I started the Fiction Friday series in October to help improve my descriptive prose writing. Perhaps I’ll write a book some day, most likely not, but I’m enjoying being creative each week. If you’d like to write along with me, I will have a link up for the series each week. Add a link to fiction on your blog.
As I mentioned last week, I’m working on a series story right now, so I can get beyond just the beginnings of stories. In case you missed last week’s post, here it is.
The playground is pretty crowded when we arrive. Jack climbs out of the wagon almost before I’ve stopped it. And he didn’t want to come. As he dashes over to the slide, I take a moment to scan around, looking for Playground Dad. I don’t see him. Or his twins.
Feeling disappointed, I park the wagon under a tree and head over to one of the benches. There’s another mom about my age sitting on one side looking at her phone. I sit down and watch Jack for a minute. He’s climbing up the steps to the slide.
Not wanting to completely give up on Playground Dad, but also not wanting to sit in silence for an hour, I turn to the mom sitting next to me.
“Which one’s yours?” I ask.
“Sam,” she replies, “in the blue and white striped shirt over there.”
I look where she is pointing and see a boy about Jack’s age trying to climb up the fireman’s pole.
“He’s pretty strong,” I say. “How old is he?”
“He just turned 4 in May,” she says. “Where’s yours?”
“The one digging tunnels in the sand,” I say a little embarrassed. “Jack is really into construction these days. He’s probably imagining he’s on a work site.”
“I’m Teresa by the way,” I blurt out.
“Mary Beth,” she replies. “Nice to meet you.”
“So does Sam go to preschool somewhere around here?” I ask.
We chat for a few minutes about schools and teachers until Sam falls and scraps his knee, and Mary Beth rushes off to console him. She doesn’t return. It looks like Sam is ready for dinner or bed, so he helps him into the stroller and leaves the park with an apologetic shrug and a wave.
This is the nature of playground conversations. The children always come first. Just when you begin connecting with someone, you’re needed again and mommy mode takes over.
It’s been about 20 minutes, so I look around the park again hoping to spot Playground Dad. No luck. I find Jack on the swings actually pumping his legs like he learned at daycare. So I pull out my phone and check my email. Nothing exciting. A cell phone bill reminder and a few pieces of spam.
I stare off into space for a few minutes day dreaming about Playground Dad. Maybe he’s taken the kids out of town for the weekend. I picture him driving a Toyota Camry, alone in the front with two car seats in the back. Maybe they’re going to beach for the weekend. Lake Michigan is only 45 minutes from here. I see him splashing in the waves with the twins, holding hands with each of them.
Another mom sits down on the bench with me, and I’m instantly embarrassed. I’m probably grinning like a crazy lady lost in my fantasy world.
This time it’s the other mom who starts the conversation, and suddenly I don’t have energy for small talk.
“Hi,” she says. “I’m Sharon.”
“Teresa,” I reply blandly. Maybe she’ll get the hint that I don’t feel like talking. I notice the wedding band on her finger, and jealousy burns inside me. I need to get away. I look at my phone, it’s only 5:44 PM, but I can’t stay here any longer. “I actually need to get going,” I say quickly. “I’m sorry.”
I get up and walk away leaving her slightly stunned I’m sure. I find Jack back in the sandbox.
“Hi, honey,” I say. “It’s time to get going.”
Surprisingly he doesn’t complain. That’s a first. Maybe he can sense my mood.
We head back to the wagon, he climbs in, and we start walking back home. My mood grows more introspective the closer we get to our house. How am I going to get through dinner and bedtime? We’ll have to watch a movie.
When we get to our driveway, Jack wants to get the mail. Fine with me. He skips off to the mailbox while I stow the wagon in the garage. We reach the door at about the same time, so I pause a second and open it for him.
“Take off your shoes,” I remind him. We both do. Then he shows me the mail. An L.L. Bean catalog and some junk mail. I let him open the junk mail, and he’s so happy. That makes me smile a little bit.
I ask him to wash his hands in the bathroom while I throw a frozen pizza into the oven. I was going to cook a casserole, but I just don’t have the energy.
When he gets back, I ask him what movie he’d like to watch. Toy Story. Fine with me.
He settles on the couch in the TV room, while I pop in the DVD. We watch for 25 minutes until the pizza is ready and cool. Then we eat at the kitchen table. I still don’t feel much like talking. Luckily, Jack rambles on about the construction project he worked on at the park. He was building a new library apparently. I ask a couple of questions to keep the conversation flowing, but as soon as we’re done eating, we get back to the movie.
We’ve seen this movie a dozen times, so I don’t have to deal with Jack asking a ton of questions like he does with new movies. This is perfect. It allows my mind to wander. Or maybe that’s not perfect since I just get even sadder thinking about the way things ended with Brad. How he doesn’t have to be alone at night or try to meet people at the playground since he fell in love with a woman from work.
Jack startles me when the movie is over. He must still be aware of my distracted state because he actually asks to go to bed. We climb the stairs, go potty, brush his teeth, and put on his pajamas. He picks out two books: Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Bob the Builder.
We snuggle in his bed to read the stories, and he’s asleep before I even finish the first one. I climb out of the bed as carefully as possible, put the books back on his shelf, turn out the light, and close his door almost all of the way.
Then I head into my own room. I put on my pajamas and sit on the bed. I don’t have to hold it together anymore. I can let the sadness wash over me. The anticipation I’ve been feeling for the last two weeks, the disappointment of tonight, it’s all too much. I lay down and cry quietly into my pillow.
To be continued…