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Vignette 2

The two women sat companionably in the parlor of the old farm house.  The room was worn, but comfortable, with a perfectly sprung sofa and an ancient Lazy-Boy recliner upholstered in a floral pattern that had faded unevenly over the years.  There were hand-crocheted lace doilies on the armrests.  A large woman in her late sixties sat in the recliner and contentedly crocheted what looked to be yet another doily.  On closer examination, evidence of the doily madness was present on the sofa, the mantle, and the table.  Retirement was not always what it was cracked up to be.

The farmhouse had been in the family for four generations.  Rooms had been haphazardly added over the years, but the parlor was original.  The most recent generations of grandchildren delighted in dropping marbles onto the pine plank floors and watching them roll toward the inner wall, taking a zig-zag path determined by the scars of too many feet, too many paws, and too many crawling children banging heavy objects.

"Mama, what do you think I should do about Sally?" asked the younger of the women.  "She's driving me insane!  I can't trust her for a minute these days, and she bites my head off if I say even the smallest thing about anything."

The older woman shook her head.  Millie would never understand Sally.  She was too good.  She had always been the dutiful child; the child who listened and obeyed.  She was a little plain, but had married well.  Sally, her only child, was a hellion.  Apparently it skipped a generation in this family.

"Well what all is she doing that's making you so crazy?  She's mostly a good girl from what I can tell.  She just doesn't like being told What to do and who to be."

"It's that new boyfriend of hers.  If she's not with him, she's on the phone with him, or on the computer talking to him.  She's sixteen for goodness sakes.  She's going to get herself into trouble."

"So take her to the doctor and make sure she DOESN'T get herself into trouble."  

Millie looked a little shocked at the vehemence with which her mother had uttered those words.  

"Mama, I can't do that.  It'd be telling her I thought it was okay for her to be having sex!"

"Millie, she's going to do that whether you tell her it's okay or not.  You might as well make sure she doesn't spend the rest of her life paying for it."

Millie got a hurt puppy dog look.  Damn it, thought her mother, why the hell does she always think that everything is about her?  

"Millie, you were NOT a mistake.  You were a much wanted child.  You were planned.  This is NOT about you. I just know that Sally doesn't need that kind of trouble right now, and neither do you."

Millie looked at her mother dubiously.  "You know that Bobby isn't going to like it."

"Screw Bobby.  Don't tell him."

Millie looke shocked.  "Mama, he's her father, for crying out loud.  I have to tell him!"

"No, you don't.  There are some things that fathers don't need to know.  Details about their baby girl's sex life are some of those things.  I'll tell you what, Millie.  I'll take her.  She'll go with me, and I'll make it all seem like it was my idea.  You can pretend to her AND to Bobby that you have no clue."

Relieved, Millie sunk back into the couch and picked up the T.V. Guide crossword puzzle she had been working on.  In the background, the canned laughter of a syndicated sitcom was abruptly cut off.  The two women both looked up at the television.  

"There is breaking news on the school hostage crisis in central California.  Sources in the sheriff's department have confirmed that there is one armed suspect and three hostages in the gym at the Allenville High School.  The suspect and one of the hostages are reportedly students at the school."  Pictures of a handsome, athletic boy and a pretty and equally athletic girl flashed on the screen.  "The other two hostages are staff members at the school.  Mr. Marvin Henning is an English teacher, and Ms. Ellen Jones is the guidance counselor at the high school."  Two additional pictures of adults, awkwardly posed in formal yearbook photos, flash on the screen.  The newscaster droned on providing further information about the suspect and the hostages.

"Mama!  Look at that woman!  It's like looking in a mirror.  Well, not really.  I'm quite a bit thinner, and she sure could use some makeup, but isn't the resemblance amazing?"

Uncharacteristically, her mother didn't respond with a sarcastic comment about her weight.  Millie turned to look at her mother.  Her mother had gone white.  

"Mama!  Mama!  Are you okay?  What the hell is wrong with you?" Millie came over and started fussing. The older woman pushed her away violently.

"Damn it Millie!  I'm fine...just a little surprised by the resemblance myself.  You'd better head on home. I'm tired.  I'm going to bed."

Millie frowned.  "Maybe I should stay with you for a while. You don't look so good, Mama."

"Just GO, for God's sake."  Alma got up out of the recliner, and headed up the stairs.  When she heard the door slam angrily, she slowly climbed the rest of the stairs.  She headed into her room, and dug through the closet until she found a small box, battered by the years.  She sunk slowly to the edge of the bed, and opened the box.  There were two pictures inside.  She had to turn them over to check the dates to make sure she had the correct one, as the infants pictured were almost identical.  She chose the picture with the earlier date, and held it up so she could see it better.  They hadn't wanted to let her mother take the picture.  They said it would be a bad thing to have any kind of physical reminder, as if the scar from the emergency c-section wouldn't have been enough of a reminder, the scar that she explained away to her future husband as surgery to deal with ovarian cysts.  Her mother had insisted.  She wasn't being kind when she did so, although it had turned out to be a kindness after all.  She wanted Alma to remember and suffer.  

So tonight, Alma remembered.  She thought she finally knew her eldest daughter's name.  She curled up into a fetal position on the bed, holding the picture and suffering some more.


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