Have You Any Guilty Pleasures?

I find guilty pleasures amusing.

Yes, I know those secret sins could involve someone with a very serious addiction, ruining his life behind the back alley of the strip club while his family suffers starvation at home. Obviously I do not find that situation funny.

What I do snicker about is the idea that a person sneaks around for a mild pleasure. You know, something like “Encounter in the Alley,” a story I wrote based off Stephen’s prompt last August.

All right; I may be alone in this.

But humorous or not, guilty pleasures are indulgences we can understand. Maybe we can even relate to them because we have a few of our own…

I have. Most of mine involve food. Like, that one time I purchased a char-grilled hamburger and french fries for just myself and enjoyed every dip of fry sauce while the kids were in school. Or the night I ran to the store for groceries and treated myself to a Reese’s Sticks candy bar. Or when I recently added a $1 frozen pizza to our groceries whilst on bed rest and savored all the crispy badness.

The non-food indulgences are still related to being alone: reading the last dregs of a novel in the closet, writing a blog post in the safety of my car, or snickering quietly over a clever quip I read online.

By myself. Just me. Alone.

So, maybe that’s the secret. Maybe a guilty pleasure is one we feel we ought not to enjoy but do, and therefore indulge in when others are not around to judge.

What do you think? Have you any guilty pleasures or know others who do? Besides the …more disgusting ones, are you willing to share?

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—————-

I’m about 16 days behind on reading all my favorite bloggers and have 10 extra house guests this week, but here’s what I accomplished so far:

Wednesday, June 19: Wondered: “Are Food Cravings Always Specific?

Thursday, June 20: Entered Anisha’s raw poetry contest.

Friday, June 21: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Nitin!

Saturday, June 22: Announced the 31st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is the political views of rodents. PLEASE ENTER!

Celebrated the second birthday of this here blog!

Sunday, June 23: “Adult Swim,” in response to Carrot Ranch’s prompt.

Monday, June 24: Shared a quote I read over at C.S. Boyack‘s site about blogging compared to writing a book.

Tuesday, June 25: Nothing.

And, posted “How to Break the Cycle of Abuse Within Your Own Mind” over at The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Mental Health Blog.

Wednesday, June 26: Today.

I also sort-of posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “No One Likes the Dentist, But Some Kids Have Special Needs,” “Where Do We Sleep on a Road Trip with Kids??,” and “The Most Loving Sight.”

 

Photo Credit:
Thomas Kelley

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Seven

As Reagan near-dragged Wil out of the art room and down the hallway of classrooms and lockers, Wil couldn’t help but recall Art’s tease that their helpful friend was “domineering.” She tried to get a word in, or at least a trailing sneaker. “Reagan, I-”

Drag.

“But, wait! I-”

“No time, Wil!” Yank.

Wil might have found herself in a helpless twist of clothes and backpack at the lunchroom door if, at the exact moment they passed the office, her captor had not looked back to reprimand Wil’s sluggishness. As such, neither girl anticipated the collision with the exiting boy.

“Ouch!” he said. “What the- Wil!

Wil saw Reagan’s impending curse die on her lips. “Harrison?” she said instead.

Harrison’s face clouded into a scowl. He turned to face Reagan; both she and Wil noticed his bandaged hands.

“Oh,” Reagan said. “Sorry.”

He shrugged a bit, and then had to readjust the folder and book in his arms. His face still scowled. “I don’t mind the burn.” He glanced at Wil, especially at her own, small bandages. “It’s the name.” As he saw understanding cross Reagan’s face, he said, “I’m ‘Harry.’

He turned back to Wil without waiting for a response. He smiled at her. “Hey! D’ya have my phone?”

Wil blinked to recover from his abrupt manner. She was still processing that they’d crashed and that she was not still being pulled. Her eyes focused on the white, bandaged hands before her; traveled up to Harrison’s -Harry’s- face. He had an expectant expression. He’d asked her a question, something about a phone…

“Oh!” Wil said, blushing. “Yeah! I just realized I still had it, but couldn’t remember your name-”

“Harry,” Harry said.

Wil blushed more, if possible. “Right; yeah.”

He stood, still expectant.

“Oh! The phone!” Wil tried to grab for it with her bandaged hand, causing Harry to try to help her, but they both stopped when they realized neither could grasp it.

“Erm, Reagan?” Wil asked. She looked at her friend, but Reagan seemed a little lost. She seemed to be watching something near Harry’s face, or near his startlingly-blue eyes. Wil tried again. “Reagan!”

“Hm- Yeah?” her former captor turned to Wil.

“Uh.” Wil wasn’t accustomed to a speechless Reagan, though she didn’t know the girl very well yet. Maybe her carpool neighbor was sarcastic and talkative with their lunchtime group but not anywhere else. “Could you get Harry’s phone out of my pocket and give it to him?”

Reagan blinked.

“Please?” Harry asked. His tone sounded nicer than before, but still impatient.

Reagan looked back at his eyes; nodded. She reached forward, extracted the cell phone, then gingerly slid it into the side pocket he offered.

“Thanks.” he told her. Smiling a white flash of teeth at Wil, he added, “And thank you, Wil.” He laughed. “Now, I’m gonna try to eat. See ya!” He pushed past the gaping Reagan and a few other teenagers milling around the area and headed down the stairs to the lunchroom.

Wil sighed in relief. “Well, I’m glad I got his phone back. I didn’t even know his name!” She started walking toward the stairs as well; Reagan followed. “He seems like kind of a jerk, though,” she observed.

“Who, Harriso- Harry?” Reagan sounded surprised.

 

Continued from Eighty-Six.
Keep reading to Eighty-Eight.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Six

“Wil!”

Wil turned in the crowded hall, but saw no one who might have spoken. She wasn’t even sure she’d heard her name at all, and felt she reacted merely at the hope of being named. Frowning and adjusting her straps, she continued on to her locker. Just past the stairwell, however, something or someone pulled on her backpack. She had just enough time to squeak a surprised, “Eep!” before disappearing into the art room.

“What the -” Wil began, turning, then stopped at the sight of Reagan’s highly-amused face. Wil let out a breath and changed her surprised expression for one of incredulity. “Reagan?”

Her carpool neighbor laughed, though in a more subdued manner than usual. “Sorry, Wil. Had to grab you since Hope said you didn’t get your note.”

Wil’s mouth dropped open, which only made Reagan snort. “I…” Reagan began, a twinkle in her eye and an impish smirk starting at the corners of her mouth, “I heard you had a busy morning.”

“How did you-” Wil asked, but a third bout of laughter cut her off.

In fact, Reagan covered her mouth and leaned on an art table for support. Several times, she seemed recovered, then resumed after looking at Wil’s ever-deepening scowl. Finally, Reagan managed to stop. “Wil,” she explained, “The whole school knows about Flasher Hurn.”

Wil’s eyebrows shot up. “Flasher?” She received an affirmative nod. “Flasher Hurn?” Another nod. “Wow.”

“Yeah. He’s not getting rid of that one for a while.”

“Wow,” Wil said again. She couldn’t help it. Poor Carl.

Reagan smiled, then pulled a pretend-disappointed face. “I just can’t believe none of you got a pic or anything!”

“You know we can’t have a -” Wil stopped, and her hand moved to her pocket. The phone she’d grabbed from that other guy was still there! They’d all forgotten about it in the excitement of Carl’s performance and the resultant fallout. Mrs. Bird had called everyone’s parents, made Carl apologize, and finally agreed to call the paramedics. Wil had just barely been released. They’d said her burns were practically superficial, bandaged the affected areas of her arm and fingers, and sent her off to lunch.

At which point Reagan had nabbed her. Wil looked at her captor.

“What?”

“That’s what I want to know. Why’d you grab me?”

The twisted smile Wil saw so often returned. “Oh, that. We’re having a meeting. Top Secret.” Reagan put a finger to her lips. “At the Top Secret blue table everyone can see if they want to, in the Top Secret lunchroom everyone eats in, at the Top Secret time of five minutes ago o’clock.”

Wil took a minute to process her friend’s rambling sentence. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Reagan grabbed Wil’s bandage-free arm. “So, let’s go.”

 

Continued from Eighty-Five.
Keep reading to Eighty-Seven.

WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Happy Saturday, everybody! A day late, but never a dollar short is our winner for this week:

BRUCE GOODMAN

It happens in restaurants

by Bruce Goodman

I suspect there’s a great deal more
going on under that table over there
than meets the eye.
They not simply eating ice cream and blueberry pie.
I bet they’re playing hanky-panky with their knees.
I’ve a good mind to go over and whip the table cloth
off
to expose their chicanery for all to sees
if you please.

I think it only fair to surmise –
and I wouldn’t be at all surprised –
if before long they were both under the table smooching away,
for every dog has its day.
Next thing he’ll be feeding her custard
with his own spoon. Shucks.
What’s going on under that table over there is yuk.

I hate going out to restaurants.
My wife is such a flirt.

Congratulations, Bruce! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

As returning readers know, I hate contests where a winner is picked and the judge says that everybody was a winner; blah, blah, blah. I try my darnedest not to do that to everyone, but you all make it near-impossible with your level of poetic skill. (You do know this is a terrible poetry contest, right?)

I snickered at the made-up words, the near-rhymes, the rambling (terrible) subjects, and the poetic elements. In the end; I believe I admired the overall flow (we’ll call it that) of Bruce’s poem, combined with his zinger at the end. Most poets this week followed the recommended guidelines of terribleness; on top of all that, Bruce, your ‘meter’ and your story ‘flow’ earned you the prize. Well done.

Thank you to everyone who participated this week. You are the reason this takes me hours of preparation and anguish to decide. And, here you all are:

Under-the-Table Deal

by Bladud Fleas

Get up from under the table, dude!
Said the guy whose shoes I was buying
I haven’t got them on, right now, he said
Though I think he was lying. See
I was too quick to agree on the price
he’d selected and once on my knees
he rejected but I, quick as a flash,
produced the cash and removing his
shoes, stuck a rolled up note between his toes
and the deal was completed and he was defeated,
as were his shoes, no pun intended,
for a fair price and money well spended.

—–

Secret Agent Man

by H.R.R. Gorman

Steele steeled his stance,
Fighting for freedom in France,
Really ready to reel Russians
In and insinuate intrigue.

Dreaded documents dredged
Up from underworld undertakings
Show sinister situations,
Blackmail baking in baddies’ brains.

He humps his home-movie
Back to bloody Britain
And advocates for absolution
Of the outstanding ordeal.

Friends faint following the film,
So he sends some signals
At an American agent
That things are taking turns.

But Bob believes his boss.
Pee-pee parties with presidents
Are too astronomically atrocious
For free freedmen to finagle.

So Steele steels his stance,
Takes tea at the typical time,
Cares about the Six Counties, and
Watches the world wither.

—–

Under the Table

by Andrea Frazer

My friends are all camping
But alas I’m not able
Nope, I’m grounded for life
Right here under the table
A butter knife for a friend
Along with a rag
To scrape all my boogers
Into a trash bag
Yup, what once was my haven
For picking my nose
My mom did discover
So now I am hosed
“You won’t move from this spot
Except to go pee
Until all chunks are removed
Do you understand me?”
What could I say?
My answer was “Yes”
Now there’s no more snot digging
What YES I’m depressed
The moral of this tale
From under the table?
Stay away from nose picking
To avoid this sad fable

The end

—–

Either Side of the Aisle

by Jon

Above board? No it’s not!
Appearance sake? Fulfilled!
In actuality, putrid rot
describes a recent bill.

Put forth by those who say
that they
Are there to represent us all.
Try to have (with them) your say
See if they take your call.

Things that make your conscience ache,
(Like this poem, for instance)
Disturb them not in the least;
For long ago they did forsake,
The way of truth and peace.

—–

It’s not what you get it’s where you get it

by Geoff

Said the bribee to the briber
‘I have no moral fibre’
‘And of course I’ll take a bung.’
‘Unless by being bought out
‘You think I might be caught out’
‘And by this sting be stung.’

‘You have no need to worry,’
Said the briber to the bribee,
‘There’s nothing untoward.’
‘I’m just a harmless gopher
‘This deal’s completely kosher’
‘And everything’s above board.’

‘But how can I believe it,’
‘The cash, when I receive it,’
‘To keep it, I am able?’
‘For sure, you are a bandit,’
‘If each time, to me, you hand it,’
‘While seated ‘neath the table?’

—–

A Poem So Terrible It Can’t Be Named

by Peregrine Arc

Oh my, oh me
I dearly have to pee.
But alas, the Labrador fell asleep on me.
So cute, so adorable, her face all wrinkled
She lets out a stinky and my nose truly krinkles.
Twenty minutes later, the air is fresh and new.
My breathing and vitals back to normal, phew!
“Dear,” I coo, wanting to get up.
“Do you want a treat, my little duck?”
Her amber eyes open and I’m up like a flash
I nearly walk on water to the toilet in my dash.
“Sorry, dear,” I call from the throne. “You’ll get a treat on the morrow–no interest on that loan.”

—–

Dinner Table Gambit

by Michael B. Fishman

Sitting at the table I felt bold
so I put my hand on her knee.
The look she gave me was quite cold
sort of like I touched her with poison ivy.

I couldn’t give up so I tried again
and the result was the same.
She said, “What the fudge” are you insane?
I felt like taking on an assumed name.

Third time’s the charm, right?
So under the table I grabbed her knee once more.
She didn’t have to turn or talk for me to feel the frostbite
I said, “Why doest me dost thee ignore?”

The dog watched it all from under the table
smiling in that doggie way while chewing on a bagel.

—–

What’s the Deal

by Ruth Scribbles

What’s the deal
With under the table
Table that thought
The cat without a hat
Demands attention
Under the table
She licks chip crumbs
Crumbs with salt
She licks the floor
Looking for more
Crumbs
Under the table

—–

Leave it to Amelia

by Violet Lentz

If there is trouble to be had
And usually, there is
Amelia’s smack dab in the middle
At that, she is a wiz.

You would think she was a cherub
To see her childhood photos
Who’d a thunk in this one here
She had a pine bough up her nose?

Or wait, you think that’s funny
How about her money-making scheme?
Selling milkshakes on the corner
That she made a shaving cream!

Or the time her Mom got a call from school
“Come quick!” said old Mizz Krantz
“Your Amy’s doing the bicycle,
And she ain’t wearin’ no underpants!”

But I’d say her defining moment
Was when she let her best friend Mabel
Take a lickin’ for stealing chewing gum-
Amelia’d plucked, from under the table.

—–

Deal

by Doug

Under the table
blood drips onto the crackpots there under
making a deal for blood-proof umbrella heirlooms
with a star chart marking the space alien’s location

Blood drips on the undercover policeman’s head.
He says, “The poker deal is dead. I want hence
grenades under an umbrella, and incense for ten cents.”

But you have to bribe the dealer for a deal
and the dealer was dead.

The deal blew up in their faces, and
they couldn’t save face with Adam Smith

—–

Thank you for entering! I love seeing returning torturers and new verse-obliterators, alike. Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. for the announcement of next week’s contest.

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Bruce: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, Week Seventeen. I went back and counted.

If you’re new, confused, and/or need directions; read the how-to about terrible poetry. Here, at The Terrible Poetry Contest, we strive to make the best of the best shudder and crawl back under a blanket of Shakespeare. We aim to offend, but in a very high-minded way.

Here are the rules for this week’s prompt:

  1. The topic is Under-the-Table Deals.
  2. For length, keep your poem greater than or equal to a haiku but less than Beowulf.
  3. Should you rhyme? Up to you this occasion.
  4. Most importantly, make it terrible. I want the back-alley agents of disreputable deals to turn themselves in, sobbing, just to get away from what you write.
  5. Keep it PG-rating or lower. You can do it.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (March 15, 2019) to submit a poem. Hey; it’s The Ides of March and my wedding anniversary. We just might make it to sixteen years.

If you are shy, use the form and I’ll get an e-mail. Leave me a comment saying that you did, so we cover our bases.

For a more social experience, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Also, please tell your friends. You can use your mouth, your phone, your blog; whatever. Let’s get the word out! The world needs more terrible poetry!

Have fun!

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Photo credit:
Rosalind Chang

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three

Unfortunately for Wil, Dr. L. had attended a mandatory training over the weekend. This training, he now stopped mid-lecture to lament to the class, involved hands-on activities. He’d had to practice with actual people and be told, no, he couldn’t just talk about science.

The conclusion of his complaints to Wil’s class was that the school wanted him to change the way he taught. Wil groaned in sync with a chorus of fellow sympathizers. She wasn’t the only teenager who used Dr. L.’s lectures to finish activities like text conversations or homework due in the next period.

“They’re even sending someone in to-” their teacher began, then cut off as a knock sounded on the classroom door.

They all turned to look as the knocker pushed into the room and stood expectantly just inside. She was a woman with a messy bun and a somewhat wrinkled pantsuit. Everything about her frowned, Wil thought, from the lines of the woman’s outfit to her down-turned spectacles.

Dr. L. stared in apprehension at her for a full minute; Wil couldn’t remember ever seeing him focus on a living object before. The woman cleared her throat. “Don’t mind me, please.” Her voice was a higher-pitched version of his, a nasal sort that put Wil in mind of a squirrel. A squirrel with a messy bun and frowning face. *Ahem*, she cleared things again. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

The class and, especially, Dr. L. watched her perch atop a lab stool, her clipboard grasped before her and her legs and feet drawn near to her body. When nothing else happened, she returned the bespectacled chemistry teacher’s gaze. “Well?”

“Oh!” He started, and seemed to remember where he was. “Oh! Right; right.” Shuffling back to his lecture table, Dr. L. began shifting through chemical bottles and loose papers. “It’s right here -I know they’re here somewhere…” he muttered.

“Dr. L.?” Jenny, the girl to Wil’s left, raised a hand.

The man she addressed peered near her in some confusion. “Yes, Ms. -?”

“Sanders, sir,” Jenny said politely. She always had to tell him and Wil always marveled at how patiently Jenny did so. “I think you left the experiment notes on your computer.”

The overhead lights glinted off Dr. L.’s lenses as he lifted and turned his face to the location Jenny referenced. “Ah!” he exclaimed, and walked over to pick the pile up. “Thank you, Ms. -?”

“Sanders.”

“Yes,” he agreed. Turning to Cash Delarge’s desk, he said, “Here, Mr. LeDog. Take a paper and pass them along.”

Wil sighed as a few people tittered. Chemistry was going to be a long class today.

 

Continued from Eighty-Two.
Keep reading to Eighty-Four.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Two

Wil used Dr. Lombard’s momentary distraction to enter the classroom and move to a seat near the front. She told herself she would sneak; she even thought the phrase, slipped into her seat. In actual practice and true to form, however, her entrance was more distracting than any lecture on acids and bases.

Still, she might have avoided detection if she hadn’t stepped on two people’s feet. She certainly would have avoided attention if she’d been more silent. But even a nearsighted, absentminded science enthusiast notices when a desk falls over.

“Ms. Windows,” Dr. L. said, turning and speaking over a background of laughter. He squinted at Wil’s blushing figure through his thick glasses. “Chemistry begins when the bell indicates, and not one Planck more.” He wagged a stern finger in a direction somewhere to the right of her as Wil hastily set the furniture to rights and sat upon the chair.

Dr. L. nodded a definite scowl to the girl on Wil’s left and turned back to puzzle over his notes on the board. They were barely legible to Wil and most of the class, yet seemed clear enough to help their teacher regain his train of thought.

“Water is not completely zero, of course,” he continued, and shot what he thought was a commiserating look back over his shoulder. “Buuut, some say it’s close enough to put it there. Really, though, nothing is absolute zero because of contaminants and outside influences…”

As he droned, Wil settled into her seat. Her face still felt hot and she tried to keep her head low. She dragged her backpack around to her side, on the floor, and opened it. If she didn’t take notes, she knew, she hadn’t much chance of passing Chemistry this term.

“…Like soap, bleach, and liquid drain cleaner…”

Wil rifled around the dark cavity of her backpack. She withdrew a notebook, and was very surprised to find it was her Chemistry one. It even had a pen shoved in the rings. She yanked the pen free, flipped to a mostly-blank page, and began sketching a pH scale similar to the one on the board.

“No, Mr. Urn, you would not survive drinking drain cleaner. Chemicals and solutions at the far end of the scale cause irreparable damage to tissue…”

Not a bad idea, Wil considered, For Carl, anyway. She doodled a bit in her margin, then noticed some text showing through the page. She flipped her notes over to see what was behind them. Somehow, there lay a green page with dots and lines in half-box and part-triangle shapes: a coded message.

Wil felt eyes on the back of her head, but knew better than to look. That Hope! She really was sneaky. How the small, quiet, shadow of a girl slipped the paper into her notebook, Wil would never guess; and therefore didn’t try to.

Keeping an eye on Dr. L.’s flapping-arm explanations and her own interpretations of them before her, Wil slowly unfolded the green paper. She picked up her pen and started drawing a codex diagram at the bottom.

She wondered what message The Talented Teenagers (name still a work in progress) had sent her. She couldn’t wait to find out.

 

Continued from Eighty-One.
Keep reading to Eighty-Three.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-Nine

Wil shuffled her grilled cheese sandwich in a circle of its own dark crumbs. The action piled even more bread bits on the plate, due to how long Jakob had overcooked it. All of the sandwiches were blacker than the family preferred, but they couldn’t afford to buy another meal in replacement.

“Next time, put your phone down,” Rob had said after finding the small kitchen full of stink and smoke. Wil had just walked in and started coughing in surprise. They all heard Cynthia echo the noise from her bedroom.

“Sorry,” Jakob had provided, thus ending another of their lengthy exchanges.

Wil had then been tasked with brushing the burnt parts into the garbage. She’d only dropped one of the sandwiches in, and had managed to retrieve it before anyone noticed. To be fair, she’d then placed that sandwich on her own plate.

Perhaps that was why she wasn’t interested in eating. Then again, maybe she was worried about her mother and Dr. Sullivan’s recommendations. Or, Wil might be tired after their long day.

Her lack of appetite certainly had nothing to do with a little exchange at the playground a half hour before dinner.

“Oh!” Wil exclaimed into the silence. Her family stared at her, all raised eyebrows and questioning expressions. “Erm… I remembered some homework I had.” She looked down, blushing. Wil couldn’t lie and they all knew it. She took a hasty bite of her sandwich to avoid further questions.

Jakob drained his glass of water and wiped a sleeve across his mouth. “Welp, I do have homework. ‘Night.” He cleared his place settings and rinsed them in the sink before stacking them on the counter. His pace was quicker than Wil usually saw him move as he headed down the hall to his room.

She swallowed her stale food. “He must have a lot to get done,” she observed. Her parents shared a look she didn’t understand, then turned away from each other smiling. “What?”

Her mother’s beautiful, loving eyes met Wil’s confused pair. “Oh, Wil. I love you.”

“Well, I love you, too, but that doesn’t explain why -” Wil’s thinking finally caught up with her speaking. The way Eric had looked at her in the dark had reminded her of something, and that something had been how Jakob had stared after Reagan as they were leaving the hospital. Two and two added to four in Wil’s mind; her brother was going to chat with her older school friend, just as she’d guessed before her hasty departure from the family car.

She saw her parents exchange another amused expression.

“But… that’s not homework, either!” she managed.

Her mother turned to Wil again. “‘Either,’ hmm? So, Wil, what were you lying about?”

 

Continued from Sixty-Eight.
Keep reading to Seventy.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty-One

“So,” Jakob began. They all turned to look at him; he fumbled a bit as he read their expressions: Rob’s warning, Cynthia’s trust, and Wil’s emptiness. He cleared his throat, in a way that sounded surprisingly like Rob’s. Cynthia smiled slightly. Jakob looked at his hands.

“So,” he said again, “We’re all adopted.” He tried a laugh; glanced at the picture on the wall. He sighed, looked back down, then remembered how to grin his characteristic smirk. “Who knew?” He joked.

“We’re so very sorry this all came out this way,” Cynthia said. “You know that we wouldn’t have sprung it on you. We’ve always told you about Jakob, for example. Wil’s mother was adamant that she never be told -even threatening lawsuits against Rob..!” She faltered a bit and glanced at Rob to be sure she wasn’t saying too much.

Rob’s head jerked up when she brought up the legal issues, but then he shrugged. “It doesn’t seem to matter now,” he admitted. He ran his right hand along his jaw, and glanced nervously at Wil. Wil felt lost.

“I, uh,” he began, and paused at her blank look. He swallowed. “I won’t keep any more secrets from you.” He looked at his work boots, and scuffed the floor with their toes. “There really aren’t any more, anyway.”

“Rob,” his wife said, and held her right hand out to him. He took it, and caressed it carefully around the tube taped to the top. “You did the best you could. You’ve taken care of everything.” He sought her face and she smiled at him.

Wil watched her parents distractedly, from a distant plane devoid of sensations. She read their expressions, and felt a slight stirring inside. Their love touched her distantly, like a comforting fire through thick glass. It began to permeate the fog and speak to her reasoning.

“Wil,” her mother beckoned -the one who had been her mother for as long as she knew. Wil stood and walked to the bed. Kneeling beside it, she lay her head at Cynthia’s side. Slowly and fondly, her mother stroked the dark brown hairs and pale face.

They all seemed to be listening outside the room; to the nearby physiotherapy, perhaps. Their actual thoughts, however, were simultaneously within and beyond the thin, neutral-colored walls.

Wil felt broken apart when she first understood the truth. She was still unsure where life would go from here. Would she meet this woman who not only gave her up, but demanded Wil never learn of her? Who does that to her child?

Wil looked up at Cynthia: sweet, understanding, patient Cynthia who had never had an easy life but almost always looked for the positive in it. They had all worked to keep Cynthia as long as they could, knowing Goodbye stood lurking around the corner.

This was the woman who deserved to be her mother, Wil decided: the one who stuck around and loved her. Wil had never even guessed she was not Cynthia’s, assuming lack of resemblance in looks and behavior to be a random genetic mix. In fact, Wil had always felt Cynthia treated Jakob well also, though his parentage had never been kept from them. Wil turned to Jakob, and caught a similar sentiment in his face.

Jakob, realizing Wil was scrutinizing him, scrunched up his features. She laughed.

“When we get home,” Cynthia declared, “We’re telling you all we know.” She smiled her full, exultant smile. Her family reciprocated. They could never resist.

“It’s a good thing it’s the weekend,” Wil said.

Just then, they heard a knock on the door. “Come in,” Rob gruffed.

A click, a small creak, then the usual clink of the curtain sliding to the side; and a woman in a white overcoat and an air of confidence walked fully into the room. She smiled professionally. “Hello. I am Dr. Sullivan, the respiratory physician on call today. You must be the Winters family.”

 

Continued from Sixty.
Keep reading to Sixty-Two.

Wilhelmina Winters, Sixty

“Let’s all sit down,” Rob suggested, as much as a suggestion was from his direct way of speaking. He coughed a bit before preparing to talk more and guided Wil to a seat on the plasticine couch. He then moved to his usual plastic and metal guest chair. His family turned and looked up at him expectantly.

Rob rubbed his face. “Wil,” he said, “Read your other letter. I need to talk to Jakob.” Jakob looked surprised and glanced up from his arms-on-knees slouch at Wil, Cynthia, and Rob. Wil was about to ask what he needed to say to Jakob, but Rob held up his hand. The same hand bent to gesture at her papers and he gave her a pointed look.

Wil looked down at the second part of her mail that she hadn’t read yet, a note folded haphazardly. It was the same way Wil often put things into envelopes: folding first; then realizing it wouldn’t fit, trying to crease the pages in various ways, and finally stuffing it in. Finding an edge, she opened the letter and spread it out on her lap.

To a background of deep voices occasionally rumbling inaudible words, Wil read the following:

Darling Wilhelmina,

How are you? I hope you are well. I also hope this letter does not shock you terribly. I don’t even know where to begin, so I will just start writing what comes to mind. Hopefully, you will understand.

I didn’t mean to have you. I mean, I was happy thrilled that you were born but I was not intending for that to happen.

I met Rob Winters your father when we were both young, at some party or something. Yes, a party. He was so very serious, but he asked me out on a date. Perhaps you are too young to be told about this sort of thing, but sometimes adults go on dates and end up drinking doing some things and then you find you’ve slept with them at their house even though you didn’t really like them that much. I find this happens a lot with me, but, well, let’s talk about you again, Dear.

That’s it, Wilhelmina: I had you. When you were first growing inside me, I thought about adoption. You know, finding one of those cute smiling couples who really want a child and can’t. But I knew you would be special. I even tried to keep you for a while after you were born but realized I couldn’t.

I gave you to your father -dear old boring dependable Rob, and told him that you were not to be told about me. I didn’t want to stress you out, you see.

The thing is, now I am older and I think I could meet you.

Maybe you don’t want to. -I know! Let’s think about this for a while. I’ll send another letter in a while and maybe you’ll want to talk then.

Please?

Sincerely Love Yours
-Guinevere Greene

P.S.
Just in case, my cell phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. -G.G.

Wil stared at her birth mother’s curvy letters, allowing an elephant’s worth of information and emotion to sink into her mind. From a distance she admired the extravagant, looping signature, the fancy words, the tone.

She looked up. Rob and Jakob had finished; Jakob’s expression looking a bit stunned but trying not to. Cynthia lay calmly, looking at her with concern.

For once, Wil felt nothing.

 

Continued from Fifty-Nine.
Keep reading to Sixty-One.

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.