In my day my parents would trounce us for less.”

Sheryl’s Daily Prompt

The older woman, who looked as though she’d lived a life, some good some bad seemed harried to say the least. Loosened tendrils of gray hair hung softly down the sides of her face as she hustled, broom in hand, after three youngsters as she chased them out of the store. As they raced passed they nearly knocked me sideways giggling and laughing the entire time. I grabbed onto a shelf to remain upright, not that I was hurt, just startled. At a guess, I’d say they were in their early teens about twelve or thirteen.

“Don’t know what the world’s coming to. In my day my parents would trounce us for less.” Still shaking her broom at their retreating backs she sighed and turned toward me. “You ok, miss?”

“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”

“Anything you need in particular?”

“Actually, there is.” I looked expectantly toward her to find her stopping short and staring as though she knew me. We had never met before, but her eyes spoke volumes.

“You look very familiar young lady.” She paused. “Yet I’m sure we’ve never met before.”

“No, mam, we haven’t. Although you may have known, or at least I’m hoping you might have known my parents. My mother in particular.”

You could see time click into place for the woman and she stepped back a pace and turned pale. “Jemma Dean.”

“Yes, that was my mother.”

Turning, she walked behind the counter and settled on a stool, the broom completely forgotten in her hand. “You look so like her. I thought for a second you were but time passes and it couldn’t be.”

“Did you know her well?”

“You could say that.”

“I found your name among some letters she’d written and which had been returned unopened. I opened one addressed to you.”

The woman hung her head and I wasn’t sure it was guilt shame or disgust that prompted the action, but when she lifted her head, her eyes held a mixture of all three. “I should have read them. I’m ashamed to say I was too angry at the time. She needed me and I let her down.”

The bent gray-haired woman, Bethany Bridges according to the letters, stood and motioned for me to follow, which I did. She to a young man and he hurried toward the till as we walked into the back room where coffee sat, for how long was difficult to tell. It smelled somewhat bitter. She picked up a cup and poured before holding out a cup toward me and I declined. “Sit.” We walked a few paces to an old-style table and chairs and I waited expectantly for what was to come.

“Your mother and I were by way of friends. Good friends. I freely admit I loved her dearly and her leaving like that with that man, Jacob, who at the time was nothing less than a scoundrel, angered me to the point that I wouldn’t forgive her for leaving me for him. I was foolish, very foolish. Sometimes we learn life the hard way. In stubbornly sticking to my self pity, I lost a dear friend. Then I was too prideful to open her letters and read about her life, a life without me.”

“There’s one letter, I brought with me, I think you should read. It’s important I think and had great meaning to her.” I took it from my purse and handed it across. She hesitated then lifted a trembling hand to take the letter.

When I would have risen to leave, she pleaded, “Stay! Won’t you?” So I sat while she carefully unfolded the letter. Not a word was said as she slowly read the three pages but a single tear trickled down her wrinkled cheek and she lifted pained eyes. “Thank you.”

“I this one was personal and important and something you might wish to read.”

“Read!” She handed me the letter and I quickly scanned its contents feeling a tad uncomfortable. When I’d finished I handed the letter back; she folded it and placed it back into the envelope.

“She was a good woman and dear friend. She deserved better from me. I let her down.”

“The contents of that letter suggest your actions didn’t matter that she carried you in her heart. I know she spoke of her childhood friend often with great affection and I can tell you, there was no bitterness involved.”

“Was it a good life? Did she have a good life?”

“I believe she did. My father made her very happy, right up until he passed a couple of years ago to cancer.”

“What happened with your mother? I take it something did or she would have come herself.”

“She got sick and before the doctors could determine what it was, she passed away. Personally, I think it was loneliness or a broken heart. I’m really not sure which. She was never quite the same after he died. She carried on, did all the regular activities, but she stopped dancing, singing, humming and even her art suffered.”

“She always could dance, she loved it so. I’m glad she found someone that enjoyed it a much as she. Will you stay, tell me more about her life? What I missed?”

“Certainly, if that is your wish. I’d love to learn more about her childhood too; especially about the antics you two used to get up to. I heard there was plenty of amusement to go round.”

She laughed. “Yes, it was amusing to us, if no one else, certainly not our parents.” She smirked at the thought.

“Where are you staying?”

“I haven’t booked anything yet. I wasn’t sure how this would go.”

“Then you can come stay with me.”

“I’d like that,” I said.

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