Welcome to The Spot Writers. The prompt for this month: As the year ends, we’ll focus on the topic of Endings and New Beginnings. Keeping with the December theme, a fruitcake must also appear somewhere in your story.
Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA reboot The Scarred Letter. Also check out her new YA novel The Man with the Crystal Ankh, releasing on December 12.
by Val Muller
The soft sounds of snoring carried over the crackling fire, and Elenore glanced over her family. Jill and Michael slumped together in the love seat, the contents of their empty wine glasses ruddying their cheeks. On the floor in front of the fire, Megan dozed in the sleepy embrace of her new fiancé. Her diamond ring sparkled against the flames, and their four-month old snoozed next to them in his bouncy chair. His chubby cheeks drew up into a smile as if he knew that his parents’ Christmas engagement was something to celebrate. And Michael Junior was asleep in the beanbag chair, the screen of his hand-held gaming toy turning his face orange and green and blue.
Next to each, an uneaten slice of fruitcake. It had been her mother’s tradition for years, a tradition Elenore kept when she made her home. Except her homemade fruitcake had been delicious. Jill—busy, busy Jill—had bought it from the store. A hard brick of a cake. Elenore had pretended not to hear the groans, especially from Michel Junior, about the outdated tradition. Family these days had outgrown such things. And so the slices would be deposited into the trash after Elenore was collected again for the Home.
And Elenore? She shifted in her wheelchair, adjusting the blanket around her shoulders. She never thought she’d live to be a great-grandmother, but there she was, thrice blessed, and for four whole months now. Jonathan Thomas would have loved the little babe. In fact, she saw her husband’s glow in the little tyke’s eyes.
She glanced around the room at the typical post-Christmas mess. The wrapping paper balls, the tangled ribbons, the half-strewn trash bags. Elenore wished she could tidy up for them. Always so much for the young to do. If only she could help. But these old bones were all but useless.
“Can’t be walking around anymore,” the doctor had said. Old bones can’t handle it. So brittle they might snap. It’s why they installed the wheelchair alarm, to alert the nurses at the Home in the event that Elenore tried to go out walking again. Terrible shrieking contraption, that. Scared the living daylights out of her the first time it went off.
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Her diaper had needed changing for an hour now, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to bother Jill about it. She’d just wait ‘til the van from the Home came for her.
That was her life now, anyway. Waiting. What was another hour? She glanced at the sparkling bag dangling over her arm rest. What gift had they given her again? Was it a necklace? A candle? Maybe that was last year. She couldn’t remember anymore. She had no use for gifts, anyway. Even for the gift of time. All she wanted lived in memory.
The day darkened to twilight, and she glanced out the sliding glass door, enjoying the rare moment. The nurses at the Home always pulled the shades tight by 4 p.m. They said the residents went a little crazy at twilight, sundowning with the day. They said twilight was the most dangerous time for people in the Home. Best they slipped into nighttime unknowingly, peacefully.
Like dying in one’s sleep.
But it was a silly superstition. Nothing odd or upsetting about the sun going down. Elenore smiled at the reflection in the glass against the setting sun. Those eyes.
I missed those eyes.
Jonathan Thomas stood tall, his shoulders as broad as ever. He motioned for her.
What, me? Go outside in the snow at this time of day?
“It’s the best time,” he answered. “The moon’s out here on the north side. Come see. I’ll keep you warm.”
She struggled against the rubber lap desk they’d stuck in her wheelchair. It was meant to hold her in place, since the alarm didn’t seem to do the trick. Nasty thing, that lap desk. Near impossible to remove. Not from a seated position. Not with brittle bones. Maybe Michael Junior would help.
“No.” Jonathan Thomas shook his head. “Let the boy sleep. Come. Just you.”
She glanced around. Everyone was still snoring. No sense waking them. Maybe Jonathan Thomas was right. Maybe it was time for a new adventure.
The glass door slid smoothly open, almost as if it were made of gossamer strands of moonlight. Her legs felt strong again, and her feet crunched easily through the snow. She’d forgotten what it was to stand, and she nearly stumbled, but J.T. was there to catch her.
I missed your eyes.
“I know,” he said.
She took a step out to the yard, but J.T. stayed put. “You sure you’re ready?” he asked. “This is it.”
She turned around. This time, she looked the other way through the glass at the warm orange glow surrounding her sleeping family—her daughter and son-in-law, her grandson and granddaughter, her grandson-in-law and their child, all sleeping. And there in the corner, finally seeming at peace in the wheelchair, was someone who looked the way she looked once, her skin sagging with the years, her hair wispy and white. That couldn’t be her, could it? Not her her.
No, best leave her be. That Elenore lived a thousand eternities ago. That Elenore wasn’t her, not truly. Best leave her be, then. She was sleeping now.
As for Elenore, the real Elenore, she grasped J.T.’s hand and turned toward the beautiful moonlight, and they started out together.
Another adventure awaited.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com
CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/