October Special: Concrete Style Infused with Thought and Feeling

Happy Saturday! My apologies for not posting this yesterday. My routine got thrown off by working a half day and spending my afternoon/evening on other writing things and I completely forgot about this until I was falling asleep. I hope you’ll forgive me!

If it’s any consolation, this one is going to be a little bit longer than this week’s previous posts. That’s because it’s actually two pieces. The final assignment in the Craft of Style course was more specific about the topic we had to write about. A young woman has just married and left her parent’s home. We had to describe the house from the mother’s (or father’s) point of view as she goes through it.

The catch was, we could not mention the wedding, or the specific feelings about the husband. See, we had to write the same scene twice: first, describing the house in such a way that conveys the mother’s hatred for the new husband; in the second, her fondness for the new husband. The idea is to infuse her thoughts and feelings into the way she views the objects of her home in the wake of her daughter’s departure, to imply things about her mind without telling explicitly. I actually really enjoyed this assignment once I got going. Check it out!

The smoke of her morning cigarette swirled, melancholy, in the first rays of light through the kitchen’s bay window. Anna had never approved of her mother’s habit, and forbade her from smoking in the house. But Anna’s room was empty now, so Carol puffed on her morning fag in solitary defiance.

The sun spilled onto the counters, wilting bouquets strewn across them, pleading for water. The sink was full of dishes. Carol refused to look at them. They could soak a while longer.

She gazed over the covered porch at the shadows in the yard, long and slender behind the trees, stretching toward the house. She smothered the butt in the chipped ashtray after one final drag. A simple thing it would be to replace it, but it served as a reminder of what that boy had taken from her.

She walked the hall to the living room. The worn carpet was rough under her bare feet. Pictures lined the wall. Family portraits. Smiling faces. Carol and Charles at Anna’s baptism. Charles and Anna on the boat, her trophy bass nearly as big as she at seven years old. Father-daughter pictures through the years. The smiles brought Carol no comfort now.

The rumpled blanket on the couch was still warm as she folded it. She set it off to one side with her pillow. It would do her good to bring them upstairs. She scooped pillow and blanket into her arms. She couldn’t sleep in her living room forever. She had a perfectly good bed in her bedroom. A cold, empty, lonely bed.

Carol’s gaze drifted to the armchair in the corner. Charles’ favorite seat had been vacant for two years now. She would allow no one else to rest in it, to sully it. An alien garment haunted it. Her vision flashed red as recognition dawned in her eyes.

She snatched Tommy’s suit jacket off the back of Charles’ beloved chair and stormed up to the second floor. The stairs moaned with her furious climb. She flung the invader onto the last remaining boxes in Anna’s room and slammed the door shut.

She returned her pillow to its rightful home in her own bed, spreading the quilted comforter delicately across the bottom. The frame creaked as she sat on the edge. She put her hands in her face and wept.

* * *

The smoke of her morning cigarette danced in the first rays of light through the kitchen’s bay window. Anna had never approved of her mother’s habit, but Carol knew her daughter would forgive her this sweet indulgence in light of her new solitude.

The sun poured over the counters, illuminating drooping bouquets and a sink full of dishes. The flowers she would water; she didn’t want them to wilt. The dishes had been left unattended too long, but she would take care of them now that the excitement had died down.

She gazed over the covered porch as the sun glittered through the trees. It was a new day of new beginnings. She tapped the butt of her cigarette in the chipped ashtray, smiling as she recalled the abashed look on Tom’s face when he had accidentally knocked it to the floor. What a first impression that had been.

Carol stepped through the hall to the living room, the carpeted path sturdy and familiar beneath her bare feet. Family photos lined the walls. Charles and Anna dominated the frames through the years, though the latest were solely mother and daughter. Carol shook the grief from her head. There would be new pictures to add soon.

She fluffed the cushions on the couch, admonishing herself for spending the night on it instead of in her own bed. She had just been too tired to go upstairs after the festivities. She turned to bring her pillow and blanket to her room when something caught her eye on the armchair in the corner.

Charles’ favorite reading spot hadn’t seen much use in the two years since his passing, instead serving as an immaculate shrine to the beloved patriarch. An accidental offering had been left draped along the back. Carol lifted it tenderly and smiled. Tom was as forgetful as Charles had been.

She carefully folded the suit jacket and added it to her bundle. The stairs creaked softly as she ascended to the second floor. Anna’s room was bright with sunshine. A small pile in the corner beckoned Carol. She set the jacket with the rest of the things the young couple had left behind.

Carol returned her pillow to its rightful home in her own bed and arranged the comforter neatly across the bottom. She still wasn’t used to the empty space on the side Charles had occupied. She brushed tears away from her cheeks as she thought of Anna. She smiled through the tears. At least her daughter was not alone.

Notes: This was a fun one to review for other people too. The very first submission I was assigned to review had also named the mother “Carol” and I had to reread the first line twice to make sure I had actually gone to the “Review My Peers” section of the assignment and wasn’t just rereading my own submission, haha!

So I apologize again for forgetting to post this last night, but hey, you get a rare Saturday post instead! Our regularly scheduled Sunday update will go up tomorrow afternoon. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be much the same as last week’s. Have a great weekend!

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