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Today’s story idea comes from Jessica Wilson. Here’s her idea…
Character: Sasha, Russian immigrant
Setting: Present day, USA
Conflict: Sasha’s child has just been diagnosed with a major disability. She has to decide between her career and staying home with her child.
Sasha smoothed her skirt as she sat, waiting, at the restaurant. The waiter kept coming over, asking if she needed anything. She would shake her head and he would go away.
How can a man be so late? she wondered. Always late.
The waiter approached her again. She looked up at him.
“Are you still waiting?” the waiter asked. “I mean, for your friend.”
“My husband,” Sasha answered. “Yes. I am waiting for him.”
“Wow.” The waiter relaxed his posture. More casual. “I’m likin’ the accent. Where you from? Germany?”
Sasha smiled. It was a snide, annoyed kind of smile. “How about you just bring me a cup of tea.”
“Right. Sorry.” He resumed his formal pose. “Do you take milk?”
“No. Thank you.” She looked at him. He was young. Probably still in high school. “I grew up in Russia, by the way. I moved here when I was twenty.”
“Why’d you move here?”
“How about that tea?”
“Okay. Sorry.” He rushed off.
Poor boy probably thinks I was a mail order bride. She shook her head.
Bill slipped into the seat across the table from her.
“Sorry I’m late, Babe,” he said. “You know how work gets.”
“Well, I called last minute,” she said. “How’s work been?”
“Oh, killer. Just killer. You know how hard Ross rides my butt.”
“He is a strict boss.”
“Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about work. How about we talk about us.” He looked up at her. His eyes soft. “I miss you. Man, I hate living in that apartment. I want to come home. Be with you.”
“And the kids? What about the kids?”
His face changed. He sat up straight. The waiter came with the cup of tea. Bill ordered a beer.
“Isn’t it a bad idea to drink beer on your lunch break?” she asked.
“I took the rest of the day off.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I thought I’d be going home with you today.”
“Why would you think that?”
“You asked me to meet you for lunch. What was I supposed to think?”
The waiter returned with a mug of frothy beer. “Are you two ordering lunch?”
“Yeah,” Bill said. “Double cheese burger and potato wedges.”
“I’m fine,” Sasha said.
“No, get something,” Bill said, patronizing. “Don’t worry, Honey, I’ll get the tab. You know I always do.”
“Really, I don’t want to eat anything.”
“Just order something. Don’t be so stubborn.” He looked up at the waiter. “She wants a salad. Dressing on the side.”
“What kind of salad?” the waiter asked. “Club, chef, house…”
“Something with chicken,” Bill said. “Anything with chicken.”
Sasha pressed her lips together tightly. The waiter looked at the couple.
“Okay,” the waiter said. “Anything else?”
“No,” Bill answered.
The waiter walked away.
“So, why did you want me to come here so badly?” Bill leaned in, put his elbows on the table. “You need money?”
“No. Business is going fairly well.” Sasha turned and looked out the window. “It’s about Lizzie.”
“What? She getting into trouble at school again? That kid.” He shook his head in frustration. “It’s your fault, you know. You let her get away with everything.”
“It’s not about school.” Sasha sipped her tea. “I’ve had her tested for a few things. Her teacher thought it was a good idea.”
“Tested for what?”
“Developmental issues. You know, to explain her difficulty talking and sitting still and learning.”
They sat for several minutes, not talking. Bill finished off his beer, ordered another. Sasha stared at the table.
“So, what’s wrong with her?” Bill asked after the food was delivered. “She retarded?”
“No one uses that word anymore, Bill.”
“What? You going all politically correct on me?”
“This is our daughter.” Sasha’s voice was sharp edged with controlled anger. “She is not just some kid at the school. This is the child that we brought into this world together. And you will treat this situation with respect and you will behave with dignity. Otherwise, I will not include you in the plan to treat her. Do you understand?”
“You know, Sasha, this is one of the reasons we never worked out. I can’t believe you’d talk to me like that. And in public. You just don’t think I’m much of a man, do you?”
“This isn’t about you, Bill. This is about Lizzie.”
The waiter stopped over to warm up Sasha’s tea.
“Everything okay here?” he asked, looking at Sasha. “Can I get you anything?”
“We’re fine, thank you,” she answered.
After the waiter left, Bill pushed his empty plate away from him. “So, what’s going on with Lizzie?”
“It’s a genetic disorder. Or so they think. They don’t have it completely figured out. But she will probably struggle for the rest of her life.”
Bill’s face changed. From hard and cocky to vulnerable and scared. “Is this why she had a hard time in kindergarten?”
“And why she doesn’t talk much?”
“Will she live…you know…to be an adult?” He swallowed. “Because I knew this kid growing up who died really early because he was re…um…special. He had some kind of heart condition.”
“I don’t know, Bill. They don’t know all that yet.”
“And her kidneys have never been good. Didn’t she have all those infections when she was little?”
“She’s always got some kind of infection.”
“Did you tell the doctor about that? About her breathing problems?”
“He knew. It was in her chart.”
“But did you remind him?”
Sasha nodded. Emotion overtook her. She leaned her head on her hands. Her tears fell into her untouched salad.
“I’m trying so hard. I want to be strong for her,” Sasha said, still crying. “But she requires so much.”
“Will we have to put her in a home?”
“No. But I’m going to have to quit my job.” Sasha wiped her face with the napkin.
The waiter came to take the plates.
“Did you want to take the salad with you?” he asked, then noticing Sasha’s face. “Oh. I’m sorry. I…uh…”
“It’s okay,” she said. “Just take the plate, please.”
He picked up the plate and walked away slowly.
“Lizzie is going to need near constant care,” Sasha said. “Special schooling. A special nurse to come check on her. Things just are not going to be easy.”
Bill looked at his wife. He felt the place on his left hand ring finger where his wedding band had once been. There was still a line in his flesh.
“Let me come home,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“We wouldn’t have the extra rent at my apartment. I’d help with the kids. You could quit your job. Or just do it part time.”
“Don’t make me give you an answer right now, Bill.” Sasha stood up. “I need to get the kids from school.”
“Let me go with you.”
“They’d like to see you.” Sasha put a few bills on the table. “It’s been months.”
“I know.” Bill looked at Sasha. “And I’m really sorry about that.”
“You should be.” She turned toward the door. “Just meet us at the house.”
Bill followed behind her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wedding ring. He slipped it back onto his finger.