This is the draft of my NaNoWriMo story, Broken, a romantic comedy of sorts.
“Does Hal have a boyfriend yet?”
Mairi looked up at Holly and chuckled. “Well, did you see in the news a couple months ago where that firefighter rear-ended the attorney with the fire truck?”
Holly’s left brow rose and she nodded. “I did. Poor things. I bet they’re both traumatized.”
Mairi had to suppress another giggle. “Well, they were. But they’re not anymore.” She smiled as her friend began to frown.
“Hal was the attorney,” began Mairi slowly, hoping Holly would catch up.
“And now she’s dating the fireman?”
Mairi laughed brightly, her head nodding. Holly’s mouth fell open. “No way! How did all this happen?”
Two Months Ago
“No, Franzy, Momma’s not ready to get up yet.”
Henrietta pushed the dog from her bed and she felt the sun come through her bedroom window. It crept slowly up the bed and onto her pillow, forcing her eyes open. She glanced at her alarm clock. It was already nine in the morning. She had overslept, and Franz knew it. He whimpered slightly as though he’d heard her discuss his clairvoyance in her head, only proving her point.
“Fine,” she grumbled, throwing off the covers. “I’m up, I’m up.”
Not only did the poodle have to go outside, but he wanted to go for a trail run. And his momma needed a trail run. Henrietta climbed out of bed and into her running clothes. It was cool out on this early September morning. She put on loose tights, a t-shirt, and a fleece vest, before grabbing her trail runners and bounding downstairs, Franz on her heels.
The poodle sniffed at Henrietta’s hair while she put her shoes on. “Quit it,” she hissed, shushing him away. He bounced to his left a little, then stood prancing softly as he waited for her to finish getting ready.
It would take another 10 minutes for them to reach their trail running territory. Henrietta and Franz lived in a condo downtown, and the only trail running was a few miles into the foothills. Henrietta always made sure she had her cell phone, with GPS, her earpiece because it was annoying to try to talk on the phone while running, and two bottles of water in her lumbar pack – one for her, one for the dog.
Camel’s Back park was just that – a huge hump of foothill that was used for trail running and all manner of other mountain sports, including biking. Henrietta had a college friend who’d done a header off his mountain bike years before – he still didn’t remember the day before, the day of, or the day after the accident. And he’d been by himself without a cell phone. Needless to say, he didn’t really live that one down.
Henrietta didn’t really run along the trails per se. She was born with a heart condition which made running at full speed a little difficult. She could do short bursts without much pain, but only recently. Still, she could jog along the trails with Franz just in sight, the “stinger” to his shock collar gripped firmly in her right hand. Henrietta didn’t believe in shock collars till she saw what it had done for her sister and her dog. All you had to do was snap your fingers and that dog sat down and waited for the next command. Because of Virginia’s help and the shock collar, Franz Ferdinand the Standard Poodle did the same thing. In fact, he did it a little better than Chubby because he wasn’t quite as hyper. Unless it was trail time. Then he was a puppy once more, the prancing and the impatient hair sniffing rearing their ugly heads as he waited for her to get ready.
Fall Saturday mornings in Camel’s Back were always crowded. Franz had a tendency to want to greet everyone with whom he came in contact. If he got a little too distracted, he’d get a little buzz from the “stinger” and he’d move on without a sound. This particular Saturday was smack in the middle of cross country season, and Henrietta enjoyed jogging with the high schoolers who happened upon her and Franz and took an interest in the dog. In college, Henrietta spent time as a sports reporter, and then she taught high school for four years before becoming an attorney. She still enjoyed working with kids and still did so through her law practice: Civil Rights and Family Law. She loved her work. But she loved her free time, too, and didn’t mind sharing it with teenagers.
She usually bumped into a few kids from her alma mater, Bishop Kelly, the only Catholic high school in Idaho. When asked what it was like, Henrietta always said either, “I got a great education,” or “I was definitely ready for college.” To her, that’s all high school was; college was when she made the majority of her lasting friendships. Her high school years were certainly not the best of her life. Neither had college been the complete and utter success she’d wished it to be; law school, on the other hand, was one of the most rewarding experiences she’d ever had, and she thanked her lucky stars each day that she did it.
“Yo!” Henrietta turned at the sound of a teenager hailing her. It was one of the regular kids she saw weekly during the Fall.
“Hey, Josh!” she called as he sped by; he wasn’t one to chat until the parking lot, if then. He waved and disappeared around a corner.
Henrietta and Franz ran for another hour before she declared to the dog that it was time to head to the market. She didn’t go to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Boise anymore. That was too preppy and crowded for her; instead, she went to a less crowded but sometimes decidedly more preppy market in Hidden Springs, one of the fanciest neighborhoods in Boise. Hidden Springs was practically its own city, with its own charter school, grocery store, and fire station. Henrietta liked Hidden Springs’ market because it was all grown by residents, and they didn’t mind Boiseans coming in to buy their goods. Henrietta loved fresh produce -- it was the only kind she would eat. She hated vegetables unless they were fresh and raw.
The dog enjoyed the market as well. Hidden Springs was even more dog-friendly than Boise, and Boise had its own dog park, to which Henrietta refused to take Franz because they couldn’t walk to it. Franz could roam the “village green” of Hidden Spring leash-less and free as a bird. He loved playing with all the other dogs. Though he was mellower than most poodles, he was still poodle, and loved to socialize.
When they arrived at the Hidden Springs green, Franz saw one of his regular play buddies, a e named Guinness, named for both his color and his owner’s favorite beverage. Franz was raised with a bark collar, but when he saw Guinness, he always got excited enough to let out a couple of yelps. Henrietta didn’t mind; she loved it when her dog was happy. The first thing she did after finding a parking spot was let Franz out so he could play with Guinness. Henrietta maintained her grip on his stinger, just in case he got a little too excited.
“Hi, Hal!” Henrietta heard someone call. She turned and waved at Lisa, one of the local ladies who worked the market each weekend.
“Hi, Lisa,” Henrietta greeted. “How’s it going?”
“We’re doing great today,” Lisa answered. “We started the morning with twenty t-shirts and we’re down to eleven. That’s the best we’ve done all season.” Lisa was part of the market committee, and she sold t-shirt and other market faire like ball caps and mugs. A month ago, Henrietta purchased a reusable coffee mug emblazoned with Hidden Springs’ market logo, a cornucopia full of beautiful food drawn by a local artist who also sold his drawings at the market.
“Awesome,” Henrietta responded. “That’s really cool. And I love my mug, by the way.” Henrietta winked at Lisa and headed for the booths.
An hour later, Henrietta emerged from the booths with long, handmade baguettes of organic whole wheat, which really did taste better than they sounded; and a head each of lettuce, white cabbage, red cabbage, and kale. She also found some baby spinach and a fresh garlic braid. The braids always went up in her kitchen to give the air a bit of zing. Henrietta used some of the bulbs when she needed to, and let the others dry to make her own garlic salt and powder. All her other herbs were grown on the balcony of her condo, or in the kitchen window sill when the weather was bad. It was almost time, she realized as she packed her purchases into the back of her vehicle, to bring her herb garden inside for safe growing.
When all the produce was safely packed in the back seat, Henrietta turned to the park and spotted Franz; he was hard to miss: silver and brown mottled standard poodle; he didn’t exactly blend with the other dogs. Henrietta pursed her lips and whistled. She wasn’t the greatest whistler, but Franz had learned her whistle, and when he heard it, he always came running to her side.
“Heal,” she told him, and he came to her left side and stood. Henrietta snapped her fingers and he sat down, his snout tilted up at her, waiting for his next command. Henrietta pulled the tailgate down and said, “Kennel up.” Franz took a sitting leap and was in the bed of the pick-up.
As Henrietta climbed into the cab of the truck, she thought about the men with whom she worked. Most of them found it amusing that she drove a pick up. To her, it made sense. Her first vehicle was a 1975 Ford crew cab, jacked to the sky. She’d hated and loved that truck at the same time. Henrietta actually had two vehicles now that she could afford it; the truck was for around town or going to the mountains to visit her parents. She also had a Honda Accord hybrid for running all over Hell and gone. It got much better gas mileage than the truck, obviously, but she wouldn’t take the car to the mountains. It had no horsepower, and Henrietta was a horsepower kind of girl.
Monday is going to be a Honda day, thought Henrietta as she drove home. She had court in the morning, then a deposition around noon. Then it was a supervised visit with a social worker, a toddler, and the parents who couldn’t agree on who got the kid when. “As if he’s a possession,” Henrietta mumbled as she pulled into the parking garage underneath the condos.
The truck was tricky to park in the garage, but Henrietta was an expert at parking large vehicles in tiny spaces; she’d lived in a crappy apartment in Meridian for years and had to park next to a pylon holding up a parking cover and leave enough room to get out between her car and the one next to it. It had been a pain in the ass, but now she was successful enough that she’d gotten herself out of debt, bought a house, and bought two cars, one of them, the truck, brand new. The Honda sat outside on the street. It was older and smaller, making it the ideal street-parking car.
Franz bounded up the steps from the parking garage to the third floor, where their small condo was; it wasn’t the flashiest one in the complex, but Henrietta loved it, and she enjoyed the challenge of living on the third floor but not using the elevator. She always sent her groceries up in the elevator, but she jogged up the steps to meet them. Nearly everyone who lived on a higher floor than ground sent their stuff up in the elevator and climbed the stairs to meet it. It was good for Henrietta and her heart.
Her phone was ringing from her back pocket when she hit the top step and reached for her keys; as she did, she pushed the button on her ear piece so she could work and talk at the same time.
It was her mother. Henrietta’s parents had moved to a small town in the mountains after marrying off their two youngest and seeing that Henrietta was stable. Now, Gail called her daughters on a daily basis; she’d never really been without them. Henrietta and her younger sisters had grown up in the same house, not moving once until they were old enough to move out on their own. Mairi, the youngest, actually still lived in the house the girls had grown up in; she and her husband moved into it when Vaughn and Gail moved to Cambridge.
“Yo, Momma,” Henrietta answered the phone.
Gail laughed. “Yo, Halla,” she replied as she always did. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Just came home from the park, then the market.”
Henrietta unlocked the door to the condo as Gail asked, “What’d you get at the market?”
“A little bit of everything.” Henrietta tossed her keys onto the wall next to the small foyer. Franz ducked inside and scampered for his living room bed. He had two -- one in the living room and one in the bedroom. He drug the living room one into the kitchen whenever Henrietta was cooking. He would plop it almost in her path, then stretch from the bed to lick up anything she dropped on the floor.
As she hurried down the hallway to grab her groceries, Henrietta silently thanked the cell phone gods for Bluetooth headsets, since her mother was still talking, and Henrietta had to haul four bags of groceries down the hall to her kitchen.
“ . . . And your dad told him to go to Hell, since he was being such a jerk,” Gail ended a story Henrietta had only half listened to.
Henrietta snickered, her head shaking. Her father didn’t suffer fools easily, and he had passed that trait onto his three daughters. In certain, very different circumstances, each girl was more tolerant of idiots than usual. Regardless, they all hated stupidity in all the forms in which it could have been prevented. “Dad really needs to be careful,” Henrietta reminded her mother.
“I know,” Gail sighed. “It’s just, you know how he doesn’t like to be told how to do his job.”
“I totally understand,” Henrietta stated. She did. She didn’t like being told how to do her job, and she knew no one who had the right to tell her father how to do his. There was no one, in most people’s opinions, who knew a welder better than Vaughn Skjolden. He was the epitome of expert and professional. There really wasn’t anyone who should be telling him how to do his job. “No one in his right mind would tell Dad how to weld. Hell, I know how, and I would never even dream of telling him how to weld.”
Gail chuckled. “You’re more qualified than most.”
“Eh.” Henrietta really wasn’t, though she was the only one of the three Skjolden girls who knew how to weld. Vaughn taught 4-H welding years ago, when Henrietta was in middle school. She’d had a heat stroke from the apparel he required and the fact that he was teaching it in the middle of the summer. She distinctly remembered lying on the front lawn, the entire class leaning over her, as she sprayed herself with the hose. It had been embarrassing, but heat strokes were a part of her life because of her heart. One had come on her this summer when she was finally learning how to water ski.
“You sound distracted,” Gail stated.
“I am,” Henrietta chuckled. “I’m trying to put groceries away, and Franz is high-stepping around me, waiting for me to drop something so he can eat it. I gotta go, Mom.”
“Okay. Bye, sweetie,” Gail signed off as usual.
“Later.” Henrietta pushed the button on the ear piece and pulled it off her left ear. As she reached out to toss it onto the breakfast bar, Henrietta caught a whiff of herself. “Damn!” she cried. She stunk. So it was groceries in the fridge, and then herself in the shower.
Henrietta spent as long as she could stand in the shower. Sometimes, she hated being in it and took just five minutes or so to wash up. Usually after a run in the park and to the market, Henrietta took about 20 minutes languishing under her water tile ceiling shower. She would turn the body sprays on high and just stand in the middle of the shower, reveling in being nearly wrapped in water.
It was nearly two in the afternoon when Henrietta finally reemerged from the bathroom dressed and ready to get some work done. Saturday was her work day. She cooked, cleaned, and did some writing every Saturday, then vegged out on Sunday. Most Sunday mornings were spent in bed or in the bathtub. At nearly six feet tall, Henrietta had rejoiced when she moved into her condo and realized that she could actually fit in the bathtub. She usually read in the bathtub while Franz slept on his bed in the middle of the bathroom.
Franz was a rescue, and while he’d been a nameless puppy when Henrietta adopted him, he’d been old enough to remember being neglected by his previous owner; therefore, he didn’t like being away from Henrietta unless she was at work. Her law firm, however, was pretty cool about letting her bring him to the office on days she had nothing but brief-writing to do. He would simply lay on his bed in her office as she typed away, then get up and push her with his nose when he needed to go out. Henrietta decided years before she got Franz that she wanted a silver, male standard poodle and that she was going to name him Franz Ferdinand. Franz meant “free,” and Ferdinand meant “to be courageous.” It was important to Henrietta that her dog’s name meant something and wasn’t just some cutesy name, though she admitted that her sister’s dog, Chubby, had a fun name. Especially since he wasn’t chubby.
Henrietta kissed at Franz, and he followed her into the living room to plop onto his bed. She picked her laptop up off the coffee table and checked her email. She had a couple new ones that looked boring. She deleted them all and moved on to the two from her friend Kendra. They graduated from college together over 10 years before and were still very close. Both were amateur writers, though Henrietta had been a professional reporter during college. Kendra was an accomplished poet, while Henrietta could write hundreds of pages in just a matter of days. They were sometimes quite competitive about their writing, especially in November, when they both participated in National Novel Writing Month. It was always fun seeing who finished 50,000 words first -- the novelist or the poet?
Kendra was writing to tell Henrietta about her last trip to her in-laws’ lake house. She and her husband had taken their girls up their for Kendra’s birthday, even though her birthday was a month away. Kendra liked to tease Henrietta about being the older of the two of them – by just a couple weeks. Still, Henrietta found it amusing that she was the “old woman.”
Henrietta wrote Kendra back, then moved into the kitchen to work on some dinner for the evening and lunches for the rest of the week. She liked to make large batches of pasta with turkey sausage, then eat them each day for lunch; she didn’t mind repetition when it came to pasta. It was, after all, her favorite thing to eat. Franz drug his bed into the kitchen and waiting patiently for his momma to drop something on the floor as she cooked.
Sunday morning was indeed spent reading in bed. Henrietta grabbed the newspaper from outside her door, then snuggled back into bed, allowing Franz to curl up at the foot of the bed. He was not allowed to sleep the night on the bed. Ever. It was a terrible habit Henrietta didn’t want him to get into; instead, Sunday mornings he was allowed to snuggle at her feet if she ended up reading in bed.
Henrietta was more than halfway through her latest read, the seventh in a series she’d begun reading when she was still teaching. It was a historical mystery centered around the Civil War. She found them funny, scary, and poignant – all the things a good mystery should be. Characters were her favorite things in books, and these novels had amazing characters. Henrietta often felt like she could hear the main character’s voice in the room, not just in her head. By noon, the novel was finished, and like each time she finished a good book, Henrietta was a little bummed it was over. For nearly two years, she had written a book blog about the things she’d read. Each book she finished was reviewed on the blog short and quick, and then Henrietta would move onto something else in her huge library.
Her sisters were always amazed that she could handle so much reading material. Often, they would come over for dinner and leave with a book or two in their purses, usually ones Henrietta had already read and had thought they would enjoy. Some people were finicky about lending their books. But Henrietta was able to handle doing so because she kept very close track of who had what and for how long. She even had software to help her do it. Her coworkers called her a nerd for it, but she had yet to lose a book permanently. It was the same with her DVD collection. Her friend’s husband liked to screw up her DVD collection so that stuff was out of order. At work, Henrietta was rather anal retentive about organization. At home, it was a different story, with the exception of her DVDs and books. They had to be alphabetized and organized in specific manners. Matt’s efforts to mess them up usually ended in Henrietta smacking him on the arm or in the gut.
Around three in the afternoon, Henrietta finally made it from the bedroom to the kitchen. Sunday nights were dinner-with-the-sisters nights. Some nights, Virginia and Mairi would bring their husbands. Other Sundays, it was girls only. This evening, all four would be coming and bringing their dogs. They had the same thing every Sunday – Henrietta’s famous grilled steaks. In nice weather, they’d eat on the grass downstairs, spread out on a couple of blankets. It would be inside eating tonight, since it was so cold out. Still, that wouldn’t stop the five of them from taking the three dogs for a walk around Henrietta’s neighborhood after dinner.
Mairi made fantastic twice-baked potatoes and always brought a batch of them to dinner, and Virginia and her husband were good dessert cooks, though they never brought the same dessert two Sundays in a row. Their favorite was crème brulée. Greg especially liked it after having a huge slab of prime rib. He found the manliness of the prime rib and the elegance of the crème brulée quite funny when combined. So did the rest of the Skjolden clan.
Henrietta used organic steaks, which her brothers-in-law at first found repulsive. Then she cooked them, marinating them in her own special blend, and the boys were convinced that organic could be tasty. Henrietta was prone to Migraines if she ate certain foods and the chemicals in them; organic was just better for her, so she cooked it for everyone who came to her condo.
All four of Henrietta’s siblings arrived at six o’clock. Len and Mairi got up quite early because of Len’s job, so they had to eat at a decent time so the “old people” could get home to go to bed at eight o’clock.
“Yo, Hal, open the door!” shouted Len at six as he simultaneously rang the doorbell over and over. The repeated doorbell ring was how her family alerted each other to the fact that a member was at the door. If the doorbell didn’t ring repeatedly, Henrietta had a tendency to not open the door, or at least peer through the peephole for an extended amount of time before opening the door.
Henrietta scurried over to the door, her apron hung loosely about her neck, and threw the door open. “Hi, guys!” she cried, running back into the kitchen. She was searing the steaks briefly in a skillet on her stove.
Virginia and Mairi each came and gave their oldest sister a quick hug. The dogs bounced around each other for a few moments before Len told them all to go to bed. They piled, all three of them, on Franz’s living room bed, Jackson the Doberman in the middle so she could get some snuggling from the boys.
Len put down the pan of potatoes he’d been carrying and went out onto Henrietta’s balcony. “I’m lighting the grill!” he called.
“Thanks!” Henrietta replied.
Greg put his beer in the fridge – he usually didn’t eat out without drinking a beer of some kind, and Henrietta didn’t keep beer at her house. She didn’t like it. But Greg was a bit of a connoisseur, as the girls liked to label him. He moved from the fridge to the breakfast bar, tapping his hands on the counter.
“That’s not annoying at all,” Henrietta told him as his wife reached over and covered his hands with her own.
The three Skjolden sisters chuckled at the exasperated look on his face. “I’m going outside with Len,” he mumbled and then disappeared onto the balcony. Chubby stood up for a moment and watched his daddy head outside. The dog was always ready to go outside, no matter what time of year it was. He was a hunting dog and really wasn’t happy unless he was outside. He didn’t care if he wasn’t hunting or not; just being outside made Chubby happy. Jackson, on the other hand, didn’t budge when she saw the guys head outside. She liked being warm and toasty in the middle of the bed with the other dogs. She looked up at Chubby as if to say, “Sit back down, I’m cold!” He returned to the bed when Virginia looked over and snapped her fingers at him, then said, “Down.” He obeyed, and Jackson snuggled back in between the two boys.
Len and Greg remained on the balcony near the grill until Henrietta and her sisters came outside with the marinated steaks. Henrietta refused to give up the contents of her marinade blend, though Greg had attempted to finagle it from her repeatedly. It was one she’d come up with herself and had been such a hit that she was going to make sure it was a closely-guarded secret for years to come.
Usually, either Len or Greg did the grilling when the Skjolden family was together. But at Henrietta’s house, she was in charge of the grill. She shushed Len away each time he tried to “help.” He just got in the way.
“Do you have a busy day tomorrow?” Len asked Henrietta as she began putting steaks on the grill.
“I do,” she answered before detailing her plan for Monday. She saw Len shake his head. The entire family always got annoyed at the people Henrietta had to deal with -- stupid parents who felt it necessary to split up their families and fight over their children. Henrietta did her best to work out an arrangement that benefited the child before the parents. It didn’t always work, but that never stopped her from trying.
“What else are you doing this week?” asked Mairi.
“Depos, meetings. Oh, I have to meet with the ACLU on a case.” Henrietta shook her head. “It’s a busy week.”
Her birthday was coming up in a few weeks. She knew that’s why there was so much interest in what she was up to this week. They were wanting to plan something. Henrietta would be 34, 22 years older than she was supposed to be when she was born. With her heart condition came many complications when she was born. Her parents had to take her to San Francisco when she was eight months old for open heart surgery. After her surgery, they had been told she wouldn’t live past the age of 12. Two years ago, when she turned 32, she felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, though she didn’t technically do anything except live. Still, she was quite proud of beating the odds. She had taken that motivation and turned her life around. She’d lost weight, gained confidence, and even started dating, though she’d been by herself all her life. It was a crazy year, and it was about to come to an end. She wondered what her sisters were up to.
Len and Greg sort of paid attention to the conversation, but Henrietta could tell they were bored by the birthday talk. This time of year was always the busiest for both of them. Len was putting snow tires on cars up in Cambridge on the weekends and traveling for his regular job; Greg was an avid hunter who took Virginia into the hills on a weekly basis. Most of the time, he was crushed by her in the kill department. She was often the only one who came home with anything, and Greg had taught her to shoot. It drove him a little crazy, but Henrietta and Mairi thought it was funny.
“Steaks are almost done,” Henrietta remarked as Virginia and Mairi were discussing dinner choice for Henrietta’s birthday. She didn’t really pay attention. They all liked the same restaurants, even if they didn’t like the same things at those restaurants.
Mairi ducked back into the condo to put the potatoes in the oven to warm up. None of them were going to eat cold twice-baked potatoes.
“What’d you bring for dessert?” Henrietta asked Virginia.
“Just cake, no big deal,” was the response.
Henrietta shrugged. She loved cake. Really, she loved just about anything with sugar in it. There were few exceptions. Her favorite combination, though, was sweet and salty – preferably in the form of chocolate-covered pretzel sticks. The gentlemen with whom she worked had learned long ago that if they needed to bribe Henrietta to do anything, all they had to do was bring her chocolate-covered pretzel sticks.
Len poured the girls some ice water, while Greg pulled his beer from the fridge. Henrietta and her sisters got the food ready, and then they all sat down to spend about an hour eating and talking. The dogs watched the meal with interest, likely taking note of where crumbs fell so that they could have a meal of their own before going on their walk.
The walk was fruitful for all involved. The Skjolden sisters and their husbands walked off their dinners, and the dogs got to recon around the neighborhood for an hour. There was always other puppies to meet and trees to pee on.