Pure Joy

Pure joy.

Just before she fell asleep, she realized that those were the words she had been searching for. She was filled with joy . . . pure, undiluted, uninhibited, unspoiled joy. There was simply no better word to describe the culmination of the past few days. Now, lying here in the dark, in the loving arms of her husband, she felt her unborn child kick inside her as the man she loved breathed softly on her neck while he slept quietly, the three of them entwined. And she knew that she would always remember this as the sweetest, most joyful day of her life.

The past five days were just a bad nightmare now.

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Opportunity (Part Two)

She gazed down at her nephew sleeping soundly in his crib as her sister quietly moved about his bedroom gathering clothes, diapers, and other necessities.

“Enjoy your innocence while it lasts, little one,” she whispered, stroking his cheek. Just then he sighed deeply, rubbed his head on the blanket, and made a sucking motion with his mouth. She held her breath, waiting to see if he was going to awaken. But after a couple more sighs, she heard his breathing return to normal and he was again still. She pulled the blanket up over his chest and followed her sister down the hallway into the master bedroom.

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Opportunity (Part One)

She stared at the ceiling. She had been tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position, determined to will sleep to overtake her . . . to no avail. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed since she heard the clock in her living room chime four times. She had thought to herself, “Four in the morning. Unbelievable” and tried once more to pound her pillow with her fist, pull the covers up over her ears, squeeze her eyes shut, and hope against hope that she would drift off to sleep. Finally, she opted to surrender. She rolled onto her back, kicked the sheet and blanket off her legs, and opted to stare wide-eyed at the ceiling.

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The Farewell (Part One)

“She wants to see you,” his father told him two days ago.

“How did you get my telephone number?” He looked over at Keith, who could not meet his gaze.

“That’s not important. What matters is that she wants to see you one last time, son.” His father spoke softly and deliberately.

He considered how long it had been since he last heard one of his parents call him “son.”

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-Seven)

As always, Dennis knew exactly what she needed and provided it. As she stood on the deck of the little cottage at the top of the walkway leading to the shore, she marveled at how well he understood her. Leave it to Dennis to arrange for them to enjoy an end-of-summer vacation on the coast. The cottage was charming — just right for the three of them. It was located a scant mile or so outside a quaint village that tourists had yet to discover. Dennis learned about it from a colleague who rented the same cottage a couple of summers earlier. The little town was per se Americana, complete with a Labor Day fireworks display heralding the end of the summer season.

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The Consequences

As she approached the small chapel, she heard voices speaking in a hushed tone. Checking the name in the placard on the wall in the hallway just outside the doorway, she confirmed that she was, in fact, in the right room. Quietly, she noted that a small group of five people, none of whom she recognized, were standing near the front of the chapel, talking quietly, so she turned and went back to the reception area to wait.

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The New Year’s Eve Party

She felt the throbbing before she opened her eyes. She was disoriented and uncomfortable, but the sound of Arnie softly breathing next to her assured her that she was at home. She opened her eyes slowly as she sat up. He was lying on his side, gazing at her, a couple of noisemakers and some confetti streamers strewn about. The bottle of champagne she had bought a few days earlier — nearly empty now — stood upright in silent testament to the previous night.

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Happy New Year Carnival of Family Life

In many different respects, 2008 was a challenging year for most. But on New Year’s Eve, we pause to remember the good things that happened during the past year. On this night, we forget our problems and cares, looking hopefully to the future. Precisely at midnight, we’ll be singing and toasting the arrival of 2009!

Hope you brought your family and good friends along, because the party is just getting underway. The champagne has been on ice all day and the waiters are popping the first bottles now. The hors d’ oeuvres will be served momentarily. Grab a few noisemakers and select a silly hat! The orchestra is tuning up and will begin playing in just a few minutes.

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Simply the Best: Group Writing Project

Confident Writing sponsored an end-of-the-year Group Writing Project to which authors were asked to submit a single post representing their best 2008 work. I selected An Unexpected Independence Day Celebration because I believe it is one of my best-crafted short stories. It is based not upon one particular person, but, rather, several people who are dear to me, including a special couple in whose honor I wrote the piece as a way of demonstrating my affection for them upon the occasion of their wedding. My second choice for 2008 is The Keys to Her Future.

Worlds Apart (Chapter Two)

Nearly every morning, he managed to be in the parking lot at the precise moment she arrived for work. And even though she worked on the third floor of the ten-story building, and he was assigned to the fifth, he not only walked into the building with her; the last few mornings, he had gotten off the elevator on the third floor, walked with her down the hall and opened the door to the office for her before ducking into the nearby stairwell and bounding up the final two floors to his cubicle. The last few nights, she had also encountered him in the lobby and they walked to their cars together.

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In the Morning Light (Chapter Three)

When she walked into her new apartment for the first time, she burst into tears as a plethora of emotions rushed over her. Alone with Timmy in a city with which she was completely unfamiliar and where the only person with whom she was acquainted was the kind stranger who had met them at the bus depot and escorted them to the housing project, she considered her sparsely furnished new home.

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Worlds Apart (Chapter One)

“He’s flirting with you,” Marilyn whispered as she leaned toward her coworker’s side of the long reception counter where they worked side by side each day.

“Stop it. He is not,” she protested through slightly clenched teeth as her gaze again wandered to the intriguing stranger seated on the couch near the door to the interior office suite.

“Oh, yeah, he is,” Marilyn pressed. “He is checking you out.”

She could feel heat radiating from her flushed cheeks and the inside of her mouth had suddenly become dry. If Marilyn only knew, she thought to herself.

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The Sentence

It was more like a plaintive howl than a scream. Visceral and primitive, the sound filled the small room and echoed down the hall, but she did not hear it as it emanated from somewhere deep in her soul. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that she asked her good friend, as they sat at the dining room table writing “thank you” notes, “Did I scream that night?”

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In the Morning Light (Chapter Two)

“Well, like I said, I slapped her the first time when she was pregnant with Timmy. She must have been about six months or so along. It just . . . happened. Before I even knew what I was doing, I heard the sound of my hand slapping her cheek.” He sat for a moment, breathed heavily. “I’ll never forget that sound as long as I live. Which, according to the doctors here, won’t be much longer. And brings me to my first question.”

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In the Morning Light (Chapter One)

He stared out the window, considering the cloudless blue sky. From the bed in his third-story hospital room, he could see the tops of the trees in the parking lot below swaying softly with the light summer breeze. He wished that he could return to the marina, hose down the decks of his small vessel, and point its bow toward the San Francisco Bay. He would sail out to sea, allowing the wind to carry him and his boat in any direction it wished for as many days as he had left on earth.

He sighed deeply as he shifted his gaze back to the I.V. pole from which hung several plastic bags containing clear liquids. Three separate tubes carried the substances from the bags to his veins. He winced as he moved his left arm. Looking down, he noticed that a new bruise had developed where the nurse had unsuccessfully tried to reinsert the needle earlier in the day.

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The Birth Announcement

“Another one,” she said matter-of-factly.

“What? Who?” Karen shrieked through a loud yawn. “Oh, man, I really wanted to get through the summer without going to a another freakin’ funeral!”

“Huh? No, no . . . nobody died.”

“Then what are you talking about?” Karen mumbled, still half-asleep.

“You obviously haven’t read today’s newspaper yet,” she replied. “Go get it. Look at the ‘Birth Announcements’ on page eight. I’ll get another cup of coffee while you do.”

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Just Write Blog Carnival

Welcome to the Just Write Blog Carnival, featuring a diverse and information-packed collection of articles about the various aspects of writing. Be sure to convey your appreciation to the participants by joining in the discussion at their respective sites and submitting their work to your favorite social networking groups. Enjoy!

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What Friends Do

When Chloe saw Susan walking toward her, she felt some relief and took her first deep breath of the morning. Positioned at the entrance to the mall’s large, centrally-situated cafe, she watched Susan navigate the throng of window shoppers.

Chloe could not remember a time in her life when she had not known Susan. They met when Susan’s family moved into the house down the street from her family home in the summer of 1974. They were both three years old and immediately became fast friends. They attended the same local public schools until they selected different colleges and found themselves separated for the first time in their lives. They remained close, though, visiting each others’ campuses on weekends and spending breaks together back in their home town. When Susan married, Chloe served as the maid of honor and was thrilled when Susan asked her to be the godmother to both of her children. And when she divorced, Susan moved back to their home town to raise her daughters in close proximity to her large family.

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Still Holding Her Hand

“Tell me again why we’re doing this.”

He took a deep breath and considered his response. He resisted the urge to be flippant, recognizing that sarcasm, at this particular moment in time, would only further upset her. Without turning to look at her, he took her hand firmly in his and squeezed it reassuringly.

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The Drawing

She entered the reception area, and warmly greeted the young woman stationed at the front desk.

“Hello, Angie,” she said. “How’s this semester going?”

“Great. My classes are hard, but I love my professors and I’m learning a lot,” Angie enthused. “They’re doing an art project right now.”

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The Pseudonym

“So how does it really feel to be a published author?” Dana asked, as they lounged on the grassy lake shore. The mid-day sun was warm and a soft breeze occasionally rustled the water’s surface. The sky was a perfect mixture of the kind of searing blue tones that young children use in crayon drawings and randomly-scattered, soft, thin clouds.

“I’m not a published author yet,” she laughed in response.

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An Unexpected Independence Day Celebration

“So have you set a date yet?” I asked my mother a few weeks ago when she informed me that she was remarrying.

I had mixed feelings about her announcement. My father has been gone for nearly three years now. He was ripped away from us so suddenly and unexpectedly that from time to time, I still experience the shock and disbelief that I felt on that horrible day when I heard my mother’s barely audible voice on the phone and knew that I had to get home as quickly as possible.

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The Wicker Chair

A Thousand Words weekly writing meme at http://1000wordsmeme.com“Come on in and make yourself comfortable,” he said warmly, gesturing toward the west side of the large, sunny room where a couch and two chairs separated by a small table were arranged casually in a semi-circle. “Sit wherever you’d like,” he continued as he picked up a manila folder from the desk on the far wall and sat down in the large, overstuffed chair in the middle of the room facing the other furniture.

“Thank you,” she said softly, selecting the wicker chair with the seat cushion, as he made a mental note of her choice. She had picked the most uncomfortable seat in the room. The one that would require her to sit virtually upright during their entire time together since it offered the least lumbar support and made squeaky, squishy noises when its occupant squirmed in a vain attempt to find a more suitable position. However, it was deliberately placed most directly across from and in line with his chair. By the time she returned next week, the chairs would be rearranged to facilitate his observation of whether she will pick the same chair or the chair in the same position relative to his.

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Carnival of Family Life: Celebrate America Edition

Welcome to the Carnival of Family Life: Celebrate America Edition! This week, Americans observe the Fourth of July with their families. Picnics, potlucks, camp-outs, swim parties, boating adventures . . . and best of all, fireworks will remind us how lucky and blessed we are here in the “land of the free and the home of the brave!” And this week’s collection of excellent posts about family life reminds us to be thankful for our families and enjoy spending the upcoming long weekend with them.

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Hide and Seek

As he stepped up to the podium, he felt slightly dizzy, but his determination buoyed him. He looked out into the auditorium, thankful that the lights focused upon him and the remainder of the stage area prohibited him, at least for the most part, from clearly observing the faces of the young men and women gathered there. He was only able to recognize those seated in the front-most four or five rows. When he caught a glimpse of his son’s best friend, seated in the middle of the third row surrounded by the rest of his boy’s buddies, he quickly closed his eyes and began breathing deeply. One hand on either side of the podium to steady himself, he cleared his throat, opened his eyes, and began speaking into the microphone.

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-Six)

“Leaving?” she responded breathlessly to the curve ball fate had just pitched directly to her. “No, I’m not leaving. I’ll be back in a few moments.”

“Oh, good!” he said genially. “I was hoping we could catch up a bit.”

She studied his eyes, remembering all the times that, as a young woman, she had looked expectantly — hopefully — into them. He looked exactly the same save for the small but distinct lines at the corners of his eyes that had grown more pronounced when he smiled and a few gray highlights in his hair. He was as impossibly attractive as ever.

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-Five)

“I am totally impressed that you became a doctor,” she told her former biology classmate, Georgia, “especially after having me as a lab partner! Quite an accomplishment!” she laughed.

“Actually, you inspired me,” Georgia replied.

“I did?” she asked incredulously. “How in the world did I manage that? When it came to anything science-related, I was a pitiful student.”

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-Four)

The telephone began ringing just as she closed the door to her hotel room and started down the hallway toward the elevator. She never even considered not turning back to answer, confident that the call was either from her son or Dennis.

“Hey, Mom,” her son said cheerily before she even had a chance to say “hello.”

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-Three)

“And you got married just like that?” Amy said incredulously.

“Just like that!” she laughed. “It was an amazing day. We only had about twenty-five guests and got married, barefooted, on the beach at sundown.”

“When did you tell your families that you were pregnant?” Amy pressed.

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty-One)

She knew what she had to do — and that she needed to do it now. Procrastinating would only make the task ahead more difficult — for both of them.

Her circumstances — and the future of her unborn child — required that she be fearless now. Decisive. Determined. Protective.

As she showered and dressed in anticipation of Dennis’ visit, she vacillated between being extremely angry with herself for not being more responsible — the thought of using birth control had never even entered her mind on that fateful New Year’s Eve — and worry about what her future held. She knew that her discussion with Dennis this evening would only be the first of many conversations she would be having in the coming weeks and months with the people she loved. She wondered how she would tell her parents, knowing that they would be disappointed, but fiercely protective. Although she had not had time to fully evaluate her financial circumstances, she presumed that she would need to move back into her parents’ home and secure employment back in her home town, dependent upon her parents to assist with child care and other responsibilities.

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The Letter (Chapter Twenty)

“I just don’t understand why the doctor can’t prescribe something to help you.” Her friend was clearly irritated. “How long did he say it would take for this thing to ‘run its course’?” she inquired.

“I told you,” she responded, staring out the passenger window of the vehicle as she adjusted her sunglasses to hide her swollen, puffy eyes. “There is no medicine that he can prescribe. It just has to run its course and I’ll feel better when it does.”

“It’s a virus?” her friend pushed.

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The Photograph (Chapter One)

“Are you coming, Grandma?” she called up the stairs lightly.

“Yes, dear,” was the response. “I’ll be down in just a few moments. I’m moving a little slower than normal this morning,” the old woman giggled. “I’m not complaining, though. You just sit tight and be there in a flash.”

“All right, Gran,” her granddaughter laughed. “I know it’s all my fault . . . I kept you up too late.”

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The Letter (Chapter Nineteen)

“Breathe . . . breathe,” her friend urged, as she knelt alongside her chair, rubbing and patting her back. “Come on . . . deep breaths. You can do it. Get some air into your lungs . . . there you go . . . you’ll be all right.”

Upon hearing that he was planning to marry the woman with the dark heart — and the betrothal had been publicly announced — she had been unable to catch her breath. Her eyes filled with tears, she was rendered mute, and she thought she would suffocate. Her friend immediately came to her aid, soothing and consoling her as she struggled to maintain her composure and avoid the stares of the cafe’s other patrons.

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The Letter (Chapter Eighteen)

The ringing telephone startled her awake. She sat straight up on the couch, disoriented. The telephone was on the coffee table directly in front of her with a hand-written note taped to it: “Make an appointment with the doctor. I’ll call later and check up on you. Love, Me.”

She threw off the blanket that covered her and reached for the telephone, noting that she was still fully dressed.

“Hello,” she said groggily.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Dennis replied tenderly. “I didn’t want to call too early and wake you up, but it sounds like I did just that. How are you feeling? Any better?”

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The Letter (Chapter Seventeen)

The sun was just setting when they arrived at the nearly empty restaurant. He turned to her and asked, “Would you like to take a walk on the beach before we have dinner?”

Although she didn’t feel well and would have preferred to be home sleeping, it was a beautiful night. The sky was perfectly clear, the air crisp. She reasoned that the sea air might help settle her stomach and relieve the pounding in her head that only intensified as she studied his every gesture and movement. She searched his face for clues as to what he was thinking and feeling.

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The Letter (Chapter Sixteen)

“You know that I want to see you tonight,” she reassured Dennis, “but I just don’t feel up to going out. I think I’m coming down with that flu bug that has been making the rounds. I’m really tired, kind of achy all over, and my stomach has been doing somersaults for a couple of days. I’m just going to stay here in my nice, warm bed and try to sleep it off.”

“I could bring you chicken soup,” Dennis offered.

“Are you planning on making it yourself?” she teased.

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