For our Birthday Collaboration, Kat of Sassy Irish Lassie and I had the song prompt "The Perfect Ending" by Straylight Run. We decided to write a short story -- well, TWO short stories, actually. We traded photos and used the same paragraph to begin our individual stories. In essence, we hoped this would be like a 'choose your own adventure' of perfect endings. Same beginnings, unknown endings, shared images, different takes. We're excited to see what comes out today! (Note: Kat's piece should be up later today -- don't miss it!)
Want to play along today at Hyacynth's place, with or without a collaborating partner? Use the song prompt "For me, this is heaven" by Jimmy Eat World.
The table was rubbed smooth from a century's worth of use. No longer glossy or reflective, it instead drew its warmth from within; age and experience had lent the wood its own sort of wisdom. She pressed a sheet of paper onto the table's scarred surface, imagining words seeping up from below to meet her pen. What she needed now -- what she'd always needed, really -- was to tell the truth.
A breath of wind pushed through the open window and fluttered the paper under her fingertips. The knotted wood of the table pushed back, insistent. And on an exhale, she began to write.
You would never believe me if I told you that I used to be the center of attention. That I wasn't always the quiet wife and patient mother. But it was true: I drew interested stares as well as golden honey draws flies. Before there was you with your centering force, there was me. I don't tell you this to wipe away all the beauty of the life I've been given now, but to paint it more accurately for you. So you'll understand where you came from.
The things that have made you into a strong young man aren't secrets, but well-known history: your grandfather's guiding presence; the lake shore you grew up exploring; the press of your father's hand on your back as you learned to pedal a bicycle for the first time; your baby fist clinging to the nape of my neck during a hundred forgotten sunsets. These are immutable. They can't change and won't be taken away by your knowing more; a downhill fall of water will always fall downhill. What I mean to say, in my circular way, is that you are still Andrew and I am still mother, despite my curtained past.
It began as so many things do: out of the need for one to feel important.
He made me feel important for a few moments of buried time.
He was a mystery, crouched in shadows, and that's where I've kept him. I would beg your forgiveness, but I don't regret the secret, at least not for your sake. If you'd known since your birth, well then -- his role might have been easy enough to explain. You are a boy who's never known his birth father. But once the years began expanding around us, with your pale eyes searching for excitement, I kept the truth close until you were old enough to hold it and not be sunken by its weight.
You are strong now, and able. The past doesn't grow lighter with time, it only becomes more pliable in one's hands, more difficult to be contained within a single set of arms.
The trouble with all of this, besides the obvious -- that the man who raised you didn't father you, in the biological sense -- is that I still feel the irritating desire to twist our shared histories into a damned teachable moment. The kind at which you'll roll your eyes and from which you'll beat a hasty retreat. But it must be said. When I was with the man who never cared to know you as his son, I prayed for him to see me and want me forever. The needing of him bled through my confidence and my dreams like hot water over a sheet of ice, and still, I counted his presence as essential. I wanted him to be my perfect ending. The place I ended up when everything fell as it should.
But the place I ended up when everything fell as it should didn't look like I planned. It has a different tint and a softness about the edges, here. It has it's own perfection, this ending I didn't think to choose.
What I didn't know was that the only right, perfect ending, has been beside me all along.
The afternoon light had given way to evening before she stopped writing. She sat back against her chair and turned to the window. Toward the lake and the dock and the sunset, where a stripe of pinkened water forged a path to the horizon. The letter lay, curl-edged and heavy, on the table.
But it wasn't a letter, really.
It was a deep breath. A morning star. A blinking cursor.
It was a beginning.