Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Nine

Wil didn’t notice her interesting ensemble, and her mother was too kind to draw attention to it. Wil might have requested the information, had she known that a certain occupant of Building Five was spying more discreetly than even W could manage.

She and her mother suspected nothing. They walked their familiar, echoing path past the winter-dead trees and morning-shadowed playground. They spoke less than usual; they thought a lot more. Her mother had two coughing fits but insisted she felt fine enough to continue. Wil sighed deeply more than twice but insisted she felt fine enough to continue as well.

They walked the cold and empty route in a quiet unease; each with thoughts far from the areas she walked through or the person she walked with.

“All right, Wil…” her mother said once they were back at home. Her intended speech, however, was interrupted by yet more coughing. Wil closed the door, then walked her gasping mother to the couch. She held up the medicine bottle, the water cup, and then the nebulizer in turn. Cynthia shook her head at each but the last. Wil found and measured out the correct medication, attached the air hose, and offered its mouthpiece. She anxiously watched her mother inhale the vapor at a gasp in the coughing; cough; inhale; breathe out. Wil sighed, as she always did, in relief.

Her mother cleared her throat in the careful manner she’d used all weekend. “Now, Wil,” she said in a quieter voice, “Are you going to tell me more about your secret clues, or about Reagan, or…” She fixed Wil with a knowing look. “About why the playground outside makes you sigh?”

Wil looked up, shock plainly written all over her face.

“Or,” her mother said kindly, “Maybe you want to talk more about the letter from Gwen?”

Wil opened her mouth, changed her mind, and closed it. Her face changed expression to one of scrunched thoughtfulness as she considered what to say. She opened her mouth to try again.

“Mina!” her father said in surprise. He stood in the doorway to the hall, coat in hand and socks on feet. “We need to go!”

Wil hurried a glance to the microwave clock. They were late! “Oh! Sorry, Dad! Umm..” She searched around herself for what she might need to grab, as her thoughts searched around her head for what she might need to remember. Her mind grasped an idea before her hands did. “My bag! I’ll got get my bag from my room! Then we can go!”

She rose in a rush and made to dart around her father; who, for some reason, blocked her path. Wil looked up at him in confusion. A smile played at the edges of his mouth.

“Min- Wil,” he said. “Maybe pick some different pants first?”

Her gaze traveled back to her own person. “Gah!” she exclaimed, and again made to rush to her bedroom. This time her father did not stop her. In fact, she heard what sounded suspiciously like a chuckle just before entering her room.

 

Continued from Seventy-Eight.
Keep reading to Eighty.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Eight

The guard shifted again. W froze. Just as she thought to chase her instincts back to where her equipment waited, he sat up and turned on the bedside lamp.

“Mina?” his groggy voice asked, his eyes squinting. “That you?”

“Yes, Dad,” Wil answered, sighing.

Her mother moaned and moved her head. Wil and her father watched Cynthia roll over and turn off the breathing machine, remove the attached mask, and rub gently at her face. Perhaps sensing their attentions, she looked in Wil’s direction, then Rob’s. She smiled. “Good morning. Is it time for our walk?” She yawned and her audience felt obliged to yawn in reply.

“I think,” Wil ventured, “We’re actually a little late.” She came into the room, stepping over but mostly through the disarray. “Sorry, Mom.”

Her mother held out a friendly hand, which Wil took. “That’s okay.” She yawned again. “We’ll just do a few fewer laps.” Turning her attention to the bed and its surroundings, she said, “Now, if you two could help locate my clothes, I’ll get dressed and meet you at the door.”

Wil laughed quietly. “Sorry,” Rob supplied. “I’ve been meaning to pick up.”

“Looks fine to me,” Wil said, feigning innocence.

Now her mother laughed. Her father’s face twisted into an expression of humored irritation. “Suppose we both clean up today?” he proposed.

“Found ’em,” Wil said, grabbing at a pink bundle very near the bed on Cynthia’s side. She deposited them on her mother’s lap. “I’ll see you up front!” Her parents both watched the bouncing chaos of hair and stumbling movements of Wil skip from their room.

Rob sighed. He shifted and leaned over to kiss his wife’s cheek.

“Do you think,” Cynthia asked, pulling at the t-shirt she slept in, “She knows she’s wearing a striped purple top and plaid pajama bottoms?”

 

Continued from Seventy-Seven.
Keep reading to Seventy-Nine.

Hallowe’en Serial, 2018

Halloween!!! It’s a-coming, whether I’ve actually finished kids’ costumes or not. For the next seven days, at just before midnight, I will post a segment of a SCARY serial story. Enjoy!

———–

Loud static greeted Carol on every radio station -that, or, “So what do you think about terrible bosses, Jean?” from raucous, annoying morning show hosts.

“Isn’t there a single station playing music?” Carol asked her dash. She pushed the Scan button and returned her attention to the stop-and-go traffic around her.

*Bzzzhrrrfffftttzzz*

“And…” Ha, ha, ha, “then he asked me to turn in yet another-”

“Your next stop for tires. You know, when you need tires, you need-”

*Pzzzzschhheeewwww*

“I thought I’d get a break, finally, but that was when he extended my hours to-”

“I’m driving; here, I sit.” ♫ “Cursing my government-“

A pickup truck cut into the too-small space in front of Carol’s sedan; she braked, hard. The radio, unchecked, continued on to, “We’ve got Josh on the line now to tell us about his worst day at the office. Josh?”

Hurriedly, Carol pushed the back arrow. She’d heard music; she knew she had. The display jiggled through a few numbers and rested on yet another set of commercials. She glanced up and only saw the large rear bumper and even larger tailpipe of the pickup truck. Traffic hadn’t moved.

Carefully, she edged the tuning dial up a tick. Static. Up another tick. Static. Vehicles edged forward as she moved her wrist just one more turn to the right. ♫ “When she turns 50 / I might be dead / But acting happy again / For singing his songs about rush-hour traffic jams…”

Paydirt. She smiled, certainly happy despite being in her own traffic jam. And being 50.

The song ended, and another began. This was more mainstream, and she sang along. The station played song after song all the way to work; the last ending just as she pulled into a space on the office building’s left side.

Carol found herself humming as she walked in through the front doors. A verse or two escaped her lips from recent memory. ♪ “There’s a problem at the office,” Hmmm hm hmmm ♫ The front desk secretary glanced up, her expression one of surprise. Carol continued past her and her cheesy Halloween decorations. Carol had hated the secretary since she’d arrived with her short skirts, fake makeup face, and too-high heels. A penchant for black cats and smiling ghosts from the dollar store only made Carol avoid the front desk more.

She walked on to her office, just down the hall from her husband’s. “Carl Carter, head of C & C Contractors,” she said aloud. Pushing open the door, Carol stopped. Her normally tidy desk was overturned, its contents strewn across the floor. Bits of papers fluttered in the air she’d disturbed at her opening, folders flopped and shielded their former contents, and her flat-shod feet crunched on a discarded pencil.

The mess wasn’t the only reason for her hesitation, however. Her entry had created a stir in the papers; a noticeable one, a visible one. Carol could not shake the feeling, however, that she had also interrupted something else; something not so visible.

Continued at #2.

Mondays and Memories

The pictures people post of life are beautiful, artistic, happy, and well-framed. They are also less than a second of time, and 4×6 inches of a multi-perspective panorama. Better make them the best, right?

So, when you see this pile of mess I’ve included, you may wonder where the beauty is. Why would I post this?

For the story. For the reality.

This pile is what was left after my two youngest (ages 7 and 4) mixed and baked a chocolate cake completely by themselves. They did so after making grilled cheese sandwiches and (somewhat charred) tomato soup for dinner.

I’m not certain why the “cakes” boiled over into the oven since I was returning from martial arts at the time. My twelve-year-old suspects they severely over-measured the baking soda. My husband was with them and told me how excited the six-year-old was for me to come home to a surprise dinner and a whole cake!

If I were aiming for artistry, I could pose the bakers’ chocolate-stained faces in front of a symmetrically-messy counter. I could write that my darling, budding chefs made dinner and dessert. Then I could elaborate, saying we ended the evening singing songs of family unity and went to bed before sundown.

The problem is that the evening did not end with dessert and singing. The problem is that I tried to clean up the remains of amateur baking with the oven’s self-clean option. That method didn’t last long.

As I sit in our smoke-scented house and listen to the roaring fans downstairs, I can’t help but consider how much easier this day would have been if I’d not allowed them to create their dessert surprise.

Then, I remember what my husband said about our budding baker. “That was so sweet of you!” I tell my six-year-old as we tuck him in. “I am so impressed that you made dinner and a whole cake by yourself!” As he swells with self-pride I suggest gently, “Let’s make it together next time.”

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