The Writer's Digest #StoryFriday for October 23, 2009.
(Thanks to all who participated.)
Linda's Bachelorette party started promptly at 7. The night, she hoped, would be one she would never forget. And she was right. She was a little anxious about the fact that her maid of honor was her fiance's ex-fiancee. While publicly Jill, Linda's maid of honor, claimed she was over him, privately she still loved him. So when Carrie showed up and said that Jill was in the hospital indefinitely with swine flu, Linda wasn't particularly upset.
Linda got a glimpse of Paul her fiancé as he walked in room he seemed to be looking for someone but their eyes did not meet. Jill knew her reason for breaking off her original engagement could never be known. As close as Jill and Linda had been, Jill never spoke of the breakup and Linda was afraid to ask . Paul, of course, was looking for Margaret, the nurse that helped him recover from the war. Paul left without saying a word. Even he didn't know the reason Jill ended their engagement.
Relieved to see Paul with Margaret,Linda could now smile and try to enjoy herself even though something kept tugging her mind
Margaret, who was also Jill's swine flu nurse, had a letter for Paul from Jill. Paul couldn't bring himself to open it. It took him 3 years to get over Jill. So he left the letter on the table unopened.
Linda wondered why Paul spent so much time with Margaret, then as she walked towards him, she saw a letter on the table. It had Paul's name on it and she recognized the handwriting she shouldn't but she did she took the letter and went on the porch.
Paul's eyes followed Linda's movements. He did not stop her. Jill's words would not hurt Linda as much as they could hurt him.
As Linda went to open the letter, Carrie appeared. Linda went to stuff the letter in her purse, but instead dropped it.
"You dropped something?" Carrie said to Linda. She noticed Paul's name on the front of the envelope. Blood left Carrie's face and she became pale as a vanilla frosting on a cake
"Oh thank you," she said nervously. Carrie noticed Linda blushing "I am getting this to Paul, someone left it on the table for him." Linda abruptly left the porch went into the bathroom, locked the door behind her and with quivering hands opened the letter. She read it through quickly and frowned. She read it again, slowly. Linda knew what she had to do. Paul. He needed to know.
Unfortunately, Paul had just left with Cory, Paul's BFF and Linda's ex-flame (though no one knew of their secret relationship). Linda needed to find Paul and they needed to talk to Jill. It is the only way we can have a relationship, she thought.
"Why tonight of all nights, did this have to happen?" Linda puzzled over it as she grabbed her keys and went for the door. As her hand was reaching for the knob, Margaret saw the envelope & rushed to Linda. She asked, "Linda, a word with you?"
"Oh hi Margaret, I've been meaning to say hi," she stammered. "I'm in a hurry now though."
"And I think I know why" Margaret said.
"I don't know what you are talking about," Linda said angrily.
"The letter, Linda, the letter I brought for Paul that you took."
Linda's hand went to her mouth, "Oh."
Margaret led her to another room. "Linda I know what is in the letter, Paul showed it to me. I'm certain he would have told you about Jill." she said.
"Jill is very ill the doctors are hopeful but with the underlying condition it is hard to say," Margaret continued.
"Condition? Jill's my best friend," said Linda. "I know all about her past with Paul."
"No," said Margaret. "That isn't what I mean."
Margaret knew she had to tell Linda. Opening the letter had unleashed things that changed everything. There was no going back.
"Jill left Paul because she couldn't have children, she knew how much he wanted a child and how you and Paul always were close. She just recently found out she has ovarian cancer, she wanted to let Paul know the real reason she broke the engagement. She wanted you to be happy as she loved both of you so much," the nurse continued. "She would not have said a thing but now Jill knows she needs her hopes, her dreams to center on getting well. The only way you can help is by loving Paul."
"What about Paul? Is he happy? He is still in love with her, I think. I do not think he will want to loose her, esp now."
"You need to calm down, Paul loves you and he loves her but not in the same way any more, he wants to marry you," said Margaret.
"I know he loves me, but what if he realizes that he wants to be with her still? He thought she did not love him, now... She thinks she is doing this for his own good, I understand. I do. I must talk to him, ask him. I must go, thank you."
Margaret was smiling as Linda left. She had never liked her & it was her fault that Jill had simply let Paul go.
Linda's emotions were fueled by adrenalin. Jill, her best friend, was gravely ill. And Paul, the love of her life -- what would he do when he learned the truth? Would he go to Jill? Or would he stay with, (shudder) Linda? Either way, she stood to loose. Or did she?
Up ahead, Linda spotted Cory, waving his arms and shouting at Paul, slumped over with his head in his hands.
Linda pulled off the road, parking the car but not getting out. She watched as Cory raced toward Paul. And coming up fast behind her: Margaret, looking for all the world like a woman on a mission.
What is going on with those two, Linda thought. Does Cory know what is going on? Is he trying to convince Paul to stay with me? And what is Margaret doing here? She knows more than she is letting on. Could it be she fell in love with Paul when he was sick?
When Cory reached him, Paul was sobbing, shoulders shaking with the force of tears unable to stay dormant. Cory called to him. Linda wavered. Should she wait or go she him? Feeling torn, she started to open the door. Linda walked toward the two men.
"You can't let this go on," Cory was shouting at Paul. "You have to tell her. Tell them all." Linda hung back. She watched Margaret's car skid to a stop near the men and saw her jump out of the car and run to Paul.
"I can't! I am a coward!" Paul shouted. "And now this with Jill, she might die! I only think about myself"!
"Stop" said Linda"
"I can't believe this!" shouted Linda." Why are you here Margaret?!!" "Tell them Paul" Margaret said anxiously "Tell them"
Linda knew then. Margaret. It was Margaret and Paul. They had spent so much time together and she was the one Paul wanted.
Oh God, I can't believe this is happening! If Jill hadn't ended up sick, I would have had time, but now…
Paul recounted the story of how Margaret took care of him in the hospital and how Jill had broken off the engagement.
Linda began shaking, Cory held her close to console her. Paul and Margaret looked at each other in disbelief. Finally it was out .
"There's more," said Margaret, "I am pregnant". It took all Paul could do to not fall on the ground, he leaned up against the car for support. Linda turned from Cory's shoulder.
"Oh my God—so is Jill, that's what Cory was telling me before you all showed up!"
"I am too!" Linda wailed. She went to fertility doctors to find out what was wrong. She can have a child, but it's not mine. It's Cory and Jill's child!
This can't be happening! A time when we should all be so happy! And yet it's tragic. Jill pregnant and maybe dying!
Paul passed out.
Jill was upset one night so I went over, we had wine and well you know the rest it was one night Cory confessed.
"I think I could use a large stiff drink" said Paul as he was coming to.
"What!" exclaimed Linda. "But you are the father of my baby!" she shouted at Cory.
"What?" exclaimed Paul.
"I think we could all use a stiff drink," added Cory. Linda moved away from him, thinking about Jill. She still loved him too.
"I think we should be thinking about Jill right now." We won't sort this out leaning on cars off the side of a road Cory said.
Paul pulled out a sword, "No, we dual!" shouting at Cory.
The handsome silver of Paul's sword flashed with the sun as he cornered Cory. Margaret had all she could do to control herself she knew this wasn't the time to speak to Paul. Linda said, "Lets go see Jill."
Suddenly the lights flickered, the scenery around them dissolved and the holo pad's warm glow spread from under their feet. Cory looked at the sword confused.
"Where did you hide a sword that big?" asked Linda.
Margaret shouted, "Enough!"
"You've all seen this sword before, even you have Cory," shouted Paul. "We won't ever settle this, let's all calm down."
"You should all know," continued Margaret, "that Paul has a hollow leg. He lost the real one during the war."
"I didn't know," said Linda. "How did I miss that?"
"Well that's why you didn't get pregnant from me and neither did Jill! But Margaret understood my self-consciousness."
Paul stood under the willow, hair billowing in the wind & muscles glistening. All eyes on him be but his were only on Margaret.