Blockston, Pt, 3


Be sure to catch part one and part two of Blockston.


Mia sat in her car outside of the tiny diner, staring at the napkin in her hand. Gayle had scribbled out a simple map to the now empty house where she had lived with her parents and brother 20 years ago. Drive down to the blinking caution light, turn left. Drive two blocks to Partridge Street and take a right. The two story white house would be the second house on the right.

Why is my stomach in knots? She wondered. It’s just an old house. She sighed, tossed the napkin onto the passenger’s seat, and shoved her keys into the ignition.

The blinking light. A left turn. Two blocks. A right. And there it was in all its old and decaying glory. She pulled slowly into the long drive and stopped just to the right of the front porch. From this corner, the house appeared to be a large white cube with a green cap on top. The paint was peeling, the foundation was moldy, and a few of the windows were cracked.

She stepped out of the car and continued down the drive on foot, stopping to peer in the side windows. Through the first window, she saw only an empty, dusty room with a hard wood floor. The next window was too tall for her to reach. Probably the bathroom, she thought. The last window on the side of the house was also too high, but if she stood back a ways, she could see kitchen cupboards.

She rounded the corner of the house to find a closed in back porch with windows all the way around it. Inside was an old rusty washing machine and dryer. For a split second, Mia could smell laundry soap and hear water running into the washing machine. She heard her mother’s voice. “Dump it in, Mia, so the clothes can take a bath.” She saw a bruise on her mother’s outstrenched arm.

Mia stepped away from the window and continued around the closed in porch to the other side of the house. This side was not the straight up cube the other side had been. A utility closet occupied the corner where the closed in porch ended. The house then jutted out about eight feet past the utility closet.

This jutted chunk of house was the living room and included another jutted out section about 3×5 feet. Tall windows surrounded this section on the lower story. The upper story was a cute gable with a lone window.

Past the living room’s jutted section was another jut out with weirdly spaced high windows. Must be where the stairs are, she mused.

She rounded the corner and walked around the front porch. The porch had been majestic in its day. Victorian spindles lined the edge of the old, moldy porch roof, some of them broken. Paint was peeling from the white posts and the once gray steps and floor.

She carefully climbed the creaky steps and placed her hand on the door handle of the wooden screen door. Immediately, her mind went back and once again she was watching her younger self.

Young Mia stood trembling, peering out the screen door. Her daddy stood in the front yard in front of two police officers. His fists were clenched and his shoulders heaved with every quick, deep breath.

“Sir. Is everything ok?” One officer asked. “Your wife called. She was concerned for the safety of herself and your children.”

“Everything is perfectly fine,” her dad practically yelled.

“Sir. I’m going to need you to calm down,” the other officer commanded.

“I don’t need to calm down!” By this time Mia’s father was shaking with anger.

One of the officers laid his hand on his shoulder and implored, “Sir. If you don’t calm down, you will need to come with us.”

Mia’s father completely lost it at that point. He lifted his tight fist and punched the officer right in the nose. The other officer immediately shoved Mia’s father to the ground and handcuffed him.

Young Mia felt her mother’s shakey hand on her arm. “Come on, Mia. Come away from the door.”

The memory disappeared just as fast as it had come, as if it were sucked away in a vacuum. Mia pulled the screen door open and tried the door knob of the old wooden door. It turned.

Mia hesitated. Dare she enter? What if the memories hiding in the dark inner corners of this house were even worse than the ones she’d already encountered? What if they swallowed her up and she disappeared into that creepy vacuum right along with all the horrific memories?


Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.


*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 2


Be sure to catch part one of Blockston.

Mia watched the utility poles speed past her car windows. Suddenly, she saw herself as a child not yet tall enough to see anything out of the Station Wagon window other than lonely sky. She felt the wagon turn and then the poles started whizzing past against the blueness, and she knew they were almost home.

Dread washed over her, and she felt sick to her stomach. She wanted to tell her grandma that she didn’t want to go home… that she was scared. She wanted Grandma to turn around and take her far away, but she couldn’t. Her three year old vocabulary was no match for such strong emotion.

Mia blinked several times to clear the memory from her mind, but the blinking trick could not work its magic on her nausea. She slowed to a complete stop before turning onto the dirt road leading into town. It steeped sharply up to a railroad crossing, then back down again before thrusting its way into the center of Blockston. The red and white guardrails stood tall like two of the Queen’s castle guards, daring her to enter.

With a sigh, she turned the wheel. There was really no going back now. I already woke the sleeping giant, she thought. It’s best to face it head on.

The little Chevy fought with gravity to make it up the steep incline, rattled across the tracks, and then dove back down the steep bank and in to town.

“Good job!” she praised and gave her dashboard a couple of pats. “Now where to, Old Friend?”

Main Street was pretty much empty except for a cluster of three pickup trucks sitting in front of a small diner. Must be the place to hang out, she thought. She pulled up next to the rusty red one, turned off the engine, and pulled the keys from the ignition. Her hands were shaking. She wanted so badly to confront the nagging, elusive memories, and yet she was terrified. What would she find out?

She slowly got out of the car and walked the four feet to the diner door. All five people inside looked up to stare as the bell above the door announced her presence. She smiled and took a seat at the counter, hoping they would ignore her.

They did not. Apparently, she was the most exciting thing in town since the circus came through 100 years ago.

“What can I gicha, Sweets?” Mia looked at the old lady in front of her… short gray curly hair, red and white checkered apron over her plump chest, eyeglasses pushed up onto her head. She wondered how many years it had been since lipstick had touched those wind chapped lips.

“Oh. Uh. Do you have a menu?”

The lady’s gray curls bobbled as she shook her head. “Sorry, Sweets. We ain’t got menus here. Everybody knows we have the best burgers in a hundred mile radius.”

Mia smirked in amusement. “I’ll have one of those ‘best burgers in a hundred mile radius’ then, please.”

As she waited for Ms. Gray Curls to make her burger, she studied the framed photos on the wall. There were photos of this same diner long ago, filled with happy, hungry people. There were photos of Blockston at its economic peak. Cars lined Main Street. Horses were tied to utility poles. Ladies in long coats and hats held the arms of men in starched suits.

“Gayle,” Ms. Gray Curls stated as she placed Mia’s order in front of her.

“Excuse me?”

“Name’s Gayle,” she repeated.

Mia smiled a genuine smile and held out her hand. “It’s so nice to meet you, Gayle.” She looked down at her plate. The thick, juicy hamburger filled a third of the large oval plate and every inch of leftover plate was piled high with fries.

“Well, what’s yours, Sweets?” Gayle prodded.

Mia squirted ketchup on what little plate she could find and wondered whether to give her real name or make something up.

“Mia,” she answered softly.

Gayle pulled her glasses down over her eyes and studied Mia’s face. “What brings you to Blockston, Sweets?”

“An elusive memory, actually. Probably nothing.” Mia picked up her burger and took a bite, hoping Gayle would just let her eat in peace for a while. She needed time to figure out what to say and what not to say.

But Gayle was hooked now. “Like a memory from long ago?”

“Yes,” Mia answered around the bite.

“How long ago?”

Mia held up one finger as she chewed and swallowed. “Long enough for it to be elusive,” Mia smirked.

But Gayle would not be held off by sarcasm. “Is your last name Markell?” she blurted.

“I. Uh. Well… Yes. Yes it is.”

Gayle slammed her fist onto the counter. “I KNEW IT!”

Mia jumped and stared at her in surprise.

A giddy smile danced across Gayle’s face. “Oh Sweets! You’ve grown so much! You’re so beautiful! I can’t believe how time flies!”

Mia frowned, waiting for Gayle to fill her in.

“Well, doncha remember? I’m Gayle. Mrs. Stapleton. Remember? You all lived across the alley form me. You and Mitchell used to help me plant my garden.”

Gayle’s beaming face turned somber, and she grabbed Mia’s hand. “I’ve thought about you and Mitchell a lot over the years. Wishing I could find you. Wishing I would have done a better job protecting you. How are you?”

Mia looked into Gayle’s eyes with confusion. She didn’t know whether to smile or cry. Stay and ask questions or run far away.

Gayle gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s ok, Sweets. You can trust me.”


Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.


*photo credit

Blockston, Pt. 1

arrowHe wasn’t a man of very many words, but the few he spoke last Monday still rang loud and clear in her ears. “You’re emotionally sick, Mia. It’s time to face the past. It’s time to heal.” For some reason, her elderly boss at the local ice cream parlor had taken a personal interest in her and treated her as if she were his granddaughter.

The wind from the open car windows blew through her blonde hair as she sped down the highway. She flipped on the radio, grateful that her grandfatherly boss had given her the week off. He said she was to spend the week looking for herself, whatever that meant.

She had no clue where she was going. She just knew she couldn’t spend the entire week cooped up in her small apartment.

Her little Chevy chugged its way up the interstate ramp. I-70, the iconic interstate sign read. Her mind wandered to that day two years ago when her little Chevy had chugged down that same ramp.

She had not known where she was going that day either. She had only wanted to run… far away… from the constant stress and pain. She had wanted to leave behind the people and the memories that made her life so miserable.

It had been the conversation with her brother that morning that had pushed her to the point of disappearing off the face of the earth… or at least from the community. She had arranged to meet him at IHOP. She had picked at her food while he scarfed his down in Cookie Monster style.

“Gee. You eat much?” she had asked.

“Grump much?” he had quipped back. “What’s your deal, man? You’re just sitting there moping like your dog died.”

She cleared her throat. “Actually I wanted to talk to you about something.”

She had confided in him about the abuse she had received from their father as a child, and he had accused her of making it up. “You disgust me, Mia. Why are you so hell-bent on making Dad out to be a monster?”

She had heard enough. She pushed back her chair with a loud screech and ran out of the building. She went straight to her tiny, dingy apartment and started to pack the few items she owned. She had left town that night without telling anyone.

The low fuel signal dinged, bringing her out of her reverie. She quickly swerved toward the upcoming exit, hoping to find a gas station. She slowed to a stop at the end of the ramp and looked down the road. A tiny Phillips 66 stood tucked in the trees alongside the right side of the rarely used country road.

She turned, drove the half mile, and pulled in beside a gas pump. As she stood next to the pump, waiting for the tank to fill, she took in her surroundings. Something seemed vaguely familiar about this place, like a bad dream lurking in the dark corners of her mind. What was it?

Her tank full, she pulled out toward the road. She hesitated. She wanted to turn back toward the interstate, but something unexplainable was pulling her in the opposite direction.

Just a couple miles, she thought. She ventured down the country road away from the interstate and into the familiar unknown.

Before she knew it, the “couple miles” had turned into six, and she came to a dead end. A big yellow rectangular road sign stood its post across the road from her. The thick black arrow demanded she choose a direction. Under it was another sign. “Blockston – 4 miles” with an arrow pointing left.

Blockston. Blockston. Why did that sound so familiar? She shrugged and made a left turn, unable to resist the pull.

As her little Chevy climbed a small hill, the tiny town came into view. It wasn’t much. A cluster of run down houses and a one block wide Main Street.

“Blockston. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen you,” she murmured out loud, as the memories began to trickle in one by one.


Blockston, Pt. 2

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.


*photo credit

The Writing of a Love Story, Part 2


Be sure to catch part one.


One Sunday evening, as I sat in the dining room with my roommate, the director of the training center came up behind me and whispered in my ear, “I need to see you in my office when you’re finished.” Immediately, I felt sick to my stomach. I managed two more bites, then realized I was too sick to stuff more in.

I looked around the dining room for Michael. Just a smile or even a look from him would put my nerves to ease. But I could not find him. I quietly excused myself, cleared my dishes, and slowly made my way to the director’s office.

“Hello, Samantha,” he said, without looking up from his computer. “Take a seat.”

I sat down in the leather chair positioned in front of his desk. He cleared his throat and turned toward me. By this time, I felt as if I would vomit right there all over his shiny polished desk.

“It has been reported to me,” he began, “that you and Michael have been carrying on a secret romance and meeting for secret dates every week.” He paused, waiting for my reaction.

I don’t think my expression changed. I continued to simply stare at him, unsure of what to do with such a ludicrous accusation.

He leaned forward, placed his hands on the desk, and folded them in a sort of praying fashion. “You know the rules here. There are to be no romances. Any romantic relationship should be developed only with your parents overseeing eyes.”

I had heard enough. “Sir. Michael and I have not been secretly dating. We gather supplies each week at the same time to give us a chance to just talk and be friends without someone condemning us. It’s the plain and simple truth.”

He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Samantha, THAT’S dating.”

I leaned forward and looked him in the eye. “Now let me get this straight. If my friend, Bridgette, and I were to gather materials at the same time every week, so we could talk and just be friends, we’re dating?”

He pushed himself back from his desk. “You know what I mean, Samantha. Now go pack your bags. You’ll be leaving Tuesday morning. I’ve already called your father.”

There’s was nothing left to do, but stand up and leave his office. I went to my room, but I didn’t pack. My roommate came in after a while, and I told her everything. She cried with me and said she’d pray.

The next day, Monday, I was relieved of all my duties. I had nothing to do but hang out in my room and pack. I cried a lot.

I’m not sure what made me do it, but I went down to 208 at 7:00. I hadn’t seen Michael since Saturday evening, but I guess I was hoping that somehow he would be there too.

I walked into the room and looked around. There was nothing in there but paper and boxes and shelves upon shelves of supplies. I made my way to the long waist high table in the middle of the room. “Now what?” I thought. I didn’t want to leave, but what was the sense in staying?

I leaned forward, folded my arms across the table and buried my face. I knew that going home was going to be awful. I would have to face the silent anger of my father and the sorrowful disappointment of my mother. I just needed one more hour with Michael. I needed his strength.

I felt a hand on my back, and I quickly jerked my head up. There he was in all his handsome glory. Michael. Relief washed over me like a welcomed wave. For a moment, we didn’t speak. We just stood, receiving comfort and courage from each other’s presence.

“Where have you been?” I finally asked.

He took my hand and held it tightly. This was the first time he had ever displayed affection for me. I wasn’t sure what to do. Everything I had ever been taught about the defilement of affectionate touches from the opposite gender ran through my mind. I wanted to pull my hand away, but the need for him was too great in that moment.

“I was called into the director’s office Saturday night,” he answered. “I was told that I would have to leave the training center by Tuesday morning. Apparently, they disapprove of our friendship.” He paused and smirked mischievously.

“I left that night. I called my uncle who lives nearby and stayed with him. He gave me a job on his construction crew. Today was my first day. I borrowed money from him to buy a car. I will continue to work for him until I can pay off the debt. I want to get my own apartment too. No one knows I’m here tonight, but I just wanted to see you one more time.”

He pulled his hand from mine and sat in a nearby folding chair. My empty hand felt cold, and I shivered. “I called my parents last night,” he said as he folded his hands nervously. “They were not happy.  My father told me to end my rebellion and come home. He said I needed to serve my family and forget about you. When he realized I was not changing my mind, he said he and the church would pray that God would bring me out of my backslidden mindset.”

He stared at the shelves of colored paper until I broke the silence. “I fly home tomorrow morning. My dad is going to be silent and angry. He will treat me like I’m not even there. My mom will cry and sulk. They think I’ve sinned, but I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Neither of us knew what to say. He stood and took a step toward me. He looked into my eyes, and this time, I did not look away. There was a good 12 inches between us, but the burning pull was irresistible. I just wanted to be in his arms. I wanted to lay my head on his chest and know that everything was going to be ok. It took every ounce of will I could muster to keep from flinging myself at him.

He reached for a small box of chocolates on the table. I hadn’t even noticed it before then. He held it out to me. “I wanted to give you this before I leave,” he stammered.

I took it from his hand. “Thanks,” I whispered.

He quickly leaned forward and gently kissed my lips. “Only God can write a love story,” he whispered. “Don’t let anyone else dictate yours for you,” He turned away from me and walked out of the room. I thought that was the last time I would ever see him.

I slowly made my way upstairs to my room. I opened the door and stepped inside, sighing with relief that my roommate was not there. I walked to my bed and sat down. I wanted to cry, but there were no tears left.

I was not hungry for chocolate, but I opened the box anyway. Inside I found a CD and a note.

My Dear Samantha,

Please read these Bible verses and listen to this song. Call me if you feel as I do. 123-123-1234.

Love, Michael

Listed below were several Bible passages. I pulled my Bible off the nightstand and onto my lap. I turned to the first passage and read the story of how Eve was created for Adam. I flipped to the next and read about Jacob and Rachel. Then Ruth and Boaz. And on and on. Love story after love story. Each of them different, yet each of them orchestrated by God.

My roommate still had not come in, so I put the CD into her player. I didn’t know who sang the song, but her voice sounded young and confident.*

Elevator buttons and morning air  Strangers’ silence makes me want to take the stairs  If you were here we’d laugh about their vacant stares  But right now my time is theirs

Seems like there’s always someone who disapproves  They’ll judge it like they know about me and you  And the verdict comes from those with nothing else to do  The jury’s out, but my choice is you

So don’t you worry your pretty little mind  People throw rocks at things that shine  And life makes love look hard  The stakes are high, the water’s rough  But this love is ours

And it’s not theirs to speculate  If it’s wrong and  Your hands are tough  But they are where mine belong and  I’ll fight their doubt and give you faith  With this song for you

So don’t you worry your pretty little mind  People throw rocks at things that shine  But they can’t take what’s ours  They can’t take what’s ours

The stakes are high, the water’s rough  But this love is ours

*Ours by Taylor Swift

I went home the next morning. I talked with my parents for hours that night. I told them about everything that had happened while I was in New York. I told them how Michael and I had questioned and put to test every principle the Advantage Teaching Institute was built upon. I told them how I had liked Michael since the day I first met him. I told them how I never knew he felt the same about me until he kissed me. I told them I was going to study hard, pass the GED, and then attend college. I told them I was going to get a job to pay for it all. Most importantly, I told them that I loved them, but this is what I had to do.

They were sad that I questioned all that I had been taught. They were mortified that I let a man kiss me. And they were outraged that I would work outside the home and go to college.

I called Michael the next day and every day after that. He gave me courage to resist bondage. It would have been a lot easier to simply submit and continue in the conservative, quiet life my parents felt was right. I needed his strength when my parents kicked me out of the house. I was told not to return again until I let go of my rebellious streak. I needed his acceptance when I was shunned by everyone in my parents’ church. Those who did speak to me simply stated they were praying for my soul.

Eight months later, I was on my way to New York again. This time as an independent adult, headed for the college life experience. It felt odd, but so freeing.

Michael and I kept our 7:00 Monday dates for the entire four years of my college time. I got a job at the local newspaper, editing articles before they were sent to the press. Michael continued working in the construction industry with his uncle. He took a few classes on the side as well.

I graduated as valedictorian of my class. I invited my parents, but they did not come. They could not support my decision to live away from home and further my education.

Two weeks later, Michael and I were married. It was a small wedding with local friends and family. Once again, I invited my parents, but they did not show up.

We’ve been married now for 10 years. We have three very adorable daughters and one handsome baby son. I am ever so grateful for a box of chocolates, a kiss, a song, and a God who writes unique love stories.


*While this story is written in the first person, it is entirely fictional. Any correlation between this story and the stories of those raised in ATI (Advanced Training Institute) is entirely intentional.

Photo Credit

The Writing of a Love Story, Part 1

chocolateThey were but three simple things… a box of chocolates, a kiss, and a song, but they changed my life forever. I was nineteen the fall I traveled to New York City, fresh out of homeschooled high school and ready to transform the world’s population into conservative legalists.

My parents had arranged for me to serve at the Advantage Teaching Institute’s NYC training center, working with delinquent teens. I was to teach them how to live a superior life by applying the seven basic principles of life as dictated by Mr. Gobert. Having been a member of ATI since I was old enough to read, I knew these principles inside and out, as well as all 49 accompanying character qualities and their definitions.

I had only been there a month when my assigned delinquent threw a question at me that I could not answer. “How does Mr. Gobert know that there are seven principles in life? What makes him the expert on life?” She went on to complain about all the Bible study assignments she had to do, but I was no longer listening. My mind was stuck on that one question, “What makes Mr. Gobert the expert on life?”

That evening, in the dining hall, I sat across the table from Michael. I had liked him since the day I arrived. He was tall and broad and styled his dark hair with a bit of a spike in front. Though his personality was fun and laid back, he was also mature. He seemed more man than any other 20 year old I’d ever met. But I was very careful not to let on just how much I liked him. Interaction between guys and girls was frowned upon at the training center.

When everyone else had left the table, and it was just the two of us, I cleared my throat. I knew I had to pick someone’s brain about my delinquent’s question. I thought he would be a good one to ask, since he wouldn’t take my questioning too seriously, but would also offer a load of wisdom.

“So…” I began. “My delinquent asked a question today that got me thinking.” I waited, unsure if he even wanted to talk with me.

He looked up from his plate and smiled. My heart nearly skipped a beat. “And what sorta question would that be?” he asked.

I lifted my glass and took a sip of water before answering. “She asked me what made Mr. Gobert the expert on life,” I half-whispered. I looked around to make sure no one had heard me then continued. “And it just caught me by surprise because I didn’t have an answer. I’ve never questioned Mr. Gobert’s wisdom. But I’ve never thought about what makes him the one with all the wisdom.”

Michael ran his fingers through his hair. I loved it when he did that. It made me want to reach out and run my fingers through it too.

He looked into my eyes as if he were trying to read me, and I quickly shifted my gaze. “Do you really wanna know my thoughts on that?” he questioned.

I looked up and nodded my head. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and scribbled something on his napkin. He slid it over to me, then stood and gathered his dirty dishes.

“208. 7:00” is all it said.

An hour later, I entered room 208, which was used as a supply room. Michael was already there, going through stacks of colored paper. “Hey!” he said, looking up at me with that heart stopping smile once again.

“Hi!” I answered.

“You should probably gather supplies for tomorrow’s delinquent projects.” He winked, and I began to dig through the marker box.

We spent over an hour “gathering supplies” that evening. We talked about Mr. Gobert and his principles. We talked about the authority structure he teaches. We talked about the lack of individuality within ATI. We talked about things that would have had us locked up for a week of Wisdom Searches, had anyone heard us.

As I lay in bed that night, I replayed every word of our conversation. All these years I had been taught that we were to obey our parents, no questions asked. My parents possessed unquestioned wisdom because they believed and lived every word of the all wise Mr. G. We held to high dress standards and limited our contact with the opposite gender all in the name of moral purity. We sacrificed educational quality and refused college in the name of seeking wisdom first.

Suddenly, my beliefs were being challenged by very sound reasoning. Suddenly, God was no longer a deity who spoke through Mr. Gobert, but a personal, loving Father who wanted to speak to me. I didn’t know what to do with all these conflicting thoughts.

After that night, Michael and I met every Monday evening in room 208. We questioned every ATI standard and applied common sense and the Words of Scripture to each one. What we found was astonishing. At surface level, each principle seemed good and true, but as we put them to the test, each one was misapplied and over glorified. We found that God was not a king with many rules to be obeyed by all, but a father who worked in each individual’s life in unique and catered ways.

Our understanding of God was not the only thing that grew over the next couple months. So did our friendship. We were closer than I had ever been to anyone. I had told him every detail of my life that I could think of, and he had poured out his dreams and aspirations to me.

We lived for those Monday night supply raids. But then, everything changed.


Be sure to read The Writing of a Love Story, Part 2.

*While this story is written in the first person, it is entirely fictional. Any correlation between this story and the stories of those who grew up in ATI (Advanced Training Institute) is entirely intentional.

Photo Credit

You’re Already Beautiful


She was just a little old lady… gray haired, wrinkled, and shaky… but she changed my life that day. We only talked for about 30 minutes, but her words and her spirit spoke years of wisdom to my heart.

It was a hot day in June, three years ago. I was sitting at my favorite sub shop, sipping Dr. Pepper, munching on a Roast Beef and Muenster, streaming music through my ear buds, and punching out words on my laptop. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up, pulled out my ear buds, and smiled at the old woman standing at my side.

“May I sit with you?” she asked.

“Um. Sure.” It seemed like a strange request to me, seeing that there were at least 15 other tables that were perfectly clean and available. I closed up my laptop and cleared my trash out of her way.

“I’m Margaret.” She stated as she sat down across from me.

I smiled again. “I’m Elyssa.”

She reached across the table and patted my hand. “I hope you don’t mind me interrupting your study time. I’m getting old. All my siblings and friends are gone. I get lonely sometimes. I have to find new friends to keep me company.”

I awkwardly pulled my hand out from hers and gave her hand a pat or two. “Oh. I don’t mind at all. I wasn’t studying… just doing a little free time writing just for the fun of it. Nothing important.”

“Oh, anything you do just for fun is important. It’s part of who you are. And being you is the most important accomplishment.” She unwrapped her sandwich and continued to chat, talking about her children, her deceased husband, her accomplishments in life, her joys and her trials. She talked as if we were long lost friends.

I laughed with her and cried with her. I soaked in her every word. She was life as it was meant to be lived… holding nothing back.

“Oh Honey,” she sighed. “You’re probably bored stiff listening to an old lady jabbering on about her puny memories.”

I gave her a genuine reassuring smile. “Quite the contrary. I’ve enjoyed every moment. I think the older generation is a treasure. They’re like walking, breathing novels just waiting to be read… full of wisdom and experience.”

Once again, she reached across the table and laid her hand on mine. “Then hear this, dear. I noticed you studied each woman who has walked in here. You rated them as if you were a judge at a beauty pageant. If they were fatter and uglier than you, relief was written all over your face. If you deemed them equal to you, you would smile, happy that you had company in your misery. If you deemed them skinnier or better looking than you, you’d sigh with longing.”

I blushed and wondered what she was getting at.

She looked me straight in the eye. “Sweetheart, do you want to be beautiful?”

I hesitated. “Y-yes.”

“What would you do if you were beautiful?” she questioned.

I thought for a minute, and then answered, “I’d act like it. I’d walk like I was beautiful. I’d dress like I was beautiful. I’d care for my body like I was beautiful. I’d live a life that was beautiful.” I wasn’t sure where those words came from… maybe from something deep down inside me that I never realized existed.

She squeezed my hand tightly. “Honey, you’re already beautiful. The world’s just waiting for you to act like it.”

She gathered her trash, tossed it in the bin, and walked out the door. I’ve never seen her again, but I hear her words every morning as I look in the mirror.

Since that day, I’ve dressed like I’m beautiful, walked like I’m beautiful, and lived like I’m beautiful. And because I’m beautiful, I’ve made beautiful choices. Choices that have changed my health, my relationships, and my outlook on life.

I don’t know if that dear lady is still alive, but I do know that no matter where she is, it’s beautiful there, and thanks to her words of wisdom, it’s beautiful everywhere I go.


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*While this story is in the first person, it is entirely fictional.