CHAPTER THREE –What is and what should never be
The funny thing about memories is that they never really go away. They sit at the back of your subconscious waiting for a trigger, and then they quickly flood back to the forefront of your being. Sometimes it’s a song or a smell that brings it all back. This one hit her quick, like a punch in the gut. She remembered the very blue of the sky on that June day and the way the sun kept hiding behind the fluffy white clouds. They were walking on this very boardwalk when her father scooped her up into the air. She giggled and held on tight as he picked her up and swung her around in the air. She didn’t talk much about them. Maybe people just assumed she’d forgotten. She would never forget. She remembered her mother’s goodnight kiss so feather light, the way she moved when they danced, how green her eyes were when she was happy. She remembered her laughter and the smell of her perfume and the way she crinkled up her nose when she was disgusted. Her memories of her dad brought a smile to her lips; the easy way he carried himself, his humor, his bear hugs and silly voices and the way he never let her mother win an argument. She would never forget how it felt that day. Her dad had been busy with work and they hadn’t seen much of him in weeks. Her mother was beaming. Her eyes lit up when she smiled. It was ‘fun day’ at Weirs Beach and they had a fabulous time. They rode the water slides at Surf Coaster, took a day cruise around Lake Winnipesaukee and ate the best barbecued ribs ever at J.T.’s Roadhouse. She would always treasure that feeling of warmth when her parents tucked her into bed that night. She was a fortunate child who didn’t want for much but it was the simple things she always appreciated the most, like time with her family. Less than six months later they were gone. In an instant they were taken from her and her once safe, happy world was empty and cold.
Thank God for Blanche and Danny and the life they gave her. By all accounts her parents had been very wealthy. Her father at the tender age of thirty was a real estate developer. Mostly corporate real estate, he built office buildings, and high-rise condominiums. Before Natalie started school she traveled quite frequently and was in the company of some of the worlds most astute businessmen.
Life in Lincoln was much simpler. Blanche made sure that she had everything she needed but she also taught her and Danny the value of a dollar. From the time they were young they had chores around the house and they were often asked to help out at the diner. Blanche was a proud woman. She worked hard for everything she had and instilled that same ethic in her children.
He came back just then with their snow-cones catching her misty eyed.
“Is everything okay? He asked, puzzled.
She motioned for him to sit down beside her on the Boardwalk bench, “I was just remembering the last time I was here with my parents.”
His slow smile encouraged her to continue, “Tell me about them Nat.”
For the next little while they sat on the Boardwalk talking about their lives, their hopes, their fears. They talked about her deceased parents, his miserable absentee dad, their plans for the future.
NASCAR mania had begun to descend on the popular beachfront town of Weirs Beach and activity on the boardwalk increased. Travelers from near and far were walking billboards for the sport and their favorite drivers; sporting t-shirts, hats and flags. Natalie and Johnny were drawn in by the excitement both having followed the sport since they were children.
“Have you ever been to a live race,” Johnny inquired.
“Just some pro-stock and local short track races when I was a kid. My Dad’s company used to sponsor a short circuit racer so we traveled to different tracks when I was small but never a NASCAR event.” She replied.
“Me either,” Johnny continued. “My Mom is not much of a fan. I’m sure we’ll both get to go someday.
The breeze dissipated in the late afternoon and the carefree teens spent the latter part of the afternoon beating the sweltering heat riding the slides at Surf coaster. They squealed like children playing water tag and Johnny won a blow up lounger in the slider racing challenge. They wrapped up their water park adventure on the lazy river. It was near closing time and Johnny looked at her deviously.
“We could hide in the bathrooms and get ‘accidentally’ locked in here for the night.”
“That would be so much fun,” Natalie exclaimed excitably, “You’ll think I’m a huge moron but I always wanted to get locked in the Trafalgar theater and watch all the classic movies”
“You like old flicks?” Johnny asked.
“I love them. Something about being transported back in time. My mom was a huge movie buff so I grew up watching all the classics,’ she said wistfully.
“I’ll be honest,” Johnny began, “I’ve never really seen any of the classics but Wuthering Heights is paying at the drive-in here tonight if you’re interested?”
“Are you kidding? I read the book in school this year and I saw the movie with my mom when I was little. It’s such a classic love story. Are you sure you want to go?” Natalie asked.
“Love story huh?”
Natalie laughed, “Change your mind?”
“Absolutely not! I’m seventeen, it’s about time I broadened my horizons.
They agreed to go get dinner and call Blanche to see if it was alright if they were home late.
CHAPTER FOUR- More then a feeling
Gram Millers house was a quaint Victorian style cottage a short walk from the beach. It was her childhood home and although her family would prefer that she move to a seniors complex she was adamant that as long as she was living she would take care of herself. She had raised her family here with a man she loved. There had been some lean years and she had gone without many luxuries to keep her home. Sadly she realized that she was getting to a point in her life where she knew that taking care of herself was getting increasingly difficult but she wasn’t yet willing to give in.
The Miller women were sitting on the veranda sipping iced tea when Natalie
and Johnny returned.
“You kids look like you had fun,’ Gram Miller exclaimed.
“We went to surf coaster. It was a blast!” Johnny replied enthusiastically, leaning down to kiss his grandmother.
Johnny’s mom poured them iced tea and motioned for them to sit down.
Nora Miller felt much older than her thirty three years. Married at seventeen and divorced before her twentieth birthday she missed out on those carefree teenage years her son was now enjoying. Though she envied him that she certainly wanted him to experience all that life had to offer. Even though she had given up a lot of herself over the years she lived for and through her son. She remembered in those early days when John walked out on her, her son was her saving grace. She woke up to see his smile each day; she would kiss his forehead when she tucked him in at night and hope that his dreams were pleasant. His blue eyes were always so full of wonder and surprise. He was curious of the world around him and that had continued to serve him well throughout the years. Johnny was always anxious to try new things and see new places. Nora remembered fondly the scout trip he took to Washington when he was eleven years old. He was the only boy in his chapter to raise the thousand dollars need to take the trip and he did so of his own ingenuity. The framed picture sat prominently on a table in her living room. It showed her young son in his redskins ball cap standing proudly outside the gates of the White House. She looked at him now at seventeen. He was tall and handsome with a smile that could melt ice. She felt a sudden tug at her heart when she thought of his father at that age. His smile was the first thing that attracted her to him. He was always so happy in those days. ‘Probably drunk!’ she thought, thinking back. She had long ago given up the notion that he and Johnny would form a relationship. Johnny had little interest and her ex no longer had the inclination to get out of his own way. For almost fourteen years she had been mom and dad. She made dinner, she tossed the football around the yard, and she went to the ball games. Now her own mother was getting older and she faced the reality that quite soon she would be caring for her mother and son full-time. Her mother had always been her support system and she owed her as much but secretly Nora dreamed of a life of her own. Essentially she was a young woman and she dreamed of the kind of freedom and romance till now she’d only read about or saw on TV. She had never been outside of the New England states and she had never even gotten her driver’s license. She had become quite dependent on Johnny since he had gotten his but she knew it wouldn’t be long before he got busy again with school, sports and his own life. She made a decision right then and there to invest a little more time in herself.
“Penny for your thoughts Ms. Miller.” Natalie interrupted her thoughts
“For Goodness sake Natalie, please call me Nora.”
“OK Nora,” she replied, “I caught you lost in thought.
“It must be the heat dear. Speaking of, it’s to hot to turn the oven on so we’re going to have sandwiches and strawberry shortcake.”
“Sounds good to me,” Johnny rubbed his belly in mock starvation.
“I’ll help you Nora,” Natalie stood.
“I’ll entertain Gram,” Johnny stated.
“I’m sure you will. Nora winked at him.
The ladies made ham and cheese and cucumber sandwiches and an incredible dessert of strawberry shortcake on homemade biscuits. Nora joined Natalie and Johnny after dinner as they tossed the football around the front lawn. Johnny was a precision thrower and caught the ball with ease. Nora allowed Johnny to play junior football and he excelled at the sport. Nora was amazed at his speed and agility and encouraged his love of the game at every opportunity. She had never been fascinated with sports growing up but for Johnny’s sake she decided to take up an interest so that they were able to converse about it and therefore she was able to stay involved in his life. Football was his passion but he also participated in soccer and rugby and was a die hard NASCAR fan.
It wasn’t long before the heat put a damper on their football toss.
Nora took Johnny aside, “Honey I’m going to say here with Mom for a couple of days so you and Natalie can drive home when you like.
“Is Gram OK?” Johnny asked.
“She’s fine, I think,” Nora began, “I’m just a bit concerned about her mobility and her forgetfulness.
“Natalie and I aren’t going home until later anyway; we’re going to the drive in.”
“What are you seeing?” Nora asked.
“Yeah seriously. Natalie’s a huge classic movie buff.”
“Well you’re quite a gentleman,” Nora beamed, “I hope you enjoy it. It’s one of the most beautiful love stories of all time.
“Ah Mom, I didn’t know you were such a romantic,” Johnny teased.
“I used to be.” She answered wistfully.
Johnny hugged her then. A little tighter than usual she thought.
“Wait, wait,” she yelled after them as they got in the truck, “does Blanche know you are going to be late?’
“She does.” Natalie replied
“Hey Mom, why don’t you settle Gram in and come with us.”
“Thank you but no,” Nora replied, “Didn’t I raise a good boy Natalie?’
“You sure did Ms.; sorry, Nora.” Natalie answered awkwardly.
“Mom I’m not just being polite. We’d be happy to have you.”
“Go on you two. I’ve got things to do. Besides Johnny, one pretty girl should be enough for you.’ At that Nora turned and walked up the flower lined path to the house.
Dusk came early and the air cooled as quickly as the darkness fell.
“Mom was right you know,” Johnny remarked casually.
“Right about what?” Natalie asked.
“That you’re pretty,” Johnny said, avoiding eye contact.
“Well thanks,” Natalie replied sneaking a sideways glance at him. When she noticed the blush on his cheeks hers immediately flared bright red.
Thank goodness for the distraction of the movie. It was the original movie, a masterful adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights which brilliantly told the tale of the tortured love affair of Heathcliff and Cathy. It was a powerful tale speaking of the depths of passion and what hatred and revenge can do to a soul. Under a moonlit sky the two friends sat together closely and quietly as the tale of the unrequited love of Cathy and Heathcliff unfolded. She recalled a childhood memory of being curled up on the sofa with her mother and the beautiful Catherine was telling Ellen that she and Heathcliff had become so much a part of one another that it was hard to tell where one person ended and the other began. She had always tried to be the right kind of girl, who married well and resisted passion, but by nature she was wildly passionate and uninhibited, like Heathcliff. On the big screen looming lifelike out of the darkness Cathy spoke from her heart “He’s more myself then I am. Whatever our souls are made of his and mine are the same. Linton’s is as different as frost from fire. My one thought in living is Heathcliff. Ellen I am Heathcliff.” Natalie’s eyes filled with tears, maybe at the memory of her mother, maybe because Heathcliff left before hearing Cathy’s admission of love or maybe at the thought that you could love another person so deeply that you felt they were a part of you.
To be continued
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