Wednesday, September 26, 2012
FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 97: CROSSROADS
The prompt this week was a terrific one. We were to use the above painting (Gray and Gold) as an inspiration and setting for our story. When I saw this, it brought to mind potentially life-altering decisions. Do you head toward the storm or try to keep it on the side-lines? Decisions, decisions... Please enjoy.
IS THAT YOU, MOM?
So, here I am at a crossroad--literally. I was told if I go to the left, I would arrive at a lovely little village filled with quaint shops and folks with old-world values. If I should choose to follow the road to the right, a charming Bed and Breakfast would provide me a warm meal and an even warmer bed for the night. The road straight before me would lead me back to the highway I came in on, and beyond, my townhouse in the city, where I live. Alone. My huge, expensive, and extremely well-furnished, private corner of Hell. Choices. Always. Choices.
Life had stacked the deck for me from the first hand dealt. At the age of 3 months, I had been left on the front steps of a church, along with a note asking that I be cared for. A reasonable enough request, however, instead of being turned over to a reputable adoption agency for placement, I was sold to the highest bidder. The church needed a new building in order to expand their grade school and the diocese was financially strapped. I suppose in some cases, the end may justify the means.
This path was chosen for me, and it wasn’t exactly a destructive one. I was never physically or emotionally abused by the family that took me in as their own, but I was never looked upon as a person. From the time I was brought into their home, I was regarded as a commodity--a trophy, an abandoned street urchin to parade in front of their peers, a charity case to write off on their quarterly tax obligations. I was dressed in the best clothes, educated at the best schools and given a trust fund for life once I reached the age where I could no longer be considered cute. The money wasn’t to help sustain me while I sought employment. It was to insure I’d never look back, and most importantly, never come back. Pushed down another path, but going forward, the choices would become solely mine.
It never ceases to amaze me what money can buy. Things, places, even friends, certainly, but what ended up being most valuable to me was information. I needed to find my biological mother who left me on those steps and set in motion the events that would guarantee for me a life filled with loss, emptiness, and a level of self-esteem that tops out at less than zero. Oddly, the basket that held me, along with some items of clothing, led right back to her front door. At least, the front door she hid behind at the time. From there, though, it was simple to trace her forward.
Wealthy and widowed, she owned and operated a large farm that had been her husband’s lifelong dream. After his death from a long illness, she upgraded all the equipment and automated the operations and turned the property into an even more profitable enterprise. Cattle, cows, chickens, eggs, an apple orchard, and fields of vegetables were just a few of its product lines. I learned that she had done quite well for herself. As I came to that proverbial fork in the road--let bygones be bygones or confront the heartless bitch, my choice was easy.
I had all the documentation necessary to prove who I was, but it being a drive of over seven hours to her current front door, I chose the fork in the road that eliminated the element of surprise. It wasn’t that I wanted to warn her I was on my way so that I could ease my way back into her life. It was only that I needed to make sure the whore was home so I would not have wasted an entire day on the trip. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m no trust fund slacker. I have obligations. Most of that money remains, and keeps growing, since I am a partner in one of the city’s most prestigious corporate law firms. You see, in spite of my mommy dumping me as an infant, I have become an accomplished and well respected individual. I spend thousands a month on therapy and anti-anxiety medication, but at least I can support myself.
Her name is Elena, and she is currently 42 years old, 14 years old than me. I don’t need a $300.00 an hour PI to clue me in on how she spent her youth. Funny, how she didn’t seem overwhelmed or terribly surprised to hear from me--the daughter she threw out. She gave me directions to the main house and said she’d have tea ready. Gee, now I’m tingly all over. She’ll have tea ready. I’m sure her maid will serve it along with some scones too, maybe. I just can’t wait to shove me right down her cheerful, well-adjusted, throat.
* * * * * * * *
I’ve been here now for almost four hours. Helluva woman. Strong and honest. The tea was very hot and wonderfully sweet. It was a special blend, Elena told me, that her husband introduced her to when they were first married. No scones though--just a warm homemade coffeecake. We served ourselves, by the way--maid’s day off.
Her father had died in prison of some untreatable disease, and her mother pimped her out to keep the liquor cabinet full and to make ends meet. When she became pregnant, her mother told her to go upstairs and the neighbor lady would give her a drink and it would all be over by morning. That had been her first fork in the road, and she chose to run away and have me. Back then, there weren’t a lot of places for her to get help and when the going got really tough, she decided the best thing would be to walk away. She knew the church people would find me a home, and she’d be able to make some kind of future for herself if she was on her own.
She made no excuses, and didn’t try to sanctify herself by saying she did it for me. She made it very clear that her life went forward much more smoothly without the chain of a baby around her neck. She had been happily married, and now, as a widow, was devoting her life to fulfilling her husband’s desire of bringing beauty into the world and sharing the benefits of this good land.
She offered me no apologies and hugs were obviously out of the question. But, she did tell me to go to the crossroad and if I’d like to stay the night, to take the road to the right. She’d meet me in the morning at Belson’s Bed and Breakfast for coffee and the best oatmeal in the county, and then we’d cross back over and browse the antique shops in the village and maybe have lunch at one of the inns. She told me she had the time.
So, now we come back around, and here I sit at probably the most important crossroad of my life. Storm clouds are brewing, and if I decide to go back to the city, I need to head out soon so I can try to move forward with my life and my career. If I decide to stay, then I’d be able to bury myself under one of those delightful handmade comforters in a four-poster Bed and Breakfasts offer, and spend the following day in the company of my honest-to-God real mother. Of course, I could always bypass any further contact with that woman and head into town on my own and pick up a few knick-knacks for my mantel that I can show off at my next partners’ cocktail party. Choices. Always. Choices…