2.21.2016 Journal Prompt

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February 21, 2016: When she came back…


→Hello, Friends! Sorry I have been gone so long, but I am back at it again. Keep checking back for your Daily Journal Prompts. Thanks, as always, for reading! -PMc←

3 Replies to “2.21.2016 Journal Prompt”

  1. Journal prompt 2-21-16: When she came back

    There are moments in each of us that we need to just get off the train that is rushing us along. Molly had this moment last winter. Nothing will ever be the same for her. Ever again.
    Everything seemed perfect but nothing was working out. Molly had just been made assistant manager at the big box store down the street, where she had labored hard for five years. Her family all lived nearby and adored her. Her old boy friend Al still sent her flowers on her birthday and Valentine’s Day. She was even taking an online business class to advance her career. It looked so good. But it all came apart around Thanksgiving weekend.
    That was when her new boss wouldn’t give her the day off she wanted during the Black Friday weekend. And it just came unraveled from there.
    Her mother had begun calling her now three times a day asking for advice on how to care for Molly’s father. The class she had signed up for turned out to be uninspiring and pointless. Even Al made himself too busy for an evening date: “It can’t be helped,” he protested at her objection. The bricks of the brownstone that had seemed warm and comfortable suddenly felt harsh and suffocating.
    Molly needed a break. A real get out of town to hell with it all break from everything to get herself re-centered.
    Winter was fast approaching New York City. The doldrums were practically walking down the street towards her. She remembered her old college friend, Julie, now in San Diego, who had several times said that she was always welcome to visit. A quick phone call to verify the invite and it was done. “Of course. When can you get here?” The open beaches and warmth of southern California lay before her.
    The hardest part was going to her new boss and beginning what she thought would be a tense discussion: a request for two weeks off beginning early December. In her own mind she had her heels dug in: either we talk this through or I’m out the door. Maybe her boss saw it in her steely eyes; maybe there was guilt from the Thanksgiving refusal. Whatever it was she could not believe it when she heard “well you’ll have to promise me that you’ll work through Christmas week. We will really need help around here then.”
    A couple of clicks online and the air tickets were in hand. Then a quick phone call to her baby sister and mother that she had to leave town for a couple weeks, and that they would have to manage. She left Al a voice message that she was out of town and that “it couldn’t be helped.” The online class she figured she could manage from Julie’s.
    And she was free.
    Molly couldn’t recall much of the seven hour flight from JFK. She read an airline magazine article on exotic vacations. She fell asleep somewhere over Chicago after a glass of wine over Detroit. She awoke to hearing to “remember to place your tray tables in the upright position” and the sound of the wheels coming down for the landing. Outside the beauty of the sun sparkling over the ocean began to lift the fog that had enshrouded her soul.
    Julie met her at the San Diego International Airport luggage carrousel and exclaimed “Molly what has happened to you?” almost without thinking how it sounded. Molly was not offended, but knew that her friend of many years was a mirror to her growing fatigue and self-doubt. Walking out together towards the parking lot rolling her suitcase behind her she could not stop the tears from welling up.
    The words tumbled out
    “I didn’t know it was this bad, Julie.”
    “I just didn’t know it was this bad.”
    As the scenery rolled by along the San Diego Freeway Molly began to catch herself and calm down. Once inside Julie’s condo, her friend steered their talk to old stories from college, news of old friends, and a few comments about her own work in a software startup: “Everyone out here is involved in software,” Julie observed. Molly’s head began to clear as their talk remained quiet, but the lump in her throat remained.
    Julie had always made a good marguerita. She had paid her way through college as a bartender, and tonight she did not disappoint. Maybe it was the long flight, or perhaps the third marguerita that was talking. More likely she realized it was the feelings she had withheld from herself for too long. Wherever it came from she spilled out everything: the job, her disappointment in Al, her feelings of obligation to her parents: “I can’t abandon them!” Even the class that had lost significance.
    Molly and Julie were practically sisters for many years, and it felt like home to be back with her again. They had been through college and the friendships that came and went, Julie’s big family wedding and subsequent divorce, the late night talks about their private dreams.
    Molly awoke the next morning having slept twelve hours. She felt a new sense of peace, but also a disconnectedness in her life back home. She quickly showered and threw on a robe, and found Julie waiting to plan their activities for the week. She realized that she felt really hungry for the first time in months. She threw on some clothes and they were off. They walked along the Gas Lamp district trying out different restaurants. Checked out the boardwalk and hotel row. Over many glasses of ice tea and club sandwiches Molly was able to rediscover what she had dreamed of in college. She had always seen herself as a teacher, but her father had persuaded her that she wouldn’t make enough money to support herself. Her hope for a story book romance never materialized, and all she had now was a series of excuses. She had always been the dutiful daughter to her parents, but now was feeling crushed by a sense of endless problems and demands. Her siblings had all quietly stepped back from doing much: “You’re just so good at taking care of them, and mother really trusts you,” they would say with a sad smile. She did well in her class but did not really care much about just in time inventory control.
    Julie had been a great listener that first week, but by the second week had to return to work. Molly by this time had gathered her strength to set a new course for herself. In a way this thinking was terrifying, in a way comforting as she connected with her self. She walked the beaches in the glistening sunlight, tried out some yoga medication along the water’s edge, took increasingly long walks as she gained strength she never knew before. By the time she said goodbye to Julie it was with a promise to return.
    When she came back it was different. The ambivalent Al was history. Another voice message to his cell that it was over. No “Dear John” letter needed, just a quick message that it was too bad it didn’t work out. She had made a commitment to her boss to work through Christmas, and she decided to honor that in order to be true to herself. Coming back completely disengaged she thought that someone would pick up that she wasn’t really there. But her work friends quickly returned to their own self-absorption once the obligatory welcome was over.
    She finished her online class and of course did well, even though her heart was no longer there.
    And she began to train he family for the day when they would finally have to manage their lives unattended: “It might happen some day that I will be gone for awhile,” she tried to warn them. Her parents knew that something had changed but could not comprehend that their sweet Molly might actually leave.
    She had found herself again along the beaches of San Diego in the presence of someone who really loved her.
    The final move came abruptly, a final phase of a dream while awakening. An acceptance letter from the education department of the University of California at San Diego. Even a promise of a scholarship. A few phone calls with Julie, a promise of part time work there, and she had broken free.
    There was some sadness in leaving the big city. A farewell party at work where her boss finally said out loud how much she meant to the company: “We had great plans for you, Molly.” Some phone calls from people in the neighborhood. A letter to her landlord fixing the date of her move out. Finally a tearful meeting with her assembled family where they expressed disbelief that she was actually leaving; “I don’t know what we are going to do,” her mother kept saying.
    But Molly had known all along: when she came back it was never going to be the same.

    Welcome back

      1. I admit that I got carried away. This started as a short vignette and then next thing I know, yes who knows perhaps another novel in the making. Working on POV and dialogue. Wondering about a word from Lindsay. Yes looking forward to many further discussion. xo

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