FICTION: Lanie’s First Kiss – Part 1

June 9, 2009 § 1 Comment

Since I’ve focused most of my creativity on writing lately (happily), I’ve decided to put some bits of fiction up. They’re not necessarily full stories, just some clips and scenes and character sketches I’m working on as I put together an outline/timeline for a full length novel. I do it mostly as discipline check for myself. If people expect to read stuff, I’ll have to write it. But I’m not going to give a definite “every tuesday” or “a scene in ten chapters” type thing. When it goes up…it goes up. AND YOU’LL LIVE WITH THAT AND YOU’LL LIKE IT. So, let’s proceed.

When she was younger, her family took an annual vacation to a resort lodge in the North Woods of Wisconsin on the shores of Pine Lake. It was always the second week of July, the same room in the lodge, the same seats in the dining room. It was a tradition her parents kept to this day – their home away from home.

The Five Pines Lodge was filled with other families keeping their own traditions as well, and seeing them at dinner on that first hot gold summer night was like a family reunion complete with hugs and tears and packs of glossy photos passed back and forth, holding memories of the same people in the same dining room, on the same kind of hot gold summer night the year before. But the year Lanie turned fourteen, that night was different. There was a hushed tone as the families gathered, welcomes were whispered in earnest, hugs held a bit longer than usual, heavy with a truer affection than before. As the room filled, more people shot sideways glances toward the table set yearly for the Harris family.

The Harris’ were a young sporty family of five, Michael the architect and his wife Amy were a few years younger than Lanie’s parents and they had a six year old boy and twins, aged ten. They’d spent the second week of July at Five Pines Lodge since Michael was a boy himself, never missing their week in the woods – even bringing their newborn son Ricky to the lodge when he was only a week old. Mr. Harris was always the one to organize an afternoon hike or a softball game, and was as popular with the kids as he was with their parents. Lanie’s father had jokingly referred to him as their dedicated cruise director – summer vacation wouldn’t be the same without him. But that night the cruise director’s table was empty.

It wasn’t until everyone had found their seats and began ordering their meals that the double doors to the veranda swung open letting Michael Harris step inside. Behind him were his twins, Max and Maddy wearing bright summer clothes that belied the gray shadows of their blank faces. Even now, fourteen years later, Lanie remembered the eerieness of that expression. They didn’t look sad or angry, they weren’t forcing a fake shallow happiness or stone faced bravery. They were just shells, like the neutral bodies and faces of the people in anatomy text books, eyes forward, brows relaxed, mouths a pale pink horizon – the subtle downward curve of the earth. Eerie, to be sure, but no one in the lodge expected them to be smiling.

Amy and Ricky Harris were dead. It happened not long after last summer’s trip, a well publicized plane explosion that killed 187 passengers three minutes after take off. Michael and his remaining children, an uncomfortable grouping, like a word missing letters but leaving the spaces, were supposed to take comfort in the fact that their loved ones had felt nothing. Take comfort in knowing that his six year old boy on his way to see his grandmother was most likely dead before he had a chance to know he was dying. These were emphatic assurances given by amateurs, school teachers, systems analysts, retirees, no one who had ever been in a plane crash and certainly no one who had ever died in a fiery explosion. That summer Lanie’s mother explained to her the term “cold comfort”.

Despite the initial shock of seeing the tragedy in the flesh, it seemed that this vacation was exactly what the Harris family needed. It wasn’t long before old friends, some closer than family, gathered around to hug and kiss them, to offer them the support and love that they’d waited a year to give, and before dessert was served, Lanie was surprised to hear little Maddy laughing at something her father had said. She turned in her chair to see the whole family smiling, heads bent close together in conversation, holding each other up. After all, they’d had a year to grieve their loss, to move ahead, to make their peace. It was everyone on the outside whose wounds were torn anew.



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