an excerpt
{story a day}

I had lunch with Lettie last week. She called to say she had some news for me, and of course, all kinds of crazy things ran through my head: marriage, pregnancy, illness, moving away. Turns out, she’s writing a book. I never told her how much I always wanted to be a writer. Then again, she never told me she was one.

She and I have always had a rough time of it, right from the start. She was a colicky baby, she didn’t sleep for longer than two hours at a time for the first three months of her life. And she was Jase’s girl right from the start, which I have to admit, I encouraged. Part of me knew that I would never be able to give her, or Rob, what I gave to Sarah. Oh, I love them both just as much as I loved Sarah, but there has always been an empty place in my heart that couldn’t be filled, always a tiny piece I held back, a piece that just wasn’t strong enough to be broken again. Sarah’s place.

But I did my best with Lettie, I did all the things a mother is supposed to do. I read books to her from the day she was born, quit work for awhile to watch her grow, taught her how to plant seeds in spring and make snow angels in winter and what it means to be a woman. I taught her how to stand up for herself. Truth be told, she didn’t really need much help in that department, and I’m glad about that now. That’s how I know she’ll be okay.

From the outside looking in, I was a pretty good mom. From the inside looking out, I was terrified every step of the way, holding my breath in fear and fighting, every day, to keep myself from locking them both in their rooms, just to keep them safe. I did my best to hide my fear, but kids have a way of sensing things, you know? Lettie really took advantage of this when she was a teenager, always mocking me for being over-protective and trying to smother her. She fought hard to get loose from my grip, and she was right. Letting her go out with her friends, to parties, watching her learn to drive, the day she went off to college, these were all times I had to fight myself just as hard as she was fighting me.

I’m sure I drove Jase crazy when the kids were little with my constant checking and double-checking and safety this and safety that and never wanting to let them out of my sight. I didn’t leave them with anyone but my mom until Lettie started school. And I was a complete wreck that first day, waiting for her to get off that bus, I couldn’t wait for her to be back home where I could see her. I’m glad Jase wasn’t around to watch what a mess I was, so paralyzed with fear I sat in a chair the whole time, staring out the window, just waiting for it to be 2:30.

I was a little bit crazy and a lot overprotective, I know this. I knew it even when it was happening, but I just couldn’t help myself. Because I’ve lived the alternative, and I’m pretty sure that no one ever died from being over-protected.

So anyway, Lettie and I went to lunch, and over our big salads and glasses of wine, she tells me she’s writing this book, and she wants to know if I would read what she’s written so far. I thought my heart would burst right then and there, both with pride and honor and also with the secret knowledge that I won’t be around to see how it ends. I almost broke down right then and told her the truth. But I stopped myself just in time, I had to excuse myself and run to the ladies room so I could stuff the words back down my throat, quick. She looked at me funny when I came back to the table, but I told her it was the pills I’m taking, they give me stomach issues sometimes and I never know when it’s coming on.

A little white lie to cover over the black hole of truth. Sometimes, you just have to, and that was one of those times.

She gave me the first few chapters, and I took them home and read them right away. And they were good. Really, really good. So good I had to put them down and walk away a few times because I couldn’t see through my proud mama tears. I was amazed and appalled all at the same time, just knowing I was seeing a side of my tough little girl that I’d never seen before, and that I would never find out what happens to the girl, Jenny, in the story. I have a feeling there’s a lot of Lettie in her, and I wish I could stick around to see more of what’s inside her head and her heart.

But I’m so glad she’s writing. It will give her a distraction. She’s so strong and so smart and I just know that she’ll be the one to help Jase and Rob get through this. Rob’s the one who worries me the most. He’s always been just a tiny bit lost in the world, and I’m not yet sure where he’ll end up. He was the kind of little boy who could break your heart several times a day, just by smiling up at you and reaching for a hug. I saw a lot of Sarah in him from the moment he was born, and at first I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love him because of it.

But as time went on, I came to adore the little glimpses of her I sometimes caught in a gesture or a smile. And I have to admit, that’s one of the reasons he has always been a little extra-special to me. I tried to never play favorites, but Rob got all the benefits, and I suppose all the drawbacks, of being one step closer to that hidden place in my heart. I didn’t have anything else to hold onto when it came to Sarah, so anything that even vaguely reminded me of her was a gift, one worth clinging to, for dear life.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done all these years. I held on tight to my two babies and my husband and the tiny resurrection their love offered. Somehow, they managed to keep me afloat. And not one of them ever knew how often I cried into my pillow at night.



I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
Today’s prompt was “first person.” so I took this as an opportunity to work on my novel in progress, which is written in first person. Above is an excerpt.





6 Responses to “an excerpt
{story a day}

  • d smith kaich jones Says:

    i’ll buy it when it comes out. this is good stuff!

  • Anyes - Far Away in the Sunshine Says:

    I love your flow and how you grabbed me in within the first few words …

  • Amy Says:

    Much of this is heartbreakingly familiar to me, if from a different perspective. I have a good friend whom I have known since second grade whose mother is even more overprotective than this. To this day, my friend still lives at home, has no driver’s license, and has never had a boyfriend. Somehow, even though your narrator is a much better mother who has managed to let her daughter live and grow, it was like hearing my friend’s mom explain things from her perspective. And I can empathize with Lettie all too well. I finished my first novel a month before my father died of cancer. He was the one who always encouraged and supported my writing, but he never got to read more than the first few chapters.

  • brian miller Says:

    nice bit of character development in this…it is interesting how complex you made her…wanting to protect…and yet willing to tell a white lie….

  • grapeling Says:

    A little white lie to cover over the black hole of truth.


    and the mystery of what she can’t tell Lettie. I was thinking, suicide? terminal condition? why won’t she be around to see how it ends?


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