This story is part of my September Challenge Contest. You can check out the other entries this week; Good-bye, George — Inspired by Kristi West and Starting Over — Inspired by Julie Weber. Make sure you vote on Sunday, September 4. And then check back every day in September for more contest entries!
Today’s story is inspired by an idea submitted by Alex Skye. Her idea was…
“Setting: A small city and a big city
Character: A woman, about 25. Spontaneous, quirky, sweet but untrusting, smart but uncertain. Analytical.
Dilemma: Go out on her own to the big city to live a crazy, fun, but probably unstable life, or stay in the small city to settle down, marry, and raise babies.”
“What’s wrong with you, Lacey?” Regina asked her daughter. “You look awful.”
“Norbert asked me to marry him,” Lacey answered.
Regina jumped from her seat at the table, knocking over the ash tray and a cup of coffee that was mostly cream.
“I just knew he would! Oh, honey, this is the best news I’ve ever heard!” Regina smashed her daughter’s head onto her breast, thrashing her with a wild hug. “He is such a good boy. Always has been. And so strong. You know he’ll take good care of you. Oh! And the babies the two of you will make! Just beautiful. Let’s just hope they don’t get Uncle Rodrick’s nose. Or Norbert’s mother’s hips. Good-ness but does that woman scrape both sides of the door when she passes through.”
Lacey wiggled her way out of the hug. Straightened her pixie cut, magenta dyed hair. She plopped down on the stool next to the kitchen counter.
“Did you set a date yet? I just think an autumn wedding would be so pretty. We could dye your hair back to normal, get some of that special Hollywood make-up to cover up the tattoos. Oh! You’ll be a lovely bride once we change your ‘look’ a wee bit. Did you want to wear my wedding dress? I still have the cowboy hat that matched it.” Regina had clearly been looking forward to that day for a very long time.
“I said ‘maybe’.” Lacey slammed her head on the counter three times.
“If it’s a fall wedding, the bridesmaids could wear a nice burnt orange. Or brown. But maybe it would be more of you and Norbert’s style to have flashy, wild colors.” She pointed a fake fingernail at her daughter. “You know, I was looking at a wedding magazine the other day. This one bride had all the colors of the rainbow. Yes, she did. Come to think of it…there were two brides at that wedding. I wonder if it was a double wedding?”
Lacey lifted her head. “I told Norbert that I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married.”
“Maybe next year, then? We could book everything way in advance and save a little cash. I read online that there was this one bride who started with a toenail clipping and traded it for a peanut and kept trading things until she got her wedding dress. Hey, in a year you could trade enough stuff to do that.”
“Mom, I’m not doing that. That is insane. It just is.”
“Well,” she said with a hurt tone, “I thought it was pretty smart. And in this economy…”
“Anyway, I told him that I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married. Ever. Not even when I’m 50.”
Regina grasped her fists to her left breast. She found a chair and slowly, dramatically, lowered herself into it. “Well, I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.”
“But he, he’s perfect for you.”
“It’s not about him, Mom.” Lacey stood up, walked to the fridge. “I just want more from life.”
“What more is there than getting married and having babies?” Regina lowered her hands. “That’s what I did. And look at me. I’m living the good life.”
“Right, the good life for you.” Lacey opened the freezer and pulled out a popsicle. “It’s going to be different for me.”
“How can it be different?”
“Seriously? You don’t remember?”
“You know,” Regina nodded at the popsicle. “If you blow into the paper it won’t stick so much.”
“I already have a security deposit down for an apartment in Boston. And there might be a job all lined up for me.”
“Right. The barmaid job.”
“Yes. And we call them bartenders now. Even the ladies.”
“Well, this world certainly is changing quite a bit, isn’t it?”
Lacey and Regina were silent. For several minutes the only sound in the house was the ticking of the clock.
“It’s too quiet here.” Lacey finished eating and threw away the stick.
“I keep those for crafts, Lacey.”
“Not that one.”
“What kind of trouble are you planning on getting into if you move to Boston?”
“There’s a band that needs a bass player.”
“You aren’t musical.”
“You never let me be in marching band.”
“Because those kids are nothing but trouble makers.”
“They are not, Mom. Anyway, we might travel a little.”
“Young lady, do you have any idea how old you are?”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure I have an idea.”
“You are 25 years old. Do you know what that means?”
“Half way to 50?”
“Oh. Yes. You are. How about that. I hadn’t even thought of that.”
“Yes.” Regina remembered her train of thought. “But do you know what happens to your body at 25?”
“I’m sure you’re dying to tell me.”
“Well, I got this email forward. It said that there was a woman in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She wanted to wait to get married and have kids. Well, she didn’t pass along this forward about baby ducks that had a curse on it. It said, ‘if you don’t pass this on you’ll be cursed’. Well, she finally got married at 25 and her eggs were all dried up. Gone. Cursed.”
“Because she didn’t send a forward about baby ducks?”
“Right. Well, that’s not the point, is it? The thing is, if you wait too long you’re going to have problems getting in the family way.”
“Thanks, Mom. You are full of sound advice.” Lacey walked toward the door. “I’ll let you know what I decide. But, just so you know, this conversation did absolutely nothing to help me.”
“Well, that’s good, honey. That’s what I’m here for.” Regina watched her daughter leave the room and walk up the stairs to her bedroom. “Wait. What did she say?”
Lacey rested in her bed. She could smell the neighbor’s cows. The sweet and yet not so nice smell that she’d always known. She thought of the one 4-way stop intersection in town. A gas station on one corner, A&W on another, feed and tractor supply store on one and the sheriff station on the last. Her father was the sheriff.
She realized that if she stayed in that place she would never be more than the sheriff’s daughter, the hairdresser’s sister and Norbert the Farmer’s wife. And the mother to the 14 kids that he so desperately wanted.
The thought of that life made her woozy.
But, then again, Norbert was sweet. When he’d found out that magenta was her favorite color he’d planted nothing but bright pink flowers in his yard. He wrote songs for her. He couldn’t sing, and he knew it. But he would sing them anyway. Because he loved her so much. She smiled, remembering the time set up a romantic picnic in an open field of his farm. Nothing bad happened, nothing funny. It was just the most perfect picnic ever. It was the first time he told her he loved her.
She loved him. Couldn’t imagine life without him. Boston without Norbert would be a little less sweet. But, then again, he would never be happy in a big city. He liked the smallness of his life. He liked knowing the sounds and smells and feelings of the land.
There was a tapping at her window. It was Norbert. Lacey motioned for him to come in.
“Hey, Lace.” He stumbled into her room. “I always feel like an idiot doing this.”
“But do you really want to have to go through my mother?”
“The window’s fine.”
“How are you doing?”
“I’m alright. A little sad, disappointed. You know.”
She nodded her head. “But you knew I was planning on moving.”
“I was hoping I could change your mind.”
She sat up, leaned against the wall. “I can’t stay in this town.”
Norbert looked at his hands. Dirt from the farm stained them. No matter how hard he scrubbed his skin he couldn’t get the dirt to come all clean. His hands were rough. Full of callouses. The hands of a hard worker.
“Then I think you should go.”
She reached for him, to hold his hand. Her hands were soft, smooth.
“But what about you?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine.” He looked at her, squeezed her hand, smiled a tiny bit. “A fella came by the farm today. After our…talk.”
“He said he wanted to look around. So, I gave him the grand tour. He said some developer wants to buy up land around here to. They want to turn it into a new suburb.”
“Yuck. I hate suburbs.”
“I know you do. Well, this guy wants to give me a whole lot of money for the farm.”
“You aren’t going to sell it, are you?”
“I was thinking about it. Maybe buy a little house in Boston. Give us a good start.”
Her heart fluttered. And then it sank. “But you love that land. It was your grandpa’s farm.”
“I know. I thought about that. Gave it a good thinking over. But there was one thing I kept coming back to.”
“I love you more.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. Kissed his cheek. “I love you, too.”
“So, does that mean your answer’s ‘yes’?”
“I don’t know.” She let go of him. “How about this. You give me six months in my apartment in Boston. Then ask me again.”
He smiled at her. “It’s not the answer I want.”
“But I can wait for you. You’re worth the wait.”
“Thank you, Norbert.”
“Well, I have to get to bed. Sunrise comes pretty early.” He kissed her lightly. “That’s one thing I wouldn’t miss about the farm.”
“I love you,” Lacey said.
“I know you do.”
He clumsily folded himself to get out the window. She watched him walk to his truck. He waved and blew her a kiss.
She slept, dreams of Boston and babies in her mind.