Weekend Coffee Share, On Relating and Forgiveness

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer, accompanied by the music of Agnes Obel. It’s a good day to invite tranquility in. I’m getting my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today and following up an eventful, slightly stressful wake packed full with just, well, too much for my liking. Still, I managed.

State testing was the first challenge, though nothing compared to handling the emotions of my son moving out ON THE VERY SAME DAY. However, I focused all day on the positives and paced the aisles as the students whittled away at their thoughts and words for a state writing test. My ex had flown down to help my son move and get all things in order as possible. The students had my attention; I kept the thoughts at bay. I felt happy that my son is stepping into independence, happy that I may have a new sort of freedom now that my son is moving out on his own. All the while acknowledging that I felt relief and a little worry at the same time, but knowing that this is a necessary step.

My son and my mother, circa 1997-98.

I got to see it after work on Wednesday. The place is small, a studio apartment, but the landlords put in a new stove and ceiling fan. There is faux wood flooring which looks very nice. He got his bed and long dresser in there, has to keep his bike inside, and there’s a bookshelf. There is no room for a sofa. Mom and I decided to get him some folding cloth chairs and TV trays.

After seeing the place, my ex-husband took me, my mom, and my son out to eat a steak dinner. My son was so tired, and my ex was talking a lot about details and ways my son could improve his life, get a car, etc. I’ve mentioned before that my son had a bad car accident three years ago. He also has a mood disorder that is mostly kept in check. He gets lost in the details, and it is not wise to throw too many at him at once. He truly needs to take it one day at a time, but I am proud of how he lined up all he needed to do to get this apartment. He does not have a high-paying job but makes enough to pay me rent, so now he’ll see what true independence is.

It is true that my ex-husband can worry a detail down to a fine thread. Sadly, I guess that is one thing we had in common. He is more of a “You’ve got to do this” sort of person. I am more of a “You need to do this, and if you don’t get that done, what is your back-up plan?” gal. Obviously, we did not get along well enough to stay married; it only lasted 5 years, so dating and marriage for us lasted seven years, and my son was only 2 1/2 years old when I had to leave that marriage, after two failed marital counseling attempts. I felt controlled, manipulated, trapped. He would get onto me about who I befriended and talk them down to me, also accusing me of affairs with male co-workers (which did not happen at all). He stressed me out a lot.

In the years we were together, I had some depression, had a rough post-partum year, and his drinking was problematic. Sometimes I wonder if stress during pregnancy led to my son’s emotional state. I have often been very wary of my ex when he’s back around. I sent my son to live with him one summer six years ago, and it did not go well at all; my son was anxious to come back a month later. I have to try to avoid blame, yet I do feel I’ve forgiven him.

There’s a funny thing about forgiveness. It means “to grant pardon” or “cease to feel resentment.” It is healthy for us, they say, and can prevent the toxicity of such feelings to ruin us. Still, I want to point out that forgiveness does not mean letting down boundaries, which exist for a good reason: self-preservation. In my past year of self-improvement and looking inward, I have been re-establishing and exercising boundaries in relationships with family, at work, and with others. You can forgive someone, but still keep the boundary up. I’ve given past relationships a second chance and learned things didn’t work the first time for a reason. It is not a lesson lost.

My mother is impressed in the changes she sees in my ex. Yes, I’ll admit there is some goodness in that man and he seems to have straightened up. He is here when my son really needs him. I am allowing him to do that. He bought a microwave and some other things for my son’s apartment. The two of them may be bounding, and that’s good. So, I sat at dinner and enjoyed it whole-heartedly, telling him what a handsome son we have and how I love my son.

It is notable that, I have been divorced from my ex for twenty-two years. I dated a few other men after, but I have currently been dating the same man, Kenny, for eleven years now. That relationship provides me some freedom to be my own person and has allowed me to determine what I want: to come forward in my writing, to communicate with the world instead of hiding. I relate to others more freely and have found it benefits my teaching by showing I care and have empathy, benefits how I relate to co-workers, and not being afraid of relating to others makes me feel better about myself. I had a past full of secrets kept from my mom, a therapist, friends. Where I learned I shouldn’t tell my husband everything for fear of being judged or having it spun out of context. I have learned I’m imperfect but pretty awesome as I am.

My current boyfriend, Kenny, has boundaries and likes an amount of time to himself. I am finding that, so do I. Therefore, I am happy with all that has come about. I do wish some things had happened differently and had gone better for my son, but I am going to make the best of today and perhaps make it better.

So, I sat across from my ex-husband, with my son to the left of me who looked quite tired from working the usual hours and moving in the afternoon. My mother was to the right of me, raising a glass of wine, wishing for a good transition and new life opportunities, smiling at us all. I smiled and thanked my ex-husband for the dinner. I hugged my son and said “I love you” as they left. Then, I went to Target and happily bought some chairs and TV trays to support my son in his move.

Thursday I had a usual workday with Spring-springy middle schoolers and evening time to myself for exercising. Friday after work, I had dinner and caught up on my sleep. It has also been a wake-up-at-2 a.m. and struggle to sleep again week. I made up for it last night. So, this morning it is coffee and a vaccine shot at 11 a.m. I look forward to more rest later!

Have a good weekend, my friends. I wish you all a reconciliation with your past events and/or decisions, a present that cannot be controlled but only appreciated, and a belief in a hopeful future!

What It’s Like to Vote. #2020

Wearing my pearls in honor of RBG!
We voted, and we honor RBG! Educators teaching young minds to think for themselves.

What it’s like to vote in 2020:

Request your absentee ballot. Receive said ballot; study the amendments within it to make an informed decision. Decide, then fill out your ballot. Send it in early. Track it online until its receipt is confirmed. Encourage and tell all of your friends and family to vote. Yet, avoid politics at the dinner table or family gatherings; your mother does not share your political views and does not want to hear them. Plus, you’ll get an earful of hers until she says, “We shouldn’t even be talking about this. We won’t change each other’s minds.” True. Avoid political talk for the rest of dinner and love your family anyway.

Or……

What it’s like to vote in 2020:

Get dressed, put on your mask (and maybe gloves) then go to the polls! Tell your friends to go to the polls and post on social media to remind them. Rejoice! For there was once a day that women could not vote. You have female ancestors who had to stay home with kids, clean house, and cook while their men voted, but they couldn’t vote. Nope. Or, they finally were able to vote but their husbands told them who to vote for. Enjoy your time at the polls. You may have political opponents eyeing you, or you may be standing in line singing, Kumbaya! Everyone smiling at each other and not talking politics. Making their best decision, casting their vote in gratitude for this freedom, this right. Not thinking about what happens if their candidate loses.

This is why I wore pink. I am proud to be a woman today when looking at how far we have come. Pink to me used to mean precious and delicate. Now, it means power. This is also why I wore pearls, because RBG fought for so many women’s rights and civil rights, and I honor any woman who fought, and fights, for the rights of others with her words, her pen, and her actions.

My friend at work also wore pearls, and one of her students as well! We were so proud. What happens now? We put change into effect in our world regardless of who sits in the White House. We keep voting when we can, but we show up everyday to make a difference in this world in the way we speak and relate to each other and the way we communicate to our bright minds of the future. We are unstoppable.

Weekend Coffee Share, 8/30. Weird World.

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Ali. I know I’m posting this late, and I’m drinking green tea, not coffee, but you may have whatever you like! I envy those who can drink coffee throughout the day.

Unfortunately, I can only have one cup in the morning, and some days, like today, I only have macha tea. I figure it’s best for my nerves, as I already have slight sciatica acting up and tension in my left hip. I hate relying on Advil and a muscle relaxer. I need to get back to meditation and more regular hot baths. I’ve just been busy lately.  Fortunately, I am getting a massage later!

Back to school has required me to adjust my schedule and still fit in the arm/shoulder exercises with cardio 3-4 times weekly. I still take time to read but have a hard time sitting down to write when the sciatica gets worse if I sit too much. My current read is awesome, about finding my feminine spirituality away from the patriarchal church. I’m inspired by it!

You’re sure to hear more from me on toppling the patriarchy.  If you are a woman or a man who feels there’s no problem, maybe there is not for you. Haven’t you seen news reports of college guys who only get months of probation for rape?  Don’t you know a woman who has beat herself up because she couldn’t make her marriage work or change her husband with her loving ways?  Or because her religion made her feel like a Jezebel if she thought of leaving.  Let me tell you, the patriarchy was strongly ingrained into my dad’s head, and it came out in his words and attitude when he was frequently drunk as I grew up as a child.  It was strongly ingrained into my husband’s head too, and yes, even in mine as I was raised to accept this from a man and mistook his jealousy for love and accepted the possessive nature of his relationship with me…..until I couldn’t any more.  My childhood church taught me how I should be as a wife and a woman; it was unhealthy.  The main thread was SHAME.  So I have plenty to say.  This book and writing on this topic is so cathartic for me.  You can, if you’re so inclined, read my recent post on the topic here:  Lies Women (and Girls) are Told

Thus, in the meantime, I’m keeping my PPE on, avoiding germs, avoiding news of the COVID-19 numbers but staying safe, and trying to make students smile in this weird, weird world.

I still have plenty to say, and the mask won’t stop me.

Lies Women (and Girls) are Told

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Why do you feel this way? You feel this way because you chose to.

You’re just giving me a guilt trip.  It’s wrong to try and give someone a guilt trip.

You’re overreacting.

You’re such a calm girl because you’re quiet. (Ha.)

You just need to relax.  (As in, It’s not me making you uncomfortable, you just need to relax).

You should say you’re sorry (for being in the way, for feeling like you do, for expressing your emotions)

If you dress that way, you’re just inviting trouble.

When you get married, he’ll settle down and shape up.

Your marriage will be stronger if you have a child.

He’ll be so thankful and treat you better if you have his child.

You need to have another child to keep the first one company.

A second child will really make your husband grow up.

You can’t be friends with him, it means you have a wandering eye.

You can’t be friends with her, she’s a bad influence.

You aren’t woman enough to wear that.  Countered with, all that red lipstick makes you look like you’re trash.

He didn’t mean it, and you should get past it.

Men are just like that.

*****The list is extensive and goes beyond this, but I believe this is a start.  Dads, husbands, boyfriends, friends, think about what you are saying to her.***

Next time, try, for a start: “You have a right to your feelings.  You are allowed to express your feelings.  You can be, and do, whatever you choose.  Your can be trusted to make the right choices.”  Let’s rewrite the narrative.

(c) 2020, Pamela Schloesser Canepa

 

 

 

 

 

The Post Office Box, #shorttales #flashfiction

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The Post Office Box, (c) 2016 by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.


To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.


Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.


“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.


“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.


Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.


With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

**A flash fiction story in 250 words or less, originally published here on WordPress and on Kurt Brindley’s writing website in 2016.  Want to see what happens? This story is posted with two alternate endings at https://www.wattpad.com/story/83522549-the-post-office-box-realisticfiction ; one is realistic fiction, and the other is paranormal fantasy.  Or, you may check the original WordPress posts where I first published the alternate endings. Realistic fiction ending: The Post Office, RF ending and Paranormal/fantasy ending: The Post Office, PF

 

Weekend Coffee Share. Out of my Head, and onto the Page.

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Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at eclecticali.wordpress.com

What a lovely weekend it is! Here in the southeast U.S., it will be close to 100 degrees today! I took Bixby to the dog park Saturday, and we could not even last an hour.
There were plenty of dogs, and he loved that, but they all where panting heavily in no time in that heat. At least he drank a lot of water! The dog park is always a treat for me as well; I love to watch dogs play.

I am approaching my birthday this coming week. It makes me look back and ponder my life and choices while appreciating all that has been given me. I have been blessed in so many ways.

This throwback photo is of me in April, 1996, either a week before or the day before I gave birth to my son. All of this talk of women’s reproductive rights gets me thinking. My son was certainly planned and wanted. For those who had a child that was not planned, I honor you as well. No two experiences with motherhood are the same. How different could the pregnancy experience be for someone who is raped or does not have access to birth control? We do not need to move backward with women’s rights, or the rights of any other sort of person! I suppose I’ll be accused of being political. Posting certain things on my Facebook can lead to arguments from some of my staunchly GOP friends. I have some in my family, too. I love them no matter what and try to disagree amicably.

All of this reflection has led to me setting up a separate Facebook to share some poems and past journal entries about my experiences as a woman. Oddly, if I try to boost any of those posts or the page, FB wants an extra authentication process, meaning I will likely be put on a list somewhere. I feel so important now! I am tired of holding my tongue just because I am a girl, and I have never picketed for women’s rights. I am a firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword.

As part of this whole process, I have considered writing some books under a pen name, and do not always feel comfortable sharing certain things under my own name that involve subverting the paradigm or opening eyes to my point of view, so I’m trying it out to see how it goes.

My most recent post was a poem entitled “Sorry,” which is all about the way many of us have been raised to be sorry for so many things, when we just needed to express our emotions or we didn’t want a hug from Dad’s scary old man friend. You know, taught to be sorry when we didn’t live up to others’ expectations of how we should behave as a girl.

I do think this may lead into a book someday, but I have no other details. I am still working on my WIP, Malachi, and I am considering a summer trip to the place which is the setting of this book. Of course, this means I need to get to planning, and I am so behind on that. I can do this!

Why was she always so sorry? (Image via Pixabay).

Thank you for stopping by for my Weekend Coffee Share! I know I have mostly been sharing about what’s going on in my head, but hey, I am doing something about it, because my thoughts don’t eat me up anymore. Have a great week!

Return to The Post Office Box, a short story reimagined with alternate endings #paranormal #realisticfiction

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by Pamela Schloesser Canepa, copyright 2016. Part 1 originally posted on kurtbrindley.com

Originally a Flash Fiction response in 250 words, now followed by two alternate endings; choose your preferred genre, or read both.  Thank you for reading!

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice?  She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four-month-old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.  With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

Alternate ending A, paranormal/speculative fiction:

She slipped her hand in a little further.  It seemed to pull her.  Where would she go?  No doubt, someplace cooler than South Carolina.  The pull was quite strong, but she pulled back against it.  The baby!  I can’t leave the baby.

Realizing that this might be even more real than she had imagined, Jasmine slammed the door to her post office box shut.

“Everything okay, Miss?”  A young girl with hair the color of pink cotton candy and earbuds in her ears asked.

Jasmine turned around.  “It’s been a strange day.”

“Your mailbox isn’t all the way closed, by the way.  I’m Wilma, but my friends call me Freddie.”  She held out her braceleted hand.

Jasmine shook it and turned to make sure the post office box was closed all the way.

“That was a nice pinkie ring, your wedding band, too.”  Freddie called.

The wedding band was replaced after Rick had tossed it down the disposal in a drunken rage.  He spent three times as much on it, in hopes that would make his night of terror less memorable.  Of course, Jasmine didn’t say that to Freddie.

“Thanks.”  Jasmine looked around, feeling cornered.  This girl noticed too much.

“If you have that door open too long, it really works.  It takes you away.”  Freddie whispered.  “You only come back if you want to.  I swear.”

It was as if this girl knew her secrets, Jasmine thought.  She also seemed to know her exact thoughts on what was at the other side of that P.O. box.  Jasmine shivered.

“I have to go home.”

“Yes, of course.  But just so you know, it’s here.  It’ll still be here the next time you come back, no matter how long it’s been.  Once you feel the pull, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  I sense you need it even more than I did.”  The young girl put the earbuds back in her ears.    “Ciao,”  she called, as she turned and pulled her hoodie over her head and left the post office.

Jasmine rushed home, but Rick was, indeed, in rare form, ticked off over her being fifteen minutes late.

“I got stuck in traffic.”  She lied.  Telling the truth about what was going on in her mind was not safe at all.

“Yeah, right.  You were probably hanging out, talking to those guys you work with.”

“Rick, I’ll do better.  I’ll find a new way home.  Just let me get the dishes done.  Ross is fine over there in the playpen.  Please, just no more.  Don’t wake him.”

“I’m out of here.  You had your fun, I’ll have mine.”  And he walked out, slamming the door.

Rick came back four hours later, noisily.  Jasmine feigned a deep sleep.

Three days later, Jasmine walked into the post office with her baby, Ross.  The box was empty, of course, but she stuck her arm in as far as it would go.  Then, she had Ross stick his hand in.  “Doesn’t it feel cool, Ross?”

He giggled, taking his hand out and then putting it back in.

An elderly woman looked at them strangely.

“He likes playing, feeling the temperature change in there,” Jasmine explained.  The woman gave a fake smile.  Jasmine asked, “Have you seen that young girl, with the bright pink hair, and….”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, sorry.”  The woman spoke with a thick accent.  Should I ask where she’s from?  Jasmine pondered.  Maybe that’s where I should go.

Then it hit her.  I’m really considering doing this.  I am thinking of leaving.  How?  How can I leave?  Where will I go?  I guess it starts with daring to think of it, daring to believe I could do it.  How could she turn back now?

The woman walked off and left the post office.  Jasmine was left alone with Ross, and the open mailbox door.  Lights were beginning to dim.  It was late this time.  She’d taken off while Rick was out on one of his drinking binges, to return God-knows-when.  The only light she saw now was inside of the box, on the other side.

Letters, packages, notices all get sent from out here, to in there, ending up with loved ones or important people across the sea, in other states, far-away places.

She closed her eyes and held Ross tightly.  I will never leave you, Ross.  If I go anywhere, I go with you.  But how will I fit this diaper bag full of formula and diapers in there?  Opening her eyes, she saw the light still glowing within.  “Here we go, Ross.”  She put her thin arm into the box, and he followed suit with his chubby little baby arm, a big smile on his face.  She held him close and closed her eyes.

“Mam?  We’re clos-“ Manny, the late shift postal worker announced, to no one.  He had just seen her there, and now there was no one.  Perhaps the dim lighting was playing tricks on his eyes.

He didn’t see the woman on the other side of the box, holding a baby, carefully opening an envelope addressed to Canada.  If he had, he would not have seen it for too long.  She and the baby had disappeared inside of it, arms first, seeming to be sucked in by a powerful light that was nothing more than the power of sheer determination, free will, and a strong ability to believe.

Whatever happened to Jasmine and Ross?  One thing is for sure, Rick never saw or heard from them again.  He seemed distraught at first, and then, just seemed to forget to be distraught.  Meanwhile, Jasmine found herself with very little money in a coastal surfing town called Tofino, Canada.  She made up a believable story since there was still a shiner under her eye that only showed when she went without makeup, something she did a lot more often now.  One call to work, informing them she wouldn’t be back, and a request that her boss call her parents and inform them she was alright.  That was the last time anyone from her old life heard from her.

She took up odd jobs in tourist shops, then found a room above a coffee shop and eventually started working there, pouring coffee in the morning and babysitting children in the afternoons.  It was a very simple life, but this town felt like freedom to her.  She recalled nothing of how she got there.  Nor did it matter.  The memories of who she used to be were fading as well.  Little Ross was happy playing with other children in the cozy little tourist town.  She planned to teach him how to surf one day, as she was taking a lesson on it every week.  She also took up knitting, as the locals informed her it would get quite cold in the next month.   People around town would take to more indoor activities, and that was okay; she loved the people here.  Yes, this sure felt like freedom.  And it was there for her, only because she dared to chase it.

Rumor has it, that every few months, the postal workers at Postal Office B in Charleston, South Carolina, would see a strange glow in the mailroom at night behind the P.O. boxes, just around closing time, accompanied by the sound of a woman and her baby laughing without a care in the world.  Perhaps they were simply between destinations?  Or, perhaps it was a reminder of the power of imagination and belief.  Manny, tired, overworked, and always the stooge of his peer group, was starting to feel the pull himself.

 

Click here for Alternate ending B, realistic fiction following the intro.: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2016/08/09/the-post-office-box-flash-fiction-limit250-words/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Post Office Box,” Flash Fiction, Limit:250 Words

By Pamela Schloesser Canepa. Featured on kurtbrindley.comPObox800px-Busselton_post_office_gnangarra_14

Tussling with the dog. That was Jasmine’s story, this time. The scar would dissipate in a week, she knew. It did hurt. This was so unfair, yet, all too familiar.
Driving to work, Jasmine noticed she’d inadvertently put on one navy blue shoe and one black. An understandable mistake; they were almost identical, and those colors were close. I wonder if anyone will notice? She realized the light had turned. I sure don’t need a ticket.
To her left was the post office. Darn, I forgot that electric bill. Rick will lose it. Do I go back? She worried it might make her late, yet she didn’t need one more fight about the mail.
Her thoughts drifted to the invitation that had arrived the week before, for her ten year high school reunion. Of course, with a four month old baby and a full-time job, she hadn’t seriously considered. Still, she had thought of going.
“You just want to see all your old boyfriends! You wench!” Rick had screamed, holding the baby in his arms.
“No, Rick, don’t worry, I don’t need to go.” That’s how it always went. Keeping the peace. When she never received any in return.
Abruptly, she pulled into the post office. “I need a post office box,” she announced to the clerk. JUST for me.
With receipt of the key, she found the assigned box. It was cool inside. She imagined fitting inside of it, this doorway to distant places.

Alternate ending B, realistic fiction:

Upon fitting her arm into the box, she felt instantly calmer, surrounded by that cool air.  A man and a woman approached the box near her, talking.  Jasmine quickly took her arm out.  This must look plenty weird, she was sure.  Of course, their arrival was also a reminder of the passing time.  If she was too late getting home, Rick would lose it again.   Lord, she sure didn’t want him to lose it, because that was never pretty.

Still, an idea brewed in her mind on the way home.  She would head to the grocery store after work, under the guise of picking up something special for dinner.

Three days later, she got up the nerve to execute this plan.  Rick was game; he said it was fine as long as it included a London broil.  So she had forked out the extra money that had been intended to help with the late fee on their credit card, bought a London broil along with vegetables and potatoes, and picked up one solitary envelope and a notepad.  On it she scribbled the grocery list; on the next page, she quickly wrote a note to Holly, of the High school reunion committee.

Sitting in the car at the post office, she left the car running and wrote:

 

Holly,

I miss your constant laughter.  I regret that I cannot attend the high school reunion.  My husband and I have had a bad year financially, but I should make it to the next get-together.  Please note, any future mail should be sent to me at P.O. Box 426-A880, Charleston, SC 12354.  I do hope you will keep in touch!

 

Sincerely,

Jasmine

 

Rick would flip if he found out.  He’d accuse her of telling lies about him, of trying to get sympathy, of….God only knows what; it was all ridiculous and it didn’t matter.  She stepped out of the car quickly to dash in, slap on a stamp, and mail the dangerous letter.  Why it should be so dangerous to want to keep in touch with a high school friend no one around her would understand.  Why did she feel like she was flying through the air on a trapeze, slaying a dragon, or suddenly sprouting wings; they didn’t get that or the look of glee on her face as she dropped the letter into the slot in the wall.  This is why she knew getting the P.O. Box was the right thing to do.  She felt ten pounds come off of her shoulders the minute she had put the letter in the mail slot.   As she left, a young, dark-haired man opened the door for her and smiled.  She remembered him from the other day.  A glance backward, and she saw him approach the box right next to hers.

It was a banner night back home.  A drunken rage that night over the London broil not being cooked enough, a broken toy that was left on the floor and then shattered into pieces when Rick purposely stomped on it.  Tension was mounting.  She felt as if a storm was coming again.  She shuffled around quietly, glumly, saying very little, trying as always to keep the peace.

The next day she bought another envelope on the way to work.  Tore another piece from the notepad.  She wrote:  “I am trapped in a hateful marriage and I feel my husband is going to harm me again, soon.  I really need help, and I can’t tell my parents because they will inform him in their intentions to set things right with us.  He cannot know I am seeking a way out.  If you know of a lawyer that can help me get out quickly and show me a place to go, it would really help me greatly.”  She addressed it to: The mail service customer at P.O. Box 426-A879.  She wrote her P.O. Box with only her first name above the return address.  She mailed it on the way home, after picking up the baby from daycare.  The air inside of her post office box was as cool as ever, calming, welcoming.  She let her son, Ross, stick his chubby hand in there for a moment.  He giggled, as if he felt the cool air of freedom as well.  She kissed his hand and took this to be a sign.

It was a week later when she received return mail.  It was from Holly.  What could she do?  Rick would hit the ceiling if he found it.  So she left it there, as if she had been unable to check the mail.  It had brightened her day, but being unable to retrieve it brought her right back to reality.

She pondered on the way home whether she’d made a mistake trusting the man whose box was next to hers.  He was always very polite to her, and he looked like a professional.   She felt the chances were high that he’d know of a good lawyer.  Still, she only went to the post office at odd hours now, for fear of seeing him.  What if he did nothing with her plea?  What if this was only fodder for his water cooler gossip at work?  Could he be that cruel?  Maybe he’d be afraid to help in any way at all.  She had to stop worrying, and start believing things might work in her favor.  It proved to be no small battle.

On her next visit to the post office, the man was there.  “Your mail was left in my box by mistake.”  He looked at her somberly, and walked off.

No, it actually was addressed to her from him.  She went to one end of the post office that was empty, leaned on a counter, and read it.

“I have seen you with a child.  You must make sure that child is with you next week.  Tuesday, after work, I will meet you here.  Please be here by six o’clock with your baby and anything he needs for a week.  I have a good lawyer, but I also believe you need a police officer present.  I am hoping you don’t need much from your home.  I am a parole officer and have some connections that can help you with your situation.  We will put you in a safe place during the proceedings.  There is more that you need to know about the process.  We will discuss that when I introduce you to the lawyer at a neutral location.”

A parole officer?  Who knew?  It sounded like he was just the one to help her.  Jasmine left the letter in her own P.O. Box, and walked out of the post office as if on air.   The whole world felt lighter, and it got her through the rest of the night with her husband’s whiskey breath and bitter complaints.

A year later, Jasmine sat in a lawn chair with little Ross.  The air was a crisp, cool autumn flavor, and there were mountains surrounding them.  A screen door slammed as a young man, Vincent, the parole officer, came out with his hands full of a tray of meat for the grill.

“Are you sure he won’t eat any of this?”  He asked, playfully.

Jasmine looked down at the baby she held with her bare hand, free of any jewelry or wedding band, and smiled.  Not knowing where this would go with Vincent was all part of the fun of life now.  He had said he wouldn’t rush her, yet seemed to put her and her son as a number one priority.  This house in the hills, the old burly neighbor and his wife down the road, all made her feel safe from the past and never truly alone, even when Vincent went back to the city to work.  Her undefined relationship with Vincent didn’t even worry her when she realized how much she had needed him at one point in her life.  She marveled at the chances of finding a P.O. Box right beside just the right person to help her, and even more so at finding the nerve to ask the right person for help.

“Really, Vincent!  He’s too young for a steak!”  She giggled, and so did little Ross, as she rubbed noses with him.  She looked to see Holly driving up in her Camaro, here to enjoy dinner and to introduce her new beau.  Jasmine and Holly had just reconnected in the last six months, Jasmine having shared her new post office box address and her new cell phone number, now that there was no fear of being found out and accused of any atrocities.

“Well, you’re the boss, Jasmine.”  Vincent winked at her and waved to Holly as she walked up with a very buff, blonde young man.  Again, Jasmine marveled at Vincent’s ability to say those words, and at the turn of events which found her here.   It all started with P.O. Box 426-A880, a little bit of rebellion against the cage that had surrounded her.

 

For Alternate ending A, please see the 9/24 entry!  Thank you for reading! -Pamela