Thursday, January 3, 2013
Confession is Good for the Soul
Confession is Good for the Soul
“Good afternoon ladies, how is your reunion going?” Holly asked the old friends as they walked through the lobby to the restaurant.
“We are just getting started Mrs. Burke, we aren't talked out yet,” said Monica as she introduced the others.
“Please call me Holly, we are just a small town, we don't stand on ceremony here. Enjoy your lunch everyone.”
Holly noticed the change of outfit on Brenda Harris. Tracy told her she was married to Randall Harris the billionaire. Brenda certainly did know how to dress. I suppose if you were as lean as Brenda, anything would look good on you, she thought with envy.
After glancing at the menu, everyone ordered. Beth was careful to order nothing fattening and Brenda was careful to order something other than a salad with lemon juice. Monica and Brenda had a glass of wine. Beth a sugar free iced tea and Darlene a glass of ice water.
Brenda downed the wine and asked for a refill. She hadn't eaten since the morning before her trip and was feeling a little tipsy.
“I suppose you all have read the article about Randall and his rendezvous with that young starlet?”
The others looked in her direction but were speechless.
“I know you have been talking behind my back. Everyone does, you know. That's why I can't go to any of the society luncheons anymore. Everyone talks about Randall and his escapades and they look at me with pity just the way you are doing now. I thought you were my friends.”
“Brenda, nobody is talking about you,” said Monica. “We are your friends. We are here to listen if you would like to talk about it, but we won't discuss you behind your back. Will we ladies?”
“No, Brenda,” said Beth. “I'm so sorry I said you were anorexic earlier, I wouldn't hurt your feelings for anything in the world.”
“We love you, Brenda,” said Darlene. “We are the fearsome foursome, remember?”
“Maybe you'd better make that the fearsome threesome. I'm anything but fearsome. I'm afraid to gain an ounce of weight because Randall wouldn't approve. I'm afraid to go out in public because I might run into him and his bimbo of the moment. We have six houses and we aren't together in any one of them unless he is entertaining and needs me to play hostess. I have made a horrible mess of my life and I don't know what to do about it.”
“The first thing you need to do is eat your lunch,” said Beth. “Here take half of my tuna salad sandwich. It is loaded with mayonnaise. I'm going to order you a milkshake to go with it. Remember when we were soothing a broken heart in the old days? There was nothing like a strawberry milkshake to cure our ills.”
Brenda had kept her true feelings inside for so long, she took one bite of the sandwich and devoured it. She reached for the hot rolls and butter that were an accompaniment to Darlene's soup. She ate those and ordered a slice of pecan pie to go along with her milkshake.
“I noticed a bakery on Main Street. Let's go buy come cookies for later,” Brenda said with a genuine smile on her face.
After visiting the bakery and buying their cookies, the friends gathered in Monica and Brenda's room.
“As long as we're playing true confession, I think I should come clean too. Curt and I are very close to bankruptcy. He was laid off from his job six months ago. When that happened, he lost his health insurance. Of course, I have it though the school district and planned to put him on my policy. I had to wait for open enrollment and three weeks before I could do that, Curt had a stroke.” Darlene said with tears in her eyes.
“Darlene, that's awful, is he alright?” asked Monica.
“He is doing quite well. He has many more months of physical therapy but he is working hard to get back his strength. His medical bills have been staggering. We owe so much to the community for their support. The doctor waived his fees and the hospital has been cooperative too. We wouldn't have made it this far if it hadn't been for the help of our friends and neighbors. The only reason I was able to come on this trip was because of the generosity of the people in Brinkley. I was ashamed to tell you I was broke. I should have been ashamed of myself for trying to hide it.”
“You have nothing to be ashamed of Darlene,” said Brenda. “It sounds like the people of Brinkley love you as much as we do.”
Beth spoke up, “If we are being honest, I will tell you something you never knew. I won a scholarship to attend Beresford. I was too ashamed to tell you that my family was very much middle class. Mom was a housewife and Daddy was a car salesman. While I was in high school, I babysat for the mayor and his wife. They had three little girls. Mayor Grant asked me what I wanted to do when I graduated and I told him I would like to be a nurse. Mrs. Grant had attended Beresford and sponsored me. If it hadn't been for her, I would have been attending the community college.”
“My family probably didn't have as much as you did, Beth,” said Monica. “My dad had to work three jobs to pay my tuition. My uncle was married to a former Beresford graduate. She was the one who got me in.”
“Your dad must be proud you have done so well, Monica.”
“He is, but he would be prouder if I would make him and Mother grandparents. I'm afraid it's too late now. I don't want to make light of your troubles, Darlene, but I do envy your life and the way your friends are supporting you in your time of need. There is no one in my life that would ever care enough about me to make sure I could go to a reunion of friends. You are a lucky woman.”
“Monica, I'm sure there are people who care about you. Have you let them know the real you? I remember when we were in school, you befriended Paula Blake. Do you remember her? She was ostracized by her friends when it was discovered she was pregnant in freshman year. You made sure we included her in everything we did. Thanks to you she was able to hide her pregnancy from the administration otherwise she would have been expelled. Beresford College didn't tolerate improper behavior from its students.”
“No wonder they shut down. I'd say it was none too soon,” said Beth. “I wonder what ever happened to Paula?”
“She is my assistant,” said Monica. “Her baby boy just turned twenty three. She is married to a wonderful man and had two more children.”
“Everyone knows my father is a country doctor who never made enough money for my mother. I think she has mellowed in her later years. She finally stopped nagging Daddy about being a dermatologist. I think it was after she found out Dr. Campbell ran off with his nurse and they are now living in his vacation home in Aspen.”
“That leaves me,” said Darlene. “Back then I didn't lie about my money situation. My family had plenty. Daddy still does. He disowned me the day I married Curt. He told me if I married that factory worker, I would never see a dime of his money. He stuck to his guns and even bought the factory. I wouldn't be surprised if he was the reason Curt was laid off.”
“Darlene, that's terrible. What about his grandchildren, does he see them?”
“No, the only grandparents they know are Curt's parents. They are much better role models for the children. They come over every day to stay with Curt while I'm in school. It breaks my heart to watch them suffering right along with their son.”
“Enough of that. What do you say we take a dip in the pool before dinner. We need to work up an appetite after all those cookies.”
They all agreed. Beth was embarrassed to slip into her bathing suit and made sure she had packed her bulky cover up.
Brenda looked in the mirror and saw herself as others saw her. “Oh my, I do look anorexic, Monica. Maybe I'd better have another cookie.” They both laughed.
The water felt good to Darlene. She had just gotten off the phone with Curt. He was happy when she told him she admitted the truth to her friends. He knew his wife and knew it would eat at her if she had to keep it secret all week. His parents were with him and he'd had company all afternoon. Everyone asked about her and were expecting a post card from Camden Corners. She loved the people of her town. Didn't they know nobody sent postcards anymore? Well, she certainly would.
Monica enjoyed watching her friends from the lounge chair. She thought she'd sit out for awhile and when they weren't watching, she would call the office. Just as she was about to push in the numbers, she sensed someone sitting down next to her.
“Can't get away from it, can you?” said a very attractive man.
“I beg your pardon?” she replied.
“The office, they can't do without you and you are calling to make sure everything is going smoothly.”
“How did you know that?” Monica asked in surprise.
“I was in your shoes until about a year ago. I really did think they couldn't live without me. Guess what? They did very well on their own. I had trained them well.
“My name is Jonathan Lawrence and you are Monica Whitfield.”
“Jonathan Lawrence? Of course, I knew you looked familiar. I guess I'm not used to seeing you without a three piece suit. I'm flattered that you know my name.”
“You have quite an impressive story. You started your firm just out of college. That took courage. You didn't have big money backing you, but that didn't stop you. You are at the top of your game.”
“Are you trying to tell me there is no place to go but down?”
“No, I'm trying to tell you I would like to have dinner with you.”
“Where did that come from?” she laughed.
“From my lips. You are a very attractive woman and I'd like to get to know you. What do you say? Dinner?”
“I can't, I'm here with my friends.” Monica looked over and saw all three of them hanging by the side of the pool watching her.
“Go, Monica. We will be fine on our own.”
“Don't let us stop you.”
“He's cute, say yes.”
“My friends think we are back in college. How can I turn down Jonathan Lawrence. I would be delighted to have dinner with you.”
“Good, I'll pick you up in thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes, that isn't much time.”
“It will be plenty if you don't make that phone call.”
“It's a conspiracy, okay, thirty minutes and no calling the office.”
Monica smiled at her friends as she walked back to the suite with a bounce in her step. Jonathan Lawrence knew my name, she thought to herself.
Jonathan knocked on her door exactly thirty minutes later. She had changed into a casual sleeveless sweater and slacks. She picked up a light jacket and left her phone on the dresser. She opened the door and Jonathan walked in. He took her in his arms and kissed her, backed up and kissed her again.
“I thought we'd get that out of the way so I could concentrate without wondering what it would be like to kiss you. It was very nice, but next time, I would like to be kissed back.”
“I must say, that is the first time I have been on a date that started with a good night kiss.” She was trying to act causal, but her heart was beating so loud she was sure he could hear it.
“Shall we try Hemingway's, I understand the food is very good there.”
“Anyplace will be fine,” she said knowing she would eat a hot dog if it meant she could be with this man. What was wrong with her? Monica Whitfield didn't fall head over heels in love. It was so unlike her. She felt for her phone and realized she didn't have it with her. She didn't care, she had no intention of making any phone calls this evening.
While sipping cocktails, Jonathan told Monica he was was much like her. “After college, I was arrogant enough to think I could start a business and have it be successful in a year's time. My consulting firm grew to eight offices in just three years.
“After almost twenty years, I looked around at my life and realized I had nothing I really cared about.
“I presented a seminar in Camden Corners a year ago. While I was here, I walked down Main Street and decided this was where I wanted to live. Since so many other people are reliant on the success of my firm, I took the year to ease out of it. I arrived in Camden Corners two days ago and will be staying at The Merryweather until I can find a permanent home. I have never felt more relaxed. I can see the signs of tension in your face. I wonder if you may be burning out like I did.”
“You are a good mind reader. I'm feeling restless. I thought all I wanted was success, but I'm finding there are so many things in life I have missed. Two of my friends have that. They don't have money, but they have families and happy lives even though they may be facing tough times.”
“Would you like to take a walk by the lake? The water is so calm tonight, it will smooth out those worry lines.”
“I think the wine already did that. I don't remember the last time I had such a relaxing dinner. You are good for me Jonathan. You make me think about things other than work.” Automatically she reached for her phone that wasn't there.
Jonathan noticed, “I'm afraid it's going to take more than one dinner and a couple of glasses of wine to relax you.”
“What did you have in mind?” she giggled.
He squeezed her hand and they walked by the water stopping to kiss every few minutes.
Jonathan and Monica were inseparable for the next six days. Jonathan made sure she spent time with her friends, but he was never far away.
At breakfast on the Wednesday of the their vacation, Brenda said, “Look you two, if you want me to be your matron of honor, you will have to get the license today. Monica isn't getting any younger and that little window they talk about will be closing soon. Why not take a walk to the courthouse, get that license and get married while we are all together?”
On Saturday, Monica Whitfield became Mrs. Jonathan Lawrence. She called her office only to say she would not be returning for another week. The friends parted vowing to return in exactly one year with their families.
Jonathan carried Monica over the threshold of his suite at The Merryweather where they began their lives as husband and wife.
They traveled back and forth from Camden Corners to New York allowing Monica to turn over the reigns of her firm to Paula Blake Williams.
Monica invited her parents to visit them when their new home on the lake was built. Her father finally had his wish when the couple showed off the completely furnished nursery in their new home.
Monica finally knew what had been missing in her life. She was happy for her time in the corporate world but now her world revolved around her husband and the new baby they were expecting any day.