t happen. Lilah Bardell hadn’t been happy in two years.

Keslie turned away from the door and headed downstairs, little reminders of her father flitting past as she walked. She could hear his heavy steps on the stairs as she walked, their laughter mingling as he swept her off her feet at the front door. As she stepped off the bottom stair and turned into the living room she could see all three of them sitting around the coffee table, laughing and talking as they played their favorite board game. Walking into the office she could see him everywhere; he was at the desk, playing the piano, browsing the books on the shelf. She gave herself a bittersweet smile and took a seat on the piano bench, pulling the music down from on top and setting it on the music holder in front of her.

The ivory keys were familiar and smooth under her fingertips, but she still played the first notes a bit hesitantly. She took a deep breath and started again, allowing herself to be swept into the music like an ocean current. She watched her fingers dance across the keys as she played, working in harmonies and chords as she went. Some of the notes didn’t mix and nearly jolted her out of the music, but she just took a breath and closed her eyes, falling into the music once again.

Music was one of the few escapes left to her, a protective wall to ward her from the harshness of reality and the pains that came with it.

She could lose herself in her playing and not have to feel anything but the music surrounding her.

She didn’t know how long she’d been playing when a hand touched her shoulder and startled her. Keslie looked up to see her mom standing over her, a bittersweet expression on her face. Keslie tried not to stare at her mother. She’d accumulated so many wrinkles over the past two years, and so much pain was reflected in those blue eyes of hers. Those eyes almost seemed faded, like a worn photograph.

“It’s time for lunch,” Lilah said. “I fixed you an egg sandwich.”

Keslie nodded, removing her fingers from the piano keys. “Thanks, Mom.”

“You’re welcome.” Lilah stroked Keslie’s hair once before heading into the kitchen.

Keslie hesitated a moment before heading through the kitchen to the dining room, looking over the music that rested on the piano, just one note at a time so far. She’d have to add in the harmonies after lunch.

She reluctantly stood from the bench and headed into the dining room, finding her sandwich set at her place at the small oak table. She took a seat in the cushioned dining chair that was hers and said a quick prayer before taking the first bite of her sandwich.

She ate rather slowly. She always ate slowly these days. She was supposed to be recovered by now, she told herself. She was supposed to be over it. Dad was gone and he wasn’t coming back.

She should just cut him out of her life completely, her mother had said when she received the first letter. When Keslie had insisted on reading the letter, Lilah had frowned and set a rule in place that Keslie would be allowed to read any letters her father sent her, but not send anything in reply.

Keslie had agreed, though she was of course disappointed, and Lilah had handed her the letter. Now all of her father’s letters sat in a tin under her bed, along with flowers she had pressed from their trip to Nebraska and some sea glass she’d found after he was gone. She’d cried when she found it, remembering when he used to point out sea glass buried in the sand any time they’d walk along the beach.

Finishing her sandwich, she took her plate into the kitchen and set it in the dishwasher. Her mother sat at the island looking over a stack of papers, one hand on her temple and the other tapping a pencil against the sheets. Keslie looked at the paper and saw it was part of her mother’s book. She was glad it was that and not bills, though the Bardells were well enough off that she didn’t expect to see her mother stressing about the bills anytime soon.

She headed back into the office and looked out the sliding doors. The waves were rolling up cerulean on the beach, but she was rather tired of sand and water. She suddenly realized something and glanced at her waterproof watch.

“Oh crap,” she muttered, grabbing the music off the piano and slipping into her sandals before heading out the front door.

She grabbed her pink bike and tucked the music into the front basket before hopping on and pedaling as fast as she could for the local cafe. It took her five minutes to reach it, everything around her going by in a blur, and she almost ripped the pages of music as she grabbed them from the basket and rushed inside, leaving her bike lying on the pavement outside the front door.

“Sorry I’m late!” she gasped.

The man behind the counter frowned a bit, but nodded over to the piano in the corner. It was the same style as the one at home, and she slid comfortably onto the bench, tidying her music before setting it on the stand. She took a moment to catch her breath before starting into the song. She was taking a risk playing something new here, but her trembling fingers pressed the keys and soon she was swept away once again.

She played uninterrupted, not even noticing when people left her tips, until someone set a cup on top of the piano. She looked up, her fingers falling still, and looked at its contents. Rose tea with cream and sugar, her favorite. She looked after the barista who had delivered it.

“I didn’t order this!” she said.

“No, but I did.” The voice was familiar, and her breath caught in her throat. She turned to face the speaker, almost afraid to see who it was. There stood her father, with a bittersweet smile on his careworn face. He dropped a five into Keslie’s tip bowl.

“Daddy.” Her voice was barely a breath, as if she was afraid she’d vanish. And maybe she was. This couldn’t possibly be real. He’d been gone for two years, and there was no reason for him to come back. Mom would just push him away again. But maybe if he cared enough about her, about mom…

“Yes.” He smiled, and there were tears glistening in his eyes. “It’s good to see you again, Kes.”

She bolted off the piano bench to hug him and nearly knocked him over, tears forming in her own eyes. “Daddy. I missed you.” Her voice was a small whisper, though in her heart she was shouting with all the joy in the world. A million emotions spun through her mind like a whirlpool, dancing and darting like seagulls.

His arms were strong around her, just as she remembered them. After a long moment he pulled away and she almost tried to hold him back, but let him lean away, not bothering to wipe her tears.

“I missed you too. More than I can say.”

“You have to come see Mom.” Keslie wasn’t sure why she said it. She knew a meeting like that would never go over well. But she knew they needed to see each other just once more.

Any hint of a smile drained from her father’s face, and immediately she regretted her words. “I can’t, Kes. You know that. She’ll kick me out again. She won’t let me see you again.” He brushed her hair out of her face. “Can we please walk for a while together? I want to talk to you. In person. It’s been so long.”

“But my shift-”

“I already talked to Gordon. He’s all right with it. You only had half an hour left, anyway.”

Keslie nodded. “Okay. I just have to get something from the house first. I’ll be right back.”

Her father nodded, though she saw a reluctance in his eyes to let her go, like he thought she wouldn’t come back.

Keslie slipped out the door and mounted her bike, riding back to the house and rushing up the stairs sounding like a herd of elephants. As she passed Lilah’s door, there was still no sound from within other than the whooshing and the clicking. She stepped into her own room and reached under the neatly-made bed for the tin that held her memories. It was about the size of a journal, with a scene of Victorian England on the top. It had been an heirloom, given to her by her grandmother.

She rushed back down the stairs and out the door, setting the tin carefully in her bike basket before heading back to the cafe. She took more care of her bike this time and carefully took the tin from the basket, cradling it protectively. She’d never taken it out of the house before. Her father hadn’t moved, and she tentatively took his hand as she reached him, like she had when she was a little girl.

He smiled down at her with another bittersweet smile. “Ready to go?”

Keslie nodded.

“Before we go, let me just tell you I’m not trying to kidnap you. I know some family members kidnap younger family members, and I’m not going to do that. I still love your mom, and I wouldn’t take you away from her. I think she probably needs you more than I do.”

Keslie nodded again. “I wasn’t worried. You were thinking the southern edge of the beach, right? Where we always built sandcastles together?” Her eyes misted at the memory.

Her father smiled, and this time there was less sorrow in it. “Perceptive as always, Kes.”

They left the cafe, heading down an embankment behind down to the beach. The sand was soft under Keslie’s steps, sliding on her feet around her sandals. They didn’t have to walk very long before they reached where they were going. It was a quiet spot, somewhat secluded with a cave behind it. Keslie had always loved the people on the beach, but she equally loved spending time with her parents in the quiet. A pang went through her chest as she felt a distinct gap. Her mother should be here. Her mother was always here when they came down here.

“You’ve gotten better with your piano,” Keslie’s father said as he took a seat on the sand.

She sat down next to him, curling her legs up under her and settling the tin on her lap. “Thank you.”

He nodded, then glanced at the tin. “My mom’s tin. What’s in there?”

Keslie tipped open the lid and was met with the faint aroma of old paper and dry flowers. The flowers sat on top, daisies and roses, mostly. The daisies were from a field her father had shown her and Lilah that he loved to play in when he was younger, and the roses were a gift she’d gotten from her grandparents when she played piano for the family reunion. That had been when she got the tin, too.

Under and around the flowers were shards of sea glass in various shades of blue. Under everything was a stack of handwritten letters that were worn from multiple occasions of rereading.

“What’s the sea glass for?” her father asked.

“I saw it not long after you left. It made me think of you and how you always pointed it out on the beach. She smiled a bit, looking fondly down at everything. She handed him the tin, feeling a bit nervous giving it even to him.

He looked at everything, flipping through it reverently, careful not to damage the fragile flowers. “You kept them all,” he breathed.

“Every last one,” Keslie replied, her own voice soft.

“I’m honored.”

She shrugged. “You’re my dad. Of course I kept them.”

They sat there on the beach for a while, talking about music and life and Keslie’s classes. At one point her father asked if she had a boyfriend, to which she replied with a blush and a no. Then talk had drifted to other things and they talked almost until sunset.

“I should get home,” Keslie said, reluctance evident in her voice. “Mom will be wondering where I am.” She stood, tin in hand, and looked down at him. “You could come too?” She was tentative to suggest it, but she did so anyway.

He shook his head. “Not yet.”

“You can’t put it off forever.” Keslie bit her lip, blue-eyed gaze falling to the sand.

He was silent for a long moment before nodding slowly. “You’re right.” He rose, brushing the sand off of himself. “I’ll come see her. But I don’t expect it to go well. She kicked me out.”

“Maybe she’ll be glad to see you. She hasn’t been the same since you left.”

“I didn’t leave. You know that.”

“It just… sounds more gentle than saying she kicked you out.”

He shook his head. “No. Just say she kicked me out.”

They walked along the beach as the sun set and after several minutes arrived at the house. As they came to the base of the back porch stairs Keslie’s father stopped.

“Come on,” she said gently. “You have to see mom.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can. You survived five years with her before she kicked you out. You can face her once now. Please?”

He looked at her with almost pleading eyes before taking a deep breath and nodding. “Okay.”

She led him inside, her stomach doing flips. What if Lilah really did kick him out again? What if she had to listen to them fight? She took a deep breath as she left him in the living room and ran upstairs. She lifted her hand to knock on Lilah’s door and hesitated. This would be the first time in a long time she’d knocked on her mother’s door. Her knuckles rapped against the wood and she heard the clicking of keys stop. Footsteps approached the door and it opened.

“What is it, Kes?” Her voice was as weary as the rest of her, and she raked an almost trembling hand through her tousled waves.

“I need you to come downstairs with me for a minute.” Keslie struggled to keep a nervous tremble from her voice.


“Just trust me.” Keslie reached a hand out and Lilah hesitated for a moment before taking it and following her daughter downstairs.

Keslie felt an unexpected wave of relief when she saw her father still standing in the living room. She hadn’t realized she was afraid of him running away from this meeting. Lilah stiffened behind her as she entered the room.

“What is he doing here?” she asked, her voice a harsh, tired whisper.

“He came to see me. I insisted he see you, too.”

“That… Was a bad idea. A very bad idea.” Lilah turned to leave, but Keslie held onto her hand.

“Please, Momma. Just talk to him? For me?” She turned her pleading eyes from Lilah to her father and back again. For a terrifying moment she was afraid Lilah would leave, but she turned back  and stepped further into the room.

“Julian,” she said, her voice tight.

“Lilah.” His voice was tender, filled with held-back tears.

They were silent for several minutes, just looking at each other. Julian’s expression was filled with pain, doubt, and love. Lilah’s was filled only with a tired mix of pain and anger, which slowly faded only to tired pain.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Lilah finally said.

“I wanted to see you and Kes.”

“It was a bad idea. I don’t want to see you.”

“I can’t just not see my daughter for the rest of her life.”

“Yes, you can. You didn’t seem to care about her before I kicked you out.”

The pain that shot through Keslie at her mother’s words was reflected in her father’s eyes. “Lilah, you know that’s not true. I always took care of her. I always took time for her.”

Lilah shook her head. “You were constantly buried in your work.”

“Yes, I was, but I always stopped when you or Keslie asked me to. Always. You know that. And I’ve learned from that. I want to do better by both of you. I won’t let myself be swallowed up by work this time.”

Lilah shook her head again. “No. There won’t be a this time. Get out. Leave me and Kes alone. I don’t want you to hurt her again.”

Another shot of pain went through Keslie. Her father had never hurt her. She only wished that he and Lilah hadn’t gotten into a fight that resulted in him leaving. She missed him. That loneliness was the only thing hurting her. That and watching her parents fight again. She knew that her father would leave again. He wouldn’t want to hurt Lilah.

Julian looked at the floor, trying to hide the pain on his face, and nodded slowly. “I’ll leave, then. If you don’t want me around, I’ll leave. I don’t want to hurt you.”

He turned for the front door and Keslie watched, feet rooted to the ground, as he left. She stood there paralyzed for a heartbreaking moment before the tears began and she ran up to her room, slamming the door.

She slumped down to sit on the floor, burying her face in her knees. She knew she should have expected things to go poorly, but she’d been so hopeful that her parents would reconcile and she’d have a normal family again. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up. She only had a few moments of quiet before she heard a soft knock on the door.


“Don’t call me that!” Keslie screamed, raising her head. “That was Dad’s nickname for me, not yours!”

There was silence on the other side of the door, and then a gentle sigh. “I’m sorry, Keslie. I’m sorry that your father and I can’t get back together.”

“No you’re not. You said you didn’t want him to hurt me, but that alone hurt me. He has never once hurt me, Mom. Not once. He always took care of me and spent time with me. He’s the one who taught me how to play piano. You hurt me when you drove him away. You hurt me when you sent him away again just now. You hurt me every time I pass your bedroom door and the only sounds I hear are clicking keys and the fan. You hurt me mom, not him.”

Another silence. “I’m sorry.” Lilah’s voice was softer this time, and Keslie knew she’d hurt her mother. A pang of guilt went through her, but she fought it down. She’d only said what she felt. “I’m sorry.”

After a lengthy silence Keslie heard her mother’s footsteps retreating. She heard Lilah’s bedroom door click closed and buried her head in her knees once more as hot tears spilled down her face.

After a long time Keslie lifted her head again and glanced at the clock on her bedside table. The glowing blue letters read nearly seven thirty. She stood, wiping her eyes, and stepped over to her dresser, looking into the mirror on top. Her eyes were glossy, as she’d known they would be, and she glanced down at the top of her dresser, grabbing a ponytail holder and her hairbrush. She quickly brushed her hair and pulled it into a ponytail before heading over to the door and opening it slowly. The usual sounds were coming from Lilah’s room, and Keslie struggled not to lose it again.

She kept her footsteps quiet as she headed down the stairs and out the front door. For a moment she just watched the passing cars on the road in front of the house, trying to decide what she wanted to do. She could try to find her father, but he could be anywhere, and it wouldn’t do any good anyway. Her mother had officially cut ties with Julian. She could go to the beach, but that would only remind her of her father more.

Keslie took a deep breath and headed toward the cafe, where she realized she’d left her bike. She walked slowly, hearing the rush of cars as they passed and the cry of seagulls on the beach. It took her almost ten minutes to reach the cafe, and she stepped inside quietly. A bell above the door heralded her entrance and she took a seat in the corner, looking out the front window to watch the cars.

“Good evening, Keslie.”

Keslie looked up and saw the other barista standing above her. She attempted a smile. “Good evening, Dominic.”

“Are you okay?”

She nodded and looked back out the window. Dominic had been a good friend of hers for a long time. She knew he wouldn’t believe her lie. “I’m fine. Just get me a rose-” She stopped.

“Rose tea with cream and sugar?”

Keslie shook her head, wiping away a stray tear. “Never mind.”

Dominic took a seat across from her at the table and set his notepad and pen on the table. “Keslie, you’re not okay. What’s the matter?”

Keslie shook her head again. “Nothing.”

“Okay.” Dominic stood again and picked up his pen and pad before heading back toward the kitchen.

Keslie almost lost it again. Dominic was always thoughtful and respectful. He would leave because she’d made it clear that she didn’t want to talk about it, but he wouldn’t stop worrying.

In a couple of minutes Dominic returned and took his seat again, pushing a mug toward her. It smelled of cinnamon, and Keslie immediately knew what it was. She turned back toward the table and took the mug, letting the warmth seep into her fingers. She looked into the mug, seeing her reflection in the apple cider within.

“Thank you, Dominic,” she said, her voice quiet.

“You’re welcome.”

She took a sip of the hot liquid and immediately burnt her tastebuds. “I’m sure this is delicious, but after that I won’t be able to taste it.” She chuckled a bit.

“Well don’t drink it so hot, then!” he said, putting a pretend reprimand in his voice.

Keslie couldn’t stop a smile from escaping. “You’ve got to stop doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Making me smile when I’m miserable.”

Dominic smiled, lighting up his blue eyes. “I don’t think I will.”

Keslie smiled and lifted the red mug to her lips again.

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes before Dominic broke the silence. “So what’s the matter?” His voice was gentle, telling her he wouldn’t press too far.

Keslie set her mug down and took a deep breath. “My dad came into town.”

“I saw him.”

“We hung out for a while and then I insisted he come see Mom.” She took a deep breath, glancing out the window and shaking her head ever so slightly. “I really wish I hadn’t.”

“She kicked him out again?”

Keslie nodded, tears welling in her eyes again. She swallowed past a lump in her throat. “I just want him back. I wish he and Mom could get back together. But I know that’s hoping for too much.” She looked down into her mug.

Dominic didn’t say anything, understanding the need for silence.

The silence lasted for a long time, and Keslie finished off her cider, setting the mug aside. Another several minutes of silence passed before she rose from the table and walked across the cafe to the piano. She took a seat on the bench, the leather seat comfortable and familiar under her, and rested her fingers on the keys. She considered playing the memory song, but she quickly dismissed the idea and started playing something new. The notes flowed with a melancholy ring as her fingers danced across the keys. Before long she closed her eyes and let herself drift away, letting the notes come from somewhere within her instead of from her mind.

She didn’t know how long she played, only that she was stopped when Gordon, the owner of the cafe, rested a hand on her shoulder.

“That’s beautiful, Keslie, but we’re closing.” Regret was evident in his eyes and tone.

Keslie nodded and rose from the piano bench, heading over to the corner table again, where Dominic was still sitting. “How long did I play?”

“About half an hour. It was beautiful.”

Keslie smiled gently. “Thanks.”

Dominic stood and grabbed her mug. “I’d better clean up here.” He rested his free hand on her shoulder. “Go home. Take care of yourself. Take care of your mom.”

Keslie nodded. “I will. Thanks for the cider.”

He headed for the back and she headed for home.


Keslie stands on the beach, the waves lapping at her toes. She looks out over the ocean, watching the sun sink toward the horizon. She hears her name from down the beach and turns to see her father walking towards her. Her heart does a flip and she runs toward him, but just when she’s about to embrace him a wave crashes over her and tugs her into the ocean.

She screams for her father, but not because she’s frightened of drowning. She’s frightened of losing him. She screams for him over and over, blowing bubbles in the water, but when she’s thrown back onto the shore and looks around, he’s gone. She calls for him again, but there’s only the sound of wind and waves, and suddenly it’s a very lonely sound.


Keslie woke up with tears streaming down her face. She hugged her pillow to her and let herself cry for several minutes before getting out of bed. She dressed in a pink tank top and skinny jeans, slipping her feet into her sandals.

As she passed her mother’s door, she was surprised to only hear the fan. She headed downstairs and found her mother sitting at the table with a bowl of cereal. Keslie poured herself a bowl and sat down across from Lilah, shifting uncomfortably.

“I’m sorry about last night.” Lilah was the first to speak.

“Me too.” Keslie twirled her spoon around in her bowl.

“You were right. I’m not helping you any.”

“But I was wrong to lash out at you.”

Lilah nodded. “Can you forgive me?”

Keslie nodded.

“I’d like to do better.” Keslie was silent. “Would you like to read my book?” Lilah’s voice was hesitant.

Keslie looked up at her mother, hiding her surprise. No one had read Lilah’s book. It was something she kept secret. “Really?”

Lilah nodded. “I’d like you to see it.”

Keslie nodded slowly in return. “I… I’ve always wanted to know what it was about.”

“After breakfast I’ll bring it down for you to look at.”

They finished eating slowly, still mostly in awkward silence, and Keslie took care of the dishes as her mom went upstairs to get her book. When Lilah returned, it was with a giant three-ring binder in her hands. She set it on the table and slid it toward Keslie.

Keslie opened it tentatively, glancing at Lilah as if to make sure it really was okay, and looked at the title page. It read: Broken. A novel by Lilah Bardell. Keslie glanced again at her mother, who gave a pained smile.

“You have your escape, I have mine.”

Keslie turned to the first page and started reading. She wasn’t surprised to find it told Lilah’s story, beginning with her wedding day. As Keslie read she got a glimpse into her mother’s mind, and she finally began to understand how her mother’s thoughts worked. She marveled at her mother’s willingness to show this book to her daughter when it bared so much of her heart.

It took Keslie hours to finish reading, and her mother brought her laptop down to continue writing while she did. When Keslie did finally finish, she looked up at her mother, who looked up from her computer screen to give her daughter another pained smile. “What do you think?”

Keslie didn’t answer, just hugged her mother. “I’m so sorry I didn’t do anything to help you.”

“It was never your job,” Lilah replied, resting her hand on Keslie’s back. “But it was my job to help you, and I’m very sorry I didn’t do so.”

“You were dealing with your own problems. But why did you push Dad away?” Keslie pulled away and looked into her mother’s weary blue eyes.

“I don’t know.” Lilah looked down at her keyboard. “I wish I hadn’t. Maybe then neither of us would be in such rough shape.”

“We can do better now, though. Both of us.”


A week later Keslie stood laughing in the kitchen with her father on the phone. After she and her mother had reconnected, Lilah had allowed her to correspond with Julian again. He was back in Nebraska, but Keslie made their phone calls a daily occurrence, and she treasured every minute of it.

She glanced at her mother, standing in the doorway with a smile on her face, and mouthed a “thank you” just before another comment from Julian set her to laughing again.

This was how she remembered her time with her father: carefree and full of laughter. Another grin split her face as she realized she was starting to regain that. Her family might not be quite whole yet, but it was a family again.