LeAnn closed the door of her trusty yellow Toyota and stood with hands on her hips surveying the land she grew up on. She pictured all one hundred and forty-two acres of lush farmland stripped of rocks by generations of her family and now it was hers. The problem was, she didnâ€™t want it. Her biggest excitement the day she turned 18 and walked across
|Kiss and Tales 2: A Romantic Collection by Indie Collaboration|
the stage to accept her high school diploma was the knowledge that she could escape the farm, never to look back and no one could stop her. Her family was disappointed in her when she left, she still remembered her mom standing in the big square kitchen wearing an old-fashioned apron around her thick middle and wringing her hands with worry over her daughter who was off to the hateful Twin Cities. It wasnâ€™t like LeAnn was going a world away. Minneapolis was only an hour away, but in a small farm town like Hinckley, that was a world away. Too many of the young men expected to inherit their land and work it had disappeared into the factories and the nightlife in the city, never to return. At least she was a girl, LeAnn thought, she wasnâ€™t such a loss. But, that was before. Who knew back then that dadâ€™s heart was weak and that his death would unhinge mom? Who could have known that both her older brothers, Jake and Sam, would be drafted and killed in a senseless and terrible war in a jungle a world away? Now, there was only her. The unwanted daughter who had dared to not be a boy, nor feminine enough to settle down and marry just to cook and clean and raise a brood of farm hands for some man. She was in Budapest reporting on a civil crisis when the telegram came with the news. She remembered it like it was yesterday, dad was found in the far field, still on his beloved Peterbuilt (never a John Deere) tractor, slumped over with one red suspender flying free from his mud covered jeans. She didnâ€™t make the funeral, in truth she didnâ€™t try. Sheâ€™s escaped Hinckley once and had no plan to be guilted into coming back and staying forever. Her brother Sam had been the last of the family to speak with her, to try to make some kind of peace. She almost broke down and moved home when he called a year after sheâ€™d moved to the cities and started college. It was only a few weeks later when heâ€™d sent her one last postcard from France, on his way to Vietnam. She found out her brother Jake had been drafted and later killed in the hardest way possible, rehearsing her part just before reading the casualty lists on the nightly Channel 9 news. She could never forget it. Her eyes were scanning over the text, almost sliding over that familiar name, so long ago lost to herâ€¦ â€œand a local boy from Hinckley, Jacob Adam Wicklund, was killed today in the Pontoon jungle- caught in friendly fire from a B-52 bomber above as he carried out his mission. Mrs. John Wicklund was informed by two uniformed Marines at the family farmstead on November, 16. Local church women are looking after her until a daughter can be located in the Twin Cities.â€ LeAnn was that daughter. Sheâ€™d sat, frozen, washed in guilt and regret, which is what she still felt today. Shaking herself back into the present, she walked carefully through the mix of mud and gravel in her suede boots, holding her deep green broom skirt to the side. She popped the hatch and withdrew the realtorâ€™s sign. Edina Realty, it read, 142 acres for sale, will separate. The post-war economy was booming in the cities, but out here, things still moved at a slower pace, following the farmerâ€™s life and the cycle of the seasons. The night sheâ€™d found out Jake was dead, sheâ€™d read her piece deadpan and without inflection, straight into the camera. Then, sheâ€™d begged for the first overseas assignment she could get, never breathing a word to anyone that she was the daughter that the family was so desperately searching forâ€” It had taken a year and a letter forwarded and stamped so many times that no more than her name was visible under all the marker, dirt and international stamps before she let herself begin to think about what had happened. The letter wasnâ€™t signed. She didnâ€™t know the writing, but when she sat in the mud, huddling under broken walls six thousand miles from her childhood, it was in her flak jacket, and she could feel it, like a thread spun out across the world calling her back. Inside was a Â¾ sheet of manila paper. For a long time, she wondered where the paper was from. Sheâ€™d take it out and study it with her fingers in the dark, the pop and whistle of mortar bombs flying in the background. After a while, she decided that it was the faded bill that came strapped to lots of feed bags from the farm store in town back home. She was sure of it, she could close her eyes and picture those Â¾ manila sheets with the number and weight of the order neatly printed in pencil, flapping in the breeze underneath the giant rubber bands the boys used to take and use as sling shots. The paper was creased and folded, sheâ€™d read it so many times it was starting to fall apart. The letters looked like someone unfamiliar with the slippery slide of pen on paper instead of the slow, gritty scratch of pencil. Pen was so much more permanent, she wondered why more farmers werenâ€™t attracted to that, but maybe deep down pencil was more like the seasons, changeable. The letters were bold and strong, definitely a man, but she didnâ€™t know who. It just said, â€œCOME HOME LEANN.â€ Her mind had flitted to and dwelled on every man or boy who sheâ€™d ever known growing up in Hinckley. The preacher? she wondered. No, she knew his hand from a dozen years of Sunday school and Catechism class. Boys sheâ€™d dated in high school? No, she thought, even then, sheâ€™d chosen boys who set their sights beyond the farm. Sam and Jacob had always had a group of guys theyâ€™d hang out with after football practice and chase the girls with, but none of them had ever given her mousy self a second glance. Back then, they were too busy chasing the busty blondes who had the reputation of fast and easy. LeAnn came out of her reverie to see the dewy morning grass sliding greedily around her ankles as she walked. She stopped to set the real estate sign down with a sigh of guilt and returned to the hatchback for the rubber mallet. Wooden shaft in hand, she stepped carefully in her leather and suede boots and fought to balance the heavy sign and the giant unwilling hammer in order to force the sign into the hard-packed ground. One hand on the sign, she was using her knee to balance its top-heavy swinging frame. The other hand, she was hoping to use to hit the top of the wooden post. â€œOne, two, shit, shit, shit, shit,â€ she cried, hopping around and dropping the whole mess with the sign leaning drunkenly. On the third hit sheâ€™d missed and smashed her thumb like a boob. It broke her fancy acrylic nail in buff pink clean in two and probably saved her finger, but as she sucked the offending digit she huffed herself into the grass to pout about it. Still fuming, she heard boots scuffing the gravel and a deep masculine laugh coming closer. Quickly, she shoved her rucked up skirt down her legs and habitually fluffed up her shoulder length brown hair, wishing for some of the lip gloss sheâ€™d eaten off hours earlier as she drove down from her hotel in Maple Grove. It was dumb to have taken a hotel hours away from her hometown when she couldâ€™ve stay for free in the house she grew up in, but at the time, she wasnâ€™t ready and she couldnâ€™t go back to the Twin Cities sheâ€™d abandoned so long ago either- so Maple Grove it had been. Even though sheâ€™d heard him coming, he still startled her when he approached out of the morning fog. Her first sight of him, he was laughing at her with a big smile. He had little crinkles at the corner of his eyes. Those eyes were currently lit up with a malicious glee at seeing her so flustered. Noticing the sign hanging drunkenly and her sucking her thumb trying to soothe the irritated pound of the finger and her head, he just shook his head at her and smirked. Except for his gleeful laugh and enjoyment of her predicament, she couldnâ€™t help but notice that he was gorgeous. 6â€™3â€ or 6â€™4â€, if she stood, her head would rest right on his chest over his heart. He wore typical clothes for the area, well-worn jeans with a dark checked shirt, rolled up in the sleeves like heâ€™d been working nearby. He wore his hair just a little long, curling over his collar. His eyes were an unusually piercing green that looked right through you and into your deep dark secrets. He put her on edge and his bold walk and carefree chuckle pinched her ego. â€œLeAnn,â€ he said softly, looking her up and down. She realized her thumb was in her mouth and moved it with a pop, wiping it on the ground and picking up sticky bits of grass, then wiping them on her shirt. â€œYouâ€™ve come home,â€ he said, still keeping his distance and growing more serious. Something about that phrase pricked her. â€œDo I know you?â€ she asked defiantly. â€œHumph,â€ was his only reply. He leaned in and offered her a calloused and sun browned hand to help her up. She took it resentfully, taking stock of what a mess sheâ€™d made of herself. â€œNo reason to know me, buttercup. My nameâ€™s Darren. Darren Trifles.â€ â€œDonâ€™t call me that!â€ she spat at him, her working womanâ€™s pride ruffled. â€œWell, alright but you are sitting in a field of buttercups like some kind of sprite this morning so itâ€™s only natural.â€ LeAnn looked around with fresh eyes. In the overgrown grass all along the side of the dirt and gravel road, buttercups were raising their yellow heads to greet the warmth of the morning. Strange that such a masculine man who obviously used his hands to make a living would notice such a thing, she thought. â€œCome on, Iâ€™ll take you to breakfast at Maudeâ€™s to celebrate the return of the prodigal daughter.â€ â€œI-I really canâ€™t,â€ she stammered, but he was already pulling her up the road, back the way heâ€™d come. â€œBut-the sign-â€ â€œ-will wait,â€ he said, tucking her arm in his and drawing her along his side as they walked. She was intensely aware of him being too close, invading her carefully preserved wall of confidence. Without trying, he was crumbling the aloof armor that sheâ€™d maintained for years as a reporter working in a third world country and risking her life daily like it was just so much claptrap. As they walked briskly up the road, crunching the gravel, she became aware of the pinching of her new leather boots, bought just for this return to Hinckley. Suddenly, she felt the cool wet of the morning that was never quite matched anywhere but home. She caught a whiff of the light scent of Old Spice that her dad used to wear when she was very young. She felt off balance, put upon, but somehow protected. They walked in a strange, but comforting silence for a while. Finally, she asked, â€œMaudeâ€™s? You mean Mrs. Greene is still around?â€ â€œYep, she opened a diner on Main Street about seven years ago after Chuck died and sheâ€™s been holding all of us together ever since.â€ They rounded a corner and she saw his big Ford truck with extended cab and long bed filled with baling wire and a toolbox lying open along the fence. At least she knew who he worked for now, she thought. He must be a hand at the Jericho farm that bordered her own land. They farmed, but when sheâ€™d driven past sheâ€™d seen the unmistakable signs of livestock dotting the fields that used to produce the first soybean crop seen in their parts. How old would old Zebadiah be now?, she wondered. 80? At least heâ€™d hired a young man to help him out, she thought. He left her by the side of the truck to pack up his tools and toss the box in the back. She couldnâ€™t help but notice as she boosted herself up that he was a good worker, the line of fence that had been down for miles last week when sheâ€™d ridden out with the surveyor and appraiser to see the land was already neatly replaced, hanging shiny and silver in long rows as far as she could see. Maybe she could survive this â€œhome comingâ€ after all, she thought, already planning on having the biggest country breakfast Maude could cook up, on her new friend Darren, of course. The Henry Denning Affair by Chris Raven Dorothy carefully carried the tray across the living room, causing the bone china tea set to rattle with each unsteady step. It was her best set, the flowery one, the one she normally reserved for guests. She was struggling now, with the heavy teapot, a dead weight of hot brewing tea. A matching sugar bowl also sat on the tray, even though she hadn't taken sugar for over thirty years. Two cups completed the set, one resting inside the other, rattling and swaying on their base of stacked saucers like a tower block in an earthquake. It was a cold Saturday morning in September and ever since Henry, her regular house guest, had stopped calling she had stopped using a proper tea set. Until this morning that is. She reached the coffee table and gingerly lowered the tray onto its surface, berating herself for not using her hostess trolley. 'What was so different about today?' Dorothy wondered as she walked towards the kitchen, rubbing a sore arm. She had woken that morning convinced she was expecting a visitor. She had no idea who but she always listened to her little premonitions, they were rarely wrong. She hoped it would be an apologetic Henry at her door, in just about a minute or two now she suspected, but she knew it wouldn't be him. She would just know if it was going to be her Henry. So who would it be instead? She hated uncertainty as a rule but consoled herself with the knowledge that she would be out of her misery very shortly. Dorothy took off her apron and hung it on a hook on the back of the kitchen door. Without thinking about it she quickly filled a bowl with soapy water and dropped one of her large sponges into it. As an afterthought she bent down to the cupboard under the sink and took out a bottle of stain remover, which she placed on the draining board next to the bowl. She then continued into the hall on her way to her front door, which chimed as she approached. "Right on cue," she said as she turned the latch. Dorothy opened the door to find a young man in a black suit standing on her doorstep. He was wearing sunglasses, indoors if you like, and he was carrying a clipboard. He quickly glanced down at it before rummaging with his free hand in his breast jacket pocket for his ID. "Mrs. Seers?" He enquired. "Ms. actually," She corrected him, "But never mind that, you had better come in. Apparently I'm expecting you." By the time Dorothy had led the young man down the corridor he had managed to extract a plastic ID card, which Dorothy dismissed with a wave of her hand. "No need for that," she told him, "I know you're from the Agency." She invited him to sit down and asked him how he took his tea. Incidentally, he did take sugar. "What's your name young man?" She asked as she tipped in the first spoonful of sugar. "Agent Montford," he replied, nodding at Dorothy's mimed invitation for a second spoon. "First name dear," she told him as she stood up to a pass the Agent his tea. He quickly stood up, fumbling with his clipboard as he reached out to take the teacup. "Oh, itâ€™s Eric," he told her. He took the cup, which wobbled and rattled in its saucer as he sank back down into the armchair's cushions. "Why don't you slip that clipboard down on the floor next to your chair," Dorothy suggested. Dorothy sat on her sofa next to the coffee table and started to make her own tea. From where she sat it seemed that Eric's knees were higher than his chest. He reminded her of a young Henry, not that she had known him when he was that young. They had met some twenty years earlier, Henry appearing at her door one afternoon to welcome in the new tenant. She had expected him of course, this dashingly handsome still youthful despite his years, flowers in hand, thick wavy hair and that cheeky twinkle in his eye. He was confident and charming and immediately set about wooing her with fantastical tales of his past, mostly exaggerated. She had allowed herself to be swept off her feet, silly woman; she had been a middle aged spinster after all! They had never formalized their relationship, never married, never made it public, they were both too long in the tooth to start all that silliness. For twenty years the two nights a week Dorothy had spent with her beloved secret agent (Retired) had been her sole source of companionship, affection and love. How she had loved to play Matta Hari to his bumbling Belgium spy. Henry always claimed to have met her. Dorothy remembered her current house guest as he patiently glanced round her sitting room sipping his tea. His eyes rested on her bookcase. "Oh of course," he said, "You're 'The' Dorothy Seers aren't you?" "Yes dear," she confirmed, "Nice of you to know." "Oh yes," he said, squinting at the books on the shelf, â€œMy absolute favorite was always Sister Abigail and the Naughty Penguin.â€ â€œYes, that one was quite popular,â€ Dorothy told him, â€œI suppose youâ€™re here because of Henry?â€ "You reported him missing," the young man said. Dorothy confirmed that she had and emphasized, very strongly, that she had done so well over a month ago. "We have been looking," Eric was quick to defend the agency, "But we've not been able to find him yet." Dorothy put her cup back on the coffee table and sighed. â€œSo heâ€™s really gone this time.â€ â€œIt seems so Iâ€™m afraid." The young man paused while Dorothy took this in. â€œBut we've not given up looking," he added carefully, "He's very important to us, you all are. This is why I am here. We need your help.â€ Dorothy asked what help she could possibly offer and the young man said he was interested in any 'insights' she might have, especially regarding a spate of vandalism the previous year. â€œYou mean the milk bottles?â€ Dorothy asked, shaking her head, â€œThat was all sorted out last winter.â€ â€œA young man was found to be responsible I understand.â€ â€œWhat! Young Tom upstairs? No, he had nothing to do with it,â€ Dorothy insisted, â€œHe was blamed for sure, but it wasnâ€™t him.â€ Eric ask why she was so sure, so she told him about a meeting Henry had mentioned earlier in the year, February, or was it March. It had taken place in the Globe and Compass, a grimy public house that Henry was want to frequent. Eric reached down the side of the armchair for his clipboard and asked if Dorothy minded if he took some notes. Fumbling with both clipboard and tea cup he carefully lowered the latter to the floor, looking up at Dorothy for permission to set his cup down by his feet. Dorothy nodded but she wasnâ€™t very happy about it. â€œThis meeting,â€ Eric continued, â€œWho was there?â€ â€œHenry told me a story about an old friend and adversary," Dorothy told him, "A Russian.â€ â€œGrigori da Nayk?â€ The young man asked surprised, quickly scribbling down notes. â€œYes,â€ she confirmed, â€œBut I believe the meeting was more a catalyst than a cause for Henry's disappearance.â€ Eric asked how so and Dorothy explained that Henry had been out of sorts ever since that meeting, he had seemed restless and distracted. She had tried to talk to him about it but he just put it all down to a late midlife crisis. "I just think he wanted to go adventuring again,â€ Dorothy concluded, "you know, before he got too old." "What?" The young man quickly checked the notes on his clipboard, "He's what, in his seventies, maybe even his eighties, biologically speaking that is." "He's still quite spry," Dorothy told him and unable to resist, she raised a wry eyebrow, adding that she should know. The young man burst out laughing, which set Dorothy off too. "Please, Mrs. Seers..." "Dorothy," she corrected him through suppressed giggles. "Dorothy, Ma'am, please, I'm trying to be professional here." "You are dear, you are," Dorothy managed as she brought herself under control, "Oh dear, I haven't laughed like that for a while." "You miss him," Eric ventured and Dorothy sat silently for a few moments before quietly admitting yes. "We'll do our best," Eric tried to reassure her as he started getting up from his seat. Dorothy however wondered if it wouldn't be better just to leave Henry alone, he had left for a reason, she had no doubt about that. Why did she report him missing in the first place? 'Stupid woman.' But young Eric was right, she had missed him and she had become so desperately worried. Poor Henry, he had started looking so ill, in the months between that meeting in the Globe and his disappearance. He had seemed haggard even, having lost so much weight. He thought he had kept it from her, the silly man. How could he possibly think she would not notice? The frequent appointments at the Hymns Veil Medical Centre, the sudden investigations at Green Heath Hospital and then him giving his best and warmest coat to that old tramp, the one that had started loitering around the shops downstairs the previous summer. Of course she knew he was ill but more than that, he was scared. Scared of running out of time. She could see him watch his death come creeping ever near, and Henry was never one to take such things lying down. No, she thought, let things be, let him end his life with one more big adventure. The agent broke her train of thought with a polite cough. "Well, if that's all, I'd best be going then." Dorothy looked up and saw that Eric was already on his feet. Before she could remind him he had caught the edge of the saucer with the tip of his shoe, catapulting the cup and its contents across Dorothy's light cream carpet. Dorothy looked up from the uneven puddle of tea spreading out from an upturned and now chipped and handleless tea cup, one from her best set, to see Eric's nervous and embarrassed face. "I'm really sorry," he managed to stammer as he knelt down to pick up the broken crockery. Dorothy sighed, she realized she was more annoyed at having one saucer too many then she was at the loss of a cup. Besides, this was the set she always brought out when Henry stayed over and now she knew she would never see him again. She expected it would stay in the cupboard from now on. It just wouldn't be right to bring it out for anyone else. She would just keep one cup and one saucer for those quiet evenings to come, when she found herself missing him the most. As for the carpet, now that was an entirely different matter. "Young man," she scolded, fixing Eric with a disapproving stare, "You'll find everything you need in the kitchen, on the draining board.â€ Statement of Affection by G.P. A. (Greatest Poet Alive) I wrote this for herâ€¦ perhaps facing Eastward, at any given place and time, would you pray with me? nothing need be on my mind or heart troublesome. it need not be that anyoneâ€™s life force has completed, waning, or in peril. but maybe we sit in front of a meal and just join hands. before, during, and after a day of blessings, a vacation, or the preparation of consummating our relationship with vows sacred, it could be either and all of those. Lady, would you pray with me? change those shoes to Air Max or something comfortable, and if you arenâ€™t terribly put out, would you walk with me? there is a park not far from my house that is quite pastoral and picturesque; it is composed of water, trees, and people upon their own business. but we could hold hands and become part of the scenery, immersed in Godâ€™s order of things. Every day I go outside with Scooter the Beagle to give him exercise, and if your are so inclined, you could join us. we only go a mile or so, and if you were cool with it, you could take hold of his leash.it is great exercise as well, and we could do that too. Lady, would you walk with me? my heart has not had many addresses; discretion is ever the part of valor or so it has been said. with you is a warm, inviting, inspiring, and soft place. and after doing the above with you, I realize your are the continuing apex of my affectionâ€™s focus. the corners of my mouth now touch my ears from smiles I have more often. normal ,cocky stride still evident but skip a tad when en route to see you or having unfortunately departed your company. but not unrealistic my thinking because I comprehend that coexistence frequently means doing so in separate spaces. yet, whether it be for a spell after a game, us having been out on the town, when our words have not been the most pleasant, and more importantly, when our hairs are tainted with gray, the decades have multiplied, and we have seen children have children, will you stay with me? I am humbled by you; in my pocket, my ego rests. clueless am I because Iâ€™ve been by myself for longer than a while.so there are answers and actions I may not know right away because you are not her, her, her, or her, and that is a blessed thing. take a look into these brown eyes of mine, place your hand upon my heart, and let the truth be told to you. this isnâ€™t a poem. but what this is a statement of affection from me to you because I know you are reading this. so, in whatever fashion it needs to be, whatever elements we need to include or exclude, and no matter how much of forever do we need to use, will you be with me? She Said by G.P. A. (Greatest Poet Alive) She said with my poems I touched her heart and wrote her pain away captured her in every syllable that my baritone voice spoke read nothing, heard nothing but what I wrote or said that I held her enthralled waiting for the next She said that I she saw humility in me and drew closer chuckled when I said that I wasn't humble, and gave reassurance I was my heart longed to be somewhere safe, and she was the haven when she could be that I was an amazing man She said that I forgot her ad what we shared that the man that she saw no longer existed that I was conceited, self-indulgent, and a jerk she didn't want to leave me alone, but she did. No phone call No text message No inbox No email her silence was all she said Painting by Margene Wiese-Baier Marriage by Margene Wiese-Baier I look in a floor length mirror that holds tomorrow. Iâ€™m about to get married â€“ not a young giddy bride, but years older and wiser. Putting my past behind to start a new adventure. My white lace veil covers my eyes, but I can see. My shoulders are caressed with fine silk and my skin enjoys the touch of its gentleness. I see the strength and wisdom that brought me to this place in my life. I coo to myself as if in a trance ready for flight in readiness to soar to new heights like an eagle. I am that eagle ready to meet my mate. Ready to start our life together. Ready to build a nest softened with the down of our feathers. Branch by branch we will intertwine our foundation together. We will talk of love to each other through our beaks. A love song will engage our every movement. We will enjoy our oneness and want to be together for all eternity. We will soar together in perfect harmony. We will see nothing but beauty surrounding us. The mountains capped with the purity of snow. The frosted trees after a refreshing rain holding tightly to their leaves to protect all that they hold beneath them. The earth covered with pine needles and soft sod that withhold the footprints of all who walk there. The lakes below of crystal blue ecstasy with tongues of water lapping at their beaches. The buffalo that thunders across the plains thankful to be forgotten by the hunters of yesteryear. The coyote plays with her kits and waits patiently for the return of her mate. Brother Elk watching his Harem bathing in a nearby lake. We land to refresh ourselves in the coolness of a mountain stream and I look in and see my reflection and see the promises of tomorrow. Painting by Margene Wiese-Baier Would You Just Let Me Love You ? by Margene Wiese-Baier Would you just let me love you Like I want to love you It will be okay Just want to hear you say That you love me too If you let me love you Like I want to love you It will be okay To say you love me too I can hardly wait For you to see That I would be good for you Donâ€™t you understand? I will not demand Your love I will always stay Because I love you that way So, let me love youâ€¦it will be okay Donâ€™t you know we were destined to be together It was by design I am the part that you have been missing I am not just for kissing So, let me love youâ€¦the way I want to love you I have waited long enough for your caress So, if you are readyâ€¦let it be steady So, just let me love you The way I want love you and It will be okay to say you love me too Youâ€™re Going To Wait Too Long by Margene Wiese-Baier Youâ€™re going to wait too Long And Iâ€™ll be gone You thought I could wait forever Well you were sure Wrong The Man for Me has come on Strong Now I have to tell you You waited too Long I am Thanking God That He did not Answer My Prayer Because you sure werenâ€™t there When I needed someone that cared â€˜Cause I need someone that has been there all along I needed to be pursued Not taken for Granted That I would wait forever. Man you got that one wrong Now go on your way I hope you donâ€™t wait this long Before you tell another that you love her So, I will say Good Bye â€˜Cause I have a Wedding to attend to Iâ€™m in Love.. and about to say I Do! I Do ... I Do ... I Doâ€¦ and it Ainâ€™t to youâ€¦ A Year Of Loving by Kristina Jacobs Dear Kate & Bob, Please forgive me because this letter should have been written years and years ago, but it wasn't. Even though I didn't put pen to paper until now I hope that you will know that the feelings in my heart have been carried with me for a lifetime, and that, though our time together was brief, only a year or so, it really did make a difference. There is no way for me to know as I write if one of you has passed on. I'm truly sorry if that is the case and I hope you read my memories with the intent that they are given, to let you know (and remind myself) that what we do matters. I trust that the message of love and gratitude will travel as far and as fast as it needs to go and will be received no matter where you are now-after all, I was 8 and it's been 28 years since I sat at your kitchen table sewing doll clothes. I was in third grade, a smart, talkative little girl with the lightest blonde hair and a tendency to pudge even back then. I honestly don't remember exactly how we met, probably how i met everybody back then, did i say hello? Did i knock on the door selling something for school? Clearly, i never met a "stranger" in my life as a kid because i knew everybody, but some people were special and you were both very special. I remember sitting at your kitchen table like it was yesterday. We always came in through the open garage and off to the left was the door right into the kitchen. A round kitchen table, a galley style kitchen...we'd have tea...with sugar for me. Sometimes I'd have sprite...in my own Mickey Mouse or Donald duck glass. After a while I had my own collection of glasses all my own waiting for my visits. Every so often, we'd go to the five and dime or Woolworths for coloring books and crayons. Of course, that required special permission from my mother which was always granted with many warnings not to ask for too much (or anything at all). Kate, I remember one day we went when you bought me a doll, the kind that came from the craft section with just the doll in her undies...she had dark hair and a little ribbon held it back off her face. I wanted to know why she didn't come with clothes-I soon found out it was for me to make her clothes. We sat together and I learned to sew. First buttons, then doll clothes from scraps. Gosh, my doll was well dressed with skirts, tops, dresses, shorts...some even had little collars, button snaps or lace trim. I needed a little help with the seams sometimes, but I felt so proud of those clothes I made with my own hands. One day, Kate asked me how school was going and I was sad because I didn't understand how to count money and we'd just had a test on it. Soon I found myself sitting in the backroom where there was this giant jar of coins we practiced with- I found all that money endlessly fascinating...imagine the riches! We'd count, not just counting money, but I learned how to properly count back change...counting back until you got back to the bill that was given to you. Some today would call that old fashioned, but those skills served me very well in my college years working as a cashier! I got to spend the night once, because the next morning we were making the 2 hour drive up to Epcot. It was a huge deal to get to go to Epcot and a huge deal to spend the night. That night there was a terrible storm and in morning it was still raining, but we still went, rain and all. I'd come to "visit" you most days and we'd sit and have lunch. Cold cuts, cheese, little sandwiches or soup...Kate and I would go for walks and I'd dawdle along because I loved looking in the fancy dress shop windows imagining how fancy and classy I'd dress when I was grown up and could buy those fancy clothes. I'd pick up "ears" from the ear tree-a tree that is still there to this day and still drops its ears on the sidewalk to make kids smile. Me and Kate, kerchiefs over our hair, out on our walks. Bob- I remember your photos. I know photography was always a love and it's one we now share. You'd develop film and hang photos in the garage. In my mind, I can see New Mexico hot air balloons at a rally and Spanish moss draped from gothic buildings in New Orleans. We'd do our rounds and visit the hibiscus in the yard, inspecting the blooms, bringing the best ones inside to enjoy. We'd be checking the fruit trees and looking out for the herons and the white ibis, listening for the morning doves. I'd run around and suck the honey from the little red flowers on the bushes. Bob, I think it was your mom we'd go visit, she was quite elderly even then...she lived a few doors down so we could walk to see her. I'd sit with her and she'd tell me stories of the roaring 20s and prohibition...and dancing. She'd make a formal Sunday dinner with a whole turkey or chicken...Iâ€™d never had a real Sunday dinner before. It was like having Thanksgiving any time of the year! I remember when she left a pot on the stove and it melted into a puddle. It's one of those things I know I see differently as an adult than I did as a kid. I remember asking if I could have the piece of metal. I kept the neat looking metal blob. It wasn't too long after that when she went into assisted living, and I missed her a lot, but as a child I didn't understand. I only got to stay in the neighborhood a year. It was a rental house and we moved somewhere else. Still in town. After that we moved again...and again. Always in town, house to house. You have no idea how many times we moved as I grew up. Too many. I learned early to grow my roots in memories and experiences, not in places. I went back to the old neighborhood once. All the houses are over-built now, but your house is still the same all these years later...I'd forgotten the little archway with the statue until I saw it again. It was like time travel, spinning back to the past for just a moment. Your name was still on the mailbox, I should have knocked, but I didn't. If you got a note written in crayon on scrap paper that looked like it was from an 8 year old a few years ago, that was me. Maybe it was really from 8 year old me, just writing with the 36 year old's hand. My life has had so many ups and downs since then, but in that moment it seemed like it was down, down, down. I'd come "home" to try to remember me, to figure out who I was after all this time. I'd been away for 20 years by then. I just needed to see the places where i grew up, as many of those little salt box rentals as I could remember enough about to find, to see the old schools I went to, my grandmother's grave...walk the streets in the old parts of town. I needed to figure out if any of it was part of me or not. I'd just finished up seven years of working on my doctorate and teaching at a university, my marriage was over, nothing I did seemed to help my son with Asperger's (no matter how hard I tried) and I had a toddler to take care of too...somewhere in the midst of that I'd lost the thread of myself. To figure out who I was, I needed to figure out who and where I'd been in the past. What were the pieces that made up me? Where did my lifelong love of all things tea come from? Why is a walk out in nature one of the most life giving things I can do for myself? When and where was my love of photography born? Why did I know and talk to everyone as a child? How come I didn't follow my dreams of writing so much sooner? Why do I love books so much? A thousand questions racing around my mind, some that I'd forgotten the answers to. If I could understand that, then maybe I could find those lost threads and follow them into the future. It look a long time, but eventually change did come around. My business took off, I fell in love and remarried. The kids got older, things felt a little easier and I picked up the pieces. Well, I'm still picking up the pieces of me and creating new dreams in a new direction. I'm grateful for every bit of unconditional love given to me and one of the most important things I can do to give back is to make sure I tell you. Love makes a difference. With all my love, ~Kristina Postpone The Wedding by Margaret Wiese Our wedding day is tomorrow the special day that I waited for but in my heart thereâ€™s sorrow Iâ€™m not sure of you anymore Letâ€™s postpone the wedding until we can be sure when I say â€œI doâ€ I want all of you not just a part of somebody elseâ€™s heart When you say you love me the light in your eyes disappears I feel that you still love her our marriage would bring only tears I have the strangest feeling as I try on my gown of white that you still need and love her and youâ€™re crying your eyes out tonight Once Again by Margaret Wiese Today our paths crossed again Today new heartaches began Old memories I had tucked away Came back to haunt me, Once Again Once again, I'm holding you so tight Once again, I'm kissing you goodnight Once again, you're in my dreams at night Oh, why did you come back To hurt me once again? I thought our love was over That I could just call you friend But I still have the same old feelings I've started hurting, Once again Lost Between Two Worlds by Margaret Wiese You love me and you're true, but I don't love you The one that I love is so different than you he treats me mean and it hurts so much but I just melt at his slightest touch Hanging in midair, Oh, why can't I care? Why can't I be satisfied with you? I should play it smart and give you my heart but I'm lost between two worlds Lost between two worlds, I don't know what to do I really want to give all my love to you but he's in my heart and I always find I can't return your love while he's on my mind Destination Heartbreak by Margaret Wiese I knew where I was headed the first time I saw you but where angels feared to tread I rushed right in I had to have your love though I knew it was a sin Instead of running from your arms I walked right in Destination, heartbreak I should have played it smart Destination, heartbreak I should have detoured from the start It's too late to turn back now I know I must have you I've felt your arms around me you want me too And so tonight when we meet our share of love we'll take knowing that our future holds nothing but heartbreak This Crazy Mixed Up World by Margaret Wiese A little while ago I was so happy then you called to say we're through What happened to our love, I wonder? Everything is wrong, in this crazy mixed up world The sun came out one moment then hid behind a cloud The stars up in the heavens came tumbling to the ground the man in the moon hung his head and cried Everything is wrong, in this crazy mixed up world Why did you turn my happiness to tears? Why did you take your love from me? Since youâ€™ve been gone life's not worth living Everything is wrong, in this crazy mixed up world On My head by Alan Hardy Wearing my dad's straw hat he gave me - it was too large for his head - which I don when gardening, I bend forward over the sink to wash my hands post-digging, it scrapes against the string we hang our washing on, each time leaning forward I stand back, worried by an insect's buzz I fear near my neck, but it's only the old man's hat on top of my head in my head. From Me by Alan Hardy I let my daughter out at the gates with that beginning school early in the day feel, teachers to meet placate or swerve round, such a mass of worries to cross off the list in order to breast the tape at end of day. She throws me a look at times, knows moments she lives being re-awakened give them retrospective intimacy. Sitting by my side, she can share my history, that I've lived her life, like an encyclopedia opened, before her. About Us by Kottyn Campbell My nights are empty realizing that my knight hasn't arrived yet I sit patiently waiting wanting him hurry up and get here. his favorite drink Jameson is ready to pour when he arrives I'm relaxed from sipping on a glass of Moscato fireplace burning lighting the entire room I receive a text that says open the door. Dressed in his favorite color that hugs my body and show off my curves I glide to door he greets me with flowers and a kiss my nose is attached to his scent weakening me. This is the first night we've been alone I'm taking advantage of this moment I want to do everything even the exchange of bodily fluids See I like the way it's his way of making my day When we kiss, he holds me like I'm his forever he's surpassed giving me 24 Orgasms because he knows that's not enough We sit near the fire and escape from life's drama cause tonight itâ€™s about us. â€œWindows To The Soulâ€ by Kristina Jacobs When I saw you I had no idea you were for me Never did I think we'd first be friends, then Destined to marry years later Often, we wonder together What might have been, if only we'd Seen a bit of what was to come There seems to be so much time lost Or, maybe it's as we say instead, all things happen- Timed only according to fate's whim How lucky we both are Entering this place of love and partnership So late, long after we'd decided - it was Only a dream, to be let go reluctantly Unless, somehow- (the real secret is) Love wins in the end. Maria (Middle School Heartbreak) by James Gordon a.k.a. The Greatest Poet Alive Dear Maria, I like you a lot, a whole lot. I want you to be my girlfriend. Iâ€™ll be the best boyfriend ever. Even though we are both only in the 5th grade, we would make a great couple forever. I promise to never ever hurt cheat on you or hurt you. For real!! Think about it, and pick yes or no. My Dad says maybe is for cowards. Love Always, Me PS. When you say yes, Iâ€™m going to treat you to a chocolate shake. Maria Johnson was in the same 5th grade class as I was, and I loved her (Maybe it was strong like.) Whatever it was, it felt good!! So this was the time to write this letter this love letter to her so she would know my feelings. I folded the letter neatly once then twice. As I was about to place it in the envelope, a thought hit me!! Dropping the envelope, I went to my dresser and retrieved the bottle of Grey Flannel that my Dad had given me. Holding the letter away from me, I sprayed lightly the paper being careful to turn it so all the cologne would soak in evenly. I decided to read the letter one final time. Took a sniff and was satisfied with the result, so I refolded the letter placed it in the envelope, sealed it for good, and placed it in my Batman backpack. Dropping to my knees, I prayed. â€œDear God. Thank you for watching over my family and this house. Thank you for all your blessings and forgiveness. Oh Lord one more thing. Please let Maria say yes to being my girlfriend. I promise that I will treat her good and never ever hurt her. Amen.â€ And I went to bed with a huge smile. Morning could not come soon enough!! After my morning prayer I hurried to the bathroom to shower and get ready for school. My transistor was loudly playing my favorite song Rod Stewartâ€™s â€œIf You Think Iâ€™m Sexyâ€. And my off key singing was joining along until my Ma told me to hurry up. As soon as I was done in the bathroom and sat down at the table, Gus, my brother, immediately started harassing me saying Bobo (a nickname my Grandma gave me) has a girlfriend over and over again until my Dad told him to stop. Since today was my Dadâ€™s day off, he said that he would walk with me to school. He knew this was a big day for me and was probably going to share some fatherly advice on how to be a great boyfriend. Yes!!! As soon as we finished eating, I watched an episode of Flash Gordon until my Dad called me to go. Rubbing my brotherâ€™s head, grabbed my Batman backpack kissed my Man and ran outside to where my Dad was waiting. As we walked towards Bradwell Elementary, my school, my Dad began sharing his wisdom with me. Dad was the best father a boy and his brother could have. He provided for his family, always made time to listen and could be quite silly with his jokes and wrestling with us. But Dad cheated at Monopoly or he was just very good. (Shrugs) â€œBobo, you wrote a great letter conveying your feelings. Relax and give it to her. Be cool, and remember, if it doesnâ€™t go the way you want it to, donâ€™t worry. It takes a lot of courage to ask a girl to be your girlfriend.â€ â€œDad, I got this. Iâ€™ve learned from you and the Fonz how to be cool. Besides I put some of your Grey Flannel on the letter and myself. Sheâ€™s going to say yes to be my girlfriend, and weâ€™re going to go and have a chocolate shake. Yep.â€ My Dad smiled, handed me my book bag, shook my hand (we were in public), and told me to have a great day. I loved my father because he never pushed what he thought on me or my brother. He just wanted us to be okay. Cool dude there. Well, it was time to put my master plan into action. This was the day!!! I decided that the perfect time to give Maria the letter was right after gym and before school was dismissed. This way, I wouldnâ€™t have to wait long for her to say yes, and somehow if she didnâ€™t (Not like that was going to happen), school would be just about done, so I could make a quick escape. In gym class, we were playing Dodge ball. Let me say that I was the best when it came to playing Dodge ball!! Everyone knew I could really play and always chose me first. But today Maria was on my team!! I would not only show her how great of a dodge ball player I was but how a boyfriend should showoff for his girl. Hecks yeah!!! It was only a two players left on the opposing team, while we had close to our full squad remaining. One of the opposing players fired a rocket of a ball directly at Maria. Oh no, I said to myself!! I ran five steps, dove, and caught ball. Only one player was left, but that wasnâ€™t for long because I threw really hard at the remaining playerâ€™s legs and got her out. We won! We won!!! Everyone gathered around me and cheered. Maria walked up and told me how good I was. Yeah baby!! She knew that she was going to be my girlfriend. I could feel it. After gym, Ms. Jackson, our teacher would take us to the bathroom. Maria never seemed to have to go. But I had been holding it for the last fifteen minutes. Ran into the bathroom, did my business, washed my hands, and came running out at top speed towards the classroom. Ms. Jackson wasnâ€™t having any of that and sternly told me to slow down in the hall. This turned my sprint into a speed walk to my destination. Maria!!! The envelope had been burning a hole in my Leviâ€™s so as soon as Maria was by herself, I walked over to her and placed it in her hand. â€œMaria, here you go.â€ â€œWhatâ€™s this?â€ â€œA letter for youâ€ â€œWhoâ€™s it from?â€ (This really seemed like a dumb question considering that I was handing it to her. But itâ€™s Maria.â€ â€œItâ€™s from me.â€ â€œOkay.â€ She smiled and I knew she was mine. I walked quickly to my seat, pulled out a Batman comic book(loved Batman) and began reading or rather pretending to be reading. What I was really doing was watching Maria read my letter and how her expressions changed as she did. She caught me off guard reading so fast because I was caught in a love stare. We met gazes and were locked there. This sealed it!! Just then the dismissal bell rang. I know it was way ahead of time but they couldâ€™ve been wedding bells. Quickly I packed all of my stuff of into my book bag, when I looked up to see Maria standing a foot away from me with her arm extended to hand me the letter. My heart was trying its best to come out my chest. â€œBye.â€ She said and walked off with some other girls giggling. That must have been her signal for me to meet her outside so I rushed outside of the classroom. Maria wasnâ€™t there. Oh, she went outside and is waiting for me there. I slid to each banister to get downstairs quicker. Ran outside and there was no Maria. Hmmm this was bit funny. Instead of worrying, I decided to read the letter and see my new girlfriend saying yes. My eyes scanned the letter thinking that Ms. Linder, my Language Arts teacher, would be very proud. Finally, the bottom of the letter came, and Maria had said no? Wait maybe I read too fast. So I read again, and when I got to the bottom, the darn â€œnoâ€ was still there. Taking my glasses off and cleaning them, I read the letter again but this time rapidly. Those two letters were still there. I didnâ€™t understand. I wrote the letter very well with all of my feelings. How could she say no? Damn. Oops I didnâ€™t mean to curse. The letter was now wet, and the wetness cause some of the ink to run. Good!! Stupid letter!! I donâ€™t know how long I stood in the spot, but when I looked up no one was there. Then, there was a deep voice that broke the silence. â€œBobo!!â€ The voice belonged to my father. This let me know that I had been at school too long. Typically no one walks me home, but my Dad was a bit overprotective of his family. The slightest threat made him seem like Batman (Love Batman and my Dad). â€œShe said no Dad. She said no. I wanted her to be my girlfriend, and she said no. Why?â€ My words were slurred, while my cheeks were stained by tears. Dad picked up the letter and envelope from the ground, placed them in the book bag, retrieved a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped my face, and put the handkerchief back in his pocket. â€œSon, itâ€™s okay that she said no. She doesnâ€™t know how great of a guy you are. Besides, you asked her, and that takes great courage. Now letâ€™s go have a chocolate shake and get one for your mother and brother.â€ And off we went.