Fourth Wednesdays will be “Seasoned Fiction.” This means that you will get a little bit of my writing.  Mostly, what you’re going to get is me editing my children’s chapter book Paper Wrappers.  Short synopsis, it’s a story about a little girl named Milly who is lacking in self-confidence for various reasons and the journey she goes on to find it.  I may break it up some over the months and throw in some of my short stories (already written or yet to be created–who knows).

History on the book: it started as a short story called Milly’s Magic in my first creative writing class with Bland Simpson at UNC over 15 years ago.  From there I was encouraged by Ruth Moose (in a subsequent creative writing class) to turn it into a book, with some modifications.  I completed it a couple of years ago, but it’s never been edited.  Hence–fourth Wednesday “Seasoned Fiction.” Shall we get started?

Paper Wrappers

“Milly, it’s not going to be so bad in a new town,” Dad said over his shoulder to the back seat. “Daryl is excited, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, sure,” Daryl didn’t even look up from the video game he held. “Darn,” he muttered before hitting the reset button.

Milly turned back to watching the trees fly past outside her window.  There weren’t any clouds so she couldn’t play her favorite game.  It wouldn’t have been the same anyway.

“I just don’t understand, Milly,” Dad tried again. “You were excited about the move.”

“That was before,” Milly said.

“Oh, Button,” sighed Dad, and he went back to watching the road.

Milly saw a sign that read ‘Rollins 27 miles.’ That’s where they were moving.  Dad had gotten a job as the principal of Rollins High School at the end of the last school year. He and Mom had found their new house not long afterwards.  Dad said Mr. Carlton, the mayor, had even had them over for dinner. He had a daughter named Lindsey, who was Milly’s age.  Milly had been excited about a new town and a new house.  Mom had said her room looked out over the backyard where the family before them had left a swing set.  But all this was before Dad had answered the phone two months ago and then dropped it, falling to his knees.  It was before he’d called Grandma to come over so he could go to the hospital.  And it was before he’d told her and Daryl that Mom was never going to come home again, and he’d pulled Milly into his lap and his scruffy face scratched her cheek.  It was before all that.

Now they followed the U-Haul truck in their new car to Rollins.

Milly silently watched the back of Dad’s head.  She didn’t want to go to a new school anymore.  She didn’t want to meet Lindsey Carlton.  And she certainly didn’t want to see her new room that Mom had picked out for her.  It just wasn’t fair.  Mom should be here.  Who was going to braid her hair for the first day of school?  who was going to pack her lunch?  Milly doubted Dad knew how to do any of that. She and Daryl had eaten a lot of cheese sandwiches and tomato soup lately.  Once Dad had tried to fry chicken, but it’d caught on fire and he had to put it out with the fire extinguisher.  They’d gone out for pizza after that.

“There’s your new school,” Dad interrupted her thoughts.

Milly shrugged at the one story brick building.  White steps lead up to the double doors.  A banner ruffled in the breeze proclaiming “Home of Junior Cubs-Welcome to Rollins Elementary.”

“The library is right down the block,” Dad went on. “And there’s a drug store with real ice cream floats and fountain drinks. Your mom and I. . .” his voice trailed off.

Daryl’s video game beeped.  Dad coughed lightly and pushed his glasses up as he rubbed his eyes.  Milly pulled her knees up to her chin.  Breathing hurt her chest.  The only thing that helped with the pain was to pull her legs up and feel the crease in her stomach pinched by her shorts.

“mayor Carlton says the library used to be the train depot.  It’s smaller than Elkton’s library but I’m sure it’s got enough books to keep you busy.” He slowed the car down.  “Here it is, guys. Our new house.” He parked on the street since the U-Haul pulled into the drive.  “What do you think?”

“Cool,” Daryl said without looking up.  Dad reached over and took the game.  “Hey,” Daryl reached for the game.

“We’re here,” Dad said.

The new house had a paved driveway and a carport with two apple trees in the front yard.  The brick house was split-level and when Dad unlocked the door he told Milly her room was upstairs to the right.  Daryl’s was at the end of the hall.  There was a guest room and a bathroom on the other side of the hall.

“Why don’t you go see it, Milly?” Dad asked.

“I don’t want to,” she answered.  They stood in the empty main room, which would later become the living room.  Her voice echoed against the hollowness of the walls and hardwood floors.  Glass doors opened onto a small deck in the backyard.  Milly saw the swing set Mom had told her about.

Dad took her hand and sat Indian style on the floor.  He made Milly sit in his lap.  “Button, I know this is hard for you.  It’s hard for me too.  But Mom would want you to at least look at your room.  She knew you were going to like it. It would hurt her if she knew you didn’t eve want to see it.” Dad stroked Milly’s hair.  Milly heard his breath coming shorter like it always did when he talked about Mom.  She knew he would cry soon unless she did something and if he cried, she would.  She didn’t know that so many tears could come out of someone’s eyes.  She wondered when she took her baths at night and the tears mixed with the soapy water if she would ever stop crying.

She laid her head on his shoulder and then kissed his cheek.  “Ok.”

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