Short Story of the Month!

Until We Meet Again

“Excuse me, ma’am?”

Her brain registered the words, but she didn’t acknowledge them. Staring at the tan envelope in her hand, her heart pounded in her ears. Body numb, her soul tearing in two once again.

The young man cleared his throat. “Can I have my pen back?”

Startled, she looked up at the courier from her attorney’s office. “Uh, yes. I’m sorry. Here you go.”

“Thanks.” He eyed her for a moment. “Is everything okay?”

Shaking her head, Kate tried to smile at him. Instead, a sob escaped and she shut the door on him.

Kate walked into the sitting room off the foyer and sank into the closest chair. She continued to stare at the writing across the envelope. It was writing she knew well. Handwriting so very close to her own.

                        To the greatest woman I’ve ever known

Vision blurred by unshed tears, Kate breathed deeply before opening the package with shaky hands. Reaching in, she pulled out a brown leather journal that had seen better days. A yellow Post-It note stuck to the front contained a short message written in Dean’s messy lawyer scrawl.

            Kate,

                Cassidy instructed me to give this to you if the occasion ever arose.

                                                Dean

She smirked. “Thanks, Dean. Cryptic as always.”

Setting aside the short note, she untied the leather straps around the journal with deliberate care. She ran her fingers over the front cover, the leather soft beneath her fingertips. In the bottom right-hand corner, the initials CW were stamped into the leather.

Kate remembered the day she bought it and had it engraved with those initials. It had only been a few years before, but it seemed like a lifetime ago.

She blew out a breath she hadn’t realized she held and opened to the first page. Large, circular letters made words that filled each line. The blue ink was bright against the contrasting thick, creamy paper. Focusing on the first line, Kate began to read.

Greetings from Singapore!                     June 4th

We touched down early this morning and settled into our suite here at the Marina Bay Sands.

Mom, you should see this hotel. It’s ridiculous! The level of opulence and elegance is mind-boggling. Connor laughs at me, telling me how cute I am acting like a kid in a candy store. But he’s used to these kinds of hotels. And the infinity pool? Crazy! It overlooks the entire city and I can see all the way out to the open waters. I can’t wait to spend the day hanging out by the pool tomorrow.

Anyway, I’m off to bed. Jet lag is kicking my butt. I know we already talked on the phone, but writing in this journal always reminds me of you and home. Plus, it will be fun to read about all the adventures Connor and I shared in our youth when we are old and gray.

                           Until We Meet Again.

                           I love you, Mom.

                                    Cassie

Kate smiled through the tears at her daughter’s excitement that came through the page. Cassidy was ecstatic to travel to a foreign land with Conner, her husband of six months. His company relocated him to Singapore and, while Kate hated them being so far away, she was excited that her daughter was finally able to fulfill her dream of traveling the world.

Thumbing through the diary, Kate stopped at an entry that caught her eye. Amused and intrigued, Kate read the entry.

Happy Birthday, America! Oh, and I miss your television.

Hey Mom,                       July 4th

Happy 4th of July! Are you going over to Aunt Patty’s for her annual cookout? Man, I do miss that. Lots of memories from when I was a kid. Badminton, the cannonball contests in the pool with all the cousins, fireworks. Thinking about all that really makes me miss home. Next time we talk I want to hear all the family gossip, too! 🙂

It’s funny. The things that used to drive me crazy at home, such as the family gossip, I totally miss now that I’m not there. I didn’t realize how much I took them for granted. Silly, isn’t it?

You know what else I miss? Something I know now that I took for granted when I lived in the States. I miss television. Or more to the point, American television. We have twenty-one channels. Of those twenty-one channels, nine of them are a variety of local television. And not in a good way. I mean they are infomercial, bad late night TV sort of channels. Multiply that by nine, add all day, and you have most of the television choices here. The rest of the channels are news channels. Now, Mom, I know how you love your all day news channels and all of that, but even a self-proclaimed news junkie like you would have her fix and possible OD on news here. I know way more about world events than a single human being should retain. Go ahead and quiz me. I can guarantee this is the one time in my life I may actually know more than you!

I’ve got to run. Sorry this is a short entry, but Connor and I are headed out to dinner with one of the managers and his wife. Oh! That’s the other thing I miss! I miss inexpensive food.

Food here is either insanely cheap (an entire meal for $2.50 USD cheap) or insanely expensive (every meal over $100 USD per one person expensive). There’s not much of a happy medium. Alcohol is an arm, leg, and kidney expensive. Every cocktail and glass of wine is $20 (remember I’m on an island and import fees are added). Happy hours are big here and that takes the price of alcohol down quite a bit. But seeing as I am still getting to know people, I don’t have a ton of friends to happy hour with. You need to hurry up and come over so we can have our Winesday dinner. Just let me know beforehand so I can save for my glass.

Okay, enough of my whining. I really have to go. I hear Connor calling for me and I don’t want to make us late. He’s doing so well and I’m so proud to be his wife.

                           Until We Meet Again.

                           I love you, Mom.

                                    Cassie

Kate’s heart swelled with pride in spite of the ache that never left. Cassidy loved Connor with all her heart and soul. She wanted nothing more than to make her new husband proud. Cassidy was an old soul, and a caretaker at heart. She was a great teacher and looked forward to teaching English overseas. Kate witnessed the love between them before they moved and knew that Connor was as in love with her daughter as Cassidy was with him. His love for Cassie had lessened Kate’s fear of her daughter moving thousands of miles away. If Kate had to trust anyone to take care of her daughter, Connor was the only man for the job.

A tear broke free and slid down her cheek as she thought about the man she had come to love like a son.

She flipped a few more pages, reading some short entries from various dates through the summer. After chuckling at an entry about Cassie’s failed attempt to order a meal in Mandarin Chinese, Kate turned another page. The date of the next entry caught her eye. Her breath hitched.

                       

Homesick for Fall…and my mom                              October 25th 

Hi Mom,

Not going to lie. I have a bad case of homesickness today. I guess it’s due in part to the fact that I’m missing my favorite time of year back home. The nip in the air, the leaves changing colors, college football, Halloween. Fortunately, the good people of Singapore enjoy Halloween, so you know how happy that makes me. We are going to a party that night with some of Connor’s coworkers.

But most of all I’ve been missing you. I’m fine, so please don’t worry too much. But you’ve been on my mind as I think about all the things from back home.

Although I really do love the diversity of culture, I have to say, Mom, some of it makes me wonder “what the hell am I doing here?”

I miss the change of seasons. You may wonder why I’m even bothering with TV given that I’m in a new country and there are a thousand things to see and do. Well, think of a hot Georgia day. Heat and 100% humidity. That’s what the climate is like here year-round. You know I have a great tolerance for heat, but there is only so much a girl can take. I have been exploring–and it is quite beautiful, mind you–but I can only truck around here for so long before heat exhaustion sets in. I’m in bed by 8pm every night. What was I, six years old the last time I went to bed that early?

Not to mention that right now there is a haze that covers the city from burning in Indonesia. Locals tell us it is a common occurrence from July to October. So that makes exploring a bit hazardous as well. Monsoon season starts soon, which will trap me in the hotel for a while, too.

I miss the routine and familiar. I love that I have new experiences every single day. It’s why I was so happy that Connor and I had the opportunity to relocate here. But, it isn’t all roses, either. Case in point, my recent trip to the cleaners. It was a doozy!

It all started when Connor tried to fix my cell phone so I could use a local SIM card and not have to buy a new phone. Well, he managed to break my phone to the point I had no contact with the outside world WHATSOEVER! I felt as though I was back in the Stone Age. You know how my smartphone is an extension of my arm, so to not have my apps, internet, or anything else was traumatic for me. Especially in a new country.

Anyway, to get to my point, I had two massive bags full of laundry that I hauled in the direction of the cleaners. Well…the direction I thought the cleaners was in. An hour and fifteen minutes later, I find myself on a very crowded train, pouring sweat in the 100-degree heat, still holding two massive bags of dirty laundry. The phantom cleaners were never to be found. Just when I thought I would scream then sob in frustration, a tiny little boy taps me on the arm and told me I dropped something. I turn in the direction he pointed only to find my hot pink bra and red underwear lying on the floor of the very crowded train. In all my shifting around, they must have fallen out of my bags. We looked at each other and all we could do was laugh. I shared one of the best laughs in a long time with this sweet little boy, whose giggle I will forever hear in my mind. After that, I found the nearest spa and got a pedicure and hot stone massage. I also found the cleaners about a block from the hotel.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m truly enjoying my experience, bra and underwear debacle not-withstanding. It’s an adjustment, a trade off. There are things I love here. I love not having a car, I love the fresh fruit markets, I love the dichotomy of the landscapes and skyscrapers, I love the endless list of things to do and see. But all change is not without a little struggle I think.

I want to call, just to hear your voice. But given the twelve-hour time change, it’s 2 am there and you wouldn’t hear the phone anyway. Connor still is amazed that you and I can sleep like the dead. Hehe…

I’m such a mama’s girl! 🙂

                           Until We Meet Again.

                           I love you, Mom.

                                    Cassie

Kate thought back to the phone call she’d received later that day. Her girl sounded a bit down at first, but by the time they hung up Cassie was animated and back to her sunny self. Kate laughed until her sides ached when she told her more of what became known as the underwear story. Even now, with the words in front of her blurring from unshed tears, she smiled. Her daughter had been a storyteller since she was a child. She had a wild imagination and had just the right kind and amount of flair to make even the most boring stories interesting.

That phone call was the last of many things, though. There were so many things Kate wished she’d said or done. Words left unspoken. Plane tickets never used.

Regret was a powerful emotion. It paralyzed Kate every day. She leaned back against the cushions of the chair and closed her eyes, letting the notebook fall open onto her lap. Before the overwhelming darkness could take her, she practiced the breathing exercises her therapist taught her. She inhaled deeply, the smell of the lemony furniture cleaner and vanilla from her candles filling her nostrils. The air around her cooled for a moment, dancing along her skin and raising goosebumps. Kate opened her eyes and lowered her head, rubbing heat back into her arms. She glanced down at the journal in her lap. The entry she didn’t want to see stared back at her.

Hey Mom,                                                           November 2nd

Melinda told me about the birthday flowers you sent her and that you took her to lunch. You really are the best mom in the world. She’s my best friend and it makes me heartsick to miss her birthday. I haven’t missed one since we became friends in first grade. But if I couldn’t be there I’m glad you could. Besides you, I miss her the most.

But I miss my friends in a different way than I miss you. You know what I mean, since you have your own close group of friends you don’t see all the time. That being said, I also enjoy my alone time. As much as I love that Irishman, living with him in a postage-stamp-sized room can be trying. After he goes to work, I’m on my own until he comes home. And by the time he comes home, I am happy to see him. But I also miss my ya-yas back at home. I’m getting to share this experience with the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, but sometimes I wish I had Melinda, Sadie, and Jackie here to grab an overpriced drink with or do some shopping. Mom, you know I have known those girls for most of my life, so not being able to have my GNOs with them is an adjustment. And the twelve-hour time difference doesn’t help. I can Skype with them sometimes and email of course, but I don’t get that immediate feedback from them. However, we have all grown up and each found a path to follow. I believe this is mine. So not only is this experience positive, but necessary for me.

One of the main perks? Flying to exotic places for cheap! Connor and I are headed to Bali at the end of the week for a long weekend. I hear the beaches are just gorgeous. And it will be another cultural experience I can add to my repertoire. That will be the next installment of “Where’s Cassidy?”!

         I’ll call you on Tuesday when we get home. 

                           Until We Meet Again.

                           I love you, Mommy! XO!

                                    Cassie

The phone call didn’t come Tuesday. It came Monday, when she was notified by the airline that a plane heading to Bali hit bad weather and crashed into the Java Sea. They were only thirty minutes from landing.

All 278 passengers and six crew members perished on impact.

Including Cassidy and Connor.

Kate curled her legs up to her chest. And wept. Sobs wracked her body and despair tore at her soul. The pain started deep in her bones and never went away, never abated.

There wasn’t a breathing technique in the world that would get her through the agony she felt.

She didn’t know how long she sat there in the overstuffed chair, but when this bout of tears finally ran dry, Kate was numb and she let herself slide into the void of unconsciousness.

Sometime later, she opened her eyes. The late afternoon sun cast the sitting room in a warm amber glow as she looked around, trying to get her bearings. Her bleary-eyed gaze landed on the leather journal that lay open in the middle of the floor. She uncurled her body and walked over to pick it up. Had she thrown it after reading the last passage? Kate didn’t recall doing so, but it was the only explanation her grief-stricken mind could comprehend.

Although there would be no more entries in her only child’s handwriting, she kept turning pages, hoping against hope that she would find another funny diatribe. That all this pain was just a nightmare. A three-month-long nightmare, but one she would wake up from and find that the gaping hole in her heart, in her very being, was no longer there. And that Cassidy still walked among the living… even if she was halfway around the world.

As she turned the last blank page, she spotted the edges of handwriting on the back flap. Her heart stopped when she read the words.

Dear Mom,

This is my last and final note to you. I know you have had trouble coping the last couple of months, but I want you to know that I am fine. I am in no pain. I miss you like crazy, but please know that Dad, Connor, and I are watching out for you. Now you have three guardian angels to take care of you. I know you feel alone, but you are never alone.

Do you remember what you told me when Daddy died? You told me he was always watching, always listening. I believed you and felt that every day, especially on my wedding day. I want you to believe me and feel that now.

                           Until We Meet Again.

                           I love you, Mommy. Always and forever.

                           Cassidy