Character's Folly

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Chapter Two

The petite little seven-year-old stood on a chair and the beautiful, yet oversized, evening gown hung down to the floor. She fluffed up her hair with her hands and challenged the mirror. “Look at me! I’m beautiful!”

The reflection of her older sister, Penelopy came up from behind. “You are beautiful, kitten. Do you like the dress?”

“Oh, I do! It’s the most! The absolute most!”

Penelopy took her little sister into her arms and swung her to the floor. “You can have it.”

“For reals?” Suzie was elated.

“For reals. Now go along before I change my mind.” Penelopy teased.

The happy little girl grabbed up as much of the dress that she could manage and hurried up the stairs, only tripping a little bit on the way.

As Penelopy watched Suzie disappear her heart was full of joy. What a special blessing Suzie brought into her older sister’s life. Their parents had died in a small plane accident two years earlier while vacationing in the deep woods of Canada. They had chartered a small plane and foul weather had caught their pilot off-guard and it had cost them their lives.

Penelopy had only been sixteen at the time, and it appeared that her promising New York social life had been halted before it had ever

begun. Then her father’s brother, Ray stepped in and took the two orphaned girls into his heart and home as his own. Ray had dedicated his life to Wall Street and was pretty much married to the Stock Market.

He was a good man though, and gentle; and the girls came to love him deeply; as he also loved them. Ray had set up a trust fund for both of his nieces with the money that had been entrusted to him through their parent’s estate, and on top of those finances, he had personally funded a separate trust for their college education. The loss of their parents could never be compensated for, but monetarily, the young girls were well taken care of.

Penelopy’s coming out party had been hosted by her Uncle Ray and it had been a party to end all parties. Penelopy’s best friend, Jessica had been side by side with Penelopy all evening, and neither of the young women had ever had so much fun in their lives.

Jessica was a mid-western girl who had moved to New York City to pursue a modeling career. She had landed a nice job doing some advertising for some jeans; but otherwise her hopes for the fame and the big bucks had eluded her so she worked part-time at a small diner; always waiting for that big break.

Hey! Jessica tried to protest.

Shhh, came a resounding objection to Jessica’s interruption by all of the other players.

You best not cause too much trouble, Suzie warned; wise beyond her years. You could end up on the cutting floor.

The words cut deep; but Jessica heeded the warning. She didn’t say another word.

Just a minute! Stop right there! Daniel wasn’t concerned about the character’s interaction. He had much weightier things on his mind.

Who’s responsible for this drivel? Daniel couldn’t swallow it; wouldn’t swallow it.

What are you talking about? Carrie defended her creative abilities.

I don’t like the way that this is going. It’s dragging something fierce. Daniel protested against the storyline.

What? I’m just trying to set up some kind of a background. Carrie wasn’t even able to convince herself. Deep inside she knew that Daniel’s complaint was valid.

What do you think, Penelopy? Do you want her to go on like this?

Penelopy didn’t care to be put in the middle; but she had to admit that Daniel was right. This jaunt in narrative was supposed to be about her, but she hadn’t even been paying attention…

Well, it is kind of slow, and well – It hadn’t been her choice to speak her mind, but since she was she decided to go ahead and spit it out. Anyway, that’s not how it happened.

Carrie was only willing to be prompted so far, “Just a minute,” she declared, right out loud. “This is my book!”

Not without us. Daniel calmly countered. You can’t carry it with your weak-kneed narrative. You need us. Without our characters you have no novel.

So, what am I supposed to do? Carrie restlessly conceded his well made point.

Give us room to develop. Quit trying to paint us into your little world. We want a voice in the story; not a token existence.

But how? Carrie was beyond herself.

Just relax, and let it flow. A sweet little Suzie offered cheerfully. She knew what it meant to just naturally arrive. I loved the dress scene. Can it stay? Suzie was hopeful and positively irresistible.

Of course it can stay, sweetie – can’t it? Penelopy looked at Carrie, and Carrie quickly nodded in agreement.

Do you think you can do this? Daniel asked; not at all convinced that she could.

I have to. Carrie stated with absolute determination.

Well then, let’s do it. Daniel was more than ready for the story to begin.

The petite little seven-year-old stood on a chair and the beautiful, yet oversized evening gown hung down to the floor. She fluffed up her hair with her hands, and challenged the mirror. “Look at me! I’m beautiful!”

The reflection of her older sister, Penelopy came up from behind.

“You are beautiful, kitten. Do you like the dress?”

“Oh, I do! It’s the most! The absolute most!”

“Tell you what,” Penelopy took her little sister into her arms and swung her to the floor. “You can have it.”

“For reals?” Suzie was elated.

“For reals. Now go along before I change my mind.” Penelopy teased.

The happy little girl grabbed up as much of the dress that she could manage and hurried up the stairs; only tripping a little bit along the way.

Penelopy watched Suzie disappear; her heart was full of joy.

Hey, wait a minute. Daniel stopped the progress. I thought you were listening. Are you going back into that narrative?

Carrie was only slightly annoyed. It did look that way; but she had been listening. Are you going to give me a chance, or not? She countered.

But it looked like – Daniel protested.

Tell you what, Carrie offered. Let me get it out and if you don’t like it – well, then we can talk. Is that fair enough? Carrie knew that she was being more than fair. She also knew that if her characters were going to interrupt her every thought then she would never be able to complete one; let alone an entire book of them!

Fair enough. Daniel agreed.

The other characters nodded in agreement. They would let her write…

Carrie was finally able to continue:

As Penelopy watched her little sister disappear her heart was full of joy. Suzie had been an extra-special blessing to her since the day that she was born. There was a pulling in her heart to have a child of her own. She had practically raised Suzie, but still; she wanted her own family.

No, Carrie spoke out for herself. I can’t make that storyline work.

The somewhat anxious characters sighed a bit of relief – maybe it was going to be okay after all…

The happy little girl grabbed up as much of the dress that she could manage and hurried up the stairs; only tripping a little bit on the way.

Before the child was out of Penelopy’s sight, the telephone demanded Penelopy’s attention. “Yes?” A whimsical Penelopy uncharacteristically answered.

“Lopey, how are you?”

Please! Penelopy couldn’t help herself. Things had evolved too far for her to settle for that indignation.

Now what? An exasperated Carrie stopped dead in her tracks; again.

Could we lose the nickname? It’s so – well – crass.

Crass? I thought it was cute. And you never said anything before.

Penelopy didn’t want to argue the point. As far as she was concerned it was non-negotiable.

Oh, man. Whatever! Okay! Carrie could tell that she wasn’t going to win the argument. Is it okay that the phone rang? Carrie was being a bit testy.

Penelopy could tell that she had won and offered a simple, Sure.

The pen met the paper with a newfound vigor. Maybe if she wrote fast enough she could get a word in edgewise…

“Yes?” A whimsical Penelopy uncharacteristically answered. Her more formal demeanor was lost in the enchantment of an adorable little sister still prancing up the stairs.

I like it. But could you please start over? You know, from the beginning? Suzie wanted a chance to get the story straight.

Sure, why not. Carrie relented; after all, what good would it do to argue? So much for writing fast…

The petite little seven-year-old stood on a chair and the beautiful, yet oversized evening gown hung down to the floor. She fluffed up her hair with her hands and challenged the mirror, “Look at me! I’m beautiful!”

The reflection of her older sister, Penelopy came from behind. “You are beautiful, kitten. Do you like the dress?”

“Oh, do I! It’s the most! The absolute most!”

“Tell you what,” Penelopy took her little sister into her arms and swung her to the floor. “You can have it.”

“For reals?”

“For reals. Now go along before I change my mind.” Penelopy teased.

The happy little girl grabbed up as much of the dress that she could manage and hurried up the stairs; only tripping a little bit on the way.

Before the child was out of sight, the telephone borrowed some of Penelopy’s attention. “Yes?” A whimsical Penelopy uncharacteristically answered. Her more formal demeanor was lost in the enchantment of an adorable little Suzie, still prancing up the stairs.

Suzie sighed. She was content. Carrie lifted up an eyebrow; and continued –

“Penelopy. How are you?” Daniel’s voice was low and clear, and made Penelopy’s heart flutter wildly.

The characters were silent. She had their attention…

The sound of his voice was enough to make Penelopy question everything about her life. She didn’t dare admit it, but she knew; she was in love.

“I’m good.” Penelopy softly stated.

Just the sound of her voice and Daniel was in heaven. He was in love; he was certain.

“And you?” She continued.

“I’m okay; okay, but lonely. I miss you.”

“I told you before. This is my home.” Penelopy stated; trying to convince herself that she meant it. She was being pulled in two different directions. A part of her wanted with all of her heart to be with Daniel; yet the other part of her felt betrayed. How could he have chosen Mitzi over her? She still didn’t understand.

“There’s a place for you, here, Penelopy; and you know it. Here in my arms, where you belong.”

He sounded so honest; so sincere. But how could she trust him? The facts were all so blatantly before her. Even down to the child! The mere existence of Brittany mocked his professed love for her.

“Daniel, don’t. We’ve been through all of this before. You know why I can’t come. My God, think about it. You even have her baby!”

“Brittany’s beautiful; and she needs you too, Penelopy. Think about it; she has no mother.”

“Don’t. Don’t do this to me. You made your choice, Daniel. I have to go.”

“Penelopy, please –” The phone went dead in his ear. Daniel turned to the sound of his tiny, little baby girl. “Daddy’s here, baby.” Daniel walked slowly to Brittany’s crib and lifted the young infant into his arms. “Your mama would be so proud of you.” Daniel assured as he put the woman he loved out of his mind briefly, to embrace the memory of the woman he had lost…

When Jessica had asked Penelopy to go home to Oklahoma with her Penelopy was skeptical. That had been a little over a year before. Penelopy couldn’t believe all that could happen in a year…

Jessica Tomkins made her way to New York City with only one thought in her mind: Well, two actually. First of all, she wanted to get as far away from her hokey mid-western life as she could; and secondly, she wanted to become famous. That was not a small dream for a farmer’s daughter! Jessica had the looks to pull it off, and during her first couple of months in the Big Apple Jessica had met Penelopy at a social gathering and they had become like sisters.

David Strong was Jessica’s manager/agent and he had set the meeting up. David had strongly urged Jessica to mingle with the money as he had put it. In Penelopy Jessica had found much more than a social contact; she had found a friend.

The two became almost inseparable. The contacts that Jessica came across through her friendship with Penelopy were astronomical, and Jessica was well on her way to earning that coveted fame that she desired. Then tragedy struck. Daniel McClure’s father had been suddenly killed when a gas leak in the water heater caused a spontaneous explosion that literally blew up half the house as it claimed the life of Raymond McClure. Jessica needed to go home immediately, and invited her new-found friend to go with her.

“He’s my best friend. He needs me Penny. And I need you.”

Penny was a pet name that only Jessica was allowed to use. Penelopy much preferred her formal name, but Jessica, Jesse as she preferred to be called, would have none of it.

“Come with me. This is too hard for me to go through alone.”

Penelopy felt bad for Jessica. She had listened to stories hours on end about the childhood fun and pranks of Jessica’s friend Daniel, and felt like she practically knew him personally.

The two showed up in Jessica’s home town of Arvid, Oklahoma to console Daniel. The short visit had turned into so much more. Jessica had convinced Penelopy to stay on with her for the summer. After all, Daniel needed them.

Penelopy was a year younger than the barely eighteen-year-old Jessica, and extremely impressionable. She had never believed in love at first sight; that is, until she met Daniel…

“I’m so sorry about your dad. I came as soon as I could.” Jessica reached out her arms and placed herself into her childhood companion’s arms. The two had been too close for any kind of romance to develop between them as they grew older. They were happy to be, ‘just friends’.

“Thank you for coming. I knew you would.” Daniel stood strong and composed.

“I brought my friend.” Jessica introduced the two and Daniel offered Penelopy his calloused and tanned hand.

“I wish it could have been under different circumstances.” Penelopy apologized for the awkwardness of the moment.

“God allowed it.” Daniel stated with firm conviction. “I refuse to mourn my father’s death; but rather, I choose to celebrate his life.”

As Penelopy listened she was touched deeply. She had suffered the loss of both of her parents in tragedy herself, but had never had the peace that she was witnessing in this stranger. Penelopy had learned to come to terms with the loss, but had never been able to accept it. Deep inside she had always questioned why God would allow something so horribly tragic to happen. And here was this man, so fresh in his loss, and yet so strong in his convictions. Penelopy admired Daniel from the very beginning.

By summer’s end the two young people were an item. Jessica happily played the third wheel and encouraged the romance. The summer ended with promises of the next summer, and promises of counting the days until they could be together again.

The time slipped slowly by, and Penelopy counted the days until she would see him again. That is until the phone call…

“Penelopy, Daniel here.”

“Daniel. What’s wrong?” Penelopy had a sinking feeling in her heart that something indeed was terribly wrong.

“It’s best you don’t come.”

“What? But why?” Penelopy couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Just don’t come. Please. I’m getting married.”

Penelopy dropped the phone, and then had slowly bent down to pick it up again. Penelopy held the receiver to her ear and listened to the silence. He was gone.

Jessica had flown back to Oklahoma to go to Daniel’s wedding. She couldn’t believe it, even though he had told her himself. Mitzi Crawford! Of all people! She couldn’t hold a candle-stick to Penelopy!

“Why?” She had demanded of her friend; trying with everything within her to convince him that he was making a terrible mistake.

“She’s pregnant. It’s my baby. I have no choice.”

“Pregnant? But how?” Jessica had protested in disbelief.

Daniel didn’t answer. What did it matter anyway? He knew better. Mitzi had coaxed him into going with her to a party. He had told her several times that he really didn’t have any use for parties, or the kind of people that hung out at them. But Mitzi had called him a boring old man; and Daniel had felt that he didn’t want to portray that kind of image. She was so full of fun and life, and so persuasive.

At the party Mitzi again persuaded Daniel to let his guard down and have a small glass of wine with her. It was a lively atmosphere and not nearly as out of hand as Daniel had feared it would be. One glass of wine led to another, and with the dancing and the music, and the closeness of a lovely, yet manipulative Mitzi, Daniel briefly lost his inhibitions. He also lost his good manners and his virginity.

After the party and its irreversible consequences, Daniel separated himself from Mitzi and began the lie with Penelopy. He just couldn’t bear to lose Penelopy over such a senseless night of abandon. That is until Mitzi approached Daniel with her untimely pregnancy.

With that announcement came the beginning of the end of Daniel’s relationship with Penelopy. If he could have only taken it back and not have given in to Mitzi and her invitation, and her wine, and her body…

Daniel could do nothing short of marrying Mitzi. It was the right thing to do. He was trapped into having to make a choice that he didn’t want to because of the choices he shouldn’t have made. He had no one to blame but himself and made the best that he could out of a bad situation.

Daniel walked away from his first love to marry his first lover. He was determined to do the right thing by Mitzi, and took her as his wife and cared for her needs as a good husband would.

Life with Mitzi wasn’t all that bad. She had set the trap to get her man, but she went out of her way to make Daniel at home in her arms. By the time that the baby came the two were actually very good friends. Mitzi knew that Daniel was in love with another woman, but she had him and carried his child, and was content.

The labor pains came on to Mitzi fast and furious. Daniel rushed her to the hospital and the attending nurse had no chance to stop the progression of the delivery. Mitzi was in full-on labor with a child that she couldn’t deliver. Brittany was not only being born right on the spot, but Brittany was breach. The doctor came into the room as the baby’s rump was pushing through the mother’s torn body. Mitzi was unconscious by that time and the doctor worked like a fiend trying to complete the delivery while Mitzi bled profusely. As soon as the baby was finally fully delivered and breathing on her own Mitzi was rushed into surgery. Mitzi died on the operating table; never knowing the child she had carried and had come to adore.

Losing Mitzi wasn’t like losing his father. His father had lived a full and satisfying life. Mitzi was barely more than a child herself. Daniel was devastated; but determined to press on.

It was Jessica’s idea for Daniel to call Penelopy and try to bridge the gap in their broken relationship. The baby was only a few months old and Daniel knew the burden of being both a new mother and a new father first hand. He knew what it was to make bottles; change diapers; need child care; work full time, and then be awake half the night with the every two hour feedings. Daniel also knew what it was like to be alone; and lonely.

Mitzi had brought a closeness and a companionship into his life that he had never known before, or had ever needed… He was tired and alone, and tired of being alone.

“Well, that went well.” Daniel spoke softly and little Brittany cooed. “Let’s go get you a mommy.” Daniel was ready for a new beginning. Now all he had to do was convince Penelopy that she wanted him half as much as he needed her…

***

“I don’t know whatever possessed him to call, but I tell you – I told him pretty much to get lost.” Penelopy was animated in her state of mixed emotions and Jessica listened politely.

And Jessica listened politely. In fact, all of the characters were silent; as well they should be. Waiting. Waiting for their own voice and place in the story. Carrie was doing it – she was finally writing the novel – and her characters – well, they were letting her.

“So, what do you think?” Penelopy was trying to sort out her feelings, and Jessica was trying to at least appear to be neutral.

“I think he’s a great guy.” Jessica finally teased her friend; tired of playing innocent.

“I know he’s a great guy, Jesse. That’s not the point; or the question. He says that he wants me there with him. What I want to know is where he gets off. That takes a lot of nerve!”

“Or heart.” Jessica countered.

“Who’s side are you on, anyway?”

“He really does care about you.” Jessica stated frankly.

“You didn’t – You didn’t tell him to call me – did you?”

Jessica hadn’t intended on telling Penelopy her role in the phone call, but she wasn’t going to lie about it either. “Well –” Jessica started.

“I can’t believe this!” Penelopy was pretty mad.

“Come on, don’t be mad. It wasn’t like that. I didn’t just call him up or nothing…”

“You shouldn’t have –” Penelopy protested.

“You don’t understand, Penelopy. I had no choice,” Jessica offered honestly. “I had to. He’s my friend.”

“And what am I?” Penelopy was slightly hurt by the inference.

“I love you girl. You know that. But he was hurting, and he asked for my advice; and my help.”

Penelopy couldn’t come against Jessica for caring; even though she still felt like she had been somehow manipulated… Still, a decision had to be made. “So, you honestly believe that I should give him another chance? Even after Mitzi; even after the baby?” Penelopy was genuinely perplexed. She had not been open to such an outrageous proposition. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think that he would approach her – not after all that had come between them.

“I think that you should at least talk to him. You know, hear him out.”

“But don’t you realize how bad he hurt me?”

“You know, there couldn’t be much greater pain than to lose the woman who gave birth to your child; that is unless you were to lose the child itself.”

The magnitude of Daniel’s loss hit home and Penelopy felt the first embers of compassion light in her soul for Daniel and for Mitzi. Penelopy was silent for a long pause. Jessica waited for her friend to sort out her emotions.

“I’ve been so selfish; so self-centered. I was so mad, Jess. I haven’t even cared that a young woman lost her life; that a baby has lost her mama –”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it. You have a right for your feelings.”

“Yeah, for my feelings – I know that’s okay. It’s my lack of feelings that is troubling me. I never meant –”

“You’re all right, Penny. It’s not the issue. The real issue here is forgiveness. Daniel needs your forgiveness; and honestly, I believe that he deserves it. He really is a good man.”

“Well, maybe I could at least give him the courtesy of a conversation.”

“That would be fair; more than fair.” Jessica was pleased; and somewhere deep inside Penelopy was relieved. She couldn’t believe how freeing it felt to let go of the bitterness; of the anger; of the pain…

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