One Day at a Time

Sylvie loved to plan. So, when her mother’s playgroup asked her to arrange the fun activities for the next academic year, she jumped at the chance and bought a huge poster board to outline the main events at their next meeting. When her husband pleaded with her to organize this year’s work get-togethers, she grabbed her colored markers and fashioned a list of interesting icebreakers. The pièce de resistance was when her mom insisted that she contact all the family members about who would bring what for the Thanksgiving dinner. Finally! She could make sure that there were a variety of vegetables rather than an overabundance of mincemeat pies.

Monday and Tuesday were a blur of activity. Wednesday, she woke up to dark clouds on what should have been a bright, sunny day. She flipped the light bedsheet off her slim body and let it fall on her husband’s prone form. Except, he wasn’t there.

Fighting annoyance at these two contrary elements in her otherwise perfectly planned day, Sylvie leaped from her bed. And slipped on a sheen of water pooled before the French doors. Landing on her behind, she yelped in surprise. She stared at the open doors, the grey clouds still dribbling pathetic drops, and huffed. She was getting wet, and she didn’t have time for that.

She climbed to her feet, one hand holding the bedpost, and murmured under her breath. “Stupid weather report. It wasn’t supposed to rain last night. I would’ve shut the doors.”

A wail caught her attention. Baby Francie crying for breakfast, undoubtedly.

With a few alterations to her steps, she performed her daily ritual—slipped on her prearranged day clothes, changed the baby’s diaper, dressed her in a cute summer outfit, and swung into the kitchen. She checked the daily menu. Ah, yes! Bran muffins with sliced bananas, juice, and black coffee for Dan. She frowned as she prepared the meal. Dan? Where was he? He had said something about a new exercise routine, but he should’ve told her when he was going to start. She had made exactly six muffins yesterday and that meant he could have two for breakfast and take two for lunch, leaving just two for her and the baby. What was she going to do with four extra muffins?

The coffee maker spluttered and beeped—announcing in appliance talk— Mission Accomplished. Her stomach dropped at the sight of the half-full carafe. She hated the taste of coffee. Now it was going to go to waste. How terribly sad! If only Dan had informed her of his change of plans.

The rest of the morning went as scheduled but when she pushed the cart down the shopping aisle, she was horrified to discover that all the Wednesday specials had been discontinued. Normally, she could find wonderful baked bread and dessert goodies at half price on the Wednesday-special cart, but it was nowhere to be seen. How disappointing! She almost asked the store manager but decided that she didn’t want to seem like a complainer. She’d just have to wait till next week to have her sister over for tea and cake.

As rain poured from the sky, she rushed from the car with a bag of groceries and the baby clutched in her arms. She sped into her warm, stuffy house, fretting at the fact that the forecasters were really losing their touch. How could she plan any outdoor activities if they couldn’t even warn her about a torrential storm?

Mechanically, she changed the baby into dry clothes, put the groceries away, checked the crockpot roast, and then sorted through her mail. No surprises there. Two bills and three advertisements.

One bill caught her eye. She frowned at it. It was due in two days! How could they do that? Even under the best of conditions, it often took three days for mail to travel across the country. Now she’d be hit with a late penalty! And she had itemized their billing down to the last penny.

Ugh! With the loss of the specials cart, the forecasters’ failure, Dan’s irresponsible communication skills, and now facing a late fee, she didn’t know how she could suck up the courage to finish her planning schedule.

She plunked Francie into the playpen with freshly washed toys and labored to her bedroom. She tugged off her wet shirt and pants.

With robust steps, Dan entered the house, called out, “Hey, I’m home!” and then tread across the living room floor.

Francie squealed.

Dan had surely swung her high into his arms.

Ignoring the fact that she’d have to wear the outfit she had planned to save for tomorrow’s play-day gathering, she pulled on a clean shirt and pants and combed her hair. A glum face peered back at her from the mirror.

Dan sauntered in, both he and the baby smiling from ear to ear.

Irritated to the breaking point, Sylvie brushed past her husband and pounded into the kitchen. She’d put her perfect dinner on the table even though he certainly didn’t deserve it.

Hot steam flushed her face when she swiped the cover off the crockpot.

Dan hustled in behind her. “What’s wrong, Honey?”

After sliding the roast onto a receiving platter, she ladled the potatoes and carrots into a bowl with precise motions. “It would be nice if you’d tell me of any change of plans. I try to run this house as well as I can, but I can’t do anything right if you go around changing things without telling me.” She placed the vegetable bowl in the center of the table and the meat platter to the left.

A perplexed frown etched its way across Dan’s forehead. “What change of plans? I did everything pretty much the same as I always do.”

Opening her eyes extra-wide, Sylvie decided to lure him in so he could see his mistake himself. It’s no good always making it easy on husbands. They never learn if you do that, heaven knows. “What time did you go into work this morning?”

“The usual.”

“Really? I made special muffins for us, and you weren’t here to eat them.” There. Now he’ll be sorry!

“We have our board meeting at 6:30 on Tuesdays. Always have. You know that.”

“But not on Wednesdays!” Ah, ha! She’d caught him now. He really should be ashamed.

Dan stared at his wife. Then he turned to his baby daughter. “Do you know what she’s talking about?”

Francie drooled, grinned, and mashed syllables together into what could best be translated into “U-goo-ah-mmm-brp.”

Steam blew out of Sylvie’s ears.

Slapping his head, Dan jogged himself and baby out of the room, pounded up the stairs, slapped stuff around in her workroom, making Sylvie’s eyes nearly pop from her head, and then plodded back downstairs.

She slapped napkins on the table like a general laying out his battle plans.

Dan tossed her color-coded calendar on the counter. “I knew it! And I was right.” He nearly howled in laughter.

Francie wasn’t sure she wanted to take matters that far. She offered a baby scowl to the world in general.

Tears welling in her eyes at the sacrilegious treatment of her plans, Sylvie sniffed back a choking sob. “How can you be so heartless? I worked hard on those plans, and you’re treating them like a game. And it was you who missed my muffins!”

Instantly contrite, Dan wrapped one arm around his wife in a buck-up, you’ll-make-it-through hug. “You marked Tuesday off the calendar. You never mark a day off until you go to bed.”

A pathetic tear meandered down Sylvie’s face. She swiped it away. No point in adding to her pain. “Of course, I did that last night. Why are you acting so devilishly mean?”

“What day does that make today?”

The image of a snake spitting venom filled Sylvie’s mind. She bit off the word. “Wednesday.”

Dan hugged her tighter. “No, honey. It’s Tuesday. Has been all day. You’ve been so busy, you packed two days into one.”

The thought that her husband was insane only bothered her a little less than the idea that he might be on to something. The world tilted. The universe expanded. Her baby burped. Then she met her husband’s eyes. And knew.

At the mom’s playday gathering, Sylvie treated the assembly to her color-coded chart and a dazzling array of baked specials from the Wednesday specials cart. Her husband’s co-workers patted Dan on the back for the best icebreakers they’d ever enjoyed at a work meeting. And Thanksgiving dinner was now well-planned and nutritionally balanced.

Only her husband and baby Francie knew that from that fateful Tuesday, despite Sylvie’s love of planning, she made sure that she lived only one day at a time.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/frau-weiblich-sch%c3%b6nheit-modell-2223508/

Library

Robert sat back on the wooden library chair, pushed an award-winning thriller aside and stared down the packed double rows of books. Heavy weighted shelves topped with hardcover novels that couldn’t fit in their appointed place, lined the room. An oversized GREEK MYTHS illustrated cover stared at him from a shelf mounted on a pillar directly ahead. The back wall, plastered with paperback mysteries and romances, while the front entrance, dominated by newspapers and magazines, offered a neat but plentiful aurora to the room. A wooden rack sported an array of local t-shirts for sale, and community news splashed itself over a mounted bulletin board.

He chuckled. History behind, romance to the left, political figures to the right. Myths and legends directly ahead. I should be well educated or happily entertained, at least.

The heavy oak front door creaked as a patron entered. A middle-aged woman dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans bearing an armload of books lumbered to the front desk.

The librarian, an older woman with white hair and thin glasses, glanced up. She smiled in welcome.

Robert frowned. She didn’t smile when I entered.

A muted conversation ensued.

He really should pick out a couple of books, or get back to work, or deal with Beatrice’s issues…but the voices oozed with understanding friendship.

“You liked it?”

“Oh, yeah. Reminded me of the time I spent overseas with Carl, when we were just married, and he was stationed in Germany. I didn’t understand at the time—terribly ignorant when I was young.”

Rueful laugh. “Aren’t we all?”

A snort. “My granddaughter seems to know everything—certainly knows more about—” The throaty voice dropped to a subterranean level.

Robert tipped his head to peer between the wall of books. Yep. The librarian was nodding, even as she ran the wand over each book, then dropped it into a box.  

Beatrice’s face rose in his mind as a knot tightened in his stomach, the pain in her eyes puzzling him.

“You don’t understand!”

What did he need to understand? He loved her, and she loved him, and they were married after all. What more did she want? They had a couple of kids and didn’t want more—at least not for a long while. Kelly and Roger were great, but even he could see how stressed Beatrice got with their schedules. He tried to help. But there was only so much he could do.

“It’s not that!”

He had tried to hug her into a better mood, but she wasn’t having it. Stiff as a board and just as unrelenting. Tears dripped down her face as she stared at the floor, slumped on the edge of the bed like some kind of broken toy.

Frustration filled him. Almost every night, it was the same routine. He approached, and she resisted. He cajoled until she either got mad or gave in.

“What’s the deal? I thought Fridays were good for you. Look, I’m a patient guy but even the best of men needs a little encouragement.”

She’d just stared. That baleful look spearing him with hopeless injury.

The librarian’s voice startled him. She stood at his right, peering at the thrillers he had shoved aside. “Anything I can help you with?”

Got anything on how to talk your wife into a romantic mood? he didn’t say. “Uh, just looking. Trying to figure out what I want. Thrillers just not cutting it for me.”

Sympathetic eyes stared into him.

Good Lord, how much do librarians know?

“If you want a suggestion?” It was the other woman, the patron with the heavy stack.

He shrugged, appearing open but not needy. Or so he hoped.

“Try Palmer’s series. Historical fiction starting in the middle-ages but with a phycological twist. Kind of thrilling, but he’s got depth, if you know what I mean.”

Robert glanced at the librarian for confirmation.

The white head nodded in agreement. “Oh, yes. Palmer is good. Real family drama without the typical social motifs. The gritty stuff of life but without antiquated solutions.”

A groan rose inside Robert. “I got enough grit in my life. Thanks.”

A conspiratorial grin passed between the two women.

Burning heat rose in Robert’s cheeks, as if he just realized that he had forgotten to zipper his pants this morning. His left hand slowly inched onto his lap.

The librarian tried again. “Well, there’s always Susan Price Marks Siva. She’s got some fun escapism. Very global and internationally acclaimed.” Her brows scrunched—trying to remember or trying to discern? “Thrilling but educational.”

“You like biographies? There are some heart-stopping accounts on the shelf right behind myths and legends.” The helpful patron jogged aside and pulled a heavy volume from the shelf. “Life and lies of—”

The door creaked open, and the three-some froze. Caught blatantly chattering in the library.

Tentative padding steps. Then a small voice. “Hello?”

What a sweet sound. An image of an apple tree in springtime rose in Robert’s mind.

A blond head poked around the corner. A bright smile. The young woman stepped forward; a book lifted in her right hand. “I’m here to pay my debt to society.”

Duty calling, the librarian returned to the counter, leading the way to reparation for overdue books.

Helpful patron chimed in. “I mark the due dates on my calendar. Got fined twice before I thought to do it. Funny how I have to make mistakes a few times before I learn how to solve them. O, happy fault, maybe?”

Robert didn’t have a clue what the well-read woman was talking about. But as she turned and meandered to the fantasy section, he didn’t follow up.

With a sigh, he replaced the thrillers in their proper section and wandered toward the counter.

The pretty lady stood with one arm propped on her hip, her body tilted, like a mother used to carrying a baby and can’t get comfortable in a straight position.

“Dan’s watching them. You know how it is. He loves the procreation process and playing with ‘em when they’re young, but the follow-up’s a real chore.”

The librarian met Robert’s fixed stare as he stood one bookshelf away. Then she returned her gaze to the conversation at hand. “Growing up is hard. At every stage.” She tapped the book. “You want to return this or renew it?”

A quiet sigh. “Well, I just got into it, but I never know if I’ll get a chance to finish it. Between Dan and the kids, I get so tired, don’t have any time to let my mind roam. My soul is not my own.” She released a brittle, suck-it-up, chuckle. “But like you said—growing up is hard. Renew it, and I’ll try to squeeze in a bit of time.”

Stunned by the image of a captured, weary soul, Robert waited and then watched the young wife and mother saunter out the door. His gaze trailed after her as her blond head bobbed and then disappeared around the corner.

He marched forward and faced the librarian. “You have anything on ‘Oh happy fault?’”

Breaking into a grin, the librarian pointed to the religion and philosophy section. “Probably. We’ve got something for everyone. Just have to figure out what you want.”

A happy wife rang in Robert’s ears. He lifted his hand. “You know, I better get going. Thanks. But I think the book I need to read—is at home.”

He paced out the door and sauntered outside, a new story filling his mind.

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/book-read-hands-literature-3531412/

This Devil Doesn’t Lie

ThisDevilDoesntLie

Clare flopped down on her bed with her arms spread wide and her legs dangling over the edge. A black cat jumped forward and curled up on the pillow, nearly blanketing Clare’s face. With a nudge, Clare pushed the shorthaired feline aside. “Hey, you, pillow-stealer!”

The cat blinked, yawned expansively, and then laid its head back on the pillow.

After slapping the light panel off, Clare nudged the cat to the side and wiggled contentedly under a thick blanket. “Ah, nothing like a well-deserved rest after a long, hard day’s work.” She closed her eyes, murmuring, “Nothing you’d know anything about.”

Only a faint moonlight shone through the window, illuminating the sharp edges of her dresser and a couple wall pictures. With the pleasant sensation of drifting into dreamland, Clare’s lips curled into a contented smile.

“Clare.”

Clare sat bolt upright. She knew she had heard a sound, her name, but who— She blinked and swallowed, her mouth half-open. Peering over the sleeping cat, she braced herself. Nothing. She frowned. Her eyes scoured the darkened room as she tensed for the slightest noise. Silence. With a shake, she gripped the blanket and pulled it tight around her shoulders and lay back down.

It took a little time to release the tension in her body, but soon her muscles relaxed, and she felt comforting drowsiness claiming her.

“Clare, I must speak with you.”

Shooting like a star across the room, Clare was in her robe and slippers before the cat could slip out the door. She swiped her Dustbuster off the dresser and held it firmly with both hands, aiming at the door. “Who are you?”

A long, weary sigh floated like a ghostly scent through the room.

Clare twirled like a ballet dancer, nearly falling off balance. “What the hell?”

“You’ve forgotten me? I’m affronted. Saddened, actually. I thought seeing me in person would forever sear me into your memory.”

Clare lowered the weapon as her formerly pink face blanched of all color. She slapped at the light panel, illuminating the room. “Damn you!”

“I certainly hope not. Unkind, Clare, very unkind!”

“Show yourself!”

Omega appeared in the center of the room. He stood, dressed like an ordinary Newearth human in loose-fitting, black pants, a light blue sweater, and brown loafers. He lifted his arms and twirled like a model on a showcase runway. “Like it? The very epitome of ordinary. I’m trying to blend in, you see.”

Clare raised the Dustbuster again. “Why are you here?”

Omega snapped his fingers and the Dustbuster instantly rematerialized as a stuffed animal—a pink and purple giraffe. “Please, stop playing ridiculous games. I have very little time, and I have a score to settle with you.”

Clare stared at the stuffed animal, her eyes widening. She threw it against the wall and glared at Omega. “A score with me? I should be the one—”

“Yes, of course! You made it quite clear in the courtroom, before my nearest and dearest, what you thought of me. A devil you called me. You have no idea, Clare, really, no idea at all.”

Pressing her hands together, as if to hold them back from spontaneous combustion, Clare shook her head. “You play with us like toys.” She glanced at the stuffed animal that now lay forlornly in the corner.

Omega huffed. “Because you don’t understand, you lie about me. How human! I simply won’t stand for it any longer. Why do you hate me? Or rather, why do you think you hate me?”

Clare’s breathing rose and fell in shuddering gasps. “You—killed—my—parents! And then you wanted to analyze my suffering—”

“Lies, lies, and more lies. I did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I saved your life. Your parents died of poisoned stew, true, but to be quite honest, I don’t know who poisoned them. But I did realize that someone intended to wipe out your whole family, so I went out of my way to make certain that you were safe. I watched over you like a devoted father hen.” Omega paused, one eyebrow rising.”I’m not sure that works.” He shrugged. “Anyway, when I asked you questions, it was to get to the bottom of the mystery—to protect you.”

Clare stood rooted to the floor. A flush spread over her cheeks. “It can’t be. You never cared.”

“I always cared.”

“No!”

Omega stamped his foot. “I don’t have time for this! I have to leave soon, and I have a request to make.”

Clare stared stone still and silent.

Omega stepped closer, his gaze boring into Clare’s. “Watch over Justine and the child. That silly idiot named her Aurora. How cliché. Like some Disney film. Oh well, I didn’t endow Max with the creative talent I offered Justine—poor fellow. In any case, I’ll soon be—how shall I say—indisposed for a time.”

Clare stepped forward. “But there’s trouble coming, something called Cosmos is on the loose—”

“Yes, I’ve heard. Unpleasant, but then biological life is always perilous. Ask the Bhuaci, they know.”

“But I can’t protect Justine or anyone, not against Cosmos.”

Omega laughed. “By the Divide! I never expected that. I want you to protect them from each other.”

“What?”

Omega looked up as if listening to an unseen alarm. “Time’s up. I must be going. Remember what I said. I saved you once, now save my family. After all, it’s only fair.”

In a blink of blinding light, Omega disappeared.

Clare found herself standing in the middle of a silent room. The cat meandered back onto the pillow and settled in for a contented slumber. Clare stumbled over to the edge of the bed. Her gaze slid to the multicolored giraffe in the corner. She snatched it off the floor. Tossing it on the bed, it landed peacefully next to the cat.  Clare shrugged. “Go ahead; you two sleep. I surely never will.”

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/photos/fantasie-science-fiction-vollmond-4544929/