Welcome back to Tuesday Tales. It’s always fun to participate in this flash fiction blog hop. This week, the word is PAINT. As always, I’m continuing with Charley, Bill, and Shirley, the characters I created for Hello Again, my paranormal/romance/suspense. I hope you enjoy this heart-to-heart talk between Charley and Shirley. Last week’s post from a picture actually comes after this scene. Don’t forget to visit the other Tuesday Tales’posts.
Shoving her fist angrily into the bread dough once more, Charley pounded the white ball viciously, as if it were somehow to blame for every bad thing that had happened to her in the last five years. She was furious at God, Mother Nature, and whoever else she’d like to point the finger at for her current situation, but the truth was this was all her fault—hers and hers alone. Beads of sweat dotted her brow. Her upper arms ached from the unusual exertion.
“You’re certainly angry with someone,” Shirley said and chuckled. “From the way you’re pounding that dough, I’d say it was far more than one person.”
Feeling her cheeks heat, Charley eased up on the inoffensive ball in front of her.
“I hope I didn’t ruin it,” she answered miserably. “These days it’s as if everything I touch gets destroyed. Take Matilda, my car. I’m a good mechanic, yet I ignored a critical piece of equipment. If I hadn’t, I’d have made it to Saskatoon the day before yesterday, well ahead of the twister, signed my contract, and would be looking for a place to live. Now, because of my own lack of diligence, I’ve lost everything that mattered to me: my tools, Mike’s ashes, my grandmother’s linens and china. I may not even have a job, let alone a vehicle, or a place to live. Half of my clothes is ruined, and what’s left smells like mildew.”
Touching her shoulder, the heat of Shirley’s work-roughened hand comforted her. “You haven’t lost everything.” With her index finger, Shirley tapped Charley’s temple. “Your memories are sacred, and they’re locked away safely up here and in your heart, but no one can survive on old memories. We have to make new ones. Clothes can be replaced. The rest will be fine once it’s washed, and when we leave you’ll take whatever you like from my daughter’s drawers.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Yes, you can, and you will. I didn’t know why I’d kept them all these years, but now I do. They may be old, but jeans, T-shirts, and sweaters don’t go out of style. Even the skirt you wear now would pass muster.”
Charley nodded. Since she didn’t follow fashion the way others might, Shirley was right.
“Sometimes we have to let go and be cleansed before we can start over,” Shirley continued. “You’re here because this is where you need to be wi’cin, not by accident because you made a mistake. The spirits brought you to me for healing—and I’m not just talking about your leg. The dead don’t need you, but the living do.”
“How can I help anyone when I can’t even help myself? I can barely walk. I’ve painted myself into a corner, and I’m well and truly stuck. I can’t go back, and I can’t move ahead.”
Shirley smiled compassionately. “Paint dries, little one, and when it does, there’s something bright and new to enlighten even the darkest places. I know what it’s like to lose the ones you love. When my daughter disappeared, it was as if a piece of my heart was torn out. I waited for her to come back, even though the spirits told me she wouldn’t. In time, the pain hurt less, but when the spirits took my man, I ached just as I had the day she left. I was alone and empty. For a long time, I refused to listen to the voices, but in time, they told me how to help others and in doing so, the pain eased. I’ve been waiting for you, for Bill. Once I accomplish this task I’ll be whole again, and so will you.”
Charley swallowed awkwardly. Was Shirley foreseeing her own death?
Reaching for the large ball, Shirley pulled off a small chunk. “As far as the bread goes, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said, changing the subject. “It’s unlikely you could over knead it by hand, no matter how strong you think you are.” After rolling it in her hand, she placed it on the floured table and stretched it slowly the way a pizza chef would when he was getting ready to make a new pie, but she kept stretching it until the dough was almost transparent. “It’s perfect. Tonight’s bread will be light and airy.”
Charley looked away, surprised the compliment should bring tears to her eyes. She watched Shirley divide the bread into two loaf pans and then make a dozen smaller balls with the remainder. Satisfied, the old woman carried the two pans and the cookie sheet over to the stove.
“If I tried that, I’d have dropped the baking sheet for sure,” Charley said a self-deprecating laugh bitter on her tongue.
“You’re far too hard on yourself. If you’d done this as often as I have, you could do it with your eyes closed. So, what were you thinking about while you beat the daylights out of that dough?” She opened the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of lemonade.
“The storm, Mike, and Bill going off when you say we’re in danger—that gun.” Charley indicated the rifle hanging on the wall near the door. “My life’s become a nightmare, one in which horrible things happen over and over again. As soon as I think I’ve overcome a challenge, another one appears ten times worse than the previous one.” Tears filled her eyes. “I’m so tired of hurting, Shirley. I walk around with this big empty space inside of me. I thought this new job would make things better. New home, new friends, nothing from the life I had to pull me down, and instead, I find I’ve dug a hole for myself, one so deep I’ve got no idea how I’ll ever find my way out. I wish your spirits had let me die out there.”
“Don’t talk nonsense,” Shirley said, her tone cross. “Let’s go sit outside for a while before the storm clouds roll in again. I want you to tell me all about your old life. Mike’s spirit clings to you, but he needs to leave, and you have to let him go. You’re both being stubborn about this. He can’t move on until you release him. Wallowing in your grief like this, year after year, pains him as much as it hurts you. He needs to be freed from this plain so he can move onto the spirit realm where he belongs. He’s done everything he can to make you happy. Once you accept that you can love again, that someone can love you and need you, he’ll be free and so will you.”
Well, that’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.