Chapter Five – Understanding Kasey

After Kasey put her mom to bed, she went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She leaned on the sink and looked at herself in the mirror as the water dripped down into the sink. She rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes that had become a permanent part of her face. She hated them, and wished she could rub them off completely. A 25-year-old woman shouldn’t look as old as she did. Taking care of her mother had taken its toll over the last few years. She needed help, but who could she turn to? It wasn’t like she had any family to turn to for help. Her father was never a part of her life. She’d lost most of her friends. Maybe if she had gone to college she could have avoided this whole mess with her mom. And as for dating? Nobody wanted to date a woman with an invalid mother, nor did she have time to find a date. At least she had her customers at the Rusty Anchor and the coffee shop. She wasn’t sure she could consider them friends, but at least she saw them on a regular basis. Except for Willow…she couldn’t figure her out. She seemed to want to push her way into her life. Kasey didn’t want to be rude, but she liked her life compartmentalized. She was a different person at the coffee shop than she was at the Anchor. At the Anchor, she could let her guard down. But since Willow had started showing up at the Anchor, Kasey felt guarded.

She heard a rustling sound coming from the living room. It startled her at first, but as she passed her mom’s bedroom door, she realized her bed was empty.

“What now?” she mumbled. “Mom? Why are you out of bed!”

Naomi had pulled the cushions off the couch, and was sticking her hands deep into the crevices.

“Not this again,” Kasey said.

“Come on, Mom. Time to go to bed,” she said, and pulled gently on her mom’s shoulders.

“They have to be here somewhere! Daddy is going to be so mad at me! I lost his keys again!” Naomi said. She was agitated, even frantic. She pulled away from Kasey.

“Mom, please,” Kasey urged and reached for her again.

“No, I have to find them!” Naomi said, and pulled away.

Kasey had reached her end with this nonsense. She reached for her own keys, grabbed them and shook them violently.

“I found them! Now let’s go to bed!” Kasey raised her voice.

Naomi paused, and studied the keys.

“Those aren’t Daddy’s keys. Now help me look, or we’ll both be in trouble!” Naomi yelled.

“Yes, they are! I’m sure of it!” Kasey yelled back.

“No, they aren’t! Daddy’s keys have a bottle opener on them!” Naomi said.

Kasey thought for a moment. She had to get Naomi off the subject, or they could be up for hours.

“No, remember? He took that off the keys! I’m sure of it! Now, let’s go to bed!” Kasey yelled and threw the keys into the dish on the counter. She reached for Naomi, and Naomi struggled against her.

“Mom, please!” Kasey was beyond exhaustion. She was crying, and desperate to distract Naomi.

Naomi saw Kasey’s tears and paused. For a moment, Kasey thought she saw recognition in Naomi’s eyes, but it didn’t last.

“Oh, sweetie, what’s wrong? Did someone hurt you?” Naomi asked.

“Yes,” Kasey said under her breath.

“What can I do to help?” Naomi asked, forgetting about the keys for the moment.

“Let’s just go to bed, okay?” Kasey asked, and wiped her tears. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“Okay. If you’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help,” Naomi said.

Naomi looked around the living room, as if she was forgetting to do something. Kasey gently grabbed her by the shoulders and took her back to her room. She covered her up, and turned off the light, closing the door behind her. Then Kasey made her way to her room, and collapsed onto the bed. She wanted to cry, but was all cried out. She turned off the light and prayed for a better day in the morning.

 

The sun streamed through Kasey’s window, hitting her in the eyes. She squinted and looked at the clock…6:23am. She realized she hadn’t set her alarm, but she still had time to get to the coffee shop on time. Hopefully her mom would cooperate. She took a quick shower, pulled her hair back in a ponytail, and went to wake up her mom.

Naomi lay in her bed, snuggled under the covers, silent, in the same position Kasey left her the night before.

“Mom?” Kasey said quietly.

Naomi didn’t stir. Kasey sighed, knowing that getting Naomi up was going to be another struggle. She opened the curtains and turned on the light beside her bed.

“Mom,” she said again, and gently shook her. She still didn’t stir.

“Wow, you’re really asleep. Come on, Mom, time to get up.”

Kasey rolled her over and noticed how cold Naomi was.

“Mom?”

She felt her cheek…cold.

“Mom!”

Kasey shook her and put her ear to Naomi’s chest. She couldn’t hear anything. Her mom wasn’t breathing.

“Oh, God…Mom!”

She shook her again. Still nothing. Kasey ran to the phone and dialed 9-1-1, then ran back to her mom’s side. She tried to start CPR, but didn’t know if she was doing it in the right order. Was it breathe first?! Or chest compressions?! How many breaths?! She went back to chest compressions. Still nothing. She was panicked, breathing and compressing as best as she could remember. She didn’t know how long she was there before she heard the knock at the door.

“It’s my mom! Please help!” Kasey yelled and led them to her mom’s bedside.

She watched from the doorway as the paramedics tried to bring her mom back to her. She could hear the paramedics talking to one another, but couldn’t focus on what they were saying. She replayed arguing with her mom about the keys over and over in her mind. Did she upset her mom so much that she had a heart attack? Was it her fault? She should have been more patient with her. She felt so selfish and so guilty.

“Ma’am?” the paramedic said.

“Is she alive?” Kasey asked and strained to see over the paramedic’s shoulder.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you sure? There’s nothing else…”

He touched her shoulder. She watched from the doorway as the paramedics picked up everything from around her mom.

A police officer introduced himself to Kasey. She didn’t hear his name, and didn’t remember when he’d shown up. He told her that she’d have to answer a few questions, and fill out some paperwork. And the coroner was on his way.

The Officer led Kasey to the couch to sit down, and the cushions were still on the floor from the night before when her mother had been searching for the keys…those damn keys.

The next few hours were a blur. She talked to police and made arrangements with the coroner’s office. But none of it seemed real. Kasey felt like she was in a dream. Her mom was really gone.

Advertisements

Going Back to Work after 15 Years of Being a SAHM

Getting back into the workforce after 15 years of being a SAHM has been a more of an adjustment than I expected.

It was much harder to find a job that fit my experience than I had initially expected. When I left my full time career to stay home with my first born, I had been a graphic designer. Needless to say, the graphic design field changed over the last decade and a half. The software changed, and, even though I had the skill and the knowledge, I was left behind. Time to reinvent.

Also, just getting through the resume search engines proved daunting. Just getting an interview was beginning to seem impossible.

I was never a “corporate” woman, but rather chose workplaces that were small business and family oriented. But finding those, at least in my area, is like finding a needle in a haystack. But I found one. A small business focused on providing value to their customers. Right up my alley.

But learning something new? I hadn’t done that in, well…a really long time. I mean, I know we learn every day. But learning something other than what kid goes to what class on which day, or learning that I can’t make all those things on pinterest (a post for another day), that was something completely different. I must admit…I was scared. And a little intimidated. And surprisingly insecure.

And then there is the age factor. I am one of the oldest people at my company…and I’m 48…not exactly over the hill quite yet. But apparently, old enough to have almost nothing in common with most of my co-workers. We don’t share the same interests, our work ethic is different, and I don’t skim through my smart phone nearly as much as they do. I feel like I have to work harder to prove my worthiness than my younger counterparts do.

But there have been some good things too.

To begin with, I’m not as affected by every little headline that I see pop up on social media. Not only because I don’t see them as often, but because I don’t have time to worry about what the blonde on the news is blathering about. I don’t have the time to invest. I’m too busy figuring out when I’m going to do the laundry, or realizing I forgot to get something out for dinner (again), or making sure everyone gets their homework done.

One of the best things that has come out of going back to work is my kids are developing their independence.

They are discovering that they can be so much more responsible than they were when I was home over-seeing things. I was ALWAYS here. Now they have to be sure they have everything with them in the morning, because I can’t leave work to bring them whatever it was they may have forgotten. It’s they’re responsibility.

They need to do their dishes and their homework without me reminding them.  They have to pitch in with cleaning the house, and doing the laundry, and taking out the trash, because I just don’t have the time. And they’re doing a fabulous job so far.

So even though I miss my time to write (which I’m still trying to fit in), and I wish that Saturdays weren’t designated for laundry and running errands, I feel like going back to work full time was a good decision for my family…even if I’m the oldest woman in the company. I’ll let you know when (if) I get used to that one.

Chapter Four – Understanding Kasey

“Mom, come on! I can’t be late!” Kasey yelled. She was losing her patience fast.

Naomi lifted the couch cushion, and looked in the creases of the chair.

“I’ll just be a minute. I think I lost Daddy’s keys. I always have an extra pair lying around here. They must be here somewhere,” Naomi said. She was determined to find the keys that didn’t exist anymore.

“Come on! You can bring him the keys later!” Kasey yelled. He’s dead anyways! She wanted to scream.

“Nope, they aren’t there. Just a minute sweetie,” Naomi said.

Finally, Kasey reached into her purse and pulled out her own keys. She shook them wildly.

“Here they are! Look! I found them! Can we please go?!” Kasey said, at the end of her rope.

“Oh, good. Here let me have them,” Naomi said, and reached for them.

Kasey pulled away, knowing that Naomi would realize they weren’t her Dad’s keys if she got too close. The brain sure worked in weird ways when it was broken, Kasey thought to herself.

“No, no…that’s okay. I’ll hold on to them. Grab your sweater,” she instructed and pointed to Naomi’s sweater on the chair, distracting her long enough to get her out the door.

“Where are we going again?” Naomi asked once they were in the car.

“To work, Mom,” Kasey said, exhausted, and running late.

Naomi seemed satisfied with the answer, and was quiet the rest of the ride.

 

Kasey walked briskly into the bar, her mom following close behind.

“You’re late,” Ben, the other bartender, said.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Kasey said and motioned to her mom. She walked her mom down to the end of the bar and made sure she was comfortable. She threw her purse in the locked cabinet, and poured herself a small glass of beer, and drank it down quickly.

Ben scowled at her, and left. Kasey poured her mom a club soda and set it in front of her.

“You good now?” Kasey asked.

“Thank you, sweetie,” Naomi said.

Kasey watched her mom as she sipped her drink, and slipped into her zone. Guilt overwhelmed her. Bill watched from down the bar.

“You need a refill?” Kasey asked him.

“You need a break?” he asked in return.

Kasey smiled at the thought. If only it was that easy. He slid his glass across the bar and she refilled his beer.

“Do you ever leave this place?” Kasey provoked him.

He smiled. “I have a life, you know.”

Yeah, well…” Kasey said, and went about getting the bar ready for the evening regulars.

 

Willow wandered in around 7:25pm and sat next to Bill.

“You back again?” Bill asked.

“Yep.”

“I thought we would’ve scared you off,” Bill teased.

“Not a chance. Besides, now that you know my secret, I gotta keep my eye on you people,” Willow needled. “Did I miss some excitement?” she asked him, and nodded towards Kasey, who grumbled to herself quietly.

“She’s kind of roughed up, I think. Looks like Naomi had a rough day.”

“I wish we could do something to help,” Willow said.

Bill shrugged his shoulders.

“Does she have any family?” Willow wondered out loud.

“I don’t think so. As far as I know, it’s just her and Naomi. I’ve never heard her mention anyone else.”

“That’s a shame,” Willow commented.

“You’re back again, huh? Tom Collins?” Kasey asked, and tucked a stray chunk of hair behind her ear.

“No, I think I’ll stick with club soda tonight,” she said.

“I thought you might,” Kasey said. She was all business, cleaning the bar, and washing glasses, and straightening bottles. Willow could tell she was avoiding talking, so she didn’t press her for conversation. Instead she talked to Bill. Bill talked about his years as a bus driver and the characters he met. He said it wasn’t so different from being a bartender, except for the drunk part, although he did run into his share of drunks on the bus. Willow discovered he was a great storyteller. His stories got more colorful as the evening wore on. She thought that being a bus driver would make for some great writing material. She made a mental note to take the bus more often.

“No Judy tonight?” Willow asked as she looked around the near empty bar.

“Guess not,” Bill said.

“Didn’t she say she was going to her sister’s for the weekend, or something like that?” Kasey commented.

Willow turned to Bill to answer her.

“What are you looking at me for? I don’t keep track of that wild red head,” Bill said.

“Really? You don’t talk to her outside of the Anchor?” Willow asked.

“What gave you that idea?” Bill asked.

“I don’t know. The way you two hassle each other, I thought you were friends or something,” Willow said.

“We are…just not in the real world,” Bill said.

“She wouldn’t have him anyways,” Kasey chimed in. “He’s not her type.” She laughed and winked at Bill.

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Bill piped back defensively.

Willow laughed at the exchange. Kasey had a talent for ruffling people’s feathers.

“Her type? What’s her type?” Willow asked.

“She likes them younger…and with a full head of hair,” Kasey added just for fun.

“Hey!” Bill said and ran his hands through the few hairs combed across his head.

“Ignore her. She’s just egging you on,” Willow said. “I’ve seen her do it before.”

“You have not,” Kasey said.

Willow raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.

“What?” Kasey asked. “Who are you talking about?” She played innocent.

“You know exactly who I mean. Don’t play innocent with me,” Willow said.

“Who? What?” Bill asked, clearly missing their cryptic conversation.

“She means Chase,” Kasey admitted, as she dunked a glass into the sink.

“Who’s Chase?” Bill asked.

“He’s a young man who works at the coffee shop with her. She hassles him all the time,” Willow said and elbowed Bill. Bill nodded knowingly.

“That’s just because he makes it so easy. If you’re dumb enough to leave the door open, I’m going to go through it,” Kasey said.

Bill caught on, and winked at Willow.

“So, this guy…Chase is it?” Bill asked. Willow nodded.

“Is he good looking?” Bill asked, knowing he was in the driver seat.

“Chase? I guess so. I never really thought about it before. He’s not my type,” Kasey said.

“Does he have all his hair?” Bill sniped. Willow laughed almost spitting out her drink.

“More than you,” Kasey teased.

“Hmmm…I see. And he’s a young man? About your age?” Bill continued.

“Yes, and he’s a college man too,” Willow added.

“Hmmm…” Bill said, and rubbed his chin.

Willow leaned closer and whispered to Bill, “They are perfect for each other.”

“What are you two talking about down there?” Kasey asked.

“Nothing, dear. Bill’s just rambling. You know how he gets,” Willow said quickly. She’d planted a seed and that was good enough for now.

“Yeah, you know me. Just rambling. Maybe I’ll have to trade my beer in for coffee and come see this guy,” Bill said.

“Really? You’re going to trade your beer for coffee,” Kasey said.

“Nah, you’re probably right. Guess I’ll have to let Willow keep me informed about this college man,” Bill said.

Willow winked at Bill.

“Sorry to disappoint you, Bill, but there’s nothing to tell,” Kasey said, and changed the subject. “Mom, are you hungry?”

“What? Are you talking to me?” Naomi asked.

“Yes. Would you like something to eat?” Kasey said again, leaving the ‘mom’ part out this time.

“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said.

“Would one of you mind going next door to Tony’s and get her a slice of pizza? She was so busy looking for those stupid keys I forgot to make her eat something,” Kasey asked.

Neither Bill or Willow were sure what she was talking about, but they figured it had something to do with the mood she was in when she got there.

“I got it,” Bill said. “Just cheese?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks, Bill,” Kasey said, and slid a five dollar bill across the bar to him.

“She had a rough day, huh?” Willow asked, cautiously.

“Yep. It’s always something,” Kasey said, and walked away.

Willow wanted to reach out to her, but she knew Kasey wouldn’t talk about it. She hoped that they hadn’t teased her too much about Chase.

When Bill got back, he handed the pizza to Kasey and she took it down to Naomi.

“Do you think your mom would talk to me?” Willow asked Kasey.

“She might. It all depends on her mood,” Kasey said.

Willow picked up her drink and moved down the bar to where Naomi was seated. Willow sat at the corner of the bar near Naomi.

“Is the pizza good?” Willow asked her.

Naomi didn’t answer, she just kept eating.

“Ask her about Cliff,” Kasey suggested.

“Cliff?” Willow asked.

“He was my grandfather…her dad. I never met him. Her long-term memory is nearly flawless. She just can’t remember what she had for breakfast this morning. Her short-term memory is shot,” Kasey said.

Willow gave Kasey a wink.

Willow turned to Naomi. “Does Cliff like pizza?” she asked.

Naomi’s face lit up. “Oh, yes. He loves pizza! Especially anchovy. I can’t stand anchovy pizza, but he loves anchovies. Even puts them on his salad sometimes. Do you remember the time that he tried to sneak anchovies onto Mama’s pizza and she nearly gagged?! That was so funny!” Naomi said and laughed.

Willow figured she’d play along. She looked to Kasey for her approval, and Kasey shrugged her shoulders.

“That was funny!” Willow agreed.

“Of course, fish was a staple at our house. I guess that’s what happens when you work on the docks, right?” Naomi said.

Willow nodded and looked to Kasey for clarification.

“He worked on the docks. He was a fisherman. She always used to go down there to hang out with him when she was a young girl,” Kasey said.

“The docks! I love the docks! Oh, my gosh! What time is it? Do you want to go down there with me? We could play hide-and-seek on the boats if you want,” Naomi said. She sounded like a little girl.

“Oh, I think it’s a little late. It’s dark outside,” Willow said.

“That’s the best time! The boats creak and moan and it’s so scary…and fun!” Naomi said.

Kasey heard the conversation and stepped in to rescue Willow.

“We can’t, remember? He’s on an overnight trip. The boats aren’t there,” Kasey said.

Naomi looked disappointed. “Oh, boo! Maybe tomorrow?” she said to Willow.

Willow looked to Kasey and Kasey nodded at her.

“I think tomorrow would be better,” Kasey said.

Willow played along. “Yes, I can go tomorrow too.”

“Oh good! It’s a plan!” Naomi said.

Willow was quiet for a few moments and Naomi went back to eating as if the conversation had never happened. Willow picked up her drink and made her way back to the seat next to Bill.

“Weird, isn’t it?” he said.

“That must be so hard on Kasey,” Willow said, feeling deep sympathy for Kasey. “How does she do it?”

“She’s a tough kid. I don’t think she really had a choice in the matter,” Bill said.

Willow had a new appreciation for the pain that Kasey probably felt on a daily basis. She couldn’t imagine having her own mother not know who she was half the time, or not know that she even had a daughter. No wonder Kasey was the way she was.

Reducing Computer Time…Again

We’re conducting an experiment in our house…we’re reducing the kids’ computer time significantly.

Over the summer, things got out of hand. I was working a part time job from my home, and the kids had to be quiet for about 6 hours a day, 3 days a week. Add to that weekends, and having a mom that can’t drive (so can’t run them all over town), and we had a summer in front of the screen. Keep in mind my kids are 11 and 15. It’s harder to keep that age away from the technology. It’s their life! Especially for one of the kids…the teenager.

Then came the start of school, and their “screen time schedule” got uprooted. What?! Go to school for 7 hours a day or more?! That’s insane! What are the schools thinking demanding that of my poor kids! (Please note my sarcasm).

So, after first quarter grades came out…the hammer came down!

I should add that, though not catastrophic, the grades just weren’t up to the standards we require.

It seemed as if there was very little homework, or that it had “magically” gotten done in class at school. Yeah, well…my parents never believed that and neither do I.

The new rules are that no one goes on the computer, except for school-related homework or projects, until after dinner. Which, depending on the evening schedule, doesn’t leave a lot of time.

It’s only been a week, but already I see improvement. Kids aren’t exhibiting as much stress, they aren’t rushing through homework to get to their computer time, and they are all around nicer to be around. They even TALK TO ME now.

We are also re-instituting “family game night.”

I can tell you that this initially did NOT go over well with them. There was a lot of groaning and eye-rolling (again, mostly from the older one). But then I explained that I didn’t want the only time I talked to them to be “do your homework,” “come eat dinner,” “go take a shower,” and “get up for school!”

They, of course, disagreed that this was occurring, until I pointed out that by the time I get home from work, they have already done their homework (so they said), and had already gotten on the computer. Then I made dinner, they stopped the computer long enough to eat together (all of 20 minutes, if I was lucky), then go take showers and go back to the computer, then off to bed! No words! No talking! If I didn’t get them to talk between bites of food at the dinner table, we just didn’t talk!

As I’m writing this, it occurs to me how much judgment I am probably incurring from many parents reading this. I get it. But we all mess up. We all get lazy sometimes. And after working a full day (which I haven’t done for 15 years) I’ll admit it…I was tired! I almost welcomed the quiet. But it wasn’t good for any of us.

So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll write a follow-up post to this in a few months. Hopefully, we won’t have gotten lost and fallen back into our old pattern. Hopefully, the semester grades will be stunning! Hopefully, we’ll even enjoy talking to each other.

What’s your rule for computer/technology use during the school year? Are you able to stay consistent?

Chapter Three – Understanding Kasey

“Where are we going, sweetie?” Naomi asked Kasey for the third time in twenty minutes. She looked out the car window as if she was trying to recognize the landscape.

“To visit your friends,” Kasey answered abruptly.

Kasey had spent the morning fighting with her mom about getting dressed. Naomi wanted to wear her purple floral jumpsuit that Kasey hadn’t seen in the past ten years. They finally settled on the green pants and a yellow blouse. It was sort of floral-like. Then Naomi had fought her while Kasey tried to brush her hair. She’d screamed at Kasey and complained that she was pulling too hard on the brush. Kasey finally gave up and left her hair half-brushed. Thank goodness that the daycare was right around the next corner.

Kasey checked in with Helen at the front desk, and a nurse met her mom and took her back to the activity room. Kasey heard her mom ask the nurse who that woman was that brought her there. Kasey mumbled, “It’s your daughter, remember?” No one heard the hurt in her voice.

She filed the hurt away in the recess of her mind while she drove to the coffee shop.

 

“Morning,” Kasey said to Chase as she walked in the door to the coffee shop. After some loud music on the car ride to work, she’d managed to get her blood pressure back to a reasonable level, and was able to conjure a semi-friendly greeting.

Chase was arranging the pastries in the front counter window.

“Hey…anything good in there today?” Kasey asked.

“Just the same old stuff. Were you hoping for something different?” Chase asked.

“It would be nice to have a little variety every now and then.”

“Agreed.”

Kasey ground some coffee beans. She shouted over the grinder, “Guess who I saw last night?”

“Who?”

“Willow,” she yelled back.

“Where? At the Anchor?” Chase asked, surprised.

“Yeah. Weird, huh?”

“I didn’t know she was a drinker,” Chase commented.

“Me neither. Honestly, I don’t think she is. She said she was there because she had writer’s block,” Kasey said and rolled her eyes.

“What? Don’t you believe her?”

“I guess. It seems sort of a silly reason to run to a bar though,” Kasey said.

“I don’t know. Have you ever tried to write anything? Seems like it would be hard to keep coming up with ideas. Especially if you have the added pressure of being a well-known author,” Chase said.

Kasey poured the grinds into the machine. Did Chase know Willow’s pen name? She wanted to tell him, but she had been sworn to secrecy. And even though she didn’t consider Willow a friend, she did want to keep her word.

“She doesn’t seem like the type that would have a drinking problem, or anything. Probably just needed to let off some steam,” Chase added.

“Maybe,” Kasey eyed Chase suspiciously. “How well do you know her? You two seem awfully chummy some days.”

“What? Why? Not very well. Just from short conversations here and there,” Chase said defensively.

“Okay, okay. I was just asking.”

Kasey was sure he knew more. He answered too quickly. She’d have to keep her eye on him.

“Speak of the devil,” Kasey said, as Willow walked in the front door. She looked more tired than usual. Her gray hair was frazzled, and Kasey could see the dark circles under her eyes from where she stood behind the counter.

Chase grimaced at Kasey. “I got her,” he said.

“Morning, Willow. The usual?” Chase asked.

“Morning, Chase. Better make it extra strong today. Late night last night,” she said, and forced a smile.

“You got it,” Chase said, and walked away. He met Kasey’s glance and mouthed the word ‘wow’ to her.

Kasey whispered back, “I told you.”

Chase brought her coffee to her, and she already had her journal out, but Chase noticed the page was blank. She picked up her pen and began to write:

Missy reached for his hand, but he quickly pulled away. It had been too long since they had been together. She’d forgotten his touch and it felt so foreign to her. He was confused and searched her eyes for an explanation. Only a single tear fell down her cheek.

Willow quickly scribbled through the few sentences. It sounded cheesy to her, contrived, forced. Her head pounded. The aspirin had already begun to wear off. She tried again:

She walked on the shore and felt the sand between her toes. A gull flew overhead and cried out. She watched as it flew towards the sun. She looked back towards the rocks and saw a figure silhouetted by the sunset. Was it him? Had he found her after all these years? No, her eyes must be playing tricks on her. But there he was, waiting for her.

Again, she crossed out her words. What was wrong with her? Had she lost her muse? Was she done? She took a drink of coffee, hoping it would help her think. But it didn’t.

Chase came back with the coffee pot.

“Refill?” he asked.

“You know…could you make this ‘to go’ for me? I’m not feeling so well. I think I’ll get more work done at home,” Willow said.

“You sure? Anything I can help with?” Chase asked.

“No, thanks. I wish you could,” Willow said.

“No problem. I’ll be right back.”

“Wow, she’s worse off than I thought,” Chase said to Kasey.

“I told you. Why do you care, anyways?” Kasey questioned.

“Because we see her every day. She’s practically family,” Chase said.

“Seriously? Family?” Kasey said. Chase was far too friendly for Kasey’s taste.

Chase poured Willow’s coffee in a ‘to go’ cup and gave Kasey a look of disgust.

He gave Willow her coffee.

“Feel free to come back if you feel any better,” Chase offered.

“Thanks, Chase. You’re sweet,” she said.

They watched as Willow made her way slowly out the door, and head up the street. They knew she lived around the corner. Chase felt compelled to follow her to make sure she got home okay, but didn’t want to be intrusive. Kasey watched the concern on his face and wondered what the connection was. Nobody was that nice.

 

Vinny was asleep on the windowsill when Willow opened the door. He jumped down and paced around her feet wanting attention. She gently nudged him out of the way, and he meowed. She closed the door behind her. Her head throbbed and his meow sounded like a roar. She set her coffee down and got an aspirin out of the cabinet, then poured some water in a glass and took several aspirin. It was going to take more than one to get rid of this headache.

She sat down at her desk, Vinny still following her, and turned on her computer. The cursor flashed on the white page, taunting her to write something of value. She spun her chair around and looked at her wall of books for inspiration. So many other authors had fought through their writer’s block, why couldn’t she? The small picture of a shoreline caught her eye. A fan had painted it for her after reading “A Walk Along the Shore.” She’d been so flattered that someone was inspired by her work that she framed it and gave it prominence on her shelf. A fan…she wondered if she had any left. Did they think she’d gone into seclusion, or worse, that she’d met her demise? Would they still be there if she ever wrote something of value again?

Writing was never supposed to be a career choice for Willow, at least not in the eyes of her family. They expected her to follow in the family accounting business, but she hated numbers, absolutely hated them. During college, she secretly joined writing groups, something her father thought was a complete waste of time. She wanted to prove them wrong. She wanted to show them that she could make it as a writer, but they insisted she was being foolish, and that writing was a waste of time, a road to nowhere.

Her parents never knew that she’d made a name for herself. By the time her first novel made the New York Best Seller list, her parents had already passed away. She had no one to celebrate with, except her agent, Silvie Rose. But it wasn’t the same. And she realized too late that proving her parents wrong had been a waste of her time. She’d rather be loved than be right. But time heals all, right? She wasn’t sure that wound would ever heal.

Back to the cursor…Michael called her name but she couldn’t hear him for the crowd. He tried to push through the people, but he was against traffic. He watched as she stepped onto the train, and the doors closed behind her. He was too late this time. He’d missed his opportunity.

Willow read what she’d written out loud. Vinny meowed.

“Yeah. I think it’s awful too,” she said to him, and hit the backspace button until the words were gone.

Why I Still Send Christmas Cards

Every year I get fewer and fewer Christmas cards. I don’t think it’s anything personally directed at my personality…at least I hope not. LOL I think it’s just a sign of the times.

I’m old enough to remember life WITHOUT email and Facebook and Twitter. I remember my parents hanging a ribbon from one corner of the family room to the other, and then displaying all the Christmas cards they received. I remember helping address and stamp our outgoing cards for my mom. It was part of the Christmas tradition, along with baking cookies, and decorating the tree, and wrapping presents.

Today, getting anything in the mailbox, other than an advertisement or a bill, is almost unheard of. Sometimes I don’t go to my own mailbox for days because I know there’s NOTHING of interest in there for me.

But I’m a fan of the written word. I’m a word geek. Just don’t judge my handwriting…since we type everything now, my penmanship has suffered. That writer’s callous on my middle finger? It’s almost non-existent.

Signing Christmas cards, and even writing a personal note inside takes time and effort. Sending out a Christmas greeting to all my contacts in Outlook? Not-so-much.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am, when I say that people actually like to get a card in the mail. Something to break up the monotony of bills and bad news that shows up daily.

Sure, it costs a little more to send out cards. It costs money for the cards (though I buy cheap), and for the stamps, and you need to plan a little more to make sure the cards get there by Christmas, and it costs you some time. But I’m making an investment in family and friends, that a blanket post on Facebook just won’t do.

And for the nay-sayers that say I’m wasting paper? Well, I have nothing to say to you, except Merry Christmas. We don’t see things the same way, and we never will. You’re Starbucks cup is also wasting paper, but whatever.

So, if you get a card from someone this year, know that it’s more than a note with a signature on a piece of card stock. It’s an investment. Read it, and enjoy it. And then recycle it if it makes you feel better.

Have a Merry Christmas! Let the madness begin!

By the way, for the extreme bargain hunters, sometimes you can even find Christmas cards at Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. Or you can make your own.

Chapter Two – Understanding Kasey

The Rusty Anchor was quiet as usual. The regulars filled their usual spots at the bar. Bill, the retired bus driver, filled the stool closest to the front door. He didn’t want to miss any newcomers that happened in, usually by mistake. Judy, with her fire-engine-red hair sat a few seats down from Bill. She was his comic relief. They hassled each other every chance they got. And Naomi sat at the far end of the bar, furthest from the front door. Kasey made sure she stayed put and out of everyone’s way. She was content to watch the TV over the bar and nurse her drink all night. Kasey had snuck her mom to work with her for several months without the manager knowing anything about it. When she finally came clean, and asked him if she could bring her mom to work, he objected until she mentioned that Naomi had already been coming for several months and hadn’t caused any problems. Even Bill and Judy backed her up, and agreed to help keep an eye on her. Reluctantly, the manager agreed, but said that if Naomi upset any customers than all bets were off. Kasey agreed, even though she didn’t really need his approval…she would have continued to bring Naomi with her regardless of what he said.

Bill nodded and smiled at the older woman who walked in behind him and found a seat on the other side of Judy. Judy took notice also and smiled. Kasey came out from the back room carrying a bottle of alcohol in each hand and nearly tripped when she saw Willow sitting near Judy. She caught herself before the bottles slipped out of her hand. Willow was as surprised as Kasey.

“What are you doing here?” Kasey asked. “Did you forget where the coffee shop is?”

“I might ask you the same thing. You work here too?” Willow asked.

“Are you gonna introduce us to your friend, Kasey?” Bill asked and cleared his gravely throat.

Kasey paused and she tried to make sense of seeing Willow. She felt as if her privacy was being invaded, which was ridiculous, since the Rusty Anchor was in no way private. But it was still disconcerting to see Willow in the bar.

“Um…” she stammered. “Yeah, I work here at night. Only a few nights a week, though,” she said defensively. Why did she feel like she’d been caught doing something wrong?

“Oh, I see,” Willow said.

“Hey! I said introduce us to your friend!” Bill said a little louder.

“Keep your pants on!” Kasey piped back. “This is Willow, and she’s not my…well…” she wasn’t sure what to call Willow.

“It’s okay,” Willow said to Kasey. Willow turned to Bill. “I’m more like an acquaintance. What should I call you?” she asked Bill.

“Hey there, Willow. Nice to meet you. You can call me Bill,” he said and nodded his head.

Judy was amused by the exchange. She reached out her hand, “Hi Willow. I’m Judy. Don’t pay attention to the loud-mouth down there. He’s a lot more bark than he is bite.”

Willow laughed.

“Hey, don’t ruin my reputation. I’m as frightening as they come,” Bill teased.

Kasey laughed loud enough for Bill to hear. He grimaced.

“What can I get you to drink, Willow? Coffee?” Kasey asked.

“Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to need something stronger than that tonight. How about a Tom Collins?” Willow asked.

“Coming right up,” Kasey said. No one had ordered a Tom Collins in years.

Naomi called from the end of the bar. “Sweetie, can I have another vodka please?”

“Sure thing,” Kasey called back.

She made the Tom Collins and the vodka at the same time. Willow watched as Kasey poured the drinks and noticed that she gave the woman club soda with a lime instead of vodka. That wasn’t okay. Why did she do that? Willow didn’t want to get involved but she felt bad for the woman if Kasey was cheating her. Willow tasted her drink. It was a Tom Collins, so she didn’t try to trick her. She looked at Bill and Judy, but they weren’t paying attention. She watched the woman as she took a drink, and the woman didn’t flinch. What was going on? Should she say something to Kasey? Maybe she made a mistake.

She decided to stick her nose in the woman’s business.

“Kasey, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but why did you give that woman club soda instead of a vodka like she ordered?” Willow asked.

“Huh? Oh, because she doesn’t drink,” Kasey said.

“But she’s paying for more than you gave her,” Willow argued.

“She’s not paying for anything and you ARE telling me how to do my job,” Kasey said.

Judy was listening to the exchange, and knew that Willow wasn’t going to win.

“Just tell her, Kasey,” Judy said.

“It’s not her business,” Kasey said.

“Look, maybe I should go. I didn’t mean to…” Willow said and started to stand up.

Now Bill was listening too.

“Kasey, knock it off. Get over yourself and just tell her. Don’t make Willow feel bad,” Bill said. He sounded like a big brother.

Kasey exhaled. “Fine. That’s Naomi. She’s my mother.”

“And…” Bill said.

“And she has Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t know who I am half the time, and she certainly doesn’t know what the heck she’s drinking. And I’m not going to give her alcohol. Got it?” Kasey said. She was irritated that she had to let Willow into her life even a little bit.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…I didn’t mean to…” Willow said, struggling for the right words.

“It’s okay. It’s just life, right?”

“Right,” Willow said, still fighting through the awkward moment.

“So, what’s your story? Why did you come to the Anchor tonight?” Kasey asked.

“How much time you got?” Willow asked.

“I’m here until closing, and I’m a captive audience. You might as well spill it,” Kasey said.

“Writer’s block,” Willow said.

“So, you are a writer? Chase said you were but I didn’t believe it. It’s true, huh?” Kasey asked.

“Well, I was until I stopped writing.”

“What do you mean by that? How does a writer stop writing?” Kasey asked.

“We don’t write all the time. I mean, we take breaks from time to time. It’s just that this break has taken on a life of its own. It seems to be taking forever.”

“I’m sure it will come back,” Kasey tried to encourage.

“Yeah, well…I’m not so sure about that.”

“What do you write anyways? Anything I would know?” Kasey asked.

“I doubt it. You don’t seem like the romance type,” Willow said.

“Well, you’ve got me there.”

“Let me guess…” Willow said and tapped her cheek with her finger as she was sizing her up. “Fantasy? Science Fiction?”

“Well, I don’t get a whole lot of time to read,” she said, and motioned towards her mom, “But if I did, then SciFi would probably be what I would read.”

“What’s wrong with romance?” Judy said.

“Nothing’s wrong with it. It just isn’t my thing,” Kasey said.

“Well, I like a good romance,” Judy said.

“Yes, but can you even read?” Bill teased.

“Of course I can!” Judy shot back. She looked at Willow, “Are you famous?”

Willow seemed uncomfortable, and shifted in her seat. “I guess.”

“What’s your last name? Maybe I’ve read some of your stuff?” Judy asked.

“Oh, I write under a pen name. I can’t stand the criticism,” Willow said.

“Come on…give it up…who the heck are you?” Bill asked.

“I’d prefer to stay anonymous.”

“We won’t tell…promise,” Judy said.

Willow looked around the bar to make sure no one else was there. She mumbled at first, as if she was revealing government secrets.

“Speak up, will ya? My ears aren’t as good as they used to be,” Bill complained.

“I write under the name Natalie Blue,” she said and stared into her drink. What did it matter at this point? The way things were going, she could have written her last words anyways.

Judy repeated the name several times, and thought hard to think of a title. Nothing came to mind. The name didn’t ring a bell for Kasey either.

Shyly, Willow said out loud, “A Walk Along the Shore? That was my biggest seller. But it was years ago, so I doubt anyone read it.”

“Yes! I did! Oh, my gosh! I loved that book! You wrote it?” Judy exclaimed.

Willow nodded.

Kasey laughed at Judy’s excitement.

“Wow, we got us a celebrity here at the Anchor. Who would’ve thought?” Bill said.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept that to yourselves? I like my privacy,” Willow begged.

“You got it,” Kasey said.

“Me too,” Judy agreed.

“Well…” Bill hesitated.

“Oh, be quiet! You know you won’t tell anyone,” Kasey said.

“How do you know?” Bill harassed.

“Because then you’d have to admit you knew about chik lit books, that’s why!” Judy said.

“You got me there. My lips are sealed,” he said, and mimed locking his lips, and throwing away the key.

Kasey leaned in close to Willow as if she was revealing top secret intel. “I know that book,” she said.

Bill overheard. “Aha! You do read romance!” he teased.

Kasey frowned. “Calm down, I do not,” she said to Bill. She turned to Willow, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Willow said. “But how do you know my book?”

“She read it, that’s how!” Bill accused.

“I did not. I’ve just seen it, that’s all,” Kasey defended.

Bill sat down, defeated, but continued to listen.

“Chase threw it at me today,” Kasey started.

“He what?!” Willow was alarmed.

“No, no…not like that. We were shelving donations at the coffee shop and it was one of the books we got,” she explained.

“Oh, I see. That’s nice,” Willow said. But inside she was a little sad that someone was getting rid of her book. Didn’t they like it? Did they even read it before they gave it away?

“Well, well…now you can read it, Kasey,” Bill commented.

“Yeah…uh…” she stammered.

Willow reached out and patted her hand. “That’s okay. I know it’s not your style. You won’t hurt my feelings.”

Kasey smiled at Willow, but glared at Bill as she walked past him.

“Well, now other people can read it,” Judy said, trying to make Willow feel better.

Willow appreciated the encouragement. She could use the pat on the back. She didn’t like to show it, but her ego was a little bruised.