For today’s Writing Prompt Wednesday, I decided to post a short story I wrote a few years back ~
(Maybe I’ll write a new short story to post some day soon)
The lavender lilies sitting on my kitchen table remind me of that day all too well; the day my family followed the black hearse carrying my grandma to the church to say our final goodbyes to our grandmother. Lilies were her favorite flower and I still remember seeing her in her green sunflower sweater watering the lilies in her front yard as I would walk up the sidewalk to see her. “My sweet granddaughter!”, she’d say, “What a lovely surprise!” We’d drink coffee, my favorite drink , as I would update her on my life and she’d tell me old stories about her childhood.
Now, two years later, I’m sitting at my kitchen table completely shocked at what I just heard. My boyfriend, Ethan, was planning on joining the marines. We dated for 14 months, but honestly, I never saw it coming. Just thinking about him leaving me next August really frightens me. He was the one that finally comforted me after my grandma’s funeral. How was I supposed to lose him, too?
Exhausted from my intense amount of thinking, I snatched my Chevy keys, picked up my Iphone 5 from the table, threw on an Underarmour hoodie, and went out to my car. I needed a distraction, any kind of distraction. Right as I got into my car, my phone buzzed. It was Ethan, it said “Can we talk, please?” I guess not answering his texts or phone calls after he broke the news to me was a mistake.
I drove all the way to 7th Street Starbucks, my favorite coffee shoppe in all of Chicago. I went in, sat up at the counter, and ordered a mocha frappuccino. I rested my forehead on my hands while wishing my grandma could be here right now. She was always so clairvoyant; she always knew when something was bothering me. I could really use her advice now, even though I know exactly what she would say: “It’ll be okay, sweetie pie; have another cup of coffee!” Strangely enough, those kind words always did make me feel better.
The lady in the green Starbucks yelled, “Isabella, your grande mocha frappuccino is ready.” I grabbed my much anticipated drink, told the lady to have a good day, then turned around to leave. As I turn around, I see a shiny penny laying on the ground. While noticing our sixteenth president’s face smiling up at me, I remember what my grandma always said: “Always pick it up, Bella dear. It’s good luck!” Knowing I would never go against her wishes, I leaned down to pick the penny up.
In that moment, I felt my stomach fly up, kind of like the feeling you get when you reach the highest hill in a roller coaster and then start going down at what seems like terminal velocity; my head started spinning around like I’m five years old again and my brother keeps turning me in my mom’s office chair. Next thing I knew, I’m standing in an old movie’s coffee shop with women in long, flared skirts and bloused sleeves to their forearms. They’re holding newspapers while sipping mugs of coffee. The front of the newspapers say, “Nixon makes speech on Vietnam War.” That’s funny, I never heard of the newspaper talking about past stories on the front page, I thought to myself. I slip the penny in my back pocket and begin to walk through the door, right when I noticed a mini radio that was playing “If You Really Love Me” by Stevie Wonder in the corner on a tiny table. I didn’t remember a radio being there… and I also didn’t remember this place being filled with ladies holding screaming kids when I first walked in. And, the starbucks workers were wearing brown aprons now with long skirts… and, since when was “Carol’s Cafe” written on the wall behind the counter? And where were my keys, and my iPhone? And why was this lady staring at my summer blue jean shorts like I was showing too much skin? Clearly, she needs to see some of the girls that go to my school. I shook it off, blamed it all on me being way too distracted with my boyfriend drama, and I was just about to finally walk through the door until I ran into a young mom with a stroller coming through the door. The newspaper she had laying in the side of the stroller fell to the ground, and as I knelt down to pick it up, I see the date: January 17, 1971.
I stood back up with my mouth wide open as my palms got sweatier by the second. This didn’t make any sense… 1971? What? The lady I ran into looked at me and said, with sincere compassion in her voice, “I know, the pictures they show here are scary, huh? My husband is in the war, leaving just me and my babygirl here with me.” She shut the coffee shop door and walked over to the burnt orange couch by the radio and sat down, while taking her baby out of the stroller and setting her on her lap. Without even thinking, I sat next to her, completely entranced by the date typed on the newspaper. 1971… how…? My mind couldn’t even fathom any thoughts.
The lady’s blue eyes looked at me, while finally growing concerned as to why my fingers seemed to be crinkling the newspaper as my face got beat red. “Oh, dear, your father must be in the war too. Well, don’t you worry- they do always pick the most gruesome pictures to put on the front page. So, what branch is he in?” I looked at her, completely incredulous. Without even thinking, I told her marines; the same branch Ethan wanted to go into. A smile grew on her face. “Same with my husband! He was drafted in 1969, right before we were married. He’s been back a few times, of course, that’s how we got this little one here.” She smiled while kissing the top of her daughter’s head. I looked at her while I pointed to the date on the newspaper: “Is it really 1971?” She laughed a hearty laugh and said, “Has been for a while now, dear. Remember, New Year’s?” I laughed, too. The question did sound ridiculous, but for a completely different reason than she thought it was. “Well, I guess it’s still hard to believe. Time flies,” I said, trying to cover it up. “That it does. I still remember this sweetiepie being born. Of course, her dad missed it, being away at war and all. But, he’s sent endless presents, no doubt. Such a sweet man.” She seemed so calm, what with her husband being away for so long. I couldn’t help but ask, “So how did you feel when he was drafted?”
Her sweet smile suddenly turned serious and nostalgic. “It was heartbreaking..” Her voice was prudent, as if trying hard not to give away too much of her depressing feelings. She was resilient, though; her bright, sunshiney smile was back before I could blink. “But, when the person you love wants to be a part of something to help endless amounts of people, an amount you couldn’t even imagine, then you support him. Even if it leaves you and your little Jennifer,” she slightly laughed, while kissing the top of Jennifer’s forehead again. I smiled, too. This lady was really pretty; she had medium length, blonde curly hair. Her oceanic blue eyes reminded me of my own eye color, the eye color I got from my grandma. She wore a long, beige dress that went down to her ankles. “That’s my mom’s name, too.” I told her, while taking a sip of my mocha frappuccino, which is now just a regular mug of coffee.
Finally, it all hit me; her baby’s name was Jennifer, just like my mom. She had bright blue eyes, just like me. And her husband was in the Vietnam war, just like my grandpa.
This was my grandmother, from back in 1971.
Tears began spilling from my eyes and I was speechless. Life had brought me back forty four years, just to see my grandmother and have her remind me of my grandfather’s diligent work in the Vietnam war; when he missed my mother’s birth, her first birthday, her first words, and when she began to crawl, all so he could fight for our country. I remember hearing my grandma’s stories about him and how, when he came back in 1972, everything was better than ever. How, even though she missed him incredibly, when he was home, it was all worth it.
Seeing the obvious grief hidden behind my 1971 grandma’s smile, I take her hand, eager to console her, and say “Just like my grandma always said… “It’ll be okay, have another cup of coffee!” She laughed while squeezing my hand. “I’m sure your grandmother would be beyond proud of you,” she said, while her blue eyes blazed right on me.
Next thing I knew, the coffee shop was spinning around me again, and I landed right on my butt.
People rushed toward me, with hands flying out to help me get back up, obviously worried at how hard I fell. But these weren’t just any people- people wearing short skirts and tank tops. The coffee shop was back to normal; the Starbucks workers back in their green aprons and the radio over the speaker was now playing Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” I was back in my decade.
As I got up, while reassuring the kind people I was okay, I grabbed my iPhone out of my pocket, ecstatic to have it back in my hand, and found Ethan’s name in my contacts. I sent him a text saying “You’re amazing, and I’m proud of you.”