Now that Jeannine had retired, she was determined to follow her passion – her bliss, as Nora, her rather yoga-new-age-left-over-hippy friend-from-forever, liked to say. After 31 years of encouraging acne-ridden teens to pour out their hearts in an endless stream of soul-less prompts, Jeannine was on the road to life as a real writer.
Tea in a porcelain cup steaming gently beside her. Computer screen open. Silence echoing through the spotlessly clean living room. Jeannine sipped the tea. She had chosen Lady Jane Grey tea as a delicate but statement-laden beverage.
The tea cooled. Her page remained blank.
The phone rang. “Hey babe,” Nora boomed. Jeannine winced. “How’s the great novel coming?”
“I’ve got a couple of ideas that have some real possibilities,” Jeannine lied.
“Ready for a break? I’ve got this charity bingo thing for gay rights tomorrow, and I need to hit the thrift store for a costume – pirate theme – and sweetheart, I don’t have a thing to wear.”
Jeannine forced back a reprehensible giggle. Nora was insane. Some days a good quality; some days not so much.
“Sure, I’ve done enough that I can take a short break.”
Lies all lies. But the blank screen was mocking her and a trip to the thrift store might give her some material.
An hour later Jeannine was at the shop. Nora swept her an exaggerated bow and threw open the door. With unseemly zest they tore through the racks, and amid a completely ridiculous amount of laughing and giggling, tried on multiple flared skirts, ratty boas, and flowery shawls.
“This is it!” Nora shrieked, holding a ribbonny bodice that absolutely demanded ripping. Carried away on the tide of laughter, Jeannine grabbed a shirt with poufy sleeves.
“Oh, you have to,” Nora cooed.
“Okay, okay, I’ll come,” Jeannine felt a throb of guilty pleasure. How long had it been since she had done something silly and fun for no good reason? No wait! A fundraiser for gay rights was a good reason.
Conscience completely assuaged, she paid up and accompanied Nora for just one drink at the Whistle Stop Pub. And it would have been one, except Lyle an old railroad guy with a sly smile and a lot of questionable stories kept them in a ripple of laughter. Falling into bed that night, Jeannine made strong promises to herself not to be distracted from her work.
Jeannine went for straight Earl Grey, no milk or sugar. She definitely needed a stronger statement to get her moving. Yesterday had been a complete waste. How was she going to become a serious novelist if she didn’t maintain a serious schedule?
She ignored a call from Lyle (how did he get her number, anyway?) and finally answered Nora’s fourth call.
“I’m writing,” Jeannine snarled.
“Whatever,” Nora responded. “I saw a sweet sale for boots that I can wear with tonight’s costume. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
She hung up before Jeannine could sputter a refusal.
Jeannine knew if she had any will at all, she would not be standing on the curb waiting for Nora’s car to pull up. But she needed some new boots herself. Now that she was no longer teaching, she anticipated long, inspiring walks in the country to nurture her muse. She had to have the footwear.
Nora bought some ridiculous lace-ups that were clearly intended for a sixteen-year-old punk rocker. Jeannine fell in love with a soft faux-leather, thickly lined pair that would be cozy on the trails.
“Not much style,” Nora commented.
“I’m into substance,” Jeannine responded, a little stung.
“Yeah…they do look comfy,” Nora compromised.
There were several more sales to be looked into, so it was gone four o’clock before Jeannine tottered back into her house, arms loaded with fabulous purchases.
“I’ll be back at 6:30 to pick you up for the bingo!” Nora hollered out the window as she pulled away.
Jeannine smacked her forehead. How could she have forgotten? It took her until past six to make a semblance of a pirate costume. But she did it. Her old ingenuity as a teacher trying to provide for a class with never enough materials stepped in. She ripped the hems of ancient black pants (previously destined for garden work), donned the poufy shirt, covered it with a floral vest from a thousand years before that she had always liked too much to give away, and finally tied a striped tea towel around her head. Fabulous.
When Nora showed up, her friend shrieked with laughter as she added a penciled unibrow, moustache, and stubble.
“I haven’t had so much fun since I dressed up for Halloween,” Jeannine said.
“And how long ago was that?”
“Too long,” Jeannine admitted. “Way too long.”
Bingo was a blast. Nora won a “Basket of Delight” that included wine, a lot of chocolate and several unmentionables. Jeannine laughed until it hurt at the divalicious parade. The evening raised more than two thousand dollars.
“Night!” yelled Nora out the window as she sped off. Only wobbling a little from a couple too many drinks and more laughter than she’d experienced in a year, Jeannine let herself into her house, and collapsed gratefully into bed.
Jeannine brewed the tea until it had the consistency of loose tar. She had to get focused. With a flush of guilt she remembered the years of chivvying reluctant students who said they didn’t know what to write. Propping her head on her hands, Jeannine could have wept.
“Write about something you care about…” had been her mantra.
So what did she care about? Her career was over. Her family consisted of a divorced brother on the coast and a nephew that she wasn’t sure she would recognize. What did she possibly have to care about? And who really cared about her when it came down to it?
The phone rang. Jeannine seized it, grateful for anything that would rescue her from her thoughts.
“Hey beautiful,” Nora said. “What’s up? Weather’s gorgeous. I’m meeting a few friends for a stroll through town. Interested?”
Jeannine knew she was crying, and it was okay. For years she had experienced “Adventures with Nora,” and she knew that her best friend would drag her willy-nilly into events and laughter. A never-ending fountain of life…and material.
“I’ve got an idea for a story,” she said. “Let me work for a couple of hours, and then I’ll meet you. Just tell me when and where. I’ll be there.”