Fiction Fragment Friday

Ok admission time. I just took the lights off of my tree today and will be taking it down this weekend. I am horrible about taking down the Christmas Tree and leaving it up WAY too long. Thinking about that put the first few lines of today’s story into my head. Some of the rest came from a novel I started but never finished. The first in a series I wanted to write, but moved on from.

I will warn you this week’s story has some emotions to it and is not a light and fun story.

                “Oh, how cute.  Are you doing a Christmas in July thing?”  I had just let Miss Debrowski into my living room and the first thing she noticed was the fully decorated Christmas Tree in the corner.  It would have been kind of hard to miss between the flashing lights and bright silverish blue garland.  The tree was beautiful and every time I walked in I couldn’t help but stop for a moment and take in the sight.    

                “Why yes I..”  I started to lie trying to deflect.  I thought I could play into her assumption and make it into more of a choice, but my son just couldn’t let it go.  He started speaking at the same time I did cutting me off.

                “Yeah, if by Christmas in July you mean it’s gonna be July next week and she still hasn’t taken it down from December.”  His tone dripped with a kind of sarcasm that can only truly be achieved by a teenager.  He couldn’t let me try to save face.  He had to take every chance he could to get a dig in. 

                “Jeremy this is Miss Debrowski.  She’s here to do the home assessment for the Mayflower project.  Please be on your best behavior.”  I gave him a look that I hoped told him not to screw this up for me.  It blended threat with desperate pleading.  By the eye roll he gave me, I could tell he didn’t care. 

                “It’s ok Mrs. Micheals.  Jeremy, you know your mother works very hard and I’m sure she’s tired when she comes home.  Perhaps you could have helped her keep the house in order and take the decorations down.”  I fought down the desire to come to my son’s defense.  Sure, he was lazy, but no one should talk about him like that but me.  I also wanted to defend my house, but even knowing she was coming sometime this week I hadn’t cleaned.  Of course, he has never needed me to defend him, and he always knows just what to say to make things worse.        

                “Oh, I’d love to take it down, but she won’t let me touch it.”  He pointed at me as he said it.  I winced a bit at the anger in his voice.  “I touch anything in here, and she’ll bite my head off.  You know what piss off.”  My instinct was to stop him as he stomped up the stairs to his room.  I was frozen in place though.  I didn’t know if it would look worse getting into a fight with him or seeming helpless as he stormed out.  Instead of doing something I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing that instead I did nothing.  It was a mistake I had been making too often the last six months.  Just letting things happen without taking a part in shaping them. 

                “Don’t worry Mrs. Micheals I know how kids can be.  Besides it must be a difficult time for him.  We should probably get started with the questions.” 

                “Of course, please have a seat.”   I watched her look at the couch hesitantly before sitting down.  I felt the judgement coming from her in waves even if her words didn’t show it.  My house might have been messy but there was nothing to cause that kind of reaction and I had to push down my irritation. 

                “Why do you want to take part in Project Mayflower?   I don’t think I need to remind you that this is a one-way trip.  You have a son that you will never see again.  Are you prepared to give up ever knowing any potential grandchildren?”

                I knew that this question would be coming, and I had practiced my answer in the mirror.  “My son is the most important thing in the world to me and that’s why I need to do this.  I’m doing it for him.  My husband left us with a lot of debt and Project Mayflower is a chance to not only clear that out but send him to college and pay off the house for him.  Sure, I’m going to miss him a lot, but by leaving I can give him a better life than I could by being here.  I can do something to make him proud.”  

                She sat there taking notes on her tablet but stopped halfway through my answer.  I found her staring at me with a look I couldn’t place.  She turned off the recording app and sat it on the coffee table.  “Do you have any idea how many rehearse answers I hear in a day?”

                “Uhm, a lot.”

                “Yes, a lot and I can see right through every single one of them.  Let me ask you another question off the record and this time give me a real answer.  If I believe you then we go back to the official questions.  Deal?”

                “Ok.”  My voice sounded meeker than I was comfortable with.  I was worried about what she would ask, but I needed this, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice.

                “Jeremy said that you wouldn’t let him take down the tree.  Why?”

                It felt like the floor had dropped out from under me.  The question seemed so simple, but to me they had the weight of the world to them.  My voice broke as I tried to answer, and I had to start over.  “My husband Daniel put that tree up.  He decorated it all himself the night he died.  It was the last thing he did before…”  I couldn’t say it.  I tried, but I couldn’t make the words leave my mouth.  I’m not sure when I started crying, but I was choking on my sobs.  She had moved and put her arm around me in comfort.  “If I take it down then…. then.. the last thing he did is gone too.” 

                “Now that is an answer I believe.  Have you told Jeremy that?”


                “Maybe you should.  Why don’t you go talk to him for a few minutes and then we can all start over?  This time leave your practiced answers upstairs.  I need to see the real you to see if you can handle life on a generation ship.  I don’t need you to be doing this for the right reasons, I just need you to be able to do it and not be a danger to yourself or the rest of the crew.”

                “Thank you.”  I wasn’t sure what I was thanking her for, but it felt like it was more than being given a second chance at the assessment.  I pulled myself back together and started up the stairs. 

                “Besides we need young people who can be trained and have a whole life ahead of them onboard.  I have a pitch ready for him to join you.” 

                I stopped where I was on the stairs.  This world had nothing left for me, but pain and my son had turned against me.  He might very well hate me, but I loved him more than myself.  Admittingly that had been a fairly low bar these past six months.  I wanted to kick her out of the house for even making the suggestion.  He deserved to make his own choices though.  Heaven help that woman if I didn’t like her pitch though.