A couple of years ago, Magpie Tales started weekly prompts for writers. For a while, I wrote regularly on another blog, then was interrupted by a vacation or something, and somehow just never got back into the swing. But I really did enjoy coming up with short stories now and again, so have decided to try it out once more. Magpie Tales, now calls itself The Mag, and this week’s prompt:
Follow this link to enjoy other submissions. And here’s what I came up with:
As she picked up the ashtray, her lips compressed into a thin straight line with her disapproval. It was all she could do not to pinch her nose to shut out the smell.
But that would never do, not with everybody around.
It was another celebration, another milestone for the company, another conquest for her husband. She had no idea what this one was about, really didn’t care. These occasions had come regularly over the years, more and more frequently, now happening several times a year.
And always, ever, at their house. Why, oh, why had she made that offer to host that very first celebration? The partners, and their wives, most of whom had some relationship to the company, just simply accepted that first offer and then ever after assumed that it was her pleasure, her contribution, her responsibility….to plan, to clean, to shop, to prep, to decorate, to bake, to cook, to smile, to chat, to serve, to entertain, and to clean up their mess.
And they all smoked, well, almost all.
And it never seemed to occur to any of them that smoking, and their second-hand smoke, would be offensive, or even just unpleasant to somebody else.
And they certainly never, ever picked up and emptied an overflowing ashtray – that could spill over onto the furniture and floor. Nooooo, that wasn’t necessary. Besides, what was she there for, but to clean up after them?
Was she good for anything else? Married young, stayed at home with the children, volunteered at their schools, sang in the church choir, and hosted dinners and celebrations as her husband’s company grew and prospered. She had only a high school education, only ever worked at odd jobs during high school, had no talents to speak of, was short and dumpy, mousey haired, practically invisible in this crowd of talented, intelligent professionals. She wasn’t even sure if any of them knew her name.
Opening the door to the kitchen, she gazed around in dismay at the pots and pans stacked beside the stove, the dishes piled up near the dishwasher, the left-overs drying out on the counter, the spills and drips from cooking and serving hardening everywhere. Oh, well, might as well just get on with it. Nobody would miss her out there anyway, she didn’t have anything to add to their conversations about the world and politics, wars and finance, business and education.
As she loaded the dishwasher, stored away food, scrubbed pots and pans, tidied, wiped, swept, she longed for the evening to end so she could just curl up with a book, or better yet get back to her sewing room, tucked away upstairs with door closed so no smoking odors could affect the fabrics.
Most of her days, when not arranging one of these parties, were spent sewing – quilting actually. She’d discovered, when the children were young, that her sewing room and quilting were a haven from the busyness of life. Now that the children were grown and gone, she made quilts on request for friends and family, and the projects were piled up. She’d often thought how nice it would be to have a proper work-room, a place to run a quilting shop, selling fabrics, making quilts for customers, running classes and retreats for others to develop their quilting talents.
Just as she put the broom away, she heard her husband call her from the living room. Oh, people must be getting ready to leave. She put a smile on her face (easy to do now that she knew the party was coming to a close), and walked through the dining room.
Entering the living room, she saw the whole crowd gathered together in a bunch, no one making a move to put coats on. Oh, they must be wanting to toast whatever their most recent accomplishment was, they’d need more wine, and she started to turn to go back to get some.
But her husband said, ‘Wait, where are you going?’ As she turned back, they all raised filled glasses and cried out, as one, ‘To Linda’!
Her husband then came over to her, put his arms around her, and said, ‘I love you, Linda.’
The crowd parted, and on the credenza at the far side of the room sat a brand new top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art sewing machine, the one she’d been dreaming of for months. She stood totally dumb-struck, and one of the wives stepped forward and said, ‘For you, Linda, only the best for the best. This evening was in celebration of you, your generosity and hard work in hosting these parties, your patience with us as we concentrated on building our careers, your support over the years of this growing business, your putting your own desires and talents and career on the back burner. Now it’s your turn. Our latest acquisition is actually a shop down-town, where you can set up your quilting business. We’ll be your financial backers, we’ll support the technical aspects, but it’s your show. And we really didn’t want to leave you to do the clean-up, but we needed time to sneak in and unpack this beauty. To Linda!’
‘To Linda,’ the rest all chorused.
‘Oh, and honey, this is the last party you’ll host,’ her husband added. ‘Now that you’re a business woman, you’ll not have the time, so we’ll be planning our, and your, celebrations in the future at a restaurant.’
Linda just let the tears run. There was nothing she could say. They did know her name, who she was, what she loved.