Stella figured that—given the chance—she would definitely haunt her ex-husband. He needed a little something to make his life complete. And it might liven up her after-Earth experience. Sitting on a cloud all day must get rather dull.
Her daughter was trying on a new dress in the changing room. Something for a school dance next month. Not that Lindsey needed a new dress. She had plenty. But apparently, there was a new boy…
Stella sighed. The girl was only in high school. A senior. Okay. But still. She had her whole life in front of her. Why mess it up with a relationship she couldn’t possibly handle? It would only bring heartache in the end.
Maybe when she was thirty…six…or something. After working a few years in her chosen field, building up a nice nest egg, maybe buying a house, she could consider an eligible male for companionship. Have a family. Or get a poodle. Whatever.
Lindsey stepped out of the dressing room wearing something that looked like it was ripped off the set of Little House on the Prairie.
What on earth? Stella smirked. “Is it a costume party, honey?”
Lindsey didn’t laugh. Heck, she didn’t even smile. In fact, her beaming expression faded to sunset pink. “I—I kind of like the old-style.”
Stella strolled over to her daughter. She considered the flower-print, the long sleeves, long full skirt, tight bodice, high neckline, and frowned. The whole thing screamed “modest girl.”
Lindsey stepped in front of the long mirror, smiled tremulously, and twirled. Her smile widened. A happy light beamed from her eyes.
Stella stepped back and considered the whole package. Gosh, the girl was stunning. She would be beautiful in a straight jacket.
Stella choked. Why had that image come to mind? Because Joanna was insane, living out her last years in a home for the mentally unbalanced? Lindsey was nothing like Joanna.
“Mom? You okay?”
“Yeah. Honey. Just wondering…what your dad will think. He’s into the fashion model types.”
Lindsey shook her head, perplexity and annoyance rippling in waves over her features. “You want me to dress like one of dad’s girlfriends?”
“No! Of course not.” So why did I say that? Stella squared her shoulders. I just don’t want you to hightail it to the other extreme. There’s got to be something between bare all and cover all.” She marched to the dress aisle and started shoving unworthies down the rack.
“But, mom, I like this one. I like the flowers and the soft, comfortable texture. I don’t want to expose my behind or my breasts or worry that some guy will think I’m looking for action. I like me in this one.”
Stella swallowed. Hard. She dared not glance at her own plunging neckline or notice the fact that she could hardly cross her legs. Everyone wears…
Joanna’s battered face, her scarred wrists. Puncture marks in her arms sobbed while her voice merely babbled incoherencies. “Don’t. Like. Me!”
Stella refocused. “Your great-grandma would like it. Or maybe Uncle Peter.”
The guy married at twenty-seven, had five kids, two adopted, and volunteered for some men’s church organization. Had to give it to him though. Never missed a family function, served at every funeral dinner, and could chat about sports till her ex dropped under the table. He was even nice enough to drive the slob home on occasion.
“So can I get it?” A mischievous grin sparkled in Lindsey’s eyes. “You know, Great-grandma always said she’d watch over me. I think she’d tell you to let me get this dress.”
The brown-skinned, wizened face, and those startlingly beautiful blue eyes. The firm chin and no-nonsense demeanor. Though she could outshine the sun when she smiled. She loved Joanna so. Nearly broke her heart…
Stella looked up.
The perfectly manicured clerk stood next to Lindsey. Concern scribbled all over her exhausted face. “Are you all right?” She stepped closer, one arm out as if to offer a helping hand. “You want me to call your husband…or someone?”
Stella shook her head, tearing the cobwebs away. Heck no. She was fine. Her ex was across town probably gearing up for a night on the town. “Checking out the old watering holes,” he’d say. And the women, she knew.
She pulled her purse around to her front and unzipped the top, pulled out her wallet and wiggled her credit card from the proper pocket. “Here, we’ll take it.” She glanced at Lindsey’s shocked but pleased expression. “You ought to be comfortable in your own clothes, honey.” And in your body. Your mind. Your soul…
After they got in the car, Lindsey laid her new dress in the back seat. Then she reached over and hugged her mom.
Stella blinked back tears.
As Stella dressed for bed, she grabbed her usual black nightie, flung it on her body, and then stared at the long bathroom mirror. She wasn’t a kid anymore. That much was obvious. But who was she? Whose was she?
A chime rang. She scurried to her bedside table and snatched up the phone.
Not a call. Just that stupid auto-reminder thing. Tomorrow’s Joanna’s birthday. Great-grandma used to bring a cake and balloons for everyone. Always wore those horrid old polyester pants and faded button-down blouses. But her grin as she hugged Joanna was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Stella tiptoed down the hall. A light shone under Lindsey’s door. She knocked.
Stella opened the door and leaned in.
Lindsey sat in bed with her Kindle propped on her knees. She waited. Teen patience incarnate.
“Hey, honey. I was just thinking. How about you come with me to give Joanna a little birthday party tomorrow? We’ll buy a cake and some of those wild balloons she used to like.”
Straightening, Lindsey’s face lit up. “I’d love to! I’ll bring the family album. You know how she loves to see pictures of great-grandma.”
Stella paused and then leaped into the abyss. “Think we should invite your dad?”
Lindsey frowned. Confused.
“She is his sister after all.”
Lindsey tilted her head. “You know, I almost forgot that.” She nodded. “Yeah. He should come.” Her gaze wandered back to the page.
Satisfied, Stella blew her daughter a kiss. “Oh and wear your new dress.” Then she started back to her room, humming a tune…Why wait for tomorrow?
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
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