by Beth Groundwater
Jill watched her daughter, Katie, stuff two more T-shirts into her
suitcase, flip the lid over, then sit on the bag. Jill hugged her
terrycloth robe tight. She had to ask. "Did you remember to pack Lucky
Katie rolled her eyes and bounced on the suitcase to squash its
contents. "Of course. And before you ask, I've packed my retainer,
checkbook, cell phone, and pajamas, too."
Excuse me for caring. Jill knew that forgetting the worn, one-eyed
stuffed bear that had absorbed so many of Katie's tears and listened to
so many whispered confidences would devastate her daughter.
After zipping the suitcase, Katie stood with hands on her hips and
surveyed her stripped bedroom, as if she could find one more hip-hop
rolled poster of a male heartthrob, spare sock, or tube of makeup to
Jill had wanted to drive Katie to the state university three hours
away, so she could impart some final words of wisdom about staying safe
and healthy. But independent as always, Katie made her own plans to
hitch a ride with a girlfriend. While Katie lugged the suitcase
downstairs, Jill trailed behind, trying to think of one last thing to
say that wouldn't make her burst into tears.
A car honked outside. Katie rushed out the front door with her first
two suitcases. She chatted excitedly with her friend as they rearranged
the contents of the car's trunk. The September Chinook lifted their
hair, covering their smiles with long tresses that the girls flung back
Jill stood on the stoop watching her daughter prepare to step out of
the nest, memories swirling in with the wind. Katie's first sentence,
said with a stamp of her tiny foot, "My do it self." Her first awkward
dance recital with a frozen grimace of excitement and fear on her
chubby-cheeked face. Her first date to a school dance wearing clunky
platform shoes and a purple dress that clung to her bony frame. The
screams when Katie opened her university acceptance letter with
Katie slid her last bag into the car's back seat, turned and raised a
hand, then hesitated, as if changing her mind. She ran up to embrace
Jill in a strong hug. "Love you, Mom."
Jill breathed in the familiar scent of herbal shampoo, vanilla
and clean young skin of her oldest child. She swallowed the cloying
in her throat. "Love you, too."
Eyes bright with promise, Katie whirled away. Jill's arms were empty
again, the chill breeze schussing through her open fingertips, but with
a glimmer of her daughter's warmth still lingering on her skin.
As the car backed out of the driveway, Katie smiled at her mom and
waved out the open window. "See you soon."
Jill returned the wave until she could no longer see the car, then
her hand into the deep pocket of her robe. She squeezed the soft, furry
mass there--Lucky Bear. "Sooner than you think, Katie."
© Beth Groundwater, 2005
All Rights Reserved
BIO: "I've been writing fiction for six years. I have finished three novels,
novella, and a half dozen short stories. I am an active member of
Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Pikes Peak Writers (PPW),
and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW). Last September, my short
story, "New Zealand," was published in the RMFW anthology titled Dry
Spell: Tales of Thirst and Longing. This spring, my short story,
Domination," will be published in the Kansas Writers Association
anthology, Words Out of the Flatlands.
Also, my works have finaled in five writing contests: 2004, Finalist,
Mystery/Suspense, RMFW Colorado Gold Contest for To Hell in a
Third Place, Mystery/Suspense, PPW Paul Gillette Writing Contest for
2003, Honorable Mention, UPC Science Fiction Novella Prize, Barcelona,
Epsilon Eridani Alternative. 2003, First Place, Short Story, PPW Paul
Memorial Writing Contest for New Zealand. 2002, Finalist,
Colorado Gold Contest for Midlife Crisis."