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Paper Wrappers

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We’re getting closer to a paper wrapper and the reason I told you I really liked this shirt.

Read on, faithful followers.  Here’s the next five pages or so of the original manuscript. More

Paper Wrappers (last week’s installment)

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Karen Black took Milly to pick up her glasses on Wednesday.  They dropped Daryl off at the park on the way.

“We’ll be back in about an hour.  We’ll go get something to eat before your dad gets home,” Karen told him.

“Whatever,” Daryl called as almost slammed Milly’s hand in the door and just kept running.

“You’re lucky, Karen.  You don’t have any brothers.”

Karen laughed.  “We can take a break from Daryl for a while.  What do you want to do?”

“Can we go to the library?”

Karen and Milly picked up the glasses and headed to the library.  Dark clouds were beginning to fill the sky.  Milly watched as one set would blend into the next, covering up the blue afternoon.  She fidgeted with the glasses case in her hand.  She had been able to see better when the lady had adjusted them for fit.  But as soon as she and Karen had gotten in the car she’d taken them off.  Karen didn’t say anything though.  She just turned up the radio and sang along.

“Karen Black! How are you? I haven’t seen you since I don’t know when.” Mrs. Grey came out from behind her desk to hug Karen.

“It’s so nice you remember me, Mrs. Grey,” Karen smiled.

Mrs. Grey laughed. “You kept me hopping with making sure my basketball literature was up to date.  I read about you in the paper.  This will be an exciting year for you.” As she talked she patted Milly’s back.  Milly liked being noticed and listened.  It was soothing to feel Mrs. Grey’s warm hand.

“It’s my senior year.  I hope we can hang onto our championship title.”

“You just do your best, dear.”  She turned to Milly, brushing Milly’s dark hair behind her ear.  “And how are you?  Are you excited about tomorrow?”

Milly looked down at the glasses case in her hands.  She had been rolling it over as Mrs. Grey had talked with Karen.  “I don’t know,” she mumbled.

Mrs. Grey put a light hand on her shoulder.

Milly gulped.  She didn’t really want to talk in front of Karen.  She wanted Karen to think she was grown up.  “I don’t know who my teacher is,” she finally answered.  “I’m going to go pick out some books.” She headed to the back of the library where the picture window was.  She could see that the clouds were getting darker.

“Hurry, Milly.  Daryl’s game will probably get rained on so we’ll need to go get him,” Karen called after her.

Milly ducked into the last row of children’s books.  She had no idea what she wanted read, she just didn’t want anyone to see her cry.  She opened her glasses case and pulled them out.  She put them on and walked to the window.  Her reflection was dim, but she could see the ovals perched on her nose.  Tears rolled down her cheek as rain drops started to splatter against the window.  Milly wasn’t excited about school tomorrow.  She was scared.  there were so many things that were different about her.  She wanted to fit in.  She had never been the new girl before.  And now she had glasses.  What if she was the only one in the whole class with glasses?  And how many ten year olds didn’t have mothers because she died in a car accident?

“Milly,” Mrs. Grey softly said.  “I told Karen to go get Daryl.”

Milly watched the rain.  It was steady now, making a rhythmic drumming sound on the windowpane.  Lightening brightened the sky followed by the low rumble of thunder.

“She’ll be back for you in a bit.  I picked a book out for you.  I think you’ll like it.  It’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.”

“Thank you.” She still didn’t turn around.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Milly saw Mrs. Grey reach her hand out towards her back in the reflection and then stop, letting it drop quietly.

Milly silently shook her head.  They listened to the rain drum and roll on the roof and down the glass. The storm was letting up already.

“You miss her a lot right now.”

Milly nodded, biting her lip.  The ache behind her eyes from holding back sobs was too much.  Her shoulders started to shake as she turned and buried her face in Mrs. Grey’s stomach.  She cried, and Mrs. Grey said nothing.

“Why’d she have to die?  Why’d MY mom have to die?  It’s not fair,” Milly sobbed.  Mrs. Grey still said nothing.  “I’m so scared that no one will like me or I won’t be smart enough or pretty enough or anything.  And she’d know what to say.”

Mrs. Grey stepped back. She retrieved a Kleenex from her pocket and wiped Milly’s face.

“Sweetheart, I don’t know what your mother would say to you right now because I never knew her.  But I know her daughter.  And she’s a smart, funny, and pretty girl.”

“What if no one else thinks so?  I’ve been here a month and Daryl has made friends and I haven’t.”

“You’re friends with me and Karen.”

Milly shook her head.  Mrs. Grey just didn’t understand.  She meant friends in her grade.  Mrs. Grey and Karen were nice but she’d never have a slumber party with them.

“I’m sorry I can’t fix this for you, Honey.” Mrs. Grey handed Milly the book she’d picked.  They heard the cowbell clang as someone came in.  “That’ll be your brother and Karen.  Come on.”

Milly nodded.  She turned to loo back at her reflection in the window.  She wrinkled her nose at her glasses.  Just as she was turning to follow Mrs. Grey she saw the rainbow.  The rain was a slow drizzle and the sun was breaking brightly through the clouds.  The rainbow cast all of its colors in a beautiful arc over the clouds before disappearing in the mist rolling up from the hot ground.

“Hey, Squirt,” Daryl said. “Nice extra eyes.  Maybe now you’ll quit running into things.” He started to laugh but Karen elbowed him the back.

Milly bit her lip again and waited fro Mrs. Grey to stamp her book with the due date.  She tried to tell herself that it didn’t matter what Daryl said. She pushed the glasses up on her nose, not really because they had slipped, but because she wasn’t used to how they felt.

Mrs. Grey handed her the book.  “You’ll get used to them,” she smiled. “Soon you won’t even remember they’re there.”

Somehow, Milly doubted that.

“Ya’ll ready? We need to get going if I’m going to get a pizza delivered”

“Yeah, let’s go Four Eyes.”

Karen waited for Milly. “Don’t let him get to you.  He’s a boy.  They’re all like that. Even the ones my age.”

Milly shuddered.  If older boys were like Daryl, things certainly didn’t seem too promising.

At home Karen and Daryl cleaned up dishes left from breakfast and lunch while MIlly folded clothes out of the dryer.  She liked this chore the best. Dad and Daryl were horrible at folding clothes.  Mostly, she liked it though because she and Mom had done it together.  Mom had even taught her how to fold fitted sheets where theyd didn’t look different from the flat sheets.  They used to race to see who could fold a pair of jeans the fastest.  And laughed every time another of Daryl’s socks was eaten by the dryer monster.

“He’s struck again, the mysterious dryer resident,” Mom said

“It was time for his feeding,” suggested Milly

“Oh, come on, Milly! You can do better.  Imagination, please.”

“Hmm, well. . . a sacrifice, small. But our laundry will now be light and fluffy.  The dryer god has deemed it so.  Until, of course, he is offended again by Daryl’s holey socks and we will pay the price.”

Mom laughed, tossed the lone sock in Milly’s face, “Much better!”

Milly held the sock she’d just pulled from the dryer.  She lifted it to her nose and inhaled the fresh, clean warmth.  It was almost like Mom was there.

“What you doing, Button?” Dad’s voice broke in.

“The dryer god has taken another sacrifice,” she answered, still holding the sock.

“What?”

Milly just looked at him.

“Well, Karen is leaving.  Come say goodbye.  The pizza is here too.” Dad left.

Milly followed slowly.

Got my glasses. Daryl made fun of me all afternoon.  If my own brother can’t be nice how come a stranger might?  Dad didn’t even notice.  Maybe I’ll be sick tomorrow and not have to go to school.  the dryer god struck again.  Nobody understands.

Paper Wrappers and Merry Christmas

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1268580_10201989747978213_1302152653_oBefore we find out what’s going on with Milly, let me take a moment to wish everyone a very blessed Christmas.  May you each know the joy and peace of the Christ Child.

And now. . .back to Milly.  When we last left her she had just gotten her library card (a very important possession) More

Paper Wrappers

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Let’s get back to Milly. . .if you need a reminder, you can start here.  Then go here.  In essence, we’re now to Chapter 2.

Milly, Daryl, and Dad worked hard to get every thing put in place in their new house.  The living room transformed from an empty shell to a cozy room with rugs and a sectional couch.  Dad’s rust colored recliner got an optimal position in front of the TV.  Above the mantelpiece hung a large photograph of MIlly, Daryl, Dad, and Mom.  Milly stared at the picture, burning the image into her memory.  Mom was wearing a royal blue dress, her hand rested on Milly’s shoulder and her smile verged on a laugh.  The picture was only six months old. More

Blushing in the Garden

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seasonedbookclubHere we are at the literary life post yet again. I don’t know why I find this one so difficult to maintain. It’s easier when I’ve had a book club gathering before this Wednesday–but the second Monday for this month comes after the second Wednesday. Guess I’m on my own.

This month we read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. The goal was to find an easy read that didn’t take much thought but would still be entertaining. I think the find was successful. So successful that as I write this, I can’t really remember the characters’ names. I think the main characters were Claire, Tyler, Sydney, and Henry. I could look it up, but that would take too much effort this evening. (Yep, sometimes I’m lazy.)

Anyway, I do remember the plot and was intrigued by the premise. An estranged sister shows up at her childhood home, unannounced after ten years. The “responsible” sister’s life is turned upside down. Let’s complicate some things with a magic tree in the back yard, an abusive man, and a relative who HAS to give things to people–but she doesn’t know why.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was light, funny at parts, and also touching. The relationship between the two sisters as they figure each other out is telling. It’s often not at all like what we think is going on. Each sister had a perception of what the other meant to her life. Neither knew what the other was thinking and decisions were made that had to be overcome.

I was also intrigued by the sub plot with the relative and her involvement with the grocery store owner. Sounds a lot different than it is when I say it that way.  You’ll just have to read it.  Oh, and then there’s the ex-boyfriend and his wife–which leads me to what really made me blush.

The sex. Not because I mind a book having sex in it, but because my book club was reading it. All I could think was “Oh, my, Lina just read that!” And now I’m going to have to talk about this book with all of them.

Maybe I am a little old-fashioned.

Paper Wrappers continued

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Last month, we met Milly, a rising fifth grader who is moving to a new town after a devastating loss.  If you missed the first installment you can find it here.

Let’s continue. . . More

The Light Between Oceans–Book Review

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lighthouse“A single fat cloud snailed across the late-April sky, which stretched above the island in a mirror of the ocean below.”

It’s the second sentence of the novel and immediately caught me. How could it not? It’s a beautiful line, and I love how Ms. Stedman repurposed the word “snail”. She doesn’t disappoint with the rest of her imagery and phrases. Her descriptions capture the imagination and you feel not only as if you’re on Janus, but also as if you’re inside the persons of Tom and Isabel. Their joys and anguishes become your own.  I could write the whole review just giving you quotations that I’ve highlighted in the novel. . .but I’ll try not to.

From a technical point of view what I found incredible was the character of Tom–in the fact that I didn’t find him incredible. I read the book unaware that ML Stedman was a “Miss.” I am always impressed when an opposite gender writes such a believable character.  I can mimic my boyfriend’s behavior for a short time, even predict what he’s going to say or do sometimes, but to maintain that for the duration of the lifetime of a novel, not so much.  It’s not just in how the author describes the character or how the character talks.  It’s being able to think like that gender because we are wired differently. We consider different things. We prioritize in vastly different ways, and while eventually we may end up with the same thing as number one, we get there on such a variety of paths. Ms. Stedman created Tom and Isabel with such a perfection. I understood where Tom was coming from–I could see his thought process even if I didn’t like his path–and didn’t feel at all that it was “colored” in a feminine way.

Tom and Isabel suffer loss at the beginning of the book–three miscarriages. These are personal–and isolated on the island with no one around–and told in a heart wrenching way. Tom’s loss of how to help and Isabel’s ache of physical loss. But Stedman also deftly and beautifully describes how both struggle with their own feelings of failure. She doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but weaves the story expertly.

Then the miracle of Lucy, the baby who lands on the lighthouse island so soon after the third miscarriage that rules, black and white, are blurred.

“You could kill a bloke with rules. . . .could he deprive Isabel of this baby? If the child was alone in the world? Could it really be right to drag her away from a woman who adored her, to some lottery of Fate?”

What I also love about this novel is how Stedman revealed Tom’s past, his WWI involvement, and how that influences his present.

“He’d been on death’s books for so long, it seemed impossible that life was making an entry in his favor.”
“. . .to be beside her had made him feel cleaner somehow, refreshed. Yet the sensation leads him back into the darkness, back into the galleries of wounded flesh and twisted limbs. To make sense of it–that’s the challenge. To bear witness to death, without being broken by the weight of it.”
The details don’t seem gratuitous but are matter of fact. Manly, perhaps?

As it turns out, Lucy’s mother is alive and still searching for her almost five years later. I was struck by the impossible choice Tom is faced with. And the decision and fall-out he will live with.

“We live with the decisions we make, Bill. That’s what bravery is.”

I think it’s impossible to talk about this book without admitting that it is indeed a sad book. Each of the main characters grip my heart. . .Isabel, Tom, Hannah. I have faced difficult choices but never anything like these three faced. I was lost in what Stedman created. It was believable. Not that this situation may ever happen to anyone I personally know, but the excruciating need to make choices such as these and to know that lives are eternally affected.

“Like Russian dolls, these lives sit within him.”

I’ve read other sad books. But this one doesn’t actually leave me feeling sad. It ends the way it has to.

It is real.

It is beautiful.

And it illustrates perfectly what I think is the message.  A lighthouse can not  be it’s own light.  It doesn’t provide guidance for itself, but for others.  So, each of us need a lighthouse between oceans but in order for that to happen, we have to each BE a lighthouse.  What an awesome responsibility and privilege.  And Tom’s father points out to him filled with no easy decisions, but yet, the alternative is to be left in darkness.

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