Attention, dear Booksie Family : Today's 29th of February, a day which comes into our lives every four years. The reason why I posted my novel today is that I should be able to look back after four years and see how I am now. Also, I consider it good fortune to post it on such a special day.
I trust that you looked through the character pictures I posted months ago. The kind of people they are and the kind of clothes they wear had been quite evident I guess.
I had fun writing it (who am I kidding? It was a lot of hard work.) Have fun!
~ Prologue ~
Motherhood, in Shirley’s opinion, changes a woman completely and irrevocably. She once eavesdropped on her Grams talking down her mother saying the exact same thing. Her Grams had spelled the terms and conditions to be a mother when her mom was being a rather clue-less one – taking responsibility of another person’s soul and life was not to be taken lightly; that requires something extra, something magical; a spark that would take hold of the woman until she burns with a sensitive fire for her child. Shirley knew then and there that was it for her. She would be a mother and be the best one at that.
That thought landed her face down in reality. Noticing that the last stragglers have left, she slipped into her beige trench coat embellished around the collar and reminded herself to thank Pansy for her early Christmas present. Having adjusted her scarf to cover her face, she quickly locked the shutters of the cafe and hurried towards the bus stop. The rhythm in her stride pushed her back into her mind.
It carried her back to the teenage years. She never cared for a child when she was growing up. Her opinion was limited to the things and feelings she was familiar with at that stage of her life. She remembered chatting about boys, boys and more boys. She was the kind of girl who had obsessed over every tiny detail about her high school crush, the kind of girl who had gossiped away the entire night about who was making out with whom in whose bedroom and the kind of girl who thought the right shade of lipstick was more important than her math homework.
An unnatural warmth crept up her cheeks at the idea. That seemed so long ago. Disembarking from her bus, she dug her freezing fingers into her coat pockets and quickened her sagging pace while checking her watch for the umpteenth time.
Marguerite Avenue was a picture perfect scene out of a fairytale at this time of the year. Every house lining the street was tastefully decorated with golden neon lights, icicles, bells and candles. There was a snowman in every front yard in the block. She knew it always had been and would be like this as Christmas heals wounds, soothes heartbreaks and brings families together. Life was a series of heartbreaks for Shirley McLaine from that innocent teenage onwards. In spite of that, she didn’t grow up into a bitter adult.
The reason was very simple and obvious. Her mother was fiercely determined on Shirley being strong and she got her way. She recalled watching in awe as her mother gathered her crumbling life and transformed it into a whole, transparent and fun existence. She promised herself she would follow suit whatever the circumstances. And she succeeded in fulfilling her dream.
At the immature age of twenty-three, she finally found her opening. She figured no one in their right mind would want what she decided to have. She went along with it anyway and could clearly remember her mom pleading her to go back on her decision; but Shirley became obsessed with the idea of aping her mom that she didn’t entertain the idea of understanding her.
Too late, she thought to herself blankly glancing at her watch. She increased her momentum on the slippery pavement and skidded to a halt at #7018. She caught herself before falling on her face in the snow. Clutching her free hand to her chest, she leaned onto the Japanese flowering cherry tree in front of her house which apparently brings good luck. She held onto it wishing some would rub off on her.
She peeked at the front porch cautiously with one eye firmly closed. Sitting on the top step and appearing highly miffed was her six-year-old baby girl. Shirley stared at her admiring her cuteness in her perceptible rage. The little devil was covered from head to toe in warm clothes, her feet dangling disinterestedly on the steps and her flushed face partly covered by her over-sized beret. On spotting her mother she promptly turned her head away with an adorable pout. Shirley let out a soft laugh. She shuffled towards her daughter and sank down from exhaustion.
“Sorry,” she gulped.
She caught a glimpse of her baby’s face and quickly averted her eyes. She was indeed glad that she didn’t listen to her mom, she grinned to herself, being a mom was truly beyond magical. Her princess simply shifted her posture away from her. Shirley took the initiative and stealthily put her hand around the little mitten.
“Sorry, junior McLaine,” Shirley murmured, “speaking of which, where is he? He got the baby-sitting job today!” Shirley eyed her ward incredulously.
“That’s not the point mama. The point is: You. Are. So. Late.”
“I had a very busy day, Muppet. The place was full until a half hour ago. What do I do? Your granny left me in charge. Why don’t you blame her? Or better, I’d like to blame your partner-in-crime. Where is he anyway?” Shirley demanded getting cross at her child. The little kid just turned a tad pinker in embarrassment. Shirley knew her daughter was hiding something and decided to wean it out of her at a later time.
“Oh really?! Then time to get your act right, princess,” Shirley patted her baby girl’s head, stood up to enter the front door to answer the blaring telephone while calling her daughter inside.
“And oh…if he comes here in the near future, I’ll spank the hell out of him.”
A short while later, Shirley and her little mitten shared their vegetable soup sitting on the clean and spot-free kitchen counter. The clock struck ten. Shirley placed the dishes in the sink and beckoned her princess into their bedroom. Intimacy breeds love, Grams always repeats the quote specially created by herself for her future generations. Keeping that in mind, Shirley let her six-year-old sleep beside her most days although her rational mind made her keep a kid’s room ready at all times. The McLaine girls parked themselves at the bay window securely wrapped up in shawls and a grey comforter. Shirley watched the snow glittering seductively at the sky showing the stars what it was capable of. I thought I was capable of taking the responsibility, she gazed at the white expanse in front of her through the glass sadly.
“Mama,” the little mitten prompted, “tell me the story of you and me.”
“You ask that every other night. Aren’t you bored of it yet, sweetie?”
“No,” she jutted her chin defiantly with her head resting on Shirley’s chest.
Shirley exhaled loudly slightly irritated with her baby’s insistence. Why would she want to hear such a tale day after day? Why would she want to remind her mama the truth? Is this her own way of saying she’s okay with it or not okay with it? Shirley resolved to talk to her Grams about the possible reason behind this. She assembled her memories in a sane line like many times before and began her very own fairytale…
It was a pleasant June afternoon when I first took you in my arms.
“Mama, not from there,” her princess butted in abruptly, “From the first! I want all the details.”
It is a pain in the ass to be a mother, my mom was right. Shirley shook her tired mind and began the story again.
'It was a pleasant June afternoon. The Sunrise Hope Nursing Home resembled a greenhouse. Its entrance hall was completely made of glass and the sun was searing hot on the skin…
Shirley’s lips duplicated the whole story without any conscious effort. After a long drawn description of everything and everyone, she came to the important moment.
…Grams followed nurse Ariel out of one of the doors opening into the hallway. Your Aunts Madonna and Pansy hovered around me in utmost awe. My hands trembled as I gingerly took you in my arms. Grandpa and Grams stood very close to me in case I lose my grip. But I couldn’t. I could never; because you were mine. The minute I took your delicate and tiny body into my arms, I was your mother. My ears acutely listened to that tiny fluttering heart; my eyes roved over your pink face; my arms took in your barely there three month-old weight. I lost all interest in the outside world. That’s when I realized the obvious. You were the reason I was born. My accomplishment in life would be raising you; my beautiful marvelous bundle of joy; my Joy. The nurse said something about the name on the birth certificate. I frowned impatiently although my focus didn’t leave your sleeping face. “Joy,” I hummed. “It’s Joy. Her name’s Joy,” I explained to the confused group around me.'
A tiny tear trickled down Shirley’s frosty cheeks jerking her awake. She observed that Joy had fallen asleep long ago. Her head throbbed with the nagging questions in her mind and some really painful memories. She felt wildly protective towards her baby girl yet she knew there was nothing else to do except wait and watch. Hauling her sleeping daughter gently, she carried her to the bed. Before switching off the lights, she did a double take and kissed the little mitten good-night. Not satisfied, she reached to pat her baby’s cheeks. Just then, someone touched her shoulder lightly from behind.
“Isn’t she adorable?” a cheeky voice offered with spilling emotion.
“Yeah. After all, she’s my daughter.”
So, I guess you like it already?? Yes? No? Please inform me or criticize me. I love feedback of every kind.