Destiny Ever-changing
Author: Tasha Ivey

Chapter 3
Laura - Mystery Man

Laura:

 

As I pull into the bumpy, gravel drive leading up to Nana’s house, I notice that its appearance remains unchanged. Though it’s nothing special, I’ve always loved it. The house isn't big and extravagant like many of the other houses on this highway; it’s quite small, actually.

Built in the 1920’s, the quaint, white two-story home still has the original navy blue shutters and matching wooden front doorprecisely the same as it has been for ninety years. My grandparents have resided here since they were married in 1958. My grandpa made a few minor repairs throughout the years and touched up the paint, but, overall, they never altered the house. However, they did build a garage with an office upstairs back in the eighties, but it’s not adjoined to the house.

I pull up in front of the garage after passing the flower garden. Nana has quite a passion for flowers; the flowerbed is so large, it covers a majority of the front yard. There are roses, tulips, jonquils, pansies, lilies, and a number of flowers that I can’t name, all in nearly every color one can imagine. Her garden is a haven for butterflies, and, since she is usually alone, I almost believe that she considers them a part of her family.

Getting out of my car, I begin to wonder if she is even here. She normally would have been bounding out of the house before I could put my car into park. I take a few steps toward the house, and I have my answer.

The front door flings open, and I hardly recognize the petite, white-haired woman who is waving both arms in excitement. “My sweet Laura! You made it!”

“Nana! I’ve missed you so much!” I say after running to the porch and meeting her in a firm embrace. She seems so much smaller and feebler than when I saw her last.

“You must be hungry after your drive.” She ushers me inside the house. “I’ve been making your favorite double fudge cake since you called. I just put the frosting on it.”

“Nana, it was just a few hours’ drive,” I giggle.

“Nonsense, you need to eat something. You look like skin and bones. Haven’t you been eating well? I can tell you haven’t, so there’s no sense in denying it. I’m glad you came, so I can fatten you up for a few days.”

I smile and shake my head. “I’ve been eating well, I promise. I’ll be more than happy to take some of that cake off your hands, though.”

Without a word, she rushes into the kitchen, and I laugh. It's just like Nana to make sure you have food in your hands before any conversation can be had. I have a seat in the living area on a plush blue sofa and gaze around the room. The living room is relatively large, boasting a twenty-foot ceiling, and it has a loft bedroom overlooking the room. There is another bedroom on the main floor, which is my grandmother’s room, and at the rear of the house is a kitchen—a cook's dream—and a bathroom so small that you can barely turn around. 

There are pictures everywhere in the living room: on the mantel, on every end table, and covering nearly every free space on the walls. Nana has always taken so much pride in her pictures. Many pictures are of me in a variety of agessome that I wish I could destroy.

The mantel is covered with pictures of my grandparents, including pictures of their wedding. On the end table closest to me, there are several pictures of my mom as a teenager.  I am amazed at how much we look alike. If I put on some bellbottoms and feathered my hair, I think we could be twins, but I don’t think I’ll test that theory.

My mother's maiden name was Regina Phillips. She was a free spirit, they say, and everyone that met her loved her so much. She was always in a good mood, always had a broad smile on her face, loved to make people laugh, and never let life get her downno matter what happened. She lived each day to the fullest with no regrets, and she loved to the fullest, too.

Unfortunately, superficial similarities are all we have in common. I have always wished to be like her, but I am her polar opposite. I end up regretting nearly everything I do, and then I get depressed about it. I don’t trust anyone anymore, especially men, and when I try to trust, I get hurt. I’m not a “people-person” as my mother was, and I have a difficult time even looking happy when I am with large groups of people. If only she was here with me now. I truly wish she could show me her secret to happiness, so I could live like she didcarefree and truly content.

Well, it’s a nice dream, anyway . . .

“You still like sweet tea with lots of lemon, right?” Nana inquires while carrying in a plastic tray overflowing with plates.

“That’s right,” I confirm, my eyes widening at the spread of food before me. “I thought you were just bringing cake, not a full-course meal!”

She winks at me. “Like I said, you need to eat something.”

I just smile and take a bite of the ham and cheese sandwich that she made, stuffing my mouth a little too full. I quickly realize that I am pretty hungry, and I finish every last thing on my plate. I haven’t eaten since long before the fight with Alex.

Seeing the look of dread flash across my face, Nana looks at me with sad eyes. “So are you going to tell me why you are here, or not? I’m so pleased you came, but I know you’re not just here for a visit.”

I look down, trying to figure out where to start. The words just seem trapped in my throat. Realizing that I was struggling, she leans over and puts her arms around me, so I put my head on her shoulder, and my tears start soaking into her cotton sleeve. It feels so good to have someone to cry on, and I take full advantage of it.

“I broke up with Alex, and I’m going back home,” I finally whimper, wiping my eyes.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry. Who was he running around on you with?”

I abruptly stop crying and sit up. “How did you know that? I haven’t told anyone except Fawn!”

“Oh, I always had a feeling about him,” she says with a frown. “I just never said anything to you.”

“Why not? You should have!”

“Would you have broken things off with him just because I had a bad feeling?”

She’s right. “No, probably not. It’s something that I had to find out on my own.”

As I fill her in on all of the humiliating, gruesome details, she quietly listensas she always does. I’m relieved to get it all off my chest; it’s a very liberating experience. The more I talk, the lighter I feel. I tell her everything: I talk about Alex, my past relationships, how unsure I am about where I’m going with my life, and about my fear of starting over again.

Once I have voiced every concern, she smiles at me sympathetically. “I think you did the right thing by coming here. You do need some time to get away from it all and think about what you want out of life.”

“No life-altering advice this time?” I ask, jokingly serious.

“I can’t do this one for you, dear. The only way you are going to be happy with your life is to figure out what you truly want to get out of it.  No one can make your mind up for you. The heart wants what it wants, and until you figure out what that is, you’ll never find happiness. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but this is something you’re going to have to sort out on your own.”

How do I figure it out, Nana? You would think I would know what I want out of life by this point. I’m beginning to think I’m destined to be miserable my whole life.”

“I remember your mom saying that once,” she recalls with her eyes beginning to glisten.

“What are you talking about?” I ask. “I thought Mom was always so cheerful. I never remember her being sad, and no one has ever mentioned her ever being depressed.”

“She went through a somewhat gloomy period when she was a teenager, as most teens do,” she explains as she carefully stacks our empty dishes. “She was extremely depressed, moody, and beyond hard to live with. As a matter of fact, we didn’t get along very well for quite some time. I guess she was around seventeen when I noticed a change in her, and we were able to speak again.”

She piles the plates and cups onto the tray and walks into the kitchen.  I can’t imagine my mom ever being unhappy. Maybe, she just had a few bad days, and Nana is blowing it out of proportion. Everyone has bad days. Then again, I guess every teenager goes through a moody period at some point. I wonder what the sudden change was that made her happier.

I jump up and walk into the kitchen and see Nana stooping over the sink. “So what was it?”

She jumps at the sound of my voice, not realizing I came in. “Oh, you scared the devil out of me! What was what, honey?”

“You said when she was seventeen, you noticed a change in her,” I remind her. “What was it that made the difference? Do you know?”

She stops her washing, dries her hands, and sits down at the kitchen table, silently patting the chair next to her. “She found love, sweetheart. She was just as unlucky as you are in relationships, which really took a toll on her. Until that one summer, she met the young man that changed all that.”

“I didn’t realize that Mom and Dad started dating that early,” I say, bewildered.

She shakes her head. “It wasn’t your dad, sweetheart. She didn’t meet him until she was nearly twenty.”

“Are you serious?” I ask, feeling like my eyes are so wide that they could pop out of my head any second.

Nana just laughs. “You don’t think a person can love more than once in their life? Your mom genuinely loved your dad more than anything, but it was different than her first love.  Your first real love is always incomparable, and it changes your life completely—sometimes in good ways and sometimes bad. In your mom’s case, it was both. You just haven‘t found it yet.”

“Wow . . .” I finally manage to whisper. “I had no idea . . .”

Suddenly, she jumps up as if someone lit her on fire and scurries into her bedroom. I just sit here confused and wait for her return. You never know what is going through her mind or what she is going to do.

I still can’t believe that my dad wasn’t my mom’s first love. I had never heard anything about any other guys in her life, so I always just assumed that my dad was it. In a way, it bothers me to have that perfect little bubble burst, knowing that my mom loved someone else. I wonder if my dad knew about him. Even more, I wonder what happened between them that caused them to split up. If her luck was anything like mine, she may have had her share of cheaters, too.

I hear Nana’s old slippers scuffing against the wood floor on her way back to the kitchen. She walks in carrying a large box labeled “Regina."

I stand to take the heavy box from her and set it on the table. “What is all of this stuff?”

“Some of your mom’s old things,” she says, handing me an armload of stuffed animals. “I’m trying to find something.”

“Like what?” I ask as she piles some books into my already overloaded arms.

“This!” she cheers, waving something metallic around in the air.

She sets it aside and asks me to help her put the rest of the things back in the box. I finally carry it back to her bedroom closet and wrestle the bulky box onto the highest shelf, somehow managing to stir every dust particle within the deep recesses of the closet.

While trying to suppress a sneeze—and failing miserably—I come back into the kitchen and see her sitting at the table with the mystery object clasped in her hand. After I sit down, she holds her closed fist out to me and slowly opens her hand, allowing a silver, heart-shaped locket to slink from her hand to mine. It is a little tarnished, but still beautiful.

“Was this Mom’s locket?”

“Yes, it certainly was. She loved that old thing. I found it at an antique sale when I was a young woman, and I gave it to her when she was thirteen. Look inside.”

I carefully try to open it, but it looks so fragile that I’m afraid of breaking it. It finally pops open, revealing a faded picture in each side of the heart. The picture on the left is my mother; the picture on the right is . . . definitely not my dad.

“Is this the guy you were telling me about? The one that she fell in love with?”

 “That’s him. He was a good-looking young man, wasn’t he? Your mom sure could pick ‘em.”

“Yeah, my dad was pretty handsome, himself,” I say as I carefully close the locket and hold it out to her.

 “No, your mom would have loved for you to have it. We’ll need to clean it up a bit, though.” She immediately pulls the polish out of the cabinet, and within a few minutes, the silver is gleaming.

“Allow me,” she offers with a tender smile as she clasps the delicate chain around my neck. “It looks stunning on you.”

I reach up and touch the locket resting on my chest, knowing that my mom had probably done the exact thing many times. I am suddenly overcome with curiosity. Who is this guy, and what happened to them? I have to find out.

 

 

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