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Bethany – A Short Story

PART ONE:

“Stop!” I yelled frantically! “Stop, I have to get on the bus!” I ran after it, nearly falling when I tripped on a big chunk of ice that had fallen off some unknown car’s wheel well. The snow was picking up, and the cold wind caused tears to stream down my face, making me appear as though I was not only late, but sobbing. The bus, however, did not stop, but I did. I wiped the tears from my face, taking my now unlimited time to walk back home to pull the gloves out of my pocket and put them on since I had forgotten about them in my haste.

This was the fourth time in a month I had missed the bus. I was never going to complete college. My classes had a strict three strikes and your out policy, and I was clearly beyond that. Downtrodden, I began the long trek back the way I came. I went through all the stages of grief. Anger, that the bus kept arriving and leaving earlier than it posted; denial, this can’t be happening to me; bargaining, please let class be cancelled today, then I’ll never miss another bus; depression, I want to die; acceptance, I’ll have to start working for my mom now.

It was the last one, acceptance that was the hardest for me. My mother had been trying to get me into the writing business for as long as I can remember, but I was always adamantly against it, determined to make my own way in the world. My mother was a creative type, while I considered myself a more business-minded individual. There is no telling what kind of position she would think up for me.

When I was younger I used to write all the time. I thought I was great at it. By the time I was a teenager I wrote a short story that my mother helped me publish through her company. I ended up mortified, critics tore apart my story. She tried to convince me that writing took practice, and that not every critic knew everything, but the experience swore me off of writing for good. I have not picked up a pen or paper other than for academic purposes since then.

I trudged through the snow the wet cold seeping into my boots. I was almost home now. I would have to call mom right away, there was no sense in putting it off. I needed a job immediately now that school was out of the question.

A car honked at me for being too far into the road. What did he want me to do, walk in the snow bank? In these shoes? I had worn my flats, dressing up for business school was important to me. I’ve always heard you dress for the part you want and I took that little tidbit to heart.

I looked at my little gray house, with the white shutters. It was small, but quaint. I was renting it from a nice old couple who retired last year to spend their days travelling in their RV. I would hate to put a stop to their adventures, I was definitely going to have to call mom.

Unlocking my door, I was greeted by a quiet, “Meow.” My cat, Hester, was rubbing against my legs. I reached down absentmindedly, giving his head a slight scratch before I walked over to the phone to make the call I knew I had to. She’d be home, I was sure of that. She worked out of her house. She had a beautiful home office that she’d spruced up for her writing.

Mom picked up on the first ring. “Hello Bethany, is something wrong? Why aren’t you in school?”

“I missed the bus, Mom.” I said.

“Oh dear, how many times is that now?” She asked.

“Too many.” I said.

“I see.” She said pausing for a few seconds before continuing, “You know I am looking for a Marketing professional to help me sell my new book.” The line went silent.

A marketing professional, I thought, this was better than I expected. I have actually taken classes in marketing in the past and generally enjoyed it. “That sounds great mom.” I said, hesitating only slightly, not wanting to sound too eager. I could almost hear mom smile through the phone.

“You can start tomorrow.” She said. “At 8am sharp.”

“Okay, I’ll see you then.” For once, I was grateful that mom wasn’t the type to push me for information on just how things went wrong with college. I didn’t think I could handle that right now.


PART TWO:

I have been working with mom a little over a year now. If you’d have asked me when I started if it would have lasted this long I would have laughed outright. I was certain I was going to find another way to go back to school, but when I started working as a marketing professional somehow things just started to fall into place. Oh, they didn’t start out that way, but within a few short months it became clear that I had found my place in the world.

If there was one good thing about having a creative type for a mom, it was that she let me have my freedom. She didn’t micromanage. She gave me a task, expected me to get it done, and allowed me to do it my way. It was a life-saving quality when I needed it the most, since I was still facing up to the end of my college life.

            As it turned out, the only thing that was holding me back from enjoying my job was me. I was holding on to this idea that I had to be a business woman, and yet here I was – already a business woman, and having difficulty accepting it. It took mom to let me see that about myself. She subtly made the reference more than once in passing to me looking smart in my business attire.

Mom also kept me in the dark about Michael, the handsome man who worked as her editor. She often had me meet with him alone to go over the marketing details of her upcoming book. Michael, it turns out, was as different from me as could be, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter. Much to mom’s happiness, Michael and I began dating a few months down the road.

Life was pretty much falling into place for me. It was one year to the day from when I was running after the bus, before I made my life changing call to my mom, when I got another life changing call.

“Hello?” I said, when my phone rang unexpectedly when Michael and I were out to lunch.

“Is this Bethany?” A voice I didn’t recognize said.

“Yes, yes, it is.” I replied.

“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there has been an accident.” My heart dropped.

“What do you mean? What kind of accident?” I asked.

“Your mother, June?” The voice said this as though it was a question although it clearly was not. “She has had a heart attack. She didn’t make it. I am so very sorry dear.” I went quiet for a long time. I know I hung up the phone, but I don’t recall if I even thanked the woman on the phone.

Michael looked at me and immediately knew something was wrong. “Where do we need to be, babe?” He said.

“Home.” I said.

Michael took me home and we made all the arrangements. The funeral was held a few days later. I went to it still shell shocked. Michael was a saint through it all.

The next day, I got a call from mother’s lawyer, apparently, she left me something in her will. We made an appointment to meet the next day.

The lawyer went through the usual steps, mother left me her house, and most of her things, but what caught my attention was the letter the lawyer pulled out of his desk for me. It was written in my mother’s handwriting.

I was surprised at the weight of the letter, it was much more than just one or two pages. I opened the letter and began to read.

“Dear Bethany,” It began. “I cannot tell you how much pleasure you have brought to my life especially in the last year as you began working for me. It is a joy to see you so happy and living the dream you always wanted. I have some things for you that I have carried with me for the past 20 years – they were an inspiration to me and I hope they will be for you as well. Please read these and remember. I love you always, your mother”

The next pages were quite old, if mother had been hanging onto them for 20 years that would explain why. I looked at the first page. It was the first story I had ever written. The subsequent pages were similar stories, all stories that I had written. I read them all. The final story, was the short story I had published that had caused me so much grief. I made myself read it. As an adult I could see the reasons this story would have gotten poor reviews, however, my child self still didn’t understand. I read them all over and over, three times in all.  Tears streamed down my face.

When I walked out of the lawyer’s office that day, Michael greeted me from the waiting room. “Is everything okay?” He asked.

“Everything is fine,” I said, “but, we have to go to the store.”

“Now?” Michael said.

“Now.” I said adamantly. “I need a new notebook.”

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