Paralyzed by fear & heart shredded by loss, a one-hit-wonder looks for a rebirth.~2nd PL!
“What are you going to do now, Ivy? There’s no one left to hold your hand and tell you you’re special. Eric dumped you. Mommy and Daddy are dead, and the rest of the world doesn’t give a shit what you did four years ago.”
Rage bubbled up at her brother’s sneer, choking back the spoken word as surely as the written had failed her.
“Nothing? Come on, Ivy. Use your words. My big sister the famous author.” He raised his voice, throwing his arms out in mocking presentation. “What a fucking joke. You’re a one-hit-wonder. Did you even write that book?”
Feeling the side-eye glances of family and friends, she ground her teeth. She wasn’t doing this here. Her hands ached with the ferocity of their clench. What the fuck did he know? Caine had never had an original thought in his life. The baby of the family had never had to work for anything. His first car, college, the family business, it had all been handed to him. He breezed through life like he had a golden horseshoe up his ass.
“What is it they say? Your silence speaks volumes? I need another beer. Oh, and you have until Monday to be out of the house.”
The sneered words bounced around in her head until Ivy wanted to scream. That had been three days ago. Just hours after they’d put their father in the ground. Twisting her hands around the steering wheel she wished it was Caine’s neck. See Spot run pressed the limits of her brother’s literary skills. What the hell did he know about writer’s block? A horn blared and she hastily checked her lane and mirrors. Drawing a shuddering breath, she blew it out and refocused on the traffic. Despite the taunts, she wasn’t quite to the point of praying for a fiery crash to put her name back in the news.
Pressing her shoulders back into the SUV’s seat, she tried to relax. GPS put the drive at a little over eight and a half hours. While it might not seem far enough away from her brother, the cabin was in a different world. A world that she was looking forward to losing herself in. How many hours had she spent sprawled on the swim float, soaking up the sun and scribbling in her notebook? Her happiest memories were at the lake. After the last couple of years, she needed happy.
An unexpected flash of red in the lush greenery alongside the winding road turned out to be the mailbox flag and kept Ivy from missing the driveway. Weeds pushed up through the crushed stone nearly obscuring the path. Low hanging limbs scraped the roof rack as she rolled up the drive. At the end a sapling grew in front of the peeling garage door, its top branches tangling in the tattered remains of the basketball net. The small patch of lawn carved from among the trees was now wild and overgrown. Moss covered the cottage’s metal roof. All around, Mother Nature attempted to reclaim what was hers.
Had it been that long? Knot in the pit of her stomach tightening, Ivy put the SUV in park. She fumbled with the keys, leaving the suitcases and boxes behind for now. The grass was above her knees, but the steppingstones to the backdoor were still there. She bit her lip at the small hand and footprint impressions in the customized pieces.
Pushing open the door, she stepped into the past. The hulking red 1950’s fridge humming against the far wall added to the illusion. The story went that her dad had fallen in love with the lake, but her mom had fallen for the refrigerator. Finding a stove and dishwasher to continue the vintage theme couldn’t have been easy or cheap, but that had been the deal and her dad never broke a promise. The ruby hue graced the round stools at the breakfast bar and the horseshoe booth that nearly filled the eating area, before continuing throughout the cedar and stone home in small pops of color. A co-mingling of her mother’s vibrant personality with her father’s steadfast simplicity. Ivy drew a finger through the thick layer of dust on the counter, images of her mother dumping her bags and grabbing for cleaning supplies flooding to mind. The woman had never been still, until she was forever.
Blinking away tears, Ivy stepped down into the sunken living room. Dust motes disturbed by her sandals floated in the thin sunbeams creeping through the bamboo shades on the large front windows. Sheets covered the furniture like grey ghosts. She lifted a corner to peek at the heavy vinyl couch that had survived so many wet bathing suits. Closing her eyes for a moment, memories abounded. The place smelled a little musty, but even through closed windows, the sweet tang of lake water scented the air, calling to her. Rolling up the shades, Ivy felt the last vestiges of uncertainty leave her. It was just like she remembered. The sun glinted off the blue water like a polished jewel. Nothing but lake and trees as far as the eye could see.
Opening the windows, she drew a deep breath. God, she had missed that. The smell of lake water and sunshine took her back to an uncomplicated time. After everything, it felt right to be here. Now to unpack the SUV and set to making it look like a home.
Yawning and rolling her neck, Ivy climbed the stairs to the loft. Exhausted muscles screaming, she didn’t want to think how she’d feel in the morning. Looking longingly at the bed, she ripped open the box marked BATH, and rummaged for a towel. She was filthy. No way she was climbing into clean sheets. Moments later, the hot water felt heavenly. It made fighting with the pilot light worthwhile.
Water streaming over her body, she let her mind wander to the to-do list for tomorrow. She’d made a good-sized dent in cleaning but wanted to give the walls and floors another good scrub with the Murphy’s Oil Soap. Her mother had sworn by it. After that, she’d need to go into town for groceries and a few household things. She’d only brought what would fit in the SUV. She’d pick everything else up as she figured out what she needed. There was something freeing in starting over.
Guilt squeezed Ivy’s heart at the thought. She wasn’t supposed to be doing this alone. Hell, it shouldn’t have been her at all. The original plan had been for her parents to turn the business over to Caine and move up here to fish, garden and wait for grandchildren. Then mom’s nagging cough started to taste coppery and rust speckled her tissue. The doctor had ordered tests. Something suspicious on the scans led to a biopsy and the C-word that no one wanted to hear. The weeks that followed were a blur. Everyone whispered that her quick passing was a blessing. The little girl in Ivy screamed she wanted more time with her mom.
Losing their hub and heart, the family imploded. Dad was lost. Nothing mattered without her. He didn’t go to work. Condolence cards, phone calls, and the doorbell all went unanswered. He stopped taking care of himself, exacerbating his health issues. Immersed in the business and admittedly his own grief, Caine refused to take her fears seriously. He threw man-platitudes at her. Dad was a big boy. He could take care of himself. Stop smothering him. Maybe her least favorite, you’re not mom. No. She wasn’t. No one was mom, but her normally invincible father was falling apart. Someone had to do something.
Ivy wished she’d done more. Tugging sleep shorts and a tank over damp skin, another yawn threatened to unhinge her jaw. Whether the physical exertion, the rollercoaster ride down memory lane or a combination of, she was wiped. Haphazardly twisting her blonde mop into a braid, she belly-flopped onto the bed. The plush comforter and lavender fabric softener enveloped her. That was all she wrote.
Sipping coffee, Ivy sat on the end of the pier, feet dangling in the water. Wisps of morning mist hung low over the lake like ghosts. Physical reminders of her losses. Eric, Mom, Dad, they had all sat on these weathered boards with her in the past and now they were gone. Some of her first scribblings had happened here as well. Scribblings that had started her dreams of a writing career. Was it gone too? It certainly felt that way. The words had deserted her as surely as everything else she loved.
As she sat there staring out over the lake, she couldn’t help thinking it was the writing that left the largest hole. Did that make her a horrible person? Likely, but as deep the heartbreak at losing her parents, not writing left both mind and soul in despair. It was a pain all the anti-depressants, alcohol and ice-cream in the world couldn’t dull.
Sighing, she kicked a foot in the air, watching the morning sun catch the water droplets and turn them to jewels. Ripples spread, widening, joining with smaller ones caused by the fallout and finally disappearing into the soft waves. When she was a little girl, she would jump out of the car the moment her dad put it in park. She would run around the cottage and down the ivy-covered hill. Not waiting for anyone. Sprinting down the pier, she would leap as far as she could. The girl that emerged from the cool waters was reborn. Loneliness, school, and bullies were all left behind. Here, her imagination soared. She lost herself in stories, first those of others and then her own.
Ivy wanted that back. She longed for the escape, the freedom. Life had been so uncomplicated then. Her muse had danced in her dreams day and night, whispering tales of love and adventure. Now her mind was silent. Her imaginary friends had abandoned her. The loneliness she’d known as a child was back a hundredfold and more crushing than ever. She had nothing else to lose, nowhere to fall. This move had to be her rise from the ashes or the waves in her case.
Biting her lip, she looked over her shoulder at the hill. Could it be that easy? It was worth a shot. Setting her cup aside, she stood and made her way to the shore. Had the hill always been this steep? Her calf muscles burned. Ivy vines snagged at her feet and ankles. How had she not broken her neck on one of the headlong charges down this thing? Three-quarters of the way up, the water called to her.
She did most of her running on an obstacle-free treadmill these days. Taking a deep breath, she crossed herself. She wasn’t Catholic but what could it hurt? Breaking into a controlled lope, she headed for the pier. Going down was much easier than climbing up. Gravity and the incline speeding her descent, she threw her arms out for balance, giggling breathlessly.
Hitting the homestretch, her bare feet slapped against the weathered boards. She picked up speed. Gathering herself in the last couple of strides she leaped into space, arms and legs churning. Tilting her face to the rising sun she filled her lungs a moment before plunging into the water. Surrendering to the cool depths she rejoiced at the cleansing caress. Rage, frustration, heartache, and regret washed away as she sank.
Toes touching the bottom, she thrust upward, face still tilted to the light. As she broke the surface a joyful sob broke between gasps. It felt so right. She hadn’t felt this free in years. It was time to leave all the pressure, pain and doubts behind. Rising from the waves, this was the beginning of a new life.
WC ~ 1989
Second Place Winner!!
© Mara McBain 7/2019
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Prompt: Write a short story using the lyrics to "Ready to Fall" by Boundary Run, as inspiration!