This is part four. You can find past posts if you look back at previous posts.
Lara woke up on Moday morning to find an email from Marleigh, her editor. She was going to come for a visit tomorrow and she needed the web address for the hotel to make her reservation. She would be there for a late dinner, and she was bringing her camera. This was followed by multiple exclamation points.
That day Lara and the kids spent extra time at the grocery store. One of the things Marleigh was good for was excellent conversation and an excellent bottle of wine and it was the unspoken contact within their relationship that Lara was a good listener and made a delicious meal, usually something along the lines of risotto and scallops. Lara had taken cooking classes a couple of years ago and had been a recipe contributor for a bit at the begining of her writing career where she met Marleigh. They had bonded over food but their friendship endured through good times and bad.
When Marliegh finally arrived the children had already eaten and been bathed and were watching a movie before bed. Marleigh swept in with a big black sunhat and a big bottle of wine. Marliegh was the embodyment of sophistication, a modern-day Audrey Hepburn (sans cigarettes). She was the sort of person who watched all of the best movies, had read every book worth reading and the person you texted to ask if black nail polish was still in, or had that gone out of style yet?
Marleigh had fallen into the unlikely roll of Lara's best friend. Lara, though she loved her kids, was not one of those moms who seemed to be incapable of talking of nothing else and was one of the few people who, if asked to see a limited-release movie at the indie-theater in Atlanta would say yes and then could have an intellectualy stimulating conversation about it afterwards over a bowl of Pho, and while Marleigh had friends with whom she could go out for sushi with every day of the week, Lara was one of only a few friends and even fewer who lived nearby, who would eat curry with her. And so Lara and Marleigh were best friends. Marleigh had shopping friends and Lara had mommy-friends, or at least she did on Facebook, her list of In Real Life friends had dwindled to almost zero, but Marleigh and Lara were Best Friends. And when Lara's life fell apart Marleigh had remained her steadfast friend. Who brought over wine and comedies on DVD when Lara could not get out of bed.
"I have missed you sooooooooo much!" gushed Marleigh taking off her hat and wrapping her arms around Lara. She smelled like a glossy magazine in the very best of ways. "So tell me everything. But after we eat. I'm starving. What did you make? But really, how are you?" Lara laughed. She had not even realied how much she had missed her friend until this moment. Conner, Sophie & Clara all swarmed the kitchen with hugs and kisses and a dozen things that they wanted to tell her all at once.
Dinner was on the table and the children had drifted back into the living room to watch the DVD Marleigh had brought for them. Connor was already more than half-asleep on the couch. "Ohh, this looks so good!!" Marleigh sighed with delight "your cooking is always so delicious."
Marleigh caught Lara up on all of the gossip she had missed, not that Lara had missed missing it. Apparently it was Big News that Lara had chosen to take a month-long vacation to no-one-knows-where Florida, even though 99% of their work was done via telecommuting. "The office was practically throbbing with the news." said Marleigh "I wish you could have been a fly on the wall above the proverbial water-cooler at the office. The girls had all kinds of theories for why you decided to stay so long. Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless was convinced you were experiencing a mental breakdown, Mindy said you'd met someone here and gave us the blow-by-blow of your imagined summer affair. It was quite scandalous. While Val created an elaborate theory based on the premise that you had actually been the victim of identity theft."
In the morning Lara took Marleigh around to see some of her favorite out of the way places around the city. Marleigh had already been up to have a run on the beach and had already had a lengthy conversation with the not-too-shabby-looking guy who worked the desk at night, whose name turned out to be Ethan.
Arm in arm Lara and Marleigh strolled along the sidewalk, Marleigh stopping to chat with people that Lara spent the last month merely smiling at. "This has got to be a piece." Marleigh said over lunch. Connor was kicking the wrought iron table at Lara's favorite pizza place and Sophie and Clara were squabbling. "Sure, that would be fantastic for this town's economy." said Lara trying to physically seperate her daughters. "You should write it." said Marleigh casually. Lara hadn't done a significant piece since Ian died. She'd mostly written top ten lists and inspiration pieces. Nothing that required a great deal of writing, yet still, the stuff that some of the bigger magazines thrived on to drive traffic to their site. "Really?" asked Lara feeling a mix of excitement and terror. "Sure. We're running a larger piece on out of the way, off the beaten path type places, one of the girls is writing about someplace in the mountains that is just not coming together, I'll put your piece in that spot if it's as good as I think it will be." "Okay." replied Lara with a laugh. "Okay" said Marliegh "Now, let's go find a place where I can get some ice cream!"
Lara noticed, yet again, as she sat eating a gelato with her children, and Marleigh stood at the counter chatting with the server, how the handsome single men around them seemed to just come out of the woodwoork for Marleigh, while Lara felt completely invisible. "Can I taste yours, Mama?" asked Connor "Sure, baby" said Lara. It had simply become a fact of her life, you add a baby, you become invisible to the opposite sex. "Me too" chimed Sophia "I want some too!" "Here you go Ladybug," said Lara "can I have a taste of yours? Taste for taste?" Sophia held out her cone for her Mama to taste "Mmmmmm, that's tasty." Lara offered a taste of her gelato to her oldest. She sighed a bit, to herself. She felt so very un-sexy lately, practically androgynous. Lara felt like she ought to be jealous of Marleigh, with her great body and fantastic personality that attracted attention like moths to a flame, but she couldn't. She sometimes felt like she hid behind her children and felt safe in her invisibility. Lara wondrered if she was permanantly broken, if she would ever be that person again who wanted the attention of a man. Marleigh came to sit down next to Lara, who smiled and sighed again.
Lara and Marleigh's conversations ebbed and flowed sprinkled with hysterical laughter. After dinner Lara carried her kids to bed, all of them being more or less half asleep already. Marleigh & Lara ate dessert on the patio, and fell into silence, lulled by the rythm of the ocean. Lara turned to Marleigh and asked "What do you think?" "About what, love?" asked Marleigh "About this, about my life here. Sometimes I think, maybe I really have gone off the deep end. Who does this? You know, In Real Life. It's not like I've gone off to Italy or India, but this is neither "normal" nor "dramatic" so what is it?"
"It's your life."
"Yeah, but - "
"No, really. It's your life. So who cares what anyone else says? No one is living your life but you. This, this is great. If it makes you happy. Who gets to say what is or isn't so-called "normal". Not me."
Next morning, Lara was sad to see her friend leave, but Marleigh had places to go, people to see, and deadlines to meet. Marleigh hugged Lara as she said goodbye "I'm happy for you, Lara. Don't ever let anyone take away from you what you found here." Lara smiled
"I promise." said Lara and she hugged her friend again, and then Marleigh was swept away, like a beautiful shell dancing back towards the ocean, pulled by the undertow of a rising tide.
Lara sat beside the pool, sketching outlines for a possible article. She felt keenly how rusty she was at this. She had pages and pages of ideas, outlines, sentences - all of it felt like total crap. She had done this once, she had written substantive work before... but she felt totally unsure of if she could do it again.
Mrs. G sat down beside her with a basket of clean, folded towels. "Your friend seemed very nice." Mrs. G began
"Oh, she is. One of the most generous, intelligent, women I've ever been friends with."
"I hope she had a nice visit."
"Yes, I think she did. While she was here she asked me to write a piece for her magazine."
"Did she now?"
"Yes, just a small piece in a larger article on out of the way places to visit in the summer, it's sort of a last-minute assignment,"
"Out of the way places, eh? Well that, we most certainly are."
"Mrs. G - what would it mean to you to have your hotel featured in this article?"
"I mean, I'm trying to find my motivation, behind the piece, besides from how I feel about this city and your hotel, what about how you feel about this place?"
"This place. It was my starting over point. This was my decision to stop feeling sorry for myself and try to do something useful with my life. Mr. G had come back from Iraq, from Desert Storm, back in the 90s and he had come back in a bad way. They call it PTSD now but back then it didn't have a name, at least not one that I knew. My husband's body came back beat up but his heart had been broken. So there I was, childless, with a brokendown husband. Lost, depressed, feeling sorry for myself. So I came here, took out a loan, bought this place and worked hard. We were busy, almost more than I could hande. Full every summer, all summer long. I paid off that loan as fast as a body could, I learned everything I could, worked really really hard. Made a life for us.
Of course it's different now, this town has changed, but I didn't change with it. I think, every now and again, that I should give up, put this place up for sale and cut my losses. I've thought about moving further up to St. Augustine or to Jacksonville. I got a job offer to work in Hilton Head once, but you know, I just couldn't leave. This place was my second chance and I want to be here when this place gets it's second chance. Maybe that won't come. But if it does, I'll be ready for it."
Lara sat chatting with Marleigh on the phone the next day. "Lara, I am so mad at you right now."
"I am completely upset with you for two reasons, which I am prepared to discuss with you at length. Firstly: that you were capable of writing something like this but have only been giving me fluff for the last year and a half. I feel robbed, Lara. Robbed. Think of all of the pieces you could have worked on for me? But that is not all! oh no... that is only the tip of the iceburg. Lara, your piece was so good that I am now trying to cut space from everybody else's bits without being obvious about it. Ezra was so very proud of his piece he will practically murder me if I don't put his piece first, and in it's entirety, but all I want to run is yours. This place, it is just adorable! Your words are so poetic." "Marleigh, it's hardly poetic. This place speaks for itself." "No darling, no it doesn't. It needed you to speak for it. And you have done an excelllent job. It would be very pleased with you. Actually, if this piece does as well as I think it is going to they will pretty much make be ready to make you the mayor."
"Really? You really think this could help put Palm Beach back on the map?"
I try to publish the next bit of the story every Thursday night. I am so very aware that I've got a lot to learn, but I'm trying to practice my fiction writing. You have any suggestions for how I can improve my writing I am all ears.